Text Size Large SizeMedium SizeSmall Size    Color Scheme Black SchemeWhite SchemeGrey SchemePaper Scheme        

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.


8. Hope

Rating 5/5   Word Count 8484   Review this Chapter

Courage, it would seem, is nothing less than the power to overcome danger, misfortune, fear, injustice, while continuing to affirm inwardly that life with all its sorrows is good; that everything is meaningful even if in a sense beyond our understanding; and that there is always tomorrow.

Aimee always knew I was different, that there had always been something strange about me, something somewhat inhuman. But she didn't care. She befriended me anyways, saying that one day I might change the world. That I had something that no one else had and that made me special. She never freaked when things would accidently happen, when my emotions grew out of control and then I, myself, lost control. She just kept saying that I was going to change the world someday.

Yeah. Right

The Cullens now knew mostly everything. Mostly...but it was enough for me to wait for the moment when they would kick me out or send me rushing for the Volturi. But it hadn't happened yet. I still waited.

Waiting had always been the scariest part of being punished.

So I waited in what I had deemed the safest part of the house which was the room they had given to me with pink eyelet curtains and a creamy white bedspread. A lovely bouquet of pale pink roses sat on the shimmering white dresser, fresh and smelling sweet. Alice had arranged them earlier and when she had left, I had taken one of the delicate roses out of the vase, brought it to my nose to inhale its sweet scent before hiding it in a desk drawer across the room.

I lay now on the bedspread, curled up, clutching Carlisle's pale blue shirt to my chest, staring out the window right next to the bed, where the world was white and fragile and ice hung in shimmering crystals from the trees. It had been a long time since I had glimpsed snow. It was beautiful; something beyond picturesque that proved that there had to be a God somewhere, somehow.

I turned onto my back to stare at the ceiling, noticing that there was not a single crack in the white painting, that everything was smooth and white and perfect. That the portraits on the walls were never crooked and not a single curtain was out of place. The order they held their home in outranked my mother by far who was the epitome or a perfectionist. And obviously I hadn't reached her standards of a perfect daughter or she wouldn't have sent me away.

Was anything perfect? Besides the vampires, of course. But I had to believe that they had some sort of flaw, that there would be something that they just could not do. Maybe if I found that out, I wouldn't feel so useless, so weak. Maybe I could find someone out there who is just as messed up as me.

There was a knock on the door and I jerked, shrinking against the wall, not knowing what would lie on the other side of the door.

Carlisle opened the door slowly, almost hesitantly. "Are you hungry?" he asked softly and I studied him, noting how young he looked and I knew he couldn't be near thirty at all. He looked almost as young as my older brother. I wondered how the other nurses and doctors did not see this. How couldn't they? His college-age looks literally screamed at me from across the room and I briefly thought, if he hadn't been a vampire, that he would probably be surfing the ocean waves while attending some west coast medical school, enjoying being a young adult, still fresh from high school, and ready to face the world head on. He shouldn't be like this-someone trapped in suspended time and getting away with it every day.

He was an unheard ghost as he moved across the bedroom to sit on the bed next to me, watching me as I thought. His presence wasn't threatening. I relaxed slightly, picking at the comforter to give my hands something to do. I waited for Carlisle to speak, for him to tell me that everything was going to be alright or that it wasn't my fault and I needed to move on with life and stop this childish moping. Something like my mother had said.

But he surprised me yet again.

"These are yours?" Carlisle whispered.

I hadn't seen him pull anything out of his pocket but apparently he did. I looked up to suddenly find those wretched metal dog tags lying in Carlisle's open palm. My hand flies to my neck in shock but all I feel is the fading, knotted scar of where the chain had dug into the side of my neck.

"I took it off in the emergency room," he said to answer my unspoken question.

I slowly took the tags, noting that they were clean again, shimmering in the lamp light. I also noticed how they seemed to burn my hand, bite into my flesh.

Tears filled my eyes as I read the six digit number carved into the metal over and over. My throat felt tight and I curled my fingers over the cold metal until I had clenched my fists and I feel the tears creating a new path down my cheeks. The chain spills from my palm and dangles from between my fingers, swinging like a pendulum back and forth. I clench the tags tighter and tighter until it digs into my flesh but I don't wince from the pain it causes.

I drop my head and my curls bob around my chin and ears. I am ashamed and I tried to hide my face from Carlisle. I didn't want him to see the guilt clearly written on my face. The anger, the pain, the sadness, and the fear meld into one and course through my veins and I clench my teeth from the intensity.

My mind begins to shout at me, begging me to stop. No, no, no, no, no! It cried

But the voices disagreed, creeping from the recesses of my mind. Their shrieks were an incessant chant: Yes, yes, yes, yes, YES!

I drop my hands to the comforter and press my fists into the mattress, deeper and deeper until they could go no more. I choke back a sob and my head gives me a nasty throb.

Carlisle touches my shoulder but we both suddenly freeze.

Beneath us, the house suddenly rumbled, like a slumbering dragon changing positions in his sleep.

The miniature chandelier above me shivers, its crystals tinkling, and the walls shudder and heave. The portrait of a meadow across the room tilts than crashes to the floor, falling flat. The lights flicker briefly and the door opens ajar, the brass knob rattling loudly.

Then it was still.

I look at Carlisle with wide eyes, gasping in fear and horror.

There is no suspicion though. Only surprise. He stands suddenly just before Bella enters the room, her hair in two French braids.

"Did we just have an earth quake?" she asks in obvious amazement. "Or was that an avalanche?"

Carlisle moves to the window to look outside, pulling back the creamy pink folds of curtains. "I honestly can say that I have no idea. When the others get back, we'll ask them if they felt or saw anything. It could have been just a minor shift of the plates-nothing severe. It happens all the time."

Bella walks or floats over to me. "Are you alright?"
I nod. I had released the clench on the tags in my hand. They had left an angry, stinging red mark on my palm where the metal had bit into the flesh.

For a succinct second, Carlisle anxiously paces, obviously quickly assessing the situation and going through his options, not looking at either one of us as he thinks. Then he looks up.

"We'll be fine." He said in confidence. "Nothing severe happened, just mother nature showing us who's boss." He cracks a grin at that.

Bella seems to accept his response without any doubt. "Do you want to hunt with me once the others get back?" she asks, ignoring me completely.

I freeze. Hunt? Hunt what? Animals? People? God knows what else?

When I look at Carlisle, I find that he is already studying me, his face placid but beneath I knew there roiled emotion.

Bella smiled and brushed my cheek and I flinched quite noticeably. "She'll be fine. Edward and Esme will look after her. It doesn't really take that long. Just a couple animals will suit me."

I felt nauseous. Why were they talking about this in front of me? This was just sick. But then again, I ate meat and poultry and once I tried deer but nearly died at the thought of eating it but drink their blood? Literally drink their blood while they were still alive?

No way.

Carlisle approaches me warily. I was pretty sure he heard the suppressed gag I had gulped back.

"Do you want to come help me make dinner? It will get your mind off things." he asked, holding out his hand, beckoning me to join him. "You're okay." He added gently, seeing the fear frozen on my face. "No one is going to hurt you."

I nodded slowly and let the tags slide from my fingers to the bed. I climb from the bed and shuffled my way to Carlisle and took his offered hand, shivering from the cold touch and almost withdrawing my hand but Carlisle tightened his hold, not allowing me to step back.

"I'm not ready to let go yet." He smiled down at me and led me from the room.

"Now be careful and don't burn yourself," Carlisle softly chided me as he nudged my arm away from the burner. "Hand me that little potato." He pointed across the kitchen, sending me away from the stove where a small bag of red potatoes sat on the small kitchen island.

I did as I was told and reached for the small red potato, still studying the new scenery around me, still marveling at its beauty. We were in a cabin-a big one though not as big as their original home but still spacey-in the middle of nowhere. I wasn't even sure if we were still in America for that matter.

But I liked it-with its earthy touch of greens and browns and elegantly carved, wooden and polished furniture. It had a sanctuary feel about it, a place of safety where no one could find you even if they tried.

I couldn't remember arriving though and I suspected Carlisle had drugged me to keep me under as they traveled. I didn't really want to know, though, in what matter we had arrived and it still sent shivers down my back each time I thought of it.

All I could really remember is waking up so drowsy that Esme and Bella had to literally dress me and spoon some foul tasting coffee down my throat to help me wake up from whatever Carlisle had given me.

I heard the door swing open and Jasper breezed through the kitchen, not even acknowledging me, and swept through the opposite door. I narrowed my eyes at his retreating figure.

I felt as though they didn't want me here. I could see that in their movements; hear it in their symphonic voices. Especially that vampire called Jasper (I kept wanting to call him Casper the Friendly Ghost-his skin sure gave him the impression of one, but he definitely wasn't friendly), he barely notices my presence and rarely stays in the same room as me for very long-not that I extremely missed him. Rosalie scared me as well and we did our best to avoid each other. Alice and Esme and Bella were extremely nice to me but their words always hinted towards worry and Edward was polite towards me and Emmett, though always happy, still sent me hiding whenever he came in close proximity with me. Which he found hilarious and which Carlisle had scolded him several times to not his presence so sudden. Emmett just laughed but I was pretty sure he didn't want me around as well.

Except for the doctor with his gold tinted hair and warm, honey eyes. He hovered almost protectively. Though he constantly corrected me and most of the time seemed to be scolding me for something or another, for some reason, I wanted to constantly be near him-I knew I would always be safe with him. I wasn't really realizing it but slowly Carlisle was becoming the father I had always needed. Even though he treated me as though I was a fragile child. In many ways I was and maybe Carlisle knew that.

"Mercy, are you even paying attention to me?"

His voice snapped me from my thoughts and I blinked several times before realizing that Carlisle had stopped what he was doing and laid a cold hand on my forehead. "Are you still feeling drowsy? Dizzy?"

I shook his hand away and glared, doing my best not to cringe. "I'm fine." I said. "I was just thinking."

He raised an eyebrow at me and smiled. "Daydreaming?"

I shrugged and lifted the metal spoon to stir the pasta in the boiling water. He chuckled and reached for another potato, dicing it so fast that I could barely catch the movements.

"How're we doing in here?" Esme had floated in, so unannounced, that it startled me. I whirled and dropped the spoon but Carlisle snatched it out of midair and finished stirring the noodles. Esme was wearing a long white dress made of cotton, looking like an angel who had just descended into heaven to grace us with her presence.

I saw the ultimate devotion filling Carlisle's eyes as he kissed his wife's cheek. I turned away, feeling like an intruder on a private moment. But then she pulled me to her waist and kissed the top of my head and I felt my ears warm, feeling uncomfortable. I strained slightly away from her, trying to convince myself that a vampire really wasn't hugging me.

"Is Carlisle teaching you to cook?" She asked in a sweet voice. Like Snow White or something. She gestured towards the pasta and diced potatoes.

"He's trying," I muttered, ducking out of reach when she tried to pull me closer. "And," I added, pulling open the oven door briefly, "we're making cake. With chocolate icing."

I loved cake. Aimee and I used to make it just for fun just about every week than stuff our faces until we had stomach aches. It was something that we did together that required thoughtless energy and I believed that it was an escape for Aimee from her troubles. A brief one...but one nonetheless.

Esme cocked her head at me and gave me another gentle smile as though she knew what I was thinking. Which would be creepy.

"I think I'll help you," she said without further ado. "I dearly love to cook but I never get a chance to." She shook her head to herself as if she found this appalling.

Which I believed she had a right to. She did drink blood after all. I think. Or maybe I shouldn't think...

My legs wobbled slightly as I thought of that and I couldn't stop the violent images from flashing across my mind. Esme and Carlisle exchanged glances.

"What don't you sit down," Carlisle gestured towards the ornate chairs situated around the small island. "We'll finish dinner for you."

I obliged more than willingly. I watched the couple.

Esme and Carlisle continue to cook, moving through the kitchen like a well rehearsed dance they had practiced for many years. And before long I was seated at a table, eating spaghetti and diced and seasoned potatoes. I don't know how they expected me to eat all the food they cooked but they promised they would save some in the refrigerator in case I wanted some for lunch tomorrow. I happily agreed and I ate till my stomach ached and my eyes grew watery from exhaustion.

I remembered I had laid my head on the table when I suddenly felt something cold and wet on my forehead.

My eyes flew open and I found I was lying in bed with Carlisle and Edward standing over me or, to be fair, Edward was standing slightly away, arms folded over his chest, but his face blank as he watched me.

"You were running a bit of a fever," Carlisle explained, laying the cloth again on my forehead. "I cleaned the lacerations on your back again to make sure I've killed all infection. How are you feeling now?"

I blinked. "I'm fine..." I croaked. "My head hurts a little."

Edward smiled. "You nearly drowned yourself in your spaghetti. Good thing Bella propped you up when she did."

I stared at him, wondering if he was joking or not. He smiled back at me, but his eyes held some sort of fascination. For what reason: I didn't know. I closed my eyes again, sighing.

"You'll watch her?" Carlisle murmured quietly somewhere above my head.

"Yes, I promise I will not leave her side."

"It will only take me a couple of hours tops and then I'll be right back."

"Alright." Pause. Then: "Alice wants to go shopping tomorrow."

"I don't know about that."

"I really don't think there is any real danger."

"I'll think about it when I hunt."

"If you need anything, just call."

Carlisle cleared his throat. "I'm hoping Alice will see before that happens."

And then I fell asleep, listening to the two men talk, wondering why I was still cold under so many covers, and wishing it was my mom sitting by my bed with a wet cloth and not a stranger.

I didn't know what laid in store for me. And I lay trapped by my fevered dreams.

I awoke screaming and crying, trapped by twisted sheets, suffocating as I tried to rip free from my entrapment. I flailed against the bindings, falling out of bed and hitting the wooden floor with a hard thump, smacking my head on the planking hard enough to make me go still for several moments.

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

‘Will you stay with me? Once last time?'

It took me several minutes to realize that Edward was holding me to his chest, speaking soothing words in my ear, trying to calm the shrieks breaking from my throat and the tears streaming down my face. There were others around me but I ignored them, focusing on the corpse plastered in my mind, glazed across my wide eyes.

"It wasn't your fault," Edward was saying. "It wasn't your fault!"

Had I been screaming Aimee's name? I didn't know. I didn't care. I struggle, trying to break free from this vampire's arms so that I could run and never look back. But he is too strong. He calls my name several times, attempting to have my attention. But I couldn't. The next scream that clawed out of my throat was the loudest yet. I didn't want him touching me. His voice comes louder, so I could hear above my cries.

"Look me in the eye and tell me you didn't kill her," I wrench my eyes upward to where Edward's face hung above me. His voice was firm, intolerant. He turns me around so that he can grip my shoulders.

"You didn't kill her." His voice was fierce and low and angry. His hands gripped my shoulders until they hurt, but I didn't cry out. He shook me, forcing me to raise my head. I closed my eyes, not wanting to see his anger. It scared me. "Look at me."

But I couldn't.

"I said what you needed to hear," he says. "Now I want you to say that you didn't kill Aimee."

Everything within me stopped. He believed the lie just enough that he had to hear me deny it. He had doubts. He could deny his doubts to my face even as he cared for me. But his doubts are still there. And if he doubted me, everyone doubted me. Tears slipped down my cheeks, fell on my shirt. "You don't believe me."

"That's not true," he said. "I've always believed you. But I'll tell you who doesn't believe you: You! You don't believe that you had nothing to do with it. You think you did something that helped her. It's you who doesn't believe that you had nothing to do with her dying."

I whipped my head from side to side, tried to escape his hands as they danced before me while he tried to be gentle, pursuing my fingers as they flew through the air, beating at him, at his words. He chased my efforts to still them, but I didn't want him to touch me. I flung myself away, nearly off the bed. He caught me and pulled me back to him, away from the floor, but not away from the yawning pit inside me. Everything shook with my sobs. I couldn't say what was running through my mind, around and around, in dizzying circles.

I didn't kill her! I didn't kill her! I didn't kill her! I had nothing to do with it. Why wouldn't anyone believe that? I didn't kill her! I didn't!

But I said nothing.

Edward pins me to the bed, catching my hands and locking them in a vise-like grip.

I twisted and turned. My heart beating faster and faster.

"Say it," he demands.

I taste the salt of my tears on my lips; hear the crying that shakes my body.

"Say it!"

I cry out.

But I couldn't say it. I can't say it. Because I was there. I was there, and I didn't stop her. Can't he see that? Can't anyone see that? That is why I can't say that I didn't kill Aimee, because I didn't stop her.

I didn't stop her.

I didn't do Aimee any good.

"You didn't kill her, Mercy," Edward voice comes more calmly now but I still hate him. I longed for Carlisle and wonder why he had abandoned me. "There was nothing you could have done."

My breathing slows.

"You're innocent. You did nothing wrong!"

I think again of how I could have given Aimee another cat. Which might have prevented her suicide, or at least delayed it.

Or I could have searched her house for danger signs instead of letting her piss me off with all that Chad crap. I might have found the pills. Or the phone. Hell, if I'd have seen that phone lying with her bear on her stepmother's bed, I would have known Aimee was doing more than just talking about suicide.

But shouldn't I have known that anyway? Isn't talking about it one of the major warning signals? But nooo. I screwed that up, closed my eyes to it, thought I had it under control.

But I couldn't control Aimee. That should have been obvious from her car accident and all the other bull crap she pulled. The phone is just one of many hints I have to anguish over. I had a blind spot for Aimee, a carryover from our third-grade friendship when she was the cool one, the one with all the right friends and all the neat stuff. I looked up to her. She could do nothing wrong, especially not this wrong.

That night I didn't know that I shouldn't still be admiring her, looking up to her, worshipping her.

Maybe my hero worshiping was part of the pressure that wore Aimee down and made her give up. Maybe living up to my expectations was one thing too many. But I'll never know for sure, and part of me still won't accept the truth about Aimee. That she was not and never was perfect.

Edward is still speaking but I no longer struggle. My crying quiets to only tears.

What if I hadn't gone to her house alone? What if I had made my mom or dad come, or one of the other kids? What would have happened to them?

Someone else would share the blame. We could have slept in a tag team so that Aimee was never alone. One of us could have gone for help while the other stayed.

But only Chad and the other kids knew I was there, and none of them could stay with her. I keep reminding myself that but it doesn't sink it.

It doesn't matter.

My original plan, to have Aimee sleep over, would have saved her. Maybe Aimee would have done it some other time, but I don't know that. I will never know it. She said she couldn't do it alone, and I didn't understand until afterward that she meant she couldn't die alone.

But here's the hair-splitter. She did die alone. I gave her nothing but arguments during her last few waking moments, and I left her alone for much of the time when she was unconscious.

So even there, I failed her.

Helped her die, my ass, I think, finally meeting Edward's dark eyes with a glare that was not directed at him. I'm watching Aimee die. Yes, I watched her die. But I didn't do it willingly. What did I get out of supposedly helping her die? A stint in the psych ward, a court trial, during which I may have been acquitted, but I'm still guiltily in the public's eye. Then the Hell I went through at the hospital. Hardly a reward. I was also ruled psychiatrically unstable. I wasn't acquitted of the breaking-and-entering charges. There was no proof that Aimee let me in her house.

Loneliness.

That's what I've gotten from Aimee's suicide. Loneliness and not just because she died, which is awful. I am cut off from my best friend forever. She also took away all of my other friends, my family, and my freedom. She even tried, during that last night, to take Chad away from me.

And now I'm sobbing again and shaking because of that night, I believed her. I believed that she and Chad were lovers and that he didn't care for me. And I believe, at least, that she could do that to me: she could have taken him as a lover to make me go along with her plan, or to make me overlook what she was doing. She was capable of that. I can see that now. But I should have known that Chad wasn't capable of it, not with all he knew-the stepmother thing, etc. but she convinced me.

It was part of her game.

Rage scorches my eyes, and I can't see. My heart pounds a loud, staccato rhythm as it strains in my chest and burns as though it's about to burst. My hands clench, my mouth opens as though to scream. I squeeze my eyes shut against the knowledge of who I was and what I let happen. Because a part of me did allow it.

I need to admit that. When Chad testified, I searched for signs that what she said was true, that he was her lover.

But he looked the same.

I want to scream more, longer, louder than I have ever screamed. If Chad had denied what I claimed Aimee told me about the two of them, then everything else Aimee said was suspect, including what she said about her stepmother. I can see at last why they called her a liar.

I could never prove any of what she said was true. Ever.

I can't stay mad at Aimee. I want to, but I can't. She was, is, my friend, and she needed far more than I could give her. I couldn't or wouldn't understand what she needed, so maybe she's wherever she is now, screaming silent screams of anger back at me because I didn't help her. I only watched and acted bigger than I was, acted braver. But I was scared out of my wits of every sad and angry word she said. It terrified me to imagine her in a coffin and dead and not on the other end of the phone when I needed to talk.

So I didn't think it could happen.

Friends don't commit suicide. They don't die.

We'd sit with Aimee like a parent whose kid has chicken pox, and when the outer signs, the pimples, were healed, then she'd be cured. Right? But the chicken pox virus lives in your body forever, and when you are exposed to the virus again, later in life, it sometimes shows up as this gross and painful rash-like thing called shingles.

I think the same thing happens to people who want to die. They never get rid of the bug. They can only try to get help for it and find some way of looking at life that gives them hope and strength. If they're really lucky, they find the joy in life, whatever that is, because I don't think I've found it yet. But some people have, and you can see it in their faces. Their happiness is visible.

I thought just being there would be enough. That having a friend in the house would be enough. She would talk; I would listen. In the morning, I'd turn her over to her parents, her father specifically, and later the whole gang and I would come and confront her stepmother. Then we'd call her mom in Las Vegas and tell her to get her act together and come be a mother.

Aimee had other plans, obviously. She had tried to ask for help in some ways, but no one took her seriously enough. Not even us. Not even me.

That, Edward, is why I have a hard time saying what you want me to say. Because if I had been smarter, if I had been less sure of myself and my ability to save Aimee, if I hadn't been jealous-which is exactly what she wanted me to be-if I hadn't believed she was perfect and that crap never happened to people you know, then Aimee, more willing to accept her pain as something she needed to bear. If I had run out of her house in the first place when I first realized she had taken the pills and the phone was hidden, if I had called someone when I found her drunk, combative, and depressed, if-

If. What a word.

What I really need to say is that if I had been God, I could have stopped Aimee. But I'm not, so I couldn't.

The hardest question of all is, Why didn't God?

Carlisle

I sprinted up the staircase leading up the porch, Bella not far behind me. Inside I could hear nothing but the wild thumping of Mercy's heart and the rapid muttering of the rest of my family.

If I had a beating heart, it would've stopped.

Inside, I found Mercy curled up on the sofa, Esme kneeling beside her. Though Mercy was asleep, she wasn't resting for her breathing came ragged and her little hands were clenched into fists as they lay on either side of her splotched face. Her face looked sweaty and feverish and her eyes were half open in her sleep, though the irises had rolled back.

They all looked at me, each face slightly guilty. Except for Edward who stood the closest to me.

He was the culprit.

"I was gone for three hours, three hours!" I struggled to maintain a calm exterior, drawing in several deep breaths and letting them out slow and controlled. "And I come back to this! What happened? What did you do?"

"It was necessary." Edward answered unfazed by my angry advance. His voice was calm and quiet, no signs of stress at all.

"Necessary to traumatize her?" It was very hard to keep my voice down and the anxiety from spiraling out of control.

"It was necessary, Carlisle. Didn't you see? Didn't you hear it in her voice, see it in her face? When she told us her story, it was obvious that she blamed herself for Aimee's death! She thinks it was her fault that Aimee committed suicide, she thinks she has some sort of hand in it! She was trapped by her own body!"

Esme glanced up at me from where she was kneeling by the couch where Mercy continued to sleep, her splotchy face showing the tall-tale signs of her past hysteria. Esme tenderly stroked the girl's black curls, cooing in her ears. Her face looked distraught, mirroring the emotions that I felt churning within me and I wondered if my face was as readable as hers.

Edward lowered his arms and looked down at her as well. "Look, maybe I was a bit rough, but I had to do something, she was past hysterical. I had to get the truth through her. She needed to hear someone say that. She needs to hear herself saying that." He looked at me with an almost pleading expression.

My countenance fell and I nodded. "I'm sorry for over reacting. Please forgive me." I pinched the bridge of my nose. Never had I had so much trouble over my emotions before. Never had I been so high-strung. Mercy had somehow bewitched me.

He nodded in response to my apology or my thought. I wasn't sure.

I rubbed the back of my neck. "How did it go then?" I asked softly.

"I don't know. She calmed down but I didn't get anything really out of her. She'll probably avoid me for the rest of her life." He looked regretful at that and Bella, who had been standing off to the side, laid her head on his shoulder.

"I think you did the right thing Edward," she said soothingly, closing her eyes as she wrapped her arms around his waist. "I have a feeling she took what you said to her to heart. All she needed was someone to say all that to her. The poor thing."

"Maybe we shouldn't go shopping tomorrow..."

"She'll be fine," Alice spoke behind me. Her voice held that final tone to it. "I've seen that. She needs to get out."

"What about the Volturi?" Bella asked, opening her eyes again.

Alice closed her eyes briefly. "Nope," she shook her head. "We'll be fine. This place is nowhere near what they think we'll be. She needs clothes." As if that was the most important thing.

Edward's lips twitched towards a smile.

I sighed. "Whatever you want Alice, I'll go along with it. Just as long as it's safe."

"Dare you doubt me?" she asked doing a twirl. "Do you want to come with us Edward and Bella?"

"I think I'll sit this one out, Alice," Bella smiled, tucking her hair behind one ear and giggling.

"Well, you can't expect me to leave my lovely wife," Edward smiles, his eyes locking with Bella's.

Alice rolled her eyes. "What about Esme or are you going to be boring like Edward and his lovely wife?"

"Actually, Alice, I think you and Carlisle will be fine without me. I wanted to do some decorating in the house."

Alice huffed. "Suit yourself. Just think of what you're missing out on..."

We laughed despite then tension.

Alice glared but a smiled played at the ends of her lips. "Don't worry, tomorrow will be amazing!"

I cleared my throat, "That's what I'm afraid of."

Mercy

The day was bright despite the sun being hidden by the pearl gray clouds. It frightened me, being out in the open. I was used to being inside, and despite my recent journey to the hospital with Carlisle, I was overwhelmed by the sights and sounds. And I think Carlisle knew that for he let me cling to his side as we made our way inside the gigantic mall with a billboard on the front in a language that I was not familiar with. Alice, though, was full on throttle, leading the way with her fluid movements. People stared as we passed them and it made me self-conscious.

"I've seen it!" she says excitedly and I watch her in confusion. "In here!" she grabs my arm and pulls me away from Carlisle's side and into a large store, crowded and brightly lit.

I give Carlisle a panicked look, begging him to rescue me from Alice and her obsessions.

"You're fine," he murmured, eyeing Alice who completely ignored him and dragged me straight to a wall of clothing so colorful, so various that my vision blurred.

"Slow Alice," I heard the doctor murmur behind me. "Take it slow."

It must have been several hours later and what seemed to be a hundred bags later when we were heading out. The last outfit that Alice had picked out which I remembered significantly was a baseball like outfit.

"You'll need it later," Alice had said with a grin and a wink. I didn't understand but I guessed I would figure out later whether I wanted to or not.

I wobbled on our way and Carlisle had to support me as we exited the store. But I quickly regained my balance when I saw what was ahead of me.

"Can we go in the pet store and look?" I asked, pointing towards the colorful sign.

Carlisle smiled down at me, relieved that I wasn't totally in shock. "If you want to," he released my arm and followed me.

"I'll put the bags in the car," Alice said, then I'll meet up with you.

Carlisle was patient as I slowly made my way through the small pet store, standing on tip-toes to stroke the rabbits that stayed still long enough for me to touch, who were not afraid of human hands. I peeked through the aquariums at the multi-colored fish, flinched at the snakes, passed quickly by the cats, and gazed at the puppies yipping and wagging their tales. A Great Dane puppy caught my eye, speckled with gray and black, with floppy eats and clumsy paws. Its large brown eyes caught me by the heart and I gently tapped the glass, than laid my palm on the pane separating us and the puppy hurriedly licked the glass where my hand was, its tail frantically whipping back and forth.

Then I dropped my hand, feeling suddenly nauseous. I turned to see Carlisle standing behind me with a compliant face. He smiled, though, when I turned. That is, until he caught the look on my face.

"I don't feel very good." I mumbled and Carlisle's eye tightened with concern.

"What's wrong?" he asked. I looked back at the puppy again, watching it paw the glass, still staring at me.

"I just don't feel very good." My voice came quieter this time. "Can we go now?"

I wrapped my arms around his middle and buried my face into his shirt, closing my eyes, not caring what people saw.

As though I were a small child, Carlisle lifted me and I rested my head on his shoulder. Together, we left the store, and I watched as the little puppy disappeared from view.

This time Alice drove. I sat in the backseat, curled up against Carlisle's side and this time he didn't bug me to put on my seat belt.

"Are you mad at me?" I asked.

"Of course not." Carlisle whispered.

"Did you see all those animals?"

"Yes I did."

"They were all caged up," I murmured, my voice strained.

"I know."

"Why?" I squeezed my eyes shut, feeling the lull of the car rolling beneath us.

"I don't know."

I didn't speak after that for a long time and I noticed that Alice kept at the speed limit this time and I watch the world go past in the bleak winter colors of white, brown, and gray. The trees were bare and the sky a liquid gray, where snow-laden clouds threatened to burst at any moment.

"Thank you, Alice," I thanked her shyly in a quiet voice, knowing she would hear me anyways.

Alice turned in her seat and grinned at me, taking her eyes completely off the road which made me nervous.

"You're very welcome! I had fun!"

I smiled hesitantly and looked up at Carlisle's approving face. "You guys are being so kind. I didn't expect that from...from..."

"Vampires," Carlisle finished for me and I stiffened at the word, alarm bells ringing in my head. But they were dimmer this time. Carlisle tightened his arm around me shoulder and I relaxed again.

Another long silence and I broke it with embarrassment.

"I need to use the restroom."

Carlisle

Alice's brilliant grin caught me off guard.

"What is that look for?" I asked, not able to suppress a chuckle. I spoke softly, aware of the gas station browsers staring at us. "What did you do?"

Alice raised her eye brows in mock innocence. "Who? Me? I don't understand what you are talking about?" a mischievous glint suddenly entered her eye. "But, if you really want to know, it'll arrive tomorrow...hmmm...probably around noon or so."

I furrowed my eyebrows but didn't have time to inquire what she meant because Mercy was walking towards us...well...more like slinking towards us like a terrified animal caught in the middle of the daylight surrounded by predators.

Alice nudged me. "Offer to buy her a candy bar," she muttered so that only I could hear.

Mercy reached us, her face gray and her eyes big. She stopped next to Alice and I could barely conceal my surprise at the height difference between the two. Alice had always been so tiny-like a pixie or a fairy caught in the realm of reality but Mercy was even smaller than Alice but her eyes just as big. Typically, girls stopped growing and developing around the age of sixteen. And I hoped she would have a growth spurt before then. I also wondered if any chemicals the scientist had pumped into her veins may had deterred her development.

"Did you want anything to snack on?" I asked her, gesturing to the shelves of human treats.

Mercy followed my hand. "Really?" she asked, fidgeting. She couldn't seem to find an answer that.

"Do you like chocolate?" I prodded, helping her indecisiveness.

Her eyes lit up at that.

Alice giggled like a small child.

I pulled her to the candy bars.

"Do you like almonds?"

She scrunched up her nose and shook her head.

I had to laugh. "That's fine. We'll just get you the plain chocolate then."

The clerk was nice, an elderly man that smiled at Mercy and handed her the candy bar once I paid for it.

"Don't eat it too fast, little miss. You have to enjoy it. Eat it slow." The man grinned and cocked his eyebrows.

A little charisma on Mercy's part showed through her protective exterior when she smiled sweetly and bobbed her head. "Thank you," she said then turned and headed for the door.

I smiled my thanks at the man and followed her outside, lengthening my stride to keep up with her quick pace.

I sat in back with her again and watched her with a smile as she intently and carefully tore the corner of the rich brown wrapper. She broke off one single square and laid it on her tongue. She closed her mouth and looked at me in delight. She seemed to almost melt into her seat.

Then she folded up the wrapper and laid it on the seat beside her.

"Are you not going to finish it?" I asked.

"I'm eating it slow so I can enjoy it." Mercy told me. "One piece a day."

I chuckled. "You do beat all, Mercy."

"You're making me nervous, Alice," Edward spoke to her through gritted teeth. "Stop singing that ridiculous song in your head before I lose mine completely."

I shook my head to myself and flipped the page in my book.

"Where's Mercy?" Alice piped up suddenly.

"In her room," Edward answered with a growl. "Where else would she be."

Alice ignored his biting tone and stood.

Esme watched her with curious eyes and Bella studied her warily. Jasper only sat smugly. He didn't know what was going on but he enjoyed the fact that his wife was keeping everyone on edge. Emmett bounced in his seat, excited while Rosalie sat calmly next to him with an annoyed look on her face.

"Five seconds." Alice said.

I looked up from my book and listened to the approach of a heavy motor than the slam of a car door.

"Three...two...one..."

The door bell rang right on time and we all looked at each other, wondering who was going to answer the door.

"MERCY!!!" Alice hollered at the top of her lungs and I cringed at my heightened senses.

I heard Mercy slip off her bed and sprint for the stairs.

"She's awfully fast for such a little thing," Bella commented as she tilted her head to stare at the ceiling.

Mercy appeared, looking nervous. She looked as though she wanted to come over to me but didn't want to go past Emmett and Rosalie to do so.

"Go answer the door," Alice commanded her in a voice that held authority.

"The door?" Mercy echoed. "Why?"

"Because." Was all Alice answered. And Mercy slowly obliged.

We looked at her.

What in the world is she up too? I thought.

Edward shook his head so violently that for a moment I thought it would fly off and rebound off the wall.

"You didn't Alice. Tell me you didn't."

Alice put her hands on her hips. "I did."

I closed my eyes and sniffed the air. Something was familiar about the sent mixed with human. Something very familiar.

A squeal broke through our tense silence and the bark of a puppy followed.

My eyes widened in realization. "Oh, god, Alice..."

Bella groaned and Emmett laughed.

Mercy came running in, her eyes alight in pure joy and her smile wide and brilliant. It was the first time I had actually seen her teeth! And every feeling of doubt instantly vanished within me when I saw her face as she cradled her little bundle in her arms. She ran for me.

"He said it was for me!" she nearly shouted at me, dumping the animal in my arms. "The man said it was for me!"

It was the Great Dane puppy Mercy had seen at the pet store yesterday. The exact same one. It didn't even seem repelled by me for it stretched its neck to happily lick my face. I cringed but couldn't stop the smile on my face.

"He's lovely." I said, handing the squirming puppy back to her.

"Do you realize how big that dog is going to get?" Bella said.

Alice nodded, looking a little too smug.

Mercy looked at me. "It's a she." She corrected me. "Not a boy."

"I'm sorry."

Emmett laughed again and reached to touch the dog but Mercy dodged away.

"I was just going to pet him," Emmett boomed with a grin.

"Her," Mercy spat back.

"What are you going to name her?" Esme asked tactfully. She delicately stroked the puppy, her eyes happy.

Mercy thought, her face perplexed by this answer.

"I like Duma." She finally spoke.

"But that means Chee-"

Alice shook her head wildly at Bella who quickly shut-up.

I smiled at Mercy, my entire body feeling the lightest it has felt in a long time. "I think Duma is the perfect name.

If you get through the twilight, you'll get through the night and make it to dawn.