Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. I am in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise, I just use their creations to have my wicked way with them. No copyright infringement is intended.
It seemed no more than fitting for this story to reach its completion on the day (Thursday in Europe, even though I'm posting this ridiculously early because I'll be traveling all day) when the peloton will travel up my favorite and most hated mountain in the world (and just to proof that with a little training it's really no biggie to reach the top (yeah right) they will do it twice in one day). For all of you who will be watching: have a great Alp day! And for everyone who reads: thank you so much for giving this story a shot! I've loved reading your reactions and it warms my heart to know that I've even succeeded in transferring some of my love for this sport onto you guys.
To Lori: Thanks from the bottom of my puffy heart for making this so much fun and for making my rough, flawed words shine. I wouldn't know what to do without you.
Looking back, my climb of Alpe d'Huez would always be one of the most profoundly impacting experiences of my life. In fact, even after years had gone by, it was still right up there along with my first collar, our wedding day, and the birth of our kids.
After all, it was where I both said goodbye to the man who'd been the most important person in my life for my first twenty years of existence, and fell in love with the man who would fill that role for the rest of my life.
To me, that mountain would always be special and I knew that as long as I lived, I would come back to it every couple of years, paying tribute to Charlie and all the other victims of cancer as I slowly made my way to the top. My little group of friends and loved ones would always be by my side.
Over the years our group had grown, though. And strangely enough, though some of them were still too young to make it all the way to the top on their own, all of our kids had somehow developed a love for cycling.
My eight year old twins being the frontrunners.
"Look, Mom!" Carly yelled in my ear, just as I was beginning to get my breath back. "Uncle Jazz and Philly are gaining on us!"
"We'd better get going then," I chuckled, taking another swig from my water bottle and making sure my daughter did the same. "Sam and Dad are never going to let us hear the end of it if they make it to the top before we do."
Carly nodded furiously, the fact that her twin was starting to get faster and stronger than she was already a hard pill to swallow.
Let alone being overtaken by another boy.
Of course, when my sister had given birth to a baby boy, she had to name him some weird new age name like Phyllon, which meant that, seeing as 'Phil' was already taken in the family, the poor little kid would forever be associated with a city on the other side of the continental US.
I guess he could still count himself lucky enough to not be named Pilot Inspektor or Banjo or something.
Over the years Alice and I had kept true to our promise to not be enemies. We would never be friends, as we'd already suspected from the start, but with our kids about the same age and thick as thieves from the moment they started to develop an interest in anything but their own toes, we had found a way to spend time with each other without ripping one another's heads off.
Which was definitely progress in my opinion.
My sister still wasn't all that fond of physical exercise which meant that she helped Rose take care of the four little nippers staying behind (one of them being my eighteen month old son, Luke) and set up for our barbecue tonight, another tradition we'd kept alive over the years.
With a few more stops along the way, we steadily made our way to the top, our tempo now already so much faster than mine had been that first time. After all, our kids had inherited my love of cycling and Edward's love of exercise almost to the extent that they'd all but cycled out of the womb. And seeing as my husband had never let me give up on our workouts (like I kind of intended), I was now in a much better shape than I had been that first time.
I never did end up getting recruited by the FBI or the CIA but that was alright since it meant that when Edward found his dream job at the San Francisco Museum of Anthropology when he was done with school, I was able to move down to California with him and take a detective job at one of the downtown precincts. When the twins were born, though, the long hours and potential dangers of the job had been too much for me and I'd chosen to take a position at the training center, passing what I'd learned in the field onto my successors.
It suited me, though I had to admit that part of me would always long for the excitement of my former job.
Emmett and Rose had moved on too. Rose's job took her to New York and Emmett followed like a dutiful boyfriend, leaving just Alice and Jasper behind in Seattle. It had given more meaning to these trips, since even though we had Skype and phones, the trips we took to 'our' mountain every five or so years had started to become a reunion of some sort.
One the kids seemed to enjoy them just as much as we did.
"I can see Sam!" Carly screamed, not seeming out of breath at all whereas I was back to that all familiar wheezing and panting.
True enough, though, as we neared the final stages of the climb, the two lone figures of my husband and son came into view, both wearing matching grins as they waited for us to complete the climb, just like Edward had done that first time.
"You holding up?" my wonderful husband asked as he fell into pace next to me, the kids chatting loudly in front of us as they hiked up that damn mountain like it was a molehill.
I nodded. "I can't believe how good they're doing," I wheezed, my motherly pride soaring as our twins rounded another hairpin bend. "It seems like only yesterday they were born."
It was their first climb of the Alp and I had to say I'd been absolutely dreading it. Not so much because I didn't think they were going to make it to the top–after all, their dad had been practically grooming them for this ever since we gave them their first bikes for Christmas–but because of the dangers involved. It was why I'd be joining them and the other kids in the lift back down while Emmett, Jasper and Edward would make the descent the 'old-fashioned' way.
"Coach said they both have some serious talent," Edward nodded next to me, his pride matching mine and making us both forget we were worn out and mid-climb as we followed our children's lead.
"You're not actually encouraging them to go pro, are you?" Even in spite of my burning lungs and achy legs, I still managed a glare. "Because if you do, you will never be get lucky again in your entire life!" As much as I still liked to watch pro-cycling and engage in the odd bike tour here and there, even the thought of one of my babies going pro and actually scaling a mountain at breakneck speed and subjecting themselves to all the dangers that came along with it was enough to make me want to rip them from their bikes, crush them to my chest, and never let them go.
Oh, and I also wanted to throw those bikes, which had actually cost more than my first car, all the way down this damn mountain to stop them from ever getting back on them.
"Don't worry, love," Edward grinned, wiping his forehead his sweatband. "I think the last time I asked, Sam still wanted to be a fighter pilot and Carly a professional stuntwoman."
"Like that's going to help me sleep at night?" I groaned, wishing that, against the odds, my lazy genes would have held up against Edward's super-human daredevil sperm.
"Believe me," Edward chuckled, racing a few feet away from me only to hold back and let me catch up with him again as our kids slowly pedaled up towards the summit in front of us. "You'll have no trouble sleeping tonight. Remember last year?"
"How many times do I have to tell you that it's not funny to have a whole gang of kids creep up on a sleeping mom and tickle her awake before it will finally register?" I scowled, debating whether or not it would make my life that much harder if I just kicked him off his bike and into the abyss. But then again, knowing my luck, I'd probably crash or break something in the process…
"Always once more," he teased, his eyes fixed on the road ahead as the first couple of houses of the ski-resort of Alpe d'Huez started to embrace us. "We're almost there."
I smiled, feeling that same jubilation I felt every time I got there, though the grief of saying goodbye to dad all over again when I left was never far away. From that first time I'd climbed that damned mountain rising up from the earth, it had nestled itself into my heart, claiming a special spot it would never give up as long as I lived. Climbing it, I would always hate this mountain in equal amounts to the love I bore for it but by reaching the top, both love and hate would always merge into that same feeling no matter how many times I did it.
Sigh. They've come a long way, haven't they? Please let me know what you think.