Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters. They are from Twilight and Stephanie Meyer owns them.
Summary: Bella Swan trusts no one and never lets herself care about anyone. When the Cullens come to town, her life gets flipped and twisted, especially with Edward Cullen, who hates her with a passion she doesn't understand. When they learn of each other's secrets and a danger comes to light, who will survive?
Chapter 6: When Will It End?
It was cold, and dark. There was a storm outside, and I clutched my stuffed lion to my seven-year-old chest as the windows rattled against the rain and wind. The lion's fur was matted and worn, one beady eye close to falling off. In the darkness there was barely enough light to see the silhouette of the girl in front of me. Her back was to me, and she was hastily shoving clothes into a sturdy backpack, not caring if they ended up wrinkled or squished. She was muttering to herself, listing the things she needed to take with her.
Because she was never coming back.
"Don't go!" I pleaded. "Why do you have to go?"
"Sorry, little sis," she said. "But I've had it. I can't stand living with Dad any longer, and this is the first time he's left since…" She hesitated, uncertain if she should finish her sentence. It didn't matter though; I knew what she meant.
"He'll kill you if he finds you!"
At that, she turned enough to let me see the feral smile that graced her face. "Only if he catches me."
I watched as she moved to the bathroom and plucked all of her toiletries from the cabinets, then dumped them into her bag, zipping it closed.
"Where will you go?" I asked. Maybe I could follow her if she told me.
"Away from Dad. From this place. From Dad's…job. Other than that, I don't really care where I end up."
"You won't tell me where?"
"Why can't I come with you?" I whispered shakily, my voice affected by the tremors that had come over my body. These past few months my emotions had ranged from sad to depressed to terrified, and there had been no relief or comfort to help me properly grieve or come to terms with them. Tonight hadn't helped at all.
"I already told you that you can't," Angela said. "You're too young to run away from home. You'd be a burden to take care of. It's better if you stay here."
I followed her down the stairs, watching her put on her sneakers. "Will I ever see you again?"
At this Angela sighed impatiently. "I don't know! Honestly, Izzy, stop asking so many questions. You'll be fine, as long as you don't make Dad angry and avoid doing the training that he tells you to do." She paused in the doorway before sighing, kneeling down and looking me straight in the eye. "Look, us Swam women are strong - we were born that way. Mom told us that we can do anything we want to do, as long as we reach for it. So that's what I'm doing. I'm reaching for a new life that unfortunately can't be with you. Someday, you'll be strong enough to do it on your own, but right now you're not ready. For now, you have to wait until the time is right. Promise?"
"I promise," I whispered.
She pressed her lips to my forehead in a final goodbye, before turning away. The door slammed shut and my knees gave out under me, tears streaming down my face as my sister left. I never saw her again.
The scene before me changed.
I was huddled in the corner of the living room, trying to make myself as small as possible. A huge shadow towered over me, and the smack of the whip in his hand made me even more terrified.
"I'll ask you again, baby girl," he cooed at me. "Where's your sister?"
"I don't know," I croaked.
Immediately a stinging pain shot through the flesh of my back, and I bit my lip hard to stifle a yelp. I would only get whipped more if I showed any hints of the pain I was in.
"I don't believe you. Your sister is naive and foolish, and I have no doubt she told you where she was going. She loves you too much." He sneered the "l" word.
"Here's the thing, baby girl," he crouched down so we were on the same eyelevel. "I've been working very hard to make the people I work for very happy, but it's been getting to the point where I need some help. And the only one that I trust to help me without stabbing me in the back are my lovely daughters, and one of them is nowhere to be found."
I didn't like where this was going.
"Will you be my little helper for me? My…protégé?"
I thought of Angela's last orders to me, and I knew I couldn't ignore what might have been the last words my sister said to me, even if she had left me. It was the least I could do for her; she had tried her best to make my life a little more bearable. My father, on the other hand, ruined my life and broken my family. He didn't deserve anything I gave him.
"No," I said.
"No?" He didn't sound mad, but you could never tell with Charles Swan, so I made sure to not let my guard down.
He still didn't hit me, however. Instead, he sighed and said, "I was hoping I didn't have to do this, but you leave me no choice, baby girl." He fished inside his pockets and pulled out his phone. With a few taps, he found that he was looking for and turned the screen to show me.
On it was a picture of Angela, bound, gagged, and scuffed, the same backpack she had run away with on the floor beside her. She looked broken and defeated, and my heart stopped at the sight. How had he found her so quickly? Not five hours ago she had appeared proud, strong, and unbreakable, absolutely certain that she wouldn't be caught. Now she wasn't, and it was all because of the man in front of me. If she couldn't stand up against him, what chance did I have?
The sudden rush of despair had me on my feet, my tiny little fists beating against a hard chest. "Let her go!" I screamed. "Leave her alone!"
He caught my wrists easily and threw me into the wall. My shoulder caught most of the impact, and I cried out in pain. "I won't. She has been far too disobedient for my liking, and for my masters. They weren't happy with her lack of progress, and I tried to keep her in line so they wouldn't focus on her, but she didn't listen. So they gave me the order; she'll be killed at dawn."
I stared at him, barely able to contemplate his words. "You…wouldn't. You can't kill your own daughter."
He raised an eyebrow. "Has a person being part of my family stopped me from doing my job?"
I didn't answer him. "There's only one way to keep her from getting killed. And that's to find someone who will help me accomplish the things my masters want that my minions are too weak to do. Little Angela was supposed to be that someone, and the masters had many plans for her when she took that position, but now they refuse to let her become my protégé because of her blatant unwillingness to serve. They'll keep their plans to kill her unless someone redirects their anger by replacing Angela."
I swallowed. It was clear as day that I only had two choices. Say no to Dad and get Angela killed, or take her place and follow in Dad's footsteps as a bad guy. In reality, there was no choice.
"I'll do it."
He smirked, his eyes triumphant and gloating over how easily he got what he wanted. "Such a good little girl, saving her big sister's life and obeying her father," he purred. "I'll contact my masters now and begin to set up your initiation and training." He tilted my chin up. "I know you'll do me proud." He smiled at me with warmth and affection before his eyes hardened. "But first, you need to be punished for defying me and refusing to help your father. You know the first rule: never disobey your father."
My shirt was shoved up to my shoulders, and his whip seared into my flesh over and over and over again.
I startled awake, gasping, sweat all over my body and sticking to the back of my shirt. Bile rose up in my throat, and I barely made it to the toilet before I was heaving everything that was in my stomach into the bowl. I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand tried to quell the sickness that was in my mind and stomach.
Every night I donned the mask of the Wraith I hoped that the after effects wouldn't grip me. The nightmares, the nausea, the depression, the bitterness. I was never that lucky, however, and unfortunately I had the ability to wallow for the next twenty-four hours until school started again. At least when I had school I had to marginally pay attention. On my own, I had nothing to distract me. Plus, my classmates could discern whenever I was in a mood and avoid me as much as possible, even if they had no idea why I was acting so snappy. They had learned that the hard way, when I gave a black eye to Mike after while trying to make a pass at me the second week I had been there. Back when he still thought he wanted me. It was probably the main reason why he began ridiculing me so ruthlessly. And as inconvenient as it was, I'd rather have the entire school picking at me than having them questioning my life.
Another day, I thought wearily. Another day of putting up appearances.
I had arrived early for school that Monday, simply because I couldn't bear to stay unoccupied in the house with just my thoughts for company. Bored, I watched my fellow classmates walk across the parking lot to their classes, chatting with their friends, and glued to their phones.
The bell finally rang, and I sighed before trudging up the stairs to my first class. I hated myself in the days after being the Wraith, but what I hated more was how it made me feel afterwards. It was like having a splitting headache with a massive hangover on top of it. My mind constantly flashed to their glazed eyes, the stuttering of their last breath, and the overwhelming smell of blood.
I growled at the blatant interruption. Of course Mike would be the idiot who dared to disturb me while I was in my post-murdering mood! He just never learned, didn't he? He had to go and bug every single person in his life because he could. I desperately wanted to slam his face into the lockers over and over again.
"What, you're trying to ignore me now? Aw, did the little prude's feelings get hurt too much and now she's cracking?"
I gritted my teeth, and clenched my fists on the table. No, maybe I'd dangle him by the neck of a fifty foot tree surrounded by rabid wolves. Much more vicious.
"You know, this could have all been avoided if you had taken me up on my offer to go out. But of course, you had to be the pompous little bitch you are and turn me down, as if you were better than me. Regretting it now? Too bad I don't go for whiney, begging prudes."
The already thin grip on my control snapped. I turned to face him slowly, not even bothering to hide the murderous rage my eyes displayed. My boiling emotions from two nights ago that were simmering under the surface rose, and I felt no remorse in taking it out on the blonde next tome. Immediately Mike recognized the danger; his face paled, took a step back. I smelled a deepening of his scent, indicating a strong emotion—in this case, fear.
"I'm only going to warn you one more time. Do not speak to me. Do not touch me. Don't even look at me. Because if you do, I will turn you inside out so slowly that you will be begging for it to end. I will dangle your innards in front of your face and make you eat it bite by bite, and if you don't swallow, I will rip all of your fingers off, as well as your balls, then make you eat those as well. Don't test my patience again, Newton."
Mike nodded, without a doubt scared out of his wits. In another compartment of my mind I was sneering at him in scorn. A star athlete, one of the most popular kids in the school, was visibly peeing in his pants when a girl five inches shorter threatened him out of his skin. He went back to his seat, and I knew that he wouldn't be bothering me for a few days. He would be too spooked to. Eventually though, he would be back, speaking nasally into my ear like a drunken gnat.
I was generally avoided the rest of the day, brooding in silence, trying to ignore the screams echoing in my eyes and the little girl's frightened eyes staring innocently at her captors.
I was distracted from my thoughts when I caught the very distinct scent of leather and damp forest before Edward Cullen slid gracefully into his seat next to mine. "Heard what you did to Mike earlier," he breathed. "Very nice."
I really should have just snapped at him to be quiet then, but I couldn't help myself. "Oh, you're complimenting me now? What, decided you wanted to be BFFs? Want to paint each others' toe nails and gossip about men?"
"Nail polish wouldn't even cover up the utter lack of beauty you have. And we will never be friends. And I'm not gay," he snarled.
"I never said you were. I was just going to point out how stylish your hair was. A little too stylish." I said snootily. "Ah, there's the Cullen I know. I have to say, you're not you when you're not giving evil death glares and looking like you're plotting my death."
"I wouldn't have to plot your death if you weren't such a twisted bitch. It's too bad nobody's slit your throat yet. It means I have to get my hands dirty."
Fucking hell, did this guy go to juvie or something and the Cullen parents hushed it up? This guy was way too sadistic to not have been a drug dealer. Or a murderer. My headache worsened, and I scowled. "Look, I always love to reminisce about how joyful it is to fuck with Mike, but today is not one of those days. So let's do this: you go home and make your plan of how you want to throttle me, I'll make one on how to publicly humiliate you and Mike, which really won't be that hard, and we can get together and share our ideas during the sleepover you're anticipating so much. Sound good?"
Edward opened his mouth to reply, but just then Banner came rushing in and calling the class to order. Edward spared a brief irritated glance at Banner for interrupting before mouthing, This isn't over. I sneered back at him before rubbing my temples and returning to my brooding mood.
I barely even opened my eyes when I got home, stumbling through the door and throwing my backpack somewhere on the floor before heading to the living room and collapsing on the couch. My headache had lasted for the rest of the day, and now I was exhausted. I closed my eyes for a nap.
But then the home phone trilled, and I froze before exhaling shakily. So much for a nap to forget about everything. These phone calls were just reports of how a night went. They were expected after every mission, so I never reacted as strongly as I did when he called randomly, but I still could not suppress my extreme reaction when the phone rang.
"I heard that Hernandez has been eliminated. I hope that you have a good explanation for why."
"He betrayed you and your masters. He attempted to steal the hostages and was going to use them for his own means. I ensured that the hostages remained in your care and eliminated those who were working against you. I hope I performed to your satisfaction."
"You have proof that he betrayed us?"
"Hernandez already had the videos on his phone demanding a random from the families," I replied. "A rather sloppy plan, I have to say, but nothing that I'm complaining about."
An undertone of satisfaction was on Charles' voice. "Well, I will report to my masters immediately. You have done well, little girl. You'll be receiving a gift for your work tonight. Use it wisely."
"Yes, sir. Do you require anything else?" I fervently hoped not.
"No," and with that, the dial tone sounded in my ear.
Just then, the doorbell rang, and I opened the door to the mailman holding a package. I thanked him absently before shutting the door behind me. Checking the addresses, I noticed no return address. The package my father mentioned, then. I took out my scanners for bugs, bombs, or weapons, but found it clean.
Not sure what to expect, I opened it slowly, revealing two pieces of paper in the package. Fingering them, I read the first one. "I, Charles Swan, give permission for my daughter Isabella Swan to go on the Canada field trip." Conflicting emotions rose in me. On one hand, I was happy and relieved he made good on his promise. On the other, I was angry at how killing so many people was the price of relaxing for a week.
I warily look at the other paper. On it, it simply read, "Be prepared at five am the week before."
A sudden rush of anger surged through me, and I threw the phone across the room. It clattered to the floor, making a loud noise in the silence of the house.
An entire life, I fumed. An entire life spent under the thumb of your father, your own blood. Sure, he did what I wanted, but always for a price. And he couldn't even take the time to ask about me? See how I was doing? No! All that mattered was serving the "masters" and being the best of the best for them, no matter how much that cost. Screw family and screw love.
My bad mood darkening further, I stalked upstairs to clean all of my weapons. But as I yanked out all of my tools I came to the bottom and there was the picture of the brown-haired woman and all of my strength was drained from my body. I picked up the frame, staring at her, and wished for a different life, one that was easier and filled with happiness instead of grief and despair.
"When will it end?" I asked her despairingly.