Epilogue – And Then There Was...
The aftermath of what had happened at Chief Charlie Swan's house that day reverberated around Forks for months.
The death of Jacob Black at the hands of the local Police Chief sent shock waves through the community.
The general public – at least those who had always thought that Charlie Swan was a good cop and a good man – couldn't quite understand what had happened. They were shocked and stunned and had had real trouble understanding and believing all that they began to hear about the man.
Carol and Ken visited Bella and Harry and Sue often the first few days after the goings on at the Chiefs house and slowly all the details of what Jake had been trying to achieve came out. Edward had to admit that he knew a little of what had been planned. Bella had to admit that she was grateful for Jake bothering to try.
Of course it all came out in court and there were press and journalists lining the street outside the Seattle Courthouse from the very first second of the trial. Every day new details came to light and were published in newspapers and reported on the television news all around the country. Bella found the notoriety of being connected to the case very difficult to handle but she never once balked at having to testify against the man she'd spent most of her life calling dad.
Each day, for the twenty-nine days of the trial – Bella and Edward arrived at the courthouse flanked by family and friends who came to support and encourage her. Each day she took the stand and made her statements in a strong clear voice. Each day she returned to her family home and cried in the arms of her husband. But each and every morning she resolved to do what she must and returned to the court again.
Gary Benson counselled her threw the entire ordeal but it was the strength of the combined Cullen and Clearwater families that got her through it.
Elizabeth's paternity was duly proved and a stunned gallery listened as the shocking details of her conception and the treatment of her mother was hashed out for the public to hear and see.
Immediately public sympathy began to pour into the tiny town of Forks. Letters by the sackful. Gifts by the tonne. Emails, telegrams, texts and offers of support came from every corner of the country. Women who'd been through something similar began to form groups for self support. Online forums filled page after page of opinion and support for those who'd identified with Bella and her child.
Of course, as support for Bella and Elizabeth grew so too did the hate that poured out of the community for Charlie, and by extension for Jake.
As much as she didn't want it to it did hurt Bella that Jake was so hated. Complete strangers announced their pleasure at his demise to her. She was stopped in the street and told over and over how pleased people were that Jake had 'gotten what he deserved' that day in Charlie's house.
Of course there would never be a trial for Jake. The public had him tried and found guilty instantly, as the public usually do. When the recordings made that fateful day were played in open court Leah Clearwater was there to listen to them. She wept throughout and was comforted by her sister who sat proudly beside her.
Leah's recovery had gone very well. Within two days she was walking and within a week she was using the very same gym Bella had used during her physical therapy. When it came time for her to be discharged it was Bella and Seth who collected her.
Bella had spent hours every day by her sister's bedside and as Leah made her physical recovery the two women healed their relationship. There were no angry words exchanged. Leah felt infinitely guilty for having believed all the lies Jake told her and Bella felt guilty for writing Leah off without trying harder to get to know her. Neither had anything to feel guilty for, of course, but as these things tend to go their shared insecurities bound them together more tightly than anything else ever could have.
Together they mourned the loss of Jake. They did it quietly and without ever letting anyone around them know that they felt the way they did.
Bella didn't want to hate anyone and that included Jake. As children he had been her friend. As teenagers he'd been her confidante. As young adults he'd seemed to be her saviour. And when it was all said and done he had rescued her from Charlie. Bella had always been grateful for that, however short lived it had turned out to be. She'd forgiven Jake his mistakes a long time ago and nothing anyone could say to her would change her mind about how she felt. She didn't hate Jake, she pitied him. And now that he was dead she was happy to just put that part of her life behind her and eager to concentrate on the wonder that was Edward and her family.
For Leah it was even simpler. She'd turned to Jake when she'd been rejected by Sam and Jake had fulfilled the role that Leah had needed him to. He was also a member of her family tribe and that loss hit her hardest of all. Any loss within the tight knit community was a terrific blow and she grieved as much for that as she did for having lost Jake whom she had to admit she'd felt a great deal for. It hadn't been love but it had been something.
The two women found much in common and together with their brother they worked through their differences and came to understand each other better. Leah repaired her relationship with her parents too. It hadn't taken much. She apologised, her parents cried, she sobbed into her mother's shoulder and all was forgiven, as it nearly always was within families.
When the guilty verdict came from the jury Bella and Leah wept openly in the gallery. There was no cheering, no catcalling, and no celebration. There was just a very deep sense of justice having been done.
Bella didn't attend the day of sentencing. Mr Benson had explained that Charlie would be allowed to say whatever he liked to the judge before his sentence was handed down and Bella knew that nothing Charlie had to say would change anything, and she decided not to attend.
The men did.
Harry, Seth, Carlisle, Emmett, Edward and Jasper made the trek to Seattle for the hearing and sat as passively as they could in the gallery while Charlie Swan spoke of his years of service to his community. He told the judge that there was no proof whatsoever that he'd done anything to anyone and that it was the machinations of a disturbed mind – namely Bella's disturbed mind – that saw him standing in the dock. He plead for leniency, once again citing his outstanding record with the Forks Police Force and finished his statement with a plea for other wrongly accused men to band together on his behalf and demand that justice be done.
Twenty minutes later Charlie Swan was sentenced to life for the murder of Renee Marie Swan. A further life sentence was added for the first degree murder of Jacob Black and another twenty years for the attempted murder of Leah Clearwater.
For his abuse of Bella there could be no sentence as the crime had not been reported within the allotted statute of limitations but he'd pled guilty to one charge of rape and one charge of assault that had resulted in the birth of Elizabeth and for that he received eighteen years.
The end result was that Charlie Swan would never again see the light of day. As he was taken down he vowed to fight the terrible injustice done to him that day. Not a sound other than his hoarse voice shouting his fury could be heard in the courtroom and as the judge announced proceedings to be over the men in Bella's life stood and left the room quietly.
Edward broke the news of the sentence to Bella who wept quietly and thanked him over and over for always believing in her.
Three days after the sentencing hearing Charlie Swan was bashed for the first time inside his new prison home. Four days later he was beaten almost to death by two inmates who had heard about his penchant for hitting women. Charlie lost an eye and was moved to a single cell.
Rosie and Emmett announced that they were pregnant at the regular Friday night family dinner two weeks later. The dinners had been expanded to include the Clearwater family. A newer, bigger table was purchased and the dinners became louder and louder as the weeks went by.
Exactly one month after Charlie went to prison Leah announced to both the Cullen and Clearwater families that she was pregnant. Of course Carlisle already knew and it had been Edward who'd confirmed it for her after a very tear filled visit to his clinic.
Billy, though still grieving for his son, welcomed the news. That Jake would live on through the child brought him a little comfort. Leah worried day and night that if her child was a boy that it could grow up to become what his father had been. Every member of her now joined families – Cullen and Clearwater – assured her they'd never let that happen.
Alice and Jasper Hale were delivered of a baby girl that weighed in at a healthy eight pounds four ounces and named her Adele Rose. She was the apple of both her parents' eyes and was doted on by Angus and Joshua equally.
Elizabeth continued to thrive amongst the love and support inside the Cullen house. No move had been made to move the little family within a family out of the house and into one of their own and by the time Christmas rolled around neither Edward nor Bella could stomach broaching the subject. Thankfully Esme and Carlisle took matters into their own hands and solved the problem for them.
As gifts were exchanged around the enormous Christmas tree Carlisle very pointedly handed his son a plain cream coloured envelope.
The solution was ingenious.
Inside the envelope was a title deed. An acre lot had been subdivided off the property and had been made over to the newest mister and missus Cullen. They could build on it at their leisure. Both Esme and Bella had cried and Edward had come very, very close to following suit.
Two weeks before Leah was due to give birth Edward, Bella, Joshua and Elizabeth moved into their new home. A cobbled pathway wound its way through the copse of trees at the back of the main house and nestled into the woods one hundred yards away sat their new home. Edward had spared no expense, despite Bella's protestations, and had made as good a copy of their honeymoon house as he could. The only difference that Bella could discern was the three normal sized tubs in the three ground floor ensuites. The Jacuzzi in the master bedrooms ensuite was there, however.
When Leah gave birth to her son it was her sister who mopped her brow at her bedside. When Henry William Clearwater was born he was immediately dubbed Harry Junior and he was universally loved by all. It was as though he were a clone of his father. Leah took him home to her parent's house but visited Bella often at hers.
When Rosalie gave birth a month later she was blessed with the girl they'd always wanted. Charlotte May was a whopper and had a set of lungs on her that shook the windows. She too was the apple of her parent's eye.
It fell to Mr Benson to deliver the news that Charlie had once again been attacked in prison a few weeks later. A gang had cornered him in the exercise yard and had all but pulled him limb from limb. He bled out on the stark concrete ground before guards could come to his assistance. At Bella's insistance he was given a proper funeral, despite Edward's protestations that he should be allowed to rot in hell for what he'd done Bella wouldn't have it. Bella and Edward were the only mourners present when his body was committed to the ground in the Seattle cemetary. For all her ability to forgive Bella couldn't bring herself to have him buried on the same sacred ground as her mother.
When Edward and Bella's first wedding anniversary came around both had surprises for the other. Edward began the process that would see both their children become, finally and legally, both Cullen's. Bella gave him a gift that matched no other.
She arrived at the clinic at midday and startled him in his office between patients. She pulled him to her and kissed him fiercely. He returned her kiss although what the occasion was he couldn't think. It was rare for Bella to arrive unannounced at the clinic.
When she allowed him to break the kiss and had stepped away a little he enquired as to what he owed the pleasure.
Without saying a word she took his hand and placed within it a small white plastic stick. The two blue lines were clearly visible across the little windows.
With her favourite lopsided grin across his face he whispered his love for her into her waiting lips.
Their makeshift, but utterly perfect little family was completed with the safe arrival of Mason Edward and Kathryn Renee Cullen.
Oh yes, and Elizabeth's first word was daddy.
A/N: The happily ever after I promised.
Thank you to everyone who has been reading this tale and an extra special thank you for those who took the time to review and to send me messages describing your thoughts on the story and what it meant for you.
As I said way back at the beginning this was my story. Some of the details are different (I was beaten but not raped) but Bella's injuries and her circumstances were mine too. The theraputic properties of getting this out of my head and onto paper is incalcuable to me. Being allowed the chance to write from Jake's point of view of his actions allowed me to - however fictionally - get the apology I've been longing for from the men who hurt me so long ago. It's not the same and I accept that, but just being able to articulate what they should've felt about themselves and what they'd done has helped me in so many ways.
To those of you who have been reading who know of someone who's been abused, tortured, threatened and spent their lives in fear I urge you to reach out to them and let them know that you are thinking of them. Often there is little that you can actually do for them but I want you to know just how powerful it is to know that someone, somewhere has your back. Sometimes it's all that person might need to keep going. Sadly sometimes it's not.
To Patchar who was instrumental in this particular story actually making it onto paper I thank you with all that I am and all that I have. Without you this wouldn't have been possible and definitely would not be the success that it has been.
To my friend ScrapJul, Thank you for your continued support and encouragement.
To my beautiful cousin Kelly, you have to know how very much I love you and you have to know how very much I value the time you've spent listening to me and helping me. I need you to know that without you in my life it would look very differnt right now. At a time that I was falling apart you held me together. You are always there for us, no matter what it is we ask of you, and I only hope that if you ever need us (and I hope that you never do because I suck at sympathy, as you know :P) that I can acquit myself with the same amount of style and grace that you have. Love you Kel.
To those who this story has hurt and for those who felt ill whilst reading the details of the abuse I urge you look around you. If you have a family like the Cullen's tell them as often as you can that you love them and are thankful that you have them. To those of you who don't have a family like the Cullen's I urge you to be the very best family member you can be.
You might not ever find out the way in which you've touched someones life. Sometimes you aren't meant to know. I got lucky, I hope you did too.
With love and continued thanks,