This outtake is long overdue. I'm sure it has been a while since most of you have read Silence & Security (if at all). This is the story of an older Edward and Bella - both single parents in their late 30s – who are neighbors in a Seattle suburb.
Bella is a widow, her husband Jacob having taken his own life when their daughter Renee was barely three. Renee was so badly traumatized by the discovery of her father's body that she becomes an elective mute for some years, rarely able to speak even to those closest to her.
Silence & Security is the story of how Edward and Bella meet and fall in love. And how - despite the complexity of their single parenting lives and the challenges of the past – love is finally enough to build and keep a blended family together for always.
In one chapter of S&S, Bella is visited by Jacob's younger cousin, Seth. He arrives at night, not wanting Renee to see him and perhaps confuse him for Jacob. Though Seth only appears in that one scene, the implication is that he could play a role in Renee's life, perhaps to keep her connected to her Quileute heritage.
It was my first fanfic. At the time, a reader asked to learn more about Seth and Renee. I promised I'd do that. It's nearly a year later – that reader is now one of my best friends, and we're meeting next month for the first time. I couldn't have survived the last year without her, and I'm grateful for her every day.
This is for Algie.
It was just before dawn, and a light drizzle was falling. Even out on the water, the cool of early morning had a taste of the heat and humidity that would follow later in the day. The fish didn't seem to be biting, but the bugs sure were.
Seth Clearwater hated fishing. Even as a boy, he hadn't enjoyed it - too much sitting still. He suddenly remembered his father admonishing him for wiggling in the boat too much. Seth was abruptly swept with longing for his dead father. For a moment, he thought he could get a whiff of Harry's old pipe. Then it was gone.
Dad, I wish you were here now to help me, he thought.
The other person in the boat did not have any problem sitting in motionless silence. Like her grandfather Charlie, Renee was seemingly born to fish and had been doing so since she was old enough to hold a rod.
She sat without a word in the bow, gazing out over the water. Her long black curls were bundled in a ponytail that stuck out the back of a Seattle Mariners baseball cap. Seth couldn't see her face clearly in the dim light, but he had the feeling she was wearing the same sullen expression she'd worn for the month and a half she'd been with him on the reservation.
For all the good this damn summer is doing her, anyway.
Bella had called him in June, weeping. For a moment, Seth had been frozen with terror, thrown back in time a dozen years to when he'd gotten the news that his cousin Jacob had died at his own hand, leaving Bella a widow in her 30s. After a few urgent questions, Seth had learned this was a crisis of another kind.
Renee Black-Cullen was 14 then. And, it seemed, getting herself into a world of trouble in high school. Cutting classes. Smoking. Hanging out with a tougher crowd. Experimenting with booze. When Edward had caught his adopted daughter huffing glue with a couple of boys in her room, her parents had realized something was wrong – very wrong – with Renee.
The Cullen household had not been a happy one in the weeks following that discovery. From what Bella told him, Edward had screamed himself hoarse. Nothing had worked – groundings, loss of privileges, family meetings. Things had gone rapidly downhill.
Whatever the problem was, Renee wasn't talking about it – not to her parents, not even to her older step-sister Lily, with whom she was so close. It had been years since she had been in therapy for either her elective mutism or her private traumas. When Edward and Bella had brought up the possibility of her returning to counseling, Renee dug in. She did not want to go back to the psychiatrist. She would, however, accept a compromise.
Seth was the compromise. Or at least, a summer on the Quileute reservation outside of Forks was.
Despite his best efforts, Edward's trepidation at this plan had showed more than a little when Renee's parents dropped her off. Seth couldn't blame him. Most people wouldn't consider a reservation to be the ideal spot for a young person with budding alcohol and drug issues. But the Quileute res had a pretty good reputation, and Renee would be kept busy helping look after Seth and Amy's two-year-old daughter, Sarah.
And help she did. Renee was an excellent au pair, having gained plenty of experience as an older sister to Baby Jake. (They still referred to him as Baby Jake even though the boy was nearly seven and hated the nickname.) But though she was friendly and loving with little Sarah, Renee hadn't lowered the walls to let Seth in.
He had tried everything. Being a father figure. A best friend. He had been stern, he had been loving. But in the end, he had been shut out. That had hurt more than he expected. Seth and Renee had been close since she was nearly eight – but no longer, it seemed.
Pained by her rejection, Seth had cooled toward Renee, even though he knew he shouldn't take it so hard. She used to be so happy, he thought. What went wrong? Do all teenage girls end up like this? Why is she acting like this?
Later, he thought. I'll deal with her later.
Two nights later, Seth awoke suddenly from a deep sleep. At first, he thought it was Sarah crying out that had roused him. Then he heard a muffled voice from somewhere outside their partly opened window.
"Shut up, you'll wake up my Uncle Seth." Renee's voice floated into the room. Seth rolled over and squinted at the clock. 2:49 A.M. What the hell?
"Nobody heard," replied a sulky male voice. Seth was wide awake then, fully alert. He smelled cigarette smoke on the breeze, heard the sloshing sound of a bottle being passed around. His heart sank. He slipped silently out of bed and down the hall, following the sounds. There were two, maybe three masculine voices along with Renee's.
Bella is for sure gonna kill me, he suddenly thought.
The kids were on the back step of the house. The kitchen window was closest and conveniently kept open to let in the cooler night air. He leaned against the kitchen counter, his arms folded against his bare chest. And listened.
"He ain't your uncle anyway," said one of the boys. Seth made him as Dan, one of Jared's sons. A decent enough kid, but with a bit of an attitude now that he was 16.
"I know," said Renee defensively. "But what else am I supposed to call him? First Cousin Once Removed Seth? That's dumb." Seth heard the sound of the bottle being tipped up, followed by a low, growling belch. "Gross," said Renee. "Say excuse me."
"You're pretty fucking bossy," another voice said. Seth shifted uneasily – that sounded like Jonah from down Makah way. But he was nearly 20, wasn't he? What was he doing here, hanging around with Renee? "Coming down here, acting like one of us." The boy's voice was cold and mean.
"Renee is one of us," someone said. That was Eli, Seth's 15-year-old nephew. Eli adored Renee. Seth was vaguely relieved that he was there, although he knew Leah would beat the ever-loving snot right out of her son if she knew he was out drinking and smoking in the middle of the night.
"No she's not," replied Jonah, and Seth could almost hear the sneer in his voice. "She's a fucking half-breed." There was a sudden silence from outside at the appalling epithet. "That's what we call your kind around here, ya know."
More silence. Then Renee's thin, dull voice in the night.
"I know. That's what they call me back home, too."
"Renee," he said, his voice breaking the dawn stillness. Her dark head tipped up slightly and she squinted at Seth. They looked at each other for a long moment. "I heard you out drinking with the boys on the back step the other night."
Renee lowered her eyes and reeled in her line a little, jiggling it expertly.
"You gonna yell at me now?" she said listlessly.
"No," Seth replied in a very low voice. "I'm gonna apologize." She stared at him in disbelief, and Seth knew he had his moment. Now or never.
"Renee, by the time you were five, you had already dealt with more challenges than most people see in a lifetime. And then within another couple of years, you went from being on your own with your mom to having a new father figure in your life, an older step-sister, and then a baby brother." Seth looked down at the rod in his hands and then back up at the girl in front of him.
"Being a teenager is hard. I don't know why all of us expected that it would somehow be easier for you. Maybe because you've been so strong for so much of your life. I forget that you're only 14, Renee, and have some heavy baggage to carry along with you. There's a limit to what a person can endure before they push back. I think maybe you've been trying to tell us for a while that you've reached your limit, and then some.
"I can't speak for your parents, baby, but I can speak for myself when I say this: I think I've been expecting too much of you. And I owe you an apology for that."
Renee hadn't moved or spoken during his little talk. As the sky to the east began to glow with approaching daylight, Seth could see that her brown eyes had filled with tears. She blinked, and two wet trails ran down her cheeks.
"I've let you down," she said in a choked voice. "I've let everyone down. Mom and Dad. You. Lily, Baby Jake. My teachers at school. Even my Daddy in heaven. I'm so bad."
"No," said Seth in a rough voice. "No. Your daddy – your first daddy – would be proud of you, Renee. I can't even tell you how much."
"But I've done things I shouldn't have."
Seth chuckled around the lump in his throat. "Like your daddy didn't," he said ruefully. "Jacob got into his share of trouble at your age and older too. So did I. All kids do, honey. It's part of growing up. It doesn't mean that you should do things that are wrong – and believe me, staying out until the middle of the night drinking with older boys from the Makah reservation, that's wrong. But it doesn't mean you're bad either." Seth could see that Renee didn't fully understand what he was saying, but at least she was listening.
"Listen, this part of life – it's about finding out who you are and making a place for yourself in the world. We all get a little lost in the process, but most find their way out the other side without too much damage."
Renee looked at Seth sadly. "I don't know anything about who I am. I don't fit in back home, and I don't really belong here. I don't know who I'm supposed to be. I don't even know if I'm white or a Quileute. Shouldn't I know which one I am by now?"
This, at least, was something Seth could understand.
"C'mon," he said gently. "Let's reel in these lines and go grab some breakfast. Then I want to take you down the shoreline, to where your daddy and I used to hang out when we were younger. And then maybe, I think we'll go visit your daddy."
"You mean, go see where he's buried?" asked Renee. "I've seen that place before."
"I know," said Seth with a sad smile. "But sometimes when you have troubles, it helps to talk to your dad. Even when he's not there to talk back to you. Trust me."
A few hours later, Seth sat slumped in the front seat of his truck, smoking a cigarette. He knew he shouldn't do it, especially in front of Renee. Amy was always on him about it. But sometimes, a guy just needed a smoke. This was one of those times.
He flicked the butt out the open window and sat up when he saw Renee emerge from the little graveyard, her face wet with fresh tears. But her step, he noted, seemed a little bit lighter.
Seth had no illusions that one morning of self-discovery would turn Renee around. Like any other adolescent with grief to spare, she'd have to find her own way through it. Hell, there were a few graves in that very cemetery of kids who hadn't succeeded.
But for Renee Black-Cullen, today had been a start.