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I'm nothing but a monster burning in a hell that only exists in my head. There's no hope left until one harmless glance chances logic and binds two eternal enemies together in a twist of fate. Can the escape from this hell be found in an infuriating dimpled grin? Or is this another dark, dirty trick of my own mind? A forbidden passion, heat, and intense anger—this is no fairytale.

[Disclaimer: Monster is an originally plotted fic. The ideas within this fic are not to be copied in any way, shape, or form—I have not given my consent to any manner of copying. All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the intellectual property of their respective owners. All canon concepts and characters are the property of the Twilight Saga's author, Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement is intended. Similarities are for the sole use of fan fiction, and no profit has been or will be benefited from the posting of this fic.] Emerging Swan Award 2012, nominated into Fandom Choice Awards.

6. Dead Ends and Dead Roses

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"Take all the courage you have left
Wasted on fixing all the problems
That you made in your own head."
- Mumford & Sons.

Chapter Six

Dead Ends and Dead Roses

March 13th, 2003.

"I've been out here for a while. I'm not sure how long it's been. I'm not a runaway. I'm out here for a reason. Many people—almost everyone—thinks I'm crazy. Maybe I am."

The words came effortlessly, flowing from my mind to my mouth. I hadn't spoken much ever since I had left; my voice squeaked and cracked often, making me sound younger, despite my serious tone. I spoke to a voice—it had never been more than just a voice. Ever since I had left to be on my own, I'd heard the voice speaking to me. It always used the same feminine tone, never raised above a whisper. Sometimes, when I talked, the voice didn't answer, but other times, it did. I swore I could hear the slightest movement whenever the voice was around; I swore I could feel the slightest warmth of breath against my skin.

Even if the voice was a real person, it didn't have any problem hiding. I'd made a habit of traveling by night, never leaving the shadows. It was safer that way. The voice seemed to realize that, too. Its presence never bothered me, but I didn't appreciate it, either. I merely tolerated the sound of it, as long as it didn't cause any issues. Or maybe I was crazy and the voice was nothing more than my own thoughts, brought alive by my troubled mind. I couldn't really care less.

Still, the sound of my voice didn't bother me. Neither was the sound of another voice. I was focused on something else completely, my attention undivided.

Four boys hovered in the near distance, their eyes on me. They strolled toward me at their own pace, as if they had all the time in the world. When they came into full view, the moonlight captured their figures, exposing their features. They stood out from any ordinary group of men: their skin was masked in grime and bristles of hair; their cutoffs hung so low that they swooped beneath their hips. It was a miracle they hadn't fallen to their ankles.

Each of them sported ratty sneakers and didn't bother with shirts, showing off their bare, muscular torsos. I knew enough to understand that they didn't wear shirts in order to seem more threatening. Each boy had the same haircut: their dark hair was cropped except for a section of bangs—the style was a symbol of which gang they belonged to. Underneath the shadow cast by their hair, I could see their brown eyes darkening with amusement and anticipation. I fearlessly stood my ground, letting them come to me.

"But why would you come here?" The voice spoke softly, almost as if it were afraid the boys would overhear. The voice was—as usual—dressed in the darkness of the alley, completely invisible to me. I felt even more sure that the voice was another trick of my own mind.

"I needed to learn to fight. The guy that was leading the gang . . . I think you call him Z. He offered lessons, food, and protection, in exchange for secrecy."

"So, you're the girl they always talk about. The one that they found hiding in the village."

I gave a stiff nod, my eyes locked on the boys. "They're greedy."

"Oh. That's very sad. Did. . . Did they lie about the fighting lessons, too?"

"Just watch," I murmured curtly. The boys were in ear shot now—I couldn't risk speaking again.

In the time it took me to breathe out my last few words, the boys had formed a loose circle around me. Many pairs of eyes roamed over my figure, taking in the fading bumps and bruises. The smugness in the gazes were proof that each boy was shallow enough to think the injuries were signs of many pathetic losses instead of many marks of a grueling education.

They pressed against the rotting walls on either side of the alley, but they were still much too close for comfort. Their breaths swirled around me while their height blocked out most of the moonlight. They were attempting to intimidate me, and not doing a very good job at it. The only thing scary about them was the rotten stink of their breath.

"She's a scrawny lil' one. I hear she's one of Z's." The boy farthest from me broke the heavy silence after a few moments. He looked me up and down when he spoke. Another behind me laughed. The two others made no response. Their bodies were mostly hidden by the shadows, but I could see the firm set of their jaws and knew they meant business.

"Aw, yeah, what a cutie." The second boy chortled to himself. "How you think she made it in?"

"I dunno, man, but she ain't nothin' more than a toothpick. Wonder how they'd react to a couple of bruises on her skin? Maybe Boss will pay us?"

There was a pause before the boy snorted and replied, "Bull. Won't pay a damn dime. I say we bust her up to let Z know we're still around; maybe even to piss him off. 'Bout time we had a lil' fun."

I stayed frozen. My breathing was light and quick, filled with fake fear. They talked as if I wasn't there, as if they would easily beat me up and be on their way. They were much too cocky for their own good. I quickly took advantage of that when they attacked.

The first boy who had just spoken seemed to be the leader. He gave a silent signal, just a flick of his dark eyes, and the two silent boys lunged at me. I dropped my foot back, knowing that my strength was useless against them; size and speed were my advantage. My body bent back as they jumped. My hands met the rough ground, which was cold, wet, and soaked with fresh rainwater. A pebble pierced my palm, but the sharp pain served as a silent reminder to keep moving. I rolled down onto the ground, following through with my movement. The boys gave an angry, pained shout as their heads collided in mid-air.

A heartbeat later, their bodies thumped to the ground, motionless. The force of their heads knocking together had knocked them out cold. I had expected as much—they seemed pretty thick-headed.

The boy who was second to speak made a sound somewhere between a gasp and a cough. He blinked rapidly and gaped at the motionless figures. His pause gave me enough time to check my surroundings. My eyes glanced around and caught the lunge of the other boy a second before it was too late.

From behind me, the first boy jumped at me, his hand outstretched. His jaw popped out, tightened with frustration. Sweat shined on his forehead, and his eyes were alive with fury.

I felt the wind of his hand when it swooped by me, but I was faster. I ducked down and grabbed his left leg, yanking it out from under him. His head drove hard into the pavement with a crack. His arms flailed as he tried his best to knock me down, but he was blind to his movements and missed every time. I stood and watched defensively until he lay still. The sound of the second boy's footsteps faded into the distance—he had fled.

What a wimp.

"Impressive." The girl's voice complimented me softly a few moments later. A hushed giggle followed.

"Yeah." I gave a nod, and then paused, tilting my head and listening for at least breathing, or shuffling feet, or something. When I heard nothing, I frowned and rubbed my forehead. I started to make my way out of the alley, toward the moonlight. It was quiet until the voice spoke again.

"I can see you can fight, but why are you alone?" she asked me.

I picked up my pace, trying to get to the light before the rolling clouds blocked it out. "I'm getting out of here." My answer was short. Clipped, even. I didn't need to explain why.

I could feel it in the gang. There was tension between each of them whenever one of them made the smallest movement; tension fueled the by the fear of never knowing who to trust. In the pit of my stomach, I knew it wasn't where I was meant to be. I could fight; I could be on my own. I wasn't dependent, and my desire to search had died out. I just . . . I needed to think, and. . .

"I need to get your voice out of my head," I muttered.


"Shut up!" I shoved my hands over my ears. My pace picked up as I reached the end of the alley. "Shut up! Stupid voice, get out of my head!"

I stepped into the circle of pale light gleaming under the lamppost, glad when there wasn't any reply. I glanced around, using all of my senses pick out any sign of life, any sign of a girl, any sign of someone who might have been talking to me.

There was only silence.

I let out a short breath and swerved to the left. I let my damp hair flow out behind me, gleaming under the dull streetlights. I wasn't leaning on anybody, from my family to the gang. I didn't need them; I was independent.

And I most definitely didn't need to be hearing voices in my head.

"Wait! Wait, don't go yet!"

My heart thumped rapidly when I heard the voice. God, I really was crazy. I skidded to a stop, my feet scraping on the sidewalk. My eyes narrowed at the sound of soft footsteps on the sidewalk behind me. My head snapped back to look over my shoulder.

A girl was racing down the sidewalk toward me. Her small hand was raised in front of her face to protect her dark eyes from the small rays of the lamplight. Her hair, blackened to its deepest hue, blew wildly with every step. She was small, too, probably eight years old at the most. Even though I had never seen her before, I knew who the girl was even before I heard the sound of her voice.

"You aren't crazy! You aren't! I'm not just a voice." The girl wheezed as she stopped in front of me, her dark eyes round as they adjusted to the light.

I stared back at her, my eyes still narrowed with suspicion. I had probably fallen asleep without realizing it. Again. "So . . . I haven't been talking to myself?"

"No." Her pink lips turned up in the corners in a smile. One little hand slipped out of the grey, soiled sweatshirt she was wearing and took my own. I had an urge to shiver but held it back.

"This is my life, because Z is my big brother. He's a good brother—he takes care of me. This is my life, but you don't fit in, just like . . . like pretty roses don't go with dead roses." She smiled. "I think you need to go. Good luck."

The girl gave me one last smile, one that reached into her dark eyes. Then she was gone, leaving me to stand there, alone, under the street light. I guess I should have been glad that I knew I hadn't been hearing voices, but my thoughts were coming too quickly to even consider my emotions. The only thing I could feel was the weight of my gained knowledge. A knowledge that fighting was an escape, but life with gangs was nothing more than another dead end for me.

I blinked and inhaled a sharp breath of cold air, realizing that I was just standing around. That was dangerous, especially at nighttime. I returned to my steady pace, heading for the protection of the trees. My thoughts grew quieter and quieter until I vanished into the forest, disappearing once again.