Chapter One


It was still dark when I woke up and I crept out of bed and dressed as quietly as I could, letting myself out without disturbing Jude who was still sleeping and snoring loudly. There was no one around and I didn't want to go back to my room so I wriggled into my jacket and headed for the nearby Starbucks where Alison behind the counter greeted me like an old friend handing over a large cappuccino and danish. It was becoming a ritual when I stayed over night at Judes. I slipped into a seat near the back and pulled my revision notes from my backpack spreading them out on the table and taking a sip of coffee to wake me up. Finals were in three weeks and although I knew I was going to pass, my grades were excellent, it gave me purpose to revise further. It was the only thing that mattered having a purpose.

The old Bella would have been agonizing over the upcoming exams, feeling nervous and sick, cramming every day and keeping awake nights going over what I'd been revising but not now, not any longer. This was the new improved Bella Swan, well maybe not improved but this Bella didn't get uptight about things, didn't stress out or worry. This Bella couldn't because she was a mere shell. All that remained after Edward and the Cullens left, a dry husk who learned to talk the talk and walk the walk. Outwardly I had recovered from the deep depression I fell into when I learned I'd been abandoned by those I loved and thought loved me. For Charlie's sake and Renee's I had pulled together the splintered pieces of my life and coated them with a hard glossy outer shield. After two weeks living in the black hole that was left I emerged and seeing the pain and distress on everyone's faces I learned to act.

I graduated from school with good grades and was accepted into college in Portland, just far enough away to give me a break from Forks but not too far so I didn't need visits to check on me. Charlie had been suspicious of my sudden return to normality but I was a good actress. So good in fact that I fooled everyone except the most important, you can't lie to yourself and believe me I know because I tried. The world I lived in was inhabited by real people but I was merely a shadow. I did all the things expected of a girl my age, studied, worked part time, went out to parties on campus and dated but none of it meant anything. While my body went through the motions my mind lived in another dimension, one that none of it could touch.

I lived this way because it meant survival and that was important, not so much to me but to others around me. I never found anything that moved me these days, not literature, or poetry, music or drama, they were all dutifully followed and admired or criticized but they never got inside me. Nothing made my heart beat fast or intrigued, in short my life was shit but I was still hanging on. My boyfriend Jude was a jock, captain of the football team, tall, muscular and handsome with a warm heart and he loved me. He thought I loved him in return and I never disabused him. I hung on his arm in public and slept with him making all the right noises but nothing penetrated the hard shell. If he asked me to marry him I probably would because it would please everyone else. Charlie liked him and my friends thought I was so lucky. I wondered if I'd chosen him because he was everything Edward hadn't been, tanned, boisterous, earthy, and dark haired.

Although I knew all this I was becoming unsettled, something in my world was changing and it disturbed me, was it graduation? Finding a job and starting over with my playacting life? It felt like it was more than that, something was close and causing ripples in the placid pool I inhabited. After I finished my breakfast I went back to the house I shared with three other girls relieved they were still in bed, I hated all the post sex discussions and I had nothing to share anyway, it happened and was over with, end of story. In my room I saw something had altered, on the window sill was a single white rose in a crystal holder. I went over and picked it up, it was real and the perfume was gorgeous but who had left it? I ruled out Jude straight away, he wasn't the romantic gesture type of a guy, not like Edward had been. I looked round for a card or note but there was nothing so I went to the kitchen to check the white board where we left messages for each other but there was nothing there for me. I hated mysteries as much as surprises but it looked like I'd have to wait a while to solve this one, I had lectures in less than an hour. I jumped in the shower cursing the cold water, it was never hot when I wanted it. Then I put on clean clothes and grabbing my I pod and bag went out shutting the door quietly so as not to disturb the others. There was a bus that dropped you right outside the campus and I walked to the stop turning my I pod on ready for some music to wake me up.

I stopped walking as a song I had never heard before came through the earphones. Pulling the I pod out of my pocket I looked at it to ensure I hadn't picked up someone elses by mistake but there were my initials scratched onto the back of the casing. I scrolled through the menu, all my music was there so what had happened? I put the headphone to my ear and listened again, the same unknown song played again, someone had added this track to my play list and put it on repeat, but why? It wasn't my kind of music, I'd never heard of the singer or the song. Scrolling through my play list again I found the song,

"Ghost of a Rose, by Blackmore Night." Why would someone go into my room to leave a white rose and put a particular song on my I pod? Was it a message or some idiot from college playing around? I leant towards the second possibility, Holly's boyfriend or Kate's were both possible suspects. They loved practical jokes and messing with your head so I switched the playback to normal and forgot about the white rose during lectures. When I got home later I expected the rose to have disappeared but it was still there. I picked it up thinking about throwing it away but something stopped me, curiosity maybe. I wanted to know what idiot put it in my room and why.