Feels Like Forever



Emilie absentmindedly leans down to kiss Niall’s cheek, but her attention is firmly on the letter she knows is in Derek’s bag. Niall frowns up at her, eyes dark, and Emilie shakes her head. She can’t talk about it. Not yet.

Biting her lip, she turns to Derek and holds out a hand. He digs through the clothes in his duffel bag until he comes up with a small pile of envelopes. She promises to be back in a bit then heads upstairs to read the letter in private.

Staring down at the familiar loops and swirls of Danielle’s handwriting is more painful than Emilie could have anticipated. She’s gone so long without thinking of her former stepsister, no matter the fact that she only has Ryder in her care because Danielle couldn’t get her act together and be a mother. Emilie had almost forgotten about all the pain and sacrifices at Danielle’s hand.

Emilie can’t put it off any longer. She peels back the flap, heart in her throat as she unfolds the paper.


I know I’m probably the last person you ever want to hear from, but I have something I have to say. I was selfish, immature, irresponsible, and - honestly? - dangerously negligent. Ryder didn’t deserve that. Our parents didn’t deserve it. You didn’t deserve it. But I did it anyway.

I can’t change what I’ve done. I can’t change that I put myself before my son’s needs. His safety. I regret ever doing that to him. I regret ever putting you in the position of having to raise a child you didn’t give birth to. A child you have loved and cared for far more than I ever did.

I want to thank you. Because of your influence, that baby will grow up knowing love and safety and security. Yes, he should have gotten it from me, since I’m the one who gave him life. No. Scratch that. I gave him existence. You’re the one giving him life. It was never your responsibility. You shouldn’t be forced to shoulder the burden of my own choices. I can’t tell you how much I admire you for doing so, though. I don’t think I’d have done the same in your position.

I’ve been going to therapy twice a week since I got here. Rehab, too, but in jail? Rehab isn’t nearly as luxurious as it’s been made out to be. I’ve also been doing a lot of soul searching. Trying to find the broken bits of me that made me so dark and self-involved. I don’t know, I guess I just wanted you to know that I’m trying to be the sister you deserve, the daughter our parents deserve. The mother that Ry deserved.

I don’t know how to say this without sounding selfish as fuck but I don’t think I’ll be able to take Ryder back after this. Not because I don’t love him, but because I do. I’ve finally seen how much I love that little guy. But I can’t fuck up his life any more than I already have, by taking him away from the one constant he’s ever had in his life.


You’re the only one who has been there for him every step of the way, no matter how much it messed up your life. You have been so amazing with him. And I can’t take that away. So I hope you can continue being there for him. If not…

Don’t feel obligated to reply. I promise I won’t take it personally. I just needed to say all this to you so you know.

Love the sister who wasn’t very sisterly,

Bile rises in Emilie’s throat as she rereads the letter again. A small part of her appreciates that Danielle is finally getting the help she needs and owning up to her mistakes, but the larger part of her brain is so angry that it’s too little too late. Two years of her selfishness at the expense of her child, and Danielle thinks an apology will suffice? Emilie can’t think of any reason why she should accept the justification of her stepsister’s behaviour.

Ryder is the happy, carefree child he is only because of Emilie’s influence. Selfish though the thought may be, Emilie knows that he wouldn’t be nearly so well-adjusted if she hadn’t interfered. If she hadn’t taken over caring for him every time Danielle screwed up.

A tear drops onto the paper, smudging the ink, and Emilie sighs before blinking away the dampness in her eyes. Who cares, she thinks bitterly, no point in worrying about Danielle any more. You have a kid to raise. With another deep breath, she shoves the letter back into its envelope and puts it away in the nightstand drawer. She wipes at her face with the hem of her T-shirt, pushes to her feet, and makes her way downstairs.


Emilie ignores Monica and scoops Ryder up into her arms. He whines when the dinosaur toy falls from his hand, but she just holds him close, breathes in the scent of baby shampoo.

“I love you so very much, Ryder Alexander. More than the rainbow.”

“What’d it say?” Derek asks once Emilie has set Ryder back down, and she blows out a breath before moving to sit on the couch next to Niall.

“Basically apologised for the shhh-tuff, stuff, she’s pulled over the last two years. Also, uh, said she can’t take him back when she gets out of jail.”

Niall pulls her close, presses a kiss to her temple. “Are you okay?”

“I mean, I guess? Like, logically, I knew she’d probably say something like that, but… her reasoning was unexpected. It wasn’t just ‘I’m too selfish to be a mother’, but ‘it’s best for him if I don’t take him from the one person he knows he can rely on’. So that’s a new development that I’m trying to wrap my mind around.”

No one speaks for a long moment, but then Ryder lets out a loud roar and stomps his dino toys across the floor. Emilie stares blankly for a second then bursts into giggles. It’s no surprise that the toddler has managed to break up the awkwardness of the silence. She leans further into Niall’s side and watches Ryder play with his toys, as her friends and boyfriend talk about golf and music and the plans for the rest of the day.

Even with her anger at Danielle’s letter, Emilie can’t think of anything that could make her life better. She may have the responsibility of raising a child, but she also loves that child more than life itself. She has great friends, wonderful parents, and the most amazing boyfriend she ever could have asked for. She reaches up with one hand, turns Niall’s face toward her, and interrupts whatever he’s saying with a tender kiss.