I sat there and stared at the question. My friends had all handled this one a dozen times, but me I had missed it. Or so I had thought. I looked over at the many envelopes that had piled up beside me with other applications for different colleges and I seriously thought of forgetting this one; and I would have if it wasn't for the one school I wanted to go to.
Scrubbing my hands down my face I glanced at the paper once more before I could think of what to do. Nothing stood out more than those words. Almost mocking me with their meaning and their blunt attack on my psyche. I wanted to run and hide; hoping that the damned thing would either change its words or magically write itself. But I knew it wouldn't no matter how bad I wanted it to. Facing my computer once more I braced myself for the one thing I had been hoping never to write about again.
If you had asked me 2 years ago what was the most significant day of my life I would have told you to go to hell. That no-one had the right to ask me that, and if you wanted to keep your limbs from being broken; you would turn and run while you could. Or I would have told you it was the day that my mother left me and my father; my fifth birthday when I woke up not to presents and smiles from the woman who had carried me for nine months and given birth to me, but a letter and a very broken father who was left to explain to his only child that her mother didn't want her anymore; but things have changed and I grew up, whether I wanted to or not. I had to face the things that scared me rather than run or take it out on someone else.
But to understand this you need to know what I was like before the 27th of May 2006. I wasn't the girl that I am today, as ironic as that it is. We didn't have a bad boy in our town, but the hell spawn that the poor chief of police had to raise. That was me and I had taken it as a compliment from the age of 12 until that one day that broke me and healed me at the same time. No I didn't find God or some other higher power, nor did I find some poor guy who had it far worse than myself. I was faced with reality of who I was and what my actions had really caused. It was the day my father had been injured in the line of duty.
My father and I had had a very vocal argument that had drastic repercussions that to this day have left scars on the two of us; both mentally and for my father physically. A silly argument about the diaries that belonged to my mother that she had left behind. After finding them nearly a year before I had taken to reading them whenever I felt like I was losing her. But when I read her words I was able to remember the murky images of my childhood. I reveled in those books and what they brought me; not caring what would happen if I had been caught. Truthfully I didn't think I would have been caught.
After coming home from spending time in one of the many detentions I had faced through my actions I found my father standing in the hall waiting for me to return. To say her was upset would be a gross understatement. He was hurt; if I had hit him myself it wouldn't have caused this pain; but the secret that I had kept for the past year had done much worse than any physical act I could have done. It was more than just betrayal of what he had given up to raise me; it was a blatant disregard for who he was. When he grounded me, I was angry. I couldn't see why it had hurt him that I was trying to remember the woman that had left the both of us.
As he left that night I said three words that haunt me to this day. Telling the man who would literally give up everything to give me the world that I hated him felt good at the time. It caused him the same pain that I was feeling because he was taking the one link that I had to my mother. But the one thing about words said in anger; it's the pain of not knowing the future. When he left the house that night I ran to my room, throwing myself on my bed thinking of all the negative things that had happened since my mother had left us. Form fighting girls and boys in the playground, the constant detentions and suspensions I admittedly brought on myself. To having to learn about being a growing girl and facing puberty on my own when every other girl in our town had a mother to explain things to them. I felt cheated in the one thing that every girl craves; a mother figure who loved her unconditionally.
Three hours later my world was shattered as one of the men who had known me since I was practically in diapers had knocked on my door. I thought it was my father checking up on me, and when I looked out the window and saw a cruiser sitting in the driveway I thought nothing of it. When he pulled me to his chest and said those words that I had secretly feared but was sure that I'd never hear I didn't know what to do. At 15 years old I had done a lot of things, but a simple knock on my front door and a single sentence had broken me.
I had sat in those uncomfortable hospital chairs while the doctor's worked to save my father's life. I found out that he was out on patrol, coming to check on me when he was hit by another car on the driver's side. But while I watched the member s of the police force pace the floor, men and women who had seen me at my best and worst show emotions that I couldn't; stunned that something like this had happened. I wasn't naïve to think that my father was indestructible; but I did think that living in such a small town he wouldn't get hurt. I closed myself off a long time ago then, and I did it again that night while I sat there on that plastic chair.
I was brought out of my self induced isolation when the one family that had been able to crack through my hard exterior walked through the doors. More specifically it was when the one woman who had reached out to me held me when no-one else would. Her words or sympathy and courage weren't what broke through that final barrier to my hidden heart it was when she reminded me that my father, the man who was somewhere in the hospital fighting for his life had loved me. Those words were what broke through the one thing that nothing else had. It was the first time since I was 12 that I had cried; shocking everyone in the room. I heard the whispers that I had been trying to long to fight something that never should have been fought against. I learnt that night to never try and fight against yourself or your heart.
When the doctors came to tell me what had happened, and that it was highly unlikely that my father would make it through the night let alone the recovery that I forgot about myself and focused on someone far more important. I was led to the recovery room where my father laid with the tubes and monitors connected to his broken and bruised body.
I spent the rest of the night lying next to his body, holding his hand like I had when I was younger. I thought not about the bad times that I had faced, but about all those times that my father had spent making sure I had everything I needed; the one thing that was possibly slipping away from me as he laid there; him. I grew up that night; far more than I ever thought was possible for someone like me. I had realized that what I needed wasn't a mother that never truly wanted me, but like many other selfish teenage children I was blind to what I had all along. It wasn't until the treat of having it taken away from me that I realized that everything I ever needed was there on that bed fighting to stay alive.
After that night I changed. With the help of everyone that I had ignored or turned my back on I was able to find the help I desperately needed. It took a long time for me to realize the extent of my self destruction and how it not only impacted my life but those around me. My few friends had come to fear me to an extent, something I had never known until that day. The people who I had once gone to for guidance; saw me as the one threat to our small community. But worst of all, my own father was disappointed in me not only as a person but as his own child.
I admit it hurt and took more strength to reach out to gain that help that I desperately needed than it did for me to throw the punches that had been my one weapon against everything; and that it took such a drastic event to bring this change that was so obvious to everyone I knew. I found myself spending an hour in a small office with a woman once a week. At first I fought it with everything I had but Kate never gave up on me. If anything she fought me for me. But slowly I opened up to her. We talked not just about my mother and father; my fear of losing the one person that cared for me far more than I deserved; what I thought was going to happen in my future and what I wanted to happen in my future. It was with Kate that I was able to reconnect with my father and open up to him in ways that I thought he wouldn't accept.
It was with her that I learnt how my father was scared for me. Not because I would do something to myself, but because I would take it too far. Honestly he was right; my behavior was more than just the usual delinquent behavior that many teens went through; I pushed the boundaries until they literally snapped. When he learnt how far I had truly sunk into the worst possible behavior, he didn't turn his back on me like I had thought he would. Yes he broke; but held me closer than he had before. He helped me fight the demons that I had been hiding from everyone that knew me. To this day my friends don't know how bad I truly fell.
With Kate's help I was able to focus my anger into something far more acceptable than fighting both in school, as well as outside. She introduced me to her husband who ironically had been informed about me though my school gym teacher. Boxing had become my release for all the rage that still ran through my body. I fought hard and learnt fast. So fast that after nearly a year he asked me to teach a self defense course at the school. The irony of it was not lost on me. The school bully had become the teacher to those who had been at the receiving end of my rage. I was able to mend bridges that I had burnt down throughout the past three years where I had lost everything. I sat there one afternoon and listened to each and every person who had been bullied by me. I cried with them, hurt for them, and learnt from them. I learnt more from those conversations with my victims then they ever learnt from me.
I can't say that I still don't have those days when I want to hurt someone, that I don't want to go back to when I was able to find a quick release from the pain that still lingered from what I had done and lost. Because I do; I still have trouble coming to terms with everything that I have done and faced. I still feel the need to release the anger that builds when things get tough. But I learnt to focus that; harness that anger and rage to something productive not only for me but for everyone that I know and love. My father stood beside me when things had gone from good to bad, until it hit rock bottom and back again. He stands by me still, something that I will never forget or turn my back on. Do I want to go back to how I used to be? Sometimes I do because it was easier, but what I would have to give up isn't worth the numbness that I used to feel. Would I go back to that shell of a life I once had? Not a chance in hell. Not only do I owe it to my father and those who have been beside me through it all; but I owe it to myself to move forward and grow.
You asked me what major event, crisis or date had changed me to who I am today. But there is no one date, there are many, and each day I move forward is a good day. But it was that one day, the 27th of May 2006 that truly changed my life for the better. I learnt to be me, to let people truly in, and to know who I truly am.
It was dark by the time I had finished writing that essay and had it sealed and placed on the pile that was sitting on the dinner table when my dad came in from work. Still the police chief of our small town, but had less of an active role when it came to physical work.
"Something smells good in here Bell's" he called as he hung his coat and gun belt up in the closet.
I couldn't help but smile as he walked back in the room. He hadn't changed in the two years since that fateful night. He still had the same handlebar moustache that had been there for as long as I could remember. He still looked like he'd be able to run a marathon if need be. No my dad hadn't changed on the outside. He changed on the inside. He had been able to reach down and rebuild himself with me; breaking down the same walls that I had constructed inside.
"That's a big pile there Bella, do you want me to post them when I go in tomorrow?" he smiled at me as his eyes drifted between me and the pile now sitting on one of the spare chairs.
"Thanks that'll be great. Knowing me I'd forget about them and I know some of the dates are close to closing." I answered as I handed him a plate with steak and veggies with the pasta he had become so addicted to.
As we sat there in quiet I couldn't help but thing about that night and all that had happened since then. Life had definitely changed for both of us. He had finally let someone into his heart other than me. Sue had been the nurse that had taken care of him while he was stuck in that hospital bed for nearly three months of physio. She even took the time to get past the walls that I had created and know the real me. I didn't feel like she was trying to take my father away from me, if anything she pushed him closer than he probably would have. She pushed me too, and for that I was and will always be grateful. The rest of dinner was a silent affair, both lost in our own thoughts and heads. Cleaning together once we had finished and headed towards the living room where we would have a talk about anything and everything that was on our minds.
"Bell's what do you think about Sue?" he suddenly asked, his face darkening slightly as he looked at his hands. A sure sign of something to come that he was a little worried about.
"She's great, why what's up? Is anything wrong?" I asked. Sue truly was a woman who had changed things without really doing anything.
"Nothing's wrong Bella, it's just that with you heading off to college soon, I was thinking about maybe asking her to move in with me… possibly becoming my…" he mumbled as my eyes got bigger and bigger, while his face became redder than ever before. I launched from me seat and say my father's body collapse in defeat. Why I wasn't sure.
"It's okay Bell's. I understand." He sighed before he got up to head for the stairs. I grabbed his arm as he passed, not knowing what else to say. I hugged him as tightly as I could. If he meant that he was happy, that he wanted her to live with us; be something more than just a girlfriend I was ecstatic.
"Dad, go for it. Ring her up now and ask her. But one thing first. Become your what?" I smirked. If he was hinting at something along the lines of wife I wasn't going to let him off easily. Especially with all the trouble he gave me when Edward first asked me out nearly two months ago.
"My… my wife. I've fallen in love with her Bell's. Are you sure about her living with us now? We can wait until you've gone to college." His smile grew as I nodded my head and hugged him once more before pushing him towards the kitchen where the phone was hung on the wall.
It had been nearly a month since I had sat down with my dad that night. I had already heard from a few schools. Some said yes while other's said no. I was okay with that, and had chosen which school I would attend if I got knocked back from my first choice. Sue had moved in with her youngest child, her daughter staying on the reservation to live with her long term boyfriend while she taught at the school down there. The house was packed beyond anything I had ever seen and I was happy. Not just for me but for my dad and everyone I cared for. I had only just walked in the door before my phone went off with the ring tone that Edward himself had chosen. Why he chose "Mr. Bombastic" by Shaggy I had no clue but he did.
"Hey have you checked your mail yet?" he asked as a way of greeting. Obviously he had received something that he had been waiting on.
"No, I just opened the door for me and Seth, why what's got you so happy?" I laughed. "Oh and hi to you too." I giggled a little more when he apologized for not saying so first.
"I got my letter from Dartmouth today, I don't want to open it until you've got yours but my mom is standing beside me wringing her hands. Oh she said to say hi too." You could definitely tell he and Alice were related. If not just by their good looks, but when Edward was happy he rivaled his sister with energy.
"Give me a second. And hi Esme." I replied as I walked into the kitchen. Their sat Sue with a pile of envelops some thick and other's not so thick.
"There's a lot here Bella. But I think this is the one you are waiting for." She said as she handed me a rather thick envelope. It was far thicker than the one's I had received before. It was heavier too.
"Okay I got it. On the count of three?" I asked quirking my eyebrow; not realizing that he couldn't see me at the moment. But Sue enjoyed it none the less.
"What's going on mom?" Seth asked as he rounded the corner. She didn't say anything but pointed to me holding the envelope.
I watched as Seth came to an abrupt halt and turned to watch me open the envelope in my hands.
"Okay I'll count… One… Two… Three." He said before the sound of paper ran through the air on both ends of the line.
I hadn't even noticed that my hands were shaking as I pulled out the top piece of paper.
Dear Miss Swan.
We would like to offer you our congratulations at your successful application to attend Dartmouth in the coming school semester. We would like to extend to you an offer of a full scholarly scholarship for the duration of your time here at Dartmouth…
I screamed and jumped up and down. Forgetting that I was on the phone or that I had people watching me.
"Bella I take it its good news?" Edward asked as I heard Esme screaming that her son was going to Dartmouth.
"Oh My God. Good news doesn't even cover it Edward." I answered as I passed the acceptance letter towards Sue.
I watched as her eyes grew as she read the letter, not only the fact that I had actually got into the school I had wanted and saved for; but that I had been given a full scholarship for the duration of that time. I watched as she mouthed the words over and over before Seth took the paper out of his mother's hand.
"Well what's better than getting into the same school? The same school that is your first choice?" he asked as I listened to him calm Esme down.
"Um a full ride. They're offering me a full scholarship." I answered before pulling the phone away from my ear.
The holy shit that ripped through the line could be heard from near the fridge as Seth's head shot up at the sound. I listened as he told his family about everything. Rose and Emmett had headed off to college last year and Jasper and Alice had already heard from their schools already. Having graduated early so they could be with their family. Both were headed to Dartmouth with us, as Emmett and Rose were already there it was like a dream come true for all of us.
"We have to do something to celebrate. Have you told your dad; Sue yet?" he asked a few minutes after it quieted down on his end. I smiled at the fact that he included Sue in his question.
"Yeah Sue knows she's here reading through the pack and all that while I'm talking to you. But can we do something later. I want to tell my dad when he gets home and show him something." I asked, knowing that he would do anything for me right now. After we said our goodbyes as mushy as we could to make Seth cringe. Sue practically jumped over the table pulling me into a fierce hug before turning towards the kitchen to start on a celebratory dinner as she deemed it. When I asked her to send my dad up to my room when he got in without telling him that I had got my acceptance letter she looked at me a little funny but agreed.
It was an hour later that I heard the knock on my door and my dad's gruff call through the door.
"Sue said you wanted to show me something?" he asked as he stuck his head in the door. I nodded and patted the bed beside me.
"I got my acceptance letter from Dartmouth. Edward did too." I watched as he smiled and pulled me into a hug. His soft "congratulations" and "I knew you would" made me smile.
"I wanted to show you show you the essay that I wrote. If you don't mind." I asked as he looked a little concerned. I knew that he would be a little hesitant with reading it, not knowing what it was and what it had led to.
"Are you sure Bell's those things are usually a private thing." He was nervous.
As I nodded my head I moved towards my computer and printed out a copy of my essay for him. Silently I handed him the papers that had probably landed me not only my acceptance, but also the offer of the full scholarship. When he read the heading and question of the essay I saw his eyes bounce from me to the paper. Waiting for another acknowledgement that he could freely read it. In turn I nodded my head and watched as the one person whose opinion meant more than my own. As he continued to read I saw the tears well in his eyes, and slowly run down his face. It wasn't until he reached the end did he look to me that I saw that he understood. My attitude would no longer cause this man pain, and I would do my damnedest to make sure that I never broke his heart or spirit again. I was truly his little girl once more.