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A series of short stories from those friends and family Bella was forced to leave behind. How is everyone coping with her absense? And how are their lives progressing without her?


2. Ben and Angela: Part 2

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Façade: Chapter 2
Angela and Ben, Part 2


x x x

‘It turns out that an eerie type of chaos can lurk just behind a façade of order -

And yet, deep inside the chaos lurks an even eerier type of order.'

--Douglas Hostadter

x x x

I swallowed hard, the rain in my eyes making it difficult to see her.

"Angela? Are you okay?" she was saying in an unbelievably coxing voice. "You look as though you're going to pass out."

I was only faintly aware of the pain in my arm now. The whole thing felt surreal, especially because I couldn't focus on her properly. She seemed to sort of blur as she moved, the lamplight casting strange silhouettes across the pavement. I could feel the wonder and surprise on my face. How could she look so different and yet, in some way, exactly the same as she had three years ago? And not that Bella had never been pretty, but now she was a thing of glorious, intimidating beauty. I was scared-that much I couldn't deny, but the impulse to run felt slightly ridiculous. How could I possibly be in danger from Bella of all people?

"Alright, then. Guess I'll just have to drag you home," she grumbled, sounding a little irritated.

Her tone was enough to drag me out of my stupor, but she was very quick. I felt her suddenly snatch my hand before I had time to even react, and started dragging me along awkwardly behind her. Just like the last time she'd touched me, I shivered.

She noticed. "We're almost there," she soothed.

That brought something to my attention. "How do you know where I live?" I asked her when I could find my voice.

She shrugged, still looking ahead. I couldn't see her face. "I just assumed you lived up here, because it's the only set of apartment blocks until much further up. You wouldn't be walking if you lived any further away."

"Oh." I suppose that made sense.

"What are you doing out this late?" she asked in a very conversational voice. She was being very polite, and it bothered me for some reason I couldn't place.

"Working. I...I work late most nights."

"What do you do?" I could hear the frown in her voice.

"I'm a lawyer," I told her. I wished I could see her face.

"Oh. Well, that explains it," she said, suddenly turning to flash another dazzling smile at me. "You always were a hard worker in high school."

"Ye-Yeah," I mumbled, feeling like quite the idiot when I couldn't look away. Bella averted her eyes quickly after that, and as soon as I was free from her spell, my gaze drifted to the ground, ashamed and embarrassed.

"Where have you been?" I was dying to know, but I was mostly speaking in order to keep the air between us from feeling too awkward. I had to admit, this was never how I had imagined meeting up with Bella again. When I'd accepted the fact that I probably wouldn't see her come back to Forks, I'd always imagined that we might meet completely by chance on a random street, perhaps have a coffee, catch up and rekindle our friendship. I hadn't expected to meet her on an abandoned street, late at night while it was pouring rain...and in Seattle, of all places. It made me wonder why she was out here. And where were Edward and Alice?

"We're here," she announced, stopping just outside on the street. "Do you have a key to get inside?"

"Yes, but I don't need it. Ben should be home now-just knock and he should answer."

But instead she stepped aside, moving underneath the large tree fig tree that grew on the small lawn outside my door-the shade completely obscuring her face and body from any kind of light-and gestured for me to knock. I was puzzled, but didn't argue. I was too cold and uncomfortable to pay much attention to anything. I knocked quickly and no sooner than three seconds later Ben answered the door, a look of pure relief on his face.

"Thank God, Ang!" he cried, wrapping me in a big hug and kissing my cheek. "What in the world happened to you? I was starting to get really worried."

"Sorry," I mumbled into his shoulder, keeping my arm well away from his clumsy hands as he held me tighter. "I slipped and fell on my wrist. I think it's broken."

"What?" he said, alarmed. "Let me see." He let me go quickly, fumbling for my injured hand. He gave up when I wouldn't let him touch it. I showed it to him though and watched as he carefully examined it, squinting through the dim porch light. "I think you're right about breaking it-it's already really swollen." Ben looked up at me then, a warm smile lighting up his lips. I almost laughed, seeing him standing there in a baggy shirt, boxer shorts and a pair of glasses that were constantly sliding down his nose. "Let's get you inside and warm you up, yeah? And maybe I should pick you up from work from now on. I don't like the idea of you walking home at this hour."

He wrapped his arms around me and started leading me into the house. "Oh, crap!" I started, feeling incredibly rude when I realized that I'd completely forgotten about my friend and helper left standing out in the rain. Stupid, stupid Angela!

"What is it?" Ben asked anxiously.

I whirled on my feet, wrapped Bella's cloak tightly around my shoulders with my good arm, and dashed back out into the rain and underneath the tree. Ben called after me, but I ignored him.

"I'm so sorry! That was so neglectful of me!" I exclaimed, not exactly sure if I was talking to anyone. I could barely see anything.

A quiet, melodic laughter tinkled in my ears like bells. "That's okay," came the reply, "I'm just glad that you're home safe, now."

"Would you like to come in and dry off?" I asked, desperately hoping that she'd say yes.

"Hmmm...I think I'd better be getting back, actually. The others will be wondering where I am." I didn't understand her tone. She sounded serious enough, but something in her voice made me think she was smiling. It made me wish for the millionth time that night that I could see her face.

"Do you think you could stay for a little bit?" I pleaded, hoping that I wasn't imposing too much. "I mean, you don't have to. I'd understand if you were busy, but I haven't seen you for so long, and I've missed you a lot-I've wanted to talk to you for the longest time..."

There was no immediate response. Ben had finally come after me, curious I supposed, to see why I was talking to a tree. "What are you doing? Are you crazy?" he asked, angry, now. "You'll catch pneumonia or something if stay out here much longer."

I couldn't be certain because it was so quiet, but I thought I heard Bella giggle. I ignored Ben for the second time.


"What?" Ben interrupted before she had the chance to answer, his eyes almost bulging out of his head. "Bella is here?!"

I heard her sigh heavily. "Yes, Ben. It's me."

"Why don't you come over here where we can see you? Why are you hiding?"

"I'm not hiding," she laughed. It didn't pass my notice that she ignored the first question. "I wouldn't be talking to you otherwise."

"Well why don't you come on in?" Ben invited her, sounding rather eager all of a sudden. "We'd love to have you stay for a little while. Angela especially."

Again, she didn't answer straight away. A strange, fierce rumbling sound seemed to be coming from up in the trees. Instinctively, I took a big step back, knocking right into Ben as I did so. He held me steady so I didn't fall over, but all I wanted to do right now was get inside. I tried to rationalize my strange fear by thinking quickly though the animals we had in the area that could possibly be making such a noise. I'd never heard anything like it while Ben and I had been living here. I didn't think possums were that loud, or racoons, but I could have been wrong. The growling continued for a few more moments before it finally fell silent again, but I couldn't even hear the crickets this time.

"How about I come back in an hour or so?" Bella finally suggested warily. "For one thing, I think you'd appreciate the chance to clean up a little, Angela. For another, there are some things I need to fix up before I return." I would have liked to know what she was planning to do, but Bella didn't seem inclined to explain.

"Alright," I agreed, actually seeing that I probably would prefer to talk to her when I was feeling a little more human again.

"See you soon," she said. I expected to hear her sloshing her way back over towards the pavement, but I couldn't hear a thing. It was abruptly, deathly silent.

"Bella?" I called dumbly after a few moments of uneasy silence. She didn't answer, but the crickets started chirping again. I couldn't believe it. "Where'd she go?" I mumbled.

"You've got me," Ben answered, sounding just as confused. "But I'll tell you one thing, Ang," he said, wrapping his big arms around my shoulders and leading me back towards the apartment. "That girl's changed a lot."

"I know," I whispered, relaxing the instant I stepped inside; the warm air felt so good after being so cold. "She's very different to how she used to be. Do you think that's a good thing?"

"Honestly, it's hard to tell," Ben said after a moment of thought, following me into the bedroom to dry off. "Bella was acting pretty strange."

"I hope everything's okay-that we didn't inconvenience her in any way..."

"Naw. She would have insisted on leaving if it was really that important."

"I hope so," I said, talking more to myself.

I walked straight past Ben and into the bathroom, shutting the door quietly behind me. I turned the water on as hard as it would go, waiting for a few seconds to start warming up before I started to get undressed. I peeled the long, dark grey cloak off from around my body, and threw it into the laundry hamper near the bath tub. My damp work suit followed. It was a little difficult managing my clothes with only one hand-my other one was really starting to ache now-but the instant I stepped underneath the hot water, I felt much better. The heat washed away all of the tension in my shoulders, allowing me to relax for what felt like the first time in nearly three days. My workload had been extremely intimidating as of late; I was working on about five cases at once, and the need for attention to every, single detail was really starting to stress me out.

I lost track of time standing there under the running water with my eyes shut. I didn't know how long I'd been in there, but by the time I'd finished, changed into something comfortable and found a suitable bandage to support my wrist until I could get an appointment with my doctor tomorrow, it was already ten-thirty. I raced into the kitchen to quickly prepare some hot coffee, and I managed to find some sweet biscuits amongst the jungle of food that was in our food cupboard. I didn't know why I felt so hyper as I raced to get everything ready. I wrote my reaction off as excitement. It wasn't until that moment that I realized how much I missed Bella and the rest of the Cullen's. I wondered hopefully if they were coming with her? Ben-who had been previously watching the news-followed me into the kitchen and watched my preparations with speculative eyes.

"Someone's a little keyed up," he noted with a wry smile.

I didn't say anything, I just smiled-ecstatic-back at him.

He helped me take everything out to the coffee table, and just as I was tidying away the last few things were lingering around, a quiet knock at the door kicked my heart into overdrive. I walked quickly over to grab it so she wouldn't be left standing out in the rain for too long. I fumbled with the deadbolt a little before I finally managed to wretch the stupid thing open, and there she was, standing like an angel in the halo of our porch light.

"Bella!" I sang, throwing my arms around her shoulders. She was dry now; her arms and shoulders covered in a very thick, blue sweater. It was strange...she must have just put it on; her skin still felt icy through the woollen fabric.

She stiffened, surprised by my reaction, but then she laughed; the sound reminded me more of a small choral of bells.

"Hello," she greeted me in a voice that was not completely her own-it held that wonderful, velvety texture I'd heard more from her husband and sister-in-law. I supposed that after living with them constantly as she did, it was bound to rub off on her sometime. "How are you feeling now?"

I pulled back to give her a grateful smile. I was amazed again by just how different she seemed, and yet, still almost exactly the same. The changes were subtle, I noticed. Her whole face seemed more sharply defined, every angle of her stunning expression was perfect. Bella had always been thin, but her willowy frame was somehow intensified, like she was so fragile that the wind might blow her away. Her eyes were still brown but now contained an eerie yellow tinge that seemed to dance about just beneath the surface, as if the brown was just a mask.

"I'm feeling much better, thanks to you," I said serenely, making my way over to the couch. Ben followed, sitting down next to me quietly. "Please, come in and make yourself at home."

"I'm glad to hear it," she said, smiling brilliantly. "I was worried about you for a while there. How's your wrist?"

"It's fine," I told her immediately, not wanting to make a fuss. It was aching quite a lot, but I'd taken some Tylenol for the pain while I was in the kitchen hurriedly throwing some snacks together. It was bound to kick in soon. Absently, I noticed Ben had inconspicuously left the room, to give Bella and I some time to ourselves, I assumed. I smiled to myself, momentarily distracted by the rather sweet gesture. I would have to make it up to him later.

Bella eased back into the sofa, but she still seemed anxious or stressed for some reason I couldn't imagine. Her eyes were wide and alert, her hands clamped shut into tight fists on her knees. With an incredible swell of guilt, I realized what it probably was; maybe the plans she'd cancelled in order to come here really were that important.

"I'm sorry," I started, the words tumbling out of my mouth before I even really knew what I was saying.

Bella didn't relax her position but her sharp eyes zeroed in on my face, confused. "For what?"

"For making you cancel whatever important things you had to do before. You did say that you had to leave, but I insisted...I'm so sorry, Bella!"

She started back at me blankly, the shock plain on her face. She blinked once, then hurriedly began to speak-I could barely catch it all she was speaking so rapidly. "No, n, no, no...you have it all wrong, Angela. My plans weren't important at all, and I'm sorry if I seem a little...on edge. I didn't mean to make you feel upset. I'm just...tense, that's all. I was...hiking and camping with Edward and Alice before, and I didn't...I forgot to make sure I'd properly cleaned up my mess after I'd...eaten. It sounds silly, I know, but I don't want the other hikers to find it; it's a natural reserve, and leaving scraps of food around can attract the bears..." she trailed off into awkward silence, her eyes averting quickly to the ground, chagrined.

I just nodded along, slightly overwhelmed by how intense her stare had been moments before, almost like her eyes were on fire. She relaxed somewhat, but her position still remained tense. She breathed in a little shakily, and I reached over to place a comforting hand-the one that wasn't broken-on hers. Just like the rest of her skin, it was icy cold. She didn't seem to be warming up-that had me panicking a little.

"Sorry," she apologized, leaning forward to smile reassuringly at me. Her perfume struck me then-a beautiful, heady mixture of lavender and freesia with a sweet undercurrent that I couldn't identify. It was beautiful. "I'm being pretty rude, aren't I?" She laughed then, relaxing back into the couch. "I haven't seen you in years," she continued. Her voice was very warm. "What have you been doing with yourself? You're a lawyer-that's...cool. What else has been going on?"

And so I told her about everything I'd done up until this point-about college, my studies, my wedding, my yearly visits back to Forks (which I only ran over quickly-she seemed rather uncomfortable and upset whenever I mentioned our home town; she cheered right up though when I told her about Jessica, Mike and Lauren). I laughed half-heartedly when I'd finished in under an hour, joking that my life wasn't very interesting...that surely hers must have been much better. She laughed, too, but didn't agree.

"I'm sure your life has been very interesting, and very...busy, by the sounds of it," I insisted. Bella changed right then-she was on guard and cautious almost straight away.

"Yes, it's been very busy," she agreed, clearly less eager than before. She smiled a small smile. "Work sucks."

"Psychology, though-that's different. It must be...intriguing. Learning and dealing with how the mind works."

And so she proceeded to tell me all about her job in England and how frustrating it was sometimes, trying to...control-was the word she'd used, which sounded a little strange-people's outlook on their life. She worked long hours as well, though it was perhaps nothing compared to the hours Edward was putting in at the hospital in London. All in all she said that it was a satisfying career, and she was very happily married-this was extremely apparent. I couldn't remember the last time I'd seen her smile so much. She ran over her college quickly-that the facilities in Juneau were modest, but the area and city was beautiful. She'd lived in a large wooden cabin with her new family. She spoke often of Alice and her designing skills-it was clear from just the way she spoke of her that she absolutely adored her sister. That she adored the whole family. I couldn't have been happier for her.

"Why are you in Seattle?" I asked her when I was sure she'd finished.

She smiled at me expectantly, and I knew from the slight tightening of her eyes that she had been expecting this question. Her cup of tea sat in front of her on the coffee table, untouched. I was slightly distracted by this-a little worried. I should have asked if she'd wanted it; she probably didn't even like tea...

"Just a family weekend getaway," she answered casually, shrugging. Her apparent nonchalance didn't match her expression, though-there was another, much more important reason for why she was here, but I didn't dare ask. Just from the way her face closed off, it was clearly a sensitive topic. "The camping facilities in Washington are the best we've come across. And it's nostalgic, of course." She laughed. "As close as one can get to Forks without actually-"

She stopped suddenly, chagrined, like she'd said something she wasn't supposed to. I thought I knew the rest of the sentence; that she was going to say ‘...without actually going there', and I honestly wondered why she would avoid Forks, of all places. Her friends and father still lived there. I sensed that it wasn't that she wanted to avoid the place, but for some reason I couldn't fathom, she felt like she couldn't go back-like she wasn't allowed. But again, it was obvious she would say no more on the matter, so I changed the subject.

"Have you been anywhere else in Europe?" I inquired, smiling reassuringly at her. "I thought you might have, seeing as you live in London. Paris? Rome? Athens? I here it's beautiful there."

She smiled too, grateful. Her teeth sparkled, even in the dim lamp light. I stiffened. "Edward's taken me to Paris and Rome," she told me, rolling her eyes. "Honestly, it was a waste of time. I saw the Coliseum and the Eiffel Tower, but that's about it. I didn't get to see much else because..."-she hesitated, but not out of caution this time. She was embarrassed-"...because Edward and I never really left the hotel room," she mumbled.

"Oh," I mumbled. I could feel the heat rushing to my cheeks. Strangely enough, when I looked at Bella's face, she was rather embarrassed, but no blushing like she usually was. I wondered when that had stopped? I'd always associated that physical reaction to humiliation as part of who Bella was. It seemed beyond weird that she didn't respond that way anymore. Then again, I hadn't seen her in almost six years....It was evident just by her physical appearance that she'd obviously underdone some level of serious change, but I was only just beginning to realize that I'd never thought her capable of that change, and I couldn't understand why that was.

She laughed suddenly, breaking the awkward silence of my thoughts. "It's been wonderful all the same. As long as I'm with him and my family, it wouldn't matter if I was standing in Rome in the Colosseum or in the middle of the Arizona Desert. I will always be happy. They are my home, and always will be." She smiled a brilliant, extravagant smile, the conviction in her words impossible to doubt. Her smile faded slightly after a moment, her eyes searching mine with a strange sense of longing that I couldn't understand. "I just thought you should know that I'm okay. More than okay, actually," she corrected herself quickly with a small chuckle.

"Thank you," I told her, my throat feeling oddly swollen. "For letting me know you're going to be alright. I've worried about you a lot, Bella," I confessed. "You and Alice were my best friends in high school...I thought I'd never hear from you again."

Her smile disappeared completely this time, her eyes fogging over with some enigmatic emotion that she didn't give me a chance to read before she averted her eyes to the ground, her beautiful long, brown hair falling across and concealing her face. "Well, you have now," she finally said, still looking away. "Would you do me a favour?"

"Anything," I promised her almost immediately, surprised by how quickly the word had popped out of my mouth. But did she know that there wasn't anything I wouldn't do for her? Not if I was capable. Anything that would make her happy.

She smiled at that, but it was a sad smile. "It's not much, I promise. Would you pass the ‘I'm okay' message onto everyone for me back home? I would if I could, but I just...can't." Her voice broke on the last word, her expression so suddenly devastated that I automatically reached a comforting hand out to steady her. At the same time, I was wondering how she could possibly think or feel like she wasn't allowed to return home. What had happened?

I pushed my curiosity aside quickly, well aware that it wasn't my business and that if Bella wanted to share, then she would.

"Of course I'll tell them. Mike and the others have been dying to know, anyway. And I'm sure Jacob and the other boys down at La Push would love to know what's been happening with you as well. They are all still there, as far as I know."

"Jake?" Bella asked in quiet disbelief, her eyes shooting back up to mine with alarming intensity. Her hand came up to grasp the one I had resting on her shoulder; the pressure had my fingers turning purple. "Is he okay?"

I nodded, slightly overwhelmed. "Y-yes...as far as I know," I assured her in a shaky voice. "He's met someone, and they're very happy. I even think they're engaged, actually. I can't remember. My Dad was telling me in a passing back on Thanksgiving..."

Her eyes widened and her smile was huge-it was the most I'd ever seen her react to anything since I'd met up with her a few hours ago.

"Really?" she gushed, clearly pleased. "That's wonderful! I was so worried...the last time I heard he still hadn't gone home."

"It is wonderful," I agreed wholeheartedly, then hesitated, not sure if it was wise to continue. I still remembered what a sensitive topic Jacob Black had been just before Bella was about to get married. It seemed that even after all of these years, it was still just as sensitive. I wondered, with a sudden burst of intuition, if that was why she wouldn't go back? But I didn't dare ask.

"Yes," I began, watching her reaction carefully. "He was still gone for quite some time after you'd left. He came back eventually with a very pretty girl at his side. I don't remember what her name is, sorry. Everyone was very happy for him. Charlie and Billy especially."

"I should imagine," she mumbled quietly, barely managing to cover the guilt I saw glinting in her eyes. Bella swallowed hard, and when she continued, her voice had become much thicker. "I'm just so glad that he's going to be okay!" she admitted in such a quick voice that I almost didn't catch it. "He can finally be happy again. Be himself again." She was looking at me when she smiled, but I knew she wasn't really looking at me. She was far away, lost in her thoughts. "That was all I ever I wanted for him. I just wanted Jacob to get better...that was all I ever...that was all he ever needed to..."

She blinked, her eyes refocusing on me now and in the few seconds she left herself vulnerable, I could see the depth of pain there in her eyes; I could see how much she really cared for and grieved the man she'd once considered to be her best friend. All the answers were there-he definitely was the reason she wouldn't go anywhere near Forks, and it was an unbelievably agonising sight to behold. This beautiful girl, who was so blissfully happy with her new life, was also swamped with the overwhelming sadness of leaving those she loved behind. It was only just beginning to dawn on me that she considered me as a part of that group as well, which was rather disconcerting.

"Sorry," she apologized, collapsing back into the couch, abruptly looking absolutely exhausted. "That was the equivalent of a metaphorical knife twisting in my sorest spot, if you know what I mean." She bit down hard on her bottom lip, running her hands anxiously through her hair. "What do I do now?"

"Argh! Dammit!" she roared suddenly, making me jump at least a foot in the air. Her fists came flying out from where they were tucked against her body and came down hard on the coffee table with a loud bang. I heard something shatter on the wooden floor near my feet, and when I looked down, I was surprised to find that it wasn't the table.

It was her teacup.

Bella looked down, suddenly horrified at what she'd done.

"Oh!" she gasped, dropping to her knees in a flash to pick up the pieces. "Angela, I'm so sorry!"

I was dazed, her emotional outburst and rapid change in mood leaving me more than a little confused. I shook my head to clear it, almost as horrified as she was when I noticed that my guest was the one stuck cleaning up the mess, and was also clearly much too distressed at having broken nothing but a two dollar porcelain cup I'd bought from Wal-Mart when I was still back in college.

"It's okay, Bella, don't worry about it," I tried to reassure her with a smile as I reached over to help her with the sharp white pieces of glass. She wasn't looking at me. "The cup was worth hardly anything."

"That's not the point!" she insisted, clearly feeling guilty. "That was a horrible thing for me to do."

"It's nothing. Really. Here," I said, holding out my hand, "give me all of that-I'll throw it out. You'll cut yourself if you're not careful."

"No, no. I've got it, don't worry. Just tell where the trash can is."


"It's fine. I should do it." She jumped to her feet in an elegant twist of her legs and turned to walk into the kitchen.

I heard the tap of her boots against the tiles on the floor, and it was only when I was getting to my feet to grab a towel to clean up the spill; the lamplight glinted off its surface for only a second, but I saw it-there was still a piece wedged in-between the wooden floorboards.

"Hang on," I called, reaching down to pick it up without thinking about it. "I'll be there in a sec-ow!" I looked down and sure enough, I'd nicked my finger on the serrated edge. "Idiot," I grumbled under my breath. And not two seconds ago I'd just been lecturing Bella to be careful. Sigh. I wiped at the little trickle of blood that was trailing its way down arm, annoyed at myself for being so careless.

There was a strange, loud, ripping sound...I looked up to see what it was...

"NO!" someone-a man-roared behind me, making me yelp in shock, terrified. My body jerked around on the spot to see who it was so fast that my hair whipped me in the face, obscuring everything from view...

And then the world exploded.

Something rammed into me so hard and so fast that my breath was knocked clean from my lungs, sending me screeching across the wooden floor. I tried to scream-the friction burned savagely against my left arm-but it felt like my ribs were broken, and the pain of drawing a breath made me whimper. My back and head slammed hard against a wall, making my eyesight blur and whirl. Another deafening explosion that was so close to me that I could actually feel the force of it-a violent, piercing wind that slapped mercilessly against my face-had me reaching up reflexively to cover my ears, but I couldn't make my arms move. I recognised the tearing sound again in the background again, but it was much louder this time. What was happening? Where was Bella? I couldn't see anything, and there was so much pain...

"...Knew this was a bad idea!" I heard a voice-the same one from before-saying angrily in the distance. Everything was spinning, and the nausea had me close to vomiting.

"She was just trying to make things right," another said-a girl this time, I thought absently. Couldn't they see me? Couldn't they see that I needed help? I wanted to call to them, but I couldn't find my voice. I coughed and spluttered instead, the aching in my chest making it agonisingly painful. I could feel the tears running down my face.

"And nearly killed her friend in the process!" the man argued vehemently, but I was finding it hard to pay attention. Someone was approaching me; I could feel their even pace through the vibration of the floorboards. I felt an icy touch at the base of my head and I flinched away automatically.

"Sorry," someone apologised. Another man. But this voice was much deeper. Calm and authoritive. The sound of it took me back to Forks during my childhood, to the time where I'd sliced open my ankle on a piece of barbed wire when I'd been chasing a horse in a paddock. I'd had to go the hospital to get stitches. Why was I remembering this now?

"Will she be okay?" The question was asked from further back in the room, and I was surprised I could hear it. I was having to concentrate very hard.

"She's only got the one laceration on her head. It's not that serious, despite how much it's bleeding." I felt the icy touch continue its way down my chest, and I groaned when it prodded at my ribs. "As well as a few broken ribs, by the looks of things"-it moved again, this time onto my left arm. I didn't flinch away this time-the cold touch felt nice against my hot skin-"and a rather nasty burn on her forearm. She'll be okay, but she needs medical attention straight away. I can't do anything for her injuries right now, but I think a shot of morphine would help with the pain."

"She can hear us, you know," the girl said again in a quiet voice. It sounded so familiar... "She's still conscious."

"Yes," the man agreed. I felt his freezing grip clamp down tight on my arm, followed by the tell-tale prick of a needle. I didn't struggle. I had no energy left, and the pain was already starting to fade. "But she won't remember us when she wakes up."

And as I felt my consciousness slipping away despite how much I fought to maintain it, I was overcome with an overwhelming urge to prove them wrong-that I would remember their voices, no matter what.

I felt the cool touch of a hand again, but this one was much smaller. Tiny, even; it didn't even cover my whole cheek. With the voice so close to ear, it was impossible not to recognise that wonderful and beautifully pitched soprano's tone. I fought as hard as I could against my eyelids now, desperate to match the face to the voice.

"Sorry, Angela."

And just like that, my world went black.