Daddy's Little Girl: An Outtake From The Sharpest Lives
Banner made by: lvtwilight09
Disclaimer: Twilight isn't mine, and neither is the song My Little Girl. I do however own this storyline, so yay for me.
Author's Note: Inspiration for this outtake came from the song My Little Girl by Tim McGraw. I highly suggest listening to it either before reading or while you are reading this. Special thanks to Kyla for holding my hand while I worked through writing this, and to Massy for being an awesome pre-reader.
Another Saturday…another day without my little girl, day number 1,923 to be exact, not including the once time I saw her when I got a call about her being arrested for prostitution. It's been a little more than five years since she left, vanished without a trace. No one knew where Bella went and it seemed as if she didn't want to be found. There wasn't even much I could do to try and find her since she was eighteen and legally an adult. There were no signs of foul play, just a bunch of her things packed up and gone from her room and her truck was gone, all of which just pointed towards her up and leaving home.
There was no denying why Bella left. Ever since the Cullens left town she seemed to just give up and stop living. Those first few months, Bella was practically comatose. I don't think she said more than ten words to me then, most of the time it was some God awful combination of grunts, sighs, and sobs. Every time I looked at my little girl and saw just how broken she had become – seeing her look haunted by some unknown horror that left her living as an empty shell of a person – I died a little inside. I felt more and more each day as if I was failing as a father because I didn't know how to help my child feel better.
I shuffle into the kitchen in an attempt to make myself some semblance of breakfast. Opening the fridge I realize I have no eggs, not that I would be able to cook them anyway, and the milk is about two weeks past its expiration date, looking more solid than liquid in its container. I guess cereal is out too. Sighing, I grab the butter from the fridge and put it on the counter as I throw some bread into the toaster.
Once Bella disappeared I almost turned into her. I stopped living, all I did was spend my time trying to find the one good thing I did in my life, and every time a lead turned into a dead end I just wanted to curl up and disappear. I stopped taking care of myself, forgot things like getting to work on time, paying the bills, and eating regularly. It took Sue stepping in and me almost losing my job for me to snap out of it. Sue reminded me how I needed to care for myself, that it wouldn't do me any good to slowly kill myself because I'd need to be strong if I ever wanted to find Bella, bring her home and help her get better.
I wanted to be bitter and angry towards the Cullens, but I simply couldn't. Bella never explained what happened that day between Edward and her, but from what I heard from the Webers, Dr. Cullen had been offered a better paying position in a hospital in Los Angeles and Edward called things off because of the distance and not wanting to hurt Bella in the long run. Not that I ever really cared for the boy to begin with, but I did have to respect him for trying to look after Bella, despite how it all turned out. I guess the reason why I was never fond of him was because I knew. I could tell from how Bella looked at him, acted around him that he was her Renee. Knowing that is what made it all the more difficult to watch my baby suffer.
Renee was my world, and I knew I would never love another the way I loved her. When Renee left me it damn near broke me, and there was nothing anyone could do to help me. I needed time to work through it all on my own, and while I came out okay in the end, it was me who had to get myself through it. Knowing that, knowing that there was in truth nothing I could do but wait for Bella to get through this heartbreak on her own and be there waiting for her on the other side hurt more than anything else because I'm her father, I was supposed to keep her from getting hurt, or at least be able to fix it if she did, but this…I couldn't fix this.
Grabbing my half burned toast from the toaster, I put some butter on it and plop down in the chair by the kitchen table. I've almost forgotten what the table looks like. Since Bella ran off, it has become a sort of office for me where I kept track of everything I've done to try to find her…maps with possible sightings marked off, stacks of missing person posters, copies of the reports filed with the police here in Forks as well as Port Angeles, Seattle and Tacoma, reports from private detectives I had hired and my own notes from my weekends trying to find my daughter.
Shoving some of the papers aside, I toss my breakfast down on the table and start eating, unable to hide the grimace that forms on my face as I taste the burnt part of the bread. You'd think that after all this time I would have started to learn how to cook for myself, but I just couldn't bring myself to try. Bella had always taken care of the cooking, and I guess on some level I refused to learn how to in the hopes that she would come back, even if only for the reason that she knew I was more dangerous in the kitchen than I was when I was armed with a gun.
I guess knowing how Bella loved cooking should have been the first clue to tip me off with just how bad things were getting with her when she started forgetting to cook or complained about how I was a grown man and should know how to take care of myself. I was just so damn happy to finally start seeing her spend time with other people again; I failed to notice what was really going on. Once Bella started talking to the other kids at school and hanging out with people, I thought I would finally see Bella start to heal. I never thought or expected to see the changes in her that I did. She started sleeping late, stopped hanging out with Jacob, began missing curfew, and there were rumors around town about how she was sleeping with all the boys and drinking most nights…I knew how gossipy and malicious people here could be so I just tried to ignore it all.
I tried being stern with her, hoping that more stringent boundaries would help her get back on track, but then the calls from the school started about missing assignments and skipped classes. We started fighting all the time. Bella upset because she felt that she was an adult and should be able to do as she pleased, and me yelling and getting frustrated because my Bella…my little girl was disappearing before my eyes and I had no clue how to get her back.
The night I got the call from the high school telling me that there was no way she'd be able to graduate was the worst. I snapped, angry at myself for letting things get this bad and angry at Bella for throwing her future away. Bella and I had our biggest and what would end up being our last fight. She stormed out of the house and went God knows where. I should have gone after her, should have fought harder to get her to open up to me. I should have tried to find help for her or just forced her into moving to Jacksonville like I had threatened to do before. There are just so many what ifs and I can't help but wonder if I had done just one thing different, if my daughter would still be here today.
A few hours after Bella left I got the call about her being brought into the hospital for alcohol poisoning. As soon as I got to the emergency room, one of my deputies filled me in on the details about how Tyler Crowley found Bella passed out in front of The Lodge and how she was barely breathing. When the doctors came to talk to me, I was lost in the medical mumbo jumbo they were trying to explain, only catching and understanding snippets of what they said…respiratory distress, liver damage, and unknown potential for brain damage being a few. I was never one who was much for religion or prayer, but believe you me I prayed and prayed that night, promising God anything he wanted if he would just spare my daughter and make her well again…he only answered half of my prayer.
Several days after the incident as we referred to it, Bella was medically cleared to go home. I laid out an even stricter set of rules, and was thankful when she agreed to them without a fight. I foolishly thought that this whole experience was a wakeup call for Bella, but when I came home from work that night…my world completely came crashing down around me. That was the night I had found Bella gone.
When I first got home and saw the truck wasn't in the driveway, I thought that maybe Bella had gone to pick up her prescription from the pharmacy since we had forgotten to fill it earlier in the morning. As soon as I had gotten inside the house though, I knew something was wrong. Everything was a mess and when I checked Bella's room and noticed her things were missing I knew I had lost my baby girl for good.
I'm not ashamed to admit I cried like a baby, pleaded with a God who for whatever reason refused to answer my pleas and prayers, and begged anyone and everyone who would listen to help me bring my daughter home and get her the help she needed. I wasn't stupid, I knew the statistics for finding runaways, but I couldn't help but hold on to my hope that I would be one of the lucky ones. At first, I tried tracking Bella's movements through her bank account, checking where she used her card and then driving like mad to the location in the hopes that I would be able to find her. I never did, and when I saw the transaction where Bella took out the last of the money from her account and closed it, I knew I lost my one solid link to ever being able to find her.
Everything changed for me once Bella left. I stopped going fishing with Billy; I just went through the motions at work. I was living in a daze; the only time I seemed to actually function like a real person was when I was trying to track down Bella. I lashed out a lot at anyone who got in my way, who told me to just let her go. I couldn't do that…how could anyone even think to suggest that. I'm her father, and I could and would never give up on my daughter no matter what happened. I spent a good deal of time in the hardware store buying drywall patches for the countless number of holes I ended up punching in the walls of the house out of frustration. Never once did I damage Bella's room though. I could barely bring myself to go into it when she first left, but over time I found just going in there to be comforting. It was the only way I was able to feel close to my little girl. I never changed a thing in the room either, I needed to leave it just the way it was so that when Bella came home she would see that I had never once forgotten her or gave up on her.
Finishing up my toast, I toss the plate into the sink, ignoring the clattering as it comes into contact with the other dishes that have piled up. I promise myself that I'll clean them even though I know the reality is I will end up having no clean silverware, dishes or glasses to speak of and will probably be eating with my hands and drinking out of containers before Sue finally gives in and cleans everything for me. I feel bad for letting things go, but having a clean plate to eat off of isn't high on my priority list when my daughter has been missing for five years.
Moving in to the living room, I sit in my recliner and pick up the photo album off of the coffee table. It's just another part of the sad, pathetic routine that had become my life. In all of the time that had passed since Bella left, I spoke with her once on the phone, when she called begging me for money. It took everything in me to say no because I couldn't bear the thought of me giving her money for drugs or alcohol and I was convinced that's what she wanted it for. She never called me again. After that I managed to see her once for all of twenty minutes when I had to bail her out of jail when I got a call from an old buddy about my daughter being arrested for prostitution.
Seeing her that day I think was agony. There was no light in my daughter's eyes; she looked like a complete stranger to me. She was far too thin, with stringy hair and dark circles under her eyes. After they released her from the cell we stood there awkwardly for several minutes, neither of us knowing what to do or say. I tried to hide the disappointment and sadness I was feeling, but I doubt I did a very good job. By the time either of us thought to say anything, we were already outside the police station. I was struggling to find something to say; anything to get Bella to talk to me, to agree to come home with me, but by the time I tried to speak Bella already whispered a sad sounding "Thanks Charlie" and ran off in the opposite direction.
I almost broke down when I heard her voice. I could hear in it how much she was hurting. Add to that the fact that she called me Charlie, and I was done for. For so long all I had wanted was my little girl back, to hear her call me dad again, and now that I had found her, she called me Charlie, her tone not even giving a hint to the fact that we were actually father and daughter, but sounding more as though we were nothing more than casual acquaintances.
I tried running after her, I stayed in town for a week looking everywhere for her…alleyways, gentlemen's clubs, homeless shelters, but couldn't find her anywhere. I hated to leave knowing I was finally in the same city as my little girl, but I needed to return to Forks because of work. As much as I wanted to return to where I last saw Bella, I never did. I figured she moved on to another town and from what I've gathered she wouldn't be found if she didn't want to be. My friend at the police station did offer to keep an eye out for her for me and let me know if he ever heard anything. I never got so much as a phone call from him, and I wasn't sure if that was a good thing or not.
As I look through the old photo albums, I let the tears flow freely. It's the only time I let myself cry anymore. I had been so all over the place emotionally, that eventually restricting when I would let myself vent about everything became the only way I could make it through the day. Each picture is precious to me, reminds me of the all too few memories of the far too short time I got to have with my daughter. I can still remember how I thought she looked like an angel the day she was born. Wrapped in pink, so soft and warm; she was the definition of a miracle to me. I was wrapped around her finger since the day Bella was born.
I look at the pictures of Bella as she grew up and I can't help but wonder about her now and what could have been….would she have found love again, where would she have gone to college and what would she have majored in. It seems so cruel to only have these photos as memories and dreams of what will seemingly never happen, no matter how much I wish it would.
I'm shaken out of my memories as I hear the familiar sound of the mailbox being slammed shut, alerting me that Hank has delivered the mail for the day. The mailbox is old and a bit rusty, and has to be slammed shut to make sure it stays closed, but I can't bear to part with it. Bella and I had painted it together one summer when she had come to visit when she was little and both of our handprints were on it. I'm more thankful now than ever for the varnish I sealed it with, ensuring the preservation of my daughter's tiny handprint. Every day without fail I brush my hand over hers when I check the mail…it's become my own little way of still feeling connected with Bella.
Closing the photo album and placing it back in its spot on the coffee table, I make my way out to grab the mail, certain that it will be nothing more than junk. For the longest time after Bella was gone, Sue would have to check the mail for me as marketing companies would send advertisements and other useless mail to the house in Bella's name. The first time I checked the mail after she left and I saw something sitting there with her name on it I broke down and cried for an hour in the rain outside my house, unable to move away from the mailbox and refusing to let go of the envelope with Bella's name on it. After that, Sue started coming by three times a week to sort my mail for me, moving anything with Bella's name on it into a storage box in the hall closet.
Grabbing the mail, I head back into the house and settle back into my recliner as I sort through it. There are two bills and another envelope. Setting the bills aside so I can deal with them later, I focus on the envelope. As soon as I see the handwriting, my eyes dart to the return address and my breathing starts to pick up as my heart begins to race. Everything starts to seem hazy and the words on the envelope seem to start moving, but I quickly realize it's because my hands are shaking.
One part of my mind wants to think that this is a cruel joke someone is trying to play on me, telling me that this isn't real, while the other part of my brain would know the handwriting anywhere…it was Bella's messy scrawl, something no one would have been able to fake. The realization that this is something from my daughter spurs me into action. Needing something to calm my nerves a bit, I bolt towards the kitchen and rifle through the fridge, pulling out a can of Vitamin R. Popping the top on the can, I chug half of it in one gulp before sitting down at the kitchen table. Taking an unsteady breath, I flip the envelope over and carefully open it.
I pull the pages out from inside, and tell myself that no matter what the letter says, it's a good thing. It's contact, a sign that Bella is still out there somewhere and alive, which is better than some of my fears which have replayed over and over in my head time and again. On top of the fact that she's made contact, Bella included a return address, and by doing so, has given me a lead to run with to hopefully find her. Nervously, I unfold the paper and brace myself for whatever news this letter might hold as I begin to read.
I'm not exactly sure how to start this, and I'm not even sure that you want to hear from me. I wouldn't blame you if you didn't, not after everything I have put you through. I've missed you so much Daddy, every day I've been gone I've missed you. There probably aren't words that are appropriate enough, but I just want you to know how sorry I am for leaving the way I did, and for putting you through what I'm sure was worse than a living nightmare.
Back in Forks I made so many awful mistakes, and there is so much I wish I could change. I was so lost and hurt from losing Edward that in the process of trying to cope with moving on from him, I managed to lose myself. I gave up on myself and made choices that I regret more than I could ever say.
Once Edward was gone, I was convinced I would never love again, that no other boy would ever want me. So when the boys around school started showing interest in me, I gave in to their requests for sex in hopes that it would make them stay with me. It never did, and each time the pain grew and intensified.
I couldn't handle the pain so I started drinking. I heard the rumors and whispers around town about what people were saying about me, and the drinking and partying helped me to tune it all out. I wish I was a stronger person back then, strong enough to have been able to turn to you for the help that I now know I needed.
I lost control of myself; I lost sight of all the goals I had set for myself and everything I had hoped to accomplish in life. I gave up on school, and ignored and disrespected you. It was easier for me to do that then to face the reality that I was hurting you every day. I don't know if I will ever be able to forgive myself for the pain I've cause you Dad, nor do I ever expect you to be able to either. The truth is I don't deserve the forgiveness to begin with.
I ran away from home for so many reasons. Trying to avoid the memories that haunted me, escaping the rumors and gossip that surrounded me, and getting away from my own guilt from knowing that the choices I was making were breaking you a little more each day. Once I was on my own, I did so many things that I'm ashamed of, many of which you learned about the day you bailed me out of jail.
At first I was okay on my own, slowly though I developed a drug habit to chase away the memories and to help me forget, but then my money ran out and I was both too proud and too afraid of having to face the consequences of my actions to return home to you. Once the money was gone I started selling myself in every sense of the word. I sold my body to get money to feed my habit, but the truth is, every time I sold myself, I sold a bit of my soul too. I'm working hard now to try and put myself back together, but it is still a long and hard process.
I'm sorry if I've caused you more pain by telling you everything in this letter, but the truth is that you deserve the chance to understand everything. Most importantly Dad, I need you to understand that none of what happened, none of the things I've done were to spite you, nor were they your fault. You didn't raise me to act the way I did. The choices I made were my own, the mistakes I made were my own, and now I'm finally taking responsibility and facing the consequences of my actions.
Part of the process is trying to make things right and fix the mistakes that I have made. I've stopped stripping and selling myself, and I'm no longer doing the drugs or drinking. I've even taken the exam to get my GED. While these have all been fairly recent changes in my life, I am working hard each day to ensure that they become permanent ones. I'm working hard Dad, because I hope that one day you will be able to look at me or talk about me and be proud to call me your daughter.
I'm doing okay now Dad, I have a place to live, money in my pocket and food to eat. You should know that I'm being looked after by the Cullens. I hope you don't blame any of what happened on them because it wasn't their fault. It was fate that brought them to me, and they have opened up to their home to me and welcomed me back into their family. Edward however, is not in the picture, at least not right now. I don't know if I will ever be able to work things out with him, no matter how much I love him, but only time will tell.
I hope one day that we will be able to get our relationship back, and that perhaps one day I will be able to ask you to forgive me for all of the hurt and pain I have caused you over the years. I love you Daddy. I always have, and I always will.
I finish reading the letter, noticing that Bella has included all of her contact information and set the tear stained pages aside. I'm rapidly gulping air into my lungs in my attempt to get my breathing under control and pinching myself on the arm, trying to convince myself that this is real. That the letter I just read is really from my daughter and that I really have been given a way to find her, given a second chance at having her in my life.
I know I should be angry and upset with her for everything she's put me through these past few years, but all I care about is that I've found my daughter and she's safe. She's working to make a better life for herself, accepted her past and learned from it, and is trying to move on. As far as I'm concerned, regardless of what happened, she is my child. The past is the past and nothing can be done to change it, so it's time to move forward and start trying to rebuild my relationship with Bella.
Unsure of what to do with myself, I just sit for a while as I try to wrap my head around everything that I just read. Staring at the letter, I pick it back up and read it over and over again, eventually memorizing the words. After an hour of reading the letter over and over, I enter into a stare down with my telephone. I'm dying to call her, to hear my little girl's voice again, but I'm so afraid to at the same time. As much as I've dreamt of this moment, I'm at a loss for what to say if she answers the call.
My fear of losing the chance to have my daughter back in my life wins out over my nerves of what I'm supposed to say, and with a shaky hand I dial Bella's number. My heart is racing, and I realize I'm holding my breath as I wait to see whether or not Bella will answer or if I will have come to another dead end. Just as I think the voicemail is going to kick in, I hear my daughter's voice. She sounds nervous, and I can already tell she's crying, but hearing her say the words "Hi Daddy" to me through the phone is the most beautiful thing I have heard in a long time. Releasing the breath I was holding, I try to reign in my emotions as I feel them starting to slip from under my control as I reply back to my daughter and say "Hi Babygirl."
Our phone conversation lasts for hours. We talk about a lot of what Bella wrote in the letter, discussing things she did and why, and how she's doing now. I can't express how much pride I feel as she tells me that she took and passed the exam for her GED. As our talk draws to a close, I blurt out the one question I've been dying to ask the entire time we've been on the phone, asking if I could come to visit her. Hearing Bella tell me that nothing would make her happier sets off a new round of tears, and a promise to call her back as soon as I've made my travel arrangements. Not more than twenty minutes later, I call her back to let her know I'll be seeing her in two days time.
My knee shakes nervously as the plane lands. The past two days have seemingly dragged on. Once the flight attendants give the okay for us to move about the cabin, I grab my carryon and bolt towards the door, ignoring the stares and grumbles from people I bump into along the way. They don't understand, I'm finally getting to see my daughter again. By the time I'm off the plane and in the airport, I'm running like a madman towards baggage claim. As soon as I get there, I stop dead in my tracks.
I see my Bella, my little girl…and she looks good. She looks healthier than the last time I saw her, happier too. I walk over to her and time stands still as I wrap her in my arms and hug her tightly, not ever wanting to let go. Both of us are fighting to keep from crying, when I notice Carlisle holding my luggage for me. I guess he sees the look on my face as I struggle to figure out how to manage to carry my bags while still keeping my hold on Bella as well because he offers to carry the suitcase for me. I nod in thanks, because while I know that I'm really here with my daughter, there's a small part of my brain that still thinks that if I let go of her, that she'll disappear on me again.
I spend the next few days getting to know my daughter again, rebuilding my relationship with her. We're both brutally honest with each other when we talk, and as much as it hurts at times, we come out stronger on the other side because of it. I'm finally feeling as though I can live again, and not just go through the motions every day. While I know that Bella may never come back to Forks, I'm okay with that. I understand her reasoning, after everything, there are far more negative than positive experiences there for her, not to mention that the town gossips tend to have elephants memories. I am more than happy to travel to Bella, and am already planning on retiring soon and selling the house so that I can be move and be closer to her…we've lost far too much time together for me to stay away for long now.
Getting out of the car to go back to Forks was one of the hardest things I had to do. I wanted so badly to just stay with Bella, but Mark was relying on me working the holiday so he would be able to spend it with his wife and their children. His kids were still young, still believed in the magic of Santa, and knowing the pain of not being able to be with your child, I couldn't think to take that away from him.
Before leaving, Bella and I planned my next visit for some time in March or April. What Bella didn't know was that my visit would be a permanent one. I fully planned on being retired by that point, so that I could be closer to her. Carlisle and I had talked at length during my visit about how he has cared for Bella's medical needs and how he considers her a child of his own. As odd as it was to see the whole lot of the Cullens all still looking exactly as they did five years ago, as if they were frozen in time or something, I will be forever grateful for how they have cared for Bella. There isn't a better family I could have hoped for her to be welcomed into.
After giving Bella final hug, and making her promise for about the millionth time to be sure to keep in touch and call me often, I step away and head into the airport to fly back to Forks, knowing full well in my heart that it was no longer my home. My home was as close to my daughter as I could get.
Looking at the calendar, I can't help but be excited. It's March, and I'm going to see Bella again in a few short weeks. So much had happened in the time since I last saw her. I was happier, enjoying life again. Billy and I were close again, even after the bombshell he dropped on me regarding the Cullens. I never would have believed him had he not had Jake prove it. Now I know why the kid was so huge…he was really just an overgrown mutt.
I called Carlisle the night Billy slipped about the whole vampire thing. I was understandably worried about Bella, but Carlisle was more than courteous. Answering any and all questions I had, even offering to come to Forks if I had wanted so that we could discuss everything face to face. Knowing the full truth now about Bella and Edward's relationship made her eventual downfall much easier to understand. It also made Edward's reasoning behind choosing to leave Bella in Forks easier to understand, and as much as I hated to admit it, made me respect the boy for what he tried to do. Bella didn't yet know that I knew the truth, and as much as it hurt me and Carlisle both to keep the secret, I asked him to not say anything yet, wanting to talk to Bella about it in person myself so that she could see that I had come to terms with and accepted the truth about the Cullens.
I also took the time to get all of my affairs in order. I started the process on my retirement paper work, and met up with my attorney to make sure I had things in place because I wanted to make sure Bella would be taken care of should anything ever happen to me. Even though I know she would quite literally always have the Cullens around to care for her, as a father I needed to know that I had provided for her as well.
Yawning, I make my way to bed, tired from both the day of fishing with Billy and the big dinner that Sue had made for us after the day out on the boat. Stopping by my bathroom, I pop a few antacids as I rub my chest, feeling pressure in my sternum. I really need to cut back on the rich, fried foods, heartburn is starting to creep up on me more than usual and at the rate I'm going I should just buy stock in Tums and Rolaids.
I glance at the picture of Bella and I that was taken when I went to visit her back in December. We're both smiling and happy. It's my favorite picture of the two of us. Smiling at the thought that I'll be back with my daughter soon, I close my eyes, hoping that the antacid will kick in soon to put a stop to the indigestion that is causing the increasing feeling of pressure in my chest.
As I lay in bed, I feel my breathing start to slow as my eyes close, Bella's words from my conversation with her earlier in the day playing in my head…"No matter what, I'll always be Daddy's little girl" she promised me. The promise brings a smile to my face as I feel myself let go and drift off, finally at peace with myself, at peace with the knowledge that everything is ok, that my Bella…my little girl has come home.