Contest: The Second Season of Our Discontent Anonymous Angst Contest

Title: Bruised Not Broken
Picture Prompt Number: 6
Pairing: Alice
Rating: M
Word Count: 8098

Summary: For a long time, I though I was broken. This is the story of why I hide behind my mask of artificial smiles. The story I never told anyone before now. My story.

Warnings and Disclaimer: This story includes graphic accounts of: attempted suicide, self harm and physical, mental and sexual abuse. I don't own Twilight or any of the songs mentioned in this story. No copyright infringements are intended. I make no profit off this story.

I'm posting this story on an anonimous account due to the autobiographic nature of this story.


Hey... My name is Alice, for now. I hope you won't be bothered by the fact that I won't give you my last name, or any of my friends' last names for that matter. It seems unusually silly to be saying I don't want you to know who I am, while I'll be sharing my deepest and darkest secrets with you in a few moments.

In a way, you will know me better than even my friends or family do. None of them know what really happened; I've never told a single person.

So to tell you I don't want you to know who I am would be a lie. That I want to be able to cross you in the streets without seeing a shimmer of recognition, a glare of disgust, or best case scenario, a nod of sympathy, would be the truth. I live inside myself, shut off from the rest of the world by digital boundaries and a mask of fake smiles.

So why would I even want to share this thing that is my past? Why would I go through it all again by writing it down on paper?

Well, I do hope that once I've written it down and filed it away, it'll stay filed and locked up forever. However, I'm neither naive or stupid; I know it doesn't work that way. But maybe, just maybe, knowing that someone else knows, will make this world a little easier to live in. Maybe, there's this slight possibility that once I write this down, my life will be a tiny bit easier to handle.

So where to start? The beginning is as good a place as any, so choosing any other time and place will be just as well.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Why are those fucking lights so bright? I don't feel good. Someone please turn off the music! I really don't feel good. God! My stomach turns. I'm reaching, but I'm not sure what I'm reaching for. My cue, but there's no way I'm able to sing now. They fucking know that, right? I can't sing now! My chest compresses, I can't breathe, I need to breathe! I'm choking, I can't be fucking choking! I need to get out, but I can't move. Some one's moving over me, a shadow casting over my hands. My hands are on the floor, trying to keep myself up. I can't move. The touch makes me flinch. "Don't touch me!" I can't fucking move, I need to run! The arm returns. "Do...don't ta... touch me!"I'm still choking, I can't talk when I'm choking. I need air, God, give me air! My mouth is dryer than a desert. God, I'm going to hurl. Can't anyone see I'm fucking choking? I can't breathe!

I finally come down to earth. My body is shaking, I'm crying. My shirt sticks to my back and my hair to my face. And realization sets in. Again. It fucking happened again!

Jasper, our base player, eyes me wearily. "Alice? You okay?"

I look around me. Where the fuck am I? The deserted hallway is dark, there's garbage covering the floor. I hear the music still playing, my music still playing. Someone else is singing, not me. No, of course I'm not singing, I'm sitting in a dark hallway getting over a fucking panic attack! I breathe in deeply through my nose. "Ich'm fi... Ich'm fiiiiiich..." My voice won't work. The only sound that leaves my throat is a raw coughing one. I shake my head.

"Water?" Jasper asks. I nod.

As Jasper opens a bottle of water, I shiver. The damp shirt on my back is cold. Jasper hands me the bottle and takes off his jacket. "Here, take my jacket, Chica!" When his hands graze my shoulders, I cringe, I can't help it. Jasper looks at me with a hurt look on his face. He's fucking known me forever. I've fucking known him forever. Why the fuck would I cringe at his touch?

I'm dead tired, I can't do this, I can't sit here. I slowly slide my body down and lay on my side. Jasper slides down against me and softly pulls my head to his thigh. I just rest it there, not able to do much else. He slowly strokes my hair and I close my eyes.

.

Tuesday, June 13, 2000

"ALICE!" My body tenses as I hear the front door slam shut. "GET YOUR SORRY ASS OVER HERE! WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU?" I hear the drawl in his voice and I cringe. He's early. As I hear him come up the stairs, I frantically look around the room. Fear shoots through my body. A drop of sweat forms on my neck, running down my spine. I'm frozen, like a deer in headlights, my eyes fixed on the doorknob. "ALICE!" The sound of his voice chills me to my core. I can't move, I'm stuck, I'm trapped.

The door opens, and I brace myself. "Why don't you fucking answer when I call?" he shouts at me. I can't think straight, I can't answer. His eyes are dark, his face distorted with anger. He kicks the chair I'm sitting on and it falters. I fall and land against the desk I was sitting at. "Fucking answer me when I talk to you!" Pain shoots through my back and arms. I'm trying to get up, but I'm not fast enough. I smell it on his breath as he leans in and pulls me up by my hair.

I whimper softly, trying not to cry. He hates it if I cry. He kisses me roughly and I involuntarily gag. The taste is worse than the smell––beer and cigarettes. He pulls my head back and looks at me, I can't meet his eyes. He lets go of my hair and his hand hits my face as he pushes me away. "You're useless!" he says as he turns around and goes downstairs.

I let myself slide down to the floor and curl up in a ball. As I pull my arms around my chest, I let my silent tears run free. I don't care about the cold hard floor, I don't even feel it. I don't care about anything, I don't feel anything. I don't know how long I lay there. When I hear the front door slam, I sigh out loudly, closing my eyes. "He's gone, he's gone, he's gone, he's gone, he's gone..." I tell myself. I still just lay there on the floor, cradling myself, unable to move. "He's gone, he's gone, he's gone, he's gone, he's gone..."

.

Saturday, May 7, 2005

"Yo, Alice, can we have another round?" James is sitting at the bar with Ben and Angela. She smiles at me when I give her a wink.

"What ya doing with these losers on a Saturday night, Ange?" I poor two whiskeys and a lemon coke and put them on fresh coasters on the bar.

"Making sure they don't bug your sorry ass, Al!"

I smirk as I give her the finger.

"I can take care of myself, but I'm glad you're here to stop me from going out of my mind with boredom tonight." The Music Hall is always quiet on Saturdays. Most people are up town at the clubs and bars, not spending their lonely nights in a rehearsal studio.

I turn on some new music. I love Radiohead, but it's making me fucking depressed right now. Instead, I turn on Queens of the Stone Age and open the fucking blasters."We get some rules to follow! That and this! These and Those! No one knows!" I sing along. Angela also lifts from her bar stool, clinging her knees to the seat for balance; a fist in the air, pretending she's singing into a microphone. James is fucking laughing his ass off. I see some other customers eye her appraisingly and chuckle. I just have to chuckle as well.

I've only known Angela for a couple of months, but she's crazy as hell. Luckily, she's a good looking girl. People take her crazy and think it's cute. "Oh, I want to put on the next one!" she yelps. "Can I?" I open the little bar door and gesture her in. She jumps off the stool and gets behind the bar. I clean some beer glasses while she goes through the stack of CD's. When I turn around to see what she picked, another one of my favourites fills the bar.

Ange turns around and sways her hip against mine. I bump mine back against hers. "So if you're lonely! You know I'm here waiting for you!" we sing loudly. Our heads are leaning into each other, like we're trying to blast each other away with our voices. We dance and sing throughout the song, all the while, serving the customers drinks and winking at James and Ben. When the song is over, Angela rushes up to me and throws her arms around my neck.

Oh fuck, here it goes again. Fucking keep your head together, Alice! This is just Ange, keep it fucking together. I feel my throat tighten, I feel the sweat run down my fucking back! I can't breathe, fuck help me breathe! Fucking get me out of here! Where's the fucking floor? God, I can't think, I can't move! There's no fucking air! I'm choking! Can't they fucking see I'm choking? I feel something against my back! "Don't!" fucking touch me! Get the fuck away from me! I can't fucking scream, my throat is blocked. I'm still fucking choking!

.

Friday, July 20, 2001

I can hear them in the living room. They're loud, probably through their fifth bottle of vodka by now. I'm just hoping that they'll leave me alone up here. I won't sleep, I can't sleep, but I don't want to be downstairs with them.

When it all goes quiet, I'm worried. It's still early, so they're not leaving yet. It probably means that the game just 'got interesting'. And this has me scared shitless. I strain to hear any sounds to warn me of what will happen. There are none.

I try to measure time by the beatings of my heart. But my heart rate is steadily picking up with every minute passing. The silence before the storm.

They all burst out in laughter and cheers, loudly, all six of them. Then the thumping of feet climbing the stairs in a hurry and I stop breathing.

"Alice!" he yells, the sound of his voice making me curl up in a ball and pull the covers up high over my head. "Alice! Get your fucking ass out here!"

No! Don't! Leave me alone! I think, but I dare not voice my thoughts out loud. The door opens and the covers are pulled from my shaking body. I know what will come next and there is not a single thing I can do about it. I can smell it in the air, the alcohol on their breath, their sweat and even their arousal.

Two pairs of hands take my arms and legs and pull me out of my crunch. I learned a long time ago to not struggle. I learned a long time ago that resisting will only make it worse. All I can do is keep quiet and hope it'll be over soon.

One of them strokes my cheek and runs his fingers up to my hair. He grabs a handful of it and yanks, forcing my head back. I slightly whimper, but bite my lip and squeeze my eyes shut. I'll not make a sound, I'll not let them have the pleasure of knowing that it's hurting me. I will not give them power over anything more than my body.

As they hold me down tightly, the first of them enters me roughly and immediately starts pounding me. It hurts, but I just bite down harder on my lip and hold back the cries. I try to close down. I've managed it before, but it's not working now. The beautiful place I retreat to during their poker nights is no longer there and I shiver.

At least at times like this my body doesn't betray me. At least their repulsive sweating bodies don't turn me on. At least I don't have to worry about their taunting shouts as I come, because I won't.

.

Wednesday, July 7, 2005

I watched numbly as the knife cuts through the top layers of skin, scared and relieved at the same time. I can do this; I'm sure now that I will be able to. I rub the cut with my thumb, watching curiously as the tiny red dots on the flesh quickly expel blood and fill the tiny slit. The slight tinge of pain strangely calms me.

Placing the knife against my arm again, I close my eyes and slide it down more forcefully. For a split second the feeling takes me over, making me focus solely on that. It's only a short distraction from the torture my mind is making me go through, but it's a very welcome distraction.

I open my eyes and look down at the second red line. This one is bleeding more heavily, deeper. I breathe in deeply. Yes, I'm sure I can do this, if I want. But there's really no question, is there? This really needs to end.

I turn my arm and take a deep breath before I line the edge of the knife against my wrist. I know what angle to use. I know what pressure to use. I know to cut my right wrist first, making it easier to do them both.

Ignoring the pictures of my family I placed on the window sill, I press the knife deeply into my skin, cutting the main artery. Strangely, it doesn't do what I expected. I've seen horror movies where blood sprays out of the wound and messes up the entire room. I'm intrigued by the way my blood runs from the vein. Forcefully, with jolts and fast. But it's more like a spilling, not so much a spraying.

With unsteady hands, I take the knife into my other hand and quickly cut my left wrist, not even flinching as the pain shoots through my arm. I sit staring at my wrists for a moment before it hits me. Fuck, I'm making a mess. Do I really want someone to have to clean this up? The bed is ruined by blood. My blood. This isn't even my room! I can't fucking die in someone else's room!

Adrenaline causing my blood to run faster and seep out of me quicker, I remember my first aid training and work fast to stop the bleeding. I can't really go to a hospital, now can I? And it doesn't even really matter, because as soon as I've cleaned up this mess, I'll find another way.

.

Saturday, August 25, 2002

Looking in the mirror, I brush my teeth. Yesterday had been a good day. He was out with his friends and stayed the night in Leuven. I had the full evening to myself and played some music. He doesn't like my music, so he doesn't let me play it when he's home. But there's nothing stopping me when he's not.

I woke up to him coming home and opening the door to our bedroom. He came up to the bed and pressed a soft kiss on my forehead, telling me he had a good night as well. This means that today can actually be a good day. I spit out the toothpaste and rinse my mouth with water. Cleaning my brush, I smile at myself in the mirror.

The turning of the door handle catches my attention and I turn around. With his arms over each other he stares intently at me. I tense for a second. It is an undecided look, one that doesn't tell me what his mood is. But he throws me a wide smile and walks towards me, sliding his arms around my waist.

I'm leaning in to him and feel warm and cozy until he grabs my hair. Twisting it once around his hand, he pulls my head back and growls against my throat. "You fucking bitch! I told you to never wear those when my friends are coming over!"

His hand pulls harder and I pant in surprise. What is he talking about? His friends aren't coming over! I know that he likes my tight black pants, so I wore them just for him, to make him happy. But somehow I missed something. He hasn't told me, has he? I don't remember him telling me!

I hear his zipper open and he pushes my head away from him, holding me at arm's length. I close my eyes for a moment and anticipate a hit. It doesn't come. Instead, I hear and feel his warm urine run down my legs. I do my best to hold back the tears, but I'm unable to.

When he's done, he zips up and pushes me away. I hit the wall hard and slump down to the tiled floor as he opens the door and leaves. I fucked up again. I fucked up on a day that could've turned out so well. A day that could've been perfect. But no, I had to go and wear these. I had to go and fuck it up.

.

Friday, September 9, 2005

I lean back against the pillows on Jasper's couch, relaxing while we're watching reruns of Futurama. I'm comfortable with him. Well, as comfortable as I'll ever be, I guess. He's been a good friend these last few months while I am trying to pull myself together.

Lately, it's like he's been avoiding me though. He doesn't always answer my calls, texts me less, and looks at me in a weird way when we're together. He's doing it right now. His brows furrowed, opening his mouth every once in a while like he's going to say something, but he never does. It's hard concentrating on the television when he's looking at me like that.

"Want another drink?" he asks me and I nod. He reaches out for the bottle, only barely grazing my knee, and I quickly pull it back. It's not like I want to, it's just an automatic response. I see him shake his head lightly and I look away. Deep inside I know he sees it as a rejection, like I don't trust him, and to be honest, he's right. Of all the people alive, he's the person I trust most, but I'm afraid that I'll never really fully trust another person again in my life. How can I, when I barely even trust myself?

He hands me another glass of iced tea and leans back against the arm rest. "Alice?" he says and I look up into his eyes. "Alice, I know that something happened when you were with-"

I cringe, anticipating the sound of his name, as though anticipating a hit. I don't want to think about it, I don't want to think about him.

He stares at me for a moment before he speaks again. "Him," he says.

I'm grateful, but unable to look him in the eyes any longer. When I lower my gaze and mentally shut myself off from whatever he wants to talk about, he sighs.

"Look, you don't have to talk about it," he says with reluctance clear in his voice. "You don't have to tell me anything, but I can guess. I'll probably not even guess the half of it, and that's okay. It's just-"

His hand forcibly colliding with his knee makes me jump slightly. I'm having a lot of trouble keeping my fears from taking over. This is Jasper, don't lose it! It's just Jasper.

I manage to keep calm and his voice pulls me from my thought. "I'm sorry, Alice. Please, just look at me. Alice?"

And I do.

His eyes are filled with care and softness. I almost tear up when I see it, because it's been so long since I saw that kind of kindness in someone's eyes. There's always fear, or sympathy, but never respect and dare I say it; affection?

"I know this won't be fair to you, but I have to keep some distance from you," he says and my heart starts beating faster. "For now."

"Why?" is the only thing I can come up with. I can't lose him. He's probably the only one that can keep me sane. The only one that makes life even remotely worth living. The only one that keeps the shadows away, for a while.

"I want something from you that you can't give me," he tries to explain, but I don't understand.

"Like what?" I ask.

"I'm in love with you, Alice. I've been in love with you for a while, and I tried to stop, but I can't. And I'm sorry, but being this close to you without being actually close, it tears at me, you know? I really do want to be here for you, to help you get back on your feet, but doing so would be unfair to myself," he answers, and I feel my world crashing down on me.

No! This can't be happening. I know it's bullshit. He isn't in love with me, he can't be. There's nothing about me to love! This is just an excuse, a way for him to get rid of me without hurting my feelings. He no longer wants me around.

He stands up and suddenly his tiny room feels suffocating. "I think you should go," he says, barely audible. The pain, his pain, clear in his voice. I've got to do something, anything to keep him. I need him!

Instinctively, I know. I'm worthless, unlovable and unlikable. The only thing I know how to give is my body. If I can give him that, he'll stay. I hope he'll stay. So without thinking about it another second, I stand up and kiss him tentatively.

His soft lips don't give when I press myself against him. His warmth seeping through our clothing, heating my skin, both comforting and repulsive. I press my mouth against his more forcibly, trying to convince him to take what I'm offering, to take me.

He pulls back and I feel my heart fall in my chest. I told him nothing, but he said he could guess. He knows I'm soiled, he knows that I'm nothing more than a freak. Dirty, filthy and ruined.

"Are you sure?" he asks me and I'm surprised by the tenderness and longing in his voice. Could this be? Could he want me?

"Yes," I whisper and kiss him again. This time he kisses me back and it's horrible, but I give it my best. Memories flood my mind when I close my eyes. I'm no longer there, no longer with Jasper, no longer comfortable.

I let myself be lead to his bed and he lays me down on top of the comforter, clumsily fumbling with the buttons on my blouse. It takes a few minutes, but he succeeds in removing it and opening the clasp of my bra behind my back.

I shudder when his mouth travels wetly down my neck and nips at my collarbone. Trying not to be passive, I run my hands up and down his arms, forcing a moan from my chest as his lips close over my nipple. I can hear my blood rush through the veins behind my ears, a sound I concentrate on when his hands find the button of my jeans.

He's tender and slow in his movements, almost cautious. I'm not sure if I'm grateful or not. Truthfully, I just want to get this over with, get him off as soon as possible.

I pull at his clothing, trying to move this along at a faster pace, not knowing how long I can keep the tears from flowing. I feel cold, and my mind can't stop going over all the reasons why I shouldn't be doing this. All the reasons why I don't want this, but I have to. This is the only way I can keep him from leaving, the only reason why he'll stay.

His fingers slip between my labia. It hurts a bit as his rough fingertips run dryly through my folds and he notices there's nothing lubricating his movements. With another lick over my nipple he pulls back his fingers and offers them to my mouth. I dutifully let them in and run my tongue over his digits, breathing through my nose harshly while I try to get them as slick as I can.

When his fingers return and rub gently over my clitoris, I feel it happening. As so many times before, the muscles in my stomach tighten and an electric surge runs up my spine, making me arch my back up against his wet lips. My body gives in while I try to slip back to my happy place.

I'm faintly aware of his body sliding over me, his sweaty skin hot against mine. I barely register when he enters me with a grunt, because I'm not really there. It isn't until my orgasm rushes through me, my body convulsing and shivering, that I'm pulled from my mental safe haven.

He stills and calls out my name before he collapses on top of me, his hand slowly running through my hair.

It's over.

He rolls to his side and tries to pull me close, but I sit up and try to ignore the fact that I'm naked, and that he's staring at me questioningly.

"Can I use your bathroom?" I ask without looking at him, and he runs his hand over my back. I can only just hold back a shiver and get up.

"Sure," he says, leaning over to the side of the bed and pressing a kiss on my hip.

With as much calm as I can muster, I feign relaxation and put on his robe before I leave his room, but as soon as I close the door, I rush to the bathroom and get in the shower. Under the cold water, I try to scrub myself clean. I can't, I'll never be clean, but the faint redness of my skin tells me I'm as clean as I can possibly become and I turn off the water.

Once I'm dry and safely wrapped in his robe, I let the tears fall. It's strange how his smell, still lingering in the soft fabric still comforts me. I just hope with all my heart that I was good enough. I hope that he'll still want me and stays.

When I get back to his room, he folds back the comforter and I slip between the sheets, the robe still wrapped around my body. He pulls my back to his chest and wraps his arm around my waist, nuzzling my neck as his breath dusts the skin between my shoulder blades.

I can't sleep, but when I hear Jasper's breathing become heavy and his grip loosens, I can finally relax.

.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

I feel him stir behind me and I'm instantly alert. I stay as still as I possibly can, hoping he won't notice I'm awake. My skin is still burning, my arm throbbing, and a sting shoots through my anus with every breath.

I fucked up again yesterday and he made sure I knew it.

His hand is surprisingly soft as it runs down my arm, his kiss on my shoulder holds no trace of the anger that radiated from his very being last night. Still I'm wary.

He barely makes a sound as he slips from the bed and softly opens the door. When it closes behind him with a soft thud, I let out a relieved breath.

I can hear him move around in the kitchen, a soft and cheery whistle filling the empty void that usually lingers in the rooms and halls of our home. He's content, as I'm reluctant to ever call him happy.

His moods change as fast as his demands. A step out of place and he switches from gentle to rage faster than I can sense. I hope I'll be able to do exactly what he wants today. It's hard, because I never know what it is. What earns his approval today might set him off tomorrow, but I try, because it's so good when he's not angry.

I involuntarily tense when I hear his footsteps on the stairs and I pull the covers a little higher over my body. The door once again opens and I feel the bed dip when he gets back in. The sound of metal against glass confuses me and I'm a little scared. This wouldn't be the first time that he 'surprises' me with a sexual fantasy that ends up with me bleeding or bruised.

"Ally?" he whispers softly. "Ally, baby, wake up."

He gently brushes my hair away from my face and leans in to lightly kiss my cheek. It still hurts a bit and I groan. It must be purple by now, and I know he loves it. He loves to see the result of his 'care' on my body, though he usually makes sure my face is clear.

Yes, 'care'. That's what he calls it. I need to learn and he needs to teach me, for he's the only one that'll ever love me. I know he's right, at least on the loving me part. The teachings, I can take them, I have for a long time now.

Sometimes I'm scared that I won't survive, that he'll kill me. Each time I'm grateful that he loves me enough to not go that far.

"Ally, wake up," he says with a tinge of irritation. "I made you breakfast."

I'm immediately on edge, irritation is the only portent of an oncoming fit of rage. I do what he says and open my eyes, trying hard to give him my best smile as I carefully turn around.

"Sit up," he says and kisses my cheek again. "Happy birthday, Ally, and what a wonderful day it is."

I feel myself blush, though it probably won't show on my badly battered face. He remembered.

"Thank you," I say meekly, as I breathe through the pain in my ass as I move to sit up.

He's sweet and loving the entire day. He even goes as far as breathing away his annoyance when I make a mistake. He's good to me and makes sure I have the best birthday I could possibly have. A better one than I deserve.

The only moment of tension is when he tells me he'd planned on taking me out for dinner. He almost pouts when he reminds me that his plans got messed up by my behavior yesterday, that him having to discipline me made going to a restaurant impossible. But as I cringe at the prospect of him showing me his disappointment, he turns and waves it away. Instead of going out he orders Chinese, which we eat in bed.

When I finally close my eyes at night, his arms wrapped possessively around my body, I'm happy.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

I spent the night in another strange bed, with another stranger softly snoring beside me as I waited for dawn to follow the darkness. Only the darkness has settled in my bones, its harsh cold lingering in the blood that runs through my veins.

I'm not sure what I was searching for this time, nor any of the other times I went home with someone.

It's not that I want to have these emotionless sexual encounters, nor that I'm in love with any of them. I don't even think it's an emotion I'm still capable of. Maybe I'm looking for a sense of worth, for a shred of love, for someone to comfort me. To feel safe.

I no longer know what to do with myself, how to live. I go through my days without any direction and the days just turn into weeks, the weeks into months, and I realize that it's almost been a year since-

No, I won't go there, I won't fall for the tricks my mind tries to play on me time and time again. That part of my life is over and done with. There's no need to still be tortured by the ambivalence I feel when thinking back.

The pure and undiluted fear.

The deep and unsatisfied longing.

At least my life was simple then. In all the complication of not knowing what was the right or wrong thing to do, it was always black and white. A kiss or a kick with the throw of a dice.

I eat, get dressed and put on my make-up. I hate it, but I don't know how to stop.

The bar is unusually empty but for a few patrons playing pool in the back. I recognize one of Jasper's friends and make my way over.

"Hey, Emmett," I say, and he flashes me a bright smile.

I'm lucky, I guess, that his friends didn't turn away from me after the train crash of a relationship we had. I just hope Jasper will one day forgive me, though at this point it's hardly likely. He knew of course, after that first night, that I wasn't really in love with him. He hoped that his love for me would be enough, but it never really was. I'm broken.

When we broke up only a month after we got together, he admitted he used me, not wanting to give me up. I had to be truthful and tell him I'd used him, too. I used his feelings against him to keep him close, while he was right that first night. He wanted something I couldn't give him.

It took me a while to realize that he was actually in love with me and didn't want just the sex.

Still I miss him, the safety and warmth he bathed me in. He always knew what to do when I didn't. He took care of me.

"Hey, Ally," he says, making me cringe. "Sorry," he quickly says. "Al."

He motions at the table and winks. "Want to play? I'm losing anyway, so pairing up with you won't make a lot of difference."

I smile on the inside but manage to keep my face straight. Emmett knows I play a mean game of pool, so he must be up to something.

"Sure, who are ya playing?" I say.

He introduces me to Mike and Jacob, who are quick to offer me a beer.

"Don't feel bad if we kick your ass," Mike says, and I feel Emmett's hand squeeze my shoulder reassuringly. I know that they mean beating me at pool, but still. Mike is oblivious to my tensing and Emmett's reaction and goes on talking. "We play competition, so we're kind of good."

I roll my eyes and pick up a cue, feeling their eyes on me as I lean over the table to shoot.

I clear five balls before I accidentally pot the white ball and notice them staring at me wide-eyed when I break away from my concentration. I smirk. "What was that again?" I ask innocently.

In the end it's a hard game. One-on-one I might have made a real chance, but Emmett is lousy at it, so we lose five out of seven games. I don't really mind, though This is the most fun I've had in weeks, maybe even months.

A shiver runs down my spine as I shake their hands in congratulations. I had the feeling throughout the game that I was being watched, but I didn't check as long as there was no one else near me. Now I feel someone standing close to me and I turn faster than I thought possible, ready to defend myself against whomever is there.

A guy is smiling down on me, someone I faintly recognize. I think he might work here, but I have trouble keeping my mind at the task of remembering while I look into his smiling brown eyes. I'm not someone who trusts easily; honestly, I'm someone who doesn't trust at all. But there's something in those eyes. Safety.

He holds out his hand and I take it. "Seth," he says, while he gently rubs his thumb over my wrist.

"Alice," I reply.

Friday, November 26, 2004

I'm sitting quietly in the kitchen, listening to the poker banter in the living room. It's still early and I'd rather be upstairs, safe and away from the men in there, but he wanted me to be sociable. It's Edward's first night of poker with the guys, so I'm supposed to bring them drinks every now and then and be a good girlfriend.

I wish Edward was never asked to join. I like him. We've only known him for a couple of months, but he seems like a decent guy. He means well, I know he does, when he holds back my boyfriend from lashing out at me. He tells him to calm down and take it easy and I'm grateful for it, grateful for the show of compassion he gives me. Of course it doesn't matter, because all the fury he keeps me from receiving is tripled by the time Edward leaves. Still I won't tell him that, because I really don't want him to feel bad about it.

Times passes and I do what I'm supposed to. I bring them beer, laugh at their jokes and keep my face blank when I'm pulled into several laps, hands going places I don't want them to go. But I know it pleases him when I let them.

By the time he tells me to bring out the hard liquor, I tense. That's how it starts. That's when the hands become more demanding and the bets more threatening. To me, that is.

It's past eleven when it happens. He looks up at me and smiles. Not a nice smile. No, it's one of those vile smiles that has goose bumps rise all over my body. The one that says my time has come, and it has.

"I'll see your fifty," he says, narrowing his eyes at Edward. "And I'll raise you Alice."

The room is completely silent for a second while my grip on the back of the couch tightens and my heart starts beating wildly in my chest. I want to run and hide, but I know it won't help; it'll just make things worse. Sweat forms on my back as I see Edward's eye widen and he throws down his cards.

"You what?" he yells angrily, almost tipping over the table as he stands up. "Are you fucking out of your mind? You're a real piece of shit, Alec!"

No! No, please don't! I yell inside my head. I know he wants to help me, but he's only making it worse. I look at him pleadingly when he catches my eyes, but he misunderstands. Of course he would misunderstand.

"That's your girlfriend, you shithead! She doesn't want this, just look at her! You treat her like crap and I've seen enough of this!" Edward yells and moves around the table towards me.

"Out!" he shouts, moving between me and Edward. "Everyone! Party is over! Out! NOW!"

I take a few steps back when he turns around to face me. His friends stand up and force a struggling Edward out the door. I'm left alone with him and he's furious.

I'm scared. I don't think I've ever seen him this angry and I try to run away from him, but I don't get far. I never get far.

He punches me in the face and I go down fast, hitting my head on the edge of the table on the way. He straddles me and hits me in the face a couple of times more before he starts yelling.

"Are you too good for them, bitch?" he screams, his hands wrapping around my throat.

My head is lifted from the floor by my neck before he pushes it back down with force. I'm dizzy, barely holding on to consciousness.

"You're a fucking whore, and you're my whore! What gives you the fucking right to turn down my friends, huh?" he screams. His hands are tightening around my throat and I'm having trouble breathing.

"I asked you a fucking question, you worthless cunt!" he continues.

I can't speak, I can't breathe and panic rushes through me. I don't want to die, this can't be how it ends. His raging tirade no longer registers in my brain, just the sound and the fury in his eyes. It hurts, it fucking hurts as my lungs burn with the absence of oxygen. Please, please, please, someone, anyone!

My eyes are burning and my head is throbbing. It seems like a lifetime passes where the panic settles and he fades to the background.

I make my peace, I accept it, and the last thing that goes through my head when darkness takes over, is that at least the hurt will now finally end.

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"Alice! Oh fuck! Please be okay, please, please, please be alive. Alice, come on, girl! Open your eyes, honey. Come on!"

The familiar voice calls to me, but I'm not sure what's going on. I slowly open my eyes, but my sight is blurry and each breath I take is painful and burdened. In slow and shallow bursts, I try to get the air into my burned lungs, desperate.

Soft and gentle fingers run over my arm and hand, but it's too much. I panic.

"Shhhh, it's me, it's Edward, calm down!" he assures me, but it doesn't help. Edward can't be here. What if he comes back? He'll kill me!

"I'm getting you to a hospital and you're not coming back here," he says. "You hear me? I'll make sure he can never ever hurt you again!"

I stand up and hear him move around. He leaves the room and goes up the stairs, only to come back a few minutes later. My sight is better now and I see him carrying a bag and a blanket.

With slow and careful movements, he wraps the blanket around me and picks me up in his arms.

"You're okay, honey. Don't worry, you'll be okay," he whispers and carries me out the door and to his waiting car.

When we drive into the night, I rest back against the seat and close my eyes. I feel cold, though the blanket is making me sweat. I can't believe I'm here, that I'm alive. I don't know whether the fact that I am makes me happy or not. There's the physical pain, but inside I'm numb. Inside, I'm empty.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

I've said enough, I think. I could still tell you about the times he washed away my sins with boiling hot water, or the time I was pregnant and he threw me down six flights of stairs. I could tell you about the night I spent in the hospital when they had to pull the shards of a broken beer bottle from my rectum. Maybe about the dumpster he rolled over my legs.

However, I don't think that's really necessary.

And now? Well, life is better. Not good, but better. It's a work in progress.

I've had a lot of therapy to deal with my complete lack of self worth. To no longer want to die rather than live. I have to be honest and tell you––that one time wasn't the only time I tried to kill myself. I've been forcibly committed to the psych ward four times. I'm still working on not hurting myself when things get bad, though I trust that too will one day stop.

Seth helped a lot as well. He was the sweetest boyfriend ever, the perfect man. Though he was not the perfect man for me, I've spent six years with him. Some of them hard, some of them happy.

He was what I needed, back when I met him. Safe, reliable, caring and whole.

He's the one that taught me I had a say in what happened to me; the one that showed me I could be touched without cringing. He had a lot of patience and held my hand while I slowly healed. Held me throughout the nights where I couldn't sleep, soothed my hair back when I woke up during a panic attack, and caught me each time I fell throughout the years.

The most important lesson I learned from him was that I was bruised, not broken.

I miss him very much. When I lay in my bed alone at night, I wish I loved him as much as he loves me, the way he loves me. That he was more to me than a brother and a dear friend. But I don't, and he's not, and we both have to deal with that fact while we stay in touch and struggle through a hard-fought friendship.

Over the last nine months, I grew up a lot faster than I ever had before. Not that I ever really had a chance to be a child, or a teenager. You've read about the latest years of my life, though I could probably fill a book with what happened before that. With the reason this relationship could happen in the first place.

No, what I mean is that over the last few months I had to learn to take care of myself. Just me; no parents, or partners, or keepers. I had to learn to stand on my own two feet and stay grounded.

I'm working, though it's not as easy as I would've hoped, but I like it. I have great colleagues and a vast group of friends.

I still think about Edward a lot. My guardian angel, the person who saved me. He got me back on my feet and offered to take care of me longer, but I couldn't. I know it hurt him, but I had let him go. He was part of what happened and I couldn't deal with seeing him, being reminded of Alec. I do sometimes see him in the street or at the supermarket, I know he lives less than a mile from where I live. Each time we meet, we smile. Both knowing what he means to me.

And Jasper, well, he forgave me. We reconnected through Seth and Jasper's ex Bella, who work together. I don't see him as often as I'd like, but it's comfortable and when we do see each other, it's like we've never been apart. Not in a romantic way, just friends.

I'd love to be able to say my life is all hugs and puppies now, but it would be a lie. Still, it's improving. Two steps forwards, one step backwards. One day at a time.

I no longer have panic attacks when people hug me, nor do I feel the need to prove my worth by having sex with every person I meet. I know what I'm worth, and most days I can even tentatively say I love myself.

Sleep is still a problem though. I still dream about that night, that last night. Almost every night I struggle against death, give in and wake up. Almost every morning I need time to remember where I am and how far I've come. And each night I'm scared to fall asleep, knowing what I'll dream about.

I hope this will change with the new therapy I'm starting. Some weird shit about moving your eyes while telling your story. It's supposed to be really helpful, so I'll just trust that it is. I have to.

There's a saying that I hold on to: 'Seven bad years, seven good years.'

Well, with all the bad years I've known, I'm entitled to some good ones, don't you think? And I'm demanding I get them. I'm not giving up until I do, even if I have to live to be a thousand years old!

I'm fighting for my right to have a good life. I know that I'll get past this.

I'm bruised, not broken. And the bruises are fading, the deep purple turning to a faint yellow brown.

Just you wait and see me be happy...