SM owns Twilight and its characters. I own this story. 2010.

I guess I just got lost, being someone else
I tried to kill the pain, nothing ever helped
I left myself behind, somewhere along the way
Hoping to come back around, to find myself someday

I'll never find my heart, behind someone else
I'll never see the light of day, living in this cell
It's time to make my way, into the world I knew
Take back all of these times, that I gave in to you

So I can shine with my own light
Let me be myself

Epilogue: It's Time to Make My Way

June 2, 2011

Dear Maria,

It's been a while. In fact, it's been five years since you died, to the day. You would be twenty-seven now.

A couple of months ago, I started seeing a therapist, and he gave me some materials to read and some ideas to consider trying. One thing that came up in a few of his books and articles was the notion of writing a letter to those you've hurt or to those who have hurt you. It's supposed to be cathartic and it's supposed to be a way to help find closure. At first, I thought it was ridiculous – just a load of psycho-babble bullshit – but for some reason, I'm sitting here in the kitchen and I have a pen in my hand. And I'm thinking, "Why not? It can't hurt."

So, here goes…

I still think about you and about injustice – about how it's not fair that you aren't with us anymore and how I am. I think about how I could have done things differently – how I should have done things differently.

I should have acknowledged that you were an adult and that you were more than capable of leading your own life. I should have been happy for you and I should have supported you when you decided to marry Jasper. I shouldn't have let my own clouded judgment rule me and I shouldn't have tried to force that judgment on you.

But now, I'm realizing that I can't change the past, no matter how much I wish I could. The hands of time turn in only one direction, and there's nothing I can do to erase that awful night – the one I still think about every time I look at my own scars in the mirror. I can't bring you back to life, and our family will never be whole again. We'll always miss you. I will always miss you. More than you could possibly know.

Mom and Dad are doing well. They moved away, out of the old house, to Seattle. Dad turned sixty last summer and he's still working, but now it's at a big hospital there in the city. At first, I didn't understand why they moved, and it hurt more than I admitted. It felt wrong and it made me angry. I felt like they were trying to forget you, to abandon you (and maybe me). So, naturally, me being me, I bought the place from them, I guess thinking that someone needed to preserve your memory. But I understand them now; I get that they weren't trying to forget, but rather trying to live and move on while still keeping you in their minds and hearts. They left you so that they could do that.

Emmett is married now to a woman named Rosalie. You never met her, but I think you would approve. She's tall and beautiful, but more importantly, she loves Emmett. They're in Forks again and they have a baby girl. I hope you don't mind that they named her for you – Lillian (after Rose) Maria Cullen. She has your eyes and she cries… almost as much as you did. Because of some things that happened a long time ago to Rose, they can't have another by themselves, but I think they're already planning to adopt. While Emmett hasn't said, I think he wants another girl. Really, I doubt they'll stop at two, though. You know how Emmett always loved kids and wanted a big family. Their house is a lot like a zoo, especially when Mom and Dad visit. But it's… warm, and being there makes me smile.

Jasper is well, too. He still misses you, but he's in a good place, a healthy place. You know, I didn't speak with him for several years, but I do now sometimes. It's not the same – it will never be like it was – but we're getting closer to being friends again. We may even be family after all one day… who knows. He's dating this woman named Alice who lives out of state, and I think that maybe there is a future there. She's… interesting, and I can't say that I like her all the time, but she's good for him. She's the opposite of him in every way, but they seem to work somehow. Believe it or not, I could see you two being friends.

Me… I'm doing… better. I'm not completely well and I can't say that all my days are good. But I can see it down the road. I see hope and I see happiness. For the first time in years, I want that. I want to have a normal life and I want to laugh.

For the last few years, I've been… lost, I guess you could say, consumed by bitterness and regret and misplaced anger. I don't know that it was all brought on by your death though… if I'm being honest, the foundation was always there. My therapist is helping me see that. It wasn't something we talked about, but I was never the cheerful, happy kid you were – or the rest of the family, for that matter. I've always been a little melancholy, a little brooding perhaps. And I didn't have the tools or strength to deal with your death in a healthy way, so I just… spun out of control. It never occurred to me to try to change. I felt like I deserved the despair, that it was my punishment for failing you. I felt unworthy and for a long time, I hated myself.

I've spent too many days and nights hiding behind bottles of alcohol trying to drown out all the memories that I didn't want to face. I can say that now, by the way – I'm an alcoholic. After you died, I didn't know how to deal with the grief and guilt, so I numbed myself so that I wouldn't feel at all. For so many years, I've been alone and I've been miserable. And to be honest, I've been the worst kind of dick to anyone and everyone. I can't tell you how lucky I am that Mom and Dad didn't disown me. But they didn't.

Dad and I are talking again. Slowly, but it's happening. When you died, he said some things that he didn't mean because he was grieving, and to make matters worse, I heard some things he didn't say. Some of the words I thought I heard were, as Dr. Cheney says, "projections of my own thoughts and self-loathing." For a long time, Dad and I were strangers and we were both so very angry. It's taking us a while to get over that. One day, though, I think we'll be okay. I hope so. I've missed him.

I'm making some changes to the house and that includes your room specifically. Your things – your clothes, your bed, and all your books – were never moved, and I've realized that it's probably not beneficial to anyone to live in a mausoleum. So with a little help, I'm going to package it all up. I don't know that I can just throw it away, but I'm not going to try to keep you alive by holding on to your possessions forever. Maybe I'll donate some things and keep some others. I don't know… I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.

I am getting rid of those godawful pink walls you insisted on when you were younger. And as stupid as it sounds, I think I'm going to move the piano upstairs (it will cost a small fortune to have it moved upstairs and to have it retuned but I think it might be worth it). I can't help but think that you'd be okay with that – having that bit of us in your space. I haven't played in years; I'm thinking that maybe I'd like to again. I remember that afternoon when you were ten, when you made me teach you the right hand part of Heart and Soul. And then, I remember that awful snaggletooth grin on your face when we 'performed' our duet for Mom and Dad. Every time I hear that song, I still think of you. Then again, a lot of things make me think of you.

So, you're probably wondering why this is all coming about – what's changed from last year.

See, I met someone, Maria. Her name is Bella, and I love her. It's scary sometimes, but in many ways, she's a lot like you. She's smart and beautiful and she makes me laugh – something I thought that I'd forgotten how to do. She doesn't take my shit and calls me out when I'm wallowing, but at the same time, she's kind and loving. She's so good for me. To me. Bella makes me want to get up in the morning and be everything she needs me to be for her, because she's been hurt before, too.

Bella just, I don't know, understands me, better than anyone else I know. She accepts my faults and she's the one who made me want to live again. She's the one who helped me finally understand that what happened with you wasn't my fault. It was an accident – I can say that now. And she's helped me understand that you deserve more from me – that I don't have to drown in grief to honor your memory. She helped me see that it's okay for me to be happy.

For a brief moment, I thought I'd lost her. I pushed her away because I was too far gone to accept the fact that I am worthy of being loved, and then one horrific night, she almost died. The pain of that – of being alone again, of almost losing her – nearly broke me. It reminded me of what I felt when I lost you, only different, worse in a way. And I don't want to ever feel that again, not if I can choose not to.

Someday soon, I'm going to ask Bella to marry me. Not today, not tomorrow, not next month, but soon. I can't see my life without her in it. I don't want to even try. I want to love her every day I have left on earth. And I want to give myself to her in every way that I can.

It hurts to say this, but in some twisted way, you brought her to me. I still haven't reconciled the pang of remorse over that – over admitting that if you hadn't died, then probably, I would have never met the love of my life. But I don't think you want me thinking like that. Sometimes things happen that we can't hope to understand. We just have to trust and have faith that there's some reason, some purpose. I'm working on that. It's slow going, but… I'm trying.

Deep down, I know that you want me to be happy. I know that you don't want me to dwell and to spend all of my time regretting actions that I can't change. I'm tired of being angry and I'm so tired of the misery and sorrow. So, I'm fixing it. I'm fixing me and moving on. Not just for Bella, but for me.

I want to live and I can't do that unless I forgive myself. So maybe this letter is me starting to do that – to forgive myself. Not forget… just forgive. I have to do that now. For the family, for Bella, but most of all for me.

I wish that our last words hadn't been spoken in anger. I wish that I'd have said that I loved you instead of yelled.

I miss your laugh and your smile. I miss the way you used to smack me on the shoulder and the way you used to stick your tongue out at me when I'd catch you stealing my old t-shirts. I miss the way any room would light up whenever you walked in, the way people naturally drew to you.

I miss you, Maria, every single day.

But I'd like to think that you know all of that without me telling you. I'd like to think that you know that I love you. No matter what happens, that will never change. You will always be my baby sister.

Love you always,





Chapter title: Lyrics from Let Me Be Myself, by 3 Doors Down