Okay, so maybe I overreacted just a bit. Okay Edward, very funny, maybe more than just a bit. But it is so hard for me to have Jasper out of my sight for even a few minutes, and to surprise me with it like that – ugh. I can’t even think about it.
But … it worked. So it looks like I’ll have to relive the experience a few more times (unless I magically perfect my skills the very next time, hoping hoping hoping)!
Not for a while though. Carlisle and Edward were moping around the house like angels cast down from heaven until I forgave them, and they promised me we wouldn’t try again until I was ready.
So for now I’m off the hook from experimenting, and I have to admit I’ve been sort of clingy with Jazz ever since that horrid day. (He doesn’t seem to mind, though.) I’m ashamed to admit that my wrath even extended to Emmett for having unintentionally inspired the torture experiment … that is, until he gave me puppy dog eyes and a massive, bone-crushing hug. He was so strong, my newborn-fighting instincts started to kick in a little, and then I was the one apologizing to him, and, well, we’re all good now.
Which brings me to yesterday. Having forgiven Emmett and remembered the vision I had shortly before … you know what, I was fully prepared for the day’s events. I was waiting outside his and Rosalie’s bedroom when he snuck out around 4:30 AM.
“Aw, hey, you’re helping me?” he whispered excitedly, eying my all-black outfit and painted black face. (Sure, anyone in this household could still spot me a mile away, but it was fun!)
I rolled my eyes and shot back, “Like you could pull this thing off without me?”
“Hey now,” he protested, still in a rough whisper as we bounded down the stairs, “whose freaking awesome idea was this anyway?”
“Yes, but there are just a few areas you failed to cover,” I informed him sweetly as we arrived at the massive truck parked a few miles down the highway. “I saw the whole setup before the wolves are due to arrive, and I have some improvements on it.”
“Whatever, as long as it’s still hilarious,” Emmett muttered dismissively, grabbing two giant trampolines in each hand and carefully spinning back toward the house.
“Oh, it’s going to be even better, believe me,” I assured him from behind my load of trampolines.
“Sweet!” he chortled, stopping to give me a high-five. We both juggled our trampolines for a second before our hands could meet. This began what was to be an entire day of laughter.
As quietly as possible, we raced back and forth between the truck and the house, carefully placing each trampoline according to the diagram inside my head. The estimated 30 minute assembly time per trampoline was cut down to 3 seconds, thanks to vampire speed. Once they were all in place, I led Emmett to my own stash of items prepared for this day – I had first caught a glimpse of it even before Renee was slated to visit, so I had plenty of time to stock up. Emmett grumbled when I refused to allow power tools, but it was crucial to not wake up Renesmee or Seth before we were ready.
By the time we were done, Jazz and Rosalie were standing on the porch, shaking with the laughter they struggled to keep silent. I had to admit, it was a brilliant idea from Emmett, the prankster.
“Are we ready?” I whispered urgently, as padded footsteps thundered toward us.
“Ready!” Emmett mouthed, bouncing on his heels with a mile-wide grin as Jacob neared the yard.
Round one, I thought gleefully, as Jacob-the-wolf skidded to a halt a few feet from our setup. Jasper elbowed me, and I glanced up to see his face contorted with amusement as he felt the confusion rolling off Jacob when he saw what we had done.
Emmett’s idea was to build a moat of trampolines around the entire house. Don’t ask me how he came up with it, something to do with the bouncy houses maybe, I don’t know. But he had bought dozens of hexagonal 12-foot trampolines, which we arranged around the house in a honeycomb pattern, with no gaps between each one. Trampoline moat!
What Emmett hadn’t thought of was the possibility of sneaking under the trampolines, which was where I came in. I had purchased gym mats – you know, those bright blue, 5 foot deep pads – which we had used to line each exposed border of trampoline around the base.
There was only one way to get to the house.
As we watched Jacob come to that conclusion, I thought my lungs would explode from trying to muffle my gasping laughter. I hadn’t been able to see his reaction, of course, but I had imagined it – and this was about a million times better than I could have hoped!
He growled low in his throat, a disgusted sound to match the prissy pose he assumed, with his paws firmly set on the ground and his nose in the air. Edward was not yet there to translate, but I was pretty sure the dog was thinking, No way in hell.
But it was time for Seth to wake up! Leah came racing to the house from the same direction as Jacob, and skidded out in exactly the same way as she did a double-take. Her yellow eyes narrowed to slits as she assessed the situation, and came to a decision.
Threading through the trees to where Seth was snoring away in his hammock, Leah poked her wet nose into his back and barked at him.
Immediately, Seth woke up flailing his arms, and before you could say “HAHAHAHAHA” he had gotten himself tangled in the hammock. Now that he was up, we didn’t have to be quiet, thank goodness – the four of us on the porch were paralyzed with the force of our hysterical laughter.
Dangling upside-down in the net, Seth stared at the blue gym mat just a few feet away from his face. “Whass goin’ on?” he mumbled, sounding sleepy and disoriented. Leah snorted as her little brother squirmed until he fell out of the twisted hammock and onto the ground with a dull thunk.
Bouncing back up, Seth took in the sight before him with his mouth hanging open. Unlike his packmates, though, his reaction was one of awe and excitement.
“COOL!” he hollered at the top of his lungs, yanking at his left foot to get his shoes off. As he hopped in place, Leah swiped at him with her huge paw and knocked him off balance.
I swear that kid’s made of rubber – he bounced right back up again and got his other shoe off while encouraging Leah to see how totally great this was. She didn’t look convinced.
“Ooh, I’m gonna kill a human,” Emmett boomed, making “scary” faces at Leah and Jacob as he waved at them to come closer. “Oh, you better stop me! Come and get it, pups!”
Rosalie had been bent over, cracking up, but now she straightened and began to speak up. “What, you’re afraid of some trampolines? Are you scared your little claws might rip a hole in them? Maybe we shouldn’t let them up there, they’ll just shed all over our trampolines -”
With a whoop, Seth took a flying leap onto the edge of the outermost trampoline. Once up there, he began bouncing happily from one to the next, with no clear intentions on getting to the house.
“Aw, he’s no fun,” Emmett grumbled, turning back to Jacob and Leah. They were both seated with skeptical looks on their faces – and it bothers me that I can distinguish these expressions now. I mean, they’re dogs. They should look like the dumb house pets they’re descended from.
“Come on! Come and get me!” Emmett shouted. Just then, we heard Edward and Bella approaching. Round two begins!
Cackling madly, I watched my sister-in-law halt at the edge of the forest, gaping unattractively at the very unusual sight before her. Seth was turning somersaults in the air, but he managed to wave hello to the newcomers.
Nessie, perched on Edward’s shoulders, surveyed the trampoline moat with delight and began giggling straight away. When her hand pressed against my brother’s face, I knew she was begging to be set down on the trampoline.
Edward gladly assisted her to the nearest one before turning back to beckon to his wife, with a wicked grin on his face. How he’d managed to keep this a secret from her for the last two days was beyond me, but I was thrilled with her reaction. She was still frozen in place as her eyes darted from us, to the moat, to Seth, to Jacob and Leah …
Eyes wide, her shoulders began to shake. A small whimper escaped her mouth as Renesmee bounced toward Seth, with Jacob watching indignantly. Finally, Bella burst into helpless laughter.
The four of us on the porch were grinning proudly, and Jazz was in heaven – the hilarity must have been almost painful for him! But it was not over yet.
At Nessie’s encouragement to come join her, Jacob whined softly and glanced at Leah, his ears back on his head. But Renesmee kept begging him to “come up and play,” and we could all hear his stomach growling in reaction to the honey ham that I had thoughtfully tossed into the oven a few hours back.
With a dog sigh, Jacob backed up a few steps, tensed, and sprang. He landed on all fours in the center of a trampoline, his legs splayed in all directions. Over the sound of my own giggles, I heard him growl softly.
“Come on, Jacob!” Ness shrieked, bouncing from one spot to another. Jacob straightened and took a tentative step toward the house, then another. He was making pretty decent (if bouncy) progress until the first gap between trampolines – the covered 18 inches of springs connecting the surface to the frame, which added up to three feet he needed to cross.
With his hairy brow furrowed, Jacob tried to hop the distance, but overshot by about two feet and immediately went shooting into the air.
It was hard to hear over our screaming laughter, but I think he yelped in surprise. He landed on his massive butt and bounced back up again as Renesmee giggled uncontrollably.
I could tell exactly when he stopped being annoyed and started having fun – it was when Nessie had to wipe tears off her face, still gasping for breath. Jacob began to bounce harder to get her to laugh more, and she was glad to oblige.
“I’m goin’ in!” Emmett yelled, diving headfirst onto the closest trampoline. Rosalie stepped out of her stilettos and followed him.
“May I have the honor?” Jazz asked sweetly, holding out his hand to me with a brilliant smile on his face. I accepted daintily and we joined the bouncing fools.
After a while, even Leah joined us – after changing and throwing on her clothes. I suspect it was because of the competition we had just started. (The working title was “See Who Can Bounce Over The House Without Scraping The Roof.”)
We got pretty good at it by the time Esme and Carlisle returned from their hunt. Round three!
Of course, they would show up right when Emmett was mid-bounce over the roof. Esme gasped in shock and horror at the sight. Carlisle, on the other hand, had a wide-eyed grimace that I recognized from every single prank we’d ever played – the look that said, I’m supposed to disapprove but this is too funny.
Em landed with a bounce, and smiled shyly at Esme, who had her arms folded and was glaring straight at him – it was pretty obvious that this could only be his idea.
“Emmett Cullen,” she began sternly. “Did I just see you bounce over my roof?“
“Yeah, mom,” he confessed, hanging his head in shame. I saw him peek out of the corner of his eye, though. Good thing Esme wasn’t a mind reader.
“Well …” she sighed, shaking her head as she took in the sight of one dog, two humans (ish), her granddaughter and all her kids sheepishly standing on trampolines surrounding her house.
“I guess I’d better show you how it’s done!” she finished, hopping up to join us with a grin.
“Yeah!” Emmett yelled, picking her up in one of his patented bear hugs.
I could kill Emmett! I was on edge all day yesterday. The little (or rather, huge) brat decided to have Seth invite Embry and Quil over, and somehow Emmett convinced everyone that it would be super fun to have a wolf at their side all day … so that I would not be able to see anything. All day.
Well, except for Jazz, of course – he declined the invitation and thank goodness, because that would have been awful. Still, his future and mine were all I could see for the day, and it just made me so anxious. What if something bad actually was going to happen?
For Emmett, it was payback; for me, it was a catalyst. I have got to continue working with Carlisle and Edward to break past my mental block with the wolves. It seems like they’re a permanent fixture in our lives anyway, and how could I ever allow Nessie to marry Jacob if I couldn’t see her future when he was with her?
Well, luckily, I don’t have to worry about that just yet. But unless I can get past this handicap, that’s how it will be. And let’s face it, it will be hard enough to let that girl go when the time comes, without the added anxiety of not being able to keep an eye on her future.
So today, that’s what I worked on. Instead of enjoying a nice Sunday at home with my family, I asked Edward and Carlisle to help me train. They, of course, were overjoyed at the prospect of scientific breakthroughs, but I felt bad keeping Carlisle busy when he could have been spending time with Esme.
“Let’s try something different today,” Carlisle began in his formal tone, making a note in his record book. “Alice, I want you to try to clear your mind completely. Just let your thoughts drift, until they’ve dissipated completely. Edward, please signal me when she’s ready.”
Edward and I nodded obediently, and I closed my eyes. Okay, clear mind. No thoughts. Just emptiness. Scientific breakthroughs must be priority one for now. Scientific progress goes boink … I smirked to myself as I pictured Calvin and Hobbes, and Edward sighed quietly. Oops, right, clearing my mind of all thoughts. Okay, here goes …
The more quiet I tried to force my mind to be, the more random things popped into my mind. A pair of Louboutins I already had that had just been re-released in a different color … some mineral makeup I had ordered a few days ago … bridesmaid dresses for Rosalie’s next wedding … trampolines …
A smile played over my face as I watched the trampoline game play out. It looked like only a few more days … it was going to be such fun …
But the scene began to blur, and I automatically struggled to bring it into focus, breaking my trance. Crap!
“It didn’t work,” Edward sighed in disappointment as my eyes blinked open.
“What were you doing?” I inquired, watching Carlisle’s pen scratch across the pages of his book at light speed.
“Once you were deep in your trance, Edward waited for you to have a vision of some event that he would be involved in. Then, he made a decision to include Jacob in that future activity,” Carlisle explained, setting down his pen.
I nodded, impressed. It was really not a bad plan. Too bad it hadn’t worked …
“Yes, too bad,” Edward murmured with regret. Tilting his head toward the office door, he called out, “Jasper? It’s time.”
I stiffened at the sound of Jazz’s footsteps racing away from the house alongside one of the wolves. Just like that, he popped right out of my head.
“What are you doing?!” I cried in horror, torn between the overwhelming need to go after him and the urge to kill my brother first.
“Calm down, Alice,” Carlisle soothed, coming around his huge desk with his palms up in front of him. “Jasper is in no danger. We believe this is the only way to break past the obstacle -”
“Forget the stupid obstacle,” I spat, digging my fingers into the carpet to keep them from clawing out my father and brothers’ eyes. I was pretty sure I would regret that later. Although maybe not … “What are you doing with Jasper?“
Edward grabbed my shoulders and stared into my eyes, willing me to look at him. I growled in response, and he shook me gently.
“Alice, you know nobody would allow Jasper to be harmed,” he reminded me in a no-nonsense tone, trying to get through to me. I groaned in agitation as my mind helplessly continued to scan for Jasper. I couldn’t find him. It was driving me completely insane!!!
“Carlisle,” Edward said urgently as I tried to shove him out of my way. I had to go find Jasper! But Carlisle stepped forward and gently put his arms around me, then assisted Edward in holding me down.
“Remember, Alice, you asked us to help you,” Carlisle said grimly, exerting all of his strength to keep me in place. I howled in protest. Who cared about silly science games when Jasper could be in danger? Right this very moment, he could be getting into a fight with the wolves – could be -
“It’s working,” Edward hissed as I thrashed and shoved, reaching blindly with my mind. Had to find Jasper. Had to see Jasper -
As I struggled, a very fuzzy picture began to form in my mind. Trees, darkness, murky green light reaching something that sparkled like a million tiny diamonds -
“You did it!” Edward shouted victoriously, shaking me again to snap me out of it. I blinked and realized I had shredded his shirt to tiny ribbons. Damn, and that was a brand-new Marc Jacobs …
“Wait, what?” I asked in confusion, shaking my head in an attempt to make the strange swirling agony go away. What was going on?
Distantly, I heard thudding footsteps. OH!
“Jasper!” I cried. Edward grinned beatifically at me.
“You found him,” he exulted. Once more behind his desk, Carlisle nodded as he scribbled furiously.
“We sent him with Seth, a little distance away,” he explained absently as he wrote. “It was Emmett’s little game yesterday that gave us the idea. We hoped the resulting anxiety and fear would force your mind past the block.”
I gaped at him, then turned my disbelieving gaze on Edward. How could they do such a thing to me?
“We had to, Alice,” Edward murmured gently as Jasper raced through the back door and up the stairs. When he burst into the room, I was on my feet to throw myself into his loving arms.
“Don’t you ever do that to me again,” I growled, my voice muffled by the thick fabric of Jazz’s cashmere sweater. He tightened his grip on me in response.
“We have to,” Carlisle responded calmly. “It seems to be the only way -”
“No! No more,” I cried, whipping around to fix him with a beseeching stare.
Edward put up his hands in a gesture meant to calm me. “We’ll take a break,” he assured me.
“Of course,” Carlisle assented. “We need only try – oh, once a month or so, do you think?”
“That sounds right,” Edward agreed.
Jazz tilted my face up to his and assessed the emotional trauma that still had me in its grasp. Concern and indecision twisted his perfect features.
“You know it’s for the best,” he whispered, sending out peaceful energy. “You know I won’t let anything happen to me while I’m away.”
I sighed deeply. After what I had just been through, I could not imagine willingly submitting to such torture again.
“We’ll discuss it another time, perhaps,” Carlisle offered, studying my face. He stood and came around the desk again, reaching his arms out to me. I allowed him to embrace me, but was not ready to hug him back.
“My apologies, Alice,” he whispered with sincere concern in his voice. “Truly, I didn’t mean to make you suffer. I just wanted to help.”
“I know,” I replied stiffly, unable to respond more gracefully. Edward and Carlisle looked at each other for a brief moment, then simultaneously left the office.
When Jazz and I were alone, I just gazed at his face, re-memorizing each millimeter of beauty. The relief I felt at having him back in front of me, whole and sound, was more than I could bear.
Today was overcast and rainy, as usual; the perfect type of day to stay in bed and ignore the rest of the world. At least, I thought so. And I’m pretty sure Jasper agreed.
But no! Heaven forbid we should miss one single storm. Around 2:30 this afternoon, Emmett came pounding up the stairs and burst into our room without knocking.
Obviously, I had both seen that he was about to do this, and heard him coming, so it’s not like he really interrupted anything major … but still!
“Ex-cuse me,” I huffed, pulling the covers all the way up to my chin pointedly, despite the fact that I was already partially clothed.
“Come on! Why didn’t you tell us there was gonna be a storm today?!” Emmett yelled, smacking his fist into his other hand as he grinned wickedly at Jasper. “Sorry, man, but I just caught it on the news! Thunder and lightning starts in less than ten minutes! Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!”
As usual, it was impossible to ignore Emmett. Though I really, really wanted to stay in bed, I knew Jasper would love a game of vampire baseball … and, well, so would I!
“Meet you there in five,” I trilled, hopping out of the bed and bounding to my closet as I spoke.
Behind me, I heard Jazz chuckling jovially as he moved to his dresser and opened the drawer containing his baseball jerseys. “What color are we wearing today, Miz Alice?” he inquired, exaggerating his drawl for my enjoyment.
“Hmmm …” I scanned my row of custom jerseys quickly. “Purple!” I decided. But as soon as I made the decision, I saw that Emmett would be wearing his dark blue jersey. Too close to purple!
“Ooops! Never mind, we’ll wear red today! I want to play against Emmett,” I explained, yanking a white jersey with red trim and “0.5 PIXIE” on the back over my head.
Jasper let loose with an appreciative laugh as he pulled out his own matching shirt. (Not that it said “Pixie” on it, of course, just that the colors were the same.)
“I don’t know what you’ve seen, but remember, his team has won the last three games,” Jazz reminded me, settling a baseball cap on my head with a tender kiss for my nose.
“Not this time,” I growled in mock-aggression, shaking my fist at the ceiling. It sounded like everyone else had already taken off, except for Esme.
“Are you ready?” she asked eagerly, standing just outside our doorway. (See, now that’s polite.)
“Ready!” I affirmed, taking Jazz’s hand and swinging it between us as we followed Esme down the stairs and out the door.
The sky had turned an ominous shade of charcoal gray, and was just beginning to emit rumbling sounds as we arrived at the clearing. Edward and Emmett were warming up by tossing the newest ball to each other – across the entire length of the clearing. Rose was swiftly French-braiding her own hair with one hand and Nessie’s with the other hand, and Bella was explaining the vampire version of baseball rules to Renesmee as Carlisle marked the bases and pitcher’s mound.
I saw that Emmett had brought some eye black, judging by the thick V he’d painted over his eyebrows for a menacing look. Not to be outdone, I scanned the clearing until I saw the little pot sitting on a boulder, and skipped over to paint my own face.
“What do you think?” I asked Jazz, giving him my best ferocious scowl à la Rosalie. He cracked up when he saw that I had used the eye black as war paint.
“Very intimidating,” he assured me with a wink when he was done laughing. He took the eye black and swiped one thick line beneath each eye, the way a normal person would.
I leaned in closer and in a whisper barely audible even to me, I asked, “Is Edward feeling okay? You know, about the last time we played here?”
“I’m not sensing anything unusual from him so far,” Jazz murmured back.
“Aside from the normal level of concern and agitation, you mean?” I replied, rolling my eyes. Jasper didn’t respond, but I could tell from the lingering smile on his face that I was right.
“All right, everyone,” Carlisle announced. “Let the game begin!”
As always, I was the game-opening pitcher. It was a complicated role, requiring me to keep careful tabs on the thunder, look for the batter’s intentions, and then check again once I had decided on what to throw.
Since Emmett – again: as always – wouldn’t allow anyone else to be at bat first, I decided on a curveball. It looked like he would try to swing at it as though it were a fastball (which, of course, it would be as well). Maybe I could strike him out right away!
Standing perfectly still on the pitcher’s mound, I waited. A split second before the next crash of thunder, I hurled the ball at Emmett’s head.
My brother swung hard, a crazy grin on his face as he aimed for the ball. HA!!!
“Strike one!” Esme called from behind him (at a safe distance). I stuck out my tongue at Emmett as he howled in rage.
“Yeah, just try that again,” he shouted, crouching back into position with an intent glare.
Despite this auspicious start, I was unable to strike him out entirely. He gained two bases before I struck out Bella (she had never played with us before, and wasn’t used to my very unique pitching style).
But then Carlisle was up, and my arms refused to cooperate with my brain. I wanted our team to win! But it was just too hard to intentionally mess with Carlisle. He hit a home run and their side gained two points.
The game went on all afternoon, since we play 18 innings. By the time we were at the bottom of the 18th, the storm was almost over. And worse – the game was tied!
“Okay, Jazz, we’ve got to wrap this up,” I whispered softly as he stepped up to the plate. I crossed my fingers in the hope that Esme and Ness couldn’t hear me as I checked to see what Emmett would be throwing.
“Slider,” I hissed under my breath as Emmett threw the ball with a loud roar.
Jazz’s bat connected to the ball with a resounding thwack. Oops – that was the third aluminum bat we’d dented today! Not to mention the seven busted baseballs …
“Go, Jasper, go!” I shrieked excitedly, rushing toward third as Edward took off after the ball.
With his two-run homer, we took the game. What a perfect end to a perfect day! I guess I’m not too mad at Emmett for disturbing our peace and solitude earlier today after all.
Oh boy … looks like Emmett is plotting his revenge. I’d better go!
Today, the custom-made ballerina wardrobe (tutus, leotards, and shoes) I’d ordered for Renesmee arrived! I hadn’t had time to get any of it before the party, since I had only discovered her love for ballet the week before. The only ballet item I had given her at the birthday party was a delicate enameled ballet slipper charm from Tiffany, which I had carefully showed Ness how to attach to the Color by the Yard sterling chain dotted with pink sapphires.
So now I was to be Renesmee’s ballet instructor. I wasn’t sure she actually needed lessons – after all, with very little practice she had stunned me speechless at the depth of her talent and passion – but we would both enjoy it, so we decided to practice three times a week, two hours at a time.
I guess she’s sort of in school now. Between the ballet, and the cooking lessons from Bella and Esme, and the books she eagerly absorbs each day, Renesmee’s education is shaping up to be pretty unique, which fits her perfectly.
“Esme,” I sang, skipping into her office, “can I talk to you for a sec?”
She looked up from her laptop with her warm, loving smile directed my way. I grinned in response.
“Of course, dear,” she replied, scooting her wheeled antique chair back to turn toward me.
“Okay,” I began, settling into my favorite cross-legged position on the plush antique Gabbeh rug. “So, you know how Ness and me are doing ballet practice now?”
Esme’s eyes crinkled at me as she replied fondly, “And I can’t wait to watch your practices!”
“Well …” I paused for dramatic effect, before squealing, “let’s build a studio!!”
At first, Esme looked thrilled at the idea of more blueprints and architectural work. But concern tempered her voice when she asked hesitantly, “Are you … sure that’s a good idea?”
I felt my eyes pop open, my jaw drop, and my eyebrows shoot up at her question. But before I could even begin to reply, Bella hurtled into the room.
“Alice,” she scolded me, “what are you thinking? A permanent reminder of when James … Edward would loathe it! It would be like torture to him, please, just practice in the living room or something.”
“Psshh,” I scoffed. “Edward has everything he’s ever wanted now. Who cares what happened back then?”
But Esme was in agreement with Bella. “I’d hate for him to be reminded of that every day, Alice,” she told me gently. I frowned and glanced to the side, trying to find the future. But because Esme hadn’t decided to build the studio, I couldn’t see Edward’s reaction to it.
Sensing my indecision, Bella went for the kill. “Renesmee won’t want to practice if it makes Edward unhappy,” she assured me solemnly.
With a grimace, I conceded the point. “Fine,” I sighed. “Then we need to figure out where to attach the barre. And there should be at least one full-length mirror. And wood floors. I’m talking bare minimum here!” I protested, as Bella began shaking her head.
“Don’t worry, Bella, dear,” Esme soothed, standing and crossing to Bella’s side. “I’ll find a way to make it look less … well, you know.” She squeezed Bella’s hand before returning to her desk.
“Now,” Esme began in a totally different tone of voice, one that I recognized from the wedding-planning days, “will you be using the barre as well, or only Renesmee? And what time of day will your practices be? Depending on the light from outside, we may be able to get away with fewer mirrors …”
Bella groaned and shot me one last glare, then turned to leave. “It’s for Renesmee,” I reminded her back, but Bella just snorted in response. Typical.
Whatever. I dismissed the entire conversation from my mind, knowing Esme would be as good as her word. We would build a pseudo-studio that in no way resembled the one in Arizona, and Renesmee would love it. Esme and I spent a few blissful hours debating over the right type and color of wood for the floor, and researching the right brand for the barre. Finally, we agreed not to keep it a secret from Ness, since it would be completed long before Christmas anyway.
With that all taken care of, I kissed Esme’s cheek and waved goodbye – she barely looked up from her work to respond. I knew she’d love this project!
As I dashed down the stairs, I heard clanking and laughter in the kitchen, and baseball in the living room. Hmm, tough choice!
Veering toward the kitchen, I detected an extremely unpleasant burning smell. It was not very strong, but it lingered around the stove.
“What happened here?” I asked curiously, hopping onto the counter next to a stack of messy mixing bowls. Renesmee looked up at me with a slightly embarrassed expression on her sweet face.
“I made a mess,” she confessed, her cheeks turning a dark pink as she spoke. I took a moment to enjoy the sight and reminisce over the days when Bella had turned red at the slightest provocation, as Seth and Bella laughed affectionately.
“It was really my fault,” Bella declared, eager to take the blame. But Nessie shook her head.
“No, it was me,” she asserted, with a determined set to her pointed chin. “I forgot to push start, and the timer didn’t go.”
“But I didn’t notice,” Bella countered.
Seth chuckled happily as he finished wiping up the last of the blackened pot roast. Geez, had he really eaten the entire thing himself? Silly question. Of course he had!
“It still tastes awesome,” he assured Ness, with a satisfied belch. “Oops. ‘Scuse me.”
“Where’s the other guy?” I inquired, transferring dishes to the sink. I hoped that rinsing them would lessen the meat and charcoal smell.
“Jake’s on patrol,” Seth replied, picking at his teeth. “Man, that was good, Ness. I oughta come here more often!”
“I think you’re here often enough,” I assured him cheerily, with a little wink to soften the blow. He just laughed again, unhurt.
“Well, guess I’d better get going,” he yawned, stretching his massive form as he rose. “See you guys later. Thanks again, Ness!”
She beamed at him and replied, “You’re welcome! Here, don’t forget to take this home to Sue!” Reaching into the fridge, she pulled out some ramekins of what appeared to be crème brulee.
“Wow,” I commented, impressed. “You learned how to make crème brulee, Nessie? You’re really getting good, aren’t you!”
“I don’t know,” she admitted humbly, her cheeks dimpling as she smiled up at me. “It all tastes pretty bad to me. But, Seth and my Jacob seem to like it!”
Bella sighed and smiled at the same time, resting her hand on Nessie’s head with a tender caress. “Yes, soon you’ll be a better cook than I ever was,” she mused with a touch of dismay in her voice. I imagined she was thinking of the day when Renesmee would leave us to be with Jacob.
So naturally I had to change the subject! “Hey Ness, guess what?” I exclaimed brightly. The two of them looked expectantly at me.
“We’re building a ballet room just for you!”
As Bella rolled her eyes, Renesmee hopped up and down in excitement. Now that was more like it!
Well, we’re back home in rainy, dark Forks. What a contrast to the paradise of what I’ve dubbed “Whitlock Waterfall” … but, still, I’m glad to be back with my family, with Jasper at my side!
Apparently while we were gone, someone did a pretty good job of convincing Bella that having this cabin is going to be so much fun. Because as soon as we got within a mile of the house, we could hear riotous laughter from Emmett (as usual), Renesmee, Jacob, even Edward and Bella.
“They’re having fun without me?” I cried, speeding up. Jazz burst into laughter and accelerated his own pace.
“An oversight I’m sure they’ll be glad to correct,” he drawled between chuckles.
As we arrived in the backyard, I scanned the scene before me in a millisecond. Emmett had purchased an entire case of several different types of water guns, and had all of the family jet-skis lined up, ready to be transformed. The laughter I’d heard was probably based on Emmett’s own jet-ski – originally camo-painted in shades of blue, it was now almost entirely covered in weapons.
Swivel-mounted machine water guns … let’s see, there were a total of four … covered the front of the jet-ski, barely leaving enough space for the handles to steer with. Long, tubular water cannons protruded from the back of the jet-ski, with double-barreled water guns attached to both sides via retractable cords. I was only surprised Emmett hadn’t found a way to attach weapons to the underside of his vehicle.
In the 3/8 of a second it had taken me to assess the situation, my siblings had all looked up at Jasper and myself with huge, goofy grins, and began to welcome us home. I instantly forgave them for starting without me.
With one arm around Bella, and my other hand clutching Renesmee’s, I waited just long enough for them to finish saying hello before I interrupted. “So when are we heading up there?” I asked excitedly, squeezing Ness’s hand (gently).
“You guys just got home!” Emmett reminded me, leveling a speculative stare in Jasper’s direction. Oh boy. I knew that look.
Sure enough, Emmett began to let loose with his trademark booming laugh. “Desperate for a distraction, huh, guys? What’s wrong, didn’t get enough -”
As he held up the power drill and revved it suggestively, Jasper calmly slid behind him, and in one lightning-fast motion, he had Emmett’s arms trapped behind his back, the power drill buried in the forest some hundred yards away. The rest of us giggled appreciatively.
“And I’ll thank you not to share that type of commentary within my daughter’s hearing range,” Edward added dryly, as he handed the drill back to Emmett.
“Anyway …” Bella sighed, rolling her eyes at me. “We’re not going up there right away -”
Emmett snorted his disapproval, already back at work on his jet-ski.
” – because … there’s been enough excitement around here lately,” Bella explained patiently. Her gaze rested on Nessie as she added, “I just want everything to go back to normal for a little while.”
“Yeah, but once we finally do get up there, it’s gonna be awesome,” Jacob burst out, panting over the box of water guns. I scrunched up my nose; who had invited him?
Edward concealed his smile perfectly as he commented, seemingly out of the blue, “Naturally, Jacob, Seth, and Leah will be going with us … as their main goal is to protect Renesmee.” I stuck out my tongue quickly so nobody else would see.
At this point, Rosalie sauntered out of the house in a cashmere dress and vintage Chanel pumps. Nice!
“Welcome back,” she greeted me, with a brief but sincere hug. She smiled and waved to Jasper before turning back to me. “So, you made it just in time to watch the dog decorate our jet-skis.”
I snickered as Jacob replied without missing a beat, “Don’t worry Blondie, I’ve got a box full of mirrors to attach to yours.”
Rosalie bared her teeth at him, then dismissed him with an imperious wave of her perfectly manicured hand. “Anyway, as I was going to say before Fido started barking at the squirrels … I’ve made a few slight alterations to the engines.”
“Hell yeah!” Emmett boomed, pumping his fist in the air. I winced as the power drill barely missed Jacob’s chin. Although, come to think of it, even if it had made a hole in the guy’s face, it would heal in minutes anyway!
Edward rubbed his hands together, a familiar gleam in his eyes as he gazed at the jet-skis. Watching him, I automatically scanned to see what he was imagining.
The backyard blurred around me, and was replaced with a vision of the lake. My vantage point was in the middle of the lake – on my jet-ski I assumed, though I was looking up and to the side, so I couldn’t tell for sure. What I could see was my brother, skidding across the water in his souped-up vehicle, with an almost evil look of victory on his face as Emmett yelled angrily and shot water at him from a few yards behind.
Coming back to the present, I realized I was smiling like a total maniac as everyone but Edward stared curiously at me.
“Where’d ya go, Alice?” Jacob asked casually, reaching for a machine water gun. Emmett snatched it away at the last second.
Edward looked more like a demon than the angel Bella considers him to be as I cleared my throat to buy time. “Erm … I was just watching a little game … looked like water wars,” I replied vaguely, biting back the laughter that was bubbling up inside of me.
Just then, I heard a car turn into the driveway.
“Oh, good, Carlisle and Esme are back,” Bella said eagerly, whirling around and disappearing.
“She wants to teach Renesmee how to cook steak and baked potatoes,” Edward explained, frowning slightly at Jacob. I sniffed the air as the car doors opened. Yep, I could definitely smell the canvas bags we used at the grocery store, along with the tang of raw meat muffled by butcher paper.
That didn’t sound super fun to me, so I stayed where I was. I knew Carlisle and Esme would come outside to welcome Jasper and myself home anyway. And in the meantime …
“Pass me one of those cannons, would you?” I demanded, already seated on my purple and black jet-ski. Emmett obligingly threw it at my head, and Jasper appeared at my side with the tools.
Jasper and I didn’t go far from home, as I promised Renesmee; we stayed relatively close by, just past the Canadian border. As soon as I had made the decision to go away with him this week, I had seen a vision of us in this lush green paradise, the majestic waterfall in the background.
Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Or in my case, which came first: the vision or the desire? It happens all the time; I have a vision of something, and so I go along with what the vision tells me. I saw Jasper, and knew I had to be with him. I saw the Cullens, and immediately wanted to join them. And so on; each of the visions had to have been prompted by my subconscious desires, but they each affected me consciously, by driving me toward certain paths.
Well, anyway, I didn’t mean to get all philosophical on you! I seem to get into this quiet, dreamy mood whenever I’m alone with Jasper. My mind drifts away from fashion, parties, and plans, until there’s just a quiet haze of love. I think it’s like how humans react to certain types of drugs – but without all of the horrible side effects and consequences, obviously.
It could be the environment, too. Where we are right now, the trees and the water are a verdant, alive shade of green, with the thundering waterfall drowning out all other sounds. It’s not a pond, more like a smallish lake, but it feels like an enclosed space rather than being out in the open. The sun occasionally breaks through the overhead mists, lighting up the trees, the water, and our skin.
Earlier this week, we spent eight hours just floating in the water, connected only by our clasped hands, soaking in the magical, fairytale atmosphere of the lake. It was so peaceful that I was hardly even aware of my own thoughts as my mind ran through all of the recent events, including Renee’s visit and the birthday party, processing and analyzing everything in a way I hadn’t had time for in the last few weeks. Finally, after hours of this, I was able to let go and with a deep sigh, I felt the weight of all the worries and the plans lift off of me.
Turning my head to the side, I saw that Jasper had been watching me silently. He smiled with infinite tenderness as he took in my newly stress-free expression.
“Got everything sorted out?” he drawled quietly, tugging me closer to his body. For a moment I was distracted by the miniature waves of sparkling blue-green that lapped at his diamond skin in reaction to the movement.
“Hmm? Oh … I think so … at least, I don’t want to think about anything but you right now,” I whispered, my eyes trapped in his loving gaze. I didn’t realize I was moving until we were both underwater, still staring into each others eyes, as the murky rays of sunlight highlighted Jasper’s body in an abstract glow that made me shiver with awe. He was incomparably beautiful, scars and all. Those marks were a permanent testament to his strength and courage, and I loved every single one of them. Tracing the lines of his jaw with my lips, I surrendered to the sweet inevitability of loving Jasper.
Later, we explored behind the waterfall. Where the pounding water would send a human spiraling into the lake, it felt like a tickle to our rock-hard skin, so we stood under the rushing waterfall for a little while, reveling in the feeling. But the sunset was coming, and I wanted to see it through the water, so we stepped into the small, damp stone alcove created by the water’s friction, and settled into a snug embrace to watch the waterfall become infused with pink, orange, violet, and then white again as night fell. It was like being inside a seashell; the clean, fresh scent of the water and the absence of all sound, other than the fall. The experience was exponentially more soothing and special because of Jasper’s presence at my side, even when we didn’t speak or move.
Over the next few days, I felt myself healing from the inside out as my world revolved around Jasper, only Jasper, all Jasper. No other demands on my time, no siblings who needed my help, no mutts to annoy me … it was a paradise that fit my needs exactly, though I wouldn’t wish to stay there forever, away from my family.
“Do you miss them?” I wondered aloud, swinging my legs in my perch on the highest branch of the pine tree. Jazz, on the branch next to me, tilted his head to the side and looked at me searchingly.
“Miss who?” he responded, leaning a bit closer to me. We were ostensibly up there to look at the full moon, which appeared larger tonight, as if it was right above our heads, just out of reach from the top of the tall tree. But Jazz had hardly even glanced at it before returning his gaze to my face.
I was having a similar problem, so I couldn’t chastise him. What were we talking about? Oh, right. “Our family … your family … people you’ve known,” I explained vaguely, crushing a sprig of pine needles in my fingers for the sharp, biting scent it gave in return.
Jazz chuckled softly, his eyes crinkling fondly at me. “There’s no one I miss when you’re here,” he assured me, in a voice so saturated with love it was impossible to doubt.
When I’d caught my breath again, I persisted. “But do you ever think about anyone … wonder where they are, what they’re doing … wonder if they’ve thought about you since you disappeared?”
He regarded me thoughtfully, turning my questions over in his head. When he replied, he caught me off guard completely. “You’re thinking about your mother again,” he whispered, sympathy softening the accusation.
“In answer to your question, I have thought of my previous family only a few times lately, to hope that they were as happy in their situation as we have been in ours,” he explained, with a wistful tinge to his voice. His direct stare cut through any denials I could have made as he continued, “But that’s not what you really want to know, Alice. What I feel from you right now is a sort of … longing, but it’s different from how you normally feel.”
I sighed at his words, unable to protest. The loss of my mother should not bother me. I had no memory of her, and she had deserted me as a teenager, turning me in to an insane asylum and declaring me dead. But those same reasons were the ones that caused this longing ache in my heart.
Jasper was exuding a feeling of warmth and security for me, which I gladly gave in to, as he kept talking. “I know you haven’t wanted to speak about it – I’ve felt your shame every time you think of her, and it hurts me to know that’s how you feel, Alice.”
His eyes begged me to believe his next words. “Your mother loved you, Alice,” he whispered so softly it was almost inaudible. “She must have. How could she not love such a bright, sweet, vivacious, beautiful daughter? How else could she find the strength to admit you to that hospital, even knowing it was all she could do to help you?”
I sobbed silently, wanting so desperately to believe him. But … how could my own mother have me locked up in that place? I’d visited the old asylum with Jasper, and it was horrific; the stench of fear and hopelessness had remained with me for days afterward.
“Alice, Alice,” Jazz crooned, moving to my branch to fold me into his arms. “You don’t have to change your mind this very minute … but please, my dear, please, try to believe what I’ve said. You are not foolish for feeling this way, but I do hope you will overcome it someday, because it pains me to know that you’re hurting …”
I still couldn’t speak, but nodded, hoping for the same thing.
I’ll leave you with this quote Jasper shared with me when I told him how love pushes out all my other thoughts and worries, leaving only a blissful haze in my mind.
Perhaps the feelings that we experience when we are in love represent a normal state. Being in love shows a person who he should be.
Where did Bella think we were going to use those jet-skis? And did she seriously think we all had forgotten about her birthday?
Silly, silly Bella. It’s a good thing we’re immortal, because I think it’s going to take her centuries to get used to stuff like this.
And really, in comparison to buying a whole island, it was nothing! Okay, so I had returned all of the rental equipment and helped bring Renesmee’s gifts back from the clearing, and Edward had gone to tuck Nessie in at the cottage. Edward wanted the gifts kept in our living room for now so Nessie could take inventory and write thank-you notes, although none of us felt it was necessary, since we’re family and all. But when we had everything stacked on the pristine white carpet, Bella stood frozen in shock, gaping unattractively at the towering piles of boxes. I had to practically shove her out the door to go home, begging her to let it go for that night, at least.
Sunday was a gorgeous morning, no rain, no fog, just a bit of frost like velvet on the trees and grass. My family was prepared for Bella, Edward, and Renesmee when they ran in through the back, as usual. In deference to Bella’s odd aversion to attention, there were no balloons, banners, flowers (well, other than the usual amount, that is) or cakes anywhere. Just us, standing in a semi-circle to face the door.
Immediately Bella jerked to a halt, assessing the situation rapidly and with precision. And a great deal of suspicion, too, I might add!
“What is this? Please tell me it’s not more presents,” she moaned, turning to check Edward’s face. Something about his expression of serene innocence tipped her off to the conspiracy. I could see the wheels turning in her mind and wondered why it had ever bothered Edward to be unable to hear her thoughts. They were so clear, I could watch each one float through her mind: Everyone’s in on it. Edward didn’t tell me. Everyone but me is up to something. Oh no. Please. No.
“Happy birthday, Bella!” we chorused, breaking into smiles and laughter as she bit her lip and looked like she wanted to blush, hide, and/ or run away.
“Did you truly believe we had forgotten?” Edward murmured tenderly, stroking her long curtain of hair off her face so we could all see her roll her eyes.
“I wished,” she muttered, eying our lineup. I knew Carlisle and Esme were very excited about this, and so was Emmett, and I – okay, we were all bouncing with excitement. Bella sighed quietly and stepped forward for hugs.
When it was my turn, I grabbed her, lifted her into the air and spun her around as she burst into laughter and protested in vain.
“Sorry!” I squealed, setting her back down. “I’m just so excited!” Oops. The apprehensive look took over her face again, and she moved back to Edward, away from the rest of us.
“Okay, what is it?” she asked nervously. “Just – please don’t tell me you bought me another car. Or another house,” she laughed, shaking her head at the memory of last year’s gift.
Oh boy. Glancing at Esme, I saw that she and Carlisle were both trying to hide their smiles as they presented Bella with a rough wood photo frame, a bright blue ribbon its only adornment.
She accepted it with a perplexed quirk of the eyebrow, but then she really looked at it, and did a double take.
“Oh no,” she gasped in horror, a completely inappropriate reaction to the photo of a beautiful modernist cabin perched on a mountainside. Slowly, she pointed to the photo, then raised her eyes to beg silently. I tried to keep my laughter inside, but I couldn’t help it – the look on her face!
“That’s your new cabin in Okanagan Lake, Bella,” Esme eagerly informed her. Bella opened her mouth, but a choking sound was all that came out as Esme continued, “We’ve been looking for some time now, and when we found it – well, it reminded me so much of this house, so I checked, and it’s the same architect! It’s a lakeside property with its own dock, and it’s very private, the nearest neighbor is nowhere in sight. And the house is in a little bay, very secluded. Oh, you’ll love it,” she gushed, clasping her hands together and beaming with joy.
Luckily, Bella is a sensitive and intelligent woman (sometimes), so she reacted much better this time, out of respect for Esme’s feelings. “Oh … wow!” she exclaimed (a bit weakly, I’m afraid). She managed a tight smile as she continued to stare at the photo. “It … looks beautiful!”
Emmett let loose one of his booming laughs, unable to pass up any opportunity to tease Bella. “Relax, little sis,” he grinned, lifting Renesmee to his shoulders. “It’s not just for you and Edward, it’s for everyone. What’d you think I got the jet-skis for?” He kept laughing as she winced at the reminder.
“Ugh! You guys, seriously – first this huge pile of stuff,” she complained, waving toward Renesmee’s stash, “jet-ski included, and now this? Another house? Can’t we just give each other … handmade cards or something?”
I laughed so hard, I could hardly see straight. “Bella,” I gasped, “you better get used to it! The money belongs to you now, too!”
“But I don’t want it,” she immediately countered, scowling at me. “And I don’t want Renesmee to think that material things are all that matter, either.”
Ouch! I wasn’t the only one who felt the sting of that one; Rosalie stepped up to remind Bella that we all know exactly what “matters” in this household, while Nessie continued to observe everything from her perch on Emmett’s shoulders. Finally, she spoke up.
“I think it sounds nice,” was her only comment, but it cut through Bella like a ray of sunshine, lighting her face for the first time since she had accepted the photo.
“Really?” Bella asked tentatively, a little disappointed, but looking happy at the thought of Renesmee’s future happiness. If that makes sense.
“Yes,” Ness said firmly in her high voice, “and I think it’s nice that we can go there and play in the lake without having to worry about other people seeing us.”
“Exactly,” I agreed. “It’ll be just like here, except with a lake right in the yard. And our jet-skis. Oh, and the Range Rover. And -”
“Enough,” Edward interrupted as Bella groaned again. He was watching her anxiously (so what else is new?), and now he turned her face up to his with one hand. “Well? What do you think?”
Bella scanned our faces again before responding. “I think … we have a cabin in Okanagan Lake” was her noncommittal reply, but I heard our victory in her resigned tone.
“Okay! So, when can you head up there? We’ll need the Volvo if we’re going to bring Nessie’s new things, the Jeep is already going to be full of jet-skis,” I began joyfully, but Bella’s pursed lips and narrowed eyes told me this was not the time to start planning.
I couldn’t help the deep sigh that escaped me. Sure, I had foreseen this kind of reaction from Bella, but … well, you know how when you watch “Titanic” again, hoping that this time the boat won’t sink? Or Leo Jack won’t die? That’s kind of how I had been feeling. Like maybe she actually would appreciate how great this was going to be.
Oh well, I knew she’d come around soon. And although I was sure that she needed to know that her new closet was already stocked, I couldn’t stay and chat. Jasper and I had our backpacks ready by the door.
“Where are you going?” Renesmee wanted to know, her big brown eyes curious as she watched us begin to make our goodbyes.
Jazz and I smiled at each other, and I looked back down at Nessie. “We’ll be close by, don’t worry,” I assured her, dropping a kiss on the top of her head. “We just wanted to take a little trip, just for a few days.”
As everyone wished us a safe journey, I counted my lucky stars that there had been enough time this morning for everyone to praise my party-throwing skills. It was just too bad I couldn’t stay to hear more from Renesmee about how much fun she’d had, but Jasper and I were desperate to get away; the last couple of weeks had seemed to flash past in a blur of activity, and we had hardly seen each other, or so it felt.
I’ll write more later, about our new favorite waterfall.
Apparently Edward only agreed to return under the condition that Bella would protect his mind. So, “The Song That Never Ends” was out unless we sang it aloud, and that would annoy more than just Edward, which was not our intent. (At least, not mine – but I can’t speak for Emmett!)
ETW was nowhere near over yet, so we had to get more creative, and work with this new advantage of him not being able to hear our thoughts. After a quick huddle in the backyard (whispering quietly enough that nobody else could her us), we agreed on a few different ideas.
First, we all wandered nonchalantly into the living room and flopped down in a rough circle around Edward, facing him but not looking at him yet. Every 35 seconds, we each scooted a few millimeters closer to where he was relaxing on the couch with Bella and Ness. Soon, he noticed that we were a lot nearer to him, but after eying us suspiciously, he just rolled his eyes and ignored us.
After a few more minutes, Rose, Emmett, Jasper, Jacob and I were all clustered around the couch, staring into Edward’s eyes as he shifted uncomfortably and sighed. We kept inching closer and closer. Finally, when he had five noses pressing against his face, Bella had been shoved (gently) out of the way and Ness was rolling with laughter, he gave up and cracked a smile.
“All right, you’ve made your point,” he said with some difficulty, as he was talking around my chin. “You got me. Now, can I please just enjoy a day at home with my family?”
“Of course you can, Edward,” I assented, not backing away.
“Yeah, man, we’re not gonna stop you,” Emmett added innocently, almost biting Edward’s ear in the process.
Jacob said nothing, just let out a long, deep sigh directly into Edward’s face (I held my breath to keep out the stench).
Rosalie, whose cheekbones were smushed against my temple, laughed mockingly and then grimaced as Jacob’s scent assaulted her. Jasper’s smile was about a mile wide as he felt the emotions in the room.
“Guys, come on,” Bella protested, unable to hold back her own laughter. “You can’t just stay there all day …”
“Oh yes we can,” we all responded in unison, making Edward flinch slightly. He frowned, and then decided to ignore us.
We had planned for that, of course. As he attempted to make idle conversation with Bella, we began a round-robin of evil laughter, almost inaudible at first but then louder, and louder, and louder, until we were shouting our best malicious laughs right into Edward’s face.
He finally lost his cool and shoved Emmett (who, admittedly, was much louder than anyone else) off the back of the couch, then jumped over it himself and crouched in a defensive position as if daring any of us to come nearer. Instead of doing that, I gave the signal and we all shut up at once.
“There,” Edward sighed with relief. “That’s much better.”
One by one, my co-conspirators and I filed out of the room without so much as a backward glance, leaving two giggling females and one very annoyed brother in the living room. We gave him about 20 minutes to lull himself into a false sense of security, and then the next game began.
Since I still have so much work to do on the upcoming birthday party (gifts don’t wrap themselves, you know!), I had come up with a game that only involved one of us at a time. It was pretty simple. The way it worked was that we would all go about our business, except for the one who was “it.” That person would stand or sit three inches behind and three inches to the right of Edward, and copy everything he said and did. I called it the Clone Game.
Whenever Edward acknowledged the clone’s presence by begging them to stop, it was the next person’s turn. So, for example, when I heard Edward telling Rosalie off, I jumped over the banister, walked over to Rose and tapped her shoulder. She immediately left the room, and I took her place, sitting cross-legged behind and to the right of Edward, who was playing Clue with Bella and Renesmee.
It only took him seven and a half minutes to get sick of me, probably because I do an extremely accurate impression of his voice. So Jacob sauntered into the room and tagged me, and I left to stack all my gifts and cross them off the list as I went.
There had been a sale at Tiffany … okay, there are never any sales at Tiffany. Whatever, I was there, and they had a ton of cute things I wanted to give Ness, and since I didn’t have to pay for shipping it was kind of like a sale. So anyway, I counted each of the little robin’s-egg blue boxes to make sure they were all there, and then moved on to the larger items, pausing to straighten ribbons and fluff bows as I worked.
I had all of her birthday gifts accounted for, and was having a hard time trying to convince myself not to add her Christmas gifts to round things out, when I heard Edward totally lose it. Oops, was it really that late already? Time flies when you’re blah blah blah …
We all converged in the living room, arranging ourselves into a V-shaped line, our arms crossed and our best glares leveled at Edward. He was still flailing his arms about and shouting things like, “Even a moment’s peace!”
As our appointed leader (because she wouldn’t let anyone else do it), Rosalie interrupted him. “We have demands,” she told him bluntly. That shut him up; he stopped mid-sentence with his mouth open and stared incredulously at her, then all of us.
“What the – what? Demands?” he demanded (tee-hee), pulling himself together.
“Our demands are threefold,” Rose informed him in her best threatening voice. She held up her hand and began to count them off. “Firstly, you admit to having been a total pain in the ah – err – neck lately. Secondly,” she continued, raising her voice to talk over his protests, “you apologize for having been a pain in the neck. Thirdly, you agree that if in future you should return to your deviant behavior, we all have the right to punish you accordingly. Like this,” she clarified, waving her hand vaguely to indicate the ETW crew.
Well, he sputtered and fumed, but we all stood our ground and glared menacingly, following him with our eyes as he paced back and forth, until he gave in.
“Fine!” he cried in exasperation, throwing his hands in the air. “You win. I agree to your infantile demands.”
Silently, we waited for his penance. The silence grew until Renesmee, of all people, pointed out, “But you didn’t do what they said, Daddy.”
“That’s okay,” Bella soothed, squeezing his hand comfortingly.
“No, it’s not,” Rosalie snapped. “Those are our terms, and until he says the words – no deal.”
Edward’s jaw tightened, as he scanned each of our faces to read our determination. When he got to me, he shot me a pleading look, but instead of giving in, I just grinned widely at him. I was having such fun!
“Arg!” he shouted to the ceiling, clutching his head in both hands. “Fine! I admit to having been a pain in the neck! I apologize for being a pain in the neck! I agree that if I act like a pain in the neck again you can follow me around singing stupid songs in your head and imitating me all day!”
Our side of the room burst into applause, and Edward, shaking his head, finally started to laugh with us.
“You were way more annoying than I could ever be,” I heard him telling Emmett as they did mock-punches at each other.
Anyway, so there was no torture today, only party prep – Esme and Bella are the designated cake-bakers, and boy, do they have their work cut out for them. I’m the decorator (duh) so I’d better go and check on them! I’ll write all about the party when it’s over, I promise.
Granted, the week didn’t have such a great start. I had not enjoyed disciplining Renesmee, but my brother had asked me to and I had done my best. None of us wanted to say no to her, or hurt her feelings in any way, but neither did we want her to become spoiled; and for the dangerous stunt she pulled on Sunday, some punishment had been in order.
Luckily, Edward knew better than to cancel her birthday party – after all, that would really punish me more than anyone else – and between my lecture (which I hoped had been okay) and the emotional discussion between him, Bella and Ness when they returned from the airport, it seemed like Renesmee had completely understood the gravity of her mistake.
Of course, we were all more eager to forgive her (whose motivation had been completely understandable) than Jacob, her enabler. It’s not that anyone doubts his claim that he literally cannot say no to her; we’ve all seen the evidence of that before. However.
“How could you do that, Jacob?” Bella cried, blurring into the living room so fast even I couldn’t see it: One moment she was outside, the next moment she was advancing on Jacob, who stood his ground but was unable to make eye contact. His head was lowered in shame, and his face suffused with color as he shifted his weight from one foot to the other.
Clearing his throat, he mumbled, “I know. I know it was a bad plan. But, Bells,” he continued, lifting his eyes to give her a beseeching stare, “she asked me to, and -”
“And so you gave in to the plan of a one-year-old, allowed – caused – her to put herself and the rest of us in danger simply because she asked you to?” Edward growled, a familiar fire burning in his eyes as he faced Jacob. Rosalie and Emmett looked self-righteously pleased at the prospect of a physical showdown, but, still stinging from the mutual pain of my disciplinary actions earlier, I couldn’t bear to watch this confrontation.
Edward, come on, I begged him mentally. You stopped Emmett from killing him earlier, don’t tell me that was just because you wanted to be the one to do it? Momentarily distracted, Edward continued to scowl at Jacob as he listened to my thoughts.
Bella took over. “Jacob, my mother was right … there,” she hissed. “She could have seen you both! A little girl, sitting on a wolf’s back! Are you kidding me? She would have freaked out, gotten Charlie to go outside with his gun, we would have been calming her down for days – and then, we could never let Renesmee meet her,” she finished, her eyes automatically straying toward the forest in the direction of their cottage, where Nessie was sleeping. “If we just wait a few years, Alice says we might get to introduce Ness, but only if Renee doesn’t see her at this age. Did you even stop to think about that? Did you think about anything at all before galloping off into the forest to ruin my last night with my mother?”
The accused drew in a deep, shuddering breath and tried to defend himself. “I did, I swear, Bella,” he insisted. “I ordered Seth to keep quiet so nobody would even have to find out – I guess that didn’t work out so well,” he admitted, “but I swear, I tried to do it in the safest way possible, since I didn’t have any choice about whether or not to bring her there. And you know she should have been allowed to see Renee anyway, Bella,” he whispered, the lines of his face rearranging into a mask of anxiety. “Please don’t be mad at her, just – it’s my fault, but please don’t be upset with her. She really just needed to see Renee.”
If there was one way to soften Bella up, appealing to her love of her daughter was it. She immediately hung her head and confessed, “You’re right, I know we should have let her see her at least once, we were just so afraid that my mom might catch a glimpse of Renesmee and then …”
“You did the right thing, of course, Bella,” Edward soothed, cupping her face in his hands. The fight was dead and buried by that point. Everyone in the room had the exact same motive – love for Renesmee – behind their actions, so there really wasn’t anything to argue about.
The next day marked the beginning of Edward Torture Week, or ETW as the boys, Rose, and I had begun to call it. In preparation for the first day, we had all (even Carlisle and Esme) watched all of those silly high school musical movies and committed them to memory. The plan for Monday was to play those movies in our minds all day – on repeat.
Emmett wanted us to go all out and perform each of the corresponding dance routines, but for once, I was not in favor of dancing. Maybe I had dance overload from the last week, but I thought it would be funnier if we were all going about our business as usual and only singing inside our heads (visualizing the movie, too, of course). Since Jasper and Rosalie made it a tie, Jacob had to give the pivotal vote; and for once, he was very diplomatic. We would do one song inside our minds only, the next one with the accompanying dance routine, the next inside our minds only, and so on.
And so it was that at precisely 9:03AM on Monday morning, every single member of my family plus Jacob began singing and visualizing HSM inside our minds.
We weren’t even together – I was on the computer double-checking party plans, Jasper was in our room reading, Emmett and Rose had been making out (I sincerely hoped they had stopped once visions of teenagers filled their minds), Esme was in her office and Carlisle was measuring Renesmee.
At first, Edward didn’t appear to notice anything. He continued to twirl Bella’s hair around his fingers as she cuddled against his shoulder. But after a minute or so, as the song got more enthusiastic, he began to frown slightly. Pressing his lips together, he darted a glance at me, but I ignored him and kept working. I could almost hear him decide to act like nothing was bothering him. That was fine with me – it would only make the dance routine even funnier!
At the appointed moment, everyone else jumped into the living room and began the routine – still in complete silence. Carlisle even dropped his measuring tape to do it, although his eyes twinkled a bit less than, for example, Emmett’s as we danced. Esme was under the impression that we just wanted to have fun with Edward, so she was giving it her all. And I struggled to keep a perfectly blank expression on my face as I clapped, spun, and sang inside my mind.
Bella’s mouth was hanging wide open and at first she didn’t seem to know what to make of it. But soon, her shoulders began to shake with laughter as Renesmee stared at us in wide-eyed fascination.
The cherry on top was, of course, Jacob. He had decided to stay in his wolf form for the first dance routine.
Have you ever seen a horse-sized wolf imitate a cheerleader? No? Well, you really should someday. I had a hard time containing myself – we were all supposed to remain silent – as he waggled his huge, furry hips at our audience.
Even Edward was cracking up when we finished, but he stopped laughing pretty quickly as he realized we were nowhere near done yet. The rest of the day, we kept singing our songs in our heads, continuing to do whatever we wanted but pausing for a dance routine every other song. After a few hours he had his hands pressed so hard against his forehead, I was afraid his eyeballs would get shoved into his brain. But since Ness was loving it, he couldn’t escape! It was fabulous!
That was only the beginning. On Tuesday, at 8:49AM, I began to sing to myself, Lollipop, lollipop, oh lolly lollipop, lollipop - and then I would pause for a second and start over again. Each of my siblings, Jacob, Seth, and even Leah had been assigned different start times so that Edward would hear a jumbled chorus of “lollipops” in his mind, but never the crucial “pop.”
Finally he lost his mind and shouted, “POP!” at the top of his lungs – this was at 1:15, so he actually lasted a lot longer than we thought he would. Once we had all laughed ourselves silly, Emmett handed his money over to Jacob (who won the bet with 1:00PM), and we moved on to the KitKat jingle. You know, “Give me a break, give me a break, break me off a piece of that …” It took him less than an hour to give in and yell “KITKAT BAR!!!”
Today, however, I couldn’t get involved in their games. I was too busy overseeing the delivery of some inflatable castles, obstacle courses, etc. They were being delivered to a vacant lot in Port Angeles, and I had to be there to sign for them (using a false identity, naturally), then wait for the delivery guys to leave before I could load them into the U-Haul waiting around the corner.
But they had told me what the day’s inspiration was … Christopher Walken’s rendition of “Poker Face.” Coming home, I expected to find Edward tearing his own hair out; but to my surprise, he wasn’t even there!
“What happened?” I asked Emmett and Rose, who were curled up on the couch, staring at each other. Emmett laughed and shook his head.
“That Edward, what a baby! He couldn’t handle it,” Emmett scoffed, with his usual cocky grin. Rose smirked at me, apparently very pleased with the day’s work.
Hmmm. Well … “He’ll be back tomorrow,” I informed them, seeing Bella and Ness urging him to return. I gave my best evil laugh and promised, “We’ll get him!”
Gotta go, I have a truck full of deflated bouncy castles and slides to bring to the baseball clearing!
Renee’s on a plane back to Jacksonville, and … I guess I better start from last night and tell it all in order.
So Bella and Esme came home with their garage sale finds, very pleased with themselves, and when I saw their haul I was impressed! Bella had found the perfume bottle and handed that to me first, as Esme pulled out her new painting and held it up for us to admire. Then Bella showed me a bronze table mirror that I immediately recognized as being an original Tiffany circa 1905! When I asked her how she knew that’s what it was, she just looked blankly back at me and said she didn’t know anything about it, but she thought Rose might like it.
Anyway, I raced up the stairs to hide the perfume bottle in my gift stash, and when I returned I saw Bella with her hands cupped, showing something to Renesmee, who had woken up when she heard her mother’s voice. With my usual friendly interest in the doings of my sister, I came over to see what the fuss was about – and gasped.
“Bella! Is that – a demantoid garnet?” I demanded, grabbing the dark metal ring and turning it to examine the huge stone from every angle.
“I don’t know,” she admitted. “The lady couldn’t tell me. It was in a box with a bunch of random costume jewelry -”
“Demantoid garnets are not costume jewelry,” I corrected her swiftly. “Do you have any idea how rare they are? How much they’re worth? Look at this, it’s stunning!” Under the hallway light, the rough garnet stone was poison-green and clear as glass.
“Well, don’t tell Leah that, or she’ll never accept it,” Bella begged, taking the ring back from me.
“Leah?” I questioned, cocking my head to one side. The urge to look for this future event was instinctive, but of course I couldn’t see any of the wolves in the future. Still, looking at the ring again, it seemed exactly right for Leah: The raw crystals, jagged and unpolished, plainly set on a wide hammered band that looked like iron but was probably just oxidized silver … there was something wild about it that mirrored her fierce personality, and yet at the same time, it was beautiful and one-of-a-kind – again, just like her.
“Perfect,” I murmured aloud. Bella shot me a grateful look and smiled, just as Rosalie and Emmett came in through the back of the house.
“Oooohhhh,” Rose gushed, gazing covetously at the ring. I felt it was my duty to inform her that this was not for her.
“It’s for Leah,” Bella beat me to the punch. “It seemed right for her – Alice thinks so too – but I’m still not sure …”
“She’ll take it?” Emmett quipped drily.
“She’ll wear it?” Rose piped in at the exact same time.
After a tiny pause, Bella replied, “Exactly.”
But Christmas is still a few months away, so there was no need to dwell on that. Instead, Bella unceremoniously shoved the ring into her pocket (I cringed just a little) and then picked up Renesmee and headed to the couch to tell her all about her day.
Nessie’s eyes were wide with fascination as Bella described the various houses they’d gone to, with jumbled piles of random items displayed in the yards and crowds of haggling shoppers elbowing each other out of the way. Evidently Renee had proven to be a master haggler – her lack of focus made it easy for her to lose interest in an item quickly, which caused the homeowners to lower their asking prices to try to get a sale out of her. Ness laughed with delight at Bella’s vivid imitation of her mother losing interest in a funky lamp right in the middle of paying for it – she had changed her mind several times, and finally decided to take it (by that time, the original price had been cut in half)!
Esme, joining all of us in the living room now that her new painting had been hung up in the kitchen, agreed that it had been a lovely day. The weather was just right; gloomy enough to make it safe for her and Bella to be outside, but not rainy or too cold for Renee. From the way she talked, it sounded as though Renee was her new best friend, a thought which made me feel all “warm and fuzzy inside,” as the humans say.
She sounded deeply disappointed that Renee had to go home, and I wondered if she was secretly hoping that she’d move to Washington … Glancing up, I saw Edward’s swift wink, indicating that I was right about that. Well, I could see how happy it made both Bella and Esme to have Renee here, but there was no way we could ask, convince, or allow her to move back to Forks. Having Charlie exposed to our lifestyle was dangerous enough; we couldn’t involve Renee and her husband too. Especially not her husband – while he may care about Bella, it couldn’t be anything like the fierce protective love Renee and Charlie feel for her, so he would be a major liability.
Well, today being the last day of Renee’s visit, Bella and Edward planned to be at Charlie’s from morning until it was time to take her to the airport. Bella didn’t want to miss a single moment with her mom, so she had suggested the four of them have brunch together, giving Renee time to sleep in before traveling home. I guess Renee asked if Esme had any of those “delicious” orange-almond cinnamon rolls left over, because Esme was in the kitchen at about 7AM working on a new batch, which Bella and Edward took with them to the Swan residence.
Renesmee was having a hard time with her sleeping schedule, which needed to be switched back to normal anyway, so Jacob was in his human form at the cottage, reading to her or something. The rest of us were (YAY) working on plans for the party this Saturday – almost an entire month after her actual birthday, but not quite.
After a particularly long speech from me about arranging the dance floor, bouncy village, and food areas, Emmett groaned. “Seriously, can we talk about something fun for a while?” he begged, making a face at me. What was he talking about? This was fun.
“Well, we could work on our plans for Edward,” Rosalie suggested, her eyes lighting up. The boys heartily agreed, so I pulled out my other list and began taking notes as they all started talking at the same time.
Time passed in a haze of laughter and some very inspired ideas from Rosalie, when all of a sudden we heard a surprised yelp and howl that ended abruptly. All of us leapt to our feet at once, straining to hear what was wrong. It had sounded like Seth, but now he wasn’t making any noise at all. And where was Jacob, then?
“Shit.” This came from Emmett, but everybody seemed to agree, since we were all racing toward the source of the noise – right by the cottage. As we ran, I tried frantically to see Renesmee’s future, but I couldn’t – so that must mean she was still with Jacob, right??
After what seemed like an eternity, we burst into the clearing where Seth paced in front of the cottage in his wolf form. Crap!
“Seth, can you change to human and tell us what’s wrong?” I urged, dropping to my knees as I realized I couldn’t hear Renesmee or Jacob inside the tiny house. He shook his head, whining softly.
“What?! Do it!” Emmett roared, clenching his hands into huge, menacing fists. Seth cringed slightly, but kept pacing and whining.
Rosalie’s eyes narrowed to ferocious slits, but luckily Jasper could feel Seth’s emotions, and stepped in front of the rest of us. “Wait. Seth, has Jacob ordered you not to say anything to us?”
Seth nodded vigorously, earning another curse from Emmett and a grim look from Rose. This couldn’t be a good thing …
“We’ll follow his scent,” Jasper called, already rushing away.
As we ran, I noticed that we were heading toward Forks, and I began to get an idea of what was going on. My worst fears were confirmed as we entered Chief Swan’s neighborhood, following the sound of Jacob’s huge heart beating along with his vile scent.
We slowed as we reached the edge of the forest – Charlie, Bella, Edward, and Renee were inside the house, but close enough to a window that they just might see something if they glanced outside. Edward had a tense look in his eyes, but was still keeping his composure better than Bella, who looked terrified.
Jacob was sitting in the woods with Renesmee on his back, and the two of them were watching the family scene inside. Renesmee looked up guiltily as we reached her, but Jacob gave us a look that resembled gratitude … it was hard to tell coming from a wolf. But Edward hissed under his breath, “He didn’t want to, but she asked him to, and he couldn’t say no.”
Too bad Emmett was grinding his teeth and urging Jacob to come a little deeper into the forest, his voice a harsh whisper as Rosalie snatched Renesmee from his back. “I’m going to kill you, mongrel,” Rose spat before turning and beginning the run home. I heard her flatly refusing Renesmee’s plea to stay, and was glad that some of us were sensible enough to know what was good for her.
“Talk to Renesmee,” Edward ordered quickly, then turned his attention back to Renee and Charlie. I nodded to Jasper and the two of us took off, leaving Jacob to deal with Emmett.
When we got back to the house, Renesmee was sitting on the sofa alone, and Rosalie and Esme were both standing in the doorway with their arms folded tightly. Jasper stayed behind the couch and I moved to kneel in front of Renesmee on the carpet.
She looked at me warily, gulping as she saw that there was no trace of a smile on my face. “Renesmee,” I began in a monotone, “do you realize what you just did?”
She took a deep breath and said in a wavering voice, “She’s leaving today and I wanted to see her just once. Everybody else got to meet her but me.”
I nodded slowly, and hated the position I was in. Discipline was not my strong suit. “Okay, and we can all understand that,” I explained, as Rose and Esme nodded, “but what you just did put a lot of people in very grave danger.”
She swallowed hard and tried to tell me that she knew her Jacob could make it so she wouldn’t be seen by Renee. I had to interrupt.
“No, you didn’t know that, Renesmee … because I can’t see the future when the wolves are involved,” I reminded her in a voice that was barely above a whisper, “so there was absolutely no way to be sure that you would have been safe. Anyone could have seen you sitting on the back of a giant wolf, and if Renee had glanced out of that window at just the wrong moment, she would have spotted you.” I paused; Jasper was filling the room with belief and a bit of fear, which was confusing to me as the authority figure, but exactly what we needed Renesmee to feel.
“Now, you know that we were very worried when your grandpa Charlie first found out about you,” I resumed the lecture, looking her straight in the eyes, which were beginning to water. I shoved my own emotions out of the way and continued, “With the Volturi looking for any excuse to find fault with us, it is incredibly unsafe and selfish of us to keep humans involved in our lives. The only reason I told Bella and Edward it would be okay for Renee to visit was because I saw that we would be able to keep you out of sight.”
I stopped again, heartbroken by the quiet sobs coming from Renesmee and Esme. Rosalie’s jaw was tense, but so far, she wasn’t breaking down. I tried to soak up some of her strength to go on.
“Renesmee … you will get to meet Renee someday. I know with her here now, and everyone talking about her, you wanted to see her too. But she cannot see you yet. One day, when she meets you, you will look about 14 years old; and that will only be a couple of years from now. So she canNOT see you at this age. It is far, far too dangerous for everyone involved,” I finished with a huge sigh.
Renesmee’s breath hitched in gulping sobs as she wept in shame, and I signaled to Esme and Rose to come help me comfort her, now that I had done what I had to do. A quick glance at Jasper was enough to tell him it was okay to leave – I knew the emotions had become too much for him.
The three of us stayed on the couch, speaking only rarely, until Emmett got home and reported that Jacob was back in La Push and Bella and Edward had left for the airport. Then, Esme gently urged Renesmee to take a quick nap before her mom and dad got back.
As soon as the poor, heartbroken little girl was asleep, I turned to Emmett and asked what had happened with Jacob.
“Well, he didn’t put up much of a fight,” Emmett snorted, looking disappointed. “Just walked into the forest and stood there, wouldn’t change back into human, so I had to fight him in his wolf form. But Edward made me stop way too soon, I wasn’t even halfway done with him,” Emmett griped.
“He’s incapable of telling Renesmee no,” Esme fretted, twisting and crumpling the fabric of her skirt. “Oh, I wish he hadn’t done that, but … maybe it was wrong to hit him, since he really didn’t have a choice.”
Emmett looked chagrined at that, but Rosalie was quick to remind Esme that he had also ordered Seth not to tell us where he went. “He didn’t have to do that,” she pointed out.
“True,” Esme sighed.
“I’m sure we’ll have a lot to talk about when they get back,” I said, “but right now I – I just need – I’m going to go find Jasper.” With that, I ran away.