-a resolve or determination to do something
-the act of resolving or determining upon an action or course of action
-the mental state or quality of being resolved or resolute; having a firmness of purpose
This is my first AH story. The idea for it came from a discussion on about wether or not cannon Rosalie truly loved Emmett or if she simply loved a dream. I thought it was an interesting question because I know many of us who loved a dream more than reality, and yet we still call it love.
Here is the story based on that discussion.
A huge thank you to my beta, Remilybeauishot and my friend Leelan Oldeander for holding my hand and correcting my many mistakes.
Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight and it's characters. I own a wedding band that I cherish.
I hate rushing with my young children. I hate crowds and piped-in Christmas music, and I hate the fact that my size 14 jeans were a little too tight. A lot too tight. I nearly growled at the older man who held the door for me as I dragged my children into the mall. The cacophony of lights, smells and sounds assailed me all at once. Blaring music mixed with the dull roar of human voices and the shrill shriek of a baby. Scents from candles and perfume mixed noxiously with the food court, and my stomach lurched from the smell. The red and green sparkling mess that hung from everything in sight only grated on my already frayed nerves. I closed my eyes and took a sharp breath before heading off towards Sears. My hatred of this place, and all the things that it reminded me of, burned in my chest with every overwhelming breath.
I didn't realize how quickly I was walking until I felt my arm jerk down and heard my three-year-old daughter cry out. The heat that was coursing through my veins turned to ice as I realized what I had done. Again.
I had let all the stress and badness that was the week before Christmas turn me into the angry and bitter woman whom I fought against every morning. The disdain I felt for this mall could not compare with how much I hated my life and the person I was becoming.
I pulled my whimpering daughter and distracted son through the crowd to a bench. Taylor sat next to me obediently, his wide, blue eyes taking in the mayhem around us as I pulled Angela into my lap and ran my fingers through her hair.
"Angela, honey, mommy's sorry. I haven't been very happy today, have I?" She shook her dark curls and leaned into me. "I will try to be better, okay? We just need to go to the store to buy daddy's gift. I have a special coupon, and it expires today."
"Daddy's gift," she nodded with a grin. She was daddy's girl. No matter what I normally felt for the jovial fool I had married, every time I saw her eyes light up at the mention of her father, the little spark that had once warmed my heart sputtered to life for the briefest second.
Then I saw the mayhem and merchandise around me, and the memories of what had happened to us because of the idiot I married flooded my mind. I looked away sadly as the spark died out and my heart became stone cold.
I heard a giggle in my lap and shoved the anger aside to focus on my beautiful daughter. She was smiling and pointing at a group of teenage boys who were walking in a group towards the video game store. They all had blinking antlers on.
"Dats Woodolf," she shouted, pointing at the tall one in back with a huge, red zit on his nose. I lurched up from the bench and ran for the entrance to Sears. I was sure my cheeks were brighter than his nose.
My stomach did its familiar downfall as I drove into our trailer park. Rows and rows of tin boxes that held broken people, like us, passed by as I drove to our rented, two-bedroom tin can. As much as I hated the rented box of filth that we now called home, I knew we were lucky to get it. Like most of the new families, we had lost everything when the economy went bad. Technically, we had lost it before then, because my loser of a husband was too nice to succeed in business. Months before the market fell, we were already looking at bankruptcy.
Bile rose in my throat as I thought of our custom made house that would go up for auction soon. It had been the perfect house set in the perfect neighborhood. We had been popular there, with more friends than I could count. Of course, none of them ever tried to contact me once our finances failed. I had lost not only a home and my dreams, but also my social standing. Emmett's poor choices destroyed my entire life.
I walked up the tilting steps of our trailer, opened the door, and was assailed by the smell of old socks, cat litter, and ceramic gas heater. No matter how hard I tried, those smells never quite left the home. I tried not to see the constant mess that somehow never got cleaned and went directly into the kitchen and placed Emmett's work gloves with the small pile of gifts hidden in the cupboard above the stove. One small cupboard contained our entire Christmas. It was such a pathetic pile of things, but they were all I had to give. Most were yard sale finds.
The memories of last Christmas flooded my mind. Piles of presents under a thick Douglas fir had given us the illusion of a perfect Christmas, matching the illusion of our perfect, fairy tale life. But that Christmas had been a part of the problem. That Christmas had plunged us so deeply into debt that there was no way out, and this year we had neither money nor credit to buy presents with.
I put my head against the side of the cabinet and wrapped my arms around myself. Our contraband cat joined me on the counter. "I hate this," I said to him. Bitter memories of stark offices, credit counselors and lawyers eradicated the memory of the joy and beauty of our last, good Christmas.
I looked at the calendar. The lovely scene of a barn in winter was partially covered with the credit counseling bureau's logo and number. Five days till Christmas, and twelve till New Year's Day.
Twelve days to get this right. It was my self-imposed deadline. No matter what happened, no matter what it took, and no matter who it hurt, I had promised myself that next year would be better. I would have my fairy tale back.
I heard plastic crinkle behind me, and turned to see my little cherubs digging in the nearly empty cupboard. I opened the last package of graham crackers and took stock of my pantry. I needed to go to the WIC office. WIC. I hated it there, too, because Rosalie Hale Cullen should never have been forced to live on beans and cheese bought with WIC credit.
I opened the small fridge and noted the last gallon of milk and pound of thawing meat. I would need to go soon because our food wouldn't last until the next paycheck. I grabbed my phone and angrily pushed the numbers I had memorized. I uttered a silent prayer that I wouldn't waste my minutes by being put on hold for too long. A woman answered the phone and told me to come in on Monday. I cursed as I ended the call. The milk would not last till then. My life was hell.
If we'd had money, I would have taken up smoking or drinking. I would have taken up anything to keep me from feeling like I felt now: poor, helpless, lonely, and trapped. I heard my daughter giggle, and instantly regretted that thought. My children deserved better than that. I sighed in resignation as I walked back to the tiny bathroom to put my hair up for work.
The reflection that greeted me looked little like the beautiful girl I had once been. At twenty-nine I was easily thirty pounds heavier and looked at least twenty years older than the girl who fell in love with a flawed prince. My cheeks had begun their southern migration and were thick with the new weight. Dark circles cast purple shadows under my hazel eyes. As a late night checker at Wal-Mart, I rarely got enough sleep, but I could not work days because Emmett was pulling as many hours as he could at two jobs. Day care was far too expensive, so Emmett and I existed on only few hours of sleep. I cringed at myself and hoped that I didn't look that bad in normal light.
My thoughts went to the small, packed duffel bag behind the laundry bucket in the closet behind me. I would have used it to run away if I had a place to go. I was more than ready. Before marrying Emmett, I had no end of boyfriends and offers. Now, I was an old looking almost thirty-year old with two kids and bad credit. I had married Emmett because he was supposed to be my prince charming, a good man with a good heart. Or so I had thought. His good heart ruined us.
Twelve days until a new year. And then?
I walked sullenly back to my kitchen and started dinner. I dumped the meat in a pan and stirred, thinking of my options. Once again, there was only one good option left to me – leaving.
But I had no where to go and no family left to lean on. My brother and his wife were just out of college. My father, the investment banker, was more broke than we were and had flat-out refused me when I texted him asking if I could move in with them. Emmett's parents were wonderful, but his father was a pastor, a PhD. with no money and a son in medical school, and I couldn't ask them for help since my plan was to leave their son because he was too nice.
For a brief second, that truth brought up a very disturbing thought. If I was leaving Emmett because his heart was too good, what did that make me? I winced and cleared the thoughts from my mind. This was Emmett's fault.
I set out a can of corn to nuke and grabbed the bag of mini carrots to go with the Hamburger Helper, munching on them as I hurriedly got the food done. How on earth did I outgrow my jeans eating like this?
Before Emmett got in, I ran to the mail boxes. I was always torn when I opened the mail because there was usually so much bad and so little good in the box. There were two credit card offers, and two legal notices. Ironic. Even in the throes of financial failure, credit cards were still fishing for customers. I glanced at the legal letter and instantly wished I hadn't. The first one was telling us our business had been fully liquidated. The second one set the date for our home's auction. I bitterly stuffed the letters in the pocket of my blue Wal-Mart vest and wiped the cold tears out of my eyes. I didn't need this today.
As I set everything on the table, a note with my mother-in-law's strong writing fell from the bunch. It was heavy, and I opened it immediately. A folded five dollar bill and two phone cards with 100 minutes each fell out of the neatly folded letter. Esme had sent us what she could again. I left the note for Emmett to find on his own and slid the money and one phone card into my purse. I could buy one gallon of milk and a package of chicken with that money.
I tensed as I heard Emmett's truck and the kid's joyful shout. I backed myself into the corner of our tiny kitchen and waited. He used to burst in, bringing joy and warmth when he entered. I had learned to hate that warmth. Now his presence made me sweat.
He called out joyfully to our kids and dropped his tools to wrap them up in his arms. I could tell by the set of his shoulders just how tired he was, but he still smiled for his kids. Then he saw me, and a look of longing flashed across his face just before a wary look of distrust took its place. It was his typical greeting.
"Dinner's done. It's in the oven for you. I'm working till two. I've got to go or I'll be late," I said rapidly as I rushed for the door. "Bye guys, mommy loves you," I said as I blew each child a kiss and shut the door. His presence made me nervous, and I had no idea why. It was an uncomfortable feeling, a loathing. I wished he deserved it.
"So what's up with you, Chica? You look like you're lost or somethin'."
I looked over to Tanya and shrugged. She was a young college student in the prime of her life and her looks. I didn't feel like trying to tell her about my troubles tonight, though she knew most of them already. After midnight, there wasn't much to do but stock and talk. It was our own form of girlie time.
"Aw, come on, Rosie. You can tell me," she cooed as she looked at me with puppy eyes . I stuck out my tongue.
"I'm just in a really bad mood," I hedged.
"And? Come on and tell old LaTanya all about it," she cooed.
I snorted. "Old? What are you, like twenty-one?"
"Nineteen, but I'm unnervingly wise for my age," she grinned.
"I'm just tired of my life," I began. I intended it to be a single statement, but once I began talking, the words tumbled out. "I didn't sign up for this. This isn't the life I want, and I'm tired of being stuck like this. I'm the daughter of a banker who had everything going for her until last year. I could have been anything, had anyone I wanted, but the man I chose ruined it for me. Look at me. I'm a cashier at Wal-Mart, for God's sake. I live in an old, rusty mobile home with barely enough room to turn around. I hate my life and I hate the man who did this to me. It isn't fair."
I looked at her. In place of her usual smile was an angry, stony face. "Fine," I mumbled, "I knew you wouldn't understand. Maybe I'm just being a bitch. Right?"
"Yeah, you are," she said. The ice in her normally warm voice startled me. "I lived in a box like that, only smaller, for two years after Katrina. That is until my mom finally had enough of my dad's drinking and his fist. Then we moved here and I lived in a car. I work at Wal-Mart to eat and go to school, and I am happy to have work. My mom's illegal, so we don't take work for granted. I'm proud to be employed. So, yeah, you are being a bitch."
"Why don't you just shut up," I nearly yelled. I turned from her and fought the tears of anger. Suddenly, she was standing right beside me.
"I seen your man, you know," she said quietly. "He's a fine boy, and any woman here would kill for a chance at him. When you don't want him, send him my way. I'll treat him good. Any woman here would." Her voice softened just a bit. "Are you sure you want to go down that road? Be careful of what you are thinkin', Chica."
"Go to hell," I seethed.
"Go there yourself. I've already done my time there, and I'm not going back. Tell me something. Who told you that you get a better life than me, anyways? I always wonder about people like you; people who think they're owed somethin'. Why do you think you were supposed to get anything more than anyone else? Did someone tell you there was a guarantee in life? Cause they were lyin' if they did. And, by the way, what part of all this isn't fair? What exactly are you comparing your life to?" She looked at me hard and then turned on her heel and left.
I watched as she strode off, shaking in anger from her attack. For the rest of the night my anger rose and fell in waves, making me shake so hard that it was almost impossible to do my job. I hated her and her attitude. I hated her youth, and most of all I hated that she had a right to be angry and wasn't. By the time I clocked out, I was holding back tears of rage and something I hadn't felt very often – shame.
As if to commiserate with me, it was raining as I left work, and the rain turned to ice by the time I arrived at our home. It matched my mood perfectly.
I threw my purse on the table, the milk and chicken in the fridge, and my body on the sofa. I wanted to hit something, or more specifically someone. However, the last thing I wanted was for Emmett or one of the kids to wake up. I could barely stand to sleep in our large bed with him. There was no way I wanted him to see me cry. He would still, after all the pain I had purposefully inflicted on him, try to help me. It's just the kind of man he was.
I lay on the sofa and my anger subsided and turned into regret. I wanted to sleep; I was so tired that I was sick and my bones ached, but Tanya's words filled my mind as the unfamiliar shame grew in the place of the rage.
"Who told you that you get a better life than me, anyways?" No one. I had assumed. I had always assumed.
"Why do you think you were supposed to get anything more than anyone else?" I was Rosalie Hale. I always got my way. I had the perfect life, and my parents told me that if you worked hard you got everything you deserved. Wasn't that how it was supposed to be? Wasn't that what all the fairy tales said?
"Did someone tell you there was a guarantee in life, cause they were lyin' if they did. And, by the way, what part of all this isn't fair? What exactly are you comparing your life to?" My stomach clenched itself into a nauseated ball. I had no answer to those questions, and I knew that I should.
I didn't know where my ideals had come from, but they had been so ingrained in me that I hadn't even considered that they were wrong until the tall, black woman had stood up to me and made me defend them.
My mind flashed back the answer that it had always given: Why shouldn't I have it all? But tonight, alone on a cold sofa, it sounded hollow and trite.
I glanced at the clock and groaned. It was three fifty in the morning. I would pay for this tomorrow as I tried to keep up with my children. Emmett would be up in twenty minutes. The poor guy only got about five hours of sleep between his two jobs. As I thought of how hard he worked, the small flicker of warmth sputtered back to life for a brief second. For some reason, that little spark gave me an idea and just enough energy to make it work. I quickly found our expensive coffee maker, so out of place here, and brewed him some coffee. As I counted and poured, the tight knot in my stomach eased a bit. I lay back on the sofa and waited, pretending to be asleep.
I heard the alarm go off twice before his heavy footfalls thudded into the bathroom. A few minutes later, he shuffled into the kitchen and became totally still. My heart pounded loudly in my ears as I waited for his reaction. I heard a quiet, "Well, I'll be damned," as he poured the coffee into a travel mug. I didn't move. Dread and longing fought for control of my heart. I wanted to run away and hide, and I wanted to reach out and hold him like I once did. He came over to the sofa, and I felt the warmth of him, but didn't stir. I felt the heat of his hand as it hung over my face, and then the soft pressure of it as it lightly touched my hair. Then the door opened and shut and he was gone. The dread evaporated and the longing overflowed my soul.
I woke to the not so gentle pats of my son's palm on my face. My swollen eyes barely opened, but I could see light through the window sheers. I moaned, and my son's hands went to the sides of my face and squished it.
"Your face looks weird," he said as he continued to compress it. Angela giggled.
"Fishy!" she laughed. I moved my lips appropriately and made them both howl with laughter. The clock said eight-thirty, and I needed to get them breakfast and the trash out as quickly as I could. Of course, they had other ideas. After sitting them down to eat, I quickly gathered all the trash and headed for the door, only to find my children with their p.j.'s, boots, and coats on, ready to take the little hike with me.
"No way, you two," I said as I opened the door while carrying the large bag of trash as far from my body as I could and kicking at the cat. If the cat ever got out, we could be in serious trouble. "Stay here and I--"
I didn't even get to finish my sentence before they darted out and promptly fell down on the ice. I slid down the steps to help them only to find them laughing hysterically. They grabbed my coat and nearly sent me and the trash crashing to the ground. Thank God I was born in upstate New York, because that is the only thing that saved us as I tried to slip and slide my way to our trash can with two writhing kids hanging from my coat hem. I somehow made it, pulling them and the heavy trash can out to the road before finally landing on my butt. It took us nearly five minutes of playful sliding to make it back to our door. Just as I tried to lift Angela up to put her in our house, I heard Carmen open the door to her small trailer.
My kids immediately slid over to the neighbor's ramp screeching in delight. They loved that thing. The sweet, old couple next to us lived in one of the smallest trailers in the park. The only thing decent about it was the new ramp that their church put in for them. Carmen and Eleazar had been married over sixty years, and both of them were frail. Eleazar suffered from Alzheimer's, and Carmen spent all her time caring for his needs. If she fell, it would be catastrophic for them both.
"No, Carmen!" I yelled as I held up my hand. "I'll come get it for you."
I reached up and took the small bag of trash from Carmen, and slid my way over to her trash can and then took it out to the road. When I turned around, I saw her watching me from her door as my kids were sliding down the ramp in their footsie pajamas. I waved to her as I grabbed my kids by their coats and dragged them back inside.
An hour later, I was bathed and my kids were rearranging the constant mess that was our small living room when I heard a soft knock at my door. Carmen stood there holding a plate of steaming, sugar coated sopapillas.
"Hi there Rosalie," she beamed as she pushed the plate at me. "I just wanted to thank you for grabbing my trash." I let her in, set the sopapillas on the table and watched the kids wolf them down.
"Where did you learn to walk on ice like that? I've spent the whole day watching our neighbors drop like stones on the ice – it was very entertaining – but you seemed to have no troubles." She was still smiling, and her white-washed eyes glittered with amusement.
"I'm from upstate New York originally. We used to play on and ice," I answered.
She frowned a bit. "How did you meet a Southern boy and move to Atlanta then?"
"Oh, that. Well, my father moved us down to Kingsbury, Virginia to open a bank branch there. I met Emmett in high school. We got married after two years of college," I shrugged, but it was more to loosen the strange constriction in my chest than anything.
"He's a good man. I hear him go to work early and come home late. Two jobs?" I nodded and she continued. "It takes a special man to do that and still play with his children."
I couldn't answer her because a lump suddenly grew in my throat. I wanted to leave him because he was too good. How could it feel so right and be so wrong?
"But, you're not happy," she said quietly. "I've watched you, and you seem so angry. Is there anything I can do to help?"
I should have said no and walked her out the door. I should have lied like always, but I couldn't. Not today.
"My husband ruined us financially. We used to have the perfect house and the perfect life, but he wasn't a good businessman and he ruined my life with his bad choices." The truth poured out, and then I realized that it wasn't the truth at all.
"It's not totally his fault," I continued in a much shakier voice. "I kept going deeper into debt, trying to buy us the life we dreamed of... or at least I dreamed of." I didn't honestly know what his dreams were. "He became a contractor, and built us a house," that we couldn't afford, "and he tried to make the business work, but he isn't good with money or making tough decisions, so it failed. He works in construction, but only as a laborer."
"So both of your dreams died?" she asked sadly.
"Yes... actually no. I don't know what his dreams were. He started his own business because I wanted him to. He went to school to be a gym teacher." His dream was so different from what I wanted that I never even took it into consideration. I began to shake as the strength of my perpetual anger slipped away. He hadn't wanted the business at all. Suddenly my heart raced in panic as reality plowed into me. I was blaming my husband for mistakes he hadn't made.
"How do you do it?" I choked out. "How do you love Eleazar every day like you do? How do you learn to love like that?"
"When I look at him, I don't see him as an old man. I see the young man I married. I see the fields we worked in and the children we raised and the two we buried. I see a good life. How can I turn my back on the beautiful man I made a vow to?" Her voice was soft, and for a moment, I could see the young woman she must have been; beautiful and vibrant. "When you look at Emmett, what do you see?"
"I see the dream I lost. He was supposed to be my Prince Charming, and I was going to be his princess. We were supposed to live in a castle and it was supposed to be perfect. But instead I'm here." And maybe, just maybe, it was my fault.
"You made a vow to a fairy tale." It was an accusation.
"All I see is what I don't have," I said miserably. "The worst part is that I never realized until now what a mess I made of our lives. I wanted my prince, but I don't think I was ever a princess; at least not the good kind."
"You know, in fairy tales, the girl becomes the princess because she deserves it. If you want a prince, maybe you should start by becoming worthy of being a princess," she cocked an eyebrow and looked at my filthy house. I cringed.
She took a deep breath and continued. "Rosalie, are you sure you still want that dream? Those princesses may sing well, but they're kind of wimpy. I can't think of one fairy tale princess that could have done what I did in my life. None of them could have raised a family while working in a field. We came from Mexico with nothing, and we built a life with our own hands. That is real magic. Believe me, none of those princes could hold a match to my Eleazar. And I can't imagine any fairy tale prince working two jobs and still loving his family like your Emmett. Are you ready to grow up and live your life, or do you want to stay in a child's broken fairy tale that isn't real and won't come true?"
I didn't want to hear those words. I wanted her to leave. I wanted to tell her to get out of my house and out of my life, but I couldn't speak. Her words seared my heart, both accusing and redemptive at the same time. I wanted to stay with Emmett. I didn't want to give up on my marriage and my life. Even if it wasn't a life I wanted, I didn't want to give up. I was far too tenacious and mean. I had made a vow, and for some reason that made no sense at all, I wanted to keep that vow.
Finally, I nodded.
"Buena!" she beamed. "Now, Cinderella, clean up the house and I will be back when Eleazar naps. I have glitter and corn husks, we can make angels to decorate for Christmas." She was almost giddy as he shuffled out my door.
For the first time in months, I looked forward to my day. Then I looked at my house and sighed. Cinderella, right.
By evening, our house looked completely different. I could actually see the carpet, which was kind of gross, and the windows were almost transparent. But the real change came in the form of glittered angels and paper chains that covered the plastic walls, the dingy floor and my children. Somehow, they had gotten glitter on every part of their bodies. I quickly began cleaning off the table for dinner when I saw the letter from Esme. A fresh wave of shame washed over me, and I picked up my phone and scrolled down my list to the unused number of my in-laws. I had never in my life thanked them, and I took a deep breath and pushed the button to change that.
Carlisle's voice, always calm and soothing, came on first. "Pastor Cullen," he said smoothly.
"Hi. It's me, um, Rosalie," I began haltingly. There was dead silence.
"Is everything okay?" He finally burst out. His voice carried a tone of panic.
"No, no, everything is fine," I lied -- to a man of the cloth. "Could I speak to Esme?"
"Um, sure. Just a moment." There was a short silence and then Esme's soft voice came in.
"Hi Rosalie, this is an unexpected surprise. What can I do for you?"
"I wanted to thank you for the money and the cards," I began. It felt so weird to speak with them. In the nine years of our marriage, I had spoken to them on the phone less than a dozen times.
"Oh, you're welcome. How are you and the kids doing?" she asked. Of course she wanted to talk to them. Why hadn't I called her earlier and let her speak to her only grandchildren? I quickly put Angela on the phone and went back to cleaning off the table. Suddenly, Taylor handed me the phone. "She wants to talk to you," he said, and my stomach dropped. I had only called to say thanks, not to talk.
"I wanted to know how Christmas is going for you," she began tentatively. "I know it's harder this year. Many of our Christmases were so tight that there was little to give, but they all ended up being special. I wondered if you wanted some ideas... or something." Her voice was shaking at the end. I had totally intimidated this sweet woman.
I took a breath and swallowed a bitter dose of pride. "I would love some ideas. We made corn husk angels today, but I would like to do more." I heard her let out a pent up breath and could almost feel her relax through the phone.
"Oh, I have dozens of ideas, most of which came from some huge mistake I made," she laughed. "I'll give you the instructions and a good laugh along with them – if you don't mind, that is."
"I would love that," I said with truthful fervor.
I was so busy laughing at Esme's Great Fudge Fiasco story that I didn't hear Emmett arrive. He was suddenly behind me with his arms wrapped around me in a bear hug for which I was unprepared. I tensed up and backed away as soon as he released me. A look of hurt crossed his face and then it twisted into anger.
"Dang it Rose! I only wanted to thank you for the damn coffee. Stop acting like I'm going to hit you! Do you really hate my touch so much?" He was towering over me, and I felt my anger rise to his. I handed him the phone.
"It's your mother," I said with as much ice as I could muster. "I was thanking her." I turned and grabbed my vest before running to the bathroom to put my long hair up and stop the tears in their tracks. After all I had done today, he had acted like that. I was insane thinking this might work.
When I stormed out, he was slouched by the wall, with my phone limply hanging from his hand, looking at our festive living room. I whipped the phone from his hand and made a mad dash for the door. I wished I hadn't heard his apology as I passed.
I stood looking at the coffee pot at three in the morning. I could barely think, much less figure out how to make coffee. Tomorrow, today actually, was Saturday. Emmett would be home and would hopefully let me sleep. As much as I wanted to walk away from that coffee maker, something inside of me drew me to the sink. I numbly made a fresh pot and set the blurry timer to what I hoped was nine in the morning. I tenaciously refused to give up on the one true and good thing I had. My marriage, for all the lies and brokenness, was worth the fight.
I woke to laughter at eleven. In a rush, I remembered the decision I'd made over a dirty coffee pot, and though I wasn't sure it was the right decision, I mustered all the strength that I could and stumbled to the bathroom to start my day. I had made a choice, and now I was determined to do what I could to make that choice a reality.
When I emerged, I saw Emmett on his hands and knees with two cowboys on his back. I had forgotten just how big he was, and just how gentle. The hesitant flame in my chest sputtered to life again, and I fanned it with all my might as I watched him play. When he finally noticed me, the joy in his eyes was unmistakable, as was the hurt that dimmed them when he saw me.
What had I done to him?
"Mommy, wook at da tree!" Angela called out, pointing to a clump of evergreen that hung limply from the wall. Charlie Brown's looked only slightly worse.
"Wow!" I said, to try and hide my confusion.
"I, uh, cut that from a toppled pine at the new site," Emmett began. "I knew we couldn't fit one on the floor, so I hung it on the wall. We can take it down," he ended quietly.
"Don't you dare take down my Christmas tree!" I said with a smile. It looked horrid, but something about his attempt made the flame burn a little brighter. "Your mother told me about some of the ornaments you guys made when you were little. Maybe we could make our own ornaments this year," I said as I looked at the pathetic greenery stuck to my wall. I was sure the tiny branches wouldn't hold up any of the ornaments I had stored away.
"Coffee filter Snowflakes?" Emmett asked timidly, looking at me as if I was an alien.
"Yeah, and cotton-ball snowmen, toilet paper angels, and popcorn chains. Let me find the popcorn and get some breakfast, and we can get started," I said as the three of them began to jump excitedly.
"You will wait for me, got it?" They all groaned.
"I saved you some coffee," Emmett said with a cautious smile. I swear, my heart stuttered as he did that. I felt like I was sixteen again.
That wonderful, awkward feeling stayed with me the whole weekend as we went through our regular routine and added lots of glitter to the dull work. In everything we did, I saw Emmett a little differently. It was as if he was someone I had never really known, a wonderful man I hadn't noticed behind the lies of my fairy tale dream. I didn't touch him, and he didn't touch me, but somehow I felt closer to this stranger I had vowed my life to.
Then Monday came and my prince was gone. However, something within me had changed a bit. My anger, temper, and tenacity were still there, but they didn't control me. Even the WIC appointment didn't rile me as it normally would. I still wasn't nice there, but I tried not to be mean. Rather than worrying about the embarrassment sitting in the crowded room and getting a "hand out," I thought of where we would be without WIC. I thought of the two children Carmen buried, and wondered if they would still be here had she been allowed to buy cheese, peanut butter, and milk for free. By the time I left the old, stinking office, I was so thankful for the handful of checks that I even thanked the women who worked there. They were too shocked to reply.
Monday night I took Esme's Peanut Butter Fudge, made with WIC peanut butter, to work. After swallowing another mouthful of pride, I handed it to Tanya.
"You can't gift your way back into my good graces." she said flatly, only partly kidding.
"I'm just saying thanks," I snapped back. "Besides, it's chocolate." I smiled at her, unable to contain my gratitude any longer. "My life is actually better because of you, so I thought I'd say thanks with calories, but if you don't want it, I'll kiss your friendship goodbye and eat it myself. Chocolate fudge is better than almost any friendship anyway."
"I ain't givin' up chocolate," she said as she pulled it to her chest with a small smile. "What are you thankin' me for, anyway? I chewed your butt out."
"Yes you did, and I haven't been this happy in, well... ever."
"You are one seriously screwed up white chick, you know that?" she asked as she popped a thick piece of fudge into her mouth. Her face was instantly transformed into one of bliss, and I silently thanked Esme and her wonderful recipes.
"Hmm," Tanya purred in ecstasy. "Okay, you're forgiven. Of everything. I even forgive you for stuff you haven't done yet. Now, tell me how I fixed your life, and be specific. I want to know exactly how wonderful I am." She shot me a coy smile, and I laughed at her good heart and bad attitude.
Emmett treated the coals on the grill like they were his own babies. I understood why; we hadn't eaten steak in months, and these were his Christmas bonus from one of his jobs. Besides, he treated the whole man-cooking thing as a sacred art.
Christmas Day was going to be over soon, the steaks were our final act of celebration, and while it didn't match the grandeur of last Christmas, it was somehow far more wonderful. My gift was a wood cosmetics carrier that Emmett had crafted by hand. It was beautiful and the simple gift that was made with care paid for with his precious time rather than money made me smile. His smile in return warmed my heart as nothing else had ever done.
As I watched the husband I was learning to love, I found that the vision of the prince was fading. This life, with all it's broken dreams and pain, was far more adventurous than a fairy tale. Carmen was right, not many princesses could make Christmas out of toilet paper and cotton balls. Not many princes would work for sixteen hours and still find the energy to be the husband and father their families needed. Suddenly, the small flame burst into a full fledged fire, and for the first time in over a year, I felt warm.
I walked out into the cold night, and quickly brushed my fingers across Emmett's cheek. He startled at the touch, and I gave him an awkward, one-sided hug. His arm felt good as it came around me, and I suddenly wanted to feel more of him. I let go before that feeling grew. I had despised him for so long that I wasn't ready to give in to those urges yet. I wanted there to be truth and understanding between us before I gave into my growing physical need for him.
"You okay, Rosie?" he asked with a look of happy confusion on his face.
"Yep, never better," I smiled back. "We need to talk," I heard myself say. I froze. I wasn't ready, why had I said that?
"I kinda figured we did," he said with a hint of sadness in his voice. He looked scared for some reason. "I'm gonna work all the way up until New Year's. We needed the money, so I took a long weekend shift. Can it wait until then? I'm beat tonight."
"Yeah, sure," I said, wondering at the strange huskiness I heard in his voice. I took a chance and kissed his cheek as I went back in. He looked like a deer in the headlights.
Seven days. I had made a resolution without even knowing it, but this one had to be done by New Year's Day. I had to save my marriage, and even though things were better, I hadn't truly fixed my relationship with Emmett. I needed to tell him the truth, and that would hurt both of us. Was my bulldog's tenacity enough to hold onto my marriage and let go of dreams?
We didn't talk much for those seven days. He was working almost eighteen hours a day as his companies tried to finish off jobs, and I was busy at Wal-Mart with end-of-the-year inventory. We were both utterly exhausted as New Year's Eve approached. Such is the life of the working poor.
Our only real contact besides a quick hello and goodbye was with the coffee and dinner. I made both every night, hoping that the small acts would somehow convey what my cowardice would not let me say. Every day, he would walk in, and thank me for them. Every day, he looked like he wanted to say something, like something was eating at him. I also wanted so much to talk with him, but all I could do was bark out orders and say a quick, "You're welcome," before I headed out the door. The distance grew between us as New Year's Day approached.
I was terrified. I was terrified that tenacity and newfound love weren't enough. I was terrified that I was letting my last shot at freedom pass me by. I was terrified that Emmett would finally reject me because of all I had done.
My worst fears were realized when I came home from work at eleven on New Year's Eve. Emmett was slouching at the table, with his angry face set like stone, and it stopped me cold.
"Why are you doin' it?" he growled.
"Doing what?" My heart skipped a beat.
I could smell beer, which frightened me because he only drank when he was angry or upset.
"This," he hissed as he swept his hand around the room. "You have hated me for a year. Hated me! I could see it in your eyes. You jumped when I even tried to touch you. The last time we made love, you just laid there." He stood and pointed his finger at me menacingly. "I have never been the one you wanted. I was a fool to think you could love me in the first place, but I tried so hard to be the man you thought I was. It was never good enough. I can't ever be good enough – no matter how hard I work. But I thought, for these last few days here, I thought we had a shot. Why would you do it Rosie? Why would you take them without even warning me?" The last words were a broken, painful howl.
I stood speechless, trying to make sense of what he was saying. I wanted him now more than I ever had.
"How much beer have you had?" I tried to keep my voice even, but it was shaking and pitched much too high.
"Just this," he said dejectedly. He shook an empty can. He never could hold liquor.
When he spoke again, his voice was acidic with hatred. "I read the texts you sent your dad while you were asleep. I found the duffel bag last week. I wanted to surprise you by doing the laundry Christmas day, and I discovered your little surprise by accident." He took two shaky breaths before continuing. "The worst part is that I thought we had a little hope. After Christmas, I thought it might get better. I guess I really am your 'perfectly loathsome fool.'" He quoted my words from my text message.
"Emmett –" I began weakly but he held up his hand.
"The bag's there. Get the hell out, but don't you dare take my kids. We will be just fine without you," he spat. He glared at me until I looked away, and then stormed off to the shower. He always showered when he was too angry to do anything else.
I stayed rooted to the spot. I could not move as I stared at the duffel bag sitting on the table and the chair my husband had sat in. I felt hopelessness drain the life from me, but as I reached my hand out for the duffel bag, my tenacity grabbed hold of me. I should have run, but instead, my feet headed down the hall to the bathroom. I was going to fight for my harsh reality that was ultimately better than the lies I had lived for so long.
I nearly ripped the door off as I entered. I whipped back the curtain and glared at the startled man crouching in the small shower. He was sobbing.
"You listen here, Emmett Cullen! I know I deserved that, and I know I can't ever deserve you, but I am NOT leaving. I'm not giving up on you or this marriage. I fell in love with a fairy tale, and I was angry when the lie I loved crumbled into a reality I hated. I wasn't fair to you, and I'm sorry," my voice cracked. "Oh, Emmett, you have no idea how sorry I am. This was all my fault. All of it. I forced you into a life and a job you didn't want just so that I could fulfill my stupid dreams. I was so blind. You are so much better than any fairy tale I could have ever made up. I don't know how, but through all the mistakes and lies, somehow I got you. You are the best thing that has ever happened to me, and I ruined you. I am so, so sorry. I want you, if you'll have me. I want to grow old with you, and I want to learn to love you, the real you, if you'll let me." I began to sob uncontrollably.
Emmett was shaking even though the water steamed with heat, and he looked like a small child, terrified and hurt.
"I can't do it again, Rosie," he whispered. "It's got to be for real this time. I always knew I wasn't the man you wanted, but I couldn't believe I was the man you chose. I tried so hard to be that guy, but I couldn't match your dreams no matter how hard I tried. And then I ruined it all. I made such a mess –" I put my hand on his chest to stop him. His words broke my heart.
"I ruined it all, but I will fight to make it right. You know me, once I decide on something, there is no going back. I will fight to keep you, the real you, and our family together, no matter what it takes or what it costs me. We are worth it." I felt his skin form goosebumps under my fingers.
"It's got to be real, Rosie."
I looked into his agonized eyes. "It is," I said as I let my hair down and stepped into the shower. Suddenly, his arms crushed me to him, and my body flamed with a heat that didn't come from the water.
I was finally warm. The warmth filled me completely; even my bones felt it. It was heaven. I reveled in it until the bright sunlight finally woke me. Emmett's arm lay heavily across me, and his body was the source of the warmth behind me. It squeezed me tighter as I stirred.
"Finally awake, sleepyhead?" he mumbled into my tangled hair.
"Mmm.." I moaned, not wanting to move quite yet. "Last night really happened, right?"
"Oh, yes," he chuckled. "Finally."
My heart thudded against my ribs. I was proud and terrified at the same time. I had made my choice, now it was time to make it work.
"We are still a long way from okay, aren't we?"
"Yeah, we are, Rosie, but we are headed in the right direction at least." I felt him stiffen against me. "I gotta know one thing, though. What if this never happened?" he asked as his arm swept the plastic room.
"I would have been happy," I said at last, "but only like a little girl is happy with a toy. I would have been happy in my lie, and I would never have grown up to find that my reality was better than any fairy tale. I'm sorry for what I did to you Emmett. Why on earth I deserve you is beyond me." I marveled at the one kindness of fate in my whole messed up life.
"That fairy tale was important to you, wasn't it?" he asked quietly. I nodded against his strong shoulder. "You know the funny thing about fairy tales? They always end in a castle, and once the couple finally gets to the castle the story is over. I never understood what was so wrong with the cottage. The cottage is where the magic and love began in the first place."
I couldn't believe I had ever called this simple, wise man a fool. I swallowed hard against the happy lump that blocked my breathing. "Emmett, let's never try for a castle again. Let's keep the adventure going and find all the magic this cottage can provide."
His deep laugh shook me as he turned me in his arms and kissed me.
So, the truth of love is simple – it is a choice.
Dedicated to my husband who hates Prince Charming because he's a sissy.