Surprise, my loves.

I'm still working on the next chapter of Free, and that will be coming to you very shortly, but I couldn't wait to share this story with you as well. I'm trying something new here, so please bear with me as I work on this. I find myself struggling a lot to work through writers block when I'm only working on one story at a time- and I think this might help me some more. Free will remain my primary story, as that came first, and I will devote most of my writing time to that.

Thanks for sticking with me guys, and I hope you enjoy this one. Please share your thoughts!

… …

Choices. Our lives are riddled with them, made up of them, depend on them. And you don't get to make all of the choices that affect you on your own. Sometimes others make them for you, sometimes life has a way of not giving you a choice at all. You get to make some choices, but then there are the times that choices make you.

Leaving that three hundred person town was my choice.

Coming back to it wasn't.

… …

"Mom, is everything okay?" I asked. I was in the line at Starbucks, desperate for my next caffeine fix, when my phone rang. That wasn't unusual- I was a busy woman. But it was unusual that my mother was calling me.

Our relationship had become…strained, to say the least, after I left the tiny town of Forks, Washington soon after my nineteenth birthday. Now I'm twenty five, and I haven't been back there since. I've seen my parents on holidays, birthdays, and other special occasions, but they come to me. That's the only way.

"Does something have to be wrong for me to call my only daughter?" My mother replied, her voice bright and cheery- but almost too much so.

"Well, considering that you never call me…" I trailed off, my voice laced with frustration.

"You know, that does work both ways, Izzy."

I sighed, pressing my free hand against my forehead. "Let's not argue," I suggested. "What's new, mom?"

I listened to her talk for a few minutes, about my dad, her job at the library, the book club she was a part of…it went on and on, past me placing my order with the barista and then picking it up.

"Mom, I'm actually on my way to work…" I said, trailing off and hoping she would get the hint without also getting offended.

"Well, I'll cut to the chase, then," she replied, the cheerful tone of her voice disappearing. "Izzy…you need to come home."

"Mom…" I started to protest, but she cut me off quickly.

"It's your brother."

… …

"Relax, Bella. We'll get along fine without you for a couple of days," my assistant assured me. "I'll call you with updates, and just text me if you need anything or want me to do something."

"I know, I know," I said, brushing my hair out of my eyes. "This is just not the time for me to be out of town…the holiday line is only launching in a few weeks, and there are a thousand little things that need to get done before then…I can't let this launch fail because of personal problems."

"Bella, I might be the only person in the world that knows your schedule better than you do," Alice said soothingly. "I know what needs to get done, and I'll make sure everything is covered. You're allowed to take time to be with your family."

I let out a deep breath, telling myself that I had hired Alice for a reason, and now I needed to trust her. "Thanks, Alice," I said, hugging her tightly. "Please call me if you need anything, and make sure to keep me updated with what's going on. I want to stay in the loop. Oh, and the key-"

Alice laughed, cutting me off. "Trust me, Bella. I know this place like the back of my hand. Go. And I hope everything is okay."

I nodded, letting the enormity of the situation back at home wash over me for a moment. "Thank you. Me, too."

… …

I stared out the window of the plane, engrossed with the site of the world below me. I hadn't been on an airplane until after I turned twenty one years old, but in the last three or four years, I've flown countless times and been to cities that I hadn't even heard of back then. I hadn't been happy with my life, so I took it and with hard work and passion, I turned it into something that I was extremely proud of.

The hard work wasn't over, but I was finally in a place where I loved my life. And it made it even sweeter to know that everything I had was due to my own efforts. I had made something of myself all on my own.

If you would have told me six years ago that I would have started a makeup company, I would have thought you were crazy. Sure, I liked makeup back then, but I hardly had any of it and didn't care too much about how I looked. After leaving Forks for Chicago, I had a hard time finding work. After all, I had no prior work experience and no education past high school.

The first job I could find was working at a beauty counter in Nordstrom, and it all exploded from there. After I started there, I found that I had a real passion for cosmetics and makeup artistry, so I shelled out part of my hard earned paycheck to become a certified makeup artist, and started doing freelance jobs on the side. It took a little while after that, but eventually I had developed a stellar reputation and all of a sudden, I was creating my own makeup company.

Violet Lane was a small company, obviously, but we were starting to gain some recognition and our sales were increasing with every passing month. I worked hard for what I had, but it was all starting to come together now, and I couldn't be more proud.

Of course, having someone to work for made it all the more better. After all, my makeup brand was just the namesake of what was really most important to me in this world- my daughter.

She had been a surprise, and it wasn't easy raising her as a single, working mother, but she made it all worth it.

I hadn't known that I was pregnant with her when I left Forks, but I think I would've made the same choice, regardless.

It was my choice to leave, and my choice to keep Violet even though I knew it would be hard. It had also been my choice not to tell her father about her existence. And sometimes, I hate myself for it.

… …

"C'mon, baby," I said, tugging on Violet's hand. "Time to go get our suitcases, and then you'll get to see Grandma and Grandpa."

"Yay!" Violet said, shouldering her purple backpack. "What about Uncle Jasper?"

I swallowed thickly, but smiled down at my little green eyed girl. "We might be able to visit Uncle Jasper later this week, sugar."

She was placated, and chattered aimlessly as we disembarked from the plane and made our way to the luggage claim. I quickly located my plain suitcase and her purple flowered one, and wasn't at all surprised when we left the terminal to find it pouring down rain outside. We stayed under the awning, watching it come down.

"Yuck," Violet remarked solemnly, scrunching up her button nose and making me laugh. "Hey!" She exclaimed suddenly, dropping my hand to point towards the car approaching. "That's grandma!"

Sure enough, my mom was out of my parents old car before my dad had even put it in park, and she scooped Violet up into her arms immediately. "Baby!" She cried, spinning her afraid in her arms and kissing all over her face.

And regardless of how much my mother and I had clashed during the last several years, I smiled. Despite the problems I had with my mom, she was the best grandmother to Violet and obviously loved her irrevocably. "Hey, mom," I said, pulling our suitcases behind me. "It's great to see you."

Mom squeezed Violet one more time before setting her on her own two years and then pulling me into her arms, instead. "Hi, Izzy," she replied, and I inhaled the familiar scent of her perfume. It was the same kind she had been wearing for as long as I could remember, and it was oddly soothing. "I missed you."

I smiled at her as we pulled apart, but the moment was cut short by a loud honk.

"Hey, this isn't a parking lot," my dad called through the open car window. Mom and I broke apart, and I ducked out from under the awning and hurriedly placed Violet into the booster seat they had already put in as my mom tossed our luggage in the trunk and then got into the car herself.

"Would you look at this," my dad said as he pulled away from the curb. "I've got all of my girls in one car."

Violet giggled loudly, and my dad didn't even seem to mind when her little feet kicked the back of his seat in her excitement. "Grandpa, I get to miss school this week," she informed him. "But mom said it was okay, just this once."

"Well, if your mom says it's okay…" my dad winked at me in the rearview mirror.

"Blossom, tell me what you've been learning in school," my mom said, turning her had towards the backseat. "Grandpa and I want to hear all about it."

The car ride from Port Angeles wasn't long, and I stayed mostly silent while my parents and Violet chatted. The landscape whizzed by me as I looked out the window, and I found it remarkable how familiar it all was. I had tried to tell myself that I had forgotten this place, that it wasn't a part of me anymore, but the longer we drove, the more I realized that wasn't true.

Maybe I had tried to run away, but this was where I was born and raised. I might feel like a different woman now, but this would always be where I came from. I didn't have a choice when it came to that.

… …

"How're you doing, mom?" I asked as soon as she pulled the door to my old bedroom shut behind us. We had just tucked Violet into bed, and the two of us were heading back downstairs.

"Oh, honey…" my mom sighed, shaking her head. "Let's just say I'm happy you and Violet are here now. You both brighten things up so much."

We sat down at the kitchen table, and although my dad didn't leave his spot in front of the television, I heard him turn the volume down so that he could hear us from the next room. "What happened?" I asked in a low voice. "Is he going to be okay?"

"It was an overdose," my mom said as she twisted her hands together. "But they think it was accidental. He was taking pain pills after he hurt his back last year at work, and his anti-psychotics and then he was taking some…some other things, too,. I'm not really sure. It's all been a haze, honestly."

"I'm sure," I murmured in reply, starting to get lost in my own thoughts.

Jasper was only a year older than me, and we had always been close when we were children. But he struggled as we grew older, dealing with his own demons and mental problems that emerged as he entered adulthood. When I left, Jasper probably took in the hardest. He was proud of me for all that I accomplished, and he adored his niece, but I always got the impression that he felt I had run away from him, not just from Forks. I think it hurt him, and I couldn't help but put some of the blame on myself for what was happening now.

"They said we could visit him starting on Tuesday," my mom was saying. "I'm not sure if you want to bring Violet, though."

"It depends on how he's doing," I said honestly. "But…if I can't bring Vi, then I probably won't go. I want you and dad to be able to see him, and I can wait to visit until Wednesday or Thursday instead. I just don't have anyone to watch Violet."

She nodded, looking at me with a serious look on her face. "Have you…have you thought about what it means? Being back here?"

"Yeah," I answered honestly, swallowing thickly. "And I'm not sure of what to do. I feel like I'm in too deep, mom. She's five years old, mom. And I've done it all on my own all this time."

"But that was your choice," she reminded me gently. "You don't know how things would have been, if the circumstances were different."

"I know. And that's my fault. I'm…I'm worried about the consequences of my actions, mom. I know I made me choices, and I did what I thought was best not only for Violet but for me, too. I wouldn't go back on them, because look at how perfect Violet is, and how well we're doing. But god, mom. It's so hard with the fact that I probably did the wrong thing. For Violet, and for…for him."

My mom was silent for a minute. "Do you want to contact him, Izzy?"

"I don't know," I said, a little tearfully. "I don't even know who he is anymore…and I feel like he has every right to hate me for what I did."

"He's doing well," she said quietly. "He's got a job at the hospital…he used to come into the library to study in between his shifts at the diner while he was getting his degree. Still handsome. I think he lives over on the other side of town- over by the park. And he's got a girlfriend. Lauren, um…Lauren Mallory, I think."

I nodded, remembering a beautiful blonde who had been a few years behind us in school. "Does he seem like he's happy? I mean, with his life? I know you don't talk to him much, but it's a small town…"

"I see his mother at the library quite a bit, actually. And she's a part of our book club. She always has a smile on her face when she talks about him. I think he is happy."

"Good. I want him to be," I said honestly.

I did want him to be happy. I just hoped that the choices I had made years ago didn't affect his happiness.

… …

Thanks again, guys! What did you think? See you soon for the next chapter of Free- planning to update that tomorrow!