I sat at the second hand dark stained kitchen table, my head in my hands as I reviewed my copies of everything that my lawyer had sent over. Aro was good, efficient; he was the best, and I would be paying his bill off for the rest of my natural born life. I organized the photocopies in a turquoise file folder I'd picked up at the Quick Stop convenience store on my way home from work—our divorce papers, the waiver for Mike's parental rights over the kids, legal documents changing all three of our last names to Swan and a few invoice copies that I'd held on to.
Mike Newton and I had met my junior year when I moved to Forks to live with my dad, Charlie. He was my solace through the dark times that I faced in Forks and we only grew closer after graduation. I got pregnant with Peyton the summer before our senior year at the University of Washington in Vancouver. Mike proposed to me when we went home for a visit and we had a court house wedding that following week. Nothing turned out the way that I'd planned, but everything was supposed to be perfect.
I gave up on finishing my degree, got a part time job as a receptionist at Eclipse Law Firm and I focused on raising our daughter. Peyton was just over a year old when I got pregnant with Cayden and I realized, for the first time, that our marriage was not build to last. Mike left us two months after our son was born; he kept contact with the kids for a while, before finally telling me that he'd never wanted either of the kids so I could keep them. It was earth shattering, explaining to a four year old that her daddy had simply changed his mind.
What little child support that I saw was just enough to cover the cost of daycare while I took on a full time position as Aro's PA to try and keep our heads above water. I've struggled through this whole ordeal, struggled to balance my home and work life, struggled to try and give my children some semblance of a normal upbringing. Now it's over, I'm free from my past and drowning my sorrows in a tall glass of red wine; wine out of a cardboard box.
Tonight I let my tears flow freely down my face while I stare at the tarnished wedding band on my left hand. While my babies are sleeping, their tiny bodies snuggled up on the air mattress I set up in our living room; I mourn the loss of my marriage and prepare for the next chapter in our lives.
Cayden is screaming restlessly in the back seat while Peyton plugs her ears and hollers at him to shut up. I grit my teeth and tell them both, for the hundredth time since we left Seattle, to quiet down so that I can concentrate. My black Ford Expedition passes the Welcome to Forks sign and I feel a confusing mixture of emotions as I pull on to Main Street. Nothing has changed since I left; the dinner, the police station, the high school, all look exactly the same. A weight is lifted off my shoulders and I know that, with Charlie's help, I know longer have to worry about my children not having what they need. However, I'm also filled with an overwhelming sense of dread, knowing that I have once again retreated to the dreariest place in the continental US.
Charlie's police cruiser is parked on the curb outside my childhood home, leaving the small driveway open for me to pull up close to the front door. The moment my car is in park, Cayden ceases his tantrum and begins pulling against the straps of his car seat, eager to finally be loose. "Mommy," Peyton's sweet voice calls my attention as I climb out of the vehicle, walking around to her door first to help her out of her booster seat. "How come Papa Charlie's police officer car is here? Doesn't he have to work because the sun is out?"
I smile sweetly at my child's innocent question and simple reasoning skills, stopping to tie the lace on her sneakers before I unfasten her seat belt. "Papa Charlie took the day off today sweetie, he was just so excited to see you," my daughter beamed at me, her beautiful doe eyes glowing with excitement from my words. I heard my father's heavy footsteps on the front porch and my daughter hopped out of the car, running past me and into his open arms as I turned to greet him.
"Momma," Cayden whined, pulling my attention from my mini me and back to my impatient little angel, sitting in his car seat and staring through the windshield at his sister with a jealous glare. I closed Peyton's door, walking around the vehicle to pull Cayden out of his seat and plant his feet on the ground. His tiny shoes had barely touched the concrete before he ran to my father and daughter, leaving me to grab our overnight bags from the car.
"Welcome home, Bells," my dad greeted me, giving me an awkward one armed hug as I met him in the front yard. My children left us in their dust as they run up the front steps and into the house, undoubtedly eager to tear up all the new and exciting things. "You look good," he assessed me in my loose fitted, traveling clothes. I hadn't put much effort into my appearance this morning, not that I had in quite some time, opting for an old and faded pair of blue jeans with a long sleeved grey shirt.
I accepted his lie with a shy smile and shrugged, "thanks Dad, you do too." Charlie had recently started dating Sue Clearwater, a widow from the local reservation, and the care of a woman for the first time in years looks good on him. I allowed Charlie to take my bags and headed inside to wrestle up my children for lunch, while he took our things upstairs to my old bedroom.
The house hadn't changed in all these years, except for the vase of wild flowers decorating the coffee table. I smiled to myself, knowing this was undoubtedly Sue's doing, as I helped my kids shed their jackets and shoes. Charlie rejoined us in the living room and Peyton began prattling on about the movers that had come to pack everything yesterday. I ran my fingers through Cayden's thick, dark curls as he listened intently to my dad explain that our things had been delivered and were now being stored in his shed out back. Peyton, ever the skeptical child, insisted on being shown and my father obliged, Cayden running along beside them with the never ending need to feel included.
I heard the old back door slam shut behind them and I was utterly alone, for the first time since I had Peyton. The familiar silence of my home pressed in on me, welcoming me with a warm and overwhelming embrace. This was so similar to the first time I'd moved back to Forks yet so very different. It was only the beginning of August, Peyton would be starting Pre-K on Monday and I was dreading going back to work and placing Cayden in a brand new daycare.
Busying myself while my baby loves were MIA, I picked up their discarded outerwear and organized it by the front door where I'd left my own shoes. I proceeded into the kitchen, rummaging through the fridge for something edible; I came out with a stack of various cold cuts and a few different toppings. The window over the kitchen sink looked out over the backyard and I watched my gleeful children as my father chased them around in circles. With a smile on my lips, I prepared a modest lunch for the three of us before I started on some light house work that my father had been neglecting.
After lunch, Peyton and Cayden sat in my lap while I rocked them in my Grandmother's old rocker, listening to their tiny breaths as they lulled into a heavy sleep. Charlie helped me carry them upstairs to the bedroom before we settled in to watch the baseball game. Well, Charlie watched the game while I gazed absently around the room at all of my old school pictures that he'd kept throughout the years. Sometimes it amazed me, how little my children looked like their father and how much they resembled me.
It had always been a joke between Mike and me, after Peyton was born, that she resembled me so much that he couldn't possibly be her real father. Unfortunately, when Cayden turned out the same way, it became leverage in his fight against paying child support. I had pitied myself and my children at the time, but now I found a small blessing in the absence of a reminder of him in their beautiful features.
Charlie muted the television and I glanced up at him, pulled from my reverie while his mustache twitched and he mulled over something in his head. I waited patiently as he met my gaze and cleared his throat, "Bella, do you remember Dr. and Mrs. Cullen? I believe their daughter, Alice Cullen, went to school with you." I nodded, remembering the strange, pixie type girl who'd graduated a year ahead of me. "Well, their nephew, Edward, just moved here from Alaska a few months ago and opened a practice near the new daycare I told you about."
I waited for a moment for Charlie to elaborate, but he never did. "I'm sorry Dad, I don't understand what any of that has to do with me," I stated calmly, furrowing my brow as if this would somehow make the relation clear.
"Well, with their business picking up, Edward's looking for another receptionist to help out around the office during the week," he explained, rubbing his palms on his pant legs nervously. "I ran into Esme at the grocery store last week and she said they would love to have you. Now, before you say anything, Edward's sister-in-law runs an attached daycare service and it's free to employees. They even offer an intermediate class for kids Peyton's age who aren't old enough for Kindergarten yet."
Charlie finished his rant and I grinned at him, slightly amused by his obvious nervousness. "Dad, that's really great and I appreciate the help, but I can't just show up for a job because the doctor's Aunt says its okay." I'd been away from the small town life for too long, I was beginning to rationalize like a normal person again.
"If it would make you feel better, take a couple of days to settle in and then you can stop by the office. Edward Cullen is a really nice guy Bella; I think you'd really like him." I scoffed at my dad's words, crossing my arms across my chest.
"Is this an interview or a set up," my dad looked shell shocked and I knew the answer. "Thank you for the offer dad, but I just got out of a marriage, I'm not looking to get into another one. I've got my kids to worry about." With that, I got up from the couch, Charlie nodding awkwardly in response as I headed upstairs to check on my kids.