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Breathe for Mercy

Summary:
No one knows her real name. But everyone calls her Mercy. And she's running from a world of pain and fear, desperately searching for a place to hide from the monsters that haunt her footsteps. But she's found again-this time by Dr. Carlisle Cullen, who takes her under his wing even though he's vampire and she's human, and takes her home to live with the rest of his family, unaware of the wicked web she's caught in. But they don't know who she is, what she's done, what she's capable of. And the voices just won't go away. This is my story. My nightmare. And now I'm putting you through it. *Rated for some graphic violence* What the heck, why is no one reviewing? Is my story that bad?


Notes:
Her real name is unknown. But everyone calls her Mercy. She's running from a world where there is nothing but pain but she is looking for a new life, a new way. That's when she runs into the Cullen family and they bring her in and take her under their wing, even though she is human. But they don't really know who she is, what she's done. And the voices just won't go away. This is my story. My nightmare.And now I'm putting you through it.


1. Just Keep Running

Rating 5/5   Word Count 6739   Review this Chapter

It's hard to see the light when you're covering you eyes.

It's hard to hear the song when you're covering you ears.

It's hard to walk when there's no where to go.

It's awfully hard to breathe when you don't know how.

I woke to see Aimee creeping back into the room. The front of her pajama top was wet, as if she had spilled water on herself while washing her face, or maybe she had tried to clean some puke off her. Which was possible, giving her drunken condition earlier. I sat up and watched her walk. She was steady, not tripping or banging into anything.

She saw me sit up and sank onto her bed. "I'm scared," she said, like a child who's woken from a vague but frightening dream. "I'm scared," she repeated.

I struggled out from under my tangled sheets and blankets and sat next to her. "I'm here." I had woken to the memory that she'd been ticking me off before she fell asleep, and I wasn't sure why. I did know, looking at her in the light from the streetlamp outside, that I didn't want her to be in pain anymore. She was big-eyed, quiet, almost stunned, but underneath there lurked something that made me uneasy. I put my arm around her and pulled her against me. "Everything will be fine," I said.

And I thought I was right. She looked like my old friend, not like the stranger she had been earlier.

"I know," she whispered. "I'm glad you're here." She rested her head on my shoulder. She didn't smell of puke, so I guessed the water came from her trying to bring down the swelling and redness in her eyes. She wasn't crying at least. "I'm sorry I'm such a bitch, and I don't-" She stopped.

"I don't what?" I asked, cringing as she cussed. My Jewish upbringing was to blame for that.

She yawned and said, "I don't think I could have come this far without you as my friend. Will you stay with me tonight? One last time?"

"What a weird thing to say, one last time. Of course I'll stay. Tonight and any night you need me. But why should this be the last time?" Something inside me jerked awake, something I had let sleep or maybe was hiding beneath my anger. Warning lights, sirens, bells, everything started clambering in my jittery mind.

Before I was concerned about Aimee. Now I was terrified for her. "What do you mean, Aimee? One last time?" My hands shook as I twisted her shoulders so that she faced me.

She looked blank, unaware of what she had said.

"What do you mean?" I asked again.

"I need it to end, and I can't. Not without your help. Not without you here. It's so dark and scary doing it alone."

I grabbed her wrists, then dragged her to the desk. She hadn't cried out, and neither wrist felt wet or sticky, so I didn't think she had slashed them, but I had to be sure. The light blinded me as I clicked on the desk lamp, but immediately I could see there was no blood, no gaping wound. So this was still just talk.

"No, Aimee. Not that. I can't do that. You're my best friend." I closed my arms around her. "I can't live without you. I'll help you live, not here, if that's what you want. I'll support you any way I can, tell them I've seen her come for you, tell them I've seen her beat you, tell everyone about what happened until they believe it, but I need you alive. We all do. Chad-"

She snorted. The light had made her blink, but if anything she seemed more groggy than before. "I'm not your best friend. Chad's your best friend. And don't kid yourself. Remember scary problem number fifty-nine? Overpopulation results in worldwide famine and epidemics. We either (a) survive, or (b) die." She yawned again and leaned against me, heavier this time.

I stroked her hair, although I wanted to yank it out by the roots I was so mad at her for twisting everything.

"You're good at that," she continued. "Surviving. Not me. But you know, I can't do it alone. Just can't. So you'll have to stay. Please stay."
"Aimee, I can't take this. Snap out of it. Your dad will be home tomorrow, and we're going to tell him, we will. We'll support you one hundred percent."

"Then support me how I want you to support me. I can't do it your way. Hell, I can't do it at all. I'm tired. Tired of everything. And none of this-" She waved an arm at her room, but her hand flopped on the end of her arm like a dying fish.

I shivered watching her.

"I have to sleep. But you have to stay with me so I can do this," she murmured.

"Aimee, I will not help you. You have to fight, darn it. You have so much going for you. You just wait. Things will look brighter in the morning. You'll come home with me. I don't care what my mother says, and you'll see, things will be better. Heck, you might even meet Mr. Right." I glanced at her, knowing that I sounded like an idiot, like someone offering comfort without meaning any of it. But I meant all of it. Things would get better. They had to.

"I just want to sleep. Guys are pains in the asses. I'm going to lie down." She didn't say anything about Chad, but I wasn't sure whom she was referring to. I needed to be sure she wasn't talking about him. I was obsessing and hating myself for it.

"All guys? Even Jason, Kyle, and Chad? Aren't some guys worth it?"
"Nothing is worth it anymore. Let me sleep. You have to stay, though. Have to stay. Help me do this, okay? And everything will be alright."

"No, I will not help you kill yourself." I still didn't, at that point, have much a clue about what exactly she was talking about. Did she mean help her slice her wrists? Hold her hand while she did? Watch her die?

I remembered the razor blade I had taken from her. I didn't want to spend the rest of the night staring into the darkness, making sure she didn't sneak off to find another to use. I'd check the bathrooms for razors now. "I'm going to the bathroom to pee. Pull yourself together, Aimee," I said as I stood up.

"Bring me the bottle on the sink," she muttered without raising her head. "I want to take something."

My mouth went dry. Drier than when I had found the razor in her hand and saw her pretending to cut. Drier than when she had asked me to help her die. Then I felt nausea sweep over me, and the salvia ran wild in my mouth. I swallowed and swallowed again, edging toward the door, trying not to hurry. Trying to see her and leave the room at the same time. "What bottle?" I called, with my foot out the door, my body ready to bolt for the bathroom.

"Bottle on the sink. Very important. Stupid stepmother should never leave sleeping pills out with kids in the house. Never. Never. Never. How many times will they replace her lost pills?" Aimee started to laugh, a deep gagging laugh. She coughed, sat up for a moment, then rolled back onto the bed.

I raced for the bathroom. I didn't walk into or stop in any other rooms. I told the police that. I told the court that. I wasted no time trying to discover what she was talking about, but even then, I thought I just need to hide the bottle, that she hadn't taken anything or done anything. She needed me there to do it. She said so herself. What else could she mean by "Stay with me tonight? Help me die?"

On the floor of the bathroom were a billion pieces of glass. Since she had left the smaller bathroom light on, I managed to see it before I stepped on it. My hands sprang out from my sides and grabbed the door frame, halting me midstep. I stood panting and stared.

The mirror over the sink had been shattered. I saw my eyes, wide and startled, in a dozen places when I bent down. My nose, big and little, my hair, and my cheeks fragmented as I swung my head from side to side in disbelief. The noise of Aimee breaking the mirror should have woken me, and maybe it had. But then, why didn't I remember anything before she crept back into the room? I racked my brains, trying to figure out when she had done this. How she had done this. Her feet hadn't been cut, so she hadn't walked in the bathroom. Then I saw that mixed with the mirror's shards were pieces of the drinking glass that usually stood on the sink. She must have thrown it at the mirror.

I also saw fragments of what appeared to be one of the family photo albums. Judging from the little I could piece together of the pictures, it was her father and stepmother's wedding album. Every picture of her stepmother had been cut into tiny fragments. The picture of Aimee's dad and brother were mostly intact.

There were no remains of Aimee anywhere.

But the bottle was there. A little brown plastic bottle, the kind that holds antibiotics. I strained forward, so tense everything shook, but I couldn't reach it.

With my body wrenched sideways to close it, I tried to shut the toilet lid so I could stand on it and grab the bottle. When I looked down, I froze. Inside the toilet bowl floated three or four slashed versions of Aimee. All had been carefully cut from a larger picture, and all had been sliced into ribbons. I reached into the water and pulled out one of the mutilated pictures.

I was almost unaware of my tears as I picked up the bottle. There was no rattle of pills, no weight to the bottle at all, and the prescription had been soaked in water or something so that I couldn't read it.

"Aimee!"
I felt devoid of hope.

"Aimee!" I screamed again, feeling as though my limbs were being pulled in opposite directions like a puppet in a warped play.

I thought of all the things she had said earlier that had infuriated me, and I wondered if it was part of her plan, to make me so angry I wouldn't pay attention to what she was doing.

Whether that was true of not, she had already carried out the other part of her plan.

She had taken the pills.

My head cleared in a spasm of guilt. Here I was standing and staring at broken glass trying to figure out if she had lied about her and Chad.

I need to get to Aimee. I needed to get help.

Panic overwhelmed me, and I lunged for the door, landing on a shard of glass. I stopped to pull it out, with blood seeping across my fingers and down the insides of my hands. But I didn't stop to bandage the gash in my foot. I didn't wince or hobble when I ran. That would have taken time, and I had none.

"Aimee!"

She wasn't answering.

"Aimee!" I shrieked from the door of her room. I held up the bottle for her to see but, of course, she didn't see it.

She was lying facedown on the bed, an arm sprawled above her. Her back rose, fell, rose, fell, but slowly, too slowly.

I rolled her over and came face to face with despair. A long slug trail of vomit slithered down the side of the bed. I had planned on making her throw up, but she already had. It was the only thing I knew to do that would slow things down and get some of the drugs out of her system.

No pills were visible in the slime. How long did it take to digest them? Could all of the poison be in her system already? Had she chewed them to get them into her body faster?

"Oh God! Oh God!" I cried, my hands dancing through the air.

"Aimee," I said louder, closer to her ear.

She didn't respond.

I pulled her mouth open to shove my finger down her throat, thinking maybe she hadn't thrown up enough. If she did it again, maybe the pills would come up. "Try again! Throw them up! Come one, Aimee! You've got to be okay." I pushed her up, and she slumped forward.

There was blood on the bed, and I searched her body for the wounds, then the room to wrap whatever was bleeding on her. It was then that I saw my trial of bloody footprints on the floor and realized the blood on the bed was mine.

Then I saw the phone.

I lowered Aimee back onto the bed and jumped for the phone. Aimee groaned, and I turned back to her, grabbing her shoulder, slapping her face lightly, trying to get a response. "How much of this stuff did you take? Answer me! Answer me!"

But she didn't. She couldn't.

She didn't groan again.

The phone. I picked it up, tried to dial, but somewhere in the house Aimee had left a phone off the hook.

"Idiot!" I screamed. "Why did you do this?" I was hobbling and crying, snot ran down my face. I raced from room to room.

I did, too. Whatever the police said and her parents' attorneys say, I did check everywhere I could think of for the disengaged phone. I didn't save her, but I did that. My bloody footprints were everywhere in the house. Everywhere. Not because I freaked out and was chasing Aimee to make her take pills. Which some idiotic newspaper reporter said I did. Was he there, or was I? I was checking for a phone that worked. I even crawled under the tables and beneath beds to make sure the phones I found were plugged in.

And all the phones were on the hook. Except the portable. Which I couldn't find.

The clock said four A.M. Maybe some insane commuter would be up or I could wake one up. I opened the front door to an empty street as if to run out, but then I turned back. I couldn't leave her alone.

This is where I failed. Here was where I made the wrong choice, did the wrong thing. I should have kept going, but I wasn't thinking. I was reacting, and what I reacted to right then was leaving Aimee alone when she had begged me not to and explaining to everyone later that she died alone.

I would check on Aimee first. I had to see if there was anything else I could do, should do before I abandoned her to find help.

So I spun around and slammed the door. I flew back up the stairs, three at a time-according to the report and the footprint analysis. I was planning on making her drink something before I left. Anything. Coffee. Her full mug was still on the desk. I'd force some down in her to counteract with the pills, but who was I kidding? A cup of coffee against a bottle of sleeping pills?

I raised her head, tried to support her with my shoulder while I cradled her from behind. I opened her jaw with one hand and dumped coffee through her lips with the other.

Her throat didn't respond to the cold coffee dribbling through her pried open lips. She didn't swallow.

I tried to make her vomit again. That's when her bladder let go.

Later, in court, I learned that this is a normal part of death when someone takes sleeping pills. At the time, I was horrified, disgusted, and positive this was not a good sign.

I hugged her, with a finger on her pulse, trying to be sure she was still alive, thinking I'd do mouth-to-mouth until I found the phone, not even understanding that I couldn't do both.

When her bowls released, I knew I was done for. I wouldn't have my best friend anymore. I was screaming, shrieking, moaning. Keening might be the right word for what I was doing, but I don't remember exactly.

Aimee's window was open partway. It always was, and I thought someone would hear me. Some jogger, somebody walking a dog. I couldn't see the clock. Couldn't let go of Aimee. She was gurgling now, and I thought I should lay her down. So I draped her unmoving body, heavy in its stillness, across my legs, where it weighed me down and put my legs to sleep.

My screams weren't even making Aimee twitch.

I had forgotten all about escaping out the front door, running away to find someone else to take care of this mess. Someone who knew better what to do. All I knew, lying there listening to her labored, slowing, ending breathing, was that I was losing the dearest thing in my life, and there was nothing I could do.

Nothing would stop it. Even if I managed to find help now, looking at her bluing lips, I, who had never seen death, knew she was beyond help.

"Help me! Oh, God! Don't do this. Don't take her. Chad? Kyle? Jason? Kates? Where is everyone? Why doesn't anyone come? Why is this happening? I hate you, Aimee! I hate you!"

I screamed on and on, and eventually, when Aimee's eyes were fixed and dilated, when she was cold and blue and filthy and beginning to stiffen up in my arms, someone heard.

There was a pounding at the door, but I would have had to let go of Aimee to let them in. And I couldn't.

I just kept screaming, incoherent rages against God, the country, and everyone in between.

The pounding stopped, and shouts rose up from the ground below the window, and all I could do was moan, "She's dead. She's dead. Aimee's dead," in a hoarse whisper that was grotesque in itself.

Then a car pulled in, and car doors slammed.

I figured it would be the police, and they would help me. They would take Aimee away and take me home. They would call her parents. Then I could get a pill of my own that would take away the sight of Aimee's twisted legs wrapped around mine and the smell of crap and urine mixed with vomit and coffee, maybe the police would do something about my foot, which throbbed and still bled a puddle on the yellow spread like an ever-growing, ever blooming flower.

I quit screaming, I quit moaning, I waited, watching the flower spread and grow, my eyes glazed over. I slipped away. I stopped thinking, stopped reacting like a human being. I became still, cold, dead inside.

I still feel that way most of the time.

Sometimes, though, I feel opposite, filled with a rage that's uncontrollable and unknowable to anyone else. When it wasn't the police who walked into the room, but Aimee's father and stepmother, who had come home because they couldn't get through on the phone and were worried sick, the rage appeared for the first time.

The police report says I dropped Aimee on the floor and charged her stepmother. I remember her face, the shock and horror mixed with the smug satisfaction of knowing she was safe, that Aimee wouldn't tell. I still don't know if she cared for Aimee in her own sick way. But something snapped inside me when I saw her.

I don't remember trying to kill her though. The report states that I lunged for her neck, screaming and ranting. According to the first newspaper story, I tried to kill Aimee's stepmother, too.

I do remember a man, with strength unmatchable, as he held me down with icy hands until the police arrived. Then he went over to Aimee's prone body, took one brief look at her than shook his head slowly, his face an expression of pity. I remember his eyes holding my own as though he was trying to read what was inside of me. They had been a honey gold and had calmed the panic shooting through me.

I didn't go to the funeral. I wasn't allowed.

I did hear where she had hidden the phone-on her stepmother's pillow, covered by blankets and tucked into the arm of her teddy bear. The paper reported the facts, but no one understood the significance of them. Even when I told them what the significance was, they didn't believe me. They accused me of hiding it earlier in the night, before I had cut my foot, because there were no bloodstains anywhere near her stepmother's bed. There were no footprints by the bed because there was no phone on the bed. Not normally anyway.

When they found it, the phone had long since quit bleating its recorded message: "If you'd like to make a call, please hang up and dial again."

But Aimee had completed her call.

One year later...

I ran, tree limbs and brambles scratching, grabbing, tripping, and slapping me as if they were bony hands, reaching for me out of the gray-darkness. The mountainside dropped steeply and I ran pell-mell, my feet unsure on pine needles and loose stones. I beat at the limbs with flailing arms, looking for the trail, falling over logs, getting up and darting to the left, than to the right. Where was that trail?

My breathing came short and hard and my lungs seared, screaming for air. My legs felt like rubber as I groped my way along, stooping under limbs, clambering over more logs, and pushing my way through tangled thickets in the dark.

Blood. I reeked of it. It was hot and sticky between my fingers. It had soaked through my shirt and splattered on my hospital pants. Perspiration beaded my face and neck. It was all I could do to keep from screaming.

Then all at once the path was gone and I stumbled and went flying. I saw the tree braches whipping towards me. They slapped me, lashed me. I tumbled...spun...crashing through them. I grabbed a limb; it tore lose from my hand. Sheer terror and panic gutted my stomach. My body smacked into another, slowing my fall enough to grab on. My feet flew past me and I was dangling off a sheer drop off that plunged into a sloped, forested ravine.

Dirt stung my face as it rolled past me. Thorns on the tree branch dug painfully into my soft palms. But at that point that was nothing. My feet kicked at empty air as I tried to haul myself up. I gritted my teeth, squeezing my eyes shut, concentrating on the muscles in my arms. I groaned as I attempted to pull myself up. But I couldn't muster up enough strength.

Weak! Useless! They screamed at me. Just let go! There's no point in you living-no one likes you-even your own parents gave you up!

I struggled, gasping, shaking, my tears mixing with sweat, dirt, and blood as they rolled down my face.

Mercy... They were whispering now, soft, seductive, almost gentle. The men will find you soon....all alone, cold and dark, edging towards death's threshold. Do you remember the first time? The first time you tried to run?

Fear turned into thoughtless panic and only reaction remained. Like a tame less, mad animal I began to fight and claw my way up. After a few terrifying seconds (which seemed like hours) I finally managed to climb my way up and crawl away from the jagged edge, a stitch growing in my side, heaving gasps, the panic morphing into anger and unsuppressed rage.

"Shut-up!" I screamed, tearing at the nettles and twigs, gorging my nails into the dirt. "Just shut-up! I won't listen to you! I won't! I won't!" I grabbed the dog tags dangling from my neck and yanked at it violently. The chain wouldn't snap like it did in movies and all I received was sharp pain. I let out a feral scream, releasing my overwhelming frustration and fear. I grabbed the chain, itself, this time, clenching the cold metal with both fists. With the adrenaline pumping through my veins and my heart pounding wildly within my chest, I wrenched the chain violently, forcefully. I felt it bite into the back of my neck and I felt a sudden wet warmth trickle around my left shoulder.

Mercy, we're still here.

I grabbed my throat, feeling my oxygen cut off.

Can't. Breathe.

I collapsed onto my back, my chin tilted towards the green tree tops crowned by a darkening sky. I gasped loudly, sucking in the damp air around me than releasing it in gags. In unison with my breathing came the pounding of my head. I sob as my body tries to turn my lungs inside out to gulp more oxygen, as my stomach churns with rushing blood and lack of energy. The stitch in my side grew more painful with every breath and I achingly lifted my arms above my head so that my ribcage protruded through my shirt so that every rib was visible. My chest heaved and my limbs quivered with exhaustion and hunger.

Darkness continued to approach.

It was during the night, when the silence is thick and the blackness seems to ooze like ink, and the cold, with its icy fingers slowly creeps up from the ground as if from the grave and coils about you like a deadly serpent; it was this time, when the voices were most persistent. This was when their whispers pricked the corners of my mind with their sharp taunts and memories I always struggled with. Memories that I didn't want to remember and didn't want to forget.

I closed my eyes as the first drops of rain stuck my cheeks and slid down the sides of my face and tickling my ears. And then the rain came faster, louder, soothing my feverish skin and making my bare arms blossom with goosebumps. The sound of thunder rumbled in the distance and the swishing of trees filled my ears and head-a consistent, lulling sound.

They had locked me up. Like an animal. Like I wasn't even a human being. In a psyche ward where they stare at you through little slits in the door and make sure you have nothing to hurt yourself with. They don't know about biting the inside of your cheek until it bleeds and swells and you can't stop biting it anymore because it's in your way all the time. They don't know about ripping off your fingernails way below the nail bed so that you can poke the raw flesh beneath. They don't know about jabbing the sharpened nails between your toes or gouging the soft skin of your palms with whatever you can find so that there's an open sore to sear every step into your memory so that you won't forget why you're there.

To be punished.

My body jerks awake. Sharp pains shoot up my fingers as I pull them from between my legs where I had stuffed them for warmth. Slowly, groggily I uncoil from my fetal position, blinking against the sudden brightness of the pale gray, sky overhead. I used my hands to push myself up and they sank into the wet mud, creating imprints. When I stood, my legs wobbled like a toddlers and my head spun as I swayed, staggering a few steps forward before collapsing into a heap upon the forest floor.

I let my body sink the rest of the way and I drop my forehead on the dirt. Its roughness presses into my flesh. The feeling of the rock and sticks digging into my skin is concrete. It is something I know. I can prove it. But Aimee? I can't prove any of what she said was true. Ever.

I run my fingers through the mud, feeling the stickiness between my fingers, the coolness against the burning scrapes on my palms. I listen to the morning sounds of birds chirping and the sound of the wind as it whispers its way around tree trunks, rustling the dried, crumbling leaves and snatching up wisps of my curls and trying to tug them away. As I pressed my feverish cheek into the earth, I could see the silver of the tags splayed out in front of my face, glinting white in the morning's pale light

Rage sends a red haze in front of my eyes. Forgetting my dizziness I grab the tags, my brand of evil, scooping of a fistful of mud and leaves as well. I smear mud on its silver in pure spite, smearing away the lies, the horrible things with the bit of earth.

"You cannot have me!" I scream nearly incoherently, struggling with the metal, feeling its bite against my neck. "You cannot have me!"

It won't work. They whisper in a vile hiss that ran my blood cold. We have you in mind-you've been marked, Mercy, no matter what you do, what you try.

Fear is not just a single emotion, though many may contradict. Fear is a confusing multitude of emotions. Anger. Hate. Pain. Confusion. Terror. With that rush of overwhelming emotions, that rush of adrenaline, I leap to my feet in a flail of arms, my heart pumping madly, sending spasms racking my body. Clawing, fighting like a rabid animal I make back up the hill, ripping pieces of bark off the trees I grabbed for support, feeling the flesh tear from my bare feet but not caring.

No matter how fast I ran, they were always there and I hated every mile they haunted of my pitiful life. I wailed out loud, my cry rising, wavering, holding than falling off into a hissing sob. Drawing in a ragged breath I wept again, my voice quaking, the notes rising to a nerve-rending peak and then trailing off again.

I stopped, gagging for air. The rain had begun to fall again in rushing torrents and the sky was darkening despite a new day. Would it ever stop? I look at the opening in the trees above me, at the wild dance of dying leaves in the wind. I began to walk slowly, lopsided, feeling the pain of my wounds and the weakness of going without food. My knobby knees knock together as I stagger, fighting to keep my eyes open to the rush of the freezing rain. My bare feet grow numb from the chilled mud and the coldness slowly creeps up my legs and into my stomach than, almost stealthily working its way through my arms and biting the tips of my fingers.

My teeth clattered together and I was shaking so hard that I was nearly in convulsions. I wasn't going to make the night. I knew within the depths of my heart. But it was better than going back, better than facing the pits of hell and feeling the agony and fear every single day.

I froze, staring, wondering if my eyes deceived me through the rain.

It was a road-a symbol of humanity, a symbol of hope.

I ran as fast as I could, my black curls flying out behind me, squinting against the driving, sleeted rain. Soaked to the bone, my hospital pajamas clung to me and I could feel uneven pavement cutting into my bare feet as I ran pell-mell down the deserted road. The dog tags around my neck rattled loudly, slapping my chest in an erratic rhythm to the sudden energy burning through my limbs. Mud splattered up as I sprinted, spotting my arms and legs and face. I staggered slightly as I fought to glissade down the hill, my breaths coming in searing gasps and I could feel my muscles beginning to burn from the exertion. As I ran, I threw my head back, forcing myself to keep breathing despite the pain burning a hole into my lungs.

I had to be near a town and there I could find shelter to hide. Maybe behind a dumpster or within someone's garage or barn if there were farms around.

The paved road suddenly fell into a dip, pitching me forward. I stumbled than hit the road hard, smacking my face on the ground. The rough tar tore into my shoulder as I skidded to a violent stop and I involuntarily cried out in the pain.

After a moment of being stunned, I slowly pulled myself up, my hand flying to my stinging face. My fingertips came away bloodied. "Crap." My nose was gushing bright red blood and ran into my mouth and I tasted metal and salt. I rolled back on my hands and knees and rested a moment, staring at the silver tags hanging between my elbows, slowly rotating on the chain. After several moments, I stood. I held my arm up to my busted nose, letting the sleeve of my button up, collared hospital shirt staunch the flow. I couldn't hold the tears back, though, no matter how hard I try.

They ran hot down my face, the despair a shock to my system. I knew it wouldn't be easy but I felt that somehow, some way, I would be allotted some help, some shelter after everything that had happened. Doesn't everyone need a break, a bit of peace through the chaos, a bit of warmth through the cold night?

I turned slowly in a full circle, hoping, but at the same time dreading, for someone to drive by and see me. But the back road was deserted and my situation couldn't be any worse. I power-kicked a loose stone and tilted my face up to the rain, letting the water wash away the red stain.

"This isn't fair, Aimee," I cried bitterly at the churning sky.

I didn't receive an answer. Not that I expected one.

"Can't you help me just this once?" I continued anyways, wrapping my arms around my chest as I glared at the soupy sky. "Do you even care?"

Nothing.

There was only the beating of the rain and the hiss of the wind and the sound of my teeth chattering from the cold that had seeped into my bones. Slowly, I sank to the ground and sat cross-legged. My curls lay plastered to my face and head and water dripped from the edges of my eyelashes and clung to the line of my jaw. In the distance, I heard a low rumble of thunder and a brilliant white vein of lightening momentarily blinded me.

"I don't think I could have come this far without you as my friend. Will you stay with me tonight? One last time?"

Suddenly, I felt as if the oxygen was sucked out of me. I doubled over, gasping and gulping at the damp air.

Darkness. Voices whispering in my head.

Can't. Breathe.

I couldn't outmatch the strength of whoever had me; I couldn't fight my way free.

The voices grew louder until they were screaming as loud as me. I groaned, pounding my fists on the linoleum until they were numb.

I grabbed at whatever I could, flailing, screaming: bedposts...a table leg...the back of the chair...and finally the brass door knob which was ripped away from my fingers.

A flash of light caught my eye, breaking me from the pictures in my head. I turned and the headlights of a car speeding towards me, like the eyes of a monster bearing down on me.

I panicked.

I scrambled to my feet, like a terrified rabbit and bolted, searching wild-eyed for a place to hide. But I misjudged my footing and I slipped. I suddenly found myself flailing my arms for balance and for a moment, I teetered precariously then I fell, tumbling down the slope.

As I fell, they came back again. The voices. The whispers. I hit the dirt ground, rolling in grass, sticks and leaves. I covered my ears with both hands, gagging on air, keeping my eyes squeezed shut as I always did.

They were shouting accusations, reminding me of things I had tried to forget. They squeezed my heart, my lungs, compressing my mind until it felt as though my eyes would pop out from my skull.

"I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" I shrieked out hysterically.

I lifted my head, struggling to roll over, spitting out mud and grass. Pain filled every inch of my body. Gulping spastically and crying hysterically, I clawed at the mud and grass. Struggling to pull myself away from the puddle I had landed in, to keep myself from drowning. Fighting every inch of the way, I managed to get onto my back, gasping and sobbing.

I wouldn't allow this to happen to me. I had already come so far to let myself lose.

But at the moment I couldn't think straight, couldn't see straight. My world was whirling like a dervish around me. Nauseating spurts of adrenaline shot through my veins. Breathe...breathe...breathe... I mentally coached myself. In...out...in...in...in....

I gurgled, choking on my own salvia. BREATH! Help me...somebody help me...

But there was only darkness.

Carlisle...

I moved silently through the yard, a wraith in the inky darkness. The door only whispered when I pulled it open and I slipped into the motionless house. Pale, silvery moonlight spilled like glitter from the skylight overhead. There was a silhouette in the shadows, a shape hunched up in a form of agitation.

"Alice?" I murmured, dropping my briefcase by the threshold and removing the winter coat from my shoulders. She was sitting on the bottom step of the winding staircase, still as a carving of marble, not breathing, her pixie face buried in her hands. She didn't stir at my voice, remaining completely unresponsive.

Concern blossomed in my chest. I crouched down so I was level with her and affectionately laid a hand on my daughter's thin shoulder. She wasn't breathing.

"Alice? Are you all right?"

Slowly, almost achingly, Alice lifted her head and I saw that her eyes were pitch black. "Carlisle," she spoke in a low groan.

"Where are the others?" I asked, noting the rest of my family and wondering why she was left here alone in the house.

"Hunting," her breath hitched as she spoke as though she were crying. Her delicate frame shuddered but her face remained dry and her eyes clear despite the pain darkening them. "It hurts, Carlisle-it really hurts." Then she sagged against me, letting her head fall against my chest as though she had no strength to stay up on her own.

"Alice? What hurts?" I asked, alarm thick in my voice. I had never seen Alice in such a state. "Alice, what's going on?" I put my hands under her arms for support, fearing she would fall if I didn't. When she didn't answer my voice became almost panicked. "Alice, answer me!"