Well i am back, with something completely different to To Live Is To Love and Tread Lightly. This is AH!
A huge thank you to my beta Tina72899. She took on a nightmare when she took me on. Big hugs to her for it and thank you for putting up with my IMs when i forget you have a life to and interupt your busy schedule.
All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author (that would be ME). No copyright infringement is intended.
Chapter 1 – A History Lesson in Life
Bella could still remember the day that Alice Brandon walked into her life. She had been sitting on the swing her dad had hung from an oak tree in their front yard. The ground underneath the crude, yet splinter free, wooden plank was scuffed, void of earth and had a habit of being muddy from the seemingly unrelenting Fork's rain. Bella had fled the slightly neglected house where her father appeared to be madly running around, tidying up. Throwing newspapers under couch cushions and trying to tie trash bags from the kitchen bin only to have the contents burst from the bag and all over the floor. Bella was sick of her dad's growls and grunts, and he kept scowling at her every time she laughed at his naughty words. All the dusting and tidying could only mean one thing; Joanna was coming around. Joanna was Charlie's girlfriend, the only girlfriend Bella had ever seen him have. They had met at a line dancing class that had been organised for the seniors. Given the small size of Forks, the only way to have enough people to make a line was to invite anyone over the age of eighteen. She had a daughter that Charlie had mentioned, but Bella had never seen her before. Joanna was the only reason that Bella put up with her father when he was in this kind of mood, instead of demanding a new daddy, one who didn't scowl. When Joanna came to visit, usually for dinner – which she cooked – she always brought the best chocolate chip cookies. Bella liked Joanna.
Her daddy, Police Chief Charlie Swan, had told her that today was different. Today, Joanna would be bringing a guest with her too, someone for Bella to play with; a new friend. Friends were something that Bella didn't have a lot of. She was quiet, her teacher said. Bright, but quiet. The other children in her class didn't avoid her or tease her, they just forgot about her.
A familiar car had appeared on their street of only two houses, and Bella slowed the swing, trying not to scuff her newly polished Mary Jane shoes. Joanna waved at Bella from the car, showing her a clear zip-lock bag of cookies with her other hand. Slowly, Bella made her way over to the car as the backseat door opened.
Short legs with bright red, sparkly shoes came into to view as they jumped down to the ground. Bella forgot all about Joanna and her cookies as she took in the small, black haired girl in front of her. This was her new playmate. The girl was barely taller than Bella and had on the prettiest yellow dress Bella had ever seen, made brighter by the dreary grey weather that day. The girl walked towards her, her hand stuck out before her, quite formal and polite for a girl her age, Bella thought. Bella could feel her cheeks heat up as she looked at the ground as the toes of her left shoe twisted in the dirt.
"My name is Alice. You're Isabella but Mom said to call you Bella. My mom and your dad are engaged." The yellow dressed girl said, her voice high pitched and all knowing. "You know what that means right?"
Bella shook her head and refused to look up, instead admiring the girl's shoes. They reminded her of Dorothy's in the Wizard of Oz that had been on TV the other day.
"It means that we are coming to live with you, and we are going to be sisters."
Bella 's head flew up, tears in her eyes. Her mom had just given her a baby brother last month, and now she was always too busy to talk to her on the phone. Did a new sister mean her daddy would be too busy to talk to her too now? "I don't want a sister."
She watched as Alice looked back at her shocked. "Oh! Well we have to be something." Alice tapped her index finger against her cheek. "I know. We'll be best friends."
Bella thought about this. She had heard of best friends but had never had one. "What do best friends do?"
"Um... they are always around when you get stuck with stuff, paint your toe nails andstop boys from giving you cooties. You know, all the good stuff"
Bella looked at her suspiciously before pushing out her hand towards Alice cautiously. "Okay, best friends."
Bella crinkled her nose when Alice spat into her own hand and slapped it into Bella's. "For life!"
At eight years old, Bella had her first best friend and a new sister. Somehow, she knew her life was changing, and it started with Alice Brandon.
It had been twenty years since Alice and Bella had made a spit-bond best friend's vow. In those two decades, Bella and Alice had surfed life's rollercoaster together. Even after Alice had married and moved to New York, they continued to be closer than sisters and best friends.
At fourteen, Bella experienced one of life's harshest lessons. Both Alice and Bella had been in school when the principal came to get Bella from her fourth period math class. She went outside, with her book bag and textbooks, hastily closed with pens trapped in the spine of the books. Alice was standing in the corridor too looking as confused as she was, her toes twirling patterns on the tiled floor as it did when she was nervous. The principal had led them to his office, where Joanna sat, black tracks careening down her face where her mascara had run with tears. She had drawn in Bella close to her chest, muttering soft "Sorry's" into the top of Bella's hair, the soft drop, drop, drop of tears echoing each word. The confused look on Alice's face had been replaced with one of fear. Joanna had never cried in front of them before.
Charlie Swan had been in the convenience store buying Joanna-ruled contraband, Twinkies, when two armed men with stocking masks pulled over their faces burst in and demanded money from the cashier. He didn't even have the time to get his gun from his holster before one of the robbers shot Charlie at point blank range in the chest. Police Chief Charlie Swan died before the EMT's arrived, just mere minutes after the silent alarm had been triggered.
There had been an open casket at the funeral home for viewing. Bella knew what a funeral was, but she had never been to one before. Joanna had tried to explain to her why they went to visit her dad, even though he wasn't alive. Nothing Joanna could have told her prepared her for the sight of his body though, prepared by the funeral directors, lying in the coffin. His face looked chalky, his cheeks a strange shade of red. He looked very unlike the daddy she knew and loved, even his hair was wrong. Bella reached over into the coffin and tried to fix his hair but the products the funeral people had put in it meant it kept moving back into place. Bella became hysterical at that point and Alice's uncle had to pull her away as she tried to climb into the coffin, harsh cries leaving her body as she scrambled tooth and nail to get into the coffin and just cuddle up to her daddy as she did when she was much younger.
As she was bundled back to the house, it took hours for her cries to give way to hoarse sobs and eventually an exhausted sleep. As Charlie had been laid to rest with a full honours funeral, Bella had ran her fingertips over the oak wood surface of his coffin and whispered a 'goodbye'. He had later received medals, awarded for bravery, but none of them brought her daddy back to her.
Child Services had been given her the choice, after Charlie's death, to go and live with her mother, Renee, in Phoenix or stay with Joanna and Alice in Forks, as per Charlie's will. Her mother was virtually a stranger to her. Joanna and Alice were her family now.
At sixteen, life dealt another blow to the Brandon-Swan family and rocked the foundations of Bella's world once again. Alice, only eighteen and preparing to go to college in New York to study Media and Film, was diagnosed with Stage 2 Ovarian cancer. She had been complaining of back pain and had confessed to her mother that when she had slept with her then boyfriend, Jacob Black, it had hurt like hell, worse than when he had 'popped her cherry'. An ultrasound revealed a mass on her ovaries the size of a lime, and a biopsy confirmed it was cancer. The dreaded C-word. Alice had taken it as she took most things, with an air of platoon going to war; fight, fight, fight.
Charlie's pension and life insurance had left them financially sound, so Joanna quit her job to support her daughter, and Alice started on a gruelling chemotherapy and radiotherapy schedule. 'She is young' the doctors said, 'her chances are good'. Three sessions later, Alice was given the good news that she was in remission. Just in time to make a start in college for the start of the second semester with a bald head and her lease on life back.
Two years later, the symptoms returned. This time, Alice slumped into denial and buried her head in the sand like an unrelenting ostrich. It was only when she returned to Forks for the holidays and Joanna saw the startling weight loss, despite the fact that Alice ate like a kid left unsupervised in a candy store, that she forced her daughter to go to the doctors.
The doctor took one look at her and, knowing her history, rushed her straight into the hospital for testing. The cancer had come back, Stage 2B, and the doctors gave Alice an unthinkable choice: Lose the ability to have children by having her womb and ovaries removed, or die trying to beat it. There was no choice for Alice; it was always going to be life for her. It petrified Bella, who at only eighteen was scared of losing another member of the family. She was at an age now where she understood the implications of cancer and what it could do to her beautiful sister. After the operation, Alice had descended into a depression that no one could pull her out of. Joanna had pleaded with her oldest daughter to get help, therapy, counselling, even pills if it would help, but Alice shrugged her shoulders and returned to school to throw herself back into her degree.
Six months later, on a visit home during the three-month summer break, Bella noticed her sister and best friend appeared happier. Alice had put on weight, her hair cut was styled into a fashionable bob instead of long, lanky strings down her back, and she was dressing in bright colours again. The yellow sundress was back, though in a size that fit her petite adult body as opposed to the ten-year old child that had once wore one similar. After catching up in Bella's bedroom after Joanna had gone to bed. They sat on her bed with chocolate and wine, bought by Alice with her fake ID. Bella had begged Alice to tell her why she was so happy. After a coy smile, Alice confessed she had met someone. His name was Jasper, and she was going to marry him someday. Bella had scoffed, and in a feminist voice proclaimed:
"Who needed men to make you happy?"
That Thanksgiving, with the girls home in Forks, Bella from U-Dub and Alice from New York, Jasper came home, with Alice, to meet the family. Joanna was immediately smitten with his southern charm and drawl; whereas Bella was a little more guarded. She was wary of the boy, no man, who could possibly take her only sister and best friend away from her. Abandonment issues, stemming from Renee's sporadic contact in her life, would periodically haunt Bella and the relationships she had with people she met throughout her life. However, by the end of the holiday weekend, Jasper had converted Bella by teaching her poker and allowing her to teach him how to ice skate on one of the frozen ponds near their house. Bella had confirmed her like of her new possible brother-in-law by telling him he looked like a woman in her old, off-white figure skates.
Jasper and Alice married as soon as their exam results were posted, and before graduation. Jasper claimed that he wanted things official before they moved in as 'grown-ups', and Alice knew life could be short and didn't want to wait. Bella was nineteen and Maid of Honour. The subject of children had been brought up more than once as Alice and Jaspers relationship progressed, before they married, and Jasper had always said:
"Alice, darlin', it's not your ability to give or not give me children that I love. It's you, the light you have inside you, the love of life itself. There are other ways to have children if we truly want them. But I know that I want you, not just someone else who can give me kids, only you."
Bella had cried with Alice when she had gushed down the phone in one of their late night phone catch ups. Someday, Bella wanted a Jasper of her own except with dark hair; she wasn't that keen on blondes.
At twenty four, Alice and Jasper decided they were ready to bring children into their lives. They had considered adoption but only wanted to use it as a last resort. There was no chance that IVF would work for them as she had no eggs and no womb. The cancer had struck too quickly and was too advanced by the time Alice had finally been forced to the doctors the second time. When the doctors had given her the options of treatment, there had been no time to allow the harvest of her eggs for freezing, and she had no womb to carry them in after the hysterectomy.
They decided that they first wanted to try a surrogate egg and mother, fertilised with Jasper's sperm, before submitting an adoption application. For months they tried to find a surrogate they both felt they could do this with. Agency after agency and interview after interview was unsuccessful. Alice just couldn't find a surrogate that was the right fit for her to feel comfortable with, trusting then to help bring her and Jasper's child into the world. They weren't just looking for an oven, as Jasper put it, they were looking for half the ingredients too.
It all came to a head when Bella went to New York to visit her sister and brother-in-law in their new house, a stunning Brownstone in an up and coming area of Brooklyn. Jasper was a successful producer for Summit Entertainment, working out of New York while his company tried to convince him to move to LA where work would be more accessible for him. Alice worked as a columnist for the New York Times. She had once enjoyed her job but was now burning out, and they were financially secure enough that Alice would be able to stop working completely and stay at home with a baby.
While drinking their weight in Merlot, Alice had cried huge, drunken tears at the unfairness of it all. In an inebriated mumble, Alice joked that she wished that she had a secret best friend who was a career surrogate that could just take it all on for them. Bella fell as silent as a stone, suddenly not as drunk as she thought she was. Her sister's anguish and the best friend comment had her now clear-thinking brain ticking over at a thousand miles an hour.
"What about me?" Bella exclaimed as she sloshed red liquid out of the glass and onto Alice's pristine neutral carpets. "I could do it. I have eggs, a tummy, no boyfriend, and I am your best friend."
Alice's nose wrinkled in confusion, her eyes then bugging out as she realised exactly what Bella was slurring on about. "You? You would want to be our surrogate?"
"Sure, why not." She put her glass on the table and drew Alice's hands into her lap as Alice sat, cross-legged lotus style across from Bella, and looked her deep in the eyes. Alice shook her head from side to side.
"I couldn't, we couldn't ask you to do that for us." Her voice was small, almost afraid to hope.
"It would be the perfect solution. I am three months into my Masters program, so I wouldn't be too far along when I sit for my finals, I could transfer it to NYU, and it would give me an excuse to take a couple of months out at the end of it. You know me Alice. You know my medical history, my sexual history, I would be nearby and I don't wear socks with my sandals so you know my DNA is not tainted." Bella joked, trying to add a bit of levity into the now serious atmosphere.
"Bella you are only twenty two, why would you want to carry a baby so young? Think of your figure."
Bella fell back laughing. "You can pay for my postnatal personal training sessions if you really want."
For the first time into her trip, Bella saw hope in Alice's eyes instead of exhaustion and defeat. Bella knew, with no doubt in her mind, that it was the right offer to make. It would be a way of paying Alice back for all the sisterly advice and moments, and a way of thanking the Brandon family for taking her in as their own after Charlie's death.
When Jasper came back from a business trip to Vancouver the next afternoon, Bella and Alice sat him down and explained what they had discussed. Jasper required a bit more information and reassurance from Bella that she wanted to go ahead with it than Alice, where an Okay, lets do it would suffice, no reassurance required. Jasper finally agreed after much negotiation about schooling and where Bella would live and medical payments.
On the 2nd of August 2003, Cassidy Whitlock was born, screaming her lungs out, with a shock of Jasper's golden hair and startling blue eyes, that later turned hazel, resembling Bella's. Though where the flecks of gold came from, no one was quite sure. She was handed off, straight into her mother's arms where Alice gently rocked the pink swaddled baby until her cries subsided, and she opened her big blue eyes to the world.
Who would you do absolutely anything for?
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