It's been nearly five months since I graduated, Summa Cum Laude. Jasper also graduated with a distinction, Magna Cum Lauda. James didn't. He received a creditable pass and, as predicted, appeared more than satisfied. "At least I managed to maintain a decent social life," he said.
Campus, on graduation night, had been rowdy, the air filled with the celebratory sounds of students breaking free from the chains of academia. I joined the celebrations without restraint, the first time since entering law school that I'd allowed myself to let go.
"We fucking made it!' James shouted as he popped the cork on yet another bottle of champagne, the last in the case he'd managed to smuggle onto campus. He guzzled from the bottle before passing it to Jasper. "To our future,' he said and took several gulps before handing it to me. I smiled, endorsing his comment. "May it be everything we hope for,' I added, raised the bottle to my mouth and drank deeply.
I left that party in the early hours of the morning with Crystal, who'd been invited by someone else, not me, and spent what was left of the night in her bed. I woke before her and hauled myself out of bed, anxious to get back to my apartment to do the last of my packing and go home. Crystal didn't wake, so I rummaged around until I found some paper and wrote her a note saying goodbye and wishing her luck because she, too, would soon be leaving Harvard.
I ran into Jasper in the hallway as he was taking out some garbage. He looked nearly as bad as I felt. "I made some coffee; do you want some before I pack everything away?" he asked.
"Sure," I said and followed him to their apartment, grateful because, only moments before, I'd been cursing myself for not stopping to buy myself a large coffee.
"James isn't back yet," Jasper announced as he handed me a mug. Their door slammed shut before I could reply, and James entered, looking the worse for wear.
"You look like hell," I said as he threw himself down onto the sofa.
"That's what spending the night with three drunk, horny women will do to you," he answered, grabbing Jasper's mug from the coffee table.
I chose not to respond. I didn't want to hear the details of James' night that, with even the slightest encouragement, would almost certainly follow. "I should go; I still have packing and cleaning to do," I said instead. I shook hands with both, and we exchanged good wishes and promised to keep in touch. I knew it was nothing but platitudes; we all did. After all, none of us held any illusions of a lasting friendship. Our only common interest, our experience at law school, had come to an end.
Glad to be home on a permanent basis and grateful for the presence of my family, the comforts of home and my own bed, I allowed myself a week to unwind. I spent time with Mom, Dad, and Rose, collectively and as individuals, something I hadn't done in ages. Mom and Dad were over the moon about my results, just as they'd been when Rose graduated the year before. Their pride filled me with a sense of satisfaction, but I couldn't allow myself to be complacent because I had one more hurdle to clear. Before I could become a prosecutor or, in fact, practice as a lawyer in any capacity, I had to gain admission to the bar. And so, after a long, boozy night at the pub with Em and the guys, I hunkered down to prepare for yet another exam.
Then, more than ever, I felt vindicated that I'd ignored the advice of so many not to sit the MPRE early. Most of my fellow students, Jasper and James included, opted to wait until after graduation to sit the exam designed to test the knowledge and understanding of the standards that govern lawyers' professional conduct. Passing it is a prerequisite for sitting the bar exam. "What's the rush," Jasper asked. "Why add unnecessary pressure? Take the bar exam in February like everyone else," he said, but I didn't want to wait. In Massachusetts, bar exams can only be sat in July or February, and it seemed senseless, given the years of study I'd already put in to drag out the process by nine months. So, I gave up what little free time I had, studied for and sat the MPRE and, thankfully, passed, which, after graduation, left me free to study for the bar exam.
I sat that exam in July as planned, and, in the twelve weeks it took for me to get my results, I underwent the character assessment test, another necessary step before I could apply for admission to the bar. In October, I received notification that I passed.
I have plans gain admission the New York bar also. It may come in useful I rationalized when first hatching the plan. In truth, my decision had been more about making an imprint, small though it may be, in the place Edward Winston called home than any motivation I vocalized. But that plan can wait. Right now, I want to my achievements. It's the first time, in a long while, that I've allowed myself the luxury of looking back rather than forward.
I won't lie; law school had been hell at times, particularly that first brutal year— those first few months, especially, when I wondered what the hell I'd taken on. But I made it; I got through the endless, endless hours of study and reading. At times, I felt as if the library had become my second home. The second and third years had been less stressful, not only because of the lessened workload but thanks, also, to the conditioning of our year as One L's. Those last years hadn't been a walk in the park, though; there'd always been something more to learn, to understand.
Many made the most of the flexible programs to participate in extracurricular activities. Like them, I welcomed the reprieve but chose to limit myself. I competed in moot court and, along with Jasper, joined the debating team. I enjoyed the intellectual stimulus of both, and, to me, the combination of the two seemed the perfect vehicles to test and hone my legal knowledge and improve my oratory skills.
I avoided the official sporting teams, and what free time I had, I devoted to fencing, something I discovered and grew to love while in college. I find it both physically and mentally testing, and I enjoy the company of Nick Burns, my instructor. I, especially, appreciate the time away from anything law or campus related.
Jasper and James returned to rowing and tried to convince me of its merits. "It won't interfere with your studies; you're pretty much on top of everything anyway," Jasper said, but I steadfastly refused, pointing out that I was managing because of the limited potential for distraction. That had been true, but there'd been another reason I refused.
Before starting my undergrad degree, during a visit to Harvard, I was shown the Trophy Room. Among the victory regalia and team photographs, one, for some reason, drew my attention. A particular face stood out. I recognized the all-too-familiar jawline, the shape of the nose. His hair had been light brown, almost blond, his eyes gray or blue, nothing like mine, yet I knew. I knew before reading the plaque that Edward Winston had once been a member of the heavyweight rowing team. The inscription was dated fifteen months before my birth, and I wondered whether he'd already met Elizabeth. Had he already planned to take advantage of her? Rage and disgust burned through me at the sight of his carefree, smiling face. It took everything in me not to smash my fist into the glass.
I chose Harvard, knowing that he'd attended. I wanted to prove myself his equal in the place he'd probably hoped to graduate from; but I had no intention of replicating every facet of his time there, quite the opposite, in fact. I had, then, and still have no compulsion to participate in something he'd so obviously enjoyed. And that, other than not wanting to get sidetracked, had been why I refused Jasper's invitation.
That night, more than a year after Charles Adams handed them over, I asked Dad for the letters Edward Winston left me. I'm not sure what I hoped to find—some redeeming feature perhaps, or something to ease the hurt and anger I felt. I found no such thing. All reading those letters did was add Elizabeth's pain and sense of rejection to my own. I hated the bastard even more.
Each word of those letters is imprinted in my brain. Even now, seven years later, I recall every one.
I'm confused and hurt. I don't understand why you left, why you refused to speak to me after my news, and why you didn't leave a telephone number or address. I loved you; I still do, and I thought you loved me.
I know my pregnancy came as a shock. Believe me; I was shocked too. I don't know what happened, but surely you must accept that it wasn't my fault? Not entirely. I was foolish and made a mistake. We both did, but I couldn't do what you asked. I couldn't kill our baby.
So, in less than three months, I'll give birth. I don't know if it will be to a son or daughter, but I feel sure our baby's a boy. I don't know why; I just do.
When I read your note, I was determined to do this on my own, and, so far, I've managed. But my doctor's told me I have to slow down. I can no longer work at two jobs, and I can't work double shifts. If I do, I'll harm my baby—our baby.
I have no one else to turn to, so I'm asking you for help, Edward, please. Not for me, but for our child, just enough to see me through the birth and until I can work again. I'm not asking for anything else. Although, I can't help hoping and praying you'll change your mind; that you'll want to be involved in his life in some way. I just know that if you see him, touch him, feel him, you'll love him. I already do. I did from the moment I learned of his existence.
I'm begging you, Edward, for our child's sake, don't abandon us. We need you.
I hadn't shed a tear for Elizabeth for nearly a decade at the time of reading her words, but I admit to crying that night. Not for me, not for the photograph of the baby attached to the letter, one, she must have sent after my birth. I cried for her, for the anguish I read between those lines, for the fact that she begged, not for herself but for me. But I was also so fucking angry. How, having known what abandonment felt like, could she turn to drugs and leave me?
His letter, though, made me put my fist through my bedroom wall.
Edward, he wrote.
I have no idea how old you'll be by the time you read this letter, but I hope you'll be old enough and man enough to understand. I wondered long and hard about what to tell you, what the right things to say would be, and frankly, I'm no closer to knowing, so I'll just go for the truth.
I'm a man of position, born into a family with great wealth, a family with status in society, a place that generations before me have strived to improve and uphold. It would be highly unacceptable for anyone in our family to marry outside of our social circle, and it would be unthinkable to father and admit to having a child out of wedlock.
My relationship with your mother was never meant to be more than a brief affair, but, unfortunately, things got out of hand, and she fell pregnant. In hindsight, I realize that I should, perhaps, not have pursued her because I knew there could be, would be, no future for her with me. But Elizabeth was extraordinarily lovely, and innocent, so different to any woman I knew. I succumbed to temptation, and when things imploded, I left. I hoped she'd take my advice and move on, but she didn't.
I was angry when I learned that she'd decided to go ahead with the pregnancy, and I refused to help when she all but begged for assistance. I was callous in my refusal, but it was best for everyone concerned. Elizabeth would move on, marry someone, and she and her child would be taken care of, and I would live the life I was meant to—one without complication. And I did; until some years ago, when watching my son, my daughters, I found myself wondering about my other child. Yes, there was never any doubt in my mind that you were mine; Elizabeth had been untouched when I met her.
I paid an investigator to trace your birth. That's all I wanted to know—when you were born, whether I had a son or daughter, so that, one day, I could try to compensate for my actions.
I wish you well, Edward, and hope you live a productive life.
Mom and Dad both rushed into my room when I hit the wall. I expected Dad to be angry, disappointed at the very least; but he took one look at me, at the crumpled letter on the floor and wrapped me in his arms. "It's okay, Son, I've got you," he said, over and over as I gulped for air, trying to contain the torrent of tears, to clear my head of the red haze of anger. Mom rubbed my back while Dad held me. "I fucking hate him, I hate him," I said. Neither admonished me for swearing; and Mom, when I told her to throw out his letter, said she would. She took it and Elizabeth's letter and the photograph and returned a short while later.
They left when I calmed down. "We'll talk when you're ready," Mom said and kissed me on the forehead. We did talk, the next day. Both my parents reminded me that they loved me, that I'm a Cullen. "I hate that I have his name. Why did she name me after him?" I asked.
You're a better man than he ever was, Edward. The fact that you share a name doesn't diminish who you are. It's Elizabeth's legacy to you. It was her way of nullifying his rejection," Mom said.
"Make it count; make it stand for more than he did. Be a better man than he was; than he ever could have been," Dad added.
"Screw him," Rose said when she heard.
And now, without knowing exactly how smart Edward Winston had been, I feel I've equaled or, at the very least, come close to matching his academic achievements. I've proven that the child he wanted aborted is as good as he was, the equal to anyone from his privileged background. That, for now, is enough for me. I'm within spitting distance of realizing another desire motivated by my abhorrence for him—becoming a prosecutor—and I'll spend my life ensuring that I'm nothing like him.
My two summers of internship have paid off because, when hearing that I'd passed the bar exam, Bill Watts invited me to interview to fill one of two ADA vacancies. 'You understand that even though you've worked here, we're compelled to go through the process, don't you, Edward? It wouldn't be fair to the other candidates otherwise. That said, your academic results, coupled with your track record here, should stand you in good stead,' he said. I thanked him for the opportunity and in the days leading up to my appointment, tried to quell my excitement, reminding myself not to become over-confident.
I was surprised and momentarily confused when, on the day, I entered the meeting room, both Bill Watts and the DA, Mr. Beazley, were present. "Edward, I hope you don't mind that I've invited myself. I make it a practice, whenever I'm able, to sit in on final interviews," he said before I could apologize for interrupting.
"Of course not, Sir," I answered, trying not to look too awestruck. Gerard Beazley, known as Bristly because of his bushy eyebrows, is an imposing man. Tall and thickset with dark brown, almost black hair and piercing blue eyes, he has a formidable prosecutorial record. I should know; I read up on every one of his cases when joining as an intern. I'd seen him around the office, of course; he's hard to miss, but I'd never had the opportunity, before that interview, to speak with him. I took a calming breath when Bill Watts indicated I should sit and waited for the first question.
Mr. Beazley didn't say much. He listened and, occasionally, asked me to elaborate on a response, but I remained keenly aware of his presence. I tried not to let it distract me and concentrated hard not to think about how my answers would shape the DA's impression of me. I told myself to draw on my knowledge and to answer frankly. It took me some minutes to settle down but I did and, in the end, I felt I did well.
"Thank you, Edward; it was interesting," Mr. Beazley said at the end. I thanked them both and left, wondering what his cryptic comment had meant. Was 'interesting' a good or bad thing?
Eight days passed before Bill Watts called to say my I'd been successful, and, contingent on my admission to the bar, they'd like me to start at the beginning of December. I quickly assured him that I could and would be happy to start sooner, but he stopped me.
"You've just spent seven years studying, and I doubt you've had much time in the last three to truly relax. Forget about law for a while and do something completely different. It will benefit both you and the department in the long term," he said decisively.
I was disappointed at the time, but now, days later, I acknowledge he'd been right; my life had been consumed by the law. When Mom and Dad heard about my job offer, Mom suggested we travel to Europe, something we'd spoken about doing for ages.
"You and Rose have both finished your studies, so the timing's perfect, and neither of you have to spend the entire time with us. You could go off on your own whenever you choose," Dad added without question, which led me to believe that he had Mom had already discussed the holiday. Rose immediately started planning, of course
"Don't you want to go, sweetheart," Mom, seeing my hesitation, asked.
" I do," I assured her, "it's just—I don't want to make any plans until I know whether I'll be admitted to the bar or not.
"You will be, Edward," she assured me.
"I'd rather not count my chickens," I replied.
"What's the worse case scenario, Son?" Dad asked.
"I'd have to take the exam again." He smiled, having already known the answer. "So, in the unlikely event that you have to resit, when would you be able to do so," he asked, again, knowing that I'd have to wait until February.
"Exactly," he responded before I could, "so let's plan our trip." We did. Our plans included visiting London, Paris, and Rome. Mom and Dad wanted to see Ireland and Scotland, so Rose and I decided we'd stay on in London for a week longer and then meet up with them in Paris after spending a week in Spain.
Emmett, when he heard, asked if he could meet up with Rose and me in London and then travel with us to Spain.
"Sure," I said, "but you've never wanted to see Europe before?" I asked because he'd always spoken about South America and also because he seemed uncharacteristically embarrassed or nervous. I couldn't determine which, because Emmett avoided looking me in the eye, something else that was unusual.
"I just think it would be great to see those places with you," he said.
"Rose will be there too, so if you're expecting us to pick up girls, that won't be happening," I warned because Emmett is a bit of a player, worse than I'd ever been.
"I know that," he said, looking and sounding irritated.
"I'm not trying to be a dick, Em, but I wouldn't behave that way around Rose," I told him.
"Nor would I," he said glaring at me.
"Great, that's settled then," I told him, and so Emmett was included in our plans. I expected Rose to object that our time together would be spoiled, but she didn't. In fact, she seemed more than pleased. I found it strange because Rose had insisted that our time alone would be a good rebonding time. "I miss the way we used to be," she'd often lamented after I'd left for law school. Preoccupied with waiting for news from the admissions board, I thought no more of her and Emmett's odd behavior.
And Finally, the day I've been working toward for seven years arrived—well, eight, depending on whether I choose to measure my legal journey from that pivotal moment in Siobhan's office or the day I started my undergrad degree. This morning, I received official notification that I've been admitted to the Massachusetts' Bar.
In two weeks, I'll attend the formal admissions ceremony at Faneuil Hall, where, in an actual session of the court presided over by a Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court, I'll take the Attorneys Oath, sign the Roll of Attorneys, and be presented with my license to practice law.
Three days after that, I'll fly out to London with my family, and, later, Em will arrive. Then, he and Rose, my two best friends, will join me on my first European adventure. Right now, I feel extraordinarily blessed. I've come a long way from that neglected little boy who watched my mother's decline into drugs and prostitution and who, later, learned of a father who wanted him aborted. Thanks to the dedication and warm heart of Esme Cullen, who could so easily have written me off as just another welfare case, I've been given a new and better life.
Things could have turned out so differently for me, I know that; I've seen evidence of that during my pro-bono stint and internship. Gaining an insight into their lives and learning about the deplorable, sometimes barbaric nature of the crimes perpetrated against the weak and vulnerable has strengthened my resolve to make the most of the advantages I've been given. In January, when I start the new phase of my life, I'll do everything I can to secure justice for the victims of crime. After all, I could so easily have suffered their fate.
Sorry, I was running late on this chapter and hope I haven't overlooked any errors in my rush to publish.
This has been the final chapter in the Counsel series posted to this site. I'm sad to leave these characters behind, but their departure provides the opportunity for me to write new things and to create new versions of Stephanie Meyer's wonderful personalities.
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