The Ties That Bind

Chapter One – "On Your Own Again"

Bella

A/N Stephenie Meyers owns the Twilight characters, but the plot is all mine...

-000-

The judge banged his gavel; it gave a final, resounding echo off the oak paneled courtroom walls. I stared down at the table, expertly avoiding the smug grin of my now ex-husband. Shock radiated off me like the energy wave from a nuclear explosion.

I can't believe the judge ruled in his favor, I thought.

Wait, who was I kidding, of course the he did. The damned judge was probably a close friend of the family – some golf buddy or country club brother.

My lawyer, some wet behind the ears doe faced blonde fresh out of law school places her icy hand on my bare forearm. "I'm so sorry," she breathed, her lavender eyes swimming behind a veil of tears. "I really thought we had a chance."

I fight to keep my own tears at bay. So did I, I thought. "Don't worry about it," I told her. "I kind of figured we didn't have a snow ball's chance in hell of winning. At least not when the judge is your new B.F.F." I nod toward the front of the courtroom where Edward is standing, his head down, lips moving at the judge's ear.

Lauren, my lawyer, growled under breath. "Give me twenty four hours," she says, "I can file a motion, and we'll-"

I hold up my hand effectively silencing her tirade. "It's not worth it." I'm not worth it, I think as the tears threaten to spill again. "Thank you for all your help." I grab my bag and hurry out of the courtroom not bothering to look back.

He was the past now, no matter how much it hurt and there were a million new things I had to worry about now. Like picking Callahan up from the sitters and figuring out where we were going to live, how I was going to pay for it, and oh, I had to find a job too. In this economy. That's kind of like, well…if I'm being frank, fucking impossible.

Tears well up all over again and furiously rub them away as I hurry toward the bright red Volvo parked along the curb. I groan as I notice the parking ticket tucked under the windshield wiper, fluttering in the breeze. Reaching the car I ripped the offending ticket out from under the wiper blade and stared at it, the tears that had been threatening to spill all morning finally breaking free. They streamed down my face leaving twin black rivers of mascara and eyeliner in their wake.

"No," I said aloud. "I am not going to cry; crying doesn't solve a damn thing." I crumble the ticket and shove it into my purse. The car was in Edward's name, let the great state of California arrest him for an unpaid parking ticket. The bastard owed me at least that much.

I fish my keys out of my purse and slide behind the wheel of the one thing I'd been permitted to keep- the cherry red convertible Volvo C70. The engine purred to life as I pulled away from the curb. The CD in the player hummed and Saving Abel poured softly out of the speakers. I jabbed the radio dial trying to get away from the song because, contrary to its lyrics, I didn't feel alive.

Really though, they just hit to close to my freshly wounded heart. The track quickly changed, feeling bitter about waking up alone gave way to a peppy Katy Perry song. I sighed in relief and headed toward the sitter's house, mentally preparing myself for Callie's attitude about even having to go to the sitter in the first place.

She fought me tooth and nail this morning until I finally snapped and screamed for her to quit being a pain in the ass and just get the hell in the car. She flipped her long brunette hair over her shoulder and snidely remarked, "That's why daddy's divorcing you," as slid into the passenger seat. As the door shut I would have sworn she muttered, "Because you're a bitch," but I might have just imagined it.

I signaled and turned into Mary Alice's subdivision, waving to the security guard who waved me through. Mary Alice was a friend of Edward's – well her husband was at least – and we were friendly, but I wouldn't call her a friend. Well maybe just a little, she did agree to watch Callie while I was in court this morning.

As I pull into her driveway, I can hear the kids, Callie as well as her three kids, Alex, Jane, and Marcus, in the back yard. When I knock on the door, Mary Alice opens it and smiles up at me. "Hey," she chirps in a voice that sounds like tinkling bells. "I was just telling Callie you should be here soon. How was court?"

I stood in the foyer for a second trying to find the perfect description for just how imperfect court was this morning. Finally, I said, "It didn't go well."

Mary Alice frowned. "I'm sorry to hear that."

"Thanks," I reply, wringing my hands together. I don't like the way her sympathy feels, it's like I went mucking around in the sewer all night and am now standing in her foyer dripping the filth on her pristinely polished floor.

"I'll, um, go get Callahan," she says and then scurries off toward the backyard. A door off the kitchen opens and the sounds of outside filter into the large house – a lawnmower, birds chirping, a dog barking just up the block. The door shuts again and the tell tale sound of Callie's flip-flops comes toward me. My ten-year-old daughter rounds the corner with such a look of discernment on her face I know what I have to tell her will not be pleasant. I roll my shoulders back and smile at her.

"Hi sweetheart," I say cheerfully. "Did you have fun?"

Callie looks from me to Mary Alice then back to me. "Yeah. Can we go now?"

I nod at her then say, "Thanks, I appreciate you watching her," to Mary Alice.

"No problem," she says as she ushers us to the front door. "See you later."

No, probably not, I think to myself. Aloud I say, "Sure thing. Have a good weekend."

Callie has gotten into the car, buckled her seat belt, and is now sitting there with her bird-like arms crossed over her chest protectively. I force the frown off my face and get into the car, starting it wordlessly.

She and I are silent the entire way home. Then the inevitable happens in a completely earth shattering way. As I pull into our driveway, the bumper of the Volvo comes stunningly close to kissing the ass of a battered yellow moving van. Callie's eyes go wide as she takes in the van, the moving men, and the plethora of boxes loaded into the back of the van.

"You're kicking him out?" she breathes, eyes wide as saucers.

I sit there helplessly, unable to tell her that it is we, who are in fact, being kicked out. Up at the house, the front door opens and Edward walks out, his chest swollen with the cocky arrogance of a man-child who got his way. Callie pushes open the door and runs to him crying, "Daddy!" as her hair trails out behind her in a shimmering flag of brunette curls.

I watch as this stranger hugs my daughter then looks at me, his glace beckoning me wordlessly. I get out of the car, the urge to run away and fight swirling in my stomach, each one battling to be the more dominant emotion. "Edward what's going on here?" I ask, motioning the moving van.

"They're packing yours and Callahan's things. They'll take you where ever you wish to go."

At this, Callie's arms fall down to her sides and she glances up at Edward. "I don't understand," she says, perfectly echoing my thoughts.

"We're being kicked out," I say without emotion. "Your father has decided he no longer wants us and has so kindly packed our things and put us out, and the greatest part is that he doesn't care that we don't have anywhere else to go. Isn't that so nice of him?" The sarcasm drips off my voice like honey. I knew what I was doing was wrong, but it would be better in the long run, if she saw him as the bad guy who kicked us out, who didn't want us anymore.

Callie looks up at Edward. "Daddy is that true? You're kicking me and Mom out?"

Edward stares at me, his eyes shooting daggers across the space between us. I had the ridiculous urge to stick my tongue out at him however, I refrained.

"Yes Callie," I supplied. "It's true."

Callie backed away from Edward and into me. I wrap my arms around her protectively. "Why don't you go wait in the car," I say softly. She nods and shuffles toward the car without another word. Once the door is safely shut, I focus my attention on Edward.

"How could you do this to me, to her, to us? Where are we supposed to go Edward? Huh, where?"

He stood before me, a heartless statue with ridiculously styled leprechaun hair and eyes as green as the Emerald Isle itself, staring down his artisan nose at me. "That's not really my problem now is it? Nevertheless, if you're really that worried, your father left you that dump he called a house. It's all yours." He practically threw the deed and a set of keys at me.

My heart starts to race as I unfold the deed. Images of the past flash before my eyes, scenes from that night and all the subsequent days afterward wash over me. I fought the urge to vomit in the driveway. "Edward you know I…why I…" my voice trailed off. I don't know what I expected from him. Sympathy, compassion, care or understanding, I have no idea, but if there was one person who knew about the past and what happened, it was him and he should know why I couldn't go back to Forks.

Then a realization washed over me. Charlie passed away five almost six years ago. Who has been paying the property tax and homeowner's insurance on the house all this time?

Thoughts met voice and I said, "Why didn't you tell me about this before?" Fingers, under their own accord, smoothed the deed. Eyes raked over the legalese picking out the plain English cryptically contained within: The house in the very tiny town of Forks, Washington was legally mine.

"You didn't need to know," he said coldly. "Now you have a place to go." And with that, he turned and walked away.

The two movers, who'd stood motionless as they gobbled up the confrontation, scrambled to look as if they hadn't been eavesdropping. I folded the deed back up and slid it into my purse. The taller, burlier of the two made his way over to where I was standing.

"Miss?" he said awkwardly clearing his throat.

I glanced up quizzically.

"We're all finished. I just need to know where we're headed."

I glance up at the sky, inhaling a lungful of the smoggy Los Angeles summer air. As I exhale, I look at the mover, Emmett his nametag read. "Forks," I said. "We're going to Forks, Washington."

-000-

Two days later, the red Volvo crossed the city limits and into Forks. As I drove into town, the same weathered sign greeted me, Welcome to Forks, it proclaimed just as it always had. The same weathered old men still sat in front of the barbershop, smoking cigars and talking about the "good old days."

I was surprised to see how much nothing changed in the ten years that had passed since I'd last been here. I wasn't expecting mini malls and Wal-Mart's on every corner, but something aside from what was, always had been, and probably always would be.

The trip through downtown took five minutes and before I knew it, I was turning onto the street that I'd grown up on. Callie glanced out the window miserably as the windshield wipers beat a steady tattoo on the windshield.

"Why couldn't we stay in L.A.?" she whined for the millionth time since leaving the city.

"Because," I said. "We didn't have a place to live."

"So we're moving into some stinky old house nobody's lived in for like forever and where your dad died." She paused, working her gum over her tongue and blowing a huge, cotton candy scented bubble. She held it for a second then popped it. "That's just great."

The house was in better shape than I had hoped for. The lawn was neatly mown, the hedges, while needing trimming, were still relatively tame. The driveway was cracked and crumbling and there was a thick cluster of ivy winding its way up the side of the house, creeping toward the second story windows.

The little brick house was quaint in a "welcome to your new life here in rainy old Forks kind of way." However, beggars couldn't be choosers and a house in Forks was better than no house at all.

At least until people started to recognize me and start whispering about me again.

I pushed the thoughts from my mind as I made my way up the front walk, tripping slightly over the cracked sidewalk. The storm door squeaked loudly as I opened it, the hinges protesting, much like Dorothy's tin man, in their shrill cry for oil. The key slid into the deadbolt, which gave way effortlessly. The wooden door swung open, the living room stretched out before me, still full of furniture, all of which was hidden by moth eaten cloths. The air in the house was stale and thick with dust.

Behind me, Callie walked into the house looking around. "Where's our stuff?" she asked as she looked at the photos of me nailed to the wall.

"In the garage," I reply. "We have a lot of work to do. This whole place needs to be cleaned and we have to go through all of your grandfathers things and get rid of whatever we don't want."

"Great," Callie muttered sarcastically. "Where's my room?"

I motion for her to follow me up the stairs and I take them two at a time. There are two rooms upstairs, one used to be mine and one used to be Charlie's.

The doors stand open, waiting for the return of human inhabitants. Callie pushes around me, her sandals slapping the floor as she heads into my childhood room. "What is all this crap?" she asks and I cringe.

She might only be ten, well almost ten now, but the definite pre-teen attitude was starting to rear its ugly head.

"That's my crap, and it's not crap," I snap and walk into my old room. It was like walking out of the present and right into the past. Faded photos hung on the walls, the same ones I'd tacked there all those years ago. Posters whose edges had curled were still hanging on the wall, Third Eye Blind, Eve 6, Sugar Ray. I rolled my eyes at Mark McGrath, amazed that nothing in my room had changed since I left ten years ago.

I walked further into the pale blue room, crossing the scarred wooden floor to the windows overlooking the front yard. I lifted the curtain and peered out of the dirty window. Across the street a little girl with golden pigtails and a pink and white polka dot bathing suit was chasing a little boy through a sprinkler, their happy shrieking filling the air as the cold water sprayed them.

In the house next door, a squad car pulled up and a ridiculously tall man climbed out. He glanced at the Volvo in the driveway, blatantly staring as he strode toward his house. He whipped off his sunglasses and tucked them into the front pocket of his uniform shirt. I snorted softly. He looked like an Eric Estrada wanna-be with the cop uniform and the clichéd cop-style sunglasses.

I leaned toward the window to get a closer look at the local law enforcement official living next door. He glanced up at the second story window and gave me a brief nod. I jumped back, feeling sheepish for spying on the neighbors.

Behind me, Callie laughed. I turned to see what she was laughing at. "Wow look at your hair," she said pointing to a picture of me as a little girl rocking a ponytail on the side of my head.

"Yeah," I said, "that was an ugly time for fashion."

"Mhmm," she agreed. "Can I have this room?"

"Yes," I said. "We'll get all the posters and pictures down and you can redecorate however you want."

"Cool, thanks mom."

I left Callie in her room by herself and head downstairs to make sure that our things were indeed in the garage like the moving man said they were.

I bent over and grabbed the handle, giving it a good tug. It made a groaning sound and refused to budge. I yanked it again to no avail. The garage door was stuck and refused to open it no matter how hard I tugged. "Come on," I muttered, straining to get it to go up.

"There's a special way you have to do it," a deep baritone rumbled from behind me.

I straighten up and turn, glancing at the handsome stranger standing behind me. "Oh?"

"Yeah, you have to do it like this." He walked up, grabbed the handle, and gave it a firm jerk. The catch released and the door rumbled, rising slightly.

"Wow, impressive, thanks."

"Not a problem. Did you just buy the old place?" He nods toward the house then shoves his hands into his pockets.

"Um, no. actually I just inherited it."

"You're Charlie's daughter?"

I swallow hard and nod. "Yes."

The handsome man smiled. "The mysterious daughter returned from California. Well, welcome home."

"Thanks."

He turns and heads back down the driveway. "Oh, I'm Jacob by the way. Well, only my mother calls me Jacob, everybody else calls me Jake."

"Nice to meet you. I'm Bella."

"Take it easy Bella," he grins at me. "And don't be too rough on the garage door. See you around."

I raise my hand in an effort to wave goodbye, but I am stunned. He was seven kinds of sexy in the uniform, but deputy delicious is definitely just as, if not, more attractive in a pair of blue jeans and a tee shirt. I can see the ripples of muscles through the thin cotton material, my eyes appreciatively taking in his physique.

Maybe being back home after all this time wouldn't be such a bad thing. After all, people only remember what they want to remember. As long as I didn't go causing a scene and making trouble for myself, no one would go out of their way to remember what happened all those years ago.

Deputy Delicious leaned over, retrieving the mail from his shiny silver box. His jeans taunt across his backside made me shiver as I watched him reach for the mail.

"Mom?" came an interrupting voice. "Mom?"

Finally, I look away. "What?" I ask looking down at Callie.

"Where's my stuff? I want to start setting up my room."

I point into the dark garage. "It's all in there. If you wait, I'll give you a hand carrying it all in."

Callie nods and says, "Sure mom, I'd like that."

"Good. Come on kiddo." I take her hand in mine, relishing the way her not so small fingers wrap around mine. I take advantage of this moment because soon she won't let me anymore. "I think you're going to like it here."

Callie doesn't answer. I know what she's thinking – that it's not going to be likely and that she's pretty pissed about leaving L.A. but she's going to try because she wasn't the only one who got abandoned. We were both shoved aside and in that fact, we were united.

-000-

"On Your Own" by Green River Ordinance (chapter title)

"The Ties That Bind" by Bruce Springsteen (story title)

To those who were reading The Monster's Dolls...I always said I would never start a story and just stop. I broke my own rule with that one, but I have come to the realization that I am Nora Roberts, not J.D. Robb...perhaps in the future I can try to continue with it but as of right now it won't happen...I took it down because I hated writing it, it wasn't fun and it would have come across that way in the chapters...to make up for a cop Jake we have Jake the cop aka deputy delicious here...I hope everyone likes the idea and continues to read...and if not, well thanks for your time!

nikki