I remember when I was younger, my mother and I used to go out on clear nights and spend hours looking at the stars.
We've live in Phoenix since I was a little girl and shared everything together, though I took the role of the parent more often then not, we were devoted to each other. She encouraged me to act like a kid and I reminded her that she was a grown woman with a child.
Most people wouldn't believe that my mother was my best friend, but she truly was.
I didn't relate well to teens my age and spent all my free time with my mother. I preferred to be in charge of the running of our home to doing the normal teenage rebellion thing. I loved my life and thrived on the love I felt for my mother.
I remember the day that changed everything.
My mother had taken up a new hobby of the week: baseball. She went to a local minor league game with a friend from work. After six hours, I was ready to call the police after all my calls went unanswered and the game had ended hours earlier.
Right when I picked up the phone for the millionth time, my mother waltzed in, a smile that I had never seen before lighting up her face. I nearly didn't recognize her. I ran up to her, throwing my arms around her, pulling back to make sure that she was in one piece before demanding an explanation.
I just stood there with my arms crossed over my chest as she went on and on about this baseball player that had come over to introduce himself. For the rest of the night, I had to listen to her talk about Phil Dwyer, the love of her life.
Love of her life. Right.
Of course, I was expecting this; every once in a while, my mother would fancy herself in love with a man and they would last for a few months before my mother's short attention span moved on to something else. Her last boyfriend – David something – had been replaced by a new found love pottery. Other men had come and gone over the years and she didn't seem lonely.
I think wanted to believe that she was happy.
The first time Phil came to the house was for a Friday night dinner. Normally, I did all the cooking but this was usually my night off and we would usually go out but mom had asked if I could cook anyway – something nice. How could I say no?
Phil – hmm. What was our first meeting like? Well, I couldn't explain it, but I felt unsettled a soon as he stepped into the house. There was just something about him that immediately made me fear him. For my mother's sake, I was very nice with him, while remaining as distant as possible. Whenever he came over I was polite but usually avoided him, I only spoke to him to not seem rude and not upset my mother.
When my mother announced that he was moving in; my world spun upside down. They told me together. As she pulled me up from the couch for a hug, I looked up to see him glaring at me wearing dirtiest look I had ever seen.
I pulled away and ran up the stairs, locking the door behind me.
My cell phone vibrating in my back pocket forced me to calm down. I looked down and saw my dad's number on the screen. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. "Hi Char . . . Dad."
Charlie, my dad. I loved my father.
He lived on the other end of the country, but the love was still there. He and I were very much alike: quiet, reserved, pensive. We had a deeper understanding with each other that often didn't require talking. The few weeks out of the year that I spent with him were forever imprinted in my memories.
Our conversations were never long; we were both people of few words. A few minutes later our chat was over, after the promise of another call next week.
I put my cell phone down, hearing my mother's worried voice from the hall. I opened the door slowly, going back to sit on my bed. "Dad just called."
"Listen honey, I know that this might seem a little fast, but Phil's a good man."
"Are you happy with him, Mom?" I looked into her eyes trying to gauge her reaction. I already knew the answer.
"I wouldn't have said yes to letting him live here. And he loves you too, already. He talks about you all the time."
He doesn't even know me.
"I'm happy for you, mom. I really am, but only if you're sure." I tried to smile, knowing that she would ultimately see whatever it was that she wanted to see.
After she left, I laid on my bed trying to figure out why I felt the way I did. I heard mom yell out goodnight. I got up and moved to get changed for bed when I heard the door to her room open and close again.
"So this is what girls are wearing these days to bed? Much sexier than what your mom wears." Phil said with a creepy smile, closing the door and leaning against it.
I quickly moved to stand behind the dresser, trying to cover myself. "Look, maybe you haven't lived with any teenage girls before, but when I close my door it's for a reason."
"Well, I have a feeling that things are going to change."
"Get out of my room."
I watched him leave and cursed myself for not having a lock on the door. I have never needed one but now I was worried about this stranger my mother had invited into our home. I dug up a pair of sweats that I've never worn before and slipped them on after I propped a chair against the door.
That was the first restless night of many that I spent while he lived with us.
I could feel my life starting to fall apart, slowly, but there was nothing I could do. He took every opportunity to torture me: making sure that he was in the house when my mother went out, coming to my bedroom before I woke up. The touching, innuendos and looks were affecting every aspect of my life, even my relationship with my mother suffered.
I tried to tell her what was happening but she always changed the subject. The truth was that I'd never seen my mom so happy and she just didn't want to see what Phil was doing. I knew that it was ignorant of me to think so, but a part of me felt that this was happening because of something I did.
I struggled to appear normal, to act as if nothing had changed and it was working. The few friends that I had didn't seem to notice and my mom was too busy in her own jumbled world to pay attention to me. Plus she really didn't want to think ill of Phil.
I avoided being home as much as possible but it didn't make a difference. It was like an unavoidable plague, a shadow that was slowly eating away at my soul.
I trudged along for six months before my mother called me into the living room to 'talk'. I don't even remember what were her exact words were, but the point was that Phil had proposed and she said yes.
I ran out of the room and out the door as fast as I dared, tripping down the stairs before launching myself down the street. I made it all the way to the park a few blocks away before running out of breath. I always thought my mom was happy with the way things were before, just the two of us. But now I saw her light up whenever that man was in the room and I didn't know how to tell her how wrong it was.
I couldn't turn to look at her when I walked back home. I tried to tell her what had been going on but the words didn't come out. My cell phone vibrated against my hip so I concentrated on that instead. A half smile formed on my lips when I saw the picture my dad had sent with a message.
It was a lake that he always went to, the sun made the colors vibrate and come alive even on the tiny screen. 'See, the sun does shine here, kiddo. Talk to you soon.' I really smiled then. The week that I spent with him this year was so short, but I knew that we both enjoyed the time we had together.
"Bella, are you okay?"
I looked up at my mom, "Sorry. It just caught me by surprise."
"I know, honey. I wasn't expecting it either, but Phil makes me so happy. And he just loves you of course. He's talking about going down to Florida and getting a small house there for the three of us. And . . ."
There was no way in hell that was happening.
"Mom, what if I went to live with Charlie for a little while?" I asked suddenly. The text had to be a sign, a way out of what was quickly spinning out of control.
"What? I mean he's your dad and all, but I thought you didn't like Forks."
The idea was quickly starting to take shape, like a light at the end of the tunnel. "I'd really like to spend some time with Charlie before college. And you'll be busy with Phil. What better time than now."
I looked at my mother while she thought this over. "Why don't we talk about this later?"
That had been two weeks ago.
Two weeks of what had been hell. Phil had taken every opportunity to try to break me down. Once, I found him in the bathroom, staring at me while I took a shower. I took to sleeping with a knife under my pillow at night but it didn't stop him.
He tried to kiss me the night after mom spoke to Charlie about living with him.
He came into my room and began touching my neck and face. The only reason why I wasn't raped that night was because I remained calm and remembered what my coach had taught me a few years ago and kneed him in the groin. I ran to mom's room, explaining that I didn't feel well and asked to sleep in her room. Phil slept on the couch.
Now I'm on my way to Forks. That was all behind me and I could finally sleep, even if it was on the plane. I finally felt safe.
I had been staying awake with caffeine pills my last week in Phoenix and I was ready to just crash. I tried to think about what I remembered of my visits to Forks, but I could only remember that it was wet and green.
But hey anything had to be better than the hell I was living in.
I wasn't myself anymore and it was getting too hard to hide. I didn't want to be touched and my grades started to suffer. I hated myself for what I had allowed to happen but felt powerless to stop it.
Now I was moving halfway across the country to live with Charlie, a man that I barely knew but loved nonetheless. I had said goodbye to my former life, desperately burying the events of recent months and forced myself to be optimistic towards my new life.
I was ready to be me again.