Chapter 34

I sighed, looking out of the tiny window to see the landscape getting smaller and smaller. My freedom had come to an end. In two hours, I would be back at the treatment center, ready to be shipped off to God knows where. It truly was a hard knock life..

Jeren’s parents had been kind enough to bring me to the airport and even allowed us a private moment to say our goodbyes. In contrast to my parting with the Cullens, emotions and tears had run freely.

‘I can’t believe you’re really going..’ She said, tears welling up in her eyes. ‘I don’t want you to leave, I can’t..-’ She choked up and threw herself around my neck.

‘It will be alright,’ I said, trying to be strong for her. ‘We’ll text all the time. And perhaps we can visit in the holidays?’

Jeren shook her head. ‘It’s not the same, you know. You’re the only one that gets me. The only one that doesn’t think I’m a freak.’

‘I know..’ I didn’t want to leave, either. She was right: it would never be the same again. ‘But I’ll be out in one year. Who knows, I might come to live in Seattle.’

She looked at me, her eyes big and red. ‘You would do that?’

‘You’re the only one I have. You’ll be stuck with me whether you like it or not.’

A smile broke out on her face and I let out a sigh of relief. I hated to see her sad. ‘I’m holding you to that. Now go, Annie!’

I scowled playfully at her, then took up my luggage and, after one last wave in her direction, went off to the check-in.

She’d sent me four text messages before I had even made it to the gate. In the first two she threatened to haunt me down and kill me if I would not keep my promise, the other two were simply to tell me how much she missed me already. I had no doubt I would have received a lot more by the time I’d arrive in LA..

Almost reluctantly, Edward stepped into his car. It was a Sunday night and he had promised Bella to spend the evening with her. He was almost surprised with himself, not being able to remember when having to spend time with his girlfriend had become such a burden. Up until recently, he had savored every moment spend in her company, had cherished every breath she took like it was the greatest gift he was ever given. Yet now he found himself annoyed by her more and more, irritated by the quirks that he’d once thought to be endearing. He’d gotten tired of her never speaking her mind, of her never-ceasing prodding about turning her, of her fragility and dependency. He sighed, turning off the engine and laying his head against the headrest.

Ever since his best friend had visited Forks, things had changed. Ever since he’d been reminded of how easy it could be, he’d started to be annoyed by how easy it never was with Bella.

Edward thought back on what Jasper had told him that night. The words had been haunting him ever since the first frustrations towards Bella had made themselves known. He was reminded of a time when he and Dalia did everything together, when he’d been wishing to spend eternity with her. What if she was meant to be part of their lives after all? What if Alice had been wrong?

Stepping out of the car, he knew what he had to do. He almost ran back into the house, frantically searching for his father. Finding that he wasn’t in the living room, he rushed up to Carlisle’s office, only to come out empty handed here as well. Returning to the living room, he turned to Alice. ‘Where’s Carlisle?’

She looked up from her magazine. ‘He’s not home. What do you need him for?’

‘I’ve been an idiot. You were right,’ he said, turning to Jasper. ‘I can’t believe I didn’t realize it before now.’

‘Realize what?’ His pixy sister asked, her eyebrow cocked.

‘That I love her. I love Dalia. And I want Carlisle to adopt her. I see it so clearly now: she was there for me all the time, she saved me. It’s like you and Jasper; she saved me and I sa..-’

’You condemned her.’ He looked up, surprised to see Rosalie had stood from her place on the sofa, her arms crossed in front of her. ’Have you ever, for even a moment, stopped to think of her? Have you ever even thought of why she left Forks in the first place? Have you ever thought that the “things” she mentioned that caused her to think reality was better than her life in Forks might have been you? She loved you all along and you left her, forgot about her as soon as Bella came along.’

He stared at the blonde, speechless. Could this be true?

‘I never cared for her and even I know that she deserves better than to be hauled back here and to become your second choice once again. That girl looked at you as if you put the sun in the sky, but she was invisible to you. And as wonderful as this revelation of your true feelings might be for you, why don’t you stop and think of her for once. Of whether dragging her back here really is in her best interest or simply in yours.’

As I stepped into the cab, I realized that this was it. My last act of freedom before I would be handed over to the orphanage. I pushed that thought away, determined to think more pleasant thoughts.

I had received, as I had predicted, a lot more text messages by the time the plane landed in Los Angeles. Most of them were expressions of her feelings, telling me how much she missed me, some were just random reminiscences of our memories together, others were just.. strange. I mean, they were all kind of weird – it was Jeren who sent them, after all – but the last category were a degree worse. It was as if she had purposely tried to make them as vague and senseless as possible. I wouldn’t put it past Jeren if this had actually been her goal.

I wondered what living in an orphanage would be like. I mean, I had only seen these kinds of things in movies and I didn’t know if that was anything to go by. In any case, it would without a doubt be better than the other alternative: living with my mother’s mother. Not that this really had been an option, of course, since she had naturally refused to take me in. Apparently, having a kid made her look old. But even if I’d been given a choice, between the two of them, I would choose the orphanage time and again.

Of course, the best alternative was having stayed in Washington, with the Millers or the Cullens. However, this had never been a real option. Life was a bitch like that.

‘We’re here, Miss.’

Looking up, I found that we had, indeed, arrived back at the treatment center. With the sun shining down on it, it looked a lot less depressing from the outside. It was getting dark, though, and soon the exterior would be as sad as the interior. Why that thought lifted my spirits, I do not know, but I guess it felt fairer to the patients inside.

After having paid, I hoisted my bag onto my shoulder, swinging my backpack over the other and made for the double doors.

‘Miss River!’

Turning my head, I smiled as I saw the older man walking up to me. Dropping my bags next to the entrance, I went to give him a hand. ‘It’s good to see you again, Dr. Hurst.’

‘It is, indeed. How did it go?’

‘Very well, actually.’ I didn’t elaborate, knowing that if I even mentioned the Cullens, I would be put back into treatment before I could get another word in. ‘Jeren is doing great as well. She will start at a new school in September.’

He gave me the interested doctor’s nod, though it felt like he actually meant it. ‘That’s wonderful to hear.’

‘When will the people from the orphanage come?’

‘Actually,’ he started, closely monitoring my reaction. ‘There’s been a slight change of plans.’

‘A change?’ I cocked an eyebrow. ‘How so?’

‘The orphanage called this morning, saying there were potential adoptive parents.’

‘Oh. That’s.. surprising.’ I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry. Although it would save me from a year of living with over a dozen of ‘siblings’, it would mean that I would be tied to another family. I didn’t really like the idea of becoming attached to new people, especially if it was only for a year. ‘So what will happen, then?’

‘They’ll come here to talk with you, get to know you a little. If it clicks, they can adopt you and you’ll go home with them. If not, then you are free to go to the orphanage.’

I nodded, glad that I at least had some say in the matter. ‘When will they be here?’

‘In fifteen minutes. I have to do a short round, but I will be back for the meeting.’

Watching him leave, I sat myself down in one of the chairs in the lobby. I was relieved to have some alone time before the meeting. It was a lot to take in, after all, and I wanted to be on my best behavior. Nothing discourages people from adopting you more than acting like you’re crazy.

In my ponderings, I couldn’t help but wonder about my potential adoptive parents. Although I was determined not to view them as my parents, I could not ward off the curiosity that I felt towards them. What kind of people would they be? Would they be nice? And out of all kids, what could have possessed them to be interested in me?

The sound of the automatic doors opening dragged me out of my thoughts, making me turn my head in the direction of the sound. There, I was met with a sight that both surprised and confused me. ‘Dr. Cullen? Mrs. Cullen?’ I blinked, thinking perhaps they were figments of my imagination.

They smiled at me, all friendly – as always, and walked up to me. ‘Good evening, Dalia.’

Glancing outside, I noticed that, indeed, night had fallen. They probably had it all figured out beforehand. ‘I don’t.. why are you here?’ Turning red, I bit my lip. ‘I mean, I don’t wish to be rude, but if I forgot something at your house, you could have just sent it per post.’

It was at this moment that Dr. Hurst made his reentrance, smiling friendly at the vampire couple. ‘Good evening. I see you are already getting acquainted. I suppose I don’t have to give an introductory anymore, then. I have reserved a meeting room for us, so we can talk a bit more privately.’

The Cullens nodded, ready to follow my ex care-giver out.

‘Dalia?’ He looked at me expectantly, his eyes betraying that he was afraid of my mental state. What he didn’t realize, of course, was that it had nothing to do with the adoption and everything with the couple that was waiting patiently for me to follow. I could only imagine his reaction if he knew that these people were the stars of my psychoses.

‘Yes, of course.’ Standing, I made a point of not looking up to meet anyone’s eyes. Frankly, I was too confused with the entire situation to meet any social expectations.

After a short introduction about who we were, Carlisle politely asked Dr. Hurst for some privacy, so “we could get to know each other a bit better”. I didn’t know what game he was playing, but I wasn’t catching up. This is exactly what I told him.

Mrs. Cullen smiled understandingly. ‘We are here to adopt you.’

I choked on whatever it was that I had been about to say. Although it had been the most logical explanation for the situation, it was at the same time the most illogical. I mean, they were the Cullens for goodness’ sake. If they had wanted to adopt me, why now? Why not when I was at their house. ‘What?’

‘We’ve come to adopt you.. If that’s what you want, of course.’

Shaking my head, I tried to wade through the chaos in my mind. ‘I don’t understand. I mean, why?’

‘We wanted to propose adopting you when you were in Forks, but we needed the family’s approval before asking you anything.’ Carlisle explained, his hands folded on the table.

‘And they gave it? I mean, I know not everyone likes me as much..’

‘We voted on it.’

Crossing my arms in front of me, I tried to keep my head in the conversation. It was too easy to lose myself to emotions and irrational wants and wishes, but I had to think of their interests, too. ‘I can’t allow you to take me in out of pity, Mr. and Mrs. Cullen. As much as I appreciate the offer, I wouldn’t want to be a burden to you or your lifestyle.’

‘And we are certain you won’t be, dear.’

‘If you don’t want to then you are by all means free to say no. But we would gladly have you as a part of our family.’

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