Hi everyone! I've been back in the Fanfic business with my new story, Unsteady, because even though I always say it's the end, I always come back. Six years ago this story was first published and in the past few days, something has been pulling me back to it. Enjoy.
When I woke up this morning, I knew things were different.
The usual nausea that I had been experiencing had decided to take the day off, and for that I was grateful.
Edward had already been gone when I awoke. He would always be an early bird no matter how many years went by. It was probably the strict sleeping schedule he had while he was in the army. Myself, on the other hand, had yet to skillfully master the art of waking up early.
As I went through my morning, CNN was on in the background, processing the shocking results of the United States Presidential Election that had just concluded in the early hours of the morning. As I ate my cereal I found myself pausing to watch as the political commentators cut to different parts of the country, celebrating and protesting in a way that no one had really ever seen before.
I watched as they cut to a shot of the White House, which was technically only a zipcode away from mine. Edward and I weren't really neighbors of the President of the United States, but we were pretty damn close.
We had moved to Washington D.C. shortly after our mutual graduations from college in Wisconsin. Edward had entered training in the Federal Bureau of Investigation and I began graduate school in psychology.
I knew I wanted to do something to help those who had dealt with drama, especially those who had dealt with trauma in the service of the United States. I had finished my schooling several years later, and it had been a long road. Upon graduation, I received my own offer from the FBI to work with agents and help them process what they saw everyday in the field.
Graduate school was hard and it was difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and at times, I missed my home. I missed Carlisle and Esme and I am still sad that I missed out on watching my baby brother, Christian, grow up. He was six now, which was impossible to me. Edward was his favorite big brother and wanted to be just like him when he grew up.
He had been in our wedding and stood proudly in front of the church with Carlisle, Emmett, and Jasper. They were the best of buds and it never failed to warm my heart.
However much I missed them at times, we still were home for every holiday and did our best to head back to the Midwest whenever things got a little too stressful in the nation's capital. In the summer, we took two weeks off to go spend time at the lake cabin with all of our family, and we had yet to miss a 4th of July on the water. And I loved living in Washington D.C. It was always exciting and I felt myself growing and changing as a person every day that I was there.
On my way to work, my new iPhone 7 buzzed, signaling the first of what would prove to likely be 100 emails that day. I raised my eyebrow seeing that it was from the Director of the FBI – that was someone I don't regularly hear from.
From: Charles Williams
Subject: Mandatory Meeting This Afternoon
Date: 9, November 2016, 9:12AM
To: Federal Bureau; all
Please report to the Centennial Auditorium at 1:00 this afternoon. As we deal with the wake of the decision last night, this meeting is mandatory to assist in processing how we move forward as apart of this nation's government.
I wasn't entirely surprised. This election had been nasty and exhausting and the outcome that I had woken up to had not been what very many people were actually expecting. People around me looked tired, and they were people who could have supported either candidate. Everyone just looked tired, and every time I logged into Facebook, it was so clear that people were angry.
Throughout my morning, I could hear people getting into arguments around me.
People were heated and it only escalated as the day went on. As a psychologist, I understood the value of listening and often dedicated my place in a conversation to being able to be open and listen while others spoke. I had to bite my lip a couple of times when my colleagues began to rant over lunch. My friend, Alex, was in tears throughout the morning, and my other friend, Daniel, was growling at others. Emotions were so high, and if I hadn't been scheduled for meetings, I'm sure my door would be revolving with people unable to process their emotions.
I knew Edward was somewhere, but it was possible he had been called out to the field. The FBI had been prepared for anything as the election approached, and the day after was just as tense as anyone could have guessed. As always, I hoped he was safe and out of harm's way. Sometimes it felt like he was in the army all over again, but the difference was at night, we collapsed into bed together and always had each other.
By the time 1:00 rolled around, everyone in the office areas was in the largest auditorium that the bureau had to offer. By the time I got in there, it was standing room only. People were jammed together in the aisles and standing in the doorway of the room, breaking some serious fire codes.
"If everyone could please quiet down, I would like to introduce Special Agent Edward Masen to speak about what our country is going through and the next steps we can all take after such a contentious election."
My mouth popped open.
Edward stood up from a seat in the first row of the auditorium and buttoned his suit jacket and went to shake the man's hand.
I watched in utter surprise as Edward perched on a table that was on the stage, left over from a previous panel.
My husband wasn't a public speaker. My husband and I discussed politics in the privacy of our home, rarely with coworkers.
"Many of you are probably wondering why I am here and to be frank, so am I. But in my conversations with Mr. Williams, he felt I had some insight to share with you today," Edward started, appearing casual and confident. "So that's what we'll go with."
"I know almost, if not everyone, standing here today, voted in yesterday's election. And I believe that everyone did so knowing what was best for their family and their country. And I know that people in here are upset. I know that people woke up this morning feeling anxious about the future of this nation that we serve every day. I know people have cried because that glass ceiling hasn't been broken, and I know where is shock, both positive and negative to the outcome of this election. I know people feel attacked both ways.
"I also know that we all come from different backgrounds. We come from different states and even different countries. We've been educated at different schools and for some of us, we've been educated in different services to others. We all have life experiences that have made us who we are today, and today, it is is important to recognize and understand those different life experiences."
I watched as Edward ran his hand through his hair, something that he hadn't stopped doing every since he grew out his short, army, buzz cut years ago.
"I've done my best to avoid social media, but in the world we live in today, that's impossible. We live in a world where we don't engage in meaningful discourse online, we simply find something that agrees with us and then tweet and like and share it because spewing hate is fast and easy, and we need to all be better. We need to fight harder than ever to not give into that, and we need to fight harder than ever to be open to one another and never forget the inherent humanity of each and every person we work with and every person we serve and protect."
There was absolute silence in the crowded auditorium as Edward paused. I held my breath and felt goose bumps dot my skin.
"Many of you, like myself, have served this country in a different way. To my brothers and sisters in the Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Army, we share a common bond through an experience of being bound to the United States of America. Some of us voted one way, some of us voted the other, but we will always be brothers in arms, and we cannot forget that."
Again Edward paused and crossed his arms over his chest. He propped his chin in his hand and rubbed for a moment.
"When I was serving in Iraq, I spent a lot of time contemplating what patriotism and love of country truly meant. At night, I would grapple with the actions of my government and I would question many things. I stared a lot at the flag and thought long and hard about what it means to be an American. I watched friends of mine die in love of their country. They didn't die for a president, or a politician. They didn't offer their life for a candidate – that's never been what's brought us together, and the individual person has never really matter. I served because of an unwavering believe in the goodness and hope and promise of an ever improving America. My friends died, not for a mortal man or a political party; they died for the spirit of the American people that has never allowed itself to be truly divided.
"Today and for the next few days, and maybe for longer than that, people are scared. And people have the right to feel that way. People are angry and that is their right. We know people who are worried about their citizenship, and their rights in the world and their health insurance and their bodies and the future of their children. People are scared and people can be scared. We will not be able to come together if we try and dismiss their fears – we will only come together if we try and understand their fears."
I glanced to my side to see one of the men in Edward's departments wiping away a tear from his eyes, unabashedly. I felt my own eyes prick.
"And when I was in Iraq, it wasn't the President who kept me going. It wasn't the politicians and it wasn't the political process. It was the kindness I received from strangers. It was the letters I received from strangers who didn't even always agree with war, but supported the troops…and one of those strangers is now my wife. It was that kindness and goodness that always reminded me what I was fighting for, and every day I wake up and come to work, it is that same goodness and kindness of the American people that continues to give me hope."
A few people looked over in my direction but I didn't even notice them. I was crying at this point.
"And you know what? That goodness can always be found. Today and in the days going forward, we're just going to have to look a little harder for that goodness – but we should be more determined that ever. We should all be prepared to give our God damn all to connecting with people who aren't like us. We should all be ready to fight harder for change and we should all be ready protect those more vulnerable than us."
Edward sighed and I felt a pang in my chest. We had had endless hours of discussion and I knew where he stood and I knew this was hard on him, but anyone else in the room wouldn't have been able to really tell.
"Be gracious," he said.
"In defeat and in victory, be as gracious as possible. Be gracious and never overlook the humanity within those you agree with and those you don't."
Edward pushed himself up into a standing position and unbuttoned his suit coat. He looked around the crowd and for a moment, I figured he was searching for me, because then he got a small smile on his face.
"That stranger was just a young woman at the time and she changed my world through her unwavering goodness. All of us have it within ourselves to choose goodness everyday."
I couldn't help but smile through the tears I felt.
"And in just under five months, the two of us are going to be bringing a baby into this world and-"
Applause rippled through the room, seeming to take Edward by surprise as he got cut off from the noise but a small spread across his face. I locked eyes with him as those around me expressed their congratulations and I smiled at him and felt nothing but pride for the man I had always loved who was doing his best to bring people together.
"And I'm determined for this child of mine to be exposed to the best in people. My kid won't care who the President of the United States is for quite some time – but they will grow up seeing both their father and mother working tirelessly to fight for goodness in any and every mean possible."
I wiped at my tears and continued to smile on.
"The president has never been the greatest thing about this country," he said with a shake of his head.
"It's always been about the people and it always will be – so in small ways and in big ways, be great in your own life. And in acting in unwavering goodness and relentless understanding, we can continue to be all that is good in this country."
I started to clap along with everyone else in the room. A few people started to stand and for a second I wasn't sure if it was to leave or if in applause, but when more people joined in, I had my answer.
This was the Federal Bureau of Investigation – these were smart, rough and tough people. This wasn't rural America and this wasn't a liberal college campus but I was surrounded by real people who all were feeling different yet just as real things. Many of them were pleasantly surprised by the result and many of them were devastated and everything Edward had just said addressed both of these types of people.
My feet moved on their own accord and I walked quickly down the aisle to Edward. He had grown impossibly more handsome with each passing year and I continued to melt at his smile. In his smile, however, I could see how exhausted he was.
Edward was a veteran and his time in the army would always shape his views on life. Edward also had such fierce views on justice for all and accepting and protecting the marginalized because of his huge heart. He was tired and I personally knew he was disappointed in everything that had happened in the past months, but I knew he meant every word he had just said.
"Hey there," he said before pulling me into a great big hug, something that was hardly common place at work. I hugged him back just a little tighter than usual.
Edward held me even closer as he whispered, "You've always been my goodness, Bella."
No names were mentioned because this isn't about the past but I am just as devastated as half of this country and all of my readers who are feeling fear and anxiety - I am with you and I will always be with you. This has very much been a way for me to work through all of the feelings I have had in this election as well as show you what these two have been up to these past few years - they're thriving and living happily ever after as promised.
I do want to also invite you all to check out my new story, Unsteady, which is getting going and is really a fun one.
And I also want to use this platform to please encourage you all about getting informed and getting loud about climate change (not what you expected, I'm sure, but oh so important) Please know that none of this will matter, one way or another, in 50 years if this world is destroyed. Be loud and be bold and continue to fight for the change you wish to see in the world.
I love you all and I hope the days are kind to you - listen to Sergeant Masen and be determined to see goodness.