“There on the rocks just above us was a black hound the size of a rhino, with lava-red eyes and fangs like daggers.” – Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, page 124
“I can’t believe you won second place again. Always second, always second, but never first! I simply don’t know what I did wrong with you, Bella.”
Though I haven’t seen my mother since the night of the competition, the night where I won first runner-up in the Little Miss Sunshine Beauty Pageant, I could still her shrill voice berating me for my shortcomings. We were in the car, driving home. I was still dressed for the pageant. I remember holding the pretty ribbon that said I came in second place. I lost that when I ran from the car and into the darkness.
Into the darkness. Yeah right. After Renée, that’s my mother’s name, parked the car in front of the apartment block our apartment was in, I had rushed outside and ran towards a random direction. That random direction happened to be the McDonald’s restaurant, so it wasn’t really darkness. I met darkness, however, when I turned a wrong corner (ignoring Renee’s cries of my name) and found myself in an alleyway.
I mean, I was sick and tired of her gripes. If possible, I prefer to never see her face again. It’s not that I hate her, because I don’t. She just annoys me – a lot. I suppose my mother and I weren’t compatible. How backwards does that sound? Not being compatible with my own mother…
“She’s stirring,” a soft, angelic voice was saying. I frowned. I did not like having my contemplations interrupted. There were more muffled murmurs, but I couldn’t make out any of them. I suppose I’m still delirious from sleep.
Sleep. I was asleep. Should I wake up? I thought I fell asleep behind that dumpster… How come I wasn’t shivering from the cold of the night?
Slowly, I opened my eyes. They were heavy for some reason. At first I saw nothing, and then I categorized that nothing as dark nothing. It was dark everywhere, which was not a surprise since I realized I was in someone’s living room in the middle of the night (judging from the position of the crescent moon outside).
“Hey,” the same angelic voice sounded from somewhere in the dark. I snapped my head around and came face to face with a, well, face. “I’m Rosalie and I’m glad that you’re awake,” the person said gently. “My family and I have been taking care of you while you were ill. Thankfully, your fever broke hours ago, so you’re fine now.”
I blinked, processing what the woman – Rosalie – was saying. It was hard to concentrate seeing as the woman was very, very pretty. She somehow reminded me of my mom, but was even more beautiful. Who has hair as long and golden as hers? I thought only princesses in movies and stories had hair like that. And her eyes, they were a mesmerizing shade of topaz. Was it even possible to have eyes like that?
“Hey, are you okay? You’re not hurting, are you?” Rosalie was asking. Her hand touched my hair lightly before adjusting the blankets around me. Instead of saying ‘I’m fine’, silly me had to open my mouth and say something completely stupid.
“Oh, well thank you,” Rosalie ducked her head in embarrassment. “You’re very pretty as well, you know. You have a pretty dress, too.”
At that, I raised an eyebrow. I was ten, not three.
“You mean this old thing I made my mom buy over the pink fluffy explosion she called a dress?” I asked rhetorically. “Yeah, sure; it’s pretty if you like dresses. I certainly don’t.”
Rosalie’s eyebrows furrowed. “If you don’t like them, then why are you wearing one?”
Shrugging, I explained to her how Renée forced me, ever since I was able to recite and memorize properly without sounding fake, into these beauty pageants. Apparently, it was for someone to see me perform and, after being amazed by my musical talents, the person can admit me to one of those prodigy schools of arts.
“It sounds like your mother loves you very much if she wants you to have a good education,” commented Rosalie. By now the lights were on, and I noticed that there were other people in the room, deeply asleep. A teenage couple was sleeping side by side on the two-seater recliner, while a heavily muscled man was on his side, head lolling off the sofa in a painful angle.
“I guess so,” I said slowly. It never really occurred to me that Renée valued my education, simply because she dragged me from my studies to practice this song or whatever for pageants. As a ten year old kid, I shouldn’t be worrying about studies, I know. But I have to, seeing as I found it difficult to keep up my D average. Dyslexia does that to people. It gives them Ds for grades and Ibasella for first names.
“So this mother of yours, where is she?” Rosalie, it seemed, was bent on grilling information out of me.
“Probably at home in bed,” was my answer.
“And why aren’t you at home?” In the space of a second, Rosalie the angel was replaced by Rosalie the demanding authority figure. I’m going to call this alter ego Rosalie the tyrant. I have been lulled into this comfortable ease as I talked with Rosalie the angel, that it had completely slipped my mind that Rosalie, if not someone from her family, found me asleep behind the dumpster.
If I was awake then, that would’ve been one awkward encounter.
Not knowing what else to do, I avoided the question. “I’m not at home because I’m here, duh.” I rolled my eyes to add to the effect.
“My brother found you in a dumpster,” Rosalie exclaimed, hands on her hips. I glanced cautiously at the sleeping people in the room. I wonder which male was her brother: the blond one or the muscular one. I think it was the blond one. They share the same hair, after all.
“Don’t you think,” Rosalie the tyrant continued, “that you ought to be worried that you’re not at home safe in your bed? Think of the dangers you could be in if Edward hadn’t found you! You could have died from pneumonia for one thing, or worse! You could have been kidnapped, raped and beaten up until your bones feel like spaghetti! I –”
“Actually, I was behind a dumpster, not in one,” I corrected offhandedly, distracted. It didn’t really sink into my mind that I was interrupting Rosalie’s tirade. There was something about the positions of the people sleeping that was… odd. Like it was planned, or trying too hard to look normal. Honestly, who was the brown haired guy kidding? Never in a million years would he have fallen asleep in that position.
“Behind a –” Rosalie visibly bit back an irritated scream and stamped her foot. “I’m getting Carlisle,” she said as a parting greeting.
I whistled. Wow, she wasn’t the type to handle ten year old children very well. I was only correcting her. And who was Carlisle?
I found out who Carlisle was about half a minute later. He was a man in his early twenties with platinum blond hair carefully styled back. He was wearing a loose button up shirt tucked underneath grey tailored pants, which was strange since it was the middle of the night. Shouldn’t he be wearing his sleep clothes?
“Hello, my name is Carlisle,” he said as he sat down on the coffee table. He was positioned conveniently in my view, and I in his. “Do you think you can tell me your name?”
I didn’t feel like antagonizing the man, so instead of replying with “Yes, I can tell you my name,” I simply complied. I told him my name. “Bella,” I answered softly. Something about this man simply exuded respect. Perhaps it was his posture, or maybe the way he had strode into the room, head help high. “My full name is Isabella, but I prefer to be called Bella.”
“Well then, Bella,” Carlisle smiled. “We seem to have ourselves in a pickle, have we? Edward, Rosalie’s brother and my son, found you behind a dumpster, right?” I nodded dumbly. “Do you know how you got there in the first place?” Another nod. “Care to share it with me?”
And so I told him how I got behind the dumpster. I told him how cold and hungry I was, how tired and scared. My mother was nowhere to be seen, and I didn’t know how to get to her – didn’t want to get to her. The only people out in the streets were the queer kind, and I didn’t want to be taken advantage of because of my age. I’ve seen the Home Alone series. The bad guys go after Makaulay for no reason other than just by being in there (and defending the place from them, but that’s neither here nor there). I chose to not tell Carlisle about the shadow following me as I turned into the alleyway. Even to my ears, it sounded foolish and childish.
Shadows that weren’t yours simply don’t follow you into alleyways.
“So it was just tonight that you ran from your mother?”
“Actually, that was two nights ago.”
Carlisle frowned and, after sharing a look with Rosalie (who was back to her angel persona), continued interrogating me. “And you ran because you got second place in the Little Miss Sunshine pageant?” he asked.
“No,” I shook my head. “I ran because I’m tired of my mother’s whining about how I always get second place. I don’t really care about these competitions. I think them fake and shallow.”
“That’s a wise thing to say, Bella,” Carlisle gave me a sharp, approving nod. “But you shouldn’t have run away like that. Do you know your home address? Perhaps tomorrow my wife and I can drive you back. I’m sure no matter how many misunderstanding you have with your mother, she would be worried and scared about you. You’ve been gone for some time.”
I lowered my eyes and pretended to be thinking about my home address. I really was thinking, but about something completely different. That is, how should I break it to the man that I didn’t want to go back home?
Steeling myself, I looked up and answered, “No.”
That took him by surprise.
“No, I don’t know my home address,” I clarified. “It was rainbow something, something, blah street. Anyway, I have no plans of going home. My mom’s currently dating this slob of a man, who isn’t really a slob since he’s a neat freak. I mean, even the broom closet smells like disinfectant!” I prattled on about Bill, enjoying myself a little bit as the corner of Carlisle’s eyes tightened in irritation.
“Bella, you’re mom’s boyfriend is hardly a reason why you can’t go home,” he tried to reason.
But I wasn’t listening, because at that exact moment, there was that familiar growling sound again. It came from outside the room. I stiffened, knowing full well what that growling sound was. It belonged to that shadow – that thing – chasing me. Though I should be frightened to death, I wondered why a thing that growls would be chasing little ol’ me.
“Right,” I exclaimed, making my decision. I jumped up and kicked away the covers to free my legs. Now, I was ready to run for my life. “Bill’s an okay guy,” I said to Carlisle, who seemed slightly flustered by my actions. I couldn’t blame the man.
“He is?” Rosalie asked, as equally confused as her father.
“He’s not really the reason I don’t want to go back. That, however, is,” I jerked my thumb towards the general area from which the growling was coming from. “I need to go. Thank you for your hospitality, and thank you for trying to convince me to come back home. But I can’t. Renée doesn’t deserve this.”
And with that said, I ran.
It was not the most intelligent thing to do, but it was probably the best thing I could have ever done. I didn’t know what would happen to Carlisle and Rosalie and their sleeping family if I stayed. The thing would get to me and do who knows what – kill me? Gobble me up like some monster? Anyway, as I punched the down button for the elevator, I prayed to anyone listening that I can get to a safe place before the shadow catches me.
Fifteen minutes, a billion and one stories, a couple of wrong turns and one lost shoe later, I found myself cowering in a corner as a handsome, red-haired boy battled the thing. Closer, I realized that it was a hideous looking creature, not quite a shadow anymore. It somehow resembles a rabid dog – only much bigger.
It had red eyes. Eyes redder than my blush when I get embarrassed, redder than the red M&Ms I eat every Saturday afternoon with my mom, redder than the skies at sunset. The eyes were as red as hot molten lava. I thought it was the scariest thing I could ever see, but then I saw its fangs. They were razor sharp and were like daggers as they curved down over its lower lip.
The creature was strong and very skilled in fighting, but then so was the boy. And, he had a sword – a breathtaking sword at that. His grunts and shouts of effort proved that he was fighting for his life. He was fighting for my life, too. Finally, the dog creature dropped to the ground, unmoving. Then it disintegrated, dissolving into a pile of dust and was gone, scattered by the wind in the blink of an eye.
And all that excitement happened as I cowered in a corner wishing I was anywhere else but in this alley, witnessing this deranged yet handsome boy fight an equally deranged but not exactly handsome rabid dog thing.
“Are you… all… right?” the boy gasped between breaths. He walked over to me, dragging the tip of his sword on the cement ground. Sparks flew, illuminating the dark alleyway. I didn’t know why, but I seem to be finding myself in alleyways all the time. I should really avoid them. Things that were really rabid dogs with sharp fangs and red eyes tend to follow me here.
“I’m fine,” I said. I stood up and tried to help the boy, allowing him to sit down on some cardboard boxes. I stifled a giggle as the boxes gave way due to his weight.
“Oh,” the boy grunted, “think this is funny?”
“Well, yes,” I said simply. “Yes, I do.”
The boy rolled his eyes. “So this is the thanks I get for killing that hellhound for you. Gee, Frank, why do you go to all this trouble just to save a cute girl?”
I blushed. This handsome boy thought I was cute? He was older than me! Wait, didn’t he think I have cooties or something? Because Ollie from my third grade class says all girls had cooties. Too busy I was thinking about cooties, I missed what the boy said about the dog monster – the hellhound.
“I’m sorry,” was all I was able to say. Well, that plus my name. The boy, Frank, commented how my name was Italian for beauty, and I blushed again.
“So,” he said, standing up. Apparently, he was finished recovering from the fight. “Bella, do you know why that monster of a hellhound was after you?” His tone was serious, leaving no room for a joke or a funny quip.
“So it really was a monster,” I said softly. “I was half thinking it was all my imagination.”
“Oh yeah, it was a monster, all right.” Frank scratched his head. “It was a hellhound, particularly nasty creatures. I hate it when they slobber all over my sword. So, do you know why it was chasing you or not?”
I shook my head.
“Hah, well, Bella…” Frank clapped me on the back and began leading me up the fire escape, most likely to his place. I didn’t feel uneasy or anything, mostly because I trusted him. He did save my life after all. “Let me explain to you about Camp Half-Blood and how special kinds of people are allowed to go to that camp. You see, it all begins with the Greek gods and their uncontrollable urges. You’re about eleven years old, right? I think you know what I’m talking about…”