Let's look through the glass
We'll see all of the things
We could never before.
Stare long and hard, doll-
It's the last thing we
Will ever see together.
-Darla McCartney, 1983
ARE YOU READY FOR THE TRUTH?
I idly flipped through the gossip tabloids as I habitually did when paying for my groceries, always expecting the million different celebrity interviews and wild rumors, but all of the magazines had a similar cover. Kris Michaels, "Archie" from blockbuster movie "Sophia And Beyond" and President & founder of Kris Micheals' Photography, found dead in New York City hotel room. My eyes watered substantially, seeing as "Sophia And Beyond" was one of my favorite movies of all time; who didn't fall in love with two brilliant, star-crossed lovers in a two and a half hour movie filled with laughter and true love? One hand covered my chest as I flipped it open and swiped the glossy pages until finding the six-page spread, explaining every single gruesome detail of his life. Edward hated this movie because he thought it was too unrealistic that two people could actually end up together, and be happy all the while. What could I say about my husband? He was your average, tough-guy Navy SEAL and that's all there was to it these days. Kris Michaels' shocking death by overdose is sweeping the nation, and along with the passing of such a beloved celebrity, there are too many rumors to properly count. "There is ridiculous talk of an illegitimate child, that's just too inappropriate for words." Says ex-wife Beatrice Ballot-Michaels. Also, a rumor that none of Kris Michaels' estate in New York and his hometown of Jacksonville, North Carolina, will be passed down to his divorced wife. As to where his money is going, still unknown…
"M'am!" The young boy at the cash register called to me angrily. I snapped out of my reading and put the magazine down before turning to him, realizing all of my items had been checked out and bagged already. "35.42." Was his equally bored reply. I pulled the money from my wallet and waved him off when he went to get my change, I instead grabbed my brown paper bags and walked as if in a zombie trance to my silver car. Funny how a stranger's misfortune can make you rethink your whole entire life, and the misdirection that you can suddenly see so clear. With Edward currently deployed, I didn't have anyone to stay warm with at night. I guess I almost envied my friends that I lived on base with; sure, their husbands were gone for intervals of six to ten months, but at least they would return for two to three weeks straight! My husband could be laying with me one moment and then the next he was being sent on missions for weeks on end. Being a SEAL really put an unnecessary strain on our already strained military relationship.
Our beautiful two story house with the white picket fence and brown door greeted me as I pulled in the driveway, along with another tiny little Beamer that I instantly recognized. I sighed a breath of relief, at least there was someone I could talk to today! I grabbed my belongings and rushed into the house with a somber expression, hoping beyond hope that she was in a better state than I was. Surely enough, Alice was standing with a bright smile beside the kitchen counter, a plate of food in her hands. "Well, hello there." There really wasn't a need to lock your doors around here, so I understood how she got in so easily. I tossed my groceries to the side and ravished the plate of food she made for me. Alice was the strongest little woman I had ever met, and she would always be that way.
"Hey." She replied back, already starting to put away my groceries. "Have you received anything yet?" Alice asked with her back to me. I was happy for that- she didn't need to see my crestfallen face at her imposing question. I understood that she was constantly paranoid when our men were out to war, because there was always that chance that they weren't coming back.
"No." I replied quietly and finished my plate up. "But I'm sure its just because of protocol. You know how our guys are- never one to break rules." I tried to make my conversation light, just to give her back that easy smile she once had.
"Easy for you to say, Bella, your husband is the Commanding Officer." Alice teased back at me. I rolled my eyes, Navy wives constantly threw that in my face, as if that made things any easier for me. I never got the special, secret call or the letter that they all assumed I did.
"Yeah, I guess so." My eyes left hers and roamed around the room, spotting a glass cabinet filled with photo frames. There were some of Edward and I kissing, and then there some of all of us friends hanging out. Alice and Jasper really were our best friends here in San Diego, but aside from them we knew another couple that rivaled siblings- they were our other half, so alike us in so many ways. Alice followed the direction of my gaze and walked to the photo shelf herself, picking up the one picture frame that I was trying my hardest to not look at. It was the six of us all in front of Three Guys Bar in North Carolina, smiling like drunken fools and posing for the camera. Jasper and Alice were hugging one another tight enough to become one, Edward and I gave funny faces with our hands entwined, and then there was Emmett and Rosalie… they were caught up in one crazy lip lock, two very bright smiles apparent.
Alice ran her hand over the picture. "They really were in deep love, weren't they?" She pointed out Rose and Em, making a show of flashing the picture for my eyes once more. For one, Edward and Rosalie were sister and brother. Secondly, Edward and Emmett met one another at Basic Training when they were only 18 or 19 years old. Thirdly, they completed SEAL training together years later. And fourthly… when we first met, I was irrevocably in love with Emmett McCartney. "Bless his heart." I nodded to her statement, Emmett lived life in the wildest, most intense of ways. Moments seemed to fly when you were in his company, and I didn't say that just because I had an old infatuation with the man. His attitude and just natural aura drew you in, and his personality was just so contagious, it was hard to not laugh in his presence. Edward was a better man when Emmett was around. "You know, I love your husband, Edward is a good man." She started out cautiously.
"He sure is." I wasn't too sure how to reply to something as flimsy as that starting statement. Just where was she going with that?
"But…" Ali smiled somewhat wickedly as she turned over the picture a few times in her hands, "Emmett will always be your first love." My eyes became wide, brown saucers when those words left her lips- she knew not to say things like that these days. I was married now, had been for almost six years now. Emmett was just this missing piece of chocolate out of the box, he didn't have any real anchor in my life when it came down to it. "Humor me for a moment, Bella- had Emmett chose you and not Edward's sister… how different things might have been?" That sentence called lots of serious moisture to my eyes; I didn't want to think like that, it reminded that I did in fact have many regrets. I was almost thirty years old, for Christ's sake!
"Alice." I shook my head slowly. "Don't think like that, I don't." There was a time in my younger life where we were all single, but tied together by loose friendships. Alice and I were roommates our first year of college, she was dating this young dude named Jasper Whitlock, and one day we stumbled upon this lost looking blonde bombshell right on the brink of becoming woman. That day changed all of our lives- Ali married Jasper within months and moved on base with him, I was introduced to Emmett McCartney and Edward Cullen by Rosalie, and I taught Rose everything she needed to know about being a woman. In the beginning, I felt such a strong pull to Emmett, but if I was being completely honest, he didn't see me at all. Once Rose was able to squeeze into cut off jean shorts and white tank tops, I began to slowly fade away from his vision. Edward asked me out when I made it clear that I chose to hate Emmett's being with all of my heart, and we never found anything more than each other.
"Oh, c'mon, Bella! I know you don't regret being with Edward, he's a great person- but it causes no harm to think about your past and consider all of the things that did happen, and then the things that didn't." Rose and Emmett were married as soon as she turned nineteen, about a year into our joint friendships. The only way to live on base with a military man is to marry him, and at that time, those two couldn't get enough of each other. It wasn't until their actual wedding day that I realized a huge milestone in my life had come and gone just like that; I was in the ladies restroom of City Hall, where they were going to tie the not in the matter of minutes, and I cried my eyes out for moments on end. She was getting the boy I had always wanted, and she didn't give a shit how that made me feel. Rosalie was a sweet girl when she wanted to be, but she was selfish beyond measurement for the rest of the time.
I shrugged again. "But then again, things worked in my favor. We all got what we wanted, right?" Edward didn't actually marry me until years later, when he "was absolutely ready for that step", as if he planned on spending the rest of life with so many other female candidates. None of us were exactly how or when it happened, but we all drifted slowly apart from another. Alice and Jasper were in Japan for a year or so, Edward became a Commanding Officer and later accepted an Instructor position here on Coronado base, and Emmett and Rosalie… their fate came so much sooner than any of us could have predicted.
Alice came around the marble island and propped her elbows against the countertop before staring at me right in my eyes. "After all, yes." Her soft smile made me melt right into her- the tears came slowly, those treacherous things! I didn't like to admit that my life now was not anything I ever planned for myself. "Shh, Bella, I'm so sorry I brought all of this up." She fretted over me and brought me toilette paper so that I could clear away the snot and excess of water drops on my face. I knew she only meant well by bringing up old shit, but it just didn't help at this time and place. "So sorry." She swallowed nervously and rubbed the shoulder of my sweater as I hiccupped and sobbed into my closed fist.
"Its…" I tried to calm myself down enough to speak clearly, "its alright. Its not like…" again, my tears ran cold down my face and I leaned into her, "I haven't thought about these things myself. Its just that- well," I stupid gestured around me. "I have this big, beautiful house and Edward owns part of his family's summer home in Valencia now, and I finally finished my degree in Child Development, and I have more shoes than I know what to do with!" Those all sounded like great things, I knew that, but it just didn't feel right. "When Edward's home, everything is fine because he convinces us both that this is the way people feel when they've been in love for so long. But when he's gone… all I can think is that I should have loved Emmett instead." As those words I had been thinking for the last nine years of my life were for the first time said aloud, an unexpected reaction surfaced. The tears seemed to suddenly dry up and the ferocious knot that was in my throat just moments ago was now gone. I could breathe normally again. "But Edward's here on Earth with me," Alice's electric blue eyes shot away from mine, as she understood just where I was leading with that- none of us liked to say it, but god damn it, it was the truth! "and Emmett's gone."
My eyes shot open, as wide as they had ever been, as I felt at the side of my bed. It was rumpled, as though Bella had been tossing and turning all night but as I pulled her pillow to me, her strawberry scent was completely gone. I was slightly put off but turned on my side, waiting for her to return to bed from wherever she was. After a few extra minutes than I liked, I finally shot out of bed and ignored the painful rays of sunlight that flittered through the dusty blinds and open windows. What was up with this weather lately? The night before had been a storm of the years, and we awake to bright and sunny skies? I smiled at the thought that Bella brought the sunshine from California; she sure was something akin to sunshine for me. "Bella?" I called out lazily, padding through my bedroom in nothing but pajama bottoms. I checked my en suite bathroom before traveling downstairs going through every last door, space, and cupboard before taking to tapping my fingers insistently. "This isn't funny, Bella, come out already." The old rickety house wasn't all that big, she couldn't have gone far anyway. I knew her, Bella didn't like to travel very far for anything, especially when she was in a bran new town. But hey, I inwardly thought, she hopped on an airplane and came all the way across the country last night didn't she? The grin returned to my face as I settled in a high-arched kitchen stool and patiently waited for her to come walking through the door.
I considered making us something for breakfast, but what if that was where she had gone to? I didn't want to do anything to step on her toes or ruin the perfect mood we were in since yesterday, it was just too soon to do crappy shit like that. On a whim, I decided to go upstairs and find her luggage; wouldn't it just put a smile on her face to return back home and see that all of her things would be put away in different places, as if she had lived here with me all along? I grinned enormously as I went to pull her colored suit cases from under my uniform hung in the closet, but when I got there I received the shock of my life. They were… gone. "What the fuck?" I muttered aloud, running a hand through my hair madly. Where did they up and run off to? I checked under my bed and throughput the two bedroom house, just as I did when looking for the owner. What the hell was going on?
Then a million traitorous thoughts raced through my head like rats in a sewer pipe. Maybe she left you. Maybe you just weren't what she was looking for after all. She probably ran scared as soon as you feel into a deep sleep… think about it, Emmett, you started talking about a family and marriage and giving her your last name! You did it, dumb fuck, you drove her away! Not to mention the fact that you have the ugliest fucking house on the street, and maybe she realized just how pathetic your existence was? "Stop!" I finally screamed and suddenly it felt like the room was spinning, as if the house was on an axis and the wind was blowing it in different directions.
I walked forward to get downstairs where I could get a drink of cool water and clear my head, but I as I directed my usually faultless feet towards the door, I fell over and landed with my head smacking into the cherry wood board at the end of my bed with a loud 'thud'. Was I going insane or something? Was this a sign of Shellshock? I prayed Bella wasn't around for real, I didn't want her to see me all pathetic and loony like this! I tried to get up again but fell numerous of times before finally making my way down the stairs; I felt almost thrown down the last two steps and I ungracefully laid splattered along the hardwood floor of my living room. The house seemed suddenly too small for words- the shapes and sizes of the furniture and ceilings of my home came in and out of focus, making me feel as though I had been in a circus tent or something.
"What's happening to me?" The words came pouring from my mouth in a hoarse cry. I was a grown man and Navy Seal to boot, but even this scared the holy shit out of me. Did I accidentally take some kind of physocsymatic drug, or swallow a bottle of toxic waste? I was tripping the fuck out and there was no escaping this.
"You're dying again, Emmett." The soft words of serenity I once knew so keen to ear spoke to me as nonchalantly as the wind carried messages to the sun; I turned around sharply and sought out her voice, the sweet melody that it was. Suddenly an ill sensation overtook my body, and bile arose in my threat, where there was already a forming lump from my almost-breakdown just seconds ago. I started gagging uncontrollably, fighting back the urge to actually vomit all over the place. "Let it, son, don't fight it so hard." My mother's voice came back into focus, and I saw her standing there.
Dressed in white satin with her hands folded in a calm gesture right above her navel, she looked every inch the holy angel I thought she was. Everyone thought of Darla McCartney as an angel from heaven, even before she died! "Mom?" I called out weakly, glad to have the vomiting sensation gone, but started to feel all of my prior morning energy being drained from my body. Feeling too sick and tired for my own good, I held onto the arm of a smaller loveseat and slipped towards the carpeted floor of the sitting room- I couldn't even find the strength to make it to my own mother, whom was one of the most important people in my life. This was obviously a dream, or maybe some kind of lucid nightmare? Either way, I just wanted to wake up already! "Wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up…" I chanted over and over again, starting to feel even more crazy when my chest and body began to make a rocking sensation.
"Emmie, this isn't a dream." Darla called sweetly to her only son, but I couldn't hear her. I couldn't hear anything.
"It's a nightmare." I finally snarled back, but he didn't mind getting smart with his mother at the moment. I mean, this isn't real life anyway, I reminded myself, this is just one fucked up sleeping experience that will soon be over. But when I opened my eyes and saw my dead mother standing right before me, still in that calm position with her blue electric eyes downcast at me, my legs betrayed me and followed her as she led from out of the house and into the unusually empty street. "Where are you taking me, mom? I'm waiting for Bella, she's bound to get back anytime and I cant just run off with a hallucination-"
"This is real." Darla suddenly spoke, cutting my feelings like a knife. I never liked when she took a higher tone with me, it made me feel so insecure and unsure of myself; I was big bad Emmett McCartney, I wasn't suppose to be second guessing myself and fearing a woman half my size. But she was nonetheless my mother and I refused to cause her anymore distaste. "What you have with Bella is the illusion, none of it is real." Again, she used her tongue to cut me into three different parts. Bella wasn't real? So, she was basically trying to say my entire life wasn't real then? "It was a gift I was able to give you, but it had a deadline, just as everything else in this world does."
"I met Isabella Marie Swan, 21 years of age, two years ago, on July 5th, 2011! Her older brother is my best friend, Commanding Officer Edward Cullen, whom married Rosalie Hale when we were nine years younger-" I began to recite the facts that I absolutely knew about Bella and my world, but my mother successfully hushed me with one hand.
"No, that's not the truth. Think, son, really try to remember it." We maintained eye contact for the longest time, and it was like she was trying to force certain thoughts into my head. I opened my mouth to shout an obscenity driven by confusion, anger, and impatience, but something stopped me. A memory, one that seemed so foggy and far off, stopped me right dead in my tracks.
"What am I suppose to do? I know, I'm trying to be as quiet as I can." Rosalie's hiccups and sobs dipped far into her sloppy words. "I'm young, Bella, what am I doing here in this hell hole? Yes, I know, but…" I wasn't sure just where I was in the house, but I remember hearing her clear as day from wherever the fuck I was. "Bella, your husband still has both of his legs!" It was as if someone ran at me with a steak knife and stuck deep down into my heart, twisting and turning it, pulling it out and driving it back in; she ranted on about some more bullshit that she felt was just too unfair about her life. Finally after a few minutes, she slammed the landline phone down angrily and stomped her way through the house.
It came to me. This was August of 2011, when I lost my lower extremities to an explosion in battle… we were in Afghanistan, I was with Edward Cullen and Eric Masen, two of the bravest men that I knew in battle. We were warriors, I could remember that. But we all lost something when we came back to the States, and some of us were better off, others were lowered into the ground.
My focus came back to life and there Darla McCartney was, eyeing me with the greatest emotion of all- relief. "It still hurts so bad." I admitted lowly, looking down at my legs- so that meant that this was in fact just one big "gift" from something otherworldly. I was married to Rosalie, I did lose my legs, I did let Bella out of my grasp, she was the one that got away… floods of memories returned to me at that point, wherein images of me making love to Rosie and flashes of some of the very last arguments we had together zoomed right past me. She was always the beautiful one, the bombshell with a quick mouth to sell her personality; the polar opposite of Bella, whom I was fully aware had one of the biggest crushes on me. "Rosalie lost the baby at six months." Lonely tears fell from my face at that thought, a sentence I never once uttered when I was around anyone. "She left me not long after that, and she took everything." Why I was saying these painful things aloud, I would never know. This was so tortuous to do, cleanse myself of every negative deed and occasion that happened to me in life. "Bella came to visit me once, after everything happened, I remember that. But I blew her off and refused to answer the door." I gritted my teeth at the recollection, balled fists at my side, but I went on. "I didn't even offer her a place to stay the while she visited. I… heard that she left back to California that very same night." I angrily brushed away the tears that felt so humiliating.
Nine years of friendship was what we all shared between myself, Edward, his sister Rosalie, Alice and her husband, and Bella. Immediately, Alice and Officer Whitlock were married, I followed a few years down when Rosalie was actually legal, and Edward and Bella… I wasn't even invited to their church wedding. My marriage to Rosalie three years into everything brought upon a strong tension that no word could ever fix, not that I even tried apologizing to Bella for blowing her off the way I did. I didn't see Rosalie's spoiled ways, I was so ass-in and knee deep that I couldn't even breathe on my own towards the end. Just past our first year anniversary was when Afghanistan happened, and that changed everything in slow downward spiral. "How long have I been like this?" I asked suddenly, kind of not wanting to know. The last thing I could remember was one last heated argument over the phone with Edward, a man I had once called my brother on the field, and we declared an angry and violent hatred for one another. Gosh, that was so long ago… at least, it felt like it. When exactly did I die? Was it long after that phone call? Or was it right after?
"Like what? You've always been Emmett." My mother seemed to play coy with me.
"Don't jerk me around, Mom." It seemed I would have to be more specific with my questions. "How long have I been dead? How did I die? Why don't I remember it?"
My mother sent me another rueful look before taking my hand in hers. "Are those the questions that you truly wish to ask?" Was this some sort of test? Was I in heaven or hell? Surely, God didn't let his deceased suffer like this when they were in heaven. But there was no fucking way my mother was in hell, but there she was standing beside me. Darla sighed softly and swung our hands back and forth as she did when I was a young kid and walked me about. "We're in a limbo right now, Emmie, neither of us can move past this world and onto the next yet. There were too many things we hadn't yet come to terms with."
I thought about the fact that she didn't answer any of the questions I asked, just the one question I hadn't asked. "You said this was a gift, to see Bella and make all of this happen… a gift from who?"
She smiled smally. "From your mother, of course. I know the things that you truly need, not necessarily the things you think you want." A dark expression passed over her face for a second, and a tiny tear escaped her eye. "You needed Bella, your soul could not rest until you felt as through you could resolve things with her! Emmie, we're all granted a gift when our souls are called back home. This was yours."
I swallowed another lump in my already constricted throat. As we walking in the direction of nowhere, I felt as slow we were slowly reaching our destination. "And what was your so rightfully "God given" gift, mom?" Even in this moment, I found a small spot to slide a joke in.
Darla McCartney's lower lip wobbled dangerously as she touched at my face gingerly, the way only a mother can. "I was able to make you happy one last time."
Her words stung me so hard in my face that I felt as though my chest was nearly collapsing and the world beneath me was falling; she did all of this for me. She didn't use her last wish to spend it with the love of her life, or wrapped up in my childhood once more. She used to make sure I was given closure, to help me on my way to recovering from an entire world of hurt. "You wasted it on me." I suddenly felt seventeen again, confused and hurt all alone in a zone of discomfort. When she died, a very large piece of me died right along with her.
"Nothing is wasted if it's spent on the one you love." My mom flashed me one of her all-knowing smirks, as if to only repeat what I seemed to think all along. True love won out in the end, and it was the type of thing that stayed with you even when everything else was clearly out of your line of vision.
"So… tell me, Mom, I just need to know. How did it happen?" I begged her with my eyes to not play dumb as she did earlier.
She took the subtle meaning of my words and sighed almost painfully, this probably was not easy to do, but I needed her to do this and she fully understood that. "It was the Whitlock's ninth anniversary which would have made it everyone's ninth year of being friends as well.. If you all were in fact still friends, which wasn't the case. You were invited, you even boarded a plane with an assisting nurse to make it to the San Diego beach reception. I watched you get out of the car, go to the front doors of the small chapel, and I cried when I saw you turn back around and get in your car. Edward called you the next day, outraged that you decided not to show up at the private ceremony where you were greatly needed."
I stopped her there, I felt no need for her to explain anything else. I could remember it so vividly now- hell, I could smell the ocean and hear the seagulls above me. With a harsh shake of my head, I gripped both of her hands in mine. "He called me a pathetic cripple for not attending; I just didn't want them to see me like that, with no legs. I wanted them to remember me as the runner and the trainer and the Navy SEAL, not some charity case." For once, my mother didn't correct me or even try to over-console me, she just nodded in agreement.
"I can understand that. But the next few days… I mean, Emmie, what were you thinking?" There was heartbreak evident in her voice but I couldn't fight my eyes to look up at her face- I knew there would be disappointment written all over her features. "Bella came of her own accord, against Edward's wishes, to see you. And with not even an explanation, you sent her off your doorstep with death threats! She loved you, after all of those years, and besides everything that happened. Rosalie hit the road after a less-than-perfect five year run… she didn't even stay long enough to properly mourn your daughter."
A painful gasp left my mouth at her words. "A daughter? Is that… why you sent me Sophie?" Without even a spoken confirmation from her, I turned on my heel and looked around at all of my bland surroundings. I wanted to crush something, to hit someone hard in the face and break some bones for once! Sophie slipped right through my fingers, and if I had only known my mother sent her in place of the daughter I was never able to take care of… God, I would have done so many things differently. Instead of utilizing my anger out something nearby, I folded my legs beneath me and sat down Indian style on the green grass beneath me. I covered my face in shame as the water works began; I didn't enjoy letting others see me cry, it was a horrible weakness of mine. "I fucked everything up, Mom. I fucked it up twice."
"Hush, my child. Things happened the way that they had to. I wasn't allowed to give you a happy ending or some fairy tale that lasted through the ages; I was able to give you one year in the life of the Emmett Michael McCartney that you truly wanted to be." Darla tried to soothe me, but there was just no stepping away from this revelation.
"She would have been six." I pushed the images of sweet little Sophie away from my mind, trying my hardest to convince my brain that this was not happening to me. Sophie wasn't my daughter, she was just a figment of my imagination. I had no daughter! My ex-wife miscarried when she was in her second trimester, we hadn't even found out the sex of the baby yet. Sophia was not my daughter! Sophia was just a made up part of this nightmare my mother orchestrated for me with the best intentions at heart. "I had her so close, and I left! You gave me the opportunity to hug and kiss and love her like a father and I ran like a coward." I ended bitterly, allowing the salty tears of regret fall freely now. There was nothing more to be ashamed of.
Her hand on my shoulder brought my attention back to her. The loose grin on her face was so out of place in my intense moment of mental breakdown mode, it really caused me to think that I lost it for good. "Just guess who you get to see at the end of our journey."
THIS IS THE SECOND TO LAST CHAPTER.
ONE MORE WILL BE UPLOADED WITHIN THE NEXT TWO MONTHS.
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