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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.


5. Just Breathe

Rating 5/5   Word Count 7400   Review this Chapter

Tell me I can make it through this day

I don't even have the words to pray

You've been the only one who never left me

Help me find a way through all my fears

Help me see the light through all my tears

Help me see that I am not alone in this

Babysitting...that's what Kates did almost nonstop when she wasn't at school or with us. If it wasn't her little brother she had to supervise, it was some group of monsters from her neighborhood. And if not that, her parents' friends always needed someone reliable to watch their precious brats when some big dinner of wedding came up.

Reliable. That's Kates. With her chin length hair, always brushed until the red highlights outshone the brown, and her neat, relaxed way of dressing-sweaters, turtlenecks, colored jeans or khakis-she always looked like a kid you could count on not to cause trouble.

And as far as I know, she caused trouble only once in her life of her own accord. Aimee and I-and sometimes the guys-led her on some pretty wild rides, but she never started the car, as it were. Only once did she initiate the action, and then it was Aimee and I who went along, at least for a little while.

Of course, the ride also involved babysitting. The only good thing I could see about babysitting was the money. Kates was always rolling in it. She wasn't tight with it either. She willingly financed lots of stuff for us, including gas for tooling around in Jason's parents' old car and movie nights, as long as we provided the entertainment.

Anyway, Kates's wild ride started with a call from a desperate mother who needed someone to watch her darling little nine-month-old girl while she danced off with a gaggle of friends to celebrate the fortieth birthday of a school chum. She'd heard of Kates though Kates's mother and called her.

Kates was available, but she told the woman when she agreed to take the job that she had two friends in babysitting training.

"Can they come too?" she asked. We were sitting on her bed when she asked, and we smirked. We knew that all these women wanted to get every teenage girl involved in babysitting so they would have a larger pool of babysitting choices, and, therefore, a better shot of getting out of their houses when they wanted to. It was the riskiest thing Kates did-asking us come with her on jobs. But the women were over a barrel-they'd have agreed to just about anything to have the renowned Kates sit for them.

Aimee and I rarely went with Kates at the start of the evening. We usually joined her later, when the worst parts of the job were over. We didn't want to shovel spoonfuls of green slime at a moving mouth or scrub the dirty little body afterward. We left that stuff to Kates.

This night was no exception. When we arrived, the mother had been gone for two hours and wasn't due home for another three. So we had a good chunk of time to try out different makeup and fingernail polishes-if she had any good kinds. Or we could raid the cupboards if they were loaded with sugared cereals, snacks, and treats.

Kates greeted us with a worried frown, the first sign that something was wrong. The second sign of looming trouble was that she was holding the baby. She usually had mobile babies occupied in some game, like dancing to music or finding stuffed doggies. The non-mobile ones she usually had asleep by seven-thirty.

"What's up?" Aimee asked. Sort of a routine question, but she must have also sensed a difference in Kates, because she didn't toss the question out and plop onto the nearest couch. Instead, she stared around the unusually messing room. A powder bottle, wipes, spare diapers, a sippy cup, pacifiers, toys, a washcloth, a towel, and the baby's clothes lay in disarray on the couch and floor. Kates was a fanatical cleaner, which was another reason she was so popular as a babysitter. She could play with kids, visit us, and still leave the house a heck of a lot cleaner than when she arrived.

Kates's response knocked us flat. "Thank God you're here. I can call the police now."

"What?" both Aimee and I shouted. The baby started crying. But she wasn't really crying. It was more like a soft whining, like a puppy that's hungry but knows if it howls of barks, it will be kicked.

"See what you've done!" Kates said. She bent over the baby and crooned to her, swaying her whole body and brushing the little girl's cheek with a finger.

"Us?" Aimee said. "You're the one calling the police. What did you think we'd say when you greeted us with that?"

Kates looked at Aimee like she had proposed frying the baby in oil. She only assumed I-know-more-than-you-do role when she was babysitting. She spun away and walked to the couch. She laid the baby down and began to strip the clothes off her, working quickly but gently.

Aimee and I glanced at each other, then shrugged. Aimee sat in the chair opposite the TV, and I headed for the kitchen.

"Wait," Kates said. She pushed her hair behind one ear and continued crooning to the infant as she undressed her. When she finished, she said in an awed whisper, "Come here."

I sighed and strolled over. Aimee heaved herself up from the chair, dropping the channel flicker as she rose. We glanced at each other. What was so new and different about this baby that she had to make such a fuss about?
A large black, purple, yellow, and green bruise across one shoulder and halfway down her back was what was different. Several other bruises, mostly older and yellow-er, decorated the skinny backside of the girl.

I stepped back. "Oh!"

Aimee looked away.

"That's not all," Kates said, her voice still low. She slipped her hands under the baby's armpits and turned her over. The girl whimpered. When Kates moved her hands, she revealed what looked like a long, slender burn on the baby's chest. It was angry and red and oozing.

"Okay," I said. "So calling the police might not be a bad idea. What do you know about these people?"

"They're friends of my parents." Kates said, covering the baby back up. "My parents will flip if I call. But this is awful."

"Did they say anything before they left?" I asked. Aimee retrieved the flicker from the floor and with glazed eyes, clicked through the channels. Music filled the room and she dropped the remote again. She wasn't looking at us, but I could tell she was listening.

"They didn't tell me to do her bath. I just assumed. Everyone wants me to give the kids a bath. Then they don't have to do it." Kates stopped. "Maybe I shouldn't have?"

"You'd have had to change her at some point, wouldn't you?' I said. "I mean, they stink up their diapers pretty regularly from what I can tell, and wouldn't you have seen some of it then?" why were we justifying Kates behavior? I wondered. She'd done nothing wrong. Aimee still said nothing, but an angry fierceness lit her eyes.

"I don't know if I would have noticed the bruises on her butt. It's pretty dim in her bedroom. The light bulb by the changing table doesn't work. I might have missed them." Kates scooped the baby against her and cradled her head into the crook of her shoulder. The baby tried to snuggle, but after wiggling around for a moment, she poked her butt out by tucking her knees under her hips. At last she closed her eyes. "In babysitting class they tell you to turn cases of abuse to a responsible adult. But who?"

"Your parents," I said. "I vote for your parents. Tell them, and they can take it from here. Maybe there's a logical explanation for the bruises."

"And the burn?" she asked. "Explain a burn on a baby's chest. I think it looks like a curling iron did it." She shuddered and hugged the baby closer. The little girl struggled for a moment, and Kates loosened her hold. But something was irritating the little girl. She began a series of small cries that never became wails, but sounded mournful.

"If I tell my parents first," Kates said over the baby's cries, "then I have to leave her here. With them."

"Give her to me," Aimee extended her hands. Her foot tapped the floor.

Kates and I both stared at her. She'd never asked to hold a baby before. If Kates asked for our help it was me who always caved-and then failed at whatever she asked.

"Give her to me, you're holding her wrong," Aimee said. She took the little girl from Kates's arms and wrapped her in a blanket. She shifted the baby's weight so that she lay curled against Aimee on her side, belly to belly, but barely touching. "You were holding her with all the pressure on her injuries." She sat back in her chair, the baby resting against her, and stared at the music video on TV.

Kates and I sat on the couch, while Kates idly folded and refolded towels and dirty clothes. After a while, she carried them upstairs. When she came back down, she said, "I still don't know what to do."

"I told you what to do," I said.

"Pass the buck," Kates said, making it sound like what I'd suggested amounted to leaving the kid in a snow bank naked.

"Defer to higher power," I said. "Don't you think your parents will do anything? Do you really think they'll wait and not call?"

She shook her head. "It's just the thought of leaving her with them for even a little while longer. I can't wake my parents up when I get home. It'll be too late."

"Why not? They won't care considering the circumstances."

"I don't know." Kates bit at the skin on the side of her index finger.

"So call the damn police and get it over with," Aimee said. "It's what you want to do. It's what you should do. It's abuse, isn't it? Do you doubt that? So call the police." Aimee lunged for the phone and dialed before we could get out jaws off the floor. "Hello," she said after a moment. She pulled the phone's base closer and read the emergency sticker on it. "Please come to 4678 Tulip Drive. It's an emergency. There's an injured baby here." She paused. "No, I can't stay on the line. I'm alone here. Just come fast."

She hung up. Standing up, she passed the baby to Kates, then grabbed my arm. "We'll be waiting down the block. We'll come back after the cops arrive, saying that we saw the lights and knew you were here." She paused. "The fewer of us here, the better." Dragging me to the door, she said over her shoulder. "We'll be back."

But we didn't come back because Kates called her parents as soon as the cops arrived, and then the baby's parents had to be located, but by then the social workers had arrived. The paramedics were also there. The reporters next. They listened to the police radio, I guess.

We went home after they took the baby away and before they arrested the parents, but it was on the eleven o'clock news, so I watched it then.

Kates stayed out of camera range and, with her parents' help and the police's, managed to slip out the back way. She never allowed her name to be used, even when X-rays revealed broken ribs and other injuries on the baby. She was clearly a heroine, or rather, Aimee and Kates were heroines.

Kates's parents lost several friends over the whole thing. Sides were taken just like a playground battle, and some people chose to support the abusers. Those idiots said that all parents have the right to discipline their children as they see fit. Some people suggested that Kates needed a little discipline, too. They viewed her as a meddler and home breaker. Aimee's father and stepmother, despite their rightwing religion, became closer to Kates's parents. They were being two-faced and should have stuck with their own kind, but they didn't. They went for the image of normalcy.

Kates stopped taking jobs with people she hadn't already babysat for, saying she was too busy, but she was just afraid.

And Aimee? She never talked about the baby or babysitting again. She wouldn't go with Kates anymore either. Sometimes people would plead her to watch their kids, knowing she took care of her little brother a lot, but she never would.

She said the pay wasn't worth it.

But I remember the ashen color of her face, the hollowness of her cheeks, and the expression in her eyes as she took that little girl in her arms and cradled her against her belly. Sure, I felt sick at heart when I saw the poor little thing, and I even sniffed a little, but it wasn't the same for me as for Aimee. Nor was it the same for Kates, although it hit her hard.

Maybe that's why she called the police so fast. Only Aimee understood.

***

"You look so adorable!" Alice gushed over me causing me to blush in spite of myself. I look down at my ensemble, twisting my neck to get a better view of it. I couldn't remember the last time I had been given new clothes.

She had found an extra small but the sweatshirt still hung slightly from my frame. The hooded sweatshirt was a pale blue with a flowery design upon the left shoulder in a darker blue.

"It brings out the color of your eyes," she had exclaimed. "Be sure not to wear too many dark colors with such dark eyes. Pale should always be the way to go."

I wore a pair cotton pants the color of a light gray with flashy pockets on the sides. My feet bore thick, wool socks that matched the color of the sweatshirt.

"Comfortable but still fashionable." Alice had commented, her angelic face bright with excitement. "Once you gain a little weight, it'll be so much easier to fit you better." She then squirted mousse in her hands then rubbed them together. She began to massage the substance through my hair and her touch sent shivers snaking down my back. "This will define your curls and it takes out the frizz."

I remained silent through it all, letting the pixie-like girl treat me like her own life-sized Barbie doll. As she ran the sudsy stuff through my hair, I stared at my hands, as the little scars overlapping themselves on my palms. I began to count them, shifting my weight from side to side, humming under my breath.

"What do you think, Jasper?"

My breath hitched in my throat as Alice suddenly took me by the hand and twirled me around. When I had fully turned a three-sixty, I found myself, rather breathlessly, staring at a tall, lean man was blond hair and dark eyes. Of course, the features of his face were perfect like the rest of the strange family but his expression was the scariest I had yet seen. He studied me with imperceptible eyes and my heart began to pound; I had the sudden to urge to back away but knew I couldn't since Alice was standing right behind me.

Then he gave me a slight smile and I suddenly found myself relaxing despite my surroundings. A calm wave of serenity swept through me and my shoulders nearly drooped from the relief.

"You want to see yourself in the mirror?" Alice trilled sweetly, her smile radiant, her pride of her obvious accomplishment shining through her topaz eyes.

But before I could answer, she had already taken my hand and was pulling me to the bathroom, her hand an icy touch to mine. It seemed everyone who had touched me so far had cold skin-it was true that body temperatures vary depending on the person but all in one family? My mind tried to make some sort of connection.

"Close your eyes," Alice demanded.

Bewildered, I obeyed, fluttering my eyelids shut, feeling the prickles of goosebumps blossoming up my arms. I heard the flick of the light switch and the insides of my lids were suddenly flooded with red.

"Okay, go ahead and open your eyes."

I open my eyes, slowly, hesitantly, and stared. I barely recognized her. Sure, the girl in the mirror was still gaunt and pale but there was now the hint of a rosy tint to her hollow cheeks and the wildness of her untamed curls was now an array of soft ringlets swirling about her face. A silver clip, nearly hidden by a tiny bow the palest of blue pulled back a few wisps from my temple.

"Beautiful, isn't she?"

"Quite."

I gave a start and looked around.

Esme and Bella had joined Alice. They were both smiling. Bella touched my hair tenderly.

"You did a wonderful job, Alice." She said.

Alice beamed like a proud sunflower. "I know."

I blushed and ducked my head, embarrassed by all the attention I was receiving.

"Now lets go show the others, I know they'd love to see." Alice danced out of the bathroom, a joyous beat to her step. Bella followed her gracefully and a lot more calmly, her face a picture of serenity as though nothing in the world could break through the calm. I lingered back, unsure.

Esme offered me her hand, a face gentle and welcoming. "Come, lets follow the others."

I shook my head.

"I want to go to my room."

I didn't want to be in the middle of a group of spectators like I was the winning ornament at a zoo. The room they had allowed me to stay in had become my safe haven the short time I stayed there. Right now, it seemed like the best place to be, away from it all where people can't stare and gawk.

"Later," she says with a smile. I didn't want to refuse, fearing that if I did it would make her angry with me after all she had done already.

But I hated when people touched me. I didn't want help-I didn't want anybody. All I wanted was to stay curled up in the dark, maybe where the voices couldn't get to me, where the world forgot that I existed and I could hide. Just hide.

My mom once had this crazy idea that she wanted to breed the tawny pug that we owned and perhaps make a business of it. And several months later we had tiny puppies scurrying around with tiny, curled tails and little black faces and their paws no bigger than my thumb. They were now used to walking and were as curious as ever: attempting to climb our staircase, barking at the pool balls we had because they were so much bigger than them.

One day, one of them peed on our planked floor. It's not like we hadn't had an accident before. Besides, the puppies weren't even eight weeks old yet so they didn't fully understand that going in the house was a big no. The accident was hardly bigger than a quarter and I was going to clean it up but Mom suddenly flipped out. She grabbed the puppy by the scruff of his neck and smashed its face into the puddle in front of me, screaming at it as she smacked its bottom several hard times. Well, since the puppy was so small, about the size of her hand, she was actually smacking its whole body.

The puppy squealed out in terror and pain, not able to understand the sudden onslaught. When she finally released it, it ran, stumbling and wobbly away its tiny floppy ears flying back as it ran off.

I was stunned. Speechless. My heart searing for the poor thing. But I was afraid to move for fear she would turn on me. How could Mom done such a thing to it? It was just a baby, barely able to walk without its tiny legs wobbling and giving away.

When Mom had left for work, I spent several hours looking for the pug puppy. I finally found it in the kitchen. It was huddled up in the darkness, shivering, hiding in the small space between the fridge and the wall. It looked at me with its large eyes that seemed too big for such a small face but didn't move.

When I reached to grab it, it whimpered and pressed itself into the dirty corner. Sobbing, I tried to coax it out, gently murmuring and cooing. After a good twenty minutes, I was able to wiggle close enough and it pull it towards. I cupped it in my hands and brought its shivering body close to my chest, my hot tears creating spots on its velvet fur, and I did my best to hide it away from the world, trying to show that I was protecting it in my hands, that it needn't be afraid any longer. It continued to shiver, whimpering, its little body huddled to me.

When I woke up the next morning, the puppy lay dead beside me.

"You're safe, Mercy," Esme whispered, tearing back the curtain of my memories. "Come now." Her hand waited. Slowly, I nod.

I reluctantly follow Esme down their massive staircase, marveling at the majestic beauty of the house or should I say mansion. When I peered in between the banister poles, I saw the people down the staircase, each a picture of devastating beauty that sent me into mild shock. My heart began to pound and I felt my palms break into a clammy sweat.

What was this place? Some kind of heaven on earth where angels roamed freely, undeterred by the human race? Angels without wings I guess. I grip the banister tightly with both hands, feeling the pain that lanced up my arms and I realized that the pain medication was beginning to wear off and my body was beginning to feel achy once more and my joints groaned with each movement.

Esme waited as I surveyed my surroundings.

Alice stood at the bottom of the staircase, bouncing in what I guessed to be excitement. Why she was excited, I had no clue. I pause for a moment taking in the scene before me. Bouncing Alice, patient Esme, unreadable Edward, distant Bella, and then the tall blond with piercing eyes, and then there was another one. A much...larger one. His body seemed to be the epitome of muscles. Huge bands of it stretched his shirt over his chest and biceps.

What. The. Heck.

I look at Esme, hoping she could see the desperation I screamed at her with my eyes. She met me wide-eyed gaze with solemn eyes as though she completely understood the emotions shooting from me. Then she smiled a light smile and offered me her hand again.

I threw my eyes over the banister again, hoping to spot the doctor, the one person who I had grown slightly comfortable with. But he wasn't there and just that fact sent my emotions spiraling downward. I take a step up back towards the top of the staircase, feeling overwhelmed by the moment, contemplating escape. I take a deep breath in and glare at Esme before turning to look through the poles.

Jasper winced towards me just as I looked at him then relaxed his face until it was slate of non-emotion. My despair that had tossed me towards a sudden depression was suddenly dissolving. So quickly, in fact, that it startled me. I stared hard at Jasper, trying to figure out what he had done and how he had done it.

"Mercy,"

That familiar voice sent my head swiveling and I let go of Esme's hand.

It was the doctor. Carlisle. The one who had taken me away from the hellish hospital. My personal savior. He stands across the room, watching me with tranquil eyes.

"You must be hungry." He says, his voice merely the whisper of the wind but I still heard it, as though my ears had already attuned to the sound of his voice.

Just the word sent me salivating. I couldn't remember the last decent meal I had. Well, for that matter, I couldn't remember the last time I had actually eaten. But it didn't matter now.

I lower myself back down a step, my stomach growled its protest at my hesitance.

"We have some soup in the dining room. Would you like to join me?" He prodded, quirking an eyebrow at me to punctuate his question.

Wait, I coach myself. Just wait. My heart throbbed towards the idea of decent food. I didn't care what it was-I would even eat a bowl of soupy spinach if that was what they had for me. And I was about ready to bound forth. But they were suddenly there. The voices. I mean.

‘Trussstt no one.'

The hissing voice sent a shiver done my spine.

‘The moment you begin to trust is the moment you lose the battle. You trusted your parents: look what happened. You trusted those doctors: look what you are now. These people don't want to help you-they want to use you.'

No. No. No. No. My head pounds with the chorus. I'm near hyperventilating. Downstairs, Jasper puts his forehead in his palm as though he has a headache. And I felt one also, growing in the back of my head. No. No. No. No.

Carlisle studies me with quiet eyes, no emotion on his face.

Then he reaches his hand towards me. "You're okay," he soothes and his voice is nearly seductive, pulling at my senses, tugging me towards him like polar opposites being drawn together.

Get back! I command them, furrowing my eyebrows in concentration. They weren't at all overpowering which seemed bitter sweet. There was no pain involved but it gave me the premonition that they'll come back worse pretty soon.

"Come eat, Mercy; your food is getting cold."

I was too happy to oblige, my stomach grumbling from need. With Esme's hand on my elbow I hobbled down the rest of the staircase and let them lead me to the dining room.

Their dining room was outrageously huge and the table seemed to belong in better settings such as a royal dining hall with a purple endowed king and a snobbish queen sitting like peacocks at the head of the table.

Carlisle pulled out a chair for me and I sat down on the luxurious cushion. There, in front of me, was a steaming bowl of soup and a silver, ornate spoon, accompanied by a glass of water.

I didn't know what to do.

Though my stomach begged me to gulp it all down, the rest of me felt as though it were a trap, that maybe this was just some big, elaborate dream that fate will inevitably reach out and snatch from me at any moment.

How cruel fate can be.

"It's not going to bite you," Alice's singing voice trilled from behind me lanced with the musical bells of laughter. "Go ahead and eat."

I couldn't actually remember the movement but I suddenly found myself stuffing spoonfuls of broth into my mouth, feeling the warmth caress my throat and soothe my aching stomach.

There must be a god in heaven.

"Slow down, I promise you it won't run away."

Carlisle put a restraining hand on my arm, stopping the soup from reaching my mouth and causing the liquid to splash from the spoon and onto the lacy table cloth.

My face flooded with embarrassment when I noticed that everyone had filed in and was watching me with unblinking eyes.

Carlisle noticed my wary gaze towards the gorilla one.

"That's my son Emmett," he introduced with a nod. "He only looks intimidating."

Emmett grinned wildly my direction and I flinched involuntarily.

He only looks intimidating. Whatever.

"You've met the rest of them," Carlisle continued, sitting in the chair next to me. "The one who isn't here is Rosalie, but you'll meet her soon enough."

I saw Edward and Bella exchange such fleeting glances that I wondered if I had only imagined it.

I didn't answer. I fidgeted under everyone's gaze.

"We like guests," Alice said as though she knew what I had been thinking, taking the spot on the other side of me and propping her elbow up on the table so that she could rest her chin in her palm.

Emmett sputtered out a laugh.

I thought I saw Carlisle roll his eyes.

I looked back at my soup but I suddenly wasn't hungry.

‘You can't always hide.'

I pressed my hand to my head, wincing. Please just stop.

"Are you okay?" Carlisle's voice was gentle and concerned. His hand touched my back and I flinched again.

"I'm not hungry." I spoke in a quiet, fearful voice. I wasn't sure how he would react to my seemingly ungratefulness.

"I understand," he spoke, taking the bowl and handing it to Esme. Then he crouched down to be eye level with me. "I didn't expect you to eat it all on your first sitting. But I need you to drink this for me." He held out a tiny plastic cup filled nearly to brim with dark red liquid. How he had gotten it: I had no idea. But the look of it terrified me.

"I'm not drinking blood." I spoke in a whiplash reaction, horror in my voice.

Silence.

Then Carlisle laughed aloud, the first I had ever heard him laugh and for a moment I was distracted by the sound. It sounded nearly unrealistic and I had to turn and study him to confirm that it was really him laughing.

"It's medicine, actually." He chuckled. "Vitamins that are essential to your body for healing which you, at the moment, are lacking."

I scrunched up my nose and gingerly received the odd gift. I brought it to my lips, preparing to take a sip. I squeezed my eyes shut.

Carlisle cleared his throat. "You might want to just gulp it. Down it all at once. I won't lie and say it's the best tasting substance on earth."

I felt slightly worried by his comment but followed his advice, wanting to get this all over with so I can retreat to my room. I tilted my head back and poured it all in.

Alarms screamed in my head

The vile stuff sent my eyes flying open and I gagged, spewing the medicine out onto the white carpet, coughing and spitting, doing my best to be rid of the horrid taste. My stomach heaved once, twice than it all emptied out of me with near violent force.

Vomit spilled over Carlisle's left shoulder and down the front of his white shirt, splattering the carpet garishly with yellow spots.

I burst into tears, feeling ashamed and sick.

I sat in my own puke, my new clothes ruined, my throat burning, and a disgusting taste permanently in my mouth.

And Carlisle sat there, vomit oozing down his shirt and a frown on his face.

Carlisle

That didn't go too well.

She looked at me with utter dismay, tears gushing from her eyes and puke down the front of her shirt. What a pitiful sight indeed.

My dead heart went out to her and I stood, her vomit dripping from the hem of my shirt.

"I'm sorry...I didn't mean..." she blubbered, her voice hysterical. She cowered away from me as though she thought I would hit her and I felt a swell of anger within me which I quickly pushed back.

"I'm not mad at you," I say pacified her. "but I think I need to go get changed."

Jasper had left the room but Edward and Bella lingered behind Esme. Edward was smirking and Bella had a hand over her mouth and nose.

"I'll take Mercy," Alice offered as I turned away and walked slowly, calmly towards the staircase where I fell into a sprint towards my room.

"That didn't go too well," Edward had followed me into the bedroom. There was laughter in his voice.

"Can't say I didn't try." I responded, pulling the shirt over my head. "I've had worst things thrown on me in the ER, can't really complain. Maybe I can get it in pill form."

"Maybe you can get her the little Flintstones ones." Edward joked.

"She's not a child. She's a growing teenager. At least she should be."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Can't you see, Edward? You've been to medical school haven't you?" I pulled a pale brown shirt from my drawer and pulled it over my head. "As awkward as it sounds, she does not seem to be developing."

"Is that a bad thing?" Edward asked, "I mean, it's different for all girls, isn't it. Some start sooner, some start later."

"Hmm...maybe." was all I said.

"That's what the vitamins were for?" he guessed.

"It promotes hormonal growth. It was all natural-not like those steroids or whatever."

Edward grimaced and looked out the window. For a moment, there was silence as he and I became lost in our own contemplating as I threw away the soiled shirt in the bathroom trashcan. Then he turned to me, his expression serious. "It hurts to hear her thoughts." He said out of the blue.

"What do you mean." I thought over this quickly, trying to piece together a puzzle that wasn't quite working out. What he speaking in terms of a Bell thing or was this entirely new.

"I mean, I hear her thoughts...somewhat. Sometimes it's easier but most of the time all I get is a jumble of thoughts all smashed together...many voices all using one microphone but not saying the same thing. It gives me a hell of a headache."

"Voices as in plural." I asked, narrowing my eyes at this new detail. Pluralizing would mean that several beings existed in one body which was overly impossible and improbable.

"I don't know." He paused. "But I bet she does. I think she holds a lot of answers that you are looking for."

"Yes, but to get her to tell me them is a whole other issue." I shook my head, crossing my arms over my chest.

"She trusts you." He paused. "That's about the only thing I can decipher."

I felt a sort of satisfaction well up in my chest but I didn't say anything. I watched the intricate snowflakes flutter to the ground, creating a light dusting on the earth below it.

"Maybe it's just me, but I have this feeling that there's a lot more going on than we realize." Edward had a dark look on his face. "But I can't quite put my finger on it. Alice can't help at all as well for she's having as much trouble as I am."

"What about Bella?"

"Bella...well, she cares for the girl as much as anyone else would...except for Rosalie, I guess. But I know there's something."

I pinched the bridge of my nose. "Only time will tell that."

"Carlisle, we have a problem."

I turned to see Alice standing in the doorway, her face whiter than bone and her eyes dark and wide. Mercy wasn't anywhere in sight.

"No," Edward hissed, his body tensing.

"What?" I demanded.

"Werewolves," they both answered in unison-a tenor and soprano.

Alarm bells went off in my head. My senses became suddenly hyperaware of everything around me. The smells, sounds, colors, and lights...everything coming into an extreme focus.

"When?"

"Now!" Alice cried above the explosion of wood echoed from below and the stench of wet dog hit me with force followed by the yelling of frantic voices.

I was down the staircase in less than three-fourths of a second and I nearly cringed at the sight.

Jacob's hulking form seemed to take up nearly half the room. Seth, Paul, Sam, and Quil stood behind him each seeming to gasp breathlessly in complete amalgamation.

"What's going on?" I asked as Edward crouched beside me.

"They were heading this way from the East but then turned sharply North-their sent is unfamiliar." Jacob used wild gestures, his face pale beneath the russet skin. "We came as soon as possible. I don't know if they smelled us or not and that was why they turned away-I can't be sure."

"Who?" Edward demanded who was flanked by Emmett and Jasper. Esme was halfway down the staircase, frozen against the banister. Alice hovered next to me and Bella stood near the kitchen, eyes locked on Jacob. She too was frozen.

"Vampires. A lot of them."

Vampires.

My blood ran cold.

I thought I was going to pass out when I realized I was breathing in short, panicked puffs.

No. No. No...oh, god...no...

Not again.

"Carlisle!" Bella' voiced rang shrilly. And as if each one of their heads were attactched to an invisible string every head turned to look up at me. My heart performed a violent paroxysm in my chest. I was done for.

A feral instinct of survival clutched at me and I bolted like a bat from hell for the room, ignoring the screams of my wounds and the ache of my muscles.

I had to get out of here.

I slammed the door shut, unbelievable terror ripping me apart.

Vampires. Vampires.

I throw myself at the window, nauseating spurts of adrenaline coursing through my veins and the world spins.

"NO!" I scream.

The window was nailed shut, like I was a prisoner again. What I had tried to get away from, never was going to quite following me.

I spun around, looking for the duffel bag but it wasn't where I left it.

My shoulders drag up and down, I gag on air, the floor beneath me sways and lurches.

‘I told you,' They whisper. ‘You should have trusted us...never trust anyone else. We told you they were vampires, just like the other ones...'

With skin crawling, I fling my body on the bed, sobbing, and I bury my face in the pale blue shirt strewn across the pillow.

But then I realized whose it belonged to and I hurl it against the wall so hard that it hurt my arm.

"Mercy,"

I shriek when I see Carlisle standing in the middle of my room, the door behind him shut.

With a wild Spiderman move, I leap to my feet and launch myself off the bed towards the wall, doing everything within my will power to create as much distance as possible between us.

Like it would do any good.

"Mercy, listen to me,"

My heart sped off like a runaway train with no hope of stopping. My head grows hot and my skin grows cold.

"Vampire!" My voice explodes out of me and I pitch a glass figurine towards Carlisle. It hit the wall next to him with a horrid sound, smashed into a billion pieces. He didn't even flinch.

"You're a vampire!" I spoke in ragged bursts, my voice thick with insinuation.

"It's not what you think, Mercy-" Carlisle moved towards me and I scream again, this time my cry rising into a murderous falsetto.

He freezes, his face stricken. It was an unnatural stillness.

"Murder!" the venomous wail came from deep within my gut. My brashness surprised me but I didn't care anymore. It's not like I had anything to live for. "You blood-sucking murder!"

He shakes his head but said nothing, his hands held out in caution.

"Aimee was right!" I pound on the wall with my fists, feeling the vibrations, hearing the echo, and feeling the jarring pain it shot up my arms. "It all ends the same way! You can't trust anybody."

I collapse, my hands still weakly pounding the floor till there was no point.

Grief can be such a strange emotion. Sometimes it comes softly, unexpectedly, like a whisper of wind curling its self through a thick forest-barely noticed. Other times, though, it comes on suddenly, forcefully, grabbing your heart in a fist of iron misery, dragging you down to dark, depression filled depths.

And that was how I felt-as though my heart was sinking deeper and deeper and, at points, I felt as though I couldn't breathe, couldn't move, that my lungs were refusing oxygen. My stomach aches.

I curl into a fetal position. I couldn't wait to die.

Sort of like Aimee. She couldn't wait either. Everyone asked afterward what drove her to suicide, and we told them what we knew. But no one believed us. They thought there had to be more. That her life wasn't bad enough for her to kill herself.

People who have never come close to seeking death don't understand its promise of an end to life's struggles. They don't understand the precarious teeter-totter on which a suicidal person balances on, shuffling reasons to live and reasons to die back and forth to avoid hitting bottom. They don't understand that when you're that low, when you can't see beyond yourself and your fallen-apart world, it's the little things that send you over the edge, not the big things.

And sometimes it is the littlest things that keep you going, too.

For the longest time the little thing that kept Aimee going was her cat. No one cared for that fat football of a cat like she did. She once asked me what I thought of her cat, and I answered, "She's a lazy cow. Why do you have her?"

Aimee stared at me in digust, hands on her hips, then she gathered the ball of flesh she called a cat to her, and started flicking through the TV channels.

As channel after channel passed before my eyes and the silence grew between us, I knew I had flunked a test. But later I realized that I was a good thing I flunked it. If I was unworthy of caring for her car, then Aimee had to keep going.

But Aimee's cat died. And it died on the same day that Aimee's dad walked out and left her with her stepmother for two weeks without even a letter or a phone call.

He left her with nothing.

A cold hand on my back jerks me back to reality but I don't have the strength to fight it any more. I lay there, crying quietly, gasping and shaking.

"Deep breaths, Mercy." Carlisle whispers in my ear and I feel his icy breath against my skin and the sweetness of it wafts up my nose. "Just take deep breaths."

And I did.

So keep breathing
Go on breathe in
Keep on breathing
Go on breathe in
Just breathe