Disclaimer: I'll say it once to get it out of the way, generally because I forget to include this sort of thing over and over! None of the characters belong to me, they belong to Stephenie Meyer, etc.
A/N: I've actually been hand-writing this story for quite a while now. Actually, about a year, come to think of it. And it's very nearly complete. The problem usually comes in typing it up! So, while I've got a small buffer already and I'll try to keep posting 1-2 chapters a week, depending on their size and such, encouragement is helpful to keep me typing! So please read and review!
Forks, Washington – Renee
"I can't do it anymore, Charlie! I can't put down any more roots here!"
It hurt to see the expression on his face. So little ever seemed to get to Charlie, to affect him enough that he could show emotion without thought to being embarrassed.
I knew without a doubt, sadly, that this would be one of the times that would be filed away in my mind.
The first had been the day he proposed – he'd been far too shy when we started dating in high school to show his emotions. The second had been our wedding day. Both times I had seen the grin on his face reach his eyes, and the faint shimmer that spoke of the threat of tears. The last time, when Bell was born, was the only time I'd seen the immoveable Lieutenant Swan cry.
But I carefully steeled myself back up again, running the same pep talk I had given myself earlier through my head. You're miserable here, you know that will never change. You hate Forks and small towns. Charlie thrives here. You can't stay here and be miserable, it would ruin not only your life but Charlie's. You love him enough to not want that. Most importantly, think what living like that would do to Bella.
All the ferocity and strength of conviction that I had built up earlier rushed back, but my voice became softer, pleaded with him to understand. "I can't stay here another minute. I hate this stupid, boring town. I'm miserable here, Charlie. You must have seen that."
I could see his Adam's apple bob as he swallowed hard, actually having to struggle to keep himself in control. In the end, he only managed one word. "Bella?"
I glanced up the stairs where she still slept in the crib that she was quickly out-growing, then down to the small bag that I had filled with her things. I hadn't even considered that she wouldn't come with me. But that small question brought doubt rushing in. I knew without a doubt that Charlie loved me and Bella both more than anything. I knew it pained him to think of me leaving, that it would very nearly kill him to see us both go in a single night. Much less certain was my future. I only knew that once I was in my car, I was headed to the nearest place that was as opposite of Forks as I could possibly get. I'd grown up in Forks, just like Charlie. I only knew that I longed for something bigger, more exciting, more full of life from brief visits to the nearby cities. I wouldn't know where to call home until I got there, and even then it could be months before I had a job and a decent place to raise Bella prepared. So I sucked in a deep breath, and sat the bag on the floor.
"You're right. She should stay here, for now." As I spoke, I heard my voice break for the first time.
Charlie made a move toward me, a hand raised to touch my cheek, to comfort me. But I made a quick step back, and conjured up that resolve once more.
"Just let me go, Charlie. It didn't work out, okay?"
He faltered again, and I saw his hand drop back to his side. As I wheeled to dash out the door in the pouring rain, I tried to ignore the intense pain in his eyes, and the glimmer threatening.
La Push, Washington – Charlie
"Hey, kid," I muttered as I picked her up in my arms and gave her a toss in the air, just to hear the delighted squeal.
"I couldn't help a small laugh as I sat her back on her feet. "Any higher, kid, and you'd be through the roof!"
She pouted for just a moment before a thought seemed to occur to her and she brightened again. "Becca and 'Chel have a brother!"
I had to laugh. "I know, kiddo. That's why I'm here so early."
She cocked her head to the side, seeming to finally note it was still dark outside. Working the night shift meant that I never picked Bella up before it was light outside – I'd normally go home first to nap a couple of hours, and at night I'd drop her off just after nightfall and sleep before work as well, so I could be awake and with her during the daylight hours. It was an odd juggling act – my Chief was constantly trying to convince me to give the night shift to one of the newer officers. In a town as quiet as Forks, night-time patrols were filled with lots of silence, perhaps catching the occasional teen out after curfew. Certainly no place for a lieutenant that hoped to advance. But I told I didn't care about advancing right now. I had tried to make Renee leaving as easy as possible on Bella… but I also would never forgive myself for anything that could be calculated as time lost.
Renee called two or three times a week to talk to Bella, and would always talk to me at least for a couple of minutes to update me on how things were going with getting settled. I was starting to get to the point where I was glad to hear the joy in her voice when she would briefly describe some new experience.
And I had to admit, I was glad to hear that this place wasn't working out and that she would be moving again in a week or so.
But I was pulled back to the present by my daughter, as she tugged on my hand. "Yes, Bells?"
"Daddy, come see my Jacob!"
My eyebrows must have shot up in the air pretty fast, because I heard a chuckle from the direction of the master bedroom, and looked up to see Bully walk over. "Her Jacob?"
"I was as surprised as you. But I guess it makes sense. Bella had some trouble sleeping sometimes, when she'd miss Renee. So Sarah would have her lay with her for a while. First time she does, Jacob gives this really hard kick, and doesn't let up until Bella starts laughing… That's the only time Sarah says he kicks so hard. Always when it's time for Bella to get here." He laughed again, and even I could see how jubilant he was, filled with the joy of a father. "It sure was something waiting for him to tire himself out nights when you didn't work, Charlie… I'm almost afraid to think of the nights when Bella isn't here now!"
My friend just grinned at me before he turned on his heel and dashed back to his wife. He returned a couple minutes later, a soft bundle in his arms that fussed fitfully.
Bella began to jump up and down, trying her best to see. With a laugh, I reached down to lift her up to see.
"Hush, my Jacob. Your mommy is sleepy!" She reached out to put her own pale little hand over his tightly clenched fist. I could only watch in silence as he slowly calmed down, then blinked wide eyes up at us.
I looked over at Billy, silently amazed at what I had just witnessed.
He could only shrug at me. "Sarah thinks they have some sort of spiritual connection."
I scoffed lightly, but stopped short when I saw his eyebrow go up, as if daring me to laugh.
"Don't disregard such things so lightly, Charlie. There are many things in our world that we cannot hope to make sense of. Sarah's always been a little more attuned to that sort of thing, and it's heightened when she's pregnant… especially with Jacob. I don't fully understand it, but I won't question the possibility that it exists. Especially when that means disagreeing with my wife. And I try to make a point to never, ever disagree with my wife."
I laughed with him a little at his joke. "Yeah, alright. I guess I can agree with that much at least, just…"
"Little odd to have it be your kid, huh?"
"Yeah," I grinned a bit at him. "Look, I talked to Harry and Sue a couple days ago. They said they wouldn't mind watching Bells for a while. I know you guys won't have much time on your hands, between the girls and a newborn."
"Sure. At least it will be a little less crazy than it was with the girls."
As if on cue, two bleary-eyed five-year-olds walked into the room. "Daddy? Why is everyone awake? It's still dark outside."
"Because Mommy had your little brother!"
Immediately, they looked wide awake and rushed over to Billy as he knelt down to be closer to their height. I took the cue to leave the Black family to themselves for now, though Bella twisted in my arms in order to look back as I headed out the door.
A few days later, I got a call from Billy.
"You sound exhausted. Jacob giving you hell?"
A tired laugh. "Yeah. Definitely not a case for 'sleeps through the night'. Neither me or Sarah can get him down until after dawn. Sarah manages to get him to nap during the day, of course. Can't get him not to. We tried, to see if that would make him sleepy enough at night. Just made him crankier."
I laughed a little at that. "Well, have you had him checked out? There's tons of stuff that can make a baby cranky."
"We took him to the doctor two days ago. Said he was fine, that it was fairly normal for babies not to sleep the night through. Just to keep trying to get him used to a schedule."
"Yeah, well, he's the doc."
I heard him cut off as Sarah's softly pitched voice spoke up in the background, then a small shuffle that sounded like someone's hand covering the phone. I laughed to myself, then waited patiently as I watched Bella flip through a picture book, pore over each page as if she were trying to memorize every detail. I smiled as Billy finally came back on the phone.
"To be honest, Sarah asked me to call and ask if we would be able to start watching Bella again."
"Ah… Spirit stuff?"
He laughed a little, almost as if he were glad I was taking his request lightly.
"Sure thing, Billy. I trust Sarah enough to go on a little faith. Besides, I'm willing to lend my friend any help I can."
There was a sigh of relief. "Thanks, Charlie. If nothing else, it will make Sarah feel a lot better."
That night, I drove Bella to the Black's house. Carrying her inside through the thick layer of snow on the ground, I grimaced to hear an infant's cry from inside. Bella just started to bounce in my arms. "My Jacob?"
I stared at her for a moment, studied her blissful expression before I just let it go, and laughed a bit as I knocked on the front door. Hey, if my kid was going to have some 'spiritual ocnnection', it could be a lot worse than my best friend's son. "Yeah, kiddo. We're here to see your Jacob."
Forks, Washington – Charlie
"Come on, Renee! She just started second grade. She as friends at school, her Jacob is turning five in January-"
"Charlie! Did you just say her Jacob?" Renee suddenly laughed.
I couldn't help a sheepish grin and a light chuckle escaped me, despite the anger that had been building just a moment ago. "Yeah, well, almost five years of hearing it sort of makes it stick in your head, Ren."
She laughed again before she gave a sigh. "Look, Charlie. I know it's taken me a lot longer than it should have-"
My teeth gnashed together. "Five year,s Renee."
She sighed again. "I know. But everything is finally perfect. I got a great job, I've been a teacher for a year now and I still enjoy it every day. I love my kids here. Then, it's impossible not to love kindergartners, they come in so bright and eager every day… And I've got a great house in Phoenix. Bella's room is all set up…"
I pressed my lips together, shaking my head. "I wish you'd found some place closer, Renee. Five years, it's just been me and Bells. Now I'll get to see her… what? Major holidays, maybe a month or so in the summer?"
"I know, Charlie. But I think… I think that Phoenix will be good for her. She's already so much like you, Charlie. There's got to be a little of me in there, don't you think it's not so much to ask that she might enjoy the sun as much as I do? That she will love big city life, all the things there are to do here?"
"… No, I suppose not," I admitted, and rubbed the back of my neck out of a mixture of embarrassment and frustration. "Look, at least wait until after Christmas? Give her a chance to say good-bye to everyone. We go down to La Push for Christmas Eve with the Blacks and Clearwaters. I know she'll be upset if she misses that when it's so close."
"Alright, Charlie I don't mind. It will make things a little easier on her to be able to start after vacation anyhow. I could take a few days off and drive up? Maybe stay for a few days, then come back here for New Year's? I really thing she'd love the fireworks here, and it would give her a couple days to settle in."
"Yeah. Sounds great."
"Thank you, Charlie."
Phoenix, Arizona – Bella
"Hey, Mom? Have you seen my jeans? You know, the faded ones that all my friends signed before break?" I looked over the neat stacks of clothes before I packed them for my visit to Forks. "Mom?" When I didn't hear an answer, I ventured from my room to look for her. I searched the house before I found her in the kitchen, as she hung up the phone. "Mom! You didn't put my jeans in the freezer or something, did you? I saved a whole leg for Jake and all the kids at La Push." Not that it had been hard to save a 'whole leg'. Just tell the couple of wordier friends I had to keep it down to one paragraph. Beyond them, a few of my teachers had signed.
"Bella…" My mom looked up, looking as if she had just noticed I was in the room. I paused as I saw the look on her face, then rushed across the room.
"What happened, Mom? Did something happen to Phil at practice or something?" My mom had only been seeing her latest boyfriend for about a couple months now, but I could tell she was already falling hard for him.
"No, no… Bella… maybe you should hold off going to Forks for a week or so…"
"Dad? Is he-!" I dropped down onto a chair.
"No, Bella!" My mom gave a sheepish half-smile. "Guess now would be a good time to get over this hare-brained thing, huh? No, honey, your father is fine," she insisted as she sat down across from me.
"Then what, Mom?" Now that I knew that Dad was okay, it was a little easier to regain my normal patience with my mother's scatter-brained mannerisms.
"Sarah Black was in a pretty bad accident last night, honey."
"Oh… wow. Well, I can go up there and help around the house until she gets better."
"No, honey. She… she passed away. Charlie said… well, it was pretty bad."
I stared at her in horror for a few moments before I scrambled to my feet, and nearly fell over the chair as it tipped over. "Mom, call and change my flight for tonight!" I dashed away and returned to my room to begin flinging things into my suitcase and duffle bag, not caring if they were still neatly folded or not.
"Are you sure, honey?" My mom was at my bedroom door, but she held the cordless phone in her hand.
"Yeah, Mom. I want to be there for Rebecca, Rachel, Billy… and Jake. And Sarah was Dad's friend too. I should go be with all of them."
My mom gave a wistful smile. "My daughter, the twelve-year-old grown-up." But she turned away and began to dial the airport.
With a sigh, I finished packing the things I had laid out. Then I walked back to my closet and shoved aside the dresses my mom had bought for me over the past year, reached in for the black jacket and pants that I had gotten for myself for all the occasions my mom had hoped I would wear the dresses to. Staring at it, I slipped it off the hanger and packed it away with the rest of my things.
Forks, Washington – Bella
"No… no, Mom. Seriously, this is what I want. Yes, I guess part of it is because I think they need me."
She laughed a little. "I think you pull off this adult thing better than I do a lot of the time."
I shuffled my feet uneasily as I blushed. "I don't know about that… but Dad just made Deputy Chief of Police. And it's not like he could manage to cook before. Most nights before I took over, it was pizza, cold sandwiches, or microwaved frozen and Billy's getting worse, and the girls and Jake are having a hard time with that, on top of still dealing with Sarah's death… The girls especially, they try to avoid the house as much as possible…"
"Alright, honey… if you're sure… I'll send up some more of your things."
I smiled. "I'm sure," I promised yet again. "I'm glad you have Phil to help take care of you."
"Yeah, me too…"
I laughed at the sound of her voice. "Now, put me on speaker phone. I know he's there."
My mom no longer questioned why I asked her to do that. When important things came up, it was best to see that he knew. "Phil?"
"Yeah, Bella?" Came the reply, sounding a little echoed from the speaker phone.
"The office at my school will be open all this week. Make sure Mom goes down there and has them fax records to Forks Middle School? They already know to expect it, Dad knows the principal."
I heard a gasp in the background, then Phil's laughter. "Don't worry, Bella. Renee us just acting surprised that you already predicted her answer. I'll remind her before practice in the morning."
"Okay, thanks Phil. Bye Mom, love you!" I hung up, then turned to give my dad a hug. He accepted it and hugged me back quickly, but tight. "No worries, Dad. Just make sure to call her tomorrow after work. I know you two will have to talk…"
"And… you'd like me to make sure your records get sent?"
I grinned sheepishly. "Can we go down to Lap Push? I made a bigger thing of that lasagna I made for us last week."
Charlie stared at me for a moment, then chuckled and ruffled my hair. "You're too old for your age, kid. Gotta say, though… I'm glad you're no where near as accident-prone in the kitchen as you are everywhere else." To make his point, he eyed the bandage on my upper left arm.
I just grinned, then dashed to the fridge to grab the lasagna. "Come on!"
He laughed and reached out to take the dish from my hand. "Just to be safe."