• Chapter One

    “Hey, freak! Yeah, you in the black! What, can’t you turn into a bat and fly away instead of driving that old truck?” I sighed and rolled my eyes. Just another typical day at school. People never looked past my black clothes and lipstick. If they did, they would find that I was a normal person with hopes and dreams just like everybody else.
    Yes, I Bella Swan, am a night-obsessed black wearing Goth. I loved everything to do with darkness and vampires. My name didn’t really go with my personality. Isabella was for a normal person – my name should have really been Jezebelle or Onyx or something unusual like that. I asked my few friends, my father, and my teachers to call me Izzelle. It suited me better.
    I drove home as fast as legally possible from school. Today was especially bad in the ridicule department. Usually people just taunted me from a distance, but since I was a natural-born klutz and we started tennis in gym, the cheerleaders and jocks found another thing to tease me about. They were worse than a pack of laughing hyenas! When I reached my house, I ran inside to start dinner. Tonight I decided to cook up some steaks and baked potatoes. My dad and I loved steak, but for different reasons. He liked steak for that just-off-the-grill flavor, but I enjoyed if because it gave me an excuse to get as close to drinking blood as possible. (Goth, remember?) I loved my meat done rare. Once the steaks were marinating and the potatoes were in the oven, I went upstairs to do my homework. English and Science were completed without difficulty – those subjects were easy for me. Math was a different story. It required at least half an hour of looking over the material to get some level of understanding of our assignment, and another hour and a half of grueling concentration and occasional parental guidance for me to even have a prayer of getting an acceptable grade. Hence the reason I wanted to be an author – they don’t need to solve equations to write best sellers.
    After my homework was mostly completed and I was waiting for Charlie to get home, I laid down on my bed and stared at the ceiling of my bedroom. Usually I could relax surrounded by total darkness, but tonight was especially bad. I got up and put one of my favorite CD’s into my CD player – Dark Horse by Nickelback. Most people would expect me to listen to heavy metal or something like that , but I wasn’t your average Goth. Maybe the real problem with me was that I could never fit in anywhere… The sound of the front door slamming downstairs jolted me awake. I could hear Charlie taking off his boots and gun belt, and realized that I had fallen asleep and dinner would be late. I flew down the stairs, taking two at a time, and nearly bowled my dad over in my haste to get food on the table.
    “Whoa! Slow down there, Iz!”
    “Sorry. Dinner Rush.” I hurried to get the steak in the oven and the potatoes out. I stuck the potatoes in the microwave to keep them warm and then started making a salad.
    Dinner was a quiet event. Neither of us felt the need to fill every second of silence with chatter. We only shared a little bit about our day – a very little bit on my part – and then continued eating in silence. After we finished eating, Charlie drifted off to watch TV while I did the dishes. We were both more comfortable that way. When I finished the dishes, I went back upstairs to just hibernate in my bedroom. My room was mostly black. The walls were black, and so were the curtains covering my window. The carpet was a deep blood red. My bed had a black comforter and red fuzzy pillows, and an Edward Scissorhands lamp sad on my black bedside table. My room was pretty much a bat cave, and I loved it. That was why I spent so much time up here while Charlie watched TV.
    I laid down on my bed, hit the play button on my CD player, and went back to staring at my ceiling. I stayed unmoving until 9:30 and decided to get ready for the night, even though I stayed up until after Midnight. I grabbed my black bat pajamas and headed off to the bathroom to shower. The water of the shower was scorching hot – it burned my skin. But that was how I liked it. The burning water reminded me of a vampire in the burning sun. I tried to spend as much time as possible in my scalding shower, but then the water started to cool down to an ice-cold temperature. I got out quickly, wrapping my black towel around myself, trying to keep as much warmth as possible. I turned on the bathroom heater and began to blow dry my hair. Then I got dressed in my pajamas and padded downstairs in black fuzzy slippers to say goodnight to Charlie.
    “’Night, Dad.” I walked over to the couch to give him a hug.
    “’Night Iz.” I hugged him one more time and went back upstairs.
    Back in my room, I pulled on my black jeans and T-Shirt. I would save the combat boots for later, when Charlie was asleep. I pulled the covers over myself and waited for him to come upstairs and go to bed.
    It didn’t take long. I had only waited until 10:15 for my dad to go to bed. He must have wanted to get up early again – he’d been doing that a lot lately. As soon as I hear the snores coming from his room I jumped out of bed and began lacing up my boots. Good thing there was a tree with branches that reached my window outside. The stairs squeaked. I opened my window slowly, fearing that the oil I had used on it may be wearing off. The window opened noiselessly, however, and then I was in the tree, my hands finding spots to grip onto without difficulty in the night. Sneaking out was my specialty, even though I hated going behind Charlie’s back. He was cool with most of everything I did – even if he didn’t approve of my Gothic ways – but this was on the bad list…
    I dropped to the ground in a catlike fashion, landing on my hands and knees. I looked back at my room one last time and started down the street. I headed off toward the woods by my house. I kept a flashlight here especially for nighttime wanderings. I grabbed that and started into the gloomy maze of trees and ferns. As I walked, I listened. The hoot of the owls that lived out here were very calming to me instead of spooky. I glanced at my watch regularly. 10:30, 10:45, 11:01, 11:15 …. But then I reached my destination – a dark outcropping of rock over a glossy black pond. There were bat caves out here as well. My gloomy little haven of darkness – known only to me and surrounded by trees. I sat on the edge of the rock overlooking the pond, folding my legs underneath me. There were a few birds fluttering around – or were they bats? I squinted at them trying to see them more clearly… SNAP!
    The sound of a twig breaking broke the silence into a million tiny pieces. I jumped up, my eyes scanning the darkness.
    “Who’s there?” I called out. No sound answered me except for heavy breathing to my left. Slowly I turned, and almost screamed. Instead I froze, locking myself into motionlessness. Less than five feet away from me was a huge mountain lion, his luminous green eyes fixed on me. Before I had a chance to run or scream or do anything, another figure emerged from the trees. It was a boy – or what looked like a boy. He didn’t even seem to notice me as he launched himself at the lion. I was about to scream a warning to him, but what he did next froze the scream in my throat. The boy kicked the mountain lion in the side and easily shoved it over the rock and into the pond. Shrieking and growling, the big cat swam to the other bank and disappeared into the trees. Then, my rescuer turned to me.
    "Are you all right?" he asked. He had a velvety melodious voice. I couldn't speak. I stood there swaying slightly, and then I collapsed. The last thing I remembered was this strange boy catching me in cold stone arms.