A/N: Happy 2014! I hope everyone is ringing in the New Year wonderfully!
So…I promised you all a new story in 2014, and here we go!
Thanks so much to my beta, Michelle Renker Rhodes, for once again, embarking on another journey with me. Love you lots, Girlie. 3
This will post twice a week, Mondays and Thursdays for now, but those dates may change based on my RL schedule.
It will be in alternating POVs for the most part, though next chappy is also EPOV.
Questions will no doubt pop up along the way, and I'll answer as many as I possibly can without giving too much away. ;)
Now without further ado…
Chapter 1 – Serenity Now
My hand curls around the neck of the half empty bottle, fingertips stroke its smooth coolness, the shape round and familiar. When I drop my head, I can taste it in my memory, feel the heat of it on my tongue, the soothing burn on its way down my throat. I swallow thickly.
"God grant me the serenity to accept the things-"
Bang! Bang! Bang!
"Uncle Ed, how long you gonna be in there?"
"-I can't change, the courage to change the things-"
Bang! Bang! Bang!
"Come on, Uncle Ed! You're seriously worse than a girl in there!"
"-I can, and the wisdom to-"
Bang! Bang! Bang!
"What the hell, Uncle, Edward? Are you jacking off in there or something?"
"-know the difference," I finish through clenched teeth, yanking open the cabinet under the small sink and quickly shoving cleaning liquids, shampoo bottles and all the other shit out of the way, so I can stash the half empty bottle-
There's a blue and white box I hadn't noticed before, the words Teen Spirit Feminine Pads printed on it in swirly script.
"Fuck," I mutter to myself, "when the hell did this happen?"
While the banging intensifies, I hustle the liquor bottle back into the black Drano box for safekeeping. I won't put it to my mouth, for my own sake as well as the sake of the pain in the ass about to break down the bathroom door. The bottle just serves as a reminder now: a daily warning.
Hauling the bathroom door open, I glare down at my niece, but the blue eyes glaring back up defiantly are so much like her mother's, and that damn smirk is pure Jasper, and as aggravating as she is, I've got to fight to stay pissed off at her.
"First of all, Mel, I was in the bathroom for ten minutes, so calm down. Second, I need you to clean up that language. A kid your age shouldn't be talking about-"
"Uncle Edward, I'm almost thirteen! Practically a woman! You think I don't know about guys jacking off?"
"Melody," I say tightly, "I said stop. Whether you know about that stuff or not, I don't want you talking about it. And not that it's any of your business, but no, that's not what I was doing."
"Yeah, sure, whatever." She rolls her eyes and walks past me into the bathroom, slamming the door behind her.
I lean up against the wall and groan quietly, pounding my fists and crown against the drywall a few times. A few months ago, I would've chased away the irritation with a tall shot of-
Half an hour later, I'm the one banging on the bathroom door.
"Jesus Christ, Mel, I'm going to be late for work, and you're going to be late to school!"
"Almost done! Almost done!"
"Un-fucking-believable. And she's got the balls to rush me," I mutter to myself while tying up my work boots and then adjusting the tool belt around my hips, making sure I've got a couple of pencils in one back pocket and measuring tape in the other. I roll a pack of cigarettes under my sleeve. My fingers tap out an irritated beat over the hard hat under my arm.
The door to the bathroom opens.
"Dude, they need to add a Patience Management portion to those AA meetings of yours cuz you seriously need to get a grip."
She rushes past me with her head down, picking up her backpack from the table as she goes.
"Hold it right there, Melody Cullen."
She stops with her back to me, and her small shoulders rise and fall, long, black hair – just like her mother's – swaying behind her.
"What the hell do you think you're wearing?"
"What are you talking about?"
"Melody, turn around."
She turns around slowly, little nostrils already flaring. At least I think they are. It's kind of hard to tell with all the bright red junk on her lips and the black shit around her eyes.
With another groan, I roll my eyes to the ceiling. "Mel, first go wash all that garbage off of your face, and then go change into something more...decent."
"What?! What's wrong with my face? And what do you mean something decent? What's wrong with what I'm wearing?" She tries to pull on the hem of her shirt, as if doing so will magically make it grow another six inches.
"For starters, you've got more crap on your face than a circus clown. And that shirt looks like it would fit a two-year old. And let's not even get into the problem with those jeans…" I scowl and wave a hand in the direction of the gaping holes on the tight denim barely covering her left thigh.
"There's no way you're stepping foot out of this apartment looking like that, you know that, right?"
"Why not? All the girls in my school wear-"
"I don't give a rat's ass what the girls in your school wear. You're my responsibility, not them. Your parents would've never let you-"
"Well they're not here, are they?" she shrieks, looking exactly like Alice when she does so: the same fire in her blue eyes; the fire that branded my brother from day one.
I draw in a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Look, I know today's going to be difficult for-"
She doesn't let me finish before she drops her backpack and storms into her small bedroom.
"Fine, I'll change, but don't blame me now if we're late!"
The bedroom door slams, and I shut my eyes tight. Jesus, I love her, I swear I do, but some days I have no idea why they picked me over Rose, or even over Alice's own parents. What am I going to do with her?
What am I going to do with her?
Another ten minutes go by before she's finally out, having washed her face and changed from the toddler sized clothing into baggy sweats and a fitted tee. I'm still not crazy about the way this shirt outlines curves that I'd swear weren't there just last week, but at least it covers up her stomach, and damn there's that box of "feminine pads" under the sink now, and I guess I'm supposed to have some sort of talk with her?
Her clear blue, makeup-less eyes glare straight ahead; pretty face hard and angry as she walks by me and picks up her back pack.
When I turn the pick-up onto Hicks Street, I know I've got to approach the subject now if I plan to do so before we reach her school – or before I chicken the fuck out. How the hell do you have this convo with a kid, and a female one to boot?
"So Mel…" I very casually rest my left arm across the door's arm rest and lean back against my seat. Cool. Casual. "I saw that box of…uhm…feminine products under the sink."
She's got her head turned, staring out her window. Been like that the entire ride. It's a tough day for her, for both of us, and Carlisle has warned me not to let her retreat into herself too much today, whatever the hell that's supposed to mean.
"So when did this happen?"
"Seriously, Uncle Edward?"
"What?" I snort. "No big deal. All girls around your age go through that shit, right?" I try not to grimace.
With a dramatic huff, she swivels my way. I feel more than see her wry grin because my eyes are on the windshield, navigating the truck through the early morning Brooklyn traffic. Plus, this entire convo will go a lot easier if I don't have to actually look at her.
"Uncle Ed, Mom already explained all the changes my body would go through when I became a woman, and she and Dad both gave me the birds and bees talk. You've been spared that much, at least."
I've got this insane urge to wave a victorious fist high up in the air because thank God. Seriously, thank God for one less thing. But I repress the impulse, and now that we don't have to have this talk, I attempt to bullshit my way out of the rest of it.
"It would've been no problem anyway, Mel, if you'd wanted to talk about it. You know that right?"
She doesn't answer me, and yeah, I'm pretty much grateful for that.
"I told Aunt Rose when it happened last month," she says eventually. "She took me to Target and picked out the prettiest, most colorful box of pads we could find because you know, the flowers on the cardboard container will make the entire process so much more fun." Her tone drips sarcasm. "Then she went through the entire talk again, even though I told her that Mom had already filled me in. Of course, Aunt Rose's was so much more helpful. 'Don't let any boys touch your boobs or your flower, and don't ever let'em stick their penises in your vagina because now you can make a baby!' Ugh, thank God Mom and Dad didn't leave me to her. I think I would've blown my brains out after six weeks, never mind six months!"
"Alright, Melody, she's just trying to help," I say firmly. "Cut her some slack."
"I don't see how she and Dad were related."
"Well they were. The three of us are- were. Look, your Aunt Rose may be a bit…uptight, but she just says those things because she cares about you. You know that, right?"
We make a right onto Henry Street, and when the traffic light turns red, I take yet another deep breath. "Mel, how do you want to handle today?"
"What's today?" she asks dully, staring out her passenger side window again.
"You know what today is." With a deep sigh, I add, "We can go visit them, but it'll have to be late tonight because I've got to finish up some stuff at work, and then I've got my meeting…"
"Whatever, Uncle Edward. Just drop me off at the corner. I want to walk the rest of the way."
"Yeah. I don't need to be driven right to the foot of school like a baby. Besides, those school monitors make me sick with the way they drool all over you every time you drop me off. Especially the red-head that's always asking me if you're seeing anyone. "No?" She puts her hands on her waist and sticks her chest out, and I can only assume she's imitating the red-head in high heels that does tend to grin my way pretty lustily when I drop off Mel. "Well, then please make sure you tell that hottie uncle of yours that I'm single, and I said hi!" She giggles and then rolls her eyes. "They used to drool all over Dad too, but not in front of Mom."
When the light changes, I pull into the corner at the next block and put the car on park.
"Yeah," I snort wistfully, "your mom would've kicked some asses. Never took shit from anyone, not even her own parents, which is why they disowned her when she married my brother. Matter of fact, your dad was a bit scared of her too, remember?" I grin, hoping the comment generates at least a small smile, a snort even, but that's not what I get. Not today.
Apparently, she's still on another train of thought – or pretending to be.
"Maybe I should just inform them that you only deal in fuck buddies. That might shut'em up. Then again, the red-head looks like the type that might enjoy a quick hook-up. Have you seen those heels on her?"
With a low groan, I turn to my niece. "Mel, you seriously need to cut it out with that shit. I don't deal in…those sorts of buddies."
She crooks a brow at me, just like my brother Jasper used to when he was calling me out.
"What do you call Heidi then?"
"I call her a friend and a next door neighbor," I sneer.
"A friend and neighbor with benefits, a.k.a: fuck buddy."
"Mel," I close my eyes and count to five before reopening them because I read somewhere that shit should help. "The relationship that Heidi and I may or may not have once had is none of your business, and once again, you need to chill with that language. You may be close to thirteen and pms-ing-"
"I am not pms-ing. That was last month."
"Regardless, you're the child here, and I'm the adult, and you need to show some respect. Now get your butt to school. I'll see you at home later, and then we'll go to the cemetery tonight."
She stares at me, and for a split second, something in the walls she's trying to protect herself with today seems to crack. Her bottom lip quivers.
"Mel…look, I know things are rough right now, but it's a new school year, and-"
"Whatever. Bye, Uncle Edward." Her voice shakes.
She flips around and grabs the door handle, and I fucking hate myself because I have no goddamn clue what I'm doing here. No clue at all. But then, abruptly she turns back to me.
"I want to take dance lessons."
"Becca takes hip hop lessons at this dance studio a few blocks from school. It's called Baila. She's says it's really good, and that the dance teacher is really young and pretty and kicks some serious ass. She can dance everything! Please, Uncle Edward? It's only three days a week: Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. A bunch of the kids in my school go there and they say it's sick!"
"Sick means…cool, right?"
She rolls her eyes. "Yes, it's cool. Dude, are you twenty-eight or forty-eight? Come on, Uncle Ed, I'm the only kid who doesn't have any after school activities."
"Because I work late, Mel, and I've got my meetings, and you're the one who doesn't want to ask Rose or your grandparents-"
"We don't have to ask Aunt Rose or my stupid grandparents. The studio is right in the neighborhood. I could go home after school, get my homework done and then take the train back to the studio."
"You know I don't like you on trains or walking around the streets after dark."
"Then you could pick me up after your meetings!"
A car horn blares behind me, making Mel jump. I twist my neck around and see a cop car with its lights on, urging me to move out of the "No Standing" area where I've parked.
"I've got to go; we'll talk tonight-"
"Please, Uncle Edward!" she pleads desperately. "Becca says tonight is Bring-A-Friend Night. She can take me as a guest, and if I like it, I can sign up right after class!"
Fuck, I don't even know how much shit like this costs, and it's not like we've got a hefty stream of cash flow. My brother and his wife left me their precious twelve year old – and not much else. Oh, Alice's rich fucking parents will give me money if I ask for it – but then I've gotta up the kid. That's the deal.
And there goes another loud blare of the horn, this time accompanied by the bright lights of the squad car and the siren.
"Mel, I'm gonna get ticketed."
"Please, Uncle Edward, please! I swear I'll never ask for anything else again! Ever! Just let me go tonight, and then you can come pick me up and decide!"
She looks at me through those big, blue eyes.
When she was a baby, she was all eyes and jet black hair on this tiny, chubby body.
I picture her cradled in Alice's arms; carried high on Jasper's shoulders. Their pride and joy.
With a deep exhalation, I square my jaw and pinch the bridge of my nose. "Now I'm going to have to leave my meeting early."
"Yes!" she throws a fist pump high in the air before wrapping her arms around my neck. "Thanks, Uncle Ed."
I pat her small back softly, wondering what the hell I just let her talk me into.
What the hell am I doing here? Jesus, someone give me a clue, because I have no idea.
I've got no idea.
A/N: Thoughts? Give'em all to me!
Next update on Monday! Keep enjoying the first few days of the year!