Esme doesn't say anything as she drives me home.

I watch the scenery pass and even though I've driven this road a thousand times, nothing feel right or looks familiar. I'm sure it's me, even if I can't be positive of who I am anymore. I'm the one who's out of character, it's only me who's out-of-place.

In this very second, I'm more lost than I've ever been. I'm stuck in some land of the unknown. There is no predictability, no reasoning, nothing is happening as it should. It's a scary place to be, but I think what's worse ...is that there's no turning back. I'm stuck here, in this city, in this car. In this right now and unfortunately, I am who I am.

Just six weeks ago ― I had a plan. I was on a very narrow and straight path that I was certain would lead me to a place where I could reinvent myself. There would be no labels that had stuck for too long or people who I 'belonged' to ― no cliches or carried over judgements. No rumors or untruths to haunt me and follow me around. A new place where who I used to be wouldn't matter. A foreign place where all things would be fresh and different, including myself. I was looking forward to a restart, a do-over of sorts. The world was my fresh clay and I was the inexperienced potter and I couldn't wait to change, to be, to go, but now... Now there's this huge roadblock, this... this detour ―this hiccup that's going to change everything.

Forever.

Esme leads me into the house and suggests that I sit down and relax on the couch. She asks me to give her a few minutes to speak to my mother alone. I only nod, all my words still jumbled up and locked away somewhere amidst my confusion and my shock. I don't even want those words anymore, those words from the past few hours are too hard to comprehend. Shit, they're even too difficult to say aloud much less hide them away inside myself, for they are self inducing poisonous words.

Esme greets my mother with a quick hug and politely asks for her to join her outside for a chat. Esme doesn't even give my mother an opportunity to decline or to ask any questions, nor does Esme allow my mom to say anything to me, instead she rushes her out the front door. Esme's good, but by the look on my mother's face, I hope Esme is strong too... because she just may have to literally catch my mother after her legs give out from my 'news.'

I can't see them clearly as they stand and talk in the yard, nor can I hear what they're saying, but a few times I can make out their silhouettes through the thin curtains. Sometimes I can see their shadows on the ground as the sun moves in and out from behind the clouds.

I can tell that the two women are standing close together, hands touching the other's arms. My mother is shifting in her shoes and shaking her head. I swear my skin tingles all the way in here from her obvious shock. I almost want to go out there and face this head on, but right now, my legs are too heavy. My body feels like lead, like it's nothing but dead weight. I have an emotional overload and there is no place to keep it all. There's too much crammed in my head and so much breaking my heart, that everything is just making me so sluggish and tired.

Not very long after Esme and my mom go outside, my father drives up our short driveway. I have no doubt my mother called him in a panic, demanding he come home immediately from work. In crisis mode, she always acts like she can't function without him, and she has this terrible habit of over-reacting. Yet when he comes to her rescue, when he drops all to be by her side ―and he always does ―she never seems to use him. She won't listen to him or let him help her. It's like he's her default just in case she can't handle whatever crisis is creeping up her ass at the time.

If I was her, I'd do the opposite. I'd lean on him and his strength. I'd let him carry the brunt of the load. I would stand beside him, not in front of him. His wisdom would be my roots, his arms my cradle. In my opinion, there is no shame in being weak. Hasn't it been said that our strength grows out of weakness?

My mom doesn't give him the respect or the credit he deserves, God bless him.

I slip off my shoes and pull my knees up on the couch. I wrap my arms around my middle as I lean over and rest my head on the arm cushion. With a deep unsteady breath I close my eyes and try my best not to think anymore. I just want to sleep a little and then when I wake up, I want everything to be back to normal.

Whatever normal is.

/ / /

I open my eyes and notice that the room is cast in a deep orange glow, which means that the sun has begun to set. As I sit up and stretch, I hear my mother and Esme still talking, but now they've moved their chat indoors to the kitchen.

Very quickly my mind fills with the happenings of the day. Every thought, every emotion boomerangs inside of me with no exit. Instantly, my body feels weighed down and my head aches from all the worry. I won't even comment on how my heart pains, but it's overwhelming.

I slowly stand to join them in the kitchen. My mother is washing dishes. Esme is standing with her arms crossed and her backside resting against the cabinets.

"There you are," Esme says with a small smile, "how about a glass of water?"

My mother suddenly stills with her hands sunk down in the sudsy water. She doesn't look toward me, nor does she make a sound.

"Please," I respond to Esme with a nod. I make my way over to the table and sit down.

I can't take my eyes off my mother and the way her back is as stiff as a board. I can hear her breathing, her shirt vibrating with each slow, calculated, uneasy breath.

"Mom?" I sound like I'm five again, my voice reflecting how I feel ―so unsure of anything, so scared. I'm still just a helpless girl who simply needs her mommy. "Mom, please say something. Please talk to me."

Without answering, my mom doubles over the sink, her back quaking with her silent sobs. She pulls her hands barely out of the water and her head falls to rest on her forearms.

The room is thick with disappointment and the air is muddled with unhappiness. The walls echo her sobs, they're mocking me ― calling me out.

She shakes her head in tandem with her cries with no acknowledgement of me at all. She still hasn't said a word to me or even looked in my direction.

Why is she being this way? Why is she treating me like this?

The need to scream begins to claw its way up from my depths. I fight it ― that urge to scream at her, with her, because of her...it's not easy.

Esme places my drink in front of me and I jump at the sound of the plastic cup slapping the table top. "Bella, your mom just doesn't know what to say to you right now, honey. She's not angry at you, she's just as upset and shocked as you are. She told me before that she's at a loss for words― "

I cut Esme off as my anger zips through my body like lightning, so quick with nothing strong enough to hold it back. "She's upset? What about me? Doesn't she get that none of this is easy for me? I need her to be the adult here. I need my mother!" I refrain from pounding my fists on the table as I look past Esme and shout toward my mother.

"Just stop it! Dammit, stop! I ...can't!" Renee's voice trembles as she yells back. She slings water and suds everywhere as she flicks her hands and wipes her face with the back of her wrists. "I... I can't right now, just give me a damn minute!" she cries as she storms out of the kitchen.

I flinch when I hear her bedroom door slam. I seriously don't know what just happened. Is my situation really so awful that my mother can't stand me?

"Esme, what...I... I don't understand."

My dad hesitantly creeps in through the back door. His lips are pressed together in a frown and his eyes are red and empty as they scan our surroundings. His face looks like he's aged years within the past few hours since I last saw him. I've never noticed how much gray is streaked through his hair or how prominent the worry lines are on his forehead, but it breaks my heart more so than it already is.

Guilt quickly begins to nag at me. Does he look that way because of me? Am I causing him so much worry?

I would never want that... That's my daddy, he's my...he's my rock.

"How are you feeling?" His boots are heavy and loud on the linoleum floor as he approaches me. He bends over to kiss me on top of my head. The heat of his callused hand warms the back of my neck.

I shake my head and fight back my tears. "Confused. Upset. Scared. Daddy, I..." I prop my elbows on the table and slam my forehead into my palms. I tighten my fists into the roots of my hair and try to ease the tension headache that's rippling through my temples. "Explain it to me Daddy, what's is mom's deal? I kind of need her to talk to me now with a little bit of maturity and some compassion. Honestly... I really, really need her in every way right now, probably more so than I ever have."

"I know, Bell and I'm sorry. She's just trying to collect her thoughts and sort through her feelings. Your mom lets things overwhelm her sometimes. Give her a few hours to let this sink in right. She'll come around and talk to you, I promise. But Bella, I love you. She loves you. No matter what. You know that right?"

"And Honey, this baby affects everyone. Not just you. Even though you're the final decision maker, it does affects us all." Esme interjects.

"I know," I nod. "I do, but I want― no, I need my mom's advice and I need to talk to her about all this. I need her to help me figure things out. I feel so alone." My throat burns as it constricts again and tears well up in my eyes.

"Oh Bella, you are not alone, Sweetheart, I swear! We're all here for you and we're not going anywhere―ever, I promise. Every step of the way, whatever your decision, you will never be alone. Do you hear me? Just give your mom a bit more time and a little space. Go easy on her, she's simply worried about you and your future. As a parent, we just can't help but wonder if somewhere along the way we didn't do something right. If we were somehow lacking in our parenting skills and it affected our children for the negative. Every set back our children go through, every wrong path they may or may not take, every hard time they experience always falls back on us. Even when we're not involved, it causes us anguish too, because all we ever wanted was for our children's lives to be perfect and simple. Our wish is for their daily struggles to be less than ours and that all your wishes come true."

"Esme, I'm scared." I admit as I close my eyes and take a deep breath.

"It's okay to be scared, Honey. Everyone goes through frightening times in their life. We have days and weeks that we just don't know how we're going to make it through, but the upside is... is that somehow we always do. And you're going to do the same. No matter what. I believe in you―we all believe in you and everything's going to work out."

Esme rubs her hand over my back as I sit there motionless in my chair. My thoughts are so scattered and so loud in my head. Every idea leads to a different scenario, one extreme circles around to another, and every conclusion I think of ends with me doing something that's going to upset me.

I guess the bottom line is I have to decide upon what upsets me the least.

/ / /

The next morning, I find myself sitting at the kitchen table again; all the brochures, pamphlets, and papers the doctor gave me spread out in front of me like a buffet of information and knowledge.

I still haven't spoken to my mother. Last night, after Esme left, I took a long, hot shower and then my emotional exhaustion must have overtook me because as soon as I curled up on my bed and my eyes closed, I slipped into a deep sleep. One without dreams and worries. A sleep that temporarily cleared my mind and let me rest. That sleep helped me feel a little bit more like myself when I woke up this morning.

I needed that.

It's also a really good thing because I'm well aware that now is the exact time for me to get real. I have no choice but to decide what to do. I have to alter my plans and then make new ones, and I realize that I may just have to figure it all out alone.

As I read through all the information given to me, it's kind of amazing how clear the answer reveals itself to me. It's like a loud whisper that echoes for miles. It's the tiniest beam of sunshine breaking through an otherwise dark, gray, cloud covered sky and that sunshine is just enough to light my way.

Deep down, I think I knew all along what I was going to do. Doesn't mean I'm not scared or that I have any idea how this is going to work. The plan of my future still isn't definite or clear, but now it's something I can start to see coming together in months instead of years. The craziest thing is that not having the next four to six years of my life planned out doesn't seem so terrifying anymore, instead it feels... adventurous.

I almost look forward to it.

"Orange juice?" My mother asks as she walks into the kitchen startling me. I'm sure I give her a strange look because I'm surprised she's talking to me so nonchalantly after yesterday.

"Yes please." I nod and begin to gather and stack everything into a neat pile and wonder how to start this conversation with her. Should I do it now, or should I wait until later? Should I let her bring it up or what?

She hands me my drink, then she slowly pulls out the chair beside me at the table. As she sits down, I notice her eyes are puffy and tired. She squints as she scans over the plethora of papers surrounding us.

She looks like she didn't sleep a wink.

It makes me feel guilty all over again.

But I don't get the chance to say anything because as soon as she picks up one of the brochures, she starts talking.

"I never told you Bella, but during spring break my senior year of high school my parents and I took a vacation to California. Your Grandmother Hazel had a best friend who lived right dab in the middle of Hollywood. Her name was Betty, and Betty sure did have the best connections all over Tinsel Town. Now keep in mind that I just had met your dad a month earlier and we were kind of getting serious, but oh my―I was not going to pass up that trip!"

I take a sip of my juice and gently place my cup back on the table, I have a feeling things are about to get real.

"See Bella, I had this dream ― I wanted to become a director so bad, more than anything I guess." She stops and laughs as a lone tear slides down her cheek. It's a sad, hollow laugh and there isn't a smile that accompanies it.

"Shit, that sounds so comical now. Me, some big shot Hollywood director, doesn't it? But I did, I had all this artistic creativity churning inside me. I couldn't read a book without envisioning it on the big screen―who I would cast, what the props would look like, what the stars would wear. Every movie, every television show, even songs on the radio―they inspired me. I wanted to make them come to life, and if they already had a life, I lost sleep thinking of how I could make them better. When we went to California, Betty took me around and let me rub elbows with some of the town's finest back in the day. She told them all about how smart and creative I was, and about my many aspirations. I was on cloud nine. Then I came back here to Washington and I began to plan my trip. Betty and my parents helped me work it out and sure enough, I was going back as soon as I graduated, like the very next day. I already had internships and part-time jobs lined up on movie sets. Major Hollywood directors were going to let me sit with them and assist them and show me the ropes." She pauses, still not looking at me.

I feel like I should say something, but I'm blank.

I watch as her shoulders rise with a deep breath. "Then a few weeks before I was to graduate, I became pregnant with you."

The tears are streaming down her face now. She makes no attempt to wipe them away. She's shaking her head in small shakes. "Your dad knew I was going to California as soon as I could. He had plans to go into the military and we were going to wait on each other, and as soon as his four years were up he was going to join me in L.A."

"Mom..."

She cuts me off with her hand slapping the table, some of the papers flying to the floor. "Let me say this, Bella." she wipes her nose.

"Please don't think for one second, that if I could go back in time and change things that I'd pick my dream over you. I swear to God Bella, I wouldn't, never in a million lifetimes. You and your brother are the best things to have ever happened to me. I love you both more than anything, especially some childish dream I had. You two ...and your father are the reason for my existence, I know that now. I am so blessed and not a day goes by that I don't realize that. But dreams don't die; they forever live inside of you. You never forget how much happiness they once gave you. It's like when you read a book, you live in another world for a little while, that's what your dreams do too. Even now when I remember, I go back to being seventeen...back when the world was my oasis and my dreams were coming true and nothing was impossible. Then my phone rings. Or my alarm goes off and I wake up. And I'm here. And my dreams are no longer my own. There will always be a part of me, however small, that will always wonder what might of happened and it's that little-bitty piece of me... that piece breaks now for you."

She finally turns toward me, her hands reach out and cover mine.

"It's all I ever wanted for you, Bella. I wanted you to dream big and I wanted you to chase that dream. I wanted nothing... nothing at all holding you back. And I sure in the hell, didn't want you to look me in the eye in twenty years and tell me that you wonder what might have happened if…"

"I know, but..."

"No Baby, listen. I love you so much. I seriously wouldn't trade you for a thousand and one years in Hollywood, and I never regret that day that I tore up that one way airplane ticket straight to California. I simply want you to be happy with your choices. If you want to go to Oxford as planned, then go. We will do what we have to do, however difficult. Or if you want to give this baby up for adoption, or if you decide to keep this baby, I'm beside you one hundred and fifty percent. Whatever you say, I'm right here. I just don't want you to ever regret anything, especially not something this big or something this life changing. I'm sorry I was so harsh with you yesterday―it just hit me hard. I think it was just all the times in all my years that I've stashed away that part of my life crashed down on me and I took it out on you. You didn't deserve that."

She squeezes my hand and the weight on my shoulders from the past twenty-four hours evaporates like the steam from her now cold coffee.

I understand; I do. I never knew any of this about my mother, but it helps me understand why she always has supported and pushed me like she did.

Part of me hates that she had to give up her dreams like that, and it makes me feel even more guilty than I already do.

Especially when I tell her what I've decided to do.

"Mom, I'm going to keep this baby."

Then she smiles, and it's genuine and it lights up the room. I smile in return.

She laughs again, quieter. "Are you sure?"

I nod, and she reaches across the table and hugs me tight and she holds me long.

I instantly feel better and think I may be able to do this, because I'm not alone and it feels good to know I never was.

With or without Edward.

"One can find so many pains when the rain is falling."

~John Steinbeck


I did edit & post this chapter under the influence (strongly) and even though Rose and Missy were the shit & pre-read/beta'd for me, I TAKE FULL RESPONSIBILITY FOR ALL THE CRAP, but if it's nice... please thank them. And TBH, I doubt I will get the chance to reply to your reviews, but know that I read them and I LOVE THEM times one billion and also know that I am eagerly writing because of your reviews even when I don't tell you so.