Prompts:Christmastime – U2, Last Christmas – Wham, All I Want for Christmas – Mariah Carey
Angel, Second Class
Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives.
It's a Wonderful Life
The snow's coming down, I'm watching it fall, Watching the people around, Baby please come home
Chapter 1 - Wishes in the Snow
There are certain milestones in your life. Points in time around which society sets great expectations. Sixteenth, eighteenth, and twenty first birthdays. High School and college graduations. Your marriage and subsequent production of children.
Monumental landmarks that should be things to marvel over, to remember forever.
Maybe for some, but not for me.
My sixteenth birthday had come and gone in the arid tundra of Phoenix. Barely a blip on the radar.
If sixteen was a blip, then eighteen had been a Technicolor moment. My world flipped on its head in a burst of scarlet, and I lost the only thing in life that meant anything.
I lost him.
I spent months after my birthday as a shell of a human being. When I did start to snap out of it, I became self destructive, reckless even. I rode motorcycles. I ran around with werewolves; I even took up cliff diving.
One could say I had thrill issues.
My near death from an impulsive leap off a cliff over the Pacific Ocean was more than enough to pull me out of my personally inflicted hell. While I desperately missed him, I slowly came to realize that there was more to my life. It didn't lessen the hurt or the longing but it did give me something to focus on. Day by agonizing day, things got a little bit better. Just a single shade brighter.
The light seeped in and black faded slowly to grey. I started to see the world around me, to form my own impressions and re-craft my desires.
So after the next momentous milestone, my high school graduation, I packed up and headed east. To a state I'd never visited and a school that, a year ago, I'd cringed even at the mere mention.
I came here, to Hanover, New Hampshire for two reasons: to start building my future, and at the same time, hold on to my last tangible tie to the past, and to him.
I'd been shocked when I received my acceptance letter. My grades were passable, but not anything that distinguished me from other candidates. I didn't participate in extra-curriculars like the newspaper, student council, or sports. My initial inclination had been to decline, that the acceptance was most likely an error. But that had been an excuse to hide behind. I couldn't leave Forks. What if he came back?
Yet as the weeks turned into months, I began to realize he wasn't coming back.
I could wait all I wanted, I'd still be alone in a town that held nothing for me but memories. I had no future in Forks, only a past that hurt too much to think about, yet I couldn't let go. Without the memories, I wouldn't have anything tangible left to hold on to. The photos, the music, they were all long gone. The sanctity of my memories and their empty house in the woods was all that I had left.
I hovered on the brink of indecision for two months. There were other options, ones that wouldn't take me so far away. Yet, for some strange reason, I couldn't bring myself to turn it
And so, just after that great milestone that was high school graduation, I officially accepted my place in the Dartmouth Freshman Class of 2006.
After doing the math, the scholarship I'd been granted by Pacific Northwest Trust was just enough to cover the roughly fifty thousand dollars in annual tuition, room and board. The reminder was more than enough to cover living expenses and any last minute emergencies. I wouldn't have to worry about finding a job on or off campus, living on boxed macaroni and cheese, or being able to put gas in my truck.
My truck was my one extravagance. I happily paid the money to have it transported from Washington to New Hampshire. Charlie didn't understand my decision, insisting that for the money I spent, I could just as easily have bought a new car at school.
I told him it was because the truck was cool, the truck was me.
The truck was also another link to him. We both knew that.
While I brought with me the ties to my old life; my truck, my dog eared novels, my cheap CD player and stacks of CD's, pieces of my new life slowly began to make their way into the mix. Photos of Charlie, Renee and Phil, and Jake on his bike were soon flanked by pictures from my life in Hanover. Sitting in the hallway eating popcorn with my floor mates. Buried up to my chin in a pile of leaves with a few classmates. I'd made friends at college, something I hadn't appreciated in Forks until they faded away. Dartmouth was a second chance for me, an opportunity to learn from past mistakes. I was slowly stringing together something more than existence. And there were times when I was legitimately happy with my decision to come east.
I let the magical experience of college sweep me up and fold me in. I started to develop a fledgling social life. I went to parties. I hung out with friends. I even went on a few dates. I opened myself up to all the things that every college freshman should experience. I drank too much, and then threw up. I skipped a class or two. I kissed a few boys, all in an effort to prove to myself that I could be normal, that I could move on.
But they were never him, and that realization only reinforced the empty space that only he could fill. So I quit trying. I stuck to my female friends and rebuffed all invitations from the opposite sex. It probably created an aura of mystique about me, making me out to be something unattainable, ratcheting up the attention even more. Bella the unreachable. Bella the ice queen. I became a trophy, something to win. I would have found it laughable if I cared. I'd been a trophy before, coveted and desired by high school boys like the next shiny object. Regardless of their intentions, it never ended well. Better to be alone with my memories than continue to subject myself to dates with boys who could never be the man I wanted.
As much as college was a learning experience, New England was even more so. It was almost impossible not to get swept up in the idyllic, romanticized aura of Hanover in the fall. Crisp mornings with not a cloud in the sky. Bright crimson, gold, and umber leaves littered the sidewalk and reflected in the Connecticut River. They were a stark contrast to the constant brown of Phoenix and verdant green of Forks. In a way, they paralleled my own personal evolution. Desolate tundra to lush perfection to understated beauty. I was happiest in my most recent state. It allowed me to accept the flaws while enjoying the near perfection. The first two incarnations were too much of one, not enough of the other.
With the seasonal change came holidays, which yet again took on the unique depth of my surroundings. I found myself wrapped in physical representations of childhood fables, which had spun themselves out of the actual history of the region. The Salem Witch Trials. Pilgrims and Indians sitting side by side at the same table. Plymouth Rock.
As Thanksgiving approached, I found myself nostalgic for home, but it was for the people, not the physical location. Family had always been such a transitory thing for me that considering somewhere home was a foreign concept. Multiple houses, multiple bedrooms. It didn't define who I was as a person or what I wanted to be. It was just a spot on the map.
I guess it lent further credence to the old adage 'home is where you hang your hat.'
With a family situation that was far from traditional, I watched in envy as my friends planned their holidays at home. The concept of a nuclear family, parents married and in love, siblings who fought hard and supported each other even harder was such a foreign concept, something I found that I longed for it. That longing, along with the knowledge that I wouldn't find it in Forks, solidified my choice to stay in Hanover. I knew that Charlie would have liked for me to come back, but even he had his own family with Billy Black and Sue Clearwater. He didn't need me anymore to feel complete.
I used the excuse of a traditional New England Thanksgiving and the long flight across three time zones as my justification for not coming out west. I knew Charlie would be disappointed, but I promised I would call before he left for Sue's. It was enough to cheer him up.
My mother called at the last minute with some half-hearted offer to fly me to Jacksonville for the holiday. She tried to lure me with promises of warm weather, sunshine and dinner by the beach, but I begged off, using the excuse of high airfare costs and homework.
The realizations during those conversations stung. My home in Phoenix was long gone, sold and packed up. Forks wasn't home anymore either. Home had become wherever I decided to make it.
The snow started to fall around four on Thanksgiving Day as I ate dinner with a few friends who'd decided to stay on campus. By the time we wrapped up and said our goodbyes, there was half a foot of snow on the ground, and more fat fluffy flakes falling from the sky.
I declined the offers of a ride back to my dorm, choosing instead to trek across campus in my first true winter wonderland. It wasn't that I'd never seen snow before, just not in mass quantities like this. I took my time walking back, enjoying the quiet as flakes of snow caught on my eyelashes. While still not a fan of the cold, I couldn't help but be swept away by the idyllic, story book beauty of Dartmouth in the snow. It coated everything in a delicate layer of glistening white, hiding the death and decay of late fall that lurked underneath. Everything sparkled, the white crystals luminous under the warm light of the street lights.
When I reached the area known as the green, I stooped down to scoop up a huge handful of snow. The powder was dry and loose, and I tossed it in the air, my face held aloft as it gently showered back down onto me.
For a fleeting second, I thought of Emmett. Always a large child, I could have counted on him to lead the charge, barreling through the blanket of white, threatening us all with a barrage of snowballs. Alice would have hovered nearby, instructing Jasper on how to make the perfect snow man. Rosalie would have made snow angels.
I hadn't thought about them for a long time, and the ache of familiarity and longing was shocking. My months spent thinking only about him had pushed everything and everyone else to the back of my mind, including the other six Cullens.
They were the closest I'd ever had to a family. A real family. One that fought and loved and laughed. The Ozzie and Harriet idealized nuclear family with an odd supernatural twist.
A mom, a dad, and five warring siblings. It didn't matter that they drank blood and never aged. They were a family in the truest sense of the word. And for six blissful months, I'd been blessed to be a part of their world.
I stopped in front of the giant Christmas tree that stood sentinel in front of Baker Library. The blue- green branches were wrapped with strands of small lights. Next week it would be unveiled in all its glory, the formal harbinger of the holiday season.
But for now, it was dark against the grey tinged sky, patiently waiting for its moment of glory in the sun.
I reached out to knock some snow off a branch, disturbing a cardinal who'd taken refuge in the massive branches. He shot out across the green, a brilliant spec of crimson, like blood against pale white skin. Like mine had been, shed against ivory carpet in a house surrounded with hundreds of trees like these.
Around my home. The only real home I'd ever known.
The one thing that I suddenly desperately wanted back.
Leaning my head back, I stared up at the star on top of the giant tree. It wasn't real, but it would have to work, for all the other stars were obscured by cloud cover and snow.
"Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight," I called out. My voice echoed off the buildings, an eerie reminder of how alone I truly was. "I wish I may, I wish I might, have this wish I wish tonight."
I paused, listening to the gentle rustle of the branches, the quiet shush of the snow as it swirled around my feet.
"I'd really like my family back," I whispered to the night sky. "All seven of them. Please."
Brushing a strand of hair away from my face, I turned in the direction of Butterfield Hall. To bed, to sleep, and hopefully, to dream of better days.