Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight or its characters.
I've always been a "good girl."
At 10, when my parents divorced, I handled it maturely and never once gave my parents a hard time about it.
As a teenager, my parents never had to worry about me coming home late, doing drugs, or getting pregnant. I had never tried a drop of alcohol. School was always easy for me. I was always a straight-A student. Well, except for freshman year gym class, which I forgot my school issued gym shirt one too many times and ended the semester with a B+.
Extremes of any kind terrified me. I liked being content. Extreme happiness made me feel out of control. I avoided confrontation like the plague because anger made me feel like I might snap and fall of the edge of something – I never understood why, but I just somehow knew that if I were pushed too far, I might never make it back. I certainly didn't want to chance it.
But avoiding extremes also meant avoiding almost everything. I spent my life trying to blend in and be forgotten by the general population. Attention embarrassed me. And embarrassment was an extreme in my book.
I was probably what some might call "pretty" with my soft features, brown hair and brown eyes. But I certainly wasn't beautiful or unique in any way. Extreme beauty petrified me. Beautiful people made me feel inadequate and unsure.
I had received a full-ride scholarship to the University of Washington. Everyone expected that I would attend college, get my degree, start a successful career, get married, pop out one or two kids, and live happily ever after.
Always the good girl.
My first year of college was a piece of cake. I made friends with other good girls. I studied. I never went to parties. Us good girls filled our spare time with good girl type stuff – like gushing about cute boys that we would never have the guts to talk to, gossiping about the "bad girls" and helping each other out with homework.
More often than not, I found myself staring at the bad girls we talked so poorly of. I wondered what their stories were. I wondered what it might be like to let loose and throw caution to the wind, forgetting about being good for one night.
Just because I was a good girl, didn't mean I didn't dream of being bad once in a while.
When I was 19, my second year of college began much the same. Good. Never great. Never exciting. No extremes.
One October Saturday, a couple of friends and I found ourselves bored and with nothing to do. We were all good girls. A boring Saturday certainly wouldn't be wasted drinking, getting laid, and having fun. Nope. After a day at the mall, we ended up at a small, quaint shop in the heart of Seattle that had a huge neon sign that simply read "Psychic." We each paid our thirty bucks to get our futures read. This was about as close to a being a bad girl as I probably had ever gotten.
We sat in a small waiting room, which was lit with twinkling Christmas lights and smelled of patchouli. We giggled to each other, excited that we were doing something out of the ordinary. Something borderline-good instead of all-out good.
I was the last to go. One by one, each of my friends returned to the waiting room, giggling and rolling their eyes, talking of future loves and careers and their perfect good girl futures that were sure to happen.
When my turn came, I pushed aside the curtain of beads that separated the waiting room from a small room which only held one table, a chair on either side. As I sat down, I took in the appearance of the small woman with too much makeup who sat across from me and I held back a snort. She introduced herself as Angelina in a scratchy voice which sounded like she had smoked one too many packs of Marlboros. Although she appeared to be in her late fifties, maybe early sixties, her bright green eyes held a child-like twinkle. Her face, framed by frizzy hair that was an unnatural shade of red, was yellowed and wrinkled. Her small frame carried a few extra pounds. Although she looked to be aging beyond her years, her features hinted that she had at one time been beautiful.
As I stared at her face, I found myself wondering who she was and what type of life she had lead. I didn't believe in psychics. My logic told me that if there were truly people who could tell the future, then the world would be a much different place – one where people didn't make bad decisions. A world where people could rewrite their future to ensure happiness.
"What is your name, child?" she asked me in her soft, but gravelly voice. She smiled kindly and I immediately felt calm in her presence. She had a "favorite Aunt" quality too her. Her dress was a bright orange and red floral pattern – very hippie-like. Her eyes were bloodshot and I wondered if maybe she had lit up a bong before we had arrived. For whatever reason, I wanted to hug her. Her presence made me feel safe and calm.
"Bella," I answered quietly. I smiled back at her, encouraging her to begin.
"Give me your hand, sweetness." I sucked in a breath, taken aback by such a term of endearment. Even my parents had never called me anything but just plain "Bella."
I slowly placed my right hand into her waiting palms. The skin on her hands had a rough look to it, but I was surprised to find them warm and soft.
She closed her eyes, and for far too long the room was silent and still. Silence had always made me nervous and uncomfortable. It made me want to fill it up with useless chatter or noise. I could hear myself breathing as I fought the urge to fidget in my chair or start talking to fill the void. I closed my eyes, hoping to calm myself down enough to be able to get through this.
For a brief moment, I felt something change in the energy that swirled between her and I. I felt a current of energy traveling between my hands and hers. I felt weightless. I felt at peace. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced. It scared the shit out of me.
It was gone so quickly, I wondered if I had imagined it.
When I opened my eyes, I was startled to find Angelina staring intently at me, her head cocked slightly to the side as if she were trying to figure out a riddle.
"Honey, have you ever had a psychic reading before?" she asked, one of her hands stroking my palm ever so slightly.
I shook my head.
"What would you like to know? What would you like me to look for?" she asked, her green eyes still locked on mine.
I opened my mouth to speak, but quickly shut it. I had no idea how to answer that question. And that scared me. Was my life so boring that I couldn't even wonder what the future had in store for me? I had no questions to ask.
"I don't know." I looked away from her eyes, feeling ashamed for some reason. Certainly people came in here wanting specifics, maybe about their love lives or careers.
I didn't. I was terrified to have someone answer those questions for me.
I think subconsciously, even back then, I knew that if she laid out a "good girl" future for me, I would have hyperventilated. I would have had a very extreme reaction. And I didn't do extremes.
She smiled softly and patted my hand comfortingly, as if she knew she had to tread lightly with me.
"I can't seem to read you very well. You are very guarded. Your aura is very mixed. It seems to be filled with indecisiveness." She closed her eyes again, concentrating.
I felt my breathing pick up. I fought back tears that threatened to escape. I had no idea why on earth I would be crying, but for some reason, her words made me feel defeated. God, even a bogus psychic should be able to come up with garbage about my future – wasn't it her job to make sure I got my money's worth out of this?
"Don't be upset, sweetness, it's not a bad thing. I think your future is undecided. Are you facing any big decisions or crossroads in your life?"
"No, not that I know of," I responded quietly, my voice shaking slightly. Nope, no heavy decisions for me. Good girls didn't have to face tough decisions, right?
"You have an innocence about you, but you seem so jaded. Are you happy in your life, sweetness?"
"No." My quick response rolled off of my tongue before I could even think about it. The feeling of shame returned. I had just admitted to being unhappy to a complete stranger – what the hell was wrong with me?
"What would make you happy?"
"I don't know. You're the psychic, shouldn't you be able to tell me that?" I started to feel frustrated and on edge. This was supposed to be something fun. Something I could giggle about over ice cream later. It certainly wasn't supposed to turn into a therapy session. I didn't waste thirty bucks to analyze my life or myself.
"Sweetness, you need to figure that out. You need to change some things in your life. You need to get to know yourself. The only way to separate the colors of your aura again is to figure out which path you belong on."
"What the hell does that even mean?" I knew I was lashing out defensively, but surely she was wrong. I knew who I was – I was a "good girl." It may not be ideal, but it didn't matter if that made me happy or not. It just was. I couldn't change who I was, right?
"Baby girl, somewhere along the way you quit being you. Your aura knows it's mixed up because who you are as a person – your personality, your likes, your dislikes – drive the aura that surrounds you. Your mind and your future are guarded almost like your future doesn't even exist. Which, metaphorically, it doesn't exist until you decide that you actually want it to exist."
As much as I tried to stop it, a traitor tear slid down my cheek. As much as I wanted to argue with her, I just couldn't. She was right – I didn't really exist. I wasn't moving toward anything. My life was planned out, but the plan was bullshit.
"Are you in school?" she asked, leaving me confused. What a weird change in direction.
"Have you ever thought of a career in law enforcement?"
I felt my brow crinkle, confused by why she would ask this.
"Um, no. But my dad's a cop."
"The only vision of you that I'm getting is one of you in a police uniform." I looked at her face, sure she must be joking, but I was surprised by the seriousness of what I saw there. That just couldn't be right. How much more extreme can you get than being a police officer? Nope, not my thing. My fear of confrontation and lack of a backbone would certainly be deal breakers.
Chewing on my lip, I shook my head in disgust. I was certain now that this lady was insane. She may be nice and sweet and appear caring, but she needed some serious professional help.
I roughly pulled my hand from hers and stood up.
"Thank you, Angelina, this has been fun, but I think I've heard enough." I immediately felt bad when I saw the look of sadness come over her weathered face, but I just refused to listen to this crap anymore.
"Very well, sweetness. I wish you the best. Please find yourself – you have a bright light inside of you, but right now, you are slowly extinguishing it. Like a caged bird. Sooner or later, it will be gone for good. Please take care of yourself." She smiled sadly and then motioned towards the curtain of beads, effectively dismissing me.
Without a word, I left and joined my friends in the waiting room.
That night was the first time I dreamed of a new life. A life filled with extremes.
As the days and weeks passed, I forgot about my psychic reading, or lack of reading as I preferred to call it. It wasn't until the next summer that it all came back to me in one vivid memory. I found myself searching the online course catalog trying to find some electives to fill the last two slots on my fall schedule. Having completed my general requirements the year before and having an undecided major, I found the selection to be a bit daunting.
When my eyes focused on the description for Criminal Justice 101, I felt my eyes go wide and my heart starting to pound. A brief moment of weakness had me wondering if she could possibly be right. After a quick debate with myself, I filled my last two slots with Criminal Justice 101 and Introduction to Criminal Law. After all, the psychic may have been bogus, but what harm could really come from it? The classes sounded interesting and would certainly expand my repertoire, which typically consisted of literature and history classes. And so it was decided.
When I was 20, I failed both Criminal Justice 101 and Introduction to Criminal Law.
I failed big time. To be fair, the classes were just not my cup of tea. Too much research and writing about subjects I just couldn't grasp. And two failing grades were just enough to bring my grade point average below what I was required to maintain for my scholarship.
So I lost my scholarship and was forced to drop out of college.
My parents were so shocked and disappointed that I had destroyed my good girl future, they refused to speak to me for six months. My father in particular took personal offense that I couldn't succeed in something he was so passionate about.
I, on the other hand, was ecstatic. I was happy. Like extremely happy. And the extreme emotion didn't even make me nervous or scared. I hated college. I hated living in the box I had built around myself. I hated being a good girl.
I quickly found a job at a small bookstore and moved into a crappy apartment. I loved it. I loved every liberating second of it.
When I was 22, I took my first cake decorating course at a local arts and crafts store. It was without a doubt the most awesome experience I had ever had. I was good at it and I actually enjoyed it. I spent the next year learning every technique in the book, taking night classes at a small culinary school.
When I was 24, I sold my first wedding cake. Although finding the time to pursue my business was difficult and I barely made any profit, I worked hard to build a name for myself.
By my 25th birthday, I was able to quit my job at the bookstore and sell specialty cakes for a living. Word of mouth is a wonderful thing.
At 26, I decided I needed to do something extreme to celebrate my freedom and success. I walked into a small tattoo shop to permanently mark my body. It was extreme, but I couldn't wait for it. The tattoo itself, a picture of connected stars of the big dipper with water spilling out of it, wasn't the important part. It was what it symbolized – the act of doing something of my own free will simply because I wanted to do it. It was incredible.
It was also the first time I met Edward Cullen.
Edward, a free-spirited tattoo artist, marked my body with his art and my soul with his mere presence that night. He was beautiful – inside and out. His bright green eyes reminded me of Angelina's – the shade nearly identical. His bronze hair was spiked up in a fauxhawk, which on a normal guy looked cheesy and boy-band-ish, but on him, it just looked like he was supposed to look like that. Like he was destined to be beautiful. His arms were covered in tattoos – each a striking piece of artwork that seemed to bare his soul. I fell in love with him instantly.
He talked me through the tattoo process, was as gentle as could be during and after the tattoo. Our conversations were simple, but easy, as if we had known each other our whole lives. When he was done, he asked for my number and I blushingly obliged.
Two weeks later, we flew to Vegas and were married in a cheesy chapel by an Elvis impersonator. Talk about extreme. It was perfect and so us. Neither one of us wanted a typical wedding in a church. I just wanted to be with him forever, it didn't matter how we got there, just that we did.
When I was 29, I gave birth to our first daughter. We loved being parents and I felt blessed every single day I had with my family. Edward was the most amazing father and husband I could ever have hoped for.
By 34, our little family had grown, including two more children, one parrot, and two dogs. Our house was crazy and wonderful and extreme. Perfectly extreme.
Now, at age 42, I have dropped off my oldest daughter, Ruby Lynn Cullen, for her first day of high school, and I feel overwhelmed with emotion at how fast she is growing and how soon she will need to make life decisions that will determine her future.
I will never categorize her or my other children. There is no such thing as good or bad in our family, there is only love and respect. Our children are free to be individuals and explore their personalities. They know who they are and will always support who they want to become.
I have thought about Angelina many times over the past twenty years. I may have never donned a police uniform, but it is to her that I owe my life and happiness. I am forever grateful for that trip to her little shop. That thirty dollars was the best investment I could ever have hoped for – it saved me from a lifetime of regrets and wishing, something which I will forever hold as priceless.
I may have always been a good girl, but now I'm just Bella. And being Bella is the best thing I can imagine.
A/N: Parts of this are a true story….when I was 19, I visited a psychic who told me to pursue criminal justice. I did take the class and failed, losing a full-ride, four year Presidential scholarship. Like Bella, it was the best thing that could ever have happened to me. I also have a big dipper tattoo :-) My tattoo artist, however, was no Edward – he was actually quite scary.