A little Author’s Note before I start. This is a short entry, just to give people an idea about what went down with Charlie. I might post another entry today/tonight if I can. Please don’t be mad at me if I don’t. I was going to post this and the next entry as one chapter, but it was too long. Literally. Long. Like really long. So, you can think of this as part one and the other one as part two! I’m going to stop babbling now. Enjoy!
Bella came home somewhere around afternoon the next day.
Even in her eternal, ethereal beauty, I could tell she had had a hard day. The frowns on her forehead were distinct, and she looked tired, not physically, but mentally. I knew everyone wanted to ask her how it went, but they kept their distances.
As soon as she walked in through the door, I wrapped her up in my arms, planting on her lips a scorching kiss. Any day seemed long without her, and that was my way of telling her that.
“Have I told you how much I love being welcomed home this way?” she smiled against my lips.
“Many times, love.” I nodded, grinning like a fool. “But come on, we need to escape before the family accosts you.”
I heard a few protesting groans from inside, and a chorus of ‘Ew’. I paid them no heed, and slipped out of the backdoor to our meadow, with Bella by my side.
Atlin hardly had any warm days. No matter what time time of the year it may be, there was always a nip in the air. If you looked hard enough, you could see the fog rising up as your breathed out.
Bella and I walked silently, hand in hand, blending into the atmosphere of the Great White North. I could tell, from the grip of her hand, that she was itching to say something. I almost wanted to coax it out of her, but I let her take the lead.
“Edward? Did you hear?” I heard Bella say, and I looked up to see her brow frowning in confusion.
“I asked you how everything was back here? Did Nessie say something?” she clarified.
I realized instantly why she was confused. Bella had not met Katherine yet, and she had obviously been trying to get me under her shield.
“Oh, love, I didn’t tell you. We have guests.” I smiled at her softly.
“I figured as much. I thought I smelled a human.” A hint of recollection hit her face.
“Yes. A couple: Mark and Katherine. They’re here because they need our help. She’s pregnant.” I wiggled my eyebrows, and Bella’s eyes lit up.
“Really? Wow.” she chuckled, probably realizing why they—Mark and Katherine, that is—needed our help.
“Yeah. And apparently, she is some sort of an . . . antidote, you could say. Our powers don’t work anywhere in a two mile radius of her,” I told her, still in awe that a human mind could have that much potential. Frankly, the only one of her kind I had ever met was Bella. Her mind had been completely closed off: shielded even to the most potent of mind penetration, except, well, Nessie.
“Oh my . . . is that even possible? I mean, that has to be the mind of the century, or something like that. Imagine that, huh. And here I thought you were thinking about something else.” Bella nodded in awe.
“Maybe. Carlisle wants to look into it. I do too, but I think we should ask her first. I wonder how much more powerful she will be once she’s been changed. I would have told you sooner, but we have more pressing matters on our hand, don’t we?”
The awe faded from Bella’s face and was replaced by anxiety as she recalled the real reason why we were here. We were almost at our meadow; I could hear the stream that bubbled nearby.
“Well, one thing’s for sure,” she sighed, “Charlie hates you. He still thinks you slaved me into this relationship.”
As much as I wanted to defend myself, I had pretty much expected that response from Chief Swan. We were both no strangers to fatherhood. Therefore, I understood where he was coming from. I knew I would hate to see Nessie go off with a guy who struck me as a monster. Hell, I would rip the guy a new one, because I could do that.
Bella and I had reached our meadow by now, and I took her by hand and led her to the center of it. Once there, I sank to the ground, pulling her with me and onto my lap. She looked at me for a few moments with exhausted, disappointed eyes, and then resorted to picking flowers and shredding the grass on the ground.
“I just wish he’d understand,” she sighed despondently after some time. “He told me I would be better off with someone else than with you. I can’t bear to hear that, Edward. I am not compatible with anyone else, never was. It was just not in the cards for me. He knows that.”
“Bella,” I coaxed her face up, “It can’t be helped. We are together. You’re stuck with me for the rest of eternity. He knows that, yes. But, he has the right to express his opinion about his daughter’s future.”
“I know, I know,” she said and went back to shredding the grass again. “But that doesn’t mean he’s going to make preposterous assumptions about our life.”
“It’s his job, darling. It’s what he’s supposed to do. God forbid if something happened to you. He would die thinking that he couldn’t do anything for his daughter.” I didn’t want to put it that way, but it was true, even if it was morbid.
“I’d rather you don’t put it like that,” Bella grimaced at me.
I smiled at her sadly, and shut up for a minute so she could get herself together. She laid her head on my shoulder and closed her eyes, breathing in and out deeply. Stress didn’t sit well with her; she worried herself to the point of extreme even over little things. She was usually too proud to ask for help, but she always turned to me when it got too much, like it had now. For me, it was nice to know that she needed me as much as I needed her even when we were indestructible, not that I ever doubted that.
“So, what did he say to you?” I asked after some time.
“That’s what I am thinking about,” she answered. “He didn’t . . . I mean, not after what went down here. I think he is more angry at the fact that he was kept out of the circle and not in it, especially when everybody, even Sue, knew about us. He feels that we should have told him.”
“Bella, no sane person would believe what we tell them about us. Did you tell him about the Volturi?”
“Yes. In fact, I told him everything: how I found out about your true identity, why you left when you left, and even James and Victoria. I tried to explain the matter with the Volturi to him, but I thought he’d had enough. Plus, I thought he’d have a coronary if he realized that his tiny little town had, at one point, housed an entire army of vampires. I just told him what the Volturi would do if they found out that he knew.”
I knew that would have changed Charlie’s perception. We were constantly hanging between an abyss and an inferno. We couldn’t tell people about our identity, and we couldn’t always protect it. When it came to the latter, decisions were hard to make.
“You told him why I left? How did he react to that?”
“He was angry, obviously. He kept saying that incidents like that were the reason why he was so worried. It was too dangerous. I told him it wasn’t my fault, or Jasper’s. It’s inherent in us. We can’t fight the blood lust, Edward. I don’t blame Jasper.” She shook her head.
“And . . . what did he say about Nessie?”
I got a genuine smile at that.
“He’s a little freaked out at that. But he’s not angry at Nessie. He’s not angry at anyone when it came to her: said we’d given him the best gift of his life in his granddaughter. You might even have a chance of redemption at that,” Bella mocked, and I smiled with her. “He did say that she is fast approaching the age when I got married. Told me I should look out. Apparently, getting married early runs in the Swans.”
Both of us laughed at that.
“So, it’s okay? We’re okay?” I brushed her hair.
“Yeah, it’s fine. He said it would take some getting used to, but he might be all right.” she nodded happily.
“See? I told you it would be all right.” I kissed her once again, and this time, she responded enthusiastically.
“How was Nessie? Was she okay? She was pretty shaken up the night Charlie left . . . .” Bella chewed on her lip, as if she knew exactly what had happened.
“She was . . . distraught, to say in the least. She’s like you: underestimating herself every time. She thought it was her fault Charlie left. But I talked to her. She’s okay now, don’t worry.”
“Excuse me? What do you mean ‘she gets that’ from me? Please, that has you written all over it. I seem to recall a certain man who thought of himself as a monster for the better part of our relationship.” Bella narrowed her eyes at me, clearly angered by my inadvertent accusation.
“And I seem to recall a certain woman who thought of herself as, and I quote, ‘nothing’ and a ‘plain human’.” There, darling, I wasn’t backing down.
I knew she wanted to do it. I could just feel it in my bones. She resisted for some time, though. She grit her teeth, and shook in a fury that no hell hath. Her nostrils flared, and I was almost sure she wouldn’t do it.
But she did.
She stuck her tongue out at me.
And, like the imbecile I was, I laughed, which earned me a good smack in the head, and an order to shut up. It seemed it was time go home.
“Oh, and by the way, if Black Beauty sheds on my couch, I am serving it up as dinner,” I warned as we got up and started walking towards the house as the sun set.
“You know, the Hell’s Bells that you and our daughter call a pet.”
“Edward!” Bella protested, but I could see the starting of a smile on her face.
“And no chewing, gnawing, grinding, mewing, rubbing, licking, stomping, running, bringing kills into our house, and eating like a savage. And absolutely no sleeping on the bed. If I see paw prints on the bed, I am going to cut his legs off.” I had a mental list even longer, but I thought it would be so much more fun to start Cat Wars with Darth Shedder.
“He’s a cat, Edward. And he’s sweet, okay?” Bella giggled.
“He’s not! He ran all over the carpet yesterday! And it doesn’t help if Alice fawns over him, dressing him up as the feline version of Men in Black.”
“Maybe he loves Alice.”
“Maybe he’s just gay. Anyways, I am going to have to put my foot down.”
Just you wait, you kitty, just you wait . . .
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“Yes, Edward, I have everything.”
She reassured me for the thousandth time, but I could see the trepidation in her eyes as she chewed on her lip in a very famous human gesture.
“Bella.” I put my palm on her cheek, and she leaned in to my touch.
I let her take the lead, because I knew she needed it after what had gone down yesterday.
“It feels wrong,” she sighed after a long time of remaining quiet. “I mean, I shouldn’t have to justify to him who I do and don’t love.”
It had been quiet for a long time after the moment Charlie had stormed out of the house in a raging inferno.
Then, the fear had set in.
There were decisions to make, arguments to be had, defenses to be put forward. Whether or not, to be or not to be: those were the questions. Charlie had taken with him not only the shock of a lifetime, but a grave knowledge of the innermost secrets of our world, thus rendering himself a liability. Our secrets were no longer hidden under the shroud of pretense and distance, but had been exposed to the unlikeliest of persons in the most delicate of predicaments.
God help us if the Volturi found out.
Because the matter pertained to me and Bella, the family had, although with resistance, left us alone to deal with it. After a long talk, and confessions of our fears of exposure, Bella had decided to go to Forks and explain to Charlie the gravity of the situation on home ground, maybe even enlist the help of Billy Black and the tribe if necessary.
The only part I hadn’t agreed to in our discussion was her decision to go alone.
It had been Carlisle who had later assured me that my presence there would only have exacerbated the situation, given Charlie’s reaction towards me on the day of the party.
“Trust me, Edward, you don’t want yourself there if you want Charlie to listen,” he had said.
I had agreed eventually, and so we were here, in the driveway of our house, trying to forestall the pending judgement by only a few minutes.
“Bella, I understand what you’re saying. But it was only natural for him to freak out, love. We bombarded him with something that he had never expected in his life.” I brushed a stray lock of her that had settled itself on her cheek.
“I know, Edward. I mean, I would probably have done the same had I been in his shoes. But he shouldn’t have judged you.” She shook her head, wrapping her arms around me.
“Put yourself in his shoes again, Bella. What would you think if you find out that the guy your daughter loves, the guy she married had been a vampire all along? Don’t tell me you wouldn’t go where he went. Don’t tell me that you wouldn’t for a minute think that he might have used, or coerced your daughter into thinking that she loved him so he could feed on her for the rest of her life?”
She pulled back and looked at me with an angry expression, put off with the fact that I would dare think so low of myself, but even I could see the wheels turning in her mind.
“Well, anything sounds immoral if you say it like that!” She finally groaned in defeat.
I chuckled lightly, and kissed her forehead, “I know, Bella. But that’s what is logical. I mean, just because your sense of self-preservation is lower than Jacob’s brain cell count doesn’t mean every one else’s is.”
Hey! What the hell?! Jacob internally shouted at me, and I could hear Emmett snigger.
“Don’t say that!” Bella smacked my arm, “he defended us!”
“Thank you,” Jacob called out from inside the house.
“I know, love, I’m sorry.” I grinned.
Bella kissed me one last time on the cheek, and then stepped out of the confines of my arms.
“I should get going.” she looked anywhere but me as she spoke.
“Hey, Bella, look at me.” I held her face and made her look into my eyes. “Everything will be all right. Okay?”
Bella stared at me for a long time, and then sighed heavily, “Okay.”
I kissed her on her cheek and opened the door of the car, “Call me when you get there.”
“I will.” She got in and strapped her seat belt around her, and I smiled amusingly. Only Bella could be a vampire and observe traffic safety rules at the same time.
I watched her drive away from where I stood, and soon enough, the car disappeared from my sight towards its destination of the rainy town of Forks, Washington.
“Hey.” I knocked on her door. “Can I come in?”
She was lying in her bed in her room, which couldn’t have been further from the room of a teenager her age. It was painted in muted tones of blue and white, decorated with artifacts and photographs, serving as reminders of travels all over the world. I caught sight of one which had been taken in Paris, her trip overseas with Carlisle and Esme shortly after the departure of the Volturi.
The small, quilt clad bump in the middle of the bed told me that she had been lying here for quite some time with her thoughts. It was times like these when I saw the true resemblance between Bella and Nessie. Both had an incessant habit of self deprecation. I had a feeling where our future conversation was going to go.
“Hey.” I walked up to her bed and settled in with her, putting my arms around her horizontal figure.
“Hi,” she mumbled softly. I saw her thoughts dwell on Bella.
“Mom’s gonna be all right, honey.” I sighed.
“I know.” Her voice was still meek, her thoughts playing the events of last night over and over.
“I’m sorry about your birthday.” I kissed her head, and she cuddled me like she always did when she was having a bad day.
“Guess I never got around to giving you your second gift, did I?” I smiled.
“It’s okay. I found him already.” She giggled as remembered last night alone in the cottage, catching her “gift” raiding our fridge.
“He found Jacob’s steak? Jacob’s gonna kill him.” I grinned.
“Hey, no hurting my cat!” She smacked me in the chest, and as if on cue, said cat strolled into her room in the next moment like it owned the place.
Now, I love my daughter, and I love my wife, but this time, they made a less than suitable choice when it came to a pet. I get it, he was cute and furry and had a little round bum and all, but for some reason that eluded me, he seemed to hate me with a passion. Not just me, but it hated every male in the house except Carlisle (apparently he had charmed it with his more than kind and generous self). Every time it was in my vicinity, it turned into Furry Vengeance Returns, which was kind of suitable what with his shiny black fur and eyes like little oranges.
Kitty Galore (one of the many names that I had come up with for the demon) took one look at me and hissed, then strolled around the bed, avoiding me like the plague, and jumped up and perched on Nessie’s left side, away from me, all the while giving me the stink eye. I knew it sensed something wrong with me, and I felt like telling him that if he kept this up, he could end up being dinner.
“Are you naming him?” I grimaced at the feline.
“I already did. I’m gonna call him Poseidon.” Leave it to my daughter to name her cat after Greek Gods.
“Darling, I think a better name would be Satan.”
“Dad!” She shrieked playfully, and I laughed while Satan curled up to her.
The conversation in the room ceased for sometime as she scratched Satan’s ears and he purred, and her thoughts scattered themselves all around the world. I brushed her hair absentmindedly while keeping an eye on the demon in her lap, wondering what it would be like to read the mind of an animal.
“Was it my fault?” Nessie suddenly asked. Her eyes were downcast, and her hands had occupied themselves with brushing her pet.
“No, honey, it was not your fault.” I hugged her, showering her with kisses. Why would she even go there?
“But if I had not been here, if I had never been born, then Grandpa wouldn’t have found out. He would just have believed that you were both getting some beauty treatment or something. He wouldn’t have kicked us out of his life.” She shook her head, mulling over Charlie’s reaction, and horror filled me.
“Renesmee, look at me,” I urged, and she complied. “It was not your fault, okay? I want you to remember that. It was not your fault. It was nobody’s fault. He just caught us in a bad time. He would have found out eventually, but yesterday, that happened in a very unpredictable way.
“Don’t ever think about a life where we don’t have you. Your mother and I love you. It was a hard time—your mother’s pregnancy—but the end result was more than fulfilling. We got you out of it, and we’ve never, ever regretted the events of our life. Some of them, maybe, but they didn’t involve you. You’re our blessing, Renesmee. How can you doubt that? and seriously, ‘beauty treatment’?”
She laughed and then grew solemn as she went over my words for a minute, and then spoke again. “But every time things seem to go right, we find ourselves in some situation, Dad. Remember the Volturi, Dad? They came here because of me. Aunt Irina died because of me. I can never seem to do anything right by anyone, Dad.”
“Renesmee! That is absurd! How can you say that? After all the love we feel for you?” I explained, “The Volturi are power hungry, unscrupulous, deceiving, conniving hags, darling. They would have come either way, because they cannot bear to see a coven joined together in mutual harmony and love. They lust after talent, Renesmee, and we have an abundance of it. That is all they care about. Irina’s misguided conception only served as an excuse for them. They couldn’t have harmed you. We wouldn’t have let that happen.
“As for Irina, her death was a misfortune: one that we all regret. It was pitiful to see her being sacrificed at Caius’ false altar of morality just to coax a reaction out of us. She was misguided, blinded by her love for the wrong man, and her hatred towards the wrong coven. Had she met you, I’m sure she would have loved you as we all do. We couldn’t have helped her. It was not your fault, honey.
“And even though you lost a friend, you gained many all over the world. Do you not remember Zafrina, Senna, and of course, Tanya, Kate, Carmen and Eleazar? Ben and Maggie? Siobhan? They all love you, Nessie. You’ve not done anything wrong, darling. It’s not your fault.”
There were hot tears streaming down Nessie’s cheeks by the time I finished speaking, and I pulled her into a fatherly embrace, soothing her tumultuous thoughts.
The rest of my family—save for Carlisle, who was at the hospital—smiled at our exchange. Their hearts brimmed with the same love that I was trying to convince my daughter of.
Nessie cried for a long time, letting out a day’s worth of emotions suppressed, and I held her, because that was what she needed me to do: be a dad.
“Thank you for loving me so much, Daddy,” she said at last, wiping her red rimmed eyes, and I smiled under the weight of happy tears. She didn’t need to tell me that. No matter what, I would always love her that way.
She calmed down after a few moments, resting her head on my shoulder while I rubbed her back. Satan had witnessed the entire episode from afar, but was now curling up on her lap, behaving as if I was non existent.
Tell me how you and Mom met, Dad. She thought after a minute.
“Hasn’t Alice already told you the 1960s, overly dramatic, glossed up version, which I’m pretty sure is bedecked with songs by Taylor Swift?” I grinned.
Alice stuck her tongue out at me. Shut up
Yeah, and Uncle Emmett wears leotards in that one. She giggled.
“Oh, that would be a sight.” I laughed.
But I want to—
“I’m sorry, what, honey?” I asked, brushing her hair.
I waited for her to say something, but all I heard was silence.
“Nessie? I can’t hear you unless you’re thinking.” I chuckled, and that got a reaction out of her.
She pulled back from my embrace, and looked at me curiously. She then frowned, as if she was concentrating hard.
“Nessie, what is it?” I creased my brow at her strange behavior.
“You can’t hear, Edward. You can’t hear any one of us. We’ve been calling you for minutes.” Alice peeped into the doorway, panic stark on her face.
“No, I’m pretty sure I—”
“Hear this,” she interrupted me, and frowned.
I concentrated harder, yet I could not hear her, even as she was standing not ten feet away from me. That was when the true meaning of her words dawned on me.
It was absolutely silent. I couldn’t hear a single thought.
“Alice, what—?” I started to say, but Nessie interrupted me.
“Dad, can you see this?” she put her hand on my cheek.
My eyes grew wide as I realized that all I could see was my daughter in front of me: no vision, no memory, nothing that she had penetrated my mind with.
Apparently, Nessie realized that in the same instant, as she scrambled off the bed, nearly giving Satan a heart attack, and ran off towards Alice.
“Aunt Alice, see this.”
She repeated the whole process again, and once again, shock and fear registered on our faces when Alice announced that she could not see what Nessie was showing her.
“What the hell?” This was Jasper.
“Let me guess: you just stopped getting vibes from us?” Alice nodded, much to Jasper’s dismay, “Because I stopped seeing all of you about ten minutes ago.”
It took only a millisecond for us to spring into action and congregate in the living room. Everyone had a thousand questions on their minds, not that I could hear them, but I was pretty sure they ran on the same frequency.
What the hell is going on?
“Alice, what . . . How can we just . . . lose our powers?” I paced fro left to right, while Nessie sat on the sofa.
“We can’t be sure if you’ve lost them, Edward,” Esme comforted all of us from her place beside Nessie.
“Well, what is it, then? I mean, we can’t just turn them off with a click!” Alice looked close to bursting. She concentrated every two minutes, somehow hoping that the vision of a distant person would pop up and put her out of her misery.
“We should call—” Rose started to suggest, but was cut off with a hum that we all heard.
Even from a distance, we could tell it was a vehicle: a car, to be precise, speeding towards our house.
And by the time it screeched to a halt in our driveway, and we heard the telltale sound of the door being slammed shut, we had no doubt as to who, or rather, what it was.
“I’ll take this,” I heard Jacob say, and before we could react, Jacob had ran out the door and phased.
I instructed Renesmee to stay inside with Nessie as we sprinted forward to face a possible threat, while telling Esme to call Carlisle, soon.
The scene in our front yard was something that we had all been expecting. Jacob was snarling and pacing in a few feet from our porch, his movements effectively blocking the intruder’s advance towards our house, and our view of him or her.
“Jacob, wait!” I called out, and the wolf stopped, but I could see the hair on his back standing in attention, signalling that he had not let his guard down.
My eyes widened when I saw the man in our yard.
“Is that . . .?” I heard Jasper say.
“NO . . .” Emmett.
“Holy shit.” Rosalie, of course.
“I come in peace!” the vampire in our yard held his palms up, “Call him off, your wolf!”
His words earned him a snarl from Jacob.
At that moment, I forgot what he looked like and stepped forward.
“Jacob . . .” I tried to placate him, and then turned to the stranger, “Who are you?”
“My name is Mark Wellington. I am looking for Carlisle Cullen. I was told he lives here.” He took in all of us, and spoke slowly.
I was sure he noticed the surprise and doubt on our faces when he mentioned Carlisle. I looked at my family, and I didn’t need telepathy to know what they were thinking.
“Who told you about him?” I asked him next, as Jacob sat down on his haunches, his gaze locked on the newcomer.
“Alastair,” Mark nodded, “Alastair told me I would find him in Forks. But the shape shifters in Forks told me I would find him here, that he and his family had moved.”
Again, our expressions must have registered shock. If he had been to Forks, it meant that Sam had told him of our whereabouts. Why would Sam send him to us without warning us first?
“What do you want with Carlisle?” I got to my question, and Mark relaxed a little.
“Are you him? Are you Carlisle Cullen?” he asked.
“I asked you what you want with him.” I wasn’t giving out any answers until I got some of my own.
My words registered with Mark as he started backing up towards his car, slowly, until he stood in front of the passenger door.
“Just listen to me before you react.” He held his palm up, but we stood our guard.
Slowly, he opened the passenger door, and held out his hand to someone. The breeze flowing through the forest wafted towards us from them, and we knew who it was.
He had a human with him.
That the person with him was a female I could make out as she alighted from the car. What we hadn’t prepared ourselves for was the slight bulge on her belly and she turned to face us, holding on tight to Mark’s hand.
“I ask you again: are you Carlisle Cullen?” Mark held her close to him, as if he would hide her within him if he could, “I need his help.”
Well, that changed things.
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Even after the din that was being created in our backyard, we all heard the car screech to a halt. Bella, Carlisle, Esme and I had let ourselves into the living room, and the blinds had been drawn on the wall sized window that provided a full view of the rear, effectively shutting us in. The others had been instructed to stay with the teens, and if possible, let the party disperse quickly. Moreover, they had been told to keep Nessie away.
Deep down, we all knew it was not going to work.
We were unprepared and consequently, unfortunate.
On other days, we might have passed off Nessie’s absence as a trip out on the town with Alice, or a school trip to another state, but today, Charlie had caught us in the most delicate of predicaments. It was his grand-daughter’s birthday, after all. There was no way she wouldn’t be home tonight.
Have you ever had one of those experiences where everything seems to happen in slow motion—like one of those scenes in a movie where they guy and the girl meet in a club and everything takes the back seat as they converse with their eyes?
Well, the scenario might not have been the same, but the way we felt, standing in the doorway, waiting for impending, unprecedented doom more than sufficed.
Bella’s breathing and her hold on my hand escalated the second we heard the door of the cab slam shut. The sound seemed ominously close to the starting of the countdown on a clock. I could feel the bass from the speakers beneath my feet, sending vibration through my core: only, I didn’t know whether they were induced or involuntary.
“Maybe we can do something? Maybe we can . . .” Bella whispered from beside me, shaking her head and close to hyperventilating.
“Like what, Bella? Hiring a kid? That might have worked, but nobody in this town is going to lend out their child for a night, not to mention she’ll have to look like Nessie for us to pull it off,” I said.
“Are you out of your mind?!” Bella turned to me, as if to clarify whether I was sober or not.
“We can’t get out of this, Bella. There is no way,” I said as the sound of Charlie shuffling out cash from his pocket to pay the cabbie reached my ears. “How do mean to explain Nessie’s absence on her birthday? How do you explain the decoration in the backyard? The food? The lights?”
“I think you could forget about the decorations for a while and concentrate on how you’ll explain why your five-year-old daughter looks fifteen.” Esme said her first piece from her place on the couch, and that was enough to shut us up.
I’ll try my best to calm him. I heard Jasper say.
I’m escorting them out now, the kids. Alice followed. Good, at least there won’t be an audience when, pardon my language, shit hits the fan.
Each step that Charlie took brought him closer to the truth—that he might not be able to handle. Each time the gravel crunched under his feet on the driveway, I thought about the sound bones made when they were crushed. That was how I was feeling right now. We were all prepared, but were not.
The ring of the doorbell came all too soon. Bella jumped beside me, taking in a deep breath.
“Charlie, what a pleasant surprise!” Carlisle was already in character, although I could feel his strained mind, taut like a wire.
“Carlisle, nice to see you! What can I say? I couldn’t stay away from my granddaughter!” Charlie laughed, and I tried to distract myself by concentrating on his voice. I saw, through Carlisle’s mind, that he looked old. His hair had almost gone completely gray, and his belly was rounder.
And here we were, standing young and immortal.
I’m bringing him inside, Edward, be prepared. Carlisle warned me in his mind, but I couldn’t move.
I can’t see how it goes down, Edward, sorry. It’s all blurry. That, of course, was Alice.
“Charlie, we’re so glad you could come! It’s such a pleasant surprise!” Esme gave Charlie her winning smile he and Carlisle appeared through the doorway.
“Hello, Esme? How are you?” Charlie smile politely, shaking her hand.
“We’re all fine, Charlie. You look splendid, by the way. Sue must be feeding you well!” she exclaimed.
Charlie blushed a little at the mention of Sue. “Ah, I’m . . . we’re just . . . you know . . . going along.”
I tried to sift through his mind, but I could see where Bella got her shield from. From the very start, I had never been able to get a clear reading on Charlie’s thoughts: just his emotions. There wasn’t much to progress on right now, and that, of course, worried me.
It seemed time was up sooner than we would have liked it to, and Charlie turned towards Bella and I.
“Dad.” Bella smiled and threw herself into Charlie’s arms. I knew she was careful, but my paranoid self couldn’t help but think that he would notice the strength in her grasp.
“Dad, what are you doing here? I thought you weren’t going to be able to come!” I had to admit, my wife was doing a lot better than I was.
“Aw, Bells! I couldn’t help it! I haven’t seen Nessie in mad long! Now, where is she?” Charlie kissed Bella and started looking for his grand daughter.
“Charlie.” I smiled and moved forward to shake his hand.
“Edward.” He returned the gesture, and for the first time in a long time, I felt as if someone else’s grasp was stronger than mine.
“How are you, Charlie? How’s the fish coming along this time of the year?” I smiled, hoping to distract him for a few minutes, though I knew it was futile.
“Oh, you know, they have their own mind.” He shook his head. “Some party you got going on there.”
“Oh, Well . . .” Bella started to say, but trailed off. What could we say?
“You know what? I’ll just go over there and surprise her! She’ll never know what hit her.” Charlie put his bag down and started for the door.
I had a feeling that we were all going to be feeling that way.
“Dad!” Bella moved to stop him, and I flinched internally, my mind ready for the explosion about to go off. “You can’t go there!”
I looked to Carlisle and Esme for help as Bella fumbled with her words to come up with an excuse. Their expressions told me that they were out of ideas.
“I. . . I . . . I’ll . . I’ll get her for you! It’ll be amazing if she comes in and . . . sees her grandpa!” Bella smiled tightly, but it had minimal effect on my chaotic mind. No matter what, we had no way to get out of this. What she was doing was just buying us a few seconds to prepare.
“Well, okay then! Go on, get her! I’ve got a nice surprise for her!”
Dad, what are we going to do? He can’t see me like this! We’ll all be exposed! I heard Nessie’s voice inside my head. How I could make that out I don’t know.
But thanks for pointing that out, darling!
Edward, it will happen. We’ll just have to face it. It will be worse if you don’t tell him beforehand. Prepare him. We can handle whatever happens. Alice started off, telling me pointers in my head.
Edward, it is better if he freaks out before than after. Rosalie brought that forward.
See, this is what happens when you are a mind reader. Every body starts shooting thoughts from their heads like they’re only ones talking, and the scene inside yours is somewhat like an amalgamation of a tsunami and an earthquake.
My voice found itself on its own, and I knew then that it was too late.
I met my wife’s eyes as I pondered over how I could make this easier, because I knew that if the truth needed to be revealed, then it had to be us to do so.
Edward . . . The prayer in her eyes couldn’t have been louder even if she would have spoken it.
“We don’t have a choice.” I shook my head, and the decision made itself. “Carlisle? Help me.”
I hope you’ve thought this through. He thought, and stepped forward.
“Bella, what . . . what is going on? Is something wrong?” Charlie had clearly caught the exchange between us, and was starting to look uneasy.
“Charlie, we . . .” What could I say?
Hey Charlie, so listen up: we’re, well, vampires. And we’ve been walking on this Earth as the undead for thousands of years now. And somewhere along the way, I seduced your daughter into marrying me, and we had a half-vampire baby who grows with the speed of a rocket ship.
On second thought, I could say that, if I wanted Charlie to shoot me.
Just . . . do it the normal way, Edward. That’s how I did it.
I never thought I’d say this, but God Bless Jacob Black! The two sentences he said were more helpful than the advices of my family combined. I’d momentarily forgotten that he’d done this before. He’d phased in front of Charlie. He’d revealed the wolves’ trade secrets to Bella’s father. Maybe there was hope after all. If Charlie had lived through that, I was sure he would pull through this time as well.
Edward, what are you waiting for? Carlisle brought me out of my reverie, and I took a deep breath.
Here goes nothing.
“Charlie, there are . . . we . . . there are some things you need to know.” I started, looking into his eyes, although I think my hands might have been shaking.
I mulled over my father in law’s mind, and noticed that he caught the phrase that I had used:
Need to know.
“Bella, what is it?” He didn’t address me, and I could tell that it would be easier if the truth came from Bella rather than anyone of us.
I looked at Bella and nodded, and thankfully, that was all the provocation she needed.
“Charlie, why don’t you sit—” Carlisle started to say, but Charlie cut him off.
“I don’t need to do anything.” He looked at Bella. “Bells? Is everything okay? Is Nessie all right?”
“Dad, everything is fine. There’s no need to freak out, okay? Just . . . I have something to tell you . . . need to know stuff . . . and . . . I need you to promise me that you won’t freak out.” Bella bit her lip through the entire sentence, and I could see the frown on Charlie’s face deepening.
“Well, let’s have it, then . . .” Charlie put on a brave face, but I thought I heard the word Jacob in his mind, as if he’d already prepared his mind for an impact. I couldn’t tell if it would be good or bad, though.
“Okay . . .um . . .” Bella sighed, and pinched the bridge of her nose, copying my very popular habit. “Dad, do . . . do you remember when Jake told you what he was?”
If Charlie had been trying to hide his emotions, they were crystal clear on his face now: anger, confusion, and fear, loads of it.
“Yeah . . . are . . . are you . . .?” Charlie crossed his hands, although his posture looked anything but defensive.
“No, Dad, I’m not a werewolf,” Bella said flat out, and Charlie flinched when the word was out in the open.
“But, you have to know, that there are many . . . creatures in this world that you never would’ve thought existed. Jake’s not the only one, Dad . . . we . . . The Cullens and I, and . . . Nessie . . . we are, too,” Bella said finally.
There was a long, quiet pause, so quiet that I could hear the wind rustling through the leaves outside. Charlie’s mind was in shock, to put it mildly. His emotions were caught up in a maelstrom, and his already unclear thoughts were in a jumble.
There was one particular emotion that stood out, though: fear. Whether it was for his daughter, for himself, or of the unknown only he knew, but he was afraid. There was nothing for him to do now but react so as to give me some clarity from the mayhem ensuing in his mind.
“What is it, Bella? Just . . . tell me,” he whispered after what seemed like a long time, even though it had only been minutes.
My eyes met Bella’s in the next moment, and I nodded. If we had come this far, we could go all the way.
“Dad . . . we . . . we’re vampires.”
“You . . .” Charlie began to say, but I could see he was clueless.
“I was born human, Dad, you know that. I was turned only after Renesmee was born,” Bella explained, or at least tried to.
“Born? . . . You said . . . You said that she was . . .”
“No, Charlie. She was not adopted. She’s our daughter . . . mine and Edward’s. I . . . I gave birth to her. She’s half human. I was human when I conceived her.” Bella nodded.
“Half hu—you mean, you . . .” Charlie looked to me, and I knew it was my turn.
I stepped forward, already having thought through what I was going to say.
“Yes, Charlie. I am a vampire. We all are. I was one when I met her . . . Bella, I mean, in Forks. I . . . I was born in Chicago in 1901.” I saw Charlie’s eyes go wide, but I kept on going, aware that this was my last chance. “My parents were Elizabeth and Edward Anthony Masen Sr. They died of Spanish Influenza in 1918. I would have too . . . had Carlisle not saved me. He changed me, and . . . I’ve been like this since then.”
I was sure that every one of us could hear Charlie’s heart thud and his blood rush in his veins, as he finally realized that that was where our similarities ended.
He opened his mouth to say something, but then closed it again.
He’s hyperventilating, Edward. Jasper said to me, and almost immediately, a wave a platitude ran over us.
“Wha. . . What does this have to do with Nessie?” Charlie finally asked, still shaking his head, confused at the involuntary turn his thoughts had taken.
Bella looked to me, unsure as to how we should proceed. I could only nod to tell her to keep going, that this too would pass.
“Everything, Dad—this has . . . just . . . Nessie?” Bella shook her head, and called out to our daughter.
Daddy? . . . I’m scared. I heard Nessie’s mental plea among the ruffles that were getting louder each second.
I know, Darling, I know. I wanted to say, but couldn’t.
The door to the backyard opened in the next second, and there stood our daughter, flanked by Rosalie and Jacob.
I saw Charlie’s eyes go wide as he caught the resemblance between the stranger and me and Bella. If he had any doubts regarding her identity, they were are dissolved the moment Nessie’s chocolate brown eyes met his. The gasp that escaped his lips was audible even to the family outside, evident of his shock at seeing his grand daughter in a way he had never dreamed of.
“Hey, Grandpa . . .” Nessie made a weak attempt to smile and stood by Bella, holding on to her for dear life.
Is it working? Jacob broke the tension in my mind.
I diverted my eyes from Charlie and looked at him, shrugging so slightly it would not even be noticed, at least by Charlie.
What do you mean you can’t tell? Can’t you read his mind?
I nodded very lightly, all the while keeping my eyes on my shocked father-in-law, and then looked, for the briefest of moments, to Bella. That little sign was enough for Jacob to understand.
Bella gets her shield from Charlie? Jacob sounded astounded.
I nodded, and then turned to the conversation.
“So, you’re telling me that my granddaughter is a vampire?” Charlie ran his hands through his hair, as if willing to pull it out.
“Half-vampire,” Bella said in a soft voice, almost as if she were confessing to a crime in front of the Chief.
“Same difference!” Charlie shouted, and we all jumped at the tenor of his voice.
“Charlie, l—” Carlisle started to say, but was interrupted.
“NO! No! You do not get to say anything. I want to talk to her! I want to talk to my daughter, who, I’ve just learned, is a bloodsucking vampire! I mean, how . . . just how is that even freaking possible?!”
I knew he had wanted to use a much stronger word, but Nessie’s presence had stopped him from doing so.
“Dad! You’re saying it like—” I heard Bella starting to explain, but the scenes in Charlie’s mind had already alerted me to what he going to do.
“Charlie—”I did not even notice the speed with which I was in front of Bella and Nessie, shielding them from his wrath.
“YOU! You did this.” Charlie advanced toward me, but I stood my ground, knowing he could not hurt me. “You turned my daughter into a demon! A filthy, bloodsucking, murderous demon! You animal!”
His push on my chest could not have stronger than a feather being used to move the Berlin Wall. Rosalie pulled Nessie away from Bella, as the latter tried to shove her way on between me and Charlie without hurting him.
Charlie, on the other hand, noticed how his effort had been in vain. I tried not to react as the realization that he stood no chance finally dawned on him.
“It’s futile, Charlie, whatever you’re thinking. You can’t hurt me, or any one of us, for that matter. Just listen to us. We—” I started to explain, holding Bella by my side.
“You—how did you . . .?”
Good job, as if he wasn’t already freaked out! Rosalie taunted me.
“Well, you try explaining it!” I roared at her, to hell with the secrets. The cat was already out of the bag; there was no use shoving it back in.
“I . . . I can read minds, Charlie,” I confessed softly, all the while begrudging Rosalie for bringing forward a solid point.
“Well then you can tell that I don’t really like you right now, Cullen!” he roared at me.
“Charlie, I know. Just listen to us, please.” Carlisle chose the moment to intervene. “You’re taking this in the wrong way.”
“There is no other way to take this! How am I supposed to react to this?” Charlie’s hands were flailing all about him, as he first spoke to Carlisle and turned to Bella. “Explain to me how, Bella? How? How am I supposed to react to the knowledge that my daughter married a creature who she might not even be in love with? Or that my granddaughter looks like my granddaughter but isn’t? Or even worse, that you feed on people, Bella, innocent people?”
“No, Dad! Listen to me, we don’t drink human blood!” I knew Bella was almost at her breaking point. “We only hunt animals! We’d never hurt you, or anyone for that matter!”
“Like that makes it very noble!” Charlie taunted, and then turned to me. “Why? Why my daughter?! Couldn’t you find somebody else to sink your stinking fangs in?!”
I knew, or should have known, that he was eventually going to turn this against me. What man in his right mind would believe that his daughter fell in love with a vampire, considering that he believed in the existence of the supernatural. That Charlie concluded that I had seduced, or somehow threatened Bella into marrying me was logical on his part.
“Charlie, just lis—” I started to say, but Bella cut me off.
“DAD! How could you?! How could you even think that way? I love Edward! You know that!” Even now, she was going against her father to defend me.
“You don’t know that, Bella! Did he force you into marrying him? So he could drink your blood?!”
“That is not true, Charlie, and you know that.”
The interruption came from someone we had never expected.
“Don’t you cross me, Jacob Black! You knew about this, and you didn’t ever think of telling me!” As you might have guessed, Charlie now unleashed his wrath on Jacob, who by the way, won major brownie points in my eyes.
Don’t tell him.
“Are you freaking kidding me? You saw these two! You know how much they love each other! You know how broken she was when he left! And you saw this guy grovel in front of her for ages to make it up to her! You walked her down the aisle, Charlie! You. Saw. it. And now you’re judging them because it’s something beyond your understanding?!” Jacob stepped forward and practically vented his emotions among all of us.
“This is between Bella and me, Jacob. You don’t get a say in this!”
“Actually, he does, Dad.” My heart sank as Bella finally spoke up, because I knew resolve when I saw it. “He is family. And even though he didn’t approve of it, he accepted us, Dad. He was there when I needed him. So, yes, he does get a say in this.
“Edward and I are a package deal, Charlie. I told you this a long time ago. He didn’t seduce me. He didn’t force me. I married him out of my free will. I love him, and only him, regardless of what anyone thinks. I am an adult, for God’s sake! I made this decision in my right mind and heart! I love him, Dad. Him.”
I would have swept Bella up in my arms for standing up for me like she did if I wasn’t so distracted by the change that happened in Charlie’s mind. Like muddy waters miraculously separate to reveal crystal, sparkling river beds, Charlie’s mind underwent a cleansing ritual of sorts. The murkiness of his thoughts disappeared, and beneath it, a decision revealed itself.
It was ironical, really, and cruelly so.
“Fine, then. You’re an adult, and you can make your own decisions, but that doesn’t mean I would approve of them. This is it, Bella. This is where I put my foot down. You can gladly throw away your life for scum like him, but I won’t stand by to watch it. I won’t. You’d be better off dead than be with him.” Charlie nodded gravely, and for once, I couldn’t hear anything from the minds’ of my family.
And with those words, Charlie Swan picked his bag up of the floor and walked out of our lives.
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March 16th, 1917
I tried my hand at my grandmother’s recipe for chocolate cupcakes today. She was right: There was no secret ingredient. God, I remember the way I used to pester her for that one thing that she somehow always managed to slip in before the cupcakes were served.
As it turns out, my mind was clearly deceiving me. The cupcakes always seemed that much more delicious because of my belief of the presence of a secret ingredient in them. Today, when I tasted them, they seemed the same as every other time I had baked them.
Speaking of deceit, that is what I should use to describe my offspring. I swear, Edward’s antics are increasing in notoriety by the day. I remember him from when he was six, and he had broken my deceased mother’s antique mirror. When the remains of the poor artifact were discovered, he had very smoothly tried to put the blame on our dog.
What my darling son had clearly forgotten was that our dog could not possibly have moved a cupboard that heavy, let alone climbed upon it to chase a cat.
Also, when the mirror had been found, it had very discreetly been put together so as to deceive the eye. I still remember his sheepish expression when we had asked him how the it had managed to fly above and perch itself on the top of the cupboard once again. What had been even more incredible was his answer:
“The dog did it?”
Anyway, that was the past. I had expected him to grow out of his ‘phase’. Oh, how disappointed am I now! How foolish in thinking that my son, for once, would show traits opposite to that of his father. No, Anthony and Edward are the same to the core, even when it comes to mischief.
To think that poor Rebecca had to be his latest victim!
I don’t mean to be rude, but I don’t particularly like the girl. Her father dotes on her excessively, and her mother has spoiled her to the point of incorrigibility. She seems to think that beauty and money are the only things worth having in the world. Truly, I feel legitimately sad for such children.
Apparently, Edward does too. He is just, shall we say, a little more vocal about it.
It so happened that Rebecca and her group of friends (needless to say, girls like her) had decided to defy their mothers and go bathing in the nearby lake . . . in the . . . exposed state, to put it mildly.
I swear that to this date I do know how my son sneaks out of the house without me and Anthony knowing, but he does.
I think everyone would know what is about to happen in the story hereon after. Edward Anthony Masen Jr. tiptoed out of the house on a spring night, and along with his friends, stole the girls’ clothes and hung them up on the highest tree. (I am suspecting the climber in this case had been Joshua Parley.)
Poor girls were almost frozen and catatonic by the time they were found, because my son and his friends had, by then, vanished from the lakeside after creating disaster.
I rebuked Edward, of course, but I am suspecting that it might not have had much effect. I saw the father and son sniggering together after my hour long lecture on how whatever Edward had done had not been gentlemanly behavior.
I swear Anthony has a big hand in spoiling our son, even though he won’t admit it.
Well, my son is, as of last week, grounded. And that, using his words, is ‘utter hell’, since it levies a ban on morning strolls, baseball, and excursions with friends. He has been sulking the entire day, and I have a sneaking suspicion that he will try to sneak out again tonight. No worries, though. I have told him in no ambiguous terms that I will have his door guarded tonight . . .
I shook my head as I read what my mother had written about me in her diary.
This particular fiasco had already slipped my mind, but much of it had been recalled by what my mother had painted through her words. If I remember correctly, I had tried to sneak out that night. But Elvis, our butler, had very gladly acquiesced to stay back and guard my door. My punishment had been extended by three weeks after that.
In my defense, I did not believe that my mother could go to such drastic measures. She had always been very cautious, very mindful of her image in society, and very careful about the matters of her household. God forbid if Elizabeth Masen ever stepped out looking less than perfect, or if her house had even a speck of dust at any point in the day.
Imagine the irony when her son had been the devil incarnate.
Even as a child, I had been a handful. I was stubborn, compulsive and a bit of anti-neat freak. Everywhere I went I created a mess. There had been times in my childhood when my mother had almost had a mental breakdown. Maybe that was why my parents had never had other children. They could not have, under any circumstances, handled two Satans under one roof.
Compared to me, my daughter was an angel.
Bella and I had never had any trouble with Nessie at all. She’d slept through the nights, and her potty training (Bella told me not to call it that, but I find it very funny) had gone extremely well. She only ever fessed up regarding her clothes, which she wanted to be perfect to the T.
I remember the time when she was around a month old, a little before the ominous arrival of the Volturi.
She had been looking like a three year old by that time, and we had yet to teach her things except spellings and numbers. She had thrown up a major fit when going grocery shopping with Bella.
My darling daughter had been wanting to wear green, even though she didn’t know what the color actually looked like. So, every time Bella pulled out an article of clothing green in color, she had thrown it away saying, “No, mommy, I said green!”
Finally, the argument had ended with her wearing yellow (which she insisted was the right shade—of green) and a loud proclamation about Bella’s intellect, “Mommy, you don’t know anything.”
Then there was the stint with chicken pox. Oh, that I remember well.
A little after the Volturi had left—we were still in Forks—Nessie had returned one day, with Emily in tow, saying that she saw what she thought were pox on Nessie’s arms.
Bella and I had been beside ourselves. Frankly, we hadn’t ever thought that our little girl could get sick. She hadn’t ever even caught a cold. That night, Carlisle had explained to us that while Nessie’s vampire traits resisted small health problems like the common cold and the occasional fever, she was, after all, half human. Apparently, her vampire traits were not strong enough to resist the attack of pox.
I have never had a tougher time taming my daughter than I did in those two weeks. Because she was a stranger to any kind of illness, Nessie’s six year old physical self had been more annoyed and sadder than usual. The itching and scratching had kept her up late at night, and the fever had been strong. She had tried to resist, really. But eventually, the innocent mind had suffered a breakdown.
She’d spent the night crying and wailing in my arms, pleading with me to stop the itching. I had never felt more helpless in my entire hundred years. It seemed that coolness of my body was doing little to soothe her. Bella had spent the entire night running in and out of the room, trying to do little things to keep our baby happy. Alice and Rosalie had told her her favorite stories, and Emmett and Jasper had stayed up playing Super Mario Bros with her.
Anyway, that was the past. We were all very thankful when it had passed, for we knew that our little angel would never have to go through that again.
Said angel had, today, turned five. (She told us not to call her that, but when have I listened?) Physically, she looks almost fifteen. So, we were guessing that the next two years of her life, till she gained maturity, that is, would be somewhat normal—close to other teenagers her age.
As it turns out—and it would probably be best for me to remember it—Nessie does not share Bella’s dislike of parties. She is almost as social a being as Alice, although she does know when things are getting out of hand.
Therefore, to celebrate her birthday, we had all decided to throw a party for our daughter. Her entire class had been invited, and Alice was currently in the main house with the other ladies, having embarked on a mission to turn our house into the next Four Seasons.
The guys were presently hauling the stereos and decorations from the attic. Alice had ambushed our backyard. Her theme this year was all things natural. Tea lights, lanterns (Japanese, nothing less than that), floating lamps, diyas were all being slowly put into place. Hammocks were set up on each tree. And blankets, mattresses and sofas had been laid out under numerous canopies. Each had its own lighting in a separate color and its own scent. The dance floor in the middle was a carpet of soft, artificial grass, and on Rosalie’s suggestions, we had even put out several of those thingies in tubs that people get in and squish under their feet (They look disgusting, by the way.)
I had to say, even though Alice had an ever present tendency to go all out, the pixie did do a hell of a job when she was done with something. By the time we were finished, the place looked like a scene out of The Swiss Family Robinson.
Once the preparations came to a glorious culmination, everyone was whisked off to get ready for the party. The celebrations started at four, and it was already two. (Okay, the girls went off to get ready. The guys decided to kill time, because, frankly, we didn’t need two hours to get pimped up.)
Although we given strict instructions to be the last ones to give our gifts, I decided that whatever I had planned for Nessie could not wait.
You’re a douche, you know. Alice said to me.
I chuckled a little to show her that I heard her, but didn’t give a care anyway.
I’ll send her to you in fifteen minutes. And you have to send her back in ten. Otherwise, I’m storming your study.
“Yes, ma’am.” I did a little curtsy to annoy Alice and then sped off towards our cottage, through the door and into the library/study. I had already it prepared: Nessie’s gift. Well, this was only a part of it. The other part was to be presented to her at the stroke of the midnight hour.
Now, Bella has, on many occasions, wondered whether I have one of those trapdoors or secret passageways in my study that seem to be a fetish for vampires. She has even tried to ransack my library in search of one.
Let me make it clear, in no ambiguous terms, that I do have a trapdoor in my study. Only it is hidden so plainly in sight that everyone has, on several occasions, ignored it.
I went up to the Treasure Trove of Terrors (Bella’s words, not mine)—which is situated in my study table’s second drawer (it has a deeper compartment that opens behind and under the footrest)—and pulled out the gift that I had planned on giving to Renesmee.
“Daddy?” I heard her knock on the door.
“Come in, sweetheart.” I put the article out of view and called her in.
She opened the door and peeped in, and in the next moment was in front of the fireplace next to me.
“Yes, I did, honey. I needed to give you your gift.”
She frowned, but the starting of a smile at the corners of her lips could be seen by me.
“I think Aunt Alice said that—”
“I know what Alice said, honey, but do I ever care?” I grinned, unrepentant.
She laughed and linked her arms with mine. “No. Not ever.”
We went up to the table, in the top drawer of which I had kept her gift.
“Is it a car key?” Nessie piped up from next to me.
“No.” I rolled my eyes. She had been asking for a car for quite some time now, arguing that she had much more sense and dexterity than the average teen.
Granted, she was right, but she was a teen, not Suri Cruise.
“Dang,” she groaned.
Teens, they never learn, do they?
I opened the drawer and pulled out her gift.
She looked at it curiously for some time, running her hands over the wool covered structure and the charm attached to one of its arms.
“Daddy, it’s beautiful,” she cooed, “. . . but what is it?”
I laughed at her expression. “It’s a God’s Eye, Renesmee. I learned how to make it in Mexico, where it originally hails from. The indigenous tribes of Mexico start making these right after the birth of their children. Each year, another piece of thread—or wool, in this case—is added on the child’s birthday, signifying the passage of another year.
“It is gifted to the child on his or her fifth birthday. It’s said to bring good luck for the child. I know you look fifteen, but technically, you’re still my baby girl.”
Nessie held the charm in her hand, looking at it, then at me.
“Daddy . . . you made this?” she whispered. “You’ve been working on this for five years?”
I shrugged. “Bah, it was really no problem, darling! I worked on it in my free time.”
Nessie didn’t answer, instead, she kept fondling the artifact in her hand, turning it over and watching the intricate web beneath it.
The structure was made of straight bamboo sticks set later in a wooden frame. I had used a plethora of colors to decorate it. I’d originally meant to go for a rainbow theme, but then decided against it on the grounds that it would have seemed cliched, and inadequate.
I won’t say that my life was colorless before my daughter came into my life; that would be unfair to Bella.
Having a child is like switching from cable to high definition. I’m not saying that Bella is Cable and Nessie is my high-def: My life had been complete, fulfilled, colorful before Nessie. Then, Bella was the only one that my life began and ended with. It was replete with happiness, contentment and more love than I could possibly imagine.
Having Nessie had been . . . an upgrade of some sorts.
My already colorful life became that much more vibrant with the arrival of my daughter. Feelings I didn’t know I harbored were awakened in me. Colors I didn’t know existed were added in my life. It was like another piece of decoration added to an embroidered tapestry: it’s subtle, but it enhances the beauty of the masterpiece. It fits in perfectly.
After Nessie’s arrival, my world didn’t divide. Rather, it started being shared. Now, my life began and ended with Bella and Nessie.
My family: one I didn’t know I could have.
“Daddy, it’s perfect . . . ,” crooned my daughter as she threw her arms around me. “I love you, you know that? You are the most perfect, most awesome dad in the whole world.”
I’ll save this for later: to remind her whenever we fight again about Jacob and rooms and dates.
I rolled my eyes. “I love you too, darling, and I really wish someone would ban that word.”
“Awesome. It seems it is the only word that teens’ vocabulary has limited itself to nowadays.”
“You are not going to stand here and give me grammar lessons, are you?” She dismantled herself from my hold, her chocolate brown eyes giving me tired looks.
“I would have, but I am sort of hard pressed when it comes to time.” I grinned, and cue the eye roll. According to Bella, that was a trait that Nessie had picked up perfectly from me. I could see why. We looked replicas of each other when we did that.
“Okay, now I have already given you the first part of your gift . . . we should go.” I bobbed my head, to clue her in that there was more.
Really? I am getting something else? Car keys?
By six o’ clock, Nessie’s birthday party was in full swing.
Everyone who had been invited had showed up, and we knew our efforts had not been in vain when we saw the wondrous looks on their eyes.
No shit, we played the Cullen Style. Insert rock hand sign.
The atmosphere in the place was infectious. There was rap music (Seriously, when did music come to that?) blaring from the speakers that we had strategically placed in the trees, so as to allow the music reverberate, but to keep them hidden from sight. Contrary to what I had initially thought, a lot of teens were jumping up and down in the tubs of full of squishy thingies (it was some sort of spa set, I was told. The ladies and their cosmetics . . .)
I spotted some teens lounging under the canopies that we had set up, taking in the aromas and ambiance. Bella was with some other girls from school, and I stuck mainly with Jasper, since we were both supposed to be Renesmee’s siblings and not parents.
Alice had gotten a mile high birthday cake of red velvet, chocolate and vanilla. I saw Jacob and Seth with pained faces before the cake was revealed.
“What is it?” I asked Seth.
“There’s a lot of food.” He shook his head at me, whispering in my ear.
“We haven’t eaten anything. We’re making space for the cake. It looks delicious. I really wish she’d cut it soon. I’m starving,” Jacob whined from beside me.
I could only look to the Gods for help.
Finally, when the cake was cut, we’d had to keep Jacob and Seth in tow and ask them to attack the other eatables, which they did. As for us, we walked around with glasses of soft drinks the entire night, eventually dumping them out of sight and going out for “refills”.
I was filling up my glass with a drink when I saw it: Alice’s vision.
Quite literally, the glass slipped from my hand and the containment spilled on a classmate of Nessie.
“Sorry,” I murmured, feeling out of it, searching for Alice in the crowd.
When our eyes met, I could see the same horror of mine reflected in her.
Edward, I swear, I didn’t know how. I wasn’t watching him. He said he wouldn’t be able to come! What are we going to do? I heard her frantic whisper in my head.
By this time, everyone in the family knew, from the commotion and the expressions on our faces that something was wrong.
“Edward, what is it? What’s wrong?” I heard Bella’s voice beside me, and inadvertently, my hand gripped hers.
“Bella. . .” I could barely get the words out, “Charlie’s here.”
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“What time is it?” I heard Bella’s voice surround me, blending with the euphoria in my mind like water dissolving into sand.
“I don’t know.” I opened my eyes and looked at her, lying naked by my side in a tangled mess of sheets and blankets, her mahogany hair strewn about on the pillow that now smelled of us and sweet love making. “I don’t care anyway.”
She laughed and moved, dislodging herself from my side and straddling me, “You might not care, Mr. Cullen, but there might be a search party sent out for us if we don’t get back. And besides, did you forget we have a daughter?”
I sat up so her legs went around my waist, thus cradling her in my arms. My fingers splayed out against her bare back, and my lips started tracing soft patterns in the hollow of her neck. I was cheating, I knew. Bella had a weakness when it came to sex.
“She’s a big girl. She can look after herself just for a night,” I murmured, pulling her impossibly closer.
Bella started to say something, but gasped as the sensations rushed through her, and I cheered internally at my success. She giggled when I tickled her, and then regained her power of speech.
“Do you really want to leave her alone? Overnight? With Jacob?”
I hadn’t thought of that.
Bella saw the expression on my face and sniggered quietly, running her hands through my hair. “Edward, relax. I’m kidding. I know Nessie. They won’t do anything.”
I knew that. I trusted them both, but they were teenagers after all. God knows what Bella and I had done before we got married. It was a surprise that Charlie had slept through it all.
“Maybe we should have the talk with them.” Bella leaned closer, resting her head on my shoulder.
She pulled back and looked at me with her eyebrows raised.
“You mean the talk?” I may or may not have wrinkled my nose a bit. Come on, what father wants to talk to his daughter about—I gulped internally—sex?
Hey honey, so listen, I’m gonna tell you how to make babies, ya know? It’s all pretty cool, actually. You’ll find out as ya go. And in the meantime, don’t end up pregnant and make me a grandfather.
Bella nodded as I registered what she meant to say.
“But she’s so young!”
“Edward, she’s going to be fifteen! How long do you want to wait?” She shook her head, because I knew that she knew what I was going to say.
“I don’t know . . . maybe when she’s thirty?” I gave my wife a sheepish expression.
Bella looked at me with an expression that said, you’re kidding me, right? “Really? And what explanation do I give her for having a baby at eighteen? Don’t you think that’s just a little bit hypocritical?”
“Bella, please. I don’t want to think about it, not right now. It’s our anniversary!” I protested weakly, feeling what every father in the world feels at least once in his life.
Why the hell did we have kids?
Bella smiled at me with knowing eyes. I knew my expression said it all. How the hell did we go from screwing like rabbits to talking about our daughter and her prospective sex life—which I really didn’t want to think about, not for about a thousand years—in bed?
“I’m thinking the same things, by the way, but in a very different light than you are.” She dislodged herself from my lap, and wrapped the blanket around her as she perched herself next to me.
“Do you know where we were five years ago, Edward?”
“Dancing after getting married.”
She hit me lightly as she tried to hide the smile that lit up her face. “No, a little earlier.”
“Practicing. You were trying to get me to have sex with you.”
“You’re not going to take this seriously, are you?”
I laughed and apologized quickly. “Sorry, sorry, yeah.”
She warned me with her eyes, and I took the hint. I had to be quiet and listen.
“I’m saying that five years ago, things were so different: so tense. With James, Victoria, the Volturi, our separation, the stint with Jacob . . . It was all so . . . I just . . . it took away something, Edward. We never seemed to have time to ourselves. It was this thing, or that hunt, or that war: always something getting in our way of being together. I thought we could never be sure of ourselves this way.
“I mean, what were the odds, Edward? You were the most perfect guy a girl could find. You could have had anything . . . anyone. It just made no sense for you to be with me. What was I: fragile, clumsy, plain, needy Bella Swan? I thought you would get tired of me, that you would one day realize that there was nothing in me that held your interest, and then we’d go our separate ways. And I felt afraid.
“I felt afraid because I thought it would have been easy for you, Edward. You had waited a hundred years. You could wait a few more. I thought that once you’d been gone away for enough time, you would forget me. But I knew that I wouldn’t: forget you, I mean. Who can forget the most memorable times of their life? Their first love? First kiss?”
I opened my mouth to interrupt her, not liking the direction she was going, but she held my hand and silently urged me to listen. The rain outside had picked up speed, and even though the door we had kept open made way for gusts of icy, biting wind to intrude its way into our home, we were warm.
“And then,” she continued, “when you actually left, it was so painfully clear. It was so hard and so easy to believe that you didn’t want me like I wanted you. It became so obvious that you’d finally realized you didn’t want to be stuck with me for eternity.
“I know things changed after you came back: somehow we’d beaten the odds. But there was always one thing or another. The point is that we were so unsure. I mean, I know now that it was baseless—our fear, that is—but there were times when I thought we’d go back to square one. It was one step forward, two steps back with us. When I kissed Jacob, that day of the battle, my mind was in complete mayhem.
“How could I have ever doubted myself? How could I ever doubt my love? I’d never felt more guilty in my entire life. It just . . . for the briefest of all moments, it just made me feel as though this was . . . a lie. I just . . . I still hate myself for thinking that, even for that one moment.
“Even after the wedding, when I was pregnant with Nessie . . . we fought so much, Edward. We couldn’t even look at each other without cursing. You were angry, I was terrified and frustrated. But still, here we are. Here we are, after five years—no scratch that, almost seven years. We lived through it all. We fought, we loved, we hated, we cried, we did it together. And I want you to know that I’m so grateful for it: all of it. Every moment—painful or not—that we lived through . . . this right now makes me believe that it was all worth it.
“This, tonight, is the strongest we have ever been, Edward, and the weakest we’ll ever be. I think—no, I believe—that we’re only going to move forward after this. Five years ago we were wondering whether we’d make it through all the crap in one piece, and a few moments ago we were sitting here wondering whether we should have the sex talk with our daughter—who we never knew we could have.
“We’ve grown, Edward. This is the only thing that matters to me.”
I looked at her for a long while, wondering whether I should kiss her or kiss the crap out of her. She was so right. Every relationship was a see saw. There needed to be balance to make it work. Although we’d had our share of downs, we had enough chances for ups now. No one could change that.
At last, I decided on kissing the crap out of her, and the sound that escaped her lips sent glorious sensations through me.
“So, what do you say? Ready for Round five?” I laid her back onto the bed, hovering above her.
“Not yet, Mr. Cullen. I still need to give you your gift.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Atlin, British Columbia (August 13, somewhere around midnight)
“Oh no, you didn’t.”
“I did.” She giggled.
“But how . . .?”
My mouth fell open, and my eyes widened, taking in the scene in front of me. How in the world had she come to know about it?
“You didn’t actually think I wouldn’t notice, did you? I mean, all the day-long absences, coming home smelling like freesias—which just happen to be my favorite flowers—the grass stains on your jeans—I knew what you were doing long ago, Edward. It just took me a little time to find this baby and turn it exactly like us: not me—us.” Bella wiggled her eyebrows, and the moonlight made her smile all the more luminous.
It wasn’t like me to forget things—but even I couldn’t deny that our meadow had completely slipped my mind. I had had much progress with it when I’d first found it, but between planning Bella’s anniversary gift, and keeping Jacob off of my daughter, I had completely forgotten about the piece of paradise that I had planned to give to Bella.
Only now, to my utter surprise, she had found it and turned it into something more beautiful, if that was even possible. And she could not have chosen a more ample day to reveal it.
Tonight, fortunately, was one of the few nights of the year when the moon would shine down on Atlin in all its silvery, mystic glory, inundating every part of the forest in a sparkle that could rival the glimmer of the water of the Fountain of Youth.
I looked around me in wonder. There was a serene platitude all around us, hovering over us like a blanket, covering in pacific joy and exuberant peace. The silver from the moon had bleached everything black and white, but I could still make out the faint purple hues from the flowers that covered the patch of land everywhere till its edges, where it was once again swallowed up by the trees.
There was a subtle, almost undetectable, scent in the air—presumably from the flora around us, and it was almost intoxicating. In spite of the quietude that was so predominant in this part of the forest—broken only by the intermittent raucous voices of the nighttime aviators or the hooting of the owls—there seemed to be a melody hovering in the atmosphere. One that could not be perceived by the physical ear, but could only appeal to the deepest ravines of one’s soul: The melody of the oneness of the heart and nature—indecipherable, unimaginable, unspeakable, yet loud and clear, as if it were shouting to be heard.
In this moment, our meadow looked like paradise—pristine, chaste, timeless paradise.
My eyes raked over the scenery, until, after wandering for moments like restless, aimless travelers, they settled on her: the one person who had made my existence worthwhile.
She was standing in the center of the meadow—eyes closed, lips set in a small smile, head turned up towards the heavens, as if she was pleading with them to make time stop. I know I was.
Where the sunlight made her skin sparkle like a cluster of diamonds, the pacific moonlight had quite a different effect on it. Now, the glow on her skin was muted: almost intangible, but present. The diamonds, it seemed, had thought better than to overpower such a pure moment. Now, it seemed as of her skin was covered with crystals, or icicles, shining silently in the silent night.
She looked as if she had emerged from one of the many fairy tales that I had grown up reading. She looked like a seraph, a siren, a maiden, an angel.
“Do you like it?” She asked me very quietly, still standing in the center of the meadow.
“I love it, Bella. I love what you’ve done with it. I love what you’ve done to us.” I stepped forward, hesitating a bit, wondering if I would wake up and this virgin maiden would vanish.
“I have something else for you, too,” she said, and approached me quietly.
She held my hand, icicle in icicle, and led me to where she had been standing before.
Immediately, she went down, making herself at home on the ground, and asked me to do the same. Even her hair seemed to shine like Rapunzel’s, only they looked more like strands of white snow than fields of marigolds.
I sat a little away from her, partly because I did not want her to disappear in a poof, and partly because I wanted to witness her beauty in the raw form in which it appealed to me.
She reached behind her, and pulled something out from under her sweater. She bit her lip twice, like she always did when she was nervous, and then pushed a strange object into my hands.
It was a book of sorts, a journal to be precise, old, tattered, and leather bound.
I looked at her curiously, and she nodded, urging me to open it.
I gasped when I saw the date.
January 19th, 1917.
“Bella, how . . .?”
“I searched a little.” She said it as if it had been a piece of cake, but I knew how hard it must have been to find an artifact this old. More importantly, an artifact like Elizabeth Masen’s last journal.
I can proudly say that I get my habit of writing journals from my mother. Throughout her life, she had maintained huge volumes that documented her life. Mostly, it had been everyday stuff: How she managed the house, some tips for effective cooking, some recipes here and there. Other times, there were incidents: The day I had been born, the day my father had asked her to marry her, the day he had beaten up some men who had been ogling my mother.
In my first few years as a newborn, I had visited Chicago frequently, slowly and steadily cleaning out everything that I wanted to keep with me. I had taken all of my mother’s journals with me.
The last one of them all—the one which held the pages accounting my father’s death, the fears about my dreams of enlisting in the army, her deteriorating health, my illness. I had ransacked the house searching for the last one, but I had eventually remembered that Mother had had that diary with her on the day she had died. So, there was a pretty good chance that the notebook had never made it home. I had thought it was destroyed with my mother.
But no. Here it was, in my hands. Old, ragged, but safe.
“Bella . . .” I would have cried if I could, but she shushed me.
“Open the last page, Edward.”
I did as she said, and the words that stared back at me could have made my heart jump right out of its chest.
My mother’s writing was clear—written in black ink.
“I think the time is near. Anthony is gone, and has taken every part of my soul with him, except one.
In these last moments of bittersweet parting, I pray, dear Lord, that you keep my Edward safe. Keep him well, and guide him, so he may always be happy. Let him find love, Lord. Let him experience the joy that I felt every moment of my life with his father. He deserves the best, Lord. Let him have it.
Edward, I don’t know if you’ll ever read this, but if you do, always remember that your father and I love you very much. He might not have shown it much, but he was every bit as proud of you as I am, Darling. You are a part us: the best of us. Never forget that. I love you, Edward. We both do.
Below it, written in a scrawl that could only have been Bella’s, were five words.
You are my life, forever.
I could not hold myself back at that. “Oh, Bella.” I threw myself into her arms, wishing fervently that somehow every bit of love that I had would seep into her pores, making her completely and irrevocably mine.
There were no more words said after that, just blissful smiles and kissed that, in their silent transmissions, said more that our lips ever could.
As I end this particular entry, Mother, I find myself reunited with you—in body and soul. Over a hundred years I looked for you; I looked for this part of you, and now that I have found you again, I would like to tell you something, Mother.
You have succeeded. You have made me who I am, Mother, and you believed in me more than I ever did. I miss you, Mother, but I know that wherever you are, you know that I am happy, because, as you prayed, I have found love.
I have found love in the most amazing woman on the planet, Mother. She is every bit as gorgeous and generous and forgiving as could ever be, and I can tell you affirmatively that she loves me too. She and our daughter complete me. Your Edward has a family now. And even though I will always miss you, Mother, I know that you are always there with me, in my heart. You will always be my Mother, wherever you are.
Thank you for teaching me that love beautified everything. And thank you, Bella, for showing me that kind of love. I am a man truly blessed, because of you.
Both of you.
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“Alice, please,” I pleaded as the car wound through the forest to God knew where, “just a hint?”
“Nope.” I heard her voice through the blackness of my eyes.
Yep, I was blindfolded.
“Well, we’re traveling right now. Is the blindfold really necessary? I can’t see anything.” I shook my head slightly, hoping to loosen the trap a little bit.
“That’s the point, Bella,” she chimed in a voice laced with an undercurrent of duh, “to make sure you don’t see anything.”
“I’m going to kill him,” I growled. “He’s planning something big, isn’t he?”
“I am not giving you an answer to that question, and I’d rather you don’t kill him, since it’s your anniversary today and killing him kind of defeats the point of staying together forever, doesn’t it?”
I didn’t answer her. I just huffed and turned to the window, letting the scent of the leather and the air freshener in the car dominate my senses.
I had suspected Edward was up to something: all of them were. All those stolen, cursory glances toward each other, the shopping trips Alice said would “bore” me (as if they never did before), the nights out “hunting”: If I were human it might have been easier for them to slip away undetected. But they knew that I knew they were plotting something, especially Edward, and this was one of those instances when my being a vampire did not work out in their favor.
“Can I at least get a clue?” I sighed, giving up on trying to guess what he had planned this year.
“Have you gotten a clue up until now?” I heard Alice’s voice, and another implied duh.
I internally rolled my eyes. Of course.
Edward was nowhere to be found when I had come home from my hunt with Jacob this morning. Alice, very stubbornly, insisted that every couple in the family stay apart at least two weeks before their anniversary: said it made the sex that much more “amazing.”
This year Jacob had very graciously opted to take me hunting along with Esme and Nessie to help me get along without snapping at anyone.
Edward and I did not do well with staying apart. Distance from him, however short, always made me jumpy and anxious. I had hoped, during my transformation, that I would forget the memories of the time without him: that the acid and venom and blood would purge the reminders of the pain I had suffered in his absence.
They had, in a way.
I barely remembered my human years, if at all. But any reminder of the seven months without Edward triggered a sort of subconscious cycle in me. I would be anxious, arrogant, short-tempered, and my mind would be all over the place. Not to mention the uh . . . nightly escapades. Jasper had a field day with me during that time.
So, it had been only natural that I had protested vehemently against Alice’s “Enforced Separation” Policy when she forced it on me and Edward during our first year. But she hadn’t listened.
I wouldn’t have acted out that way, but she was being unreasonable. Everybody knew it, but nobody said anything—even if it was painful for them. Alice’s “Separation” entailed separation: no sights, no living together, no talking, even phone calls were banned. And little witch pixie found out every time someone tried to sneak around.
The result every year had been that by the time our anniversary rolled around, I would be a blubbering mess of emotions, anxiety, and pent up sexual frustration, because let’s face it: sex with Edward is amazing.
If this took any longer, I would roll over on the floor and start crying.
“There’s no need to do that, Bella. We’ll be there soon,” Alice said, laughing at my antics.
“You better pray for that, Alice. You better pray,” I warned, in my best “I’ll-kill-you-if-you-dare” voice.
I couldn’t say I wasn’t excited. In spite of his extravagant, exuberant tendencies, Edward really came up with amazing ideas to surprise me. I always told him not to worry much, but after the second year, I had quickly resigned myself to the fact that that was not possible at all.
But God, did the man come up with brilliant notions! I would love to probe around in his brain like he did in mine. I still had that “Moon Rock” he had given me one year. Granted, my response to it hadn’t exactly been what he had expected, but I loved it to death. It was just the mere fact that he had given me the stars, or a part of them—literally. For me, Edward Cullen could not not do anything.
But as much as I loved him, as much as I loved his mind, heart and soul, his tendencies to splurge didn’t always sit well with me. Not that money was a factor, no.
It was the mere fact that whatever I would plan for him—a night out, or a date, or even a show of his favorite movies from the past—would pale in comparison to his gift for me. I knew that it wasn’t a competition; it had never been. But somehow, in the extravagance of his thoughts and actions, my little ideas and gifts seemed insignificant. They made me feel . . . lazy.
That is probably not the word I am looking for. But after every gift, or every event he would plan for me, I would feel like I should have reciprocated in equal. I would feel like I should have gone to the same lengths, procured the same thoughts, shown my love for him in a more proper way. Every year I tried to top that, but it somehow failed. And frankly, it scared me.
Edward and I had never been in a conventional relationship. It had always seemed that fate had always tipped the scales in his favor. He had beauty, brains and more love than he knew what to do with. In comparison, I had been plain, clumsy, and more indecisive than a person in a midlife crisis. Doing things for Edward made me feel whole, proud, like I could finally be an equal partner in an unequal relationship. It didn’t help to have them upstaged every time. It made me feel like I wasn’t doing enough, like I wasn’t enough.
“Okay,” Alice said, slowly winding the car to a stop, “now, listen carefully. Do not take off the blindfold, Bella. Okay? Edward marked a trail around here. Follow it. And, I repeat, do not take off the blindfold. I’ll know.”
“Alice, please, just . . . can you give me a hint? Where are we?” I shook my head, my dead heart somehow seeming to beat loudly.
“Just get out of the car, Bella. You’ll know.” I could hear the smile in her words.
I sighed and opened the door, and was hit by the smell of rain, wet mud, and trees.
I heard the telltale sound of the car being reversed and driven off, and when I could hear the sounds no more, I debated with the idea of taking the blasphemous blindfold off.
Almost immediately, my cell phone buzzed. I dished it out of the pocket of my jeans, and put it to my ear.
“Don’t you even dare. Do not take off the blindfold, Bella.”
My mouth fell open at his words. It was, clearly, Alice I had been expecting to call. But Edward’s voice was a surprise that I had not anticipated.
“How did you . . .?” I chuckled and laughed at the same time, still standing at the same spot where Alice had left me.
“Your shield’s down, love. I could hear you from five miles away.” He laughed.
I frowned. I hadn’t realized that my shield had been down the whole time. Since the time Zafrina had left, regular practice had made me adept at lowering and extending my shield without any qualms and restrictions. Now, I could lower it and forget. It didn’t even register in my mind anymore.
“Where am I, Edward?” I sighed. “I would at least like a clue.”
“Nope, just catch my scent and walk.” I heard the playfulness in his voice. “I am pretty sure you’ll realize it soon. I’ll see you at the end of the Path of Illumination, okay?” He laughed and hung up.
Rome? I’m in Rome?
As much as I was horrified at the almost prospect, I knew that Edward was only kidding. This place around me smelled familiar.
I sniffed around in the air, and almost immediately, my senses registered his sweet scent. This was only one of the parts that I liked so much about my vampire life: we were so attuned to each other that we could detect the others presence easily, as if looking for a black cloud in a clear sky. Edward stood out.
I started walking in the direction of where the scent of Edward led, my own beacon of musk, perfume and him. Sometimes I smelled wet earth, and heard the pattering of rain drops on the leaves around me. Whether they were the aftereffects of a big shower or the lone remnants of water that somehow managed to escape the grasps of a possible canopy above me was hard to tell.
My hands touched the barks of different trees where Edward had stopped to wait, and I felt their texture under my stone hard—and yet, soft—skin. They were wet, muddy, and coarse, like the pristine forest around me. Again, I debated with the blindfold on my eyes—dying to see where I was—but then decided against it.
It was only after walking another few meters that I realized that I did not need to have my eyes open after all. The smell that hit my nose was one I had taken in every day for quite some time: I knew this pathway like the contours of my own body.
I did not need his scent to guide me now. My mind started working with the speed of light. He brought me back! He brought me to Forks!
My feet accelerated their motion, and soon I was sprinting through the maze of flora and flowers towards our cottage. His scent intensified with each step I took, and my breath raced with every whiff that went inside me.
There was full-fledged smile on my face by the time I stood in front of our makeshift driveway. It was more of a miniature trail really, flanked with shrubs like roses, dahlias, and my personal favorites, freesia. Their strong scents assaulted my nose, and I smiled realizing that the rain had taken care of them in my absence.
I walked up to the cottage slowly, and surely. I did not need to be hesitant. This was my home, my safe place, my sanctuary. This was the place where it had started. This was where Edward and I made love for the first time as immortals, where Nessie had taken her first steps, where she had first started reading and drawing. I had the home videos stashed away somewhere.
I felt him before I touched him. He was standing on the porch, waiting for me to come home.
“Hey.” His hands found mine, and he kissed me with all the love in the world.
“Hey,” I smiled against his lips. “This is a nice surprise.”
“Finally,” he breathed amusingly, “but it’s not the gift. That is inside.”
I laughed. “What is it this time? An actual star?”
He took me in his arms, his warm arms shielding me from the world: a daily reminder of his eternal promise to me.
“No, something much, much more special.” I could feel him wiggle his eyebrows like he did every time he felt mischievous.
“Oh, boy,” I sighed. “You’re going to give me heart palpitations.”
He laughed, and even after years, it was still the most beautiful sound I had ever heard.
I had to admit, it was a bit hypocritical of me. I stressed over the extravagance of his gift every year, but when the time came, the price of the gift took a back seat in my mind, ruled over by his careful thought and unbounded love. I actually found myself getting excited for whatever he had done.
“Can I take off the blindfold now?” I asked him as he led me inside. The smell in the place astounded me for a moment: musty, old, stale but homey, sweet, and welcoming.
“No, not yet. In just a few minutes, Bella.” He chuckled against my hair.
“Please tell me you’ve not done something outrageous.” I grinned into his shirt.
I wouldn’t ever have paid it much thought if it hadn’t been for others who had constantly pointed it out, but Edward and I were always touching. If we were in the same room, we would be within three feet of each other. He had a habit of playing with my hair, or running soft strokes down the length of my arm. I, on the other hand, could not get enough of his face. I was always running my fingers through his hair, or even poking him just to irritate him. In a way, that was what kept me going. Edward wasn’t just beauty and brain: he was an immaculate fresco of adoration, love, devotion and loyalty. He kept me going.
“Okay, be ready. I am going to take off the blindfold, and I want you to open your eyes slowly.” He stayed by my side, putting his hands on my shoulders, and then lightly touched the blindfold.
“Edward, I’m not getting eye surgery,” I chuckled, and he did too.
“Okay . . . ready?” His lips touched the side of my ear, and I bit my lip to will myself not to grin like an idiot.
“Uh huh,” I nodded.
“Oh, and Bella?” he said as he untied the piece of cloth surrounding my eyes, timing with his words perfectly, with the movement of my eyes.
“I love you, forever.”
The first thing I saw was yellow: everywhere.
That he had expanded the cottage with a new room I knew instantly. It was the purpose of it that baffled and amazed me. The entire room was covered in yellow: post-it notes, to be precise.
A small gasp escaped my lips inadvertently. Every surface of the room, except for the wall in the back, was adorned with hundreds of post-its, each with something written on it in black.
I left him standing in the doorway, and reached for the nearest one, detaching it from the wall-sized display board, which clung to the wall.
The message brought a smile to my face:
February 15th, 2006.
I stuck it back on the display board with the thumbnail and reached for another one:
The moment that changed my life:
I turned it around, and I would have cried on reading what was written on the back of it:
January 19th, 2006.
The day you came to Forks, my own “Personal brand of heroine.”
I went through some more of the post-its on the walls, and I couldn’t believe my crazy, darling, lovable, handsome, devoted, stupid husband. He had documented every detail of our life together on these little papers. He had even remembered the color significance of post-its: yellow, because it triggered memories.
Edward watched as I moved from one corner to the other, picking up post-its from everywhere, even the floor. He had remembered our first kiss, first fight, first date, first night he spent in my room, first time he kissed me after Nessie was born, first fight after marriage, my first gift to him, his first gift to me, first song that we heard together, first song that he recommended to me, that I recommended to him . . .
But the one that did the job of choking me up was the one that said:
The day I left.
My biggest mistake.
I held the little paper in my hand, wishing, for the first time in my vampire life to cry.
“Oh, Edward . . .” I turned and ran into his arms, and he welcomed me openly, letting me shower his face with kisses.
It wasn’t the fact that he had made the effort to remember all our firsts. It wasn’t even the fact that he made sure to document them. It was his willingness to accept us: all of us. Not just the good, and the happy, but the bad, and despondent. He had not only put in memories that made me grateful for who I was; he had also put in memories that I wanted to forget, that pained me to my very core. Because we both knew that we had not always had rainbows and sunshine. We knew that our life wasn’t just the now and its happiness, it was also the past and its darkness. His guilt, my indecisiveness, his pain, my pain, his darkness, my infidelity—this was all a part of us. It was an integral part of who we were. It was what had made us. Our relationship had not just seen the good, it had survived the rocks and the hardships. And he knew that. I knew that.
“I take it you like it,” he chuckled as he kissed me.
“I do! I love it. I love you!” I was a babbling, blubbering mess, and I was so grateful that he chose to ignore that, even if he found it amusing.
“Well, I’m glad you do. But this isn’t your entire gift. Come on.” He smiled down at me, and then led me to the back wall.
This wall had no post-its, but rather it contained a map of the world. I looked up at him in blissful confusion, and he smiled and pointed at the Olympic Peninsula.
The city of Forks had been marked with a big red thumbnail, attached to which was a picture of us at our wedding: our first picture as a married couple. A green thread started from Forks, and crossed the Mexican land, and the Caribbean to stop at Rio de Janeiro, and then leading to a very small miniscule dot in the Atlantic.
A grin broke out on my face when I realized what he had done.
“I would give you the world if you asked for it, Bella.”
And he had.
As my eyes raked over the map, I realized that he connected every place that we had ever been to together: Isle Esme, Alaska, Rome, Spain, London, Ireland . . . Edward loved traveling, and he and I had shared some unforgettable moments in some of these places. He had even attached a picture of us from every place: A picture of me buying an amulet from Greece, one of him on top of the Colosseum at night (we sneaked in), us on the Eiffel Tower, me making a snow angel in Alaska, us on the Marina Beach in India . . .
“What are the red ones for?” I touched Japan, which, along with many others, had been connected with a red string rather than green.
“Those are the ones we’re going to visit.” He grinned, that damn crooked grin.
“Edward, I . . .” I shook my head in wonder.
How in the world did I find this man?
I felt his arms snake around my waist. “You see what I have done, Bella? I told you I would give you the world . . . here it is. We’ll go wherever you want, do whatever you want. I will go to the end of the world if you tell me to. But this”—he pointed toward the red dot that signified Forks—“is home ground, Bella. And we’ll always remember it. This is where it started—all of it.” He looked around the room. “This is where home is. And no matter where we go, we’ll always come back home.”
He turned me around to face him, and I found his golden eyes to be glimmering with unspoken, but loud words.
“I can’t say enough, do enough, to tell you how much you mean to me, Bella. I waited for you a hundred years—an agonizing one hundred years.
“And every day that I spend with you, my love, is heaven. Scratch that, I don’t need heaven when I have you. You are the most beautiful person I have ever met: inside and out. And I can never tell you how happy and grateful it makes me to stand by your side every day and be a part of all that you do.
“All this, Bella . . . these five years, with you . . . and Nessie . . . you have given me more happiness than my hundred years alone ever gave me. I would gladly give up immortality if it meant that I had the chance to die with you, Bella. You are everything I have ever wanted, ever needed. Thank you, for being who you are.”
I wanted to say so many things, but the words never came out. They found themselves rendered unnecessary. We didn’t need words. Our hearts were enough.
Love is a strong emotion.
Love heals, hurts, redeems, destroys: it takes over your life, affects your thinking and rationale, and even then, you’re never sated. It is, indeed, a drug, which makes you keep coming back for more and more. A person who finds love, even if he be the poorest and the sickest person in the world, would find himself redeemed in the absolute power of love.
Love is engaging. Once you’re hit by it, you will never be the person that you were before. Because now, you don’t answer just to yourself. Someone else claims you, shares you, owns parts of you. His happiness becomes your happiness, his pain, your pain, his ambition, your devotion.
And that, undoubtedly, is the most fulfilling, amazing feeling in the world.
Love itself becomes the person in front of you. It is with that person you want to go to bed with, cry with, pray with, play with, fight with . . . You are no more yours.
You are his.
I was Edward’s. I belonged to him, as he belonged to me.
And there wasn’t a thing that I would change about that. All the tears, laughs, love, life, bloodshed had led to this: this moment where we stood in each others arms, inhaling each others scent, marking the other one and our self with the other.
“You’re everything to me, Edward. Everything. I love you.” I smiled, and sighed, because I knew that I wouldn’t be able to get anything else out.
“I love you too, Bella,” he said and let my eyes meet his. “Always remember that.”
The kiss we shared next could very much have been the Holy Grail of kisses. His lips, moving against mine, were soft, and determinant at the same time. We both tried to pour our love for each other into that one physical imprint that we left on the others. It was intense, it was arousing, and it was lovely.
“And Bella, you aren’t just enough,” he said when he broke the kiss, and I gasped. He’d heard what I was thinking earlier.
“There’s nothing anyone, even you can do to change my love for you. You’re stuck with me for the rest of eternity. You’re my sin, my desire, my redemption, my temptation, my purpose, my determination. Not anyone else: you.” He smiled, the biggest smile, and kissed me again.
And as always, I believed him.
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The Italians have an expression they use to describe love: “Culpo de Fulmine.”
Literally translated, it means ‘thunderbolt.’ It is most commonly used in context of the feeling of being in love. It talks of love so intense that when it hits you, you feel like you have been struck by lightning.
I can never forgive myself for being the monster I was: all the lives I claimed regardless of their stature in the Book of Judgement, the times I’ve hurt people, hurt Bella. . .
But since Bella came into my life, since I realized that we could be entirely compatible with each other, that we could create life—a beautiful life—that we could be with each other for the rest of eternity and not need anything else, I have drilled it into my brain to not think of myself as an abomination. It was hard, and it required many nights of talking and repentance, but I did it. I bared my soul to Isabella Swan, hoping she would love me just as much as I loved her, hoping we could somehow accomplish the impossible.
I have forgotten most of my human life. In fact, at one point I wasn’t even sure I remembered my mother’s face. But there is one very distinct memory that has stuck with me since the past hundred years. No matter what I’ve learned, what has changed, what has been lost and found and lost again, that one memory, that one conversation with my mother has always resided in some corner of my brain. It has appeared to me in forms of reenactments, in forms of thoughts, in forms of conversation. You’d think I would have learned it by heart by now. But somehow, I can never seem to get my mind to forget my mother’s crystal clear voice.
“You can only be alone for so long, Edward, before you realize one of two things: either you are not meant to love, which is impossible, or the one meant for you is just as alone as you are.”
I remember, even now, the numerous years I spent in hiding following the day I left Carlisle. I despised myself; abhorred the devil that I had become. All I wanted at that point was to escape reality, to withdraw into this deep shell where even my own thoughts and sins would not be able to catch up with me.
The sins had just piled up and until the weight of them started crushing me, creeping up the corners of my dead heart like a climber rises up and grips a wall to never let go. The more I tried the more I failed, and the more they rooted themselves inside, feeding on the despair and anger and hatred.
It wasn’t until I had showed up at Carlisle’s door begging him to take me in that I found solace. I can never understand why I had left him in the first place. I guess the rebel in me had wanted his share.
But even after that—even after my deviant self had found a beacon of light in Carlisle’s pristine soul—the pain had been there: in the form of regret, hurt, anger, self-loathing. Even after having perhaps the most supporting and loving family that one could be blessed with, I had been the epitome of walking dead. Hatred had embittered my soul; punctured it so whatever life I had would squeeze out slowly, painfully, conspicuously, keeping me aware of every moment of self-torture that I inflicted on myself: self-chastisement, to be clear, to wash my soul of its sins with nothing other than my frozen and stale blood.
The day I had realized that I loved Bella was the day when my insecurities had jumped out at me with neon signs: Do I even deserve to love? How can she love me back? Will I destroy her life as I destroyed mine? Will she be damned for eternity like I am?
And however selfish and self-destructive it may have been, I had honestly thought that I had done us both a favor by leaving her. My heart had fought hard, but my mind had oppressed the rebellion by appealing that her happiness was priceless compared to mine.
She had drilled that out of me, eventually.
Even after being married to Bella for this long, each sight of her left me craving for more. Every place devoid of her was a heath. Every moment not shared by her was one that was wasted. Every event, however significant it might be, in her absence seemed no more exciting than a funeral.
When I had first realized this—the intensity with which it had hit me—I had asked myself:
Is this what feels like? ‘Happy, happy love’: so intense, and so intoxicating that its very thought sends me to the heights of delirium and ecstasy.
I had been worried that the feeling might fade over time—not for me, but for Bella. I had feared that she might wake up one day and realize that she had made the gravest mistake of her life by marrying a monster when she could have had a chance at a normal, human life. It would be too late to go back then. ‘What’s done cannot be undone’.
Now, I think that I may have underestimated her, seeing as she was still around, and also, still miraculously in love with me, after five years.
My hands clutched the piece of paper in my hand as the date on my iPhone stared back at me.
Five years ago, a little before a month after this date had been the day that had marked the commencement of the most beautiful thing that had ever happened to me. It had been on that day, when, amidst our family and friends, Bella and I had vowed to stay together for the rest of eternity. Ah, happy times, which had just morphed into more blissful ones.
If I had my way, my anniversary would be remembered for all eternity as the day of Love. It would be celebrated by people as they celebrated Christmas. Thankfully, Bella had talked me out of getting it patented, saying that we couldn’t exactly walk into a government office and explain to them our love story just so they would create a new holiday.
All my efforts of asking Bella—and asking Emmett to ask Rosalie to ask Esme to ask Alice to ask Nessie to ask Jacob to ask Bella—what she wanted for her anniversary had been in vain. Everyone had come back with the same answer.
She doesn’t want anything.
Almost seven years in the Cullen family and she had still to get over her aversion to lavish gifts, courtesy of Alice.
So, I had started making a list.
Potential Anniversary Gifts for Bella (PAGB)
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my family to death. But the Cullen men have a competitive streak when it comes to showering our women with gifts. We won’t admit it, but everyone wants to find out ways to outperform the other one. Our women don’t care, and most of the time we don’t too, because we realize that it’s not a competition in the first place. But we are men—testosterone laden, football fanatic, video games playing, devoted, loving, ancient men. The competitive streak wins out.
So, not only did I have to come up with something unforgettable for Bella, but also shove it in my brothers’ and father’s faces. This year, Carlisle had bought Esme another island: Esme Anne. Emmett had bought Rosalie a riverside Villa . . . in Paris. He had even gone as far as permanently reserving a spot for her on the Eiffel Tower. I didn’t even know they did that! Jasper had presented Alice with the most high tech something something machine that enabled her to design endless clothes.
I could have done all that, but the problem with me was that Bella freaked out every time I mentioned something that came even remotely close to a grand. Last year, for our anniversary, I had gifted her a piece of rock from the moon—yes, the moon. Don’t ask me how it happened, just that I know a guy who knows a guy—a reminder of my promise to give her the stars. I had expected her to be joyous—I had also hoped for a night of serious love making—but she had stared at the preserved piece for so long I had thought she’d gone into shock. Then she had got up, kissed me, and put the rock so safely away, like she was worried somebody would steal it. The year before that I had taken her to Europe, and given her a night on the beach side in Cannes. Now, that had been well received.
This year, once again, I was in a predicament. I knew I had to observe limits, but I didn’t want to cheap out. Right now, the items on my list were:
- Build her a Taj Mahal.
- Get her a snowflake from the North Pole.
- Get her a new meadow (for Birthday?)
- A new house.
- First edition copies of her favorite books.
- Isle de Bella (Nice ring to it, but danger of a major freak out. Also, sounds like plagiarism.)
- Recreate our wedding (that seems more appropriate for the 25th year.)
- A trip overseas? (Been there, done that?)
- Buy her a star (cliche.)
- A cruise (risks exposure)
“Take her on a cruise? Really? You couldn’t come up with anything else?” I heard Alice say as she pulled out a chair and sat next to me in the diner in Vancouver.
I don’t know why she had chosen a place like this to meet. We could have done just fine in the cottage or on a hunting trip.
“Do you know what there is two blocks away from here?” Alice, clearly, picked up on my train of thoughts.
“No,” I replied, still going through the list in my hands.
A Chanel store, and they have a new collection in. I heard Alice say.
“Ah, so trade, is it?” I rolled my eyes. “You give me ideas and I give you money.”
Alice shrugged, clearly unrepentant.
“You will do so well as a drug dealer.” I shook my head.
“I know, right?” She chirped. “Okay . . . so let me see . . . What’s a Taj Mahal?” She didn’t even need to take the list from me. She had her own mental diary.
“It’s a monument in India. Uh, it’s supposed to be one of the seven wonders of the world, Alice.” I widened my eyes at her lack of awareness, which was sort of ironic given her powers. “This . . . uh . . . emperor, Shah Jahan, built it as a tomb and memorial for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, when she died during childbirth. It’s made of marble, and both Shah Jahan and Mumtaz are buried inside.”
“You want to make a mausoleum for Bella on your anniversary? Doesn’t that kind of defeat the purpose of . . . you know, eternity?” Alice tilted her head to the side.
“It’s not what it is as much as why it was made.” I shook my head. “It’s a symbol of eternal love, Alice.”
She nodded, “Okay, but how are you going to construct a Taj Mahal in just over a month? With wood? Isn’t that cheap?”
True. I hadn’t thought of that. Even if I could import marble, it would take me a lot of time to come up with a wonder like the monument. Not to mention Bella would get suspicious of my continued absence.
“So you want to come up with an amazing gift but you also want to stay under the radar, shall we say?” she mused.
“You make it so hard.” She shook her head in disappointment.
Our waitress walked up to us—I had, by now, stopped even noticing the womankind, primarily because I knew that no matter what their age, their thoughts would always involve the words ‘lick’, ‘tie’ or ‘suck’—and took our orders (Burgers and fries—we could always get them packed and give them away to a homeless person in need. That was better than wasting.)
“What about this one?” She took the list from my hand. “’First edition copies of her favorite books’? This seems good.”
It did to me too, but Bella had a plethora of books that she had read over and over again. Giving her more books just seemed like I was trying to get away easy.
“Isle de Bella, really? Cheater.” Alice stuck her tongue out at me. “’Danger of a major freak out’ . . . I don’t know about your wife sometimes. . . .” She laughed.
“So that’s three things off the list . . .” I sighed. “When did this get so hard?”
“When you started over thinking it.” Alice said, as the waitress arrived with our orders, “Really, Edward, sometimes I think you haven’t learned anything. Bella equals to simple. You need to do something special, but not go overboard with it. Look at this—’snowflake from the North Pole’: it’s not Christmas. And what will she do with a snowflake?” Alice mused as she went through my list and practically struck off everything on it.
“Well, that’s rich coming from you. You’re the definition of overboard, Alice.” I rolled my eyes.
“There’s a difference: You listen. I don’t.” She shrugged.
“Don’t waste my time, Alice. Tell me something good.” I grimaced at her.
She thought for a moment as she went through ideas in her head. I dismissed them all almost immediately: too girly. She narrowed her eyes at my refusal.
“Tell me,” she spoke after sometime, “What does Bella mean to you?”
I raised my eyebrow: seven years and she still needed to ask that?
“Don’t look at me like that! Just tell me!”
I sighed, and thought about where I could begin from. Bella was not to be described in a word, or even on a page or a canvas. To me, she was just . . . otherworldly.
“Have you ever thought about what it feels like to drown, Alice?” I furrowed my brow.
No. Why? I heard her voice.
“It’s human instinct: the urge to survive, to fight. You try to hold on for as long as possible, but eventually, your body cannot do it. You just have to give up. The urge to breathe becomes so strong that you just have to let go and take another breath.
“And then the water rushes in: cold, biting, killer. You think it’s ironic: something that gives life is now taking one—yours, to be specific. You cam almost feel the water: flowing, racing to your body parts, over flooding them and shutting them down. Your brain goes numb. And any effort of fighting and kicking that you were making up until then slows. And you finally start to resign yourself to the truth: you’re going to die.
“In that haze of emotions—of panic, fear, and instinct—you start to think of everything that you did, and everything you could have done. And you think of the untimely death that now stares you in the face.
“But just as you’re about to give up, something happens. A wave of water comes up, rippling, forceful, and washed you ashore. And before you know it, you’re breathing.
“A cold, alive, enthusiastic gush of air that runs through your body and restarts everything. Your mind starts working, your heart starts beating, your lungs—at last, with some effort—work. And you think that of all the things in your life, you will be always be most thankful to that gush of air.”
I blinked, as if trying to wipe away invisible tears, and through my mental eye, saw Alice staring at me in awe.
“If I wasn’t meant to be with Jasper, I’d totally take you.” She shook her head, as if breaking away from a spell.
“I won’t: take you, I mean. You’re too high maintenance.” I shrugged.
“Shut up,” she hit me with the hand that wasn’t clutching the list, “that was beautiful, Edward.”
I would have said something if my mind hadn’t been too bent on something that I’d said.
‘All the things that you could have done’ . . .
“Edward? Are you listening to me?” Alice shook here hand in front of my face.
“Alice . . . I think I know what to get Bella.”
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Jacob came home yesterday. Oh, the joy (sarcasm)!
I know I’m being childish. I got over my aversion to him long ago, but is it really necessary to practically fondle my daughter in front of me? Really, Nessie jumped into his arms the moment he came home. And by the time I got to the door to welcome him (sarcasm, again) they were both practically sucking each others faces off. It’s okay when I do that to Bella, but it’s not okay when a wolf does that to my daughter. Like I said: hypocrisy.
“Okay, okay. Get away from each other, you two. He was gone for a week, Nessie, not for a year.” I frowned and growled at the same time. Seriously, I couldn’t even tell where her clothes started and his ended! Not to mention the thoughts running through their minds. I was really going to have to monitor their dates from now on.
Don’t even think about it. Alice, of course, warned me as she and the other members of the family politely hung around some distance away, giving Jacob and Nessie their time. Traitors.
“Oh, for God’s sakes! Let go, you two!” I growled a little louder than last time, and finally they separated.
What is your problem? Jacob was exasperated with my interruption, but I could see undercurrents of amusement in his mind.
“At the moment, you. I thought you said you would control yourself?” I snapped at him, and beside Jacob, Nessie rolled her eyes.
“Edward,” I felt Bella’s hand on my shoulder.
It’s okay. As long as they are not sneaking off into the night, it’s fine, really. She dropped her shield momentarily and told me.
Oh, my daughter was not going to be sneaking off anywhere. I would make sure of that. I had done enough of that when I was a teen. Yes, I am still a teen, and yes it was the late 1910′s, but teenagers don’t change, no matter what era they belong to.
Now it was Bella who rolled her eyes at me. Apparently my expression had said it all. She knew she could not curb the fatherly protectiveness that I had in spades, so she just moved on and hugged Jacob. “Hey, Jake.”
“Hey, Bells! How’s everything?” Jacob’s sunny smile beamed.
“Jake, you were only gone for a week. Everything is still the way it was the day before.”
“Really? Are you sure I won’t find my Star Wars memorabilia chewed up and spit out?” Jacob raised his eyebrows at Bella, though his thoughts were about Rose. Ah, the you-burned-my-clothes-to-coal fiasco. I wondered whether I should tell Rosalie that Jacob was planning another revenge on her. Hmm. . . .
“I’m a vampire, not a dog,” Rose snorted from somewhere behind me.
Esme laughed at their constant banter. “Oh, come on you two! Welcome, Jacob. Are you hungry?” She hugged him.
“Hey, Esme. I’m starving!”
“Well, come on then! I have Steak waiting!” She held him by the elbow and led him into the kitchen with Carlisle, Nessie, Bella and I in tow. The rest of the family had stayed only to welcome Jacob home. Now that their work was done, they slipped out the back door to go hunting as they had intended to.
“How’s Billy, Jacob? Is he having any more trouble with his pain?” Carlisle was the one to speak after we had all settled at the table.
Billy Black had recently been diagnosed with arthritis. It might not have been any problem to his wolf self, but since the magic had skipped his generation, coupled with the fact that he had been in a wheelchair since before Bella had been born, we had reason to worry. I say ‘we’ and not ‘them’ because all of us had come a long way since then—since the fateful day in the field when we had lost one of our own to the Volturi, but asserted our independence and power in no uncertain terms. I think we had scared them away for good. They had finally grasped the idea that theirs was not the absolute word in our world; that we were each our own person, with our lives intertwined with those of our mates and our family in ties as timeless as grace itself, unlike theirs—which were based on power and nepotism. Alice and I were still keeping a constant watch on their decisions, but we had not had any reason for alarm untill now. We were, it seemed for the time being, free.
“No, not much. Although it’s getting troublesome with age.” Jacob nodded while stuffing his face with a big bite. Seriously, how did his mouth expand that much?
“How’s grandpa Charlie? Did he like the fishing rod I sent him for his birthday?” Nessie was glued to Jacob’s side, leaving an inordinately less amount of distance between them.
“He’s good. He loved the fishing gear, Nessie. And you”—he pointed to Bella—“should call him more often. He misses you. And a point to be noted: he’s thinking of selling the house so he can move down to the reservation permanently.”
Bella sat up a little straighter, stiffened. “What? Why?”
“Well, for starters it’s easier for Sue. I mean, with me and both of her kids here, there’s really only her left to look after Billy. Yes, there’s the pack, but they’re busy most of the time protecting the tribe and running perimeter. She can’t always travel back and forth, not to mention times of emergency. And Charlie wanted to do his part. He and Billy have been friends since you and I were in diapers, so he wanted to help out.” Jacob shrugged.
“I think it will be good. Charlie must be feeling alone in that house. Moving to the reservation will keep him in good company,” Carlisle remarked.
“Yes, but he can’t sell the house. I grew up there—in a way. He grew up there! It’s his grandfather’s house.” Bella shook her head.
“Come on, Bells. I think it’s better if he just sells it. It’s only trouble for him if he doesn’t. It will mean extra bills and taxes that he won’t have to pay otherwise. Plus, the house is good. Everything is working. He’ll get a good price if he puts it on the market. In fact, do you remember Dr. Banner? He wanted to buy it as soon as word came out!” Jacob looked like he didn’t care much, but one look at Bella’s face told me that she wasn’t going to let it go.
As if on cue, she turned to look at me, and the mental conversation that transpired was something that we had both grown adept at.
We’ll talk about it later.
“So he and Sue are still going strong?” Carlisle smiled a little at his question.
“Oh, you should see them. It’s like these two”—Jacob pointed at Bella and I—”locked in a cage overnight. It kind of grossed me out a little, really.”
Bella grimaced at his comparison. “Jake, it’s my father and his . . . girlfriend. Can you please not talk about it that way and make it disgusting?”
I grinned. Bella had no aversion to Sue as such, but she had had her fill of Emmett’s rather amorous jokes about our, shall we say, ‘carnal interludes’ (their arm wrestling match and its result was long forgotten.)
“It’s good that Charlie has someone. Everyone deserves love, honey.” That had obviously come from Esme, who smiled a warm smile at Carlisle. And let’s just say that that was one of the moments when I fervently wished I did not have mind-reading abilities.
“And how’s Jackie? Did she start school yet?” Nessie piped up from beside Jacob.
Jackie was Sam and Emily’s little daughter. We all remembered when Sam had approached Carlisle with a three month pregnant Emily, freaking out about hurting her more than he already had. Carlisle had monitored the entire pregnancy closely—not that there had been anything wrong with Emily in the first place—and Nessie had been named Godmother when the baby had come. In a very surprising gesture, Sam had pleaded with Carlisle to be Godfather to little Jackie (name courtesy: Alice). Leah had politely requested to stay away the entire time Sam had been in the house, although I had caught snippets of conversations between her and Emily. No matter what her history with Sam might have been, Leah loved her niece to death and called her often.
“Oh, she’s a little spitfire, that one. I swear, she’s only three, but you should see her talk. ‘Uncle Jake, you’re not doing it right,’ ‘Mom, you don’t know anything!,’ ‘No, Daddy, princess castles are pink!‘” Jacob imitated her in a squeaky voice, which sounded more like he had a throat condition.
“Aw, does she miss me?” Nessie had a soft corner for kids: all kids, even the little devils that stood in the grocery store market and cried like there was no tomorrow.
“Are you kidding? She had practically packed her bags to come with me!” Jacob shook his head, and I picked his brain for visuals of the little girl. The last time I had seen Jackie had been a few weeks ago—before we had moved here—when she had thrown up a fit as to why ‘Grampa’ Carlisle and Nessie were moving away. On the day we were leaving, it had taken a lot of cuddling and coaxing to persuade her to let go of Carlisle’s shirt so he could drive. The child was doted on by all of us, especially Alice and Rosalie, who had found another person they could play dress up with for a longer duration of time. ‘Emmy’ and ‘Jaspsher’ were practically ready to put her in a bag and smuggle her into Canada, and we’d had to tell them that, as tempting as the idea might have been, it was illegal.
“I miss Jackie.” Esme smiled as she listened to Jake tell stories about her shenanigans. Apparently, Jackie had only recently discovered Shinchan, and Sam and Emily were at their wits’ end as to how to persuade her not to show her ‘tushy’ to every person who passed by. I didn’t know about these cartoons sometimes . . . .
“All right then, Jacob, why don’t you go and take rest? I’ll set out on preparing dinner after some time.” Esme cleared Jacob’s plates and he picked up his bags. We had added some new rooms to the house for the wolves before we had moved to Atlin, but all of them had insisted that they could share an apartment in town.
Jacob’s pack had grown exponentially since the last time the Volturi had paid a visit. In order to prevent fights from breaking out, the young wolves were now given a choice. They could either join Jacob or stay on the reservation with Sam. The pack now included eight members: Jacob, Seth, Leah, Embry, Brady, Collin, and two new members, Joshua and Kiowa.
Apart from Leah and Seth, who lived in a separate flat of their own a few miles away from the boys, the others shared two apartments in the main area of town. Jacob spent most of his time here at the house, so we had shifted all of his stuff in a separate room for him.
Jacob and Nessie went off to his room on the third floor, but not before I warned them that I could hear them, and if I got even the slightest inclination of clothes coming off I would put them far, far apart and under hourly supervision.
Bella and I went out of the back door to escape to our cottage. The last time we had been in Atlin was in 1958, a little after Jasper and Alice joined us. When we had left, we had let the main house stand as it was. Now, almost more than half a century later, Esme and Alice had refurbished the house while Bella and I had scoured the nearby forest for land to build a house on. Finally, after months of planning and discussions, we had our Home Sweet Home: part two. The original one—that the family had gifted to Bella for her nineteenth birthday—was locked and preserved in the shadows of the forest in Forks.
The new one wasn’t anything like it, but we loved it still. Bella and I had bejeweled the house with books, music and photos: Renesmee’s birthdays, landmarks, trips, even some pictures from our Honeymoon at Isle Esme. A lot of the space had been left as it was by us on Bella’s insistence: ‘new memories for a new place,’ she had said.
The same angel was walking by my side now, with her dark, mahogany hued hair flowing and fluttering around her in the cold Atlin wind. Her red plush lips were pursed together like they did when she was thinking. Her eyes—once red but now a deep, warm golden color—seemed burdened under the weight of the frown that marred her beautiful features.
“Penny for your thoughts?” I wrapped my arm around her waist, and she complied by leaning in to my touch.
“It feels . . . wrong,” she sighed.
I knew what she was talking about. “Charlie selling the house?”
She nodded. “I probably never told you this, but when I lived with Renee, we moved around a lot. I mean, I know we didn’t need to. But Phil’s job demanded it. Renee didn’t want to let Phil go alone, but she also didn’t want to leave me behind. So, we traveled most of the year, because I was too young to stay home by myself—she met Phil not much later after leaving Charlie.
“The result was that I was never able to find a . . . home ground, as you call it. Granted, we had a permanent home in Phoenix, but I never really stayed there long enough to make any friends. I didn’t fit in anyway, so it didn’t matter much. But, all the moving around and traveling and sight seeing got really tiring after some time. Some times, I just wanted to stop, and stay, and just . . . relax a bit.
“But Forks . . . it was the one place that didn’t change a bit in the fourteen years that I spent there, until I implored Charlie to spend his summers in Phoenix. Every time I came to Forks, I was met with the same people, the same scenery, same house, same bed, same city . . . it was nice to have a constant, even if for a little bit of time. I suppose that was also why I didn’t like it that much,” she chuckled, “because when I went back to Phoenix, I missed it. I missed the . . . constant. Life in Phoenix was always fast, always moving, always sprinting. Forks was . . . slow. I liked the slow. I missed the slow. And it used to be that much harder to go back to fast once in Phoenix.
“And after I moved there, to Forks, I mean . . . after I met you . . . it just . . . that house became that much more special, Edward. All the nights we spent . . . talking, laughing, practicing . . .” She smiled. “The dinner table Charlie used to hover around when you would be home, the kitchen where you used to watch me cook, and the sneaking into my room at night . . . it’s what made that house what it is, Edward. There are so many memories . . . so many that I cannot even begin to imagine. And not just with you: with Charlie, too. We used to watch the games at night, and he used to clean his gun in the morning. Sometimes, he would even be washing my truck when I woke up. And what’s ironical is that the entire time I was there I did not appreciate it. And now I do, when Charlie wants to sell it off. It just hurts . . . to see something that was such a big part of my life be handed to someone for a wad of cash.”
I stared at her for quite some time. And it was clear as day on her face—how sad she was. I knew that her life in Phoenix hadn’t been something that she missed, but I had had no idea that her house in Forks meant that much to her. It made me feel ineffective, really. I should have known, should have had an idea. I guess she missed her single life as much as she enjoyed her married one.
“Maybe that’s the point of it, love,” I shrugged, “moving on, I mean. Renee did it, Charlie did it, and then you did it. You grew up. You got married. You are happy here, and Charlie is happy there. He found someone that he might want to spend his life with. And maybe he wants to start over now: a fresh start, in a new place. Maybe this is his way of moving on entirely. He’s leaving behind all the remnants of his past life and embracing a new one.”
“But . . . how can he leave behind all the memories we shared, Edward?” She frowned and looked at me from under my arm.
“He’s not, Bella. Memories are made in the heart, love. Where he goes, his heart goes with him. That house will always remain a piece of his past life, and a participant in all his memories. We don’t need . . . materials to remind us of the true bonds that we share with each other, love. The feeling will suffice.”
“But . . . I just . . .” She sighed heavily, and I stopped walking. Turning her towards me, I looked into her eyes—those beautiful, soulful, troubled eyes. And then ever so gently, I kissed her—a light, feathery peck on the lips.
“You see what I did now, Bella? I made a memory. I kissed you on this ground here. Now, if I sell this land tomorrow, it will be gone. But, the memory of it . . . this . . . this kiss will stay with us forever. Now, you decide—what’s more important? This land or the memory? You’re in denial, my love. You will get over it, I’m sure.”
She looked at me for some time with her penetrating and tell tale eyes. And after a moment, I saw the resignation in them as she reluctantly but finally accepted my words. I smiled in encouragement at her fortitude. “Shall we go?”
She nodded and sighed, and I had a feeling that tonight would be the night when I might need to bring out the big guns.
Suddenly, I felt the air shift, and a miniscule, almost untraceable weight fall on my mind. I knew what this meant. She had just expanded her shield and wrapped it around my mind, thus effectively shielding both of us from the world. She had trapped us in our happy bubble—literally.
I love you, always, Edward.
“I love you too, Bella. Always.”
And we walked on into the advancing twilight.
Feel free to say “Hello” anytime!
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January 10th, 2012
Well, we’re all set it seems.
New city, new place, new people: but the same anonymity. Atlin was the best place we could find. It’s a small town: a really small town. The population amounts to somewhere around four hundred people, and we have to travel a lot. But that’s probably not a problem. Neither is the weather: cold, rainy, sunless; nothing that we’re not used to.
Well, all of us except Nessie.
This was her first move. And not just from Forks, but from her entire family—in a way. Having grown up in Forks for the past four years, it was hard for her to up and leave like we did. Of course, Jacob and his pack followed. He was probably the only person who could keep her in control. Teens.
I’m telling you, when you turn fifteen, you hate everything, most of all your parents. Fortunately, Renesemee had still to hit the “Major Fit Phase,” as Alice had put it. But we were all holding our breath, just in case.
I know every father has said this at some point in his life, but I still remember when Bella was pregnant with her. It wasn’t the most conventional of pregnancies, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t not love her.
March 15th, 2008
No. No. No. No.
No. No. No.
Forget it, this one would have to do.
“I have to say, I never thought finding a book in your library would be tough. You do not have any books for learning French.” I frowned as I climbed down the little ladder in Carlisle’s library and put it away.
“That’s because either everybody in the house already knew French, or thought it is a . . . soft language, shall we say.” He shook his head, which was buried in a thesis about Lobotomies. Carlisle never passed up a chance to learn about new procedures. ‘Medicine is constantly evolving,’ he used to say, ‘and frankly, it would look weird for my job if I use methods of the seventeenth century.’
“Nobody is going to sue you for saying the word ‘gay’, Carlisle. You don’t have to substitute.” I chuckled and shook my head. Three hundred something years old and still having issues with cursing. His parents would be so happy.
And that “French is gay” thing was entirely Emmett. Out of all of us, excluding Bella, he was the only one who could not speak French. He tried, for some time, but not being able to pronounce ‘Enchante’ properly he just got fed up and resorted to saying it was a gay language.
“It’s derogatory.” Carlisle disapproved.
“I know, but it’s Emmett. You can’t get anything through his thick head.” I rolled my eyes. “By the way, you might want to stock up on the French for Dummies and whatnot. Bella wants to learn how to speak French.”
Carlisle smiled in surprise. “Oh, that’s nice. She must be getting bored anyway, sitting in the living room all day with a big belly. Might as well render the time productive.”
I shrugged and smiled. Let’s leave it at that, shall we, Carlisle? Really, it did him good to not know the real reason why Bella wanted to learn French. It had the words ‘island’, ‘feathers’ and ‘hot’ in the same sentence.
You get the idea.
I did, too, in the same instant. What? I’m a guy with a beautiful pregnant wife. And things had been better recently, now that we had discovered ways to keep Bella and the baby healthy. Yes, it involved her drinking human blood (something which a house full of vampires is bound to have issues with) but it kept her heart beating. That was all that mattered to me. I would die before someone could even lay a scratch on Bella. That was a bit hypocritical of me to say, I guess, since I had the been the source of many of her sorrows in the past. I had even wanted to kill our baby, and I was not proud of that.
But now that she was here, now that she was mine—this surreal, beautiful angel of a woman—and she had somehow, miraculously, chosen to be with me. I had decided to put it all behind me. I was going to start afresh. I was never, ever going to hurt her. Never again. What she wanted, she would get.
That was what had brought me here.
We had been interacting more and more these days: talking, touching, embracing, all the while discussing our baby’s prospective future. With the danger to her health out of the picture, albeit for a little while, I had finally realized how beautiful it was to just sit and talk with your pregnant wife. We both knew that we had days before the baby actually came, but we were avoiding the subject of her transformation and delivery entirely for now, at least with each other. I, for one, had busied myself in looking up ways to make this less and less painful for her while she slept.
I stopped in my tracks when I saw the sight in the living room.
Bella was sitting up on the couch, her feet tucked under her thighs on one side, covered in a snug blanket. Her hair had regained some of its former shine, and it fell freely as she lowered her head to look at her huge belly. Her frail arms wrapped around the bulge, and her face, even though still a little sagged and green, glowed with what I could only call love. Profound, pure, unconditional love, no matter what the consequences.
I knew what that felt like.
I knew better than to intrude on her moment, so I opted to just stand by and listen.
“I hope you’re warm in there,” she cooed softly to her stomach as she ran her fingers all over it.
“You know, I love you a lot, but could you just cool off the moving for a while? I love it, don’t get me wrong, but it freaks your dad and grandpa out. Just you wait till you come, you’ll know.” She rolled her eyes a little. Geez, Bella, what a picture of mine to paint.
“Although, I like it when you play soccer inside my belly like you’re going to create the next Hand of God,” Bella laughed, and then groaned. I almost left my place to go to her, but she didn’t give me the chance.
“Oh God, I don’t even know where that came from. I guess your uncle Emmett is rubbing off on me, huh? I need to watch less football.”
I laughed internally as I remembered the day Bella had asked Emmett to teach her the ropes of the game so she could understand what the hell was going on on the screen. His eyes had nearly bugged out of his skull, but I couldn’t blame her, really. Reruns of ‘Desperate Housewives’ did that to one.
“Maybe your dad can teach you football when you grow up. And I can cheer for you when you play for your school.”
I couldn’t resist the urge to go and sweep her up in my arms.
“You say that like you’re really sure you’re going to have a boy,” I said, entering the room with the French Guide in my hand.
“I know it’s a boy. I keep having dreams of you and your mini-me in the backyard.” She smiled, and somehow the world became brighter.
I laughed, and kissed her head.
“Are you sure you want another one like me? A testosterone overdrive?” I snuggled into the blanket with her, pulling her closer.
“At least it won’t be another Alice, who will drag me around the city looking for clothes.” She shrugged, and shuddered a little at the thought of the excessive splurging that Alice was no stranger to.
“Don’t let her find out you said that,” I laughed.
“Yeah, that would not—oh!” her expression blanked out a little just then, and my head went into overdrive.
“Bella? Bella? What is it? What’s wrong? Answer me. Can you hear me? Bell—C,” I sputtered out, quickly jumping to the worst case scenario. I could not lose her. What could possibly go wrong? We had been so careful.
“Edward, calm down. It was nothing, just a little nudge.” She exhaled, and smiled in relief.
“What?” I was on the verge of freaking out—Hell, I was freaking out!—and she was talking about—wait, what?
“He nudged. Again. I told you he nudges.” She nodded with wide eyes.
Oh. oh. Relief swept through me, and my body relaxed.
“Geez, Bella, you scared me to death.” I shook my head.
“Well, it’s not my fault that you worry so much. Did I look like I was in pain?” She leaned against me, and I took her in readily. I needed to feel her, hold her. I needed to affirm that she was safe.
“You looked like you had been teleported to another world. And there’s no one at home. Carlisle’s in his study. What if something had happened?” I sighed heavily. I did not want to entertain any thoughts like these, but I couldn’t help it. This was my wife. And my baby.
“Again. Worry only when you have to, Edward.” She shook her head. “Do you want to feel?”
“Feel what?” I played with her hair. How it always managed to smell like strawberries, she only knew. I just enjoyed burying my face in it.
And occasionally pulling on it.
“Him. Nudging.” Bella said, but did not wait for my response.
She just took my hand and put it on her belly.
And we both waited.
We looked and looked and looked, and we waited, and waited, and waited. There was so much activity inside a human body. Blood flowing, heart beating, fluids churning. I heard everything, felt it too. But the one thing that we were both waiting for to happen did not.
And then it did.
There it was: a small rub, leaving behind just the faintest of impressions on her, but leaving still. Bella’s breathing hitched, and so did mine. And there it was, again. Just the faintest of pushes. Like it was telling us of its existence: telling us that it listened to us, that it knew we were there.
That he knew how much we loved him: Bella and I. Both of us.
I didn’t know there were specific moments when it happened: something big, something that changes you forever. But I was sure that this was it for me. Up until now, I had been a son, a brother, a lover, a husband.
Now I was a father.
Father of that little nudger inside Bella that I loved so much.
Hey everyone! So recently I put a post up about how I’m looking for writers for Edward’s Diary, Bella’s Diary, Alice’s Diary . . . and another random diary of your choice.
I spent a good amount of time wading through submissions and am pleased to announce that I have found our new Edward’s Diary writer! Her name is Lavanya and she is a really lovely writer!
Please give her a nice warm WELCOME!
You can follow her on Twitter at @EdwardsDiary or her personal account @iamlavanyasingh!
(She is a HUGE Robert Pattinson fan, so if you follow her personal account, she makes no promises that you won’t see the odd, “is in love with Rob <3″ message, lol!
Be sure to join the over 12,000 people on Facebook who already have ‘liked’ Edward’s Diary HERE so that you can get updates on new entries!
You can check out Lavanya’s personal blog here to get to know her writing, too!
You should see a new Edward’s Diary entry up soon—as always the link to it will go to our Twitter, and our Facebook pages! You can ‘like’ the Bella’s Diary main Facebook page here.
Welcome, Lavanya—from the Bella’s Diary team, and the readers! We’re so happy to have you on board!
Note: I am still looking for a ‘Bella’ and ‘Alice.’ Submit a paragraph or two of your writing to firstname.lastname@example.org if you can volunteer to write an entry (or more, if you want) per month! Thank you! XO
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