A/N I don't own twilight.

Given the response I got to my first chapter, I'm giving you the second one shortly after. Thank you all so very much that you have faith in my story. Makes me nervous about meeting your expectations. Next updates will take more time. There's such a thing as real life that demans attention.

In retrospect, I'm not very happy with this chapter. But, I'm trying to get into Bella's skin and in this chapter, she wasn't really letting me. So, few words are used. Bella's mind is a chaos and she's so confused... I cried with her when I wrote this.

Your mood music: Linkin Park - Crawling; Evanescence - Whisper; Maria Mena - Shadow.In that order. Gives you an inkling of Bella's emotions along the way.


Chapter 2.

Carlisle and Esme are as nice as they looked in the picture. Carlisle is a stunningly handsome blond man with a charisma that blows you away. Esme is easily as pretty, with caramel hair and gentle brown eyes. She just radiates love, I don't know how else to put it. They wear expensive clothes, but don't act like they're rich. I know they are, though. They are quiet, but not reserved.

You can tell that Carlisle is a doctor. It's some sort of air about him. Even if I didn't know this about him, I would be able to guess it. And he's a dad in every fibre of his being. He could be casted for this role in a movie, easily. Esme doesn't work, she's a full time mom. With five teenage children — soon to be six — this is nothing special. For the first time, I wonder what my new siblings will be like. Will they be very hard to deal with? Right now, I'm too tired to be wary of the upcoming fights.

Carlisle and Esme. Their gentleness gets on my nerves a little. Mostly because I can tell it's genuine. Gah. I'd rather have cold and distant. At least I know how to handle that.

We have drinks at a diner at the airport. They bring me hot chocolate, but I don't drink it. I rather not eat or drink with people around me. Plus hot liquids kind of hurt to swallow. Carlisle and Renée talk and I see that Renée gives Carlisle my file.

He knows everything about me, I have been told. I cannot meet his eyes.

Esme knows, too. She looks at me with searching eyes, but she doesn't try to make conversation, fortunately. I like to listen. I don't look at her, either. I don't want pity. Nor do I deserve it. She's read my file. She must know that.

My siblings-to-be don't know. I have made it very clear that as far as I'm concerned, no one in Forks but Carlisle and Esme will know. They have agreed to that, which suited me fine.

Oh and of course I will have to go to a new therapist here. The thought that Renée will be leaving me here shortly makes my eyes fill up with tears again. I frown and try to blink them away. Then I look up at Renée, to memorize her face. Her soft, brown hair that never does what she wants. Her big brown eyes, her mouth that has told me reassurances I actually wanted to believe. Her strong chin, her extravagant clothing. She's the only person I've ever considered to be a sort of mother for me.

Renée feels my gaze and looks at me. "You are going to do great, you know?" she smiles. "I just feel it. This time will be right."

Like I said, I want to believe her.

All too soon, it's time to go. As we walk towards the exit of the airport, my feet feel like concrete. I don't think I will be able to pull this off. Of all the hurt I've had to bear in my life, this particular one is going to break me. I'm sure of it.

What is going to happen to me now? Where am I getting myself into? I feel like I'm drowning in a strong current, and all I can do is float along, trying to keep my head above the water, and bide my time until my feet can find purchase on the ground again.

Carlisle and Esme walk on my left, Renée is on my right. I look down at the floor. My throat feels thick with unshed tears. I feel like a coward for not fighting. But then again, would it really make things better if I dropped down to the floor and started a fit? Renée wouldn't take me home with her. She made that clear and I understand that. She cannot be my caretaker. The fact that she has helped me over the last two weeks has been extraordinary, I am aware and very grateful of that. And she wouldn't let me go with just any family. Right?

Still, it feels like yet another splinter that's pushed into my heart. Renée is the only person I could trust. My subconscious whispers evilly that this woman is sending me away with strangers. Across the country. Quite convenient, no? But no. If I believe that, that would mean there really is nothing left. The thought alone is so sad that fresh tears stain my cheeks again. We walk on. I do nothing.

My throat hurts.

The grey sky comes into sight as we reach the exit of the airport. Carlisle is rolling the cart with my suitcase on it. I'm carrying my own backpack. Yes. All my wordly possessions fit on one cart easily. I wish I had less to carry.

"So, then," Renée sighs as we are standing outside, under the canopy of the big exit of the airport. It's not really raining. It's pouring.

It's cold.

Renée comes to stand in front of me and makes me meet her gaze. "I have so much faith in you," she whispers. "I just know that you are going to be all right."

I pull my lower lip between my teeth. At this exact moment, everything is all wrong.

"I have to go back inside, Bella, because my plane will leave soon. Will you promise me one thing?"

I nod hesitantly. The look in her eyes makes me believe that my subconscious might be wrong.

"Will you e-mail me? Or, better, call me?"

E-mail, I might try. Calling? And then what? Tapping in Morse code on the receiver?

I nod again. I want desperately to hug her, but my body just freezes as soon as the thought enters my mind. So instead, I hug myself. A single tear escapes my eye and runs down my cheek.

Renée copies my gesture and hugs herself tightly, too, her eyes conveying the message that it's me she wants to have that hug. She cries too, I notice, and we both smile through our tears. No, Renée only wants the best for me. I could love her, I think. But I'll never know, won't I? She's going to walk out of my life. There's nothing I can do.

"Don't forget to count," Renée whispers, her voice husky. Is she so sad, too? I could only hope so. We've become so close over the last couple of weeks. She really saved my life. But face it, I am just one of her patients, a case with a number. I wonder if she'll still talk with me when social services no longer pays for her.

But I nod at her, for the third time. Then she abruptly turns and walks back into the airport, leaving me with two strange people I have met only half an hour ago with whom I will have to go and live with until I am at least eighteen.

Well, fuck my life.

I look after Renée until I no longer can find her amongst the thrum of people that occupy this airport. My heart, that was already shattered in pieces, crumbles just a little more. See? my mind whispers, it's dangerous to have hope. Shouldn't you know that by now? A gut-wrenching sob escapes me and I just keep staring at the point where I last saw Renée. My tears won't stop anytime soon again now, I can tell. I wipe my face angrily with the sleeve of my oversized sweater.

Behind me, Carlisle clears his throat. When I turn to him, he gives me a handkerchief. I take it from him and wipe my face again. Damn those tears. I promised myself I would never cry again when I was fourteen and Laurent was arrested. The whole endeavour with Stefan has set things loose again, and now I can't seem to be able to stop.

"Bella, are you ready to come home with us?" Esme asks softly.

No. I nod, weary.

"Do you need to use the restroom before we go? Because it'll be a long ride," Esme asks then. I can tell she's trying to be considerate, given the fact that I cannot voice my needs, literally.

I shake my head. Any bodily fluids I might have carried have evaporated with the constant flow of tears that is now running down my face. My eyes are so sore already. I major headache is steadily building behind my eyes.

Carlisle leads the way to his car, a Mercedes that looks so expensive I am apprehensive to take a seat in it. Esme sits in the back with me and smiles reassuringly.

How do I make it clear to them that I do not deserve any form of pity? Isn't it horrible enough that they wanted to bring me into their home? I know they get a kick out of that. Pick the most broken girl and fix her right up. There's no such thing as altruism. Don't they know it's all my fault?

It's surely my fault that Renée is currently boarding a plane back to Phoenix and I am here, stuck in a place where the sun never shines. Literally.

I cross my arms and legs and settle for an unseeing gaze out of the window. I'm trying to shut down my mind a little. I don't want to think. My head throbs.

For the first two hours of the drive, my new caregivers don't try to get me talking, which is fine by me. They talk to each other. It sounds like normal conversation about their day, about their kids and how they are doing in school. They never mention me like I'm not even there, and that surprises me, I must say. What surprises me too, is that there is no litany of rules, or threats, or warnings.

When we have half an hour to go, however, Carlisle starts speaking to me. I mentally brace myself. I feel so alone right now.

"Well, Bella, I know this has been a rough day for you. We are almost home now. When we get there, I want you to know that only Alice and Rosalie will be home. The boys won't be there, so you can get adjusted a little."

I almost huff. But I don't. I've lost my spike, I think. Or maybe I'm just scared shitless.

I nod.

"I'm not going to bother you with questions or reassurances or anything. Esme and I think you'll do best when you make your way home on your own terms. As promised, the kids don't know about your past. I felt obliged to tell them you can't speak, however, as you may understand."

I nod again. I'm not really interested in meeting my new family. I'm not excited. I'm just… tired. No, not tired. I'm empty. And desperately lonely. But I don't have a clue how I could ever fix that. I don't know how anybody would ever want me in their life.

Carlisle and Esme stay quiet for the rest of the ride. I'm gazing out of the window, wondering vaguely how green it all is here. I can barely make out the side of the road through the rain, but it's almost like green filters have been placed over the windows. I cannot see the separate trees that must line the road.

We drive through the town called Forks. Yes, through. Because before long, we leave the houses behind us and are on a road that seems to lead right into the forest. We turn into a dirt track would never have noticed from the main road, and the forest gets thicker around us. I'm getting a little alarmed, now.

It turns out to be a driveway. After about a mile or so, a house comes into sight.

No, not a house. A mansion.

It looks even bigger than in the picture Renee gave me. It's all white with huge windows. A large underground garage must be able to hold at least four cars. To the left, broad steps lead up to a porch. The second floor is their first floor. Two more stories rise above that.

Holy hell. I thought these things only existed in movies?

Carlisle stops the care before the garage and kills the engine. He gets out and walks around to the back of the car to get my suitcase out. Esme stays in with me.

"Are you ready?" she asks softly.

No. I am scared out of my wits. Besides, I'll really have to tell her to not use those words with me. It was the exact same thing Laurent used to ask me before…

Stop.

I snap the rubber band that's around my right wrist, and wince at the pain. The skin on the inside of my wrist is constantly bruised purple from all the times I snap the band.

Esme notices.

It's supposed to stop any negative thoughts. Although that part doesn't really seem to be working, I keep on doing it as the physical pain is so much easier to bear than the pain of my memories.

I pull up the hood of my sweater, then open the car door and get out. Thick drops of rain fall on my head immedeately I walk up to the steps to the porch to get myself out of the rain. Carlisle is already there, my suitcase in his hand. Esme follows behind me.

The reality of the situation finally crashes down on me. I'm here. This will be my home. I can't leave. This is my new life, and I'll have to deal with it. I cannot even run if I want to, because we're miles from the town. Plus, where would I go? There really is nowhere, or no one, I can go to if this ends badly. No, my mind sneers, you mean if you fuck up. Shh. Don't think that. Please. I will be good.

I back away to the corner of the porch, near the stairs. I'm very uncomfortable all of a sudden to set foot inside this house. I have a strong feeling that once I do, there will be no going back. Esme notices my hesitation, but she doesn't say anything. She just observes.

Then I see a girl standing behind the big windows that look out on the porch. She must be Alice, I've seen her in the picture. She's who I call the pixie; black, spiky hair, fierce eyes and petite posture. As soon as she learns that I have noticed her, she claps her hands and starts bouncing up and down, grinning widely.

Oh Lord, is she mentally challenged?

She darts to the door and flits out on the porch, but Carlisle warns her with just one word.

"Alice."

She stops to look at him, and I wrap my arms around myself in anticipation. I glance at the forest behind me, calculating if I could make it if I ran for it. But with my clumsiness, I'd probably just fall down before I was down these stairs. And that had happened before, hadn't it? When Stefan…

Stop.

I want to snap the rubber band, but I can't because I'm still frozen, looking from Alice to Carlisle.

Alice huffs at him and waves his warning away with a careless hand.

She. Defies. Him.

I hug myself tighter hold my breath. I really don't want to know what will happen next. Or maybe I do. Brace myself for what I'm thrown into. Might as well get it over with.

Because, obviously, that's what I've deserved for what I've done wrong.

But nothing happens. Alice just huffs and then gingerly steps forward to me. She pauses about three feet away, which makes me tense up further, but I can't back out without having to step down the stairs of the porch, which I really rather don't.

Esme notices.

"Hi, Bella," Alice chimes in a sweet, high voice. "I'm Alice. We are so glad you are finally here! Did you have good trip?"

I look at her, dumbfounded. She's nice, too. And fully sane, as far as I can tell. Am I dreaming? Because it'll be a handsome mindfuck when I wake up.

"You must be tired. Shall I show you around the house?"

Before I can answer, she holds out her hand to me. I eye it suspiciously and look back at her. I cannot take her hand. Have they not told her that?

Alice checks herself and then moves her arm a little, making it a general gesture of invitation. After a moment of hesitation, I follow her into the house.

I can do this. I will have to. But I am so scared. So lonely. I want to cry. I feel like a convict that sets foot in prison, knowing that he will never step outside again. I take a deep breath, grit my teeth and step over the threshold. It feels like it's a mile high.

The house is beautiful, of course. Floor after floor and room after room filled with gorgeous furniture and extraordinary artwork. I'm shocked into silence — no pun intended. The Cullen children all have their own room, and they each have their own unique style. The rooms are relatively tidy, but not overly so. There's a peaceful atmosphere in the entire house. In her room, Alice shows me the dress she is making herself on her mannequin. She tells me she wants to be a fashion designer. The dress is really very pretty.

Alice tells me solemnly that I'm always welcome in her room, to watch a movie, to socialize, or anything. She wants to be my friend, she says.

I don't have the guts to warn her away from me when she looks at me with those puppy eyes.

They have a library that is so vast I can cry at the wonder of this treasure. They tell me I can use it freely and as often as I want, as they are told I like to read. They are wrong. I love to read.

They have a baby grand piano which they tell is Edward's, and only Edward plays. I hear the warning in their voice. This I can relate to. This is a solid rule. I'm relieved that there is at least one thing I can be certain about. But they need not worry. I cannot play to save my life.

My room is on the second floor at the end of the hallway. It's carefully neutral, with earth-like, light colours. It's peaceful, very balanced. The bed is in the middle of the room, a desk stands against the wall behind it. There's a laptop on the desk. At the far wall, two doors lead to my own bathroom and a walk-in closet that is almost as big as my bedroom at Irina and Stefan's house. The left wall is what gets my attention, however, as it is completely made of floor-to-ceiling windows. I feel guilty to be occupying such a pretty room. It must be their guest room, considering it has its own bathroom attached. None of the others have that, except Carlisle and Esme in their master bedroom. But surely, a mattress on the ground would have sufficed for me?

Alice leaves me to get to know my room a little. I stand at the window-wall and look outside. I can see the mountains of the Olympic Peninsula, or that's what they tell me they are. It's green, grey and misty with rain. I miss the blistering Phoenix heat already. It's cold here. I'm cold. I don't think I will ever get warm again. I miss Renee.

Carlisle clears his throat before he steps into the room with my suitcase. He puts it down near the door, then turns to me. I take a step backwards, cautiously. I'm not sure what to do now. They have not set me any rules yet, other than to keep away from the piano. Best to keep on my guard. I do not want to provoke them.

"Why don't you come downstairs with us," he offers. I hesitate. "Rosalie wants to meet you, too. Let's have a drink and then you can unpack later."

He holds out his arm in invitation, but when I don't move, he sighs and walks away from the door. I let my breath escape.

I hadn't even realized I was holding it.


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