Disclaimer: All recognizable characters belong to SM. The storyline is mine.
AN: Thanks so much to my amazingly talented beta's karenec, and the girls at PTB! Without them, there would be a lot less commas and a few wonky words.
Chapter 1 August 24, 2012
Edward's legs and hands start to cramp up, and his shoulders are so high they are near his ears. He has been gripping the steering wheel for too long.
"It can't be much longer," he thinks.
He turns the car on the dirt road. Relief washes over him as he sees the cottage in sight. His family has owned this cottage in Maine since he was a boy. This yearly trip is bittersweet; he lets the memories flood over him.
He is running along the beach playing tag with his siblings, eating ice cream on his walk to the lighthouse, or having competitions of building sand castles. Their parents would judge each fairly, but he remembers one summer that they always seemed to pick Charlotte's castle.
Charlotte is the baby of the family and the only girl, the princess. He used to resent this, but now he looks back and sees his childhood with clarity. They gave her everything, because he and his younger brother, Louie, were the ones who had it all: a future.
The sound of tires crunching on a gravel driveway distracts him from his haunted past. He glances at the driveway across the street and sees a petite woman driving a small sedan. The car pulls into the garage, blocking his view of the new neighbor.
Since he prefers to be on this beach road all alone, he's come up late in the season. It excites him to have a neighbor to distract him, but at the same time, he feels fear for what she might think or hear.
This place conjures any of his demons that he pushes away all year long, and the last thing he wants is for someone to see his true self. The more he ponders the possibilities of the effect neighbor could have on his stay; he decides to retreat into his home.
There it will be easier for him to wallow on the love and lives lost, hidden inside away from the prying eyes of others.
His steps are measured as he makes his way to the bookcase in the living room. An eerie calm settles over him, and he reaches up and pulls down the first album of his ritual. The book is worn brown leather that is smooth under his fingertips. On the front a single word inscribed in gold: Edward. In order for Edward to accept his life, he must start at the beginning. Without seeing the joys of his early childhood, his life seems so much more tragic than it is. Leafing through the pages of himself as a child, he can still hear his mother's whispered words sharing her memories of this time. His heart clenches with grief; he misses the mom she once was.
A particular photo makes him pause. His stomach churns with acid, and his vision becomes blurry. He sees himself running toward huge pile of leaves, his mother is in the middle. He remembers that day quite vividly.
The scents of baked apple pie and beef stew swirl together in the kitchen. A cool breeze blows in, but he is comfortable wearing only a long sleeved shirt and shorts. He has been helping his father rake leaves all day. It's unfair that his mom, Louie, and Charlotte had been playing in the lone pile of leaves that they left behind. Edward longs to be a kid again, but his parents want to teach him about responsibilities. They believe since he is twelve, he should help with the yard work. This is the last day that he feels any freedom of childhood.
He happens to catch his mom lying in the pile of leaves all alone. Edward is the first-born and misses having his mom all to himself. With a running start, he frightens his mother when he lands beside her with such force all the leaves blow up around them. Her eyes widen in shock, but truth he told, she has missed him, too. With him being older, she expects him to pull away from her. She laughs at how one leaf stands straight up on top of his head-reaching up, she pulls it out, places a tender kiss on his cheek, and quietly sings to him the lullaby he is accustomed too.
You are my sunshine, my only sunshine,
You make me happy when skies are gray,
You will never know dear, how much I love you,
So please don't take my sunshine away.
However, after that day, the sun never returned for his happy family.
Closing the book with a thud and taking a deep cleansing breath still is not enough for Edward to disentangle from that memory. Instead, he pours himself a Scotch from the decanter, hoping that it will help him numb the pain.
Ah, that's better, he thought.
He lets the warm amber liquid coat his throat. It leaves a burning on his tongue that helps give meaning to the burning he feels in his heart. Every year, the first night is always the hardest, allowing himself to feel the pain of the family that he loved and lost. There is a pain so deep in his chest, he knows that his heart is breaking once again, and this is all he can handle for tonight. It's time for him to head down to Tyler's bar and find someone to take away this sorrow.
AN: Thanks so much reading! Let me know your thoughts.