The Cullen Girls: Part 12
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The Cullen Girls: Part 12

Follow the lives of Meredith, Amy, Olivia, Sarah, and Jane Cullen, as they navigate the unknown territories that come with building a family through adoption.

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The Cullen Girls: Part 12
Kerri Caldwell

Almost a year after Meredith adopted Amy the call for Olivia came. She was only supposed to foster her, but Meredith hadn't cared. She knew it would be hard to let her go, but it never mattered. Now, nearly fourteen years later, and Olivia is still hers. She'd been the sweetest little girl. She was ten when Meredith took her in, only two years younger than Amy. The two of them together had been easy. It was her two younger ones that had been her little deviants growing up, Sarah always so defiant and rebellious, and Jane the master of manipulation and guilt. Today, at twenty-four, Olivia is still her wild child. Keeping her on track is a more than a full-time job, but Olivia had a way of making you see past whatever mess she put herself into. Sometimes Meredith wished she still lived at home, and not so that he could keep a closer eye on her. The years had gone by too fast before her babies started moving out.

Olivia, of course, was the first to leave the nest, the second she'd graduated, though she was back home in less than a month. Any had waited for almost everyone's sake, mostly for Meredith. Jane, now that she was older, would never have admitted that she wanted Amy to stay, but everyone knew better. She'd slept in Amy's old bed for almost two months before Amy suggested she just move in there, which prompted a meltdown. It was like Jane had suddenly realized just how permanent it was that Amy had moved out. Now, it's just Sarah, Jane, and Meredith, though Olivia stays over so much, she might as well just move back home. And even though Amy's over a lot, it's just not the same. But Meredith takes the loss as a sign that she'd done a good job. If her kids were doing well, then she'd done what she'd promised each of them, and given them a better life than they ever would have otherwise. Still, as much as she wishes that all her girls were still under one roof, there are plenty of moments when she's reminded why she doesn't miss it that much.

Meredith can't count how many times she's been on a date and known within minutes that it wasn't going to be worth it. Now, on her third date (that her girls are aware because she and James have gone out for lunch several times), Meredith feels a familiar pattern falling into place. The only thing different about tonight's date is that James is picking her up. Here. At the house where they would be seen by all her girls because of course all four are home. She can hear Jeopardy playing, Jane's passive voice throwing out answers while Olivia's angry tone and words meant her little sister was kicking her ass, like always. Sarah and Amy were tending to the gardens, and Meredith prays that they'll all just stay put. She sighs, knowing this will never happen because privacy isn't a word any of her daughters can comprehend. She is reminded of this when she finds Olivia on her bed as she's coming out of her shower.

"Big date?" Olivia asks, grinning. She's sprawled on the bed, hands behind her head, looking way too comfortable against the pillows. Meredith doesn't even try to hold back her groan.

"Olivia, how do you find out about these things?"

"Because of the way you act."

Meredith turns to stare at her daughter, the one who hasn't brought home a boy since high school. How is it that she's so attuned to everyone else's love life and relationships?

"And just how do I act, exactly?"

"Well, before the first couple of dates, you're all nervous, and you get all distracted. BUT, if you make it past the third date, you're all smiley and more carefree." Olivia tilts her head. "Which means you've been on more than three dates with James." She squints her eyes at her mother. "You've been sneaking out!" she accuses.

Meredith is so shocked she laughs before throwing herself on her daughter, rewarded with that laugh that ends in a snort, the laugh Olivia does when she's really happy. Meredith loves the sound of Olivia's happiness, but she loves the sight of it more. Olivia was her one child that absolutely could not fake her feelings, who embraced her emotions, and it's something that is still true. She takes in her daughter's infectious grin before squeezing her face.

"Baby, don't take this any other way – you need a boyfriend of your own."

Olivia ignores this, waving her hand at her mother. "Mom," she says sternly as if she's about to lecture her. "How serious is this?"

"Honey, I'm not thinking about that at all right now. All I know is that we both enjoy each other's company." Meredith closes her eyes. "And I pray he will still talk to me after he picks me up for our date tonight."

There is a fraction of silence before Olivia emits an unreal squeal. "He's coming HERE?!" Before Meredith evens opens her eyes, Olivia is thundering down the hall.

"OLIVIA!"

.............

"Well, that didn't seem as bad as you said it could be." James grins at Meredith as he opens the passenger side door.

"Yeah, actually I'm half tempted to pull out a thermometer on all of them." Meredith shakes her head when James laughs.

"What?" she asks.

"They sure are protective of you, though. Especially your little one." There's something about this that makes James suddenly more attractive than Meredith already found him. Plenty of guys she'd dated had taken an interest in her girls, but there was an effortless manner about the way James took her family in. Meredith knew him enough to know that he didn't have kids living with him, but she wonders if he once had a family or kids he shares custody with. She doesn't get a chance to find out. By the time they're driving home James has learned that Sarah once tried to sell Jane to their neighbor, Amy had her appendix taken out when she was fourteen, Olivia couldn't whistle, and that Jane had a scar behind her ear because Olivia was convinced she could cut and style her hair. Meredith knows they're all they've talked about the entire night, But James doesn't seem to care.

"Do you think I should come in, or would that be pushing it?"

"We should play it safe." Meredith is eagle-eyeing every window of the house.

"Safe?" James repeats, leaning towards her and making her pulse jump. It's been a long time since she's felt this way about a man. Certain feelings come naturally, but with James, all the emotions are there, too.

Meredith lets him kiss her until she feels four pairs of eyes burning holes into them.

"I better go," she whispers, and they share a smile and a glance back at the house.

"Ok. Tell everyone it was nice to meet them."

"Yeah, I might skip that part."

"Night, Meredith," he calls from the car, and from the porch, she calls back, "Night, James," and watches as he drives away. Bracing herself for what's behind the door, she's even more suspicious when she finds the foyer empty.

"Hello?"

"In here!" Jane calls from the living room, and Meredith finds a familiar scene of gin rummy and reality tv. Amy and Olivia were obsessed with any kind of reality television. They got together once a week to watch as much as Amy's DVR could hold, and Austin could tolerate.

"How was the date? From what we just saw it must have gone well." Sarah side-eyes her mom and then pointedly looks at Olivia. Meredith rolls her eyes as she dramatically flops onto the sofa.

"Honestly, it was great. Not boring at all." Jane smirks at her from the floor, Sarah expertly switching out cards while she's looking away.

Olivia joins her mom on the couch, a stupid grin on her face. "Ah, love," she says, and Meredith goes to put her arm around her shoulders, then reaches and covers Olivia's mouth.

"Ah, silence," Meredith says. Olivia laughs against her hand before pulling it away. She points at her mom's smile.

"See?" Olivia says. "I can tell by the way you act."

Meredith pulls her daughter to her, squeezing her tight.

"I'm glad you're happy, Mom."

"Me, too."


...................

A week after she and Sarah had gone out to breakfast and talked about Marcus, Jane comes home from school one day to Amy sitting in the kitchen.

"Hey, Ames." she greets her, grabbing a soda out of the fridge, and turning back to Amy when she doesn't get a response.

"Amy?"

She finally looks at her. "Something's up with Sarah." Amy watches Jane closely, and it makes her cheeks burn. How can she lie to one of her sisters to protect the another?

"Like what."

"I think you know."

"Well, I don't." Jane is too defensive.

"Jane Amanda, if you don't tell me – "

"Don't do that, Amy! You can't yell at me for this!"

"What is 'this,' Jane? Huh? You need to tell me what you know about Sarah."

"No. She'll tell you herself." Jane gives Amy a defiant, stubborn glare, but underneath she sees the conflict.

"Oh, she will? When, exactly? Because I just got a call from her, telling me she's fine. Said she couldn't tell me anything, except to tell everyone she loves them." Amy folds her arms to both intimidate and keep from strangling Jane.

Jane can't find the right words to say, ones that would put Amy at ease without betraying Sarah. She knows she's gone to see Marcus, and then they were going to decide on visiting their dad. But she hadn't known that Sarah was going to disappear like this.

"I don't know anything about that." Of course, Amy doesn't believe her.

"Give me something, Jane. Tell me what you do know because I can't hide this from mom for long."

"I don't know!"

"Yes, you do, I know you do! Why are you keeping this from me?"

"Because Sarah asked me to!" Jane finally screams, her angry stomps interrupted by the angrier slam of her door.

Amy stands in the kitchen, dumbfounded. Upstairs, Jane can barely see her phone as she calls Sarah.

"Sarah, please, you have to come home. Or call, or something." Jane sobs into the phone.

"Janey, I can't. I have to do this, and I have to do it without anyone else knowing. Without interference. And I need your help to make that happen."

"This is harder than I thought." Jane wails. "I can't keep lying. Amy already knows."

"I know it's hard, it's hard for me, too." The break-in Sarah's voice gives Jane some comfort, knowing she feels just as guilty. "I'm sorry about Amy, but letting her know I was ok so she could tell mom was the only way I could go through with this. Don't let her bully you; I purposely called her to take the pressure off of you. I just need you to hold out for a little longer. Please? Can you try, Shadow?"

"I don't know," Jane mumbles.

"I know you can. For me."

Jane sits on her bed, her entire life with her family covering every inch of her room. She can't help but feel like she should tell Amy. What if going through with this makes Sarah want to stay with her real family? What if she can prevent that from happening? The thoughts are there, but in her heart, Jane knows this is something Sarah needs to do. And she has every right to want to know these people and keep them in her life from now on. Jane curls up on her bed and cries instead, frustrated at the anger she doesn't want to feel, and overwhelmed about how exactly she's supposed to keep lying to everyone. When Amy comes into her room 45 minutes later, Jane is still agonizing over her thoughts. Amy is quiet when she sits on her bed, listening to the old Dave Matthew's song playing on the radio before speaking.

"I'm guessing you've known why Sarah's been acting so distant."

Jane says nothing because Amy already knows the answer.

"Is she in trouble?"

"No."

Amy isn't satisfied, but she doesn't ask anything more. She can see the misery on her little sister's face. She settles herself beside Jane, tugging on the ratty blanket she's holding with a death grip. When Jane pulls away like Amy knows she will, she lets go, nearly sending Jane onto the floor. Laughing at Jane's indignant screech, Amy grabs her, so she doesn't fall, and then holds Jane to her.

"What are we gonna tell mom?"

Jane closes her eyes. "I've been trying to figure that out for a week." She opens her dark eyes and meets Amy's dark eyes. "I don't think I can keep this from her. But I was telling you the truth. I don't know exactly where Sarah went. I think she knew better than to tell me."

Amy makes a face that says she agrees, making Jane's face scrunch up in annoyance. Glancing at the clock, Amy groans. "Mom will be home soon. I think we should hold out as long as we can, just in case she decides to come back."

Jane sits up, drawing her knees to her chest. "What if she doesn't, Amy?"

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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