Chapter One

Charlie

She was the most exotic and exciting girl I had ever seen and she was in love with me, even her name was different, Renee, it made me think of foreign places, countries I had only ever read about. Of course my mother hated her, she was "bad news", a runaway who had dropped out of school, lived with friends and worked in a number of jobs, the sort that only employed girls like her . I didn't care about any of that and as the weeks passed we started making plans. Renee worked at the diner and lived above with another waitress and our evenings were spent there deciding on our future. Renee would work to support us while I went to university and got my degree. I could see my name on that brass door plaque already, Charles Swan Attorney at Law and once I was earning she would have her turn and become a teacher. We would move away from this one horse town to the city, Seattle or maybe even further, my wife to be was a city girl at heart and to make the big money I needed a big city office.

When I told my parents I had asked Renee to marry me and she had accepted my mother burst into tears and fled while my dad just sat there shaking his head.

"You don't know anything about the girl Charlie. She's not a country girl, her type wants the bright lights and lots of money. She isn't for you. What happened to Mary Jones? You and she were pretty close before Renee came to town."

I tried to explain Renee's allure but he didn't get it, he and my mum wanted me to stay here in Forks, marry Mary, and follow my dad into the police force but I knew that wouldn't do for my Renee and I'd promised her as soon as we could we would shake the dust of Forks from our shoes and travel, eventually see the world from our own private jet. Charles Swan was going to be a big earner and buy his wife everything she ever dreamed of. Only at night when I was settled in my own bed alone did the doubts raise their heads, could I really do all that Renee wanted me to do? Could I live in the city? Did I have the drive, the ruthlessness, to be an attorney? But by morning I had pushed them aside and they lay forgotten until I closed my eyes again.

Our wedding was a big affair by Forks standards, Renee wanted it all and I worked extra shifts at the store every night and weekends when she was working to get together the extra money to make it magical for her. My parents did all they could but her mother never showed and I had no idea where her father was, if he was even still alive. There was no one from her side at the service or the reception but my friends rallied round so it didn't look so strange. The guys liked Renee, like me her allure was that she was a little different from the Forks girls but the girls, well we put it down to jealousy because Renee had seen places and she was independent, not still under the parental thumb so to speak. Why it never occurred to us that she might get pregnant I have no idea, we took precautions sure but they weren't always reliable and it just happened. The day she told me my world changed for ever, but I should have seen the warning signs. I was thrilled, I wanted to tell everyone, I wanted to shout from the rooftops but she made me promise nor to tell a soul until she was ready. What I didn't know until later was that she was trying to find a way to get rid of the baby, my baby. I just thought she was shy about it all.

Our friends congratulated us, joking that Seattle was going to be just a dream now we had a child to think about. My mother started crying yet again and my dad took me into his study for a "chat". He had seen what I was blind to, Renee's misery at the news. He told me I had to be adult about things, that I needed a steady job with a safe income so I could provide a home for my family and that made sense. I didn't want my child brought up in rented rooms above a diner, I wanted my kid to have a bedroom of its own, a yard to play in and all the things that kids needed, toys, clothes, maybe even a pet dog when it grew up a little. Our first row happened the day I told her I had applied to the Forks Police Department for a job. I had no idea how angry this would make her but I soon found out. She said I'd betrayed her, going behind her back. She said I'd promised her we would leave this backwater and move to the city, that I would get a good job and take her places and the more I pointed out I was doing what was best for her and the baby the more angry she got. In the end she went out slamming the door and I didn't see her again that night. I found out the next day she had turned up on Jack Newton's doorstep, Alice his wife being her only friend in Forks. He and Alice had tried to make her see that I was doing the best thing for all of us and when I got back from work that evening she was home cooking dinner and pretending the previous night had never happened.

She never spoke about it again, in fact she didn't speak about much at all, not seeming to get excited as the birth got closer and we bought our first house. It was a big place that I got at a knock down price because the old lady, Mrs Simmons had died and she had no family to leave it to. Sure it needed work but it was ours and I had great plans for it. I was really excited when we finally got the keys and dragged her from room to room explaining my plans. I guess she didn't have much of an imagination when it came to houses because she didn't seem to get it. We went shopping for the baby things and paint for the nursery but I couldn't get her excited about that either choosing the colour and the drapes myself. I just had time to finish the nursery before she went into labour and when I learned I had a daughter I was over the moon, just like every other father, proudly carrying her in my arms and introducing her to everyone while Renee stood pale and silent by my side. The doctor said it was just baby blues, that she'd get over it quickly and not to worry and I listened to him. How I wish to God I hadn't.

The day I came home to find them both gone was the worst day of my life. At first when I saw the car gone I thought maybe she'd gone shopping or to my parents house but when I got inside I found the thick brown legal envelope propped up against a cereal packet on the kitchen table. I guess I knew what was inside before I opened it, my stomach feeling like I'd dropped twenty storeys in a runaway elevator. Her note was short and sweet,

"Charlie you let me down. Renee."

Nothing else, just those few words but it was obvious from the rest of the contents that she had been planning this for some time. Ironic seeing as Isabella was only six months old, she must have started the ball rolling more or less as soon as she got out of the hospital. The legal papers were for a divorce with Renee getting sole custody of Isabella and a monthly sum from me to pay for them both to live. She knew how much I earned and how much extra I could earn if I did extra shifts and she'd asked for just as much as would leave me the bare minimum to live on. If I agreed to the divorce and the custody rights she wouldn't ask for any money from the house which was a joke as the mortgage on it meant it was worth nothing to us. When I checked our bank account I saw she had emptied it except for a few dollars and I admit I sat there that night put my head on my hands and cried.

When I finally pulled myself together I went to my dad with all the paperwork and asked his advice. To give him credit he never said I told you so, never even hinted at it, but helped me make sense of everything. He had money his father had left him and agreed to help me keep the house provided I went through the Police Academy and got a proper job.

"A dispatcher and general dogsbody wont get you far Charlie, you need a career and you can have one with the police department. As for Renee I don't see what else you can do son. We don't know where she is and with such a young baby she'll likely get custody anyway. All you can do is ask the court to give you visitation rights. If you agree to pay her what she's asking I think you'll get it just fine. We'll help you until you can stand on your own two feet again."

So I agreed to everything she asked and in return I got visitation rights, one weekend in six and a week in the summer and alternate Christmases once Isabella reached four years of age. Renee didn't attend the court hearing, just her lawyer, she was ill and Isabella was, according to him, with her maternal grandmother so I never even saw my baby daughter and little was I to know that I wouldn't see Isabella again for a long time.