Standing at the Crossroads, Tanya's Story

a 'Forsaken In My Mind's Past' Outtake

Written for: The Fandom Against Domestic Violence

*A/N: I want to thank my beta, *fmneff* for working on this on such short notice and getting it back to me in a ridiculously short amount of time. You are absolutely fabulous, my friend.

*NOTE: If you have not read Forsaken In My Mind's Past, please read it up to the current chapter and then come back to this.

This is a very special outtake I wrote for a very special and amazing charity, The Fandom Against Domestic Violence. I chose to contribute to this group because, for one, I feel it is a wonderful cause. My story, "Forsaken In My Mind's Past," delves into the dark world of domestic violence and I felt there wasn't a better cause for me to contribute an outtake to. For those that have read and are continuing to read my little fic, you know that Bella's marriage to Jacob is by no means a happy one. That comes to light in a terrifying way one night when he proceeds to try and rape her in order for her to know he has power over her. This, among other distasteful things that have come to light, is effectively the undoing of her marriage. Bella will need her family and friends to help her through this turbulent chapter in her life, but she will also find inspiration, courage and friendship from a very unlikely source, Tanya Denali. This is Tanya's story.

X~X~X

The Pretenders, "I'll Stand By You"

"Oh, why you look so sad? Tears are in your eyes, come on and come to me now,

Don't be ashamed to cry. Let me see you through, because I've seen the dark side too,

When the night falls on you, you don't know what to do…

Nothing you confess could make me love you less,

I'll stand by you; I'll stand by you,

Won't let nobody hurt you, I'll stand by you,

So, if you're mad get mad, don't hold it all in side, come on and talk to me now,

Hey, what you got to hide? I get angry too; well I'm a lot like you,

When you're standing at the crossroads and don't know which path to choose,

Let me come along, 'cause even if you're wrong,

I'll stand by you; I'll stand by you,

Won't let nobody hurt you, I'll stand by you,

Take me in into your darkest hour, and I'll never desert you,

I'll stand by you

And when, when the night falls on you, baby, you're feeling all alone,

You won't be on your own; I'll stand by you; I'll stand by you,

Won't let nobody hurt you, I'll stand by you,

Take me in into your darkest hour, and I'll never desert you,

I'll stand by you; I'll stand by you,

Won't let nobody hurt you, I'll stand by you."

X~X~X

The utter ridiculousness of my actions didn't necessarily come to light until I walked into the door of my – our – new house and found Garrett nervously running his palms over the arm of the recliner he was sitting in, eyeing me warily.

Essentially – well, sort of – coming on to Edward Cullen, my old high school boyfriend, who had clearly moved on and was in love again himself, especially when I had the most amazing man on the planet waiting here for me, was about the stupidest judgment calls I had made in a while. I only hoped I hadn't ruined things for him, as the look on Bella Swan's face when she saw me at his parents' house was not one of blissful love; it was hurt, betrayal and anger.

"Where were you?" he asked, a slight edge to his tone, and I sighed.

"I went to see…the Cullens," I replied carefully and looked down at him with remorseful eyes.

He nodded, seemingly defeated by my actions tonight, and stood up, beginning to make his way into the bedroom. He had waited up for me. That much was obvious as it was well past one in the morning. I felt a stab of guilt as I watched him.

"Garrett…" I began, but stopped as he turned to me with fire in his hazel eyes.

"Did you do something? Did you…did you tell him?" he asked, his voice cool but slightly wavering.

I shook my head and told a half-truth. "Garrett, I didn't do anything. He's…in love with, with Bella and to be honest, I'm a little worried about…something's going on that I—" I stopped myself when I saw the hurt in his eyes and the furrow in his brow, so I corrected myself quickly, wanting him to understand that I didn't feel what I used to feel for Edward. "Besides," I continued, "I'm hopelessly in love with you, Garrett."

He tried to hold back a jovial grin as I said those words and cleared his throat, once again looking bothered. "So, did you tell him, I mean, about us?"

I nodded and smiled as Garrett's eyes widened, obviously concerned of what his friend might think of him, of this situation. "He's fine with it, Gar. He says it's fucked up and you're going to catch a load of shit from Emmett, but he's totally okay with it."

Garrett rolled his eyes at the mention of Emmett as he walked toward me and wrapped his arms around me. He kissed me on the top of my head and I let out a relieved sigh. I couldn't stand it when he was upset with me and although a part of me believed that it had to do with my history, a stronger part of me knew it was because I cared so much about him, because he was such a wonderful man.

He had helped me so much after I'd started getting my life together and gone back to school. Garrett and I had begun talking soon after I'd joined a social network on line. He was such a genuinely sweet and caring person and I couldn't help but confide in him. After he had come to visit me several times in Minneapolis, and I saw the way my daughter took to him so easily, we both began depending on those late night phone calls to get each other through the night. I finally realized that I couldn't be without him, and when he asked me to go to Kansas City… The visit was so amazing, that I quickly found a place there for Journey and me. We loved it there, but it still felt like something was missing. Now that we were home, back in Chicago, it felt like that missing piece of my life was put back into place and I could breathe again.

"Let's go to bed, baby," he whispered in my ear. "We can talk about everything tomorrow."

I sighed and looked into his eyes, smiling.

"Okay," I whispered back and nodded, losing myself – as I often did – in his eyes.

As I lay in bed a little while later, I couldn't help but think back to one of the other happiest days of my life. Apart from the birth of my baby girl, and finding love again with Garrett, my college graduation was one of my proudest moments. I reveled in it and let my mind drift back as I curled up next to Garrett's warmth.

X~X~X

May 27th, 2007:

"Tanya Elisabeth Denali." I smiled to myself as I heard my name, spoken with such grace over the loud speakers. Taking a step forward, I drew in a deep breath and let the pride envelope me.

My college graduation. A few short years prior to this, I would've never thought I'd be taking these particular steps across this immense stage to be handed the piece of paper that would essentially change my life. In my own mind, in my heart, I'd already done it. I had already changed my life and the biggest reason for that was out in the crowd probably squirming impatiently on the lap of my frazzled mother.

My main goal now was to use my education and my experiences to help change the lives of others…others like me.

I scanned the crowd quickly, my eyes coming to rest on the shining, strawberry blonde curls of my two and a half-year-old daughter, Journey. She was being bounced repeatedly as she sat on my mom's lap. Her head was bent forward, obviously fidgeting with a toy to keep her little hands busy. I let out a breathy chuckle and shook my head. My mom was gazing at me with pride-filled eyes full of tears. She leaned down and whispered something in my daughter's ear, and then pointed toward me smiling. Journey looked up, her huge blue eyes falling on me instantly as I gave her a small wave, then blew her a kiss. I saw her plump little lips mouth 'Mommy' and then curve into the most amazing smile as her little hands came together to clap. My mom laughed and I felt a tear slip down my cheek, which I wiped away quickly, at the sight of my beautiful child.

She had been through so much in her short life – even before she was born, while she was still nestled in my womb – but she'd survived and so had I. That little person, looking at me as if I'd hung the moon, was the main reason I had taken the step I had to make things better for us. Although, I had to give myself a little credit for finding the courage to do so…along with the help of others.

I glanced to the left of my mom and saw my sister. Kate had always been the strong one, my big sister who protected me as we grew up. She was the one that didn't take shit from anyone, especially men, but when I let my life spin out of control, she couldn't protect me anymore. She tried. So many times she tried to talk sense into me. At one point, she'd even kidnapped me; forced me to stay with her for a while, but the wild and crazy that had become my life couldn't be tamed and I bolted. I ran straight back to hell.

I remember being horrified once I realized what I had put her through, put them all through. I thought that she'd hate me. My hand had been shaking so badly, as I held the phone to call her and apologize for everything, that I wasn't sure I was going to be able to hold it to my ear, let alone make my voice form coherent words. But I did it, and although she wasn't easy on me – that simply was not my sister's style – she assured me in the end that she'd never stopped loving me and never would. She told me that she would support me in my mission to help others. She had even told me that she was proud of me…something I was certain, at that time, would never happen.

I could see that in her eyes today. She was proud of me, and the lump in my throat swelled along with my chest as I saw her stand up from her seat and hold her hands toward me as she clapped loudly.

My steps faltered a bit as I noticed movement to her left and realized that my father was maneuvering himself to stand next to her. The look on his face was one that I wasn't used to. I struggled to continue walking across the stage as I wanted to capture as much of his elated, loving expression as I possibly could. I wanted to tuck it away in my mind for safe keeping.

My father had always elicited mixed emotions within me. He was a military man; perpetually serious and strong. He'd always been our family's protector, but he was also as strict as the day was long. I'd grown up, in all honesty, being terrified of him. It was said that little girls grew up to be with men like their fathers, and I guess in a way I had, but my father had never been outright abusive. Let me rephrase that. What my father sometimes did with his words and mere presence, my subsequent boyfriends did with their fists, sometimes foreign objects, and the vulgarity of their words and actions toward me.

I loved my father dearly, but I wasn't like him. Kate was more like him, strong, opinionated. She was more apt to handle him. She talked back at times, which got her in a lot of trouble for the most part, but ironically, seemed to earn his respect. I was more like my mother, passive, always followed directions and the rules. I guess you could say I was the shy one growing up, afraid to question authority and my father was definitely the authority of the house.

My passive personality allowed people in my life to walk all over me; my sister was always trying to get me to stand up for myself. I believed my father saw this as weak. He saw me as weak. He had no patience for weak individuals.

My mom always seemed to want to comfort me when my father would upset me, but afterward, she was always subjected to him coming down on her for "babying" me – as he liked to call it. As much as I wanted to blame him for what the subsequent men in my life did to me, I couldn't. He was my dad and I loved him. As I'd come to realize recently, my life was my own and I had to take hold of it.

It was no surprise to Kate and me that our parents divorced after I graduated high school. It was quite obvious that our mom had grown tired of his dictatorship. Presumably, since Kate was just out of college and I was out of high school, my parents thought we could handle things better than if we'd been children. It was difficult on all of us. Mom seemed happier, of course. Kate threw herself into her career, and I tried to cling to my high school sweetheart, my boyfriend of two years at the time, and the only boy – I would come to realize – who never raised his hand to me, Edward Cullen.

My heart sank slightly as I thought of Edward, mixed feelings beseeching me once again. I suppose if I wanted to, I could've blamed him for what became of me after he'd broken my heart the way he did; sending me spiraling downward into darkness after he left me. But the truth of the matter was I'd done that to myself. He had broken my heart, that much was true, and for someone he barely knew at that, but my behavior afterward was to be blamed on no one other than myself.

I continued taking careful steps across the enormous stage, fighting back the emotion welling up inside of me as I wondered whether Edward would've been proud of what I'd become. I knew without a doubt that, had he known what the other men had put me through, he would've wanted to kill them. He was as protective of me as my father was. It was in his nature. He was a lot like my father in that way, if not more. The problem was that neither one of them knew. As much turmoil as my father caused me emotionally, I knew he would've made all of them pay dearly. I was sure Edward would have as well.

As most high school romances go, our relationship began to deteriorate when Edward left for college. I was still a senior as Edward was a year older than me, and the separation was devastating. Not necessarily at first, but as the year went on and we began to see less and less of each other…hardly talking…it became clear that our relationship wasn't strong enough to endure it. I shouldn't have blamed him, but I did. He was exploring his life the way he should have been and I'd become angry and withdrawn. I eventually found solace in the physical comfort of another boy in my class, Demetri Volterri. He was new that year and he was gorgeous, or so I thought. Well, most of my friends thought so too. The reality of it was that – in his mind – because he was Italian, hot, and all the other girls were throwing themselves at him, he thought he ruled the world.

He thought he was some sort of gangster who could and did eventually control my every move. When Demetri began to show interest in me, he had such a smooth confidence about him and I couldn't resist. Edward was off at school, neglecting me as I thought in my twisted mind at the time, but I still felt incredibly guilty. I thought I loved Edward, so I justified it to myself, believing that Demetri and I were just friends, and keeping Edward at arms length.

Demetri fed off of my guilt, telling me time and again that my boyfriend didn't care about me; that he could take care of me better than him, and I cracked. I gave in to him. After we graduated high school, Edward came home and I clung to him that summer, falling right back in love with him. But as soon as he went back to school that fall, Demetri was right there, ready to pick up where we left off. I began to spend more time with Demetri – as a friend, supposedly – which my other friends were none too pleased about. Between Demetri and the community college classes I was taking, I had no time for the people that mattered most.

When Edward and I finally broke up the summer after his sophomore year in college, he'd informed me that he knew I'd been seeing Demetri for the most part, but that he hadn't necessarily been the best boyfriend on the planet either. I felt disgusted with myself and when he walked away from me that day, I fell apart. I realized that, despite our separation, he'd never been anything but wonderful to me and I didn't want to let him go. He was incredibly beautiful, inside and out…especially out. Demetri's ice blue eyes and dirty blonde hair paled in comparison to Edward's wild bronze locks, mesmerizing green eyes and chiseled features that made him appear to have just walked off of a magazine cover.

Again, Demetri was gorgeous, just not Edward gorgeous. The best part about Edward, however, was inside him. He's always treated me – from when we first started dating my sophomore year in high school, his junior year – like a lady, respectfully. That was much more than I could say for any of the men in my life that I tried to get to fill his shoes. My parents, for the most part, liked Edward. My father seemed to like his respectful and protective nature, and my mother, well I think my mother was just as mesmerized with him as I was. One of the many differences between Demetri and Edward was that Edward had acted the same way toward me away from my parents as he did in front of them. Sure, he was wild, liked to drink and party, but who didn't?

Demetri, on the other hand, was a perfect angel in front of my parents, but once alone with me, he was little more than a possessive, controlling villain. It became a game to him. He would, in essence, dare me to talk back to him or stand up to him, just so he could flex his muscle in retaliation. My father loved Demetri. It made me sick. If only he'd known then…but he didn't because I never told him.

I had confessed to Edward, the day we'd broken up for good, that I had been seeing Demetri. Confirmed, I guess was a better term. I told him I'd spent a lot of time with him. It didn't matter at that point because I'd lost him anyway. He was smitten with some girl named Bella or something, and I hated her. I hated her and I didn't even know her. She had to have been something special if she had captured Edward's heart so quickly. She was something better than...me.

There was one thing I didn't confess to Edward that day, though.

I let another tear slip down my cheek, but brushed it away quickly as I continued to urge my legs to move across the stage. Today wasn't supposed to be about what I was. It was supposed to be about what I would be. Still, the nightmarish memories pushed their way back into my mind. In reality, I didn't think the nightmares would every fully go away, but since giving birth to my angel and choosing to make life better for her, I'd at least been able to create new, good memories. There would be more to come which, hopefully, would eventually eclipse the bad.

I'd neglected to tell Edward, that day, about the first time I'd let Demetri hit me.

I knew I wasn't supposed to say 'let him,' because essentially I hadn't truly been responsible for his actions, but I almost preferred to say it. In a twisted sort of way, it gave me a sense of empowerment – saying I'd let him. And I said the first time, but it wasn't the only time. I should've walked away from him that first time, but I didn't.

By the time he'd gotten around to hitting me, I had already become mentally isolated from my family and friends. I resigned myself to the fact that his opinion was the only one that mattered, and had found myself completely and utterly dependent on him for the most mundane decisions. It haunted me almost daily; the day I became his punching bag.

We had attended a party with mostly his friends, since – as I said – I no longer had any to speak of. We were on our way back to my house. I could tell he was agitated. About what, I wasn't positive as I made sure to steer clear of any other males at the party. He was insanely jealous, possessive and virtually unpredictable, so I kept quiet, not wanting to set him off. It didn't matter, however, because apparently there had been a couple of guys we didn't know there who had ogled me without my knowledge.

He asked me through gritted teeth if I had flirted with them, to which I immediately responded "No." Of course, that wasn't a good enough answer, because he pulled off to the side of the dark road and slammed on the brakes, jolting me forward, causing the seat belt to painfully scrape against my neck.

"You like it, don't you? The way they look at you and fuck you with their eyes."

I shook my head repeatedly, trying to convey to him that I didn't like it. I had no idea what he was talking about, but it was futile. The eerie calm of his voice was deceiving and terrifying. I could see the veins popping out in his neck and I knew he was boiling underneath.

"Don't fucking lie to me, Tanya! You fucking like it because you're nothing but a whore. Now, tell me the truth!" He had begun to raise his voice as I shook my head again.

"No, no I don't…I don't like it," I responded weakly.

"Are you telling me I'm crazy, Tanya? That I didn't see what I clearly fucking saw with my own eyes?" He would always go back and forth between the explosive rage and the eerie calm, both of which scared the living shit out of me.

I hadn't known how to answer his question because I couldn't win either way. If I said yes, he was crazy, that he couldn't have seen me do anything wrong, it would've fueled his rage. If I said no, he wasn't crazy, it would only confirm to him that I was being ogled and liked it, which would also fuel his rage. So, I remained quiet, which apparently also fueled his rage because the next thing I knew, the side of my head was throbbing from the contact his closed fist had made with it. My head was jolted to the side, searing pain shot down my neck and I cowered in my seat, immediately in tears.

"Jesus, you're such a fucking pain in my ass, Tanya. You see what you make me do to you? Quit fucking crying," he said with a humorless chuckle as he pulled the car back onto the road.

He berated me even more all the way to my house, calling me a baby among other things, and telling me there was more where that came from if I opened my big mouth and told on him.

"Nobody would believe you anyway," he laughed. "Everybody loves me."

I was devastated, stunned, but couldn't help but feel it was somehow my fault; that I had inadvertently caused those guys to look at me in that way. It was irrational, but I justified it.

The next day, he showed up with the typical flowers and an apology. I was angry. I was so fucking angry with him, but I hardly showed it. I was too afraid to. He actually cried…real tears during his apology and I thought he was sincere. Maybe he thought so too.

I wouldn't know. I didn't get a degree to understand the psych of my abusers; I obtained a degree in social work to help people who were victimized like me.

Needless to say, I stayed with him. I stayed with him for three years after Edward and I broke up, enduring his abuse because I didn't feel worthy of anyone else's love – especially someone like Edward. Demetri hit me sporadically and usually places where no one else could see. He would punch me in the arm or stomach; the kidneys were the worst, and he would pull my hair. Each time afterward, he'd throw himself at my feet, begging for forgiveness.

Eventually, I dropped out of college because I wasn't spending enough time with him. Giving my parents another reason to be disappointed in me. The only reason I was able to get away from him was because my sister saw my bruises one holiday when she was home. She came into my room unannounced. I was changing and had forgotten to lock my door. She was completely dumbfounded and I remember thinking I was going to have to pick her jaw up off the floor for her.

Of course, she told my parents and I reluctantly confessed to the fact that Demetri had been physically abusive to me. I begged them to leave it alone, but it was fruitless. My father shoved a military issue M24 sniper rifle in Demetri's face one day, telling him that if he ever tried to contact me again, the barrel of that gun would be the last thing he ever kissed. My father also told him that he could hit a target from five hundred yards away, therefore trying to run from him would be futile. I didn't know if he was telling the truth or not, but only a fool would've questioned him on it.

After that, I left home and moved in with my grandmother in Appleton, a suburb of Green Bay, Wisconsin. In my twisted mind, I was angry at my sister and my parents, angry with Demetri. I was just pissed at the world. Appleton, was where I met Laurent Chamore, or 'Larry' as I'd called him. He was also gorgeous, beautiful light brown skin, green eyes and long dreadlocks. He was so unlike Demetri in looks, but Laurent was so much worse than Demetri. He was also smooth, silver-tongued, I guess you could say, and he made me feel good…at first.

He used to say he was the 'king of love' as the word was in his last name, but it was all about control with him. He controlled me easily with the drugs he introduced me to – mainly ecstasy and cocaine. I hardly remembered much of my time with Laurent. Most of the time, I was so strung out that I barely felt it when he would hit me. The times I did feel it, I would numb the pain with drugs or alcohol…whichever was most convenient…usually alcohol. He liked it when I was oblivious to what he was doing to me.

I became the worst kind of person when I was with him; an alcoholic, drug addict, so detached from who I really was inside. I was a prisoner within myself with no escape that I could see. He was brutal. He always managed to break bones that didn't necessarily need to be casted too much to heal: ribs, collar bone, and so on. I never went for medical treatment because Laurent claimed to be a 'healer' – which I now thought was laughable. He had various types of medical equipment to 'take care' of me…gauze, ace bandage, slings, things of that nature. I spent three more years of my life under the torturous, but drug-hazed rule of Laurent Chamore.

Laurent was killed in a bad drug deal on a night that I'd decided to stay at home. I often thought of the irony of that; how on that particular night, he died and I lived…as if it wasn't my time to go. Shockingly, I was devastated because, as usual I was out of my mind and thought I loved him.

A year later, at the age of twenty-six, my life was still in turmoil. I was still numbing myself with mainly alcohol and, once again, it was my sister, Kate, who had come to visit me and saw the state I was in. She rescued me, again. She helped me get into a rehab center without telling my parents what had become of me. My grandmother was usually off at the casinos, therefore was oblivious to my activities. I was so ashamed that I continued to keep my abuse a secret. I didn't even tell Kate about what Laurent had done to me, but deep down, I knew that she knew. She tried to talk to me, tried to get me to go to counseling, but her efforts were futile.

I latched on to a 'friend' I met in rehab – Jason Jinks. We all called him 'Jay'. He wasn't an addict. He was one of the drug counselors there. To this day I couldn't understand what I saw in him. It was just more evidence of how fucked up my life had become. He was quite a bit older than me and not nearly as attractive as the previous men in my life, but I felt safe with him for some reason. I confided in him, let him get close to me, and even kissed him because I thought that was what he wanted. I did feel safe with him, that is, until the first night he came into my room unannounced and unwelcome.

I sucked in a ragged breath as I made my way to where the academic dean stood, holding the rolled-up document out to me with a wide smile. As I wrapped my hand around the degree I worked so hard to earn, I couldn't stop the relieved tears from spilling over my lids.

I turned to the crowd again, after shaking the dean's hand – who muttered a quiet 'congratulations' – and searched until my eyes landed again on my baby girl. She lifted her chubby little hand in the air and waved at me.

A sob ripped through my chest as I thought of all the nights Jay had violated me. The monster that had fathered her. God, she was beautiful and despite the violence and horror she was a product of, I would've given my life for her.

He told me there was nothing I could do about it. He told me I was nothing but a drug addicted whore, and he had the power to lock me away for the rest of my life if I didn't comply with him. He told me that if I breathed a word of what he did to me to anyone, he would kill me and I believed him.

Eventually, I became numb to it. I detached myself each time he climbed on top of me and entered me forcefully. I stopped fighting him because that only resulted in more pain for me. His noises and grunting made me sick and I often found myself in the bathroom vomiting afterward.

When I got out of the rehab center, I thought I was free of him, but soon after, I found out I was pregnant. I had begged him each time he violated me to use a condom and he said he was. But he was a fucking liar. I knew he wasn't using one because I could always feel his disgusting seed seeping out of me afterward. I was devastated…beyond devastated, more so than I had ever felt before. I prayed to a God I wasn't even sure existed anymore that I would have a miscarriage because I couldn't willingly kill a life growing inside of me. I thought about adoption, but I was too weak-minded to make that kind of decision.

As I said, I thought I was free of Jay when I moved back in with my grandmother, but he pursued me…stalked me, and I was terrified. I had enough at one point, and when he followed me home from my job as a receptionist at a local attorney's office – who happened to be a childhood friend of my father's – I let loose on him. Without thinking it through, I blurted out that he knocked me up because he wasn't careful enough when he was raping me. He seemed horrified, but his anger took over as he screamed in my face for me to get rid of it. When I stood up to him and refused, he punched me as hard as he could in the stomach and threw me to the ground in my grandmother's driveway.

"Get rid of that fucking kid or I'll get rid of it for you," he snarled in my face as I lay writhing on the ground in pain.

I was so terrified by him that I didn't even call the police. I wasn't sure they could help me anyway. Instead, the next time I saw him, I lied through my teeth and told him I had it taken care of. At that point, I figured if this child inside of me was strong enough to survive his fist to my stomach, it was worth me trying to fight for it.

I confided in my boss at the time, Liam O'Leary – who was an amazing man – and he set up a job for me with a colleague of his in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I didn't even tell my grandmother or my parents where I was going for fear that Jay would torture them somehow to find me. My fear was irrational as deep down, I knew my father would protect me even if I was his weakest link. I only told my sister, who said she would tell them I was safe.

I barely remember the day he found me, nor did I ever really find out how, but Jay was quite persuasive when he wanted to be. My stomach was swollen as I was going on seven and a half months pregnant. I had just gotten out of my car and into my apartment when he showed up. He pushed his way into my apartment and proceeded to beat me senseless with an aluminum baseball bat. By the grace of God, I was able to reach my phone and press those three numbers before the blackness took over and I passed out.

I shuddered as I continued to move my shaking legs across the stage, remembering the day that I had awaken in the hospital.

It had been a week – or so I was told by the doctors – since I had been beaten nearly to death, and when my eyes had shifted naturally to my stomach. I panicked. The bump was gone and I had no idea whether my baby had survived or not.

They explained to me that my daughter had been born by emergency caesarean section, nearly six weeks early, and – again, by the grace of God – was alive, but very weak. She was a week old, born two days before Halloween on October 29th, 2004, and I hadn't even been able to hold her. Ironically, the day I woke up in the hospital, November 5th, 2004, exactly one week after my daughter was born, was my twenty-eighth birthday. I would come to realize that that particular birthday – essentially my re-birth – would be the most significant one I had ever had.

I, on the other hand, had been beaten so badly that I had to be put into a medically induced coma in order for my body to adjust and begin healing. I had a concussion, cranial fracture, broken femur, three broken fingers and broken ribs, just to mention a few.

He tried to kill me. He tried to kill my baby, and that was the day I realized something had to change.

The looks on my family members' faces were devastating. When my beautiful girl was brought in to my room, I knew instantly that I would never let anyone lay a finger on her…or me, ever again.

That was over two years ago. Jay Jenk's was currently residing in Oak Park Heights, a maximum security prison in Minnesota, having recently been convicted on two counts of attempted murder. That was another nightmare I survived; his trial.

I turned with a new-found confidence and continued my way to the other side of the stage. As I reached the stairs, I stopped in my tracks, happy tears filling my eyes again. There in front of me was the woman who helped me get my life back: my counselor, my mentor and my friend, Johanna Zafrina. She was an advocate against domestic violence and had heard about my case through some contacts at the Minneapolis police department. She had come to visit with me in the hospital, as well as see the miracle I'd given birth to, and a beautiful friendship ensued.

I didn't know what I would've done had she not waltzed into my life, let alone if my miracle child – Journey Hope Denali – hadn't made it that fateful day. Johanna had been my rock ever since then, encouraging me to talk to others who had endured the same sort of horrific trauma I had, and it was she who also encouraged me to finish the education I started. She was a survivor herself and shared her story with me that very same day in the hospital. I was amazed and inspired by the fact that she would share the intimate details of her life to a perfect stranger like me. She gave me the confidence I needed to push myself through my fears and nightmares, not only for myself, but for my daughter – who deserved a life without the hardships I managed to find in mine.

I had even begun to make contact with my old friends from high school back in Chicago. One of those friends was quickly becoming close to my heart. I knew Garrett Donovan was a great person, but it still brought out an intense fear in me to think about letting a man close to me again. He actually ventured out my way a couple of times and I reluctantly shared the details of my sordid past, which he had sworn he wouldn't breathe a word as it wasn't his story to tell others.

He stunned me by apologizing profusely when he had nothing to do with any of it. I made sure he understood that I didn't blame Edward for anything, that he and Edward were the kind of men any woman would be lucky to have, and he dazzled me with his beautiful smile. He asked me for the opportunity to show me how I should've been treated all those years and initially, I hesitated. Not only did it scare me to get close to him because of my lack of trust in men, but also because he had been one of Edward's best friends. Although it would take me sometime to allow him into my heart, I knew I was making progress because I was at least willing to try.

I stumbled down the short staircase and threw myself into the arms of Johanna, who was waiting for me with the widest of smiles and tears glistening in her eyes.

"You did it, my girl. You did it," she cooed in my ear.

I pulled back from her and laughed as the tears streamed down my face relentlessly. "Thanks to you, Jo," I managed to choke out.

She shook her head and cupped my face with her gentle hands. "No, my dear, you did this…for you and that beautiful child over there. Don't you ever forget that, okay?"

I nodded and wiped my eyes, which was completely futile as the tears came relentlessly, and mouthed a silent 'thank you' to her. She nodded without saying another word and ushered me off to my seat.

When the ceremony concluded and I was officially a graduate, I made my way over to my family and hugged them all as if my life depended on it – even my father.

"Mommy, Mommy!" Journey cried out, reaching for me. I scooped her up from my mom's arms and brought her close to me. I hugged her and silently cried until she nearly squirmed out of my arms. Pulling her back, I looked at her. Her curious expression was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen as she reached up and wiped my wet, tear-stained cheeks.

"No cry, Mommy," she said shaking her head, and I laughed as more tears escaped.

"No, baby," I said on my breath. "Mommy's happy and I love you sooooooo much."

My daughter clapped her chubby hands together and squealed as she wrapped her little arms around my neck. "Love my mommy," she cooed in my ear.

Yes, that was the first day of the rest of our lives and from then on, I knew I would do everything in my power to make her proud of me…to make me proud of myself. I wouldn't let her down, my journey had brought her into my life and she gave me the hope that, before, I never thought I could have had.

X~X~X

I smiled to myself and yawned, letting my eyelids flutter closed as they became heavy. I draped my arm over Garrett's torso and gave it a gentle squeeze. He murmured something inaudible in return, as he had already drifted off to sleep, and I giggled quietly.

I had closed that chapter of my life long ago, but I would never forget what it took for me to get where I was now. It was hard to let people into my life, to learn to trust again. Garrett was a patient man and I tried to do what I could to thank him every day for sticking with me the past couple of years.

Now, it was my job to work with others who had gone through trauma like I had. The – mainly – women that I counseled and worked with weighed heavy on my heart, but it was because I held a special bond with them. I had been where they had been and I knew how they felt…how difficult it was to open yourself up to someone you barely even knew. I looked forward to everyday now as opposed to dreading it and only hoped that I could instill that in the next poor, tortured soul that walked into my life…that person I used to be.

X~X~X

End Notes: I would like to give a very special thank you to the ladies over at The Fandom Against Domestic Violence Blogspot, namely Blair (buhbeesgirl) for having the idea to start it. Thank you so much for the wonderful things you're doing for individuals who are affected every day of their lives by domestic violence. Also, thank you for giving authors like me an opportunity to submit our writing to help out this very special cause. You truly are amazing people and if I can help one person who's been victimized, I am honored to do so.

Please hit that review button below. I would love to know what you think of Tanya now, and if your opinion has changed!

The next chapter of FIMMP should be up sometime next week…other outtakes will be posted at a later date. This one just stands apart from the other one, so I wanted to post it that way. ;-)