Chapter One: Before We Realized
I stood in the near-empty courtroom, playing with the silver bracelet I was wearing. I looked up at the judge and then back at Jacob, who looked like he was going to be sick. I never wanted to go to court, but we just weren't agreeing anymore on the custody of our nine-year-old son.
The judge took a deep breath and spoke.
"After listening from both parents and witnesses, I have come to a decision," He looked down at his paper. "I am granting equal custody of Brady Patrick Black to both Isabella Swan and Jacob Black. This court is dismissed," He slammed his gavel down and stood up.
I wasn't totally surprised by his decision. Jacob had grown up a significant amount since we went to court after getting divorced. However, the agreement we'd settled on a few years ago had been working pretty well so I was shocked when he said he was going to bring me back to court to fix our custody agreement.
Jacob and I met when we were eighteen years old and we were freshmen at Seattle University. There was an instant connection and I fell for him pretty quickly. By the time we entered our second semester of sophomore year, I found out I was two months pregnant. We were scared to death but we were young and in love and we wanted to raise our child together.
We had everything figured out and never expected things to end the way they did.
The minute I laid eyes on my son, I fell head over heels in love with him. Brady Patrick Black came into our lives one day in August nine years ago, and he was our entire world. I was surprised how easily I fell into the role of his mother. I changed nearly every diaper, soothed every fever, and packed every lunch.
Jacob took longer to fill the shoes of his father. He loved his son and was always there for him, but it wasn't as easy of an adjustment for him. Jake was always afraid he'd do something wrong and make Brady hate him. He'd earned our son's first laugh, took him for his first ice cream cone, and was always there to cheer him up after a tough day at school.
Jacob and I got married a year after I had Brady. We were only twenty-one years old but we were in love. Jake wanted to get married before the baby came, but I didn't want to get married just because we were having a baby. He told me he had a feeling I would respond that way and promised he would ask again.
And he did. Jake proposed to me the night of Brady's first birthday. I realized that I had fallen even more in love with him during our first year of parenting and finally said yes to him. We got married when Brady was about eighteen months old.
We had six wonderful years together as a married couple and as a family.
I was always so focused on my son that I didn't realize my marriage was starting to fall apart. When I found out I was pregnant, I decided to finish the semester and then wait to finish school until our son was older and in school. Jake graduated with his degree in finance and had been working hard to provide for his family.
He had built us a wonderful life. He worked for a large Seattle company as a financial planner and worked his way to the top pretty quickly. We were able to buy our small house just a year and a half after he graduated and we always had everything we needed.
But those long hours it took to make him successful in his career took a toll on his role as a father. As he climbed the company ladder he missed more dinners, more family outings, and more of Brady's activities. Some weeks it didn't even feel like I had a husband anymore.
It wasn't until Brady was seven that I realized how completely different Jake was from when we first met and fell in love.
Jacob had become selfish in the six years we had been married. I didn't finish school so I could be home with our son and I never regretted that. But, as Brady got older and more independent I realized I wanted to go back and finish my degree.
When I told Jake this he asked me why I wanted to do that since his job provided for us. It felt like the floor had been ripped out from underneath me. Jake always supported me even when everyone else told me I was crazy to major in journalism. When I got pregnant he told me he would leave school too and agreed to stay when I pointed out that one of us should have a degree to support Brady.
Jake was also quick to point out that with Brady's schedule, it would be impossible for me to be in school full time because he wasn't always able to make things work. He wasn't willing to sacrifice his business trips and late nights at the office. It was my job to make sure Brady and the house were taken care of. As long as he provided us with the money we needed he thought he was doing his job.
That was the day I started to fall out of love with Jacob.
He was a good guy and a great father, but if he couldn't see why I needed to finish school then we weren't as compatible as I thought we were.
When we first went to court, Brady was seven and a half. He had his routine and neither of us wanted to wreck that. The judge decided it was best to keep Brady with me during the week and then Jake could have him on the weekend. Plus, with Jake's busy work schedule it was easier.
Now that Jake's company was hiring someone new, he had a more concrete schedule and would be home at a normal hour every day.
I spoke with my lawyer and looked around to find Jacob. When I couldn't find him, I found myself getting annoyed that he'd just left. There were things we needed to talk about and he just disappeared.
When I walked outside of the courthouse and found Jacob sitting on the steps, two coffees in his hands. He smiled at me as I sat down next to him. That damn smile was what made me fall in love with him in the first place, and it still made my heart flutter ever so slightly.
"So, how do you want to do this?" He asked, taking a sip of his coffee. "I'm usually home by six at the latest and I always know if I need to stay later. I can plan around that most days."
"That's great, Jake," When we decided Brady would live with me full time, it broke Jake's heart. He'd been working hard to get to this stage with a consistent schedule.
"And I know I wouldn't be able to be home with him right after school like you," he sighed. "But I was thinking I could hire a babysitter for the few hours after school."
"I think that's a good idea. I know a few girls who are looking to make some extra cash," I told him. "I'd like to keep him in his school, though."
"Of course," He agreed. "I'm going to get an apartment in his district. There are a few buildings that seem pretty nice and they told me there are quite a few kids around."
I smiled. "You should take Brady with you to look. He'd probably like to be involved in the process."
"Good idea," He smiled. "I'm sorry about this."
I sighed. "We agreed that Brady would always come first, and he misses you. If this is what's going to make him happy then...I'm glad we did it."
"I think I want to have him every other week," He said. "I know that's a lot to ask, but I think it's a good idea."
"So do I," I nodded. "But I want you to be settled into your new place before he starts doing that."
"Deal. It shouldn't take very long. Most of my things are still in boxes," Jake had moved a few times since the divorce. He said none of the places he lived felt like home.
I looked down at my watch and saw what time it was. Jake and I had a lot to talk about, but we would settle everything within the next few weeks. "I should go."Brady's with my mom. I'll have him call you tonight."
"Tell him I said hi," He said as he helped me stand up. "When are we going to tell him?"
"How about we take him out for pizza sometime this week?" I suggested. When we split, Jake and I wanted to show Brady that we were still okay. We got together a few times a month as a family and it was working pretty well.
We weren't in love anymore, but I didn't hate Jake. I would always love him since he was Brady's father. We were also both realizing that we made great friends and Brady deserved to see that side of everything.
"Perfect!" He laughed as I opened my car door.
When I got to my mom's house, I smiled when I saw my brother's car in the driveway since I hadn't seen him in forever. Jasper and his wife, Alice, had suffered from a miscarriage four months ago. They were dealing with everything together and Jasper rarely left Alice's side anymore.
"Hello!" I called as I used my key to open the door. I heard a chair scraping across the floor and then the pitter-patter of nine-year-old feet running towards me. Brady came zooming towards me and I couldn't help but smile.
My son was the greatest thing in the entire world.
"Mom!" He called as he hugged me tightly. "Uncle Jasper and Aunt Alice are here!"
"I saw, monkey." I laughed as I ruffled his hair. He pulled me into the room my mom was talking to Alice and Jasper. Alice looked happy and I couldn't imagine how good she looked. "Hey!"
"Hi, Bella," Jasper whispered as he stood up and came over to give me a big hug. He squeezed me so tightly I thought he was going to break a rib. I raised my eyebrow at him when he eventually let go.
"Can I tell her?" Brady begged.
"Tell me what?"
Alice nodded at Brady who nearly exploded. "Aunt Alice is going to have a baby!" He squealed, and my eyes widened in excitement. The last I'd heard, Alice didn't want to try and get pregnant for a while and they were talking about the idea of adoption.
"Really?" I asked with tears in my eyes. Alice and my brother had been together forever and she'd become like a big sister to me.
Jasper was two years older than me. He met Alice in the eighth grade and danced around their feelings for each other until they were seniors. He asked her to the Winter Formal as a friend and she kissed him while they were slow dancing. They'd been together ever since.
I was surprised when they said they wanted to wait a few years before having a baby after they got married. But they wanted to make sure they were ready; financially and emotionally. When they finally started trying, it took a long time to get pregnant.
I always felt bad. I had gotten pregnant so easily without even trying and they wanted a baby so bad. They were so happy when they announced she was pregnant seven months ago. And then she miscarried and I felt even worse.
"I'm two months along. I'm due at the end of March," She nodded as Jasper squeezed her hand. "It's funny...we tried for so long last time. And this time...we weren't even trying."
I laughed. "Tell me about it."
"I can't believe I'm going to be a grandma again," Mom sighed as Brady sat down next to her.
"I hope it's a boy," Brady said. "Then I can teach him everything I know."
"You're going to be a great cousin," I told him. "Did you get any homework done today, kid?"
"Yes," He lied.
"Oh, really?" I laughed. My mother was a typical grandma and he got away with murder when she watched him. Don't get me wrong, she was very firm with him, but he also had her wrapped around his little finger. He usually didn't get homework done when he was here because he always roped her into baking something with him.
"Why don't you go start that and we can stay for a little longer?" I bargained. He smiled and stood to go up to the room he used when he slept over. I sighed when I heard the door shut and leaned back in my seat.
"So, how'd it go?" Jasper asked.
"The judge granted joint custody," I explained. "Jake is going to get an apartment close to the house so Brady can go spend every other week there."
"Every other week?" Mom asked. "How does that work?"
I shrugged. "One of the kids in his class does that with his parents. It seems to work well for them."
"It just seems like a lot."
"It's a good compromise, mom. Jake is a good father...I don't want Brady to miss all his time with Jake."
Mom nodded. "I understand that, but how are you going to be with this?"
"When Brady is with Jake for the week, I can get ahead on my schoolwork."
I had two years to finish and it was taking longer than I expected. With money and Brady's schedule, I was only able to take two classes a semester and two or three classes in the summer. I was working at a desk job that I enjoyed but I knew I didn't want to do forever. However, it paid the bills and the hours were flexible. Plus, it came with insurance and that was a huge plus.
"Okay," Mom smiled. "I just want you to be happy too, honey."
"Brady comes first. If he's happy then that's enough for me."
Jasper sighed and I wondered what he was thinking. "What?"
He shrugged. "I just don't think Jake is ready to have him for an entire week by himself."
"Jasper," I rolled my eyes. Jasper had always hated Jake for getting my pregnant. He put up with him when I made it clear that he was going to be in the picture for a long time, but once I filed for divorce he took every chance he could to jab at Jake.
"He's not that responsible, Bella. And his job clearly means more to him."
"That's not true," I defended. "His job didn't have the most steady hours which is why he didn't get full custody when we went to court for the first time."
Jasper sighed. "I just don't want Brady to feel like he comes second in Jake's life.
"Jake loves his son...everything is going to work out."
"You sound very confident," Alice smiled.
I sighed. "I have to be."
Brady came down after only twenty minutes of doing homework, claiming that he'd finished. He was a smart kid, but I knew there was no way he was totally done. However, since it had been a while since he'd seen his aunt and uncle I decided not to argue with him.
After dinner, it was time for us to head home. I packed up his school things while he and Jasper wrestled in the living room.
"If you need anything, I'm here," My mom told me as she handed me a tub of leftovers. "Always."
"I know, mom," I smiled. "Thanks."
She had been saying that since I filed for divorce, but it was still good to hear.
"You and Jake will make everything work," She said. "You have one very important thing in common."
I looked out into the living room and laughed when I saw Brady sitting on top of Jasper. "Yeah. We do."
It was comforting to know that no matter what was going on with his father and me, Brady could always count on my mother to be there for him. When we told him we were getting divorced, he put on the bravest face. I knew there was more going on than he was willing to share with us, but mom said that he cried in her arms for over an hour the first sleepover they had together after the news broke.
"I need to get him home and ready for bed," I sighed as I looked at the time.
I went into the living room in order to tear him away from Jasper. "Go say bye to Nana, " I said and he ran into the kitchen. I turned to face Jasper and Alice. "Don't be a couple of strangers,"
Jasper laughed as he pulled me into a hug. "We promise."
"Call if you need anything," I said, turning to Alice. "I know how hard the first trimester is."
"I'll take you up on that, Bells," Alice smiled, giving me a hug. "We're both feeling...a lot better. If you need any babysitters…"
"I know, I'll call," I assured them. Brady and my mother emerged from the kitchen and he said goodbye to my brother and sister-in-law. "You buckled?" I asked as we got into the car to go home.
"Yep!" He called as I started the car. When we got home, we finished his homework, which was just reading time. He got showered and was in bed on time for once. It had been a busy few weeks and we were getting back into our normal routine.
"Where were you today, mom?" He asked after we'd read a chapter of Percy Jackson together.
I smiled as I pushed the hair off his forehead. He really needed a haircut. "Your dad and I needed to talk about some things."
"Yes," I laughed. The kid was freaking smart. "Grownup things."
I nodded. "You were mentioned, yes."
"I miss him," He sighed. Brady was so brave during this transition after Jake moved out. He obviously had his moments, but he always put on his brave face. I heard Jake telling him that he was the man of the house and that it was his job to protect me. I was pretty sure that he thought that meant that he couldn't be sad because it would make me sad.
I nodded. "I know, monkey. I'm sorry you didn't get to spend this weekend with him."
"He'll be here tomorrow and you get the entire day with him," I promised.
"Really?" I nodded. "I wish he lived here still."
I bit my lip. "Everything will work out. You'll see."
"I love you, mama," He wrapped his arms around my neck and I squeezed him tightly. He'd called me mama until he was about five and a half, so hearing him call me that again almost brought tears to my eyes. My baby was growing up so fast and I was afraid I was going to blink and he'd be a teenager and moving out of the house.
I sighed. "I love you more."
I tucked him in, turned his lights off, and went downstairs to get some schoolwork done.
After studying for a couple of hours, I did my night routine and crawled under the covers. Even though he'd been gone for a year and a half, I found myself feeling for Jacob's warm body next to mine. He'd been in my life for almost ten years before the divorce and sometimes I forgot that he wasn't living here anymore.
Even though it was what was right, it was still hard going to sleep at night without him. I missed his warmth and the comfort of knowing he was there at night.
There was a night before we signed the divorce papers to make it official. He'd been moved out for two months, but divorces took time.
We were sitting at our once shared kitchen table, drinking tea. Brady was with my mother for a sleepover and Jake and I were sharing one last night as husband and wife.
"I just wanted to do this differently," He sighed. "Smoother," He whispered. "But...now I'm out of time."
"I thought you understood," I bit my lip. Although the divorce was something I'd been thinking about for a while, he seemed stunned when I asked him for one. I thought we'd been on the same page, but he was still clinging to our relationship. He thought that I was okay with this. He was very wrong. I was heartbroken and wished we could fix things.
But we were just too different. He wasn't the man I'd fallen in love with when I was eighteen years old. That Jacob would have never suggested I give up my dreams of becoming a writer. He never would have said that it didn't matter if I didn't have a degree because of his job being able to provide for us.
I didn't want to admit it to him, but he'd become like some of his co-workers who I couldn't stand.
"I don't buy it!" He argued.
"What don't you buy?" I asked, trying to stay calm. "That's how I feel."
"You can't just fall out of love with someone, Bella. I love you...we have a child together. We can fix this."
We'd been in couples therapy for almost six months before I asked for the divorce. We couldn't be fixed.
I shook my head. "I'm gonna fight for you." He insisted.
"Then you won't have to fight for very long."
"You're rushing into it because you're afraid you'll change your mind!" He argued.
"No, I'm not!" I insisted. I didn't want to fight anymore. We'd been having this conversation for so long and I just wanted to get to a good place. A place where we could raise our son in peace. "Jake...please."
He turned away from me. "I love you, Bella."
"I know you do," I felt hot tears in my eyes. "And I'll always love you. You...you gave me the greatest gift I could have ever asked for. You were my first love."
He sighed. "This is really what you want?"
"I don't want to end up as one of those couples who hate each other," I admitted. "Of course I don't want to be divorced...but I think it's what's right. What's best."
The day we signed those papers was probably the worst day of my life. When Jake and I met, I thought he was the one. And then we got pregnant and that made me believe that even more. But...life was hard and as we got older, I realized that we just weren't compatible anymore.
I was certain that Jake was still in love with me in that way. When I asked for the divorce, I thought we were on the same page. We were fighting a lot, and when we weren't fighting we weren't really communicating with each other anymore. We were living in the same house but we rarely spent any time together one-on-one. Our marriage had disintegrated almost completely when I suggested couples therapy.
And I was desperate to have that work. I hoped and prayed that some professional help would help us work through our issues. But, at the end of the day, we just weren't happy together anymore. Jake claimed we were just having issues, but I felt it in my heart that it just wasn't right anymore.
After tossing and turning for over an hour, I finally fell asleep.
The next morning, I woke up forty minutes before I had to get Brady up for school in order to have some quiet time to myself. I made my coffee and sat at the table with the novel I had been reading over the last few days. I took my shower and got ready for the day and woke Brady up to get him ready for school.
I got his breakfast for him and packed his lunch while he ate. He went upstairs to change into the clothes I laid out for him and brush his teeth while I made sure his backpack was ready to go. When he came back down, we headed out the door to wait for the bus.
I wondered if Jake would put him on the bus that went through his new neighborhood or if he'd drive him to school again.
That was one of the things Brady missed most when his dad moved out. Jake always drove Brady to school on his way to work. It had always been their bonding time. When he first moved out, we tried to make it work, but it was too much. Brady was very disappointed when he had to start riding the bus, so I hoped that was something they could get back.
After the bus picked him up, I made my way to work.
I worked for a small web design company and even though I desperately wanted to write books and work for a publishing company, I was happy where I was. The hours were decently flexible which allowed me to be home when Brady got home from school and I could also work from home. My boss, Laura, was an older lady who had left her abusive husband and was following her dreams of running her own business.
Her daughter, Victoria, worked as our project manager and was our tech consultant.
It was a good job and it paid me well. It wasn't where I wanted to be for the rest of my life, but I was happy where I was because it meant I could take care of my son.
I was currently working on a website for a music store a few blocks over and was trying to find the right layout. The owner of the store seemed pretty old school, so I assumed it was an older man.
"That looks nice," Victoria complimented as she did her rounds to check on our work. There were five other people that worked with me, plus another tech person to help Victoria. It was a small, intimate company.
I smiled. "Thanks. I think it's almost done."
"Just let me know when you went me to send it to the owned for approval."
"I will," I assured her as she walked away.
At two-thirty, Jake texted me asking if he could get Brady from school and take him to the library to find some new books to read. I had been planning on doing that, but if Jake wasn't busy I told him that it was fine with me.
With a free afternoon, I texted Alice to see if she wanted to go to the mall with me. Brady was quickly growing too tall for his pants so he needed new ones and quick.
Alice, who never turned down an offer to shop, told me she'd meet me in twenty minutes.
"So, how do you think Brady is going to take this?" Alice asked as we looked through the clearance racks at Macy's.
"Take what?" I asked, grabbing another pair of jeans.
She sighed. "Living with you half the time and with Jacob half the time."
"I...don't know. It'll be an adjustment, but I think it'll be good for him," I said. "He misses Jake all the time. I want him to have equal time with both of us."
"I wish my parents felt that way when they got divorced," She shook her head. "It was like World War III when it came to getting custody and what the agreement would be."
"Jacob and I promised each other Brady would always come first," I told her. "I've seen what some parents do to their kids when they fight over custody."
She laughed. "You two are handling this divorce thing pretty well."
"So," I knew Alice and I knew she was about to bring up the topic of guys. "Have you...met anyone recently?"
"No, Alice," I rolled my eyes. "I don't have much time for dating."
"Do you want to date?" She asked. "You and Jake haven't been together in almost a year."
"It's been hard," I shrugged. "I thought we'd be together forever and now...I'm just supposed to find someone else? It doesn't seem possible to me."
She gave me a sad smile. "You and Jacob just weren't meant to be. That's okay, Bella."
"It doesn't seem okay. It feels like a huge failure to me."
"You aren't a failure. I don't even think your marriage failed…"
"If divorce isn't a failure then what is?"
"Look, all I'm saying is you're young."
"And divorced already. No guy is gonna want a twenty-nine-year-old divorcee with a nine-year-old child."
"Hey, you don't turn twenty-nine for three more weeks," She laughed. "And you don't know that, Bella. There's a guy out there for you somewhere. just waiting to meet you."
"Okay, Alice. If you insist."
"Have I ever been wrong?" She playfully nudged me as she handed me another pair of pants along with a few new shirts. "My treat for him."
"Thanks," I smiled and then we walked to the next clearance rack.
Author's Note: Hi everyone! If you read this chapter and thought that it was familiar it's because I have decided to edit and reupload my story from 2013. The premise of this story is pretty much the same with some minor character changes (like Jake being a way better person) and some pretty drastic editing. I did my best to go back and rewrite things so they made more sense and sounded better. I hope you enjoy this story as I've reimagined it and please be kind if there are spelling/grammar mistakes...I'm only human and no one else edited this for me :)
PS everything is already written so this will be up very quickly.