Saturday, May 30, 2009
A MOTHER’S LOVE (RENEE’S POV)
I looked around the neighborhood we’ve lived in safely for almost ten years as I watered my flowerbeds. I learned all about plants from Esme. My life was ideal now; I would never need my flowers to be more than decoration in the yard. I thought of my best friend when working in the yard and wondered how large Esme’s garden was now. I hoped and prayed it never got any bigger than it was when I left. I knew its secret. She deserved so much more than her garden. I wish I knew if she was successful raising her sons as decent men or if Carlisle won in the end like Charlie had. I would never know since I wouldn’t risk of Charlie ever discovering where we were. I missed my friend.
It’s such a peaceful neighborhood. We know everyone on our street; all longtime neighbors. That had been important to me when Phil and I were searching for a house. Longevity meant safety; we weren’t a neighborhood of strangers. We had a neighborhood watch, block parties, progressive suppers, neighborhood movie nights in the summer and Christmas decorating contests in the winter. Everyone looked out for each other.
I thanked God everyday for bringing Phil into mine and Bella’s life. He is such a wonderful man; loving, kind, considerate, gentle. He’s my rock and Bella’s father. Even if he isn’t her biological father, he treats Bella as though she is. He never made me feel guilty for not being able to have any more children. He assured me Bella was the only child he needed.
I knew she wouldn’t stay in Arizona for college. She’s been maroon and white since she was eight years old. Phil had season tickets for A & M football and baseball games and we went to as many as we could between his and Bella’s schedules. When Bella experienced First Yell at midnight for the first time she was hooked. She insisted Phil teach her the fight song the next morning before the game. Phil was so excited and I was relieved. It was the first time she showed any sign of affection and acceptance toward him. We were so worried Bella would never be able to trust him after her experience with Charlie and James before we left Forks.
I shook my head laughing to myself. They were certainly two peas in a pod now. They did everything together. Bella spent almost as much time at the ballpark with Phil as she spent with her friends. Phil taught Bella to play baseball as a way to build a relationship with her when she was younger. Bella loved softball and Phil coached her Little League team each year. Now he helped her high school coach when his team schedule allowed. Phil taught her to skate, to swim, anything to build her confidence in herself. She learned to trust again because of him. She was a normal teenage girl now; her beginning wiped out with the love and security she had all around her.
I wish Phil could adopt Bella, but to do so would mean that Charlie would know where we are. It took a couple of years before I felt safe enough to sleep through the night. I used to sleep on the floor next to her bed at night just so I could assure myself she was safe. Even all these years later, I knew Charlie would try to take her from me given the chance. I wasn’t sure just how strong the evidence I had against him would still be all these years later, but it was kept safely with our attorney just in case. We have done everything we could to ensure Bella’s safety from Charlie. We had wills in place naming JJ and Teri legal guardians if anything should happen to me while Bella was still a minor, and enough life insurance and investments between the two of us that she would be independent. Our attorney was so helpful in explaining everything we needed to do and helping us put it all in place.
Sometimes Phil worried I was too protective, keeping Bella in a safety bubble from the world, but he understood my reasons. I would have to learn to start letting go now that she was a senior. Being a senior meant freedom to teenagers; they were driving, most had part-time jobs, preparing to leave home for the first time to learn to stand on their own two feet. Phil worried Bella wouldn’t be ready. She wasn’t tough enough. I was so determined to erase the first seven years of her life from her memory that for the last ten years Bella’s life as been as ideal as we could make it. I didn’t want her to live in fear. Fear crippled you, made you a victim. When you lived in fear you allowed people to hurt you. I loved Meme’s saying, ‘Fear is false evidence appearing real.’
It took almost a year for Bella to come out of her shell, to trust that Phil wouldn’t hurt her. She was so scared of getting in trouble and being punished by any man. Charlie encouraged every bad behavior in James if it was directed toward me, and then Bella when she came. He especially encouraged his behavior with Bella. Charlie used to let James spank her as part of his twisted idea of teaching James to be a man. I was helpless to stop him as he always locked me in the basement until he and James finished. Charlie said it taught both of them; James to know he had the power and Bella to know her job was to make a man happy. I tried so hard to secretly teach James right from wrong and for Bella to stand up for herself, the way Esme was teaching her sons, but it was no use. James was Charlie’s sponge and Bella was too afraid of them.
My biggest regret was that I couldn’t save my son from Charlie’s influence. He was his daddy’s son. Charlie never allowed me to discipline him. It hurt to know my son was probably as much a monster as Charlie by now. Sometimes I would cry for the loss of James. He may have been a monster but I gave birth to him and I would always love him. I wish I could have saved him also. The day I left nearly killed me to walk away without James, but his mind was already full of Charlie’s sickness. I had to get out with Bella before it was too late for her as well.
I was scared to death when I took Bella to a doctor after we arrived in Phoenix. I actually collapsed in the doctor’s arms and wept with joy when he assured me that there were no signs of trauma or abuse to her body. I got her out in time. I knew there wasn’t much time left before Charlie moved up to actually abusing Bella when I saw the way she was eating a popsicle that day. It was the way he taught me to pleasure him when we were still in high school, after the first time I tried and ended up gagging and throwing up in his car.
Why didn’t I see it then? If only schools taught girls the warning signs to look for when they taught sex education. I was all for teaching abstinence vs. safe sex, as long as they taught the dangers beyond STD’s or pregnancy. There were so many things that can go wrong for a young girl, the stupidity of youth. I only saw his popularity on the football team, his gorgeous brown eyes, and his big burly muscles, and how everyone looked at me with envy. Charlie Swan wanted me, and no one else. I strutted around that school, always sandwiched between Charlie and Carlisle, wearing his letterman jacket like I was someone important.
Marriage to Charlie taught me I was nobody; my only purpose in life was to make him happy. I wasn’t ever to question where he spent his time or why he came home smelling of women’s perfume. Punishments were brutal and I finally realized if some other woman kept him happy, then he was easier to deal with when he came home. Whoever she was I would have liked to thank her; she actually did me a favor. Charlie’s only real complaint after he found his play toy was that I couldn’t drop out a son every year for him. It wasn’t like there was any way to predict the trouble I would have getting pregnant and then the complications with James’ delivery just compounded the problem.
Everything with Charlie came down to keeping up with the Cullen’s. Like that could ever happen. We were doing alright on his salary from the police department and our home may have been small but it was ours. He hated that he lost his scholarship and had to drop out of college. He raged against the unfairness of his life constantly. He was always worse after spending time with Carlisle. The man had more money than anyone could spend in two lifetimes. To this day I didn’t understand the complexities of the Cullen family empire. Carlisle’s family had interests in so many different ventures and then he was a surgeon on top of that. Charlie would never come close; my mistake was trying to point out the obvious.
That was when he escalated to downright dishonesty on the police force. How he never got caught was beyond me. I would almost think Carlisle paid off anyone who got suspicious of Charlie just so he’d always have a friend on the force. He could drive like a bat out of hell, and I knew he never received a single speeding ticket. Then they began their horrific idea of Charlie abusing other men’s wives for money. Charlie and Carlisle were both so evil. Charlie was terrifying each time he came home from these trips all puffed up with testosterone and wanting to ‘demonstrate’ for me everything he put some other poor woman through. I couldn’t conceive the way sickness found sickness. I often wondered if there was a billboard on some highway lit up with neon signs; ‘Got woman problems? Call 1-800-SADISTS. We’ll fix her right up for you.’
I shook myself from my depressing thoughts. I was feeling extremely sentimental today; even more than past birthdays. There was a heaviness in my heart that I couldn’t shake. I felt like time was running out to teach Bella everything she would need to know to survive life. I was going to need to stock up on tissues if this continues her entire year. I’ll be a blubbering mess by graduation.
I smiled to myself, thinking what Bella’s reaction will be later tonight to her gift. I knew she would never guess we bought her a car. Phil and I knew she would love it; it was Aggie maroon and there was an A & M window sticker on the back window. It was ready to make the trip to Aggieland next year. I took a deep breath to keep from crying at the thought.
“Hey neighbor,” a voice called.
I jumped startled and swung around spraying our neighbor with the garden hose.
“Oh my god! I’m so sorry!” I gushed in horror at what I’d done.
He started laughing. “Don’t worry about it. I was planning to take a shower anyway. I should have just brought a bar of soap with me.” He pulled his wet t-shirt away from clinging to his chest while looking down at his wet jeans.
“I’m really sorry about that,” I said, beginning to laugh. “So what happened? You lock yourself out again?”
He grinned sheepishly at me, “Yeah, you would think after 10 years I’d learn to quit doing that. Thank god for neighbors like you and Phil.”
I shook my head still laughing. “Well you know where your spare is kept in the garage.”
“Thanks again for this,” he said.
I watched him walk around the corner to the garage door before walking over to turn off the water. I shook my head, he was such a riot. He was young, only in his late twenties and of Native American descent, and a computer genius, yet so helpless at the same time. He was self-employed working from his home designing security systems and software or something like that. Phil and I never understood all the technical stuff he talked about, we were technology incompetent. Phil couldn’t even hook up the surround sound system without his help. He installed the security system in our home and for the whole neighborhood and fixed our computer when it got a horrible virus a few years back. Since then he checked our system twice a year to be sure our stuff was up to date and our computer was safe from viruses. His mind was always working coming up with some new design that he was absentminded about little things like locking himself out of his house all the time. He used to come over and call a locksmith so often that Phil finally offered to keep a spare key at our house for him. He’d been in the neighborhood almost as long as we have and has always been a good neighbor. He’d always helpful to everyone on the street.
“Got it!” he called as he headed back toward his house, his hand up in the air with his key. “I’ll bring it right back.”
I went in the house to fix a couple of glasses of tea for when he came back. I checked the clock I still had a little over an hour before I needed to pick up Bella and Phil for dinner. I heard the knock on the kitchen door that led to the garage.
“Come on in, you know it’s open,” I said loudly. I carried both glasses to the table and sat down as he came in.
He sat down and I noticed he had changed out of his wet clothes.
“Thanks again. I really don’t know how I’d survive without you and Phil for neighbors. I’d probably just end up giving half my salary to the locksmith,” he laughed.
I reached and patted his hand in sympathy. “Well that’s what neighbors are for. You know we don’t mind. You’ve been a good neighbor to us also.”
He took a drink of tea. “Thanks, that’s really good. Hey, I noticed the new SUV in the garage with the big bow on the hood. I’m guessing that’s Bella’s birthday present.”
“Yes it is. She’s going to be so surprised. Phil and I are giving her a gift certificate to the bookstore with a card while we’re at the restaurant tonight to throw her off.”
“Well, the SUV is quite a gift. I’m sure she’ll love it.” He finished the last of his tea and stood putting his glass in the sink for me. “Tell Bella I said ‘Happy Birthday’ and thanks again for the tea. I need to get back to work.”
“You’ve been working really hard lately. We hardly ever see you anymore.”
“Well the company I’m working for right now has me on a big project that has to be designed just right. There’s a lot of detail to work out before I leave tomorrow for Hong Kong.”
“I still can’t believe your moving all the way to Hong Kong. We’re going to miss you, but don’t worry about your house or anything while you’re gone. You know we’ll all keep an eye on it.”
“I know. I appreciate it. I’m sorry I’m going to miss her games this year and graduation, but I’ll mail her something from Hong Kong.”
“I can’t imagine the scope of your project that you’re going to be gone for two years.” I shook my head. “I’m still trying to figure out the new Windows program you just installed for us.”
“You’ll do fine,” he assured as I walked him out.
“Well, we’re going to miss you Embry Call. You’re a good neighbor.”
I knew something was wrong. The only sound was the roar in my head. It was so dark I couldn’t tell if my eyes were open or closed. I couldn’t feel anything; arms, legs, fingers or toes. Nothing, like they weren’t there. I knew they were, I just couldn’t feel or move them. ‘What happened? Oh, why won’t this roar in my head turn off? Where’s Bella? Where’s Phil? Dear God, please let them be ok.’
I tried to take a breath to re-group and focus. ‘Funny, I can’t even tell if I’m breathing. Ok, think. What’s the last thing I remember? This would be so much easier without the noise in my head. That’s right, today is Bella’s birthday. We were coming home…laughing with Bella…I couldn’t wait for her to see her gift…bright headlights…coming straight at us…Phil frantic…someone screaming…was it Bella…was it me…?’
I felt myself being shifted and lifted. I still couldn’t see or hear anything. I needed to know Bella was ok. Where was Phil? ‘Oh wait, I’m beginning to see something, if I could only focus.’ I could make out the shape of a man. He was waiting for me. I wanted to go to him, but I needed to know Phil and Bella were ok. I could see the man’s long robes but still couldn’t make out his face. There was a bright glow surrounding him that made his face impossible to see. He held out his hand to me and I could feel my hand reaching to place into his.
“Phil is here. It’s time to rest Renee,” he said. “Welcome home.”
The roar in my head suddenly stopped. There was silence unlike anything I have ever experienced before. It was peaceful silence. I felt at peace. I would miss Bella’s senior year and graduation. I would miss seeing her graduate college and live her life full of happiness and security. I felt the hurt, but knew she would be safe without us. We had taken the steps to ensure her security. I placed my hand in his and stepped through the light into peace. “Goodbye my precious child. Know always that you were loved.”