Sunday, July 17, 2016 | By: Drotuno

Six - Chapter 2 & Pics

Six – Chapter 2
New York City
My heart felt like it was beating through my chest, and I gasped a quick, shallow breath as I frantically looked around me. Hopefully the guy – whoever he was – wouldn’t follow me. I’d jumped to another alley, one of my “safe spaces,” somewhere I could appear suddenly in without running into anyone. But the guy had seen me, had somehow known what I’d planned to do, and had followed me out of the little corner store. So I needed to leave…fast. Even though he didn’t have the distinctive logo for Volterra Industries on his shirt, that didn’t mean he wasn’t part of their group, which meant he could have been calling in reinforcements.
I shifted the backpack around to my front and unzipped it with my teeth since my hands were full. After stuffing the soup in, I grabbed the plastic knife from the baggie inside and opened the peanut butter and bread. I hadn’t had anything to eat in a couple of days, and I was starving – which was why I’d resorted to taking something from the grocery. The sandwich was heavy on my stomach, but I continued to eat as I shoved the rest of the food and the knife into the backpack and swung it to my back. Looking around, I stepped out of the shadows. Using the crowd to my advantage, I immersed myself into a group of chattering teenage girls wearing prep-school uniforms, a handful of businessmen in suits, a few women pushing kids in strollers, and an obvious group of tourists as we crossed the busy city street. Once across, I turned right along with the tourists and headed into Central Park. It was a routine I’d been living for a year, and I was well-versed at how to stay hidden and how to blend in.
Keeping my head down and eyes open, I quickly but calmly moved through the walkways, my pulse finally beginning to slow from the race it had been. The trees to either side created a canopy overhead, blocking out most of the sun. Since it was a gorgeous day outside, plenty of people were in the park, walking along the paved paths or sitting on one of the many benches, just enjoying the weather. I noticed it all but didn’t take the time to enjoy it. I hardly ever did.
Finally, I spotted my target: one of the stone bridges. It was one of the lesser-traveled ones, so I usually had plenty of privacy. I could eat something more and spend a few hours outside in the sunshine before finding someplace to sleep for the night.
As the sun began to set, I grabbed my backpack, preparing to leave the park. I never stayed after dark if I could help it. I’d done that some at the beginning, shortly after escaping confinement at Volterra, but without being able to clearly see my surroundings, I didn’t feel safe, and there were enough people looking for trouble that I didn’t need to place myself in the middle of it all.
With one last sharp look around, I opened a virtual window – like a portal to hell, but instead it was to the secluded area behind the fleabag motel I planned to crash in. As soon as I stepped in, I felt the familiar rush of energy skate over my entire body. It was a surreal feeling, teleporting. There wasn’t any pain. It wasn’t entirely comfortable, either, but I was used to it after having done it almost my entire life – although it still made the hairs on the back of my neck and on my arms stand on end for a second until the portal closed behind me wherever I’d jumped to. I immediately pivoted to check behind me and to either side, making sure no one had seen me jump. Satisfied that I was alone, I picked my way through the brush and trees to the backside of the motel.
Cautiously I approached the door to number fourteen. The curtains were drawn, as per usual, and I couldn’t detect any light or noise from inside. Raising a fist, I knocked three times in rapid succession, calling out, “Housekeeping.” When no one answered, I waited, quietly counting out sixty seconds under my breath, and then knocked again a little harder. When there was still no answer, I pictured the inside of the room and stepped through the portal that appeared.
Thankfully, the room was as empty as I’d expected it to be. Door locked and curtain double-checked, I wearily dropped my backpack to the bed and sat, rubbing my face in my hands. Between my hunger, the stress of stealing the food from the little store, and the questions I had about the good-looking guy who’d warned me about the store owner, I was exhausted. It seemed I was always tired – I’d been tense and worn out from being on the run and constantly looking over my shoulder for over a year. Damn Phil and my mother for getting me into this position in the first place!
Seattle, Washington – Sixteen months ago
“Mom?” I called, stepping over the threshold into my mother’s little house. Wrinkling my nose, I sighed. It smelled like rotting food and Lord knows what else, almost enough to make me gag.
I poked my head into the living room and found my mom just where I’d figured – her couch. She was curled up under a ratty afghan, her face gaunt and skin sallow, and a rough cough shook her whole body before she settled back into sleep. Her hair, once a pretty auburn, had lost its waves and lay limp across her shoulders and the arm of the couch. There were two ashtrays on the coffee table, full of ashes and cigarette butts smoked down to nubs. Beer cans littered the rest of it, but I was thankful that I didn’t see any needles or other drug shit.
Once I made my way into the kitchen, I did gag. It looked like she hadn’t done any dishes or taken out the trash since the last time I’d been there, the previous weekend. There were pots on the stove with old mac ’n cheese and…what I hoped was rice and not maggots crusted on the bottom. The trash can was overflowing, like she’d gotten tired enough that she just started tossing shit toward it and if it didn’t make it, she didn’t worry about it. I blew out a breath, set the groceries I’d brought onto the kitchen table, grabbed a pair of rubber gloves from under the sink, and started cleaning – first stop, the living room.
About the time I was rinsing the last few now-clean dishes, my mother stumbled into the kitchen, reaching up to scratch at her cheek.
“Bella? When did you get here?”
“Hey, Mom.” I leaned over and kissed her left cheek – thus avoiding the sore where she’d scratched on her right – when she came up to me. “A couple of hours ago. You hungry?”
“Yeah.” She frowned and reached up to scratch again. “I think I’m out of mac.”
“I brought some. Don’t worry.” I always did. Mac ’n cheese was my mother’s weakness – well, her other weakness. The one that didn’t leave track marks.
Twenty minutes later, she was sitting at the table, already through her first bowl of food. Just as she reached for the spoon to add more, the kitchen door banged open.
“Damn it, Ren. I couldn’t get any shi—” Phil growled, stopping when he saw me sitting beside my mom. He frowned.
“What’s wrong?” my mom asked him.
“Didn’t have enough money to get…uh, to go shopping,” he said, his eyes darting quickly to me and then away.
“I brought enough groceries for a week,” I said, knowing that wasn’t what he meant but hoping this time maybe that would be enough.
My mom looked pained and reached up to scratch at her cheek again. “Bella, baby, do you have some money I could borrow? I promise I’ll pay you back. Phil’s got a job he’s gonna be looking into next week.”
“Yeah, Bells,” Phil said, looking eager. I cringed at his use of my dad’s nickname for me. He knew it bothered me but couldn’t seem to stop himself, even when he was asking for money. “I’m good for it. You know that.”
I wanted to laugh, but there was nothing funny about the man standing in the doorway. Phil Dwyer was tall, and while he’d once been a decent-looking guy, he was now a shell of who he’d once been. He was skinny – so much so that I doubted he weighed a hundred and fifty pounds, which was nothing for someone who stood six feet. His blue eyes were dull, and his light-brown hair was shaggy and limp, like he needed a good wash and about three inches cut off. His T-shirt was stained and had a hole near the shoulder, and his jeans hung loosely off his hips, causing the bottom hem to fray from dragging on the ground. He was the one who’d gotten my mother addicted to heroin, after he got hooked on the painkillers he’d been prescribed while recovering from shoulder surgery. Until a few years ago, he was a professional baseball player, but his career ended when he got in a car wreck that ruined his arm. I’d been busy at school – my first semester of college – and by the time I came home for a visit, they were both addicts. Nothing I’d done in the last year had been able to change it.
“Sorry,” I said, not really sorry at all. “I used up what I had to get groceries.” Looking at Phil and then to my mom, I mentally crossed my fingers. “I can call Riverside…”
“Don’t need those shrink people telling me how to get clean,” Phil grumbled. “Renee and I are fine, aren’t we, doll?”
Riverside Rehab Center was only a few miles from my dorm. I tried every time I saw her to talk my mother into checking herself in, but she refused. So when she got up, wrapped herself around Phil, and nodded, I knew this time was no different. They walked to the living room, leaving me alone in the kitchen.
I held in my sigh and then turned to start putting up the extra food when it was clear that my mom was more interested in Phil and what they could pawn than she was about eating more.
When I got into the living room, my mom was alone. I sat down beside her and took her hand. “Mom, please. Let me call Riverside and see ab—”
“Jesus, Bells!” Phil griped from the doorway. “Leave the woman alone. She don’t need your help.”
“Mom, please,” I begged. “I can get you away from here, give you a chance to get clean and sober.”
My pleading fell on deaf ears.
“Go back to school, Bella,” my mom said, picking at the scab on her cheek. “Phil takes good care of me. I can’t leave him.”
I gaped. “Takes good care of you? Mom, the house was filthy when I got here… There were bugs in the sink! And look at you both! You haven’t had a shower in days, and you look like—”
Anything more was cut off when she reached out and slapped me, making my ears ring.
“Get out,” she hissed. “Phil’s a good man, and I love him. He told you, we don’t need those preachy people telling us how to live, and that includes you.”
Tears welling in my eyes, I rubbed my cheek and then stood. “I’ll be back next weekend, Mom.”
“Get out!” she shouted.
I stumbled out the door and down to my car, the tears finally falling heavily down my face.
New York City – present day
Pulled from my memories by the sound of a siren in the distance, I scrubbed at my face and wiped away the tears that were threatening to spill. I couldn’t afford to break down. I had to stay alert, prepared for anything. Volterra’s goons could be right around the corner. They could have spies anywhere. I was the only one in the world I could count on.
The last person I’d trusted had turned me in to Volterra to make a few bucks in order to buy the heroin she so desperately craved…
My mother.
Stepping out onto the penthouse floor of our apartment building, I smirked back at Jasper, saying, “She’s missed you too.”
“Shut up, Edward,” he mumbled, but a smile spread over his face.
I could hear my family on the other side of the door. Their thoughts were as clear as glass, and as much as I tried to give them privacy, it simply wasn’t possible. We were all adults now, most of us having grown up together, and even though Carlisle and Esme didn’t have to provide a home for us, they did.
Jasper and I walked into the apartment, and I shook my head at the chaos taking place in the living room. Apparently my mother needed to move furniture, which would require Emmett’s help. He and my sister Rosalie were the last to join the family.
With one hand, Emmett reached down to pick the sofa up by one of the feet, lifting it almost level with his head. Esme beamed in pride, quickly vacuuming the now empty spot. When she was done, Emmett did the same with the love seat.
My brother was built like a football player, was as strong as the Hulk but without all the anger issues, and he’d needed the family when Carlisle had treated him. I’d been seventeen when Emmett and Rosalie had come home with Dad from the hospital. Emmett and Rose had grown up together in upstate New York – same grammar school, high school, and neighborhood – and both had figured out early on that they were different than the people around them. It wasn’t long before they fell in love and got out of the small-minded town, but not before a group of boys had viciously attacked Rosalie. Emmett had snapped, unleashing every bit of strength he possessed. Bones had been broken, cars had been totaled, and guns had been drawn. The only way they could’ve stopped him was to shoot him. He showed up at my dad’s hospital at sixteen with a bruised and battered Rosalie beside him, not to mention a gunshot wound to his shoulder.
Dad instantly knew what they were. He could sense it, feel their powers. And just like he’d explained things to Alice and me that day at Brookside, he’d done the same with Emmett and Rose. He’d offered them shelter with like-minded individuals and someplace they didn’t have to hide their sixth senses. Emmett said yes, but Rosalie didn’t trust us. Not at first, anyway.
Smirking at that, I turned to find her. Her sixth sense was amazing, and she tested it all the time. It wasn’t uncommon to come into a room only to be face to face with a celebrity or an animal of some sort. Rosalie’s talent was the ability to shape-shift into any living creature. She only had to see it in order to mimic it.
Today, a large, bluish-gray-and-white cat was sitting on the fireplace mantle watching the living room activities with her big, fluffy tail wrapped around her. Sharp yellow-green eyes locked on to me, and I chuckled, shaking my head when her thoughts were still all Rose’s usual snarky, sarcastic tone.
Have a good day at school, Edward? Learn anything? she asked, stretching before dropping soundlessly to the floor, but the second her paws touched the rug, she was my human sister again – blonde, beautiful, and scarred from her attack at sixteen. They ran down one arm and a small one next to her temple. And as pretty as she was, she preferred to become someone or something else rather than be herself.
“Nope, not a thing.”
“Edward! Jasper!” Esme gasped, rushing to us. We were instantly enveloped in hugs, and smooshed kisses were pressed to our cheeks. Poor Mom was the only one in the house without a sixth sense. Cupping our faces, she smiled lovingly up at us but stopped as she studied our faces. “What happened?”
“Is Dad home?” I asked instead of answering her but looked over when I heard Alice’s mind.
“Edward!” she gasped, working her way seamlessly through the house with her cane.
Her hazy eyes were wide with shock, but her thoughts were everywhere. She’d “seen” the incident at Bart’s store. She was stepping into the living room, which was normally a clear path, but with the cleaning going on, she was going to run into obstacles. With a light push of air, Jasper moved so swiftly he was only a blur, pushing a table out of the way.
“Thanks, Jasper,” she muttered, and he grinned, kissing her temple. She focused back on me, reaching out. “Lemme see your face!”
Rolling my eyes, I stepped to her. I listened to her thoughts, watched her visions as she replayed them. Her touch was light but thorough – across my brow, along my jaw, and over my mouth.
Her head tilted a little, a slow smile spreading over her face. “She… You… She becomes…important.”
I snorted, rolling my eyes again as I shook my head slowly. “Alice, I don’t think so. She’s disappeared. Literally.”
She grinned and nodded. “Yes, but…not for long.”
The visions that played over and over in her mind were nonstop. Even more interesting was just how detailed they were, which wasn’t always the case. The sixxer girl from Bart’s store was crystal clear in Alice’s mind – height, hair, face, even the deep brown of her eyes. It was as if Alice had seen her in person. There were flashes of this girl with me but also alone – very much alone and someplace dark. There was fear and tears and shadows. There was also running and different people wearing the logo of Volterra.
Before I could ask, Alice said, “Carlisle will help you.”
“Is… Alice, is she in trouble?” I whispered, unable to deny that this girl had piqued my curiosity to an unexplainable point.
She was pretty, yes, but she was one of us – a sixxer – and Carlisle had always tried to teach us that we all deserved a place to feel safe. Not all sixxers we’d met over the years stayed with us. There had been plenty. Even Tanya. My ex-girlfriend and her family were sixxers – some of them, anyway – and they were like us, sticking together as a unit.
But this girl was alone…and running.
“Who’s in trouble?” Emmett asked, looking between Alice and me and finally to Jasper, who grinned widely before speaking up.
“Bart got himself robbed by a sixxer today. Edward here covered her ass, which wasn’t—”
“Shut up, Jasper!” I snapped, sighing deeply, but turned to Emmett, tapping my temple. “I heard her. She’s scared, she’s running, and she was hungry, with no money.” I ignored his observation of her ass, because he hadn’t been the only one to look her over – a thought that had me feeling guilty for a moment.
“Scared of what?” Rose asked. Her face was solemn, and a slight touch of understanding crossed her features. If anyone understood fear, it was Rose.
A heavy silence fell into the room, and I turned to my mother. “Is he home?”
She nodded, her brow furrowing. “Yes, sweetheart. He’s in his office.”
I thanked her and made my way down the hall. Carlisle was at his desk, books open and laptop screen lighting his face. Tapping a knuckle on the door, I smiled when he glanced up.
“Edward,” he greeted with the same smile he wore for all of us – loving, warm, patient, honest. “How were classes today?” he asked, gesturing to the sofa across from his desk.
“Um, fine. Got a minute?”
“Always.” When I closed the door to his office, his brow furrowed and he switched to asking me questions in his mind. Son, is everything all right?
Sitting down on the edge of the sofa, I grimaced and then shrugged. “I dunno. I… I saw a sixxer today. Actually, I saw her at Bart’s store just before we got back. She’s…” I trailed off, trying to figure out how to explain the beautiful, scared girl.
Carlisle pushed his notes aside, closed his laptop, and leaned forward on his elbows. “Just start from the beginning, son.”
I told him the basics – Bart’s distrust, the pretty girl who stole food, and the window she’d stepped through – because the details were why I was in his office.
“I’ve never seen anything like it, and I’ve seen some crazy shit!” I told him, smirking when he chuckled a little. “But Carlisle, it was her thoughts. They were so…filled with fear. Her mind at first was muddled. I mean, it happens occasionally, where someone is simply reacting without thought – instinct, I guess.”
“You’ve mentioned it several times. Some actions don’t require thought. There are some things people do that are automatic – blinking, breathing, even eating. It doesn’t exactly require full attention.”
“Which is what’s so f-f-f…messed up,” I countered. “She was stealing food without a single thought as to the consequences. The only thing she was concerned with was getting out the door and eating. She’s been doing that a long damn time, and she’s no more than Alice’s age, if I had to guess. The fear? She’s running from Volterra.”
Carlisle froze, narrowing his eyes on me. “What did you see?”
“Their logo. And she’s learned to look for it immediately.” I sat forward, resting my elbows on my thighs. “I didn’t say anything to anyone yet – not out there – but she’s been there. She’s been caught, and she somehow got away and has been running ever since.” I glanced up at him, my eyes wide. “I thought Alice’s visions were ugly. The reality is worse. A thousand times worse!” I stood up and started to pace, my hand gripping my hair. “I saw needles and labs, restraints, and…and…rows upon rows of beds with what looked to be patients, but no one was moving. Like they were in a coma…or dead.” I stopped in front of him when his thoughts centered around the man he’d known in medical school.
“He’s figured out how to restrain sixxers,” he whispered to himself but looked to me. “Where’s this girl?”
I laughed outright, but it wasn’t in humor. “Seriously?”
He smiled a little. “Teleportation is quite the sixth sense.”
“No shit,” I agreed, shaking my head. “I didn’t even get her name. Come to think of it, the girl never even spoke. Not a word, not a single thing, even when I read her mind and spoke it out loud. Most people at least deny it. She didn’t. She was too damn scared.”
I sat back down hard on the sofa, staying quiet for a moment, but really, I was listening to his thoughts as he got up to stare out the window over the New York skyline. He was trying to figure out how Aro was keeping sixxers restrained, how a small girl could’ve gotten away when no one else had, and that caused him to think about his family. He and Esme considered us all their kids – whether we shared his last name or not. All of us were important, and we were just as loyal to them. Where our real families had rejected us, used us, or were no longer around, Carlisle and Esme opened their home and arms and hearts for the five of us. And that thought made him lock gazes with me.
“You’ve come so far, Edward,” he whispered, smiling a little in pride. “You were an angry kid when I met you, and you hated what you were. Now you’re looking to help one of us. You’ve been the big brother, the oldest for a long time now. It’s a role you’ve taken to very well.”
I chuckled, shrugging a shoulder. “I dunno. I’m still angry. I still hear everything.” I tapped my temple. “Though, the headaches aren’t as bad. I still hate being different, but…I can’t change any of it. I wish I didn’t hear every thought from people I know. Seeing someone lie straight to my face is just…bullshit, but it’s bullshit that normal people accept without batting an eye. I can’t do that, and I can’t see people the same once I’ve heard some damn things.”
He laughed, walking to the sofa to sit next to me. “Tanya—”
“Don’t.” I held up my hand to stop him. “That was a mistake of epic proportions. On both our parts. Our sixth senses did not mesh, not that we didn’t try, but her ability to draw people in didn’t work with my mind reading. I knew she was playing me, and I did nothing to stop it until I wasn’t the only one being played. She’s a—”
“Fair enough, son.” He’d cut me off from calling my ex-girlfriend something nasty, but he’d been there when it all had blown up. “So back to this sixxer you want to help…”
“I do, but at what cost?” I asked him, taking a deep breath and letting it out. “If she’s truly being hunted down by Volterra, then we risk everyone in the family. But she’s alone and scared and barely eating. So… I dunno.”
“What does your heart tell you, Edward?”
Grinning, I shook my head as that smile fell just as quickly as it appeared. “That we should help her. You’ve said before that you think Aro preys on the sixxers who won’t be missed, the ones who are alone, or the weak, and if that’s the case, then…they’ll hunt her down. They’ll hunt her down to keep her from saying anything. She’s damned talented, but eventually, mistakes happen.” I looked to him, shaking my head slowly again. “But Jesus, Carlisle. She could be anywhere! There’s no telling where she could go. The window she threw up on the wall looked like any other alley in the city, but she could’ve gone anywhere from there. We don’t know her name or anything other than the fact that she was stealing food to keep from starving. She could’ve jumped into Hawaii for all I know.”
He smirked but nodded. “Well, let’s start with what we know. She’s here in New York, most likely for the same reasons we are – to be as far away from Volterra and Seattle as we can be and still be in this country. She probably thought that coming to one of the busiest cities in the world would help hide her – same as us. If she’s struggling, she’ll need assistance, which means she could show up in shelters, soup kitchens, or food banks.”
“Like Aro’s people don’t use those places to find people like us.”
“True.” Carlisle got up, rubbing his face as he paced back and forth. “What’s Alice say? What’s she seen?”
“She says this girl is important, that she won’t stay gone. She’s seen her with me. But she’s seen her alone in the dark too. As clear as her visions are, they’re all over the place.”
He stopped in front of me, studying my face. “And Jasper saw her?”
“Yeah.” I nodded, hearing a plan formulate in his mind. I stood in front of him. “Do you think it’ll work?”
He chuckled. “I can’t see the future. Not my talent.”
I shoved his shoulder a little. “I’m serious!”
His brow furrowed at my reaction, and he mentally wondered what it was about this girl that had me so out of sorts.
“If I knew that, I’d tell you,” I mumbled, pushing my hands into the front pockets of my jeans. “She was…”
It was more than a pretty face. It was more than the fear and the hunger or the backpack that I feared held everything she owned. I wanted to say it was the complete defeat I saw in her mind, or the mental and physical exhaustion. Hell, it could’ve been the strong talent she possessed, but it wasn’t any of those things, or maybe it was all of those things. And I was just an idiot trying to find a girl who had the ability to disappear into the wind…or a wall for that matter.
“Son, calm down,” he soothed, setting a hand on my shoulder. “I’ll help you find her, but I can only find sixxers in general, not any specific talent. However, the stronger the talent, the bigger the pull I have to them, so with you and maybe some of the others, we can work together to find this girl.” He gave my shoulder a squeeze. “We’ll start close – the park, some of the local shelters, and I have a few friends in social services, so I’ll get a list of places we can look.”
“Okay.” I let a slow breath out, finally nodding and meeting his gaze. “Okay, we can try.”


Rebekah Adams said...

Love the pic of the cat and the story too !

trbuie said...

feel so bad for Bella...Her mom and Phil are just as disgusting as Aro. Yuck....

erika.sho said...

I love the story so much, so glad you started writing again.

Moltz said...

Contemplating what will bring Bella to the Cullen fold?

Unknown said...

Loving this story. So different, can't wait to see what happens.

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