This is NOT a story about incest, no matter how it may first appear. Some confusion has arisen amongst readers because of the timing of Prom. Where my kids went to High School, Prom was held eight weeks before Formal, the final school dance that took place on the 2nd last day of school. So pretend that's when Forks High held their Prom and it'll make sense.
"Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while and leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever, the same."
Chapter 1/ Prologue
25 years ago...
High School Graduation was finally over, and I happily pulled off the hideous yellow gown and slipped away, out of the hall. My parents had a previous engagement so they had only stayed long enough to see me accept my diploma, and that meant I had some time to myself for once. As far as they knew, I was having a celebratory dinner with my friend Sandra and her parents.
In reality, I had something much more pressing to do.
I hurried along the road, shivering with cold as the icy wind pierced through the fabric of my thin coat and chilled my bones.
Malone Street. Two more streets to go and I would be on Travis Street, my intended destination. I was on a fact finding mission, but there was a pressing need to get this done as soon as possible. I was sweating blood here. As well as the essential questions, I knew I was going to ask Kathy more. I had to know how bad it would be. If I could carry on living my usual life, in the family home, under my parents watchful eyes. Without them being able to tell what I had just had done to me.
The whole idea petrified me.
"You have no choices here," I reminded myself for the tenth time. With my father being the local church Minister, and my mother being his faithful wife who filled her days caring for needy members of the congregation, there was no way I could confide in either of them. Daddy would be outraged, and an outraged Daddy was a fearsome sight. His parishioners had never seen him during one of his rages, that spectacle was saved for Mom and I.
And even if my Mom would have known what to do, how to help out some other teen in my situation, I knew better than to expect any help from her.
Sympathy, sure; when Dad was not around, but she pretty much asked how high when he told her to jump. She would not come to my defence and I wouldn't expect her to risk her lifestyle and happiness here for me.
After all, I was the one who made the mistake.
I just prayed neither of them asked me what happened to my meagre college fund. My grandmother had bequeathed her savings to me when she died, and naively my mother had added small but regular deposits over the years, in the hope it would somehow multiply tenfold so I would have an opportunity denied to her.
Sadly, it hadn't and college was ruled off my list of prospects.
Now even just living here in Forks doing some menial job at the diner or whatever was ruled off that list as well. Unless I went through with this.
There was no way my parents would attempt to stand by me, as the scandalous state of affairs was revealed, therefore I had to stop this now.
How much did abortions costs anyway and where did one go to get one?
I approached the front door of Kathryn Tate, a girl who had attended the same high school I had, even though we barely knew one another. The only reason I was here was because rumours were rife back then. She had been Head Cheerleader and the girlfriend of Football Captain Tommy Biers, and when she'd found herself pregnant, she'd known where to go and what to do, and I needed her to pass that information on to me.
I knocked at the imposing front door and after one long minute it opened and Kathy's smiling face appeared.
"Um..Rebecca?" Kathy said cautiously, confused as to why I would be calling.
"Renee," I corrected her. "Renee Higginbotham. I just graduated. I was two years below you at Forks High."
"I remember. Was your friend named Rebecca, then?"
"I think you mean Roxanne."
"Oh right. What can I do for you?"
"Can we go somewhere private and talk? " I enquired nervously.
The smile wavered and disappeared.
"Oh. You mean..."
I guessed she had opened the door to girls with this same request a few times in the past two years. I wasn't the only one whose mistake had led them to her.
"I need to know where to go...and how much it costs."
"Oh, you want to know about the Secretarial Course I did?" she replied loudly. "Mom, I will be back in a few minutes. I'm just telling Renee how to enrol in that course."
Kathy slipped outside and gently eased her door closed, then grabbed my arm and pulled me down their garden path and out onto the street.
"You shouldn't have come. My Mom is at home at this time of day and my parents have no idea," she admonished me.
"Well, I realize that and I apologise but you must remember how desperate you were. That's how I'm feeling now."
We walked quickly and in no time the small playground beside the local library appeared to our right, and checking the place was empty, she herded me towards the wooden picnic table and we sat down, our heads almost touching as she whispered the information I needed from her.
"You have the right to go to any clinic and have this done without your parents permission. Of course, it would be best to go far away, where nobody knows you. And there may be anti-abortion protesters outside, trying to convince you not to go in and kill your baby. It's your right to choose, Renee. They are not in your shoes, they don't know your desperation so don't let their condemnation deter you if it is what you truly want."
The idea of having to fight through a crowd of angry people scared me, and when she told me the fee, the price was even more shocking.
"That much?" I gasped in disbelief.
"It was back then, it might be ever more expensive now. I don't think inflation misses any industry, including abortionists."
"How was it? Did it hurt a lot?" I questioned. I had no choice, I had to do this but I desperately wanted to hear they put you to sleep pregnant and you woke up not, and skipped out the door feeling better than ever now the complication was gone from your life.
"I thought I was going to die when she was doing it. They give you a tranquilizer to keep you calm but it may as well have been a placebo. I fully expected to have a heart attack, I was that anxious. Then the burning, tearing,stinging as she..."
I covered my ears with my hands and squeezed my eyes shut. Kathy pulled my hands down impatiently.
"You have to listen. When you arrive you pay up front so if there's any chance you will bail, and run, do it before they let you inside.
Renee, once you go through this, believe me, you will never risk having to go back ever again. It's horrible. It's like a nightmare, like a taste of Hell. And the pain and bleeding lasts for weeks afterwards. I had no idea how much blood loss was normal, or if I was bleeding out during the first few days and I could hardly front up at Dr Abernathy's and ask him. So just be prepared. It's like the heaviest period you ever had plus some. Then it slows down and within ten days, it's over. But the physical side is not even the worst of it."
"What do you mean?" I asked, surprised. What could be worse than what she had described?
"My child would be two years old now. Every time I look at a two year old, I remember what I threw away. She'd be walking now, and learning to talk. And I still see her in my dreams.
I just know she was beautiful. She would have had Tommy's blonde curls and my eyes. That's how I picture her. Seeing babies cuts you to the quick but it's the child in the dreams that kills you."
"I haven't imagined what this kid could look like," I lied. I'd seen every inch of him. I'd know him anywhere. I knew his eyes and his hair, and his skin. He would look like his father, and that could never be. His father was beautiful, but his hair was very distinctive, and so were his eyes.
"If you have any alternatives, go with them instead. Even adoption. I know it sounds hard and you think it would be impossible to hand your child over to some stranger, but it would be so much better to know Marigold was alive and living somewhere with these parents that loved her.
She would have a little pink tricycle and a bedroom full of fluffy toys and a dollhouse. Maybe even a rocking horse. If I had that to hold on to, instead of knowing she was killed that day..."
"I have no choice," I replied sadly.
"I thought the same but in retrospect, I could have gone and stayed with my Aunt in Seattle. She would have covered for me with my parents and helped me find a couple to adopt my baby. I panicked and acted without proper thought. Don't make my mistake, think it through. Consider every relative and friend you have away from here. Anyone who would help you. You can make up a reason to go stay with them...some illness the woman has so you are helping her out in her own home, whatever."
"I have nowhere to go. Nobody is going to let me live with them in their house for seven months. My parents would never allow me to disgrace them here, in Forks. I have no relatives anywhere else."
"Don't make any hasty decisions. There's no chance the boy...the father will marry you?"
"None," I said sharply. That was impossible, for so many reasons.
"Is he already married?" she asked. I suppose that was the most likely explanation, and it did happen to be true, so I nodded and let her think that was the only reason why it was truly impossible.
Her eyes narrowed, reading my mind, seeing there was more to this that I had admitted.
"You do know who the father is?"
I blushed, from the top of my head to the soles of my feet.
" I'm about 99% sure who the father is, and I can't have his baby. He's very...distinctive looking, very handsome, but his colouring and features are somewhat telling. Everyone would know it was his."
"Who is the one per cent possibility?"
"God, don't remind me. Prom night. I needed a date and there is this guy who has always liked me and what can I say? After Party plus alcohol plus depression because I couldn't be with the one I wanted to be with...but we only did it once and he used a condom."
"Was he the studious one with the dark hair that was stuck on you even back when I was at school? Chandler, Channing..? He was always looking at you as if you were some Goddess. We noticed, even if you didn't."
"Charlie Swan," I replied, thinking about how he had admired me from afar for so many years.
Then finally he found the courage to invite me to Prom. Normally I would refuse but I wanted to go, and my parents expected me to, and what harm could one date do?
"Does he know about the other man?"
"No, nobody does."
"So, if you omitted telling him there was someone else who might be the Baby Daddy...he would think it was his for sure. Lots of babies look nothing like their parents. Anyway, the kid might take after you."
"He is still trying to date me," I answered, with a feeling of hope and even excitement in my stomach. "I have fobbed me off because he isn't my first choice, but I guess, he is a nice guy and I could do worse. He already knows that he has been accepted into the Police Academy so he will have a career and an income. Oh my, I just realized. He owns a house. His mother died a year ago and his father wasted away after that and he died too, just weeks ago. Charlie inherited their house."
"Well, Renee, you do have an alternative after all and believe me, assuming this is his baby is a very small evil compared to the other. You will still get to raise your child. Maybe it will be calling the wrong man Daddy, but that's a small price to pay. That's better than death, surely? Plus you have a man with no parents warning him off you. He may be delighted to have this chance to create a family of his own, now he is alone."
"I have to go. I think Charlie may be at the diner with his friends, celebrating graduation. I can't imagine he will believe this, he did use a condom."
"Nothing is one hundred per cent reliable. Everybody knows that."
"I am going to hate myself for doing this to him but it would be a solution. My parents know Charlie quite well and were friends with his parents for years. They encouraged me to date him, but I wouldn't agree.
He's one of the few boys Dad has any time and respect for."
"Do they know he is crushing on you all this time?"
"He has brought things to the house and left them with my Mom. He sends me flowers and little gifts now and then, on birthdays and such. It wouldn't be a tragedy if this baby was his, not in her mind. If he wanted to marry me, even if only because of the baby, my father would be disappointed, but not enraged."
"Go to him. Be honest, tell him you need him. But not too honest. Don't pretend to have fallen in love with him or play him for a fool. Just tell him you are pregnant and see if he wants to fix this. You never know."
I didn't. I knew Charlie had it bad for me, but how bad? I guess there was only one way to find out.
"You are lucky your father is the preacher and can do your wedding next week," my mother said as she pinned the same dress she had worn to her own wedding, tighter around my waist. I had always been taller and slimmer than she was, but a dress is a dress and there was no money for a wedding gown of my own. Not that it mattered.
"He's been very understanding about this. I think had it been any other man but Charlie Swan that did this to you...well, let's just say there would have been a lot of trouble for everyone, Renee."
"Yes, Mom, I know that," I replied. Charlie was quite amazing and I wasn't sure if the feelings I was developing for him were simply born of gratitude or whether I had felt something all along.
He wasn't my first choice, obviously, but he had jumped at the chance to marry me and he had informed everyone of our engagement just minutes after our conversation.
It was the answer.
Even so, when I walked down the aisle on my Mother's arm and stood at Charlie's side, facing the stern face of my father, I admit I was waiting to hear an answer to the question:
"If anyone here knows of any reason this couple should not be wed...speak now or forever hold your peace."
I knew what I wanted.
I wanted him to push Charlie aside and grab me into his arms and announce he was the real groom, not Charlie.
The silence was painful and I exhaled the breath I had been holding and accepted my Fate.
The rest of the service was a blur, but it was soon over.
"Mr and Mrs Charles Swan," Father announced and we faced the claps and cheers of our friends and family, before awkwardly walking back down that aisle together.
It was done.
I stood there as women kissed us both and men shook hands with my husband and I looked around, but he carried out his role as Best Man and never looked my way. He thought he knew why I had done this but he had no idea of the truth. He just thought this was my way of ending things, because there was no way we could ever be together forever. In truth, I loved him enough to put my own life second to his and he was free to go live the life that was expected of him.
He stepped to my side only once, as Charlie was shaking my father's hand and thanking him for the service.
"Renee, I hope this marriage works out well for you," he said, his voice steady as his eyes gazed into mine. He held my hand a little longer than was polite, and squeezed it gently. "Charlie's a great guy and he will make you happy. I wish it could have been me. I wish things were different."
"I know," I sighed sadly. " I do believe Charlie is a good guy and he loves me. That's the most important thing, right?" I replied.
He could never know. I hadn't robbed him of the chance to step up and marry me and become a father to his child, because that could never have happened.
Charlie was willing to believe me, so from now on, it was the truth. This was our baby, our marriage and nobody would ever know any different.
The pregnancy was normal, perfect, and even as the older generation realised the birth was going to happen before our marriage was nine months old, nobody ever said anything. Charlie was well respected and now he had been posted at Forks Police Station, they were hardly about to make a drama about how our love had been impatient.
He was kind and gentle and proud to have me at his side. Even his friends had accepted the story, that we had been seeing one another secretly. Our fellow students had seen us at Prom but for many of the people in town, the first time they saw us together was at our wedding. Why we had kept things secret, nobody had asked. Fortunately. I guess they jumped to the conclusion my father didn't want me dating or something.
We made a big deal of reminding everyone we had gone to Prom together, and that had been a hint about our relationship. It wasn't our fault they were too stupid to work out that night was just the tip of the iceberg. We'd dated for ages, without anyone catching us.
Lie after lie, but nothing so outrageous that anyone would seriously doubt our history.
Charlie went along with it because he assumed I was embarrassed about getting knocked up to a guy I dated only once.
Plenty of children in Forks had been the result of shotgun weddings, it wasn't as if ours was the first. At most, it was a three day wonder then the baker ran off with his assistant, a girl half his age, and everyone's attention was diverted to that much worse, and more interesting, scandal.
I could have been carrying sextuplets and nobody would have cared.
The gossip circle was full of women who had 'always known' there was 'something' about that baker. They were not surprised this had happened, not at all.
I slipped quietly and gratefully into the background and knitted small woolen baby clothes.
The labour was terrifying. Not the pain, not the contractions that ripped and tore inside me, but the fear of what this baby would look like. If he came out looking the image of his most probable biological father, then all this was for nothing anyway.
"And I need you to pant, Renee, as the head emerges."
I looked into my husband's face and copied his short breaths, and he held my hands tightly.
Then I screamed as the final pain hit and as the body slipped from mine, and hit the outside air.
I shut my eyes and prayed, harder than ever before.
"Be like me. I may be plain and ordinary, but you need to be the same. Do not look like him, please."
"It's a girl," Charlie crowed in delight, accepting the small red screaming infant and gazing into her eyes.
"She looks like you, Renee. Your brown eyes, your hair, your creamy skin."
I looked and felt like crying in relief.
"Could be your brown hair and brown eyes, Charlie," the doctor laughed.
He handed me the baby and I scrutinised her face closely.
She wasn't like him at all.
She was ordinary.
She was a generic little brunette baby girl.
And that made her perfect.
Charlie was beside himself with excitement the whole time I was in the hospital. He proudly pointed our daughter out to our visitors and any strangers alike. Many people who were there to see other new Moms laughed and smiled and patted him on the back as he raved about his new daughter.
I let him name her, it was the least I could do.
Isabella Marie Swan. Isabella was his late grandmother's name; Marie his mother's name. I thought the name a little too grand for such an ordinary baby and wondered if she would hate us for calling her that.
Something more simple would have been better.
The Stanley's had a baby girl just a day before ours, and she was named Jessica Anne.
The Newton's had a son the day after us, Michael John. Much more popular names, but Charlie wanted Isabella, so I didn't argue. He'd rescued me, us, and the least I could do was let him have his way with whatever was important to him in return.
Nobody knew my secret.
Charlie was an extraordinary man. He had never questioned how unlikely it was that one single sexual encounter, complete with condom, had created this baby. He never asked me if there had been any other men in my life, so I had not had to lie to him.
He told me so many times he couldn't even look at Bella as a mistake, because it was her conception that pulled us together. He believed it was Fate that made that rubber fail, and it was meant to be.
Becoming a father at nineteen didn't throw him at all. He thought it was good to start young, so we could all grow up together.
I didn't look back in anger any more. I thanked my lucky stars that Charlie and I had got drunk and had sex that night, because if we hadn't, none of this could have happened. I plan to do my level best to be a good wife to Charlie and a good mother to Bella. And never think about him. In fact, he and his wife were amongst our first visitors, bringing flowers and a card and a pretty frock for the baby.
She was pushing a stroller and I refused to allow myself to look inside and compare babies.
We all looked at my baby and I looked up at his face as he smiled at her, and was reassured that he had absolutely no idea.
Bella was small , but quite large if she had been the two months premature we had claimed. Six pounds six ounces.
Jessica was nine pounds and Michael ten, so our story was quite acceptable. Bella was small because she was early.
The doctor was not fooled, her saw she was full term but he let us have the lie, no doubt thinking it was merely to cover up the fact I was pregnant at the wedding.
He obliviously held his own flesh and blood in his arms as Charlie snapped off a photo.
"You should be Godfather, who better?" he asked me.
"Who better indeed," I replied and accepted the baby back.
It was done. Life went on and to all intents and purposes, Isabella Marie Swan was the much loved daughter of Charlie and Renee Swan. End of story.
There was no way I could have predicted the repercussions that would try and destroy my little girl twenty five years in the future.