Welcome to Conflicted. Just a few notes to help you on this emotional rollercaoster of a journey...the ride is wild. The first few chapters paints the picture of Bella's pain and gives you some insight into her mind. Her relationship/peculiar connection to her father is the basis for the the entire story and the thing that will determine the kind of relationship she has with a disturbed Edward.
I promise you that the story is captivating and it gets better and better as you read on. It will shock you somewhere around the middle.
I guarantee that you will fall in love with Edward, like you always do and there will be times when you will love Bella, then want to slap her silly...(like you always do?). I did quite a job on Charlie in this one, but I promise you'll be liking him by the end. Happy reading. I hope you enjoy!
The Beginning of the End
I love the sun. I love the way it makes the dew smell in the early morning. I love the way its stubborn and failed attempts to leave its mark on my pale skin has never phased its continuous attempts to try, and I love the way it scorches the wind and turns it into an ethereal warm breeze that could thaw the coldest depths of any rigid thing or person. I love what the world sounds like in the sun…rustling leaves on the ground, chirping birds, crunching dirt under your shoes and I love that it can get angry and become a scorching force of fire in the hills or create the deadliest of earthquakes without warning. And still, after all it can do to shake our trust in it, we cannot live a single day on this earth without it.
But now I was driving away from the sun. I was driving away from all the different kinds of warmth I had known all my life. The airport was already in view and Alice's short spiky hair did a flip floppy dance in the breeze in the back seat of the car. I looked at it dismally. She was quiet in the back seat next to me, but her eyes were unsettled. I knew she was anxious but hopeful about our new move. In fact, I knew she longed for it. She didn't mind leaving Phoenix. She liked the idea of a new place with new people and she most certainly couldn't wait to separate herself from the reason behind our move....the same thing that made me cling to Phoenix in reparation. I looked at her dancing hair again. She took that sensation for granted. She didn't realize that the breeze would never feel quite that warm and playful any more. The light ruffling would surely stop and all that would become of her hair is dampened, hanging locks clinging to the frame of her skull for the natural warmth that her skin could provide.
I let my head fall back to the headrest. Thus far, it was probably the worst day of my existence. The car stopped and my mother, Esme, climbed out first trying her best to keep her smile transfixed on her face. It was too forced though and I could see the new lines of worry and stress stake their claim on her usually flawless skin and beautiful features. I sighed in deflation, trying to displace my resentment for her because it was unjust. I was trying to be mad at her. I needed to place the blame for all of it on someone, but no matter how I tried the result was always the same. There were no perpetrators. We were all victims of a very unfortunate circumstance, and maybe my parents were the ones dealing with the biggest burden of all.
What an ugly word. It should actually be called 'obliteration' or 'family annihilation', because that's what it did. It destroyed everyone and everything in its path, leaving nothing but messes of people behind to be cleaned up.
"Come on girls," Esme urged. "We don't have lots of time. Let's get our luggage in quickly."
With a resigned sigh I got out of the car and watched Uncle Phil haul our suitcases out of the trunk. He wrapped his huge hairy arms over Alice's and my shoulders and playfully hugged us together in a threesome. He ruffled Alice's hair one last time and pinched my nose.
"Be good girls," he winked. I might actually miss him too.
"Always," Alice chirped. I fought to swallow the lump that was growing impenetrable in my throat by the minute. All I could do was nod at him in sheepish acknowledgement. He gave me a pitiful look which I scorned and then he pulled Esme in for a bear hug.
"Call me," he said against her ears. "DOn't be a stranger."
"Thank you Phil," she smiled appreciatively and kissed him. The three of us then walked to the check in counter with our luggage. The more progress we made, the larger the lump grew and I just knew I was leaving the most important part of me behind. The grief welled up inside of me like a gorged balloon wanting to burst from the excruciating pressure. I kept my eyes averted from both Alice's and Esme's as we did all the necessary check in tasks, knowing that they were trying to gage how I was coping by my expression. I could feel Alice trying to gain eye contact, but I turned by back to her at every opportunity and avoided her stare.
The last hour in Phoenix flew by in the most cruel, unsympathetic way. Time was never a friend of mine. It always seemed to working against whatever I wanted. Over and over again I swallowed the painful lump threatening to betray me until we heard our flight number being called and it was time to board. I stared out of the glass screen wall onto the runway and suddenly panic gripped me as I realised that would be the last I would see of Phoenix in a very long while. I knew I'd be back inevitably to visit the source of my current grief but that time right then seemed so distant and surreal that it almost didn't exist. Esme saw the panic in my eyes and she held on to my shoulders in an attempt to shake me out of it. I looked at her and in her eyes I saw a reflection of my pain, only it wasn't mine in her eyes, it was hers; and behind her pain I saw remorse and guilt and the weight of accepting part of the responsibility for what was happening. I hated making her feel that way but at that moment, the panic was stronger and it was the only feeling I could give precedence to.
"I can't leave him," I choked out as the tears finally broke through. "Please don't make me. I can't."
"We're not leaving him Bella," Alice complained and I shot her an incredulous look. "He's still our dad and we'll be seeing him this summer. Geez."
"Then what do you call this?" I demanded. "We're are leaving him behind. We're boarding a plane with all our life packed away to a place in the middle of nowhere."
Alice let out an exasperated huff of air.
"You're such a drama queen. He's my dad too you know. You're not the only one hurting right now." Her eyes were accusing, like I was trying to claim him for myself only.
"Bella," Esme said softly, trying to soothe me. "This is not how I wanted it to be. You know that. It's just how it happened and I'm sorry that…"
"I know the story mom," I cut her off, not wanting her to have to apologize to me for the hundredth millionth time. "I just don't like leaving him. Can't you understand that?"
My father, Charlie, was the closest person to me. Ever since I knew myself, he and I were like two peas in a pod, twin souls, twin minds, the same person almost...just in different bodies. He used to joke and tell me that I was just an extension of himself, the left overs that God didn't know what to do with, so he just plugged the extras into the daughter...me. I asked him then how come God skipped over the first daughter then. Why did he choose me? Of course he had no answer to that, because he was just kidding and I had a habit of overanalyzing everything, including things that were supposed to be light and forgotten, turning it into a serious mess that it wasn't supposed to be in the first place.
In any event, Charlie and I were too goddamned alike for it to go unnoticed and that was the reaosn we meshed so well, too well maybe. It was also the thing that separated us from Esme and Alice. Alice was chipper, bouncy, fiesty and musical. Esme was pleasant and ever graceful with a charm that that could melt anyone into putty in her hands. And then there was Charlie and me, two introverted, shy beings who kept to ourselves, hated crowds and utterly despised being fussed over. We preferred to suffer our idiosyncrises in silence and avoided attention at all costs.
Esme's frustration with me mounted in the airport and her usually calm demeanour was threatening to crack.
"We need to board the plane right now Bella," she urged. "I promise we'll talk about it again when we get to Washington."
"I don't want to talk about it anymore," I answered. "I just wish it would all go away. I'm tired of talking about it."
Again the pang of guilt scorched me as I realized I'd hurt her yet again. Alice was typically flabbergasted with me by that point. She and Esme were the pair, like Charlie and I were. It just sort of happened that way and no one disliked it particularly. It's just the way it was. The fact that they had each other even though our family was being torn apart wasn't lost on me and I very literally felt as if I was leaving the other half of me behind.
Alice and I weren't always like resisting poles on a magnet. We were close enough. She was a year and a half older than me and excruciatingly girlie. We've never had any real kind of sibling rivalry. However, the 'obliteration' took a toll on our relationship as I openly gave Charlie the support she thought should have been put behind Esme. I worried about him constantly. Would he eat properly once I wasn't there to cook? Who would wake him off the couch to go upstairs to bed? Who would take the bottle off his chest at night, throw it away and gently wipe the spillage off his face? Who would tell him that the fish he caught was his best catch yet even though it resembled the size of his bait?
My connection with Charlie was stronger than anything I shared with anyone else. I loved my mother and sister and there were a few other family members that I liked. Friends came and went, but there was never any bond strong enough to be considered long term. I was usually the odd one out, the quiet, awkward, clumsy pale girl that no one minded but never cared much about either; and Esme never seemed to resent my connection to Charlie, except for the times when it scared her. I never knew how to explain it and so I shied away from it, but Charlie and I were so oddly the same and so mentally connected that as a child we could feel each other's presence before either one of us entered a room and sometimes even before the phone rang.
Growing up, for me, it was probably more intense as a couple of times I actually sensed danger around him and freaked out. Esme was confused and scared by my claims, especially because everytime I freaked out we would get phone call soon after that Charlie was in trouble. When we got the call about him being shot in the shoulder on the job (he was the Chief of Police), after I complained about a pain in my shoulder and fussed that Charlie was hurt, she almost went out of her mind and her confusion gave way to frantic worry about me. As much as she didn't mind my closeness to him, there were times when she thought my connection to him was unhealthy, though she tried her best not to smother me with her anxiety. The second time I sensed him in danger, I was in school when all of a sudden I suffered from an anxiety attack. I didn't know what was happening but I knew Charlie was in pain and my entire body seized. I remember for a while feeling intense and painful pins and needles shoot up and down my legs and later that afternoon I knew why. Charlie had fallen off the roof of our house while trying to fetch some kid's Frisbee and broke his both legs.
That sort of thing didn't happen much as a child, but if anything I thought it was necessary and I clung to it, because he had an uncanny way of drawing trouble to himself and I thought that that my gift could help him. I was never able to stop bad things from happening to him, but he knew that I tried and though he tried to appreciate it, I could sense that he too wasn't completely comfortable with it.
I was in a complete mess during the divorce. I monitored him and worried about him constantly and when Renee came into the picture the headaches started and never went away. Esme was a mess. Not only did she have to deal with Charlie's affair but she realized the way it affected me and it compounded her resentment for Charlie even more.
I was no expert at marriage, but I was pretty sure that if things are sour enough with a man who is drunk enough, just about any form of marital disaster is possible and an affair always seemed to rank amongst the most popular of marital distasters. I knew that in his heart it wasn't what he wanted to do and it wasn't like him. It was what he felt he needed to do to salvage what pride he had left after his wife started to ignore him completely and publicly.
His drinking soon escalated and became a problem, although I found that he knew when to drink. He never drank when he drove and never when he was on duty. It was always either at home, or when he spent the night out. However, those times were bad enough to make up for all the time he spent controlling it and it erased any brownie points he might have gotten for good behavior.
Don't get me wrong. I didn't condone Charlie's behaviour. I hated seeing my hero being reduced to the next best sex scandal in the neighbourhood and I hated seeing the pain and embarrassment it caused my mom. I hurt for him and I hurt for her and there were many times I tried to talk him out of it. But he only looked at me with those sad, deep, soul searching eyes of his and said things like I was an angel who would go straight to heaven for caring so much about a poor, undeserving bastard like him. He promised me over and over that he would be better for me and for Alice but his promises were empty and the more he hurt from his relationship gone bad with Esme, the more he drank. The more he drank, the more his promises turned into stuttered excuses, and the more he stuttered the more he cried, and the more he cried the more he gave up, until his life crumbled all around him and Esme filed for a divorce.
I couldn't blame her. I wouldn't be married to him either. My undying affection and loyalty to him had everything to do with the fact that I had his blood running through my veins and the fact that he read to us every night before bed when we were little and even now if I asked him to, he would. It was the fact that he knew me better than anyone else in my life, knew the kind of day I had just by the song I chose to listen to or by the way I stroked my hair. It was the fact that he put a pebble under my pillow next to my tooth so that I'd get two dollars instead of one from the tooth fairy; the fact the actually did dress up like the tooth fairy that one time and got caught. He arrested the monsters under my bed, ate the bed bugs before they had a chance to bite me and painted my room in five different colours because he knew I'd be stressed trying to analyse which colour was best to suit my every mood. Charlie was my hero, is my hero, the man in my life and the only male force that was forceful yet gentle enough to guide me toward the person I turned to be. I didn't know how to leave him behind.
Alice was really angry with him about Renee and rightfully so. She still hadn't gotten over it. The fighting in the end was so nasty that most times Alice would take me away from the house and occupy me until she thought it was safe to go home. It was a very painful situation and it almost always ended with all four of us in tears, so I was capable of fully appreciating why Alice found peace and solace in the fact that it was over and looked forward to the promise of a new place with new people. We wouldn't be the target of pity at school anymore, nor the topic of gossip.
Hey did you see the Chief all over that Renee girl from the diner? Imagine that! The Cheif of fucking Police. He has no shame! Right there in public with his wife at home with the kids. I wonder if he sleeps with his gun next to him at night. I wouldn't if I were him. His wife might shoot him with it. And who could blame her!
Another ugly word. They should have called it 'malevolent incineration,' because well…..that's what it is; and it was everywhere. Poor Esme. I hated seeing her hide herself in her work and hide from the public eye and pretend like it was all okay. But the worse it got, the more distant she became until she was practically nonexistent in his life anymore. They were both to blame. I forgot why or how it started but the result was the same regardless of how you looked at it or who started it. I tried to be strong for her, but undoubtedly I ached more for Charlie, because he was hurting just as much as she was or maybe even more. He had to battle with the self hatred and with the responsibility of being the one in the end to really bring it all to a crashing halt. He knew his affair and his drinking was hurting us but he just didn't know how to stop or how to fix it. So instead, he self destructed.
Our parting was worse than the actual divorce I think but then, I wasn't the one getting divorced. When he realized that Esme won custody and that she had gotten a good job offer in Forks, Washington, I actually saw him age ten years in sixty seconds. Esme was a successful architect and had just gotten through to be a partner in a new and promising architectural firm in Forks. It was a life saving moment for her and she jumped at the opportunity, naturally. But it still meant that I had to leave Charlie behind.
His goodbye with Alice was strained. He tried to hold her and apologize for everything. She hugged him back and even sniffled a little but she was very angry with him and he had long since fallen off his pedestal in her life. My last ten minutes with him was singlehandedly the worst ten minutes of my life until then. His eyes were red and puffy from days of crying and drinking and when he held on to me, it was with a rough and desperate clutch. He tried not to talk for fear that he would crack, and he tried to be strong but underneath it all I saw a broken man who was already a very lonely man, on the verge of being even lonelier.
He liked being alone, yes, but lonely was quite a different size nut to wolf down. He just squeezed my hands and my shoulders repeatedly and sent me a million messages through his eyes. I had promised myself that I wouldn't cry because I hated making it any worse for him than it already had to be. No matter how much it hurt Esme or Alice or me, we were the ones moving on and he was the one being left behind and being left behind is always the suckier end of the stick.
It was the most gut wrenching, suffocating scene and the cruellest way to leave him. I couldn't stand it. He was already an alcoholic and I knew that plunging him into that kind of loss would only make it worse. I couldn't look at him anymore for fear of breaking down and creating a huge scene that nobody wanted. So I smiled at him weakly and returned the squeeze with my hands then told him in a very husky voice that he would hear from me the moment we landed and every day after that. That seemed to soothe him minutely and he let go of me and shoved his hands into his pockets. I didn't waste any time once he let go, for fear that I would break down. I escaped into the car and turned my face the other way and the lump in my throat just couldn't be swallowed.
As the plane lifted off, I closed my eyes and shoved my ipod head phones into my ears, just so that Alice would understand that I needed alone time. She knew and she didn't agitate me any further. The plane ride to Washington was quick because again, time was not my friend and it plunged me into Forks without allowing me ample time to adjust. I willed myself to sleep and thankfully it came. It was the only thing that helped my sore and overworked head, and even though sleep was an accessory to time, it helped me to attain the peace in my conflicted mind.
Goodbye Phoenix; goodbye sun and dry rustling leaves; goodbye warm breeze; goodbye Charlie. Hello overcast, damp, wet and cold sticky emptiness. Hello loneliness.