Throughout my short life I've wondered about how wise it really is to dwell on the past instead of the future. There are a wealth of clichés that deal with this particularly pesky problem, but they seem to be in competition with each other. When I was younger I never cared about the past at all, I was too busy worrying for the future, but now my life had flipped, I very rarely thought on the future, and I spent entirely too much time dwelling on my past.
After I'd come out of my comatose state, I'd spent all my energy trying to hide the past from myself, but that was unhealthy and at night my subconscious tried to deal with my pain through horrible nightmares. Once I'd gotten used to the fact that this was the type if hurt that just wouldn't go unconfronted I tried to deal with it, but instead I was sucked into happier memories that made me relive the pain when I woke up from them and realized once again that I was truly alone. I'd finally found an unsteady balance between the past and the present, although balance may not be the right word. It felt more like a shaky truce.
My family and friends had never truly gotten it. They thought I was being dramatic or screaming out for attention. Charlie was the closest thing to a confident I had, and the only thing we ever talked about was what he wanted me to make him for dinner. I realized I was hurting him about eight months after he left me, so I tried to find an outlet for my pain. I'd tried to go into therapy, but found I had to edit too much information about my relationship. After all who would ever believe that I'd fallen in love with an immortal man who had been the perfect match for me until he left? No one who I could trust enough to know what they were talking about when it came to dealing with my psychological issues on a professional level.
So after therapy failed, I realized that the only thing I could do to help myself was to put on a happy face and get on with life. I'd graduated high school, gone to college, graduated a year early with a B.A. in English, which may be the most useless degree around, but English was something I was good at, and despite the pain I felt when reading Romeo and Juliet for the millionth time I forced myself through. After college I finally made the decision that it was time to leave Forks. I could see the effect my overall pain was having on Charlie and I knew I'd already asked too much of him by way of emotional support so I moved across the country to Upstate New York.
I lived in a small town a couple hours away from the city and I went down every so often just to remind myself how nice it was to get lost in a crowd. Of course now I kept my visits to purely touristy areas during the daylight. After all there was no one around to save me if I needed it anymore. My house was small but functional and cheap. I rented from an older lady who said I reminded her of her granddaughter, and invited me over for dinner a couple of times a month. I always went, she was just lonely and it was the least I could do considering how outrageously low my rent was. Aside from Mrs. Sherman, I'd made very few friends in my new town, which wasn't completely surprising given the fact that I'd only lived there a for the summer so far, and I'd never needed or wanted too many friends. I mostly kept to myself, but the few times I needed to hang out with someone I'd go to the movies or for coffee with one of the girls I worked with, usually Maggie or Lynn. Maggie was a tall redhead who was possibly even quieter than me, and Lynn was a shorter blonde who liked very strange pizza combinations.
I'd found work surprisingly quickly in New York in two places. A small local bookstore where I could put my degree to some use helping people find the perfect read and at an upscale restaurant where I was a bar tender a few nights a week. It was the perfect arrangement really, the bookstore was a Mom and Pop place that was only open until five, and the restaurant was opened at six and was open until ten or eleven. Most people would say that I push myself too hard, but I need to be kept busy and to be thoroughly exhausted by the time I have to go to bed in order to keep the nightmares away. I made more than enough money to survive on and I had very few expenses outside of food rent and utilities. I knew my life couldn't go on this way forever, but for the time being it suited me fine and really, what else could I do? There was very little chance of me getting married because I would never ask someone to be content as second best in my heart, and I knew that he would always be first with me. I was almost twenty-two years old and I had no real direction in my life, maybe with the cash I accumulated I could go back to school for my masters eventually, but I had no burning desire to do so now.
No, I wasn't happy or even content with my life, but I found it livable and for now that was really all I could ask for.
"Hey Maggie, do you know if the new Cooper mystery is in yet?" I was attempting to help a customer in his mid-thirties who'd been back every day for a week looking for this book.
"Sorry Bella, it's not here yet." I delivered the news to the unhappy customer who gave me a nod and walked out of the store muttering about the inconveniences of a small town. I resisted the urge to tell him that in the amount of time he spent coming back here every day he could have driven to the bigger town twenty minutes away to try his luck with the chain store there.
I went back to paging through the newspaper when I felt a person come up in front of me and I was surprised to see that it was Maggie instead of a customer. She waited patiently for me to acknowledge her presence. "Was there something you needed help with Maggie?"
"No, not really, I was just wondering what your plans were for tonight?"
"I'm working at the restaurant, why?"
"Um, because today is kind of special, I wouldn't think you'd be going into work today, I was actually surprised to see you here this morning."
Her comment caught me off guard and I thought back trying to figure out what was so special about today. It was a Wednesday, not that there was anything special about that. It wasn't any sort of holiday religious or otherwise, there was nothing sticking out to me as to what could be so special about today.
Maggie must have seen the look on my face because she said, "Bella do you even know what date it is? It's the 13th… your birthday."
I was momentarily shocked by the news. In recent years my mother and father had finally picked up on the fact that any mention of my birthday made me visibly uncomfortable, so it seemed that they both had refrained from sending any sort of gift or card this year. Maggie seemed to think that her revelation needed some sort of response so I answered her, "How did you know about that?"
"It was in your personnel file, I was doing some office clean up last week and I noticed it was coming up."
I took a deep breath, "Maggie, I have some very unpleasant memories surrounding my birthday, and I prefer to treat it like any other day. I probably wouldn't have even noticed if you hadn't brought it up."
"Oh, well then I'm sorry, I hope I didn't upset you." The look on her face let me know that she really had no idea that it would be a problem for me.
"It's alright Mag, there was no way you could have known." With that I went back to my newspaper and Maggie went back to restocking shelves leaving me to contemplate the date. I couldn't say that I was overly surprised at the fact that it was my birthday now that I thought about it. I mean, I knew that it was September and that the date had to come up eventually. It just seemed like the day should be permanently erased from the calendar that was all. I knew that now I was aware of the date that tomorrow would be even worse.
The rest of the day at the bookstore passed with little event, and I was finally off to my second job. It was a tradition for the staff to eat dinner together before service started. It was a way to promote teamwork among the staff as well as cut down on dinner breaks taken in the back at inconvenient times. I walked in the doors and sat next to Lynn who worked the bar along with me.
"Hey," she said with a huge smile on her face.
"Hey yourself, what's got you in such a good mood?"
"Oh, nothing, Chris is just trying out something new for us tonight, I'm excited that's all." Her response struck me as odd for two reasons. One, Lynn was perhaps the pickiest eater I'd ever seen. She usually brought a sandwich to dinner just in case she didn't like what was cooking. And two, Lynn hated Chris with a firey passion and could rarely be persuaded to try his dishes.
As it turned out the food Chris made was spectacular as always and Lynn actually enjoyed it. But disaster struck after dinner, when Sue the owner came out of the kitchen with a giant cake topped with candles and the entire room started singing happy birthday.
I was almost in tears by the time they were done.
"Oh Bella! Don't be upset, you're only 22! That's not so old!" Lynn said, "I mean really, I'd kill to be in my 20s again."
I laughed and was thankfully able to pull off my tears as tears of happiness at how thoughtful they all were. I'd gotten better at lying as time went on.
Soon, although much later than I would have liked, we all had to go to our posts as the restaurant opened up for the night. The bar was bizzarely busy for a Wednesday and Lynn and I had very little time to talk while preparing drinks, which I was grateful for. At around ten Sue came over and insisted I take a break despite the large crowd now around the bar. I spent the fifteen minutes pacing in the small staff are until I could go back.
When the clock finally hit quarter after I rushed back into the fray and stopped by the first group standing by the bar, "What can I get you?" I asked without looking at who was standing there.
"I'll have a Jack Daniels on the rocks. What about you and your wife Doctor?"
"I'll have a scotch and soda, and she'll have a glass of white wine please." The voice that answered was smoother than velvet. I knew that voice. My hands stopped their somewhat frantic, yet automatic motion as my head shot up and I locked eyes with none other than Carlisle Cullen.
"Carlisle," the word escaped my lips as a whisper.
"Bella" his voice was equally surprised, and we both just stayed there for a moment staring at each other, until the man who was with Carlisle cleared his throat bringing me back to reality.
"Sorry," I mumbled and I went back to fixing the drinks, the whole time I could feel Carlisle's eyes on me. I handed off the drinks, and was about to made my way towards another customer. My mind was spinning and I considered myself lucky that I only had half an hour left until we closed down.
When the night was finally over I went into the staffroom to grab my coat when Jenny, one of the waitresses, came up to me.
"Here," she said handing me an envelope, "Some guy said to give this to you, something about you making a mean drink." She shrugged and walked away.
Confused I opened the envelope. Inside was two hundred dollar bills and a note written on a pad from a prescription sleep medicine company. The note said simply 'Happy Birthday Bella.'
It was all I could do to make myself wait to get home before I started crying.