This is Charlie's view of things right before the Twilight story starts. It was written for the JUL-AUG 2009 Defining Twilight competition so it's a bit more polished than what I've posted here for personal enjoyment. I was amazed that it took 2nd place.
The competition asked for a chapter not included in the book, not just another perspective on something in the book, but something missing. I wanted to try to show how much the whole story would have changed Charlie's life because as a parent myself I could really relate to some of what he saw and I wanted to explore that a bit.
1. Chapter 1
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Charlie caught the heel of his left boot with his right toe and kicked his boot off to stand next to its partner near the front door. His gun belt came undone with a sharp tug and he slipped the metal buckle loose. In a familiar motion, Charlie slung the heavy belt up over the hook and left it to hang in the entryway.
In his stocking feet Charlie padded silently across the white linoleum into the yellow and brown kitchen and opened the freezer. Without looking at the labels, he selected one of a dozen frozen dinners and opened the package. The frozen meal went into the microwave and Charlie pressed the numbers on the keypad to start it cooking.
Charlie’s next stop on his evening route was the living room, where he turned on the TV. The TV was set on the sports channel, there were dozens of other channels on his cable package but he had never really watched them. Occasionally a game he wanted to see was broadcast on one of the local channels, but a significant portion of the time this channel remained set.
A college football game was on, third quarter, close score, looked like a good contest and a well matched set of teams. It took until the next commercial break, almost twenty minutes later, for Charlie to realize the microwave must have beeped out its quiet call to dinner some fifteen minutes past.
The randomly selected meal had cooked through, no frozen patches, no burnt edges; but the brief interlude sitting in the microwave cooling back to room temperature had allowed the sauce to begin congealing. Charlie grimaced at the unappetizing looking blobs, but the sound of coverage of the game resuming in the living room called for him to grab a fork and a glass of milk. Charlie repressed any negative feelings towards what was about to be his dinner.
The game didn’t last nearly long enough. It proved a good distraction while it lasted, but following the game some sort of gymnastic competition was being broadcast. The easy distraction of watching a fast paced competition of athletic skill had come to a close. Charlie realized he had arrived at the moment he had been thinking about and turning over in his mind all day.
It was time to go look at Isabella’s room.
Charlie heaved himself out of the well-worn indentation in the sofa and took his dishes to the sink. He washed them and set them upside-down on a towel to dry. He turned away from the sink and started up the stairs, each step careful and deliberate. At the top of the stairs Charlie paused in front of the door to the west bedroom. It had been a while since he had gone in the room he thought of as his daughter's. Not as long as it had been since Isabella had been in the room herself; but a long time.
Charlie opened the door and stared for a moment into the fiery red light of the sunset shining in the window and reflecting off the light blue walls turning the room vibrant shades of red and brown. The rocking chair and desk were both empty and covered in a layer of dust. The yellow curtains hung draped with thin filaments of cobwebs glowing scarlet in the late afternoon light. The bed was still made up from the last time Charlie had been in this room three years earlier.
The emptiness of the room tightened the knot in Charlie’s chest where he kept the pain tightly bound.
Thinking back to the summer Isabella turned 14, Charlie recalled his joy over having his daughter return to visit him for a month. He had gotten the room ready for her the same as in previous summers but his preparations had been in vain. Isabella had asked, no, more like demanded, that she not have to return to the damp and sunless weather of a summer in Forks, Washington.
That summer had been a tough one for Charlie; he got half the time with his daughter - two weeks instead of a month - and had to make the trip to California where the people were unpredictable and where the traffic was predictably bad. With rental car expenses, food and hotel expenses, and the cost of activities and entertainment, Charlie spent most of his extra yearly income on the trip to see his daughter. The money didn't matter; he would have sold a kidney to get a few weeks with Isabella. He hated to leave Forks and take all his vacation time in one lump every year, but again, he would have made larger sacrifices if he had to, he just wanted to make sure Isabella was happy.
Being a father from a distance wasn't easy. Charlie felt like he knew more about his good friend Billy Black's two children than he did about his own daughter. It would probably help if he called her more often to talk, ask her what she was doing, find out about her friends and activities, but he had never been able to find the words when he called. Charlie made sure Isabella knew he loved her and that he was there for her at any time, but neither one of them were good at making small talk.
Ignoring the thick layer of dust Charlie sank down into the rocking chair he had bought for Renee shortly after finding out they were expecting their first child. They had both been so excited. Renee had been even more radiant as the happiness and love shone out from her face. Charlie and Renee had each sat in this chair holding tiny Isabella. Charlie slid his hands back and forth over the smooth wood of the arms of the rocking chair, wiping away the dust and breaking away from the feelings of sadness and regret that always came when he let himself think of the amazing and beautiful young woman he had met and married almost two decades ago. Their marriage had ended abruptly; before it had really had much of a chance to get started. Renee had decided it just wasn’t working out and left Charlie and Forks. When Renee left with Isabella half of Charlie’s heart left with them; the other broken half he kept to himself.
Charlie sat in the rocking chair surrounded by memories and faced his dilemma head on. He had two choices, the first; assume this was just another one of Renee's grand ideas, sudden in forming and quick to fade. Charlie had plenty of experience with the mercurial shifting of Renee's plans and fancies. Isabella seemed to be sincere and determined to stick to this plan, but she was so often dragged along in the wake of her mother's schemes. If this was another of those fleeting fancies then it would be safer to just let it blow over, agree with whatever Renee said and then forget it and go fishing.
The second option, the one that held the promise of both more joy and more pain, depending on the outcome, was to accept the impending arrival of his daughter as fact. If Charlie embraced the idea that he was having one of his greatest wishes granted and then had to go through the disappointment of having his daughter taken from him once again, he knew there would be suffering involved. Charlie wasn't one for embracing a lot of emotion, positive or negative, and this would be a heavy price to pay.
Charlie dug his fingers hard into the solid arms of the chair trying to get a grasp on his dilemma. While he sat and debated with himself the light in the room faded from red to violet and then took on the colorless aspect of twilight.
The knot in Charlie’s chest pulled unbearably tight going from familiar ache to sharper almost physical pain in anticipation of possible new wounds to his already scarred heart. Weighing the possibilities against the pain, Charlie let the knot loosen just a little and realized he could feel the anticipation building inside himself as well as the fear. At least this wouldn’t be as bad as… No, that first loss had been the worst, even if this plan to have his daughter come spend a year with him only lasted a short time or worse yet, fell through before it even started, Charlie could live with it. He’d lived with worse. The chance at some real happiness outweighed the very likely possibility of severe disappointment.
His decision made, Charlie rose, pushing himself up out of the rocking chair and reaching to turn on the light. He had a room to get ready. The work would be the easy part, something he could get his hands on. Isabella’s father was a steady man, he put a lot of time and thought into his decisions, but once they were made, he stuck with them.