Disclaimer: Stephanie Meyer owns all things Twilight related. I do not financially profit from the use of her characters.
Renee always loved to watch musicals. Even when she was at her lowest I knew that if I slipped an old Fred Astaire movie into the dvd player she'd calm down and be okay again. But in the last few months, she never made it to the end of the movies anymore. I found myself leaning against the arm of the couch, her prone body unconsciously sprawled on the cushions behind me, watching the end of the ridiculously unrealistic depictions of life all by myself.
As an adult I often wondered just how all those silly musicals affected my young and impressionistic mind. Did they brainwash me into having some very unrealistic expectations of life? Or did they give hope when there wasn't any to be found elsewhere? Maybe they helped me trudge forward through the darkness; their message of happily ever after kept me believing that despite all that had happened to me – there was still a possibility of happiness for me.
Some people experience pivotal moments in life that changes everything from that moment on – a meeting, or an event that shapes the course of their future. I have had two of those moments in my life and they both in some way involved Edward Cullen. Its not easy for me to understand or explain just how much meeting him affected my life but I do know that my fate is somehow inextricably linked with his and if our paths had not crossed I would have never known what it really means to be alive.
The first time I met Edward Cullen I was only fifteen years old. Renee and I had been living in various different places around the Southwest –Albuquerque, San Diego, and finally Phoenix. We had been slumming around in Phoenix for several months when things went from bad to worse.
For as long as I could remember it had just been me and Renee. I knew my life was unconventional but still, it was all I knew. Sure, like all teenagers, I had some hopes for my future but considering all that I had been through I had pretty low expectations. Girls like me – with an incapable, immature mom and an absent father – didn't usually amount to much. If I graduated from high school relatively unscathed, it would be a miracle.
Even though she wasn't a normal mom, I loved Renee. And I know in her own unconventional way, she loved me too. She just couldn't seem live like other people – to settle down, to dig roots. We were continually on the move, searching for a happiness that was just out of grasp.
Somehow Renee always managed to find a menial job to make ends meet – in the most minimal of ways. We were living in one of those cheap hotels on the edge of town with a small kitchen – the kind that comes with a small crud-encrusted refrigerator and its own never-ending brood of ravenous cockroaches. We had lived in countless variations of this same type of hotel in many different cities, and then when life got too real or scary we would drift somewhere new.
This time Renee got a job cleaning rooms at the hotel where we were living which allowed her to be around a little more often than usual. She even enrolled me in the neighborhood school this time without my prompting. I wasn't really used to getting too much attention from her and this made me very independent. I did all the laundry, the grocery shopping and cooked most of our meals – or else face the alternative – be dirty and starve.
Whenever I started in a new school, which as you can imagine happened pretty often, I had mastered the art of blending in and making myself invisible. I knew how to keep my head down and to scowl at unwanted attention. Most people kept their distance when they found how unapproachable I was.
Our life had slipped into a familiar pattern in Phoenix and I was beginning to feel comfortable in our routine. This worried me. With Renee it was so much easier not to expect anything, not to hope for anything permanent. And just when I was feeling settled for the first time in a long time, Renee met Phil.
I could sense he was trouble from the first moment she brought him around to meet me. Phil was a handyman who the hotel routinely used to fix broken fixtures and repair clogged drains. Of course I had noticed him lurking around for a while before Renee gave in and starting seeing him. He had a reckless quality to him that frightened me but Renee seemed happier so I never said anything. In just a few weeks time he had wriggled his way into our peaceful lives and upset our predictable pattern.
Renee was no feminist but it had been just us two for so long that I held strongly to the notion that, despite our pathetic lifestyle and our nearly constant impoverishment, we didn't need anyone else. But it soon became obvious to me that even though I saw Phil as the bad news he was, Renee had easily become thoroughly seduced and completely attached to the charismatic loser. Having someone wedged between us was both shocking and unfamiliar to me. But I had never been taught to expect much or to fight for anything so I accepted my fate silently and withdrew from life and reality even more.
Anyway, I had to adapt and get used to being alone because when Phil came over my mom didn't even want me around. She shoved my limp form out of the door and told me to sit in the small lobby of the hotel with the pretense that it was a quiet place for me to do my homework. At least there was a comfortable chair down there and a television. Heidi, the apathetic night manager, and I soon got into a routine of watching TV together – she loved old reruns of Friends and I was forced most nights to watch one episode after another. I actually began to like immersing myself in the totally unhindered and idealistic lives of the fictional characters and imagining that there were really people who had so little real worries.
I actually never really needed to do homework at home because I generally found school ridiculously easy and finished most of my work before I got home. Even though my mom was completely uninvolved in my education I know she was proud of me for doing well and I was happy it was one less thing for her to worry about.
We generally had a pretty good relationship though I often felt like more of a parent than a child. Renee was simply childlike in her approach to the world. But when Phil came in the picture everything became different. It's almost like she forgot that she was a parent altogether. We no longer watched movies together, she never asked me about my day at school, and I almost felt like I really had disappeared.
Now, when Phil came over I started to resist being kicked out. Phil was mainipulating Renee and I was hesitant to leave her with him. She started to say more hurtful things to me – words that I knew had come straight from Phil's mouth. I couldn't understand why Renee was so easily influenced by him and I was beginning to feel like I was losing a battle I didn't even know I was fighting. Before Phil, I was hoping that we would stay in Phoenix for a while, maybe even long enough for me to graduate, but now I wished with every fiber of my being, that Renee would tell me that it was time to move on again.
A couple of weeks after my mom started seeing Phil she didn't wake up for work in the morning. I got up from my bed on the lumpy couch and got in the shower like I normally did but when I got out my mom was still spread across bed, tangled in the sheets and hadn't moved. Normally, my mother would be up, making coffee in her tattered bathrobe with the news on the television providing a familiarly soothing dull hum in the background.
Panic overtook me. There had been a time, a few years earlier when we were living in a dirty slum of Albuquerque that I had found Renee like this in the morning. She had been especially depressed and desperate. She spent a lot of time out at night, leaving me alone with only the television to keep me company. Even though I was young, I knew that when she stumbled in at night, yelling and crying, and falling into to bed, that she had been drinking.
It was a horrible time and I was in such a state of worry all the time that I tried even harder to be a good daughter – cleaning the house, making dinner, and organizing all of our things. I hoped that if I was really good that I could take away Renee's worries and I could make her happy again. And eventually, we moved and things were better for a while.
As I stood looking down at my mother, I prayed that this was different. Maybe she had a cold, or maybe she was just more tired than usual. I reached down and grabbed her arm hesitantly and turned her over. But she didn't wake and as I examined her I gasped in shock at the sight before me. Renee had dark circles under her eyes and her lips were dry and encrusted with saliva. She was covered with a sheen of sweat which beaded on her forehead and chest. Her arms were bruised and I winced at the sores along the vein at her elbow that were clearly new and raw.
"Mom! Mom!" I shook her by the shoulders and pleaded with her to wake up. She mumbled something at me before slumping back to the bed and sloppily pushing me away with her arms. "Mom, please wake up!" I begged, the tears welling in my eyes and streaming ceaselessly down my face. I had never felt so hopeless before.
I jumped up to fill a glass with water and sat down next to Renee, forcing her limp body into a sitting position. I tried to get her to drink the water but it dribbled down her face, wetting her shirt and the sheets. My hands were shaking so badly that I spilled some water myself as I dropped the glass on the nightstand. I grabbed a wet washcloth and sat down next to Renee, wiping her hair out of her face and cooling her down.
After several minutes I had calmed myself enough to call the front office to tell them that Renee was sick and couldn't work. The asshole manager had enough nerve to threaten me so I just hung up on him. I sat next to Renee all day, wiping off her brow, adjusting her pillows, getting her drinks of water, and talking to her about meaningless things I was learning in school or what had happened on Friends the night before. I propped her up so that she could watch television.
Her blank stare disarmed me but it began to soften into a semblance of her normal look as I put a Fred Astaire movie in the DVD player. We watched a total of three musicals that day and by the evening she was almost recovered. I didn't ask her any questions about what she had done because I was afraid of the answer. And she didn't offer any explanations for her condition on her own. But I was more worried than ever before and I couldn't shake the feeling that something bad was going to happen, something catastrophic.
It was only two months later, and after many more of Renee's late night visits with Phil, that I woke up to a nightmare. Renee was sprawled across the bed like usual but something was different but I couldn't pinpoint what it was. It felt stuffy and smelled kind of weird in the room so I opened a window. I remember gazing down at Renee and recognizing that she seemed really skinny, bony almost and thought that I should try harder to make dinners that she would like so she would eat more. I also remember that she had been coughing the night before and I made a mental note to stop by the drug store after school to get her some cough medicine.
Lately I had been putting off waking Renee until right before going to school so she could sleep off whatever it was that she had been doing the night before. I hopped into the shower and got myself ready like I did every morning. I liked to imagine that I could wash away all the grime in my life, sending all the ugliness in a stream down the drain. I even made myself a strawberry Poptart that morning, turning on the news like Renee usually did, and eating by the low din of the newscaster's practiced voice. I put my dish in the little sink and checked my reflection in the mirror – a wan, perfectly average face looked back at me sullenly and I quickly turned away.
"Mom," I called out to her, hoping she would awaken easily today. "Mom!" I said more loudly as I approached the bed. She didn't stir so I leaned down to touch her shoulder and instantly flinched at the feel of her. She was cold and wrong, just wrong. I gasped, my hands flew to my mouth and I backed up until I hit the wall. I couldn't move. I just stood trembling, the realization of my mother's stiff and lifeless body before me slowly sinking in until I felt the dull ache of it in every inch of my body.
I couldn't sleep on the airplane. I was too anxious. So much had happened so quickly that I didn't have time to process everything. I think I was in shock. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward but I had yet to feel anything – to really cry, or to say goodbye.
But I found myself now sitting with a social worker assigned to my case, a cold, blond, tiny woman named Jane something-or-other on an airplane to Seattle, WA. She kept telling me details of what she called my "placement" as if I were a file to be filed, a letter to be mailed. Earlier in the day I had been unceremoniously told that I was to be sent to my father, who lived in a small town in Washington, called Forks. Somehow in the haze of my current numbness I registered that his name was Charlie and he was the chief of police. I had a father.
A small part of me was angry with Renee who had failed to ever tell me of my father, no matter how often I begged for information. And to meet him now that I was broken into a million different pieces didn't seem fair. I was a mess and a misfit, the daughter of a dead heroin addict who grew up in trashy hotels and never had a real home. How would he see me? I didn't deserve a real home. I let my mother die.
I was wrought with emotion as the plane landed and we headed to pick up our rental car. Jane was impassive the entire drive. It was okay, I didn't need anyone to hold my hand. But as we neared Forks, I felt the ice around my heart begin to melt. And as we drove through the gray mist I couldn't resist feeling a tiny glimmer of hope.
We pulled up to a white two story house on a tree lined street, a police cruiser parked in the driveway. It was the kind of house I had always dreamed of living in, growing up in. I stepped out of the car all the while my eyes memorized the details of the house: the peeling paint on the window sills, the weeds in the window boxes, the moss growing along the wooden handrail. I loved every bit of it which made it even harder to keep reminding myself not to expect anything. He won't want you once he knows – once he's seen you.
Jane reached out and pulled the screen door open. She turned to me with a false smile on her face. "Here we go, Isabella." She knocked forcefully and looked at the closed door with anticipation. I looked down at my feet, my heart threatening to beat its way out of my chest. I heard footsteps and then the door opened in front of me and I raised my head to look into the eyes of my father for the very first time.