A/N: Again, this is another one shot that will be up for voting when you get to decide which one shot will be continued into a longer piece. Thanks and enjoy!
Day of a New Dawn
OCFF#18: Leave me out with the waste, this is not what I do. It's the wrong kind of place to be thinking of you. It's the wrong time for somebody new. It's a small crime and I've got no excuse.
It was finished, or, perhaps, to be more precise, he was finished with her. Washed his hands, cut the last string, buried the issue six feet under... literally. And it felt damn good, too.
Growing up with Dawn Atwood as a mother was no walk in the park. As her youngest son, Ryan had spent eighteen years living under the same roof with a woman who constantly battled various addictions, whether substance or not, had a habit of picking up the absolute worst guys, guys who would beat her senseless and, when they tired of kicking around his mother, would turn to him for seconds, and who had struggled her entire existence to make ends meet. There were no fuzzy, warm hearted memories, and the only thing that had kept Ryan from cutting all strings with his Mom was the fact that, by the time he did move out of the house, they were the only two remaining members of the Atwood family.
His Dad, in prison for armed robbery, had been attacked one night in his cell when Ryan was a teenager and brutally murdered to death. Trey, or Frank Atwood III as was his given name, followed in their father's footsteps, choosing a life of crime. Throughout high school, his older brother had been in and out of various juvenile detention centers, and, eventually, he was gunned down by the police during a high speed car chase. The funny thing was that the car had been a piece of junk. It wouldn't have gotten Trey enough money to pay off his various debts to different dealers and gang leaders, and it certainly wouldn't have made it far enough on the road to take him wherever it was he was going. His only sibling had risked his life and ended up dying for something that wasn't even worth a couple hundred dollars.
But that was life as an Atwood. They were perpetual screwups, the dregs of society, someone you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley.
However, he had been different. From an early age, Ryan had been more interested in books and knowledge than guns and violence. Like children were supposed to, he actually went to school, and he did well, surprisingly enough... not that his family noticed. But it didn't bother him that Trey got congratulated by their parents and slapped on the back all in good favor for swiping other kids' wallets when he was in school while he simply got dismissed when he showed his Mom his perfect spelling test or his Dad his straight A report card. Somehow, someway, it had been enough for him to simply be proud of himself. So, he continued to study, and read, and pay attention in school, and, even though his public high school was nothing to brag about, his test scores were high enough to get him a full scholarship out of the slums and into UCLA's undergraduate school.
Now, years later and several zip codes away from the town he had grown up in, Ryan Atwood, confirmed bachelor and all around introvert, was a successful, respected member of society. He paid his bills, his savings account was quite nicely padded, and he owned his own home and several high end luxury cars. Working as an architect in the LA area provided him with an opportunity to live his life comfortably, of course, not as comfortably as his clients did, but, nevertheless, it was more than he had ever dreamed of growing up as a poor, ignored, often abused kid in a going nowhere existence.
Despite the changes he had made in his life over the years, Ryan had never really been able to escape his past completely. Just when he thought it was nothing but a mere memory, something or someone would come back and rear their ugly head to tell him otherwise. The most recent example of this had been his mother.
Approximately eighteen months ago, there had been a missing persons report filed for Dawn Atwood. One day, she simply had not shown up at her minimum wage job. Her friends, as unreliable as they were, hadn't heard from her, her financial accounts, after a few weeks, began to show signs of being inactive, and, just like that, it had appeared as if she had disappeared into thin air. Of course, he had been too level headed to dismiss an untraceable mother that way, no matter how distant or tense their relationship might have been, so Ryan had hired a team of private investigators to look into the case. After all, no body had ever been found, so there was still a possibility, and, knowing the penchant the Atwood family had for screwing up and making a mess of someone else's life, he wouldn't put anything past his mother.
So, the search had commenced, and, week after week, the reports had been the same - no new developments, no new information, nothing of any relevance. Eventually, though, even Ryan, someone who had always been determined, someone who had always sought out the truth, became weary of the repetitiveness of it all, of the seemingly utter lack of clues, so he had called off the private detectives, settled their bill, and had his mother declared officially dead.
Riding in the black car towards the cemetery, its windows tinted black to offer the grieving family members who rode in it daily a chance to mourn in private, he stared into nothing. Everything about Dawn Atwood's life had been a waste. As a child, she had been unwanted, and, then, as an adult, she had been nothing more than a headache to society. She had married, perhaps, one of the worst men she could have possibly found, managed, without any effort of her own, to end up with one productive, respectable son, and, then, just as she came into the world, left it empty. There were no stellar achievements to mark, no tales of courage or bravery or success to relate to the few, disinterested mourners who had shown up at his mother's funeral simply so they could get a free meal out of the experience, and it left Ryan feeling hollow, almost sad even. Not that he was upset or even disappointed in the loss of his only living relative but just in a general way. Imagine if he ended up dying in a similar fashion. Although he had certainly made more of his life than his Mom ever had or perhaps ever could have, he, too, was alone. Who would go to his funeral? Who would mourn the loss of him? So, despite breaking the chain of poverty the Atwoods had existed under for as long as the stories he could remember from childhood could tell him, he was still no better than the rest of his family.
Sighing, he leaned back into the plush leather seats of the slowly moving vehicle and closed his eyes as if the gesture alone would shield him from the ugly truth. But it didn't help, just as he knew it wouldn't. However, he couldn't focus on his own life, his own mistakes that afternoon. After all, it was Dawn's funeral, her day to be remembered and ridiculed. He would simply have to worry about himself later... and he would, too.
It was time to run again. A new city, a new name, a new identity, and a new hope that she would finally be able to breathe without having to constantly look over her shoulder.
It was strange and even frustrating how one stupid moment, one second of bad judgment, could ruin a person's entire life. Poor and on the run from her family, a desperate Marissa Cooper, at the tender age of sixteen, had performed her first act of identity theft, promising herself it was just the once and that it was the only way. But once had turned into a second and then a third and then a tenth time, and, now, here she was again about to become someone new.
Surprisingly, it was all a relatively simple procedure. As long as you had the right technology and the right equipment, all it took was a matter of minutes to change your entire persona. As she paced around her small, completely luxury free apartment, she glanced through the obituary column of the newspaper until her eyes landed upon an appropriately sounding target. The name couldn't be too familiar, and it had to be unoriginal. If she tried to go around claiming to be a Miss Raspberry Hammerschmidt, people would stop and stare, but if her name was something like Amy White or Mary French, no one would bat an eyelash. The important thing was to be able to blend in seamlessly, and, if nothing else, she knew how to disappear in a crowd.
It had been something her mother had complained about her entire childhood. Marissa, she would say, you're not tall enough. When you stand with all the other little girls, no one can see you. But, then, she had grown too tall for Julie Cooper's liking, almost like one of the boys, her mother would claim. And then it would be that her hair wasn't blonde enough or that her eyes weren't bright enough or that she wasn't thin enough. Always too common; always forgettable. It had been one of the reasons she had run away, but, now, it was her saving grace.
Finally finding a name that sounded appropriate, Marissa set to work. She called, on an untraceable number, of course, to get a copy of the deceased woman's birth certificate, and, from there, she would be able to access all her pertinent information. Because it sometimes took the government years to realize that someone was, indeed, dead, there was a months long span of time that was open for her use. She would get a copy of the deceased woman's driver's license and, with her scanner, high end color printer, and laminating machine, re-emboss her own image onto the card and print another copy that would be practically indetectable even for the police. Then she would fill out applications for credit cards under her new assumed identity's name, and voila! - instant cash. It was how she supported herself and how she made sure no one would ever be able to find Marissa Cooper again.
She wasn't heartless though. She felt guilty for what she did, but, from her point of view, it was necessary. And it wasn't like identity theft was a major crime. She wasn't physically hurting anyone. She'd never shot a person, and she certainly had never killed anyone herself, so, as far as she was concerned, there were, by far, worse criminals out there in the world. And, yes, someday, she did wish to stop it all, to settle down and live a normal life where she owned her own home, paid her own bills, and maybe even raised a perfectly normal kid or two and loved them for the sheer fact that they were forgettable. But that was her dream, and the reality was that it was time for her to become another new person.
Putting down the cordless phone, she stood up and strode across the room towards the mirror that hung beside her front door. There, she looked at herself, really stared, finding every single line, every single freckle and mark that made her who she was. Sometimes it was hard to remember who Marissa Cooper really was. With each new identity she took for herself, it could feel as if she was getting a fresh chance to reinvent the person she presented to the rest of the world. She could change her hair color and style to fit the personality of Monica, Eve, or Tammy, whomever she might be at that particular moment; she could pick a new walk, develop an accent, or try on a new bad habit all because it seemed appropriate for Helen, Rebecca, or Erin.
But, then again, no one really knew Marissa Cooper anymore, so what did it matter who she was? She had no friends, no family, nobody who would miss her if she never did resurface one day. In fact, from that moment on, it only really mattered who Dawn Atwood was, because, as far as the tall, willowy, blue eyed blonde in the mirror was concerned, that's exactly who she was now... or, at least, until it was time for another town, anther name, another persona.
Free of the burdens his mother's disappearance and announced death had brought to his life, Ryan relaxed, once again, into the comforting folds of the car he was riding back to the funeral parlor in. Deciding to skip out on the dinner that would accompany his Mom's entombment, knowing that no one would miss him there and that he really didn't want to sit through hour after hour of strangers telling him how sorry they were for his loss, he was on his way back to pick up his car so he could return to his own, normal life, as lonely and dismal as it may be. However, unlike the ride to the cemetery, the ride from wasn't as silent, wasn't nearly as reflective, and the shrill ring of his cell phone transported him back to reality.
Answering brusquely, he stated, "Ryan Atwood."
"We found your mother," a breathless voice the architect recognized as belonging to one of the many private detective's who had worked on his Mom's case announced without preamble. "Although you called off the search last week, we still hadn't taken her information from our computers yet, and, what do you know, but she popped up in Des Moines Iowa of all places. Looks like she bought herself some groceries with a new Visa card. We're sending people out there right away to look into this..."
"No," Ryan interrupted, argued, dictated. "I'll do it."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah," he sighed, scrubbing against the rough surface of his scruffy cheek. The detective knew just how little he cared about his mother so his disbelief was understandable. "I don't know how to explain it, not even to myself, but this is just something I have to do personally. Thanks," he offered the other man though his voice certainly didn't sound appreciative. "Thanks for letting me know about this so quickly. I'll talk to you soon."
Throwing his phone across the back seat of the car, Ryan swore softly to himself. It wasn't over; none of it was. She was still alive, and his past was still haunting him. He should have known it wouldn't have been that easy. After all, he was an Atwood, no matter how unlike his mother, his father, and his brother he was. While you could run away and hide from family, you couldn't escape your destiny. Life... and fate, for that matter, certainly was a bitch.