"Sometimes I wondered if I was seeing the same things through my eyes that the rest of the world was seeing through theirs. Maybe there was a glitch in my brain."

-Bella Swan, Twilight ~ Chapter 1, p.11



Tuesday, September 14, 2010

6. Kick Me, Spank Me, Pull My Hair



EPOV


“Bella…”

“No, Edward.”

“Bella, just-”

“Go away, Edward.”

“No.”

“Yes.”

“No!”

Yes!”

“Bella, get in the car,” I demanded, getting fed up now.

She raised her eyebrows and gave a stiff shake of her head, still refusing to make eye contact with me. “No,” she stated with finality, and kept walking down the dark, paved road.

I was slowly creeping beside her in my Volvo. It was at this point that I finally gave in to the urge to roll my eyes at her childish insolence.

I risked a glance at the clock and realized that it was nearing 11pm, before I set my determined gaze back on my mate.

She had decided to go for a little walk after her therapy session with my Sire, but I refused to let her walk out here alone in the dark. Well, I used the ‘dark’ as an excuse…but really, I couldn’t give a fuck about her privacy. I don’t care whether it’s pitch black or bright as the sun with pretty little rainbows in the sky, she is not walking anywhere by herself.

And that’s final.

I took a deep breath and decided to try one more time. “Bella-”

“No,” she clipped, cutting me off.

I gritted my teeth. “Get. In. The. Car.”

There was a brief moment of silence before she swallowed audibly and growled in a hoarse voice, “Fuck. Off.”

That’s it!

I slammed on my brakes, not that I really needed to, or anything; I had only been going like 2mph, then threw my car in park, and got out, leaving the driver’s side door open as I walked around the hood of my car to retrieve to my indignant, disobedient love.

“No!” she protested as I came up behind her and wrapped one arm around her waist, picking her up with ease.

I walked at a human pace with her fighting, flailing body held against of mine, and headed for the back passenger door of my car. I made sure to land six very awkward, but precise swats to her backside before I promptly, but gently, threw her into the backseat and activated the childlock mechanism before she could make a run for it.

I moved at my natural pace then, wanting to get back in my seat and close my car door before she realized it was still open and went for that exit route instead. When I slid into my seat, she began kicking the back of it; angry wet tears streaming down her beautiful, rosy cheeks.

“I hate you.” *kick*

“You and your coven.” *kick*

I furrowed my brow as a loud sob tore through her throat and focused on her tear-stained face in the rearview mirror while I pulled my car back onto the street and started for home. “Why?” I asked softly…apprehensively.

Maybe Joey wasn’t so far off in his assumption then I thought sadly.

“You left me!” she screamed then. *kick* *kick* *kick* *kick* *kick* *kick*

Her kicks were getting more forceful now; both of her feet in perfect unison with each other…she was using the soles of her shoes to stomp on the back of my seat.

I just sighed through the beginning of her tantrum…a first for my Bella, I might add, but then she leaned forward and smacked me, making contact with my right ear and cheek.

“Ow!”

Damn it.

She had foolishly hurt herself more than me with that ridiculously soft blow. She should’ve known better.

“Bella! Stop it. Just stop it right now!” I yelled, reaching back and gently grabbing her wrist, preventing her from hurting herself any further.

She immediately tried pulling her wrist out of my grip. “I hate you!” *kick*

“Bella, stop - you’re going to hurt yourself.”

“You hit me first!” she insisted with yet another kick, still trying to yank her wrist free.

I growled before I could stop myself, then hit the brakes and turned around in my seat to face my mate. “You’re damn right I spanked that ass, and you’re fuckin lucky I don’t pull over and put you over my knee right now, young lady. Stop,” I demanded in a low voice.

She didn’t respond, just continued to cry. I watched her for a minute, fixing her with a hard stare, as the fight in her right arm diminished and she was no longer trying to pull her wrist out of my hand to hit me again. Her kicks had also come to a halt, so I slowly loosened my grip on her hand and let it fall freely to her lap.

“I love you,” I said then, speaking in a clear voice over her distressed and distorted cries.

I saw how she rolled her tired eyes and fixed her watery stare out the car window as another sob wracked her small frame.

“I do, Bella. I love you…very much,” I assured her, softening my features. “And yes, I did leave. I left because I was stupid. I thought that I was doing the right thing by you…you already know this. Baby, I may have been away, but that doesn’t mean that I ever stopped loving you.”

Her only response was more crying and a hiccup as she determinedly avoided my gaze.

I picked up her sore hand and brought it to my lips then, giving each knuckle a soft kiss. She didn’t fight me, so I focused on her distracted eyes and watched each little teardrop fall as I pressed my lips to her warm skin again, and again, and again…whispering an apology with each kiss, until of all of her tiny knuckles had been comforted.

Sorry, love.

I didn’t know how many times I could apologize for leaving her before it finally sunk in that I was truly repentant and remorseful, but I would continue to say my daily “sorry” to my Bella until her little heart was content.

It didn’t escape my notice that she seemed to be the only one that was holding a grudge…her alternates, Marie included, barely even mentioned it.

After I gently set her hand back down in her lap, I faced forward again and continued the journey home. She was obviously very upset and extremely tired, hence her childish fit earlier; I needed to get her home ASAP so that she could relax in a warm bath and lay in bed at her leisure.

I cringed and sighed at the sounds of my mate’s distress, then finally decided to try and hum in an attempt to sooth her, but my poor Bella just continued to incoherently cry and sob, so I eventually stopped with the damn humming and just held my breath, both at the wretched anxiety in my chest, and the distinct salt in her tears.

**********

When we finally made it back to the mansion, Bella, still teary-eyed and cranky, avoided the questions and concerned gazes of my coven, and insisted that she wanted some “alone time”, so I complied, more agreeable to the idea of her having some privacy now that she was home and under the same roof as me.

I still didn’t like it, it was still bullshit…her being away from me and in a separate room, but I was more agreeable. I guess that’s all that mattered.

I tried relaxing and spending time with my brothers in a rowdy round of Halo on the Xbox, but my mind and senses stayed focused on the fragile girl two floors above me.

I knew that her heartbreaking sobs had stopped, but I worried and wondered if she was still upset…if she still ‘hated’ me. I listened to her bathing…the soothing sounds of water raining down on her soft skin as she stayed under the warm spray for forty-three minutes and eighteen seconds; I was stiff the entire time though, remembering my baby love’s inability to deal with the pounding spray from a shower head, and listened for any signs of Isabella’s whimpers, but they never came...my Bella had stuck around for her entire shower, and for that, I was thankful. I continually and methodically…almost religiously breathed in her intoxicating, sweet, and clean scent. I listened to her heartbeat and breathing levels. I wondered if she was relaxed or tired enough to go to sleep yet…it was nearing one o’clock in the morning, after all. 

I worried...

“Dude, are you even paying attention?” Emmett barked, breaking me out of my reverie.

I looked at the game stats on the flat screen and saw that my guy had died seven times…yes, I was definitely distracted.

“Get your head in the game, bro,” Jasper chimed in.

“Leave her alone for an hour…can you do that?” Emmett asked.

“Yeah, Edward…give her some space, man,” Jasper readily agreed, fully aware and knowledgeable of my mate’s emotions at the moment: sad, overwhelmed, and embarrassed.

I furrowed my brow, frustrated because they wouldn’t let me get a word in, and pissed because my Bella was none of their business.

“Fuck off,” I growled, throwing the controller down and heading for my piano.

I plopped down on the bench, then fiddled around with some music paper and tinkered with the keys a bit, but eventually just huffed and paused all of my movements, thoroughly frustrated with my current shitty situation. I want Bella. My Bella. My mate. I barely ever get to see her anymore, and she’s finally out, right fucking now, right this fucking second, but she doesn’t want to see me!

Fuck my life.

After a few minutes of silent thought and eerie stillness, my fingers lithely found their way to the piano keys on their own, and my Bella’s lullaby filled the stale air mere seconds later. I had unconsciously chosen that tune, so I decided to just go with it, simultaneously allowing myself to relax at the familiar, comforting melody, and giving my Bella a reminder of my love from a distance…a two-story distance.

Hopefully, it would relax her as well; it was way past her bedtime.

**********

Two lullabies, Esme’s song, and Mary Had A Little Lamb later, I finally said, “Fuck it,” and went upstairs…only to find Hadassah under the bed. She was laying on her back while she traced the top of the box spring with her little fingertip.

“Hey…” I greeted as I joined her under there, mimicking her position.

“Hi,” she whispered.

I smiled, glad that she was talking to me, even if my Bella wouldn‘t. “What are you doin, angel?” I whispered back.

“Hidin…”

“Why are you hiding?”

“B’cuz I’m scared…”

“Why are you scared?”

“B’cuz I’m in trouble,” she replied, chancing a glance at me with her little whispered statement.

I raised my eyebrows questioningly, wondering what she could have possibly done that I didn‘t know about. “…why are you in trouble?” I asked after a moment of silence.

She traced a tiny crack on the wood surface for six seconds before she answered me, with great apprehension and wide eyes, I might add. “B’cuz I spilled my bubbles…”

I cracked a small smile, amused by her adorable expression and wanting to alleviate her fears. “How did they spill…what happened?”

She subtly shrugged. “I was blowin ‘em, and the bottle was by my feetsies, and when I moved, it got spillded over…Isabella said to hide from the spankins, so I came under here.”

I chuckled lightly and leaned to the side a bit to give her forehead a quick kiss, and smooth some damp curls out of her eyes.

I’ll have to brush it in a minute
I thought with a smile.

“Well, how about you show me where they spilled?” I suggested, keeping my voice soft to match her little whispers.

She nodded eagerly and proceeded to slide out from underneath the bed, so I followed suite. When we were standing side by side, she gently took my hand in her own and tugged me toward the toy corner on the other side of the room.

Slowly, we approached the side of her purple toy box, and when we were at the site of the accident, she apprehensively pointed a little left pinky finger toward the puddle on the hardwood floor. The red tipped over Mr. Bubbles bottle confirmed that, yes…the small puddle on the floor was clearly bubble-blowing solution.

She hung her head in shame and sniffled a little bit then. “Sorry…” she whispered, her Rs still sounding like Ws.

I subtly shook my head and put my index finger under her chin, tilting her face up to meet mine. “I know, baby…but you know what?” I said, making sure to keep my voice soft.

“Huh?” she breathed.

“This was an accident, and an accident means that you didn’t mean to make the mess. You’re not in trouble,” I assured her.

She shook her head a little. “M’not?” she asked curiously.

I shook my head as well and gave her a small smile. “Nope.”

She smiled back, but remained silent as I bent down to retrieve the tipped over, empty bottle. “Hadassah, baby…you‘re going to be my helper girl, huh?”

“Mm-hmm,“ she hummed, nodding enthusiastically at the prospect of ‘helping’.

I gave her a reassuring smile, letting her know that I was happy with her answer. “Good.”

“Good,” she repeated.

I chuckled and held the bottle out to her. “Okay so, you need to throw this in the trash and get me a few paper towels from the bathroom, sweetheart. We need to clean this up.”

She nodded, then took the bottle from my hand and asked, “Trash?”

I nodded my assent, but she persisted with raised eyebrows and a higher pitched voice this time. “In the potty room?” she squeaked.

“Yes, baby…in the potty room,” I confirmed.

“Kay.”

She turned and headed for the ‘potty room’ then, and I waited patiently for her to return with the paper towels, so that I could wipe up this simple, little mess…

…except she didn’t come back with any paper towels.

“Hadassah,” I called out when she started heading for the bed.

She paused her movements and focused her attention on me. “Hm?”

“Paper towels, baby…I need paper towels,” I reminded her.

She subtly shrugged. “But dunno where…” she trailed off with a slow shake of her head, the wet tips of her brown hair sticking to her chin.

I furrowed my brow. “You don’t know where they are?” I asked.

She shook her head again, but remained silent as she stared over at me from her side of the bed.

I sighed, reminding myself to be patient with the two year old. “In the bathroom, sweetie,” I repeated slowly. “They are in the bathroom.”

“Ed-ward?” she hesitated.

“Yes?”

“Wha’s a paper towel?”

I chuckled and shook my head, standing from my position on the floor. “Never mind, angel…you lay down. It’s past your bedtime.”

She nodded and did as she was told, crawling up onto the large bed while I passed by her to go into the bathroom. While I was in there, I ripped off three sheets from the roll underneath the sink and grabbed the hair brush off the counter.

“Here baby, hold this…” I told her, offering her the brown brush.

She took it from me with a silent, yet questioning gaze.

“When I’m done cleaning up the mess, I’m gonna brush your hair,” I explained.

She didn’t respond, but sat up and watched me as I swiftly and efficiently wiped the hardwood surface clear of all bubble-blowing solution. When I passed by her to go to the bathroom and throw the soaked paper towel away, she started whimpering…I paused my steps and looked at her just in time for that small whimper to turn into a cry.

I dropped the paper towel on the ground and went to her side. “What’s wrong?” I asked, perplexed.

“W-want my…m-my buuubblesss,” she cried, pitiful tears beginning to stream down her rosy cheeks.

I sighed. “You have a new bottle in your toy box, baby…don’t cry,” I pleaded.

“D-don’t th-throoow ‘em awaaay…” she begged, then started to sob. Tiny fists began to curl as she brought them to her face and wiped her tears away. She looked up at me once her eyesight was clear again, and sniffled…then pouted her bottom lip and quivered her little chin at me.

“Hadassah…” I trailed off, unsure of what to say. I had to throw the paper towel away. There was no way I was letting my baby play with trash. “Baby, it’ll be okay. You have a whole new bottle of Mr. Bubbles in your toy box. The bubbles on this paper towel…?” I trailed off, picking the towel back up and showing it to her. “These bubbles are all gone and used up…they went bye-byes and now it’s time for the paper towel to go in the trash,” I tried to explain.

“Nooo…” she cried, and even went as far as to dramatically place her face in her hands as she mourned the loss of her bubbles.

That’s when I realized that her crying was really more about her being tired than about some spilled bubbles.

I sighed and quickly threw the paper towel in the trash, then went to my baby’s side to offer a comforting shoulder to cry on…and probably sleep on. “C’mere…” I said as I picked her up and brought her to my chest.

She clung to me, wrapping her arms and legs around my upper body and continued to cry and mumble about her bubbles and how they went bye-bye and how she misses them and how it’s not fair.

Aw.

I just caressed and softly patted her back, trying to pacify her while she calmed herself down. I even hummed, figuring that it would work for my two year old, even if it hadn’t worked for my eighteen year old. Eventually, I reached for an actual pacifier on the shelf in the closet and offered it to my very upset, very exhausted baby girl.

As I continued to pace my usual route on the floor, Hadassah’s cries gradually stopped, but she reverted to grabbing the hair at the back of my neck and pulling on it. It didn’t hurt…in fact, it felt similar to how Bella or Marie would pull my hair as we kissed, but I knew that that wasn’t what Hadassah was aiming for.

Maybe she’s trying to get my attention?

I paused my methodic steps and turned my head slightly to the side so that I could look at her. Her pink pacifier, that matched her short pink nightgown by the way, was subtly moving against her lips, and she had a frustrated look on her face.

“…what is it, baby?”

Her response was another tug on my hair.

“No…” I trailed off a bit sternly in admonishment. “You don’t pull people’s hair, Hadassah. That‘s not nice.”

She whined in the back of her throat.

“What is it?” I questioned. “Talk to me, angel…do you want something? Are you thirsty? Hungry? Do you want a snack?”

She shrugged and whined and pulled on my hair…all at the same time.

I gave the outside of her bare thigh a light tap. “I said no, Hadassah. Don’t pull people’s hair. If I have to tell you again, you‘re going in time-out,” I warned.

She started crying again and yanked harder on the small hairs by my ear this time, so I gave her a brief glimpse of my ‘stern-face’, then turned in the direction of the time-out corner. When I set her down on her feet, I landed one firm swat to her bottom and instructed in a stern voice, “You stay here for two minutes, Hadassah. You’re in a time-out. When you’re done, you can take that binky out of your mouth and tell me what’s wrong, without all the hair pulling, or it can go in the trash.”

She immediately sank down to the ground, sitting Indian-style in front of the corner, then buried her face in her hands and continued to cry her little sobs that were consequentially being muffled by that little pink pacifier in her mouth.

I furrowed my brow and stared at her small form on the floor, wracking my brain for anything that could possibly be bothering her right now…why couldn’t she just talk to me and tell me what’s wrong? Why did she have to pull my hair and then disobey me by doing it again after I told her not to? Why was she choosing to be naughty at…

Christ, it’s 2:13 in the morning?

I blinked at the digital clock on our nightstand.

I know she’s tired. Hmm…maybe I should just tuck her in bed when her two minutes are up.

“Edward?”

I sighed and plucked a tissue out of it‘s box for my little girl. “Yes, Isabella?”

It had only been one minute and twenty-eight seconds. Hadassah was still supposed to be in time-out.

“I get’ta get outta the corner now, huh?” my baby asked, surprisingly calm and tear-free, as opposed to how drastic Hadassah was being just a second earlier.

“Yes,” I stated in my own calm voice, relieved that my mate’s cries had stopped.

She giggled and promptly hopped up from her seated position on the floor, then immediately came over to me for a hug.

I wrapped my arms around her small form and picked her back up, relishing in her warmth, listening to her little giggles in my ear, and enjoying one of my favorite hugs. She pulled back a little bit to gently rub her button nose against my cold one, and I smiled, feeling her chest’s heartbeat against my own.

“I love you,” she cooed, handing over her pink pacifier...her subtle reminder that it was bedtime.

“I adore you, baby love,” I countered, stuffing the baby accessory into my pocket.

She laughed as she gently wiped her eyes and cheeks with the soft tissue. “A door? What’s that mean?” she asked with furrowed brows and a puzzled little smile.

I gave her a knowing look. “Means that I love you and I think you’re adorable.”

She giggled as she half-heartedly blew her nose.

All by herself.

Like a big girl.

I usually hold the tissue for her, but…but…

She didn’t need me to do it…


“Oh!” she chirped, but then she yawned, effectively cutting off any playful comebacks she had from coming out.

Right.

My baby’s tired. And apparently, growing up.

I sighed despondently and focused back on the task of Bedtime to try and clear my thoughts.

I brushed my lips across her cheek and softened both my features, and my voice. “You tired, angel?”

She nodded and rubbed her right eye with a small fist.

I nodded in return and started making my way over to the bed. “Okay sweetness, let’s get your hair brushed.”

“Kay,” she sighed.

I sat her down on the bed, then quickly went about the task of picking out a movie for her to watch while I diligently worked out all the tangles that had subsequently gathered in her damp hair. While I was standing by our TV and scanning the titles in our large DVD collection, Isabella exclaimed the words, “Lion King!” so I immediately reached for that DVD and loaded the disc into the player.

When the opening credits started, I made sure the volume was set to low, then came back to bed and took my usual position behind her. She crawled into my lap, and as she lay back against my chest, I ran the first experimental brush stroke through her messy hair.

“Edward?”

“Yeah?” I responded, trying to be as gentle as possible while I worked through the various tangles.

See, this is why I need to brush her hair as soon as she gets out the bath…or the shower, in this case. But, nooo…my Bella is stubborn and insisted on ‘alone time’ tonight.

Never again.

“Dassah in trouble?” she asked curiously in a small voice.

I subtly shook my head. I had come to expect this line of questioning from her, and she clearly wasn’t going to disappoint tonight. Baby Love always seems so concerned and questions whenever any of the ‘others’, besides herself, gets in trouble. “No,” I whispered behind her ear, trying to keep the atmosphere quiet and relaxed.

“She got spankins…” she trailed off, somewhat accusingly.

“That’s right. I spanked her bottom one time and she was put in the corner for two minutes. She didn’t listen when I told her that she wasn‘t allowed to pull hair. You know that not listening gets you into trouble, Isabella,” I pointed out.

She subtly nodded and quietly hummed, “Mm-hmm…”

“Mm-hmm, but that’s over, baby girl…Hadassah is not in trouble anymore,” I assured her.

“Edward?”

“Hmm?

“She pullded on your hair b’cuz she was mad at you…” Isabella whispered then.

I furrowed my brow.

Why?

“Why was she mad at me?”

“B’cuz her bubbles went goodbye-byes, but you didn’t let her say goodbye-bye to ‘em,” she told me, as if it should have been obvious.

I rolled my eyes, aware that Isabella couldn’t see me, and sighed. “Well then, she should have told me that, instead of pulling my hair when I told her not to. Not listening will always get you in trouble, baby girl…remember that.”

“Kay,” she relented with a short nod.

I continued to brush her hair and was satisfied when four minutes and thirty eight seconds later, it was all smooth and soft and dry and tangle-free.

I rock.

I smiled and set the brush down on the nightstand, then switched off the bedside lamp, glad that my mate would be sleeping peacefully soon enough. With an arm around Isabella’s mid-section, I kept her snuggled to me, and started to lightly caress her bare arm.

I was tracing her tiny elbow with my index finger just as the first tired sigh fell from her slightly parted lips. I gently pressed my lips to her temple, getting ready to tell her to close her beautiful eyes and go to sleep, when she immediately gasped and sat straight up.

Then she smacked my leg. Hard.

And when I say hard, I mean it was hard for her…I barely felt it.

“Wha-”

“No, Edward!” Isabella suddenly yelled, cutting me off. “You don’t hit Bella!” She twisted around in my grasp to stare me down while she continued to yell at me. “You want a spankin? I’ll show you a spankin - don’t you ever, ever, ever hit Bella!” she demanded, smacking my jean clad thigh again.

“Isabella, stop.” I went to grab her hand, thinking that she was going to hurt herself trying to hit me the same way that my Bella had done earlier, but she pulled her arm out my reach and glared at me, making it clear that she didn’t want to be touched right now.

“No, Edward! That’s bad!” she admonished me, chancing another smack on my thigh again.

I gritted my teeth and tried my best to keep a straight face through my baby’s scolding.

“That’s naughty!” she insisted, hitting me again.

“You!” *smack*

“Don’t! *smack*

“Hit!” *smack*

“Bella!” *smack*

Then she went and crossed her arms over her chest, thoroughly huffy and puffy, and obviously very proud of herself for dishing out my ‘real spanking’ for spanking my Bella earlier.

Could my day…no, could my situation get any weirder?

I raised my hand from where it lay on the mattress and ran it through my hair a few times, taking in the fact that she didn’t flinch at the sight of my hand, and trying to figure out what to do with my angry little girl at the moment.

She knew hitting me was against the rules. But she did it to ‘protect’ Bella…I see where she’s coming from. At the same time, I had told her that she needed to reign in her anger and work on her temper…that hitting people wasn’t the answer. Also, if my Bella needs a firm hand, I will not hesitate to give it to her…Isabella needs to know and accept that.

All of her alternates do.

Looking at her now, I can see that she’s not sorry for hitting me…not in the least. She feels justified. She’s as still as stone, her eyes just as hard, as she continues to stare me down and almost dare me to do something about it…or, God forbid - talk back. I bet she’d ‘spank’ me again if I got ‘sassy’ right about now.

I sighed and internally chuckled at the daily insanity that I go through for my mate.

And that a five year old is ready to take me on.

That’s my girl.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

5. Flip The Switch



EPOV

“Here…”


“Thank you, baby,” I murmured while I took the sixteenth piece of paper from her.


Hadassah had taken it upon herself to color pictures for me from her cartoon book for the past half hour. I smiled as I walked over to the art collection I had taped up on the wall above her toy box and quickly added this masterpiece to the collage. It was a picture of Dumbo and she had chosen to make him purple, instead of gray, with a pink trunk.


Adorable.


A few of them had been from Isabella, and I had taped those above her pink toy box in the same fashion, on the opposite side of Joey‘s blue toy shelf. She had colored Elmo, Tinker Bell, and Ariel for me, and she was always putting a little red heart in the upper left hand corner of her pictures when she’s done. It was quickly becoming her signature trademark.


My little girl hadn’t spoken much because of the pacifier in her mouth, but I could always tell when it was Isabella and when it was Hadassah. Isabella was right-handed. Hadassah was left.


I turned back around to face my little girl and bit my lip to hide the smile at how adorable she looked right now, sitting back on her heels and perched in the middle of our bed like that.


When she had woken up from her nap a little while ago, Alice made herself known by coming into the room and talking to my brand new baby girl. It took her all of three seconds to decide that a game of dress-up was definitely in order. Hadassah, still bleary-eyed and sleepy, had just silently stared at my sister, completely and utterly fascinated with her, as she proceeded to go through different outfits and prance around the room like a pixie on crack.


My mate was no longer dressed in the comfy Nike sweats that I had put her in, but a short pink/black plaid skirt and a little pink camisole top to match. Her glittery pastel pink pacifier and the cute pigtails atop her head completed the look that just screamed ADORABLE. With her short hair, the small pigtails allowed the ends of her silky strands to curl right under those tiny little earlobes and when she turned her head, they even bounced a little.


I had been strongly opposed to Alice touching her hair, but when Hadassah didn’t make any kind of protest, I held back my growl and simply warned my sister to be careful with her. I explained that my baby is very tender-headed. And that she’s delicate, damn it.


I paid close attention to what Alice was doing to my mate’s hair and carefully scrutinized her every move. I wanted to know exactly how she was putting her hair up like that, so that should my little girls want their hair styled like that in the future, then I’d be able to do it.


I didn’t want Alice getting comfortable in the position of hairstylist.


That’s my job.


I brush their hair. I take care of them.


Not Alice.


Mine.


“Edward, pretties…” Isabella said as she offered me another picture.


“Thank you, baby love,” I said, reaching for the colorful paper.


I noted that this one was a picture of Spongebob and that he was the correct color…yellow. I scotch-taped him on the wall next to Elmo, and went back to putting Joey’s new clothes away.


Apparently, my sister had went to the local Walmart one town over, and picked up a few things that might be more agreeable with his particular fashion sense. After all, I couldn’t really expect him to skip around in dresses and put on pretty blouses all the time, could I?


No. I had to be realistic and come to terms with our unique situation. My Bella would be acting a dressing like a boy every once in a while, so I just had to accept that and accommodate her needs in this matter. Or, Joey’s needs in this matter.


Whatever.


I thanked Alice when she brought up the few shopping bags, but I was completely taken aback and surprised by it because I didn’t know that she was planning on getting him anything. Had I known, I would have given her my credit card. She just simply waved me off with a bright smile, saying that she would never give up the opportunity to shop, and that that’s exactly what this was. An opportunity to shop.


If you say so…


She had gotten him in own collection of underwear and bedtime clothes, along with some daytime clothes, as well. His new shorts would come down to his knees, as opposed to my Bella’s shorts that only came down to her upper thighs and barely covered those delectable little ass cheeks of hers. His shirts were definitely more boy-oriented, and he even had some Doc Marten men’s boots all his own now. They were size 6, so they were small enough to fit him, but they were ’men’ shoes, nonetheless. I imagined that he would be pleased. And as far as underwear and pajamas went, it turns out that my Bella’s petite form would fit the clothes that they had in the little boys section there. Granted, it’s the largest size in the little boy’s section, but it’s still boy’s clothes, and that’s perfect for Joey. So, he has cartoon boxers and little miniature wife beaters to wear to bed now, too.


His wife beaters are a lot smaller than mine. I remembered back when Marie had worn one of mine to bed and the hem of it came down to her mid-thigh. She had to roll it up so that it lay loosely around her hip bones.


I was giving Joey his own little corner in our walk-in closet, and letting him share my underwear drawer since I didn’t really need it. I had already folded all his little Cars, Scooby-Doo, Transformers, and Hulk boxers and stuck them in there, along with the ten pack of multi-colored wife beaters that Alice had picked out for him.


She had also gotten his some Ray Bans and a black baseball cap similar to Marie‘s. I put those on the dresser, by my Bella’s charging cell phone, and decided to just let him find a place to put them if he didn’t want them to stay on the dresser.


“Ed-ward?” Hadassah whispered when I came out of the closet.


“Yeah?”


“Potty.”


I nodded and leaned across the bed, reaching for her. I hooked my hands underneath her shoulders and brought her to my chest, then held out my palm to her. “Give me your crayon.”


She deposited the green crayon into my hand and I kissed her forehead, then set her back down on her feet. “Alright, go potty,” I instructed with a soft pat to her bottom.


I listened to the sounds of her heartbeat as I sat down on the bed and started putting the scattered crayons back into their designated box. I was done organizing Joey’s things for him, so I figured that I might as well clean up my baby girls’ mess, too. Once all the crayons were put away, I set the open box up by the open coloring book, and went over to the media shelf to select a movie to put on for my little angel.


Just as I was loading up Finding Nemo, my Bella came out of the bathroom.


“Really, Edward? Pigtails?” she asked in her soft, mellow voice.


I turned around and smiled at her. “You look adorable,” I assured her.


She smirked with a roll of her eyes, but didn’t say anything else on the matter, just went over to the desk and powered on the laptop.


“Whatchya doin?”


“Checking my email,” she told me with a nonchalant shrug just as Tinker Bell the kitten pounced in her lap. She looked down at it, momentarily surprised. “Oh, hey…hi sweetie,” she cooed to it, rubbing it’s little head with the tip of her index finger.


I walked over to her and dropped a cool kiss to the top of her soft head. “How do you feel, love?” I asked, still a little concerned about her. She seemed better, but her last statement about death hadn’t escaped my memory at all. By any means.


She just shrugged noncommittally again. “It’s good to be home…” she muttered, but left it at that as she logged onto the computer and brought up it’s Internet Explorer program.


I decided to let the juvenile movie continue to play in the back round because I knew that one of my little girls would come back around soon enough; they always do, but I kept the volume on it to a muted low so that my Bella could turn on the Windows Media Player application and subtly play her Rock playlist she had put on there.


I watched as she typed out an email reply to her mother and Angela. She deleted most of the messages in her inbox, including a few from Mike and Jessica, but typed a hasty note to her father’s email address before she closed out the internet box.


All her messages had been short, not sweet, and straight to the point.


Mom: You ruined my life and I can’t decide whether I will ever speak to you again. I’m not sure that I want to. Don’t call me and only email me for important things as I have no desire to chat about stupid, everyday shit with you. You’re a horrible mother. Tell Phil I said hi.


Angela: Yes. You’re right. We should hang out sometime. So when you find a minute and you’re not busy getting boned in the ass by Ben, give me a call. We’ll hook up.


Dad: You’re a liar and a lousy excuse for a father. You accuse me of murder. I accuse you of neglect. Go fuck yourself and tell Sue she’s better off without you. We all are.


I let my lingering presence behind her be known as I started to gently massage her bare shoulders. I stayed standing in place behind the chair as she relaxed back into it and held the kitten in her lap while she listened to her music.


She didn’t sing, but I didn’t expect her to. Marie and Isabella sing. My Bella doesn’t. I almost wished that she would feel comfortable enough to hum along to one of her favorite songs, but I understood that that leisure had been taken away from her as a child. Jim had stabbed her with a hot fire poker for singing Christmas songs one year while she was decorating the tree. She would never sing again.


I didn’t blame her.


The evening hours were fast approaching and I knew that Carlisle would want to try and have a therapy session with her tonight. He was eager to learn about Hadassah and Joey, and he also needed to talk to her about her little three-day checkout from reality. I was supposed to be monitoring her vitals when I brought her home and keep an eye on her until he got back.


Well, he’ll be glad to know that she’s been fine. Absolutely perfect. It’s almost as if nothing had happened…at all. Like she didn’t just go comatose for sixty-some-odd hours.


Bella didn’t talk while she sat there in the chair. She just absently stroked the kitten’s soft fur and stared in a daze at the brightly lit patterns playing on the computer screen. She had a slight scowl on her beautiful face, and I wanted to know what she was thinking. I’d give anything to know what she was thinking at that moment.


I didn’t want her to draw back into herself. I wanted her to stick around for a while.


I continued my finger’s soothing movements over her silky warm flesh and worked out the tight muscles I encountered while freely exploring her frail shoulders.


Sometimes she would hum, or sigh softly in content, but she didn’t speak.


“Bella, did you want to go do something, or are you comfortable here in the chair?” I asked after a minute.


“We can go do something if you want…” she trailed off in response.


I furrowed my brow. That’s not what I had asked. “What do you want, love?” I asked pointedly.


She sighed. “I don’t care, Edward,” was her monotone reply.


BPOV

I don’t fucking care - stop talking to me. I don’t want to talk. I don’t want to aware. Why the fuck am I here? In pigtails and a skimpy schoolgirl outfit, no less! Ridiculous.


Isabella!


Hm?


Not cool.


Ali did it.


I don’t care, I don‘t want-


But it wasn’t me! She dressed up Dassah and then we got to color pretty pictures for my Edward…


Whatever. I don‘t want her touching me anymore. Got it?


Yah-huh.


Good. Now come out here and deal with this.


Gonna get to see my Edward now?


Yeah, have at it.


Kay she giggled. He’s mine.


I know.


EPOV

“Edward?”


I slowed my hand’s movements. “Yeah?”


“Want my binky back,” Isabella told me.


I nodded and moved so that she could roll her seat back and stand up. “Did Bella leave it in the bathroom, sweetheart?” I asked while I started to make my way over in that direction.


She nodded. “Mm-hmm, yah-huh,” she chirped as she started to climb back on the bed.


When I came back into the bedroom after retrieving my baby’s pink pacifier for her, I saw that she was laying on the bed, face down, and she lazily kicking her feet up in the air. She was focusing on finishing her half-done picture while watching the movie playing on the flat screen.


I took the TV off of it’s silent mute so that she could enjoy her movie, then joined her on the bed and watched as she finished coloring the detailed picture of Nemo and his friends.


**********


“Ohhh yeah…take that and suck it!” Joey taunted with a playful smirk as Emmett rolled his eyes and hit the button on the Wii controller to start the next level of Super Smash Bros.


We were downstairs now, and I was busy preparing my mate’s dinner for her while she, or he, for the matter, played his new video games in the living room with my brother.


I noted that Carlisle was up in his study, patiently waiting for my girl or one of her alternates to arrive so that he could begin tonight’s intended therapy session.


“Hey Joey!” I called out, placing the portable weight scale down on the tiled floor.


“Yah?”


“C’mere for a sec!”


“Kay!” he hollered back.


My mate came jogging into the kitchen then, no longer dressed in a pink shirt and plaid skirt. No…that particular outfit was laying in the middle of our bed, waiting for one of my little girls to come back around.


Joey had abruptly changed into a pair of his new jean shorts and a plain black t-shirt, right before he ripped the pigtails out of his hair and tied the short chocolate strands behind his head in a low ponytail, instead.


My mate had a whole new look and persona going on in two minutes flat.


It was very interesting to watch.


“What?” he questioned, looking up at me with thin furrowed eyebrows.


I pointed to the small scale suggestively. “I need to weigh you, buddy,” I told him.


He nodded and hopped on. “Got anything to eat?” he asked while we were waiting for the red digital numbers to appear.


I nodded. “I’m making your dinner right now,” I murmured distractedly as I wrote down the number 98 with a smile.


She had gained a pound.


Success.


He stepped off the small white square then. “Um…I want something now,” he muttered quietly.


I looked up and saw how he was eyeing the open loaf of bread on the counter beside me.


Uhmm…


“I don’t want you to ruin your appetite, buddy…” I offered in a light tone, noting that his pot pie would be done in about eight minutes.


He tore his gaze away from the loaf to look at me, before his eyes quickly shot back over to the bread on the counter. After one last glance my way, his small hand shot out, quick like a snake, and he snatched up a white slice, then proceeded to stuff the whole damn thing in his mouth while slowly backing away from me with a determined, yet slightly ferocious look in his eyes.


I watched, bewildered, as he placed his palm over his mouth and tried to ball up the rest of the remains that hadn’t initially fit, and tried to stuff them into his small mouth, as well.


He eventually paused his steps, but kept eye contact with me as he chewed. The predator in me recognized the scowl on his face as a silent warning to stay away from his food; his kill, so to speak, but it was also a dare for me to do something about it. The look in his eyes held a subtle challenge in them. He was wondering if I was going to fight him for the food.


The back of his hand remained on his lips as his jaw worked in overtime.


I took a small step forward, concerned and wanting to placate him. “Joey, I-”


I stopped my advances on him when he shot me a scathing glare and slightly growled in the back of his throat.


Woah…


I subtly shook my head and lightly held up my hands in a sign of surrender. “Okay, Joey - I’m not going to take the bread away from you,” I promised, carefully emphasizing each word. “If you want to snack on some bread until your dinner is done, then by all means…have at it. I will never deny you food,” I told him, keeping eye contact so that he could both see and hear the sincerity in my words.


He furrowed his brow and stared at me in silence as he finally swallowed the lump of bread in his mouth. After eight seconds, his chocolate eyes flicked back over to the loaf of bread on the counter, then back to me, as if he was testing my words and his boundaries on this matter.


I gave him a slight nod of encouragement, then decided to take it up a notch by grabbing the loaf of bread and offering it to him.


He didn’t speak, just stared at me with a skeptical look.


“Go on…” I encouraged, holding the opened bag of bread out to him.


He slowly reached his thin arm out and dipped his hand into the bag, bringing a small piece of bread out with it. He tore a little piece of crust off and put it in his mouth, then chewed it slowly while he continued to just fucking stare at me.


It was kind of creeping me out.


He subtly cleared his throat then. “Uhh…” he hesitated. “You want some?” he asked in a timid voice, holding his half eaten slice out to me.


I shook my head and gave him a small smile, then placed the bread back on the counter. “No Joey, this is yours…all of the food in this house is yours,” I informed him.


He nodded a bit sheepishly in response, as if he was just now realizing his overreaction with the slice of bread earlier, and finished his snack as he stood there in front of me. “Sorry, Edward,” he murmured after he swallowed.


I nodded in acknowledgement. “It’s okay, Joey - you didn’t do anything wrong. You were just hungry. And at least now you know that you never have to ask for food, right? This is your home. You can just come down here and eat whenever you want. No one will ever take food away from you, buddy. Alright?”


He nodded. “Yeah.”


“Okay.”


“Okay.”


After another minute, the oven timer beeped, so I turned and took the simple Stouffer’s dinner out of the oven, then went to work on preparing my mate’s plate for her. It didn’t escape my notice that Joey quickly rummaged through a cabinet and stuffed a few granola bars into his deep pockets when my back was turned, but I didn’t address the matter any further with him. They were his granola bars anyway, and I had learned from one of my Bella’s therapy sessions last week that this particular personality is obsessed with food…he hoards it.


Instead of focusing on the bad things and questioning why he is like this, because it was glaringly obvious that my Bella was starved as a kid, I chose to focus on the positive aspects of it and how I could use his unhealthy obsession to my advantage.


This personality would be key…he would help me with my Bella’s weight gain goal.


I resolved right then and there to offer him a big bowl of icecream for dessert. Chocolate icecream. With whipped cream. And then maybe we’ll bake some brownies.


Hopefully, by this time next week, I’ll be able to record another pound on that damn weight scale.


**********


“I said no.”


“I said yes.”


“No.”


“Yes.”


“No, Isabella.”


“Yes, Edward.”


I sighed. This was getting ridiculous. “Sweet baby, your kitty doesn’t want to fly. If you toss her down to the next landing, then she might get hurt,” I pointed out.


“But, it’ll be fun Edward,” she insisted in her child-like voice while holding the tiny feline to her chest.


Poor thing.


“And every knows that Tinker Bell can fly, donchya know…”


I shook my head. “No,” I repeated, my tone ringing with finality now.


She stomped her foot and I scowled at her. “I mean it, Isabella. If you throw your kitten down the stairs, then I’m taking her back to the shelter. You’re supposed to take care of her, not hurt her.”


She furrowed her thin brow and huffed. “I’m not gonna hurt her, Edward, I’munna play with her. Flying is fun, and Tinker Bell wants to fly.”


“No, she doesn’t.”


“Yes, she does.”


I rolled my eyes. “That’s enough, Isabella. Stop arguing with me and go put your toys away.”


“Nooo…” she whined.


I took the tiny kitten out of her hand’s embrace, then quickly reached around her small form and firmly swatted her ass. “Yeeesss…” I mocked when she started to cry, then gave her a slight glare and pointed towards our bedroom, indicating that she needed to do as she was told and go put her damn toys away.


She turned away from me and slowly walked towards our bedroom, pouting and crying the whole way.


I set the kitten down on the stairwell landing and followed after Isabella, and once we were in the bedroom, I helped her pick up and put everything away.


After dinner, she had come back around just in time to decline the icecream, much to my dismay, and she wanted to come back up here. She had changed back into her pink outfit, took her hair down, and went to play with a few of her new toys.


Well, a few toys quickly turned into a lot of toys, and her and Hadassah ended up making a huge mess on the floor. There were crayons, markers, coloring books, dolls, number magnets, ball rattles, play jewelry, and stuffed animals tossed around everywhere. It looked like the fucking Toys R Us threw up in here.


The bed sheets and blankets were all crumpled from them jumping up and down on them. The Little Mermaid was still playing loudly in the back round. I found that Joey’s secret granola bars were stashed underneath the bed, and that Marie’s special leather bracelet was laying haphazardly on top of the dresser.


She will not be pleased.


“Edward?” Isabella piped up once the room was all clean.


“Hmm?”


She reached for the pink pacifier on the nightstand and asked, “Cuddle?”


I just silently nodded and picked her up, bringing her to my chest for one of my favorite hugs. After a minute of gently caressing her back and pacing, she took the pacifier out of her mouth and wanted down.


“Edward, let’s go play the fuckawesome new Mariokart game on the Wii,” Marie suggested excitedly.


I turned to look at the clock and noticed that it was almost 8:00, so I reluctantly nodded, figuring that I could play the game with Marie for a while, but then that therapy session would have to happen, and then it would be time for bed.


Marie set my little girl’s binky down on the dresser, then followed after me down the stairs with a little bounce in her step, smiling the whole way. Once we were in the living room, I switched out Smash Bros for Mariokart and tossed Marie the special wheel controller.


She picked Peach, as usual, and I picked Mario, because he’s better, and then the games began.


We had been playing for about ten minutes, when Joey came back around and wanted to play Smash Bros instead. He had been playing it with Emmett before dinner and he seemed to enjoy himself, so I nodded, agreeing to the change, and quickly switched out the games. Again, I chose Mario, while his selection landed on Luigi, and soon, we were diligently working together to kick Bowser’s ass.


“Oh nooo…I died,” he exclaimed as Luigi fell off the mountain, only to reappear a second later for another turn.


“It’s okay - you’re doing great, buddy,” I encouraged as I kicked a green turtle shell towards Peach’s bitch ass and knocked her off the mountain for knocking Luigi off the mountain.


Take that, sucka.


She reappeared a second later, and I threw a fucking boulder at her.


That’s what you get.


Joey laughed as we both started ganging up on Peach instead of Bowser now. “I’m telling ya…it’s this pink shit, Edward,” he told me, referring to the clothes he was currently wearing. “It’s bad luck.”


I observed his pink plaid skirt and smirked. “You can go change again if you want,” I offered.


He shook his head. “Nah, Hadassah likes it…she can fuckin wear it,” he relented, punctuating his statement by double clicking a button and sending a lightning bolt Bowser’s way.


“Ed-ward…”


I turned to look at Hadassah. “Yeah baby?” I asked in an equally soft voice.


“Um…um…” her whispers hesitated.


I paused the game so that everything fell silent in the room, and focused on her alone. “What is it, angel?”


When she spoke again, she finally came up with, “Want my binky.”


I nodded and immediately reached in my pocket for the purple one. After I handed it over, she stepped up to my side, and wrapped her thin arms around my waist, wanting to snuggle, apparently, so I set my controller down on the coffee table and wrapped my arms around my baby girl, cradling her to my chest.


I kissed her forehead and caressed her back gently, then reassured her, “I love you.”


“Love you, too,” she mumbled around her pacifier.


I picked her up then, and went to sit on the couch. I had gotten her situated her on my lap just as Emmett and Rosalie walked into the room.


Hadassah sighed and subtly kicked her legs out in a carefree way, staying tucked into my side and ignoring my coven members. “Ed-ward, where’s my Mommy…?” she whispered then.


“On vacation,” I answered automatically.


“Wha’s vacation?”


I sighed then, remembering one of my Bella‘s favorite movies and how a character had described that particular word to her child in a certain scene. It seemed very fitting for this situation, so I decided to just mimic the explanation. “Vacation…“ I hesitated. “Vacation is when you go somewhere. And you don’t ever come back,” I told her.


She just silently nodded at my explanation.


I half-expected her to cry at the thought of never seeing Renee again, since she appeared to miss her, but the tears never came. After a minute, she just laid her head down on my shoulder and her warm little fingers started to absently play with the collar of my shirt.


Thank you, Forrest Gump.


I kissed her smooth forehead and held her to me while I carried on a conversation with Emmett, who had suddenly plopped down right beside us. Hadassah curiously observed our discussion about his prolonged vacation, but otherwise remained silent.


“Yeah…it was great, but I missed ya, bro,” Emmett smirked, putting his arm around the back of my shoulders.


My little girl’s sudden slight whine made us turn our attention towards her then.


She was scowling at Emmett’s big hand, and three seconds later, she tried to shove it off of me while she continued to whine, “Nooo…”


Emmett looked at her questioningly, but didn’t move his hand.


I furrowed my brow and jostled her a bit, getting her attention. “Hey…Isabella, what’s wrong?”


She ignored me, but shot a glare towards Emmett as she clenched her jaw tight and screamed in the back of her throat.


“Stop it,” I admonished her.


She softened her features then, and turned her head to face me, pouting. “Edward, you’re miiine…” she informed me while trying to shove Emmett’s rock hard hand off my shoulder again.


I sighed and Emmett finally removed his hand, both of us now realizing what the problem was.


God forbid somebody else should try to touch me.


Ridiculous.


She was always so incredibly jealous and possessive, but at the same time, this was her first time witnessing someone other than my Bella having physical contact with me, so I really shouldn’t have expected any less.


Apparently, a fit was in order for the occasion.


She sat on my lap and snuggled herself into my chest, keeping her scowling eyes on Emmett the whole time, while she proceeded to make a big show about how I was hers.


Because clearly, she could touch my shoulder, but he couldn’t. And she could hug me, but he couldn’t. And she could kiss my cheek, but he couldn’t. And she could play with my hair, but he couldn’t.


And so on, and so forth…


Emmett just sat there with silent look of disbelief in his eyes, and subtly shook his head at my little girl’s antics. She was very blatantly marking her territory, and he found it somewhat amusing because he was no threat…he was my brother.


She’s cute he thought when Isabella kissed my cheek for the seventh time.


I just rolled my eyes and let Isabella do her thing, because there was no denying that I was hers and she was mine.


Nine minutes later, my girl straightened up and snatched the binky out of her mouth.


Apparently, Marie was back and she wanted to get back to her Mariokart game.


She stood from my lap and stared down at me with a look of slight disbelief and even a little bit of hurt marring her perfect features. “Edward, we were on the damn ramp, but then you go and shut it off just ‘cause Joey wants to switch games?” she accused.


I nodded and stood from the couch. “Yeah, but don’t worry, babe…we can play another round of Mariokart before you have to go to therapy.”


She furrowed her thin brow then. “What therapy?” she immediately shot back in a curt tone.


Uh-oh…


I hadn’t exactly mentioned that she had a scheduled session with Carlisle for later on tonight.


I sighed then, steeling myself for a night full of tantrums, tears, and
fights. “You have a session in a few minutes, love…” I confirmed quietly.


“What?!” she screeched.


“You’re fuckin high!” Joey exclaimed.


“No!” Isabella shouted.


And then Hadassah started to cry.


Fuck my life.


I groaned quietly in frustration, and Emmett chuckled at my mate’s unique display of quickly ‘flipping the switch’, as he liked to call it. She rarely ever did it, but there were times when all of her alternates had an opinion about something, and they just couldn’t wait to voice their thoughts on the matter.


Now, being one of those times.


And it looks like they have all finally agreed on something today; No therapy.


Right, because when have they ever wanted to go to therapy?


And why the hell did I think that this time would be any different?


Dumbass.


**********


“You sit. No…you sit, and you shut up,” Joey demanded through gritted teeth.


He was in my father’s study and he was being very hostile and cautious and guarded and scared and basically, everything I expected him to be. My Bella had yet to come around, which was extremely odd at this point, but it appeared as though Joey was checking to make sure everything was OK before he let any of the others out for a little visit with the doctor, my Bella included.


After I comforted Hadassah and assured her that this thing called therapy wasn’t as bad as Isabella was making it out to be, I took her back upstairs to clean up her tear-stained face and calm her down some more.


While I was pacing the floor with her in my arms, Joey popped back up and I quickly released him from my hold when he started squirming around and pushing against my chest with his small fists. I set him back down on the floor, and he immediately went about changing into his boy-clothes, ripping the pink shirt off with abandon.


He was mad at me. He wouldn’t talk to me.


And I was getting tired of his attitude.


“Joey, you need to fucking calm down. Marie and Isabella have their own set of rules, and you will too. Rule number one is don’t cop an attitude with me. You understand?” I had asked.


He simply rolled his eyes. “Are you my friend, or my owner?” was his reply.


He had completely dodged my question with that question.


I furrowed my brow. “I’m your friend,” I assured him.


He shook his head. “That’s not what Isabella says.”


I sighed. “Look, Joey - I’m your friend, but I’m also your authority figure. Your only authority figure. It’s complicated, and we can discuss it later, but right now you have therapy and-”


“See?” he interrupted me. “This is exactly why Bella hasst (hates) you all right now,” he had told me with a slight glare.


I just furrowed my brow at his statement, not really sure if he was telling the truth about my Bella’s apparent ‘hatred’ for us, or not. I knew that she was angry with my coven, but she never said anything about hate. I hoped that he was just exaggerating with that comment. I mean, he was pretty angry. It was possible.


“Stay there, don’t move,” Joey warned with a clenched jaw as he started cautiously moving throughout the large room, inspecting the furniture and bookcases with great suspicion.


Carlisle and I both had a pretty good idea of what he was looking for, but Carlisle decided to go ahead and voice the stupid question anyway.


“What is it you’re trying to find?” Carlisle asked in a gentle, placating tone.


Neither of us expected my mate’s reaction.


He jumped slightly, startled by my Sire‘s tone of voice for some reason. “Shut up!” he screamed, flashing his hateful eyes towards Carlisle.


I sighed and gritted my teeth, steeling my resolve to remain just outside the door and keep an eye on my mate through Carlisle’s perplexed mind.


Joey continued to dig around the bookcase, and even started shoving some books onto the floor so that he could thoroughly inspect the area behind the books as well. He lifted and flipped the couch cushions. He checked behind the long draped curtains…for what, I don’t know.


He turned and suspiciously eyed Carlisle’s desk then.


My Sire sat there, relaxed back into his chair, and tried to give young Joey a reassuring smile. “If you promise me that you won’t destroy my things, then you can look through the drawers in my desk as well…” he trailed off suggestively.


Joey quickly shook his head, the hate never leaving his guarded chocolate eyes. “I’m not promising you shit,” he spat, venom in his voice.


Carlisle sighed and stood from the desk, then took all three drawers out of the desk and set them down in front of Joey so that my mate could go through them at her leisure. He was hoping that if Joey saw his willingness to cooperate with him and his ridiculous search expedition, then he would realize that he wasn’t such a bad guy, and he’d give him a chance.


Yeah, don’t get your hopes up, Carlisle…


Joey is just like my baby Isabella; prejudice, hostile, and set in his own ways.


And it’s all Jim’s fault.


Seven minutes later, Joey was somewhat satisfied when he hadn’t found any needles or purity knives, so he slowly backed away from Carlisle’s drawers on the floor and allowed my Sire to retrieve them so that he could slide them back into place in his desk.


Joey went to sit on the leather couch then, and watched Carlisle’s movements curiously as my Sire started to pick up the spilled books at a human pace and place everything back in it’s proper spot on the shelves.


Joey did not offer to help, even though it was his mess. He just stared.


“What do you want?” he asked then, just as Carlisle turned to go back to his desk.


“I want to help you feel better,” he informed him. “You, and Bella…as well as Marie, Isabella, and Hadassah.”


“Don’t fucking lie to me,” Joey shot back.


Carlisle’s eyes widened a bit as he shook his head. “I’m not lying to you.”


“Yes. You. Are,” Joey countered lowly. “You don’t want to help, you want to ausrotten (exterminate). You want to get rid of us. You are an Arzt (doctor), and you are not to be trusted.”


And with that, Joey promptly stuck his thumb in his mouth and gave a little sigh, making the transition from ten year old to two year old complete.


“Hello, Hadassah,” Carlisle greeted after a few seconds of observing her behavior and taking a guess at her identity.


“Hi,” she softly whispered back.


After a minute of silence, she shyly informed him that she wanted me. He told her that she could see me in a little bit, but that they had to talk first. She reluctantly nodded with furrowed eyebrows, looking at the strange man before her that she had only met once.


“What would like to talk about, dear?” he asked then.


She just shrugged in response and I rolled my eyes because my Sire had yet to comprehend what he was getting himself into with Hadassah and her little shrugs. Those were her answers for everything. What movie do you wanna watch? Shrug. What would you like to eat? Shrug. Do you want to wear jeans or a dress today? Shrug. Do you have to go potty? Shrug.


This could go on forever.


Luckily, my Bella saved the day a second later when she started blinking her way back into awareness. When the blinking ceased, she sighed and stared at my father, a bored look on her face.


“Hello, Bella.”


“Hey.”


“How are you feeling?”


“Fine.”


I felt a low rumble start in my chest then.


Fine…I hated that fucking word.


Carlisle nodded and made a little side note about her nonchalance and relaxed manner.


“You’re not nauseous?”


She shook her head.


“Fatigued?”


“No…”


“Confused…dizzy…irritab-”


“I said I’m fine!” she suddenly shot back in a curt tone.


He sighed and muttered, “Definitely irritable,” under his breath as he wrote about her attitude in his journal.


He broke the tense silence a minute later when he clarified, “As I’m sure you’ve already figured out, this is an impromptu therapy session, dear. I just need to know how you are doing since coming home from the hospital this afternoon, and we can talk about any flashbacks or memories you may have had recently due to the two new arrivals.”


My Bella brought her knees up to her chest then, resting her bare feet on the edge of the couch cushion. “Like I said, Carlisle - I’m fine,” she started in a monotone. “I don’t feel sick, but I do know why the new one is here…the two year old, whatever her name is,” she muttered dismissively with a little wave of her hand.


Carlisle nodded. “Hadassah…” he trailed off.


“Right.”


“And why’s that, dear?”


She scoffed. “Because my father’s a fucking liar! He left me alone at a snake show when I was two where a hobo with bad breath molested me while he visited with a buddy from work just a few feet away.”


“Hmmm…” was my Sire’s only response while I tried to process this new information.


Looks like Charlie will share the same fate as Renee, and I don’t give a fuck what my mate says - her parents will pay for her pain with their lives.


That is final.


“Joey has shown me things, too…” she trailed off in a quiet voice then. “Things with camcorders…”


Joey’s statement to me earlier came unbidden in my mind then; “I don’t like cameras and I’ll break your camcorder if I ever find out you have one…


“…what things, Bella?” Carlisle asked when she didn’t elaborate.


“Child pornography,” she answered in that same hollow voice that I had reluctantly familiarized myself with.


I was beginning to realize that my Bella was extremely depressed. Yes, she was on that damn Prozac, but was it even working? Is it too early to tell?


I sighed, frustrated.


Whenever she comes around anymore, she’s not happy. And she’s never around long enough for me to cheer her up. Ever since her break down last week, she’s been withdrawn and quiet and she’s only gotten worse. Talking about the things of her past is only making it harder for her, I‘m sure.


Goddamn it, I hate therapy.


BPOV

When is this douche bag gonna shut up so we can fucking leave? Joey asked.


I want my Edward Isabella muttered.


Doll, I swear to god, if my score on Mario Kart gets erased ‘cause Doctor Dad couldn’t wait to get his fix on our pain and torture, I’m gonna be pissed Marie warned.


What’s up with Edward, anyway? We’re friends, but we’re not? He’s my owner, but he’s not? He’s an authority figure, but he’s not? Fucking. Confusing Joey exclaimed.


Dude, chill out. Edward’s cool. He’s ours. He likes to spank, though, so watch out for that. Other than that, he’s cool Marie placated.


Spank? Like, ‘if you don’t stop being a rowdy little fucker, then I’m gonna bust your ass’ type of spank? Joey questioned.


Yah-huh, but don’t worry b’cuz you get lollies after and he never hits as hard as Daddy Isabella offered.


I sat back and stared at Carlisle, listening to the back round noise in my mind and wondering when he would be done with his fucking analyzing. I hated his stupid, perfect, tenured voice. Almost as much as I was beginning to hate Edward’s. It was grating on my nerves. That, and his irritating questions. Because like I said before, I hate him and his stupid fucking coven and I don’t want to be here. I’m pissed off at my alternates too. Yeah…a lot of fucking good they are right now…they always leave me to deal with this therapy bullshit. I’m so fed up.


And goddamn it, I don’t want to be here!


I heard you the first time! Marie mentally shouted back.


Then fucking do something about it! Get your ass out here and deal with this shit. I don’t want to look at his stupid face anymore. It’s pissing me off.


No can do, doll. I’m not talkin to him either.


When all I got was mental silence from my other alternates, I sent a silent ‘Fuck You’ into my mind space, and launched into yet another damn therapy session. By myself.


Goddamn it.


“I’ve been remembering some more details about my grandmother and her death…” I started.


Carlisle simply nodded for me to continue, as usual, so I did. I’ve found that continually talking through these pointless sessions makes the time go by faster anyway.


When my granny died, the memorial service was horrible. I remember that there was no body, so there was no casket, just the silver urn of ashes and some flowers at the alter. There were a couple hundred people coming up to me, talking to me, pinching my cheeks, and then there were the grown-ups that were crying. I felt disconnected from everything. All the adults who had said that they loved my Grandmother Hadassah, my dear old granny - I hated them.
I thought, "How dare they say they love her. She belonged to me. I belonged to her. Granny, didn't you and I stand in the center of the universe?" Isabella and I hated all those people…people who had looked past our pain of a lifetime, and people who would just say nice things to me, then leave me with my father.
After the service, a couple of my Mom's friends took us to a movie. I sat through that movie about a carnival and marveled at the fact that somewhere in the world there were people who laughed when I was so devastated that I wanted to die. This was my first memory I have of wanting to be dead. That night, after the stupid, pointless carnival movie, I got down on my knees and I prayed to God.
I pleaded with Him. "Please let me die. Let me be with Granny. I can't live without her."
I was back in my room, consumed with two whole months worth of memories of taking care of her on her death bed, and when I awoke in the morning to the sunlight streaming in through my flowered curtains, I felt abandoned by God. There could be no God, I decided then.


I continued to stare at a jagged-shaped crack in the wall because it was better than looking at Carlisle’s ridiculous face, and said the first thing that came to mind.


After eight days of being in the hospital because of Jim‘s brutal sodomy, my Mom confronted me about him. She seemed to be done with her denial faze, where she had acted numb to it all. She talked to the police officers and the detectives, and then finally…she talked to me. I sat in the uncomfortable hospital bed and tried to ignore her questions and persistence, but when she shut off the cartoons on the TV and took my face in her hands, I had no choice but to focus on her.
"Sunshine, tell me what Daddy did to you," she requested with her penetrating hazel eyes.
"Like you fuckin care," Isabella mentally shot back as instant panic rose in me and I pleaded aloud, "I can't tell you, Mommy."
"Yes!" she insisted. "You can talk to me. I want to know the truth. The real truth."
I began crying. "I can't tell you. Daddy will give me away to the bad men. He said I'll never see you again if I tell you."
She slowly sat down on the bed beside me and let her hands fall away from my face, down to her lap, as she chided, "Don't be ridiculous. Of course he can't give you away - how could you believe such a stupid thing?"
I looked at her incredulously.
Oh yes, he could.
"You don't know what Dad is like!" I shot back, startling her. At her surprised look, another sob tore through me. "You just don't know…" I cried.
"He hurt you sometimes, didn't he?"
"Please don't make me tell you…"
Mom took my cold little hands and cupped them in her big ones, then said, "I mean it, Isabella Marie,” she stated with conviction. “I want to know, and I absolutely promise you that Jim cannot give you to any 'bad men'. I would never let him give you away," she promised.
I thought of just how much she really didn't know and started crying harder. "Mommy, you'll be mad," I warned in a shaky voice.
"Sweetheart, for God's sake, cut this out and just answer my questions!" she demanded, her patience wearing thin.
I was disintegrating under the persistent interrogation. Too much pain had been held in for too long. I was certain that there would be major acts of revenge if Daddy ever found out that I had talked, but I launched into my tale anyway, hoping somewhere in the back of my mind that Daddy would finally snap when he found out and that he would finally kill me…put me out of my fucking misery.
I told Mom about the basement, the summer that I spent locked in my room, the times I was tied up and bound with the blue scarves, and graphically told her about the pins, the needle and thread, and the ice pick. In my tears, I spared her nothing. I was oblivious to her as she sat staring at me on the hospital bed. I was bubbling forth the horror that was my life all the times that she went away…all the times that she left me with him.
Suddenly, there was a choking sound, and I focused on Mommy. Great big tears were rolling down the cheeks on her twisted face. Our eyes met and held. Before I knew it, her head was in my tiny lap and her arms wrapped around the small of my back. She was hugging me tightly and sobbing these great, wracking, noisy sobs. I was dressed in a small pink hospital gown, and her tears were getting my bare legs all wet.
I was at a complete loss for the good part of ten minutes. Isabella just looked on with disgust and hatred, assuring me that our Mommy deserved to cry. She delighted in the horrible sounds…she smiled at my mother's desperate wails of anger, pain, and remorse. Eventually, I tried to comfort my Mom by stroking her hair. I remember the stickiness of her hairspray. It took an eternity for her to regain some semblance of control, and a nurse even came by to shut the door so that we wouldn't disturb the apparent peace and serenity of their hallways any longer.
She just cried, "I didn't know. I didn't know. My poor baby girl. My precious baby."
I just stared at her, a little bewildered and a lot confused, and not being able to offer her any words of acknowledgement, or comfort, because she did know. Maybe not all the gory details, but she knew enough. She had taken Dad to the mental hospital, checked me for signs of injury, and hired Ruth, bodyguard and nanny extraordinaire. She knew something was going on. My mind automatically blocked out those thoughts though, and took a completely different path, because apparently, I was desperate and wanted to believe Mom's pleading words and promises of ignorance.


"I know better now, though…I know that she chose to overlook certain…things…to make her relationship with her boyfriend work. I hate her now."


He raised a perfectly arched eyebrow. "You hate her?"


Did I fucking stutter?


I gave a curt nod and refrained from rolling my eyes. "Yes," I reiterated.


"When did this happen?" he asked, baffled because I usually showed loyalty towards my mother in these useless therapy sessions of his.


"Just now."


He sighed. "You're not usually one to hate, Bella…" he trailed off quietly, looking somewhat concerned.


I did roll my eyes this time. "Yeah, well - a lot of shit's changed, Doctor Carlisle. It would seem that I hate a lot of people now," I informed him, pointedly staring at him with a slight glare.


Nosy bastard.


After a minute of silently staring at each other, he subtly nodded for me to continue.


"Anyways…"


Later, when she stopped crying and was blowing her nose on the tacky flowery handkerchief she always carried around with her, she asked, "Why didn't you tell me before? How could you suffer so much in silence?"
I ignored her question and instead warned her with pleading, watery eyes, "Mommy, if you tell Daddy that I told you, he'll hurt me. You just don't understand." Now I was crying again and deeply alarmed at the enormity of what I had just done.
Mom almost suffocated me in her intense hug as she reassured me, "I promise you, you'll never be hurt again. Forgive me, baby."
I didn't know why she wanted me to forgive her, she had never hurt me, and now I felt terrified, rather than assured. We sat in silence, both distractedly watching TV or doing our own things until I got discharged from the hospital later that day. I noticed that Mom seemed oddly withdrawn and I worried that she was somehow angry with me.
When we got home, Mom burst into the house. Daddy was still there with Bobby, and I don't know why he was, but he was. I guess the cops in that town are all just a bunch of lazy pricks, but that's beside the point. Mom told me to go upstairs and pack all my things in a suitcase. She yelled to Bobby and told him to pack his stuff, as well. I went upstairs, totally mystified and anxious that I had done something terribly wrong in telling my Mom the truth. Then I could hear the shouting, crying, and crashing noises from my parents' bedroom. The angry words were muffled behind closed doors, but I knew a violent eruption was taking place in our lives.
With shaky legs and a bloody lip, Mom threw our suitcases in the trunk of the car and ordered me and Bobby into the backseat. We wordlessly complied with wide eyes, completely uncertain of our impending fate. Without even saying goodbye to Daddy, who, by the way, had come running out onto the lawn, screaming obscene, hateful profanities about revenge and how dare my mother take his kids away from him, Mom squealed the tires, racing out of the driveway. Bobby and I didn't dare speak. We stayed buckled in and tightly held each other's hands, staring at the back of Mom's head in silence. We didn't know what was going on.
Mom took us to a beautiful hotel with a swimming pool, and a television in the big room.
Mom sat on the bed with us and said, "Kids, we're leaving Daddy." At our questioning gazes, she muttered quietly to herself, "I should have taken you guys away a long time ago. I had enough evidence and clues…"
Again, I chose to ignore this particular comment when she suddenly broke out into those loud sobs again. Isabella just rolled her eyes at my mother’s dramatics.
Her voice cracking, she said, "Why couldn't you have told me? What did he do to you guys for you to just keep silent like this? I'm sorry. I'm sorry."
We hugged her as she cried, and then all three of us were crying. Bobby was partly crying because he didn't want to leave Daddy.
"I'm sorry, it's my fault," I said through my tears. "I didn't mean to be bad."
"Bella, there's nothing you could have done to deserve what's happened to you. Jim had no right to do what he did to you," Mom quickly assured me with a kiss to my forehead.
The next day, while Bobby and I were at school, Mom went apartment hunting. We moved into a big beautiful apartment that already had white furniture in it. There was no feeling of elation at leaving Jim. We felt confused, upset, and responsible, but Mom tried to rally up our sagging spirits. She played games with us, took us to the park, and took us out for cheeseburgers and icecream.
"When are we going back to Daddy?" I asked one night over dinner.
"Never," was her adamant reply.
It was a big concept. No Daddy. No big house. No basement. No abuse. Belief in my safety did not come quickly, for Isabella and the others did not allow it. We kept expecting Daddy to burst through the door and drag us home. Mommy forbade me and Bobby from answering the cell phone when the caller ID lit up as being the number from the State Penitentiary. She said that Daddy could never know where we were.


Mommy still had to work, so the care of Bobby and the cooking fell on me. I thrived on being made to feel important and special. Bobby didn't know how to cook and we had laughter-filled evenings as the two of us tried our best to cook dinner and figure out how to do laundry. My heart sang with pleasure as I walked the mile home from school, knowing that there was no hostility waiting for me. I gained weight rapidly in my new environment and my clothes no longer hung loosely off my thin frame.
Mom must have made a real effort to cut back on business to be with us, because for the first time in our lives, she came home regularly for dinner. I don't remember any business trips, although on a few occasions when she was late, she had a man named Mark come stay with us. He wore casual clothes and smelled of cigarettes and cologne.
Sometimes he was there when Mom wasn’t home, and even though Mark was nice enough, we felt cautious…wary. I was crushed when I saw her kiss him. Isabella repeatedly called her a nigger-lovin whore, even though Mark wasn't black, but Italian. Bobby and I were nice to Mark because he always tried so hard to be nice to us. We tried to ignore the fact that he was the intruder, invading in our safe, new environment.
He bought me my first tube of lipstick and took me shopping for my first pair of high-heeled shoes, even though my mother objected to an eight year old looking so grown up. He protested, saying that I was a beautiful girl and should have beautiful things. Daddy had bought me beautiful things, too…I had plenty of expensive dresses and jewelry already. They were all from him…and all of it was there to dress me up for his friends and his camera. I tried to focus on the fact that Mark had never hurt me and accepted his gifts graciously, like a normal girl would have, even though I was anything but normal. Isabella loved the lipstick. Cassandra loved the shoes.


When summer came, I was very self-conscious about the burn scars on my legs, so while Mom was at work, Mark showed me how to use her bottle of foundation to cover the scars so that I could wear things like bathing suits and shorts. He smiled and said that it was our little secret because Mom's bottle of foundation was very expensive, apparently.
Like Jim, Mark eventually turned into a father figure/care giver. And I knew that he knew about Daddy by the way he acted. He was always so careful, so kind…but at the same time, it was like he was walking on eggshells around me. When he would touch me in the beginning, it would only be because he had to, and the touch would always be very feather-light; not threatening in any kind of way. Eventually, he would hold me on his lap for bedtime stories right before he would tuck me in on the nights that Mom would work late. He never hurt me. Never even yelled at me. It was very weird and unsettling because it was in such great contrast from what I was used to with Jim, but at the same time, it was a relief.
That summer before fourth grade, when I was eight, I was very happy. I don't even remember really thinking about Daddy. We hadn't really wanted to go see him in jail and Mom didn't make us. The few times that we had seen him, it was only because of his rights over Bobby, and it was tearful and emotional and I was upset for days afterward. Unlike me, Bobby had mixed loyalties, and he missed Daddy and our big house. But that summer, we felt free to swim and play and ride our bikes around town. Susannah could come to play at our apartment and she even spent the night a few times.


“Now…Susannah - you’ve mentioned her before, right?” Carlisle asked, interrupting me.


“Yeah. She was the chick who helped me and Bobby with our lemonade stand that one time. I liked her, but Isabella didn’t,” I reminded him, even though I didn’t see the point.


Susannah was not vital to any of this.


He nodded and gave a little wave of his hand, signaling for me to continue.


I rolled my eyes up to the ceiling and did just that, wondering how long Marie would make me suffer through this.


Two weeks before school started back up, the four of us went to Baja, California, so that we could go camping on the west side near Scamon's Lagoon. Mom, Mark, Bobby, and I slept in a hot tent and bathed in the ocean. We caught lobsters and abalones and bought vegetables from the Mexicans. It was a long trip on the potholed road, but a trip that will always live in my mind as the epitome of joy. I was stung by a jellyfish, sunburned, and stuck with a fish hook, but every moment was fun with my Mom.
She and Mark made everything an adventure. Mark speared a halibut and Bobby
learned to skin-dive with us. The four of us would take our masks, snorkels, and spears around the rocks and seaweed gardens, and catch our dinner. It was a magical fairy land under the sea.
I do not remember Isabella or any of the others during those happy times. What lives in my mind are the campfires, the stories, the interesting Mexicans that I'd never seen before, and my elation at no longer being tormented. I was loved. I could feel it. Mom constantly communicated it to us.
Mom was bigger than life to me. She was my savior, not just my mother. I'm certain there is no love more intense than the love an abused child has for the 'safe' parent. I worshipped her. I studied everything about her and worked to please her. A sense of humor began to develop between all of us. Bobby and I had been oppressed by Daddy for so long, that we had to learn how to laugh. Mom made a big effort to make life fun and funny. Our fun was no longer play-acting to cover up the pain and abuse…it was genuine.
She never spoke of Daddy or the abuse that summer; it was as though we were all beginning a new chapter in our lives. Bobby and I were very close. We had lived through hell together, so we looked out for each other as only survivors do, and we barely ever fought. Summer went by too quickly though, and I resented the tight Mary Jane shoes and the new plaid skirts for school. I wanted to camp forever.


“And how was school that year, Bella? I imagine it was a great deal different from your other grade school classes…” he trailed off.


I slowly looked away from the wall and turned my gaze over to Carlisle…the useless Sire of it all. “Why? ‘Cause there was no Jim?” I asked.


He gave me a small nod and had a knowing look on his face that made me want to get up and smack him. “Precisely.”


I gritted my teeth and sighed through my sudden flare of anger and irritation. Just because I was away from Jim, didn‘t mean that my life didn‘t still suck. I had told him that before. “Fourth grade was good, I guess…I did fairly well that year…”


My self-confidence was growing because I was taking care of Mom and my brother. I felt needed, I guess. I was getting lavished with constant praise and encouragement from my Mom and her boyfriend, Mark. My grades were good. Joey and I were not ditching.
But Mark stopped coming around in the late Fall and Christmas was terrible that year. We had to go see Jim, and it was a traumatizing, tearful event for both Bobby and me, and ended in a terrible shouting match between our parents.
I was so upset at seeing Daddy that I ran out of the jail's monitored visiting room and vomited in the big building's hallway.
Sunshine wanted to find a basement or a closet and retreat into the dark womb of the forgotten and familiar.
Isabella wanted to take a butcher knife and plunge it into Daddy, just the sight of him filling her with rage.
I was miserable knowing how much I still wanted Daddy to love me and that he never would or could. He greeted Bobby with hugs and enthusiasm and was merely polite to me. I didn't want to even be near him and remember the feelings of pain and rejection.


“Bella…dear, are you alright? You haven’t said anything in nearly seven minutes,” Carlisle finally pointed out after I had stopped talking.


“I’m fine.”


And if I have to inform you of my ‘fine status’ one more time, I swear I’m gonna scream bloody murder, you useless fucking bloodsucker. Get your head outta your ass and grow a pair, Carlisle. How can you call yourself a Sire, but allow your coven to leave me behind…unprotected? I almost died while you were away. The only reason I’m alive is because of a drug-dealing werewolf. Drop the fa├žade Mr. Cullen; you don’t give a shit about me, and I hate you. I hate your coven. So just leave me alone.


These things I said silently in my mind, knowing that my alternates would be able to hear me and that they would understand my overwhelming need to vent because they are all I have left now.


They’ll never leave me.


Aloud, I went on and amused my mate’s Sire with this goddamned therapy session like a good little human.


I swear, Carlisle only feels useful when he’s helping weaker beings, or mending broken things. But, contrary to his pathetic coven’s beliefs, I am not broken, so he’s wasting his motherfucking time. He can’t fix me.


I don’t need to be fixed.


That’s right, Bell Marie piped up. You’re perfect. You’re such a pretty, sweet Bell. My Bell. So fucking pretty… her lilting voice trailed off in the back round of my mind then.


I focused on the mellowed murmur of voices in my head then, and let it dull the ache that had gathered there.


There’s always this back round noise in my head now, like I have the station in my truck tuned to talk radio, or something. I could let it play in the back round and let it go unnoticed, or I could choose to focus on certain topics of discussion.


Right now, the voices were blurred and faded, so I let my gaze slowly travel over to the bookshelves that my Joey-self had massacred not so long ago, and went on with my stories. “I remember when Bobby left me…”


Bubby-Bobby… Isabella’s loud whisper echoed inside my head then.


The bell had rung for school dismissal, but Bobby wasn't there waiting for me to walk home from school. I guessed that he had gotten a ride from a friend's parent, or that he went home sick earlier that day, but when I got home, I went to his room and he wasn’t there. He was just gone…and so were half of his things. No note. No good-bye.
Mom kept rambling on about child services and foster homes.
"What the fuck is a foster home?" I had asked.
I didn't understand what was going on, or where my brother went. I threw myself onto my bed, sobbing in anger and abandonment. Why didn't he take me with him? Where had Bobby gone?
It was in this moment of indescribable loss that my Joey personality resurfaced into domination. He had been around for a while, but this is the first time I really took notice of him. He was my age at the time, just eight years old, but he was big and strong and very angry.
He went into Bobby's room and smashed it all into a pile of rubble. The baseball trophies, the radio, the TV, his stacks of comic books and sports magazines…everything was demolished. With Bobby's big hunting knife, Joey slashed the sheets and gutted the mattress. He put on Bobby's clothes and boots, stomping through the house in his rage and terrifying my mother, who had watched it all.


"Joey and Isabella were the only personalities in me who were capable of violence. It was the rage from all the years of torture,” I explained.


“Mm-hmm…” came Carlisle‘s hummed reply.


“My Joey-self liked loud music, sports, and masculine things. I know now that he never grew past the age of ten, and that he stays locked in the angry emotions of abandonment."


Carlisle nodded and continued to write in his journal, so I rolled my eyes and continued on, as well.


I bet he’s just drawing in that thing. Why does he need to write any of this down anyway? He’s got vampire memory.


I pushed that thought aside and stated pointedly, "Him and Marie are very much alike in the sense that she surfaced when you all abandoned me."


At this, he finally looked up from his writings and focused on me.


My piercing gaze never wavered from his as I said, "They are both very hurt, insecure, and defensive people…basically, they are waiting to be left behind again."