It is time. This is the end of the Ace. I am not sorry for the bumpy ride that you have all endured while reading this story.
I may go back and re-write this because I know some of you may feel it's underdeveloped and still unfinished but right now, this is all I could write for the end. I have tried to re-write this many times, I have tried to create a new plot point or try and find another thing I could to resolve it a different way but I can't. For that, I'm sorry. I know this seems like an abrupt ending and I am prepared for flames due to this but... just go easy on me please.
I have to thank LoopyLou992 for all the nights she spent listening to me go and on about this story. All the pictures exchanged back and forth and all the chapters I asked her to read. Thanks babes, you are a star and I'm glad I can call you a close friend.
Now to all of you.
I am so very thankful to all of you for your kind words and your enthusiasm when I felt like I had none left. I have learnt a great deal from this story and it's process which is why I am currently writing another but I am going to finish writing the whole thing first to avoid plot holes and all that. I will hopefully have it up soon but I have no idea where my fickle mind will take me.
I will say this though. It will be darker than this and it will be based on the Greek Myth, The Abduction of Persephone.
Thank you all.
EPOV – EPILOGUE
I am currently sitting in a room, a very large room with windows that open to let in a breeze. I can see the sky from where I sit and I can feel the wind on my face. I am free and that is something this room reminds me of. The door to my right has no lock; it remains open for anyone who needs to enter. The walls are bright and colourful and in this place there are only a few rules and they are nothing like they were before. Punishments are truly behind the people who enter here and help is always available.
I know because I spend an awful lot of time here. After all, I helped build it.
I remember that day better than any other.
Bella destroyed the Ace with a hundred and fifty men. Each had a rope tied to the metal structure. At first we thought it would not come down but I guess with all the pent up rage they found their inner strength. It buckled and then gave a little. It was enough. The Ace was destroyed but Bella seemed unsatisfied. After a few seconds of watching the building she took my hand and led me to the barely sound structure. She then went to one of the trucks that her mother had brought into the square and searched for something in the back. After a few long moments she came out with a large metal object that looked as though it was meant to mend the truck if it should break. She placed it into my hands and told me to let it all go.
I hit metal, bricks, wood and mattresses and even though it hurt my hands it helped me.
I see that now.
And as I heard the cries and hate spew from Riley's mouth I knew that this was what I was meant for. I was supposed to help bring down my prison and protect the men inside. I was apparently the Ace; the highest-ranking card in the deck. Naturally I was the first slam that metal weapon into the game and end it.
I'm glad I let go that day because without it I might not be as calm as I am now.
This room has many advantages but the main one is that is allows me time alone with my daughter. Bella was right that day in the arena. What Riley had done slowly became apparent as the weeks went by. Many more women came to Carlilse because they had heard about the implants they had received. Some were working perfectly fine but others were placebos and did nothing. Bella's test results came as a shock to us all except Bella. I think she knew. She told me one night that Riley was evil when it came to many things but not her pregnancy. She was happy that he had done what he did because it meant we were going to get a precious gift. That's the way she looked at it anyway. I was a little more cautious; I suppose that's one way to look at it. I remember feeling happy and sad when she told me. I wanted the baby, I did but I did not. I did not have a childhood. Esme has told me that many times. I do not know what a parent is or if I could ever be one but as I hold her and feel her little heart beat so close to me I know that I had everything I needed in order to become what she needed.
Esme and I worked on my anger for a long time. Bella would stay well away from me after a therapy session and then when I felt I was in control I would find her and kiss her ever expanding stomach and talk about it. Bella is my guide and she continues to guide me through the dark patches that occur sometimes.
However there is one thing I have not told her. One thing I know will make her cry.
I have to tell her why I never let her know her mother's plans.
I get up from the seat and place Freya in a cot. She will be safe while she sleeps; I know that for a fact. It's not like when I was small. I take the small monitor and quietly leave the room. Bella is sitting where I left her leafing through paperwork at a small desk in a very open room. I left her hours ago so when she spots me she quickly tries to hide the papers.
"You shouldn't be stressing yourself out"I tell her sternly. She is having a hard time dealing with her father's case and treatment. After Charlie was correctly diagnosed Bella made it her mission to help him. She went to visit him in a prison just off the boarder a few days after the Ace was taken down and spent a lot of time going through everything that had happened. Charlie was very forth coming with information and apparently even admitted he wanted to die so that no one could be hurt from his actions again. Bella of course told him that what she thought of that and made it so he was on suicide watch. Charlie has been doing better recently and I think I'm happy about that. Something good came from Charlie a weeks into his treatment. A letter arrived one day; it was addressed to both of us and was very thin. What we found made all of this possible, he donated all of the money he had been given from Riley and Victoria to Bella. At first she had no intention of ever using it until we burnt the picture of the Ace that hung in the courthouse. A year later, The Clinic was built and with it came a newfound happiness and a great deal of hope. Men who had been affected by the Ace were treated first and with the upmost care and consideration. Next came families who were affected by the Ace and its entire doings… that is where I came in. I helped build the family quarters so that no family would be separated during a very important time. I was not apart from my family now so why should they have been apart from theirs?
Emmett and Jasper helped to create spacious, clean and completely free living spaces for the members of each family and in return we got happiness. I will admit that there were times when we wanted to give up and if it was not for Freya I would have. Emmett was in the same boat until Rose sat him down in the very room Freya is now sleeping and told him that he was going to be a father. He was quick to finish the work then and by the end of a few months we had all the rooms ready to be lived in.
Jasper and Alice are currently not trying to have a child because they are very much in love and want to spend as much time together before they introduce a new baby into the mix. They are happy and that is the only thing that Bella and I really wanted for them. Alice has finally learnt how to care for Jasper in a way that he needs. She sat us all down one night and tried to explain it to us but she didn't get very far. Bella told her that it was her business and as long as Jasper was safe and so was she we didn't need to know anything else.
"I know" I smile as I come out of my thoughts. I know she saw it because she smiles too.
I stand behind her and kiss the back of her head before wrapping my arms around her.
"It's just I want to be sure he is alright and not charged with the same thing they were" it is understandable. Riley and Victoria were sentenced with kidnapping, murder of the 1st and 2nd degree and a bunch of other things that I don't really remember. They were taken off by Phil and haven't heard anything about them since; expect that they are now paying for their crimes. Too be honest, I don't want to know anything else.
Charlie's court hearing is in a matter of days and Bella is trying to keep herself calm and collected but I know she is secretly dying inside. After all, he is her father.
"Everything will be alright" I whisper into her ear.
"How do you know?" I smile.
"Because it has to be." She doesn't smile.
"Bella, I have something to tell you" I put the monitor on her desk and twirl her around to face me. Her eyes are narrowed and she looks extremely cute but I cannot flatter. I take a deep breath and open my mouth.
"I knew about your mothers plan the day after she arrived" Her mouth falls open and she almost gets up from her seat.
"Hear me out" I plead with my hands up in front of me. She nods her head once; I have a few minutes before she pulls the plug. I know this routine.
"Your mother came to me the day after she arrived and told me exactly what she was going to do and how she was going to do it. Some of the things did not work out her way… the day she put me back in my cage for instance. Then there were things that worked out perfectly. You knew how to work everything out, you knew what you needed to do in order for the plan to work because you did not know the plan. Sometimes it changed and sometimes it stayed the same but it worked because you did everything she made you do. She didn't finish the Ace a long time ago Bella because she was trying to work out the perfect way for it to be ended. She needed to wait for you to be strong enough and willing enough to die for something you believed in. She needed you Bella. For so long we believed I was the Ace but I wasn't Bella. The Ace has always been you. You were holding all the cards, you were choosing when to play them and when not to. Bella you are the Ace, which was your mother's biggest secret. She begged me to keep it from you because if you knew then she no longer had her trick card. The Ace up her sleeve"
"So what does that have to do with anything?" She does not understand. I know it; I can see it in her eyes.
"Bella, You were the trick shot. You finished the Ace. Your mother's plan started and ended with you" I gather her face in my overly large hands that still smell of baby powder and bring her eyes level with mine.
"You saved everyone because you were kept in the dark for so long that you could only make the choices that kept you and everyone else alive. You were willing to risk everything to save some men who needed to be saved. Your mother saw that in you and chose to wait a little while longer. It also meant that Riley, Victoria and anyone else who tried to torture information out of you would have received nothing"
"That is a dangerous game of chance"
"That is why she left the playing to you. You were the chance she was willing to take"
"So my mother would have allowed me to die?"
"I was with you all the time. You did not see me nor hear me but I was there ready to jump out and protect you"
"In the courthouse?"
"No. I was too angry that day. Jacob needed to protect you that day, that was why I was so angry when you returned because you could have been killed"
"In the Ace?"
"I was in a place that no one knew about except your mother, Phil and Carlisle" She squints her eyes and glares at me.
"How did you do that without being seen?" I chuckle lightly and kiss her forehead again.
"What do children do best?" She shrugs.
"They play" I whisper slowly hoping that she would understand.
"That makes no sense" I roll my eyes.
"I was a child when I went into the Ace. Emmett, Jasper and I used to play where we were not allowed. We found all sorts of hiding places and tried to sleep there because the mean men with the whips couldn't find us. But as we got older and our bodies grew we could no longer fit. We had to give up our hiding places and lost our childhood altogether. That was why Carlisle was spending so long at the Ace. We didn't mention it because you could have caught on about what we were doing. We were feeding him information about the hiding spots. He would find them, put a camera there and then find a path out of there. By the time you went to the Ace and confronted Riley we had the whole arena mapped out. We surrounded them because they were stupid enough to take little children into a metal playground" She wipes a tear from her right eye.
"This was all down to luck. The plan was a stupid one because at any second something could have changed. My mother was foolish and she made you all go along with it. She risked everything" I agree with her.
"At least it's done now"
"That's not the point! My mother could have killed us all! She didn't have a plan… she… she signed all our death certificates! " She starts to cry and I hate it.
"I know but it was a chance she was willing to take" She shakes her head from side to side.
"I need time to process it all" I kiss her head again and leave to go check on Freya.
After a while I look up at the clock and wonder what time we will be going home tonight. I left Bella hours ago and she has yet to come and find me. Normally we would be home by six with dinner on the go. At eight we would bathe Freya, feed her at half eight and then put her down for nine. But it's seven o'clock and Bella is nowhere to be found.
I find Bella exactly where I left her but this time she is talking to someone. Her mother sits on the opposite side of the table with a teacup clenched in her hand. Bella is crying and her mother is desperately trying to calm her but she isn't listening. Bella sees me before I can even enter the room. She gets up instantly and hurries to me.
"I can't forgive her, why can't I forgive her?"
"Because you need more time just like she did"
"That's different. I am not risking all our lives!" Bella cries out. Renee looks to the floor and sobs silently. It breaks my heart to see both of them in such distress.
"Bella. You and your mother need to talk. It will be a long time until you can heal and move on and trust but you will get there. I promise" she looks up into my eyes and I see everything swirling around, Innocence, vulnerability, pride, intelligence and beauty…beauty above all else.
"How do you know?"
"You both saved me. I have faith in your hearts. You both love too much to ever let anything ever come between you. You showed me how to be a good person Bella. You gave me a family when I didn't have or understand one. Your mother is important and like it or not she loves you and did everything in her power to protect you. That is why you will be able to forgive her in time. You love her because she is your mother and that is what is important"
" When did you become so smart?" She mumbles.
"I've always been smart Bella. I've always been capable of rational thought, I just forgot for a little while"
"I love you"
"I love you too"
It took Bella three minutes after her fathers court session to forgive her mother and Phil. It turned out that Phil and Renee were willing to do anything just to prove Charlie's innocence. Renee went on the stand and swore under oath and told the court everything. Phil did the same and even mentioning that he lied about the content of the phone calls. He admitted he was wrong about Charlie. He was upset that the woman he loved was still connected to him. He wanted her for himself and even went so far as to want him dead. Apparently my mother didn't know that Charlie had saved her life until after that day when Bella blew up in front of everyone. Renee went to visit Charlie with Phil but never told Bella what they spoke about. However, a few days later I found Renee on the bench outside crying and she just blurted it out. Apparently, Charlie told Renee that he was sorry and he was glad she was happy. Phil told Charlie everything he thought of him and they shook hands and departed. They stood on the witness stand and recited everything… every part of the plan, every single detail and from then on Bella knew that all of it was not her mother's fault. It was a harsh game that they had unknowingly found themselves a part of and they tried their best to play it so they won but they didn't realise until the last draw of the cards just how wrong they had been.
I am free because a mother and her daughter decided they didn't like the lifestyle they had been given. They didn't like the game they were a part of and they sure as hell didn't want it. They liked their chances and they went for it.
The Ace is over but the after effects and the shock is still clinging to everyone's backs. It is there in the corner of their eye and in the back of their minds. I have come to realise we have two choices in life… we play the game or we avoid temptation. Sometimes playing the game has disastrous results but sometimes, it frees us all.