Esme is losing her mind.

While Edward and I have both been taking all the necessary steps in preparation for the massive upheaval that college is going to bring into our lives, no one seems to be noticing that his mother is slowly falling apart.

Actually, no.

Everyone has noticed it. It is impossible not to see how all of her formerly charming, doting southern mother behaviours have kicked into some kind of bizarre overdrive now that our departure dates are looming ever closer and closer.

"Mom, no."

"But Edward, darling, I really do detest the thought of you living in one of those-"

"Mother, enough."

"Esme, please."

Carlisle and Edward's voices overlap as they both try to calm her down.

"Mom, we did the research. You were there."

"Exactly, which is why I can say with complete authority that -"

"I'm not living off campus. Granville is perfect for me, and the south building has its own gym. It's safe, only accessible by residents, and is probably the nicest building on campus."

"But we could tell them what happened to you and I'm sure they'd give you one of those darling little apartments!"

"For starters, I very much doubt they're darling apartments. They'll be just as utilitarian and boring as any dorm. It's college housing, mom, not the Taj Mahal. Secondly, I want the college experience. I don't want to live in a building with all the grad students and weird far-too-young married couples. I want to meet kids my age and have normal experiences."

"While maintaining a solid GPA and abstaining from antisocial behaviour," Carlisle tacks on as Esme's face begins to pale at the very idea of what normal college experiences might entail. Her face sours as their attempts to placate her begin to irritate her.

"You know what, Edward? You go to Granville Towers, but don't come running to me after two months of sleeping on a horrible little bunk bed in a room you share with some stinky, awful boy you may very well hate and ask momma to save you. Because I won't feel sorry for you. Not one bit."

With that, she turns on her heels and storms from the room.

It's about two seconds before all three of us are in quiet laughter at her tantrum. It isn't the first, and almost definitely won't be the last.

"So, Bella, how are you feeling?"

"Geez, Garrett, have you completely run out of original shrink material, or are you just feeling a bit lazy today?"

I wink at him, and he rolls his eyes at me.

"No, Bella, you've just recovered so well that I'm getting bored so I've stopped trying."

I'm slightly taken aback by that, and now it's his turn to wink at me. He chuckles, and then I find myself laughing along with him. The relationship that we've built as he pretty much singlehandedly helped me process the trauma of being taken is one that I value incredibly highly, and is something that I hope I'm one day able to replicate with clients of my own.

I'm going to miss him like family when I'm gone.

"How are you feeling about the move? I probably should have specified."

This is a subject that I've been asked about a lot of late, and it's still not a question I'm wholly able to answer. There is a slew of reasons why I'm apprehensive about the move and, as always, I find myself questioning which ones are "normal" college freshman anxieties and which, if any, are because of the more unique parts of my psyche formulated by the trauma.

"I'm feeling a great many things, Garrett."

Diversion is a pointless tactic, but I find myself trying it anyway.

"Care to be a little more specific, Bella?"

"… Not really."

"Well, do it as a favour to me."

And then the floodgates open.

"Well, first of all, I'm scared about chubs being alone because he can't live in the dorms with me. And then I'm scared about being away from Edward for all that time, but I'm not sure if that's normal 'missing my boyfriend' business or 'I'm still too traumatised to try and make it on my own' business. Then I'm worried that without me Charlie will never sleep or eat a vegetable until he keels over because I'm not there to force him to, and similarly that Esme will have a complete conniption without us around to dote on. And that Rosalie and Emmett might get together and I'll miss it because it's going to be so adorable that I might die, and THEN that Alice might make really cool New York friends who dress better than me and use emojis more effectively than I do and I'll get ditched, and then there's the sheer volume of the academic program that I've insanely decided to undertake – "

"Whoaaaaaaaaaa. Whoa. Whoa. Let's just pause for one second."

I exhale heavily and pull in another deep breath. Then cover my hands with my face because I'm absolutely mortified that I let all of that garbage spew out of my mouth. Garrett remains silence, and eventually morbid curiosity forces me to peek between my fingers to try and gauge his reaction. He's writing in the legal pad that he always keeps on his lap during our sessions together.

"You're going to have me committed, aren't you? That's what you're writing down there, right?"

He looks up, and smiles gently.

"No, Bella. No one's being committed. I just wanted to try and itemise your concerns so that we can handle them one by one."

"Ok. Come at me then."

"First of all, I find it curious how you feel the need to characterise your concerns as being either "normal" or as a result of what happened to you. Why do you feel that's a necessary step?"

I pause, trying to conjure an answer.

I come up with nothing.

"I… I don't know."

"I think that you do yourself a disservice by categorising your worries or feelings that way. To isolate some feelings as being "abnormal" and therefore unreasonable or not needing to be acknowledged is probably not a good idea.

"Normal, in the way that you are using the word, simply does not exist. Your version of normal is that you are a 17 year old girl who was victim to a horrendous set of circumstances for a period of time in her life. That is your normal. Accordingly, none of your feelings, borne from that trauma or not, should be considered abnormal or invalid. Does that make sense, Bella?"


For some reason, I find myself irritated by that analysis.

Normality has been all that I've wanted since we were taken. And he's telling me that it doesn't exist – that it's a figment of my imagination.

But I can't fault the logic in what Garrett is saying to me.

The trajectory of my life is permanently affected by what happened, even if it doesn't dictate how my life will progress.

My normal is mine and mine alone.

I am as normal as I'll ever be.

I mull this over in silence for a while, until Garrett gently breaks me from my musings.

"And Bella, let me assure you, worrying about your parents and your pets and your friends making new friends and what you might miss out on while you are away – that is a part of every prospective college student's normal. Trust me on that."

He smiles, and I smile back. It's weak at first, but as his words settle somewhere deep in my chest, my smile grows.