I've had this little plot bunny in my head for two years. LOL. I finally got the time and energy to do something about it.
I own nothing of Stephanie Meyer.
September 13, 2002
"A little wider," the woman with the dentist mask asks politely.
"Awwww," I comply, extending my jaw as far as it can go.
"Thank you," she smiles with her eyes. "We're almost done."
"Ugh," I moan, rolling my eyes.
She'd been saying that for the past thirty minutes. I close my eyes and try to tune out the sound of wire and metal being cut. She continues asking me a string of yes and no questions to kill the awkward silence. I nod as best I can. I could care less about what she is trying to say. I just want this shit, her hands included, out of my mouth. Maybe if she concentrated on not jabbing that pointy thing in my gums instead of whether or not I had a date to my Homecoming dance I'd be done already.
This is not how I wanted to start my birthday.
I never understood people's obsession with needless conversation. It's why I don't watch game shows. No one cares about what the contestants do in their spare time. Poor, Alex Trebek. He looks bored out of his mind. Even he knows how pointless it is. However, I must admit that I do enjoy a good episode of The Price is Right. How long has Bob Barker looked that old? I mean…
"Okay," the woman grins, taking off her mask. "You're done," she holds up a mirror. "Smile," she requests.
I lick my lips and face the moment of truth. I smile tentatively in the mirror. It's not long before my smile is covering my entire face.
"Wow," I smile again, swiping my tongue over my teeth.
"No more braces for you," she says, marking something in my chart.
"Yeah," I blush at my new reflection.
Honestly, I don't think I really needed braces. With the exception of a slight gap between my two teeth, they were straight. Things tend to change when you add petty high school bitches that look for things to tease you about. Renee decided on a 'preemptive strike' and got it fixed. I rolled my eyes and told her that I was fine with it. She replies by mentioning how I'd love how they looked.
She was right. I think about how to admit I'm wrong without actually admitting it. Renee loves being right.
Afterwards, I go outside to have pictures taken of my new smile before going into the waiting room.
"It's been a pleasure, Ms. Swan," Dr. Dentin smiles, opening the door for me. As soon as I step outside, my driver exits the sleek Lincoln Towncar to open my door for me.
It's a short ten minute drive back to my apartment building. I exit the car and breeze past the doorman to the elevator.
"Ahhhh!" Kate ambushes me. "Let me see," she grins.
"Cheeeese," I joke, giving my best playful smile.
"Nice," she gives her nudge of approval. "You were cute before. You're unstoppable now," she raises an eyebrow.
Kate is your typical Mary Sue. You know…the girl who is so perfect that it's borderline annoying. She's absolutely gorgeous, smart, funny, rich, and has a kickass body. Her mom was a supermodel in the 80s' and her dad is the General Manager of the Boston Celtics.
"The boys don't stand a chance," she wraps her arms around my shoulder. "If you think about it, it's kind of not fair," she smiles.
"You're far too kind," I say, in fake modesty.
Did I mention she's the nicest person you'd ever meet?
"What's going on for your big day?" she asks. "You only turn sixteen once," she mentions.
"Besides Father/Daughter Fenway," she rolls her eyes.
Every year to celebrate my birthday my Dad takes me to a Red Sox game with just the two of us. Mom hates sports.
"Movies and Chinese," I answer with no hesitation. "Seven. Be there or else."
"I don't want to be square," she rolls her eyes. "I'll tell the others," she waves, getting back on the elevator. "I'm off to get your fabulous gift."
"Okay," I laugh, opening the door.
I hear my mother and another man talking in hushed tones. He puts his hands on his hips like he's trying to assert some form of authority. Renee sinks in her chair and hands her head on the table. He steps forward and puts a hand on her shoulder. It's like he's trying to comfort her.
Something was off.
He takes a small box from his pocket and opens it. He takes a watch from the box and puts it on my mother's wrist.
What the fuck? Why is this stranger giving my mom gifts?
"Hey," I say sternly. The pair jumps apart at my presence. I see our guest's face. "Wow," I whisper. I immediately hope he didn't hear me.
There is literally NO way to describe how sexy this man is. Usually, I pride myself on having a way with words…but this guy? Adonis doesn't hold a candle to him. I've never seen someone whose face was so…proportional. It's as if God drew his face with a protractor and ruler to make sure each side was perfectly even. His cheekbones. God, his cheekbones. You could probably cut diamonds with them. He had a small bump on his nose like he'd broken his nose before. My eyes scan up to the most gorgeous blue eyes I've ever seen. They're so clear…like sapphires. His lips form a perfect wide smile that shows his pearly white teeth. I bet he didn't even need braces. The small dimple in his right cheek appears and he starts to laugh and shake his head at me.
Shit. He caught me ogling.
"Hey, sweetie," Renee perks up, wiping her eyes.
"Who's he?" I point to the stranger.
"Let me see," she gets up, trying to change the subject.
"O-kay," I say slowly, giving a half-hearted smile and ogling our visitor.
"Beautiful," she smiles, nervously moving her eyes back and forth from me to the other person in the room.
"I'm Bella," I break my mother's embrace and offer my hand to the elephant in the room. "You are…" I lead off.
"He's…" Mom tries to intervene.
"My name is Anthony," he smiles, shaking my hand. "I'm a friend of your mother's," he offers.
Renee's huff of indignation spoke differently. She begins to bite her lip obsessively, a habit I've seemed to inherit from her. She does it when she's nervous.
What's going on? Why is she nervous?
"Oh," I reply. I'm pretty sure I didn't sound convincing. Something was off.
"We…went to the same high school," she offers, pouring herself what looks to be bourbon.
Hard liquor at three in the afternoon? Yep. Something is off.
"We were catching up on old times," Anthony adds, leaning on the countertop. His gaze stops on the painting in our living room. I don't blame him. That thing is massive. It practically takes up the entire wall above the fireplace.
"Uh huh," I grab a glass and fill it with water. The deadpan in my voice gives me away. I don't care. I want them to know that I'm not buying what they are selling. "Sure."
"So…your mother tells me that you're really smart," he tries to make conversation. "You're graduating early." His eyes move to a vase my father brought back from his business trip to Italy last year. He takes it in his hands and tosses it from one end to the other. His gaze never leaves the portrait.
"In December," I elaborate. "A year and a half early."
"She's really proud," he stares at my mom. She averts her eyes. "What are your plans for college?" He stops tossing the vase and runs his gaze over it like he's studying it.
"I'm keeping my options open," I take a slow sip of my water.
"I should get going," Anthony sighs, setting the vase back on the table. "This is a really nice view," he smiles, pointing to the downtown skyline, expensive oak flooring, and furnishings. "Your husband has really nice taste," he grabs his jacket.
"I'll walk you out," I volunteer. I wasn't being nice. This guy gave me a bad vibe. I wanted him out of our house.
"It was nice meeting you," he smiles.
"Uh huh," I nod, shutting the door.
What the fuck?
"Mom…" I race back to the kitchen.
"Yes," she answers, pouring another tumbler of liquor.
"Who was that?" I demand to know. "Seriously?"
"A friend," she replies, taking the drink in one gulp.
"If you just met up today then why did he give you a gift?" I flick the watch on her wrist.
"DON'T LIE!" I yell, tears pouring out of my eyes.
He's here at the time Dad is out every day.
Being too nice.
There was only one explanation.
"You're cheating on Dad," I whisper, wiping my eyes.
"What?" she asks, irately. "Bella, no. Never."
"Bullshit," I hiss, yanking my arm away from her.
"You don't under…"
"I'm home!" Dad yells, as he enters the room.
"Kiddo!" my father wraps me in the kind of bear hug only fathers can give.
"Hey, Dad," I whisper in his ear. I hug him as tight as I can.
"Ouch," he jokes. "What's this all about?" he wipes a rogue tear from my face.
Your wife is cheating on you.
"You're not getting soft in your old age?" he asks.
"I just missed you. That's all," I smile, kissing his cheek.
"Good," he hugs me again. "We can't have tears ruining your sweet sixteen," he smiles, taking a wrapped box and giving it to me.
"Thanks," I take the box and put it on the table. "I think I know what it is," I hint.
"Of course," he hints back.
"I'm too old for these," I giggle, opening the wrapper to find another Bella Bee adventures book.
My dad loved to draw. When I was seven he came up with a book idea called Bella Bee. If you haven't guessed it, it's a bee with my likeness that goes on adventures around the world. Now, every once in a while he'll draw another book. They're only about five or ten pages long. He used to tell me that way I got to go with him when he went around the world.
"Never," he replies. "You may not be a little girl but you'll always be my little girl."
"I prefer Bronte," I joke.
"Hey," he holds his chest like he's wounded. "You're going to miss those when I'm dead."
"Morbid," Mom crosses her arms. "I hate to talk about people dying."
"I didn't forget my beautiful, loving, wife," he beams. "Here you go," he gives my mom a beautiful bouquet of pink orchids. "Your favorite," he kisses her.
"Thanks, baby," she smiles, deepening the kiss.
I feel sick.
"Sixteen years ago, you gave me the prettiest little girl in the world," he kisses her forehead. "Other men think they have the prettiest wife in the world. They're all liars because I have the prettiest wife in the world," he places kisses all over her face and neck.
"Charlie. Stop!" Mom cries out. She's trying to sound playful.
"Look at this beauty," Dad points to me. "Show me that smile," he smiles. "Beautiful," he kisses my forehead. "Look at this," he holds up two Red Sox tickets. "I've come bearing so many gifts I almost forgot."
"Father/Daughter Fenway," I try my best to smile.
"Front row," he rubs them together. "We'll be able to see the sweat drip down their face. We're leaving in 15 minutes," he runs off to go change.
"How could you?" I ask my mother in disgust, as she puts her flowers in a glass jar.
"It's not what you think," her eyes start to water. "Please don't tell your father. Let's enjoy today," she reaches to touch my hair. "He's gone through so much trouble to make sure you have a good day."
"Save it," I huff, storming to my room.
I wash up and put on my Sox t-shirt, jeans, and Vans. I throw my hair in a quick bun.
"Ready?" he asks, peaking his head in my bathroom.
"Yeah," I put on my best smile.
"Madame," he says, in a faux French accent.
"Monsieur," I answer, looping my arm through his.
"Let's watch our boys kill those Yankee bastards," he leads me out the door.
"How was your trip?" I ask.
It makes me sick that Dad works so hard and my mother is doing this to him.
"Great. I did a lot of good business," he informs, throwing me the keys to his Porsche. "You drive," he hops in the car.
"Dad," I stop in my tracks.
My dad loves this car. He considers it his third child. He gets nervous when I look at it.
"It's your birthday," he shrugs. "You've got your license. Right?"
"Don't kick a gift horse in the mouth," he warns, opening the door. "Go the speed limit. Stay in the lines. Don't kill us," he lists the three objectives.
"Easier said than done," I put the key in the ignition.
"Is it?" he asks, leaning back in the passenger seat. "Come on. We're going to be late."
"Fine," I put the car in drive and exit the parking garage. "We should take the train," I remind him.
"You're so tame," he chides me. "Where did you get that from?"
"Someone has to have common sense in this family," I reply.
"Smartass," he sticks his tongue out at me.
"It took us forever to get here," I point out, giving the valet the keys.
"It's not the destination. It's the journey," he 'steals' my nose.
"Ugh," I shove his arm.
"How's your day so far?" he asks, handing me a hotdog.
"Better," I huff, trying not to think about the epic shit storm that is coming our way.
"Bullshit," he calls my bluff. "Something is eating at you. What is it?" he takes a sip of his beer.
"I'm a good listener," he reminds me. "It'll be like talking to yourself."
"You'll ruin your birthday if you keep it in," he warns me. "You only turn sixteen once. It needs to be sweet…a sweet sixteen," he stares at me.
I look at the somewhat dopey look in his eyes and find my eyes starting to water again. He probably thinks that it's boy problems. It kills me that Mom is doing this to him but he deserves to know. I won't tell him. Not today.
"I'm PMSing," I lie, sounding embarrassed. "I'm all bloated and I feel so fat."
"Oh," he looks around awkwardly just as the crack of a homerun resonates through the crowd. "Ok."
"You wanted to know," I tease.
"I wish I hadn't," he shivers.
"I do too," I laugh at his obvious discomfort.
"My little girl isn't so little anymore," he stares at me. "I remember the first time I held you. I was the first person you saw," he kisses my temple. "I knew you'd be special," he hugs me from the side. "So…" he points to the giant jumbotron.
"Oh, God," I throw my head in my hands, as Isn't She Lovely by Stevie Wonder starts playing along a montage of my childhood and Happy Birthday Bella written on it. It wasn't over. After the montage was done, Dad acted as a chorus conductor as the entire stadium sang me happy birthday. I blushed so red I was fucking burgundy. "Daaaaad," I cover my face in embarrassment.
"No more. I promise," he sits down. "We can watch the Sox win in peace."
He stayed true to his word. Unfortunately, the Sox didn't win but we still had a great time.
"You win some. You lose some," I sigh, turning the car on.
"Shit. We're going to be late," he hisses.
"It's a surprise," he refuses to answer. "Punch it. We need to get home and get ready."
"Traffic," I point out.
"Drive aggressively," he counters.
"I'm giving you permission to speed in my Porsche…with me in it," he points out. "Take advantage."
"When you put it that way," I smile, pressing my foot on the gas.
"Here you go," he pops the trunk on the car to hand me another box. I can tell by the shape and size that it's most likely a dress. "Get ready. We're going out."
"I was going to order Chinese food."
"You can do that anytime," he waves me off.
We race upstairs to find my mom in a stunning black dress and pumps. Her long blonde hair is curled down her back in waves. Her makeup is done to perfection. Her deep red lipstick even makes an appearance.
"Aren't I the luckiest man on Earth? I get to come home to this?" he picks her up and spins her around.
"You're ridiculous," she swats at him and blushes.
She almost looks like she loves him.
"You guys need to get ready," she reminds us. "Our reservations are at 9."
I take a quick shower and try not to concentrate on what I know. My attempts are in vain because I know this is going to destroy my father and my family. The one thing I loved most about my father is his capacity to love. He has the biggest heart and loves my mother with every fiber of it. I can't believe she'd do this to him after all he's done for her.
"Bitch," I take blow dryer to my hair.
In the interest of time, I put my hair in a twisted bun with wisps of hair around my temple. I don't really do makeup so I add some lip gloss and mascara and call it a day. In the box lies a midnight blue dress with lace sleeves. It comes down to mid-thigh and puffs out a little at the bottom. It reminds me a little of a dress from the 1960s. I pair the dress with nude shoes and a nude bag.
"Hot mama," Kate comes in. She has on a white dress with a gold belt and matching shoes.
"Thanks," I smile, looking in the mirror.
"Ladies," Dad ushers us out into the hallway. "It's time to go."
"Your dad is so cool," my best friend whispers in my ear. I look at my father in a dark blue three piece designer suit and can't help but agree.
My Dad has this debonair quality. Kate and I always joke that he's really a spy.
The four of us pile into the towncar and make it just in time before the hostess gave our table away.
"Nothing but the best for my kiddo," Dad smiles at me, as he sees me take in the scenery.
The restaurant has an open concept feel to it. The kitchen is located in clear view on the side so you can see the team cook your food. The walls are painted a chocolate brown and a giant gold chandelier creates the perfect ambient lighting. Dark hardwood floors create a nice contrast to all the metal work throughout the establishment. An older gentleman sits in the corner playing the grand piano.
We sit down and have a normal dinner. We talk about trivial things.
Has any boy caught your eye yet?
What college are you going to?
Are you going to stay somewhere near home?
Dad orders steak. I order chicken. Mom and Kate both order a salad.
Then, the cake.
"Wow," I smile, as the waiter brings the cake out. "It's gorgeous."
It's dark green with gold airbrushing on it. It's one of the weird cakes that are off center. It reminds me of something they would serve at the Mad Hatter's tea party. Happy Birthday is outlines in gold studs with a giant 16 topper on it.
"On three," Dad kisses mom's forehead, as the waiter lights the sparklers on top of the cake. "One…two…"
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday dear Be…
"Out of the way!" I hear before the sound of table screeching and cries of confused guests.
"What?" Kate asks.
"Oh, God," Renee starts crying. "Oh, God. Oh, God. Oh, God."
"Shit!" Dad hisses.
"Charles William Swan," Anthony storms to our table. He since switched out of his regular jeans and t-shirt into a white button down, khakis, and an FBI windbreaker. "I have a warrant for your arrest," he flashes a stack of papers and tucks them back in his breast pocket.
"Charlie," Mom starts crying.
"What?" Dad asks, somberly. I've never seen a man look so low.
"I love you. I love you so much. I'm so sorry," my mother whimpers.
"I don't understand," I start crying.
"Charles Swan, you have the right to remain silent. Anything you say…" Anthony starts reading off my father's rights like.
"Dad!" I cry, only to be held back by an agent when I attempt to walk to my father.
"You bastard!" Mom slaps against the FBI agent's arms. "You promised! It's our daughter's birthday party! You said you'd wait! You promised!"
"You knew?!" I cried. "You knew! This whole time you knew!"
She looks me in the eye. For once, I see the truth. My mother wasn't cheating on Dad. She was setting him up. That's an entirely new level of betrayal.
"It's okay, kiddo," Dad smiles sadly. "It's okay."
"Dad," I struggle against the agent's grip.
"Thank you for your cooperation," Anthony says somberly. "I know this can't be easy for…"
"Go to hell," I hiss at him. "Whatever you think my Dad did…"
"Don't call me that," I shout at him. Only my dad can call me kiddo.
"Your father isn't the man you think he is."
"I don't believe you," I tell him, still struggling to break free. "You're wrong."
"Bella," Mom hugs me. "You need to unders…"
"I understand," I seethe at her. "How could you do that?" I cry out. "How could you do that to Dad?"
She betrayed the man who loved her more than anything. How could she look him in the eye? How could she look me in the eye?
"Sweetie," Mom cries. "I love your father. But he's a crim…"
"Don't say it!" I break down. "Don't say that to me," I give up and sink to the floor crying.
Kate doesn't say anything. She just hugs me and tells me everything will be okay.
This will never be okay.
I don't know how long I cry. Minutes? Hours? It all runs together. Eventually, an agent picks me up and places the three of us in a squad car to take us home…what was left of it anyway.
"Oh my God."
The coffee table in the living room that my father sat his feet on when he got home from work is gone.
The sculpture on our entry way table is gone.
The china set he got my mother for their thirteenth wedding anniversary is gone.
The porcelain doll my dad got me when I was nine is gone.
The vase Anthony was enamored with earlier this afternoon is gone.
We came home in just enough time to see FBI agents taking pictures of the gigantic painting on our wall.
"Alright," the woman says, putting the camera back in its bag. "Take it down," she orders.
I watch as five men take the portrait from the wall and carry out into the hall.
Mom and I sit on the couch as I sit and wonder what the fuck is going on.
"Do you know what a fencer is?" Mom asks.
"No," I shake my head.
"It's okay," she sighs. "I didn't until last week."
"Mom," I feel my chest tightening up.
"Let's say someone steal something…something important," she starts. "They can't sell it by normal means because they'll get caught. So, they hire a fence. The fence buys the stolen good at a low price from the thieves and sells it on the black market for a profit."
"They think Daddy is a fence?" I ask.
They were wrong. My father wasn't a common criminal.
"Your father was a thief and a fence," she starts giggling, as tears roll out of her eyes. "You know him. He was always trying to cut out the middle man."
"You believe them?"
"That painting was a Jackson Pollock that was worth 15 million dollars," she points to the empty spot on the wall. "The vase I put my flowers in belonged to the last Czar of Russia," she laughs.
"No," I shake my head profusely. I refuse to believe that about him.
"I love your father," she takes my head in her hands. "He's a great husband and an outstanding father but he's a criminal," she cries with me. "He needs to pay for what he did."
"I don't believe it," I get up. "I can't believe you sold him out without even talking to him."
"I did what I had to do," her voice cracks. "It kills me…"
"Whatever," I run to my room.
I shut the door behind me to find the latest Bella Bee creation sitting on my desk. In anger, I grab it and throw it against the rest of the books my father drew for me. I was angry. I wanted to scream, shout, and break things. Worst of all, I wanted my Daddy.
"You can stay at my house," I hear Kate from the other side of my door. "My parents won't mind. It has to be a little weird."
"Bella, honey, talk to me."
"Go away," I struggle. "I want to be alone."
"I get it," Kate sighs. "The offer still stands," she says.
I just stare at the ceiling and cry in peace. It wasn't until I heard a faint tapping on my window that I acknowledged the outside world. I wipe my eyes to see my father. His outfit is in disarray and his shoes are missing. He's carrying a briefcase. He looks ten years older. How can a man age so much in a matter of hours?
"Bella?" he whispers, tapping the door.
"Shhh," he puts his hand over his mouth. "Come outside," I see him mouth.
"I don't have a lot of time," he says softly through the door.
"Okay," I grab my jacket and follow him onto the terrace.
We're in the penthouse of the building so we don't have to climb far to get to the roof top.
"Dad, what's going on?" I ask. He's the only person I trust to tell me the truth.
"I'm so sorry, kiddo," he hugs me close. "This is all my fault."
"They're saying horrible things about you," I say in his hear. "I don't believe them."
He doesn't say anything. He just stares at me. For the first time in my life I saw my father cry.
"Tell me it's not true."
Tell me you're not a criminal.
Tell me you don't steal for a living.
Be the man I thought you were.
"I can't," he shakes his head.
"No," I back away. "No. No. No."
"Bella, listen to me. I don't have a lot of time," he starts. "I know you're pissed. You have every right to be. You have every right to be pissed. You have every right to be ashamed of me because I'm ashamed of me," he pauses. I hear the sound of police sirens. "You are the best part of me. I meant what I said today. You're going to do great things. Promise me something," he looks me in the eye.
"Promise that you'll reach your full potential. Don't let anyone lead you astray. Don't let anyone tell you that you aren't worthy of what you want. Please…please don't screw your life up trying to get back at me. Be better than me. Okay."
"Uh huh," I promise, my eyes filling up with tears.
"Don't settle. Never settle…not in life…never ever in love. You deserve the world. Got that?"
"Tell your mother that I'm not mad at her," he stuffs stacks of money from the suitcase in his jacket and pockets. "I'll always love her no matter what," I see him strap something around his body.
"Uh huh," I nod again, tears streaming down my face.
"When you think about me, don't think of this," he motions to the scenario happening around us. "Think of Fenway. Okay? We'll always have that. I want you to go every year. Have a beer for me," tears fall, as he tries to laugh. The sound of the sirens is getting closer. The dark night is quickly becoming illuminated with red and blue police lights.
"Right behind home plate," I nod my head.
"Save me a seat," he kisses my forehead, before falling off the roof.
"Daaaaaad!" my heart stops, just before he starts flying through the Boston skyline and I see a parachute open.
That was the last time I saw my father.