Disclaimer- Stephenie still owns the usual suspects.
I own my original characters and original story.
Thanks once again to the gracious and lovely aurellacullen for her beta/prereading work.
Chapter 17 (Part two of this year in the life of Bella Swan)
-December-Bella, age 21 years…
"Jacob?" I whispered in disbelief.
His smile grew wider and he nodded before pulling me back into his arms.
"Damn, Bella." He breathed. "I've thought about you so many times; wondered what you were doin'..." He sighed and pulled back then, dropping his arms from around me. "Once or twice I almost drove to your dad's but, I don't know… I always pussied out. Oh shit, sorry," he said with a sheepish expression, causing me to giggle.
I took a moment to study his features. He had grown very tall, almost a foot taller than me, with broad shoulders and dark brown hair, the ends of which brushed against the collar of his jacket. His face still resembled the one I remembered, his beautiful eyes and bright smile so familiar; but he was now a man, a very attractive man, I couldn't help but notice.
"Anyway, I didn't want to bother you…" he continued, "but I always wondered."
I spoke up then, "Daddy said y'all moved again, and I guess we simply lost touch." He nodded and I smiled as I took his hand in mine, my heart becoming lighter just by being in his presence. "It's so good to see you. How long has it been?"
He shook his head, "Nine years. Since my mama died."
I nodded sadly while he squeezed my hand, staring at my face as if it hurt to look away.
Just then, the wind kicked up, sending a shiver through me.
"Look Bella, let's get you inside and out of the cold, so we can talk." He wrapped his arm around my shoulders and led me toward the building behind us. It was then that I realized we'd been standing in front of a bar. "And then you can tell me what the hell just happened back there," he gestured with his thumb toward the spot in the road where Dean's car had been just a moment before.
I blew out a breath and nodded. Jacob led me inside; leaving the other man, whose name I learned was Scott, standing by the door. That was when Jake told me that he and Scott were working security for the bar.
The place was a little on the rough side, the patrons even rougher. My daddy would have called it a dive; the type of place he never wanted his little girl to visit; but then again he'd obviously never seen some of seedier places on campus which passed as 'dance clubs'.
After seating me at the end of the bar and fetching a cup of strong coffee, Jacob removed his leather jacket and stowed it on the stool next to mine. My breath caught in my throat at the sight of him. I should have been mortified by the wet spot I'd left on the front of his grey Henley, but I was too distracted by what that form fitting shirt revealed.
The way it hugged his arms and chest left little to the imagination.
Jacob was ripped.
I mean, he wasn't like those bodybuilders I'd seen on television, the ones that turned my stomach 'cause their muscles bulged to the point of being grotesque.
Jacob looked good.
What the heck is wrong with me?
So far tonight, I've been humiliated and abandoned by a guy I thought really liked me; I'm still letting the ghost of my ex have way too much say over what I do, and now I'm ogling a boy, er man, who once used to be almost family to me.
I blinked hard, knowing that if Jacob hadn't been standing right there, I'd probably have smacked myself in the face.
Thankfully, I didn't have a lot of time to dwell on the state of my mental health; because no sooner had Jake put his jacket down, he was asking me to explain what had happened with Dean. As he leaned on his forearms and stared down at the bar top, I spoke in a hushed voice and confided the basics.
Seeing that my tale was an abridged version of the night's events, and that Jacob and I hadn't been close in nine years, I found myself a bit surprised by his reaction.
His jaw clenched in anger as he listened, "Motherfucker," he swore in a low voice when I was through. "So this douche goes to school with you?" He turned to face me then, not attempting to mask the fury in his eyes.
"Yeah," I bit my lip wondering how I was going to handle being in class with Dean on Monday morning. The bright spot was that we only had a week of classes left before exams, and then the semester would be over and I'd hopefully never have to lay eyes on Dean Metcalf ever again.
My eyes grew wide, but I remained silent as Jacob then recited a litany, in graphic detail, of all the things he'd like to do to Dean, starting with: "punchin' him in his fuckin' face…"
I told myself that he was just blowing off steam because Jacob wouldn't know how to find Dean, would he? After all, I hadn't even mentioned his last name…
Once he finished his rant, there was a moment of awkward silence before he stated that he had to get back to work. He only had about an hour left, and insisted that I stay put so that he could drive me home afterwards.
I agreed and sat at the bar to nurse my coffee, while he worked the room, dealing with 'drunken assholes', as he referred to them, whenever the need arose.
I noticed that he had left his jacket on the stool next to mine; thereby ensuring that no one would sit there.
And possibly making it look like I wasn't there alone?
I shrugged that thought away and went back to my coffee.
Once he was off for the night, Jacob sat down beside me and ordered a beer. I was on my second cup of coffee by then.
There was no more mention of Dean for the remainder of the night, as I succeeded in steering the conversation toward lighter subject matters, such as what we'd each been doing these past nine years.
It was funny how easy it was to talk to Jacob, and spend time with him, even after having been apart for so long. My usual awkwardness dissolved in his presence.
"So do you still see that family you were so close to? The Cullens?"
I bit my lip, "Uh, yes. Alice and I usually spend some time together every summer." I didn't add to my statement and Jacob, probably having seen something telling in my expression, thankfully changed the subject.
"You've got to be kiddin' me?" I asked as I stared, unbelieving, at the huge shiny hunk of metal in front of me. "Jacob, you can't really expect me to ride on that." It was the biggest motorcycle I'd ever seen. Well, to be honest, it was the only motorcycle I'd ever seen up close.
I crossed my arms over my chest. If anyone who knew me well were to witness my body language at that moment, they'd interpret it as nervousness.
Nervous was an understatement…
"Bella, I am a very safe driver." Jacob's voice was soothing, his smile wide as he worked to convince me. "I promise I'll be careful." He brushed his hand against my upper arm while he spoke.
I blew out a breath I'd been holding. "Okay," I practically whispered. "But I can't promise to keep my eyes open."
Jacob laughed. "No closin' your eyes, Bella. You gotta show me where you live, girl."
"Here," he was still chuckling while he fastened the helmet on my head. "And this," he held out his jacket so I could put it on.
I took a small step back. "No, Jacob. I'm not takin' your jacket. And where's your helmet?"
He smirked. "Look, I only have one helmet so I'd rather you wear it. As for the jacket, I won't be bothered by the cold, but you're already feelin' it and it's gonna be worse on the back of the bike."
"No, really, I already have a jacket. I don't want you to freeze…" I began to argue.
"I won't. Trust me." He tilted his head then, studying my expression. "Unless… unless you'd rather not do this. I mean, I swear I'm not a serial killer," he chuckled nervously, "But, hey, I understand if you're not cool with it. After all it's been nine years… uh, I can call you a cab?"
He sounded so dejected that I could have kicked myself.
"No; no, Jacob. I really appreciate this. I swear." I slipped on the jacket and smiled. "You just gotta help me figure out how to keep my butt from fallin' off." I giggled.
He laughed again and climbed onto his bike, starting it in one fluid movement. He reached a hand out, and before I knew what was happening, I was straddling the seat behind him, "Hold on."
As we pulled onto the street, I kept my arms secured tightly around Jacob's middle and pressed my cheek against the soft fabric of his shirt.
The wind bit at my face and neck, but just like earlier, holding onto Jacob made me feel warm and safe. I decided to concentrate on those feelings while I tried to forget about the events which led up to our reunion.
Meanwhile, as the city blocks flew past, I found that I never once closed my eyes.
"Daddy, you know you don't have to wait for me to come visit in order to clean out the fridge?" I called to him as I tossed yet another takeout container into the trash.
It was winter break, and I was spending two weeks at home with my daddy.
During the past year, due to school and working, aside from the odd weekend here and there, we hadn't spent a lot of time together. Even during last summer, I was on the fast track for receiving my teaching accreditation, I'd taken classes during most of June and July. What little time I had off in August, I'd spent with Alice in Chincoteague so…
Mama tried her best to convince me to spend Christmas in Florida this year, but I'd refused.
I had missed my dad. I had the option to work at the diner while I was home during these two weeks, but Daddy talked me out of it. He told me that I'd been working and studying so hard that I'd earned a little time off.
Too bad that I never learned how to sit and do nothing, so here I was cleaning Daddy's kitchen.
"Hey, don't throw that out. I can take it for my lunch." He chastised as he grabbed the next container from my hands and pried open the lid.
"Ew, yuck. Throw that away!" I shot him a disgusted look, all while trying not to catch a whiff of what was inside. "Daddy, what the heck was that before it started to grow mold?"
He pursed his lips and placed the 'leftovers' in the trash, "I believe that may have been sweet and sour chicken, but I couldn't swear to it." He gave me a wide grin, causing me to giggle.
My father went back to his football game, and I tossed away the ingredients for several more science experiments before I fetched the bucket and sponge. The fact that I was head and shoulders deep inside Daddy's fridge, scrubbing, could explain why I never heard the doorbell.
"How much longer were you planning to avoid me, B?"
The sound of Cheryl's voice startled me, and I hurriedly extricated myself from the inside of the fridge and stood, turning to find her standing in the kitchen doorway.
"Hey," I said in a whisper.
"Hey," she answered back.
I took a moment to look her over. The first thing I noticed was that her blonde locks were quite a bit shorter than they had been in the spring. The new style suited her. She also appeared to have lost a little weight, but that only served to make her look more her true age of twenty-one rather than still resembling a teenager, like me.
And even though her face bore a serious expression, she seemed happy.
"You cut your hair," I murmured, for lack of something better to say.
She reached up with her right hand and nervously pulled at the ends, which now barely reached her shoulders. "Yeah, it's easier to deal with like this."
"It looks good."
"Look, Cheryl, it's great to see you, but now's not a good time." I began to pull off the scrubbing gloves, "I was just on my way out."
She arched an eyebrow, while taking in the sight of me.
"Just answer the question, how much longer were you planning to avoid me?"
"I'm not avoidin' you. How about we meet for dinner one night this week?" I lied, knowing I'd never follow through.
"Bella," Cheryl sighed as she shook her head, "How about we do this now?"
I stared into her eyes and bit the inside of my cheek, knowing this conversation was inevitable. The truth was that I had been avoiding her phone calls.
After the fiasco with Dean, I knew my fragile heart couldn't take another hit so soon…
Thank heaven for Jacob. These last two weeks would have been a nightmare if it were not for him…
Be that as it may, Cheryl's visit had been looming. Avoidance had seemed so much easier to deal with than having to face the fact that one of my dearest friends had moved on. I'd actually convinced myself that, by not taking her calls, I was making things easier for Cheryl.
She'd been a good friend to me; the best, and if there was no longer a place for me in her new life, I was willing to bow out gracefully.
I owed her that much.
My shoulders slumped in defeat as I let out an exasperated breath. "Okay," I whispered and took a seat in one of the kitchen chairs, motioning that she should do the same.
Cheryl and I had hung out together in this very space hundreds of times; but today, it felt like I was sitting with a stranger.
She removed her short navy coat before hanging it on the back of a chair and sitting down across the table from me.
"Did you want somethin' to drink?" My attempt at being a good host felt hollow.
Cheryl shook her head, "No, thanks." I watched as she toyed with the hem of her shirt.
After a few minutes, she chuckled nervously, "Why is this so hard?"
This is it…
This is the moment when Cheryl explains that she no longer needs me in her life…
"So…" she began, "How is everything?"
"Fine." I whispered, nervously running my fingertips along the wood grain surface of the table.
"Look," Cheryl drew in a deep breath before releasing it. "I know your feelings were hurt when I stopped you from coming to Chicago last summer."
"It's okay…" I interrupted.
Cheryl held up her hand to stop me, "Just let me get this out. I owe you an explanation."
"It wasn't okay. I should have handled things differently; and for that, I'm sorry." She sighed. "The truth is that my life in Chicago is very different from the one I had here, and I didn't want you to feel uncomfortable." Cheryl glanced nervously in the direction of the living room. I could hear the football game blaring, and knew my daddy wouldn't be disturbing us.
"A couple of years ago, I met someone…" She paused, her voice dropping to a whisper as she softly smiled, "Someone amazing. We started out as friends, but over time it developed into something more."
Hearing that Cheryl had a serious boyfriend, and had never felt the need to tell me about it until now hurt, however it wasn't any worse than what I'd expected.
"I wanted to tell you about it in person, I planned to… but before I could, I had a huge falling out with my family over it," She lost the smile and shook her head, seemingly still in disbelief. "It was so bad. Actually, Mom stuck by me; my dad and sister were the problem."
I frowned, not understanding why her family would have that reaction.
"By the time I came home for spring break, things were better with my dad, but he's still not completely accepting of my relationship with Hayden."
So Hayden's the guy's name…
"My sister isn't speaking to me…"
What the hell? Was this guy an asshole or something?
"When I spent that week with you, I was still numb over all of it. I fully intended to tell you about Hayden, but was terrified of your reaction…" She smiled apologetically as the words rushed out, "And I know that wasn't fair to you…"
"Cheryl, take a breath," I was concerned for her state of mind. I'd seen Cheryl happy, ecstatic even, and angry to the point of being furious. I'd seen her hopeful, sad, or bitchy while PMSing. But this? This apprehensive and anxious Cheryl was something new. "What the heck is goin' on?" I asked. "I can't imagine your family hatin' anyone you'd date unless this Hayden was mistreating you. If that were the case, I know for a fact that your daddy would beat his ass, so what gives?"
I began to let go of the notion that Cheryl had kept me away because she thought I wasn't good enough for her new friends. It seems she was just afraid I wouldn't approve of her boyfriend…
I was so confused
Her lips turned up into a small smile at my words. "My dad wouldn't do that. He would never hit a woman you see…"
She paused, looking directly into my eyes and covering my hand with one of hers. "B, there's no other way to say this. Hayden's not a guy. Hayden's my girlfriend." She looked away then, staring across the room, "She's beautiful, kind and patient." The smile grew wider as she giggled. "She's also hella ambitious, and she pushes me to be and do my best. I can't imagine my life without her…"
I sat back in my chair, stunned, merely staring as Cheryl went on about the 'love of her life'.
Her words, not mine.
After a few minutes, Cheryl stopped talking, no doubt taking in my surprised expression. "B, please say something." She whispered, the smile gone.
I was suddenly aware that my mouth was hanging open. After closing it and clearing my throat, I spoke. "So you're tellin' me that you're gay?"
"I suppose so; breaking it down into the simplest of terms. I like to think that I'm telling you about the person I love, who just happens to be a woman."
"So, before you met Hayden, you weren't gay?"
I was still confused
"B, I'm pretty sure I've always been gay. It wasn't something I gave much thought to. Now looking back, I was probably in denial, lying to everyone, including myself…" She closed her eyes and shook her head a little, "You know the guys I dated in high school were never more than friends."
I nodded as she continued.
"I met Hayden during my first year of college; but at the time, I was still trying to convince myself that I was straight. Do you remember me telling you about that guy I dated that year; Steve?"
"Well, what I didn't tell you was that I got drunk one night and had sex with him. I already had feelings for Hayden, and I suppose I was trying to run away from, just, everything… I actually thought that these feelings were all in my mind and that I just needed to act 'normal' in order to be 'normal'." She made little air quotes with her fingers and huffed out a chuckle. "It was a disaster. I hurt Steve, eventually breaking up with him, feeling miserable that I'd used him that way." She ran her fingers through her hair in frustration. "Normal is such a relative term, isn't it? Obviously, that normal, the one I was faking, isn't my normal." She frowned. "Does that make sense?"
I nodded. "Yeah, it does."
"Once I was finally honest with myself, I stopped trying to hide. After Hayden and I got together, we discussed a lot of things. She's twenty-nine, so she's already been through most of the same shit that I'm dealing with now."
"Being with her… it feels right, you know?"
I nodded again, remaining silent as I bit my lip and mulled over everything she'd said.
"B, please? Talk to me? Are you okay?"
I thought about that. Was I?
Actually, I was.
"Yeah," I frowned. "I think I'm just sad that you had so little faith in me. Did you honestly think that I'd turn my back on you because of who you fell in love with?" I grabbed her hand in both of mine. "Really, Cheryl? I thought you knew me? As long as you can assure me that Hayden deserves you, then I couldn't be happier for you both."
She gasped, and then her face crumbled as my beautiful friend broke down in tears. She pulled her hands away in order to cover her face. "I'm so sorry. I thought… I should have known you'd never turn against me. But the way my dad and sister reacted, it was such a mind fuck…"
I was out of my chair in an instant, kneeling down beside her in order to pull her into a hug.
"What the heck? You act like you've committed some sort of crime." I spoke low in her ear as I held onto her.
"Sometimes it feels like that." She sniffled loudly. "You have no idea how cruel people can be."
"I can imagine." I shook my head in disgust. "Fallin' in love can't be wrong, and some people are assholes when it comes to anythin' they don't understand."
I tightened my hold on her. "You listen to what I'm goin' to tell you. I love you, Cheryl. You are one of my best friends. What I want most is for you to be happy."
She sniffled loudly. "Thank you, Bella. That means a lot to me."
I pulled away slightly and gave her a small smile. "So when do I get to meet your, um, Hayden?" I almost used the word girlfriend, but knew that was going to take some getting used to.
Cheryl smiled widely then. "She's flying out on Christmas Eve, then we're going back together on the 28th. This is the first real visit she'll have with my family, and I'm a little apprehensive."
I nodded, "Remember, if you need to escape, you can always come over here."
"Thank you, B." She wiped the tears away, and let out a relieved chuckle. "God, I feel so much better." But then her features grew cloudy again as she stared at me. "Are you sure you're okay with this? I mean, I know it's a lot to take in…"
I pursed my lips and narrowed my eyes. "Well," I began, making sure to pause for dramatic effect, "To be honest, there is one thing that bothers me…"
Her brow furrowed. "What?"
"Cheryl," I grabbed her forearm to emphasize the importance of what I was about to say, "You totally saw me naked. More than once. Remember, when I broke my leg and you helped me in and out of the shower?"
She shrugged, looking confused. "Okay?"
"And now I find out that you're into girls, it's a little unsettlin'." I couldn't keep the silly teasing grin from my face, "I can't help but wonder if it was my glorious naked body that may have been responsible for turnin' ya." I winked.
Cheryl blurted out a laugh. "Yep, you got me. That was it! There was something about you in that fuckhot leg cast that awakened my dormant lesbian."
"Sexy times…" I wiggled my eyebrows and grinned before we both fell apart with laughter.
The next couple of hours were spent in conversation that was not always pleasant, as Cheryl told me in broken whispers of the treatment she'd endured at the hands of her family. Her account of what she'd been through during that time brought me to tears.
"Oh, Cheryl, I wish I'd known. It sounds as if you could have used someone in your corner…"
She smiled gratefully. "Well, Hayden was there for me, and my mom. But Bella, I will never forgive myself for not confiding in you before now. I am so sorry. I don't know what I was thinking."
"It's okay. You were under a lot of stress." I knew she was beating herself up over shutting me out. "The important thing is that now I know and I'm here for you; whatever you need." I sighed and stared across the room at nothing. "I just can't understand your family…"
She pressed her lips into a straight line. "I haven't told you the half of what my father said to me. He basically told me that I was doing this to get attention and how much of a disappointment I was. I can't," her voice broke, "even say the rest out loud."
"Oh, honey." I gripped her hand, trying to hide the anger I was feeling. "And he did all this over the phone?"
Cheryl nodded and sniffled. "He tore into me and then hung up. I felt like I'd been punched in the stomach."
"The next night, he called me to apologize. She denies it, but I know my mom forced him to," she shrugged. "But since then, little by little, we've been able to work out a lot of things. It's strained, but… better."
"But you're still hurtin'." It wasn't a question.
She nodded, looking away.
"So what's the deal with Amy?" Cheryl's older sister had always seemed nice enough, if a little bossy toward Cheryl.
Cheryl shook her head while exhaling loudly. "Amy bitched me out; accused me of being manipulated by Hayden. She ranted some nonsense about how I'd never really given myself a chance to have a real relationship with a man. I told her that it was none of her fucking business. After she finished her rant, she hung up and hasn't spoken to me since."
I didn't know what to say, but I sure as hell knew what I wanted to do at that moment. I wanted, more than anything, to slap Amy across her face.
"You know the funny thing is that Amy used to spout off all the time about how she supported gay rights; used to argue with my parents about it. She has a couple of gay friends that she thinks the world of. She's even friends with their significant others. But I suppose when it comes to her own sister… she's can't extend the same courtesy. She's such a hypocrite."
"I suppose so." I whispered softly.
"And my mom," she said through a watery smile, "as old fashioned as she is, made it clear that nothing in this world could diminish the love she has for her children. She also told me that I make her proud every day." She wiped away a tear.
Cheryl stayed for dinner, and as soon as we finished, Daddy headed out to the station to work the night shift.
I opened a bottle of wine, and the topic of conversation changed to what I'd been up to over the past few months.
With Daddy gone, I could speak freely about the night Jacob Black came back into my life. I'd never shared the goings on about Dean with my father, figuring there was no reason to upset him, but to Cheryl, I confided everything.
"So you think Jacob punched that asshole, Dean?" Cheryl asked with a silly grin on her face.
I scowled, "Jake didn't admit it, and obviously I wasn't about to ask Dean, but it seems to fit. Dean was fine durin' class the week after our big fallin' out; although, we both made a point to steer clear of each other. It was the followin' week; when we took our exams that he showed up sportin' a black eye and a busted lip."
"Well if he's as big a tool as what you're saying, there's probably a line of people waiting to beat the hell out of him…"
I nodded. "Yeah, that's what I thought, until he approached me. He apologized for his behavior, to which I didn't respond; and then before he walked away, he suggested that I "call off the dogs". When I asked Jacob about it, he deflected the question, merely sayin' that he was glad that asshat got what was comin' to him." I frowned. "I can't let go of the notion that he and possibly one of his friends paid Dean a visit. I'm also not real sure how I feel about that..."
Cheryl's lips turned up into a wide smile. "Gah! How you feel?! You should be ecstatic! That is so awesome! Oh my God, please tell me I get to meet Jacob while I'm here."
I giggled at her reaction. "Sure. Why don't you come for dinner on Tuesday?"
"B, I got this." Cheryl's tone was forceful as she removed the roast from the oven. "Go get changed, and calm down. When you come back downstairs, we'll set the table. You're so nervous you're starting to freak me out." She ended her statement with a giggle.
It didn't make sense for me to be nervous, but I was. Jacob was coming to dinner, along with his daddy and stepmother. Cheryl, God bless her, had arrived early in order to help me cook.
Jake's daddy, Billy, had remarried a few years before. His new wife, Paula had been his nurse while he went through physical rehabilitation, and Jacob credited her, more than anyone else, for his dad's ability to finally walk again.
On the way to my room, I met my father in the hallway. "Hey, Bells, can you fix this?" He was adjusting his tie.
I helped him with it and pressed the lapels of his jacket with my hands. "Wow, you look really nice." I told him with a smile.
He cleared his throat and shrugged. "Well, you're the one who insisted I dress up," he muttered as he rolled his eyes.
I giggled. "I'm glad I did. You clean up nice, Chief."
"Yeah, yeah; how soon 'til we eat?"
"You and your stomach," I laughed, "We'll sit down to eat shortly after our guests arrive."
He grunted and shrugged before continuing down the hall.
"I took some basic business courses, knowin' they'd help whenever I'm able to open my own shop, but didn't go for a four year degree; I'm not that studious," Jake grinned while tellin' Cheryl his plans for the future. "What I love, is workin' on cars. Always have, and probably always will. First, it was basic repairs and shit," he glanced around the table, a slight blush rising in his cheeks, "Sorry."
Everyone looked back at him with amused expressions. No matter how he tried, Jacob couldn't seem to reign in his potty mouth.
"Durin' high school, I spent a couple of summers working in a body shop and learned that that's where I excelled. Every project is its own little work of art, ya know?" I loved the look on Jacob's face while he talked about what he truly loved. "At the moment, I'm working for someone else; as a mechanic, but me and my buddy Garrett are gonna have our own place someday." He glanced over at me, winking before digging into his dinner.
He let out a small groan. "This shit is crazy good, Bells." He spoke around a mouthful of pot roast.
I giggled again at his verbal faux pas.
The more time I spent with him, the fonder I became of Jacob.
The nervousness I'd felt earlier had melted away as soon as I saw that Cheryl genuinely liked him as well.
But then, how could she not?
Jacob's warm smile and genuine happiness, was infectious. He was the kind of person who made every day brighter just by his presence alone.
A few nights later, it was Cheryl's turn to be nervous, as I met Hayden for the first time.
She needn't have worried; Hayden was a sweetheart. I liked her from that first moment.
She was even more of a crackup than Cheryl was.
We had a wonderful dinner and visited for hours afterward, polishing off two bottles of wine in the process...
"Wow," I couldn't hide my surprise, "You have a child?"
Hayden smirked and nodded, while my mind sped through every possible conception scenario.
After all, Hayden is gay; therefore it stands to reason that she wouldn't be having sex with a man in order to conceive…
Was the pregnancy on purpose? If so, did Hayden have artificial insemination? Or maybe she went the cheap route and got a friend to donate some swimmers, and used a good, old-fashioned turkey baster?
Ew. Okay that last thought was sort of icky, but I'd read somewhere about women getting pregnant that way…
Before my wine-addled brain could explore more possibilities, Hayden spoke again. "I was married right out of high school, and gave birth to Lucas when I was nineteen. The marriage fell apart soon after." She shrugged. "Thankfully Tommy, my ex, has always supported my choices. If not for that, I don't know what would have happened when both sets of grandparents sued for custody of my son." She frowned; hiding the hurt which was most certainly just below the surface. She looked at me curiously then, "I'm surprised Cheryl didn't say anything."
Cheryl raised her hands in surrender. "Hey, that's not my story to tell."
Hayden smiled widely and reached over to grasp Cheryl's hand. She mouthed the words 'Thank you'. It was easy to see the affection they had for one another.
"So where is Lucas now?"
Hayden smiled again, "He's spending Christmas with his father, but he'll be back with us for New Year's."
Daddy cleared his throat and stood. "I'm gonna head out." He was working another night shift. "It was nice meeting you." He smiled politely at Hayden before turning toward Cheryl. "Y'all flying back tomorrow?" He asked.
Cheryl nodded and stood, wanting to hug him goodbye. Before she had a chance, my daddy engulfed her in his arms. "Don't be a stranger." He said in a low tone before leaning back to look her in the eye. "You know our door is always open, right?"
I watched as Cheryl's bottom lip began to quiver. She gave him a small nod before throwing her arms around his neck and hugging him again. "Thanks, Chief."
Before Hayden and Cheryl had come over, I'd sat Daddy down and explained their relationship. I also told him about the way her family had treated her. He listened intently, never uttering a single word. The only reaction I discerned was the way his eyebrows shot up almost to his hairline. Once I finished speaking, he patted my shoulder and went to watch TV.
Now, as I watched him with Cheryl, tears filled my eyes. I didn't think I'd ever been prouder to call myself his daughter. My daddy may have been a man of few words, but when he did speak, he always made those words count.
"So," I faced Cheryl, once Daddy was gone and Hayden was in the bathroom. "How are things with your family?"
"Well…" She winced before downing the rest of her wine. "My sister has been polite. Granted, she only stayed around for about twenty-four hours. Her fiancé was with her. He's a really nice guy. I like him a lot…"
Cheryl shrugged, looking so sad. "Too bad Amy didn't take the time to get to know Hayden."
I reached over to hold her hand. "Her loss, sweetie."
-January-Bella, age 21 years…
"These kids are growin' up too fast. I don't remember it bein' this bad when I was in middle school," While Jake began to change the oil in my car, I chattered away about my first week of student teaching.
Despite our busy schedules, we'd both managed to hang out together on average once a week since that night he'd picked me up from the sidewalk. Today, we were in the garage of the house he rented with his buddy Garrett.
"The boys are always ready to fight over some girl, and the girls are just plain cruel to one another." I shook my head.
"Doesn't sound much different from when we were that age," Jake answered with a chuckle. "You just don't remember."
I shrugged and continued to watch him from my spot on the counter.
With his sleeves pushed up, I was able to see more of his tattoos than I'd ever glimpsed before. Living with Rose and Emmett, I'd grown to have a real appreciation of the more intricate and beautiful pieces.
"Wow Jake that is some serious ink…" I blurted without thinking.
Shoot. Now he's gonna know I was staring.
He turned toward me, one side of his mouth turned up in a grin. "She says that like someone who knows her way around a tattoo studio."
I giggled then. "I will have you know that my landlord is a tattoo artist and I've been to his shop on occasion. I haven't gotten a tattoo yet, but…"
He looked surprised. "I thought your landlord ran a restaurant?"
"Rose runs the restaurant. Her husband, Emmett, is a tattoo artist."
His eyes narrowed. "Em McCarty?"
Jacob beamed. "You mean to tell me that we've been hangin' out for weeks now and this is the first time I'm hearing that you're living with Em and Rose?"
"You know them?"
"Hell yeah, Em's my boy. He's done every one of my tattoos. " With those words, Jake shamelessly pulled off his shirt and tossed it on the counter beside me in order to show off more of Emmett's artwork.
Lord in heaven…
I was just able to stop myself from falling off the counter; I was that unprepared to see Jacob standing before me half-naked.
He was beautiful; the ink enhancing that fact.
I shook my head, trying to clear away the thoughts that were racing through my brain. Things between Jacob and I weren't like that. He was my friend.
My really hot friend.
Besides, I knew where I stood with Jacob. I thought back to the conversation I'd overheard between him and Garrett the second time I'd visited this house:
"Dude, you still hooking up with the redhead? You know the one from Lakeside?" Garrett asked.
I loitered in the hall on my way back from the bathroom. I didn't mean to eavesdrop but once I started… yeah, it was hard to stop.
"Sometimes. Why?" Jake answered in a whisper.
"Okay." Garrett paused. "So you're not dating Bella?"
"No. She's a friend." Jake's tone was even.
"Good to know."
"What the fuck are you up to?"
"What?" Garrett sounded surprised. "You're not dating her. I thought I'd ask her..."
"Hell No!" Jake cut him off. "Slow your fuckin' roll."
"I said no." There was silence for a moment. "Bella means a lot to me. She's been through some shit; and sorry my man, but you're just not good enough for her."
Garrett laughed. "Dayum. That was cold bro."
Jake laughed along with him. "Truth hurts."
Garrett was still laughing. "Yeah, alright. Didn't mean to cockblock ya…"
At that precise moment, Jake's cat decided to rub up against my leg, scaring the hell out of me. I squeaked in fright, alerting the boys to my approach and the subject of Bella's love life was dropped.
Still, it was good for me to hear, because at that time my mind had been a jumble from the Dean fiasco and I could have easily fallen for Jake, my knight in shining armor.
Better to know that Jake had a girlfriend, or hookup, or whatever. I didn't want to risk making a fool of myself…
Besides, the memory of Edward still taunted me daily.
Although, the more time I spent with Jake, the more I found myself thinking about the future: graduation and starting my teaching career, rather than about the past, which was where the memory of my time with Edward resided.
Jake showed off the ink that graced his shoulders, biceps, forearms, and chest. When he saw the expression on my face- I can't be certain that I wasn't drooling- he began to laugh and made a show of flexing.
That was when I choked, most likely on said drool, which in turned resulted in a coughing fit.
"Bells," he was still laughing as he made his was over to me. "You okay?" He asked as he reached to gently pat my back.
I coughed twice and nodded while holding up my hand. I took a deep breath once the coughing fit passed. "I don't know what happened," I lied, "I thought for a minute that I'd swallowed my tongue," I giggled as he laughed again.
He was still rubbing my back and, more than anything, I'd wished he'd put his shirt back on. The fact that he was shirtless and standing very close was making me uncomfortable.
No doubt my cheeks were now the color of a ripe tomato.
I blinked hard. Jake was my friend, my buddy. It wasn't right that my heart rate should pick up and my palms get sweaty just because he was standing so damned close.
The last time I'd felt like this was when I was with Edward…
Jake reached across me for his shirt, and that was when I got a close-up look at the inked angel on his upper arm. I gasped. The face of the angel was lovely, haunting, and oh so familiar. It was a face I loved, one that I'd dreamt about more times than I could count during the past nine years. The face of someone who I missed so much, that seeing it now made my heart ache with longing.
"Miss Ruthie," I whispered, and didn't hesitate before reaching out to trace the lines of her face with my fingertips.
Jake released a deep breath, shuddering slightly as he nodded. "Yeah, I gave Em an old photo. I wanted the angel to look like her."
I covered my mouth with the hand that had just touched the tattoo as tears filled my eyes. "It's beautiful," I whispered. The tears spilled down my cheeks and there was no way to hide them from Jake. "I'm sorry, I don't know where this is comin' from," I wiped my cheeks with my sleeve. "Just, seein' her face… it took me by surprise…" I looked into his eyes then, "I really loved her, you know."
Jake nodded and pulled me into a tight embrace. "I know."
And just like that, my mood had shifted.
Suddenly, it didn't matter so much that Jake was half-naked. I melted into his chest, reveling in his warmth as I allowed myself to grieve for the woman who we both loved so dearly.
-February-Bella, age 21 years…
"Just ask him"
The voice in my head, sounding a lot like my friend Cheryl, was relentless.
Probably because this was Cheryl's idea in the first place…
"Hey, Jake." I began in a meek voice, watching as he played his video game. It was a Wednesday night, and as we were prone to do on evenings when neither of us worked, we were hanging out at his place; Jake playing a game, while I studied.
I waited until after Jake's game character lobbed a grenade into a bunker before posing my question.
"Um," I began. "The school where I'm student teaching is havin' a dance on Valentine's Day."
I watched as Jacob searched the bunker for weapons.
"A-huh. And," I hesitated, "they've asked me to be a chaperone."
He chuckled. "Dayum! You gotta spend a whole night chasing middle-schoolers out of the bathrooms?" He never took his eyes from the television screen as he took out some enemy soldiers.
"I guess so." I cleared my throat. "Anyway, they said I could bring a date, and… I mean, if you aren't busy, I was hopin' maybe you'd accompany me?"
Shoot. Who, outside of a Jane Austen novel, uses the phrase 'accompany me'?
I'm such an idiot
Truth was I adored Jake.
As a friend
I had to admit though, now and then, my mind would entertain the possibility of us as a 'couple'. Whenever that would happen, I'd shake those thoughts away. Jake didn't give any indication that he thought of me as anything more than a friend, and I wasn't even sure of my own feelings on the matter…
It wouldn't take much for me to fall in love with Jacob. He was strong, thoughtful, and kind. He made me feel like the most important person in the world whenever we were together. Not to mention the fact that he was very easy on the eyes.
So, so easy
I sighed and looked up, only to find that Jake had paused the game and was staring at me with a lopsided grin on his face. "Are you askin' me out on a date, Isabella?"
"Uh…" I swallowed hard as I felt my face begin to flame. "I, uh, I mean…"
He laughed, "I would be honored to accompany you, Miss Swan."
I bit my lip, truly embarrassed now.
"Hey," he was still smiling as he set down the controller and moved to sit beside me on the sofa. "Bells, seriously," he lost the smile and placed an arm around my shoulders, "I can think of no other person with whom I'd rather spend my Valentine's."
I was confused by the possible meaning of his statement, but very happy he didn't reject me.
"Really?" my voice was low, my expression hopeful.
"Of course," the smile was back, "Besides, you shouldn't go stag to one of those things. Some douchebag will hit on you."
"Jake," I was grinning now, "the average age of the males attending is like twelve."
"Well, they don't need to get any ideas either, but I was thinkin' more about the other teachers. You've made mention of that dick, what's his name? Oh yeah, Travis something or other who hits on you all the time…"
I giggled out loud then. Travis Carr, the eighth grade Algebra teacher was a total creeper. I'd made mention to Jake of the way he always took notice of my clothing and would say something complimentary. What I didn't share with Jake was how Travis's leering smile and the way his eyes seemed to linger on my chest, made my skin crawl.
He'd asked me out, I'd refused and, so far, I'd been able to successfully dodge any further advances.
"Well, thank you." I answered while leaning in for a hug.
"Hey, I should be thanking you. I'll have the hottest date at the dance." He winked, causing my heart to melt, just a little.
The evening of the dance arrived, and I could not believe how nervous I was.
Rose had helped me shop for the perfect outfit. I wore a long-sleeved black sweater dress that I'd found on sale at the mall. With its high neckline, it was not revealing at all, despite the fact that it hugged my curves. It was definitely conservative enough for a middle school dance. What made me decide that I couldn't go home without buying it was the smattering of rhinestones sewn onto each shoulder. Rose said that they were just enough to make the dress look classy rather than trashy.
I took her word for it.
At Rose's favorite lingerie shop, I was able to find a pair of sheer black stockings with little rhinestone hearts sewn onto each ankle. They were a little pricey, costing almost as much as the dress did, but I couldn't resist. After adding a pair of black patent leather pumps, courtesy of Rose's closet, the look was complete.
Now, while I stared at my reflection in Rose's full length mirror, I couldn't help but feel beautiful, sexy even…
"Hey Bella," I heard Emmett call from the hallway, "Jake's here."
"Wow," I turned to find Em standing in the doorway, Rose grinning from beside him. "Hope you don't mind me saying this, but you look hot, Bella."
Rose elbowed him in the stomach. "I mind," She snapped, however, she still retained her smile. "You reserve that term for me, alone. In Bella's case, you should say she's looks beautiful."
I smiled, shaking my head as I worked my fingers through my flowing curls. Rose had helped me style my hair, but the finishing touch, my makeup; I was able to apply myself, thanks to years of experimenting with Alice.
Now, with my smoky eyes and ruby lips, I was ready to take on the world.
Or at least a cafeteria full of eleven, twelve and thirteen year olds
Em held his hands up in surrender. "Pardon me Bella; what I should have said is that you look beautiful."
"Thank you," I smiled gratefully.
"Jake's gonna lose his shit…" He blurted, earning another elbow in the gut.
"Stop it. She's already nervous. Quit adding to it." Rose hissed.
"Alright, alright," he said, trying to appease his wife. "But, what have you got to be nervous about, Bella? It's only Jacob…"
It's only Jacob…
I took a deep breath and smiled before heading downstairs where my date was waiting.
For the most part, the children behaved; the adults, not so much.
Travis made a point of coming up to us. He hugged me and stared at my chest before I could stop him.
Then he reluctantly shook Jacob's hand. "I'm Travis Carr; I teach here, and you are… Bella's friend?" He asked Jacob with narrowed eyes.
"Jake Black," Despite what Jacob had said about Travis before meeting him, you'd never know by his demeanor that he had a low opinion of the man. He smiled brightly and cleared his throat, "I'm Bella's boyfriend, actually."
I kept a frozen smile on my own face, trying not to give anything away, but inside I could feel the panic starting to build.
Jake just called himself my boyfriend…
I knew he said it so that Travis would lay off, but still, hearing the words made me feel so strange.
"Oh, um, nice meeting you." After that, Travis made himself scarce.
It was no wonder. Jacob was intimidating, to say the least.
When I'd first glimpsed him in his black button down and dress pants, I'd had to grip the stair railing so I wouldn't trip.
He happened to be the only boy I'd ever known, aside from Edward, who could manage to take my breath away.
Unfortunately, a couple of the female teachers I worked with must have had similar reactions. They were practically drooling on themselves when I introduced him, and then, I found out later that, whenever I was busy dealing with the students, they were hitting on my date.
It made me happier than it should have that he'd refused their requests for a dance…
Jealousy was not attractive on me and, after all, Jake and I were just friends…
However, those cougars didn't know that…
Finally, with only a half hour left to go before the dance was over, Jake grabbed my hand and pulled me onto the dance floor.
I swayed in his arms as Uncle Kracker sounded through the speakers.
Day after day I'm more confused
Then I look for the light through the pourin' rain
You know, that's a game, that I hate to lose
I'm feelin' the strain, ain't it a shame
"Jake, I should be watching the kids…"
"Forget about it Bella, let someone else deal with it. From what I've witnessed, only about three of you chaperones have been doin' all the work tonight." He grinned down at me while pulling me close. "Besides, this is one of the few songs they've played that doesn't suck."
I giggled as my eyes nervously scanned the room.
Beginin' to think, that I'm wastin' time
And I don't understand the things I do
The world outside looks so unkind
And I'm countin' on you, you can carry me through
Give me the beat boys and free my soul
I wanna get lost in your rock and roll and drift away
Give me the beat boys and free my soul
I wanna get lost in your rock and roll and drift away
"You're so beautiful," he whispered. I looked up to find him staring down with an almost longing expression on his face.
I smiled back at him, ignoring the fluttering in my stomach, "You're not so bad yourself."
He blinked and glanced around before chuckling. "Don't look now, but we have an audience."
I turned to find a lot of the students pairing up and taking to the dance floor as well, while a fair number of the others stood along the walls, watching. Only they were mostly watching me and Jake.
It was a little unsettling.
"I'm sure Miss Swan is going to be the talk of the school on Monday. All these dudes wish they were me right now."
I laughed out loud then. "Yeah, right. More like the girls wish they were me."
He shrugged. "Whatever. If you weren't before, you're now officially the coolest teacher in the school."
I laughed again.
Give me the beat boys and free my soul
I wanna get lost in your rock and roll and drift away
Give me the beat boys and free my soul
I wanna get lost in your rock and roll and drift away
Won't you take me away
-August-Bella, age 21 years…
As the plane reached its cruising altitude, I reclined the seat and closed my eyes, thinking back over the past week.
It had been one of the most enjoyable of my life.
Finally, four years later than originally planned, Alice and I had gone to Paris together.
Better late than never
Unfortunately, a week was all I could spare, so Alice and I made sure to cram as much as possible into those seven days.
It had been amazing.
Jasper had arrived last night so that he and Alice could spend the next week together. I was slightly envious when I thought about how romantic a visit to Paris would be with your significant other.
Maybe someday I'll have that…
I opened my eyes again; sleep evading me.
Even though I knew I should probably rest while I had the chance, my mind was filled with all the tasks facing me when I returned home.
I had exactly one week to settle into my new apartment, before I'd be reporting for my first day of work.
The past few months had been hectic, what with graduation, applying for teaching positions, then going to interviews.
I remembered that feeling a few weeks ago, when I still hadn't heard back from any of the schools where I'd interviewed. I was panicking, certain that I wouldn't get a teaching job this year and then, just a few days before I was due to leave for Paris, I was given not one job offer, but two.
I chose the one where I'd be teaching high school English on the south side of the city. It was closer to Waverly than the other school by ten miles, but if I was honest, I'd have to admit that the deciding factor was that it was a mere three miles from Jake's house.
Since I'd reconnected with Jake eight months ago, he'd become one of the most important people in my life.
He was my sounding board when I needed advice, a sympathetic shoulder when I needed to cry, a protector, someone who called me on my bullshit, but he was so much more…
I actually hadn't realized how much more until I'd spent a week without him.
The time in Paris had been glorious; something I'd remember for the rest of my life; the only drawback had been that I couldn't share it with Jacob.
Spending time with Alice, it was natural that I'd think about Edward, but, to my surprise, I found that it was Jacob who I thought about the most.
I'd missed him so much.
I sighed, attempting to settle down again; resigned to the fact that Jacob would never see me as anything more than a friend.
I don't want a boyfriend anyway
They only break your heart
After touching down in D.C., and finally making my way through customs, I was free to wade through the sea of fellow travelers on my quest to find a shuttle service that would take me to Richmond.
He'd been on my mind so much that, at first I thought I was imagining things when, what sounded like Jake's voice, called out my name.
After hearing it a second time, my head whipped around, my eyes searching...
I swore that Jacob's smile as he watched me was bright enough to light the entire terminal, and mine was just as wide as I ran to greet him.
Before I could ask what he was doing there, I was swept into his arms. "I missed you so much." He exclaimed; his face buried in my hair.
I pulled back a little, "Jake… how did you? Why are you…? I was goin' to take the shuttle…"
He shrugged. "Honestly? I don't think I could have waited another three hours to see you." His eyes were sincere; pleading.
My breath caught in my throat as I pulled him to me again. "I missed you too; thought about you all the time." I said out loud before placing my lips near his ear and whispering, "I'm glad you didn't want to wait."
I was giddy with happiness at seeing him; my friend. No, that wasn't right, I wasn't sure of the precise moment that it had happened, but Jacob had long ago ceased to be merely my friend.
Did he see me as something more?
I leaned back and looked into his eyes, already knowing the answer.
I took a deep breath before hugging him close again.
Until now, I'd kept my past with Edward to myself. But as I clung to Jacob, much the same way I had back in December; I knew it was time to tell him everything.
-August- Edward, Age 23 years-
I had a plan.
A plan where I could finally begin to repair my relationship with Bella...
I was going to seek her out and tell her that I wanted her back.
I would confess that I never stopped loving her.
I prayed that she still loved me.
I would throw myself at her feet if necessary, as I tell her how sorry I was; beg her to give me another chance, and promise to never hurt her again.
All of that was the final part of my plan.
However, before I could grovel at her feet, I needed to do something else…
I needed a grand gesture to prove how serious I was about the future.
I needed to move.
I'd spent the summer applying for jobs.
As August began, I interviewed for a position with a large nonprofit organization, the headquarters of which was located in Richmond. Things looked promising, especially since they'd called me in for a second interview.
If I got the job, I would be working out of the New York office temporarily, and then, within a year, I would relocate to Richmond.
In a matter of months, I could be living in the same city as Bella.
This was the chance I needed…
I'd come to realize that being apart from her just wasn't an option any more.
If by some miracle, she were to take me back, I knew that a long distance relationship wasn't fair to her. Been there, done that, and we were no longer teenagers, residing under our parents' roofs. We were free to live wherever we chose.
Who was I kidding?
My reasons for wanting to be closer to Bella weren't so much for her benefit, as they were for mine.
I missed her.
So fucking much
I missed her smile, her laughter…
I missed the way her eyes would shine when I told her I loved her…
I missed having her close.
I wanted to wrap my arm around her shoulders as we sat on the porch on still, hot, summer evenings, eating popsicles and enjoying the feeling of just being together.
A couple of years ago, once I'd removed my head from up my ass and gotten serious about my recovery, I'd spent a lot of time thinking about how I'd pushed her away.
It had literally taken years to shake the feelings of self-loathing I'd harbored for Daniel's death and for my treatment of Bella. Even now, if I dug deep enough, I would still find remnants of those feelings, but I'd ceased to let them rule my day-to-day existence.
As I'd gotten stronger, I'd realized something about myself. Even though it went without saying that I'd never deserve Bella, I discovered that I was just enough of a selfish asshole not to let that stop me from attempting to win her back.
I'd tried to be the noble guy; sending her away and self-medicating until I'd almost killed myself…
I rubbed my face with my hands as I mulled everything over in my mind.
Move to Richmond
Win Bella back
I groaned out loud. Weeks ago, when I'd formulated this genius plan of mine, I'd developed it in three parts.
Part one, the one I continually chose to ignore, the one that had to happen before I could even attempt the others, consisted of a letter.
A hand written letter I intended to send to Bella.
A letter I had already written in my head but, because part of me was still a pathetic coward, I had yet to set pen to paper.
In that letter, I would beg her forgiveness for every time I'd wronged her. I would tell her how much I've learned about myself through therapy, and that pushing her away was never done with the intention of hurting her.
The fact remained that I had hurt her, and I was and am so, very sorry for that...
I planned to explain that, at the time, I thought pushing her away was the best thing for her. I had wanted her to realize her dreams; to succeed, and I didn't want to burden her with what I'd become.
I would tell her how much I've learned during these past couple of years. I would confide that the day I was finally able to forgive myself for Daniel's death had been a major turning point in my recovery.
I planned to let her know that, whatever the future held, I was going to face it without relying on my vices to get me through the difficult times.
In short, many of the sentiments I later planned to voice in person would be contained in the letter. With one glaring exception; I would make no mention of still loving her, and wanting her back. That would have to wait until I could look into her eyes.
In the letter, I would also let her know that, during the past year, I had made a concerted effort to reconnect with my family, and how grateful I was to them. Despite the fact that I'd treated them shamefully, they had supported me through everything. I would never deserve them…just as I had never deserved her.
I would tell Bella that my biggest regret, apart from losing her, was that my baby sister, Grace, barely knew me. I was attempting to make up for that and for so many things…
In the end, I would again beg for Bella's forgiveness, and express my hope that, in time, we could be friends.
I groaned loudly.
She was and always would be the love of my life.
When I am finally able to see her face to face, I will bare my heart and soul to her.
Even if I discover, as Alice has alluded, that she's moved on, it didn't matter.
I knew even that wouldn't stop me.
If I had even the slightest chance of winning her back, I was going to take it.
I'd failed her in the past, but now I was going to fight for her.
I rubbed my temple, feeling the beginnings of a headache.
I was so full of shit
All my bravado; all my bold plans meant nothing until I grew a pair and wrote that letter.
I stood up and grabbed my car keys.
I needed some air; a drive to clear my head.
Five minutes later, as I pulled onto the busy city street, even the radio seemed mock me.
Ain't no sunshine when she's gone
Only darkness every day.
Ain't no sunshine when she's gone
And this house just ain't no home
Anytime she goes away.
Anytime she goes away.
Anytime she goes away.
Anytime she goes away…
A/N Song Recs: "Ain't No Sunshine" by the great Bill Withers. (Thanks to Aurella Cullen for the suggestion)
The next two chapters will be very important ones. jsyk
My Facebook name has changed to Annie M Deacon. Not my real name, however if I ever decide to publish an original story, I intend to use the penname A M Deacon, so I've gone ahead and made the switch on FB.
I love, love, love all your reviews. Thank you for your patience with me. During the past year, there have been times when I've been forced to bind and gag my RL and toss it in a closet in order to find the time to write!
Sneak peeks in the Facebook group Emmamamas Stories.
Blog: Emmamamas-stories dot blogspot dot com