So Renee, Esme, and Bella all went out to explore our local garage sales this morning. The visions I’d had when I was invited … well, let’s just say there was nothing anyone could say to convince me to go with them. I did, however, see one thing that I wanted – a 1920s Lalique crystal perfume bottle worth about $20,000 – so I concentrated to see how much they wanted for it, and then gave Bella the $40 she’d need to buy it, going into great detail to describe it so she would be able to find it amidst the rubble.
It’s not for me though, it’s part of Rosalie’s Christmas gift from me. See, when she was human, she always loved the ritual of putting on perfume – back then, every perfume bottle had one of those glamorous bulb atomisers that you had to squeeze for the perfume to come out – and she really missed that when she was changed. At first, she tried to keep up her routine, but Edward couldn’t stand to be anywhere near here for the smell, so it must have been even stronger and harder to deal with to Rosalie, because she eventually stopped wearing it.
So my gift to her is a hand-picked collection of beautiful crystal perfume bottles, all the loveliest ones I can find, and all of them – empty. That way, she can squeeze the little bulb all she wants and not drown in the reek of human perfume.
Anyway, so Bella, Esme, and Renee left around 7AM, all dressed as though they were going hiking rather than driving around Forks. Even Bella had on her Lanvin leopard-print sneakers, along with a fur-trimmed, hooded designer version of the tacky “puffer” coat humans seem to adore so much. They had taken Emmett’s Jeep to add to the urban warrior illusion. Okay, it was actually in case they found anything large – Esme had asked me to look ahead for her and see which car they should bring, and it looked like there was a large Joseph Stella painting she would like, and I couldn’t tell exactly how big it was, so I told her to just take the Jeep to be on the safe side. Amazing how these insanely valuable things can just be hidden in piles of people’s junk!
I saw that they would be gone all day, and with Nessie sleeping, and Carlisle back at the hospital, it was the usual suspects hanging around the house today. Emmett, Rose, Jasper, Edward and I were all bored, and since Edward didn’t want to venture too far from Renesmee, we were more or less stuck at home. Without Bella there, we couldn’t play any games – Edward would be hearing everyone’s thoughts – and unless we invited Seth or Leah to spend their free time playing with us instead of sleeping, I could see everyone’s plans and strategies. So no games …
“Bored,” Emmett grunted, his head hanging upside-down as his torso was bent backwards over the back of the sofa.
“Very bored,” Rosalie concurred at his side, idly examining her golden hair, which she was methodically wrapping and unwrapping around her finger.
I sighed, gazing up at Jasper’s chin from my pillow, a.k.a. his lap. I was bored too, and every idea I had was being shot down before I could even say it aloud – I could see them refusing to participate in a fashion show, a play, a reenactment of the “Thriller” music video …
Edward waited patiently, Emmett and Rose less patiently, as I ran through all the options I could think of. The only one that seemed like it’d work was for Jazz and Emmett, the rest of us would just be spectators. Still, it was better than nothing!
So Jasper and Emmett faced one another in the backyard, each holding their razor-sharp antique iron swords – they each had two, because let’s face it, just one apiece would be pretty boring for us. I could hear Seth’s padding footsteps slow in the forest as he caught a glimpse of the boys poised to attack one another.
Edward waited until everyone’s thoughts were in a frenzy of suspense and all bets had been placed before shouting, “Begin!” They had only 40 seconds to battle – the equivalent of about half an hour to a human – and the goal was to disarm the opponent, or break his swords, or both.
Rose and I immediately started shouted trash talk at each other’s husbands, as Jazz and Emmett circled around, Emmett waving his swords menacingly and Jasper waiting for the right moment to strike. His moment arrived when Emmett, imitating some silly action movie, feinted toward Jazz with both swords in a twisting motion, leaving his right side unprotected. Jasper sidestepped, caught the handle of Emmett’s sword with the blade of his own, and tossed it away into the forest.
“Hahahahaha haaa, nanananana naaa,” I sang, sticking out my tongue at Rose in excitement as she scowled and booed.
Enraged, Emmett began to move faster – but he was no match for Jazz, who watched his every move with a calculating gaze. The two danced around each other, twisting and turning and stabbing and -
“HA!!!” I crowed, hopping up and down in delight as Emmett’s other sword flew into the air and embedded itself 40 feet up in a tree trunk with a dull thunk.
“Rematch!” Rose and Emmett shouted at the same time, as Emmett leaped into the tree’s branches and climbed up to his sword. He removed it from the tree bark swiftly, then growled as he realized that the blade was now considerably dulled.
They ended up doing “best of three,” which turned into “best of five.” The final score was 3 victories for Jasper, and 2 for Emmett (in my opinion, they were pity wins – Jasper is so generous).
Then Emmett wanted to compete in a more physical challenge, so the three boys had a … um … throwing contest, I guess you could call it. Kind of like the shot put, but with half-grown pine trees. Emmett, of course, won all five times.
By then Rose and I had gotten worked up into a competitive frenzy, so we devised a contest for the two of us.
It was a dance-off.
I got to choose the first song, Rosalie the second, and Edward (the impartial party) chose the third. I chose “Calabria 2007 (Club Mix),” which was a bit less sexy than the other fast songs on my iPod – I knew Rosalie’s moves, and let’s just say there’s not a lot of line-dancing or disco in there. I pulled out all my best techno moves and even a bit of breakdancing, and won the first round.
Then Rose’s song came on; she had, of course, chosen “Low,” and immediately began swaying and shaking her hips and, um, other parts. I knew she was going to win, but I still had fun getting in her face with my vastly superior hip-hop moves.
Edward had been careful not to decide which song he’d play until the very last minute, so Rose and I were both surprised to hear “The Hustle” start to play. So he’d heard my thoughts about disco earlier! I almost collapsed in giggles when Emmett jumped in with his silly moves, like The Sprinkler, Rolling the Dice, and that all-time classic The Lawn Mower. By the end of the song all of us were laughing nonstop as we did The Hustle together.
Obviously, Rose and I tied, and it was exactly the right way to get rid of the competitive urges we’d all been possessed with that day. We were able to shake hands (figuratively speaking) and part as friends – Rose, to go hunt with Emmett, and Edward to go check on Renesmee. Jazz and I took advantage of the temporarily empty house.
It sounds like the girls are home, so I’d better go see if Bella found that perfume bottle. Tomorrow is the last day of Renee’s visit, so I’ll write more then!
I guess the dinner at Charlie’s wasn’t terribly exciting, aside from the possibility of death for him and Renee, who had to eat the hockey puck-like pork chops and soggy couscous Renee had prepared. I would have loved to see the look on Charlie’s face! Anyway, Edward said there was just a lot of reminiscing, and just one passing mention of Sue from Renee.
Today, Bella and Renee planned to hang out here all day watching chick flicks on our giant flat screen TV. This meant that the rest of us had to stay hidden, or go out. Carlisle had arranged his work schedule for this week according to my instructions, so he was at the hospital, but everyone else had opted to stay in; it was an ugly, rainy, gloomy day in Forks, and everyone had hunted fairly recently, so there was no need to go out.
Seth and Leah were both guarding Renesmee at the cottage while Jacob snored away on Bella and Edward’s couch. That made it a little easier for me; I couldn’t see Ness, but I could at least see everyone here, in case anything was going to happen. And so far it looked like nothing would happen (at least nothing bad).
Because of the weather, the plans for the day, and Bella’s gratitude over the dinner party, I had allowed her to wear pajamas today. I had made the decision when she thanked me on Wednesday night, so Edward already knew, and wasn’t shocked the way Bella was when I told her she could schlup around in her PJs all day. The look on her face was PRICELESS! Like she had won the lottery (ridiculous reaction) and yet was concerned about my mental health at the same time. I didn’t make her wear jewelry, or nice shoes, either … so now she owes me big time! I’m not saying that was the real motivation involved, of course; just that it’s a nice advantage to have.
So Bella had cheerfully hummed her way into the kitchen, where Esme was just uncovering the freshly-risen dough to make orange-and-almond-flavored cinnamon rolls. The two of them worked together to assemble them, and when they were done, Esme kindly offered to bring some to the cottage for the wolves to snack on. (These were large cinnamon rolls, but to those Quiluetes, they were practically bite-sized!)
The scent of fresh baked bread mingled with cinnamon was almost like an Esme perfume, since that’s what she smells like already. That was an interesting thought … but it had no practical application. I mean, I could order a custom perfume blend to match Esme’s scent, but who would need it? Carlisle might like to have it for when they are apart, but that’s only for a few hours at a time, usually. Well, maybe I would try it anyway … he could keep it in his office at the hospital, to soothe himself when times were hard.
Anyway, Renee arrived just in time to watch Esme drizzling the glaze over the hot pastries, and we all heard her stomach growl with anticipation. Esme greeted her with delight, and assured her that she’d be “out of the way” in no time.
“No, no,” Renee protested, half in love with Esme and drooling over the cinnamon rolls. “Why don’t you stay? We’re just watching some movies, but I’d like for you to join us, and anyone else who feels like it …”
So that was how we all ended up in the living room, watching movie after movie after movie all day. “The Wedding Singer,” “Never Been Kissed,” and “The Time-Traveler’s Wife” were Renee and Bella’s choices. Between the soothing trickle of rain outside, the dark room, and the cocoon I had made out of Jasper’s lap and arms, it was quite comfortable … and the movies were surprisingly decent too. “The Time-Traveler’s Wife” reminded me of Renesmee and Jacob, especially when Claire Abshire bitterly reminded her husband Henry that she “never had a choice” about falling in love with him, since he had always been a part of her life. Was that how it would be for Renesmee? Would she grow up with Jacob as her idol, and never have a moment where she got to choose how to feel about him?
Possibly trying to escape my thoughts (which I belatedly realized must be unpleasant echoes of his own fears), Edward got up and announced that he was going to make us a movie-watching dinner. I had no idea what that meant, but after a few minutes, I was absorbed by the film once again and forgot to pay attention to Edward in the kitchen.
A while later, the smell of spattering oil wafted into the living room, and I sneezed. Apparently, “movie food” was a synonym for fried food; Edward was frying … let’s see, potatoes, chicken, even green beans, unless my nose deceived me! I heard him whipping or mixing something in an aluminum bowl, then clattering together some more dishes, before he re-entered the movie zone.
“Your feast, miladies,” he grinned, placing a large platter of fried chicken with several dipping sauces (I could smell honey, barbeque sauce, mustard, and something sweet and tangy) on our coffee table, along with paper napkins. “It’s all finger food, so it’ll be easy to eat. Please, help yourselves!”
As he spoke, he added the peppery-smelling potato chips and a plate of fried green beans to the table. Renee exclaimed over how delicious it all looked, and expressed delighted surprise that he had managed to whip everything up so quickly. A few of us (Rose, Jasper, and I) gave our brother a pointed glare when she said that, but Bella only look mildly concerned and Emmett was too busy flicking green beans at Jasper to even notice.
Finally, the movie ended, and I sighed, deep in thought. Renesmee and Jacob were still on my mind … and since Edward and Bella were both uncharacteristically quiet, it seemed like they were thinking the same things. Renee interpreted this silence as a cue to leave, and it was past 10:00PM, so Bella allowed her to go, desperate to see her own daughter who’d be waking up soon.
Tomorrow they’re going out “garage sailing,” as Renee put it, which does not appear to involve sailing at all, just a bunch of junk on people’s lawns. Doesn’t look like that much fun to me. But for now, there are green beans all over the living room that Esme is painstakingly cleaning up, so I think I’ll go help her with the stain remover before Ness and the others get back.
I never thought I’d see the day when I would be glad of the blind spot the wolves give me.
This morning, I helped Bella into her clothes and disguise as usual; since she was just going to hang around Charlie’s house with Renee all day, I allowed her to wear her skinny jeans, but vetoed her sweatshirt idea in favor of a midnight blue Carolina Herrera tie-neck sweater. (Plus, she didn’t know yet that I had gotten rid of her sweats and sweatshirt when I took out the Uggs. She’ll find out eventually, but not today.) A quick argument over footwear ended in victory for me, and rabbit-fur trimmed Manolo boots for Bella. Understated heart-shaped alexandrite stud earrings completed the look.
Edward was meeting them at Charlie’s for dinner, but would have to stay here the rest of the day, so Bella was clinging to him, going on and on about how she would miss him. (During the roughly seven hours they would be apart. I know. It’s sickening.)
Suddenly, Emmett appeared at the top of the stairs, looking confused. “Hey – you going already, Bella?”
Rosalie came out of their room behind him and began to descend the staircase as Edward rolled his eyes and shook his head in apparent disgust. Bella, still snuggled into his side, glanced up and wondered aloud, “Why … ? Yeah, I’m off to Charlie’s …”
I had been sitting on the floor, leaning against Jasper’s knees as he read a book, but now I leapt to my feet and turned to face my siblings, grinning. All of us were surrounding Bella and Edward now, and even Esme quietly slipped into the room to hear what we all wanted to know from Edward …
“You’ve gotta tell us about your mom and Sue first,” Emmett boomed, ruffling Bella’s hair.
“Don’t do that!” I cried, aghast, and hopped over the couch to fix her hair as Emmett laughed stridently at the look on my sister’s face.
“No fair keeping secrets, little sis,” he declared, shaking a finger at her. “I know Edward must’ve told you already, well now we wanna know. What happened? Catfight?” Now it was Rose’s turn to roll her eyes, but she couldn’t conceal the tiny smile of anticipation that curled the corner of her mouth.
“No way!” Bella scoffed, folding her arms across her chest. She glanced down at the sofa to confirm that Renesmee was still asleep, then lowered her voice and continued, “Nothing happened. Unlike you, some people use words to solve their disagreements, not violence.” She stuck her tongue out at Emmett, who simply laughed harder and turned to Edward.
“Wow, that bad, huh? C’mon, you can tell us,” he urged. “Did they at least get in each other’s faces a little?”
“As Bella said, nothing happened,” Edward insisted. We all tsked and threw our hands up in annoyance.
“Come on, guys. We’re not blind,” I argued. “It was pretty obvious that there was some tension between the three of them last night.”
Edward let out a deep sigh and turned a questioning gaze on Bella, who managed to look even more annoyed. “Look, if you guys want to stand here all day gossiping, that’s up to you. I am going to go be with my mother … who is not jealous or possessive!”
The two of them darted outside to say their goodbyes as Bella got into the Vanquish and started the engine. “He’ll tell us in a minute,” I whispered under my breath, and everyone stayed in place until Edward returned.
“All right,” Emmett exclaimed. “So? Spill it!”
“As much as I hate to disappoint you all,” Edward laughed, shaking his head, “truly, nothing happened – at least, nothing like what you’ve all been imagining.” I glanced at Emmett, who was peering curiously at Esme, who was gazing thoughtfully at Jasper. Before we had to ask, Edward clarified, “You’re all wondering the same thing; but no, there was no ‘cat fight.’ Charlie merely introduced Sue to Renee, and, as usual, said as little as possible while doing so.”
“So … what? You mean he didn’t even have the decency to to introduce Sue as his girlfriend?” Rosalie asked, seemingly shocked. Emmett shook his head sadly as Rose added, “That seems awfully rude to me, I wouldn’t put up with that. If Sue respects herself, she -”
“It had nothing to do with disrespect, Rosalie,” Edward interrupted. “In fact, he was attempting to be respectful of Renee by not declaring the obvious, that Sue and he have formed a relationship. He spent the entire evening thinking of how to keep both women from feeling hurt or uncomfortable.”
That shut us all up. After a moment’s pause, Esme ventured to ask, “But does Sue understand that? I’d hate for her to feel slighted in any way …”
“No, Sue was prepared, she didn’t feel at all offended,” Edward assured her in a gentler tone of voice. “Charlie had asked for her opinion, apparently, and they decided together that this was the best way. Renee is so observant … well, he knew she would figure it out, whether he said anything or not.”
“Hmmm,” Emmett sighed, already losing interest. “So much for that, I guess.”
“I’m glad no one was hurt,” Esme said, with her motherly smile.
Edward looked awkwardly away, and then sighed. “Except … you all saw them last night. It was rather uncomfortable for all three of them,” he admitted with regret.
“Oh, no!” Esme cried, just as Emmett said, “Hell, yeah!” Esme tsked reprovingly at him and turned wide, imploring eyes on Edward.
“Sue felt a bit threatened by Renee’s presence,” he explained, “which made Charlie uncomfortable, and Renee irritated … but I believe she handled it fairly well. I could hear her thinking that she couldn’t believe Sue was acting this way, but I didn’t hear any specific comments or insults from any of them, so …”
“Boring,” Emmett decided, turning away again. He tapped his foot on the ground for a moment and then said, “So, Jasper, how bout a little game of catch?”
“Wait,” Edward ordered. Renesmee’s little bronzed head popped up behind him on the couch and she smiled sleepily at us as Edward continued, “There’s something Renesmee would like to do today.”
“She should be sleeping,” Rose objected, gliding over to Ness and stroking her hair softly. Renesmee placed her palm on Rose’s cheek with a mischievous glint in her eye. “Oh …” Rosalie murmured, her face lighting up. She giggled and ran upstairs without looking back.
“Uh, hello? What’s going on?” I demanded, searching and seeing nothing. I had assumed Jacob would be with us all day because it was completely blurred out, but now it seemed as though this was intentional, as Jacob and Seth entered the room wearing their nicest clothes and Edward hefted his piano in one hand and ran outside.
I followed, still confused and complaining. “Guys, hi, remember me? I see the future? At least, I’m supposed to,” I added pointedly, glaring at Jacob (it was hard to glare at Seth).
“Relax, Alice,” Jacob chuckled, bringing out some sort of wood slab from the side of the house. It was made of interlocking … wait.
“That’s the dance floor for Nessie’s party!” I shrieked indignantly. “What …” I stood back to take in the scene: Dance floor, Edward at his piano, Nessie still wearing her Kaiya Eve tutu dress from last night, Rosalie popping out of the house in the slutty ballerina costume she’d worn for Halloween a few years ago … A grin split my face as I squealed, “More dancing??”
“Renesmee enjoyed your party the other day,” Edward informed me, beaming at his little angel, who was standing in the middle of the dance floor. “She wouldn’t sleep until we had found her some ballet videos to watch, and … well, you’ll see,” he finished, turning to the ivory keys.
Jacob and Seth solemnly stood on either side of Nessie, each supporting one of her tiny feet until Edward began to play. As the music flowed, they lifted Ness into the air, and spun in a circle. I could feel my eyes growing huge in my face as the boys very seriously lowered her to the dance floor, bowed, and glided off to the side to join us in the audience.
She was … incredible; there’s no other word to describe what it looked like as she twirled, leaped, and pliéd to the music. It seemed effortless, as though she was improvising the entire dance based on the mood the song was creating …
When the song slowed and grew softer, she looked like a forlorn angel dipping her wings and then rising again as the music sped up and turned more intense. She turned faster and faster, jumping high into the air and performing perfect triple axles to the music, as I gasped in joyful shock. I groped blindly for Jasper’s hand and crushed it against my lips, unable to see anything but Renesmee as she moved so expressively with the song. I was beginning to feel that the song was coming from her, was created by her dance rather than the other way around.
As I stood in a daze, Jacob leaned down to me and closed my mouth with his finger, laughing softly. I swatted his hand away without even looking, and he whispered, “I know … she’s really …” He stopped, at a loss for words.
“I know,” I agreed softly, struck speechless as well.
The song came to an end much too soon, with Renesmee gracefully sinking to the floor and bowing her head as the last note lingered in the air. She immediately looked up at us hopefully, a brilliant smile on her face as she took in our awed expressions.
“That was -” “You’re so -” “It was amazing, Ness,” we all cried, applauding fiercely. She did a little ballerina bow for us, then looked up and giggled.
“Now let’s all dance,” she suggested, holding her hands out to us. She didn’t need to ask twice; even the guys joined in as Edward, smiling hugely like the luckiest man in the world (which he is), began to play a new song.
Rose and I surrounded her, joining our hands and twirling together. I couldn’t anticipate their movements since Jacob and Seth were in the middle of everything, but somehow even that was okay; they were having as much fun as we were. We began to synchronize our movements, each instinctively knowing what the others were going to do, until it felt as though we had been dancing this ballet since the beginning of time.
After a few hours, Ness had to go to bed and Edward had to go to Charlie’s. But Rose and I weren’t done dancing, so we turned on the stereo and set it to play through the outdoor speakers as Jacob and Seth carefully replaced the piano inside and then took Ness to the cottage.
Jasper and Emmett allowed us to lead them through a dozen more waltzes, tangos, and even a bit of salsa before begging to be set free. By then, Carlisle was home, swirling around the dance floor with a happily glowing Esme. Rosalie and I continued to dance together until Bella and Edward returned, and then it was time for Renesmee to perform all over again.
Oops – I forgot to ask how dinner went. I’ll be sure to write about that tomorrow!
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!
As Jasper and I ran home this morning, my pre-Renee schedule completely disappeared – just popped right out of sight. I knew that could only mean one thing … or a variation on one theme. Wolves. Those furry doofuses (doofusi?) were ruining my visions by showing up at our house!
I growled under my breath and sped up, causing Jazz to dart a surprised look my way. We were holding hands, but hadn’t exactly been carrying on a conversation as we ran. As he absorbed my change in emotions, his brow furrowed.
Before he had to ask, I hissed, “Fuzzy brats!” I had to concentrate hard to keep myself from furiously scanning the future, so I didn’t explain it any further than that. He seemed to understand, though; let’s face it, there’s really only one way those monsters can wreck my day: by existing.
Okay, that might be a little harsh. How about, existing near me. So anyway, without another word between us, we hit our maximum speed (I had to hop from time to time to keep up with Jazz) and were back in Forks in no time.
As we neared the house, I strained my ears and inhaled deeply to find out who was there. But I couldn’t hear or smell any of the overgrown teenagers, so maybe they were on their way? That would give me a few extra minutes to try to get set up before … whatever it was.
Edward had the back door open and was waiting for us outside, looking oddly guilty. Guilty? Had he realized what a total pain he’d been lately?
He didn’t even react to my little mental dig at him, but just dragged in a deep breath, his gaze sliding over to Bella. She was – get this – already dressed … in an outfit I had assembled for her. Okay, this was all too much! What was going on?
“What is going on here??” I cried, noting that Bella was even wearing her metallic leather Giuseppe Zanotti toe-ring sandals with jeweled skulls on them. I clutched my hair in horror, and felt my eyes widen to the size of saucers as I turned back to Edward. “Why are you guys trying to bribe me? Did you buy more Uggs? Give away the Louboutins? OH MY GOD, did you burn down my CLOSET – ?!”
Edward finally cut me off before I could have the vampire equivalent of a heart attack. “Alice,” he laughed weakly, holding up his hands in a defensive posture, “there’s nothing remotely wrong! You’re completely -”
“Ahem,” Bella inserted drily, silencing Edward way better than any method I had ever learned. I looked at my favorite sister in admiration, but then remembered that she was trying to trick me into … er … well, something. Edward looked down in chagrin as Bella explained, “See, Alice … well, we just can’t …”
As she began to stutter out her rationalization for … whatever it was, I heard the thudding footsteps of a wooly mammoth – or possibly Jacob Black, running on all fours. It bothered me that I could distinguish between all the wolves’ footsteps now, and – wait. What was that little, fluttering heartbeat approaching along with him?!
“Bella,” I cried, genuinely astonished. She shut her mouth with an audible snap and tried to meet my gaze, but failed. Instead, she looked up at Edward, who had moved to her side and placed his hands at her waist. “No way. Are you seriously telling me you guys couldn’t even last more than a single day without having Renesmee here?!”
Before I had even finished the sentence, Jacob-the-wolf was in the room with us, bearing gifts … or rather, one very happy little gift, who was instantly snatched up by Bella. “Nessie, Nessie, Nessie,” she crooned, holding her tight. Edward was beaming down at Renesmee, obviously enjoying her thoughts as she grinned up at the two of them.
Well, how could I stay annoyed with them? I couldn’t. It was literally not possible. The three of them were smiling like loons, quickly followed by Rose and Esme, who were ditto. In fact, as I dramatically raised my hand to pinch the bridge of my nose in mock disgust, I brushed my own mouth and realized I, too, had a mile-wide smile on my face. Jasper looked pretty pleased, too, though he kept sneaking concerned looks my way. I knew him well enough to understand that he was worried about the difficulties I would be facing with Renesmee back here for the rest of Renee’s visit.
Still, I gave us all a few more minutes to celebrate Nessie’s return before breaking up the mini-party. Bella had done a great job dressing herself (well, with my help, since I had coordinated the outfit for her), but she couldn’t do her own makeup. (Okay, she could, I just didn’t trust her to.)
As Jacob re-entered the room in a slightly less foul-smelling form, but still without a shirt, I daintily stepped onto the coffee table and waited politely for my family to notice me. When I had all of them looking in my direction, if not actually paying attention, I began, “Okay, here’s how this is going to work. Renesmee cannot … be … seen by Renee, do you all understand me?” I waited for each of them to acknowledge my stern command before continuing. “So. Ness stays at the cottage – the cottage,Bella, I don’t want to risk anything here – and we all take turns babys – errr – guarding her to make 100% sure Renee won’t get near her. Yes, yes, Jacob, I know you’ll be guarding her too. I think us vampires are a bit less noticeable than the one thousand pound dog.Anyway, we’ll have to switch her sleeping schedule …” I paused, assessing Renesmee. There were slight circles under her eyes, and Edward caught my eye and nodded to show that yes, she had spent a rather sleepless night in La Push.
“So she’ll be awake at night, and hopefully asleep during the day, so we can all actually spend some time togeth – yes?” I blinked at Renesmee, startled, as she reached her hand toward me and then blushed.
“I want to see Renee,” she piped up, trying to sound firm. I couldn’t help the smile that tickled the corner of my mouth, but I stamped down the urge to giggle and instead tried to act like – well, you know, an adult.
“I’m sorry, but that’s just not going to be possible this week, Ness,” I reminded her gently. Bella watched her daughter’s face anxiously as Renesmee thought hard, still looking at me.
She drew in a tiny breath and argued, “But you said Renee can’t see me, not that I shouldn’t see her. Right, Momma?” she added, peeking back at Bella with a winning smile.
Oh, you little charmer, you! I thought, delighted. She looked so much like Edward! My brother heard the thought and grinned proudly at me, looking every bit as charmed as the rest of us.
Bella even began to agree – she couldn’t help it, I almost blurted out “Yes” myself, and the smile wasn’t being blasted in my direction. Luckily. Because someone had to be the voice of reason in this household! And for that matter, why wasn’t Carlisle backing me up?
“Actually,” I interrupted before Bella could give in, glancing over my shoulder to confirm that Carlisle was indeed present, “it’s not that you can’t see her, it’s just that it’s not a good idea.”
Edward eyed Carlisle meaningfully and our father stepped in to take over as wise old sage. It really wasn’t a role I was meant to fill. “Renesmee, we would love for you and your maternal grandmother to meet each other,” he told her bluntly, which brought a hopeful glint to her eye. He immediately squelched it, though, adding, “But the fact is that you cannot. We’re sorry to have to keep you away, of course, but … as Alice said, it is simply not a good idea to have you anywhere nearby while Renee is here.”
He sounded so regretful and certain, Nessie’s face fell as she accepted what we were trying to tell her. By then, I was running out of time. I had to extract Bella from the room and rush up to my bathroom to apply her disguise.
It was a good thing it wasn’t going to rain today, because the outfit Bella had obediently put on included a black velvet quilted down coat, which would not hold up very well against water! It was gorgeous, though, so it would work quite nicely. The only problem was, Bella hadn’t accessorized the outfit. I very gently encouraged her to wear the classic, cushion-cut sapphire-and-diamond Tiffany earrings I had bought for her, but she was having none of it. Claimed they were inappropriate beach wear. Obviously, I had been too lenient about the whole Renesmee thing, because Bella’s bad attitude was back! Finally, we compromised on an Elsa Peretti cuff that looked like liquid charcoal. I knew Bella only agreed to it because she figured it would stay out of sight under the coat sleeve, but whatever.
At the appointed time, Bella and Edward left to pick up Renee. The plan was for the three of them to wander around the beach for a few hours, then meet Billy, Charlie, Jacob, Rachel, Carlisle and Esme for a picnic lunch. I was trying my best to be calm about it, but I could not see anything other than the parts where it was just Renee, Bella and Edward together, and it was making me all nervous … and maybe even a bit grumpy.
On the plus side, those of us who were not attending the La Push festivities got to hang out with Renesmee all day! I decided that we didn’t need to stay at the house – as long as we kept a cell phone nearby, we could go outside and have some fun. So I asked Nessie if she would care to accompany me to the royal closet, and she giggled like the darling girl she is and quite happily joined me. On second thought … I asked Rose to join us, so the three of us got dressed together in my room. I just so happened to have a pretty Alice & Olivia dress for Renesmee, and the adult equivalent for Rose and myself (a Jessica Rabbit-esque dress for Rosalie, and for me, the Alexander Wang velvet and lace cape dress I had been dying to wear). Throw in some sparkly shoes and a ton of gorgeous makeup, and we were all set!
I was so excited, I jumped right over the banister and landed gracefully on the sofa, startling Emmett badly. As he began to complain, I delicately placed a hand on his face and shoved. “Get up, o dear brother mine,” I sang, skipping over to Jazz and grabbing his hand. Grinning up at him in excitement, I explained, “We’re going out dancing!”
It was perfect timing, really – Bella wouldn’t have enjoyed it that much anyway, or at least she would have pretended not to and kicked up a fuss about it. But I had been dying to do this for ages and ages, so I begged Emmett to bring his portable iPod speakers to the baseball clearing (his were much more powerful than mine). Good-natured guy that he is, he couldn’t hold a grudge against me; he just chuckled and obliged.
We spent the entire day dancing about the clearing, doing a lot of ballet but with some modern moves mixed in. Actually, a lot of it was just leaping high into the air and then twirling back down again, roughly in time to the music (a blend of rock, classical, and modern, with some of Edward’s original compositions in there too). In my humble opinion, Rose and I did a great job teaching Ness how to move it – and she’s a natural, really!
I think the other guys had a nice day too. Whatever. It was nowhere near as awesome as our day on the dance floor! But tomorrow’s the dinner party, so I’ve got to go whip my family into shape and start setting things up – focaccia dough doesn’t just make itself, you know!
I barely met Renee before Bella’s wedding, and I was pretty busy at the time, so I never really had a chance to study her. Edward has pretty much set up camp inside her mind, which is a good thing I suppose, since we need to know what she’s thinking. Since Jasper was needed here, to keep track of (and maybe control) Renee and Bella’s mood, I was staying in too. The three of us were going to hide out in my room while Bella and Renee had their girl talk, and then Edward would “come home” around 2PM, followed by Esme and Carlisle.
Esme had received permission to spend the morning down at the reservation with Sue, Billy, Jacob, and Renesmee … I had no idea what they’d be up to today, but I knew that Esme would come home in the early afternoon. Carlisle was the only one who actually was where he was supposed to be – at the hospital. Rose and Emmett, who were supposedly enrolled at the local college, were staying away today and would return after dark. Jasper and I had to stay out of sight until the day of the dinner party, when we’d “return from our travels.”
The day began with the usual fighting over apparel. Bella’s theory was that, since she and her mother had specifically planned a casual, indoor girl-talk day, she should be allowed to wear pajamas.
PAJAMAS. I ask you. After much backtalk from Bella and Edward, I gave in and allowed the silly girl to put on her oldest jeans and a college t-shirt – but I made her wear a big, soft silk-and-cashmere sweater over it. We had the Ugg argument again, but since they were long gone (burned and scattered in the wind!), she had to make do with thick socks and fluffy slippers. The makeup routine was fairly uneventful, although Bella did remind me once or twice that I was supposed to be “uglifying” her and thus shouldn’t really be adding so much eyeshadow!
As I darted around the living room, adjusting decorative pillows and chenille throws, I caught a flicker in my mind. “Oh,” I murmured, going back to my work.
“What?” Bella demanded, on edge already.
“It’s nothing, love,” Edward soothed. “Just that your mother … er … she’ll be about ten minutes late.” I could hear the laughter in his tone and smiled to myself; Renee was, in fact, going to get horribly lost, despite having gotten up very early to be on time today, and despite the carefully made map we had provided for her.
I snapped my fingers, startling Bella again, who jumped up and knocked her head on Edward’s chin. “Kleenex!” I cried, flitting to the pantry as Bella and Edward apologized profusely to one another.
Finally everything was ready, and everyone took their agreed-upon places. Edward stayed on the couch with Bella until Renee was on the front porch, and then he led Bella to the door to greet her mother.
“Bella, honey!” Renee cried, throwing her arms around her daughter. Edward sidestepped, whispering instructions to Bella under his breath. “Oh, and Edward … my, don’t you look … handsome,” she giggled, unable to hide her admiration. Jazz and I (hidden in the backyard, watching through the wall of windows) snickered in unison.
“You’re looking quite lovely yourself, as usual,” Edward charmed her, with a brief hug. “I was just on my way out, unfortunately, so I won’t be able to stay and chat … but I hope to see you when I return this afternoon.”
“Of course,” Renee agreed, following him with her eyes as he kissed Bella softly and then walked to the garage. As soon he was out of sight, Bella pulled her mother inside (“Gently, Bella,” Jazz whispered) and shut the front door.
“Well! Gosh, this house is so … big,” Renee commented, her wide eyes taking in our spacious living area.
“Um, yeah,” Bella admitted shyly. “Well, it’s not – I mean, it doesn’t seem so big when everyone’s home, you know?”
“Well, sure, honey, but don’t you and Edward … I mean, are you sure you two have enough privacy? You are newlyweds, after all,” she added with a soft laugh, causing Bella to look down and bite her lip in embarrassment. (“No! Stop that, Bella!” I hissed from outside.)
She made an effort to compose herself, and even laughed a bit as she looked up at her mother again. “No, it’s fine, actually,” she explained. “You know, Jasper and Alice are gone so much since they decided to take this year off to travel, and Rosalie and Emmett … well, they’re at school most days, and then … like I said, they’re engaged, so … yeah. And Carlisle works a lot, and Esme volunteers a lot … so it’s not like we never get any time, you know, to ourselves.”
I applauded her speech vigorously, until Edward grabbed my hands to stop me. Renee can’t even hear us, Edward, I reminded him, but he just gave me an annoyed look as he turned back to the window.
“So, do you want the tour?” Bella offered brightly, seeing her mom still awed by her surroundings.
“Sure!” she agreed enthusiastically. “You know, when I was here – for the wedding,” she smiled tenderly at Bella as they slowly made their way to the dining room and out of sight, “it looked a lot – well, not smaller, but … less huge, if that makes sense.”
“Yeah, it definitely looks bigger without Alice’s wedding decorations,” Bella agreed with a chuckle. She led her mother through the house, showing her all of our rooms, including my closet (Renee was impressed, yet bewildered) and the room that had been Edward’s and was now “their” bedroom.
Once the tour was complete, Jazz, Edward and I dashed up to my room and settled in for a long day. Since we’d spent all morning figuring out how to make the fancy espresso machine work, there was an abundance of fresh coffee for Renee to drink and Bella to hold onto. The two of them snuggled into the couch and Edward reminded in a low voice, “Don’t forget to wrap yourself up, love.” We heard her gather the thick chenille throw blanket around herself obediently.
From here on out, only Edward could see what was going on, through Bella and Renee’s minds; Jazz and I were stuck listening, although I could see a minute or two ahead if I really focused.
“Well, sweetheart,” Renee began, “you know, it’s so nice to get to be alone with you for a while.”
“I know,” Bella agreed in a soft voice. “It’s too bad Phil couldn’t make it, though,” she added politely.
“Oh – well, actually,” Renee admitted, “he did offer to join me, but -”
“No, I know he’s busy, it’s totally okay,” Bella assured her. Renee laughed quietly to herself.
“No, it’s not that. I … actually, I asked him not to come. I just …” She paused, and I could hear her fidgeting downstairs, the couch fabric rustling against her jeans. When she finally continued, her voice was thick. “I just felt … Bella, I haven’t hardly seen you at all since you came out here, and I know you did it for me so I could be with Phil, but … I’ve missed you so much, so much, and now you’re all grown up and graduated and married …”
“Oh, Mom,” Bella murmured, stricken.
We heard her move closer to Renee, and as Edward hissed, “Gently, love” and Jasper whispered, “Carefully, Bella,” I was dying inside just a little. I turned abruptly and hid my face in Jasper’s shoulder, ashamed. I could only hope that Edward was too busy listening to Renee and Bella’s thoughts to hear my selfish agony as I burned from within, thinking of the mother I could not remember, who had left me for dead at an insane asylum when I was Bella’s age …
After a while, the two of them moved on to less emotional subjects. They chatted lightly about Renee’s life in Florida, which had us all laughing quietly as she described the bowling league she and Phil had joined – and then quit; the gigantic orange juicer she had bought – but never used; and the cruise trip she had almost booked – but then decided against.
“You haven’t changed much, Mom,” Bella laughed, sounding glad. She set her (still full) mug down on the coffee table with a quiet clunk. Renee laughed ruefully.
“I know, I’m set in my ways, Bella,” she smiled. Then Edward’s eyes flew open wide and he gritted his teeth as Renee continued, “But you … is there any chance of, ahm …” I heard her hands moving about in the air, and realized she must be making the universal gesture for pregnant.
“What?” Bella squawked, alarmed.
“You know … starting a family?” Renee’s voice sounded hopeful to me, and judging by the stormy expression on Edward’s face, her thoughts were pretty interesting too. As Bella sputtered and choked, Renee sat waiting patiently.
Finally, Bella regained her senses and managed to say, between gritted teeth, “Mom, I JUST got married a few months ago, I’ve been sick ever since then, and I. Am. Not. Pregnant.”
“All right, all right,” Renee sighed in defeat, settling back into the sofa. “I guess that was wishful thinking. It’s just … oh, Edward is so handsome, and you … Bella, you know I’ve always thought of you as my beautiful daughter,” she reminisced, “but now … I don’t think I’ve ever seen you look so lovely. Not even on your wedding day! Not that you weren’t stunning that day, but Bella, you’re absolutely glowing now. So I guess I hoped …” She trailed off sheepishly.
We were all listening so intently, a fly could have buzzed through China and it would have startled us. Bella seemed to have frozen in place, judging by the lack of sound coming from her spot on the couch.
“Remember to breathe,” Jazz whispered just as Edward said, “Say something, Bella!”
Downstairs, Bella thawed and moved a bit. She cleared her throat, buying time before she had to answer. Finally, she muttered, “Thanks, Mom. Newlyweds … like you said.”
“Oh,” Renee laughed. “Of course.”
The next few hours went by without further incidence, Bella remembering to take bathroom breaks without needing to be prompted, though she did often forget to modulate her newly-improved voice. The two of them laughed and talked, remembering old road trips, injuries (Bella’s) and failed experiments (Renee’s).
Edward “returned” right on time, and joined them briefly. Renee was full of questions for him and hung on his every word adoringly, like no mother-in-law in history ever had. After an hour or so, Edward excused himself and began to assemble some snacks.
Esme and Carlisle soon followed. They arrived home in Edward’s Vanquish, and greeted Renee with delight.
“Welcome, Mrs. Dwyer,” Carlisle grinned, with a careful hug.
“Please, it’s Renee, no need for formalities,” Renee giggled girlishly, overcome by Carlisle’s radiance. Then Esme took his place, whispering “Welcome back, dear,” warmly into Renee’s ear as they embraced. The five of them spent the rest of the afternoon chatting in the living room, making up for the fact that Renee hadn’t had time to get to know any of us very well before the wedding.
Soon, it began to grow dark, and Rosalie and Emmett pulled up in the Jeep. Their entrance was Renee’s cue to remember that she had promised to make Charlie dinner … against his very firm refusal to let her “go to the trouble.” Bella laughed freely at the thought of the meal her father would have to endure, but said goodbye to her mother and promised that they would go down to La Push the next day.
As soon as Renee was safely out the door, I grabbed Jasper’s hand and pulled him to the window, jerked it open, and jumped out. As we raced away from the house, I knew he was (and had been) feeling my pain at the loss of a mother I couldn’t remember, which was just as well since I couldn’t speak anyway.
We’re in Canada now, and I can smell a herd of deer. Better go before I get blood on my diary. I’ll write more tomorrow.
Somehow, we had all made it through Saturday without any huge fights or last-minute disasters – and, though Edward was eying Emmett and Jacob with suspicion, he still hadn’t found out about their plans for next week. Unfortunately, he had been paying attention to my party plans and had vetoed my favorite idea of them all. According to him, it was not a good idea to have a gigantic wrestling ring custom-built for the vampire/werewolf Olympics I had planned – he claims that Renesmee would become upset if she saw Jacob fighting someone, even in fun. So now a huge portion of that afternoon was blank; the other games wouldn’t fill the whole day … plus, come on, how awesome would that have been?! I was secretly planning to get it built anyway, but I’d have to wait for Emmett’s birthday so I could claim it was for vampire-on-vampire matches only.
Anyway, everything was in place for Renee’s arrival … Charlie had Bella’s old room all ready for his guest, our Volvo was parked in front of his home for Renee’s use during the trip, and our house was arranged down to the very last covered dish of “leftovers” (the bulk of which had been kindly consumed by Jacob, Leah and Seth).
The biggest obstacle now was Bella. First of all, she was so nervous that it was beginning to wear off on me; I was worrying about whether she’d remember how to act, when to change contacts, and what not to say. Secondly, she was flat-out refusing to let me dress her.
“What I wear to pick my mom up at the airport doesn’t matter, Alice,” she insisted, her hair a wild tangle around her face as she twisted her fingers through it in agitation. She was standing just outside her closet, glaring in at me as I tried to show her the options I had selected for her.
“Of course it doesn’t, Bella,” I agreed sweetly, returning a truly fabulous rabbit-fur coat to its hanger. Bella blinked at me a few times as I smiled back innocently. “You’re both going to be so happy to see one another, it’ll be the last thing on your mind. Of course,” I added nonchalantly, “your mother knows that our family has lots of money, and she’ll probably get all concerned that we’re not treating you very well if she sees you slopping around in old jeans and T-shirts with holes in them. Plus, since she’s seen you in them as a human, she has that frame of reference to what you should look like. But, you’re right, the clothes aren’t important -”
“Enough, Alice,” Edward sighed in exasperation, gliding forward to place his arms around Bella’s waist. In a soothing tone, he told her, “Renee would never think such ridiculous things. But …” and he sighed deeply, looking straight at me as he finished, “Alice will not let you out of this room until she’s approved your outfit. So if we want to get to the airport on time …”
“That’s right, there’s no use arguing,” I concurred, making my sister roll her eyes so hard I thought they would pop right out of her head. Taking that as the agreement it was surely intended to be, I turned back to the rows of hanging clothes. “So. We know you’ll need to wear a coat, and definitely jeans too. It’s a shame, but at least your mom will get to see you all dressed up later this week.”
Bella let out a startled yelp/ gasp at that, but I paid no attention. I was busy scanning the shelves and shelves of ballet flats, sandals, and boots that were carefully organized by color. Should I pick them first and match the rest of the outfit to the shoes? Or the other way around?
“Ahem, Alice,” my brother interrupted dryly. I looked up in annoyance. Why was he still here? He folded his arms across his chest and said, “First of all, I’m not going anywhere. I won’t have you telling Bella you have foreseen this or that outfit so she’s forced to go along with your unreasonable demands. And second -” He raised his voice, talking over my protests. “Secondly, I very much doubt that Bella wants to wear twenty-four-hundred-dollar shoes just to run out to the airport.”
Bella gasped for real this time. “There are shoes in here that cost twenty-four hundred dollars?” she squeaked in horror, peering at the neat rows of footwear. I smashed my lips together and scowled ferociously at Edward, who returned my glare with disdain.
“Those sparkly rainbow ones on the left,” he informed Bella, who instantly spotted and grabbed them, turning them over and over in her hands as if she expected to find some label explaining their price … like a price tag. I, however, was smart enough to know that anything I added to Bella’s closet needed to have its price tag removed first. Of course, I hadn’t counted on Edward being here to ruin EVERYTHING!
“Alice, really,” Bella cried, appalled. “Why did you spend so much money on these things?” She was dangling one of them from her pointer finger as if it was covered in slime rather than multi-colored crystals. I decided to take the opportunity to educate her, since Edward had brought up their price anyway.
“These are Christian Louboutins,” I explained helpfully. “They’re made in Italy, and I spent that much on them because it’s how much they cost.”
She was shaking her head vehemently. “No. No, I don’t want these, Alice. Here, why don’t you just take them?” She tried to shove them at me, but I pulled back.
“No, those are yours, we’re not even the same shoe size,” I reminded her. “Plus, I already have those, but in a high heel style! So we can wear them together …” I trailed off at the look on their faces. They were both staring at me as though I had been speaking another language.
“Never mind,” I decided, taking the beautiful flats back from Bella. “You’re right, we’d better wait til I can wear mine to match.” She laughed in disbelief as I carefully replaced them on their shelf.
After some trial and error, we managed to agree on a sweater that was Edward’s favorite deep blue, made of a silk-cashmere blend with elbow-length sleeves and a ruffled tie-neck front. It was quietly stunning, so it would be just right. With very little persuasion needed from me, Bella put on her 7 For All Mankind trouser-style jeans instead of her favorite skinny jeans. We ran into another little snafu when it came to outerwear, because she wanted to wear a “normal” raincoat, and I wanted her to remember that she was a wealthy woman. Finally, she gave in to my lecture about how silly a nylon jacket would look with her designer sweater, and slipped into the camel-colored Chloe hooded coat I wanted her to wear.
But as soon as we came back to shoes, everything went downhill. She was still mad about my confiscation of her old Uggs, and insisted that they would have been “just right” for this type of thing. I went through almost every single pair of shoes and boots in her closet, but she found something offensive to say about all of them. She particularly hated the coyote-fur boots I’d bought to replace her Uggs, which was weird, because they were insanely gorgeous!
I held up a pair of gray suede ankle boots with a flat heel and scrunched top. She shook her head. I pulled out a pair of bubblegum pink patent leather sneakers. She said, “No WAY.” I went back to the shelves again and again, begging, pleading, and finally shouting, but to no avail. We could not agree on any of them.
“If I just had my Uggs …” Bella pouted, coiled into a ball on the floor. “Or some plain old rain boots …” My head snapped up and I gazed hopefully at her.
“Rain boots? You’d wear rain boots?” She stared back at me in confusion, but before Edward could intervene, she nodded her head. Yes!
As Edward groaned and began to explain that she had walked right into a trap, I darted out of the closet and raced back to the main house. I had a stash of miscellaneous gifts in my own apartment-sized closet, and there just so happened to be a pair of rain boots for Bella in there too!
When I returned to their room, I handed the shoebox to Bella with a guileless smile. As she cautiously opened it and pulled the tissue paper out of the way, Edward sighed.
“These … are …” Bella seemed at a loss for words, so I jumped in.
“Leopard-print See by Chloe rain boots with a lace-up front, yes, I know,” I sang gleefully. “You’re welcome!”
Once she was finally dressed appropriately, there were only a few minutes left before they needed to leave for the airport. Luckily, I’d had the wisdom to do her makeup before the clothing fiasco. Now all she needed was to …
“Momma, I don’t want to go,” Nessie fretted, her unhappiness evident in her high voice. Bella was doing her best to hold back her own emotions so Ness wouldn’t worry about her, but the result was pretty awful – her face was pulled into a grimace that in no way resembled the carefree smile I think she was going for.
“It’s just for a little while, honey,” Jacob assured her anxiously, tightening his grip and gazing at her little face in concern. I elbowed Bella, and she nodded hastily just a second late.
“That’s right, sweetheart,” she agreed hollowly. She swallowed hard (a human reflex) before continuing. “Renee will be here during the day this whole week, and you’ll be sleeping at night, so …” She couldn’t go on.
Edward took over, infusing as much love and reassurance into his voice as he possibly could. “We’ll all be together again soon, and besides, you love Jacob and Sue! You’re all going to have so much fun together,” he laughed, tickling Nessie’s ribs. Though I’m pretty sure she wasn’t fooled, she giggled obligingly, then placed her hand on his cheek for a moment.
His face softened. “I know, dearest,” he murmured, pressing his lips to her smooth forehead briefly. Then he straightened and turned to Bella, who stepped forward and cupped Nessie’s perfect face in her hands.
“More than my own life,” she reminded her daughter in a choked voice. Renesmee’s eyes were shimmering with tears as she replied in her own unique way. I was pretty sure I didn’t want to hear it, anyway; the scene already had me fighting back tears that would never come.
Then Bella and Edward, their hands locked together, waved goodbye to Jacob and Nessie as they climbed into his Rabbit. They kept waving until the little car was out of sight, and only then did Bella’s face fall and a tiny whimper escaped her lips. Edward instantly smothered her in kisses, reminding her over and over again that Ness would be safe and happy and close by, and it was only for one week, and Renee would be here soon.
At that, Bella nodded slowly, still gazing toward the highway. “Let’s get going,” she whispered tonelessly.
Because they drove Renee straight to Charlie’s house, none of the rest of us have seen her yet. Bella and Edward didn’t seem to be inclined to chat when they got home around midnight, judging by the speed in which they exited the car and headed to their cottage. But Renee is coming here tomorrow morning for coffee and girl time, so the fun begins …
Only two more days until Renee arrives! I’ve been racing around like the proverbial headless chicken all day (thank goodness we finished high school again, I don’t have the time to waste right now). Bella’s been pretty quiet, super bouncy, and nervous. Every morning when she gets to the house, I’ve been putting on her “human” disguise, just so she’ll be 100% used to it by Sunday night. She is doing a bit better with keeping it on her face … but the lip-biting hypnosis I downloaded didn’t work on her. Or so she says … I’m pretty sure she never tried it!
In the last couple of days, I’ve spent hours working with Carlisle, Edward, and whichever wolf was available. Though I don’t really see any difference, I am actually starting to believe it might work … eventually. We’re not sure yet what it will take for me to push past it, but at this point I can’t devote any more time to it. Maybe after the party, when things calm down a bit. I know Edward and Carlisle love theorizing and experimenting, and they’d be crushed if I told them I wanted to stop trying.
For now, I had my hands full. It’s kind of hard to get things done when you’re watching for changes in the future, because the visions make me stop in my tracks, sort of like pressing “pause.” Watch the vampire freeze in place at the grocery store! Not fun. That’s why Jazz was with me as I stocked up for the dinner party, blocking me from sight whenever a vision hit me.
But I decided to finish shopping and stop checking the future, because (A.) there wasn’t much more I could buy to prepare for this week and (B.) I could tell Jazz had something he wanted to tell me. He’d been patiently following me up and down each aisle while I alternated between shopping and envisioning the future, but there was a tiny grin on his face and a sparkle in his eye that was making me incredibly curious. Not a feeling I was accustomed to, especially with him! Being a psychic has kind of made me an instant gratification addict.
“So!” I chimed, tossing a bag of sickly-sweet smelling after-dinner mints into the cart. “What’s on your mind, Jazz?” As I spoke, I wrapped both my hands around his bicep (just one hand would barely get halfway around it) and smiled up into his face.
His grin widened and I realized his expression was a bit mischievous-looking. Okay, now I was hooked! “What? You have to tell me, what’s so funny?” I was giggling already just from the look on his face as we rounded the corner to the produce section.
Glancing from side to side dramatically, Jasper lowered his head to mine and whispered, “But can you keep a secret?” His sweet scent, like merlot-soaked pears mixed with moss, blew stronger into my face and I had to struggle to focus.
“Er … that depends. Keep a secret from – ?” But before I finished the sentence, I saw what Jazz had been hiding. The images swirled through my mind in such a strong rush that I completely lost track of where I was, and by the time I came back to reality, I was bent over double, laughing hysterically.
Luckily there weren’t many other shoppers in the produce section! Jazz, who was cracking up too, had had the presence of mind to angle his body in front of mine once the vision began.
“So what do you think?” he laughed, placing a hand under my arm as I straightened up. I was still giggling, but a little more quietly now that I’d regained control of my senses.
“I think he deserves it, I think I’ll have to pretend to disapprove, and I think it’s going to be so much fun,” I assured Jazz enthusiastically, running through the scenes in my mind again. Apparently, Emmett, Jacob, and Rose had decided to get back at Edward for being a total pain in the butt lately … and they needed Jasper’s help, so Emmett had let him in on their plan. I should say plans, plural, because the payback was going to last all week after Renee left!
“Actually, I may just have a few ideas of my own,” I mused aloud, strolling past pyramids of fruit with Jazz. Then I sighed. “Of course, I can’t really spend a lot of time on pranks, since the party is that Saturday. But I’ll definitely help you guys!” I wanted to play, too!
My love seemed genuinely excited about it. He was still grinning and chuckling to himself, undoubtedly picturing the same things I was. “The sad part is, it’s almost too easy,” he commented, not sounding sorry at all. “He is a mind-reader, after all.”
Unable to hold back the laughter that was bubbling up inside of me, I let loose again. “And I was already so happy about the party, this is just going to make the whole week even more fun!” I squealed, a little too loudly. The woman inspecting bunches of bananas glanced over in interest. Oops. It was Mrs. Stanley, one of many town gossips. (Where did you think Jessica got it from?)
Lowering my voice, I continued, “And I can tell that he won’t get too mad and run away. I mean, don’t get me wrong,” I assured Jazz, who looked a bit disappointed, “he will be annoyed. Completely, totally annoyed, and frustrated, and … it’s going to be fantastic!” Jasper laughed again as I scanned the apples for the least bruised and rotten-smelling specimens. Too bad there was no time to visit a local fruit stand …
“Well, I must admit I’m looking forward to it,” he said, stating the obvious. “Normally I’d be happy to leave it up to Emmett and watch from a safe distance, but this time, I do believe it’s deserved. Just try not to let him know that you knew about it beforehand, so he won’t get upset with you … all right?”
For a moment I just swam in his golden gaze, his eyes so soft yet serious. It was silly, I could deal with Edward’s blame … I’ve certainly had enough practice! Still. Jasper didn’t want to see that happen, so I nodded and watched him relax again.
“Promise, Mary Alice?” he ordered sternly, doing his best Major Jasper act. I wasn’t at all fooled, and I let him know by laughing irreverently at him.
“I will not promise, and you know he’s probably going to find out anyway,” I reminded him, gesturing with a Granny Smith. “Emmett is not exactly a pro at hiding his thoughts!”
“You’re right about that,” Jazz muttered, glaring off into space. He sighed. “Probably should’ve stuck to him like glue, just to make sure he doesn’t say anything, at least.”
“No, Jazz, that’s Rosalie’s job,” I said firmly. Then, as I realized what I had just implied, we both burst into laughter yet again.
Maybe I should buy a muzzle to make Rose’s job a bit easier. What do you think? Anyway, I’ve got to get going. I’ll definitely be writing more often when Renee’s here, because I’ve seen quite a lot of interesting things happening next week!
Have I mentioned how much I hate having my plans ruined?
Okay, so it wasn’t such a big deal, but still. I was in the middle of a really, really, really great idea for Nessie’s birthday party, and it was so much fun to watch that I was smiling like a total lunatic when Edward poked his head into my room.
“Carlisle’s waiting, Alice,” he told me mysteriously. “You know he has to be at the hospital later, so let’s get to work.”
I just stared blankly at him. What are you talking about? I asked in my head, trying to shake off thoughts of the party so I could deal with whatever super-fun (not!) plans Edward and Carlisle had made.
“You don’t know?” my brother asked in astonishment. Then he allowed himself a quick, smug smile before explaining. “Carlisle and I have been discussing your … er, handicap, regarding the wolves. We’ve come up with some rather interesting theories -” Around this point in his lecture I saw what he and Carlisle had in mind for me. I heaved a resigned sigh and glanced down at my party-planning notes longingly. But, since I knew there was no getting out of this one, I very reluctantly got up and followed Edward, who was still blathering on about the scientific progress we were going to make today. Even if it was a good idea, I still allowed myself to drag my feet like a petulant child all the way to Carlisle’s office. (Didn’t slow us down anyway.)
So what they had been planning while I was planning way more interesting things was some more training. Only this time, the training was for me instead of Bella.
Chattering excitedly about how Zafrina had helped Bella improve her natural powers, Edward gestured to a leather wingback chair and sat down in the matching one in front of Carlisle’s massive desk. I sniffed and stuck my nose in the air, ignoring the chair in lieu of the floor – I much prefer sitting cross-legged anyway, and I was really not thrilled to be playing along with the boys’ theories instead of working on much more important things. Like the party, only two and a half weeks away; there was still so much to do. And of course, Renee would be here soon, so we should really be working with Bella, not me.
I looked up, still frowning, to see Edward smiling patiently at me. “Alice, Renee’s visit is the reason we’re working on this now instead of some other time,” he informed me in his musical, yet still bossy, voice. He snickered as that little thought hit his mind, but refrained from any comebacks he might have in mind, as Carlisle had begun speaking.
“Yes, our hope is that, with careful practice, you may be able to see future events even when the wolves will be involved,” he began, frowning in concentration as he shot a glance at his beloved records. He had cataloged everything about our kind since the very beginning of his existence, and was probably overjoyed at the thought of a new breakthrough. As he continued to explain the probability and logic of the experiment, I bit my tongue (not literally, but you know) to hold back my own thoughts, and hoped Edward wouldn’t get annoyed enough to share them either. Wasn’t the mere existence of vampires illogical in the first place? Not to mention shape-shifters, for heaven’s sake. It’s all supernatural stuff, magic – so why should there be any rhyme or reason to any of it?
Still, overcoming my “blind spot” with the wolves would be a huge help. It still frustrates me so much to be held back in that way, so I would cooperate with this day of scientific fun, and I would genuinely try to see if it would work. And I would try not to be annoyed that I didn’t know if it would work or not because of the direct involvement of the wolves.
Because, of course, Seth had come into the room to assist in our work. Carlisle and Edward hadn’t really explained their idea to anyone, just asked Jacob if he could spare a wolf for a few hours, so Carlisle now turned his attention to Seth and repeated much of what he’d just told me.
“… and since Alice can now see Renesmee with perfect clarity in her visions, we believe that there is a chance she may be able to see the wolves as well, with enough practice.” Seth bobbed his head as Carlisle explained the premise of the theory.
“But, uh …” Seth hesitated, glancing between me, Edward, and Carlisle, clearly unwilling to burst their mad scientist bubble. “Well, isn’t that just because Ness is half-human and half-vampire, both things Alice has been and is now? I mean, sure, I’m human too, but Alice has never been a shape-shifter like us, and -”
My brother cut in smoothly, which was just as well, since Seth’s many grammatical errors were hard for the infinitely better-educated of us to politely overlook. He’s just a kid, he can’t help it, but still … “It’s a possibility we are prepared for,” Edward admitted, a slight crease forming between his brows as he turned to look at me. That made three of them, all staring holes into my head as if they could just will my mind into cooperation. Edward brightened slightly as he continued, “Still, Alice is not a half-breed, and never has been. That means she had to overcome the difference between herself and Rensemee in order to see her in the future, so there is every reason to at least attempt this.” Carlisle, Edward and Seth all nodded in unison at the end of that sentence, and the effect was so compelling that I almost nodded too. Catching myself just in time, I decided that actually working on this couldn’t possibly be more boring than just talking about it all day.
“Well, let’s get started,” I sighed, ready for the massive headaches that were sure to come.
Carlisle straightened in his chair and produced one of his record books, turning it to show us a chart as he began, “There are several different approaches we intend to take here. We know that the wolves’ presence affects Alice’s ability, since Jacob’s proximity eased her … ah … mental obstacles during Bella’s pregnancy. We also know that a wolf’s involvement in a future event causes it to blur and, ultimately, become lost to Alice. Let’s begin by testing Alice’s ability to predict Edward’s actions with Seth standing next to her …”
The afternoon wore on slowly, as my brother and adopted father seemed to have anticipated every little variation of my ability (or lack thereof) to see the wolves in my visions. I struggled constantly with my patience, reminding myself that Galileo, da Vinci, and Newton had had their fair share of difficulties too, but where would we be without their work? If they hadn’t allowed anyone to stand in the way of science, I shouldn’t either. In the midst of my noble thoughts, I caught Edward biting back a grin.
Under his breath, he breathed, “So now you’re a scientific genius?” just low enough that Carlisle and Seth wouldn’t hear.
Actually, I was empathizing more with their poor guinea pigs, I shot back, earning another twitch of his lips as he attempted to suppress laughter.
I saw that Jasper and Emmett would be returning from their hunt in twenty-two minutes, and breathed a silent sigh of relief. In fact, Jasper would probably be thrilled with our research! He definitely considers my inability to see the werewolves’ future actions as a tactical disadvantage, though by now we shouldn’t have to worry about that. Still, at least with him here -
“Carlisle!” Edward barked suddenly, startling Seth and I completely. “Write this down: Alice just saw Jasper and Emmett’s return, even though -”
“ – Seth is standing right next to her, yes, excellent,” Carlisle murmured, scribbling away frantically. I took advantage of his preoccupation to roll my eyes while he wasn’t looking. I mean, it’s practically impossible to offend him, the way he regards all of us – he gives us way too much credit. Still, I think I’d rather slaughter an entire church full of saints than hurt my father’s feelings.
At least with Jazz here, my boredom and annoyance could be felt without offending Carlisle. And his presence would make this whole project at least marginally less boring and annoying. I snuck a glance at the clock behind the desk, though I knew exactly how many more minutes and seconds would elapse before Jazz arrived. Maybe when Carlisle had to leave for work, I could draw some sketches of my party plans for Jasper; he’ll definitely get a kick out of the plan I dreamed up earlier -
The sight of Edward’s fingers snapping in front of my face brought my attention back to the project at hand, and I snapped my teeth at his hand in warning. I know you did not just snap your fingers at me, dear brother, I thought fiercely, narrowing my eyes. He laughed out loud – boy, science sure does improve his mood! – and returned to his seat.
“Just try to focus on the future, Alice,” Carlisle reminded me gently and ever-patiently. (See what I mean?) “In fact, why don’t you think of that party you’re planning for Renesmee? I assume the wolves will be in attendance -”
“HA!!!” I exclaimed, jumping to my feet. I heard, rather than saw, Seth jump in surprise, as I was already halfway to my room. Grabbing my party notes, I raced back to the office. With a huge smile of delight, I settled back down on the floor and prepared to work on our awesome experiment. “OK, Galileo, da Vinci, Igor, let’s get to it!”
“What? How come I’m Igor and not some hotshot scientist?” Seth whined indignantly. I ignored our lab assistant and closed my eyes, returning to the fantastic idea I had been working on earlier. This was a major improvement. Now all I needed was Jazz by my side, and I would never want to quit!
Ever since Bella became a vampire, Jasper has been on a constant roller coaster of borrowed emotions.
There was the bliss of holding Renesmee in her arms for the first time, Jacob’s insane fear for Renesmee’s safety, Edward’s overwhelming joy at Bella’s happiness … then came the threat of the Volturi. That first moment when I saw their decision to come here … though Jasper couldn’t see the vision himself, he felt my crushing, hopeless despair, which was soon magnified by the rest of my family. When we had to trick them and leave, he felt his own guilt as well as mine.
When we defeated outsmarted the Volturi, dozens of vampires and werewolves just about exploded with victorious joy. Imagine the effect that had on Jazz! He was unable to even speak for hours, just floating blissfully in the current of everyone’s pleasure.
And, more recently, this business about Renee visiting. Though they all had their concerns (silly of them not to trust my vision that it would all be just fine), there was also a sort of wild, yet tentative hope throbbing to the beat of Bella’s thoughts, or so Jasper describes it. It’s difficult for me to understand fully, but he always tries to put it into words so I know exactly what he’s feeling at all times. I’ve seen Bella and Renee’s first meeting, at SEA-TAC airport, and if Jasper were there he would be stunned into near-paralysis by the sheer force of Bella’s emotions. It was going to be a tender moment … and one that the rest of us could not intrude upon. Bella and Edward would be going to the airport alone, and the only reason Edward will be there is to monitor Renee’s thoughts.
So, between all these different feelings, plus the usual day-to-day emotions passing through my family and our furry friends, Jasper gets a bit overwhelmed at times. The other day, for example, when I got home from shopping, I found him hiding in the library – luckily his “range” is much smaller than Edward’s mind-reading or our hearing. Each step he takes away from someone lessens the force of their emotions, so a few rooms’ distance makes a huge difference.
That’s why he can’t stand to be around everyone all day (or night) – it gets exhausting, all those different emotions bombarding him from every side. He can use his mood control to smooth it out, but people (particularly Jacob and Rosalie) don’t really like it when he does that. So he escapes from time to time … and I tend to follow him, at least about half the time. I hate the nagging itch in my mind when he’s not at my side. Though, rationally, I know it’s not likely anything bad could happen to him, I still prefer to have him where I can see him.
Tonight we were all role-playing. – No, not like THAT! Jeez. No, we were trying to help Bella prepare for Renee’s visit – it’s only about another week til she gets here, after all, and Bella really hasn’t had enough practice appearing human. (On the plus side, that means we can’t move away anytime soon! Not til she’s ready to re-enroll in school.) She needs to work on her voice more than anything, because there’s just no good explanation for why she now sounds like a chorus of bells instead of, I dunno, a human talking?
Rose, Jacob, Esme, and Emmett were all talking to Bella, pretending to be human (I guess in Jacob’s case it’s not really a case of pretending, but you know what I mean) and clueless about the reasons behind her transformation. I had slathered her almost head to toe in different types of makeup, and she was going through colored contacts at a brisk pace – we needed her to fine-tune her sense of when they would dissolve, so it was okay that a few boxes were going to waste. Edward was clutching Nessie, and watching Bella closely. Probably worrying, as usual. His favorite pastime. Jazz was keeping track of Bella’s emotions so they could back off when she got too frustrated (and so Edward would freaking relax a bit, knowing Bella felt okay). And I, of course, was analyzing her every move to see what it did to the carefully applied makeup.
From my perch on the concrete fireplace mantel, I watched as Emmett kept up a constant stream of questions and insinuations for Bella to deflect. Stuff like, “How come you sound so different?” and “Gee, you sure feel cold, are you feeling alright?” and “Maybe the reason you’re so pale is you’re not getting enough -”
That was where Edward cut him off, knowing Bella’s hatred of that type of teasing. “It’s unlikely that Renee will make such an inane and inappropriate comment to Bella, Emmett. Perhaps you should stick to your lines, if you want to keep all of your limbs.” He actually hissed that last part, and it looked like he wasn’t entirely kidding, either!
All sibling rivalry aside, it was going okay until Rose made a huge blunder. “So, honey, now that you and Edward are happily settled, when do I get some grandchildren?” she cooed, in a poor impression of Renee.
Instantly Bella tensed, clenching her jaw and darting a glance to Nessie. We all sighed in unison, which, if you’ve never heard such a thing before, actually sounded kinda cool. But it was a big deal; though Rosalie shouldn’t have thrown it at her out of the blue like that, Bella did need to be able to react appropriately to questions of that nature.
But you know Edward … he’s always a little biased. We all watched as he flipped his lid, reacting to Bella’s obvious chagrin at failing Rose’s little test. “Rosalie, please!” he fumed, his eyes burning holes into my sister’s nonplussed face as she raised one eyebrow at him. “A little compassion and tact, is that too much to ask of you? You should know better than to provoke Bella about Renesmee!” He paced back and forth as he lectured, giving me the opportunity to grab Nessie away. It was bad enough she had to watch him throw a hissy fit, she didn’t need to be right in the eye of the storm.
Speaking of which … I frowned and squinted at Bella, who was, as usual, chewing on her bottom lip in agitation. I really need to find a way to break her of that habit. Maybe Jasper could project some kind of remorse anytime she started doing it? Well, anyway, she had lowered her head in shame, but I could still make out the demarcation between the makeup and her actual skin color around her lips. She was licking – or chewing – it off! Gross.
I darted to Jacob, who had his arms crossed and was watching Edward with a look of supreme boredom on his face, and handed Nessie to him without a word. Ignoring my brother, who was waving his arms around and still – still! – spouting off about how we all need to be respectful and understanding of Bella’s feelings, I crossed to the sofa and knelt by her feet. With one finger, I lifted her chin, and turned her face one way, then the other while she stared back at me in confusion.
Heaving a deep sigh, I informed her, “You’ve been rubbing off your makeup, Bella.” As I spoke, I whipped out a small compact to show her the damage. She frowned guiltily at her reflection in the mirror.
“But Renee won’t be able to see that … will she?” she asked, then clamped her mouth shut as I produced a tiny sponge and the foundation to feather around her lips. A quick blending and I was done. Still, I thought it would be best if we could condition Bella to stop doing that – because from what I had heard, Renee was pretty observant, for a human.
We continued our work for another hour before Jazz gave up; the tension in the room was palpable even to the rest of us, and his mood control could only do so much. I gave them another ten minutes of my time before declaring it a lost cause. There was just no stopping Bella from her nervous tics.
Well, we still have an entire week to practice. I sincerely hope she won’t start complaining, because I have seen that there will not be any problems, and I’m pretty sure Bella needs more training in order for that to come true!