First, I want to thank all of you for being so kind and for liking what I did with those last two chapters. Sometimes, I write my ideas down and go 'yuk'…and I tear them up and write something totally different to see how that will come out. I wanted the final battles to be great, and did the best I could, and it is such a relief that you all liked the way it came out. I often see things in my head…and try to make it come to life on this blank white screen…sometimes I'm happy with how that goes…and sometimes not. So thank you more than words can say for all your great reviews on this – not just the ending, but all of you who've been there since chapter one…page one. I love you and writing for you is always the most fun I get to have in real life. I don't really want contracts or tons of money to sell my stories to some publisher…I am happy just sharing it with you guys.
For so many years, since I was a kid, I have loved writing: poems, stories, whatever I felt like…and I was scared to share it with anyone, thinking they would laugh or call me a geek. I'm not a kid anymore (or that old either)…but I admit it was scary at first to put my stories out here, wondering what people would say. Thanks for not breaking my heart and telling me I suck…LOL.
One thing I was kinda bummed about was that I had wanted Marcus and Peter to come blazing into the fight, right when Edward needed someone most. I wanted Peter to look into Kevin's eyes and say, "I know who you are. Kevin." And belt him dead in the face, using his great karate moves that we saw earlier.
And also Marcus…I wanted to show him display his great cop skills to save his little white friend…LOL…but then I also wanted it to be REAL. If Peter, Marcus, AND Edward were all beating up Kevin at the same time…it would be dumb. And even Kevin couldn't handle all that. Also, I wanted EDWARD to be the one to finally defeat Kevin, on his own. Well, I had Katie help him…and I love that she did. Katie has been treated like a weak little frail victim for so long, I wanted her to find her courage and join her Dad in the fight, as much as she could, without really putting up her dukes.
I always wanted the ghost whores to lend Edward a hand way back when I first showed the mansion. I love ghosts and you'll see there's a reason for them later. And I have been seeing the whole scene in my head for months now where the whole town pops out to rescue our little family. It kinda reminds me of every Disney movie at the end, where all the animals race out to do their parts to help the hero of the story. I also wanted to show that Edward, Katie, and Bella have found their true home in Casper.
In the end, I like how things turned out. I have a lot of surprises for you here in the epilogue so I hope you enjoy it. I have had such a great time writing this sequel and again, thanks to all you guys…I didn't think TRL could have a great second half to it but once I started typing, I couldn't stop. Edward kept whispering to me and telling me their story. And I like it. It's better than I thought it would have been. So again, thanks. See you soon at the end of this last chapter.
Love always, Winnd
I think I love this wall the most. It began with one small picture but how it's grown. My eyes always catch that first shot…Edward and Katie on the boat that first time we went fishing, Edward wearing Ben's worn out old man's fishing hat…and Katie with the ridiculous yellow smiling fish hat on her head. Edward was smiling with true joy…but Katie…not so much. She looks like she's about to kill me and that always makes me laugh, even now.
I think that was our first real day as a family. Sure, we had lived under the same roof for awhile before that day…but this was the first day we truly ENJOYED each other…just the three of us.
And I love it when I move my eyes to the right…and right there is a little bigger sized picture of Charlie and Edward's faces, their profiles side by side as they fish together…and the red dawn light is coloring their skin so beautifully. I remember feeling tears in my eyes when I clicked that one. Of course, they're both wearing different old man fishing hats filled with lures and hooks. Two fathers…the two men I love most in all the world.
I tip my eyes down a bit and there is Katie, fourteen years old, her mouth open wide as she stands in Charlie's boat, both her hands on her fishing pole as she yanks a decent sized trout from the lake…look how cool the drops and splashes of water are just frozen in midair all around her…and that wild red hair of hers…curls everywhere…suspended forever here. So beautiful.
I get tired of fish shots so I let my eyes dart upwards, near the top of the wall. I can't stop the smile that spreads across my face when I see the picture of Edward in church, all dressed in a suit, smirking at Katie as she kneels beside him, her hands flat together, pointed to heaven…showing him how to do it properly. She was still so little then. So innocent, despite all she'd been through before that.
That reminds me of something so my eyes go searching for the shot of Edward with his black sunglasses on, back when he had lost his sight for a short time, right after the death of Raven, James, and Kevin. There were bandages over each eye underneath, and he always wore the sunglasses so Katie and I wouldn't get too upset, as if we would forget about his injury and think he was just going through a "I'm trying to be cool" or "I don't want to be recognized by my public" phase.
This was the only picture I could take of him during that time…but it was important. Edward is clinging onto Katie, and it almost looks like he is crushing her in his intense embrace. But she is smiling, and her eyes are closed, as if she is with the best person on earth (and she is)…there is a little cake with one candle lit on it on the table next to them…Katie made it for Edward, saying he deserved another birthday, one better than the real one he'd had that year. She said the one candle was for only one wish: for Daddy to see again. That's all she wanted, she'd told him.
Edward was the one who asked me to take the picture. And then there's the one right next to it…all three of us are there, wearing black sunglasses, and pulling them down our noses to reveal the top halves of our pupils…Edward is smiling. Edward can see in this picture! We had just gotten home from the hospital, where Edward officially regained his sight for the first time in six weeks. The bandages came off and after he'd blinked a few times…the most dazzling smile moved across his lips…he could see us, he'd announced! It took us ten minutes of crying and hugging, the three of us, before the doctor could get Edward to sit back down so he could check on some other things.
That was a great day that still makes me quiver inside when I think of it.
I wish I had some pictures of Edward's bravery during those weeks. The blindness didn't stop him from anything. He still took care of Dancer…he kept going to work at the stables…he refused to stop living his life because his eyes had gone dark. It wasn't always pretty, him insisting on trying to do all he had done before…but he never gave up. The horses sure had a wonderful time with blind Edward in those weeks. Psycho and Temper especially delighted in their revenge on the unseeing stable man.
By the time he had regained his vision, he was pretty expert on doing everything blind anyway. The doctors were never sure he would get his sight back…they did all they could do…and said it was in God's hands from then on. Edward didn't hold out a lot of hope that God would help him out. It took a lot of arguing from me and Katie, reminding him of all the times God helped him in his life. But he was still unconvinced and that hurt us to see him with so little faith.
I can still hear his voice, full of emotion, cracking with tears, when he saw Katie and I for the first time since…he told me later that night, in bed, that the only thing that scared the Hell out of him was never seeing my eyes again. Or my blush. Or his daughter grow into a woman.
"Thank you, God, for not taking that away from me.", he'd wept in my arms that night right before I made sweet and furious love to him. That's when I believe he decided to give God another chance…and we went to church that next Sunday together.
The memories of all that filled my eyes with tears again, even now…so I had to look away…and that's where I found Katie behind the wheel of her car, rolling her eyes as Edward sits in the passenger seat, his mouth open, in the middle of a lecture or a lesson…I can't figure out which.
His fingers are pointed out, as if he's looking out through the windshield at real cars…but I'm pretty sure he didn't let that car move for a whole week before he actually let her turn the key in the ignition.
I laughed out loud and glanced to the picture next to this one…and there goes Katie's little yellow car down the road…and Edward is chasing it…both hands around his mouth as he shouts "BE CAREFUL KATIE!", I can still hear him scream, with love, not anger.
That was a big moment for him…a rare second in time that he had to let her go a little. A licensed driver…going out to celebrate with her friends. He didn't like it…but he opened his fingers and let her float up out of his grip that morning. It was a rough day for ME, let me tell ya. Everytime a car engine went by, Edward jumped up and ran to the window to look.
It's nice when you're a parent and you can look backwards, almost making your growing daughter a little girl once again. I did just that now, proudly looking over Katie's section of Karate pictures. So many tournaments…ribbons…articles in this area. I love this newspaper article, here, showing Katie holding her trophy. The headline is so big and it says, "Cullen Wins Championship for the Third Year!"
It's strange. After all Katie went through that day with Kevin and Edward in the fight upon the glass…I was so worried that she'd be scarred forever. That she'd always be afraid. But she amazed us all. She had Peter teaching her every move he'd ever known and a lot he'd never done before. Peter began training her, not just teaching her here and there. Katie always wanted more. More lessons. More moves. I think she was determined not to be the weak little child anymore. I think we all knew we'd never have to fight for our very lives ever again…but Katie still never wanted to be unprepared for that possibility. I will never forget her voice the way she sounded so adult…like a warrior or a soldier almost when she told me, "No one will ever get that close to hurting MY family again."
I love the pictures where Peter and Tao are in them with her. Yes, Tao also trained and went to every class that Katie did. He also won awards in some of the tournaments. Together, Katie and Tao were a very dangerous couple, even as teenagers. It was no easy trick keeping Edward under control during those tournaments, either, you'd better believe. He wanted the blood of every kid in the competition who dared try and oppose his daughter. Once, a kid kicked Katie in the face and I almost fell down the bleachers holding onto Edward's leg as he raced down there. It took me, Peter, and a couple of the judges to hold Edward back from the fifteen year old kid!
Over here are Katie's and Tao's prom pictures. Tao had become a little hunk over the years, I had to admit, although I could never say those worlds aloud. Katie AND Edward would BOTH murder me. His long black hair was like silk, very neatly cascading over his white tuxedo and his eyes have always been so soulful and filled with something magical. Something deep and sometimes a little sad…but wise.
And Katie looks so beautiful in these, her hair all up, glitter sprayed in…her makeup, flawless and not too heavy. Her fingernails done in a French manicure, just like mine were that night, since I had done an Alice that day and taken her to the best places in town and out of town to have it all done. That dress, a gorgeous black and white silk masterpiece, was the easiest of all. Edward had sent away to New York for it. He chose it himself. It was just exactly what Katie had wanted. I guess he has some Alice in himself as well. Well…he was always great at picking out the perfect outfit and matching shoes. He had dressed me up…many, many times.
Nothing was too good for his little girl…and yet he didn't spoil her into a brat. I still don't know how he did THAT.
And then my eyes caught the pictures of Katie helping Edward in the stables with Dancer. Ah, that's how. There are pictures of Katie riding all kinds of horses through the years around here…but my favorites are the ones of her and Edward riding Dancer. I turned around to look at the best one, Edward on Dancer alone, and Dancer upon two hooves, no longer sickly or scarred…no longer hobbled or restrained. She's healthy…perfect…and beautiful…and the smile on Edward's face….damn.
And over here…look at this…Edward is helping Dancer deliver her first foal. He's wearing his glasses…God, he looks sexy in glasses! And he's so fully concentrating on what he's doing.
Wearing his white veterinarian coat…Dr. Cullen is truly amazing when you watch him work.
I touched my fingers to his framed diploma over here…and have to close my eyes, recalling all those nights Edward had to study and go to school…I have a lot of those pictures in photo albums…for years every time you saw Edward, there was a book in his hand or on the table in front of him. He amazed me with his dedication to learning…he never let it get too hard for him. He would even fail sometimes here and there…a test…an exam…but then he'd come back ten times as determined to kill that next examination! And he did! Edward graduated second in his class. Those pictures are over this way…I think Edward in a black silk cap and gown are insanely sexy, don't you? I had my way with him in it that night once Katie fell asleep.
There's Bob, me, and Edward at his graduation. Katie took this shot. Bob looks so proud…but not as proud as I do…I'm kissing his cheek so hard…my arms wrapped around him…and Edward looks so young…so hopeful…as if he has everything.
He got his dream that day. He became a doctor. A veterinarian.
Speaking of dreams coming true…my eyes go to the center of the wall to my right as they do every day…and I see myself in my white wedding gown…a simple white lace piece…with my groom in black tuxedo…complete with the black cowboy hat, so sexy almost covering his green sparkling eyes.
The sun is setting behind us over the edges of the cliff we found together, where we had spent my birthday and a few other blissful nights. That's where we took our vows in front of the world. I love the pictures of the whole wedding party over to the left, here.
Edward wanted red for the bridesmaids' gowns…and Alice, Rose, Jenna, Kerri, and Melody all looked so great in that color. Edward called them "the red line" and I already knew what that meant. He said this time he's on the right side of the line and he never intended to cross over it again.
And look at the guys in their tuxes! Jasper, Emmett, Marcus, Peter, Josh and Bob all look so handsome! It wasn't easy getting Marcus to wear the black cowboy hat like all the rest of the guys, either. But he finally caved in. There's another picture of us all where Marcus is smiling and fake gold teeth are shining…glowing! Edward laughed his ass off and took the teeth away so we could re-shoot…but he had to keep copies of that first picture. The two of them are sick in a cute, adolescent kind of way. And still are.
Katie was my maid of honor. Who else could I entrust that post to? Charlie was Edward's best man. He said that if not for my father, he would've never had me with him on the plane when he came to Casper. We would've never had this beautiful life…our second chance.
And Ben and Angela…they both led me down the aisle together, one on each side of me…bringing me to the man that had first married their only daughter. I'll never know what side of heaven those two came from…but I'm forever grateful for them. Charlie was still the one to take me from them, though….he kissed my hand with so much love…and put my hand into Edward's…and he is the one who said "I do" when the priest asked who gives this woman. It was even more emotional for me because Charlie was on both his legs for the first time that day. He was practicing for weeks before with the prosthetic leg, but wouldn't let me see until he was standing there, smiling and waiting for me. It was a small miracle that my make up wasn't all run down my face by the time I got to Edward. And Charlie even danced with me that night at the reception to "Butterfly Kisses."
And I laughed when I turned to Edward and he was standing there, watching us, crying himself as he danced with his little girl. God, I'm going to have to make sure a lot of tissue is around when Katie finally gets married!
I love this picture, here, of Edward and me at our tree, under the 'Edward and Bella' carving he made, we're carving the words, 'Mr. And Mrs. Cullen'. And Edward is biting his bottom lip as he carves…man!
We still go there all the time. It's our place. It will always be. I would love our bodies to be there someday, after we're gone. Or maybe Katie can spread our ashes there on our cliff. I would love that.
We didn't get married right away after the deaths of Kevin, James, and Raven. Edward made us all wait until he was "worthy of me". It happened after the trial, after he became a vet…after I really became Dr. Bella…I waited years…and it was so worth the wait.
I always take a minute to look over the articles we framed and programs from all of Katie's school plays. She pursued her acting dream BIG TIME all through high school, getting marvelous reviews on her performances. She always made us cry, Edward and I, at every play she did. She went from doing small parts…to getting the lead. She took our breath away with some of the roles she played.
Edward was convinced she was going to leave us one day to go to Hollywood and join the ranks of Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro. We knew her talent was great but still Edward was tortured by the thought of her in that life. What would it do to her? Her soul, her heart…he had lived among people like those sharks out there for a long time…he loathed the thought of Katie out there swimming in the same waters as they.
And I'm not sure what happened but…just like that…Katie decided she didn't want to be famous…she didn't want to be a star. She loved acting…but she shrank away from the notion of that life all on her own.
Katie graduated high school in white, the school's color, since ghosts were so celebrated here in this town. The high school's football team was even called the Casper Ghosts. It was perfect…with her long red hair…she looked amazing and so bright…Edward didn't even hide it when he wept that day. Every moment he got to see Katie have was a dream come true for Edward. I think he had once convinced himself that he'd never get to be there for all her moments.
And Tao, once a boy who couldn't even speak English…was the Valedictorian! He skipped GRADES in high school because he was so advanced! (But I personally think he just wanted to be in classes with Katie and graduate with her.)
He spoke so intelligently and with such passion…he was even FUNNY in his speech! And he thanked Edward for being his teacher…and his friend when he was a kid. He thanked his parents, Jenna and Marcus, for his whole life. He spoke about all the love they'd showed him…and he talked about how beautiful it was that a white woman, an African American man, and a Chinese boy could all come together as a family…he wished the whole world could be like his parents, he'd said…then there would be no problems between the races.
Right over here next to Marcus' and Jenna's wedding pictures with Edward as his best man, are the framed pictures of Marcus and Tao smiling, holding his adoption papers to the camera. Edward took these pictures.
Jenna waited until Tao was ready to ask her to be his mother…and the next year, he did…and she was added to the papers officially.
It seems that Jenna had learned some important things about waiting until being invited…about not forcing her way in…about waiting until one's heart is ready to accept her inside it. I wonder who taught her that.
Peter did wonders for Jenna…and for Edward and I too…along with many, many others. He became one of the top and busiest psychiatrists in the region again.
And I'm not one to stare at my own pictures but I do love looking at these to the left.
Peter and I are holding a plaque – a sign that would grace the door of our office – the one that's at Peter's house, reading: Dr. Peter Facinelli and Dr. Bella Cullen and we're wearing huge Mad Hatter Hats…and over both of our hats is one big sign stuck to them that says, 'PARTNERS!'
Edward wrote that sign and took these shots. He used up five rolls of film on us that day…and every inch of my office was photographed…and yes, my Doctor Bella sign is on my office door and will ALWAYS be, just as Edward's doctor sign that I made for him is on his office door. Edward wanted his office to be at our house. He hated being far away from home.
My eyes glaze over as I catch the pictures of Ben and Angela dancing at their 30th wedding anniversary party…and next to that, there's the article that reads, "Ice Cream, You Scream Celebrates Tenth Anniversary"
Also here is the Jimmy Chan menu that Edward first saw and fell in love with…right next to a picture of Marcus all dressed up opening his second restaurant, not that he needed to. Jimmy Chan's was where Marcus could be found, always, cooking up some new creation, cursing like a sailor every second of the way, of course.
But Marcus was no longer an outsider. He was a big part of the community. He coached the high school football team! He donated money to the schools every year. He started a big brother program in Casper! He taught a cooking class twice a week! People loved and respected him…and they didn't ask him to change a thing about himself. His foul mouth was something everyone thought was funny…except when he went to church, of course.
Oh, and over here is a very important picture and article that graced the front page of the New York Times awhile ago.
"NOT GUILTY", the headline simply reads. There is a picture of Edward and I beneath it, hugging each other, crying happy tears after his verdict was read in court. A second later, we were covered by Ben and Angela.
Getting through the trial was long and hard…Edward on the stand, answering the prosecutor's invading questions…I ached for him as he sat there for days telling his entire story to the jury while people sketched him from the front row…while reporters scribbled every detail of his past life the moment the words came out of his mouth. I was so afraid he would break.
But Edward didn't crumble. He stayed strong. He was truthful and the jury saw that. They believed him. Thank God.
The scariest part about the end of that whole ordeal was Victoria's father, a huge mobster very like John Gotti, came walking up to us right there in the courtroom. He chilled my blood but Edward stood his ground and didn't waver in the least. He pushed me behind him and waited, not even blinking as the man came up to him.
And he said to Edward, with a smile, "You don't have to be scared, kid. You're not worth the time it would take me to whack you. Victoria's toys never interested me and never will."
At first I was insulted and almost tore the guy's head off but then he put his hands up and said, "Hey, no offense. I'm just telling you…live your life. You'll get no trouble from ME."
And we never saw him again. We heard rumors later that he even put the word out that anyone who harmed us would pay for it with HIM. Weird.
I later heard he was being laughed at, that Victoria's thing with having male sex slaves was a source of embarrassment to her father and his associates. I think that if he did hurt Edward, it would've made him look more ridiculous to all of them, as if he really cared about his daughter's "pets". And in the end, I don't think he cared at all for either Victoria OR James, even as children. Which probably explains a lot about how they went after Edward and I - looking for love.
And those useless marshals – they showed up at the hospital that day after the town had rescued us…angry that they hadn't even known where we were or what was happening that day! Edward told them off brilliantly right there from his bed, as his eyes were being bandaged up, saying he didn't need them and that he had all the protection he ever needed right here. They wanted to relocate us but Edward told them to fuck themselves. I couldn't have said it any better myself.
"We're home and we're staying right here.", he had said with all the strength in his heart, and Katie and I were so thrilled. We couldn't have agreed with him more.
After the trial, when we returned to Casper, we knew we had a lot of explaining to do to people…apologies to make and truths to tell…we worried a lot of what they would say to us…would they want us back in Casper? Would they reject us like those people had burned out the whores way back then?
We needn't have worried so much. These pictures over here say it all. When we got off the plane, the very first thing we saw was this giant banner, and big red letters saying, 'WELCOME HOME CULLEN FAMILY!'
Marcus and Peter were holding that banner and the whole town was standing around them, clapping for us and waiting their turn to embrace us and say, "welcome back." I cried in loud sobs when Peter hugged Edward and used his real name for the first time, saying, "We missed you, Edward." And then he hugged Katie and I into the same embrace and said, "You too, Bella….and Katie."
The whole article is framed here…Marcus, Peter and Bob are standing at a podium, talking to the town – this was while we were in New York going through the trial. These three were the ones…who had told the whole story to the rest of the town…they told our stories and our sides to things…before they were done they had the whole town thinking we were some sort of heroes or something…we didn't really want THAT…we just wanted to come home. And be ourselves.
And they let us. And we never had to use the names Anthony Masen or Marie Brown again…although Bob still loved calling Edward "ANT" all the time. His little red ant, he would say.
I love the headline here, to the right, in the Casper Chronicle. It reads, simply: CULLENS FINALLY COME HOME!
I wasn't a Cullen yet, at the time, but I was included in that….they all already considered me a Cullen. I loved that.
These other pictures over here are some of Edward's favorites. This tiny little white colt's name is Tiny Dancer. She's Dancer's first baby boy, the one Edward was delivering over on the other wall, there. Psycho is the father, and that was a fun day when Edward found that out for sure. Let's just say…I was afraid for Psycho when Edward went charging off to the stables that morning.
Tiny Dancer is just something else! Edward will always have that special bond with Dancer, but when he's around Tiny Dancer, he becomes that little kid I love again. Tiny Dancer plays with Edward and also with Katie and me like we're horses, too. Edward once got down on all fours and put a carrot in his mouth and he and Tiny Dancer had a tug of war with it! He's an innocent little horse and not afraid of anything…he is almost too trusting to everyone…and he's even managed to calm his Dad, Psycho down a lot.
He's all the things Dancer would've been…if she hadn't been so hurt and abused in her lifetime…and in a way, it was like Dancer was reborn…and was given a fresh chance in her son. Edward makes sure that Tiny Dancer never wants for anything…and is never afraid of anything…he's loved, just as his mother is loved…and Edward swore to me that nothing would ever harm any of these horses as long as he had breath in his body.
Edward is a cowboy…I still can't believe that happened! That New York city boy I once knew…he was so cool and confident…but now I know he's much more himself and happier in his own skin when he's cowboy Edward. Who knew?
Well…Charlie knew I guess. We found out he was the one who told the marshals they should take us somewhere fresh and sunny…somewhere in the country…someplace where there were horses. Turns out Charlie had some problems as a kid and was sent to a summer camp where he worked with horses…he had sent me there a couple summers and I had hated it…but it had done him a world of good – it had turned him around and he grew to be a Chief of Police. Thank you Daddy. It was a good idea.
Look at this picture…Kerri in her red graduation gown…a high school graduate! Edward is dressed in a suit and has his arm around her and her cheek is pressed up next to his. Kerri is holding the little angel with the map in her hand that she had made for us back when she returned home to her family. The lost angel…or should I say…the found one. Only now it's wearing a graduation cap, one that Edward had super glued on its head.
They both look so happy…Edward looks so proud! She invited all of us to her graduation and Edward couldn't pack fast enough to get there. We had all kept in touch since she came into our lives…lots of times she wrote long letters to Edward, pouring out her pain and sorrows along the way….and how proud I was when Edward got right to work, opening his once dreaded notebook to write back to her and share his knowledge and advice…never willing to let her drift back into that world he'd found her in.
Kerri was the first angel Edward saved…but not the last.
My eyes quickly find the pictures of the mansion rebuild. This one shot is of Edward, Ben, Bob, Jasper, Emmett, Peter and Marcus…all hammering beams…putting the empty whorehouse right again…every inch of it…we were all involved in that….everyone helped…me, Katie, Sharon, Jenna, Alice, Rosalie…Josh and all the kids in the college who wanted extra credit for anything….Donald Duck even painted and decorated!
There were times I thought Alice would kill him for taking over most of that job…but thankfully, she restrained herself and found that she was really great at things like hammering, drilling, and sawing! I have lots of those pictures in my photo albums, every one of them gold! I think that's when Alice and Jasper – and Emmett and Rosalie – really got to know each other again…and really bonded, during that rebuild. Every time I saw Alice, she was conveniently helping Jasper with something…and the same for Rosalie with Emmett. I guess there's no stopping love. Everyone gets a second chance.
Yes, the town of Casper gave us a wonderful gift when we returned from New York: the very special house we had discovered where we saw the last of Kevin, Raven and James. Bob had convinced the town to give us the whole house, as no one else really wanted it anyway.
Edward got right to work on it. He began alone, with Katie and I as his helpers…the next day Peter, Bob, and Marcus showed up, rolling up their sleeves and asking what they could do…then…little by little, people came to assist us in restoring the house to its former glory. A lot of people asked Edward what he planned to do with the place…would we live in it? Would he sell it? He would just grin and say, "You'll see."
And we did. I knew Edward would never want to live in this huge place, just him, Katie and I…mansions reminded him of his childhood: a lonely, fancy world. He wasn't the mansion type anymore and I was so relieved about that because neither am I. And I couldn't imagine myself CLEANING this whole place!
What he had in mind all along absolutely thrilled me…and when it was all finally finished, another article came out in the paper, declaring, "LOST ANGELS HOUSE FINISHED!"
And there was another line beneath that, a quote from Edward saying, "A PLACE AND A VOICE FOR THOSE NO ONE HEARS"
And there's a picture of Edward and I in front of the mansion, smiling, an arm around the other.
"Mom!", Katie was calling, and then remembered and quieted herself, whispering, "Mom?"
Very quietly, I answer, "Up here Katie."
I turn my head and there she is…so grown up, standing there…smiling at me.
"He asleep yet?" she asks, peeking at his little face as I keep rocking my hips left and right, dancing with my little man.
I nod to her silently, smiling down at his sweet, long eyelashes that are hiding those brilliant green eyes of his…loving how his full lips pucker and pout as he slips into his dream state…he is the very TWIN of his father. He turns into Edward more and more everyday…and none of us would change that. He's almost two now.
I look up and see a very large and pregnant picture of me…standing sideways and looking down with a smile on my face as Edward kneels at my feet, placing a very reverent and loving kiss on my exposed stomach, his long, slender fingers stroking the side of it with such care and tenderness…I get misty eyed all over again just remembering taking this picture…and I smile when I look at the shot of a teenage Katie holding Edward Jr. as an infant, a single, tiny little flame of copper hair standing right up from the top of his otherwise bald head….and Edward and I are on both sides of them, and we're holding a sign that says, "IT'S A BOY!"
There's another picture of Edward with the baby and all the guys. Bob, Marcus, Peter, Ben, Charlie, Jasper, Emmett…all of them have unlit cigars in their mouths. Goofballs.
Everyone's waiting for me downstairs. It's a pretty big night and I can't wait to start it.
I ask Katie for two more minutes and she nods and runs downstairs. Yes, we have a downstairs now. This is the house we began in…but it's a little bigger now. We made it into everything we'd dreamt of…we all made it together. Tanya's picture still watches over us…and she has taken great care of us all these years.
Whenever I walk up and down this hallway, and look at all these pictures, I realize that to an outsider, if they were here looking at all these stellar memories…it might seem that we had lived the perfect life…a life free of pain or problems.
God, that is SO not the truth!
I can hear echoes of Edward in every room of this house, shouting at me…yelling as I'm yelling back at him.
"Maybe I'm just TOO STUPID to be a vet! And maybe I'm too stupid to be YOURS!", he had screamed once after flinging all his books off the table, after he had failed a very difficult test.
"You are NOT stupid, you just failed!", I can recall myself yelling back, "It's okay to fail sometimes, no one is asking you to be PERFECT!"
And a split second later, I remember my soft voice as I held him while he silently cried when I said, "Failing is important sometimes, you know. We learn a lot from our failures, too, not just our successes. If everyone always succeeded in everything, it would make life very dull. The important thing is…not to let it stop you. You keep trying. You get right back on the horse."
Edward has cried, screamed, and laughed many many times here in between these walls…just as much as I have….and Katie has. I can see and hear all the good times…and I sometimes recall the hard ones too, as I look into every room, especially late at night, when I'm checking on the baby. I can never sleep all the way through the night anymore. I always have to check the kids…even Katie.
Yes. In between all these oh so perfect pictures, there have been a lot of bumps in the road. Peter has been here with us, this is almost his second home, counseling us…getting in between us when we have it all out…and always he quietly slips out when we are finished, clinging to each other and making up as only we can.
Edward has learned to face his anger…to let it out and voice it…and not lose control over it. And I am still learning how to be a good mother…and wife…and friend. We aren't perfect at all, any of us. But we are getting better every day. We love each other and we never forget that, no matter what else happens. We know we're all lucky to have each other…and I'm so glad for that. Kevin, Victoria…Raven…are in our past now. They can never be totally forgotten but after years of hard work with Peter…they torture Edward…no more. He is truly free now. We all are.
And we made it through the teen years with Katie, which was a lot of fun…not.
You would never know it by Katie's high school graduation pictures, where all of us are wearing big goofy smiles on our faces, (including Ben and Angela) but Katie was a VERY difficult teenager. She was always a good kid deep down…never any huge problems like drugs or sex…but there were a lot of times when I seriously considered trading her in for a nice quiet beagle. She is a screamer, just like her Dad.
So many times Edward clutched at his hair in this house, doubting what a good father he is…asking me if he was doing the right thing. It's a miracle he's not bald now.
But Edward and I stuck together as parents, and we had lots of talks about how we wanted to raise her along the way. We argued a lot there, too, but we always found a compromise…we always found our way. And I think we've done a great job. Katie is a kind, sweet person. Smart, gentle, understanding…everyone loves her. But like her father she is also very stubborn too. Some days, they locked horns over some very big things (and other times, over some very little things)…and then I had to be the mediator. She is always trying to grow up and fly away…and Edward is always trying to keep her young and on the ground in his arms.
I feel very proud of all the work we've done behind the scenes, in between each of these pictures…we have all sweated and bled so we can make it as a family to the next framed picture, smiling like we don't have a care in the world. We have earned every one of these pictures, that's for sure.
And then my eyes fall on the picture of Edward, Katie and I staring at a burning notebook…the fucked up journal…this is the day Edward had worked so hard for…the day he let those twelve hours with Sir Kevin go forever. It wasn't just his moment…he shared it with us. He had read it all to us that day…Katie was old enough and she said she was ready to hear her father read it aloud, for the first and last time, before the flames ate it all away forever.
He had finally told Katie everything…when she was old enough…he didn't hold anything back from her…not after she'd heard all those things Kevin had said that day…and still never turned her back on him. We explained what we could at that time…but all the gory details of those six years that Edward spent with Victoria…would have to wait for later. Years and years later.
And when the time came, Edward faced it. He told her everything. He answered all her questions. And she cried…she rocked Edward in her arms as if he were the child and she the parent…we clung to each other…and we became even stronger after that. All Katie saw was his love for her…for him to sell himself like that to buy her a new life…and then she saw something more inside me…and she hugged me, saying that I saved her Dad's life…that I made her family whole again…and that only I could've.
Like I said, Katie is very special. And that's just one example of it.
It amazes me every time I look at these pictures…every time I think of what our life is now…that if I had followed all the rules, if I had been a good little girl and stayed in my place, stayed in Forks or stayed locked in my apartment in New York…I wouldn't have even KNOWN Edward Cullen. I wouldn't have a Katie…a Peter…a Marcus…a Bob…a Jasper or an Emmett…a Kerri…an Edward Jr.
We had colored outside the lines…I brought my yellows, greens and blues to Edward's reds, oranges and blacks…everyone we knew told us not to mix…told us it would be a sin to do so…that it would be wrong.
But we couldn't help ourselves. We did it anyway. Too attracted by each other's glow, we crashed together, right or wrong, and our colors bled into each other without forgiveness or apology.
Red burned into crimson…burgundy and cardinal…chestnut…coral…fuschia and maroon…ruby…terra cotta…sangria.
Yellow melted into amber…butterscotch…aureolin and morning mist…saffron and marigold.
I look at all the people in our lives…people we couldn't live without now…and I see all those mixed colors that ran together….the ones that almost never were, shouldn't have been, and never would have been if we hadn't broken a few rules. I see turquoise…I see sapphire…I see lilac…I see jade.
And that's the funny way I see our life, sometimes, when I walk this hall at 3:13 am when Eddie Jr. doesn't want to fall asleep…I see so many fascinating colors, as one life blends and intersects with another…and I feel sorry for people who are trapped in their little primary squares of red, blue, or green. People who will never know emerald…or scarlet…or indigo.
I shudder to think I was one of them once…I was afraid to look beyond my little world and know that there could be more…so much more.
And then this angel fell into my life…one who needed me as much as I needed him…and he took my hand and led me here. I would do it all again, even with all the pain and struggle we have known…it has been SO worth it all.
I could never return to a world of plain primary colors now, all the reds staying with the reds and the blues with the blues. It would be like being color blind. It would be a gray world, a pale, boring world. And for me, that would be even worse than death itself.
And now it's time to lay my son down into his crib, and I kiss him, softer than a feather would brush his cheek and I whisper, "I love you little Edward."
One thing is for sure. Anything or anyone who tries to hurt THIS Edward is gonna have one HELL of a fight on his hands! I read once a quote that said, "There is no bitch on earth like a mother defending her kids." That's goddamn right.
Edward Jr. gives a small twitch as I cover him up with his favorite plush blanket…a purple one with a happy elephant on the corner…and I hold my breath. He's asleep. Finally. And now I can tiptoe downstairs and join everyone. But first I'm taking the shortcut that will take me down to Dr. Cullen's office on the ground floor. I haven't seen the beautiful veterinarian all day and I miss him like crazy. That much about us hasn't changed much in the last ten years.
I tap a little knock on Dr. Cullen's door and hope there's no one else in there with him right now.
"Yes?", the deep voice is so velvety I feel my mouth fall open and he adds, "Come in."
And I open the door…hardly able to wait until I can feast my eyes on the very sexy doctor inside.
He is all alone so I close the door behind me and lock it, giving him the look that says he is in danger. He smirks back at me, lowering his adorable glasses and getting a better look at the face I was giving him.
Closing a thick book he was reading before I came in, he gave me his full attention.
"Hello.", he greeted as if he just met me for the first time…and he stood up, still wearing his light blue scrubs and white coat. He slowly walked up to me and asked, "Can I help you Miss?"
"I need a doctor.", I informed simply.
"Do you?", he smirked more, putting his hands in his pockets, "What seems to be the problem…I mean…where does it…hurt?"
And with that he towered over me…and his nose was so close to mine…I could smell his mint breath and wanted to taste it.
"Everywhere.", I answered, slowly sliding his glasses off, carefully folding the arms together, sounding as if I might whimper at any moment, and I peeked up at him from under my eyelashes…doing my innocent girl thing that he loves so much.
"Well I might be able to help you…", he said, looking me over more closely, "But maybe not…I only know how to care for animals."
And then there was my opening to make my move. I grabbed the back of his hair tightly and made him look down into my eyes and I almost growled out the words, "I AM….an animal."
That was all it took. We were kissing like teenagers and groping each other like we'd been apart for two years. We had to seize these chances when we could. With a two year old baby in the house, we didn't get much love making time in the night.
I moaned out loud as Edward roughly jerked my blouse apart at the buttons…and I almost laughed when he moaned and said, "Oh my GOD! That's a new bra! Fuck, it's hot! I loovvveeee black lace!"
"Shut up and tear it off me with your teeth.", I challenged as Edward laid me back on his examining table, burying his face into my half open shirt.
Just then, the little beep of the intercom sounded and both of us froze in place, as if we'd been caught doing something wrong.
Let me share a little secret with you. I hate the intercom.
"Dad!", Katie's voice said into the air, "I know what you two are doing in there. When are you coming out here? I want to see this!"
The intercom went off abruptly and Edward looked at me, grinning.
"She knows what we're doing in here?", Edward asked, "How does SHE know?"
"She's only 20 years old, she has no idea, don't worry.", I teased back, "But she's got a point. Everyone is probably waiting for us. We're being rude. Maybe we should go out there."
"No.", Edward darted back into my cleavage, "I wanna play doctor with YOU."
I squealed and laughed and curled my leg around his perfect little ass as his teeth made first contact with the cup of my bra. And I heard him growl…fuck! The older this man gets, the hotter he is. It's not fair.
After a minute or two, we did compose ourselves and ready each other to go into the living room where our public awaited. But God, it wasn't easy stopping.
The very first person we saw right outside Edward's office door was Emmett…and he was standing there, arms folded, smirking at us like the cat that swallowed the canary. I felt my cheeks get hot as Edward spoke up.
"What the hell are YOU smiling at?", Edward mocked irritation.
"You might want to wipe off the smudged lipstick, bro.", Emmett grabbed Edward's chin and turned his face to the left, revealing a little bit of my lip gloss.
Edward jerked away and wiped off his jaw where the offending makeup glistened while Emmett changed the subject.
"Where's Freddy?", he asked me now.
"His name is NOT Freddy, EMMETT!", I lowly grumbled, giving him my stern eyes, "Stop calling him that. And he's asleep. Where else would he be, doing his taxes or something?"
"I never get to see the little guy anymore!", Emmett complained as Jasper came up behind him, rolling his eyes.
"He's gonna forget his uncle Em.", Emmett almost pouted, "I have a lot to teach the little booger about wrestling."
"Okay, I promise, if you eat all your vegetables tonight, you can play with him all afternoon tomorrow, how's that?", I compromised, "And you have to stop calling him Freddy! His name is Edward. Promise me!"
"Gotta go.", Emmett ducked away, almost knocking Jasper over in his wake…but he did manage to swipe half the food off Jasper's plate as he went anyway.
"Hey, you MONKEY, that's MINE!", Jasper groaned as he valiantly lost the struggle for his pizza, now holding only an empty plate.
Edward laughed and asked Jasper, "Where's the girls?"
"Rosalie is in the bathroom.", Jasper informed, "Alice will be here any second. She had a rough afternoon. It seems that Beth called Destiny fat."
Edward looked scared for a moment and asked, "Bloodshed?"
Jasper scoffed and said, "Not a chance. My baby has it all under control."
"Maybe I should talk to them.", Edward offered, as always when it came to the Lost Angels House.
"Not tonight.", Alice popped into the mix and curled her arms around Jasper's neck from behind, "It's all quiet and peaceful now. But maybe tomorrow you need to make an appearance, both of you, and put them straight yourselves."
"No problem.", Edward and I said at the same time and looked at each other, grinning.
Then, before I knew it, Edward was off. He darted into the living room into the sea of people hanging out there, and was on Tao's case again.
"Tao, nice to see you again.", Edward was right behind the sofa, looking down upon him and his daughter beside him. They were sitting there very innocently, their hands in their laps.
"Nice to see you again, too, Mr. Cullen.", he said with a smile, half turning towards Edward.
"Dad.", Katie gave a slight frown.
"Did you get something to eat?", Edward asked him very sweetly.
"Um…not yet.", Tao shook his head a little, looking confused by Edward.
"I'm taking him away now.", I said softly to Katie and her boyfriend, and put my hand in his, gently leading him away from the couch.
"Thanks Ma.", Katie smiled at us as we took a few steps away.
"Where's your Dad?", Edward asked Tao as we departed.
"He's re-fixing all the food in the kitchen.", Tao grinned, giving a little flick up with his eyebrows.
Edward was about to head into the kitchen when Peter came up to us and grabbed Edward by the arms, saying, "Edward, I changed my mind, you have to cut all the parts of me out of the video. I probably sucked anyway. I don't want to do anything to hurt the Lost Angels House, so…just erase all of me out."
"Shut up, man, you were great!", Edward said right away, "You've been doing this for months now, stop it! You'll see in a few minutes you were amazing. I don't want you erased out and besides, it's too late now. Just suck it up and be quiet during the parts when I'm talking."
And without missing a beat, Edward was back behind the sofa, now staring in between Tao and Katie as they shared a little kiss, Tao's hand softly moving over her long red hair.
"Hi Tao.", Edward smiled like the Cheshire cat staring at a helpless mouse. The kids pulled apart suddenly, Katie gasping and going, "DAD! Stop! I'm almost 21 years old!"
"Exactly.", Edward retorted, the pleasant look still on his face. I guess he's remembering ME when I was only 21 years old.
Actually, he was just teasing them. Tao had come to Edward and I a week ago and asked for Katie's hand in marriage. He said such wonderful things…he told us how deep his love for Katie was…and I got tears in my eyes just listening to him…it reminded me of all the feelings Edward and I first found together…and I was so happy for both of them. Tao had been part of our family forever…and no matter if he and Katie were best friends, or dating…deadly enemies…or "taking a break"…Tao was always included in Katie's life somewhere…and we had come to love him as much as she did…in a very different and platonic way of course.
Once Edward established that Katie wasn't pregnant, (and no, he didn't make her take a pregnancy test…YET)…he was glad to say yes…and he even hugged the kid! I was so proud of my Edward…he has come a long way in the Katie dating boys department. On Katie's first date, Edward was sitting in between them, holding the tub of popcorn at the movies.
Katie doesn't know it but tomorrow night, she'll be proposed to. Until then, Edward had a little more time to torment them.
I decided to take a little stroll around and be a good hostess, saying hello to everyone. I saw Jenna and Marcus in the kitchen. God I can't wait until Marcus finds out that Edward is going to be his family soon. All those curse words he loved to use are gonna come flying out of his mouth as if they never left.
I found Rosalie coming out of the bathroom…she's very pregnant so I made sure she found the buffet as fast as I could. I scolded Emmett for stealing Jasper's food and not making sure his wife and unborn baby were fed first.
Ben and Angela were sitting in front of the TV, watching a commercial and quietly talking to each other, patiently waiting for the show to start. Little did he know it's on DVD and won't start until we hit the PLAY button. I gave them big hugs and urged them to eat but they said they were too excited to think about food. I love how proud of Edward they always are.
Edward's parents weren't here…but Joseph and Katherine were. Katherine had her arms tightly wrapped around my husband as we speak right at this moment. He isn't struggling in the embrace, he is clinging onto her just as tight. She kisses him right on the lips and tries to fix his hair with her fingers…and then she realizes it's a lost cause and musses it even more. So cute.
Josh and Melody are sitting on the loveseat across Ben and Angela…Josh's hand is resting on her knee and she is smiling at him, wiping a little pizza sauce off his bottom lip. They've been an item for years and years now…but neither of them are rushing into proposals or babies. They are happy living together and Melody is a drama teacher now at the Casper Community College where Edward and I studied. I'm so glad they both got someone great to love…they both really deserve it.
Thank God our place got a little bigger as we kept remodeling…all these people would've never fit in this place when we first moved in here.
I love that we did most of the work on this house ourselves: Edward, Katie, and I. I love that when I see the paint on the walls, I see Edward teaching Katie how to use the roller up and down. I love that Edward and I boosted Katie up on our shoulders so she could nail Dancer's horseshoe (the one Edward used to slam Kevin in the face at the stables on his 30th birthday) up over our front door for good luck. I love that we all sat together at our little table in the kitchen to figure out how Edward Jr.'s room should be decorated, a very pregnant me eating oreos as we discussed it.
"Kerri!", I greeted happily as she came through the front door, rushing, asking, "I didn't miss it, did I?"
"No, we wouldn't start without you.", I hugged her, "Everything okay?"
"Yea.", Kerri made a little bit of a face, "Just don't let Beth and Destiny sit side by side…here they come now….shhh…"
And just then, our six girls from the Lost Angels House came inside. They're all great, and so different from each other. They were all talking a little loudly to each other, as if having some big debate…but they all stopped and said hello as they caught sight of me.
"Where's Edward?", one of the girls asked, her name is Alyx. She's eighteen and very sweet but she has this strange fixation on Edward. It seems she only feels safe around him and while I understand that…we are going to have to have a nice little talk with her too, tomorrow.
We tried to be patient with her at first when she came here…but lately Alyx has been hugging Edward a little too long…and inhaling when she hugs him…Edward told me that last week, he thought she was going to try and kiss him…but she chickened out. He still wants to help her…but he feels uncomfortable. He doesn't want this kind of attention from her. It will be alright. We'll talk it out together, all of us…I think Alyx just feels the only way she can show Edward she cares for him is to be sexual, as she's had to be for years now. She'll understand…in time. She hasn't been the first one to fall for the emerald eyes of Edward Cullen, that's for sure. And I'm certain she won't be the last, either.
It's times like these that I see how much I've changed over the years. The old me would be so insecure and jealous and angry…I remember when Jenna made a move on Edward. I threatened to KILL her! Jeez! I'm glad I have learned some control and found some self esteem along the way. Or I would be just a hindrance at the Lost Angels house, not a help or a true partner. I used to think I wasn't good enough for Edward. In fact, I knew I wasn't. I thought his love for me was just misplaced thankfulness for me helping him out of that life he used to know. I was sure someday he'd wake up, look at me, and say, "I'm sorry, Bella. I just don't feel it anymore. I don't know why…but it's not the same."
That was my worst nightmare then…not Kevin or Victoria or James…
But in all this time, Edward has never strayed away from me at all. His eyes always light up when he sees me…and even when we're both dead tired or aggravated…he finds a way to let me know I'm still special to him. Oh, plenty of times he's a true jerk, like every other man, though….and that's okay. I'm sure I'm not always a blushing bride to him either. Even so, he's still everything I could've dreamt of for a husband…and more.
Sorry girls. He's all mine. I know that now. And I don't worry about losing him all the time anymore.
Bob and Sharon are here, too…it looks like all our friends are here actually…and it amazes me how lucky we are to have all of them. We started out here just the three of us…and we didn't have a friend in the world. Just look around now. There's not one place to sit down. And that makes me so happy.
Finally, we get to the big moment and Edward suddenly gets timid and shy…he sits in between Tao and Katie, separating them effectively and he pulls me down onto his lap, as if trying to hide behind me before everyone is watching him on the screen before us.
"Hide me.", he says quietly, placing a little kiss on my back through my blouse.
"MMMM…best seat in the house.", I chuckle.
"Gross.", Katie winces, then moves over so I can sit next to Edward instead of ON him.
"You're in public, guys, willya?", Katie scolds us and then brilliantly adds, "If you two can do that, then so can Tao and I…"
Edward straightened right up and turned into a little schoolboy.
Katie had finally made us behave and everyone had quieted enough at last for Katie's liking so she could stand up next to the TV and made a little announcement.
"I just want to say…" she blushed a bit as everyone's eyes were on her, "Dad…Mom…we're all so proud of you. It took a lot of guts to do this show…it's not a reality show…it's about all of us…our lives…the Lost Angels House…I know it's gonna be great and I hope that people all over the world, when they see it for real next week, I know something great will come of all this. Before we know it, they'll be two Lost Angel Houses…then three…then five…until they're everywhere. I love you so much."
Everyone clapped as Edward and I said, "I love YOU" right back to her.
"Alright enough!", Katie smiled big and put her hands in the air, "Let's watch this THING ALREADY!"
I suddenly felt so terrified as the DVD began…what if it's horrible? What if they twisted everything around to make us look stupid or disgusting? I feel sick.
On the screen, there was complete darkness…jet black…and then a little touch of white mist wafted across the dark…and Edward's voice spoke in all its lovely velvety goodness.
"For over six years, I was a sex slave…and a prostitute.", he began as the mist and black began to change…I could see Edward's back now…in a black leather jacket…the camera pulled back to reveal him in slow motion, walking down the city streets, black sunglasses on…and slowly, he pulls them off and reveals his beautiful eyes.
I can hear the girls around us all going, "OOOOO!" Edward laughed and turned a nice shade of purple at that.
"They made me wear makeup…", he explained shyly, still bright red as the girls kept catcalling.
Then a woman's hands with blood red fingernails grabs the jacket and shoves Edward down onto his knees…and rips the jacket off him, revealing his back and suddenly Edward's eyes are covered by a blindfold and a whip lashes at his flesh…but before you can even focus on that it's gone and the same woman's hands are handing a stack of bills to Edward's hand as his voice says, "My business…was to sell my body."
"When did you shoot that part?", I heard myself asking and Edward looked a little ashamed, about to open his mouth to explain, but I cut him off, saying, "They had some woman whip you?"
"It wasn't real, it was just for the intro…", Edward said quietly, not meeting my eyes.
Everyone was shushing me. We'd get to this later. I didn't like seeing him like that again, even if it WAS just for the show.
And then we can see Edward's back, slashed up with thin red marks as he puts his jacket back on, going back into the night…almost vanishing into the mist afterwards. I feel my stomach lurch and rub my forehead as I keep watching. Katie understands and silently slips her hand into mine, giving it a little squeeze, whispering, "It's okay, Mommi."
"My name is Edward.", his voice says next, "There are no last names when you're a whore. And no one cares what your name is anyway. You're nothing but a shadow…once they're done with you…once they get what they want…you might as well disappear…"
And Edward's image does vanish…after he steps over a red line on the ground…and as if he went up in a cloud of smoke.
"There are a million of me out there…all lost…all voiceless…every year, people just like me are bought, sold, beaten, raped, tortured and even killed and forgotten…no one hears their cries for help. I was one of them. I sold my body…and I almost lost my soul."
And now Edward, MY Edward, comes into the screen suddenly, dressed in a white shirt without the sunglasses and throws the leather jacket at the screen, and looks right at us and says, "But I can hear them. And now my business is to get THEM…OFF the streets."
Then Edward is smiling, talking to a couple girls who are clearly working the streets in fish net stockings and not much else…and he's handing them a card…and they are smiling back at him, accepting it.
Emmett chose this moment to shout, "GO EDWARD! Give her the VISA!" in his sleaziest voice. Rosalie slapped him right in the head before I could reach him though.
"Thanks Rose!", I smiled at her as I turned back to the screen.
It's not his credit card he's giving them. It's the Lost Angels card, the card with all Edward's information and phone number on it.
That was the end of the intro…and now the show begins…and Edward is sitting in a room at the Lost Angels House…a red wall behind him.
He is looking right at us and says, "I was owned by a woman named Victoria for six years. And I'm proof that it could happen to anyone. I used to think only young teenage runaway girls could get caught in this world…but I'm a man… I had a family, a wife, a daughter. And in the blink of an eye, I lost it all."
Then Edward fades out and pictures of Tanya and Katie are strewn all over…happy family shots including Edward…and then the pictures begin to curl up at the corners…and flames can be seen. This scene was very brief and I looked at Edward next to me and he was looking away.
"Never miss the chance to say I'm sorry…", Edward's voice continues and we can see his face again as he speaks…and his eyes are wet, his voice a little deep with emotion, "Never miss the chance to say I love you…swallow your pride and don't run out angry…cause I did…and I never got the chance to say those words…I never got the moment…to say goodbye. And it was a pure miracle that my daughter survived that night…but the pain she suffered…the agony…I knew my life from that moment on had to be dedicated to making her healthy again…to giving her everything she needed. Losing her too…was NOT an option. That's when Victoria found me. It was the perfect moment for her to strike…I was desperate…I had nothing. I was ripe for the plucking."
"I sold myself to her for fifty thousand dollars.", Edward went on, "And that was the beginning of Hell for me. I thought I deserved it. I wanted the pain. I wanted to be hurt. I didn't want to be loved. I was in the perfect place. A club called Fire."
"Stripping is where it begins.", Edward explained, "Dancing…it's the doorway into prostitution. At first I thought, "this isn't so bad"…I stripped and performed onstage and suddenly women were giving me their numbers and shoving hundred dollar bills into my pants…the money kept coming in all the time…it's so hard to say no to all that money…especially when you have something important to use that money for. I used to check people out at the supermarket and after killing myself for a week I'd get maybe…a couple hundred dollars…maybe not even that much. And here, I'm getting that after dancing for three minutes. It's crazy and very hard to resist that easy money at first."
Peter could be seen now, and sat across from Edward in his office, as if they were having a real session together, and even now I felt elated at how easy it seemed for Edward to talk to him…and how now there were no hesitations, no avoidance from Edward in the least. He was completely open and willing to answer anything with utmost honesty. Peter had worked miracles for Edward and any jealousy I ever felt at not being the one and only person who could reach Edward just didn't exist anymore. It was a miracle, both on Edward's AND Peter's side. They had equally helped each other's lives since the moment they sat down together for the first time. I'm so glad I nagged Edward until he broke down and made that phone call to Peter that first day.
And also, I was glad Peter and Edward weren't wearing funny hats in this scene of the show. I'm sure they probably wanted to…and would've – if some director or someone hadn't stopped them.
"Edward…", Peter asked without judgment, "Why would you want to go on worldwide television, and tell everyone all this about yourself? I would think you'd want to just start your life over and never tell anyone any of this. Why are you doing it?"
"For the Lost Angels House.", Edward said right away with such truth in his eyes as he looked back at Peter, "And because I tried that already. And because I'm sick of hiding and being afraid. Why should I hide my past? Fear, guilt, and shame have kept me prisoner for too long already. And it's probably keeping a lot more people out there, too, trapped with their pimps or owners or whatever they call themselves.
I'm proud of my life and what I've done. I'm a rare breed because most people, once they're in that life…it's like a net. You step in, the net goes up, and you're trapped. You don't GET out. I never thought I'd be home again. But I was lucky. I found help. Well, it found ME.
And I can either hide forever and be afraid everyone's gonna find out…or I can tell everyone myself and be free. And I'm free now to cut other people out of that net they're stuck in. I've got the knife now, so I'm going to use it. And I'm gonna save as many as I can.
To sit down, live a fake life, and pretend that I'm not what I am…to not try and slice that net wide open…is to spit on my freedom and Bella, who gave me the strength and the keys to escape it all. She's a rescuer…and whatever she is…I want to be that too.
So here I am. And to people who know me, my town, my family, my friends…they all already know my story. And they love me anyway. They accept me anyway. I've never known people like these before. They're almost too great to be real. But if we're gonna tell the story of how I got out, then we can't start anywhere else than with my Bella."
Everyone started cheering and whooping as I heard myself mutter, "Oh my God, no…"
I covered my eyes as the screen turned and beautiful classical piano played in the background…and the word BELLA in white mist blew across a black screen while all our friends whistled and cheered and commented…Edward pulled me to him, his arm around me, and kissed my lips as I covered my eyes more, not prepared to see myself on the screen.
"Don't do that, you're beautiful!", Edward pried my hands off my eyes as I came onto the screen, riding my horse, with my helmet on, of course. I dismounted and took the helmet off, shaking out my hair with one hand as Peter came up and gave me a nice hug.
I liked that this part of my interview was outside, in the sun, with the lake shining in the background as we walked side by side. I felt more comfortable this way.
Peter's voice filled in how I became Edward's customer and why I bought him.
"It was the best purchase I ever made.", I joked onscreen as everyone around us laughed and went AWWWW…
"I really needed someone to study for my thesis. Going to Fire was my friend, Rosalie's idea…and there I saw the most beautiful man I'd ever laid eyes on. It wasn't just about his body, either…it was his eyes.", my voice was saying on TV.
"It was a LITTLE about my body!", Edward shouted out, getting laughs from Jazz and Emmett. Even BEN gave a wicked cackle that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
"Yea, very little.", Alice giggled.
"Hey, don't think I didn't notice you and Rosalie checking me out that day in New York!", Edward returned quickly.
"Shut up!", I growled as I tried to listen to myself.
"It was his eyes.", I'd said onscreen, "They just…grabbed me and didn't let go. And they never have yet. And he seemed so happy and eager to please on the outside…but I saw a deep sadness inside him…covered up really well. And then all I wanted was to help him…to know him.
It wasn't easy. To him, I was just another customer, another woman to perform for. He didn't want to open up and TALK to me. Women were last on his list to be trusted. He was so guarded then, so locked away. Victoria had him just as she wanted him. It took everything I knew to try and crack that shell he was hiding in…but in the end, I don't think it was my BRAIN that made him come to me…it was my heart. I fell in love…so fast. I think in the first day I loved him, even if I wasn't aware of it. We fought that, too, but in the end, I think he WANTED to be saved, to be talked to and I think that it had been so long that someone had shown him any kind of love that he was starving for it. I was afraid for a long time that his love for me was just that – but he's shown me so many times that his love is real."
Peter's voice narrated everything so beautifully that I almost cried a couple of times. In between our dialogue, he would fill in the details of Edward's life, my life, Katie's life…it was incredible and so well done, not anything like some crap reality show at all. I was feeling better and better about this the more footage we all watched.
Edward and I were sitting side by side on camera now and he said, "I was a jerk. I thought she just wanted my body. And it was so easy to make her blush. I loved making her do it."
Then Edward smiled that smile at me…the sexy, crooked one…but I still managed to speak next.
"No, I just wanted your head.", I said as Edward smiled more, "I MEAN BRAIN! I wanted your body LATER."
"Yea, five minutes later…", Edward teased onscreen.
Then Katie's head fell into her hand and she groaned, "Oh my God, my friends are gonna be seeing this."
And Tao laughed, trying to reach out and hold Katie's hand behind Edward's head on the sofa, trying to comfort her.
"It broke my heart.", Edward said next as he looked sadly at me beside him, "I thought that I'd have this wonderful little piece of time with Bella…and then I'd go back to my life and she'd go back to hers…I thought I'd never see her again. I even planned to be sleazy and cruel on the last day we had together…so she'd think I was just a hardened whore that didn't care about her…then she could go on with her own life. And the more time I spent with her, the more I knew I couldn't do it. I loved her…I broke my own rule: never to fall in love again."
"Thank God for my Dad.", I said onscreen.
And Edward quickly added, with a firm nod, "Every day of my life I thank God for your Dad."
Then Charlie was onscreen! And he said right out, "I wanted to kill him. I almost did. But once I calmed down, I could see it. I know an abused person when I see one – and I saw that he needed help. And that's my job."
Then Peter's voice said, "And now…it's Edward and Bella's job too."
And Edward was answering a ringing phone in his office, saying, "Lost Angels."
And right away, his hand grabbed a pen and he was scribbling fast as he listened, no doubt this was someone calling him for help. Edward always took notes. Sometimes the call would be cut off, sometimes they would hang up. But Edward would have his notes…and he'd try to locate who or where that person he lost was. It didn't always work out…but sometimes, it did.
"It's okay, cry if you want to. I know. Just please don't hang up. Stay with me, you promise? Okay. Where are you?", Edward asked softly and patiently, "I'll come to YOU."
The camera showed our desks at Lost Angels House…they were face to face and I was already on another line, talking to someone and taking my own notes about another boy we were looking for…someone had seen him and she was telling me where. This boy had been ready to go with Edward last week…and he suddenly disappeared. We had been everywhere handing out cards, even offering money if someone would let us know if they'd seen him.
Sometimes we would not get any calls. Other times, our phones rang off the hook.
They finally came to speak about Katie and she was brilliant on the screen. I still think being a real actress on TV or movies is in her future. So much like Edward but then I still see a lot of Tanya there too….they compliment each other in her so beautifully.
Peter interviewed her and Tao as they painted inside the building that would soon be their business together. Katie and Tao would soon be martial arts teachers, working in their own dojo. Katie had done a couple of small acting jobs in three movies in her teen years…and that money she earned was HUGE. Tao had worked at Jimmy Chan's since he was 14 years old and saved most of that money. Together they bought this place and spend all their free time fixing it up and getting it ready for opening.
I have a feeling that's where Tao is planning to pop the question to Katie.
"We want to work with kids.", Katie smiled as red little pain dots shined on her cheeks, "I've gone to schools for a couple years now, telling kids about me and my Dad…and my Mom…it helps them to know they're not alone…if they've been hurt by someone or if they've been abused. I guess, in a way, I'm a lot like my parents, wanting to help people, in my own way. But I don't think I could sit at a desk all day…I like this setting better. And here, I get to kick some butt while I'm teaching! That's what helped ME get through my pain…so what more could a girl ask for?"
"Tell me you didn't just say BUTT on television.", Edward grumbled, his hand over his mouth.
"After all the stuff YOU just said?", Katie argued back, her voice high pitched, "I could've said ASS, you know. I didn't!"
"Not now you guys!", I stopped them immediately.
I felt relieved once our own personal stories were over with and the show focused on the Lost Angels House.
They showed some of the things we all do here, like helping the angels with their court dates. Edward and I go with them so they're not alone, if they're facing some kind of charges. And what's so wonderful is that Rosalie is with us now…she is a lawyer, and a successful one, but she once told me that she is a Lost Angels lawyer FIRST before anything else. She defends our angels like they're her family. She's fierce, smart, and she usually has her way in the end. She helps seal their records so they can go out there and find a job and not have their past count against them. She is a vital part of Lost Angels and without her, we would've lost a lot of our angels to the jail system.
"Alice and Kerri are the managers of Lost Angels House.", Peter's voice informs a couple minutes later as Edward steps inside the new, bright mansion and greets them both with huge hugs. Edward is all about the hugs these days. He hugs everyone. I think once he hugged the mailman on the first day we got mail here at this address.
"I'm a country vet so I have a lot of free time on my hands, thank God.", Edward says into the camera as it follows him around the house while he gives us a tour, "And that's when I go out looking for new angels. I know where to look. I know how to deal with pimps and johns. Sometimes, women approach ME….thinking I'm working!"
Then I came onscreen, sitting in one of the meeting rooms at the mansion, a yellow wall behind me as I talk about this period in our lives.
"I hated that.", I said without hesitation, "After Edward saved Kerri, he was hooked on it. He wanted to go out there to the bigger cities around here and walk the streets to find other people he could help. I hated that idea. I had seen Victoria in action and Kevin…I knew how dangerous those people were. I didn't want him up against these people again, after we fought so hard to get out ourselves. I didn't want him hurt ever again. I didn't like him going out there alone, trying to get hookers to quit their jobs while their pimps are coming up behind him, probably with a knife or a gun in their hand. How was I supposed to hang out at home with our daughter while he was out doing this? I couldn't do it. He could've been killed. A couple of times he DID come home all beat up. One night he didn't come home at all. I was calling every cop I could think of…two days later I got a call from a hospital that Edward was there, and had just woken up from being unconscious. That was the last straw for me."
Then Edward's face was onscreen and he looked sad as he spoke.
"Bella was right.", he admitted, "It was crazy, wanting to do that. I saw her point and I agreed with her…and I tried to put the idea out of my mind…but I couldn't do it. I kept thinking about all the people I'd met and known during my time with Victoria. A few of them had been killed. I would hear about it from Emmett from time to time. I was becoming very sad and ashamed of myself, doing nothing. A couple weeks later, Emmett and Jasper showed up and applied for jobs."
And now, Emmett and Jasper were onscreen, in the hallway of the house as Edward walked up and he introduces them as "my bodyguards".
"We keep his pretty face intact.", Jasper says sarcastically, arching his right brow as he looks into the camera.
"When he goes out, we come along.", Emmett informs, "He just goes right up to girls, guys, whoever…without even worrying if their pimps are around…he hands out his little cards, not caring what they might do to him. Good thing Bella hired us to bring him home in one piece."
"It's not like THAT!", Edward argued on camera, shoving Emmetts face away, "I can handle myself, don't believe them. They come with me to get me food when I'm hungry…and for the company."
Jasper starts laughing in the background and I laugh, too, at how goofy and loveable they all are together. I'm so glad they weren't separated for long. They really are brothers. Once we went through the trial and refused to be in witness protection anymore, one day we got a very loud knock on our door. It was Emmett! The next week Jasper showed up…then Rosalie…and finally Alice. It looks like they didn't really want to keep hiding either and they've been with us ever since.
Charlie also lives in town. He teaches at Casper Police Academy. That recommendation came from Bob himself. Charlie doesn't use the wheelchair anymore at all. He uses the prosthetic leg and you'd never be able to tell he has one from the way he gets around now. He's better than ever.
They showed Edward answering the phone again, saying, "Lost Angels."
And a very loud, angry voice came shouting on the other end and Edward's whole face went from soft and patient…to stern and restrained rage…it was an angry pimp…screaming at Edward for "fucking with his business."
"Fuck you, you piece of shit!", Edward sneered back into the phone, "She's not going anywhere. She's with me now and you're never getting her back."
There's a pause while the caller shouts some more then Edward smirks.
"Oh yea?", he doesn't sound scared at all, "You're gonna come GET ME? Uh OH! You're pretty tough, huh? So far you've only beaten women, come GET ME then! Try fighting a MAN! My address is 552 Locust Avenue. I'm here – come get me! And bring some friends!"
At that, Edward slams the phone down.
"Aren't you afraid they'll come and hurt you?", Peter asks.
Edward scoffs. "Gutless cowards? No. None of them have ever come here to face me. And even if they did, I'm not afraid…not in this town. And definitely not in this house. This is a safe place. I used to think there was no such thing…but now I know there is. And if they show up, they're done. Because that's when we take them to jail."
The scene changes and it's another day, in the Lost Angels House, and the camera is following Edward.
"This is a very important wall.", Edward says reverently onscreen as he stops and the camera focuses on it.
In big letters, on top of the wall, it says, "They DON'T love you." This 'they' refers to pimps, owners, master, mistresses…all of them. In the center is a painting of Edward, hands bound above his head, on his knees, shirtless, his back covered in bloody lashes. His eyes are closed and his head is down and a single tear is moving down his face.
"My first angel painted this for me.", Edward displayed it proudly with a smile, "Kerri, who you met a few seconds ago. And over the years, if you look, all these pictures are of people who have been here…who wanted to add their pictures to the wall to drive the point home for others who come here after them."
I could see the pictures of injuries…gashes in the face…bruises, stab wounds, black eyes, swollen lips and even a broken arm as the camera slowly moved over them…all people we had known…people Edward had found and brought to us.
"It's not pretty.", Edward's voice finally broke the silence, his eyes wet as he spoke, "But it's the truth. This is just some of the pain and abuse I've seen over the years. But it's nothing compared to the hope and love that keeps growing inside this house."
Then Edward smirks and says to the camera, "This house is guarded by ghosts. I've seen them, here and there, once in awhile. This place was an abandoned, empty place…full of pain and sadness…anger. The girls were ladies of the evening and were murdered in their sleep…burned alive. They saved us here…a long time ago. And when this house was given to us, I couldn't think of a better place to have the Lost Angels House. When I bring someone here for the first time, they ARE dead inside. Their heart is broken, their spirit is broken…just like mine was.
But this is a place where the dead rise again…spirits come back to life…or refuse to die. There are a lot of tears here…a lot of anger….but there's more laughter and life than anything else. And there's hope. And that is the life blood of this house.
I asked the ghosts…the ladies of this house…before I hammered one nail…I stood here and asked them if they would accept my idea for this place. And I got their answer. We haven't had one single incident here…not one fire…not one report of anything scary or threatening at all. They do things like, turn the lights off if I'm working too long at my desk, if I'm falling asleep in front of my computer. Once in awhile, I hear them…like a very faraway bunch of girls laughing. When I go home at night, I say goodnight to them before I walk out the door. I think they're at peace now. They like us being here. And I would never ask them to leave. We all get along."
Rosalie was on the screen now, Alice and I sitting next to her on a white sofa in one of the meeting rooms at the mansion – and she looked angry as she recalled, "The three of us were in NEW YORK! Where there are thousands of prostitutes! And we were calling everywhere, trying to find Edward some kind of help to get him out of his situation! NO ONE cared! NO ONE helped him! All they heard was that he was a prostitute and they were like 'Well, he got himself into his mess, he can figure his way out of it.' CLICK!"
"That's the sad thing.", Alice said, "People think it's something you asked for, like you WANTED to be this…so they turn their back on you…Edward is right. No one hears them screaming for help. Or they just don't care. There's all kinds of help for alcoholics, drug addicts, even people who beat their kids….but there's no one giving a damn about these thousands of people out there on the streets…"
"There is now.", I said to Alice on the screen and the three of us smiled at each other, proudly.
Rosalie gave a firm nod and said, "Damn straight."
"I never had to walk the streets.", Edward was back on again, talking to Peter in the stables, and he was stroking Yoyo's mane. Yoyo is all grown up now, the hugest horse in the rodeo…and he's the star of the show.
"I was sold in the club.", Edward said as he thought back to those days, the sadness back in his eyes once more, "I was sold on the internet…and I was very expensive. It costs a lot when you want to damage the merchandise, burn its flesh, cut its skin and make it bleed. But that was my job…to be the toy…to be whatever they wanted me to be, whenever they wanted it. I did my job well, with a big smile on my lips…and a very happy twinkle in my eyes. I thought she loved me…I began to believe the lie…I wanted their money…I wanted my daughter whole again, I wanted her to have a life, even though mine was over, or so I thought. I became a wonderful pretender. I even fooled myself. I told myself all the time that Victoria loved me. I even told it to Bella in the beginning. I thank God every day for Bella. She opened my eyes."
Then Peter asked Edward, as he was smiling at Yoyo's still huge and innocent brown eyes, "What would you like people to know about Lost Angels?"
"I want them to know that there's a place to call now.", Edward said a little loudly, his passion showing through as he spoke, "If you're trapped and have nowhere to go…if you want to get out and can't…if you're scared and feel like they're going to kill you if you even DARE to call…please! Even if it's only for a minute, call us! I will come to you, wherever you are, you don't have to live close by. We will hear you – we won't hang up on you…we CARE! You'll have a place to live, we'll help you find a job, or finish school…we'll get you clean if you're an addict…and eventually, when you're ready, you will be able to get your own place and start living a real life…anything you need…whatever you need."
Then, in the next shot, is Edward shoveling horse manure and tossing it at the camera, letting out a little laugh, his cowboy hat perched proudly on his head.
"But it's no free ride here.", Edward says as he stands there, still shoveling, as expertly as he used to when he worked here full time, "Everyone who comes here starts right here, in the stables where I started. You will shovel the shit, it's a motto around here. But I think anyone who works in the sex trade will agree…shoveling shit is better than what we used to do."
"It helped me…", Edward continues as he shovels a bit deeper, "Thinking about something other than myself…something other than Victoria…caring for the horses…caring for something besides yourself…was very good for me. And these horses…they're hard work. You have to earn their respect. You have to sweat…and stink…and believe it or not, when you do that…believe me, your mind won't be on yourself."
"I still come here and do this every now and again…", he smiles as he shovels, "No one should ever get too big that they can't do this. It's honest work. It's good work."
Peter asks, "How do the people you bring here react to this? Don't they get mad? Or do they find it too hard and just quit…and maybe go back on the streets?"
Edward thought for a second and smiled, answering, "They don't all look thrilled at first…it's tough work. Not a lot of hookers are used to tough work. And the pay is not wonderful here. It's a hard reality for them. But you know what? Not one of the people I've brought here has ever harmed any of the horses. Sometimes they throw a little fit and complain…but I'm used to that. I did it myself. But after a few days, after they think it over and think of what their alternative is…they always show up the next morning on time, ready to work."
"All of them?", Peter asks, smiling.
"No.", Edward looks a little sad now and I know why. We have lost a few angels along the way. Some of them…for all Edward's and all of our efforts…just aren't ready yet.
"Some of them leave.", Edward replies curtly, avoiding the camera as he shovels a little harder, throwing the manure in the wheelbarrow, then he looks right into the camera, saying, "Some of them fight it and just take off. But I don't quit that easily. I go right back out and find them, most of them…go right back to where I found them…and I'm there the next day, driving them crazy until they agree to come back with me. There was one girl, I won't say her name in case her family watches this…but she was a very sweet, very special little girl. She thought all this was too hard. She ran off in the night and went back to her pimp…her boyfriend, she called him."
Edward pauses and I feel sick inside because I know what happened to that girl. She was only fourteen years old.
And he finishes the story by saying, a crack in his voice as he speaks it, "He killed her the minute he saw her again. For running away. Stabbed her sixty seven times. She was killed while I was sleeping…before I even knew she was gone. I should've locked her in her room. But then I would've been just like THEM, I guess."
And I knew something else he didn't tell Peter onscreen. She did leave Edward a note. It simply said, "I'm sorry, Edward. I'm just not as strong as you are. Please try to forgive me."
Peter's voice doesn't ask Edward anything else but Edward speaks up anyway.
"I know I can't save everyone.", he said, his voice choppy with emotion as he keeps shoveling, "My wife and best friend-doctor- Peter helped me see that, after a few years…I accept that. But I'll always keep trying. I'll never give up…on anyone. No matter how hard they resist me, no matter how they try to shut me up…or get rid of me...it won't matter. I'll keep coming back. I won't write anyone off as a lost cause. I know I have to keep my mind on the ones I can save…"
Then, a girl that used to be at the Lost Angels house, Marni, came on the screen and Edward and I both gasped, totally surprised by this. We loved all our angels, every one of them, and kept in touch with most of them after they left us.
"I was face down, drowning in my own vomit when Edward found me.", she shared, not looking ashamed at all.
Then, another boy we know, Mark, a former Lost Angel, came on, recalling, "Edward beat up the two guys that were sharing me in an alley at like…3 o'clock in the morning…I was just a kid, I was being raped, I wasn't even a hooker…and this guy came out of the dark…and stopped them…I couldn't believe it…it was like a movie. Only I thought there were no heroes in real life, not like that."
Another man came on next, an older man Edward found one night a few years ago. He was in his thirties and once seemed happy to be a prostitute…his name is Michael.
"Edward hounded me and hounded me until I gave in and went with him one night. I just wanted him to stop following me so I figured, I'll go with him, blow him or something and then he'll leave me alone. But that's not what Edward was after. Now that I think of it, I think I quit hooking just to get rid of him."
Michael laughs for a second before another girl comes on the TV screen.
"Edward carried me over his shoulder because I was too high to walk.", Mika said with tears in her eyes, letting one fall down her face, "I was crazy. I kicked him in the face with my high heeled pumps and he had to get stitches. And he still carried me to Lost Angels House. He was still nice to me. I gave him a scar. He's still pretty though."
She smiles, probably seeing his face in her mind and shares, "I'm married now and almost finished with college. I'm going to be a nurse."
Marni came back on and smiled, saying, "I'm a physical therapist now and I got my two kids back. Life is good!"
Michael came back on and announced, "I'm an artist…and I have my third show next month in New York."
Mark was back onscreen and smiled, saying, "I just graduated high school and want to go into law. I got accepted into Princeton. I also know how to fight now. Thanks, Emmett."
"I am a policewoman.", another girl we helped, Alexis, came on, adding, "And I also work with abused children."
There were faces we knew…one after the other…I counted at least ten or eleven…and then I lost count…all of them were telling their stories…telling the world about Lost Angels…and it all came flooding back to me…every one of the memories of each of them…their beginnings…the part we had all played in helping them the best we could…and the endings…when they were ready to fly away…stronger…hugging all of us, tears in their eyes, though smiling…and saying they loved us…and how we saved their lives…the way this was done, at the end, each one of them after the other, mixed in together like this…it made me realize just what we had done…and when I looked at Edward, he was crying right along with me. I guess we're just a couple of geeks…but we have each other and that's all I cared about.
One voice after another kept going….
"I'm married now with four children and I'm a doctor."
"I live with my partner and we're opening a book store together next month."
"I'm a music teacher now and I just got engaged!"
"I'm clean for two years and 44 days now…I only work for Blockbuster now but it's an honest job. I love it…and I will keep fighting until I have everything I want!"
"Oh my God.", Marni was back on, getting very teary eyed as she spoke, "Bella…saved my life. I'll always love her."
Then Mark was back and informed, "Edward brought me to Bella. And if it wasn't for her, I'd probably have killed myself that night."
Michael was back and smiled, saying, "They're like the perfect match – Edward tracks you down and drags you to Lost Angels House…and then Bella comes in and starts to work on you. That woman is a little goddess! I just fell for her right away…she heals you…you know?"
"I thank God they're together and that I was brave enough to call them. They really are the best people in the world.", Stacey, another former lost angel said next.
Then a little mixture of all of them, each looking at the camera as if they were looking at us…and they all said thank you to us in their own way.
"Thanks you guys!", Michael blew us a huge kiss with both hands, "You rock!"
"I love you Edward and Bella!", Marni smiled as she cupped her hands around her lips, "EVERYONE at the house! I love you all! You saved me. Saved me from myself. Thanks."
She got choked up at the end of her speech and Katie was handing Edward and I tissues right now.
"Love you guys! Thanks for giving a damn and making me believe in heroes again!", Mark smiled.
Alexis smiled and tilted her head a bit, as if she could see us, "I love you…and I thank you. Everything I do with my life now is because of you…all of you. Keep doing what you're doing. Don't stop. Don't EVER stop."
"I'm sorry I kicked you, Edward. I love you. I always will. Bella, I love you too! Thanks for being so tough with me…I needed it."
Then, after dozens of former angels thanked us, Edward was back on.
"I love every one of them.", Edward said about the angels, "They are our children too. I used to be this little wimp who was so scared – I once even thought that I shouldn't even HUG people anymore because they might know what I was. But now I hug everyone, I have only too much love to give!"
"Oh…Edward…", Marni smiled, saying, "Best. Hugger. Ever."
Mark was back on now, adding, "Lots of hugs. That's for sure."
"When Edward hugs you, you just FEEL safe…instantly.", Alexis stated, "You feel loved."
Now Edward was back and said, "How can I ask a 13 year old girl to be brave and risk her life to call me…if I'm not brave enough to face these bastards that are destroying their lives? I'll defend every one of them…even if it means my own life. I know this is what I'm here for."
Then I was back, sitting next to Edward, and said, "I love our life. I love our work and that we can do it together. Our children will grow up strong – and not scared."
"It's the best gift I could give them.", Edward said beside me, "It's something I never thought I would have…this bravery I've discovered awhile ago in myself. I was a slave all because of fear. It's an evil thing. It's stronger than iron bars, thicker than chains. It would have kept me a slave if not for Bella reminding me of that. I could be dead now. Everything we have now…everything we do now, for others…is all because of HER. Because she was brave enough to reach out and try saving me…a real lost cause back then."
"But we don't do it alone.", I said on the screen next to Edward and he gently shook his head, agreeing with me, "Without Kerri, Alice, Rosalie, Emmett, Jasper…there wouldn't be a Lost Angels House…not to mention the support we get from everyone in town…the community…our families…every single person we know does their part to make Lost Angels what it is."
"Absolutely.", Edward confirmed.
Peter's voice came on and said, "What would you wish for…if you had just one wish?"
Edward smiled, thinking about that with a tilt of his head and I was smiling at him as I sat beside him, watching.
"For myself…nothing.", he said, "I have everything I ever wanted right now. If I could wish for something, I would wish for more Lost Angels Houses. I wish there could be one in every state…all over the world. And I want the world to see what our angels go through here and all the hard work they do to turn their lives around. That's the whole reason I said yes to this six part series. This first part may be about us but the next parts will be the best…you'll see what we do…you'll see our angels at their very worst…and at their very best. And what I'm wishing for…is for other people to want to do a Lost Angels House in their neighborhood…so this place doesn't end and die with us. I want there to always be a Lost Angels House…for as long as there are prostitutes out there who need us. Only when there are no more…that's when I'll be okay with closing the doors. Until that day, we are open for business."
I gave a definite nod and added, "Always."
"Always.", Edward repeated as we smiled at each other…and before we knew we were doing it, we were kissing right there on television! Edward held my face and got the kiss as everyone around us went, "WOOOO!"
"You kissed in the show?", Katie asked, looking directly at us on the couch next to her, "Don't you two have any restraint at all?"
"No.", Edward said simply, smirking back at his daughter.
Peter was walking out of the room, on the TV screen, where we were kissing, closing the door, looking at the camera and saying, "There's definitely lots of love here, I've seen that everyday that I've been in this house. It's a good place. A safe place. If you need help, help of any kind…please call. Any time of the day or night. There will be someone here, ready to answer you. Call 1-800-LST-ANGL or www dot lost angels dot com. Your voice will be heard, you will not be ignored anymore. You can do it. Be brave. And just reach out."
"Look at you!", Edward held his hand out to the TV, smiling at Peter, "You're fucking incredible, Pete! You make me misty eyed while you're giving the phone number!"
Peter blushed now and waved his hand at Edward, as if he was nuts.
There was a nice piece of the Peter Gabriel song "Don't Give Up" as Peter walks out of Lost Angels House…and the camera pulls back, showing the entire mansion…the sun setting hot red behind it. It was like we were flying over it, as an angel would.
Slowly, the camera just focuses on the red sunset…and then…it fades into black.
Everyone around us now was applauding and cheering and Edward clapped, too, for everyone else, not himself…I thought the whole thing was great, and I couldn't wait to see the next five parts of the series, where we would see five of our angels' journey from beginning to end. They had taped us for months to make this show and if the rest was as great as this first part, then I knew I could stop worrying.
Without even seeing the next parts, I thought over some of the things the cameras were present for.
Edward carrying in Beth that winter night, she was blue and looked dead. Emmett had found her under the snow, not moving. And after she was released from the hospital, she was still blue for a couple days afterwards. He took good care of her, he fed her soup every night…he talked to her, even when she wasn't able to talk back. He told her where she was and that she was safe.
There were also harder times with Beth, too. I remember the night Edward got angry with her because she kept talking about how nice her life was before, when she was a high end escort. She would talk about how she could buy anything, go on the best vacations, and how many cars she used to have.
The other girls in the house had to listen to this all the time and it made things harder on them. Finally one night Edward couldn't take it anymore and he shouted at her.
"You want your fucking money?", he asked her as he went to her closet in her room, taking her hangers out and throwing them onto the bed, "Then let's get your shit, I'll drive you back to your scumbag PIMP myself! Let's GO! If all you care about is how much money you have and how you miss all your THINGS…then by all means, let's get you back there so you can suck the dicks of all those great rich guys who knocked you out and left you to freeze under the snow!"
Beth was crying and begging Edward not to throw her out in less than five seconds. And they ended up in a huge hug on the floor, because she had actually dropped to her knees while she begged Edward not to toss her out. She and Edward kept saying they were sorry…and Edward held her and stroked her hair forever, telling her it was okay….and that he'd never kick her out. It was good now when Edward showed his anger…he let it out…then reigned it right back in…and always apologized…but now, he just used it for good….like this time. And it worked. It woke Beth up to the realities of her life. And she started to see that her value wasn't in how much money she had or was making. She started to look inside herself to find something more than that. It was a big turning point for her.
There would be other footage where Edward brought Destiny here. She would beg Edward for drugs, for hours, while he watched over her through the night. He had to lock them in her room because she would try to physically get out to find drugs somewhere in the house! She used to try anything to get him to give her what she wanted…she would even try to kiss him and grab his penis, taking off her clothes and promising him the best sex he ever had if he would give her something. Edward never wavered, though, and was always as patient as he could be, re-dressing her and making her get back in bed to try and get some sleep.
All of us would be in the series, all doing our jobs that we did everyday. We would see Emmett and Jasper fighting to protect Edward and the newest angel he'd found. We would see Kerri and Alice work their magic, keeping things running, both financially and emotionally. Alice had become an accountant, as she wanted to when she attended New York University. And Kerri had graduated college too, but didn't want to work anywhere else except Lost Angels House. She began at the bottom, as Edward's assistant, answering phones and running errands. And now they were in charge of everything from fixing a leaky faucet in the bathroom to being there when someone's heart was broken.
We would see Rosalie doing her battle in the courtroom, defending and fighting for the rights of another lost soul ready to be found again. And I'm sure Peter and I would be there…talking to each of our angels as I talked to my first angel…Edward Cullen. That cocky little piece of perfection, displaying himself half naked on my couch that first day, thinking he'd make me stop trying.
He had no idea who he was up against.
My Edward Cullen. He does have a last name. Everyone does. It all began with him, my lost dark angel. I thank God I colored outside the lines…I would do it all again.
"Let's forget this now and EAT!", Edward announced and in seconds, we were all sitting around our super long dining room table. It was packed but no one seemed to mind. Everyone was eating and having a great time, talking and passing the garlic salt, grabbing their slices of pizza.
I just sat there, moving my eyes from Edward to Katie…from Katie to Tao…to Marcus and Jenna…Bob and Sharon…Peter…Melody and Josh…Charlie next to me…Ben and Angela…Rosalie and Emmett…Jasper and Alice…Joseph and Katherine. How did we get so lucky to have all these amazing people in our lives? I felt tears come to my eyes and Edward held my hand, leaning in gently and whispering, "You alright, love?"
I could only nod. My voice wasn't working. And he kissed me with a smile and his wonderful pizza garlic and cherry icee breath comforted me and slowly brought me back to earth right before he ended the kiss and stared into my eyes, giving me that perfect smile.
"I love you.", he whispered, and I was the only one to hear it.
"I love YOU.", I breathed the words back, overwhelmed by the depth of my feelings for him…a usual occurrence even after all this time.
Edward once told me about the red line…the one he crossed every night to leave his heart and soul behind and become the "whore" as he put it. There are no more red lines anymore, not for him. Everywhere he turns, there is a person who loves him, who cares about what happens to him…a splashed, mixed color that blots out the horrid red lines Edward used to know.
He will never cross that line again. He will never BE that again. I think all the colors we blended together over the years…I know we erased any red lines that might have existed…even in his mind.
I know that we'll always be on the lookout for lost angels…and when we get too old to do it all, we'll pass it on to our children, and their children…it won't die…ever. It will get stronger…and bigger. There will always be a Lost Angels House somewhere. I truly believe in that. As much as I believe in Edward. As much as I believe in US.
"I don't want any garlic salt on mine.", Katie shielded her slice from Edward's garlic shaker, "Stop Daddy."
"Alright.", he winked at her, smiling at Tao…a real smile this time.
Tao smiled back at Edward and said, "It was a great show, Mr. C. People are gonna call, believe me."
"We'd better eat now before next week comes.", Alice chirped in, taking the garlic and sprinkling it all over her slice, "I'm probably on the night shift for the phones!"
"Not every night.", Jasper pointed at Edward, who looked back at him innocently, "I want my woman available at least two nights a week, write it down Cullen!"
"Noted.", Edward touched his finger to his temple, eating his slice.
"I'm so proud of you, all of you.", Angela said as Ben used the garlic next, loading up on it. When Angela saw this, she slapped his hand, "HEY! What are you trying to do? Give yourself an attack? Give me that!"
"HEY!", Ben complained.
She stole the garlic away and handed it to Emmett, who used it heavily also.
"Hey ED!", Emmett shouted, "When's the part when I kick that one guy's ass? The guy who takes the gun out and sticks it in your face? Is that in the next part?"
Edward had been shaking his head at Emmett with bugged out eyes and when I looked at Edward he froze, giving me a very innocent smile. And even then he just said, "Hi.", to me, his mouth half filled with pizza.
"What?", I shouted, "What guy had a gun in your face? When? Why aren't I ever told any of these things?"
"Peter.", Edward called, "Why are you so FAR AWAY from me? Get over here, bring your pizza! You know you're never off the clock, loser of the Great Leaf War!"
Peter frowned and his lip became a flat line.
"Are you ever gonna let that go?", he asked, "It's been ten years man!"
"NO!", Edward argued back…and I realized immediately what they were doing…they were trying to distract me off the topic of the gun in my husband's face…fine…but we would be going over it later – alone.
"You LOST the war!", Edward explained again as if it were yesterday, "Accept it and stop crying about it!"
Everyone was arguing now…in on the debate. For a moment I was going to get mad…but then as I looked at all their faces…all I could do was burst out laughing…this is my life. And look at all these wonderful nitwits I'm surrounded by…look at them!
God, how I love them all! How I love my life! How I love all these gorgeous colors!
I love all you guys. Thank you for sticking with this story and being so brave during some very rough parts and chapters. I knew you could do it. I'm so glad I did this second part to Red Line, I have loved writing it so much. It became something totally different from Red Line, and at times, I couldn't believe where it was going. But I really like where things ended up here.
Let me know what you think. And thanks again for all your support and love over these stories I've written. I love doing it and look forward to writing even more of them.
See you all soon! Be good!