There are many things you forget with the passage of time—broken bones, scraped knees, and misguided words and so on. You go through them and forget them. Soon, they occupy nothing but a sliver of a place in your memory and none in your heart.
Then, there are wounds that even time can’t heal; voids that even the moving clock can’t fulfill; memories that ingrain themselves in your mind so indelibly that you can’t scorch them out even with a white hot branding iron. There’s always something that person said, something they did, some way they reacted that you can’t help but think of them at every turn and corner of your life.
So even after two years of losing Leah, the gaping hole that she had left was wider and more hollowed than ever.
Let me set the record straight: she wasn’t dead. That she was alive we knew very well. That was also all we knew about her anymore. None of us, not even Seth, knew where she was, what she was doing and how she was living. Yes, there was the occasional letter and phone call, but it was always devoid of a return address or made from an untraceable cell.
To think that Alistair would drive her to such insanity, such vigilance, such privacy. She could very well be dead if not for her intermittent manifestation of her state of living.
Time had moved, yes, yet stood still. We were all very far ahead now: Bella and my sons were almost two. Renesmee stood close to the threshold of adulthood . . . and marriage. Mark and Katherine had set up house right next to us, and Lucy was already showing signs of being bound to Benedict, one of our sons.
Today was Leah’s birthday. But you would think somebody in the Cullen household had died with the kind of atmosphere that was prevailing. Jacob had not been seen since last night, so had Seth. Charlie had called today, and I picked up hints of his conversation with Bella—Sue had been bawling her eyes out. Katherine and Rosalie were particularly grim. Leah had become a sister to them, as she had to Bella.
Said woman, and my wife, however, was a bit cheerful today than most days. Even though Bella missed Leah like anything, she always counted the days when she could next talk to her. Leah hadn’t called in six months, but Bella thought that today might be the day the term would come to an end. I, however, was skeptic. I had been noticing a pattern in Leah’s calls, as had Carlisle. They came a month apart earlier, then three, and at last five. There was no telling when they would come next, and we thought that one day they would stop coming at all. I think I knew what Leah was doing to us—what I had done to Bella years ago but in an excruciatingly small amount of time. She was giving us what I had never given to Bella: time. But lord help us the day the phone would not ring at all.
I looked up from my place on the couch to see Benedict and Lucy at the piano. Benedict looked almost seven now—tall for his age, lean and pale, with black curly hair framing his egg shaped visage. He was much like Mark’s oldest son, Abraham—stoic, disciplined, punctual, quiet, attentive, determined, sensitive, and fiercely independent, kind and generous. He was the child who would give up his lunch for another who was hungry, who would learn sign language to communicate with a mute child in his class, who would buy a candy for a homeless child. His twin, and our other son, William, were much like each other, differing only in physicality. William also had a rebellious streak to him, and was much more vocal about it, something which Emmett had only too much fun furthering. While Ben was Carlisle’s clone, William was Jasper’s.
“That’s a C, dear,” I said, listening to what Benedict was playing, a melody of his own, and one he was composing for Lucy, “Maybe you should try an F.” Ben didn’t look at me, but tried the change anyway. With the way he hummed and nodded, and then picked up a pencil to make the correction in the music sheet, I knew my suggestion had been right.
“Thanks, Dad.” He nodded quietly, and turned to Lucy to play it to her again, from the top. I smiled at him and made for the kitchen, where the ladies were cooking for the other mouths.
William and Abraham were sitting at the counter—hideously violating Esme’s rule of not having books on the table. The counter was cluttered with tomes about the civil war and the Emancipation Proclamation, but Esme, who was frying chicken couldn’t care to check the boys. It was probably Jasper who had supplied the books.
I caught sight of Bella chopping the celery and smiled as a distant memory came to mind. One of the things that made her glad about being a vampire was that she was able to chop vegetables and meat with inhuman speed. That, to her, was a huge improvement from her human days when she had to be careful so as not to chop her own finger off. However, today her attention was focused more on the phone than the celery. Of course, she was expecting the clouds to rain after the long dry spell.
“You really think?” I came up behind her, asking softly. Too much talking would make the boys start clicking their tongues.
“Yeah. It’s been too long.” She sighed, but it was a hopeful one.
“Exactly. It’s been too long.” I said. I don’t know if it was my perennial pessimism, but I always thought that each of Leah’s calls would be the last one.
“She will call, Edward. I’m sure of it.” Bella reiterated, and as always, I left her to it.
So, I was hardly surprised when the phone rang and Bella ran to it. A moment after, I heard her voice, “Leah, hey.”
“Hey Bella, how are you?”
“I . . . I’m fine. How are you? And Happy Birthday.” Bella smiled into the phone. By this time, all of us save Mark and Katherine had gathered in the living room.
“I’m good, thanks. Uh, thank you. How’s everyone? Are the babies good?”
“Yeah, they’re beautiful. They’re growing fast. I was just cooking for them.”
“So . . . what are you up to these days?”
“Uh, I’m busy, actually. I got a job as a pediatric nurse in the local hospital. Plus, I’ve got school so I hardly have time.”
“Are you taking care of yourself?”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine, absolutely fine. I have long shifts, so I can’t afford to skip meals . . . How’s Seth? And . . . have you talked to Mom?”
Bella hesitated a little, “Seth’s alright. Um, he started college so he’s pretty busy these days. He’s always tired. I tell him he works too hard, but when does he ever listen?”
“Yeah, that sounds like him . . . and . . . Mom?”
“She’s okay too. Um,” Bella looked towards me for help, and I nodded, giving her my support, “I talked to Charlie today. Sue’s worried, Leah. She misses you. She hasn’t spoken to you in over a year. Why don’t you call her?”
There was a long silence at the other end.
“I don’t want to worry her, Bella. She knows I’m safe, and that I’m okay. Let her be okay with this, you know. Plus, you can tell her what’s up with me. You talk to Charlie on a pretty regular basis.”
“That’s just it, Leah. I can’t: I can’t talk to Sue. I can’t tell her what’s up with you, because it saddens her. She wants to talk to you, Leah. I’m a third party. Do you know how much it hurts her when she has to find out about her own daughter from me?”
“You’re her daughter too.”
“It’s not the same thing, Leah. Just . . . call her once, okay? Let her know what you told me. Let her have some . . . reassurance, please?”
“Okay . . . Okay, I will.”
“Okay, I gotta go. I’ll talk to you later?”
“Yeah, okay. Bye, Leah. Take care.”
Bella put down the phone with a heavy heart, and the feeling resonated in Ben’s tunes which suddenly turned somber. I put my arms around Bella. Of course we knew Leah wasn’t going to call Sue, or Seth or Jacob. It was too hard for her. They always persuaded her to come back, which was the one thing she proclaimed she couldn’t do. She had escaped to flee from her memories, not to go back to them.
“I hate Alistair.” Bella sighed, “I hate him, and I will never forgive him for what he did.”
“We all do, love. We all do.”
“You want to what?”
I cringed internally as I heard the tone of Nahuel’s words over the phone. I had expected a little surprise, but the blatant shock that I was met with was, truthfully, a little defeating.
“I’m sorry, Edward, I didn’t mean to say it that way. It just came out. Forgive me. So, you were saying?” He corrected himself immediately, and I wished I had the power to read minds over the phone, not that it would have worked with Katherine around.
“Yes, Nahuel, I was saying that Bella and I . . . have been thinking about adopting a baby: a hybrid, to be precise.” I reiterated my words while pacing in the backyard of our cottage. Bella and Renesmee were currently at the main house, now that our daughter had gotten over her aversion to being ‘ignored’ as she had put it.
“Yes, I got that . . . but . . . why do you need my help?” Nahuel asked me with uncertainty in his voice, and I debated whether to bring up the topic of his father with him. At last, I took the shot.
“Um . . . well, you said—the last time you were here—that your father had created a lot of hybrids . . . for his own purpose? I was—”
“Okay, Edward, I’m gonna stop you here. Don’t take this the wrong way, but you do not want a hybrid created by my father. And besides, I’m sure you’re looking for a baby; my sisters and brothers are all grown up, you know? They’re all almost of age.”
“Oh, I thought—”
“Trust me, I want to help you. I do. But the fact is that the Volturi obliterated my father years ago. In fact, they went straight to him after they paid a visit to you people. Caius wanted to destroy my brothers and sisters, but it would have ensured retaliation, since we’d already proven that hybrids are harmless. And anyways, my father practically brainwashed all my siblings. I have a hard enough time with them as it is.” I could almost hear the condescension in his voice.
“It’s okay, Nahuel, I understand.” I nodded, a little despondently I might add.
He was quiet for some time—I could hear his breaths—and then he asked, very timidly, “If you don’t mind . . . why . . . why do you want another baby?”
I would have answered Nahuel in the right way, if I could.
Why did Bella and I want another baby?
It wasn’t one of those things that we had planned ahead for; neither was it a talked about matter. It had just come up, impulsively, and it had felt . . . right. It had held the same fervor, the same zeal that I had felt when I had realized for the first time that I loved Bella, or when I had touched her belly and known that my daughter was in there. It was just . . . meant to be, I guess. It was something we never would have thought about, but something we wanted to happen deep down.
“It’s . . . It cannot be explained, Nahuel. It just . . . happened. I guess we both decided we were ready . . .?” It wasn’t exactly what I had planned to say, but it sufficed . . . barely.
“Oh, I understand . . . its okay . . . I would have helped if I could, Edward, but it’s out of my control. I just . . . hybrids are not common. Vampires don’t go around impregnating women. And most of them who’re alive live in hiding. They know that the Volturi would not let them live. Yes, your altercation with the Volturi might have changed things, but . . . it’s still sort of under . . . you know. I mean, I don’t want to dissuade you or something, but . . . getting another baby is going to be hard, Edward.”
I don’t know if Nahuel heard my sighs from this end of the phone, but I didn’t care either way. It was hard to hear all of our problems being laid down in concrete words by him. It made adopting another baby seem impossible, which—I hated to think—it was, perhaps.
“I understand, Nahuel. Thanks for your help anyway.” I nodded, not wanting to prolong the conversation and give away my despair.
“Anytime Edward. Give my regards to your family.”
As soon as I disconnected the call I was faced with a dilemma.
How was I going to relay my conversation with Nahuel to Bella? She knew I was here; she knew I was trying. I could not even imagine the look on her face when I told her that the conversation had been a dead end: a moot point. She would be devastated, and I hated to think that. She had promised that she would be patient, but I knew how hard it was for her. In her mind, Bella had already taken to our new boy like a fish to water, and was already planning on what his room would look like. She had been positive that Nahuel could do something.
I almost didn’t want to go back.
Maybe I could distract her. Everyone was stressed enough with Alistair’s pending arrival, which was due today. No one, especially Carlisle, had been able to forget his betrayal at our time of need, though he’d had his reasons. I didn’t know what his presence would do to the family, as we knew he was here to stay for a few days. Apparently, he and Mark were ‘buddies’: a fact which Katherine surprisingly disapproved of.
I started walking back to the house with a plan forming. I knew Bella would never bring up the matter in front of the family, and we really didn’t have any choice but to be there until dinner. That gave me some—if not a lot—of time.
Now I just needed to think of how I would break the news to her.
My mind was almost fried with half cooked plans by the time the backyard came into my line of vision. I heard a murmur of voices from inside: there was some hassle going on. I sped up and entered the house just as Katherine left her seat on the couch and advanced towards Mark.
“Why does he want to come here? I don’t even know why you’re friends with him!”
“What do you want me to do, Katherine? Tell him to go back? He’s going to be here any minute!” Mark grimaced at her.
“Do you know how hard it is for the Cullens? Do you know what he did? He betrayed them! Isn’t something new with him, is it?!” Katherine narrowed her eyes at Mark, and the expression on his face faded a little. He was reminded of a time long gone: I could tell. I ran my gaze over everyone. They all looked uncomfortable, and I felt that all of them were siding with the wife. My eyes met Bella’s for a short moment, and she smiled at me hopefully, and for the first time I was thankful to be cut off by someone.
“He helped us, Katherine,” Mark mumbled, though I could see that whatever memory had been triggered was not pleasant for him either.
“Yes, after he accused you of betraying your kind with me. What was it that he called me? Oh yes, “a low life, good for nothing piece of flesh”! You’re going to put up with a man like that? What kind of a friend is he? What kind of a man are you, Mark?! How can you even consider having him here after what he said to me?!” Katherine glared at her husband, who—as all good husbands do—cowered under her gaze.
“You don’t know what he’s done for me. He’s . . . different, I understand. I can’t . . . I can’t turn on him.” Mark shook his head, almost as if he was warring inside. He was caught up in a maelstrom between his lover and his best friend.
Not a foreign feeling for someone among us.
Katherine was close to bursting at this point, but something in Mark’s words must have hit her, because, at last, she huffed, and stormed out of the house and into the woods, “Fine. Do as you wish. But I am not letting him near my kids, Mark. I’m telling you! He can go to hell for all I care!”
Mark looked prostrate at how things were turning out, and the rest of looked, well, uneasy. I felt Bella’s hand beside me, and I took it, gripping it like my life depended on it.
At last, Mark sighed and turned to Carlisle. “I’m sorry to put you through this, Carlisle. Really, I am. We can go somewhere else—”
“There’s no need for that, Mark, really. You don’t have anything to apologize for.” Carlisle nodded soberly, “but . . . I can’t make any guarantees for my behavior during his presence. I’m sorry, but he and I had been friends for very long. His betrayal is too grave to forget.”
With that, Carlisle left the room, followed by Esme. The rest of us just stood around, shuffling on our feet, thinking of anything to say. My eyes met Bella’s, and she just nodded, having got the message. She and Alice left to talk to Katherine, and right after them, Lucy, who had, by now, started walking, came into the room, looking for her father. Following in her foot steps was our cat, Poseidon, who had all but refused to leave her side from the moment she’d been born. Some loyalty.
Lucy’s eyes lit up when she saw her father, and she hopped to where he was, frowning and shaking his head. She caught on, apparently, for the skip in her gait had faded by the time she spoke.
“Daddy sad?” she asked in the sweetest voice possible and even Mark gave her a small smile as he picked her up. Poseidon was not too happy with that.
“No, honey, Daddy’s just a little tired.”
“I kiss it better?” she continued.
“No, honey, it’s okay.”
“But I kiss it! It will be all good!” she protested, and Mark gave in, albeit unwillingly.
I saw that everyone in the family had crept back into the room by this time—save for Carlisle—and I knew why.
Lucy’s power was nothing like we had seen. She was much like Jasper: quiet and perceptive, only her connection with emotions was on a level beyond human or vampire realms. Lucy could, by touch, actually influence a person’s emotions. While Jasper’s powers were limited to only when he was around, Lucy could cause tangible physical reactions in people with a touch. Her powers were not delusional: they were real, perceptive and powerful. They stayed with people.
We all watched in wonder as she leaned into Mark and placed a slight kiss on his cheek, and immediately, he relaxed. His sagged shoulders straightened, and the frown on his face disappeared. His eyes brightened, and soon, there was a slight smile on his face.
Lucy however, was looking very different than she had been earlier. The resplendent glow of infancy faded from her face, and her eyes grew dark, heavy, and drowsy. Her shoulders, too, sagged. She let out a tired sigh and leaned against her father. And where there had been wonder on our faces a moment ago, there was now concern.
Lucy’s power came with a serious drawback, which could be fatal for her if it wanted to. Her connection with human understanding was so strong that she was able to literally exchange emotions with people. She could actually take away another person’s suffering for herself in exchange for happiness. We had discovered that only a few weeks ago on the night Nessie had been feeling down about being ignored. Lucy had touched her and taken away all her troubles, but she had cried throughout the night after that. She had even refused to eat, and had clung to Katherine like her life depended on it.
That had her parents worried: because we had no way of knowing when the emotions she took on from people would get too much for her to handle, even if the effects faded after some time. She was a mental, spiritual healer of sorts, with a potentially fatal catch.
“Lucy tired, Dadda,” she mumbled against Mark’s neck, who shifted her in his arms so he was cradling her, even if she was looking almost a year old.
“It’s okay, baby. It’ll go away. Daddy’s going to put you to sleep, okay?”
And sure enough, she was fast asleep not minutes later.
“Are you sure this will be good for her?” Jacob had been watching the whole scene quietly, and his concern for her as her second Godfather was endearing, “I mean, with the way she’s connected to all of our emotions. It’s going to be a stressful couple of days.”
Once again, Mark looked incredibly sorry. “I know. I’ll try to keep her away for as long as possible.” He looked at all of us. “I really am sorry, for everything. What Alistair did to you people . . . and Katherine . . . it’s just . . .” He trailed off, shaking his head.
“What I don’t understand is how you’re friends with that loser.” Rosalie clicked her tongue and her heels on the floor. “He’s a good for nothing hypocrite.”
“Please don’t . . . talk about him like that. He’s crass, and mean, but he’s got his reasons. He’s a good man.” Mark was sorry for defending him, but I could read in his mind that he genuinely cared for Alistair. However, since Katherine wasn’t anywhere near us in a five mile radius—her shield had expanded from two to five since her transformation—he knew my telepathy was back in full force. Therefore, he was careful of not thinking anything too revealing. I could honestly say I was curious about Alistair with the way Mark was behaving.
“I kind of have a hard time believing that,” Rose huffed and went off in the direction which the girls had earlier taken, and we guys were left in an awkward position.
“I’ll just . . . put her in bed.” Mark broke the silence and scuttled off into the basement. He and Katherine had decided some weeks ago that they would live with us permanently. They weren’t going to become Cullens per se, but would accompany us from now on. Vegetarian vampires were not so frequent in Europe, what with the Volturi breathing down everyone’s necks. Plus, the family was so talented that they would soon be on their trails. With Katherine and Mark’s exceptional powers, it was but inevitable for all of their children to be born with powers of their own.
Abraham’s and Mark’s powers were very similar, with the only difference being in their states. Mark was, as I had said earlier, a shape shifter. He could easily transform into me, or Jasper or Carlisle, or even Esme. Abraham was a mental impersonator of sorts. Any powers that he came in contact with left a permanent mark on him, like a pencil leaves traces on a paper even after being erased. He could take on any power that he saw and use it for his own. Consequently, by now, he could read minds, see the future, shift forms, had a mental shield, could influence emotions and could negate any power in his vicinity. Naturally, Abraham was the only person who could pierce Katherine’s shield, like Renesmee was the only person who could pierce Bella’s. His were the only powers that worked even if Katherine was around. Pretty soon, he would be a tracker too. The only drawback with him was that he too would take on emotions like Lucy and would have to bear the after effects. It wore him out, like his sister.
Ewan’s power was the most unique and unusual we had ever seen. It worked on a level beyond physical, mental or emotional conception. It had been only by accident that we had found it out when Mark and I had decided to take him out for hunting one day.
As he had been very little that time, he had perched on a boulder and watched as we trained him. When I had handed him his rabbit, dead and immobile, he had watched it very curiously. Then, slowly, he stood and held it in his hands, and I was about to tell him not “to play with his food” (I’m sure he has Emmett’s genes in there somewhere), when the rabbit in his hand flinched. And mind you, I have seen a lot of dead people (and animals) in my life, but not one of them has ever even moved when I am done with them. But here the rabbit was! It had flinched after I had killed it with the most sure shot way in the world (vampire venom)!
What happened after that was even more incredulous. A light—soft, slithery and hued light blue—started emanating from the center of the rabbit’s body, right where the heart should have been. It looked almost like a different person—it was moving frantically, and its soft, silky threads looked reluctant to leave. The last of them had held on for a few moments before detaching themselves. The entire graceful blob hovered in the air for a few moments, and then slowly faded away into nothingness.
I tried reading Ewan’s mind, since we were out of Katherine’s shield, but it was blank. I couldn’t hear even a sliver of thought going through his mind. It was . . . just blank.
“Astral bodies,” Mark stated once Ewan was done and was enjoying his delicacy.
“What?” I asked, not having a clue as to what he meant.
“I read about them from time to time. It’s a subtle body between the intelligent soul and the physical body, only it’s much more real. It exists as an aura of sorts . . . in wonderful colors It’s widely linked with out-of-body experiences, or astral projections. What Ewan did was separate the astral body from the physical. That would mean he can, literally, provide salvation, or cruel death. This rabbit’s astral body proceeded to the afterlife.”
“Salvation for the kill?” I asked, dumbfounded as to where this power could have originated.
“Quite literally,” Mark chuckled.
“Uh . . . wow.”
Since then, we had been experimenting with Ewan’s power (albeit in Katherine’s absence), trying to find out what else he could do. So far, we had found out that he could control any astral body, be it one of a living or a non living entity. He could render people dead without actually killing them. Carlisle had been toying with the idea of trying his powers out on one of us, but it seemed dangerous. Consequently, because of Abraham’s powers, we had two people in the household with such a precious power.
It was a given as to why Mark wanted to settle as far away from the Volturi as possible.
Their new house was under construction right now, and all of us (Alice, Bella, Jasper and I, that is) had begged them to settle more than five miles away, since we were tired of not being able to use our powers.
Katherine came in sometime later; still fuming (I didn’t need telepathy to tell that).
We sat around uncomfortably after that. Everyone wanted to avoid everyone, but it wasn’t possible. I could hear Nessie playing house with Lucy inside, and Seth trying to settle a dispute between the two brothers Wellington. Their voices were the only things keeping us distracted from the oppressive silence that had befallen us.
I heard a slow rumble, and then a slight screech. There were some crunches in the drive way. Each step brought him closer to us. It could be felt. Carlisle had come into the room at some point: we were all too stressed to know when. Katherine huffed every two seconds, and Rosalie’s heels provided background music. Mark actually looked torn between joy and sorrow. Even Bella looked wrought with anticipation.
Then, the doorbell rang.
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“Don’t hold him like that, Jacob! You don’t hold a baby like that when you feed it!”
I shook my head and smiled as Jacob desperately tried to hold Abraham straight and in the right position so he could put the bottle in his mouth as Alice breathed down his neck.
“Hold him a little diagonal.”
“No. A little bit straighter.”
“You’re gonna drop him.”
“What the hell is your problem? I was doing just fine before you came romping about like a petulant pixie know-it-all!” Jacob rustled Abraham in his arms, who looked only too comfortable to be the cynosure.
“Oh, I know how fine you were doing. Any more and the bottle would have been in your mouth instead of his. I don’t know how you’re gonna bring up your kids. Nessie’s gonna have a hard time with you.” Alice clicked her tongue and shook her head.
“Okay, I am going to have to intervene here,” I interrupted their banter. “We have a long, long, long time before we can even discuss that.” I was only too glad Nessie wasn’t home right now. I don’t know how I would have handled that. To my utter surprise and discomfort, Jacob’s russet skin turned a deep shade of red, and I shuddered. I couldn’t imagine the kind of thoughts that must have been going on in his mind. It was only too blissful to have Katherine in the house in that moment.
Two weeks after they were born, all of Katherine’s kids were healthy and happy and plump. Abraham (whom people had taken to calling Ian or Abe) and Ewan (no need for a nickname there) were looking almost a year old. They were going to start walking any time now. Lucy (Come on, Beatrice and Cordelia are handfuls) was growing a little slowly compared to her brothers, since she had more human traits than any of her siblings. While Ian and Ewan slept through the night, Lucy got restless. She was the closest we’d come to having an actual human baby in the house.
We were still giving the kids human blood as they were too young to fend for themselves. Also, we were determined to be careful this time. We had never been able to get the stint with the Volturi out of our minds. Most of all, we still mourned the loss of our sister: Irina. She had been in the wrong place at the wrong time, and that had cost her her life. Katherine and Mark, along with the rest of us, had decided the kids would be allowed to go out only under adult supervision and close to the house.
In other news, Bella and I were now First Godparents to Abraham, Carlisle and Esme to Lucy, and Alice and Jasper to Ewan. Rosalie and Emmett were already Godparents to Nessie, and had politely backed out to let the rest of us to take the field.
Abraham’s second Godparent was Leah, who had formed an instant bond with the boy. Seth was only too delighted to have Ewan, and so was Jacob when he got Lucy.
Bella and I had still to divulge our intentions to the family. Surprisingly, it had been Bella who had opted for letting the matter stay under the rug for some time. She wanted to help Katherine and Mark with their kids (getting in practice for the second time, she’d said) and besides, she also knew it was important to talk to Nessie about how she would feel if she had a new brother. No matter how many years you put between siblings, the older one still feels jealous.
Nessie was used to being doted on, on being the only child in the family. Lately, though, she had been feeling left out, because someone other than her was the cynosure now.
I sit on the chair on my back porch, enjoying a rare, cloud-free sunset from the safety of my cottage. The green leaves are starting to acquire just the tiniest bit of brown in their hue, and I can smell the traces of rain that had barreled its way down last night. I love the smell of rain: musky, wet and fresh. It feels like waking up after a long, dreamless slumber, or maybe learning to see the world all over again. I know this sunset won’t last long, so I settle down more comfortably in my chair and feel the clairvoyant breeze ruffle my hair: wind that is speaking of the coming showers.
I have only just begun reading my novel when I hear the front door slam. In the next moment, there is a small whoosh and Nessie appears next to me, huffing. She is carrying her box which contains her favorite movies, and I remember that this evening is supposed to be her “Movie evening” with the girls. She puts the box down on the floor with a little too much force, and the contents inside rattle.
“Hi,” I say cheerfully, and she glares at me.
“Okay. You don’t want to talk.” I nod.
She sighs dolefully, and resorts to tapping her foot against the wooden patio. And just like that I know that my evening will be anything but quiet.
“If you’re not going to talk, then I request you to please stop tapping your foot. It’s interrupting my thoughts,” I say to her.
“Of course, everything I do interrupts someone,” she huffs. “Let me guess, you’re thinking about the triplets and their rooms, which everyone is thinking about too much, I might add.”
“No. Not really. You know that’s Alice’s job.” I shrug, having gotten an idea which way the conversation would go. “Speaking of which, why are you here? Aren’t Tuesdays your ‘Movie Evenings’?”
“They would be if anyone is interested.” Nessie makes a face. “I swear, Katherine’s kids are testing my patience. They ruined everything the moment they were born! All everyone ever talks about is how cute Abe is, or how loud Ewan shouts, and how much Lucy poops! How the hell are these things interesting?!”
Ah, the Older Child Syndrome. I am pleased that I was right.
“Well, they’re babies, Nessie. You know they’re born with a degree in the Imperius Curse: One look and people are ready to bow before them. They can’t help it.” I look at her from the corner of my eye, and find that I am nowhere close to finding the solution to her problem than I was fifteen minutes ago. Now, out of Katherine’s mental boundaries, I can see her thoughts as clear as day, and there is no mistaking that she is despising the fact that our family is paying more attention to the babies of ‘complete strangers’ (her words, not mine) than to her.
A sharp fear courses through me as I take in the picture her mind is painting. What if she behaves that way when we tell her what we’re planning? What of she hates her own brother when he comes? Will she think of him as a ‘complete stranger’? Will she have a hard time accepting our decision?
“It’s just natural, Nessie. They’re little. They’re like tiny, little . . . baby cicadas who have to be fed little worms by their elders.” I try to smile at her, but I can see the very famous “Duh” expression clearly.
“I don’t have any problem with them. They’re . . . they’re cute,” Renesmee sighs in defeat. “Katherine’s right. They’re little baby bears. It’s just . . . nobody ever pays attention to me anymore. I know that’s childish, but . . . I feel very lonely, Daddy.”
Uh-oh. Nessie used her name for me. She almost always calls me Dad. Daddy is a name that is saved for crises.
“Come here, honey.” I pull her into my lap, and she hides her face in the crook of my neck, all the while sighing mournfully.
“I just want someone to talk to, you know. Jacob and Seth are always playing with Abe, and Aunts Alice and Rosalie can’t take enough photos or come up with enough ideas. Even Mom blew me off today because she had to go into town to get things for them.”
I cringe internally at the way she says her last sentence, about Bella “blowing her off.” I am sure she must have had a good reason, but how would Nessie know that?
“It’s okay, honey. This too shall pass,” I chuckle. “They’ll grow up. And everything will be back to normal. But you might want to be prepared, hon.”
Nessie gives me a confused look, and I continue. “When Abraham, Ewan and Lucy grow up, you will be the one they’ll look up to. You’ll be their elder sister. You’ll have to set an example to them. An elder sibling is similar to a parent, Ness. Do you see how Sam and Emily’s daughter, Jackie, hangs on to your every word? So will be the case with them. You’ll be their teacher. You’ll have fun with them, because Lord knows what antics they’ll come up with.”
Nessie chuckles in my arms, “Uncle Emmett and Jacob are making a bucket list. They want to take Ewan to a strip club as soon as he turns eighteen.”
“Oh, we know he’ll do that.” I laugh, and Ness laughs with me.
“Ew, only Emmett can come up with a wish like that.” I heard Bella’s voice behind me as I was finishing with the incident, and I knew she had read the last sentence.
“Hey, you.” She came closer and leaned in for a kiss, which I gladly returned. “I hope you didn’t go to a strip club for your Bachelor Party.”
“There will be no comment on that.” I pretended to purse my lips, and Bella narrowed her eyes, which made me laugh.
“How was shopping, dear?” I asked her, finally closing my diary and making a mental note to finish the entry later.
“Oh, great!” Bella beamed. “The cribs are just perfect, Edward, although the sales lady gave us a weird look when we told her we wanted wrought iron cribs and not the wooden ones.”
I nodded at her. “All done, then?”
“Yes,” Bella put a few bags on the counter, and I saw one of the labels that said “Victoria’s Secret”. My inner Edward smiled slyly: It seemed my wife had done some shopping of her own.
“Oh, news update!” Bella clicked her fingers, giving me a look which told me she knew exactly what I was thinking about. “Alistair called. He’s coming here.”
“Is he now?” I couldn’t help the sarcasm in my voice. “Well, it seems that he doesn’t have a problem with hybrids. It’s just our daughter.”
Bella put the pan on the stove and started the chicken for Nessie’s dinner. “I know, Edward, that’s what I thought. Carlisle said it was okay, but it didn’t look like he felt it. He abandoned Carlisle . . . us . . . when we needed him most.”
“Why is he coming now?” I fiddled with an apple in the basket.
“For Mark and Katherine. He wants to see the kids. Apparently him and Mark are like brothers so . . .” Bella trailed off, but I could sense the contempt in her voice.
“Anyways,” I sighed, “I just wanted to remind you that Nessie has been feeling out of sorts lately.”
Bella stopped stirring the gravy. “Why, what happened? Did someone say something?”
“Bella, relax,” I placated her, “It’s nothing serious. She’s been feeling down because everyone is a little too much invested in the new ones.”
“What?” Bella breathed a sigh of relief. “That’s ridiculous, Edward! She knows they’re just babies!”
“You think I didn’t tell her that? But she needs attention too, you know. She’s our only child. She was kind of miffed when you went away for shopping with Esme. Tonight’s “Movie Night”, did you forget?” I raised an eyebrow, and Bella stopped all action at once.
“Oh my God.” She gave me a horrified look. “Edward, I completely forgot! Oh no, I am a horrible mother! I blew off my only child!” Bella flopped down onto the stool with her head in her hands, and my work began.
“You know”—I went around and took her in my arms—“the females in my family have a proclivity for over-reacting. I’m sure it’s fine, love. I handled it. Just be a little more present around her. Everybody is playing with Buzz Lightyear; nobody is paying attention to Woody.”
“You did not just compare her situation to Toy Story.” Bella grimaced at me. “I feel so bad, Edward. I’ll make it up to her, I promise.”
“Don’t say that to me. Say it to her.”
Bella sighed and nodded, then got up, turned off the stove and threw the gravy in the dustbin.
“I’m gonna make a cake for her, and we’ll have our movie night here: just the two of us. You might want to find a place to spend the night.”
“That’s not fair!” I groaned. “I get some privileges! I’m the messenger; I made you aware of the situation.”
“And I acted on your advice. What more do you want?” Bella gave a look, and I knew I would have to spend the night in the main house. Damn it, there went my personal Victoria’s Secret Show!
I grumbled while she cooked, and after some time, I remembered something very essential.
“You know we should probably tell her about our plans.” I took to fiddling with the apple again. “That she’s going to have a brother soon.”
Bella paused a little while kneading the dough. “You’re right, we should. Maybe when the hype about the new babies has cooled off a little. I mean. She’s already pissed off about being ignored. She won’t like knowing that it might not let up any time in the near future.”
“Yeah,” I nodded. “Have you thought about anything else, though? How we’re going to get a baby, that is?”
Bella put away the dough and washed her hands, all the while ruminating over something. Finally, she wiped them twice with a clean cloth and put it away, and took the seat across from me.
“I have been thinking about it. I thought . . . I thought maybe we could talk to Nahuel, you know? Didn’t he say that his father created a lot of vampire-human hybrids?”
I nodded. “Yes, he did. But Bella”—my voice made her look into my eyes—“we have to consider the possibility that getting a hybrid may not be easy. They’re not that common.”
Bella gave me a pained look, and then shook her head, sighing helplessly. “I know, Edward . . . ” There was a pause, during which she kept staring at an invisible bug on the counter. “What was I thinking? I should have considered everything!”
“Hey, Bella.” I stopped her. “I am not saying it’s impossible. I am just saying it might be hard. We might have to wait. I mean, it’s not everyday vampires go around impregnating human women.”
Bella stared at me thoughtfully for some time, and when she spoke, her voice was feeble.
“What about . . . a human baby?”
I don’t know what my expression said, but it was enough to have her backtracking her words.
“Bella, listen to me. A human baby can risk exposure. You know what happened with Irina. She made a tiny mistake, and she had to pay for it. We keep moving every four years, and it’s hard enough to avoid others of our kind. We can’t expect someone to keep quiet if we run into them. The Volturi are very strict about exposure, and here we will be, bringing up a human child in a house full of vampires. They won’t leave without blood if they come again.”
Bella gasped at my crass explanation of the situation, and I looked at her remorsefully. I knew how badly she wanted to be a mother again, but these were some prospects that we just could not ignore.
“Okay, let’s try this. We let this stay for a while. We refrain from telling anyone about this. And in the meantime, I’ll contact Nahuel. I’ll ask him about all this. And if we have a chance, we can tell the family once everything’s finalized. How’s that?”
Bella looked disputed, but I saw the comprehension underneath her expression. “Yeah, that sounds right. We let it stay.”
“Yes,” I nodded firmly, “we let it stay.”
She looked conflicted but acquiesced nonetheless. “Okay.”
I knew that was not enough, so I engulfed her in my arms. “Bella”—I buried my head in the crook of her neck—“I want to be a father just as badly as you want to be a mother. I promise, I’ll try everything, okay? We’ll just have to be patient.”
She sighed and leaned into my touch. “Patience.”
“Patience.” I said, because I knew we would need that in the coming days.
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The human heart is a wonderful, beautiful thing. To think that something roughly the size of your fist can power you, your body, your mind, that a simple pumping movement—back and forth and back and forth—is what makes you do what you do, makes your blood course through your body. To think that this heart is sometimes, most of the times, not your own, but intertwined with another, like the roots of a climber just refusing to let go.
I think the heart is at its most vulnerable and most beautiful just before it stops beating. It has a special significance, even for creatures like us.
The last beats of a heart—the very last bits of it—define who you are. It governs everything you did and didn’t do. Those last beats make up the threshold of a new life, a greater one, with a greater power. Whether that life would be peaceful, or restless, you will know in those last bits. There is nothing you can do to stop them. It’s inevitable.
They’re especially significant to us.
Ask vampires what they remember most about their previous life: it won’t be their family, or friends—simply because there’s nothing left in moping over people gone and forgotten—or even their favorite things. It would be that acute pain, that inferno inside their body while they were “crossing over”, so to speak. And they would remember the sound of their heart—the erratic, fluttering sound it makes just before it goes out, for better or for worse.
There’s nothing that can be done now: no mistakes can be corrected, no debts can be paid, none can be taken, no taxes can be levied, no punishments to suffer, no forgiveness to seek. There’s just you and the afterlife, which you hope to fill with another, some day or the other. It’s well and good if you find them. Otherwise, you wait, and when you do, your heart becomes foreign again.
Yes, hearts are beautiful.
Even when they stop beating.
The low, baritone flutter of Katherine’s heart sounded through the house. Once, twice, thrice . . . and then, silence.
Bella clutched my hand, and waited with a deep breath.
Only Carlisle, Mark, Bella and I were in the library right now, where Katherine lay in front of us, sewn up and undead, as of now.
We were all prepared now: this was our territory. Katherine was not to be let near the babies until she had hunted, which Carlisle and Mark were going to take care of.
Slowly, in a movement that would surely have been missed by human eyes, Katherine’s finger moved, and then she opened her crimson eyes.
She blinked rapidly to adjust to the detail, and then groaned, “God, my throat.”
“It’s thirst, Katherine. We’re going to take care of that soon.” Carlisle touched her hand. “Can you sit up?”
She narrowed her eyes at Carlisle, and then shook her head, sitting up way too fast.
“Right here.” Mark stepped toward her, attempting to hug her, but she stopped him.
“You stay away from me. You and I never having sex again.”
Bella stifled a laugh, and even Carlisle turned away to hide his smirk. I remembered Bella’s reaction to me when she’d first changed. Now that had been something.
Mark, on the other hand, looked dumbfounded. “I didn’t—what—never mind.”
“How are you feeling, Katherine?” Carlisle asked her earnestly, and she frowned.
“Um . . . a . . . overwhelmed. I mean . . . you all look very clear, and . . . white. And what is that sound?! It’s pissing me off!”
Katherine was talking about the sound of the microwave that Jacob was using to warm up his pizza.
“Katherine, it’s okay,” I spoke up. “It’s just the microwave.”
“Okay, I think that we should take her hunting before we go any further with this. Just to be safe.” Mark suggested with a little apprehension.
“Wait, what . . . what about my babies? Where are they? Are they okay? Are they safe? Who’s looking after them? Did they cry? Are they hungry?” Katherine suddenly remembered her children and started rattling off a string of questions.
“They’re okay, Katherine. They’re good.” Bella smiled at her. “They’re in the basement right now. Everyone’s with them.”
“Well, I want to see them. I want to see my babies.” Katherine moved toward the door but we stopped her.
“No, wait, Katherine,” Bella stopped her. “You can’t see them right now. You’re a newborn, and you’re thirsty. You should feed first.”
“What are you talking about? I am not going to hurt my kids!”
“I know, but just to be safe. They’re half-human, Katherine. We need to be cautions, please, understand.” Bella tried to placate Katherine, and it seemed to work when she backed away from the door.
“They have blood in their veins, Katherine. You don’t want to hurt them.” Mark came up to her, coaxing her towards the window of the library, and she complied and nodded.
It took Katherine all of a few seconds to jump out of the window and race through the forest with Carlisle and Mark, all the while complaining about the heels she had been put in (Alice). In a few moments, she had disappeared from our sight.
“That went well, right?” Bella sighed as took my hand in hers.
“Yeah, I think so.” I nodded, and we walked out of the library.
“So . . . ,” Bella grinned as we hit the stairs, “You said yes . . . what changed your mind?”
I beamed at her, now almost bursting with joy at the prospect of being a father again, though we’d not told the family yet. “You. I might not have faith in me, but I believe in you. And I didn’t change my mind; I just made it up.”
“True,” Bella nodded, “but you didn’t need to doubt yourself, Edward. I knew—know—you can do it. I never had any less faith in you than I do.”
I felt elated at her words. “Thank you, but . . . the fear is there, Bella. I am allowed to be a little bit scared.”
She grinned wide, not letting her euphoria get spoiled by my the seeds of my uncertainty. “True. But we’ll do it. You just wait and see.”
“I guess.” I wrapped my arms around her, and kissed her hair. We had some work to do now. If we had to adopt, it would have to be a hybrid like Nessie. I didn’t know how we were going to go about it, but I had confidence.
My phone rang in the next instant, and I picked it out of my pocket to see a number I did not recognize.
“Uh… is this Edward Cullen?” A voice spoke from the other end.
“Yeah, who’s this?”
“Edward, hello. It’s Alistair.”
My eyebrows shot to my hairline.
“Alistair?” I looked at Bella, who shrugged and looked equally surprised.
“Yeah, uh . . . how are you? And Carlisle?”
“We’re good, great. How are you?” It seemed like a good thing to say.
“I’m good, yes. I . . . I tried calling Mark, but he isn’t answering his phone. Is he nearby?” Alistair sounded more than flustered, and a bit awkward.
So that was the reason he had called. I vaguely remembered Mark telling me that Alistair had been the one to tell him about us.
“I’m sorry, Alistair. He and Katherine went out to hunt about ten minutes ago.”
“Oh, that’s okay. So . . . it’s happened? She’s been changed?”
“Yes. She woke up about half an hour ago.”
“Good, good, that’s splendid. Um . . . can you tell them to call me when they get back?”
Was it just me, or did Alistair seem out of his element today?
“Yes, I will. I’ll tell them.” I nodded, and Bella nudged me, raising her eyebrows. I shrugged at her.
“Okay, thank you. Uh, well, how are . . . how are the babies? Katherine’s babies? How are they?”
Really, couldn’t he bring himself to care when it was my daughter? I suddenly heard Bella’s voice inside my head, and my head whipped towards her in alarm and surprise. It must mean that Katherine and Mark must have gone beyond two miles.
What are you . . . I mouthed, and Bella looked amusingly alarmed.
You can hear me? She asked.
I nodded, and suddenly, Alistair’s voice filled my ears again. “Edward? Are you still there? How are the babies?”
“Oh, Alistair sorry, I got distracted. The babies? Yes, they’re good. Very cute, actually. They . . . they have two boys and a girl. The elder one looks like Mark.” I smiled into the phone.
“That’s good, that’s good. And the other two?”
“They’re good as well, yes. The girl looks like Katherine. The middle one is a little rowdy, though.” I laughed.
“Oh, I know who he gets that from,” he laughed. “Well, I should get going. Can you do me a favor? Can you please tell Mark to call me when he gets back?”
“Yeah, sure. Why not?” I nodded.
“Okay, then. Thank you. So, goodbye,” he said, and hung up almost immediately.
I stared at the phone for a little while, wondering whether what had just happened had really happened.
“Was that as weird for you as it was for me?” Bella raised a befuddled eyebrow.
“Uh . . . I think so.” I shrugged.
Even though Carlisle and Esme had never held Alistair’s untimely departure from four years ago against him, I still had trouble not judging him. I know that we couldn’t have won every heart out there, but I did think he could have stood behind Carlisle for the sake of his friendship. Carlisle had assured me time and again that he had acted out of desperation and self preservation, but Carlisle always been a saint. He never held anything against anyone.
To say that Alistair’s present actions were somewhat hypocritical was an understatement. I wondered what Carlisle would have to say about this.
“Well,” I sighed, shaking my head, “let’s see what happens. Come on, you want to go see the babies?”
Bella smiled at me, and we both proceeded to the basement.
Her shield was down, and I could see she was reminiscing her time with Renesmee.
“Do you remember when Nessie got the pox?” She chuckled quietly.
“Who doesn’t? I never want to go through that again.” I shuddered internally. Hopefully, I wouldn’t have a repeat of that episode with our son.
My steps faltered as I realized what I had just thought of. I could almost see it in front of my eyes. I could see myself holding a small, warm body in my arms, laughing at it as it whimpered, fidgeted and squirmed; or bathing it at night and tucking it into bed; playing ball with him and my brothers. I couldn’t exactly see his face, but the scene itself was so tangible, so real—dancing in front of my eyes—that I could almost feel itself come to life. I could see it come to fruitfulness.
I could see myself as a father, a dad, a coach, a dude, all over again.
I can too. Alice smiled softly at my thoughts. Damn, nothing ever escaped the pixie.
I wanted to plead with her not to let the secret out, but she beat me to it.
I wouldn’t, Edward. You two should do it together. And congratulations, by the way. I’m going to be an aunt again!
Oh, boy. I could almost see her dancing.
“Edward? You’re not paying attention.” Bella frowned.
“Sorry, love. Just got distracted by Alice.” I smiled.
The entire family was enjoying the show when we reached the basement. Ed and Edd (I really prayed Katherine would name them soon: it was getting very tedious to address the kids with their given names) had been put together in a crib, and they seem hell bent on kicking each other out. More than once we had thought the crib would collapse from their antics. But when we had tried to separate them, they had screamed so loud we had thought the house would come down.
Eddy was still being kept in the incubator, but she was getting stronger and stronger each day. Her eyes had fully opened a few hours ago, and although she looked just over a month and a half old, she was strong and sustaining. Carlisle planned on taking her out of it any moment now.
Alice and Rosalie were practically bouncing as Edd rolled over in his crib, and Jasper now had Ed in his arms as he sang a fifties war anthem.
I watched him carefully, tracing every move of his hands and every crinkle on his face. And I watched Ed, staring at Jasper as if he were Santa Claus.
In my mind, the picture was a little modified. The man with the baby was a little taller, leaner, and had bronze hair and high cheekbones. I couldn’t see the baby, but I could hear his gurgles nonetheless. My heart soared high.
I heard the back door slide open, and a moment later Carlisle stepped in, followed by Mark and Katherine. I guessed they’d had their talk outside. Katherine’s dress looked fairly clean, so I knew she’d done well for a first timer. Her eyes had already started to look a little orange. I noticed the din inside my head had died out, and I wondered if her power had changed in any way.
The room fell quiet as everyone waited with baited breath for her to meet her kids. I stole a cursory glance towards Ed and Edd, who had sensed the change in the atmosphere and were now staring at the newcomer with wide, cerulean, fascinated eyes. They had been put back in the crib.
Whatever uneasiness Katherine had felt under our gaze melted away as her eyes fell on her toddlers, who looked pretty amusing as they stared at her with their heads poking out from between the bars of the crib.
The gasp that left her lips was audible to every one of us. Her face broke out in a smile as bright as the sun as she looked at Mark, as if for confirmation.
There were unwashed, glassy tears in her eyes as she walked up to the crib slowly, measuring each and every step, testing herself to see if it was safe. Her boys were now staring at her blatantly, with their little baby mouths hanging open.
“Oh, dear,” she whispered, as she held out her hands to pick them up, and they were both all too willing to comply.
Ed and Edd both laughed out loud, and busied themselves in her hair, while Katherine just choked from emotions and unbridled happiness. She cooed and ‘ah’-ed to them, and soon, we all had matching grins. Then she realized that the party was not yet complete.
“Where’s my—” she started to say, and the smile faded from her lips as she took in the incubator, where Eddy lay, staring at her mother with blank eyes.
“Mark, why . . . why is she in that thing? Is something wrong? Did something happen to her?”
I stepped in before she could panic anymore. “Katherine, it’s okay. She was a little weak when she was born, but she’s all right now. In fact”—I looked at Carlisle, who was all but ready to open the plastic box— “Carlisle can take her out right now.”
She seemed placated at my explanation, and handed her boys to Mark. “Can you take her out?”
“Of course,” Carlisle said with a nod. “I told you one of the children could be weak, didn’t I? Well, I was right. It was her. She had a little trouble breathing, but it was nothing I couldn’t handle. Here.”
Carlisle handed Eddy to Katherine in a manner as gentle as possible, and the latter looked a little shocked at the difference between her boys and this one.
“Why does she . . . I mean, they look so big. She . . . she looks tiny,” she whispered.
“Same reason, Katherine. She’s a little more human than her brothers. So, you can expect her to grow a little slower. That’s why,” Carlisle answered.
“Will they grow just as fast?” Mark voiced from beside her. In his arms, Ed and Eddy were raising havoc, squirming and pulling his hair.
“No. It will slow down as time goes. They would mature in about seven years, just like Nessie. I’m guessing the time frame would be longer for your daughter, though.”
“I can’t exactly say. It can be a year or two more than theirs. But they’ll stop aging once they mature.”
Katherine nodded once her queries had been satisfied, and returned to doting on her children.
“They’re so cute, right?” Alice fanned herself.
Katherine laughed and then melted into a puddle of mush. “Aw, they look like little baby bears.”
My eyes met Jasper’s in that moment, and we had the same question.
“What are you naming them?” Rosalie grinned at Katherine’s analogy.
“Oh yay! Okay, let me see . . .” Katherine handed Eddy to Alice and looked at Ed (the eldest). “Mark? It’s your turn.”
“I like Abraham.” Mark grinned at her, and she rolled her eyes. “Middle name?”
“I like Severus Ian.” She smiled wickedly.
“Really? Harry potter?” He grumbled, and we all laughed. I knew she was going to do something like that.
“Okay, now the next—” Katherine started to say but Emmett stopped her.
He rushed out of the door, and we heard some shuffling upstairs. In the next moment, ‘Circle of Life’ began to blare through the speakers that had been fitted inside the house.
“Oh, for Christ’s sake!” Jacob rolled his eyes.
Emmett came in then, and I kid you not, he actually had a little flower crown on his head, and in his hand was a tray that held three little ones.
“Does he actually have a crown on his head?” Seth’s eyes bugged out, while everyone laughed.
“Have you been rehearsing this?” Carlisle asked through his giggles.
Emmett didn’t say anything. He placed the tray on a side table, picked up a crown and placed it on Ed’s head. Then taking him from Mark’s arms, he walked towards the center of the room, and suddenly every thing went dark.
And a spotlight came on, trained directly on Ed, now Abraham, I guess.
All that was needed now was a cliff.
Emmett held the boy up like the monkey from Lion King, and announced loudly, “Vampires and Werewolves, I present to thee, Abraham Severus Ian Wellington!”
And even though we thought it was stupid as hell, we all cheered and clapped. Jasper and Seth actually took a bow!
Katherine was grinning from ear to ear as she picked up her second child. “My turn. I want to call him Ewan. Middle name?”
Oh, now I understood. They were taking turns naming their babies. One would pick the first whereas the other one would pick the last name.
These two had to be the weirdest parents in the world.
“I like Zeus Ethan.” Mark shrugged, and Katherine glared at him. Ah, I remember the fight that had ensued over this. Apparently, Mark had planned on taking an undue advantage from early on.
“I would have killed you if that had been his first name,” she mumbled.
Emmett proceeded to take Ewan from her hands, and held him up. “Vampires and Werewolves, I give thee, Ewan Zeus Ethan Wellington!”
We cheered once again, and this time, I felt Bella wrap her arms around me. I felt like kissing her, but we had one more to go.
Mark and Katherine looked at their daughter and looked at each other.
“Beatrice,” they said together, and Esme squealed.
“Middle name?” Mark asked her.
“Can we keep two?” She smiled at her husband, and as always he complied, “Cordelia Lucienne.”
Yep, Eddy was going to hate her name.
Before Emmett could do anything, Mark had Beatrice out of Katherine’s hands and up in the spotlight. “Friends and Family, I give thee, Beatrice Cordelia Lucienne Wellington!”
“Hey! That was my part!” Emmett protested, but his voice was lost in the cheer that followed. Even Leah was smiling and clapping as the lights came back on and the babies were passed around.
Confetti and crepe was brought out immediately, and Emmett went all out in decorating himself as King Julienne from Madagascar. Even Jasper was wearing one of those Hula Hoops made of leaves and flowers.
While the family celebrated, I felt Bella lean into me. Her eyes radiated anticipation and joy, and love: so much unadulterated immense love. She looked positively glowing, and I imagined, for an instant that she was pregnant: that the smile on her face was was the radiance of expectation and wait of the arrival of a new member.
That’s when I knew that we could do this. All my doubts, fears, worries, insecurities were dispelled. The abstract scenes in my mind took a concrete form, and happiness shot through my very core.
Suddenly, I couldn’t wait to be a father.
So, what do you think? Tell me!
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Okay, Before I go, a mention to all those people who suggested names: Thank you Reahlyn Kaong Baay (Ethan), Madelaine Ballard (Ian), Olga Pinsky (Zeus, I decided to keep it after all! :D), Dana Sheridan (Abraham and Cordelia), Lucy Treharne (She suggested Lucy, and I asked her I could modify it to make it regal), Brenda Glenn (Beatrice and Ewan) and Sophie (Severus)! To all those who suggested, sorry I couldn’t select your names! They were all too good, and I had a really hard time! But don’t worry, there is still Edward and Bella’s boy! I love you all so much!
And I think that maybe now is the time to tell you what Mark and Katherine look like.. :
Okay, so that’s Mark. You knew he looked like Tom Hanks so that’s that. I went with this one because this one makes him look closest to a vampire.
This is Katherine. Those who have watched Angels and Demons will recognized. She is an actress and her name is Ayelet Zurer. She’s beautiful by the way!
And HOW CUTE ARE BABY BEARS?!!
I can never forget the time when I was going through it: the change.
It had felt like nothing else, like a sword slicing through my skin again and again till it had drained and pierced me from head to toe. A fire had raged in my blood, in my head and under my skin, and it had been depressing to know that it only seemed to accelerate.
Screaming did no good.
More than anything, it tired you out. And that was not effective, because if your hands went loose, you could not grip anything to soothe the effect of the pain, and then it felt more than deadly.
Katherine was doing exactly that: I could hear her in the library upstairs. It had been about thirty-six hours since it had started, and there were some more to pass.
Carlisle was giving her morphine in doses that had to be unhealthy, but the venom was burning it off too quickly for it to actually do anything.
Mark went ballistic when Katherine finally started screaming, but had calmed down once he accepted that doing something else was not possible. Now, he was sticking to her side, trying to somehow make her listen to him through the pain. I knew it would be insignificant: she was in too much agony to notice anything else right now.
I watched the blood color the water red as it mixed with the latter and ran down the drain. I felt proud of myself, really. If this had happened a few years ago, I was sure I would not have been able to control myself. Today, I had not only helped Carlisle deliver Katherine’s children, but had also sewed her up while Carlisle had worked on the little ones.
After changing my blood-soaked shirt, and taking a quick bath, I started for the basement. We were keeping the babies away from Katherine’s screaming for now.
Everyone in the family was there when I entered, hovering over the little musketeers. I saw Bella and Esme with the eldest (Ed, who had been the first to come out) while Leah and Rosalie were fawning over the middle one (Edd). Seth, Jacob and Nessie were crooning to the little girl (Eddy, and cue eye roll), who had been, for the time being, kept in the incubator.
It turns out, Carlisle’s theory had been right. He had predicted that one of the babies might not get enough nutrition inside Katherine’s little frame, so it could be a little weak.
Katherine’s little girl was more human than her brothers. In just a matter of two days, where her brothers had grown to the sizes of three months old, she looked like a little newborn, just over a few weeks. She couldn’t yet open her eyes entirely, but I could tell they were her mothers’. She also had trouble breathing, so Carlisle set her up inside an incubator to provide her with a strong support system.
Don’t tell anyone I said this, but she looked like a small, hairless kitten, really.
“Hey.” I walked up to Bella, where she was cradling Ed, singing to him softly.
“Hi,” she whispered.
Ed, who had been staring intently at Bella all this time, now turned his gaze to me, and whimpered.
That was another thing I was amazed at: the bond between a child and its parents. Katherine’s kids were not big weepers, but even they knew that none of the people coddling them right now were their parents. Every time someone came in, they became anxious. Granted, they’d not taken a dislike to any of us in particular, but they’d also not accepted us wholly. The only time when they’d ever been really calm since being born was when Mark came in to see them.
He’d balked at the sight of his daughter until Carlisle assured him that there was no real danger to her. He then turned his attention to his two sons, who had watched him wide eyed and with intense fascination the entire time he sang to them. They recognized his voice from when they heard him in the womb, and they had naturally known that this man, Mark, was special.
“Hey man, how’re you doin’?” I asked Ed sweetly, and Bella smiled beside me.
“He’s been restless all morning. I think he’s waiting for Mark to come back.” She rocked Ed gently so he would quiet down a little. “How’s Katherine?”
“I don’t think it should be long now. We used a lot of venom to speed up her transformation.” I nodded, absently brushing Ed’s hair. He looked exactly like Mark: a little Tom Hanks.
Ed moved again, and made a little noise, and that elicited a response from Edd. I swear, those two had one track minds! It took only seconds for the latter to start wailing like he was being murdered. Oh yes, did I tell you? While Ed was calm and expressed his discomfort wordlessly, Edd was a lot more vocal about it. Hence, the wailing. He and Emmett were going to get along just fine.
“Esme, can you get Emmett for me? His clone just started crying,” Rosalie called out from her place beside Edd’s crib, and in the next second, Emmett bounded through the door.
“Where is he?!” He took one look at the boy and softened. “Oh, come on, you pansy! How are you ever going to get a girl if you start crying for Mommy the first thing in the morning? Girls don’t like douches. You’ll probably end up playing video games and drinking beer, and having dinner with sixteen cats!”
Imagine my horror when Edd sobered up at Emmett’s words: entirely Obi Wan Kenobi-d by him!
Lord help Katherine and Mark.
“What just happened?” Bella stared at the interaction between Emmett and Edd.
“What happened is that we need to keep Edd away from Emmett,” Alice whispered in terror, and I agreed.
“You’re going to turn him into you. Lord knows one is enough.” I shook my head, and Emmett grimaced at me.
“Don’t worry, Edd. They’re just jealous ’cause you’re the cool kid!” Emmett cuddled him, and for a moment, I thought he would melt like an ice cream under the sun.
Ed shuffled again in Bella’s arms, and she handed him to me. “Here, hold him. I need to get his bottle ready.”
We were giving the kids human blood as of now. The one time Carlisle tried to feed them animal blood had been disastrous. While Ed drank some and made weird noises, Edd had outright refused to put it to his lips. He had cried and cried until Esme gave me some O positive. Who knew babies had preferences?
Eddy was, for the time being, fed through an intravenous line. She couldn’t yet grip a bottle, and needed to be kept warm. So, Carlisle had suggested the method to keep her as healthy as possible.
I cradled Ed in my arms and cooed to him softly, watching as he kicked his arms and legs and tried to rid himself of the onesie we had put him in. His eyes were big and blue, almost translucent, and very probing. He was going to be an old, poetic soul, although a little stuck up maybe.
“Here.” Bella appeared by my side holding a bottle. I had been worried about how it would look if we were feeding a baby a red liquid instead of the usual milk, but Esme and Alice were smart enough to buy one of those opaque bottles that are covered with patterns.
“Wait, I’ll do it.” I sat down in the rocking chair in the corner of the room near the wall-sized window. That was an advantage with our “basement”. Instead of being under the ground, like every basement is, ours was on the ground floor. It was more like a room that we never used. The wall-sized window here opened directly towards the forest, providing a spectacular view of green and white. Ed liked being here.
I held him gently in my arms, checked the bottle’s temperature, and put it to his lips. Almost immediately, he stopped fidgeting and latched onto the bottle like his life depended on it, sucking relentlessly.
“Woah, slow down there, champ. There’s a lot more.” I chuckled and tried to get him to loosen his grip, but he just protested and held on even more tightly.
Bella knelt on the floor beside me, watching him intently and occasionally brushing his hair.
Her face was a euphonious symphony of wonder and love . . . and longing. There was immense passion and love in her eyes, and hidden underneath it was an almost painful sadness, engendered by the lack of one that could be her own. She looked at Ed with such fervor that I think she had forgotten momentarily our presence in the room.
And so, with my mind’s eye, I imagined what we must have looked like: me with Ed in my arms, feeding him, and Bella kneeling beside me, caressing him like one should caress a newborn.
Would it be as easy, having another baby? Would we be as good with him as we had been with Nessie? Would I mess up again, which was, I admit, the only thing I was worried about?
What if I disappoint my kid as a dad? What if I could never be a part of his life like he wanted me to be? What if I go back to being the same person I had been when Bella was in the initial stages of pregnancy?
My gaze turned to Bella, and I took in the joy that was so evident on her face as she watched the baby in my arms.
I should slap myself silly.
I chuckled silently as I realized how ignorant I had been. Not new with me, I know, but you would think I would have grown out of it by now.
The woman beside me was my answer all along.
I was a fool to have a doubted myself. No matter where I went, Bella would always bring me back: here . . . home. This wasn’t ground zero: she was. She was my start and my finish line.
In retrospect, all my worries looked insignificant now. How could I go astray when I had Bella? I might not be that much of a believer in myself, but I knew that Bella was. She always found ways, methods. I was a traveler, and she was my light. I was Dante, and she was my Beatrice.
No matter what I became, Bella would always make me human.
“Bella?” I asked softly.
“Hmm?” She didn’t look at me, busy with how Ed was now on the verge of dozing off, his bottle almost falling off.
“Yes.” There, I said it.
“Yes, what, Edward?”
I knew there were other people in the room, so I decided to be cryptic, but I knew she would understand.
“You asked me something . . . last night. Yes. Let’s do it.”
I smiled at her, and she looked up at me.
The shock and disbelief was dripping from her face, but so was her sheer happiness.
“Really? You . . . you’re agreeing?” she whispered.
“Yes.” There was no doubt in my voice. I was ready, and I knew that she was too, maybe more so than I.
“Oh . . . Oh Edward!” She hugged me, but it was more of an awkward embrace than a full fledged ‘I-love-you-more-than-love-itself’ kind of hug.
“I love you, Bella. It was only a matter of time. I’m ready,” I told her once she let me go, and I thought she would start crying at my words. Maybe she was . . . crying happy, frozen tears.
“Yes?” She grinned at me, her voice a little shaky, and my expression mirrored hers.
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This is a very heartfelt, personal, and sincere plea to you.
Please, please, for the sake of my sanity and my heart, do not provide us with any more excitement in our lives. A man can only take so much. Seriously, okay, just lay off for a while, you know? Chill out. Strike off the name ‘Cullen’ from your list of ‘People who need to keep working just because I want them to, and also because it’s fun to see them shit their pants.’
Please, I beg you.
You might be wondering why I resorted to such desperate measures such as writing letters to God in my diary. Well, folks, sit back and hear from the tip of my pen the tale of the birth of Ed, Edd, and Eddy (as Emmett has temporarily named them because Katherine’s kids, for the time being, are nameless. And yes, I said Katherine’s kids.)
Once upon a time, in a country far far away, nestled in the snowy, willowy laps of nature, was the sleepy town of Atlin. On the outskirts of this sleepy town of Atlin, cocooned in the depths of the forests that seemed to stretch on till the Doomsday, lay the house of The Cullens, who were, for the time being, having visitors in their home with desperate need for help.
That’s it: that’s all the old fashioned, twentieth century, fairy tale type of reading you’re going to get.
The morning after my fateful talk with Bella, I was walking back to the house, deep in thought.
I knew that she was right: we had done this before. So why was I feeling apprehensive about it?
Granted, I was somewhat delighted to know that my wife wanted another baby, and that she was willing to adopt, yet there was a nagging feeling in the back of my mind that was hindering me from taking the final steps. I could not make myself come forward and say that one word she so needed to hear.
Really, how hard was it? We had brought up Nessie, and I could proudly say we had done a spectacular job at that. Then, why?
“Yes, Bella, let’s have a baby.”
Six words. Six simple words.
Six hard words.
My musings were interrupted by the strangest sight I had seen in a long time.
From where I was standing, I saw my brothers, Jacob, Seth, Carlisle and Mark standing in a row—as if they were training for some military operation—and looking somewhere. As I took a few steps forward, a closer glance told me that they were all staring at something inside the house.
Curious, I walked up to the stairs on our back porch, and peered in, trying to see what was holding their attention.
Katherine was, as usual, sitting on the couch, but instead of laying back and caressing her belly like she always did, she was rocking back and forth, and with great effort too.
I watched as she waddled a little, then lay back against the couch for a minute, trying to catch her breath, and then rocked again, this time grunting a little.
“What is she trying to do?” The question came out on its own.
“Get off the couch,” Mark answered in a daze, his eyes fixated on his wife.
“She needs to pee.”
“So go help her.”
Even though we were talking about helping her, none of us actually made the effort to open the door and get Katherine off the couch. It should have made me feel like a douche bag really, especially when Rosalie came and held her arms so she could get up.
“You guys are such idiots,” I heard Esme grumble when she saw us outside the back door.
“Oh, like you were the one who took her to the bathroom,” Carlisle quipped, still watching Katherine disappear on the stairs.
“You know what? Stay out,” Esme grimaced, but before she could do anything to stop us, we were already in through the door.
Turns out, it was good that we did: the shuffling upstairs proved that.
“Okay, Rose, I’m good, help me up? Yeah, okay.”
“My God, you’re bigger than Bella was.”
“Well, I am car—”
A sickening crack resounded in the house in that instant. Now, it could have been anything, but we’d had too many experiences to prove that that was the sound a bone snapping in two.
“Carlisle!” Rosalie screeched in the next moment, and the sound of her voice was followed by another snap.
Carlisle took one look at me and I didn’t need telepathy to know what he was thinking.
In a millisecond, Carlisle, Mark and I were bursting through the bathroom door, where Rose was holding Katherine’s limp but alive body in her arms.
“Help me. Hurry!” she called out, and I shared the weight of Katherine’s body with her.
“Edward, I already have everything set up in the library. Follow me,” Carlisle ordered, holding the door open.
There was constant shouting in the background, but I was too rattled to know who, or what it was. It seemed like somebody was screaming, or maybe panicking.
Oh, right, Mark.
No sooner did we enter the library than we placed Katherine on the OR table in the middle. Carlisle was looking and sifting through injections and getting out packets of blood. Rosalie was ripping Katherine’s dress off of her, and I listened to her heart.
Weak, but consistent.
“Katherine?! Katherine! Can you hear me? Honey, please, open your—” Mark chanted over and over, while Rosalie tried to maneuver around him, but in vain.
“GOD DAMN IT, MARK! SHUT THE FUCK UP AND MOVE! I CAN’T WORK IF YOU’RE FUCKING HOVERING OVER HER LIKE A PIMP!” Leave it to Rosalie to work up a tantrum.
“SHE’S MY WIFE! WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU?!”
This was not going to end well.
“Mark!” I turned him around to face me. “Mark, we already discussed this. You’re not needed right now, okay? Just stand back and relax. Don’t freak out.”
“She started it!” Mark pointed to Rose who was no longer paying attention.
“She did. But you were getting in her way. Now move, let me work.” I made him stand back.
By this time, everyone in the family was here.
Katherine came to in the next moment, and the sounds she made were probably the sickest I had ever heard.
“Her spine has been damaged, Edward. She’s paralyzed from the waist down. The pelvic bone is crushed, but she shouldn’t feel it.” Carlisle was assessing the damage.
Katherine screamed as something moved inside her; I knew something moved because I saw it—the slight bulge pressing up against her belly.
“Katherine! Katherine! Look at me! Everything is going to be fine, okay?” I moved to her bedside and saw that was clutching the sheets in her fists. “Katherine, we’re going to take your babies out, okay? Just stay with us!”
“Ed . . . Oh, God! Edward, it hurts! Oh—” Another scream. “IT HURTS! I can’t . . . I can’t feel my legs, Edward!” There were tears streaming down Katherine’s cheeks, and her face was scrunched up in agony.
“I know, Katherine. The venom’s going to heal it. Just a little bit more, Kathie, a little bit.” I tried to soothe her, but only she knew the kind of pain she was in.
“MARK! MARK! I need . . . Oh GOD!” Katherine was now wailing, the upper half of her body flopping like a fish on sand. “Mark! I need . . . I need Mark!”
Mark didn’t need another call. He rushed to Katherine’s side and held her hand. “Katherine! I’m here, I’m here! It’s okay, it’s okay! It’s all right! I’m here!”
I moved from her side and saw that the morphine was ready, and so was Carlisle.
“Mark, it’s time,” I called out to him, and he paled.
“Now? She’s in so much pain! You can’t . . . it will kill her. No!” he protested. Katherine didn’t notice as she was too caught up in pain.
“Look at her, Mark! WE HAVE TO DO THIS NOW! THERE’S NO TIME, YOU HEAR ME? NO TIME! Just trust me, okay? Stay with her!”
The words came, surprisingly, from Carlisle.
Wow, he was in a whole new element today.
I didn’t get time to ponder over the realization, as Carlisle had signaled me to stand with him. Esme took her place beside me, as we had decided. Each of the three babies was going to be handed to three people, who were in charge of taking care of them while Carlisle and I worked on the damage. From the corner of my eye, I saw Bella take position beside Katherine. She had volunteered to stay and give Katherine moral support.
“Edward, be ready.” Carlisle looked at me one last time, and I nodded.
May the force be with us.
Have you ever, by mistake, touched a hot, searing pan? Or dipped your hand in acid? Or have had your toe run over by a car?
What am I doing? These are nothing compared to what I felt when I heard the snap.
I should have seen it coming. I had been feeling a little off since last night, and the babies, too, had been laying low. I was already the size of the Loch Ness Monster, so I knew it was only a matter of days before it happened.
What I hadn’t anticipated was the pain.
My talks with Bella had somewhat prepared me for what was to come, and I knew it was not going to be pretty. That’s why I had deliberately left out the gory details while recounting the tales to Mark. I knew when the time came, he would freak out, but I also knew that having him lose his mind later rather now would only be for our good. I needed Mark to stay with me through this.
The pressure had been uncomfortable, but I had persevered. The snapping however, had startled me. Something had moved in my lower back, I could feel it. Then, my legs had gone numb, but my blood had started racing. And before I knew it, I was moving towards the ground.
I heard someone scream out in the background, but I was too out of it to tell who it was. There was dizziness all around me, dragging me in to the deep corners of the abyss.
Mark. I needed Mark.
I felt the pain before I even opened my eyes: blinding, excruciating, searing pain in my body. There was a battle going on inside and outside of me. And I felt like I was being crushed under the weight of a mountain.
I wanted to scream, thrash, run: anything to escape this torture. Fear had set in. What if I died? Would Mark be able to live without me? Would I never see my babies? What if something had gone wrong?
Even in my agony induced, breathless, half dead state, I knew there was no pain in the world as potent as that: the pain of losing Mark, losing my kids.
If only I could move.
I felt cloth under me, and on my chest, but by the way the cold was settling on my body, I could tell that I was naked. How I could even discern anything was beyond my comprehension. Was that pressure on my chest?
“Katherine! Katherine! Look at me! Everything is going to be fine, okay?” I heard someone say through the bugles of the skirmish. “Katherine, we’re going to take your babies out, okay? Just stay with us!”
I realized, as another bolt of lightening struck me from within, that it was Edward. And it was all I could do to hold in, ““Ed . . . Oh God! Edward, it hurts! Oh—”
There was wetness on my cheeks, and near my shoulders: tears, I realized.
I was screaming, trying to get up from the bed, or whatever it was that I had been laid on, and cut open my body so the agony would end. I couldn’t however, move. I tried to leave, to clutch myself and keel over.
Then more pain.
Oh God, I was paralyzed.
So much pain.
“IT HURTS! I can’t . . . I can’t feel my legs, Edward!” I screamed out, hoping he would do something, hoping somebody would do something.
“I know, Katherine. The venom’s going to heal it. Just a little bit more, Kathie, a little bit.” I heard Edward’s voice.
Only one person called me that, and he wasn’t here.
Where was he?
“MARK! MARK! I need . . . Oh GOD!” I wailed for him. He could make it go away, he had done it before, “Mark! I need . . . I need Mark!”
I felt someone release the sheets from my hands, and take them in their own. I could recognized the texture of his hands anywhere, even if I was dying. His hand was cold, stony, and a little rough around the heels and the middle, where he’d sustained an injury in a battle fought many years ago. His fingers, and the tops of them, however, were soft . . . so soft.
That single gesture alone gave me the strength to open my eyes. And when I did, I was momentarily taken aback by the haze, the blurriness around me.
Then, like the eyes of a newborn adjusting to the view of the world, they found him. He was saying something, but I only heard part of it. “ . . . It’s okay, it’s okay! It’s all right! I’m here!”
“Mark . . . Mar—Oh God! Mark, it hurts! Please, please, help me!” I screamed at him, and he looked like he would go crazy.
“I know, honey, I know . . . Just a little bit more, okay? It’s gonna be over soon, I promise. I love you, I love you, okay? Just stay with me, okay?” He whispered to me, and I held on to his hand as another jolt rocked me from within.
“Mark! Oh, God . . . Make it go away . . . just . . . ah . . . do some . . . God!” I couldn’t even form a coherent sentence, but I knew he would listen. He would do something.
“I know, Katherine! I’m right here—Now? She’s in so much pain! You can’t . . . it will kill her. No!” I heard him growl.
What would? What would kill me, I wanted to know, but there was some more screaming, and them Mark was beside me again.
“Katherine, it’s time, okay? Just stay with me. Don’t you dare leave me again!” Mark urged, and I felt a second stony hand grasp me, but I was too much in agony to know who it was.
I wouldn’t. I couldn’t leave you, Mark.
I wanted to say, but the contraction swallowed my words in my scream.
And then I felt it: the tearing, the ripping, the hands holding me open.
I don’t know what happened after that. I could have been dead for all I cared. I knew I wanted to be.
I had never felt pain at such a paralyzing, blinding level. Every pore, every cell in my body was protesting my labored breaths. My lungs felt raw and torn and bruised from all the wailing I had done. My limbs felt like they would fall off, or maybe ripped from my body.
Through my hazy gaze, I saw a figure hovering over me, or was it two? I couldn’t tell. All the colors in my vision had merged to form a cacophony of discolored spots, like a masterpiece gone horribly wrong . . . blue, green . . . red.
My belly felt stretched, and I thought my nervous system would snap with all that was going around me. Mark . . . where was Mark? I couldn’t see him, but then again, I couldn’t see anything.
There was so much happening all at once, and I was so aware of it. I felt my heart pump, beat, try. Thump . . . thump . . . it was trying to slow down the relentless march of the blackness that was threatening to take me under. Was somebody holding me? What was this voice? I felt my lungs rise, and fall, and then rise again. Why was breathing so painful? I felt my teeth chatter, and then grit against each other. Were my ears ringing? What was that smell: must, metal and wetness?
Thump . . . thump . . . thump . . .
There was a lot of screaming in the next moment, a lot of movement. I saw the blobs run around with amazing speed. They were appearing and disappearing almost instantly. Had they taken them out? My babies? Were they here? Was it over? It didn’t feel like it was.
I felt tired, worn out . . . dead.
“Katherine?” Mark’s voice broke through the numbness, and I heard a mumbling but couldn’t make it out.
Thump . . . thump . . .
The rhythm of my heart was breaking. It felt like the staccato of the bullets of a rifle, only with the intermittent gaps stretched out to uncertainty.
Thump . . .
Thump . . .
I was going to die. I knew it. I just did.
At least the pain would be gone.
But I would lose him. I would lose him. I would lose my kids . . . I hadn’t even seen them. Oh God, the fear.
“Mar . . . Mark . . . th . . . kids . . . the kids,” I doled out with great effort, mustering every breath that I could. I felt weak, and done for.
“They’re safe. They’re beautiful. They’re just like you . . . we have two boys and a girl, honey. She looks exactly like you, our daughter. And I can tell the middle one is going to be a handful. You’ll see, Kathie, you’ll see,” he murmured softly, and I felt myself rising.
“Mark . . . I . . . I love you,” I whispered, and I felt his lips press to mine.
“I love you, too,” he whispered again. “They’re going to take care of you, okay?”
I couldn’t say anything. Was he wrong? Was I? What was happening?
“Katherine? Katherine? Can you hear me?”
Who was that? Carlisle?
“I’m going to change you now, okay?”
Again, I didn’t move, though I wanted to. My body felt hard again.
There was pressure again on various parts of my body . . . my legs, my chest, my wrist, my heart.
Before I knew it, I was burning again.
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“Edward, how do you feel about us having another baby?”
An important rule of Survival in the Marital World is to always come up with responses, and the right ones at that. Questions can be sprung at you at any instance, and you have to be prepared for them.
“Does this dress make me look fat?”
“Am I right?”
“I just don’t think we should do this, do you?”
“Are you lying to me?”
For five years—okay, four—I had trained myself to master the art of answering questions. Hell, I should have graduated from the University of Good Husbandry summa cum laude by now.
Well, there goes my degree.
“Edward, say something.” I heard Bella’s voice bring me out of my thoughts, and realized that I was rambling.
Yeah, not a great thing to do when your wife asks you questions that might potentially change your future.
“Bella . . . I . . . I don’t know what to say . . . ,” I choked out.
Truthfully, she had caught me by surprise. Bella and I had never even discussed the possibility of another child after Nessie.
Renesmee had been as unplanned as she could have been, but she’d fit right in. Bella and I had both molded ourselves into the role of parents almost overnight, incredulous though that might be. There had been birthdays, anniversaries, sicknesses, first dates: we’d lived through all of that, but never had the thought of another child crossed my mind.
“Well, you could start by telling me what you think?” Bella looked sheepish, and—I thought I might have dreamed it, but I wasn’t sure—a little scared.
“I . . . think that . . . I am thinking about where all this came from?” I chuckled nervously.
Bella frowned for a moment, and then sighed, breaking away from me and perching on the nearest boulder. “Truth be told, Edward, I’ve been been thinking about this for quite some time.”
Her statement raised more questions than answers, but before I could ask them, Bella started explaining on her own. “I know I told you, before we got married, that I didn’t ever see myself as having kids. I know I told you that we could adopt, that I could live without a child and whatnot. But then . . . I got Renesmee.” Her eyes closed and she sighed again, only this time she sounded torn and exhausted. “And it was the greatest feeling ever, Edward. It felt surreal knowing that there was a life being nourished in me, that I was creating a child: your child.
“I mean, the first time she moved, it felt . . . otherworldly. There was this . . . this small flutter inside me, like something churning over . . . again and again. I know I’ve told you time and again that I don’t think of myself as someone exceptionally beautiful, and that you disagree. But that was one of the times when I felt beautiful, Edward. I hadn’t needed any coaxing or prodding. Just the feel of her inside me felt . . . hauntingly beautiful and unreal.
“And . . . and it only got better as Renesmee grew: she is such a beautiful girl. It feels good to be a mother, even if it wasn’t in my plans earlier. I just . . . I wanted to feel that again: that flutter, that feeling of life in my arms, the joy of being a new mother. I want to feel it again.”
Her words should have calmed me, and filled me with immense joy. Yet, hearing Bella asking to be a mother again sunk my heart into the deep depths of a raging inferno, because we both knew that she could not ever again carry another child. Also, Bella’s words, when looked at from a new angle, meant something else entirely.
“Bella, you . . . you know that I would give you anything you ask . . . but, love . . . it sounds like . . . like you miss the feeling of being pregnant more than anything else.”
The expression in her eyes told me that she had been hoping I would not catch it, and that made my heart burn even more. How ironic was it that she would ask for the one thing that she could not have?
“I do.” She said quietly after some time. “I do miss being pregnant. I had never felt anything like it before that. Even if I was hurt beyond remembrance most of the time, I loved to share that bond with Renesmee inside me. I felt like she knew me, that she knew you, and every one else. I felt like she was excited to come out and meet us. I loved talking to her. I felt . . . fragile and strong at the same time. I wish . . .”
Bella trailed off, but I knew what she had meant to say. It was the one thing that I had hoped she wouldn’t ever wish for.
“You wish that you could be human again,” I stated in a flat voice.
“Not entirely, no. I don’t miss being human as I miss being pregnant. I wish I could be pregnant again.”
If her words should have relieved me, they didn’t. This was one day that I had never anticipated coming in our lives. Bella had never given me a hint regarding her wish, and now, it was too late for her to go back. It was too late for both of us.
“Bella . . . you know we can’t have that. We can’t go back,” I murmured, feeling defeated and low. “This is why I didn’t want to change you. You want to live again, and I can’t give it to you. This was the reason why.”
“Edward,” Bella’s voice rose an octave, “Did I say that I want to go back to being human?”
She hopped off from where she was sitting and walked up to me—I secretly noticed that we’d been apart all this time—and put her hands on my cheeks.
“I never once said that I regret being changed. I’ve never wished to go back. I am happier than I ever thought I would be, here, with you, Edward. Why would I want to change that?”
“Then why do you say such things, Bella? You know you cannot be pregnant again. Why do you—”
“I think this conversation went off into a very wrong direction, Edward.” Bella closed her eyes, sighed and opened them again, and this time, her eyes were smiling.
“Edward Cullen, I love you. You: not what you are, but who you are. And I never regret a day that we spend together. So, with all my heart, and my soul, I am asking you to consider the possibility of another child in our lives. There, happy?”
“I get that, Bella, but how?” I asked her.
“Simple, Edward! We adopt.” Bella smiled at me, and pulled towards where she had been sitting earlier.
My eyes widened at the idea. Adopt? Truthfully, I had never even considered the idea. I thought back to the night before our marriage, when Bella and I had been talking in her room, and she had said that she wasn’t averse to the idea of adopting a child. I hadn’t realized that would come up again in our married life.
“You want to adopt?” I asked from next to her.
“Why not, Edward? I know that I cannot get pregnant again, and I really want a child. I know you feel weird because I’m saying it like that, but, I do.”
To say that I was stunned would have been an understatement: it was hard for me to believe what Bella was saying, and for a moment, I wished that I could read her mind again.
“I bet you want to read my mind,” Bella chuckled.
“How did you know?” I frowned, but a smile graced my lips as I spoke.
“I know you, Edward Cullen. I can tell when you want something. I’ve seen that look many a times.” Did I get a hint of pride from her words?
“Do I know you?” I asked. “I mean, I do, but, this took me by surprise.”
“I was surprised too, I mean—when I realized it. I didn’t think I would ever want more kids. But what can you say? It just . . . happened.” She shrugged, and I realized, by the way she was talking about it, that she had given so much thought it was second nature to her. I felt a little . . . put off to be honest, partly because I wished I would have been kept in the know, but I also knew that Bella’s mind worked differently.
“So . . . you want this?” I looked at her from the corner of my eye to see her smiling. “You want a kid?”
“A baby. Yes.” She nodded.
“Are you sure? I mean, it’s a big responsibility, Bella. And it’s not just us; we have to think about the family, Nessie . . . the Volturi.”
“You sound like Charlie,” Bella laughed. “I know it’s a big responsibility, but it’s not like we haven’t done this before, is it?”
She was right. We had done this before, and spectacularly, if I might say so.
“So what? A human baby?” I asked, still a little bewildered at the idea, but adjusting to it.
“I thought about that for a while, yes. It’s just that Renesmee grew up so fast I didn’t even realize where the time went. I wanted to . . . like, slow down a bit this time.
“But then, there were a thousand factors to consider: I didn’t want the Volturi involved with us in any way again. And I thought about how the child would notice eventually that we don’t age. Plus, moving with a human kid every four years would be tedious, Edward, and we’re not exactly alone. I didn’t want to take any chances. What if somebody saw the baby with us, and went running to the Volturi. They would waste no time in coming here, and we wouldn’t even have any excuse.”
Did I mention how proud I am of my wife?
“So, no human baby?” I asked her, still a little bit doubtful.
There was no response from her for a while, and I thought she was thinking it over when she finally spoke. “You sound . . . apprehensive? I mean . . . do you think this is a bad idea?”
I was taken aback at her powers of perception, but then again, hiding secrets from Bella had never been easy. I had been hoping, though, that she wouldn’t notice this time.
“Not . . . apprehensive, no. You just . . . I’m just . . . surprised, I guess. I mean, you’ve had time to think about this. I haven’t. I can’t just sit here and decide from the throw of a die if we’re going to adopt a baby or not, you see.” I shrugged.
There wasn’t just one thing to consider here: there were thousands. We weren’t even a normal family to begin with. Adopting a human baby meant legal paperwork, visits from social workers, family backgrounds and whatnot, and I was sure that people didn’t go around getting pregnant with vampire babies. Right now, any angle from which I looked at it made us a liability for exposure, and we couldn’t afford that if we didn’t want the Volturi to rain down on us.
I didn’t want to hurt Bella in any way, and I really wasn’t averse to the idea of being a father again, but I wanted to look at the practical side of things before we made a decision. A baby would most certainly be a great step forward in our lives, but we had to make sure we were ready to take it up. Renesmee’s birth had been a surprise to us—a dangerous one indeed—and we wanted no repeats of that.
“I don’t want to hurt you, Bella. I mean, I’m neither saying that we never do this, nor forbidding you to think so. I am just . . . asking for more time. I want you to give me some time to think . . . about all this,” I said to Bella, all the while holding her close and stroking her hair.
She didn’t respond for some time, only looked at the tree in front of us and frowned, deep in thought.
“So . . . you’re saying you’re not totally against it?”
“Yes. I will think about it,” I said firmly.
“And maybe . . . when you’re ready . . . if you’re ready, we can have a baby.” She nodded.
“Yes. If we are ready, we can have a baby.”
She nodded again, and comprehension finally flickered on her face. “Okay. You’ll think about it. I can live with that.”
I should have known Bella would say something like that, but I couldn’t help but ask. “Really? You can? I mean, you’re not angry?”
She chuckled. “No. I understand that I sprung it on you so suddenly that you were taken aback. It’s okay if you need some time, Edward.”
I couldn’t control my smile at that. My Bella had always been prudent, there was no doubt about that.
“Okay then, shall we go home?” I smiled, and held out my hand for her to take, only to be glad when she did.
We walked in silence for some time after that, until we could see our cottage in the distance. Bella leaned against my shoulder and sighed, and I was happy to know that it was a sigh of content.
“Edward?” she asked softly after some time, “This time, can we get a boy? If we do get a baby, that is.”
I raised my eyebrow. “A boy? Any specific reason for that?”
“Nothing, just . . . I thought you might need some testosterone after all this time, someone you don’t have to play dress up with.” I could feel her smile.
“Oh, I remember that.” I laughed with her, remembering the many times when Renesmee had eventually got bored of her aunts and mother and had forced me to wear a yellow dress (with hideous red bows, I might add) and have a tea party with her.
“So . . . a boy?” Bella asked as we reached our front porch, and opened the door.
“A boy.” I smiled, stepped inside, and closed the door.
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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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