Chapter 1: Torment

"Hi Charlie, it's Alice Cullen"

"Hi Alice, aren't you at that Spring Break Dance-thing with Bella? You and Rosalie? Is something wrong?"

"No, no" Alice quickly interjected. "Everything is alright. Bella just had a little tiff with one of the girls here and she's a little upset. She just needs some girl time. Is it OK if she spends the night with us, tonight?"

"Well, I guess it's OK. Are you sure that's all it is? Bella isn't hurt or anything and just trying to protect her old man, is she? You wouldn't lie to me, would you, Alice?"

Alice swallowed hard. "Of course not, Charlie. I'm sure she will be nice and calm in the morning and you can talk to her then, OK? Carlisle will be able to vouch for our whereabouts." That seemed to calm Charlie and he sighed.

"OK, then. Tell Bella I said to…keep her chin up or something wittier if you can think of it, ok, Alice?"

"Thanks, Charlie, bye!" And Alice practically threw the phone in her purse before turning back to Bella and Rosalie.

"Rose, has she said anything, yet? Has she told you what happened?" Rosalie just shook her head and even she looked worried about Bella, though there had never been any love lost between the two.

"Bella? Bella? Can you hear me? I'm going to pick you up, now, ok? I'm going to take you to Carlisle." Alice said. Finally, Bella's eyes focused.

"N-n-n-o. NO! I'm fine, I fell, that's all. Just take me home."

"Bella, something happened to you, something bad, can you tell me?"

"Nothing happened, I'm fine."

"Bella, that is clearly not the case. I can smell the blood from here but it is too dark under the bleachers to see where it is coming from and you are human, which means you could go into shock out here. Let us get you help." Rosalie's authoritative voice always did make Bella fear her just a little and, in this case, just enough.

The two vampire friends of the human girl struggled to maintain their composure as the sweet aroma of Bella's blood reached their nostrils. Both tried not to breathe unless they had to speak, since breathing wasn't a vampire necessity.

Though Alice was at least 20 pounds lighter than Bella and several inches shorter, her vampire strength allowed her to quickly scoop Bella up, then the three made their way to the parking lot at an astonishing rate of speed. Once Alice lightly deposited Bella on the backseat and climbed in next to her, she saw the blood running down Bella's legs and her stomach churned. If she had been able to vomit, she surely would have from the realization of what had happened to her best friend.

"Rosalie, drive fast, she's bleeding badly."

"From where? I couldn't find any wounds." Then the two shared a meaningful look in the rearview mirror and Rosalie knew what Alice knew. She quickly picked up the phone. Bella heard her say Esme's name, their mother for all intents and purposes, and then their speech was so rapid, she understood nothing else.

"It's nothing Alice, I fell, that's all. I just fell." Alice moved to put her arm around Bella to help stop her shivering but Bella, taken by surprise at the touch, screeched and jumped to the farthest corner of the seat.

"I-I-I'm sorry. I didn't mean to. I didn't mean—" And Bella just cut off amid chattering teeth. Alice very slowly and very gently moved in to wrap her arms around Bella and gently rocked her, cooing softly and trying to soothe her.

In no time, they were at the Cullen house. Rose must have driven over 80 the entire way there and in a small town like Forks, WA where the pavement stays wet nearly every day of the year and a cop on the beat has nothing better to do than nail a few teenagers for reckless driving, this was quite a feat. Bella noticed that every light in the house was on but the only one she saw outside waiting for them was Esme. She was relieved about that. She couldn't stand facing the guys right now. Emmett with his constant jokes, Jasper with his constant blood thirst would be overwhelmed, which was probably why Rose had called ahead to warn him to be out of the house and Carlisle who, being a doctor, would probably be able to take one look at her and know exactly what had happened. She wasn't ready for that. But Esme was a welcome sight. She needed a Mom and with hers in Florida with Phil, Esme was certainly the next best thing.

Alice got out of the car and, with her vampire speed, was at Bella's side before Bella could even reach the handle. Alice opened the door and helped her stand up, leaning heavily against the car. Bella instantly noticed the blood she had gotten on Alice's insanely expensive designer prom dress and her face fell.

"Alice, I'm so sorry! I didn't m-m-mean t-t-to do that…." And then she trailed off and started to slump. Alice easily swept her up in her arms.

"Don't worry about it, Bella. You know I never wear the same thing twice, anyway!" That brought a slight grin to Bella's face and she felt the blood that had come from her nose but long since dried crack and then she curled into Alice like a child.

"Oh, God. Bella!" Was Esme's reaction until Rose reached her and whispered something so quickly, Bella couldn't understand.

"I wish you would stop doing that, Rose. It's like being around a group of people who speak a foreign language and they all get the inside joke but you don't."

"I apologize, Bella. You are no joke, I assure you. Alice is going to take you to Carlisle's study so that he can take a look at you, but we girls stick together and will be there the entire time." Instantly, Bella panicked.

"No, no, please. I don't want to see the guys. Please don't make me." It was Esme who stepped up to silence Bella with the grace of a mother's hand, though her "children" had all come to her as nearly adults and she had never bore any children of her own, she had that special maternal touch.

"Bella, calm down, it will be alright. Just us for now, ok? I've been Carlisle's unofficial nurse long enough to take a look at some minor cuts and bruises and we will talk, ok?" Just the four of us, would that be ok? Bella only nodded silently.

"I think I can walk, Alice. Besides, I feel a little silly with little, tiny you carrying what must look like lumber jack me." And Bella smiled at her best friend as Alice slowly stood her on her own two feet and then carefully placed an arm around her waist to keep her upright. Bella faltered a little but seemed to get her footing as she self-consciously tugged at her skirt, trying in vain to make it longer.

Suddenly, before Bella could register what she had heard, Esme was ushering them all into the house but the speed was painfully slow with Bella's injuries and they weren't fast enough to escape the arrival of Emmet, Jasper and Edward fresh from a hunt in the woods and sharing "mine was bigger" stories while they playfully shoved each other around. It was Edward who entered first and when he caught sight of Bella, ever the level-headed one of his brothers, he turned to the other two. Though Bella and Edward had never really been interested in getting to know one another, there was no particular animosity between the two. Just usually boring small talk. But when he saw her, realized she was bleeding, he snapped into protective mode.

"Get Jasper out of here, Bella's been hurt!" They looked confused for only a second but Emmett must have caught the lingering sent of human blood because he had Jasper by the arms and was dragging him through the woods and away from the house before Jazz knew what was about to hit him.

"What happened to her?" Edward's golden eyes flashed when he assessed Bella's chagrined face, the tugging of the skirt, the blood on her forehead, under her mouth, in her hair, and still trickling down her legs. It was obviously not a car accident or any kind of accident and he felt anger rise in him like hot bile and he felt as if he may lose the gallons of blood he had just gorged himself on in the woods.

"N-n-nothing. I just fell outside the gym. I-I-I…." Bella trailed off.

"Edward, why don't you go meet Carlisle in the kitchen? Bella needs a little girl-time, ok? Rose, would you mind going with him to let Carlisle know that Bella is fine and I am going to be playing nursemaid for a bit and we'll call him if Bella needs him?" There was clearly more meaning behind Esme's words but Bella was so lost in her own world and so ashamed and scared and broken all at the same time that she didn't notice.

"Of course. Edward?" Rosalie motioned for Edward to follow her and, only because it was at Esme's request, he did. Esme, Alice, and Bella continued on to Carlisle's study but Bella was too weak for the stairs so, once again, petite Alice had to carry her. Only this time, Bella was too mortified to find it amusing. She couldn't believe Edward had seen her like that.

"Alice?" Esme motioned with her eyes for Alice to remove the small mirror from the wall so that Bella couldn't see herself but Bella was so busy noticing the scratches on her arms that she didn't notice the exchange or the speed with which Alice did as she was asked.

"OK, Bella. First, I'm going to take a look at your face. There is a cut just in your hairline that looks like it may need stitches, and I can't do that, but we will make sure you are all cleaned up before Carlisle comes in to sew you up, ok?" She didn't pause for an answer, just went right to the gash on Bella's head and started poking around. She and Alice worked in silence for a while, cleaning cuts, washing off the blood from her nose, assessing some bruising on her bare shoulder.

"Good, I don't think your nose is broken. But you may have black eyes come tomorrow. We will just have to wait and see. Though judging by how much blood has drained, that might not happen." Esme quickly added when she saw how horrified Bella looked at the prospect of black eyes. "Now, Bella, can I take a look at your back? Would you mind removing the straps on your dress? Alice can give you something to cover up your chest with, ok?" Bella nodded and took the towel from Alice. She hesitated and everyone froze.

"I don't want to get any blood on your beautiful towels." She said with all earnestness, Alice and Esme smiled to each other. Bella was always worried about everyone else. This trauma hadn't changed that about her.

"Don't worry. Alice never lets us use those more than once, either!" And that seemed to mollify Bella so she covered herself as Esme undid the zipper on her dress and she let the top fall. Bella had cuts down her back, and down the back of the dress, from the large rocks they use under the bleachers. They serve a dual purpose. They keep the grass from growing and the kids from having a place to lie down to make out. But they had done quite a number on Bella's back with at least 20 scratches, some of them deep enough to qualify as cuts. Esme began the tedious task of cleaning them up as she noticed Alice was looking a little bit shaky.

"Alice, honey, why don't you take a little break. Bella and I will be fine, right Bella?" Bella looked stricken, then noticed Alice's black eyes and saw her shaking hands and realized how difficult this must all be for her friend. The smell of human blood was almost unbearable to a vampire. Esme and Carlisle had had more practice than the rest of them at being around blood, seeing as how Carlisle was a doctor and Esme had been his nurse years ago.

"Go, Alice. I'll be fine. Why don't you go find yourself a nice elk or something?" Bella smiled at Alice and Alice wrinkled her nose. Bella knew how much Alice hated smaller game. She was a bear kind of girl.

"OK, but just a little break. I will come back and you can call for me if you need me, ok, Bella? Want me to send in Rose?"

"No offense, but if you are shaky and you like me, Rose would probably eat me on the spot, so thanks, but I'm ok." They both giggled a little and Alice flitted out of the room with her usual speed and grace.

"How are you doing, Bella? Does anything hurt?

"Everything hurts, Esme. I feel like I've been hit by a truck."

"Bella, you know we are going to have to talk about what happened, right? You know I'm aware that you didn't just fall down outside of the gym. I've seen you do some clumsy things, but, Bella, you didn't do this to yourself…did you?" Esme gently implored as she cleaned the superficial wounds on Bella's back with alcohol and applied a thin ointment.

"I know" Bella said as she absentmindedly played with the strap from her dress, which was now in her lap. "I just don't know if I can, Esme." She said through tears.

"Take it nice and slow and just start from the beginning."

Bella took a deep breath and started her story.

"I was standing by the back door to the gym. Alice and Rosalie were dancing and I, with my two left feet, decided to sit that one out. I was leaning against the wall when someone opened the back door and a face peered around the corner. I smiled, thinking it was another party-goer, but I didn't recognize his face and he looked a little too old to be at prom but before the warning bells registered, he grabbed my arm and dragged me out the door and under the bleachers where two of his friends were waiting." Bella paused.

"Go on, Bella, what happened next?" Bella shook her head furiously, trying to stop the images. Esme looked as if she would be crying, if vampires could cry.

"I don't remember much before Alice and Rosalie found me. I don't know how they found me, come to think of it, probably followed my scent or something. I remember the smell of booze on the men's breath. I remember their sneering laughter when I cried out from the pain. I remember them taking turns, but that's all I remember. I don't remember what they did to me. Though I do remember that one of them had a knife." She said almost absentmindedly.

Esme put the last bandage on Bella's back and walked to the front of her and enveloped her in a motherly hug, trying not to let Bella see the utter horror and disgust on her face. She kept saying how sorry she was over and over again and she rocked Bella. Finally, she pulled back and looked very seriously at Bella.

"You know that there are injuries I'm not equipped to deal with. We need Carlisle for those." Before Bella Could protest, she quickly continued. "I will not have you bleeding to death or going into septic shock on my watch, Bella Swan. Do you understand? I will get Alice and she can be here with you the whole time, I promise.

"No!" Bella exclaimed. "I'm fine now. You bandaged me up. The other blood is no big deal." She looked down at her bloody legs, now dried and crusted, embarrassed. "I was just a virgin, that's all." Bella whispered.

"No, Bella. It's much more than that. Hang on a second. I think you need to hear something. She walked to the door and Bella started to panic, worried that she was leaving, but she just paused and called for Rosalie. 'Why Rosalie of all people? Sure, she was being nice tonight, but Rosalie hates my guts', Bella thought. Rose appeared at the door within a split second and they were whispering. Rosalie approached with what appeared to be a genuine smile.

"Bella, how are you feeling?"

"I'm fine, now, I just need a shower." Bella said as she pulled up the front of her dress and placed the towel on the desk. Esme makes a great nurse." She smiled at Esme who busied herself cleaning up. "It looks like I might need stitches on my head, though, and Carlisle will have to do those."

"Bella, I've never told you the story of how I was dying as a human and why Carlisle turned me into this," Rosalie said with a trace of disgust as she looked herself up and down. " It is a very personal and difficult one to tell, but you need to hear it right now. "

"OK, strange timing, but if you feel like you need to tell me, I'm here for you." Rosalie smiled. Bella, always the martyr.

"I was dating the wealthiest man in town. He was a few years older than I, I was just a child, really, but we were to be wed the following spring. One night I was walking home rather late from visiting a friend of mine who had just delivered her first child when I saw him in an alley with his friends. Believe it or not, I was a bit naïve back then. I stopped to say hello. To make a long story short, they were drunk, I was pretty, and they took turns with me before leaving me, bloody and broken, in the alley to die. That's where Carlisle found me. He took me back to the hospital and tried to save me, but I had lost too much blood and gone into shock so he did what he thought was the right thing to do and he changed me instead." Rose paused and closed her eyes, collecting herself.

"Bella, if you don't let Carlisle look at you, you could die tonight. You could bleed to death, go into shock, or sepsis could set in and you could die a slow and painful death. I'm sure that isn't what you want, now is it?" Rosalie chastised as if she were talking to an obstinate child.

Bella looked down at her hands and thought for a moment. Esme and Rosalie looked nervously back and forth wondering if they had pushed her too far, too fast.

"Is it wrong that a part of me wants exactly that?" Bella whispered, ashamed to admit that death was preferable to the humiliation she was going to have to suffer. Rosalie gave Bella a genuine hug and when she pulled back, her face was sad and her expression melancholy.

"No. Sometimes I wish I had died that night, myself. But I didn't. I found Emmett, I have a family, I have hobbies and ways to fill my time that make me glad I'm still kind of alive. Although I would have preferred it to be in human form, I'm still glad I didn't die that night. And there will come a time when you will be, too. So how about I get Carlisle, now?" Rosalie pushed.

"OK, get Carlisle." Within a matter of seconds, there was a rap at the door and when Esme answered, Bella was taken aback by Carlisle's presence. Then it dawned on her. Vampire hearing. They had all heard everything.