September 29, 2010
If we were humans, we would all be dead tired right now!
The day began in the most predictable way – with arguments. For some reason, Bella had thought that Jacob and Seth were invited to the dinner party – luckily, neither of the boys had been so foolish as to believe that, so it wasn’t a big problem. Jacob had more important things to do, namely, watching over Renesmee at the cottage; and Seth and Leah were on patrol around our property so they could eavesdrop on their mother (if they wanted to).
Anyway, obviously I wouldn’t have invited them to be there – then how would I know what would happen that night?? Silly Bella. But since she and Esme were the chefs, I had to placate her before she would get back to work on the food. Having assembled the focaccia the night before, my role in the food prep was done (and the only reason I’d even had to do that much was that ever-practical Bella would just have gone with store-bought bread).
I had other things to do; arrange flowers, set the table, coerce Edward into writing the place cards in his elegant script … It had taken me over an hour to get the table looking just right, and that was only the beginning! Then I had to perfect the lighting scheme, which required the judicious addition of a handful of candles, and last but not least, Jasper and I had worked together to adorn the trees surrounding our driveway with brand-new Chinese-style lanterns.
Then it was on to apparel. I had been very, very careful when selecting everyone’s outfit; I didn’t want any of us to make Renee feel uncomfortable, so I’d chosen dresses that were a little less on the flashy side. Bella’s took the longest to find, of course … every time I’d thought I had found the right one, I had a vision of her refusing to wear it – “too short,” “too shiny,” “NO SEQUINS!” etc etc. So annoying. Finally, I had found an elegant, sophisticated dress for her that would look lovely with her sapphire earrings.
I laid out all of the outfits in each person’s room, except for Bella’s, since I still had to apply her disguise/ makeup. And tonight, she was going to have to let me put some fancy eyeshadow on her; I was also doing mine, Rosalie, and Esme’s, so she wouldn’t have to stand out too much. But they weren’t done cooking – though our vampire speed makes prep a breeze, it still takes lamb a while to braise in the oven – so I decided to give myself a manicure and pedicure. Then Rose wandered in to join me, and as we chatted, I pondered the wisdom of giving her one of her Christmas gifts in advance … the flower-and-butterfly necklace would probably be a bit too sweet-looking for the zip-up cherry red Versace dress she was going to wear, though, so I decided against it. Anyway, she already had some Van Cleef & Arpels ribbon-style ruby and diamond earrings to wear, so it was okay.
Finally, all the food that needed to be made in advance was done enough that Bella could come get dressed. Unfortunately, the tension of being a hostess seemed to have affected her a bit.
“What are you guys wearing??” she screeched, her head swiveling from Rose in her slightly ostentatious Versace dress to me in my fabulous leather dress.
“Clothes,” Rosalie deadpanned, rolling her eyes at me. I bit back my grin and pulled Bella’s dress out of its garment bag with a flourish. It was a sapphire-colored Yves Saint Laurent in a classic silhouette: boatneck sheath top, and slightly fuller skirt to just above the knee. There was no way she could disapprove.
Wrong! “I am not wearing that, Alice,” she informed me, crossing her arms over her chest with a scowl. As I gaped at her in disbelief, she continued, “My mom is going to show up in normal clothes and then you’ll all be embarrassed -”
I had to interrupt; she was wrong on so many levels. “Actually Bella … remember how I can see the future?” I began, enunciating each word slowly as though talking to a slightly dim-witted child. “Your mother has brought a lovely dress to wear, and you will represent our family beautifully in your dress, and nobody will have any reason to be embarrassed. Now get dressed.”
Eventually, everyone was dressed and ready – Esme had on a fantastic Marc Jacobs dress in a sweet retro style, with white polka dots on a nude background, and the men were all wearing man clothes. I mean, I had found some good-looking stuff for them to wear and all, but you know … it all looks the same anyway.
Renee was due any minute, so I was darting around the living room, checking one last time to make sure everything was set up. Since we couldn’t really eat any of the food, I had instructed everyone to make it look as though they were chewing, when in reality all of their food would be slipped into Ziploc bags faster than a human’s eyes could detect it. So I had Ziploc bags stashed everywhere, and the guys had some in their pockets too. It was going to be a little annoying, but appearances were important here, and the food wouldn’t be going to waste – Jacob and Seth had very generously promised to take the bags of food. Apparently what we were serving was delicious, because they had been hanging around all day – they kept following their noses into the kitchen and cajoling Bella and Esme into letting them “taste-test” everything.
Everything was ready, so I asked Jacob to take a quick family portrait of all of us before he took Ness back to the cottage. She had been sleeping most of the day, but had woken up in time to be dressed for the photo. As soon as that was done, I ordered everyone to their places and Charlie’s cruiser turned off the highway and into our driveway.
With Edward’s music playing softly in the background, the candles twinkling merrily, and what was evidently a fantastic scent of food wafting through the air, it’s no wonder Charlie, Sue and Renee looked a bit dazed when they walked in. Carlisle and Esme greeted them with hugs, and as Bella took her turn, Edward began to offer them drinks. Sue and Renee were each wearing a little black dress (both from Macy’s), and they both looked lovely … and tense. I made a mental note to ask Edward how that car ride had gone later.
When everyone had taken a seat in the living room, the song switched to Exogenesis Symphony, just as I had planned. It was a heartbreaking song when performed by Muse, but my brother’s rendition was a thousand times more intense. The haunting piano and violin notes began to calm our guests, although the wine may have had some part to play there too; and the blood orange-infused giant olives were going over very well with the humans, too. “Eat,” I whispered quickly and softly, so only my family would hear, and they dutifully began to help themselves to bruschetta with walnut pesto. So far, so good.
“It’s lovely to see you again, Alice, Jasper,” Renee said, turning to face us with a smile. “How have your travels been going? Have you been anywhere exciting?”
I let Jazz take the reigns on this one, as he had been instructed how to respond. As he began to detail our “recent trip to Ireland,” I focused on scanning the immediate future. I had to make sure that nothing would surprise us tonight.
Bella excused herself to cook the one thing she had absolutely insisted on including – mushroom-filled ravioli. The sauce was ready, but the pasta had to be done at the last second. I took this as a cue to light the candles in the dining room, so I excused myself as well.
“Alice,” I heard Bella whisper from the kitchen. “Does everything look okay?”
“Are you kidding?” I shot back. “It looks amazing, if I do say so myself.”
I heard her snort with laughter in a very undignified way before clarifying, “I meant the future, not your decorations!” Oh. Well, that did make more sense.
“It’s all fine so far, Bella,” I assured her, standing back to assess my efforts. Like I said, it looked amazing. I quickly grabbed the digital camera and snapped a photo, then straightened a chair, and gave it one last scan to ensure it looked perfect.
“Ready in the dining room,” I informed my sister in a normal tone of voice, as I appeared at her side in front of the stove.
“Okay, this is just about ready, too,” she responded, frowning in concentration as she stirred the sauce. She sighed and started complaining about how hard it was to tell if everything tasted right, since it all tasted like charcoal to us. I allowed her to ramble on for a while and release her tension before reminding her that the wolves had found everything to be delicious.
On that note, we re-entered the living room, and I stayed a step behind Bella as she declared that dinner was now served. The humans ambled slowly into the dining room, exclaiming over the beautiful table setting, which earned a few humble, modest smiles of gratitude from me. Edward, Emmett, Jasper, and Carlisle held the womens’ seats out for us like waiters in a fancy restaurant, causing even more coos of delight.
The first course was soup; Esme had concocted a chilled vellutata of new potatoes, smoked salmon, and leeks with crème fraîche and tarragon mousse. The humans seemed to love it, judging by the speed with which their servings disappeared and the praise they heaped on Esme for it. The rest of us took a spoonful every now and then when Renee was looking, and then dumped it into Ziplocs under the table. I had predicted that it would be annoying, but Emmett seemed to be finding it fun, like a new game.
As Carlisle and Esme cleared the soup dishes, Renee finally asked, “So, Sue …” We all held our breath in anticipation, even Charlie and Sue, until Renee finished with, “… do you get to see the Cullens often?” Emmett let out a grunt of disappointment that was almost loud enough for the humans to hear, so I caught Rosalie’s eye and glared briefly, which she correctly interpreted as a signal to kick Emmett under the table.
We were all dying of curiosity: Had Charlie explained the nature of his relationship with Sue? Was there a cat-fight brewing? I couldn’t see anything yet …
But we made it through the pasta and meat courses without incident; everyone was polite and cordial, if a bit stiff at times. The only awkward moment came when Renee laughed at something Charlie’d said for just a moment longer than necessary … Sue gave her an icy, disapproving stare. But I doubt Renee or Charlie noticed.
Finally it was time to serve coffee and the pièce de résistance: dessert! Esme and Bella had collaborated on a beautiful Marsala-soaked hazelnut poundcake topped with Warren pears and mascarpone. I could tell the humans enjoyed it from the way their eyes bugged out when they were served, and the speed at which it disappeared! Charlie was the only one who felt comfortable enough to take a second helping, but I hoped that Sue and Renee had enjoyed the meal too. With the sweet, slow lullaby Edward had composed for Bella playing on the hidden speakers, and the flickering candles and dimmed chandelier lights, it was a romantic setting calculated to put everyone at ease.
Unfortunately, I may have made it a bit too romantic. Sue was cuddling up to Charlie with her eyes closed in bliss; I wished I could hear her thoughts to know if she was purposely marking her territory or not. Renee, after one shrewd glance at them, turned away and chatted with Bella about their plans for the rest of the week. The other couples in our family were gazing into each other’s eyes or holding hands, looking completely at ease. I could feel myself relaxing too, leaning my head against Jazz’s shoulder as he smiled down at me. He winked to let me know that he was influencing the mood, and I gave him a quick peck on the cheek in gratitude. While it might make Emmett happy, I doubted anyone else would enjoy a cat-fight between Renee and Sue in that moment!
As Charlie began to yawn and stretch in his seat, I stood up and waited until I had everyone’s full attention to declare, “Edward would like to play a few songs for you, if you’re not too tired to dance a bit?”
His eyebrows shot up as I said it, but he covered extremely well, and merely smiled and nodded, moving gracefully to his piano. As Clair de Lune began to play, my family and our guests streamed into the huge, wide hallway and paired off. Bella immediately asked Renee to dance with her, in a feat of tact that had me grinning in approval.
Edward, just give me some signal when Charlie, Sue or Renee starts thinking that they want to leave, I ordered. Without waiting to see a response, I let Jasper sweep me away. We danced for about an hour before I heard Edward make a mistake at the end of an Alexandre Desplat song, and I knew that must be the signal.
I made a big show of yawning and telling Jasper that I needed a rest, and the humans soon followed my example. “Thank you so much for having us over,” Renee gushed, squeezing Bella’s hand (I had a moment of anxiety as I watched, but soon realized she was a bit too blurry with wine to notice anything strange about Bella’s very cold, very firm hand).
“Yeah, this was real nice,” Charlie agreed gruffly, watching Edward as he moved to Bella’s side and kissed the top of her head. Even Sue managed to thank Carlisle for the pleasant evening (she must still be annoyed with Bella and Edward).
“I’ll see you tomorrow, Mom,” Bella promised, following them to the front door. As soon as the door closed, we all let out a sigh of relief, which sounded pretty funny. Almost instantly, Seth came bounding in through the back door, a hopeful look on his face.
“Hey guys! Looked like it went pretty well, huh?” he greeted us cheerfully, as he found the leftover appetizers and began to shovel them in.
“Yes … I think it did, actually,” Bella mused, and finally sent me a big smile. She came over to me, pulled me in for a hug, and whispered, “Thank you, Alice … it was perfect.”
I am worn out with socializing – we spent another few hours dancing before Esme said she couldn’t ignore the mess any longer, and Bella and Edward grabbed the leftovers to feed their future son-in-law and took off. My last official act as the day’s conductor was to order Emmett to help Esme clean, and then Jasper and I took off for private time.
Tomorrow Renee is going to attempt to cook dinner in retaliation – err, I mean, appreciation – for tonight’s feast, so that should be pretty interesting; I’ll write all about it!