Beta'd by HollettLA :)
Secrets & Wishes
10 years later
"It feels weird being here without your father." Mom smiles sadly as she stands in the middle of the living room of our old house.
When it went back on the market two years ago, Mom bought it blindly, without hesitating, without flying out here. Because, by then, we knew we were on our way back here. We just didn't know exactly when it'd be.
The house looks much the same, aside from a few paint jobs the former owners did. The floor and the countertops in the kitchen are also new.
"Are you sure about this?" I ask, concerned. I've asked her several times the past few months, because I'm worried about her. Even though it's been five years now since my dad was killed in a shooting, Mom mourns him as if it happened yesterday.
I'm not indifferent toward losing Dad. I get sad when I think about it, but Mom is alive, and she's hurting. That makes her my priority.
"I've never been surer," Mom answers firmly. "I need this. I've missed Forks."
So have I. It's been a long ten years, and I'm so ready to open the clinic with Mom.
The only thing I'm nervous about is meeting ghosts from the past, especially since not many people know I have a child.
Does Edward even know?
Edward. Damn. That name sure comes with a few butterflies.
Will he see me and remember the faceless woman he fucked at that Christmas party in Seattle a few years ago?
It's only a matter of time before I run into him.
I know he's still teaching at Forks High, and I know that he and Aunt Kate have a son, who should be around eight now.
Our families have a couple friends in common… That's how we learned about their son. It's Edward's cousin—Carlisle—who happens to be married to one of Mom's friends, Esme. And since we learned about Edward's child that route, maybe he and Aunt Kate eventually found out about Masen…? I'm not sure. They didn't show up at Dad's funeral, for which I resent Aunt Kate.
I mean, I know they weren't close, but Christ, he was still her brother.
Mom received a condolence card from Aunt Kate, and it was such bullshit. I had Edward as a teacher; I know his handwriting when I see it, and he wrote that card.
"Do you want your old room upstairs or the guest room down here?" Mom asks, absently wandering over to the window. Masen is out there, playing with his action figures on a log.
He's too fucking cute. And it's hard to think he'll be ten this Christmas.
But first, I gotta get through the summer with a kid who gets bored so easily. Thankfully, I've looked up some activities for him, and the local church is organizing a few events for children. I hope he'll make some friends there.
"The guest room will be fine," I say, thinking about it. The room is slightly larger, and being downstairs has its advantages. I can share it with Mase until we've found an apartment, and he won't wake up Mom when he stomps down the stairs every morning.
I suppose I should call James to let him know we're here, though I doubt he'll care.
"He's excited to be here." There's a smile in Mom's voice as she watches Masen from the window.
I smile too, 'cause she's right. My kiddo is all for being outdoors. Hell, when he was only three and four, he insisted on tagging along when Dad went fishing or camping. Which meant I tagged along, too.
I'm definitely one of those overprotective mothers.
Speaking of that, we're so having a fence built around our backyard. Otherwise, knowing my curious son, he'll wander off right into the woods.
"Should we get something to eat before the movers get here?" I ask, checking my watch. The two trucks should be here in a few hours. This weekend, we gotta get to Seattle, too. Carlisle and Esme are watching Masen's golden retriever until we're settled and unpacked.
Masen can't be without his Chance for long.
Chance was actually my first patient. He'd been dropped off with two broken legs, bite marks along his neck, and there was no chip or collar to locate the owner. So, I took the pup home. He used to be people-shy and easily frightened, but today he's a cuddler and Masen's best friend.
"Sounds good." Mom nods. "We should drive by the clinic, too."
"Time for a haircut, baby?" I chuckle as Masen pushes back his dark hair for the tenth time since we sat down in the only diner in Forks.
He shrugs and gulps down some milk, then wipes his mouth with the back of his hand and grins at me. "Just don't cut it like you did last time."
Hey. It was one time. I accidentally got it all uneven, but it was hardly noticeable.
"I'll do my best, skater boy." I smirk and return to my meal. Glancing out the window, I see the police station across the street and nearly choke when I catch Emmett McCarty walking out, dressed in a police uniform. Well, well. Who knew that jock would become a cop? "Mom." I eye her, then Emmett, and she follows my gaze.
"I don't believe it." She snorts a laugh. "Is that Emmett?"
"Yup." Emmett was always nice enough to me since I got into sports too. We were both on the swim team, but he could be a real prick to others.
"Do you think many kids from your class stuck around?" Mom turns to me and forks a piece of chicken. "Maybe Alice?"
No idea, really. Alice and I never kept our promise. Five calls a week quickly became two calls, then one letter, then the occasional email, before it was nothing. She had big dreams of becoming a fashion designer, bigger than the dreams of becoming Mrs. Whitlock.
"I can see Jasper being in the area," I muse. He was the golden boy who went away on a football scholarship, yet it was implied he was to return and work with his father, who is the town's mayor now.
"Mom, I'm done," Masen declares, pushing his plate away. "Can I go outside?"
I swear that kid can't sit still for ten minutes. "Don't go near the street, and leave the cars in the parking lot alone." I raise a brow to show I'm serious.
He nods, jumps up, and busses my cheek before running out.
Mom chuckles softly and shakes her head. "We'll have him climbing the walls in no time."
"Without a doubt." I grin and scoop up some potato and meatloaf. "He'll be happy when school starts." And the soccer season. He loves soccer. I'm glad one of the events the church is hosting is a soccer tournament, which is next week. "I have to take him to Port Angeles to get him new shoes," I remind myself, then make a mental note to ask if they're playing on grass or gravel or turf. God forbid he shows up with the wrong outsoles and studs. "He's already outgrown his old ones."
"The Nikes I gave him?" she asks, and I nod. "Sweet Jesus. That was only a few months ago."
Yeah, well…it seems he's definitely gonna take after his father there. I'm short at five four, but James is six two. Though, that's probably the only thing Masen's inheriting from him. He has my hair, eyes, nose, and dimpled smile.
We look up to see a woman standing at our table. She looks vaguely familiar to me, and Mom seems to recognize her right away.
"Lily!" Mom stands up to hug her. "Wow, it's good to see you."
"You, too!" Lily smiles widely. "Are you back in Forks for good or just visiting?"
"We're back." Mom nods, her smile faltering slightly. She makes an effort not to let the sadness of missing Dad show, but I see it. "Bella, you remember Mrs. Hale, don't you? You went to school with her daughter."
I frown for a beat, then remember Rose Hale. "Of course." I smile politely at Lily. "How is Rose?"
"She's well." Lily nods. "She just got through a nasty divorce—she's lived in Seattle, but she's coming back now." She looks satisfied to have Rose closer. "This is where she belongs. And what about you, honey? Are you bringing a significant other back to Forks?"
This is it. This is where the gossip will start. "Just my son." I point out the window where Masen is pulling up worms from the flower beds near the exit.
"Oh, heavens." Lily's doing the math, wondering just how old Masen is.
Welcome back to Forks, Bella.
Perhaps Lily's being polite, because she doesn't inquire. She just says he's precious, then asks more about our move—what we're gonna do and so on, and Mom tells her about the veterinary clinic we're opening together.
"So, four Swans move back, and one might be leaving, then," Lily concludes, and Mom and I exchange a look of confusion. Lily clarifies. "Well, Kate is technically a Cullen, but, you know. She's still Charlie's sister, and rumor has it she's leaving Washington."
"Really." Mom cocks a brow. "We're not close, so that's news to me. I take it Edward is moving, then too?"
Now I'm definitely paying attention.
"I wouldn't count on it." Lily sighs and shakes her head. "We believe Edward and Kate are separating." Holy shit. Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit. "Kate has been offered a teaching position in Oregon, and as far as I know, Edward and little Anthony are staying here. It's such a shame—I thought they were happy together."
I'm not sure I'd go that far. I sincerely hope they loved each other; why would they stay together otherwise? But happy…? Considering how rarely I saw them in good moods, I wouldn't call them the perfect couple. That's also why I was so surprised to hear about them having a child.
"By the way, where is Charlie?" Lily asks, and gossip hour is over.
"Nana, where do you want this?" Masen stifles a yawn, his eyes glistening, and holds up a bundle of kitchen utensils. The box he's digging through is labeled "Kitchen," so I don't even know what it's doing in the living room.
"I can take that, sweetheart." Mom leaves her IKEA instructions and a half-built couch behind to assist Mase. "Bella?" She gives me a pointed look.
"It's summer. He can sleep in," I remind her. When it's school, I'm strict with his hours. Tonight, I've given him a choice: he can stay up if he helps out, or he can go to bed.
I honestly thought he'd balk at helping us unpack, but I was wrong, and now I can't go back on my word. I guess that proves how much kids are willing to do as long as they don't have to go to bed.
Once Mom returns to the living room after taking the box to the kitchen, she's got a juice box and a plate of cookies for Mase, who accepts it all with a goofy grin on his face.
"So much sugar at this hour?" I gasp, pretending to be scandalized.
Mom waves me off and sits down by the couch again. "He needs it."
Snickering, I refocus on the bookcase I'm putting together. A blanket of contentment settles over me, and I can't help but smile to myself. Providence was wonderful, but it feels so damn good to be back home. This is where I wanna build a life for Masen and me.
"So…that was quite a revelation earlier, wasn't it?" Mom's eyes flick to me quickly before she looks back to what she's doing. "I mean what Lily told us—about Kate and Edward."
"I suppose." I make sure to keep my face neutral. "I wonder if it's true. That Kate is leaving Edward and their son here." I wouldn't be able to do that, move so far away that I can't see my kid every day. "If anyone wanted to leave the small-town life, I'd expect it to be Edward." After all, he was born and raised in Chicago, then moved to Seattle for college, where he met Kate.
Mom hums. "By the way, Esme and Carlisle will visit us here next week instead. They're bringing Chance."
"That's a new development." I snort, knowing just how much Esme hates small towns. "What's the occasion?"
"You don't wanna know." Mom rolls her eyes.
"You're gonna tell me anyway, though," I tease.
She can be a gossip—when she wants to be.
"Well, yes." She comes over and sits down on the floor by me. "It seems there's trouble in paradise everywhere. When I told Esme about Edward and Kate possibly separating, Esme suddenly got very interested in 'checking in' on Edward."
"No fucking way." I admit it, I drop my jaw at that. For fuck's sake, she's married to Edward's cousin.
Yeah, and you fucked your aunt's husband, which he doesn't even know.
Ouch. I wince internally.
"That's what I said." Mom nods smugly and quirks a brow. "Maybe we've landed in the middle of a soap opera."
So it would seem. Man.
Glancing over at my son, I see my escape. He's about to fall asleep on the floor with a pile of DVDs as a pillow, which makes for a supercute photo to put on my Facebook. Once I've pocketed my phone again, I stand up and make my way over to him. "Mase?" I brush some hair away from his forehead. "Time for bed, baby."
This time, there's no arguing.