A/N: Hello! It is I, Laura. For those of you who are not already readers of mine, this is my second story. Please go ahead and check out my other story, Shadow of the Day, which is also a Twilight fic.
So please read and REVIEW!!! I LOVE REVIEWS! I FEED OFF THEM!!! So if you're a reader of my other story, please review this one too, at least just the first chapter. Now that I have two stories, I'm afraid updates for Shadow of the Day will become a lot less frequent. Probably about once or twice a week. I was going to finish that story first before beginning this one, but since that one is no where near done yet, I couldn't wait any longer.
Enough with me, I hope you like this story!!! REVIEW!
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Life ain't been no Crystal Stair
From the time we were all children, we've always been told that "Money cannot buy true happiness".
As lovely and corny as that sounds, it sure as hell doesn't stop us from wanting money.
Let my teach you the two most basic rules of the fiscal world:
1. Those who do not have money, want it.
2. Those who do have money, want more.
Simple as that.
We live in an entirely material world. iPods, convertibles, designer handbags, cell phones, diamond jewelry, and brand name clothes are just a few of the pointless material items that none of us need, but want. Despite the fact that this is a material world, I am definitely not a material girl.
I never had much growing up. I was born from a cheap summer fling that unfortunately ended in an unplanned teenage pregnancy. I grew up on the wrong side of town with a mother who was hardly home since she worked several different jobs. With so little parenting under your belt, you tend to do stupid things. I've done my fair share of stupid things. I probably would have done more stupid things if I had the money.
See? It all leads back to money.
Of course, today, I have things I could have never bought with that green stuff. Things I wouldn't trade anything for, not even my life. Although… money could help us become happy. If My mother had more money, she would have been able to raise me properly. I would have been a normal, average kid.
But do I really want that? I wear my scars, both the ones that you can and can't see, with pride. They show hardship and perseverance – and a daily reminder of where I've come from and why I'd never go back.
So I guess that in reality, money really cannot buy you true happiness, but definitely helps.
Because for me, Life ain't been no Crystal Stair.
Chapter 1: Gunnin'
I placed my suitcase and duffel bag by the door of Renee's small, old apartment. It used to be both Renee's and my apartment, but I was leaving for good. Looking around, you'd think I'd be nostalgic about the place I grew up, but I was far from it. I wanted out, and I was finally getting it.
This run-down apartment building was right squat in the middle of the poorest, dumpiest end of Phoenix, Arizona. The slums if you will. I was born and raised here, if you could even call Renee's parenting raising. It was more like sinking. I knew I couldn't really blame her though. My father, Charlie, left her when she was still pregnant. I never met him, and I never wanted to. Being a single mom with zero support from her parents left her little time for me since she needed to work so often. I understood that.
What I did not understand, however, was how she had so badly let herself go. I supposed all the stress and sadness had burst out, causing her to act like this, she didn't deserve what life had given her. But that didn't mean I found her actions excusable.
I walked up the stairs to Renee's room to say goodbye. Gently, I cracked open her door and looked in. As usual, she was lying on her bed, completely wasted. She only emerged from the bed to eat, use the washroom, buy beer, or go to work.
She was awake, but barely. Her cheeks were flushed and her eye pupils dilated from all the alcohol in her system.
"Mom?" I said quietly, gently shaking her shoulder.
"Uh…" she groaned, squinting up at me. "Bella? What's up, baby?" she slurred.
"Mom, I'm leaving now."
She opened her eyes wider and sat up. Her movements were jerky and uncoordinated. She looked at me accursedly. "You're leaving? What do you mean by leaving?"
I sighed; I knew she'd be too drunk to remember the conversation I had with her a week ago. I was hoping this wouldn't be a messy goodbye, but of course, life never gave me what I hoped for.
"I told you last week, Mom. I said I was going to live with Rose in Chicago."
"So you're going to just leave your poor mother here all by herself?"
"I asked you if you would come with me on the condition you seek help. You said no."
Renee moaned before slumping back on her bed. "Well, I don't need help." She looked back at me angrily, "You just want to get away from me. You're ashamed of me, aren't you? You just want to go far away so you can forget about me!" She shot up again and jerkily, but still quickly, slapped me across my left cheek.
I quickly pushed back the tears that were building up in my eyes. Although the slap stung, it wasn't what hurt me. Renee hardly got rough with me and when she did, it was always when she was drunk. She wasn't always like this; before, although she was hardly home, she was kinder. It was only after she discovered I was doing stupid things a few years ago did she start drinking excessively.
"Mom, this is why I'm leaving this place. I can't stand it anymore and I don't want my baby growing up like I did." I whispered the last part, my hand drifting to my swollen belly. I was about 4 months pregnant, so I definitely wasn't huge yet, but there was an evident swelling bump under the daphne blouse I was wearing.
Renee was surprisingly clear enough of mind to actually process what I had said and looked genuinely hurt. "Fine," she said looking away from me, "Leave. I don't care if I ever hear from you again or that bastard child you have in you." Her words were cold and harsh, like the crack of a whip. It would be a lie to say they didn't hurt. I tried to tell myself she was only drunk.
"Bye, Mom." I whispered before turning around and hurriedly leaving her room. I grabbed my suitcase and duffel bag and almost raced out the dingy apartment. Once outside the apartment building, I walked along the sidewalk, getting one last look at my childhood before leaving it for good.
The cement and brick buildings were dirty, old, and vandalized with spray paint. This was the "bad kid" neighbourhood where almost every boy had been in a weapon or fist fight by the time he was sixteen and every girl had lost their virginity (both willingly and unwillingly) by fourteen. It was the worst of the slums. The dirtiest hell hole on the planet, and it was so easy to get sucked into its madness.
I basically took care of myself since Renee was always working. Even as a little kid, I fended for myself. I had been in fist fights, threatened, robbed, and only wore clothes from charity.
When I was fifteen, a group of kids at our "bad kid" high school invited me to hang with them. It was in that circle of "friends" where I become addicted to alcohol and nicotine. I smoked and drank with them almost everyday after school if not during school. It was a nice escape from the sadness of what I was; a nobody. I wanted to start doing serious drugs like cocaine and heroin, and would have if I was able to afford it. I was already going broke buying beer and cigarettes, so the other stuff wasn't a good idea.
In that circle of people, I met Jacob Black. I really liked him. He was a cool guy and despite the fact he was a druggy and gang member, he was sweet to me. He actually had seemed like he was concerned when I told him about my lonely childhood and non-existent father. What's more, he didn't pity me since he was the same. I hated pity, and he didn't give me any. He understood me. It wasn't long till we started dating and then one thing led to another, and we slept together. More than once.
Then I found out I was pregnant. I was seventeen, and would be eighteen by the time the baby was born.
I had basically become Renee.
But I thought things would be different for me. I thought since I loved Jake and he loved me, he would help me take care of the baby and love our child. I thought he was that kind of man.
How wrong I was.
When I told him, he got angry, very angry. He accused me of lying and cheating on him, which I did not. It seemed like his way of convincing himself that the baby wasn't his and therefore he wouldn't have to take responsibility for it. Jacob Black broke my heart the minute he told me to never contact him again.
That's when I decided a change of scenery was in order.
I was a bad kid, a broken kid, a beaten kid.
But I wouldn't be anymore. It was like the baby was my savior. It forced me to finally get my head out of the clouds and back down to earth. I knew that if I wanted this baby to be happy and survive, I would have to change.
So I quit drinking and smoking. I hadn't taken a single drop of alcohol since I found out I was pregnant although it almost killed me. There were nights where I went into withdrawal, crying myself to sleep, the desire and need for the alcohol was so huge. Quitting smoking wasn't that much better. It actually took me much, much longer to finally get myself together and put away the cigarettes for good.
No one, of course, supported my quitting. Even when they found out I was pregnant. Renee was too drunk herself to notice I was sober. My only motivation was the letters I would write to myself every day. They were more like little notes I would write the night before I went to bed. I would put it on my bed side table so it would be the first thing I see in the morning.
Another day Bells,
Make sure you don't drink today, make sure you don't smoke. Be strong and do it for the baby. Don't even think about it. You must stop.
I know you can.
After finally getting clean, the next step was to find an escape.
I didn't know how to, though. It wasn't like I had the money to just spontaneously leave. I had no family either. I had no idea in hell about Charlie's side of the family, but I knew that all of Renee's family had either separated themselves from her or had died.
I paced around for days. I had no idea of what to do. I knew I needed to leave, but how?
An idea then struck me. It was a long shot, but it was worth a try.
I contacted Rosalie Hale, a girl who used to live in the slums with me. She and I were best friends and probably the only ones with level heads. She was tough and strong and always kept me out of trouble. Her parents died in a car crash when she was fourteen and she went to go live with an aunt and uncle she never knew. They lived in Chicago and though they were not rich, they were pretty upper-middle class citizens. I had cried so much when she left for I knew I would be ruined without her to protect me. It wasn't long after that did I get involved in the wrong crowds.
I hadn't contacted her since she left and I didn't even know if she would remember me, at least not the way I was now.
She actually did remember me and was extremely giddy to say the least to finally here from me after three years.
"Om. My. God! Bella!!!" Rosalie screamed on the other end. I laughed at her.
"Hey, Rose. It's good to talk to you again."
"I know. God, Bella, how have you been?" she sounded genuinely curious and rather concerned, and with good reason. I wasn't living in exactly the greatest place.
"Um, I've been better", I mumbled quietly.
"Bells, what made you call me all of a sudden? I mean, I'm SO glad you did, but why now? After all this time?"
I suddenly felt guilty for asking her such a huge favour. I hadn't spoken to her or contacted her in years and now I expected her to take me in? I was so selfish.
"Bella?" Oh, right. She was talking to me.
"Bella, what happened? Something happened, I can tell."
I took a deep, quivering breath before finally answering, "Rose, I know this is a lot to ask and that I don't deserve it, but do you think I can come stay with you? In Chicago?"
"What? For how long?"
"Long enough for me to find my own place there. I want to move there permanently."
I shuddered. "I need to get out of here Rose. I can't stay here anymore. If I do, I will be throwing away my life."
There was silence on the other end for an immeasurable amount of time before finally, "Bella, what's happened?"
"Just please. Can I please stay with you? I'm not sure for how long, but until I can scrape enough money to get myself an apartment."
"Of course you can. I have to run it by my aunt and uncle, but they are both such kind people that they'd never refuse helping an old friend."
"Yes, of course. I would never say 'no', Bella."
Relief coursed through my veins. I was getting a way out!
"Thank you", I breathed "If you don't mind, I'll tell you why exactly I'm doing this when I get to Chicago."
So that was my plan. I would go to Chicago to live. I would cut off all my ties from the poor side of Phoenix and turn my back on that life forever. I wanted Renee to come with me. I asked her if she would, but only if she promised to get help for her alcohol addiction upon getting there. Of course, alcohol was more important to her, so she defiantly refused. I loved my mom, probably not nearly as much as a daughter should, but Renee and I never bonded, so I loved her, but not enough to not leave her there. It may have been cruel, but I needed to think of my baby first.
* * *
Getting out of customs, I scanned the airport, looking for Rose. I remembered clearly what her fourteen-year-old self looked like, so I just had to look for the slightly older version of her, right?
I finally spotted her. I knew it was her, it had to be. She was even taller than before and more gorgeous, if that was even possible. She never looked more like a supermodel like she did now, her wavy blonde hair cascading down her back and her beautiful violet eyes looking around the airport for me.
"Rosalie!" I called. She spun around and smiled a smile so wide and beautiful; it lit up the whole airport.
"Bella!" She cried happily, before running to me and hugging me fiercely. It was only as she hugged me did she notice my swelling baby bump. She quickly unlatched her arms upon feeling it and looked at my stomach, her eyes wide. She look back at me and seemed at a loss for words. I only smiled sheepishly.
"Oh…" she whispered finally. "This is the reason you needed to get away?"
I nodded. "This baby was like my wake-up call, Rose. I knew that I don't want him or her to end up like me, so I decided to get out."
Rosalie smiled a teary smile and hugged me again, softly this time, minding the baby.
"Well, I'm glad you finally got enough sense to get out of that hell hole." We started walking, her carrying my suitcase while I held my duffel bag. "You'll love Chicago, Bells. It's so much better than that other dump. Actually, anywhere is better, but Chicago will be good for you. And for the… baby." She shook her head. "God, I can't believe you're going to be a mom. Weird, huh?"
I heard the very slight hint of envy in Rose's voice. She always loved kids. Nevertheless, I knew she was happy for me and glad I left our old town. She had been so considerate over the phone when we spoke to each other. It was so easy, as if the three years of separation didn't affect us at all.
The Hales' house in Chicago was wonderful. Rosalie's aunt and uncle, Heather and John, were the definition of kindness. They didn't even get angry or judgmental when they saw I was pregnant. I guess that with what Rosalie told them about me and where I used to live, they simply saw me as a good girl in the wrong place.
Rose even had a nice cousin, Jasper, who looked a lot like her; golden hair, pale skin, and deep eyes, although his were blue. He was tall, lean, and very handsome.
I felt ugly surrounded by this family of beautiful people. I always felt ugly around the goddess, Rosalie, but she always had assured me I was very beautiful myself.
I was a completely average girl; thick dark brown hair, bark brown eyes, and pale skin. I was 5 ft 4" and 110 pounds. I wasn't actually ugly, just normal.
Despite my less-than-gorgeous looks, I couldn't help but hope that my baby looked just like me. I didn't want a trace of Jacob Black in him or her, even though that was probably impossible since he was the father. I still didn't want him or her looking like him though. I didn't want any reminder of my past, especially him. Now I had gone past the heart break, when I thought of Jacob, I only felt anger.
"So, Bella. Why don't you tell us your story?" Rose asked me kindly.
I gave them all a small smile. They deserved to know, after all, they took me in even though they didn't even know me.
So I told them. I let it all out. By the end of my tale, Heather and Rose had tears in their eyes. Not a single one looked shocked or angry. They were nothing but understanding and comforting. What did I do to deserve such kindness?
5 months later
"ARGH!!!" I screamed, or rather, shouted.
"Come on, Bells! You can do it!" Rosalie encouraged as I tightly gripped her hand. My water had broken 16 hours ago and I was giving birth. After nine months of freaking hormones and 16 hours of freaking contractions, I wanted this baby OUT!
Suddenly, the door to the room I was in burst open as Jasper charged in. Over the past 5 months Jasper had become like a big brother to me. He was two years older and just as protective of me as he was Rosalie. He was always such a calm person that it surprised me when he burst through the door so frantically.
He froze when he saw my legs spread out, the baby on the verge of coming out. He obviously was extremely shocked by the view, and fainted on the spot.
"Jasper, you IDIOT!" I yelled at his unconscious body as someone dragged him out of the room. Jeez, these raging hormones were seriously making me bitchy. That, and the fact I was in freaking PAIN!
"Come on, Bella", Rose said soothingly, brushing hair from my face.
Suuuure… you just wait till you have a frickin baby, Rosalie Hale!
I was still living with the Hales since Heather nearly went hysterical when I said I should get my own apartment. She insisted that I was in no condition, both physically and financially to support myself and the baby. She was right, of course.
I didn't deserve such warm-hearted people, and I couldn't be any more grateful to them.
"One last push!" Dr. Hernandez said.
Gritting my teeth, I pushed, screaming in the process. Couldn't babies come out of somewhere less painful? I swear, I was not having anymore ki-
My thoughts were interrupted by the wailing of a little baby. My baby. Oh my God, that was my baby.
Rosalie beamed at me as she passed me a small pink bundle.
"It's a girl", she whispered, her eyes teary.
I looked down at the little thing in my arms and I felt tears course down my cheeks. She was perfect. I gently touched the soft little cheek on the little pink face wrapped in the blanket. My heart burst with love at the mere sight of her. I was going to make sure she would be given the best childhood ever. The childhood I never had. I would fight to make sure she was happy and safe. She would be a brilliant student and friend. She would learn to play piano and soccer. She was my hope, my future. I was gunnin' on her.
"What are you going to name her?" Rose asked quietly, her eyes glued to my little girl's face.
"Marie", I said, kissing her tiny nose. The corner of her mouth twitched upward. "See? It fits and she likes it already."
After Marie was all cleaned up I was moved to another room. The rest of the Hales were gathered around my bed (Jasper having recovered form his fainting spell. Snort.).
"Rose?" I asked.
Rosalie looked up from Marie who was in her arms.
"Can you… would… would you like to be Marie's godmother?" I asked both nervously and hopefully.
Rose looked shocked, then her eyes lit up. "Really?"
I nodded. "She even has your name. Marie Rosalie Swan."
Rose beamed and hugged me, careful not to squish my baby between us. "Thank you Bella. I'd be honoured."
5 years later
"Marie, come on baby, wake up", I said, gently shaking my angelic five-year old daughter. She only sighed and rolled over.
Grinning, I leaned over and blew a raspberry right into her cheek. Laughing and squealing, Marie pushed me away playfully.
"Okay, Mommy. I'm up now" she said in her soft, little girl voice. Music to my ears. I hugged her and kissed her cheek, before going to the kitchen to make breakfast. Marie was able to dress herself in the morning. She was just so cute that way.
Within a few minutes, my little angel came out of her room in our two-bedroom apartment and seated herself at the table to eat. She was adorable. Unfortunately she had Jacob's black hair, but it was in curls, something I suspected came from Charlie since Renee didn't have them and I sure didn't. Everything else, though, was me. She had my pale skin and big brown eyes. They looked so much more cute and beautiful on her than me. With her pale skin, black curls, and baby lips, Marie was so gorgeous.
"Ready for school?" I asked. Marie was in Senior kindergarten at the elementary school a few blocks away. I dropped her off to school every morning on my way to work. I worked as a secretary at the large Cullen Incorporation. A company that basically owned many stores, restaurants, and other businesses. It started off small but grew into an entire empire. I only worked as a lowly secretary on the sixth floor of the huge building it resided in, although the job did pay extremely well compared to other secretary positions.
My co-worker, Angela told me a new co-owner was coming to fill the larger empty office next to mine. That office had been empty since the previous Hot shot was fired by the CEO of Cullen inc, Mr. Carlisle Cullen. He was the son of the man who created the company and inherited it from him.
"Yup" Marie replied, taking a bite of her waffle. I smoothed Marie's curls as I drank my coffee. I was so grateful for her. Sure, times were a little rough with money since I didn't just have myself to look after (I had two jobs), but I wouldn't trade Marie for the world. She really was the reason that saved me from myself. From my past.
Washing the dishes, I took Marie's hand and went out to the car with her. After strapping her into her car seat, I began on the familiar route to her school.
Since I didn't get off work until five, Rosalie, who worked much more flexible hours, picked up Marie from school and looked after her till I was able to pick her up from Rose's house.
My other job was a small one. I worked at the local Starbucks every Saturday, from 9 till 3. It wasn't a big job. Since I had been working there every since Marie was born, I was given a raise from minimum wage, so I was even paid a little more than the other newer employees. I only worked there for extra cash for Marie's education and other necessities. I would've probably needed a third job if Cullen inc. didn't pay me so well. When Marie was born, I was able to gain financial help from the government. With the borrowed money, I was able to find a job and a small apartment to stay at with my daughter. After I was off to a good start, I started supporting us on my own. Heather and John wanted to help fiscally, but I refused. They had already helped me enough.
Marie and I had a good life. Of course, I had to be more conservative with money than other mothers. I couldn't just go out and buy Marie a toy because she wanted it. It would waste needed money. Nevertheless, it was good. I was able to spend every evening and a full day on Sunday with my baby. Unlike Renee, who was too busy working, I could give her baths, read her bedtime stories, play with her at the park, and take her to the zoo. At only twenty three years old, I was doing well.
A year after Marie was born, I took business classes at a community college, landing me with the skills to be hired as a Cullen Inc. secretary.
I hadn't heard from Jacob since I had left Phoenix. I wasn't sorry and I didn't miss him. Marie never questioned me about her father, which was a relief. I would probably tell her the truth once she was older.
I stopped the car, a used one I bought cheaply off of Jasper since he got a new one, at a red light. My window was open since it was a rather nice day in the Windy City. I drummed my fingers against the steering wheel, Marie was singing along to the High School Musical songs coming from the stereo (my 5-year-old cousin loves HSM).
Sounds of yelling came from outside and I turned my head, curiously.
The door to an expensive and new-ish looking condominium opened and a man walked out. I didn't get a good look at his face, but I could see he had sort of penny coloured hair, like bronze, all disarrayed and messy. It actually looked attractive and cute. He was tall and pale, but that was all I could make out. An older, scruffier man rushed out after him.
The bronze-haired guy was storming towards a silver Volvo. I suspected he was off to work since he was wearing a suit.
"No!" Even in his anger I was able to detect how his voice was like velvet… musical. "I already told you. I wanted a jacuzzi in my condo, and you gave me one without one. That annoys me to no end and shows me what poor service you provide your residents! If I will now be living here, I expect to get what I ask for!"
God, another rich spoiled brat. Conceited, selfish, and arrogant. Working at a big company, I had met many asses like him.
I always resented the wealthy, ever since I was a child. Not the rich folk who actually became loaded through hard work. No, I resented those born rich. They basically had everything given to them. They were bottle fed their whole lives, never having to work for what they want. It wasn't fair and I resented them for it. What's more, because of the easy handouts they got, they became spoiled and self-absorbed, like the world revolved around them. It was ridiculous.
Especially this guy, who was complaining he didn't have a jacuzzi?! Try going to the Slums of Phoenix where I had spent the first 17 years of my life, then complain.
"What's wrong Mommy?" Marie asked. She was so observant, she could tell when I was upset.
"Nothing, baby." I said smiling at her in the review mirror. And nothing was wrong, at least not anymore.
How was I to know that that "nothing" would soon turn into "everything"?
A/N: Whew! Hit or Miss?
That was the longest chapter I've ever written so far, so please REVIEW!!! Let me know if this story is good enough to continue :D