I met - them - in my Sophomore year.
February 21, 2005
"And you are officially discharged," smiled Amy. Her face seemed brighter with that smile even with tears in her eyes. "Give me a hug, babe!"
Her arms spread open wide and engulfed me, I tensed for a moment before remembering, this was Amy. A good nurse and an even better friend. My arms wrapped around her as tight as I could. I felt the tears on the top of my head and a soft sob. "Hey," I try to comfort in a small voice. "I'll be fine, I'm just going to be a four-hour drive away. You have my number, Dad's, and everything." She laughs at this.
"I'm not crying because I'm sad, sweetie. I'm crying cause now you can finally get out of here... you can live your life as a regular kid." Her dark skinned hand went to my cheek and I fell into it. My eyes started to water as I give her my biggest smile.
"You didn't think you could leave without saying goodbye to us, did you?" I looked behind me to see two of the most important people who had been integral in my recovery. There was Lin, a beautiful Korean woman with small eyes and heart-shaped face, her black hair put up in its normal bun. She was not only my CNA but my therapist. Then there was Scott, with dark brown hair and a beard; was my physical therapist his hands holding a small box. "A 'glad you got better' gift. From all of us," he tells me, placing the lilac purple box in my hand. I sniffle a bit, balancing the box in one to hand to use the other to wipe my nose.
"Go on, open it!" laughed Lin, her dark brown eyes filled with tears, tissues gripped tightly in her hands. With a little help, I sat down in a chair and carefully opened the present to only be welcomed by the box of a camera. A small Sony Cyber-Shot. I gasped looking at them, even more, tears in my eyes if possible.
"You guys," I whined, hand over my mouth so I wouldn't make any more embarrassing noises. A gaggle of arms was wrapped around me. I don't know how long we stayed like that, but it was a while. A throat was cleared and I looked up to Scott.
"It's time to go, my dear," Amy announces in a croaky voice. A wheelchair is placed in front of me from a side hallway. One I have had the (dis)pleasure of using for the four years I've been in Seattle, but this time there were balloons tied to the arms of the chair with congratulations written on them. I wobble over to it, a smile on my face.
In front of me is my godfather. Though with a recent DNA test shows me to be genetically his. Charlie Swan's. He's been there for me, way before I was ever even thought about being his own daughter. Dad came all the way from Forks to Miami when I was admitted to the ICU. He was always there. Whether it was over the laggy Skype Calls or taking vacation time he had stored up for years to visit for a week or so. He made sure to let me know I was never alone. He was my dad for all intents and purposes, and I called him as such before I ever knew we shared the same blood.
"Would you mind if I...?" Dad asks, pointing at the wheelchair. Amy moves so Dad can take the handlebars of the wheelchair and start pushing me down the hallways. I see polite waves from other nurses and patients who have known me for my infamously long time spent here, and we soon get into the elevator with Amy, Lin, and Scott. Hitting the bottom floor, I start looking more at the camera, hoping to get a better feel for it than my Polaroid (film costs a lot of money, just so you're aware).
Soon enough we stopped in front of a police cruiser, and hugs were given one last time. As I entered the cruiser and Dad came to the driver's side. I waved telling them I'll be good and do all of my exercises as needed.
"To Forks, we go," huffed the officer, as we head onto the freeway. "You'll love it there Gwen, lots of trees, grass, there's a beach not too far away we can go swimming at, you remember it?" I laid my head back and just watched the old man babble on about the things we could do, the places he'll take me. My eyes wandered while my ears listened, looking at the lush green that reminded me of pamphlets to luxurious forests. I wasn't going to be living in a city any longer, I wouldn't be moving from one hospital to another.
I was going to be, a normal teenager.
Well, as normal as you can get by being the new kid in small-town Forks, Washington. And when I meant small, I meant it was actually small. Forks only had the population above three thousand. Less than three hundred kids in the school alone. Even the school in the Children's hospital had more than that (sadly). But, I was going to a regular school. No one was going to have a respirator or IV drips. No one was going to be like me and it made me a bit nervous. Excited but nervous.
I didn't realize, I had fallen asleep. Not till Dad shook my a bit a small smile on his face. "Gwen, sweetie, we're here." I blinked the sleep from my eyes and unbuckled before looking at the house. It was a two bedroom, one bathroom, two-story house. White. The pictures that were shown to me, didn't do it justice.
It was perfect.
With some help and a steady hand, I got up the stairs and opened the two front doors. It had that clean citrus smell with oil, no doubt from Dad's cleaning of both the house and guns. The brown walls were decorated with pictures, some of Dad when he went fishing with Billy and Harry, others being Bella, my half-sister(it feels weird just thinking about it). But the majority, the majority of them were the days he was with me. Anywhere from him and I out shopping (with a nurse present) and some of just us in my hospital room, posing for a picture, bunny ears being the most prominent occurrence, adding to the other photos of other family members in them. Though my ultimate favorite by far would have to be the ‘baby’ picture he had of me. I was nestled in his arms - one of the first times I was truly feeling safe - and he was smiling, so wide it looked like his face would permanently stay that way. He was happy and I think... I was too.
Walking past them mad the smile on my face to stretch till we get to the kitchen/dining room. "So, till you are a hundred percent able to get up and down stairs." Dad trails off, sitting me on a seat next to the dining table, my large suitcase already there, he must have brought it in before waking me. My thoughts were short-lived once he began to move over to the wooden staircase and flipped some kind of switch on the wall. I lean a bit to get a better look at whatever was making the grating noise, was a chairlift that went up and down the steps.
"You think of everything, don't you?" I smile. I balance on my legs as much as possible before Dad can help me over to the white faux leather chair with creme stitching.
"Alright, you just gotta buckle this up, won't go anywhere otherwise," he explains, giving me the seat belt and helping me strap myself in at the waist. "And then," he pressed a little button on the arm of the chair, making it head upwards. "you are on your way!" I laugh at his theatrics and he smiles back. I look up the stairs nearly to the landing already, nearing my own room. At the top of the stairway, it jolts to a stop. I unbuckle myself and hold onto the wall in order to stand, my legs wobbly like a baby calf coming out of the womb for the first time. In less than two seconds, Dad's right next to me and helping me to room on the left side of the house, where my room is. Mine. I'm not sharing it with anyone and I can decorate it the way I want. I already had the color of the walls I wanted; I picked it out a long time ago when Dad got guardianship of me and decided that this would be my room after Grandpa Swan passed.
The light from the window reflects the light blue very nearly grey colored walls. They were blank, just waiting for my own personal touches to be placed on them. I had a purple comforter -- my favorite color for a long time, and it was queen sized. Something I had desperately been asking for since the gurneys and hospital beds are all twin sized. (I tended to thrash in my sleep making that an uncomfortable experience)
There was a desk near the window where a pretty black laptop sat, an old gift from Old Quil for my sixteenth birthday. Over to the right side of the desk was a bookcase filled with all the literature I've acquired, from manuals to manifestos to poems. And next to that is a small closet, one that could fit all of my clothes and then some. I would probably have to go shopping. Sweatpants and t-shirts wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't in front of other teenagers who were more than likely fashion savvy. Unlike yours truly.
"How do you like it?" Dad knocked me out of my thinking, causing me to come back to the present.
"It's perfect," I breathed out. Moving to the bed with a stumble, bouncing lightly on it in a sitting position. My back then flopped on the bed, arms spreading out. "Definitely perfect." I smiled widely, picking my head up to see my dad there, the widest smile on his face.
"There is... just one more thing." He puts a finger up, walking to the desk. Opening one of the drawers, he pulls out a folder and hands it to me. I slowly sit up, grabbing the folder and opening it. In it was quite a few papers but the one on top was the most important one possible.
I start to read aloud. "As of February 18th, 2005, the State of Washington and Federal Courts hereby accepts the adoption of Gwendolyn Marie Abendorth to Charlie Dean Swan!" I nearly screech, looking up at the man; not completely sure if this was some form of a cruel joke or not.
"You are officially mine now, kiddo." I jumped up faster than I thought possible; arms going around his neck.
"Today's been the best day ever," I whisper, tears streaming down my face. I then let go and hit his chest. "The eighteenth?! It's been nearly a week!"
Dad laughs, arms tight around my shoulders as he helps me back to the bed. "You'll still be an Abendorth for a while yet, but we have added Swan on there. So, Gwendolyn Marie Abendorth-Swan, what will your first meal out of the hospital be?"
My answer was immediate and we were back in the car before we knew it.
I don't like people pushing my wheelchair, but it is fun when someone's running with it like the sheriff is to get out of the rain. I didn't mind one bit, the rain was something I rarely got to touch out of my controlled climate room. He used his back to open the door in order to get my chair in the Infamous Restaurant Dad frequents.
"Well, if it isn't the cutie herself!" exclaimed a woman. I turned to the noise, a waitress with dark skin and curly hair make her way to us. "I haven't seen you since you were yay-high, Gwendolyn," she tells me placing her hand on her knees. "Nice to see your doing better, sugar, Charlie has been talking about you ever since the doctors gave him the discharge date."
"Gwen, this is Cora, probably don't remember her, you were just a baby." I can hear the smirk behind me if that was even possible.
"It's great to see you again, Cora."
"You must be famished, come on, let's get you a table." I'm pushed to a nearby table where a chair is taken from and placed to the side so it could just be the two of us. "Here are your menus, though I don't think we'll need it for Charlie," she says with a smile, giving an all-knowing look at him. "But I'll be back in five minutes, can I get you anything to drink?"
"Milk, please?" I smile, trying to be as polite as possible.
"Make that two," Dad says. She nods and heads back while I read over it. "Remember, soft food for just a bit longer."
I roll my eyes. "I know, I know. They did say try some hard ones, so I was thinking of a compromise." I look up at my menu to see dark brown eyes looking straight at me, a raised eyebrow in question. "What about waffles with butter on them, but!" I stop him from speaking. "I put some syrup on them to make it a bit soggy?"
He gives a sigh, closing his menu. "Alright, but if you can't eat it, we'll get you some broth, sound good?"
Dinner went off without a hitch, besides the bit where Waylon -- my mom and thought-to-be-father's old friend -- came up to us to speak on his own accord. Luckily he didn't speak about my parents but went as far as to allude that they were shit at their jobs. I couldn't have agreed more with the statement, even though I didn't say that aloud.
As soon as we paid and said bye to everyone, garnering hugs and kisses on the cheek with words of encouragement and congratulations we left the local diner.
The drive back was quiet besides the light static of the police scanner. Pulling into the driveway I noticed... a little something. Well, a lot of somethings. There were cars packed onto our block as if someone was having a party. I looked over at Dad who was just trying not to laugh. His eyes held a false-innocence. He shrugged his shoulders to contribute to the act before exiting the car.
"You're a butt, you know that?" I tell him, getting out of the car by myself and holding onto the frame of it. He only laughs and takes me by the arm again to help me. I'm practically carried up the steps by my waist and I just give Dad 'the look' before opening the door.
"WELCOME HOME!" a chorus of voice cheered. In the small house, was packed with people. Most of the kids holding noisemakers and ripping out others eardrums. I smile and shake my head.
"All of you? You suck," I laugh, I maneuver around the people to get to our couch, people moving from it to allow me to sit. I look around the room and see Billy across trying to contain his laughter. "Hey old man," I tease. "Not so special now, are you? Yeah, I got one of those chairs too." This causes some laughter to course through the room once more.
I look around to see the familiar faces that have come to see me in recent time. There was Billy Black, my biological-uncle and a Native American man who had become wheelchair bound in recent years due to diabetes, Jacob tagging along who's his youngest child and only son. I looked at the young teen and see some new details. His ebony hair must have been recently cut because it was definitely longer the last time I saw it instead of at the bottom of his ribs it was at his collarbone. His signature beanie atop of his head.
Old Quil, Quil, and Joy were there (grandfather and grandson respectively). Old Quil wasn't afraid of his grey hair and let it grow long, braiding in in a few places, his russet skin starting to wrinkle. Quil kept his short since he played sports on the reservation and Joy had dreadlocks that were typically pulled back into a ponytail.
The next family was the Clearwaters. Leah and Seth at the forefront and Harry and Sue sitting in the recliner together. All native with Sue and Leah with the longest hair. Harry's had gone grey long before any of us were born and he cropped it to his shoulders and swept it back with a fisherman's cap. Seth's reached his shoulders but he typically had it in a bun at the nape of his neck.
Next was the Calls, like the Black's there were only two of them. But instead of a father, it was Tiffany, the overbearing mother to all of the tribe. She's a sweetheart who had long black hair that was always in two braids and Embry, her son. His hair was longer than everyone's as it reached his hips, the natural curls framing his face. Tifanny didn’t really have an affiliation with the Quileute tribe, but with the Makahs. She has told us that Embry’s father is from La Push, so they stayed, just so he could be with his roots. Both of them also native, if you haven't seen the pattern yet.
"It's nice to see you again." Jacob hugged me sideways from his spot on the couch, ending up just having his arm over my shoulder for the time being.
"You mean, outside of a hospital and IV-less?" I asked, earning a small chuckle.
"Something like that," he smirked. I rolled my eyes and leaned further into the teen, relishing in being with my cousin again.
"So," I hear a feminine voice speak. "We may have gotten you a little something..." I look over to where Sue is, ready to cry, happiness. I realize. Happy tears.
"Sue..." I start to argue, I don’t like presents all that much. It wasn’t… fun for me. I wanted to work for it, not let it be given to me.
"It's nothing too bad," Old Quil spoke up, Quil(the young one of the two) took out a wrapped present from the kitchen, heaving it to my feet and then rubbing his back.
"Eh, you'll like it," Quil tells me moving to his previous spot.
My hands roam the box with a straight-face and a little bit of mock-madness. I tear the wrapping paper and look the box over, letting my jaw drop.
"Oh my god," I gasp out, earning more laughter from my reaction. "A mini fridge?!"
"That way you don't have to go up and down the stairs for a snack or drink," Leah tells me with a smile. "You can just put them all in there."
"I need a hug!" I call out, earning most of the teen's arms to wrap around me in tight grips.
The start of my stay at Forks was just going to get better.