The Cullen Girls
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The Cullen Girls: Part 15

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 15
Kerri Caldwell

Before school the next day, Jane rehearses what she's going to say to Pete. She tells herself she'll be calm and nice like Meredith told her. But when she gets to school the next morning and sees Pete standing by the doors, all casual and carefree as he talks and jokes with classmates walking by, Jane doesn't fight the irritation that takes over instead. If he were such a good friend, he wouldn't act like a jerk whenever Davey was around and then be the same old Pete when he wasn't.

"Jane! Where ya going?" Pete runs up behind her after she walks past him without a word.

"To class."

"Ha ha. Hey, are you doing anything after school? Let's hang out." He jumps in front of her. She's not paying attention in her attempt to ignore him and walks into him. She finally looks at him, and he's got a hopeful smile on his face. Jane is a sucker.

"Ok, yeah."

Pete doesn't even try to hide his relief as he falls in step with Jane. "We should get Olivia to make those brownies again."

Jane lets out a snort. "I'm thinking no, not after my mom almost ate one." They lose themselves in laughter, all that was changing between them forgotten for now. Jane can't escape this conflict for long, though.

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

"When does your sister get home?"

"In, like, an hour?" Jane guesses, craning her neck to look at Davey.

"So we still have time…"

Jane giggles, getting his point. As they laugh at each other, Jane thinks about how this never gets old. She can't imagine being with anyone but Davey. She loves everything about him, about the way he looks at her, how he smiles whenever she does. And she especially loves the way they can't pry themselves away from each other.

"Are still on for the movies?" Davey pulls his shirt on, and Jane is sad to see those muscles disappear. Being on the track and soccer team didn't just benefit Davey.

"Yeah."

"Gee, don't sound so excited." Davey teases. The fact that he knows why Jane is unhappy is the reason she gets so upset with Pete. "Just ask Pete to come with us."

Jane makes a face. "Why? It's our date, and all he's going to do is make sarcastic comments all night." She folds her arms, sitting on the bed. Davey can't help but smile as he sits down beside her.

"If it bothers you, we can always go another night. You can hang with Pete instead."

"You would do that? Why?"

"Because. You're my Jane."

Jane smiles, unable to stop the warmth in her cheeks. This was Davey's way of saying 'I love you.'

"Well…" Jane sighs. "There's only one way to make this work. So, I'll call Pete tonight and tell him if he's not on his best behavior - "

"We'll tell everyone he made out with Lizzy Bennett!"

"Yeah!"

………..

"Can I ask you something?"

Sarah turns the radio down. "What's up."

"Pete's going with us to the movies. Davey thought it would help."

"Does Pete know it was Davey's idea?"

"Yeah. Is that bad?"

"Eh," Sarah says, pulling to a stop at a light. "Pete's either going to see it as Davey trying to be nice, and take advantage of it, or think Davey is pretending to be nice so that he looks better to you."

Jane throws her hands up. "Are you kidding me?" she yells. "Are boys just as bad as girls?"

Sarah laughs. "Yours are."

Jane scowls. "God, I don't know how long I can do this."

"Yes, you do. You'll do it as long as it takes because you love them."

"Well, I'm not sure how long they'll deserve it."

"Don't worry about that; I'll kick both their asses if I need to." Jane doesn't doubt her sister's threat or the fact that would be able to do just that.

"Maybe Pete will see that Davey's not so bad."

"Janey, you know he probably already knows that. And that's what's bothering him. The fact that Davey is going to be sticking around."

"Meredith said the same thing," Jane mutters out the window.

"And you of all people should understand that."

Jane turns on her sister. "Why?"

"Why? Oh, I don't know. Have any of us ever brought a guy home that you liked or gave a chance?"

"They were all assholes. And that's why they're not around."

"What about Austin? You hated him at first."

"Yeah…"

Sarah rolls her eyes. "You are such a fucking brat." Jane's response is to stick her tongue, and Sarah does it back. She knows Sarah is right, but she can't stop thinking about what the hell was going to happen with Davey and Pete.


Meredith almost cancels her trip. She can't stand being away from her girls, even when she's at work. She still checks on them in the middle of the night, something she used to do when they were little. She lays beside Jane and tries not to cry, but those terrifying feelings are still so raw. It doesn't matter what time she checks on Sarah; she's always awake.

"I'm ok, mom." Sarah had huffed that first night.

"Ok, but I'm not." Meredith had whispered. After that, Sarah says nothing when her mom appears in her doorway; she just smiles from where she can't sleep.

Now, with this weekend trip, Meredith can't check whenever she wants, to ease her heart and mind that her kids were okay. She knows she can trust her girls now more than ever, but it's not enough. She tries not to make a big deal about it at breakfast.

"Mom you don't have to cry." Sarah scoffs.

"I'm not," Meredith sniffs.

"Mom, you don't have to go," Jane tells her, sitting in her lap.

"Oh my God. Jane, you aren't 6. And stop giving mom ideas. We're all fine."

"I know, baby," Meredith tells Sarah, but this doesn't stop her from pulling Jane to her.

"Mom." Sarah scolds again.

"Ok, ok. We're all fine." Meredith waits for Sarah to turn back around and whispers to Jane, "Call me when you get home from school."

"I will," Jane whispers back.

"And your date. It'll be fine, I promise. I love you."

"Love you, too, mom."

Meredith calls Amy and Olivia once Sarah is out of the house. She gets the same eye-rolling response from Olivia, and Amy patiently listens to Meredith's list and instructions like she hasn't ever watched her younger sisters before, or that they were all grown. It's been a few weeks since everything happened, and though they all stay closer to each other than before, Meredith seems to be the only one that can't move past it. That Saturday night finds them all crowded together on Amy's couch in front of the tv, and they hadn't heard from Meredith since the night before, just after Jane had left for her date. Amy realizes something else.

"Hey, you never told us about your big night."

"She told me," Olivia says.

"That's because you wouldn't leave me alone." Jane clarifies.

"God, Ollie, you need your own relationship," Sarah tells her. Olivia reaches to hit her but gets Amy instead. "Ow, you didn't get me." Sarah deadpans.

Amy ignores them and turns back to Jane. "Tell us."

"It was unbearably boring. Everything the guys said to each other was fake. And I know they were trying to be nice, but it did not make for a fun night. They were too afraid to say or do something wrong."

"Isn't that what you wanted? For them to be nice?" Sarah asks.

"Yeah, nice. Not fake."

"At least they were trying." Olivia says, and when Jane just grunts, Amy adds, "It's not going to be perfect right away. But if they're trying, it's going to get there."

Jane sighs. "If you say so."

"Hey, Sarah, didn't you have a date?" Ollie is way too excited.

Sarah's face twists. "Uh, no."

"Oh, yeah. With party dude." Jane laughs.

Sarah sits up to glare at Olivia. "Party dude? Olivia, I've told his name a hundred - "

"You like him!" her sisters shout.

"Oh, for fuck's sake. I see him a lot when I go out. So does Olivia."

"But I don't sleep with him every time I see him."

Everyone shrinks back at Sarah's face when she turns back to Olivia.

"Chill, dude! I've never slept with him." Olivia promises her sister without any sarcasm.

"Oh my god, you really like him," Amy says quietly, poking Sarah.

"It's nothing. We ran into each other at the store - "

"Literally." Olivia interrupts.

" - and we went for coffee. That's it."

"Really? My date was more interesting than that." Jane says. Olivia bursts out laughing.

"What?"

"I just realized Jane has a better love life than Sarah."

"Excuse me, but you don't have a love life at all." Sarah points out.

Olivia shrugs. "I get what I need."

Amy smacks her. "Olivia, that's not healthy."

"Save your lecture, sis."

"I wasn't going to lecture you. Because one day you'll change your mind."

"What if she doesn't?" Jane wonders. Sarah and Amy look at each other.

"God, she'll be like, 40, still going to clubs, looking to hook up."

"That's disgusting."

"Stop talking about me!" Olivia yells.

"Yeah, let's talk about me." They all laugh at Amy.

"Where is Austin?"

"Catching up on work. You can bother him later."

"Fine." Jane pouts.

"You know what I keep thinking about? Austin is going to be our brother-in-law. He's not just Amy's boyfriend anymore." Sarah looks at them.

"It is weird." Olivia agrees.

"Bad weird?" Amy asks.

"I like it. I hadn't even thought about that." Jane leans over to look at Amy, making her smile.

"Yeah, I like it, too," Ollie adds.

"Good. Not that it would've mattered what you guys thought."

There's a collective 'hey!' just before Amy finds herself at the bottom of a sister pile, getting pinched and smacked, and even bit ("Olivia, I know that was you!"). Austin comes in a few minutes later to find his fiancee pinned underneath her sisters like she's the couch. They're all watching tv as if what they're doing is normal. And comfortable.

"Is everything okay?" One head snaps at his voice, though he's sure Amy tries to look at him, too.

"Austin!" Jane is up in seconds dragging him out of the room. Amy's muffled voice barely reaches him. Sarah reaches down to cover Amy's mouth, absently patting her sister's face because her eyes are glued to the tv, and says, "Shhh…"

"Love you, Ames!" he manages to yell through his laughter, still being pulled away by Jane. Sarah can hear their voices down the hall a few minutes later when she sneaks outside to call Meredith.

"Hi, baby."

"Hey, mom. I know you haven't heard from anyone since yesterday, so I'm calling before you have the cops sent to Amy's house."

Meredith smiles because both Jane and Amy had called her that morning. "I would not have done that. What's everyone doing?"

"Nothing much. Olivia took Jane to the liquor store, and Amy and Austin haven't been out of their bedroom since yesterday."

"Just another quiet night for the Cullen Girls," Meredith says, feeling lighter about being away from her family. The fact that it's Sarah bringing out her laughter makes Meredith even happier than when she saw Sarah's name light up her phone.

"Everything and everyone is fine. What about you? Isn't James on this trip, too?"

"Unfortunately, his department is at a different convention on the other side of the hotel."

Sarah notes the genuine disappointment in her mom's voice but doesn't want to press on. She has a quick thought that Olivia will find out whatever needs to be found out with their mother and the only guy she's dated this long but just as quickly has another thought, too.

"We like James, you know." There's no sound on the other end, and Sarah begins to regret saying anything. "Mer?"

"I like him, too. Like, really like him." Meredith says quietly.

"Meredith, we're ready whenever you are. We'll put a leash on Ollie to keep her in line, but you know we're okay with this, right?" More silence comes down the line, but Sarah knows Meredith is trying not to cry.

"I do now."

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