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lion lamb

My Lessons In Life

The Inner Rantings of A Young Woman

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Finding Home - Chapter 2 - Starlight
lion lamb

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author.  The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise.  No copyright infringement is intended.

This chapter is a revision of the original. It was originally beta'ed by DDofEve and ahelm over at Twilighted. Now, Project Team Beta has accepted me as one of their authors and this is the end result. Thank you to all of my betas.

One a more personal note, I just wanted to let everyone who reads this know that this story is very special to me. In January, when Chapter 1 was originally written, I began my first serious relationship, which ended much like Bella and Jake's did, only I played the part of Jake. Many of the situations you see arise have happened in some way or another. A lot of the emotions that are portrayed by the characters are actually my own. This story is a little piece of me. And with that, let me apologize for the long ass Author's note and let you enjoy the story...

Hold you in my arms,
I just wanted to hold you in my arms...


I'll never let you go
If you promise not to fade away
Never fade away…

Our hopes and expectations
Black holes and revelations

- “Starlight” by Muse

The old expression is that when life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade. But what if you're completely inept in the kitchen? Or maybe you ran out of sugar? In that case, what should you do with those lemons? Should you throw them away? Or maybe tuck them in the back of the refrigerator to use for a shower later if a skunk sprays you?

Maybe a better expression to fit my current lot in life would be the old adage about having your ducks in a row. Yes, that seems to be a better fit. After all, I had everything--a job, my family, an apartment, and even a beautiful woman. So where did it all go wrong?

I was 25 years old when I returned to my hometown of Denali, Alaska, home of my adoptive parents, Carlisle and Esme Cullen. It had been six years since I had been home for more than two weeks.

I had just completed my Master's degree in Sociology to go along with my Bachelor's of Journalism. I had learned at a young age that I had a certain knack for observing people; their manners and habits, how they spoke and used body language to convey their emotions, how groups were formed and structured, how business was conducted. So while most of my friends were trying to figure out what they wanted to study in college, I already knew.

“Study what you know and love," Esme had told me. "That way, you will always be happy, no matter what you choose to do in life." It was sound advice, and I knew that it was what Carlisle, the Chief of Surgery at Denali Memorial Hospital, had done.

So I was returning home to find an apartment and begin my life in the "real world." By the grace of some higher, unknown power, I was able to find a job relatively easily, despite having two somewhat generic degrees. The editor in charge of the Lifestyles section of the Denali Monitor, our bi-weekly newspaper, was a friend of my father’s. Well, friends in the sense that Carlisle had performed a double bypass on the 275-pound man and saved his life. So when Thomas Jackson had heard that his guardian angel's son with a 3.9 GPA needed a job, he was more than happy to oblige.

The apartment part was going to be a little more difficult. I started looking on the internet for something reasonably priced, but it was beginning to look like I was going to have to get a roommate to be able to afford a roof over my head and food on the table. Worst-case scenario, I'd crash with my parents or one of my brothers until something opened up. After all, not everything could be perfect. But, despite this tiny hiccup, I kept reminding myself that I was still a very lucky guy. It wasn't until I saw Esme's glowing smile as she waited on the porch for me to walk up the drive that I remembered just how lucky I really was.

Carlisle and Esme were unable to have children of their own, so they decided instead to become foster parents. They were loving people and well-liked in the community. Carlisle was a surgical resident at Denali Memorial Hospital at the time; Esme would take on the role of the stay-at-home mom.

I was sent to their home at the age of fifteen, my father having had a heart attack when I was just a baby. My mother had passed away several years prior from ovarian cancer. I was to be Carlisle and Esme's fourth child, having been preceded first by Emmett McCarty, then by the twins, Jasper and Rosalie Hale.

To say that I was scared the day the social worker took me to my new home would be like saying the North Pole is cold. I was terrified. It didn't help that the first person I saw was Emmett. Granted, I'm quite tall now, but Emmett was huge to my teenaged eyes. A burly man-boy of at least six foot five while I was still teetering around five foot ten, his dark curls flopped over his eyes as he looked down at me, like a bouncer would look at some creep who kept trying to feel up his girlfriend. Without even saying hello, he said, "Rule number one, no ogling Rosalie. Rule number two, no ogling Rosalie. Can you guess what rule number three is?"

"No ogling Rosalie?" I had meekly replied. Emmett had then broke out in a huge shit-eating grin and clapped me hard on the back.

"I'll take it from here, Sandra." He smiled at the social worker, placing his heavy, muscled arm around my shoulders and leading me into the house.

As my new big brother led me to meet my new parents, we passed through the foyer of the house, where two beautiful blonde teenagers, a boy and a girl, were playing chess. The girl had long, wavy hair and piercing blue eyes; the boy, a mop of curls that partially obstructed his pensive, yet identical, features.

"The three of them have been here for a little over a year," Carlisle told me. His blonde hair matched that of Jasper and Rosalie. His deep blue eyes were soft with compassion and understanding.

"They're very close, and soon you will be, too," Esme reassured me. She looked at me with adoration, love even, though we had only just met. I couldn’t help but notice how she looked like she could have been my natural mother, her caramel-colored hair so close in hue to my own.

Emmett took me under his wing immediately, introducing me to his friends at school and making sure it was known that I was his new little brother. Needless to say, the bullies stayed away from me. No one wanted to go toe-to-toe with a sixteen-year-old who looked like a linebacker for the NFL.

I quickly learned why Emmett told me that I wasn't allowed to ogle Rosalie. Apparently, despite being "siblings," they were an item. It got them a lot of stares at school. That and the fact that they were both what you would call "beautiful people." Rosalie appeared to have a heart of stone, but whenever Emmett was around, she melted into a puddle of goo. She was kind to me and made sure to tell me which of the girls would make suitable girlfriends and which to steer clear of at all costs. I suppose it was her way of bonding and telling me that I was accepted into her life.

Her brother, Jasper, is what my mother would have called "an odd bird." He was quiet and thoughtful, the complete opposite of his sexy, opinionated sister. Jasper had a tendency to speak only when he had something important to say, leaving the idle chit-chat to the rest of us. But he was good-natured and readily accepted me, letting me know right away that, "I'm here for you, whenever, for whatever."

Esme was right. The four of us almost immediately became inseparable. Things only got better a few months later when a little pixie named Alice Brandon arrived. Barely reaching five feet, her dark spiky hair stuck out in every direction, much like my own. Her eyes were filled with happiness and laughter from the first moment we saw her. When Sandra brought Alice to the house, she literally bounced up the front stairs and took Esme and Carlisle into her arms, squeezing them and crying, "Thank you, thank you, thank you!"

Shortly after Alice joined us, Carlisle and Esme decided to make everything official. Almost one year to the day I had arrived, Emmett, Alice, and I became Cullens. Jasper and Rosalie remained Hales simply because they were in relationships with Alice and Emmett. Since we all lived under one roof already, Carlisle and Esme thought it best not to make things too socially taboo. We haven’t looked back since then.

I did end up having to crash on my parents' couch for a few weeks before finding the perfect studio apartment only a few miles from the newspapers’ main office. It was small, but as long as I had room enough for a bed, computer desk, and my electronic piano keyboard that Carlisle and Esme had given me for my sixteenth birthday, I'd be fine.

The close proximity to my job also made saving on gas a little easier. I found that walking to work on the not-so wet days could be rather relaxing. It also enabled me to implement my powers of observation without having to worry about anyone catching me. (I’ve been known to lapse so deep into thought when I’m watching a person that I’ve frightened my once unsuspecting subjects.) After all, no one pays attention to the young stranger walking to work, attaché case flung carelessly over his shoulder.

That's when I first saw her. She was positively gorgeous against the simple backdrop of the small public park that was nestled across the street from paper’s offices. Sitting on a bench by the fountain, she delicately sipped from a large Starbucks cup while flipping the pages of a thick magazine that lay in her lap. Her legs crossed at the ankles, I couldn’t help but trail my eyes up what seemed like miles of smooth, tan skin, before taking in her waves of strawberry blonde hair and the little smirk on her face when she caught me staring at her.

I shifted my eyes down and ducked my head a bit, hoping to play it off, but when I slowly looked up again, she held my gaze, refusing to let go. There was a twinkle in her eye, a kind of “come hither” look, I suppose you could say. Without even thinking about it, I found my feet moving me in her direction rather than to my office. I was halfway to her when I saw her perfect pout turn into a sexy frown. She stood and pulled a cell phone from the large bag on the bench beside her. When she looked up, I was standing only a few feet away, but she quickly gathered her belongings and placed her coffee cup in the trash. “Business calls,” she said, laughing softly. “Maybe tomorrow.” With that, she turned on her heels and starting walking toward the street.

After a display like that, most men, including my brothers, would have said fuck it and moved on to the next hot piece of ass they saw, but not me. I was smitten, enamored, and floored by this beauty and her flippant attitude toward me. As I watched her retreat across the street, I couldn’t help but allow my eyes to drink in how her dusty rose skirt fell just above her knees or how delicate her ankles looked in those strappy little heels. I closed my eyes and saw her standing before me again, soft breasts straining against the buttons of her fitted white blouse. As she had passed me, I was able to see that her lips were a perfect bow and painted the same rose color as her suit, her eyes lined expertly in a soft charcoal gray liner and her lashes long, full, and black.

Then, as I opened my eyes, feeling a slight strain against the zipper of my pants, I saw my “public park beauty” walk through the front door…of the newspaper offices. My newspaper offices.

Holy shit, I had thought to myself. I forced my feet to carry me across the street, all the while telling myself that the likelihood of this vixen and I working closely together were slim to none. After all, the paper was huge, encompassing eight of the building's twelve floors. Pushing the front door open, I let out a loud sigh of relief when I realized she was not in the lobby and made my way to my office.

Through careful eavesdropping while roaming the halls, I was able to discover a few things about the woman from the park. Her name was Tanya McIntyre, and she worked on the third floor as a secretary for the advertising and classified section. From what I was able to piece together, Tanya had a bit of a history with a number of the men who worked at the Denali Monitor. I heard a couple of the women call her a hussy and a man-eater, while some of the guys referred to her as “the best fuck ever.”

I’ve never been one to pay much attention to gossip, but I have to admit that all of the things I heard had only served to make me even more intrigued. Instead of being repulsed by this woman, I was curious to get to know her and find out what caused her to be seen by others in such a negative light. For days, I made the same trek to the little park across from the paper’s offices only to relive the moments of the very first day. I saw her over and over again. Becoming frustrated after attempting to talk to her for over a week, I instead decided to bite the bullet and go down to the third floor and just introduce myself--to hell with the unofficial company policy of no flirting with your co-workers.

As I walked through the door of the advertising offices, I saw Tanya look up from her keyboard and smile. “Well, it took your cute ass long enough,” she smirked. She rose from her desk and walked over to me. “I was beginning to think I was going to have to come to you.”

At that moment, time seemed to stand still. We were standing close enough to touch. I could feel the warmth radiating off of her body. As Tanya looked up at me with heavy-lidded eyes filled with desire, I decided to take a chance for once.

“Sorry,” I apologized, placing my hand on her hip and pulling her into me. Boldly, I leaned down and nuzzled her ear. “Everyone keeps throwing ideas at me about what I should and shouldn’t…do,” I whispered, hoping she would catch my double meaning. “But, baby, I would never reject one of your…submissions.”

My bold innuendo caused a purr to catch in Tanya’s throat. She threw her head back and let out a sexy chuckle. She pressed her body closer to mine, my growing length digging into her stomach. With a smile, she asked me, “Your office or your apartment?”

From that moment on, we were inseparable, testing the boundaries not only of one another but of what others had said and were saying about us. I steadily ignored all of the little comments my co-workers made to me about being another notch on her bedpost. I knew that Tanya loved me. I was different. I treated her like the special woman she was, not like some nice piece of ass.

Our relationship only seemed to strengthen over time. I spent most of my free time over at Tanya’s apartment, where I had officially taken over two of her dresser drawers. We went to dinner, to the movies, but often times just stayed in, cooking for one another and falling asleep together, usually after a few rounds of very hot sex.

That was precisely what I had planned for that night…a night I would rather forget. Tanya had been sent to a conference in California to act as the editor-in-chief’s assistant. She was gone for almost a week, the longest we had been apart during our six-month relationship.

I spent the day anxiously awaiting the return of my glamorous girlfriend. I knew she would be exhausted from her travels and thought that maybe I would set up her apartment for a romantic bath when she got home. I could stay overnight and cook her breakfast in the morning, and then we could spend all day in bed making love. It was the perfect plan. She would feel like a queen, and I would be able to sate my growing hunger for her love and her body.

Unable to sit still any longer, I had gone to the market, picking up some fresh produce and breakfast meats. Tanya had been gone for almost a week, and I knew her bread and milk would no longer be good, so I grabbed those items as well. Some fresh coffee and cream and a small bouquet of daisies and baby’s breath completed my purchase.

Arriving at Tanya’s apartment, I slowly turned my spare key in the lock, trying to carefully balance both bags in one arm so I could push the door open all the way. The lights were on and dimmed, as if someone was trying to set a romantic atmosphere. This should have caught me a little off guard, but I shrugged it off, remembering that Tanya had a tendency to forget to turn the lights off when going out. But the sounds I heard as I set the bags on the kitchen counter were out of place.

It was only slightly after seven, and Tanya had told me that she wouldn’t be getting in until almost ten. Could it be a burglar? I had thought naively. I had slowly made my way down the hall, seeking out the source of the noise.

“Oh…uh,uh,uh…” This couldn’t be good. “Mmm, baby, soooo good…more…” This had to be bad. “Yeah, oh yeah, fuck me harder…” No, it was horrible.

I couldn’t think. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t move.

It was all a lie. Everything had been a lie.

All of a sudden, I found myself standing next to my car, keys clenched so tightly in my hand that I could feel a small trickle of blood drip off one of my knuckles. I blinked, and I was back at my apartment, standing in front of my bathroom mirror, staring into the blank, dead eyes of a man betrayed. I loved her. I hated her. I wanted her. But, I later realized, I had never had her to begin with.

They had been right. Everyone one of them had been right. I was just another notch.

The signs had always been there. When I reached to hold her hand, she would place mine on her ass. When I would bend down to kiss her lips, she would turn her head ever so slightly. But, like a fool in love, I had ignored these little warnings, justified them even. Telling myself that maybe she just didn’t want other people to see how close we really were. After all, the rumors about her had been pretty gruesome and downright cruel. Maybe she had wanted to preserve our relationship and all of the good things we had going for us. But the cold, hard truth was, except for when we were fucking, we weren’t close at all.

I won’t bore you with the long, drawn-out tale of how I slipped into a deep depression or of how, when I managed to pull myself together and go to work a few days later, everyone was staring at me and whispering behind my back. I won’t dwell on the text message she had sent me that simply said, “It was fun.” Just know that if a living hell really exists, I experienced it. My sadness and self-loathing lasted for nearly three months before my own personal cheerleader decided I needed rescuing.

“The whole family is relocating, and you’re coming with us,” Alice had informed me. Apparently, Carlisle felt that he had done all he could in Denali and was accepting a Chief of Surgery position in Portland, Oregon. Esme was going to take a volunteer position with the hospital’s administration to try and elicit donations for various charities and developmental research. Emmett had contacted a new youth center that was opening close to the hospital and was offered a job as a recreation coach. Rosalie, having since wed Emmett, figured she could work there, too, exercising that psychology degree of hers as a self-esteem counselor for young girls. As we were such a close-knit family, it was no surprise that Jasper and Alice, also now married, were following and dragging me with them. We had not found jobs before the move, but Alice was quickly scooped up by an interior design firm while Jasper took up post at the local high school as an eleventh grade American History teacher.

We’d all been living in Portland now for about three months. Everyone had settled in nicely except for me. I’d gotten a temp job at one of the local weekly papers covering community events, but my heart just wasn’t in it. I was looking for another job, but despite not liking the one I currently had. I wasn’t very motivated to leave it, either. So I just d through the days, coming home from work and sitting in my little house until I have to get up and do it again the next day. The one respite I have is Monday nights.

On Monday nights, my brothers, sisters, and I meet up at a little bar called “The Lion’s Den” in downtown Portland. People come to the quaint Irish pub to dance, drink, and have fun, without having to worry about rowdy drunks, designer drugs, and police raids. We come here to down beer and margaritas, killer nachos, and to shed the past week’s mishaps while looking forward to the new ones. Normally I’m a willing participant, but something didn’t feel right that night. Maybe it was the six hours I spent staring at my computer monitor, trying to figure out how to make a knitting club sound thrilling. But I just wasn’t in the mood for dancing and laughing.

Alice’s “Happy Radar” was going off almost as soon as I sat down. She tried to engage me, talking about her new project and Jasper’s students’ reaction when she came prancing in his classroom to deliver him lunch. I cracked a smile, but it didn’t reach my eyes. One hadn’t since she…

I excused myself and headed to the bar for a refill. If I’m going to play Mr. Depressed, I might as well have another beer, I rationalized. I flopped down on the first available stool and saw Henry, the bartender, make his way toward me.

“Edward, my friend, if you don’t start smilin’ soon, I’ma haveta close this joint ‘cause all the women’ll be too sad to come in here.” Henry grinned, motioning to all of the ladies who were trying to discreetly take in my presence.

“Don’t do that, man. It’ll just give me something else to be depressed about.” He grabbed my empty mug and was back with a full one before I could even blink.

Henry placed one strong hand on my shoulder and looked me squarely in the eyes. “I’ll tell ‘ya this much, son. I don’t know who it was that done broke your heart, but one day a lady is gonna walk by you and you’ll forget all about that bitch.” He grinned wickedly, and I couldn’t help but smile back.

I sat for a moment longer, nursing my beer and thinking about what Henry had said. Maybe one day another woman would make me forget about Tanya. But how long would I have to wait?

I heard her before I saw her. “…I would have thought that beneath you.” I angled my head ever so slightly so as to catch a glimpse of the person at the other end of the bar. She was perched on a stool, talking to Henry, a slight smile gracing her pretty pink lips. She had waves of dark brown hair that cascaded over her shoulders and halfway down her back. Her cheeks where tinged slightly with a natural blush, and her voice sounded like the ringing of the sweetest bell.

"I work at a bar, sweetheart, ain't nothin' beneath me!" Henry boomed. The two of them shared a laugh while some of the bar patrons looked on.

Just then, my brown-haired angel turned toward me. I ducked my head down quickly, not wanting to be caught staring at her. My heart skipped a beat, and I sucked in a shaky breath. I hadn’t felt this nervous since…could it be? Could she really be the woman that I’d been waiting for? The one love that could make all of my pain go away? “Even if just for a day,” I sighed quietly under my breath.

I was just working up the courage to go say something to her when she stood and said to Henry, “I think I'm gonna lay off men for a while, but thanks for the offer.” I fell back onto my stool and saw that Henry was watching me out of the corner of his eye.

“Anytime, doll,” Henry said to her before making his way back over to me. “You alright there, Edward? Ya look like you’ve seen a ghost…or something a little more pleasurable.”

“Great, Henry, I’m just fan-fucking-tastic,” I muttered, standing up. I threw back the rest of my beer and went back over to the table where my family sat.

Alice was the first to dig in her claws. “Edward! Where did you disappear to? And why do you suddenly look like shit?” Jasper rolled his eyes at his wife’s compassion while Emmett held back a chuckle.

“Nowhere, no reason, just no. I suddenly don’t feel good. I’ll see you guys later.” I grabbed my coat off the back of my chair and threw a twenty down on the table to cover my tab.

I was just about to push the door open when I turned and saw the beauty from earlier staring at me. Like I had done, she quickly looked down but also blushed, which made her even more alluring. Could she be thinking the same thing I was? Nah, she said she was taking a break from men. That sounded like a good idea. I would take a break from women. I would dig myself out of this hole I was in and focus on my work, my family, and my happiness. Just deciding this made me feel a little bit lighter. As I pushed through the door, I promised myself that I would forget all about the woman in the bar.

 Thanks again for reading! I look forward to reading what everyone has to say.

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You had me nervous there for a bit with Tanya... it's hard for me to picture E with her [in any lasting, serious way] so the betrayal evoked a "that's more like it" response... all in a good little background story arc.

It's sweet that E/B are actually in the same place emotionally, but wonder if this will be stumbling block for them to get together... good cliffhanger iow!

It's after midnight where I am so will have to wait for 3 and 4 til tomorrow. Thanks again, it's all very good!

Damn, are you seeing right through me? Of course it will be a *bit* of a stumbling block. I don't know about you, but I don't like reading stories where B & E meet and a week later they're in the sack. I had a reviewer over on FF.net say the same thing last night.

As for the cliffie, I have only tried to achieve one once, but it seems like every single one of my chapters has a mini one that I didn't plan. LOL

Can't wait to hear your thoughts on the next two chapters! Hope you had a good night!

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