Chapter One: This Reminds Me
I groaned at the sound of my alarm early Saturday morning. I did not want to be awake yet, but I had a study group I needed to get to and I needed to get Ryan up and ready to go to my sister's house for the day. I rolled over and turned the alarm and lay there listening to my five-year-old talk to himself in his bedroom.
I sat up, rubbed the sleep away from my eyes, and got out of my bed. I took a quick shower, pulled jeans and an old Oxford sweat-shirt on, and headed down the hall to Ryan's room. I gently pushed the door open and smiled as I watched him sitting in his rocking chair, reading one of his books.
"Morning, baby," I smiled as I ruffled his hair.
"Mama!" He squealed, dropping the book and reaching his hands out to me. I laughed as I picked him up with a grunt. Ryan was not a little baby anymore, but he still loved being hugged and cuddled. He was a total mama's boy, which I loved, but he was getting harder to carry the bigger he got.
"Do you want Honey Nut Cheerios for breakfast?"
"Yes!" He giggled as I kissed his forehead and put him back on the ground. I grabbed him some clothes, helped get him changed...even though he claimed he didn't need any help...and took him downstairs. He sat in his chair while I poured him a bowl of cereal and chowed down the second I placed his bowl down. I made myself some coffee and sat down with him as he finished his breakfast.
"Do I hafta go to Aunt Emily's house?"
"You love Aunt Emily and Uncle Sam," I argued. "Why don't you want to go, baby?"
"I miss you, mama," He said sadly, looking down at the ground. I felt terrible. I was preparing to take the Bar Exam at the end of the semester. I'd been out in study groups and at the library more than ever before and he was starting to notice. It wasn't like I enjoyed spending so much time away from him, but I needed to do well on this exam. I was behind schedule by a year. I needed to do this.
We needed to get out of this tiny apartment and we needed to actually start our life.
"Baby, it's almost done," I sighed as I wiped his mouth and hands. "But, in two months mama will graduate law school, take her big test and then we can have our weekends back."
That was the hope anyway.
"I want grandma," He whined and I could see the big tears in his eyes. He loved my mother, but she was in Florida with my step-dad. She was up here as much as she could be, but it had been a while since we'd seen her.
When I found out I was pregnant, I was about to start my senior year at Columbia. I cried for weeks before mom made me make the most important decision of my life. I could either have this baby and raise him, or I could have given him up for adoption. I chose adoption at first, but at the first doctor's appointment where I could hear the heartbeat, I was in love. I made the choice to keep him and that meant putting my life on hold.
I finished up the first semester of my senior year and moved into the small apartment Mom had helped me find and furnish. It was hard to not go back when the second semester started, but I knew I couldn't take care of a newborn and go to school at the same time. I knew myself and knew my limits. My baby was more important than school and he deserved my undivided attention.
On February 3rd, I went into labor and on February 4th, Ryan Anthony Swan came into the world, kicking and screaming. Giving birth was the hardest thing I'd ever done, but I was too in love with my son to care. Mom moved in with me after he was born and stayed with us for nearly two years. Ryan had grown very attached to her, especially since she was the one to stay with him when I went back to school to finish my undergrad and year after he was born.
It was still hard for him adjusting to her not being around all the time.
"Don't go," He begged as he slid off his chair and climbed into my lap.
"How about this," I tried bargaining with him. "I'm going to go to my study group and then you and Aunt Emily can meet me on campus and we'll go to the mall and we'll get some ice cream and play on the little play ground."
"Can I have a cookie too?"
"You can choose whatever sweet item you'd like," I rolled my eyes, smiling at my son. "But you can only have one."
"Will you be home tomorrow?"
"Yes," I nodded. But my group was coming to our apartment while he took his nap. "We're so close, baby, just be patient with me."
I finished getting the two of us ready and made the short drive to my sister's house. Emily was a lifesaver. She and her husband just recently moved to Boston for his job and I was grateful. She had a very flexible work schedule and usually worked from home and told me she wanted to be helpful in my last year of law school. She took Ryan a lot, especially on the weekends, and it was a huge blessing.
"He's a little clingy today," Emily whispered as Ryan clung to me at the front door.
"I told him that you two could meet me on campus when I was finished and we'd head to the mall," I explained. "If you're okay with that."
"Of course," she smiled. I had no clue what I'd do without my sister. She was the first person to know that I was pregnant and stood by my side the entire time I was in labor. But, because she still lived in Buffalo when Ryan was born, she wasn't around as much as she wanted to be. She had definitely been making up for lost time in the last year that she and Sam had been in Boston.
Once I talked Ryan down enough to let me go, I headed to campus and had to run to the Harvard Law Library because I was going to be late for the second time if I didn't.
"Look who decided to show up," The bitch of our study group, Jane, rolled her eyes as I sat down.
"I'm three minutes late," I fought. Everyone else in our group was always really patient with me and understanding if anything happened. Jane had hated me from day one and never let me live it down.
"Calm down, Jane," Tyler groaned as I opened my study book up. "She's doing more with her life now than you probably ever will."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Can we just start please?" Alice begged. I was incredibly thankful for Alice's friendship. She was always the one willing to let me copy notes if I had to miss class because Ryan was sick. It didn't happen often, but our first year I missed three days of class because he'd come down with a stomach virus. She saved my butt and I didn't end up failing my upcoming exam.
Plus, she never put up with Jane's crap and let her know when she was being a bitch.
"You're just in a pissy mood, don't take it out on Bella," Alice hissed back at Jane, effectively shutting her up.
After almost three hours, we decided to end our study session and I sent Emily a text that we were finished.
"Everything okay?" Jared, the boy who'd had a major crush on me from the start, asked as I packed up my things.
"Yeah, my kid was just hesitant to let me go,"
"That's why you should have used protection," Jane mumbled under her breath, but she had meant for me to hear it.
"My son is the best thing that's ever happened to me," I snapped. "I will gladly be late to a study session if it means hugging him extra long in the morning."
"Don't give into her pettiness," Alice sighed as I pulled my coat on. "Let's go." I grabbed my bag and headed outside with Alice. We talked for a few minutes before I got the text from Emily saying they were walking to the Starbucks on campus so Ryan could get a treat. I made my way across campus and smiled as I saw my little boy holding a coffee cup.
"Mama!" He screeched, nearly dropping his cup when he saw me standing in the door. I bent down and caught him as he jumped into my arms. "I missed you,"
"I missed you too, baby." I kissed his forehead and set him back down on the ground. I took the cup of coffee Emily was offering to me and we sat down so Ryan could drink his hot chocolate without spilling it on himself. Once he was done, we bundled up again and headed outside.
"You wanna just take my car?" I asked as I watched Ryan walking in front of us.
"Sure," Emily nodded as I searched in my messenger bag for my car keys.
"I left my keys inside. Be right back," I told her as I walked back inside. I grabbed my keys off of our table and headed back out so we could get to the mall before Ryan got too restless.
"Mama!" He squealed as we began walking back towards my car. "It's the man."
"What man?" I asked, looking at him.
"The man from the box."
"Under your bed," He smiled as he pointed in the other direction.
"Ryan, what are you talking about?" I asked as I looked in the direction he was pointing in.
"The man with my eyes, Mama." I stopped breathing. I looked where Ryan was pointing and was suddenly taken back six years. When I was twenty-one studying abroad in London for the semester.
"Bella, what is he talking about?" Emily asked as she looked in the same direction.
"Edward?" I whispered as I dropped all my things to the concrete. The sudden loud noise seemed to grab Edward's attention and he looked my way. Our eyes locked and I thought I was going to be sick. "Edward," I repeated as he shook his head, probably trying to comprehend what he was seeing.
"Bella..." Emily trailed off.
"Stay here," I was being drawn to where he was standing and I left everything on the ground as I walked across the courtyard to where he was standing. I stopped in front of him, trying to figure out what to say.
"Hi, Bella," He whispered.
"What are you doing here?" I asked, my voice shaky. "Why aren't you in London?"
"I thought you were at Columbia,"
"I came here for law school," I told him. "You knew that was my plan."
"You didn't answer my question," I pointed out. "What are you doing here? In the States?"
"My Mom needed me to come home. Family emergency," He said. He looked up and I turned around to see him staring at Ryan who was kicking a rock on the ground. My hands began sweating as he continued to look at Ryan. I knew he could see the resemblance, he just didn't know it yet. "Is that your nephew?"
"Edward..." My heart was racing. How was this happening? What the hell was he doing here?
"Mama!" Ryan called as he ran towards us. Emily looked panicked as Ryan wiggled out of her grip, but was still in too much shock to actually grab him before he got to us.
"Mama?" Edward questioned. "You have a kid? You're a mom?"
"You're from the box," Ryan spoke up as they approached us. Edward cocked his head.
"The box? What box?" Edward asked as he looked down at Ryan. "How old are you, kid?"
"I'm not a kid!" Ryan argued. "I'm five years old."
"Five?" Edward asked, doing the math and trying to figure everything out.
Ryan looked up at him and smiled. He had the same, crooked smile as his father and Edward stepped back. His eyes suddenly widened and his skin turned pale. He knew who Ryan was. He knew he was his son.
The eyes gave it away.
"My birthday is February 4th. Mama threw me a Daniel Tiger party this year," Ryan continued to explain, oblivious to what was happening in front of him.
"What box, Bella?" Edward asked again.
"Mama has a box under her bed. With pictures inside," Ryan huffed, annoyed that Edward wasn't more interested in his fourth birthday party. He looked back up at Edward and squinted his eyes, really trying to get a good look at Edward.
At his father.
"You have the same color eyes as me," Ryan observed and I groaned. My kid had completely lost the small filter he actually had.
"I do," Edward nodded, agreeing with him as he still tried to figure everything out. "You wanna tell me what the hell is going on?" He looked back up at me.
"Watch your mouth," I seethed. I didn't need Ryan to get his father's foul mouth. "We have to be going."
"Bella!" Edward hissed, reaching out and grabbing my arm. "You need to tell me what's going on."
"Mama, I wanna go play!" Ryan tugged at my coat. "Let's go."
"Bella," Edward warned and I looked up at my sister, silently asking if she could distract Ryan for a little bit.
"Come on, baby," Emily grabbed Ryan's hand. "We'll meet Mama in the car. She needs to...catch up with her friend,"
"We can still go play?"
"Yeah, sweetie," I nodded. "Just give me five minutes." I watched as Emily took Ryan back to my car and turned back to Edward.
"What the hell is going on?" He repeated.
"I can't talk about this. Not now."
"I think I deserve to know some answers."
"And you will," I promised. "But I haven't been able to spend a whole lot of time with Ryan recently with school so I told him we'd go to the mall."
"No, we need to talk."
"We can talk tonight," I assured him. I reached into my pocket and found the Starbucks receipt and wrote my address down on it. "You can come by after Ryan goes to bed."
"When is that?"
"Usually I put him down at eight, but he doesn't fall asleep until around eight thirty," I told him. "Can you come by at like...eight forty-five?" He nodded. "I'll see you then."
I grabbed my things and headed to the car. I made Emily drive because I was in no state to be operating a vehicle. I wanted to be present with Ryan, but everything was crumbling beneath me. Everything I had done for my son since I made the choice to raise him by myself was being compromised. When we got to the mall, I decided that I was going to put everything aside until that night when Edwar showed up.
If he showed up.
When we finished at the mall, I drove Emily back to campus so she could get her car and headed back to the apartment with Ryan. I set him up with an episode of Daniel Tiger so I could make dinner, but I was so distracted I ended up burning the chicken. I had to settle for some grilled cheese sandwiches and carrot sticks so I could get him bathed and in bed on time.
Ryan had clearly forgotten about our encounter with Edward because he didn't end up asking me a million questions like I thought he would have. We read a few books, I sang him a few songs, and he was fast asleep by eight twenty. I kissed him one last time before leaving his room and going into my bedroom. I dug around under my bed and found the shoebox I kept under there.
It wasn't something I pulled out very often, but a few months ago I found Ryan in my room with the box open in front of him. I didn't even understand how he'd gotten ahold of it since it was pushed so far back, but he had his little hands all over my pictures. I never thought he was looking that closely until today.
I opened the box and teared up at the first picture laying on top. It was a picture of Edward and me at the top of the London Eye. I was terrified of heights, but he managed to talk me into going on the huge Ferris wheel. I was shaking as we got higher, but he held me close to him and made me feel completely safe. He calmed me down enough so that we could actually take this picture and once he took the picture, I started to freak out again.
Edward and I had met while I was studying abroad my junior year of college. I had always wanted to go to Europe and study and experience something new and I was able to do that second semester of my junior year of college. I was so eager and ready to get out of the States, I never imagined my world being completely turned upside down like it had been when I met Edward.
He was a few years older. He was the rebel of his family and decided to drop out of college when he was a sophomore. He claimed he was going to just go to Europe to find himself, but he ended up staying there. He found his love for cooking while living in London and ended up going to culinary school. He was working at a fancy restaurant while playing guitar for the band that had formed in the years he'd lived there.
He was living the dream.
When we met, I thought he was an arrogant, rich kid who was living off of daddy's money. We somehow continued to bump into each other until a drunken night at a bar turned into sleeping together. After that night, we could barely keep our hands off of each other. We promised that what was happening was only going to be a fling since I would be going back to New York at the beginning of May. At first, it was a good deal but as time went on, I started to develop feelings for him.
I knew he was feeling the same thing. I saw the way he looked at me when he thought I wasn't looking and by the end, we spent a lot less time having sex. We actually went on dates and he bought me flowers a few times. You didn't go on dates and buy flowers for a girl if you were just sleeping together.
But, when May came, we needed to end things. As hard as it was to say goodbye, it was for the best. He had his life in England and I had dreams to fulfill in the US. I begged him to come with me, but he pointed out that it wouldn't work out. He reminded me that along the road, we'd probably grow to resent each other. He had a point. We were different people. Very different people. He didn't want to hold me back. I didn't want to push him to do more with his life.
I cried for months when I got home. I didn't want to see or talk to anyone. Even though he was right when I left him in the airport, it didn't make it hurt any less. I had a broken heart and no one could do anything for me.
Then I found out I was pregnant.
I tried to get into contact with him. But, when I called him after I'd calmed down enough to form a coherent thought, his number had been disconnected. I decided to send him a letter, but I got the letter back a few weeks later telling me that he no longer lived at that address. I was hysterical. I was pregnant with his kid and had no way of telling him. I didn't want to raise the baby by myself, but I didn't have a choice.
Edward had disappeared.
I hadn't even realized how long I'd been sorting through the box when there was a soft knock on the front door. I put the box back under my bed and headed to answer the door. When I opened it, my heart lurched. He was still as beautiful as ever and suddenly, I was twenty years old again.
"Hi," I whispered, licking my lips.
"Ready to talk?" He asked and I stepped aside to let him inside.