AN: Before anyone asks, I intend to update the Lion and the Lamb sometime this weekend. Now, let's move on…
I intended to submit this fic for the contest "Take a walk in my shoes" over at Pel's fan fiction website. However, I couldn't use Pel as a beta reader since she was going to be a judge of the contest. On a total whim, I sent it to Stephenie for her to take a look at. She sent it back with tons of insightful bits of information about Charlie and Renee. It changed the entire way I looked at this moment. Because I got inside help from the author herself, I decided not to submit the fic for the contest, but will go ahead and post it anyway. I have also updated the lexicon in PC#10 with the information that Stephenie sent me about Charlie and Renee. I send my heartfelt thanks to Steph for taking her time out to look over my mediocre work and helping me make it fit better into her world.
This fic is based on the following passage found on page 396 of New Moon –
"I've never felt so helpless," Charlie began slowly. "I didn't know what to do. That first week—I thought I was going to have to hospitalize her. She wouldn't eat or drink, she wouldn't move. Dr. Gerandy was throwing around words like 'catatonic,' but I didn't let him up to see her. I was afraid it would scare her."
"She snapped out of it though?"
"I had Renee come to take her to Florida. I just didn't want to be the one…if she had to go to a hospital or something. I hoped being with her mother would help. But when we started packing her clothes, she woke up with a vengeance. I've never seen Bella throw a fit like that. She was never one for the tantrums, but, boy, did she fly into a fury. She threw her clothes everywhere and screamed that we couldn't make her leave—and then she finally started crying. I thought that would be the turning point. I didn't argue when she insisted on staying here…and she did seem to get better at first…"
Being a single parent is never easy. I've only been at it for a year now and I've managed to make a royal mess. For sixteen years I'd waited for Renee to call me up and tell me she needed me to clean up her mess, and now it is the other way around.
It had been so long since I'd seen her. Bella has pictures of her, but it's too difficult for me to look at them and know that she is happy without me. It took tremendous effort to call her up and ask her come to Forks. It meant having to see her again. It meant having her in my house again. Our house.
Bella and Renee…in our house…together. All three of us under one roof. That hasn't happened since…since...
She would be here any minute now. Her plane had landed an hour ago. Knowing Renee, she had packed several suitcases just in case this should end up being a long term stay. It wouldn't be. I knew that much. Renee would take one look at Bella and use it as proof that Forks was not a good place to live. It would be the same old argument we'd had when Bella wanted to move in with me.
"She will hate it there," she stated.
"You don't know that. Maybe she'll like it."
"She's never liked it. Why do you think she stopped visiting you there?"
"Because you told her that Forks isn't a fun place."
She laughed at me. "Which is so true!" And then the real stinger. "You hardly even know her."
"And whose fault is that?" I fought back.
"It isn't my fault!" she gasped
"You took her away from me."
"You were the one who insisted on staying in that god-forsaken wetland."
"This is my home!"
"I get that, Charlie. That's why it's your fault."
"You chose Forks over us."
That wasn't fair and she knew it. My parents had been so ill. I couldn't leave them to go on a carefree romp around California. But then, Renee had never been quiet about how much she hated Forks. I tried to make things better.
"Let's go out tonight," I would offer.
"Yeah, that would be great."
But when I couldn't come up with anything really fun to do, she would get angry at me. It didn't matter that she didn't have any ideas either. And then we would end up fighting.
I think it was all just a shock to her system. Getting married so young…having Bella so quickly. I don't regret any of that, and I don't think Renee does either, but she wanted more freedom and fun. It was always about fun.
That's why she left. She stomped out one night and took Bella with her. Some part of me thought she was kidding at first and that she'd come right back. But after a few days when the real panic set in, I knew I had lost her. The whole town knew it, too, and I was too proud to go after her. Biggest mistake of my life.
I worried endlessly about Bella when Renee left. She was so small and Renee was so…forgetful. She forgot where the car was parked. She forgot appointments…to eat…to pay bills. It gave me an ulcer thinking about the possibility that Renee might forget to pick Bella up at school, or take her to the doctor, or feed her, or make sure she wasn't running down the street... I would call to check up on them, but Renee would say I treated her like a child and get angry, that eventually I stopped calling so often.
Soon, the only contact I had with my daughter was a phone call on her birthday and at Christmas as well as a month in Forks in the summer. That eventually became two weeks in California. It seemed that Renee passed on her hatred of Forks to Bella, which made it all the more surprising when Bella said she wanted to come and live with me.
This last week proved Renee right, which made me very sad. I didn't know my daughter well enough to take care of her through something like this. Forks wasn't the best place for her. And even though I always thought of myself as the more responsible parent, it turned out that I was the one who opened up the door and allowed Bella to get into a situation that would hurt her. I should have paid better attention to her, gotten to know her better, and then maybe I would know what to do now.
I looked down at Bella as she lay on her bed. Her eyes were open, but they focused on nothing. She hadn't eaten in days, turning her head away from me whenever I tried to give her food. She hadn't left her room. She hadn't even really spoken. The few times she managed to actually fall asleep, she would toss and turn and mutter things like, "Don't leave me," and, "I need you," and she would always wake up screaming.
There was a knock on the door. I touched Bella's hand to try to get her attention.
"Bella, honey, your mom is here. I'm going to go down and talk to her for a while and then we'll be up to get you."
No response. I hadn't expected any.
My heart raced in my chest and I approached the front door of the house. Not only was I sending my daughter away again, but I would have to face the one person who had the ability to bring me to my knees. I held my breath as I opened the door and looked into the face that I loved so much.
She hadn't changed. Not to me. Still young and beautiful and full of life. Her hair was shorter and her skin was darker, but her face still looked exactly the way she did the first day I saw her. It only made me feel that much older and foolish. No wonder she had married a younger man.
"Hi, Renee," I managed after a moment.
"Hey," she greeted. "Where is she?"
"In her room."
She brushed past me and I caught the smell of her fresh shampoo. Peachy. Fruity. Fitting.
"Good grief, Charlie," she scolded, looking around the house. "You haven't painted in all these years?"
I shook my head no. How could I paint over what she created? She had decorated this house to make it a home. How could I undo that and remove the reminder that she had once been here?
She turned to look at me now with her lips pursed together, trying to think up something to say to me, but obviously coming up short.
"Thank you for coming," I offered.
"You thought I wouldn't come? Bella's freaking out over some guy and you think I'm not going to come?"
I shrugged wordlessly.
"Let me see how bad this really is." She turned to head up the steps to Bella's room. My eyes followed her form before my feet did. When I reached Bella's room, Renee was already sitting on the bed next to her, stroking her hair and frowning in deep concern. I stayed in the door way, feeling like an outsider.
"She's been like this all week?" she asked with astonishment.
"Yeah. I can't even get her to eat."
"Good lord! What are we supposed to do?"
"Dr. Gerandy thinks she needs…medical attention. He said she's…catatonic and that since she isn't eating…she'll have to have an IV." I hated admitting my failure to Renee, but she needed to know.
She swallowed hard. "Well, I don't know anything about being a nurse, but we have a great hospital in Clearwater. She'll be better once she's in the sun and away from all this rain."
It felt as if my heart was breaking all over again. I lost Bella once to the divorce. And now I was losing her again to my inability to know what my daughter needed. I always thought that Bella was the opposite of Renee, but maybe she was more like her mother than I was willing to see. What did it mean that the two women I cared about the most couldn't live with me?
Renee exhaled sharply. "Bella should have never come to Forks."
She stood up and popped open the suitcase I had placed at the foot of Bella's bed. She managed to get a few shirts and jeans into the case when everything came to a halt.
Suddenly, Bella's eyes were glued to her mother's face. A very raspy but still forceful, "No," came from her throat.
"Bella, sweetheart, I'm going to take you home." Renee folded a pair of pants and placed them with the other clothes. "Everything will be fine once we get out of here."
"No!" she said again, even more clearly than before.
"This is not the place for you, Bella," Renee repeated.
"I don't…want…to leave…" Bella panted out. It was the most she had said in a week.
"Bells," I said, stepping into the room. "Your mom is right. You need to leave."
It was like something snapped and Bella was out of the bed in an instant. "NO! NO! YOU CAN'T MAKE ME LEAVE!"
Before I could even understand what was happening, Bella grabbed her suitcase and started throwing her clothes everywhere.
"I'm not leaving here!" she screamed. "I WON'T! You can't take me away!"
Clothes were flying in every direction. "I can't leave here!" she raged. "It's all I have left and you can't take me away!"
"Bella!" I tried to grab her hands and stop her from doing any real damage to anything. "Bella, stop this. You're not making any sense."
But the fit continued. "NO! I won't go! I have to stay here! It's the only thing I have!"
"Come on, Bella, stop it." Renee added. "I'll take you Florida where there is sunshine and the ocean water is warm and - "
That only made Bella wilder "NO!" she screeched. "NO! I CAN'T LEAVE! I CAN'T!" She had emptied the suitcase and threw it across the room where it crashed against the wall.
"Isabella!" I rushed to her, taking her hands in mine and forcing her to stay still.
"I need to stay," she cried. "I need to stay." She looked up at me with tear-filled eyes. "Daddy. Please. I need…I need…"
She crumpled into my arms, sobbing against my chest. I was stunned. It had been so long since she had shown any emotion at all. It had been so long since she had called me daddy.
I looked at Renee. Her hand was covering her mouth as she stared back at me, wide eyed and confused. I held her gaze as I spoke to Bella.
"Bella," I started softly. "Do you want to stay here with me?"
"Yes," she gasped through her tears. "Please don't send me away, Daddy." Her arms tightened around me.
I had to make certain, give her one more chance. "You could go home with your mom."
"I want to stay in Forks." Her voice was soft and weak, but the message was very clear.
Renee looked horrified. "She wants to stay? Charlie, no."
How could I say no to Bella like this? How could I fight Renee when she was looking at me like that? I had to be the parent. I had to make the final choice.
"If Bella wants to stay, then she stays." I held her closer to me, supporting nearly all her weight.
Renee didn't agree with me, but what did I expect? I had to put my foot down for Bella's sake. I knew that it would only separate Renee and I that much more, but it just might bring Bella closer to me, and that was worth the risk. Time would only tell if it was the right decision.