I shivered as I looked out over the side of the mountain. It was covered in snow; perfect and white and just as beautiful as it had been every time I'd come here for the last nine years. I turned the heat up a little more in the rental I was driving, hoping to shake off the chill.
My eyes focused back on the curving road. Even though it had been cleared and salted, there was still slush to contend with. And the occasional patch of black ice. Nothing would be worse than starting off the holiday week with an accident. Especially one that could end with me and a rented Jeep veering off the side of a mountain.
The sound of generic Christmas music played in the background. Honestly, I would have preferred my iPod, but some things were just habit. And we'd been doing this since before any of us could even afford an iPod. Hell, we'd been doing this since before we could actually afford to do this.
This was important.
These people were important.
And no matter what happened – where we all went or what we all did – these people would always be my family. Always.
Alice, Rosalie, Jasper, Emmett and Edward. Maybe the same blood didn't run through our veins, but they were more important than any blood. Like I said, they were my family.
As I continued the long drive up the mountain, I couldn't help but think about how we'd all come together over fifteen years ago.
I met them all the first year I was placed in the group home after Charlie and Renee died. With no living grandparents or other family members to take me in, I became a ward of the state of Washington. It's still hard to think about it that way, but that's exactly what I was. I didn't belong to anyone. Not even myself. I had no possessions to speak of. Just the sad brown backpack filled with the few clothes I'd packed before they took me from my home. Two pairs of jeans and three shirts.
The first few months were the hardest. I was thirteen then. Too young to really grasp what was happening, but old enough to understand the threat of what living in a group home might mean. It's funny how quick a child can learn.
I was scared a lot in the beginning. But Emmett liked me right away. Well, mostly he felt sorry for me I think. There was an incident with one of the older guys that first week. He was sixteen. He got a little too close one night in an empty hall – touched me a little more than I was comfortable with. It was terrifying, but Emmett stepped in. He was only fifteen, but so much bigger than the other guy. He threatened to "beat the fucking shit out of him" if he touched or even came near me again. It was the first time I'd ever heard a curse word. And in that moment, his vulgar language was the safest thing I'd ever heard. Still is.
Emmett and Edward were brothers. Edward was fourteen. Nervous like me. I don't think he said more than three sentences to me for the first year after we met. And that was because Emmett made him. But I liked him, even if he didn't really like me at all. I felt a sort of kinship to him. I loved the way he was always reading a book. Keeping to himself. And I always found him impossibly unearthly in his beauty.
The same went for Jasper and Rosalie. They had all been there for almost a year. While Emmett and Edward lost their parents much like me, Jasper and Rose – well, their mom was an addict. She was deemed an unsuitable parental figure. They never knew their dad. Honestly, they never knew if they had the same dad. They were only ten months apart. But a part of me always thought they had to have the same father. They looked just like twins.
Alice and I were both alone. She came to the home not too long after me. They said she had some emotional and psychological disorder. But really, who of us didn't? She didn't know her family. Or if she did, she never really talked about them. But I loved her right away. We were the same age, and for the first time ever in my life, I had a best friend.
So, the six of us were as close to a familial unit as we were ever going to get. All of us stuck together. All of us in our own little way protected and loved each other as much as we could. And because of them – all of them – my time in the home wasn't as terrible as it could have been. I might have been a ward of the state, but at least I had a family.
That was until the next year when we met Dr. Cullen. He did all the annual physicals for the group home. He brought his wife back a few days later. I guess that Dr. Cullen had met and loved Edward immediately. He thought he was gifted. Which he was. And since he obviously couldn't separate him from Emmett, they wanted to take and adopt them both.
According to Edward, Emmett was the one to say something first. He told the doctor and his wife that there were four others. He told them that he couldn't leave us there unprotected. He was always so worried and fatherly. Even then. Plus, by that time, he and Rose were already in love. And I knew he really didn't want to leave here there in the home.
So, they took us all. It was crazy. Even now when I think about it, I still can't believe our good fortune. They took all six of us. Every single one. And we weren't young kids by any stretch. Alice and I were the youngest at fourteen. But that didn't seem to matter to them. And it couldn't have been easy. We all had issues with trust. Except with each other.
I'll never forget the day we left the group home. I still had the same brown backpack – only this time it was filled with different clothes. Hand-me-downs and donations given from people in the community. But they were all I had. And they were mine. And with my family beside me – holding Alice's hand and oddly enough, Edward's – I walked inside the house that would be our home for the next few years.
The sight of another car pulled me from my thoughts. Shifting, I sat up straighter in my seat, gripping the steering wheel tighter. Only a few more miles until I was there. This was a tradition. It didn't matter what we did in our own lives, every year, the week before Christmas, we all met in the mountains and spent the week together. Carlisle and Esme always came up on Christmas Eve. But for the five days before, it was just us…just the kids.
Only we weren't kids anymore.
The snow was really starting to come down by the time I reached the top. I was hoping that I was the last one to arrive. Although, I knew I probably wasn't. I turned off the road and onto the drive way. It was gravel, but covered with snow, and I could feel the slight slide of the tires as I made my way to the house.
The lights were on, and because all of us generally flew in and rented cars, I didn't know who was here already. Nervous and excited, I checked myself in the rearview mirror. And just as I was about to hop out, my phone chimed, letting me know I had a text.
"I'm going to miss you for Christmas."
I smiled in spite of myself. And quickly responded.
"I'm going to miss you, too. But you know this is my family."
His response was immediate.
"I want to meet your family."
I looked at the text for a while. Rubbing my fingers softly over the letters. This was so complicated. More complicated than I imagined. But he knew where I stood. He knew what I thought and how I felt. And for now, he was okay. But a sinking part of me knew that wouldn't always be the case.
So, I typed my response out slowly. Thinking about each and every word.
"I know you do, Jacob."
I looked back up to the warm glow of the house. The lights were shining softly over the snow at twilight. It was beautiful. So, with a pounding heart, I quickly hit send, and then I turned my phone off and dropped it in my purse.
Then I headed inside.
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This story will post daily and complete before Christmas. Thank you so much for reading.
Thanks and love to Marvar – my beta and best friend. Thank you for loving me more than you hate angst. I love you more than…well, anything.
I have the best pre-readers in the world: Caren, JaimeArkin, Kourt17, Laura_1025 and Raina. Seriously. I don't know if I would have pushed through writing it, if not for your love and encouragement.
See you in the morning!