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Bitter Reminder

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Bitter Reminder

After Beau originally died – was turned into a vampire, actually – I tried to help my friend. I truly did. In fact, for the first month, I called him everyday. When he stopped answering the phone, I started calling every few days, then every week... and then, not at all.

It told me something about how badly I failed when a vampire cared more than I did. I had to admit, I was actually disgusted with myself. So, that day, after Beau pointed out just how crappy of a friend I had been, I forced Sam to drive me to Charlie's place.

When we got there, Sam helped me out of her pick up and into my wheelchair. Charlie's cruiser was parked in his driveway telling me that he was home.

"I'll wait out here," Sam said stoically.

I knew she was expecting Charlie to turn me away, if not at the door then relatively soon after, but I was the one that had been remiss, not him.

It was hard to remember a time I hadn't known Charlie. I could actually remember the first time I'd met him, I'd been almost six, and he'd just barely been born. His dad, Geoffrey – a fisherman like my own father – had brought him out to the docks to show him off.

In spite of the fact that Charlie's parents had both been getting up in their age when they had him, they'd both been so proud. And, even though the memory was distant and faded now, I still remembered Geoffrey's beaming smile as he introduced everyone to his son.

Charlie, much like Holly, Quilla and myself, had practically grown up on the water. So, we grew up often seeing him as a younger brother that none of us had ever wanted – and in my case, it was bad enough having three actual younger brothers, I hadn't needed another.

I was nineteen when I met George Black, my sixth cousin once removed, he was also the grandson of Quilla Ateara II. I hadn't expected to fall for George. Honestly, I hadn't. We lived in a matriarchal tribe and it was usually common place practice for the man to take the woman's last name – so it wasn't like marrying George would save me from losing my heritage.

Still, when I married George a year later, Charlie was still a boy. We all still looked down on him as a little brother. Years passed, and eventually I had the twins, Aaron and Adam, in 1986. By then Charlie was a man – and at some point I'd started to think of him as a friend instead of a little brother, but past that – I barely noticed it. I was happily in love with George.

Later that year Charlie had met Renee and they had had a whirlwind relationship, from dating to married with a child on the way, in a matter of months. Of course, it wasn't long after they're child, Beau, had been born that their relationship ended abruptly with Renee leaving and taking Beau with her. I was relatively sure – had Charlie not been caring for his ailing parents – he'd have followed.

Still... it wasn't until after George had died back when my daughter, Julie, was nine – that things had changed, because after that, Charlie was there. He was the one that helped me get over the grief and be able to support my children. And maybe... at some point in the six years that followed before Beau decided to move to Forks, I'd started to develop some feelings for him.

And yet, when he lost his only son, I'd given up far too easily.

So I sat in my wheelchair outside his front door after I'd knocked on the door and waited for him to answer. It took him two minutes to get to the door, or at least I assumed it was him – he vaguely resembled Charlie.

Charlie had probably lost thirty pounds since the funeral – the last time I'd actually seen him, his face was haggard and he appeared to have aged a decade in a matter of months. The irony that I was the older of the two of us and in a wheelchair, and I still probably looked younger and healthier than him, did not escape me.

"Bonnie, what are you doing here?"

"I was in the area and decided to stop in on you since you haven't been out to fish in awhile." Since he'd lost Beau, actually. I didn't say that. Instead, I rolled forward, intent to come inside whether he liked it or not.

He stepped out of the way to keep from getting hit by me, and it only took me one swift look in the house, as well as smell the alcohol and tobacco in the house, to make me turn halfway back toward the door and let out an earsplitting whistle – putting two fingers to my lips to do so.

Sam came up the walk slowly, I could see her hesitation.

"You called?"

"Yes, Charlie keeps his trash bags in the cupboard in the laundry room, get a couple and dump any bottle of liquor – full or empty – you find in them. Also dump any cigarettes. And bring me any meds he has prescribed."

Sam stepped around me and into the house without a word.

Charlie looked livid. "I don't need an intervention, Bonnie!" he snapped.

"Oh yes you do, and you need it bad. You've had nine months to be depressed. Time to start pushing forward," I snapped back.

Coming down the next four days was pure hell each day. Especially as my daughter flat out refused to drive me down to see him. I knew she'd find out the truth about Beau sooner or late, but I honestly thought that her current belief – that the boy had killed himself – was a healthier option for her than the truth.

The first two days that Sam drove down after that, Charlie and I had an arguing match through the front door – that he refused to open for me – until it was time for him to go to work. The third day, the door had been unlocked and he'd stayed upstairs until five minutes before he left for work.

He was off today though, and he was waiting for me at the door. He glared at me as he opened the door and stepped back so I could come in. He led me into the living room where he had the news on and we watch in silence for awhile as I tried to figure out what best to say to get him to start talking so he could maybe start to move on.

I couldn't figure out what to say.

We sat awhile longer in silence. The news was depressing.

"Isn't there a college basketball game on or something?" I groused.

He tossed the remote at me, but his toss was short and it fell on the floor next to me. He saw where it landed and came over.

He bent down to pick up the remote and it put our faces at the same level. Our eyes met. He leaned slightly forward just as the front door banged open.

He jumped backwards, his face turning red.

I heard someone's stomping feet behind me.

"I don't have time to dissect what I just saw," my daughter practically snarled behind me. "Mom, you need to come with me. You're needed for important tribal issues right away."

I spun to glare at her. She had no right to stomp in like some jealous child. "You do not have the right to speak to me like that, young lady," I thundered.

"Unless you want me telling Charlie stories about a boy with golden eyes and him getting a very visual showing of just how angry I can get, I suggest you come with me."

My eyes widened. I wanted to look behind me to see if there was some sort of reaction on his end to her words, but I didn't dare. We left shortly after that.

My daily visits in the weeks that followed left me contemplating asking Beau for help purchasing a vehicle with hand controls so I could drive myself to and fro. I didn't do it though, because every time I started to consider it, I'd remember that he was a vampire and no matter how my own daughter saw him, I wasn't about to let myself be fooled.

Charlie didn't try to kiss me again after that one day. If that's what he'd even been trying to do.

It wasn't until almost a month after my first visit that Charlie finally started to open up.

"If I'd known that he was that depressed, Bonnie, I would have got him help... but he seemed to actually be starting to like it here. He was dating, spending time with friends... he even went to a family baseball game with his girlfriend the evening before he came back home and decided to take off. He was here. I saw that he was distressed. And I let him slip through my fingers." He laughed, bitterly, angrily. "I'm a cop, deal with suicide attempts and successes several times a years, even in this small town. The signs were right there and I missed them. What kind of a cop does that make me? What kind of father?"

There wasn't any comfort I could give him. Not really. "You don't know that it was suicide, Charlie."

He pulled something off the coffee table and shoved it at me. "Bottom paragraph, second page."

It took me a minute to realize the papers he'd handed me were a coroner's report. I looked at the bottom of the second page. It was a long explanation of cause of death, with words like blunt force trauma and incineration. It was the last two words that I knew he'd wanted me to see though. Likely Suicide.

My eyes widened slightly.

"I wasn't certain – not a hundred percent anyway – when I was first called by the police in Nevada that they'd found my son's truck, and that he had passed. I suspected though. After I got the death certificate, and all it said for cause was Vehicular Crash Trauma... I had to know for sure, so I called in a couple of favors to get the coroner's report. Coroner's don't lie, Bonnie, and it's right there in black and white."

In that moment, as I tried to put myself in his shoes, that I wondered... would it be better for him if he knew his son was some sort of monster, or to continue to believe he had killed himself.

Not that I could tell him the truth even if I wanted to.

It was yet another bitter reminder of how I'd failed my friend, as well as failed his son. And an even more bitter reminder that there was no way we could make a relationship work.

I had far too many secrets.

And yet... I still let him kiss me on his birthday.