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Twilight: The Dawn After Dusk

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I was only a child when my life changed forever. My single mother had moved from Phoenix, Arizona to Volterra, Italy when I was a child. She was going through an Italian phase and had enough money from the three years spent switching from interest to interest built up to move for a new life. I faintly remember the few months leading up to that day, her fickle interests never remaining on one thing. Luckily, Renee Higginbotham—my mother, though I barely remember her—had made a friend quickly who started to teach us Italian while helping my mother secure an income. I remember how excited she was when she got the job she managed to hold for about a year.

When I was six, two years later, my life changed yet again as I walked back from school. My mother insisted on picking me up and walking back with me. The school wasn't far from our home. Suddenly, a streak—no, a flash—shoved my mother away from me with a kind of celerity and strength that couldn't be humanly possible. I heard her cry of pain and looked over. A brown-haired male, glistening like diamonds where the sunlight hit his skin seemed to be kissing my mother's neck. No, he was biting her, I realised quickly.

I watched in shock as my mother's cries started to grow quietly and less frequent. She was lifeless seconds later and the man turned on me, eyes menacing. I tried to back up, but he was too fast. Suddenly, his weight was thrown from me and a dark-haired male stood over me. His skin was olive-toned with a sickly pallor. He was incredibly tall. It terrified me. I was but a small child then.

However, he was handsome, incredibly.

And his eyes were blood-red, as was the man who murdered my mother. I looked at the other man, the one who had killed her. He was screaming, a petite girl with short, light-brown hair was standing over him. "The Volturi do not allow hunting in Volterra, nor are our species meant to expose ourselves by stepping out in direct sunlight or hunting where large crowds could see." Her eyes glance at me. "And a mother and child going missing? We are more discreet than that. You are only lucky that the girl and her mother were the only people on this street. All the others are inside their homes and did not come out. It's not likely in that case that they noticed anything was wrong."

The tall, bulky man turned to me. I whimpered. He moved towards me with a sigh, a resigned look in his eyes, as if he wasn't too fond of whatever he was about to do.

"Felix, stop." A quiet male voice that charmed like a bell said. I tuned. The person who had spoken looked similar to the girl, though his hair was darker. I wondered if they were related.

"Alec, what do you expect us to do?" He asked. "I don't really want to a kill a Volterra citizen any more than you do, especially not one this fragile." He smiled at me, almost sadly. My eyes filled up with fear as I looked at them. The boy and girl didn't seem too terrifying, but the girl seemed to be able to torture with her… mind? I was afraid that she could do that to me. "However, given the circumstances…."

"I wasn't going to tell you to spare the human, though I and likely Aro would prefer you didn't break any laws while doing so." He corrected, eyes filled with an amused mirth though his tone felt like a warning. "However, given the child's age—" The boy scanned me. He couldn't have been older than fifteen. "My particular talent would be more useful in the situation." He looked over at me. I didn't realise until later that he was pitying me.

"We should move this conversation elsewhere." The girl said, her eyes darting over to one of the houses. "Quickly." Suddenly, the teenage boy was cradling me in his arms bridal style and we were in a dark alleyway.

He placed me on the ground. Dizzily, I fainted. When I came to, I was in a different area. I was being held by the boy again. "I'm telling you Master," he insisted. "It didn't work on her. My power moved around her, but it never pierced her. I'm certain that had she been awake she'd still have felt everything. Jane tried too. Nothing." I was a bit out of it, but I deduced that "Jane" was the girl.

I remembered the man who had bitten and seemingly drained my mother of her blood. I knew that supposedly, Saint Marcus had driven all vampires out of Volterra. I learned the story from my mother's friend during Saint Marcus Day as well as at school. But…

The other kids at school thought I was weird. I had barely any accent. I figured I picked up a small one from my nearly two years of living there, but it was still obvious I was from America. The adults weren't fond of my mother due to her Americanism. I was okay, maybe because I was cute or maybe because they thought I may grow up more Italian.

I scanned the people in the room, suddenly terrified. They'd wanted to kill me, didn't they? There were three men sitting on thrones, their skin a bit crinkled, but coloured like chalk. I bit my lip, though didn't draw blood.

"Alec decided that the child may be interesting to you." The girl—Jane, I assumed—said, her soprano voice like acid as if she was holding back anger.

The man in the middle reached his arm out. The boy—who I guessed to be Alec—placed his hand inside the man's. The man's eyebrows furrowed and then he looked at me in an apparent mix of curiosity and confusion, milky red eyes squinted. "I wonder…." He stepped forward. I flinched. "Don't worry, young one. I don't bite, usually." He spoke, eyes filled with glee. "Take my hand." I reached out. He gasped. "Marvellous. There's nothing. I see nothing."

The group of people gasped, most of them anyway. Apparently, this was surprising. Felix looked intrigued. Alec looked both worried and thoughtful. Jane glared at the child. The man bent down. "What is your name, young child."

"Isabella." I said. "But I like Bella better, though no one here calls me it." I said with a frown, looking away. I didn't understand why only my mother would call me Bella. I sort of understood that it met beautiful and the Italians for some reason didn't want to use it as my name, but it was the name I faintly remember my mother and my grandmother introducing me as.

"I'm Aro." He told me, then turned to the boy. "Alec, I'm sure you know that I do not take transgressions lightly." The boy nodded. "This child is thus yours to guard." Alec looked at him stunned. Aro held up a finger. "Don't. She's your mistake and from what I can see, yours alone. I'm allowing her to live because she's intriguing. Plus, our own connections know of us. Some will change, some become food. We'll let her stay and if she pleases us, we'll turn her on her eighteenth birthday."

"Yes, Master." Alec reached for me. I quivered my lip, unsure. My eyes, I'm sure, were filled with terror. I grabbed the hand that had been extended for me. Alec helped me up with restrained gentleness.

My mother's body was "found" by Heidi and she pretended to be a social worker. My papers were forged, stating that I had been adopted by an Alessandrino Volturi, probably so Aro could remind Alec—Alessandrino is one of the Italian variants of Alexander— that I was his responsibility. Alec was like my dad anyway, even though he wasn't much older than me physically, he was the one took care of me, usually. It annoyed him at first; he went on less missions and was therefore more bored. However, I know he cared for me even though I forced him to remain as cooped up as Corin or the king's wives and their bodyguards. He was still able to go out if his gift was needed.

When I slept, I felt his hand's brushing my hair as I drifted off, when I did well in my home-schooling lessons taught by Athenodora, who despite her content nature due to Corin was quite bored. She had vast knowledge as well. I figured she had little to do in her tower other than read. I didn't do much other than listen to music or read in my own quarters.

The Volturi literally owned the city so it was easy for my citizenship, residence, and schooling to be manipulated. I learned much in the eleven years I spent here about vampire history, the immortal children, the vampire wars in the Southern States, the Romanians. I knew of every major conflict that had occurred since Aro's transformation, frankly.

I learned several languages, read many thousands of books on the varying subjects I was taught—math, the classics, the history of every nation. I had no need to learn anything else such as science, apparently, other than the basics. I could play several instruments. Alec taught me how to play piano and Felix taught me to play guitar. Once Jane slowly warmed up to me she showed me how to play the flute on her visits with her brother. I also learned how to play the violin, the cello, the viola, and an organ that Sulpicia used every so often.

To be fair, I wasn't originally cooped up in the tower for the first few years. When I was nine Aro decreed that I wasn't allowed to leave after an unfortunate accident with a vampire on the Guard after I accidently tripped and scrapped my knee. I have a bitemark on my arm. It burned with the pain of a thousand suns, but Aro just blinked. "Well, that's a shame. I wonder… Alec, wrap your mouth around the wound and suck. Don't bite. I want to see if it's reversible. Pull back the moment her blood tastes clean. If not, drain her. She knows too much and is much too young to control herself." Alec had done so, holding my arm cautiously as if he was afraid he'd break me.

Since then, no accidents had happened because I remain in the tower, though I was made the receptionist at fourteen. I still had to sleep in the tower at night with Alec or Athenodora or Sulpicia or one other wives' bodyguards watching me, but that was fine. I understood.

When I was seventeen, a year from when I was to be changed by Alec or Jane or Aro or somebody, I remembered my father, Charlie Swan. I hadn't seen him since I was a child. I know I spent my summers with him before my mother died, but I hadn't seen him since because of the Volturi. Maybe…

I went to Aro and knelt at his throne. He looked at me curiously. "Master." I said. Technically, I wasn't in the Guard, but he was still my master and would be once I was. "I was wondering if I may spend the next year with my biological father before my transformation. I am sure he has been rather worried that my mother has not let me visit in eleven years. None of her attachments in America had been notified, either, as far as I know. Perhaps spending some time with him and faking my death may be needed in case." My brown eyes flitted from Aro to Caius to Marcus quickly. I'd learned in my eleven years here how to observe people. Always keep them in your sight, but never look directly long lest they get suspicious. Take in everything at once and ignore nothing. There are no such things as coincidences.

Aro looked thoughtful. Caius narrowed his eyes at me, as if trying to find the lie in my statement. "Very well, but only if Alec keeps you in his view." I nodded. "He'll visit you every so often, posing as your foster brother. You won't be there long enough for his agelessness to become noticeable. Though, you will return here during the summer. Meanwhile, we will hire a different secretary in your absence."

"Thank you, Master." I replied.

I thought Alec may be angry that I accidently-on-purpose roped into guarding me more, however he was gleeful. I realised that it opened up time for him to go on missions as well as got him out of the castle.

Even so, when I met my father alone, it was awkward. I barely remembered what he looked like or anything about him. I only knew that he lived in Forks, the rainiest city in the United States. Aro was a bit worried about that, as was Alec. I understood why, in a way. Cold and wet attracted vampires like moths to a flame.

I finally found a sign with the name "Isabella Swan" on it. I approached the officer—my father, I guessed—standing near it. "I'm Isabella Volturi." I told him, not missing the pain in his eyes when I used my supposedly adoptive surname and that my accent was full-blown Italian. It had to be for the cover I was using. "I mean Swan. I tend to prefer Bella. You're Charlie Swan, my father?" I think he understood that I wouldn't call him the word Dad, though I never called Aro or Alec or Felix or Demetri or any other guard that word either. Not even Alec. It was too awkward as he looked twelve, especially once I out-grew him. I was a few inches taller than him now.

He'd gotten me a car from someone named Billy Black, who sounded vaguely familiar. I bit my lip. "I'm not legal to drive in Italy, The minimum driving age is eighteen over there. I'm not sure how to drive." I wasn't lying either. The age limit was eighteen in the boot-shaped country, a fact which I was relieved about because the Chevy truck he got for me looked like a piece of crap and I didn't want to hurt his feelings.

Charlie looked surprised. "Oh. Well, you live here now. And I'm sure your still an American citizen legally so you should be able to drive in no time." He smiled reassuringly.

"Thank you." I smiled. I meant the gratitude as well. I couldn't wait to learn to drive. It was an important skill for ordinary mortals.

"In that case, I guess I should get used to driving you myself." He scowled and then looked at me seriously. "Many of the parents in this town let their children drive unsupervised and I will not hear of you going anywhere with those people, you hear?"

I nodded. "I promise." He reached over and ruffled my hair. I wondered for a second what it would be like if my life had been different, if he'd raised me. I suddenly felt a bit saddened that I would have to fake my death after graduation somehow. He'd just gotten to see me for the first time since I was five.

Charlie dropped me off early the next morning at the school so he could get to work on time. I approached the front desk. "I believe I'm enrolled under Isabella Swan. You may just call me Bella."

"Enrolled under?" The secretary asked.

"Swan is not my legal surname." I stated. "I do not believe my father knew of that when he enrolled me."

I think something in my gaze told her it was safer not to ask. I realised too late that teenagers were not supposed to be as stiff and formal as I was. In most of the fictional books I read they were livelier, immature, and tended to act generally different than how I had been raised.

That was fine, though. I was used to being different. Besides, this was a small town. People in these areas probably didn't get out much. Maybe they'd just think my odd behaviour is an Italy thing. Still, I'd have to be careful not to stand out too much.

That plan fell to pieces, though, after my first class. "You're Isabella Swan, right?" I turned to the boy who had shown up on my other side.

"Please, call me Bella." I thought about correcting him on my surname as well, but I figured it didn't matter. I had an odd feeling that I would be correcting too many people—Charlie must have known me as Isabella, I realised—on the name and it was easier to give a nickname. I wasn't much of a talker, having grown up with formal vampires such as the Volturi.

He blinked. "You're… Italian?"

"Yes." I explained. "I grew up in Tuscany. In the city of Volterra. I was homeschooled since I was six, though. This is the first time I've attended public education in eleven years."

"That must be hard for you." The boy—who introduced himself as Eric—said, eyes filled with what I assumed was sympathy. "Anyway, what's your next class." He smiled brightly.

Apparently, he wished to be helpful. I looked down at the schedule in my hands. My last class, with a man named Mr. Mason was one that seemed okay, on the regards that I figured I'd excel. I'd read every book on the list in both English and Italian. "Uh, government, with Jefferson. In building six." I said, trying to figure out how such a small town had such a large high school. None of the books I'd read had indicated that such a thing was plausible.

"I'm headed toward building four. I could show you the way." He offered. My eyes flitted across his face as if trying to deduce what his interest in helping me was. I didn't understand, completely confounded. Maybe he was just being polite.

As we walked, he asked me what Italy was like and how different it was from Forks. I answered in guarded, clipped comments based on my own observations from the little involvement I'd spent outdoors. I didn't spend much time away from the castle, anyway. I wasn't allowed outside at all during the years I spent with the wives.

Throughout the day, it continued like that. Someone would address me as Isabella Swan and I would correct them. Said person would then show me to my next class. I assumed that the school didn't often get new students. Other than the receptionist, I never bothered even correcting on the surname. Clearly, I attracted too much attention without the weird fact that I was adopted by a mysterious Italian man.

It was at lunch time when I spotted the five chalky-white, stony, figures that I was relieved that I hadn't given my surname. Their eyes, dark and shaded with the purple outlines that I knew met thirst, gave them away. Well, more than the skin and the familiar postures did.

I narrowed my eyes in their direction. One of the boys, bronze-haired and leaner than the other two males, glanced at me in both curiosity and frustration. I turned to the human who had told me her name was Jessica. "Who are they?" I squinted my eyes at them again, as if wondering if I may recognise them from the Vampire History that I'd been taught over the years.

I wished that it was written down, in case I forgot anything. However, I'd learned that to even write down any of the sacred laws or anything pertaining to vampirism was against the law. It could fall into the wrong hands. Personally, I thought that Aro and Caius were paranoid, but I was only human. Though, in my eleven years I had noticed that the coven was more interested in keeping power than maintaining the laws, though I did not blame them. From what I heard of the Romanians, their uncontrollable, chaotic reign sounded far worse.

One of the girls—short, with spiky black hair—stood up, threw away her uneaten food, and headed out the door with such a speed that I was surprised when none of the oblivious humans around me didn't notice.

I got the feeling that Jessica didn't even have to look up to answer my question, however she did anyway, probably just for a reason to look at one of the boys, I assumed. The bronze-haired one glanced up at us quickly—I knew he could hear us and I wondered if he was curious about what the new girl thought—and then his eyes flitted away, similar to how I was taught to look at others.

But I caught the underlying interest and my suspicions rose. I wondered if he had a power like Jane's or Chelsea's or Corin's that didn't work on me. Sometimes I wished that Corin's would work on me. I got so bored in that damn tower at times. But I knew that if it wasn't for my special abilities Alec would have killed me. I much preferred being his ward. My hands made a grab for my Volturi crest that I wore around my neck on a chain, the same as all of the Guard did. I'd hidden the crest under my shirt, thankfully. None of these vampires could see it. Hopefully, none of them would.

"That's Edward and Emmett Cullen, and Jasper and Rosalie Hale." She said to me. Her eyes glanced to the doors that Alice had fled from. "The one who left was Alice Cullen. They all live together with Dr. Cullen and his wife."

I blinked. Cullen. That surname was familiar. I squinted at them and then turned to Jessica to gauge the suspicions that I had on their identities. None of the names of the immortal teenagers were familiar to me, but there was a Cullen whose name I would recognise. "As in Carlisle Cullen?" I guessed he'd gotten busy since he'd lived with the Volturi. A mate, apparently. 5 coven members. That seemed a little strange to me, though. A coven of seven. The Volturi were about thirty in all and without people like Felix, Marcus, Chelsea, Corin, Heidi, Alec and of course Aro they'd probably fall apart.

"Yes, he's a doctor here. One of our best. And hottest. All the women fawn over him." She then went on to gossip about the Cullens who in were in relationships with their foster siblings. I didn't really care, though. Even if they were related or that the story she was telling me wasn't fabricated by the coven to protect themselves, I didn't see how it was her business.

She looked at me incredulously when I showed no reaction. I stared at her blankly and then my eyes flitted to the Cullens. I watched the Cullens talking at vampire speed, pretending to pay close attention to Jessica's rambles. The one with the bronze hair was whispering to his supposed siblings, seeming distressed. I wondered what they were talking about. A part of me wished I was a vampire already so I could be in on the conversation. "But like, don't you agree? That's juat—that's just weird."

"I do not think so." I said.

"Maybe it's because you're Italian." She was incredibly judgemental, I decided. "Do people over there—are they… incestuous?" She said the word as if it was a sin. I just stared at her, eyebrow raised. She rolled her eyes. Maybe she's revolted by me now. I couldn't help but hope so. I didn't want all this needless attention. Aro would kill me—literally—if I messed this up. Alec would let him, too. He wouldn't have a choice, even if he cared just a little.

The Cullens stood up, all of them graceful. Angela, one of the girls at the table, offered to show me to my next class, Biology. She seemed genuinely kind and was soft-spoken, much unlike the others. I smiled at her. She reminded me of Athenodora.

It was in Biology when things started to go wrong. "Why don't you go sit next to Mr. Cullen over there." Mr. Banner told me. He didn't seem like a bad man. "Edward, why don't you raise your hand?" It was obvious that Edward Cullen was the person who was sitting by himself. Everyone else was seated by a partner. Apparently, Mr. Banner didn't notice or care. One or the other.

I walked over to sit down next to him, only to trip over one of the tables towards the front of the room. I blushed profusely, realising I wasn't making a good impression at all. I couldn't wait to be a vampire, graceful and swift.

On my sixteenth birthday, I got to watch a feeding once. Heidi once let me tag along with a fishing group on my short break from secretarial duties, pretending I was going to talk to my supervisors. Afton and Renata had been allowed out of the city for a quick hunt just hours before so that I could be shielded well from ravenous vampires during a crazed feeding time. It was interesting to observe. The fear, the confusion, the realisation, and then resignation on the humans faces as the faded away, the speed and agility as my family—sort of family—pounced on their prey. I did feel sad for the humans, maybe they had a baby at home to take care of or a parent wishing for their child to return from their mysterious trip. Still, I was captivated.

I hadn't been allowed to watch Athenodora and Sulpicia feed previously; they'd deemed it too dangerous. I would be locked in my quarters during that time with only Alec as company.

I noticed Edward's coal black eyes—flecked with the gold that indicated that he was an animal drinker. That was impossible to notice unless you knew what you were looking for. His fingernails grabbed at the table and he jerked away from me. I scanned him. I could tell he was thirsty, that much was obvious. However, an animal drinker shouldn't be having this much of a problem. He didn't seem to have one earl—oh.

I wondered if I was his singer. In that case, I should probably excuse myself. I raised my hand. "Uh, Mr. Banner."

He looked at me as he was starting to get out his lesson plans. "Yes, Isabella?"

"Just Bella, signore." I corrected. "I just remembered that I was supposed to meet with my social worker at this exact time to see how I was settling in to Forks. May I be excused." I looked at Edward worriedly. I'd never seen a vampire and their singer before so I was intrigued, but I wasn't going to risk being eaten or the kids in this room having to be silenced. Besides, my necklace marks me as Volturi. The Cullens are not allowed to hurt, kill, or drain me. I could only hope that none of them went snooping through my files and found out my surname.

I carefully pulled my hair over my neck, making sure that it was subtle to everyone but Edward, creating a curtain of hair to block my scent from his nose, then I grabbed my stuff slowly so I wouldn't startle him. Once I'd left the building entirely, I called Aro.

"Master, I think Alec needs to come to Forks immediately."

"Bella?" Aro asked. "Is there something of concern?"

"There's a coven of seven here." I said. "Vegetarians. You remember Carlisle, don't you?"

"Yes. He was an interesting man. Weird diet. Did you say seven?" I could almost hear his eyes squinting.

"It seems Carlisle has made his own coven. He's their leader it seems." I replied. "I think I'm the singer of one of them."

Aro was quiet. "Are you sure you don't just want to cancel the mission entirely?" He was apprehensive. I wasn't really a fan of being dragged home, though.

"No." I almost yelled. "I mean, I just got here, sir It wouldn't seem normal to just immediately leave after one day. But I'd like some more protection here, just in case." I worried that the other Cullens had sensed Alec at some point. Hopefully, they just assumed he was a nomad. Carlisle would recognise his scent, though. Hopefully, he didn't have to kill one of them, though with his power, he probably wouldn't need to unless they deserved it.

Alec showed up two days later in the middle of the night, though Edward hadn't shown up at school at all. I figured he was hunting as much as he could before having to sit next to me again. If that was the case, I didn't think I'd have to worry about him. Alec mostly agreed after a few days of watching me at night. With just a kiss to my cheek, he left Sunday night.

During his visit, he also told me to avoid La Push, said he caught a scent of something on the reservation that didn't seem right. Apparently, it smelt like the Children of the Moon, but he wasn't sure they were a threat or not, yet. I nodded. I'd heard Athenodora tell me about the Children of the Moon. Like vampires, they would be impossible for me to kill. When I was invited to First Beach by a new acquaintance named Mike, I politely declined.

Monday was different. For one, it was snowing outside. I didn't know how to deal with snow. I tripped as soon as Charlie dropped me off, making Mike laugh.

"I've decided that I'm not fond of this stuff." I said with a scowl. Somehow this made him laugh more.

"Don't you like snow?" He asked, incredulous. As if I was somehow supposed to like it for… reasons, I guess.

"No. It seems to be slippery." I frowned.

He looked at me confused. "Haven't you seen snow before." I shook my head in answer and then leaned down and kicked at the stuff. Suddenly, Mike yelped as some snow hit his back. I looked around in confusion. Somehow, vaguely, this seemed familiar. As if I'd seen it on TV at some point when I was a child. This snow-throwing thing. I'd have to ask Alec about it during his next visit. I walked away, not wanting to be hit by the stuff.

At lunch, I noticed that Edward was back. I paid him no notice until Jessica giggled in my ear. "Edward Cullen is staring at you." Without looking up from my book, my eyes scanned the Cullen table, only to see that she was speaking the truth. I set the book down and glanced at him curiously. Jessica persisted. "The Cullens never notice any of us…. But he's still looking at you."

"Stop looking at him." I hissed at her under my breath.

When I got to Biology—I barely understood what was going on as the Volturi were more interested in teaching me history, math, literature, and the arts—Edward wasn't in his seat yet. I heard his chair move as he sat down and my eyes shifted to his figure—taking in his honey gold eyes—before he even spoke. "Hello." My eyes shifted in his direction again, curious that he had decided to talk to me, if I was his singer. "I'm sorry I didn't get the chance to introduce myself last week. I'm Edward Cullen. You must be Bella Swan."

I blinked at him, noting that he'd slipped up. He called me by my nickname. I wanted to smirk. "Actually… no." He narrowed his eyes at me, seeming confused. "I've had to correct many people on my first name—Charlie, my father, I mean—must call me Isabella. You're the… first to call me Bella." He looked panicked for half a second. "I didn't even bother correcting the surname after the first time. It took too much time to explain, too many questions."

He opened his mouth, probably to ask me what I meant, but then Mr. Banner told the class to start the lab. "Ladies first, partner." Edward said.

"No, thank you." I said to him. "I barely understand this class. I'm not sure what we're doing."

He blinked. "Didn't you take Biology I at your old school in Italy?"

I shook my head. "I've never taken a science coarse in my life. The curriculum never called for it."

He sighed. "Maybe I can help you. Catch up, I mean. I'm incredibly skilled at this class." His eyes looked as if he was telling an inside joke. I assumed he'd had to take this class quite a lot.

I looked at him, surprised. "Thank you."

It took us a while to finish the lab, though I was pretty sure that we could have finished much quicker if he was by himself. Still, we were finished before some of the other groups. Doing the actual lab himself was probably making up for the time that he had spent going over the chapter for me. He made more sense than Mr. Banner.

Apparently, he had an interior motive. "Has anyone ever told you that you're hard to read?" He cocked his head to the side. "Usually, I'm able to get a feel for someone, understand them. You… You're different." He squinted at me.

I smirked, realising that his power was like Aro's. He couldn't read my mind, either. And it was frustrating him enough that he'd decided to talk to me despite my scent. "I've been told that." I said to him.

He squinted at me. "Why did you choose to move here?" His eyes were curious, but guarded.

I went quiet. "I had the chance to attend a special arts school in my hometown in Italy. After graduation I won't have much time to spend with Charlie—my father—so I came here to finish my education and to get to know my biological parent. I hadn't seen him since I was five."

"This art school… Where is it? Have I heard of it?" Edward asked.

I hesitated, maybe a few seconds too long. "Volterra." I said, noticing the way that he stiffened at the name. "And sure, I think you may have heard of it. But names don't matter, do they?"

He scanned me as if unsure what to think. That was fine. I wasn't sure what to think of him either, this strange vampire with golden eyes. "So you said that your surname wasn't Swan legally? How'd that happen?"

"My mother died when I was six. She was murdered in front of me. I was almost killed as well until the police interfered and saved me. One of the officers took pity on me and adopted me. My legal papers list him as my guardian." I was careful not to tell too many lies.

"I'm also adopted." Edward said softly. "My birth surname is Masen."

"Do you remember your birth parents?"

"Vaguely…. It was a long time ago."

"That's how it feels like for me. I wasn't very old. The most vivid memory I have is her death." I looked down sadly. I didn't remember her well. "I wasn't sent back to America, afterwards. I guess theoretically, I could have, but my situation was complicated. I was too young according to the social worker."

"The same one who you saw last Monday?"

"Different one." I did not elaborate.

Edward seemed to notice the guarded way I spoke and his eyes narrowed. I wondered for a few seconds if he thought that the fact he couldn't read my mind was somehow my fault. It was a silly thought, though. He thought I was a clueless, defenceless, human.

"So what is your surname?"

"Does it matter?" I asked him, cocking my head slightly with a pointed look. "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

He stiffened again and then he looked at me. "So… Juliet, do you often quote Shakespeare."

"Yes, Romeo and Juliet is one of my favourites. It's romantic."

He rolled his eyes. "I fail to find what's romantic about that horrid play and I've read it nearly a hundred times."

"Maybe you haven't been reading it correctly." I replied. "There was little to do at my school in Volterra." He stiffened again. "And that play was one of my favourites."

He scanned me again, maybe finding me odd for a teenager. "How old are you again?" He asked.

"I am seventeen." I said.

"You don't seem seventeen."

"How old are you?"

"Seventeen." He answered, confusion lacing his gaze.

"You don't seem seventeen either." I waited a few seconds before asking my next question. "How long have you been seventeen?"

The question was pointed, a hint that I knew the truth. He went still for a half-second and then turned to me. "A while." I realised that was the most I'd get from him today about his past—I was just as curious about him as he was about me, it seemed—and turned back to the front just as Mr. Banner was calling the rest of the class to order.

Mike sighed as we walked to gym once the bell signally the end of class rang out. "That was awful. They looked exactly the same. You're lucky you had Cullen for a partner."

"Yes, it was quite hard. We had no need for science courses at my school in Italy." Frankly, the Volturi were the nighttime patrons of the arts. They studied music, art, and literature by night, and I learned the same as well as history, math, and languages by day.

"No need for science?"

I shook my head. "It was an art school. I learned music and literature, mostly. I haven't been in regular school since I was six."

"Lucky." Mike said.

"Not really. I'm behind in many of my classes and this school doesn't seem to offer many of the ones that I'd excel in." They only offered six courses a semester. I was placed in English, Government, Band, Algebra II, Biology II, and then Gym. Frankly, English and Band were the only ones that sounded interesting to me at all. I didn't understand why I needed to take Government though. I wasn't really an American. There was no need to take such a class. However, I didn't get to choose my schedule.

I wondered what my forged documents showed me as having already taken. I was lucky that vampires tended to avoid Italy. They'd probably be the only ones with any knowledge of how the schools there are run or the curriculums. As it stood, they were probably already suspicious of my backstory.

I figured it was better for them to figure out my secret—and safer—then for them to realise that I knew theirs first. They wouldn't dare kill me lest they anger the Volturi, who would surely be watching me. If they thought that I was going to cause problems with the Italian Royalty, they may choose to kill me. I couldn't have that, now, could I?

The next day felt like any other day. Charlie drove me to classes—he was making a plan for me to get my permit before driver's ed started back up—and I listened to boring lecture after boring lecture. I decided to hang around outside and read for a bit outside in the parking lot. There was a reserved space for the handicap that wasn't currently being used by anyone. Safe in that knowledge, I sad down on the yellow strip in front of the space, carefully reading through a novel I'd read two hundred times already. Wuthering Heights, my favourite. I wasn't paying much attention to the cars around me until I heard several screams of horror. I looked up, noticing first the shiny, silver car that Edward had disappeared into the day before on the opposite side of the lot. Edward's eyes were filled with horror.

Tyler's car was coming in my direction, too fast for me to get away. He'd apparently lost control of his automobile due to the ice on the ground. I'd noticed that the transparent molecules of frozen water were incredibly slippery. In the past two days, I'd slipped about thirty times. Charlie had a lot of fun laughing about it, though he told me that I'd inherited my clumsiness from him. I didn't think that made much sense, but I went with it.

Suddenly, I was out of the way of the vehicle, a cold presence holding me to the ground. M head smacked the concrete, though I felt nothing. I glanced up. Edward had moved to pull me out of the way. My eyes widened. He could have broken the laws doing that! I looked at the other students. Some looked confused. Most had noticed that Edward was appeared out of nowhere. They'd shake it off, eventually. But I couldn't. I was Volturi, born and raised.

"Why would you expose yourself like that?" I muttered to him before he could say anything. "Do you want the humans to know…?"

Edward's eyes turned to me swiftly in shock and panic. "What are you talking about?"

"You know what I'm talking about." I answered as cryptically as possible.

"No you don't." He insisted as he pulled himself off of me, the entire school running towards us.

I persisted. I needed him to at least understand the danger he could be in doing heroic acts randomly like that. "I know more than you think."

"You hit your head. You're hallucinating. I think you have a concussion, Bella."

"Ow." I said, suddenly being hyperaware of the pain resonating at the back of my skull.

"That's what I thought." He said. I could tell that he was trying not to laugh. It was all I could do not to immediately reveal the necklace around my neck, branding me as the property of Aro. About right then the other students had crowded around us. I attempted to stand up, but Edward's vampire strength was too much. "Just stay put for now."

"But it's cold!" I whined. I did not like this snow and found myself hoping that it would go away within the week.

I rode in the ambulance to the hospital. They put me in a neck brace and wheeled me unto the back on a stretcher, all of which I found completely unnecessary. I wasn't injured. I didn't argue with them on it, though. Maybe they knew better than I did.

Tyler—who's somehow more injured than I am thanks to Edward stopping his van like he did—follows me, a few of the nurses pushing the stretcher he's laying across. Frankly, I believe he needed it more than I had. "Bella, I'm so sorry." He started

"I'm perfectly well, Tyler." I replied. "You look much worse. I'm just lucky Edward was there to pull me out of the way." I realised with chagrin that I'm not allowed to tell Aro, Alec, or anyone else who might care just a little which is a problem because Charlie will certainly want me to tell the social worker or my foster family. Maybe I can fake the phone call. Hurriedly, I try to remember the name of my replacement, knowing she'll be the one to answer to call if I was forced to actually make it. Gianna, I think her name is. I wished with a misplaced fury that I didn't owe this rule-breaking boy my life.

I don't have a concussion, apparently. However, the nurses won't let me leave until I've seen a doctor. I think about walking out of the hospital anyway, but Charlie would just drag me back here, anyway. On my other side, I have to endure Tyler mumbling the same apologies repeatedly. I had been on the verge of losing my composed, regal, attitude when Edward walks in, a self-satisfied smirk on his face. I don't like him much, I decide. He seems to be on a power trip of some kind, obsessing over making my life hell. For a mind reader, he seems to be quite bad at discerning how human emotions exactly work.

"So, what's the verdict." Edward asked. I wished it was Charlie and not him in here at the moment.

"There's nothing wrong with me at all, Edward." I said. "I would like to go home, but they will not let me live until a doctor has seen me. It's quite infuriating, honestly."

He smiled at me. "Don't worry, I'm here to spring you." As soon as he spoke, a blond, kind-looking vampire in doctor scrubs walked in. I realised that this is Carlisle. "So, Miss Swan. How are you feeling."

"I am wonderful. I am not even hurt. May I please leave now?" I am forced to go throw a few more procedures before Carlisle ultimately decided that I could leave.

I turned to Edward. "May I talk to your father alone?" I look at Tyler pointedly and then at Carlisle. Edward and Carlisle exchange glances, but they do have a nurse escort Tyler to an opposite room. I promised myself that I would come up for a reason as to why I did this when Tyler would ask me whenever I went back to school. However, at that moment, I needed to warn Carlisle. "When I said alone. I meant alone. I know Edward is still listening."

Carlisle sighed. "What makes you so sure?"

"He said he was good at reading people. Is there a way for someone to make him… not want to?"

Carlisle frowned. "What do you mean?"

"Say there was something you didn't want him to figure out."

"Yes. Alice is best at it, though." He looked concerned.

That was good enough for me. "I'm very worried about him. Edward, I mean. Does he normally run around like this, saving random people with impossible features? I know that I'm hard to read to him. Which means I am also hard to read to others with similar skills. Since he saved my life, I owe him. However, if he keeps trying to throw himself in harm's way like that, I'm worried that he could be the next one in danger." I pull my crest out from under my shirt, letting the mark of the Volturi rest against my breasts. His eyes widen in barely-veiled panic. "And I care about him, truly. He has been nothing but kind to me. So discuss the concern with him. Just don't let him know it was me. I have a mission to uphold here that wasn't meant to involve any of you."

And with that, I jump off the hospital bed, safe in knowing that Carlisle and Edward—assuming the latter figured something out— wouldn't be likely to harm me, especially not in a crowded hospital with my father mere feet away and the whole of the Volturi behind me.