The Volturi

Chapter 2 - Myth Busters

Dartmouth was everything that I had expected. Tons of homework, terrible weather, and every bit as isolated as I wanted it to be. I shared my dorm room with a nerd who loved World of Warcraft and kept to his computer every waking moment of his life, which allowed me the complete freedom that I wanted. My course load was filled with science classes, so in a premier school like Dartmouth, I really didn't have to worry about making friends. Whenever we had to do group assignments, it was mostly lab work and you could really work with whomever you wanted, never having to speak to them again after the work was done. It was especially easy for me to find a partner, for I could find the laziest person in the class and promise them an A if they stayed out of my life. People like my roommate were perfect for such relationships I enjoyed: the fake kinds.

What caught me off guard in the otherwise dullness of the heavyset gray clouds was the pulchritude of the mysterious couple with ashen, marble skin like the pristine snow on the mountaintops. People always praised the honey-sweet color of the eyes my brother and I shared, but the shining topaz of these two made our eyes look like mud. It was obvious that the entire school envied them, a paragon of perfection. Two modelesque beauties who walked together, hand-in-hand as though they never wanted to let each other go; their faces seemed like the most beautiful thing in the world, until you saw their love for each other, glowing flawlessly, making even the Star of India look like a dull stone.

But it wasn't their beauty that struck me most. It was some of their unique features like their satin skin that shared the milky-marble of Galatea herself, the florid eyes that fluctuated from the fullness of a golden topaz to the opaque ebony of a moonless night. The trilling voices that seemed melodically inhuman, the absolute panache in the way they walked, flightless, weightless, like swans fluttering on the surface of the water. Above all else, was the exuberant smell, that rupturing odor, a floral enigma; the trance that it sent everyone into, just wanting to get closer for more. That was a scent that no human skin could hold. Perhaps it was envy, but something in me told me these two were far from normal. I had to find out more about them.

"Binary Fission," the perfect male responded in his perfect voice, almost instantly after the professor had asked his question.

"Very good," the professor seemed astonished, but quickly composed himself before he continued on with the boring lecture about bacteria and their cycle of replication. The two never separated. The girl held the other's hand under the table, to not be disrespectful in the classroom by flaunting their love. They were the ideal of everything, even morality; it was cloying. The male was just as bored as I was, probably knowing all this material already, but the female seemed lost. Not that it would matter as he would probably teach everything to her in the ample time they spent together.

"Don't be crazy!" my brother would laugh at me when I told him about these two and my theories of their being something out of the ordinary. "There are a lot of beautiful people in the world." He would say, but I knew that he would agree with me if he saw them, or was at least close enough to me to read my facial expressions. My brother and I almost never disagreed, and he didn't want to start now. Thus, he kept his disparagement to a minimum. Sometimes he would join in and ask me how the "vampires" were doing on the rare occasion that it was sunny in Hanover. I would tell him I didn't know, for those were days that I never saw them. It was rumored that every sunny day and almost every weekend, these two would go on camping trips or mountain-climbing with their families. I didn't know how true these rumors were, but clearly I was skeptical. My brother stopped mocking me after I told him about this, and I wondered if he actually started to believe in superstitions as much as I had.

The next day was sunny, and as expected, the two didn't show up to biology class. I was bored, having nothing to do. Normally, I examined the two, trying to piece everything together. My love for mythology and folklore probably drove me to the extreme, making me crazy and delusional, but if true mystical creatures existed in the world, it would make me ecstatic. I remembered that the two barely moved, and occasionally shifted a leg or arm, and blinked every few seconds, but their movements were too perfunctory to be believable. It was as though they counted in their mind, and reminded themselves to blink every 20 seconds and do some artificial movement every 5 minutes. I wanted to find out more about them, or at least have the opportunity to communicate with them. As I made this decision, what my brother called my "special talent" kicked in.

"Mr. Perez," the professor's voice stirred me from my daydreaming. "Could you do me a favor and give these course packets to Mr. and Mrs. Cullen? It is very important for them to have it for their next lab, and I know you share the same lab class."

"Yes, sure, no problem," I couldn't believe it. It was times like this where I actually believed in my nut-head brother and this crazy book he tried to convince me to read. In many ancient shamanistic societies, twins were thought of as magickal creatures born with some innate abilities, always yin and yang, always balancing each other out. He thought his manipulative ways were actually a gift, and my knack for always getting what I want was more than just luck. Together, he would always joke when we were kids: we controlled the physical and mental world. He could mind-control all the bumbling idiots and set their heads straight while I could design an ideal future for us to share. We were quite the entity. I laugh now, but we had a lot of fun as kids "ruling" the world. Now, I could never imagine having the weight of the world in my hands. I hated people too much.

Given this opportunity, I wasn't going to wait until lab class where there would be another 30 students preventing me from speaking to the Cullens. I wanted a little privacy to try and poke at the corners of the jigsaw I was working on; the "Cullen Enigma" was what my brother and I coined it after some semi-serious conversations over the phone. I knew where they lived - everyone knew where they lived: right outside the campus in a small apartment building. Only the richest of the Dartmouth students could afford those rooms, so everyone knew all the students who lived there, whether it was from jealousy or because they all wanted to be friends with the rich guys.

I knocked on their door, knowing they probably would not be here since they were on another "sunny day hiking trip," but to my surprise, I heard a voice from inside. It wasn't the sing-song voice of the tenor male, nor the female's voice, but a different one, just as melodic, but more a soprano trill.

"Come in," the magickal voice said, almost as though expecting me.

"I'm sorry to bother," I mumbled as I opened the door. I gasped as I stumbled into the room, gawking at the eclectic pieces of furniture. A variety of colors embellished the room, yet in a flawless fashion that complemented each other. Mahogany wood of the colonial era encasing china that had to be from centuries before. The Persian rug on the floor with its verdant green and incarnadine flora matched perfectly with a dark painting of four men, three older and one young blonde, hanging on the pale-blue wall. This painting drew me into a trance.

I stared intently at the four men, towering like royalty, two sitting on ostentatious thrones to the right and left of a less beautiful man in the center. A blonde was off to a corner, his face turned with an expression that seemed as though he lifted right out of the painting. The aged man in the center stared dead at me, his avaricious eyes glowing a violent red, and I feared that he would come out of the picture and jump at me, pulling me into the throne room to do as he wished with my helpless body. He looked weak and powerless, yet something about his stature had a commanding order.

"Hi," a voice ripped me out of my thoughts. It had come from a perky girl with long, flowing hair. She could not have been more than 6 years old. She shared the same marble, perfect features of the other two, but she had some brightness in her cheeks, drastically different from Edward and Bella.

"Hi," I smiled. I was always comforted by the presence of children. Their innocence was something to admire, not yet jaded by the maladies of the world. Both Dave and I were forced to skip through our childhood, and my desire to reclaim the lost time and experience a life void of problems made me great with kids.

"This is a beautiful place," I said, still awed by the expected magnificence of their home.

"Thank you," the female from my class walked into the room, for once not glued onto the male. Even in a simple blouse and jeans, she exuded a presence of glory and panache, erupting in the beauty of which made me feel duller than I ever could.

"Dr. Phillips wanted me to hand these course packets to you guys," I added slowly, now feeling self-conscious in my Old Navy jeans and a shirt that I probably got at some Wal-Mart. Could she tell that the total price of my outfit probably cost less than a single sock that she wore? The thought made me more nervous, and I shuffled uneasily on my feet. I was surrounded by too much aesthetic beauty that I started to feel like a giant ogre, spilling the mud of my ugliness into the unstained, palatial castle. I walked awkwardly towards the perfect girl to hand her the papers, and halted in fear when she gagged and started coughing wildly.

"Bella!" her male counterpart was quickly at her side, holding her tightly and resting her head into his chest. Had he been there the whole time? No, I couldn't have missed that, but if he wasn't there, how could he get to her so fast? Perhaps I was so anxious that I had not noticed that he was standing by her the entire time, but if that were true, why had he not voiced a hello? I assumed he was there the entire time and disliked my vapid presence in his glorious home.

"Are you alright?" he asked her softly, placing his hands on her cheek.

"Yes, Edward" she mumbled, along with other words I could barely hear. All I could catch was "smell" and some other nonsense, and I wondered if I reeked of some odor that made her cough up. While I was very concerned with my hygiene, compared to the sweet aroma that came from these two, it was expected that I smelled like a wet dog. I wished that I had stolen some of David's more extravagant clothes and some cologne, but it was too late for that now. I stood miserably in the middle of flawless extravagance.

"Thank you for bringing those for us," Edward said, an affected smile on his face. I never made a great first impression, but even to a hermit like myself, I thought Edward's attitude was a bit harsh.

"You're welcome..." I mumbled nervously, placing the documents on the coffee table. Bella took a noticeable step backwards, corroborating my fear that a noisome cloud enveloped me. Regardless of the fact that I felt unwelcome, I wanted to ask them as many questions as I could without sounding like some psycho, but I couldn't think of any way to phrase them without sounding like I was implying they were anything more than humans. I shuddered as Edward glowered at me when this thought came to mind.

"I think you should leave," he said too sharply. Wordlessly, I seemed to have offended him yet again.

"Edward! Don't be rude," Bella defended me. "He did us a favor, he came all the way out here for us."

"I'm sorry," he said to me, the perfunctory smile returning to his face. I could have sworn he quickly muttered something to the girl, but they moved so fast I couldn't tell if it was just my tired eyes. Perhaps it was the mixture of my torpor, psychotic desire for magick to exist in the world, and my extreme discomfort that caused me to imagine things like Edward appearing out of nowhere.

"Thank you," Bella said to me, covering her nose and mouth with her hands, trying to be subtle, but blatantly obvious even to my listless eyes. I guess I really did offend her senses. As kind and humble as the two royals were, a dirty peasant like myself was not their first choice in company.

"Unless there is something else we missed, we bid you farewell, Bradley," Edward said kindly, though I could sense a tone of irritation in his otherwise mellifluous voice.

"Y-yeah...see you in class," I mumbled hesitantly and walked out of the room too quickly to hide my fear. As I headed back to my room, I wondered why he had called me Bradley. Everyone I knew called me Brad. I hated my full name, and all my professors had a tendency to call me Perez, since I had a typical Hispanic last name that they could effortlessly remember. I guess it wasn't much of a stretch to figure out that Brad was short for Bradley, and whether he figured this out or not, it was a common mistake that anyone could make. My mind was being too creative, and I had to stop before I went overboard. But I couldn't understand what had caused Edward's sudden shift in personality during our little meeting. I wanted to believe that this too was my thoughts going beyond acceptable limits, and my next class certainly didn't help me hone in on reality.

"So can anyone tell me anything they know about Vampires?" Ms. Bernardo, my Myth and Folklore teacher asked us today. When I was first registering for classes, I figured this class would be very interesting and fun, as I loved mythology, magick, and anything out of the ordinary. But as I slowly crept closer to being tossed into a psychiatric ward, this class did no service. I was starting to get annoyed, as I actually wanted to try and forget about the whole inhuman craziness that was muddling my mind, and this discussion threw me over the edge. Great.

"They drink blood!" one student said.

"They melt in the sun!" another girl shouted out, and I scowled. That was one of the stupid things humanity believed in that most ancient folklore never mention.

"Actually, Vampires can do very well in the sun," our professor went on. "They just prey at night to keep incognito. Some folklore actually call the vampires "Diamond-Skinned" because their skin is thought to reflect sunlight in a sublime way. Other folklore include eyes that change colors, and many aspects that make them very attractive to humans to draw in their prey." The woman smiled. "They have floral scents, like the sweet honey that draws insects to the beautiful petals that cascade radiance, along with the heavenly siren's voice that lulls you ever closer to the transient bliss of inexorable death," she hissed the last part, causing some students to jump up in their seats.

Of course everything the professor was saying matched the description of the Cullens: their eyes, alluring voice and looks, the avoiding of the sun. But maybe all this was a coincidence and I truly was losing my mind. But then she said something that even I never knew about vampires, though I spent considerable time in my room researching them; another crazy thing I did since meeting the Cullens.

"Some folklore even states that vampires can acquire certain...abilities for a lack of better word," she went on. "Some ancient Latin and Mayan scriptures talk about things like mind-control, shock, and even mind-reading."

Mind-reading...I thought back to the little episode I had with Edward and Bella. They were both so kind, until I thought about whether they were really humans or not. If Edward were a mind-reader, he surely would have reacted negatively towards my thoughts if he wanted to remain incognito as vampires tried to be. In addition, he would easily figure out my name was Bradley, he would certainly know that I was studying him and his lover almost incessantly, and thus would be both hostile and unfriendly during our encounters. Could I really be piecing together these things so intelligently, or once again was I being sucked into my delusional thought? And why had Bella not acted hostile to me? Was it only Edward who could read thoughts? It wouldn't be surprising with his vast knowledge on every subject and his ability to answer questions almost instantaneously. I decided to call my brother for another reality check.

"What?" my brother chuckled loudly when I got back to my dorm. I had to pull the phone away from my ears due to the intensity of his laugh.

"That bad, huh?" I mumbled, slightly embarrassed at how delusional I had become.

"Think about it, Brad," David tried to muffle his laughs to speak coherently. "Mind-reading vampires? Really? I always knew you were crazy, but now you're just losing it!"

"Yeah...I guess so..." I mumbled. I knew how deranged I sounded, but something was telling me that I was right. I wasn't one to betray my gut instincts either, so no matter how much I thought I deserved to be put into a straightjacket and thrown into solitary confinement, I had to keep digging.

"I'm not getting through to you at all, am I?" my brother chuckled.

"I thought mind-reading was a joke?" I challenged.

"Not for us," if I were with him, he would have winked at me. It was true, we did have a special twin bond. If something that sounds as ridiculous as "twinship bonds" could be true, the Cullens being vampires couldn't be as incredulous as it seemed. I could remember numerous times when I tried to lie to my brother, and before the words could come out of my mouth, he would catch me in the act. Of course, it didn't help that I was a terrible liar, but even my deceptive brother, full of guile and mischief couldn't keep secrets from me. He could fool even the keenest friends he had, but I could see through him clearly. If authors could write stories about twins sharing mystical bonds and powers and actually be taken seriously, I could believe that a pair of flawless beings could be vampires, and not be ridiculed.

Another boring day in biology. Why? Because once again it was sunny. I was losing my abilities to get what I wanted because surely I wanted to see the Cullens as much as possible. They had shown up to lab the other day and finished the procedure with mercurial speed and left instantly, leaving me with no chance to speak to them. Were they trying to avoid me or were they trying to get a head start on their "camping" trip which I was beginning to think was also fake.

"Mr. Perez?" I heard my professor call my name, but I heard nothing else before this. I looked at him blankly wondering if he had asked me a question or just said my name. I felt my face flush slightly and I knew that I was definitely blushing as others in the class began to chuckle.

"Please pay attention, this is very important," he smirked. I thought this was college and not high school; I couldn't believe that professors actually cared when students weren't paying attention. While Dr. Phillips was pretty different from most professors, it still annoyed me that he chose me as his guinea pig.

"As I was saying," he continued. "The citric acid cycle is very important in organisms that undergo respiration..." again his voice started to trail off as I thought of the possibilities of the Cullens. If they were vampires, didn't they have to feed? Did they feed on students here or did they go out to hunt? Maybe they never went on camping trips and went to hunt humans, but if nobody knew about them and no murders that I know of have been reported recently, then they must have a really smart hunting track. Maybe killing singles and homeless guys, but that would require a lot of research and/or luck. I wondered...

"Mr. Perez," he did it again and my irritation was growing to infinite limits.

"I don't know, ribulose bisphosphate?" I muttered sarcastically. That was a classic favorite in the citric acid cycle. I wondered if he was still on the same topic or if he had moved on, making my response as idiotic as my blank stares from before. I couldn't keep track of time when I went off on trips to my manic mind.

"Yes! Thank you!" Dr. Phillips was ecstatic as he continued rambling on about the many transformations the carbon chain goes through. I could feel some of my classmates glowering at me, but I didn't really care. I decided I would make another visit to the Cullens today.

"Yay! Bradley is here!" I heard that trilling soprano voice again after the door slammed open and the little six year old - who has grown considerably - hugged one of my legs. It sounded as if she knew I was coming, but how would she know?

"Hi there," I smiled. "How do you know my name?"

"You came here before!" she said nonchalantly as though I should have known. I picked her up and realized that she too had a sweet aroma like the Cullens. Her skin was extremely warm, and her heart was racing away. If I didn't know any better, she must have been quite ill. It also occurred to me that she was warm and had a heartbeat while vampires were normally cold and heartless. Was I wrong? I had never heard anything about vampire children either, so maybe they raised human children and converted them when they were old? Or did they find random orphan children to harbor in their homes, and feed on them during desperate times? That seemed monstrous, but vampires weren't known to be the kindest creatures and that would be a flawless way to feed inconspicuously. What I did know was that this child was too warm, her heart beating much too fast, and she shared the same inhumane features as the Cullens. She also grew at a phenomenal pace. I concluded that she could not be human.

"You feel a little warm, are you ill?" I asked.

"No! I'm fine!" she chirped excitedly.

"That's good," I smiled brightly. "What's your name?"

"I'm Nessie!"

"Wow, what a beautiful name," I said as I lifted her up into the air, causing her to giggle in glee. "I want to ask you something secret," I whispered to her.

"I know!" she smiled happily and slowly extended her little hand out to my cheek. As her warm hand grazed my right cheek, a sudden image flashed through my mind. She was running around happily in the snow with an olive-skinned man. His hard features and dark eyes showed signs of a difficult life, but the radiant joy that flowed out of that perfect smile proved that even those who face the toughest loss, can once again find happiness. Like I had done, he picked up Nessie and tossed her into the air, causing her to squeal in glee as she called out his name: Jacob. For a second I thought she would call out my name.

"Nessie!" Edward suddenly appeared, grabbing the child out of my arms. Again, I was bewildered by his insane agility. "I'm sorry about that." He smiled his usual smile at me. I was a bit shaken and muddled at what had just happened. Was I daydreaming or was I able to see Nessie's mind? If the latter were true, did she share her thoughts with me or was I somehow able to questionably see through her mind and peer at her thoughts? I had just learned about mind-reading, but that was not something I never thought I would be able to do.

"Sorry about what? She's just adorable," I grinned at Nessie, trying to ignore what had just occurred. The young girl squealed in joy and it seemed she really liked attention. I heard Edward whisper something that I could barely hear and put her down on the ground. The little Nessie slumped silently to the couch and sat there quietly as if scolded.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to get her in trouble," I frowned.

"Don't worry, no trouble," he looked at her quickly before turning his attention back to me. "How can I help you today?" His intense gaze made me nervous, particularly because his eyes were deep ebony today, with just a hint of gold. I already knew he disliked me, and his insipid eyes made the twisting feeling in my stomach crunch tighter and I struggled to keep the contents of my lunch from soiling their rug that I could not afford to replace.

"I just wanted to drop off some notes that you might need," I lied. Even if he weren't a mind reader, he'd know that I was lying. I wished that I were more like my brother, conniving, not in a bad way, but in a way that he could get any person to believe him.

"Thanks, but that wasn't necessary," he chuckled lightly, easing my tension. I thought of some questions I would have asked him if I wasn't pusillanimous, but I figured if he could read minds he'd already know I wondered if he was a vampire. Again, his expression changed. Either he was bipolar or he really did read minds and reacted violently to my thoughts.

"Was there anything else?" he asked, suddenly impatient.

"I wanted to ask you something," I mumbled, nervously.

"Yes?" he challenged with his eyes, as though he knew I would not dare ask the questions I wanted. Again I battled with my insanity. Was he truly acting antagonistic towards my thoughts, or was this his personality and I was just begging to be put into an asylum? I wished David were with me for he would be a great objective viewer that could give me a sane opinion. He would also help keep me calm. Was I really losing my mind, or was I more intelligent than I gave myself credit for?

I don't care if you're a vampire, I wanted to say. I just want to know I'm not crazy. He looked at me quizzically as though pondering if he should reply. Again, was I being nonsensical? Was this really his reaction, or was my mind brewing up everything that I could ever want and presenting me with this imaginary projection?

"Your question?" was all he said. I had to think of an actual question to ask before I just passed out on the floor. I felt my knees begin to tremble and I couldn't think of anything except vampire vampire VAMPIRE. I stood in the middle of the perfect room facing someone who if my delusional mind were right, would be able to shred me into pieces within seconds, and if I was wrong, could quickly have me arrested and thrown into a psychiatric ward with the flick of a cell phone. Nauseated, I determined I was going crazy.

"Is Bradley okay?" Nessie asked innocently and Edward shot her a quick glance.

"I-I'm fine," I sighed; her voice eased my anxiety slightly. I shook my head lightly and pressed my right hand deep into my upper gut. "Just a little ill, I'm sorry to have bothered you," I muttered quickly. Suddenly, I didn't care about my question anymore and just wanted to get out of this room, his dark glare frightening to me. Was I an idiot? His livid eyes convinced me that I could possibly be his next meal. Edward broke out into laughter.

"It's no bother at all," he chuckled, trying to hold back his sudden outburst.

"See you in class," I told Edward and waved to Nessie before sneaking out of the room.

"Bye Bradley!" I heard the sweet chime of the girl's voice, then what I thought was Edward hushing her. I sighed deeply, leaning against their door and closed my eyes. Vampires...I must be losing my mind. I took a few more deep breaths, trying to relax my racing heart and waited for the queasiness to pass. There was a reason for my insanity...

"Brad DON'T!" my brother grabbed my arm and held it tightly, trying to prevent me from running into the building.

"But mommy!" I shouted out, tears filling my eyes.

"It's too late," he tightened his grip on me and pulled me away from the flaming building.

"I need to save her! I have to save mommy!" I screamed out. "I saw it! I saw the girl trying to hurt her! If I find her, I'm going to beat her up!"

"Brad, STOP," my brother said firmly. I didn't have a choice as the police grabbed us both and pulled us away.

I was only five, and I didn't know what was happening. When I spoke to the police, criminal investigators, psychiatrists, social workers, they all gave me the same story: it was an accident and I needed to calm down. They wanted to lock me up in an asylum, but my therapist said that was immoral, I was only a child with a creative mind. I was going through trauma and I would definitely get better. I wondered if my brother were treated the same way, or if he lied about what we saw; he was smarter than I was as a child. His mind developed much quicker than mine.

The vision flashed before me again, the blonde female who had jumped out of the thirteenth floor of the building my mother worked in. It was mother-daughter day and she brought my sister to her job, and I was jealous. My loving brother reluctantly helped me find my way to her office, but we both fell to the ground in tears to see smoke and flames covering it. We frantically ran in, but were only kids and could not get far. I hopped up the hot stairs as quickly as I could, my brother chasing after me, shouting my name. I ignored him and froze in a doorway as I stared at the lifeless body of my mother on the ground. A beautiful woman with perfect teeth and crimson red lips held her tightly. Upon seeing me, she quickly slipped out the window. I wanted to run to my mother, but my brother stopped me and the police pulled us out almost immediately. We screamed for our mother but they wouldn't listen. They didn't make an effort to push through the burning flames to salvage what they knew to be carcasses. Their mission was simple: rescue only those they knew were alive before the building came crashing down seconds later. My brother and I were the only two evacuated.

I knew he saw it too, that figure that hopped out too gracefully from the building. Who was she? And why had she furtively escaped from the almost completely hidden window? I told the police that she was a demon; she set the building to flames and killed my mother before fleeing out the window to report to the devil that she had succeeded in ridding one of god's angels. Of course they thought I was crazy, and I believed them. It was all my imagination. But now, as I think back to that time, her flawless features, the pearly white skin, red, blood-colored lips, was I right to believe that I was a child in trauma? Did things such as vampires actually exist? Was it a vampire that had killed my mother and sister?

"Oh!" I heard a voice that startled me and I stared speechlessly at a female, slightly shorter than Bella with a squat, pixie cut and marble skin just like the other two. Her eyes were a golden topaz, identical to Bella and Edward's - at certain times. She frowned at me as though I was doing something wrong, and I just stood frozen, staring at her. The silence seemed to last hours for me, though it was probably only a few seconds.

"May I get through?" she finally said, a remnant of a smile on her face.

"Oh! Sorry!" I shouted too loudly and jetted out of the way. I could hear Nessie and Edward sharing a few laughs inside, and I wondered if they were laughing at me.

"Thanks," the girl winked and went inside.

"Auntie Alice!" the little girl's voice trilled. Aunt? Was Nessie Edward and Bella's daughter? They seemed way too young to have a kid that size, but nothing was making sense to me anymore. Maybe the kid belonged to someone else and they were just taking care of her. It was nice to see that some children found good people that would care for them. My brother and I were not as lucky.

"Where's the damn remote!?" of course he was drunk again. My brother and I hid in the small corner of our closet as our caretaker went off on another drunken outrage. It was a miracle that we were still living here, the man miserably in his forties with no job and drinking his wife's money away. She desperately wanted children, and upon seeing our faces, she instantly fell in love with us both. While she feared leaving us alone with him, she knew that she had to work triple shifts to keep food in our mouths, and we respected her and loved her fondly for it.

"Only a few more years and I can free you," my brother would tell me during these outbursts. We had a little flashlight and a stack of old magazines in our secret hiding spot. We would flip through these books and promise each other things that we wanted. Our own apartment, warm food on the table every night, and nobody that would beat us mercifully if he found our little spot.

"Where did you hide my remote, you little rascals!" his voice boomed and we quickly shut off the tiny flashlight and threw old bed sheets above our heads. We hardly breathed as we heard his footsteps coming closer to the closet. We swore to each other that we would never leave the other alone. We would always be safe as long as we stuck together.

"There you are, you little brats!" the demon boomed in drunken laughter as he tore the sheets off from us. I reached out for my brother's hand, but he was not there. He quickly ducked under the menacing ogre and ran off as I screamed out his name. Our so-called guardian grabbed me by the neck, silencing the agonizing sounds that must still torment my brother daily.

The next time I saw him, he was in an incorrigible depression, staring at me with a horrified expression. I would lie and tell him that my blackened eye did not hurt, though I could see nothing from it. I would tell him that he did the right thing and that I knew he would equally take a beating to protect me. I had no anger, no resentment. There was no room for negativity towards my brother, but he would never forgive himself for what he had done.

I decided I would force myself that all my theories and radical thoughts were from the repressed memories of my painful childhood. Yes, this is what I would believe. The Cullen family is a normal family and there's nothing else to it. I refused to let my crazy thoughts torment me and ruin another happy family. I somewhat committed to this before walking out of the extravagant apartment building.


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