"Made a wrong turn, once or twice,
Dug my way out, blood and fire,
Bad decisions, that's alright,
Welcome to my silly life.
Mistreated, misplaced, misunderstood,
Miss no it is all good,
It didn't slow me down.
Mistaken, always second guessing,
Under-estimated, look I'm still around"
Fuckin' Perfect, Pink
~September 13 - 10 Years Later~
I was up with the dawn, but that wasn't atypical for me. Dressed warmly, I padded out to the porch that ran around the entire house. There, I settled on one of the many couches so I could take in the view.
Our house - our brand new house in Forks - was obnoxiously big. Ostentatious even, though it was tucked back along a three mile long, winding road, far away from the central part of the city. I didn't hate it. In fact, I loved the house almost as much as Edward did, but it was far too big for us.
It took a lot of talking, but Edward finally managed to convince me that it was right for us. One of his major selling points was the view of the Sol Duc River that stretched out behind the house. Every morning that I could, I sat out on the porch just enjoying the beauty of the world.
I was only out there alone for minutes, as I expected today of all days. The back door opened, and Edward sat beside me, instantly wrapping me in his arms. "Happy birthday," he murmured, his lips warm against my skin though the air around us was cold.
Closing my eyes, I let myself rest backward against his chest, tilting my head because I loved the way he kissed my neck. Edward didn't disappoint. He swept my hair off my shoulders, kissing me slowly, warming me from the inside out. "What are you thinking?" he asked when his lips finally reached my ear.
"I was thinking about ... decades," I answered, playing with his fingers that were locked around my waist.
"Mmm," I assented. "One with my father. One with my mother. One with you."
And what a remarkable decade it had been.
Edward and I hadn't settled in Forks immediately. Sitting in Forks's little diner 10 years before, we'd had a serious discussion about what we wanted and what we needed. Ultimately, we knew we needed the anonymity of a town a little larger than Forks.
Just a ways down the highway, we moved to Port Angeles. Edward took a private nursing job, working for an elderly couple who needed home care while I found a job as an assistant - read secretary - to one of the the lawyers that worked out of an office that used to be a house.
Knowing we had a lot to work on, we both began therapy. Oh, my, there was a lot of therapy.
We both started off going every other week to separate therapists. Edward had a support group the third Saturday of every month. We also went to couples therapy once a month - not because there were any problems but because we didn't want there to be.
Slowly, we began to pull ourselves together, discovering pieces of the people we wanted to be along the way.
Edward learned to channel the excess emotion he had into music and that eventually evolved into a job. He tuned pianos and fixed broken guitars, throwing in the odd music lesson here and there.
Meanwhile, I went back to school to get my paralegal certificate, earning myself a raise, a career and the ability to turn the excess energy that made me want to explode out of my skin when I got angry or frustrated into thorough research. Some people cleaned when they were stressed, or punched the hell out of a boxing bag. I tore apart law books for whatever case was being worked on. And since the lawyer I worked for practiced family law, it happened often that I was ticked off at the situation. It made me good at my job.
It was only six months ago that we finally made it to Forks.
Our journey wasn't easy. In fact, it was almost never easy. Edward and I had more issues than a Korn CD. We made mistakes... some of them bigger than others.
Our biggest and best mistake padded out onto the porch in her footie pajamas, her brow furrowed. "Were you being all kissy?"
A little over five years ago I maybe, kind of, sort of forgot that the IUD I'd had put in had an expiration date.
The day I figured out I was pregnant was a very, very bad day. I felt like I'd made no progress at all. After all the hard work I'd put in - and I worked so, so hard to get better - I was the same idiotic, irresponsible girl at 25 I had been at 20. Except unlike the other one, this one didn't have the sense to abandon ship on its own.
Edward was just as terrified as I was, but he was slightly calmer. He reminded me that we were both human, working on breaking a thousand different bad or unhealthy habits and mentalities. Our therapists had all warned that we were going to slip, and that part of healing was learning to forgive ourselves for being imperfect.
But we were talking about someone else's life. All of our issues stemmed from parental figures fucking up. Obviously, I couldn't be trusted with something as simple as birth control.
He reasoned that we'd come so far. We had the money - both of us being gainfully employed all these years with a very hefty nest egg still put away in the bank from our parents. Despite all of our faults and the tumultuous ups and downs we'd managed a successful, very loving relationship.
Through hiccuping sobs, I managed to remind him of my worst fear. What if I was like my mother? What if it was just inherent in me?
He told me it was impossible. My mother was weak. She'd never been strong enough to break the cycle of abuse. I was strong enough, he told me. I'd been proving that every day since I ran from that college campus, knowing that there were things about me that needed to be fixed. I was the one who'd worked to get better.
I wasn't my mother.
My whole pregnancy was bittersweet. I had hope, but I was terrified to acknowledge it. I spent most of the pregnancy crying, just so, so scared I was doing the wrong thing. The doctors warned me that the IUD increased the chance of miscarriage. God help me... sometimes I wished it would happen.
Carlie Mae Cullen arrived in this world with that damn IUD gripped in her tiny hand as if she was saying 'fuck you, I'm here anyway.' I took one look at her and realized that most of my fears were unfounded. I could never be my mother. From the second I laid eyes on her, I loved her so much that the very idea of being away from her for more than a day was painful.
"Of course we were being kissy," Edward answered Carlie's question. "How else would Mommy know how much I love her?"
Carlie appeared to consider this. "I think she just knows. Kissing is gross."
Edward I both chuckled. "It's gross, is it?" he asked. When she nodded, he scooped her up quickly into his arms. "Sucks to be you, then," he said, promptly peppering her little face with big, daddy-sized smooches.
"Dadddddeeeeeee," Carlie protested, giggling those high pitched little girl giggles that ranked among my favorite sounds in the entire world.
Edward told me once that if he could write a list of reasons why not to commit suicide, his little girl giggling and waking up to his wife's pretty smile would be at the top of that list.
I guessed it was a good thing I was a morning person.
I wasn't a perfect mother, not by a long shot. But I liked to think that for all my tripping, stumbling and feeling my way through parenting, my daughters knew they were loved. It took me a long time to realize - as scared as I was that I would see my mother or worse, James, in my parenting style - but I'd also been well loved by my father. I hadn't forgotten the lessons he taught me.
And unlike my father who'd had to go it alone, I had Edward. He was my system of checks and balances.
I learned very early on that my patience was a lit fuse that could easily explode. When Carlie hit her terrible twos and became more obstinate it was especially obvious that James had left another mark in the deep recesses of my psyche. I couldn't imagine raising a hand to my babies, but sometimes anger would tick on like a raging inferno.
That was when Edward stepped in. He kept me balanced, helping me level out the frustration so I didn't do anything I regretted. I loathed that it was a part of me - this idea that my daughters would or should obey my every waking command. More than every other battle I fought, the battle to keep from repeating the cycle of abuse in any way - verbal or physical - left me drained and bitter.
But, like everything else, Edward and I worked through it together.
And yes, I did say daughters.
Because we knew that, as hard as we tried, we were going to mess up along the line, Edward and I decided to give Carlie the gift of someone who would share her experience. Since we'd brought her into the world, it felt like the least we could do to pair her up with another human being who could understand the ordeal of having us as parents.
Sophie Louise was two years old and hopefully would sleep at least another hour before we would be chasing both of them around the house.
Edward had finished kissing Carlie to death and had settled her instead on his lap. "Do you want to help me make breakfast for Mommy?"
Carlie, of course, was amenable, and we moved our little party inside. Carlie sat with Edward, carefully plopping blueberries and the slices of banana Edward cut at her direction into the pancake batter one by one. When that was done, she sat back against Edward's chest, running her hands over the scars at the inside of his wrists. For whatever reason, she liked to feel the scars on his wrists and the one at the center of my hand.
I remembered the first time she did it. She'd been sitting beside Edward on the couch, her head against his side as they watched Sesame Street. She was bending and folding his fingers as if she were playing the 'Where Is Thumbkin' game silently. Then her fingers ran over and over the scar on his left wrist.
His eyes met mine across the room, wide and a little scared. Edward and I... it's not that we were proud of our scars, but at that point we weren't ashamed of them either. How we were going to explain to our children about the journey of our lives though, we hadn't discussed. Carlie was two at that point. How on earth did you tell a two year old about depression and suicide?
When she asked, and we knew that was inevitable, we told her as close to the truth as we could. Edward and I didn't hold with the idea of sheltering our girls from all of life's ugliness. We figured life was hard enough, and we were going to equip them with some armor where we could.
So we told her that Daddy and Mommy had once been very, very sick and those scars were the remnants of that disease. As she grew older, Carlie understood that the sickness was the reason why sometimes Mommy cried for no apparent reason or Daddy had nightmares that made him yell in his sleep.
"Aunt Ali said if she had scars like yours, she would wear bracelets to cover them," Carlie announced, apropos of nothing. "She said they would make her sad to see them every day."
Edward rolled his eyes without letting our daughter see him. We were both used to Alice's discomfort with the proof of our struggles. It didn't make us angry anymore. We all had our scars. Edward and I carried some of ours on the outside. Alice, like everyone else on the planet, had her own issues.
"Can I tell you a secret?" Edward whispered against Carlie's ear. She nodded eagerly. "If I didn't have these scars, I wouldn't have my beautiful girls. So I don't mind that I have them."
He stood then, setting Carlie on her feet so he could cook the pancakes. She scampered over to me, climbing onto my lap and continuing her conversation. "Is Aunt Ali coming to see us today?"
Finding that she missed her brother too much, Alice had followed us to Washington three years after we left California. And because he was tied around her finger, Jasper followed her. They lived in Seattle where Alice found her calling as a wedding planner and Jasper ran an indie music shop.
"Of course she is. Alice and Jasper and practically the whole town of Forks," I said dryly, exaggerating just a tad because Edward had only invited a handful of our closest friends and their kids.
Edward winked at me over his shoulder.
"Mom-ma. Mom-ma. Mom-ma," Sophie's voice chanted from the baby monitor on the counter.
Carlie hopped up automatically, following me up the stairs to the nursery. I picked up my grinning baby girl and kissed the tip of her nose.
"Sophie, it's Mommy's birthday, 'emember?" Carlie chattered as we made our way downstairs. "You gots to tell her happy birthday."
"Birthday!" Sophie said joyfully, bouncing in my arms. I snickered. Sophie's birthday had been just a week before so all she knew was that birthday meant cake and ice cream weren't far off.
When we got back to the kitchen Edward had a mouthwatering spread on the table. He served us all, refusing to let me help. "Happy birthday," he said again, kissing my forehead as he set down my plate in front of me.
My pancake was cut into the shape of a big heart...because somewhere along the line, Edward had discovered he liked being a cheesy, romantic bastard from time to time - when I would let him get away with it.
Sometimes I still felt like I didn't deserve him - like I didn't deserve any of what I had.
What life had taught me was that happiness was not a state of being, but an emotion that occurred in increments of time. I was truly happy for minutes, hours, maybe a day or so here and there. What life should be was a state of contentment - a state everyone had to work achieve because there was always something better out there - interrupted by peaks and valleys.
That day - my 31st birthday - was a definite peak.
Experience taught me that it could all change in a heartbeat, but I quickly quashed that pointless worry down. Life was going to happen whether we liked it or not. Whatever challenges I faced, I knew I wasn't alone in the world.
Looking around at my family, I remembered standing at the edge of that college right before I ran for my life. Then I had been a broken shell of a girl who didn't know what she wanted or who she was. The girl I had been would never have believed I could be the person I was now - a mother, a wife, a successful, well liked person.
The abuse that I was subjected to shouldn't have happened, but I couldn't regret the person I'd become because of what I'd been through. No one appreciated life as much as a person who'd had to fight so hard for it.
A/N : So… how's this for a story. When I was 17 I looked in a mirror and realized the girl in the reflection wasn't who I wanted to be. That was when I began writing this story. I'm going to be 29 in a few days and now it's finally finished.
Obviously, this story started life as an original work – because one thing I always knew about myself was that I wanted to be a writer. It's all I've ever wanted to do. But a number of months ago I got to thinking. I believe you have to have a certain amount of detachment from a story to publish it. On the off chance it reaches a mass market, think of the criticism. I could take that with every story except this one – it was just too personal. So I reworked the story to make I fanfic. How's that for a twist?
So thank you. This is the end of a 12 year journey for me. Endless thanks to jadedandboring and barburella for listening to my thoughts and dealing with my mood swings. And thanks to all of you for listening so carefully. Your comments mean the world to me.