Disclaimer: Some of the characters and some of the plot belong to Stephanie Meyers. The rest belongs to me.

Epilogue

I remember thinking when I was a teenager that it wasn't worth it—being in love I mean—it wouldn't be worth it unless being with the person in question really mattered. Unless it brought out all of these emotions, real and honest passion, even if it meant a passion that was vicious too, just tearing away at you.

I didn't want to be like my parents, the two of them obviously just staying with each other out of co-dependency. Oh yeah, they fought, but they didn't love each other. They stayed married only for lack of anything better to do.

It was gross watching the two of them together—the way they'd cling to each other not out of passion but out of fear. Out of loneliness. No fucking way was I ever going to be like that.

Except that I did just that, didn't I? I clung so desperately to V and J because I was terrified of losing our friendship, platonic though it was. I can still remember how happy they used to make me. Having them in my life was fucking awful, but it was also fucking great.

Given the choice, though, I would still choose Edward. Being with him is easy. I don't mean that we don't fight or that he doesn't make me happy, happier than V and J used to. But it's easy.

And I'm not with him out of loneliness. I'm not with him because I think that I owe him something—not any more. I'm with him because I want to be, not because I need to be.

But I get it. Everyone mocked Bella for having so much trouble getting over Edward in New Moon, but I always figured that it was just an artifact of what was in fact a supernatural romance. I figured that it had something to do with loving a vampire—part of the vampire's natural allure. It wasn't rational. It wasn't realistic. It was a fucking fantasy. But it captured a moment, didn't it? It captured that moment when you think it's never going to get better.

So yeah, the way she just took him back was bullshit, but that's why there're so many fanfictions that try to fix that. And yeah, it's a little ridiculous that there are all these AH fanfictions with Bella and Edward still carrying the scars of their tragic teenage heartache a decade or more later. But doesn't that say something? Like I'm not the only one who wants to know that even when you feel like your heart's been ripped out, you can still get better, even if it takes a really really really long fucking time.

It's taken two years for me to be able to remember V and J without feeling that old shock of hurt. Two years for me to be able to go whole months without thinking of them even once.

It probably shouldn't have taken me so long. But I don't see the point in being angry at myself for that. I'm fucked up, no argument. Nevertheless, the length of time that it's taken me to get over them is a testament to how much I cared for them—and that's fine. I loved them. I can admit that to myself without it hurting anymore.

And no—my life's not an AH. V and J aren't my Edward Anthony Masen Cullen. I don't think that there's a way that we could ever be friends again—I could never trust them—but I'm finally to a point when I don't want their apology. I don't want to scream recriminations. I don't feel a need to apologize myself. And I don't miss them.

I'm trying to be careful, though. I don't want to lose myself in someone the way that I lost myself in them. I don't want Edward to become my crutch. That wouldn't be fair to him or me, I know that.

And I'm still dealing with the same problems that made it so easy for me to become wrapped up in V and J. I know that if I had more friends that I never would have let myself become so consumed by them—but it's hard to make friends when you're so unsure all of the time.

I sometimes still think it's strange that Edward finds me interesting; the same way that I thought it was strange that V and J paid me any attention. And Edward's not perfect. He's controlling, if not in the same way as V and J, and I overreact, even when I know that he's right, sometimes doing stupid things like walking across campus in the middle of the night, just because I can't bear to go back to being told what to do. But unlike V, Edward likes my temper (though not when it makes me take stupid risks). And I can tell that, unlike V, what Edward doesn't like about me—my uncertainty about the existence of the world, for instance—he's trying to accept. Perhaps most importantly, unlike J, he doesn't seem to be playing any games.

I still read those fanfictions about the brokenhearted Bellas harboring a decade's worth of angst. For a while I stopped, afraid that it was part of the reason that I was having so much trouble getting over V and J. But now that I'm better, I think that reading one of these stories is just another kind of remembering—that's exactly it, in fact—it's like remembering something that happened to me, just with different details.

The woman who runs my Al-Anon group says that you can't bury the past. That it'll come back and haunt you if you try.

I'm not sure that I believe her—aren't memories the very things that hold you down?—but if she's right, then maybe memory itself isn't the trauma. Maybe it's the way I remember that's the problem.

So reading fanfiction's just a safe way to remember the things that hurt me—to remember how I hurt, just like Bella's hurting again—but it's safer because I'm not the Bella in the story.

It's still escapism, I know that. I can't stay there, inside of a fic. I'm not the Bella who gets her HEA. I have to come back to the so-called real world and live my own life.

But maybe I can get my own version of an HEA. I know there's no such thing as a straight-forward "happily ever after." And maybe this means that I have matured after all.

I certainly don't want that passion that looks like torment—so maybe I am settling in a way.

I'll settle for the happiness that I choose, as my responsibility and my right. Not something that can be handed to me by so-called friends who will exact a price, but something I take.

That's what I tell my brother. That it's a choice. Whether or not the world is real, it's still a choice you're making when you decide if you're going to be happy.

He tells me that I'm full of shit, and I get that. His life is far from great right now and I get what it's like to feel that you haven't got any control. Like nothing you do is good enough and everyone is telling you what to do, and you can't take it. I know what it's like when you're a hair's breadth from clawing off your skin because you feel like that's the only way you'll get out.

But when you're being held down and drowned, you can still decide if you're going to take it or if you're going to fight back.

Yeah, it's a shitty choice. But it's still a choice. Otherwise, the people who try to tell us what to do would be right whenever they try to say we can't handle the responsibility of making our own decisions.

Besides, it's Existentialism, NeoPlatonism and Buddhism 101: It doesn't matter whether or not the world exists—you still choose how you're going to react to it.

So I tell my brother to choose.

I'm still not very good at it myself, but I think that I'm getting better.