|What Child is This?
Author: SydneyAlice PM
Estranged from his family and the love of his life, Edward finds himself stranded in an airport on Christmas Eve. Imagine his surprise when a young boy takes him by the hand and shows him the way home. 1st place in the Under the Mistletoe Contest.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Supernatural - Edward & Bella - Words: 4,141 - Reviews: 449 - Favs: 871 - Follows: 185 - Updated: 12-26-10 - Published: 12-24-10 - Status: Complete - id: 6587223
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
AN: This story won 1st place in the Under the Mistletoe Contest. Thank you!
Thanks to sandyquill for the apple sauce.
LAX – Los Angeles International Airport
PSP – Playstation Portable
Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight. All respective characters belong to Stephenie Meyer.
What Child is This
LAX was full of aggravated travelers, eager to make it home on Christmas Eve. Stressed out airport workers had frantic expressions on their faces as they vainly attempted to please the stranded passengers. Angry men screamed, women cried, and even the kids were throwing tantrums as families lamented missing Christmas at Grandma's.
Me? I was just trying to get to Vancouver for a business meeting.
Christmas meant one thing to me – significant end-of-year profits. In times of recession, it also meant the end of the line for many struggling businesses. That's what I do. I swoop in, purchase dying companies for mere pennies, and sell them for a substantial profit. That's why I was headed to Canada. On the day after Christmas, I was scheduled to meet the CEO of a stagnant, yet potentially profitable, radio station.
It was just one of the many companies on Edward Cullen's Christmas list.
In spite of the driving rain, my flight was finally cleared for take-off, and I settled into my seat and fastened my seatbelt before glancing at my Blackberry to check my email. As the flight attendant droned about flotation devices, I checked the stock market, the weather in Vancouver, and my hotel accommodations. Yes, I had an assistant, but in the spirit of the holiday, I'd given her two weeks off, with pay, to spend with her family.
Despite my reputation, I wasn't a complete Scrooge. I understood that everyone wasn't like me. Some people actually enjoyed spending the holidays with family.
Not me. Not anymore.
It wasn't that I didn't love them. That was the problem. I loved them too much.
I loved her too much.
The flight attendant offered me a drink, and I swallowed it gratefully.
Ten years ago, I had been an eighteen year old with dreams of becoming a professional baseball player. Ten years ago, I was the popular jock and the life of the party. Ten years ago, I was the golden child of Dr. Carlisle and Esme Cullen.
Ten years ago, I was a boy in love.
I still am.
But life is full of highways, and some were just too long when trying to find your way home. In my case, some roads completely disappear when you detour too far off the path.
I leaned back and closed my eyes, trying desperately to ignore the image that flickered behind my eyelids each and every time I tried to sleep. She was ten years older now, too, but she always looked eighteen in my mind. She had long brown hair that flowed to her waist and brown doe eyes that gazed at me as if I was her dream come true.
I had been, until I ripped those dreams away.
My body reacted as it always did when I recalled how passionate and adventurous she had been. In my bed. In her bed. In the back of her father's patrol car.
She had been willing to try anything, as long as it was with me. She had trusted me. She had loved me…almost as much as I had loved her.
The knife twisted in my heart just a little more.
When she told me she was pregnant, I reacted like a typical jerk. At first, I denied the baby was mine, which was completely ridiculous because even her father knew we were having sex. When he showed up at my house with his rifle, he informed me that I would be marrying his daughter and taking care of my responsibilities.
There had been no question in my mind that I loved her. She was smart and fun and everything I could have wanted in a girlfriend…and someday, in a wife. It had been absolute love at first sight, and I had never looked at another girl again. No one could possibly compare. I belonged to her, and she belonged to me.
Edward loves Bella.
Bella loves Edward.
And we would love each other forever.
It was a simple, universal truth.
But I was young and scared, and as she moved into her third month of pregnancy, I became bitter. My parents told me that I would have to find a full-time job and forego college to take care of my family, and I was pissed that my dreams were slipping away.
With that bitterness, I said a lot of things to her that I shouldn't have said.
Hurtful words that I didn't mean.
Hateful words that made her cry.
Heartbreaking words that sent her to the hospital where she miscarried.
The doctor's told our parents that it wasn't my fault, but I didn't believe them. I could tell by the sadness and defeat in her eyes that she didn't believe them, either. Her brown eyes, once so bright with love for me, were now blank and cold, and I was ashamed. My father, who had been so proud of me, now looked at me as if I was a soulless monster.
We graduated one month later, and I packed everything I owned and fled to the nearest community college. I worked full-time while going to school and eventually transferred to UW to finish my degree in Business.
In the past decade, I had never returned to my hometown. Hell, I wouldn't even fly through the state if I could avoid it. Out of obligation to my mother, I had kept in contact with my family, but they never mentioned Bella and I never asked. No matter what she was doing, and no matter who she was with, I knew she was better off without me.
I hadn't even tried to love again. That's not to say I had been celibate for the past ten years, but it was impossible to love again when every face was hers.
"Sir," the flight attendant said softly. "I'm going to have to ask you to fasten your seatbelt before landing.
My eyes flashed open. We couldn't possibly be in Canada already.
"Why are we landing?"
"Weather conditions have become unfavorable, so we're having to divert to Port Angeles, Washington. They say it's the biggest snow storm they've seen in over a decade."
Of course it is, because the universe is just that cruel.
Weary travelers spilled out into Fairfield International Airport. There was already an angry mob at the ticket counter, but it was obvious to anyone with eyes that no planes would be flying out of Port Angeles tonight. The snow was blinding white and visibility was nonexistent. The airport workers informed all of us that, unless we wanted to stay at a hotel, we would be spending Christmas right here in this airport.
I was stranded, in the one state in North America that I really didn't want to be stranded in.
A little voice interrupted my mental anxiety.
"You're an hour from your family. Don't you think you should call them?"
I turned my head toward the sound, and I was startled to look into a set of big, brown eyes that quickly darted back down to his hands. He was a kid, dressed in a red hoodie and jeans, holding a PSP in his hand. His hair was nearly the shade of mine, and it was just as unruly. I hated to tell the kid that he might as well embrace it because no hair products on the market could tame that shit, but then I realized that he'd spoken to me as if he actually knew me.
"Your family," he repeated. "You know…your mom and dad?"
"What about them?" I asked, completely annoyed that this little punk seemed to know so much about me.
"They miss you."
"And how the hell would you know that?" I asked harshly, and he winced. Probably because I cursed.
Didn't kids curse a lot younger these days?
"Because I know." He shrugged and turned his attention back to his game.
Annoyed, I grabbed my carry-on and retreated to the bathroom, splashed cold water on my face, and tried to get my blood pressure to return within a normal range. Who the hell did this kid think he was? I closed my eyes and regulated my breathing, only to have to start the entire process over again when I opened my eyes and saw him sitting on the counter, still playing that stupid handheld game.
"Did you follow me in here?"
"You're very rude," he replied, never taking his eyes off the game.
"And you're a pain in the ass," I glared. "Why are you bothering me? Why aren't you with your parents?"
He slowly lowered his game and leveled me with a steely look that made my breath hitch in my throat. His eyes were a deep chocolate brown, almost as brown as…
"She misses you too," he whispered, his eyes on his game once again.
This was officially getting weird.
"Who misses me?"
He rolled his eyes.
For a moment, I allowed myself to believe it.
"No, she doesn't," I whispered faintly, reality kicking me in the gut once again as the pain in my heart made it hard for me to breathe. "She's better off without me. They're all better off without me."
With a heavy sigh, he finally turned off his game and stuck it in the pocket of his hoodie.
"You're wrong," he murmured sincerely, and I was once again lost in his eyes. The resemblance was achingly remarkable.
"Well, kid, this has been a lot of fun." I sighed as I tossed the paper towel into the trash. "Why don't I help you find your parents?"
He just smiled sadly at me.
"I think you need to see," he said as he jumped off the counter. "And I think I need to be the one to show you. Why don't you rent a car or call us a cab or something?"
I chuckled and grabbed my bag. "Look kid, it's an hour drive to Forks and there's about a foot of snow out there. Besides, I'm pretty sure your parents would have me charged with kidnapping."
"Nah, it's cool. And the highway to Forks is clear."
I narrowed my eyes at him before checking my phone for Washington road conditions. Sure enough, the 101 was clear. It was actually one of the few highways in the state that wasn't closed.
"This is crazy," I muttered as I rushed out of the bathroom and back into the insanity that was the airport. Families had made makeshift campsites on the floor and were trying to actually sleep in this madness. I collapsed into the nearest chair and grabbed my phone, searching for the nearest hotel.
"Seems kind of stupid to stay in a hotel when your family is just an hour away," the kid mumbled.
I didn't even bother looking. He was obviously at my side.
"You don't understand."
"I understand that you're a chicken shit."
Ahh, so he does curse.
I smirked in appreciation. "Nice language, kid."
"Thanks. I get it from my dad."
I had no idea what possessed me to listen to him. No idea at all why I was driving down the 101 with this kid in the passenger seat.
"What's your name?"
I figured if I was going to prison for kidnapping, I might as well know the name of the kid who put me there.
I grimaced. "Really? You don't look like a Tony."
"Anthony," he corrected.
"That's my middle name," I replied.
"How old are you?"
"You ask a lot of questions."
This kid was such a punk. "Yeah, well, I'm hoping you'll get bored and fall asleep and I can just keep on driving."
"We'll drown if you keep on driving," Anthony muttered. "There's a big-ass ocean at the end of this highway, remember?"
I groaned with annoyance just as the Beaver city limit sign passed on our right.
"Beaver." Anthony chuckled.
I laughed. "Yeah, it's an unfortunate name for a town."
"So is Forks," he muttered. "I mean, for real. Was Spoon taken?"
The kid was annoying as hell but hilarious.
So I told him how Forks got its name from the forks in the Quillayute, Bogachiel, Calawah, and Sol Duc rivers, and he listened intently as I told him a little about the history of the town. I couldn't believe I still remembered it.
The hour flew, and before I even realized it, we were parked in front of my parent's house.
"It's been ten years since I've seen this place," I whispered.
Christmas lights adorned every available surface of the lawn, and a gigantic gold and silver wreath hung proudly on the door.
"I can't go inside."
Anthony nodded. "Maybe just peek in the window?"
I nodded. I could do that. I could just peek.
Forks hadn't received nearly as much snow as Port Angeles, but it was still a slippery walk up the sidewalk. Of course, Anthony was right on my heels, talking relentlessly and getting on my last nerve. Didn't he realize that I was nervous as hell?
"You're just peeking," the little mind reader said. "No reason to be nervous."
We settled against the house and carefully snuck a glance through the window. A brilliantly decorated Christmas tree stood in the corner with only a few presents nestled below its branches. My mother's Christmas village was displayed on the mantle of the fireplace, and bows trimmed in silver hung along the staircase. It was beautiful and reminded me so much of my childhood. Mom had always made things look beautiful, even once I was supposedly too old to care about holiday traditions.
Just then, my mom and dad walked into the living room, holding small bowls. I recognized those tiny bowls, and my heart leapt in my chest.
"Apple sauce," Anthony said.
My eyes flashed to him. "How did you know that?"
"I can smell it. It's my favorite food."
My forehead creased. "It's my favorite food, too, but you can't smell it from here…"
"Sure you can. Try."
I rolled my eyes and humored the kid, inhaling deeply.
"Cinnamon!" I whispered in amazement.
Anthony just smiled.
"Homemade apple sauce was always a Christmas tradition. It was an old recipe of my grandmother's, and when I was little, I used to sit on the counter and watch Mom chop up the apples. When I got older, she let me help. Every Christmas Eve, we would sit around the tree and eat the apple sauce before we opened gifts."
"You opened gifts on Christmas Eve?" Anthony asked.
"Yeah, but there were always more gifts the next morning." I smiled as memories flooded me. My first bike. My leather jacket. The keys to my first car. "Those gifts were from Santa."
Anthony said nothing as I looked through the window once more. Of course, my parents looked older, but it wasn't their age that disheartened me the most. It was the fact they looked so unhappy.
"Why are they so sad?" I asked, not expecting a response.
"Because they miss you," Anthony replied simply, as if this was just obvious. "You are their only child, and your mother decorates every year and makes homemade apple sauce in hopes that this will be the Christmas you come home."
"Every year?" I asked in disbelief.
My mother walked over to the Christmas tree and lightly traced her fingers along one of the ornaments. It was red and gold, and I knew without a doubt that it was the ornament with my name on it. I had made it in Sunday School class when I was ten years old.
"She hangs it every year. Hoping…"
"They miss me," I whispered softly as tears flooded my eyes. "They really, truly miss me."
I closed my eyes as I leaned back against the cold brick of the house. Seeing my parents so sad and heartbroken was torture. I thought they'd be happy that I was gone. I had embarrassed them…shamed them…and I had been a terrible son since the day I ran away from home. How could they possibly still love me?
"They love you because you are their son," Anthony murmured. "The bond between a parent and child is nearly impossible to break. Even death can't sever it. Do you really think a few thousand miles is going to change how they feel about you?"
I stared, wide-eyed, at this ten year old kid.
"How did you get so smart?"
"I get it from my mom," he replied with a smile.
"This is a bad idea," I muttered as we made our way down Main Street. The town looked just the same, except for a few new businesses that I'd noticed on the way into town. It was a sleepy lumbertown when I left, and it was still struggling today.
"You want to see her," Anthony replied as he bounced in his seat.
"Of course, I want to see her," I muttered.
I then realized I had no idea where to find her. Does she even live in Forks?
"She works at the Lodge," Anthony said.
"The Elk's Lodge?"
"Charlie's favorite place to eat," Anthony replied with a shrug.
I didn't even ask how he knew that. I stopped asking him questions right after I smelled the apple sauce. None of this made sense, and yet, here I was, back in my hometown and wondering if I hadn't made a terrible mistake with the last decade of my life.
I parked the car, and Anthony took my trembling hand in his as he led me up the gravel path and toward the door. The place looked relatively empty, which wasn't too surprising since it was late on Christmas Eve.
"Are we peeking again?" Anthony asked with annoyance.
He sighed as I pulled him toward the large glass that enclosed the dining room. The place was really empty except for a few coffee drinkers lining the counter.
"She started working here right after graduation," Anthony explained quietly. "She's worked here ever since."
"Why didn't she go to college?" I asked. Bella had always wanted to be a teacher.
"She was waiting for you to come back. You had made plans."
We had made plans. We were going to go to UW. I was going to get my degree in Business and she was going to get her teaching license.
I had forced myself to move on without her, and all this time she'd been waiting for me?
Just then, a waitress appeared from the back. She was holding a coffee pot and smiling at the customers. Her hair was still long, but it was in a ponytail. And her eyes…her eyes were still the most beautiful eyes in the world.
I felt Anthony's hand tighten around mine.
"She prays for you every night," he said as we watched her pour coffee into a man's mug. "She prays that you'll come home, but if you don't, she hopes that you're at least happy."
I hadn't been happy in over ten years.
"She never loved another soul," he said.
Neither had I.
"She must hate me," I whispered, the agony so overpowering that I thought I'd collapse under the weight of it. But the boy just held my hand tighter.
"She loves you," Anthony said softly. "She will forgive you."
"She doesn't look unhappy," I argued, but I knew I was fooling myself. I knew every curve of her face and every sparkle in her eye, and I could tell that she was faking it.
"She's getting ready to close," Anthony said. "You can't walk through locked doors, so I suggest you get inside."
I looked between this crazy boy and the beautiful angel standing in the glass.
"You'll come with me?"
Anthony smiled brightly. "Don't you understand? I'm already there."
I didn't understand, and I told him so.
"I've watched over both of you for the past ten years," Anthony said. "She cries herself to sleep every night and your heart is completely broken. You miss each other desperately, and I just wanted to see you happy again."
"I don't…I don't understand…"
Anthony's eyes met mine. "My name is Anthony, and I love apple sauce. I have my father's dirty mouth and my mother's intelligence. I have my father's crazy hair and my mother's big brown eyes, and all I want for Christmas is for my mom and dad to be happy."
Tears spilled down my face as I realized that I was staring into the face of my son.
Was he an angel? A ghost? A complete figment of my heartbroken imagination?
I didn't matter, because behind that glass, his mother was waiting for me.
"I've always loved your mother," I whispered fiercely, placing my hands on each side of his face. He was so beautiful…the spitting image of her. "Never, ever doubt that."
"I don't." Anthony smiled. "I think it's time you told her."
Dizzily, I walked toward the door, but I stopped and turned back toward him.
"Are you leaving?"
"No," Anthony promised with a smile as he pointed toward the window. "I'm peeking."
I walked back to him, dropping to my knees and kissing his forehead.
"Thank you," I whispered against his skin. "I love you. I loved you then. I just didn't know it."
"I know you did," Anthony said, smiling at me. "Mom isn't able to have children. She never was."
"The doctors said never," Anthony replied. "It wasn't your fault."
Relieved tears flowed down my face.
"Will I see you again?"
Anthony's face brightened. "You'll see me every day."
"Through her eyes," Anthony replied. "Anytime you miss me, you just have to look into her eyes. I think her eyes will be brighter now. Oh! Wait a sec…"
He pulled a piece of mistletoe out of his hoodie pocket and handed it to me.
"You know, in case you need motivation to kiss her."
I chuckled and kissed his forehead one last time, but I didn't look back as I pushed the door and made my way inside. I knew he was standing just outside the window…
The dining area was completely deserted by this time, so I gently turned the closed sign on the door before making my way to the counter. My entire body was shaking with anticipation just as she walked back through the swinging doors of the kitchen holding a bowl.
She stopped talking.
She stopped walking.
All of a sudden, I was an eighteen year old boy again, staring into the eyes of the love of my life.
She looked down into the bowl and then up at me again, probably trying to decide if she was finally losing her sanity.
I could relate.
"Anthony sent you?" Bella whispered.
"Yes," I murmured softly.
Suddenly, she smiled the most beautiful smile I had ever seen…the smile of the girl who had stolen my heart so many years ago.
"He can be very persuasive," Bella said as she placed the bowl in front of me on the counter. I didn't even have to look down. I could smell the cinnamon.
I leaned over the counter and drifted my fingers along her face. Her cheeks were lined with tears, but they were still the softest cheeks I'd ever touched.
"I love you, Bella," I whispered sincerely.
"I love you, Edward."
"Still?" I asked tearfully.
She smiled through her own tears, her eyes shining bright.
"Always," Bella whispered.
I didn't need the mistletoe, but I pulled it out of my pocket anyway…just in case he was still peeking…and lifted it above our heads.
Slowly, I brushed her lips against mine, and I was home.