AN: Hello everyone! I hope you enjoy! The characters belong to Stephenie Meyer. Bookishqua is my very creative beta. Keep in mind that English is my second language and there may be some errors here and there. For that I apologize.


Regaining Strength

Warmth spread across my body like a warm breeze on a summer's day. My limbs felt light, renewed with energy as they moved languidly in the water. A soft scent of lilac filled the air. The smell relaxing and familiar, bringing me back to a time long ago. My mother had always enjoyed the luxury of fine soap, and my father… He would do anything to bring a smile on my mother's face. I hadn't touched a bar of fine soap since her death... Until today. Mrs. Cullen had insisted upon it, stating that I deserved something special.

Closing my eyes, I moved my body lower, bending my knees so I would have room in the tub. The water caressed my skin as I leaned back slowly, allowing the warmth to spread to the back of my neck, then to my ears and finally to my cheeks. As the water covered my ears, reality seemed to drift away. My worries and troubles becoming nonexistent in this watery haven. Here, I could find peace.

I inhaled deeply through my nose, closing my eyes as I focused on the sound of my breathing. In through the nose and out through the mouth. In and out, in and out… My hair moved lazily in the water lightly tickling my skin. The soft movement easily compared to a bed of flowers dancing in the wind.

Behind my eyelids a new world began to appear. I could see myself dancing in a meadow of flowers. Barefooted, and dressed in a simple white chemise. My hair undone, cascading down my back as it danced in tune with my movements. Sunlight warmed my skin as I twirled. Around and around. Without a care in the world.

Unwillingly, a stab of pain spread in my chest bringing me back to reality. The pain reminded me of how my fantasy world was just that, a fantasy, nothing more. Desperate to hold on to my peace, my haven, I allowed the water to spread. I dipped my head back all the way, until it touched the strong metal with a soft thump. I was now completely surrounded by water. I closed my eyes tightly and held my breath as I held on to my dream world.

A smile spread on my lips as I could see myself twirling faster. My arms spread out, palms lifted upwards towards the sky as though I was trying to capture every ray of sunlight in my hands.

My lungs began to cry for air, but I wouldn't let go of my haven… I couldn't. Not yet.

Suddenly, my figure stopped twirling. Something had caught my eye, but I couldn't see what it was. Slowly, I watched myself bend down to touch something on the ground. Around me the sunlight disappeared and darkness surround me, a harsh wind whipping against my body. The Bella in front of me turned, her eyes filled with tears and shock as she looked down at her hands.

Cold fear spread through my body as I fixed my gaze on what she was looking at.

Blood… Her hands were coated with the color red… Behind her I could see a tall, dark figure approaching rapidly. The darkness made it difficult for me to see, but as he came closer the sky filled with light as lightning struck. His face stayed hidden under the shadows of his black hat. But his long, blond hair was revealed as it moved in the wind from under his hat.

My heart began to beat rapidly in my chest as he came closer. Why couldn't she sense him coming? She had to run!

Again a shot of lightning spread across the sky. In the man's left hand I could glimpse the contours of a small handkerchief with purple inscriptions. I recognized the color and the shape. I already knew what the inscription was… IMS. Isabella Marie Swan. He was coming for me…

Abruptly the man raised his right hand displaying a shiny blade. Before I could even register what was happening, the blade descended, striking my unsuspecting figure like a snake. His arm quickly retreated, removing the blade from my chest. I watched in horror as the figure in front of me changed. A man now stood in front of me, with dark hair and brown eyes so much like my own… Pa!

I watched, my body frozen with fear, as my father looked down at his chest. His eyes widening with shock. We both watched as the terrifying color of red began to spread from his wound and across his chest. His crisp, white shirt was now drenched with blood. A manic, distant laughter sounded in my ears. With rapid movements the blade struck my father's chest again… and again… and again.

My eyes shot open, my vision blurry below the water. Deep within my chest my lungs burned for air. With sheer desperation I pulled myself out of the water. A loud gasp echoing through the room as I took my first breath. My hands clutched the tub's edges painfully as I tried to calm myself; to return back to reality.

Several more gasps escaped my lips as I gulped desperately after air. My heart was still racing in my chest as I tried to gain control over my breathing. Finally, my breathing stabilized somewhat. I forced my grip to loosen from the tubs edges. Carefully, I dragged my hands through the water in tight fists until they were directly in front of me. Hunching forward, my hair draping heavily down my back like an anchor, I slowly opened my fists. I could see my fingers shake as I turned the palms of my hands towards me. A shaky breath of relief echoed through the room as I was met with clean skin. My body visibly shuddered as images of dark red, blood-covered hands repeatedly flashed in my mind, alternating with the image of a terrifying, tall, and unfamiliar man with blond hair. Was he real? Or just a figment of my imagination? Could this be more than just a dream? A true memory of my father's murderer? My entire body shook with fear and frustration. Why couldn't I remember?

A sharp knock at the door startled me. A soft cry escaping my lips before I could stop it. I hunched forward even more, hiding my naked body from the intruder as the door opened. My body shuddered, my limbs frozen in fear.

Mrs. Cullen's lean figure entered the room, closing the door quickly behind her. Although I knew there was nothing to fear from her, my body and my mind were still very much affected by what I had just seen. What I had experienced... Memories were mixing with fantasies, overshadowing reality. I felt so confused… So scared and frustrated with my lack of memory. And so completely and utterly alone.

Unaware of my inner battle, Mrs. Cullen moved towards me with confident steps. Her dress creating a swishing sound across the floor.

"I found you some clean clothes. They might be a little large for you, but I think they'll fit just fine," she said softly, breaking the tense silence in the room.

Her voice was soft and warm, but I simply couldn't find the will to move or reply. A part of me begged for me to open up, to ask for help…to tell the truth… But I couldn't find the will to make my lips move. The flashes of blood-covered hands, and blond hair waving in the wind continued to play in my mind, instantly causing yet another chill of fear to spread through me. Instead of moving in response to her presence, I sat still; frozen. My hands now tightly wrapped around my knees as I sat hunched forward, as though to protect myself from any intruder. I could sense her moving closer to me, but the flashes were coming faster, becoming more vivid, and completely occupying my mind.

THUD

The sound was soft, but it caused my body to startle, bringing me back to reality. The flashes instantly disappearing. Mrs. Cullen had placed something on the chair next to the tub, creating a sound when she dropped it. As though she could sense my fear and uncertainty, she moved slowly and predictably towards me. Her footsteps slow, but strong against the wooden floor.

"How's the water?" she inquired softly. Her voice only just above a whisper. I tried to open my mouth to answer, but my lips simply wouldn't move.

I could feel her standing right next to me now. Without waiting for my response, she dipped a small rag into the water. Very gently she moved the rag up to my shoulder, carefully observing how I responded to her touch. After a few moments she continued, dragging the rag downwards to my elbow, before dipping into the water again. The rag followed the same path a few more rounds, before moving to my back and the rest of my body. Mrs. Cullen's touches were soft and gentle as she washed me, the warm water easing my tense muscles. With some coaxing, I was able to relax finally releasing my strong hold around my knees, allowing myself to lean back. Carefully, she began washing my hair. A soft melody sounding from her lips as she worked.

"You have such beautiful hair," she said, carefully pouring water over my hair to clean out the soap.

"So thick and dark. I remember wishing for hair like this when I was younger," she paused, a soft laugh falling from her lips as she twirled my hair with her hands. Her grip tightened as she expertly squeezed out some of the water from my locks.

"I guess that's one of mankind's many flaws. We always long for what we can't have, instead of appreciating what we do have," she continued.

She rubbed a rag against my hair drying it as much as she could before moving to the side of the tub. With guiding hands and strength beyond what her lean and small body appeared to possess, she helped me to my feet, down the makeshift step and out of the tub. As she draped a large towel over my shoulders, I touched her wrist with one of my hands. Her hazel eyes immediately finding mine. I wet my lips, searching for words.

"I don't know how I'll be able to repay you for your kindness," I whispered. My voice still hoarse. Dr. Cullen had explained that this also was a result of my many months of silence. Mrs. Cullen's eyes softened and compassion radiated from every feature on her face.

"You deserve every ounce of kindness I can give you, Bella."

Her eyes held mine for a moment, before she continued her work in silence. Her movements were confident and professional. A part of me felt self-conscious and embarrassed standing naked in front of Mrs. Cullen, in front of anyone really. But something about Mrs. Cullen made me feel calm and safe. I couldn't understand it. My conflicting emotions were confusing me to no end. Silence had yet again filled the room as I lost myself to my thoughts.

Soon my skin was dried and Mrs. Cullen began adorning my body with unfamiliar clothes. Not one piece of clothing my own. The size of the clothes appeared to be the same those of Mrs. Cullen's, so I had to presume they were hers. Guilt grew in my stomach as I thought about how much she and her husband were giving up to help me. I swore to myself that I would find some way to repay them. They had helped me so much already, and I would hate to become more of a burden for them.

When the final button was secured, complete and utter exhaustion spread through my body. My bones felt like led and my muscles were weak and unsteady. I felt my knees give way as I fell back against the chair behind me. Mrs. Cullen steadied me, her brows furrowing with worry as she studied me.

"I'm okay," I said, trying to reassure her. My unsteady voice and harsh breathing contradicting my words.

"I just need a moment," I continued, forcing my voice to sound stronger. I could see Mrs. Cullen nodding beside me, silently agreeing to my request. Squeezing my shoulder she moved behind me, running a brush through my hair before braiding it expertly.

My weak and fragile body annoyed me to no end. I wasn't used to feeling so useless… That and my lack of memory…

"You're body has to heal, Isabella. It'll take some time, but you'll be back on your feet in no time," she said softly, as though she could read my mind.

"I feel so useless," I admitted in a small voice, closing my eyes as tears burned behind my eyelids. I felt Mrs. Cullen move to kneel down in front of me, but I refused to meet her eyes. I felt miserable and was embarrassed by my obvious complaining and lack of strength.

"Bella… Can you look at me dear?" My eyes blurred with tears, but I forced myself to glance her way. She touched my hand, squeezing it reassuringly before she continued.

"Death is no stranger to us out here. It may sneak up on us during the night, or shock us during the day. However, you never get used to life's brutality… God has challenged you with a great burden. You've lost both of your parents at a young age, and you're in a new place with no familiarity around you," she paused, lifting one hand slowly to touch my cheek. When her thumb stroked my upper cheek, I realized that wet tears were now streaming down my face.

"Your body is healing, but it's weak and it will be weak for a while longer. Your mind shut down to protect itself and I know you're confused and frustrated as you try to piece everything together."

Mrs. Cullen took a deep breath, before she continued.

"I want you to understand that it's okay to feel useless. It's okay to be angry and upset. Anyone in your situation would feel the exact same way. Just -," she stopped abruptly. Her eyes distant as though she was remembering something familiar and unpleasant. When she finally continued, fierce determination radiated from her soft features.

"Don't let the darkness surround you until there's no way out. Don't give up…Please, Bella," she paused again, allowing her words and pleas to sink in before she continued.

"You've only been lucid for two days and you've made such progress already!" she exclaimed, a confident smile spreading on her lips.

"Bella, you are a strong, young woman with so much to accomplish in this world. And you will succeed, I just know it. I would love to be a part of your journey. To be your confidant, or anything else you might need. If you'll allow me-. Us. Carlise and I would love to be a part of your life, and help you in any way we can. Allow us to share your burden."

A sharp knock echoed through the room, interrupting our conversation. Mrs. Cullen's kind words warming my broken heart. The door cracked opened, no one entered, but a voice rang out.

"May I enter?" I recognized Mr. Cullen's voice immediately.

Quickly, I raised both my hands to my cheeks to dry the remnants of my tears. Mrs. Cullen waited for me to finish before responding to her husband's request.

"Come on in, Carlisle."

Instantly, the door opened and Mr. Cullen's tall figure entered the room. His clear blue eyes searched mine, a wide and welcome smile on his lips.

"Your chariot awaits, young lady. I'd say you've had enough excitement for one day," he said, his voice bright and determined.

He quickly placed an arm under my knees and the other on my back as he effortlessly picked me up from the chair and up into his arms. I still felt somewhat uncomfortable with being carried around, but my arguments had been quickly been dismissed when I raised them earlier.

"You mustn't exhaust yourself, Bella. If you push yourself too hard, it will only delay your recovery. We'll work with regaining your strength slowly, but until you are able I will function as your legs for longer distances. Doctor's orders."

So, I held my tongue and clumsily placed one arm around his neck for balance as he carried me out of the room with his wife in toe.

The Cullen house wasn't like the fine houses in St. Louis, but they lived comfortably and were a well-respected family. Two women worked at the house, one as a cook and the other as a maid. I hadn't met them yet, but Mrs. Cullen spoke warmly of them both. Although, I hadn't seen much of the house, I knew it was a two story building with comfortably sized rooms. Today, had been the first time I'd moved out of the room I'd been in.

Mr. Cullen's arms tightened as he moved towards the stairwell, taking the first steps lightly. Just as he was to take his next step the sound of the doorbell filled the room. Both Mr. and Mrs. Cullen instantly stopped their movements in response to the sound. Their eyes met as a silent conversation passed between them. Both of their features displaying a hint of concern and annoyance before they were able to conceal it. Mrs. Cullen nodded in silent agreement, turning around to make her way to the door.

Carefully, Mr. Cullen continued up the stairs. I could hear Mrs. Cullen's soft voice greeting someone just as Mr. Cullen and I entered my room. He gently placed me on the bed, before respectfully stepping back, allowing me to get situated on my own.

"I want you to get some rest now, Bella. That bath must have taken a lot out of you. Esme and I will check in on you soon," he said hurriedly as he retreated. I simply nodded in response, my mind instantly filling with curiosity.

Exhausted from the day's events I leaned back against the pillows and tried to relax. I closed my eyes, but my mind wandered keeping me from sleep. As silence settled in the room, I realized that if I focused, I could hear the soft voices from the room below.

"Deputies… How may I help you?" I heard, recognizing Mr. Cullen's strong voice.

"Carlisle. Nice to see you again," an unfamiliar, booming voice uttered.

"Likewise Masen. Crowley…" Mr. Cullen paused.

"Carlisle, how is Isabella?" The same booming voice asked, his tone genuine and concerned.

"She is recovering. She still has quite a while left to go, but she is making excellent progress." I could hear a proud smile in Mr. Cullen's voice.

"Sounds like she'd be able to speak with us then," an unfamiliar and rougher voice stated.

Anxiousness spread through my body in response to his words. For some reason, simply the thought of speaking to someone from the law enforcement made me feel sick to my stomach.

"Mr. Crowley, Isabella is still very fragile. She's still struggling with her memory loss, and I just -," Mrs. Cullen's voice sounded muffled and distant.

"We understand your concern and I promise you Esme, I won't push her. But the truth of the matter is… We need to talk to her. We've already lost a lot of valuable time." What I believed to be Mr. Masen's voice was softer as he spoke, but there was a sense of natural authority to his voice.

"We've already told you that she didn't see anything. Don't make her deal with this right now. She's had a trying day," Mrs. Cullen asked, pleadingly.

"I understand that, but we still have to speak to her personally, Esme. The sooner the better," Mr. Masen answered.

"And we've waited long enough" Mr. Crowley's voice was impatient and harsh.

"I've just put her to bed, but I'll see if she's up for it. If she says 'No', I won't push her. Not today." Mr. Cullen's voice left no room for discussion. His tone of voice full of authority and strength.

I could hear Mr. and Mrs. Cullen's joined steps ascending slowly up the stairs towards my room. My stomach turned in response to the sound. Nausea raced through me as my heart beat rapidly in my chest. My nerves were causing me to feel physically ill. My breath was coming out in short gasps, my mouth filling with water. As the door handle turned, I reached desperately for the bedside pan. I heard the door open as I emptied the contents of my stomach into the pan. The quiet room now filled with the disgusting sound of retching.