Chapter 1: Photographs and Memories
I own nothing. Seriously, I have two kids that suck up all my time and money so I really, really wish I owned Twilight but such is life. I'm just grateful to have this fandom to play in.
First and foremost, I'd like to say thank you to Sunflower Fanfiction, my Beta who makes this readable! And Robspantsfiddler for prereading!
This is my contribution for the Fandom for No Kid Hungry. DreamsoftheEndless asked me and I was so flattered I couldn't say no! I make no promises for this story, so if angst isn't your thing, I would bow out now but I would love it if you stuck around and let me know what you think.
I'm working on chapter 2 now and hope to post once a week. I'm shooting for Monday, but remember those 2 kids that suck up money and time? Well yeah, I promise to try hard though!
Photographs and Memories
The sun was setting as I pulled into the sleepy little town I had once called home. The orange hues painting the horizon signaled an end, not only to the day,but also to what was left of my life here. This wasn't the first end I'd experienced in this town. And even though this time I was coming home to bury my father, it was definitely not the most painful. I hadn't been home to visit him since Christmas, almost 8 months ago. Coming back was just too hard for me, and now I regretted not being brave enough to face the demons I had created. I could have been here for him more had I just accepted that the past would never go away, that I would always be haunted by memories.
I slowly made my way down the long, winding drive and pulled up in front of the house. I took a deep breath and steeled myself for the onslaught I was sure to face when I reached the door. I knew my sister would be here. She had been Dad's caretaker for the last few years. We were once close, our lives joined forever by birth, but those ties strengthened through our choice in soul mates. We fell in love with each other's best friend. But that was before I selfishly ruined it all. We still spoke every now and then, superficial conversations really, nothing ever meaningful. She married her high school sweetheart, my former best friend and her cousin, Jasper, a few years back, but I didn't attend. Of course, that was because I wasn't invited, so I never had to make the decision that would have gutted me as sure as I stand here today. I'm not sure whose feelings they were trying to spare by excluding me-mine or hers, but since I was the bad guy, I'm sure it wasn't mine.
When Alice called to tell me about my dad, she told me on the phone that she would be selling the house, so I should plan on taking anything I wanted back home with me. When you were young, you never thought about your home not being home anymore. It was always a place of salvation, where you were safe from the world, the pain. And now, there I was, facing the fact that this would be the last time it was "home." But then again, it hadn't been my salvation for a long time.
Finally making my way up the porch steps, I took another deep breath. Before I could raise my hand to the door, it flung open and Alice was in my arms. I wasn't surprised. Alice lost Dad too, and she had been there over the years when I wasn't. She was grieving and knew I was the only one who could understand how she felt today.
"Edward," Alice said through her tears. "I'm so glad you're here. I just can't do this alone."
"I would never let you," I declared as I looked into her eyes, hoping she could see the truth there. "I know I haven't been the best brother, Alice, but I swear I'm here for you."
"I know, Edward. I know." Alice acknowledged, and I knew she was talking about more than my minimal involvement with her and our family over the last few years.
We pulled apart from our embrace, albeit tentatively, and an uncomfortable silence took over as we walked into the house. Alice excused herself as Jasper walked into the living room, and the tension increased to a level I didn't think was possible in this house, my childhood home, with my childhood friend. But that friendship ended the same day. That fateful day I told her that she didn't fit into my dreams anymore; the day that I will spend the rest of my life regretting.
"Edward," Jasper said, acknowledging my presence.
"Jasper." I returned the acknowledgement. "Good to see you, man. It's been too long."
And it had been too long, for me anyway. I'm sure it wasn't long enough for him.
"It has been a while," he started, "but I'm not going to lie to you and tell you it's been too long," he finished, confirming my suspicions.
"Understood, man." What else could I say? I understood. I did the unthinkable, the one thing that no one would ever forgive me for: I broke her heart. No one cared that I broke my own heart as well, but why should they? I did this all on my own. But God only knows what I was thinking on that day. I was too young and stupid to realize what I was doing.
There was a lot to do to get the house ready for sale, and right now, the silence in the room was too much for me to bear. "Well, I guess I better get to work. I only have a few days before I have to fly back to Chicago," I said as I left the room. I never called it my home because, despite my thoughts in the beginning, Chicago never felt like home and probably never would.
Jasper just grunted as I turned and headed up the stairs toward my room. Mentioning Chicago wasn't the best of ideas since he blamed my decision to move there on everything, and he was dead right.
They say hindsight is 20/20, and with the benefit of that vision, I curse the day Northwestern offered me the fellowship. I had wanted to be a doctor from my earliest memories, but when my mom died of cervical cancer when I was 14, it permanently set me on my path. And that path became an obsession: to be the best gynecologist. Not the best I could be, but the best out there, period. I wanted to find answers, to keep other kids from losing their moms when they needed them most. My friends used to tease me, saying it was just so I'd be able to look at pussy every day. But the truth was gynecology was so much more than performing cervical exams. So the day I received the letter from Northwestern offering me a spot in their prestigious fellowship program, I was over the moon. They had one of the best women's health programs in the country. This was the key to my becoming the best. This is what I had worked my ass off for.
Once I made it to my room, I began to go through the closet. There wasn't much left, but I knew I wouldn't be able to part with the memories I kept stored here all those years. I pulled out old yearbooks first, set them on my bed and went back to grab another box. I moved a couple more boxes that held old trophies and such, and that's when I saw it-the box. The old banker's box that held the part of my old life I'd spent years trying to forget. I tried to forget about it all, to forget about her, about him, but was never successful. The bittersweet memories always lurked just behind the carefully constructed façade of my perfect life.
Taking a deep breath, I lifted the lid. The movement was slow, too slow, like I was afraid of what was in the box, afraid it would hurt me. Truthfully, I knew it would. It wouldn't bite me like a snake, but the wounds it would open had more power to destroy me than a black Mamba ready to attack.
Once I set the lid next to me, I looked in, and my breath left me in a rush. I was faced with what seemed like another lifetime. The girl and boy staring up at me from the glossy paper that held an image I didn't need to be reminded of because it was imbedded in my memory, branded in my mind's eye for eternity, reminding me of what could have been, what should have been. It was our wedding picture, still the second happiest day of my existence.
Bella was beautiful that day. Happiness radiated off of her, off of both of us. The joy we felt when we defied everyone and ran off and got married was obvious in the way we were grinning at the camera. It was a simple photo, taken by the clerk of the judge who married us. As soon as he pronounced us Mr. and Mrs. Edward Masen, he took that shot. Our parents thought we were ridiculous when we told them we wanted to get married before we went to college. We were going off to Stanford in a few months, and we didn't want to live apart. Stanford offered special housing for married students, and since Bella was on scholarship, she insisted on living on campus since her half would be paid for. It meant fewer expenses for me and my parents, but since our parents gave us such a hard time about it, we eloped. We couldn't have been happier about it, and our dads couldn't have been more pissed, especially Bella's dad, Charlie. When the rumors of Bella being pregnant started, he was even more livid than before. Bella and I just ignored them. While we definitely could have been pregnant, we weren't. We didn't even argue with the speculation because time would show the rest of Forks that they were wrong.
I smiled through the tears as I remember every detail. There has never been, nor will ever be, another day that comes close to bringing me the joy I felt on that day. My Bella, my wife, how I loved her then, and how I still love her now.
I set that picture aside and move on to another stack that I was sure would be just as torturous. I slowly gazed over picture after picture of Bella and me throughout the years. The one my dad took of me before I went to pick up Bella for our first date. I was standing by my car holding a bouquet of wildflowers I had picked myself, and I looked all kinds of nervous. I remembered dad laughing at me, telling me if I didn't calm down, Charlie wouldn't let her get in the car with me-like that was going to calm my nerves. The man was a cop – I didn't need them making it worse. I still gave Charlie credit; even knowing what teenaged boys wanted to do to his daughter, he was gracious enough to let me date Bella. He said he saw how perfect we were and would always be. I will never forget the look of hatred on his face the day we walked out of Bella's attorney's office after we had signed the final divorce papers. I wanted to be a coward and just deal with our separate lawyers, but Bella insisted on me 'manning' up. She wanted me to be looking her in the eyes when I ended our life together. I think she thought, or hoped, I wouldn't be able to sign them. Once again, I let her down.
The rest of the pictures chronicled our life together, as short as it was. Four years at Stanford, where we completed our undergraduate work: me in premed, Bella in secondary education. When I was accepted to the Med School at Stanford, Bella went on to get her Master's in English and then went to work as an English Teacher at a local high school while I finished Med school. Eight years of hard work and living in California were coming to an end, and we were heading to Seattle for my residency. Another couple of years and I'd be able to start specializing, and we'd look at starting a family. All of the happiness we once shared was reflected in those glossy prints.
Then I came across the piece of paper that destroyed that happiness. We had been married ten and half years, and Bella wanted to have a baby. She had just turned 29 and really wanted to be a mom before she hit 30. I wasn't ready to be a father, and I was looking at fellowship opportunities around the country; having a pregnant wife would hinder that. I shuttered when I remember the day the letter from Northwestern arrived. Bella was so happy for me that she didn't even remember to shut the front door when she left the house to bring me the letter at the hospital. I was elated. We were dancing around the on-call room chanting 'we're going to Chicago' over and over.
We celebrated that night by going out to dinner. Bella loved a glass of wine with dinner, so when she passed on it, I was concerned. I asked her if she was feeling okay. Her response caused me to go from being elated about the fellowship, to being livid with her. She was late, and I didn't hide my feelings very well. She quickly went on to explain how she knew it wasn't optimal timing, but she knew that together, we could do anything. I just glared at her. When I finally spoke, it was with venom. I told her that I knew she'd gotten pregnant on purpose, and I would never forgive her. I didn't say another word; I just stood up and walked away, leaving her in the restaurant. How dare she fuck with my lifelong dream!
I spent the night getting blind drunk and going over everything. Alcohol and my selfish attitude convinced me that I didn't think I needed to be tied down anymore. I knew that to reach my career goals, I'd have to be married to the hospital, and I didn't need a wife and child at home keeping me down. I needed to focus on what was important, on reaching my goals, of being the best.
I never returned home after that. I called her and told her she wasn't a part of my future plans, served her with divorce papers, terminated my parental rights, and left Seattle within 6 months. I saw her for the last time in the attorney's office the day I left, nearly 6 years ago. I had never seen my son in person, but I knew he was beautiful. Dad used to send me pictures all the time. She named him Cole Anthony Masen-Swan, and they called him Cam. He was the spitting image of his sperm donor.
I suddenly realized that I would probably never see another picture of Cam again. There was no way Alice would send me one. Dad never said a lot about him, but thought I'd like to know he was well, growing up happy and loved. Even though I disappeared from his life, my family didn't. He had his Aunt Alice and Papa Edward to love him in my absence. I'm sure his momma and Papa Charlie doted on that little boy like no other. Those pictures weren't in here; those pictures were in a box in Chicago. While I couldn't display pictures of my son since he wasn't legally my son, I kept all but a few hidden from view. I did have one or two of him around my condo, but everyone thought he was my nephew. I opened my wallet to see the most recent one. It was a picture of him sitting on my dad's lap taken about month ago. No one bothered to tell me my dad was dying, but I figured Bella had brought Cam to see him one last time, since they all knew the end was near.
"Uh em." I heard a throat clearing, attempting to get my attention. I looked up, and there was Alice.
"Are you alright, Edward?" she asked, even though the answer had to be obvious as the tears streaming down my cheeks gave the answer I couldn't voice.
How I ever thought my career could ever be more important that my wife, I would never know. I worked hard to be the best and was proudly the most sought after gynecologist in the country. But my life was empty. Sure, I had a few friends who understood my schedule and don't get pissed when I cancelled golf outings. I even had a girlfriend that knew and accepted that there would never be more than companionship and sex-Emily. Emily was a beautiful woman: tall, model thin with deep mahogany locks that she typically wore cascading over her beautifully tanned shoulders. She was also a hellcat in bed. The woman knew how to fuck. Physically, the relationship was very gratifying. She was smart, owned her own business, and could carry on an intelligent conversation. She was the perfect date to take to fundraisers and events. Any man would feel lucky to call her his girlfriend or wife, but to me, she was second best and always would be.
I nodded to Alice, letting her know I was fine. No, I wasn't really fine but that was my own damn fault, and I was sure she wouldn't hesitate to remind me of that.
"We need to leave to go to the funeral home in an hour," Alice said quietly. "The viewing starts at 6:00, and we need to get Dad's suit over there, so they can get him ready." Tears fell from Alice's green eyes.
I nodded again, and while I wanted nothing more than to comfort my sister, I was unsure how the gesture would be received, so I just sat there and stared back down into my past.
"They'll be there tonight, Edward," Alice stated calmly, too calmly actually, as she glanced at the picture I didn't even realize was still in my hand.
I stopped breathing, and my heart felt like it was beating double time. I knew that they would be around, but I wasn't ready for this. I couldn't face them, not now. This was too much for my heart to bear. I lost my father and would be saying goodbye to him for the last time tonight. And at the same time, I would be made to face the two people I said goodbye to years earlier when I never should have. My two worlds were colliding, and I didn't know how to manage.
Alice cleared her throat and continued. "You need to realize that Bella and Cam have a wonderful life now, and they do not need you interfering in it." Her eyes were hard and serious, and I was more than a little afraid of my sister at this moment.
'She's engaged, Edward." She paused to gauge my reaction and was not disappointed when I felt the blood drain from my face and my eyes went wide in shock. I don't know why I was surprised. Bella was a beautiful woman inside and out, and any man would have known what a catch she was. "Benji is adopting Cam when they get married," she continued, cautiously. I sucked in my breath, and the tears began to flow freely again. I knew I fucked up 6 years ago when I let her go. No, I didn't let her go. I pushed her away and told her to find someone else whose life she could fuck up.
I thought I had experienced pain over the years thinking about her and my son. Thinking about what I had given up to live some fucked up version of a life I thought I wanted more than anything, more than them, but until that moment, I had no idea how bad pain could be. I'd gladly be burned alive at the stake because I knew that wouldn't cause a fraction of the pain that ripped through my body when Alice spoke those words. I was sobbing, and it didn't feel like I would ever be able to stop.
"Edward, you need to pull yourself together. I understand that this is a tough day for you, but that pain is all on you, and I will not stand by and let you continue to be selfish and make this day harder on the rest of us than it already is."
I nodded, knowing Alice was right.
I stood up and wiped my eyes on my shirt sleeve. "I'll just take a quick shower and pull myself together, Alice."
She nodded and turned to leave.
"Alice," I said quietly. "I'm so sorry. You will never know just how sorry I am."
She stopped, turned around and looked up at me with tears in her eyes. She stood there for a few moments but never said a word. Finally, she turned around and walked slowly out of the door.
I didn't try to stop the tears from falling.
An hour later, I had showered and pulled myself together as best as I could and walked down the stairs.
Crawley's Funeral Home was the only one in town and was family owned and operated. I had gone to high school with Tyler, and while we were never good friends, we ran in the same circles. He greeted the three of us when we arrived and took the black suit and new white shirt Alice had purchased. Dad had always looked debonair in black, and Alice wouldn't let anyone see him for the last time without him appearing as perfect as he had been in life.
After Tyler delivered the suit to whoever would be dressing Dad, he came back out to go over the schedule for the day and the service the next morning.
Reaching out to shake my hand, Tyler greeted me again. "Edward, it's good to see you again, but I'm sorry it's under such sad circumstances," he said, sounding every bit the professional he was. It sounded strange to me because the Tyler I knew had partied hard when we were growing up.
"Thanks, Ty, It's good to see you as well." My voice was shaky. "How's life been treating you?" I asked with sincerity.
"Life's been good, man. I got married about 10 years ago to Lauren. You remember Lauren, right?"
I nodded, and he continued.
"We have twin girls who will be 4 next month and an 18 month old son, Tyler Jr. I call him TJ, and Lauren just hates it." The pride he had in his family was evident in the way he spoke about them and in the smile on his face.
"What about you? Didn't I hear you and Bella had a son?" He asked, seemingly innocently.
I swallowed hard, trying to keep myself somewhat composed.
"Bella has a son." I managed to say while fighting back the tears. "She and I divorced." I didn't elaborate because I couldn't face what I knew would come if I did. I also knew that I wanted to shout from the roof top that I had a son but was afraid of what would happen if I did try and say anything more.
"Man, sorry," he said evenly, but there was no mistaking the look in his eye. He knew what I had done. "I forgot I had heard that a while back."
He turned and greeted Alice and Jasper, showed us to sitting area, and began to go over the schedule.
Alice was crying softly, and Jasper was the epitome of strength. He had his arm wrapped around her, pulling her into his side as we listened to Tyler tell us how the calling hours would flow. He spoke of receiving lines and speeches and told us there would be refreshments available for all of the guests. After a half hour passed, Lauren knocked lightly on the door frame and nodded to Tyler. Tyler let us know that Dad's casket had been moved into the viewing room and that the staff was bringing the coffee and snacks up now.
A few minutes later, guests started to arrive. I'd known most of these people my entire life, but didn't know them well. Their sympathies were heartfelt; they genuinely loved my father, and they told me he spoke of me often. I heard some of them tell Alice and Jasper how proud he was of them. No one ever spoke those words to me. How could my father be proud of what I'd done with my life? I had thrown away the best thing that ever happened to me for a job. Yes, I was damn good at what I did, but my life was empty. I think he knew that, but I didn't realize just how empty it was until then.
I made my way to the viewing room and stood in the doorway attempting to steel myself before approaching the open casket at the front of the room. As I looked towards the box that would hold my father for eternity, tears began to flow down my cheeks again. I didn't fight them this time. Slowly, I made my way to the front of the room where he laid.
"Dad," I choked out. "I don't know how to do this. I'm not ready to say goodbye to you. I need you. I need you to tell me how to fix this. My life is fucked up, Dad. I know I did it to myself, and I know you tried to tell me then that I would regret my decision, but I was too self-centered to listen!" I was practically shouting at this point, but I didn't care. My chest felt tight, so tight that if it didn't get relief, it was going to explode. I dropped to my knees, leaned my head on the casket, and wept. I wept for my dad, for my Bella, and for the son I would never know. I wept for the mistakes I made in my life, and I wept because I had no idea how to fix them. It felt as if the weight of the world was on me, and I couldn't breathe. More so, I didn't want to breathe anymore. I had lost everything that was real in my life, and in that moment, I wanted nothing more than to crawl into that casket in place of my father.
After a while, I managed to pull myself together somewhat and stood up. I leaned over and placed a gentle goodbye kiss on his forehead and whispered, "I love you, Dad." As I turned to leave, I looked up, and there in the doorway stood the most beautiful creatures I had ever laid my eyes on. My breath hitched, and I gasped as they made their way inside the room and over to the casket. The world stood still in that moment as I watched Bella cross the room, holding tightly onto the hand of the little boy that looked so familiar, yet was a total stranger to me. The little boy that I helped to create in love, and then threw away in anger-my son.