Feels Like Forever




Sorry it’s taken so long to reply. I’ve just been trying to figure out what I wanted to say, and life has been a bit hectic lately. It’s hard to juggle motherhood, a job, AND a relationship. Anyway.

You’re right. You were literally the last person on Earth I’d ever want to hear from at that time. I’m glad that you’re able to admit your shortcomings as a sister, daughter, and mother, but I’m just so damn angry that you couldn’t figure it out before Ryder was affected. He deserved better than what you gave him. He deserved a mother who gave a damn about his wellbeing and was actually THERE for him. You never were, and he had to learn the pain of abandonment by the only person in the world who was supposed to never leave him.

You regretting what you did doesn’t change anything, though. You’re just really lucky that he’s so little, he won’t really remember what he’s gone through because of you. He won’t remember standing in his Pack n Play for hours, screaming and crying for a mother who never came. He won’t remember all the times he had to come to mine because you were too fucked up to keep him. He won’t remember any of that.

But I will. And I’ll do my damnedest to do right by him, to never make him feel like that again.

I’m glad you’re going to therapy. I only ever wanted you to get help and fix yourself. I never wanted you to have a criminal record or be in jail, but if that’s what’s helping, then… I guess I’m glad I called the cops on you. I’m sure you already know, but Dani, I’m the one who called DCFS that day. And I’d do it again if I had to. Anything to make sure Ry isn’t in danger.

God, he’s such a beautiful child. I look at him, and I can’t help but wonder why you couldn’t get your head out of your ass and just be there. Be a mom. Be the person he could always rely on, turn to for everything. He’s smart and silly and so damned loving. He’s amazing.

I hate you for putting me in this position. So much. I’m not the one who got pregnant, and I’m not the one who gave birth to him. I hate you for this. But I’m also so thankful that you did. He may not be mine by blood - in any form, really - but he’s mine because of you.

I’ll keep raising him as I have been. I’ll be the one who stays up with him all night when he’s sick, hold him and comfort him when he has his first heartbreak, teach him how to cook and clean and be a damn good man. I’ll be the one who helps him and his partner plan their wedding and raise their kids. Because I love him. Because he’s mine.

You are never to tell him the truth. He doesn’t deserve to find out from someone who couldn’t keep their head on straight, someone who hasn’t ever been around even when you weren’t in jail. I’ll tell him when I think he’s ready.

As messed up as it is to say this: Thank you. Thank you for being so selfish. You’ve given me the most precious gift in the universe, and I will never, ever forget that he’s why I live.

No matter how much you’ve fucked up, I do love you, Dani. You’ll always be my sister.

Love, Emilie

Emilie blows out a breath as she drops the pen to the tabletop. The clock reads just after eleven at night, almost two hours after she first sat down to write the letter, and her heart aches with everything she’s put into ink on paper. It’s true - she can’t thank Danielle enough for allowing her to be the one who cares for Ryder.

There will always be a small part of her that resents Danielle, though. No matter how amazing Ryder is, no matter how much Emilie loves being the one to raise the child, she will always hate her stepsister for not doing right by her son. That will never go away, even when the anger is gone.

Folding the paper into tidy thirds, Emilie slips it into an envelope and reaches for the old one, the one Danielle’s letter had arrived in. She carefully copies down the address, double- and triple-checking that it’s correct, then writes the address of her old flat in the sender’s spot. She may not live there any more, but Danielle having her current residence is not an ideal event.

“What are you still doing down here?”

Emilie seals the envelope and sighs. “Had to write a letter.”

“You don’t look happy about that,” Mully says quietly as he sits at the table across from her. “Everything okay?”

“You, you know that Ryder isn’t biologically mine, right? That’s not something you’ve not noticed?”

“Yeah, the fact he calls you his auntie kinda gives it away.”

Drawing in a steadying breath, Emilie explains, as simply as possible, the circumstances of her custody arrangement. Mully frowns when she admits that Danielle chose illicit substances over her own child, reaches for her hand when the tears prickle at her eyes, and she gives him a shaky smile.

“I mean, I’m glad that I’m there for him. That I’ve always been there for him. I just wish it didn’t come with his mother abandoning him so many times.”

“For what it’s worth, you’re an amazing mother. Oh, no, don’t - why are you crying more? Please stop, don’t cry.”

Emilie giggles, no matter how watery through her tears, and shakes her head. “I’m fine, I promise. It’s, it’s weird to hear someone say that and trust that they mean it.”

“Well, it’s true. I’ll keep reminding you of that, too, and I know Niall will, too. Now go to bed, it’s late.”

She rolls her eyes but climbs to her feet. After finding and attaching a stamp to the front of the envelope, Emilie leaves the letter on the counter to put into the post box first thing in the morning. Mully calls out a goodnight as she heads for the stairs.

Today had been peaceful. Louis and Freddie stayed for dinner, the kids got along, and Emilie felt as if her presence mattered. And now, after thinking all day about everything in her life, she is much more secure - in her relationship but, more than that, in her decision to accept custody of Ryder. He is hers, in all the ways it matters, and she’s his. No amount of genetics will ever change that. All she hopes is that Danielle stays true to her word and doesn’t decide to come back into Ryder’s life.

Niall is almost asleep by the time Emilie crawls into bed, but he opens his arms for her without hesitation. She smiles at the sleepy sounds he makes when she doesn’t immediately move closer, leaning over to kiss him gently. He sighs, a quiet exhalation, and his body goes lax beside her. A sliver of guilt twines up her spine, but she shoves it away. If Niall hadn’t wanted to stay awake until she came to bed, he wouldn’t have. She knows better than to try to control his decisions, or feel like she has any strong persuasion over what he chooses to do.

The thought comes quickly, no warning at all, and Emilie can’t quite draw in a breath. But there’s no undercurrent of fear, of panic or doubt. Instead, it feels like the right thing. The only thing she can do to prove, once and for all, that Ryder will always be her child, even if she didn’t give birth to him.

“Babe, you still awake?”

“Mmyeah, ‘s’wrong?”

“I think I’m going to get Ry’s last name changed to Ellis. Danielle already said she won’t take him away from me, not since I’m the only one he’s had as a maternal figure. And… I dunno. Is it stupid?”

“Not stupid,” he assures her, words slurred and fuzzy around the edges, “’s’good idea.”

Emilie rolls her eyes, presses her lips to the curve of his jaw. “Go to sleep. We’ll talk more tomorrow. I love you.”

He breathes out a response, but he’s too far gone for his words to make sense. Emilie blows out a breath, settles down against his side, and bites back a smile. Now that she’s given form to the thought, the plan can’t be put into action fast enough. She drifts off in the comfort of Niall holding her and the warmth of knowing that this can only be the start of better things.