Chapter One


Another sunset, another day lived through. I know that sounds like a very small accomplishment to most people but to some of us, living is just another form of torture. I admit that I lack whatever courage, if that is the right word, to just do something to end my existence.

What if they are right?

I've talked to so many psychics and mediums and fortune tellers of every description, begging to know whatever they know about what comes next. Most of them say the Hereafter is whatever each of us believes it will be for ourselves, individually.

So if you believe there is nothing; that we go to blackness, that's how it will be for you. While nothingness has it's appeal, there will be no joy, but maybe that is okay; maybe it's worth the fact that there'll be no pain, either.

I could live with neither, and no pain would be a blessed relief after this life.

My doctor wants me back on drugs but while they certainly got me through the early black days like nothing else could have, I don't want to go there again.

It's too much of a half life. Never feeling in control, never feeling like it's me inside this body. More like some outsider looking in and watching this shell move on autopilot.

No, I have all the medication I need in a tall bottle on the shelf.

And my nicotine friends.

I love the warnings on the packet.

Smoking Will KIll You.

I say yay for that. Bring it on. I may not have what it takes to deliberately send myself over to the Other Side but I know in my heart my current lifestyle will send me that way, albeit on a slower journey.

Something will kill me. Someday I will die so I have that fact to cling to.

My phone buzzes in my back pocket as I sit on the back door stoop, inhaling the tar and nicotine that may start the process I crave, and idly check who is trying to intrude on my self-pitying solitude.


I hit 'reject' because if there's anything I don't need now it's his cheery voice.

I want to wallow. I want to feel like I have nothing because it's the truth.

No husband, no beautiful daughter who should be just beginning her wonderful, promising life out there in the big, wide world.

Maybe I am the one to blame for that.

Maybe I never warned her enough but the old 'stranger danger' message had been eclipsed in her childhood. Instead we were told to teach our children to speak up if they ever felt 'uncomfortable' with anyone closer to home. If an uncle or grandfather, or Daddy's best friend said or did anything that made them feel the least bit unsure.

There was never ever danger from any of those sources.

Charlie and Carlisle had been the best grandfathers a girl could have and they would have died themselves rather than hurt her, our Princess.

No, it took a stranger to take her away from us, and I couldn't remember how many times I'd warned her about actual strangers.

Not a lot.

Clearly not nearly often enough.

Had I done my job and been a better mother, she'd still be alive and maybe not here beside me, but somewhere. College, or working at her first job.

I remember how heady those first days had been for me at nineteen. The freedom to do what I wanted finally, with there being almost an entire country between Forks and NYU.

I'd done a few pretty dangerous things myself but I had been one of the lucky ones who had gotten away with pushing the envelope.

Despite my very best efforts, I'd never suffered a bout of alcohol poisoning even though all around us, students were having their stomachs pumped to save their very lives.

Edward always called me a 'two pot screamer'. All it took was two drinks and I was anybody's.

Not really, but I had not put up a fight when I felt myself getting out of control and he'd pick me up and take me back to my dorm and hand me over to Rosalie.

Mind you, all she did was drag me into my bed and get back to her own room and whichever tasty morsel was waiting there for her. More college boys visited her bedroom than ever stepped foot in the amazing library at NYU.

I loved it all.

Being a grown up and escaping from Dad's rules and regulations. Living independently, and being able to eat and drink whatever I liked. Cooking without having to stick to recipes that made it possible to freeze extra meals because I knew my Father would never cook, but he could hit the 'reheat' button on the microwave so he wouldn't starve if Edward and I were out on a date.

We dated a lot.

It started in Junior Year at Forks High.

It was weird because we'd both lived in Forks all our lives but we'd just never noticed one another. Not really, not in that way.

He was popular and well liked by everyone from the start of grade school. I was the shy kid who hid behind her hair, a habit I still have at this age. He had an entire entourage of friends; I had Rose and Jessica and Lauren and Alice.

They'd been enough but as we got older, Rose's attention had shifted and she no longer hung with us as much, not if some pretty boy invited her to accompany him somewhere.

We others lived vicariously through Rose's early adventures, and I don't know that we even believed everything she told us she did with various boys, but looking back with the passing of time, I think maybe every word was indeed the truth. We were just not yet ready to hear about her allowing boys to feel her rather impressive breasts and French kissing her mouth and what went on while their hands were down her panties.

It seemed kind of gross until it happened to us and we found out just why girls let guys do that.

Of course I was the last.

Probably the oldest virgin in the school, truth be told.

Junior Year saw us all claimed, and it was the year innocence was lost and we were made into 'real women'.

Jess and Mike Newton cashed their cards together and not a student in the school managed to escape hearing all the gritty details, from one participant or the other. Mike was just as much of a gossip as Jessica.

Then Lauren and Eric did the deed, though they weren't actually dating. And nothing came of it. That was when Rose stepped in and explained the whole hook up versus relationship deal; how either path was acceptable these days. You cashed your card with whoever you wanted to and it didn't have to lead to a shiny ring on your finger.

It did, though, for some of us.

Alice and Jasper were in love long before their lust took over, and it seemed a natural progression. She came to school the next day with shining eyes and a blush on her cheeks and we knew, even without her spilling the details.

Of course, I went into Mother Hen mode and warned her to 'be safe' and not get knocked up.

Yeah, I know, good advice I really should have followed myself, but then, I had no idea what was going to happen.

It was literally one of those magic moments you read about in romance novels.

I was sitting alone in the Lunch Room, because my girls were all loved up or at least, sexed up, and had other places to be, and I was reading about how girls in the past had had to keep their passion under control or their lives would really be ruined, forever, if they ever let a beau stick anything in a place he shouldn't until after the marriage ceremony.

I couldn't imagine it would have been easy to let passion lead you astray back then, when you had to pause to remove all those petticoats and pantaloons and whatever was between your virtue and his eager manhood. Surely by the time you disrobed, any sexual contact would have had to be quite deliberate.

Anyway, I'd heard the chair at my empty table be dragged out and looked up from the page into the emerald green eyes of Edward Cullen.

I knew him, naturally. We'd been in the same class since we began school at age five. We'd both been in Advanced Placement classes together. We'd even shared a table in Biology.

But the Edward who sat down at my table that day was suddenly changed.

Or at least, something between us changed.

I remember dropping my book onto the floor and just staring into his eyes, and he was gazing into mine and somehow our hands moved of their own accord and linked on that table top.

Neither of us spoke a single word.

We did grin, like idiots, and this weird vibe seemed to invade my body and sizzle up from my toes to my fingertips, and cross into his hand, and he sort of flinched then held on tighter, and we both laughed as his body shuddered, in a surprised but good way.

We both laughed self consciously, and that was the beginning.

I know I was a bad, bad Mother because even if I could snap my fingers and go back to that day, and stand up and walk away from him, I wouldn't.

I know if I had just shaken his hand from mine and hidden away in the Library, he may well have moved on and found some other girl to thrill with his amazing touch, but I cannot say with the slightest ounce of honesty that even knowing what I know now, that I would have prevented the tragedy from ever beginning by leaving Edward Cullen that very first day.

How could I unwish the fourteen years we had her, our beloved daughter?

Sure, her untimely death shattered us both and led to our undoing because neither Edward nor I could face one another after she was killed, but who would deny themselves fifteen years of bliss just because the ending was so horrific?

Maybe someone smarter than I am.

No, I had come to learn what happened was what was meant to be. You know how they say this world was not good enough for someone so pure and beautiful to live in? I think that saying was coined for our daughter.

She's in a better place. I truly believe that.

I believe in an afterlife that's so much better than the stinking life we lead here on Earth because what other choice do I have?

She can't be nothing. She can't be nowhere. She has to exist, so in my head I constructed a Heaven even more beautiful than the Bible or any religion promised us.

And our angel is there, waiting and she is so happy and loved and safe, in a way we couldn't make her here.

She has Grandpa Charlie at her side , because he just gave up the fight when she died. He couldn't wait to go join her.

He'd been fighting cancer and seemed to be winning the battle but once Angela died, it was like he couldn't get to the Other Side fast enough.

I suspect he threw out his pills and egged the cancer on. I know he drank far more in those last months than he had drunk in his entire life but he was drinking with a cause in mind.

The Coroner's report said it was a mix of the alcohol and the disease, that took him where he wanted to go, but it doesn't really make any difference which one gave him his dearest wish.

So, here I am, all alone, left behind, trying to catch up and be with them, but scared to actually do anything proactive in case I end up in another place and don't get to be with them.

What if suicide gets you into some different level and you have to learn your lesson and are kept apart from your loved ones?

What if, even worse, you get sent back? Reborn, into another weak little human body, and have to live another similar life, but have to endure the pain for the term of your natural life that time?

No, my comfort is the cold, hard fact that one day, I'll get to join them both, and I'll have taken the surest safe route to get there.

Because coming back for a do over would be an atrocity too far.

My cell phone buzzes again and I check the caller id, and this time I accept the call.

"Edward," I say quietly. I know he's just checking in to make sure I'm still alive. Three years hasn't changed the fact that he cares about me and wants me to move on and be happy.

He's found some form of lesser happiness, with his new wife and he needs to know I can do that as well. Staying together was never an option. We tore one another to shreds. Each blamed the other, because there was no-one else to blame.

If only I'd insisted on Edward collecting her from her friend's house, and leaving work early to do that. If only I'd refused to let her go to Emma's house to do whatever fourteen year old girls do these days.

If fucking only.

There was no getting away with the fact we hadn't protected her and saved her from the monster.

We had no excuses. We were adults who knew monsters existed, out there, everywhere, even in a tiny town like Forks. We knew the facade put forward for the world to see was not a true indication of the heart and soul of that friendly face and cheery smile; not always.

We'd checked under her bed and in her closet when she was little and afraid to go to sleep at night because of the monsters hiding there, but we'd never protected her from the real, living, breathing monster waiting to take away pretty little girls like our daughter.

Whoever killed our Angela got away scott free and so we couldn't take out our hate and rage against him.

So we blamed one another instead and all but killed whatever it had been between us, that had given us the wonderful life we'd lived until that terrible day.

Now I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

For Edward to call and tell me he and Victoria had a new baby to look forward to, then my grief would be complete.

I couldn't offer him that sort of healing, because no child of mine would ever be forced into this world to grow and laugh and play and be destroyed ever again. I would be a good mother this time round.

I would not let any child of mine be born.

"How are you holding up?" he asks. It's still there, the sadness, the grief.

I wonder at times how come he got to be the strong one who managed to accept the death of Angela and the death of us and dare to hope there could still be a future worth having out there.

I will never blame him for leaving, or for the divorce, because nobody can live in the bitter and hate filled marriage ours ended up becoming.

Edward had tried so hard to save me but I hadn't wanted to be saved so he had saved himself.

"Is she pregnant yet?" I ask, rather than answer his question.

"No, Bella, Victoria isn't pregnant."

One day, the answer will be 'yes' and that's the day I have to give up and know he was only mine for fifteen short years. Some ridiculous part of me somewhere inside tells me this second marriage is not the final straw, but another child would be.

If I somehow could change and show him how it isn't over for me, and I still need him and love him dearly, so dearly, he would walk away from her and come home where he belongs. A child will mean that can never happen.

I walk to the hallway and run my finger over my favourite photo of us. Not a wedding photo, although of course I love them too. This photo.

We were the only couple who took their infant daughter to Prom with them.

Well, we were the only students with an infant daughter.

Edward looks so proud and so happy and so not like what an eighteen year old who knocked up his girlfriend at High School should look.

He never felt trapped or forced to grow up too soon.

He looks like a man who knows he has it all, and it's all good.

"I am glad you are happy again," I say, and to my surprise, I mean it. I guess I love him more than I ever realized. One of us has to come through this and out the other side with some sort of acceptable existence. Why shouldn't it be him? He deserves to smile again. He was the very best husband and father any man could ever be. Now he can be those things over again.

I hang up the phone and stand there, looking at our past and knowing that once I had an amazing and so perfect life.

And like my Mom always warned me; it had been too good to last.