"For the Love of a Man in Uniform" O/S Contest
Title: This Is My Daddy
Word Count: 4,635
Pairing: Em/B and E/B
Summary: Widow Bella Swan receives an unpleasant surprise when an unexpected messenger shows up on her door step. However, it forces her to face the truth and brings up conversations with her daughter that she's been avoiding for years
Disclaimer: All recognizable people and places from Twilight belong to Stephanie Meyer.
This Is My Daddy
"Alyssa, what did you bring for show and tell?"
The small blond stood up from her desk before crossing the room and unzipping her backpack, removing a small metal box. She marched to the front of the room, taking in a deep breath as if she were preparing to deliver The Gettysburg Address.
"I brought my Daddy..." she started, but was almost instantly cut off as the class erupted.
The snickers were heard throughout the room as the class of first graders looked at the small girl holding the box. Clearly Alyssa McCarty was not only a quiet little bookwork, but also a little crazy. They were all thinking it, though none of them were mean enough to voice it aloud. Except for Lauren whose giggles were a little louder than everyone else.
"Yeah right, McCarty. Everyone knows you don't even have a Daddy."
Her lip quivered as she glared at Lauren. She knew she was the prettiest girl in her class, but she was also the meanest and she just wanted to kick her. She glanced towards her teacher, who looked terrified, but gave her a nod of reassurance.
"I do have a Daddy! Or I guess, I did." She whispered the words as she fingered the box she was holding in her hands. She slowed to take another deep breath before she attempted to continue.
"His name was Emmett and he loved my mom a lot! He even gave her this ring..."
She carefully held the box against her chest as she pulled the small diamond ring out from under her shirt where she wore it. "They were gonna get married, but he hads to go off to war. He went to Afghan."
"Afghanistan," Mrs. Cope spoke up softly, and she gave Alyssa an encouraging smile. She clutched her chest it was as if she could feel her heart literally breaking for the sweet little girl who stood in front of her class.
"Yes, that." Alyssa took another deep breath as she fingered it. "He was 'pposed to come back, but something happened while he was over there. Momma said it was swiper, but not the one from Dora. I wanted to ask her more questions, but it makes her cry and I don't like that."
She shrugged as if she simply couldn't understand why the questions upset her mother so. "He met me when I was a little, but I don't remember. Momma says he lived with us in Seattle, but after Daddy didn't come back, we moved here to live with Gramps and Maemaw."
She lifted her chin and looked her class mates in the eye, an act she rarely did as she held up the box. "This is my Daddy, and it just came yesterday. It made Momma cry and go to her room before dinner, but Gramps said I should be proud of my Daddy, because he was protecting our freedom. So I'm proud Emmett was my Daddy, but I still miss him and wish he was here for me to ride on his shoulders," she silently crossed the room back to her backpack and slipped the box back inside her bag. Once she was sure it was secure in the safety the princesses provided to all of her belongings, she sunk back in her chair, letting her hair fall around her face, hoping to go back to being invisible.
Bella leaned against the porch railing as she stared out at the sunset. She shook her head as she ignored the sound of the wooden screen door of her childhood home as it slammed behind her. She knew it was her mother's attempt at being helpful. Her mother had a habit of placing herself in a position where Bella could find her when she was ready, but when she was feeling impatient, it was sure to let Bella know where precisely she was located. Bella was unsure if she'd ever find the words to be able to verbalize the horror she was currently calling her life.
Three years ago, someone had come to her door in a uniform to tell her that her fiancé wasn't coming back home to her. She'd gone numb and said all the right things so that he would leave her, and when she'd finally regained enough sense to make her body and mind connect,she had immediately done the only thing she truly knew how to do at that point. She called her parents who were instantaneously at her side.
Her parents handled everything for her, allowing their baby girl to grieve for the love she had lost. They packed and shipped her and Alyssa's belongings; they even sold the house for her. All she had to do was sign the papers when they put them in front of her. It was the perfect arrangement for her at the time, because she honestly didn't think she could have functioned enough to handle any of it on her own.
Emmett had been her high school sweetheart, her one and only love, and yet here she stood, a twenty-four year old with little hope left in the world. Every ray of sunshine in her life came from the little girl bouncing around the yard on an imaginary pony, singing some song about summer. It seemed she was making up the words as she sang.
With a sigh, Bella noted that summer seemed to agree with her daughter. She had been worried about her since the phone call from Mrs. Cope before school let out. She had no idea that Alyssa would sneak the box that housed the ashes she'd received out of the house. She knew she should have talked about it more with Alyssa the night they came, but it had honestly been too much to take in. It was the final nail in the coffin that solidified the fact he wasn't coming home to her. Despite already having this knowledge, the physical proof had been too much to bear in that moment.
She visibly cringed as she remembered the knock at her door at the end of April. When she'd received the initial visit, she'd been handed a telegram and the carrier had stayed long enough to catch her, help her inside, and get her a glass of water and the phone. Clearly he was well trained at his job and when he left, Bella numbly dialed her parents. Over the years, she had just been relieved that she would never have to go through that again.
So when she found herself face-to-face with another war messenger three years later, it once more left her speechless and frozen. He'd handed her another letter, but this one was attached to a box. She had managed to keep her footing as she read that they had finally recovered Emmett's body from the prison where he was being held; however, it had not been in a proper shape to return home, so they had cremated him and were now returning him to her person, and once more they were sorry for her loss.
Bella snorted as she pushed off the railing and sunk down onto the porch swing with her mother. They said they were sorry each time they sent a letter out, but what could they possibly know? They sent thousands of men and women into dangerous situations daily and only returned a fraction of them back to their families. If they were truly sorry, they would have found a better way years ago. At least, those were the words she'd used to console herself. She knew that Emmett believed in what he was fighting for, and most days so did she. But it didn't make being alone any easier.
"You know, you don't have to move."
She glanced over at her mother who had finally spoken, ending her self imposed silence. "I know, Mom, but it's time. I have enough money saved up, and Alyssa needs some space of her own. It's just up the lane, so you'll still see her all the time."
"I told your father you'd say that," she said as she hugged her into her side, resting her cheek on top of her head as they watched the sinking sun. "I know it will be good for you and Lyssa, but we have enjoyed having you two here. It will just be an adjustment."
"A good one, though. The last thing I need is to walk in on any more debauchery than I already have. Heaven forbid Lyssa and her innocent eyes were to be the ones that stumbled upon teenage parents. She'd be scarred for life."
With that, they both found themselves dissolved into laughter.
Bella carried the pie up the steps of the station, cursing softly under her breath when she stubbed her toe on the loose board and nearly tripped. She made a mental note to scold her father again about the death trap that was the station's front porch as she bumped the door with her hip and then shoved her butt against it to push her way through the door, somehow managing not to trip over her feet again. She shook her hair out of her face as she turned to his desk, her nose scrunching when she realized it was empty.
"Can I help you, miss?"
She froze at the unfamiliar voice, noting that the pie she carried on a hand towel to protect her hands was still hot inside and it could be smashed it into the intruder's face to protect herself and give her time to get out.
She turned, poised to step forward and launch the pie into his face if it was necessary, and became even more confused when she saw the man wearing a pink shirt paired with a black tie and leather jacket. He couldn't have looked more out of place in Forks if he was trying.
"And you are?"
"Deputy Cullen, at your service." His southern accent was so cute, she wasn't sure whether she was supposed to laugh or swoon.
The words felt foreign on her tongue as she searched her mind for the knowledge that her dad was hiring someone new. She felt like she vaguely recalled hearing him mention it, but she couldn't be sure. It simply pointed out that she had been far too self-centered lately.
"I know; I don't really look the part yet. Deputy Newton was a little more-."
She swallowed hard as she watched him unfold from his chair to his full height as he searched for the nicest way to describe the officer he was replacing.
"Newton's wife owns the doughnut shop and bakery in town. I imagine he has a bit more of a sweet tooth than you do."
He grinned at her diplomatic phrasing as he nodded. "Exactly. So, what can I do for you miss? You looked a little confused when you arrived."
"Oh yes, I was a bit. I was looking for Charlie."
"Oh. Chief Swan," he said in surprise. "We were a bit slow here and his wife called with something about the pilot light on the furnace being out, so he went home to relight it. You're welcome to wait here for him or I can pass along the message that you were here."
She eyed him curiously and then shook her head. "No, no. Neither of those is necessary, I'll just leave this and a note." She stepped around his desk and laid the pie on his desk and opened the drawer as Edward was suddenly around the desk in a flash. He had the drawer closed as soon as she cracked it
"Ma'am, I don't think that's an appropriate action. If you'll step around the desk, I'll get you a message pad and a pencil."
Bella raised an eyebrow and raised her eyes to meet his green ones. "Deputy, it's okay if I get in my dad'smiddle drawer to grab the post-its. I promise."
"Your dad? Oh. I'm sorry, I didn't know that you were supposed to be stopping by."
"It was a surprise. I knew he was supposed to be on duty." She pushed his hand aside gently as she pulled a post it out and scribbled a note of thanks about helping her move and slapped it to the top of the pie as she stood up. "Well, Deputy, this has been real-"
She paused to search for the right word before she shrugged. "It's been real." She stepped around him and made her way to the door. She stopped long enough to glance once more at the too handsome sheriff before she shoved all thoughts of him from her mind and headed off to her next destination.
As she neared the wrought-iron gate, she shoved against its weight and made her way into the grassy field, her eyes focusing on the blades of grass as she trampled them with her Converse. She counted off the columns and rows mentally before she finally stopped and sunk to her knees as she lifted her gaze to land on the cold cement before her eyes. She reached out letting her fingers trace across the disruption in the perfectly smooth stone.
Emmett Dale McCarty
Father, Son, and Husband
She hadn't brought flowers with her since they had seemed to be the most inappropriate thing she could have brought him. When he was alive, he would have laughed at the thought of receiving flowers. She couldn't imagine he was currently in need of a good laugh from his current location. As she stared at the stone in front of her, it all suddenly became concrete to her, as if somehow the reception of the box hadn't been concrete enough for her. Her cheeks were wet again and it seemed like it was far too much work to stay upright.
She allowed herself to lie down against the cool damp grass, reasoning that she'd change before she picked Alyssa up from summer camp later that afternoon. Right now, she just needed to feel closer to Emmett as she whispered the words she wished she could tell him. How much she missed him, how somehow she'd managed to come through the last two years with her head above water, how amazing Alyssa was, and how she reminded her of him. She cried and talked for what felt like hours. She finally stopped when she was exhausted and her throat was too dry to continue any longer.
She allowed her eyes close for a moment, to recuperate and calm down.
A moment turned into an hour, and an hour turned into sunset. Bella's exhausted body slept on the hallowed ground, sleeping deeper than she had in years. It was like the stress that she had been under for the past few years were really and truly over now. She dreamed of nothing as she slept. No more awful horrors of war, images she'd probably come up with from watching "Saving Private Ryan" one too many times. Her brain was no longer being ravaged as she pictured Emmett lost and alive, fighting as he tried to find his way back to them.
She slept hard enough that she didn't hear her forgotten cell phone as it vibrated on the ground next to her or even her name that was being called in the distance. It wasn't until a set of hand shook her that she jumped to from the ground, sending her head colliding with the owner of the hands. She allowed a string of curses to escape her mouth, and she promised to pay Alyssa's curse jar later in the evening when she returned home.
"Ow! You cannot sneak up on a person like that!" she yelled at the intruder, rubbing the back of her head where it had connected with the hard jaw. "Seriously, it's rude!" she reprimanded the stranger, narrowing her eyes in his direction, only for them to widen as he came into focus.
"You? What are you doing here?" she demanded, placing her hands on her hips as she glared at him. "Do you always stalk people you meet?"
His laughter drew her out of her rant, and she raised an eyebrow as she wondered if her dad's discernment was off in his hiring, because she was beginning to think that this one was crazy.
"I wasn't stalking you. Your Dad has most of the town out searching for you. Lyssie's daycare called when you didn't pick her up by 6:15."
"6:15?" she demanded as she searched for her forgotten cell phone. She quickly snatched it up and saw the screen screaming that she had twenty missed calls. She pressed a button to clear the screen so she could check the time. "It's nearly 7:00. How did that happen? I was only 3:00 when I got here. My word. I completely forgot. I am the world's worst-"
Suddenly she turned on her heel and glared at him. "What did you say?"
"Your Dad has the town looking for you?"
"The other part."
"I wasn't stalking you?"
"Don't be a smart ass. You know what I'm talking about."
She cut him off as she stabbed her finger in his chest. "What the hell are you calling her that for? Her name is Alyssa." The steam was almost visible as it rolled off of her in her anger. "No one calls her that. No one."
She attempted to put enough emphasis on her words so the mistake would never happen again. That had been Emmett's nick name for Alyssa, and no one had ever used it when he was alive. She'd be damned if anyone else tried to claim and use it now.
"It's all..." he trailed off, clearly weighing his words as he opened and closed his mouth several times before he began anew. "Why don't you give your dad a call to let him know that you're okay, and then the two of us can go over to the diner and I can attempt to explain myself."
"Explain yourself?" Bella punched a message into her phone while glaring at him, hoping that her fingers were on the right buttons "I don't think that I want to do anything with you. No offense, but just because you're working for my dad doesn't mean that you and I need to have anything to do with one another."
"I know that. I would never try to impose a relationship on someone because of an association like that." He sighed, tugging on the ends of his hair as if he were searching for the words that would soothe the riled beast in front of him. "I didn't mean to upset you by using that nickname. I wasn't aware that it wasn't a common one."
"What? I know my Dad didn't call her that."
"No, no. You're right he didn't, which maybe should have clued me into that fact, but what can I say? I'm a little thick in the head."
"What are you rambling on about?" she finally demanded as she closed her phone and shoved it into the pockets of the sundress she was wearing. As she studied the man in front of her, she tried to remind herself why she was even conversing with him. She shook her head as she took a deep breath. "Thank you for coming to find me. I appreciate it."
He stood there, trying to find a way to stop her from dismissing him so quickly. "I knew him."
She stopped in her tracks. She didn't turn towards him, but he decided to take that as a good sign. He walked towards her, leaving space between them in case she turned on him. "We fought together. Don't think this is some weird thing where I'm stalking you or think you're my lucky charm or something creepy. It just-it just happened that I ended up in the same place you did."
When she wheeled around, the fire was gone out of her eyes and she looked much smaller and much more fragile than he remembered from moments earlier. "I'm sorry, come again."
"Emmett was a part of my platoon. We went over together and we stayed together until the end..."
When he trailed off she picked up "... his end at least. Were you in there with him? Did he-did he..."
"...suffer? I don't know. I wasn't there that day, well, I wasn't with him. He was behind me; we were supposed to be in a safe zone, but there was a suicide bomber that came out of no where and blindsided us. Three men were captured from our group that day. Emmett was one of them and we tried desperately to rescue them. You have to know that. We did everything we could to break into where they were captured, but nothing we did seemed to penetrate the facility. When we made our third and final attempt, Eric got in partially and got a view of the cell, but they were..."
"...already gone," she finished for him, surprising herself that she wasn't falling apart yet.
These were the answers she'd been sure she'd never receive, and here was someone with all the answers and she wasn't sure she wanted them anymore. When her phone chimed at her side, it seemed to pull them out of the weird connection that had fallen into. She shook her head as she read the message.
"I can't go to the diner with you, not tonight. Alyssa's asking for me. It's thrown her entire routine for me not to pick her up. Tomorrow though, do you think that you could possibly have breakfast or lunch with me? I don't know if I'll be up to discussing that incident any further, but I am curious as to how you ended up here of all places."
"It was innocent, I assure you."
"I believe you, I think..."
"I promise, it was innocent. I honestly didn't even know it was you until I took a good look at your dad's wall. He has that picture of Lyss-" he caught himself before he set her off again, "Alyssa kissing Emmett's cheek in front of the boat. Emmett carried that picture with him everywhere. He said she was the reason he was there, to make sure the world was perfect for his baby girl."
"That sounds like him." As her phone chimed again in her hand, she shook her head. "I really do have to go. She's a smidgen sensitive when part of her routine is off. She's used to me being there to do the bed time routine, if I'm not and she didn't know in advance, she'll be up all night for my parents. She worries, the professionals all say that it's normal for a child who experienced loss at such a young age."
"Tomorrow. Lunch would be great. I'll meet you at the diner, say noon?"
"Tomorrow at noon will be perfect."
With that, she disappeared through the gate, leaving him alone as he turned towards the tombstone. He shook his head as he stood there staring at it, half expecting Emmett to smack him upside his head for the thoughts that had consumed his mind earlier in the afternoon when he'd first met the chief's daughter. He had no idea the connection that he would encounter here when he'd joined his parents. But now that he had met Bella, he couldn't help but wonder if this was either the worst idea ever, or the weirdest twist of fate.
Either way he had the strangest feeling that he wouldn't be able to stay away from Bella Swan. He promised himself that he would remind himself that she was not for him. She already belonged to another. He reached out and let his fingers run over the top of the tombstone, whispering a few words before he left the cemetery. Tomorrow was another day, and he could deal with all of this then. But for now, he just needed to fold himself back into his desk chair and finish out his shift.
Bella climbed into bed next to Alyssa as she settled down for the night. It wasn't their usual ritual which involved a book and a kiss from a chair pulled up next to the bed. However, a day like the one she'd just faced seemed to warrant a bit more than usual. She played with Alyssa's hair, twisting the blond curls over her fingers as she contemplated the right thing to say.
She'd gone through years of counseling to give her the right words. She'd never been able to offer the words that they had told her that she needed to tell her daughter. She figured it probably aligned her for worst mother ever, but she knew that she hadn't been strong enough.
"You know it's okay to talk with me about your dad if you want to, right?"
After the words left her mouth, she realized that they lifted a weight off of her shoulders as well. She didn't feel oppressed or like she was falling in quicksand the way it usually did when she talked about Emmett.
"Sometimes, I feel bad when I'm happy."
She eyed her daughter curiously. "What do you mean?" she asked softly, deciding it was the safer route to take.
"I mean sometimes when I'm happy, I feel bad because I know that daddy isn't here anymore and that I should be more sad that he's gone."
"Oh no. No, baby girl." Bella assured her, the fire in her eyes returned as she realized what she had done by not discussing this sooner. "Your Daddy wanted you to be happy more than anything in the world. He would be crushed if he knew that you were holding back your happiness because of him. It was so important to him, you have to know that. When you were just a little baby, you wouldn't sleep through the night, so your daddy would get up with you. I used to lay there and listen to him through the baby monitor. It was so sweet. He'd sing to you and tell you all the things that he wanted you to have. He loved you more than anything."
"So even though he's not here to be happy, you think he wants me to be?"
"I know he does." She kissed her daughter's forehead. "He was brave, Lyssa, and he wanted to be sure that you lived in a world where you had had freedom to do anything you can dream of. Don't listen to anyone who says anything differently. Ever."
They laid their for a few moments longer in a comfortable silence before Alyssa rolled over, which bumped Bella to the edge of the tiny twin they were squeezed into currently. She ran her fingers over the framed picture on her bedside table of her and Emmett.
"This is my daddy, mom, and I'm really proud of that."
She looked over at her, grinned, and took Bella's hand in hers as she yawned and snuggled into her blankets. "And you're my mom, and I'm proud of that too."