Chapter 1: I Flee
The key? Snap decisions and speed!
Now, if only my truck would cooperate.
In the speed-challenged old iron behemoth, Bella attempted to race away from Newton's Outfitters as quickly as she could to reach La Push. Of course, race was a relative term, considering the age of the faded old beast. It was a tank, and it moved like one, but she loved it anyway.
She'd been scheduled to work until mid-afternoon, but right after she arrived, Mrs. Newton had said Bella wasn't needed.
What was I supposed to do now?
Working at Newton's was as good a way as any to pass the time until Edward came home from his hunting trip. It was better than sitting around the Cullens' house, waiting for Alice to get her claws on her.
I mean ... make-up brushes.
On her way back out of the sporting goods store, Mrs. Newton had asked if Bella would take a stack of flyers that had been taking up room on the front counter out to the recycle bin. The flyers were printed on glowing neon sheets of paper with bold black letters proclaiming, "Save the Olympic Wolf." A woodcut illustration of a wolf howling mournfully at the moon made Bella think of her friend Jake and how much she missed him. She decided right then and there to ignore Edward's irrational demands and go see him. She flew to the truck, threw the stack of flyers into the cab, and scrambled in.
That was how you got around Alice's visions! Snap decisions and speed! She'd made the decision. The rest was up to the truck.
Naturally, it was raining; it was Forks. But that didn't make her apply her customary caution, or "Drive like a little ol' blue-haired grandma," as Jake usually said. She had to hurry to reach the invisible, but not-so-imaginary, boundary line between the vampires and the werewolves before Alice could catch and stop her.
Drag her back and torture her.
Edward had gone hunting with Carlisle and his adopted brothers for their Guys' Weekend, leaving Alice in charge to babysit.
Babysit me! Argh!
Bella thumped the steering wheel with her fist in frustration.
Edward's stifling over-protectiveness had really been getting on her nerves. And to forbid her to see Jake? Forbid her?
Just because Jake was a potentially lethal young werewolf, it didn't mean he wasn't her friend anymore. Jake had been there for her when Edward dumped her eight months before. He'd been her best and closest friend.
Edward had tossed her aside-leaving her alone in the forest behind her father's little white house-after cautioning her against ever going into the forest by herself. She had been informed she wasn't good for him, and he didn't want her. He had become tired of pretending to be something he wasn't.
He couldn't have been more clear.
All that after he'd promised he would never leave.
When Edward left, ripping his entire family away, Jacob was the one who had put all of Bella's shattered pieces back together-except for the few shards that had still been missing. He had helped her so much. He hadn't abandoned her like the Cullens. She couldn't just abandon him and never see him again.
It wasn't just Jacob. She wasn't sure why she hadn't noticed sooner. Bella had never been a social butterfly, but had she seen anyone without Edward or Alice lurking nearby?
Bella missed Angela, and they hadn't had a Girl's Night in ages. With Edward and Alice always hovering, the weak little humans were too intimidated to even ask.
What she once thought of as attentive had become so controlling.
Edward just didn't understand. He wouldn't listen.
It seemed he never listened to anything she tried to tell him.
Then to practically hold her prisoner!
The steering wheel took the brunt of her anger again.
Since Bella had been scheduled to work and should have been safe there, Alice had stopped by the house to let Bella know she had decided to go hunting. She said she wouldn't be far away while Bella was at work and not to try "anything funny."
Bella was surprised Alice hadn't camped out in the woods behind the store to guard her.
Cue another eye roll.
Alice's plans included a "sleep-over" for later that night, even though none of them ever slept, and Bella just knew it would be another stimulating night of "Bella: Fashionista Wonderklutz." Why did she continue to let Alice dress her in those ... those clothes? One skirt probably cost more than what she made at Newton's in two months!
Okay ... six months.
Maybe Bella could get her a My Size Barbie for Christmas. They were nearly the same size. They could trade outfits.
Let's not forget the ever-popular paint by numbers.
On my face.
Well, it seemed to make her happy. Alice couldn't remember anything of her human life before she was changed into a vampire. She got to play human vicariously through Bella.
It was all a ploy so Alice could keep Bella within reach and protected while Edward was away. Sometimes Bella thought Edward did it more for Alice's benefit because they both knew she didn't like it.
So why did she keep doing it? What's happened to her? Why did she allow it? Was it because she had always taken care of her mother? Renee was like a butterfly, flitting from one hobby to the next; never settling for very long in any one place. Bella was the one that always made sure the bills were paid on time and there were groceries in the fridge.
Sometimes she was surprised Renee had been able to keep her job as a kindergarten teacher for so long. But that was one part of her life she had always appeared to be on top of. It seemed keeping the little ones interested and enthused was her gift. In many ways, she was so like them, and they loved her.
Had Bella given in to Edward and Alice because a part of her wanted to be taken care of? It had become so oppressive. And she had let them!
Bella wasn't even really sure how it had all happened. It snowballed until she had no control over her own life at all.
All for her "safety and protection," Edward had said.
Protection? From Jake? Jake would never hurt her.
The last time she had tried to see Jake, she'd taken too long to decide, and Alice had ratted her out. Edward then had time to run back from his hunt and remove some part from the engine of Bella's truck so it wouldn't start.
She had been so angry; she practically had steam coming out of her ears.
It was right after that when Edward clamped down even more for her safety. He and Alice followed her everywhere. If one wasn't around, the other was. Bella was only allowed to see certain people and had to stay away from others.
She wasn't permitted to go to La Push because Edward's family couldn't cross the line into the wolves' territory without starting a war with them. But who said they had to go with her? Had they been invited?
It was a wonder they didn't follow her into any bathroom that had a window to prevent her escape.
She could almost understand their problem with Jacob, his being a werewolf and their mortal enemy and all, but they had even kept Jasper away from her and he was one of them! Well, he had tried to take a bite out of her on her last birthday, but she had never blamed him for that. She'd cut her finger and started to bleed.
Everything would have been all right. Even though Jasper's eyes had turned black, it would have been okay. She'd seen him hold his breath and take a step back. She wasn't sure why, but then Edward had growled and thrown her into the table with the cake and glass plates.
Nothing shattered quite like lead crystal and quite a few of those razor-sharp slivers had been embedded in her arm.
It led to nice fresh blood pouring out of her. That was when six other vampires' pretty golden eyes turned to black. Jasper was an empath in a room full of vampires who had instantly craved dinner. He'd been bombarded with it from every side.
Bella wasn't really surprised when he snarled and pounced.
As fast as Jasper was, Carlisle had him, but he broke away. Emmett managed to grab him, and then it took both he and Rosalie to drag him away.
Bella had forgiven him immediately because it hadn't been his fault! She never blamed him, and Edward knew that!
In fact, if anyone had given it a moment's thought, it was Edward's fault for over-reacting.
If he hadn't thrown her into that table ...
It was infuriating!
So why had he shoved her away like that?
Bella pleaded with the truck to go faster. Alice had probably seen the decision and called Edward by that time. Maybe he wouldn't get cell reception wherever they went.
She wished it would stop raining for a few minutes until she got to the Reservation.
She had to have been near the boundary line. They all knew exactly where it was, but that stretch of road looked all the same; pavement, gravel shoulder, and grey guard rail. Grassy embankment and forest. Green, green, green.
One would think they'd put some kind of sign or marker out there. Maybe roll a boulder over to the side of the road or something.
Distracted by her angry, racing thoughts, she stared out at the monotonous green, until something flashed across her narrowed field of view.
Bella jerked the wheel to the right. The tires dropped off the edge of the pavement and plowed through the gravel. She jammed her foot down on the brakes, but the road was wet and the truck started to slide to the side. It hit the guard rail and flipped right over.
The truck rolled down the embankment. Her jacket, backpack, and the neon-bright fliers, tumbled around the inside of the cab like the spin cycle on the washer.
The ancient seatbelt snapped, and she was launched from the seat, catching her legs on the steering wheel. When the truck bounced and rolled again, Bella was slammed into the passenger side door.
She thought it was odd that she didn't feel any pain. It should have hurt. A lot.
One moment she saw pines spinning in front of her, but with the next bounce of the truck, the windshield resembled an intricate mosaic. Tiny, clear glass squares, rectangles and octagons appeared.
All motion slowed. She'd seen that before. Considering her penchant for accidents and near death experiences, she'd experienced it all too often.
Bella watched, fascinated, as the center of the clear, flat safety glass mosaic buckled. When it exploded, pretty, glittering glass tiles flew in every direction.
So much for fifty year old safety glass. She was sure the pieces had hit her, but she hadn't felt it. She hadn't seen it either because her eyes snapped shut.
The truck bounced again. Her eyes popped open and she saw red.
The rusty-salty scent of it filled her nose. Blood. Her blood.
The pebbled, fractured glass that remained around the edge of the windshield was glazed in it. More was splattered across the dash board. How could there have been so much blood? Was there that much blood in a human body?
The world spun again; grey sky flipping to green grass, and Bella was hurled back toward the steering wheel. She struck it with the side of her chest and her useless arms flapped past her like flags in a storm.
Pain erupted through her entire body and a scream was torn from her throat. The battered truck flipped again and slammed into something solid. She was flung back to the passenger side, her body crunching against the door.
The window shattered as the door and the corner of the roof caved in around a broad tree trunk.
The truck shuddered and began to tip slowly toward the left. Through the broken window, Bella saw the world tilt again. The truck creaked and groaned as it fell away from the trees and dropped heavily to its tires.
Her body flopped across the bench seat, her head landing in the driver's seat. Blood dripped from the steering wheel. Broken glass, caught in all the sticky crimson, dotted the dashboard like sugar crystals on a cake.
Through the gaping hole where the windshield used to be, Bella saw trees to the right and sky to the left.
She felt what she thought was more blood trickling across her forehead.
Bella awoke to pounding agony and searing heat spreading across her neck and chest.
She was reasonably sure she had opened her eyes, but everything was black.
Heat? Was there a fire?
The gasoline fumes were heavy in the air. She knew she had to get out of there and get to a phone.
Why hadn't she ever gotten a cell phone?
She tried to move her arms and, impossibly, even more pain shot through her. Nausea twisted her stomach and she just knew she was going to throw up.
If she had vomited, she missed it because she must have passed out again.
Why did I wake up?
She thought her eyes were open again. At least light and dark grey out-of-focus blobs were an improvement over nothingness.
There was a hammering, screaming pain in her head and burning in her neck. There must have been a fire!
Was that rain?
Would the rain put out the fire?
A darker grey, human-shaped shadow loomed above her. Was it a man?
"I will help you, Bella."
Oh, thank God!
She was so grateful, but there was too much blood, and it hurt so bad. Her gratitude descended into hopelessness. She knew he was too late to save her from the fire.
With that thought, the flames rose up and closed over her, enclosing her in a hissing, scorching cocoon. She sank into its blistering threads.
The pain was jarring, jolting-a snapping, crackling whip cutting through and laying open her flesh. At each blazing slice, Bella twitched and flinched. Her skin was sizzling, her nerves were frying.
But when she heard his voice, it all receded, sliding almost into the background.
Her name was Bella!
He said she had to remember her mother.
She remembered a woman with blonde hair.
Mom had blond hair and blue eyes.
Remember her father? Who ...?
He had brown hair and eyes. She knew she had her father's eyes.
Where was Charlie?
He said to remember Charlie and Renee.
Where were they? Who was taking care of Charlie? Was he at home?
Home was a little, white, two-story house, and her room was there.
She parked her truck out in the street in front of the house.
The truck! It was red. Rusty red. Orange and red like...
Like Arizona? Florida? Not Florida. Florida was hot and wet and Renee was there.
Renee. Her goofy, happy mother with blue eyes. And Phil. He played baseball, and he was with Renee in Florida.
Not Arizona? Bella had lived in Arizona. She had been there before she moved to ... Forks?
Arizona was hot and dry with burning sun and hot, hot, hot and red eyes, and burning and pain. Red eyes like glowing hot coals and ...
She dropped into the red-hot coals.
What did he say?
She was a senior and was going to graduate with ...
With ... someone.
Edward and Alice! Ben, Angela, and Jessica, and Mike and...
She had worked at Newton's Outfitters with Mike Newton. Edward hadn't wanted her to work there, but she had anyway.
Edward with gold eyes. Alice had gold eyes.
They were ... vampires?
They'd all had golden eyes. Emmett. Carlisle and Esme. Rosalie and Jasper. Sometimes their eyes were black. Bella remembered Jasper's black eyes. He was leaping ...
... Leaping at her because she had been bleeding! But it wasn't his fault! They all had black eyes then. She remembered Jasper's black eyes, and she wasn't afraid. But then ...
Edward had left. He took her into the green, wet forest and left her there. She wasn't good enough for him. He didn't want her. They all left her and she was so alone. But then Jake helped. Warm Jake-hot like the sun. Blazing hot like the sun.
Raging heat flared up and rippled around her. There were white-hot ribbons coiling around every cell, every organ; curling and twisting around her legs, her arms, her hands ...
A cool touch on her hand.
Someonewas holding her hand.
It wasn't burned to ash and gone?
"I will help you, Bella."
He was holding her hand. He was cool and smelled like leather and ...
Leather. Like when Renee made her go horseback riding, and she couldn't even throw her leg over to mount. The instructor had helped by pushing her leg over the saddle.
He was helping her. He was holding her hand and talking to her. She needed for him to keep talking.
Edward had needed her once. Bella and Alice had helped him. Or was it that Alice needed Bella to help her save Edward? To keep Edward out of the sun in Volterra so they wouldn't kill him. The Volturi vampires had red eyes. Red, blazing eyes ...
Help me fight the fire!
He was helping her fight the flames with his cool touch.
Then she had been alone and couldn't fight the vampires by herself.
How could I?
Edward had left her to fight the vampires alone. Jake helped. Jake, the ...
The wolves had caught the vampire with the black hair. They chased the other one with the red hair. But she kept coming back. She had hair like red flames ...
You left me, Edward! You left me!
She had loved him and he left her to face the red-eyed vampires alone-because she hadn't been enough for him. He hadn't cared if the vampires came back.
But Edward had come back, and said he loved her, but did he? Bella hadn't been good enough and Edward came back and tried to force her into a mold of his design. For her own good, he'd said.
Or to make her good enough for him?
He broke the truck so she couldn't see Jake, and he followed and hovered and clung, and told her where she could go and who she could see. He made Alice her babysitter. She watched, and followed, and kept her from ...
Edward had lied and Alice helped him. He had bribed Alice to assist him! Bella had been so so mad. She was furious!
I am furious.
A blade of hot fury pierced her chest, cracking it open.
A cool hand on her arm pushed back the fury, the anger, and the fire.
It was him. He was the one that found her. He smelled like leather and ... there was a spice ... but she couldn't remember what it was.
He was helping her fight the fire, and though she wanted to give up, she would fight it for him.
What did he say?
Who did this? What happened? Bella didn't remember, but she had to try-for him. He was helping to push the flames away, so she fought with everything she had.
She remembered battling against Edward and Alice. Bella had been at Newton's and fought to leave before they could see and stop her from visiting Jake again.
Edward had no right to keep her from Jacob.
She'd left Newton's and drove to the Reservation.
She had been driving her truck through the rain as fast as she could make it go. She had almost made it to the boundary line.
That stupid line between the vampires and the wolves.
Something ran across the road and she swerved so she wouldn't hit it.
Something ... across the road ...
She hadn't hit whatever it was, but the truck slid off the pavement and rolled down the bank. The seatbelt ripped. Her legs caught on the steering wheel and they snapped. Just like when red-eyed James broke her leg.
The nomad vampires-James, Victoria and Laurent. James had decided to hunt Bella when Edward tried to protect her. Edward couldn't catch James, so Jasper and Alice took her to Phoenix.
James had gone to Phoenix and tricked Bella into thinking he had her mother. He lured her to the old ballet studio where she had taken lessons as a small child.
But Renee wasn't there-only James.
The pepper spray Charlie had given her hadn't worked.
He easily caught her and threw her into the mirrored wall. He stomped on her leg and broke it just before he bit her arm. The venom was like acid. It was burning ...
Jasper and Emmett killed James ...
Edward had sucked out the venom so Bella wouldn't change into a vampire like him. She should have realized then he had never really wanted her-had lied when he said he wanted her forever.
Jasper had urged them to go after the red-haired vampire, Victoria. But Edward said no. Edward always said no.
The truck had rolled and pain had exploded in her head and chest, arms and legs, and there was blood everywhere. So much more blood than in Phoenix.
Her beloved tank of a truck hadn't saved her.
It must have caught fire because she woke up and was burning.
Then the cool rain.
Wasn't it always raining in Forks? Why hadn't the rain put out the fire?
Then he was there.
He said he would help, but why didn't he put out the fire? Maybe he couldn't, but he helped her fight it.
The fire was searing acid like the venom ...
... Like the venom from a vampire.
Bella's heart had begun hammering against inside her chest, every beat another blast of agony. Was it venom? That ... that fire ... that ... torture she had been struggling against ... that he had been helping her to fight. Was it venom? Was she changing into a vampire? Or was she going to die?
He was still with her. She felt his hands around hers.
"It's nearly over, Darlin'. I'm here. It's almost over. I'm here."
He stayed. He didn't leave her. He stayed through the fire and ...
The fire stopped. The burning stopped.
Bella's heart stopped.
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