Indelible

A/N: Two points of view coming up here. I hope you enjoy them both.


C-46: At Home for Now

Life has been a whirlwind since my return from San Diego, but it's been hectic in the best way possible. Pursuing a future with Bella has shaken the cobwebs and dust from every corner of my world, and I'm jittery with anticipation for what's yet to come. I've been beyond busy at work and home, ticking off items on my to-do list, getting things in order for a smooth and speedy departure. And since Bella's arrival four days ago, my spare time has been devoted to her.

I've barely had any time to just stop and think.

But now, stuck on the freeway on my way to pick up Mase at the airport, there's not much I can do but think. The rush hour traffic creeps forward, and my thoughts go back to last evening, and the conversation Bella and I had while looking through Masen's childhood photos…

"Do you ever wish you'd had more children?"

Her question catches me by surprise, though I probably should have expected it, and my answer isn't a simple yes or no. There are caveats dependent upon whether we're talking about my actual past, or the future I'd imagined for myself years ago, but I decide to stick with what was.

"Uh, well, I guess I used to picture myself having children someday—plural children. But I didn't expect to become a father as early as I did. That wasn't an easy situation at that point in my life, and then things only got harder as Kate became more and more…disengaged and discontent. It became clear pretty early on that we probably wouldn't be having more children together.

"After the divorce, as a single parent, working fulltime, I couldn't even imagine dating anyone. When I finally did a handful of years later, nothing developed into anything serious. So, I don't know, I guess the idea of having more children wasn't ever really a blip on the horizon for me."

She nods, looking back at a photo. It's me, tossing a giggling six-year-old Masey into the air above the water at North Avenue Beach. I tilt my head to see her face more clearly, examining her expression, and wondering if there's more than simple curiosity behind her question.

"What made you ask, Bella?"

She shrugs. "Just…looking at you both in these photos, seeing you be a dad, knowing how you are with your son, and knowing the relationship you share… You just seem like a natural. Like you should have had a home filled with children."

Her answer makes me smile. Being a single father hasn't been easy, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. However, a "home filled with children" might have been beyond my capabilities.

"My hair would probably be as white as my dad's by now if I'd had a home filled with children."

She laughs, nudging me with her elbow. "You know what I mean." I nod, smiling at her.

"I have enjoyed it. Being a dad. When Masen was born, it was kind of like…I don't know…love at first sight, I guess. Just knowing that new, tiny being was part of me…that was truly amazing. And then watching him grow into a little person with thoughts and ideas of his own and seeing the world all over again through his eyes… That's been pretty incredible. I'm glad I got to have those experiences with him."

As soon as those last words are out of my mouth, I'm filled with remorse, wondering if she's sad she has missed out on parenthood, despite what she told me months ago about her reluctance to start a family with Jake.

"Do you wish you'd had children?"

She chews her lip, and I guess she's thinking about her answer, but already her hesitation seems to say a lot, and it claws at my heart. Moving the photos and box aside, I take her hand, threading my fingers through hers, and loop my other arm around her.

"I don't know… I… I guess I imagined becoming a mom someday, and Jake and I had even talked about having kids, but then I never really felt ready. I kept putting it off. I don't know what I was waiting for, but I just didn't feel ready, you know?"

"I do know. I wasn't ready either. Even though it all worked out eventually, life became quite the mess for a while." She squeezes my hand and gives me an understanding smile. We've talked and she knows.

"It's funny…" she says. "There were times I thought if that had happened to me—if I'd just gotten pregnant unexpectedly—the decision would have been made for me, and I would have just gone with it." She gives me a little smile. "Anyway, after Jake and I divorced, it took a while for me to decide to start dating again, but nothing ever really went anywhere. I guess the idea of having children became a moot point. It wasn't something I would have pursued on my own." I nod, but I wonder how she feels now that she's no longer alone.

"And now? Is that something you think you'd want?"

She looks up at me, her eyes widening. "You mean have a child with you?"

"Well, I sure as hell wouldn't want you to have someone else's baby." Her eyes fill with amusement and she laughs. But when I don't join in, she stops, and her mouth drops open in surprise.

"You're serious?"

"Why wouldn't I be?"

"Well… I mean… I'm thirty-nine, Edward. And you're forty. And you already have a child who's an adult. You can't possibly be serious." I blink, taking in what she's said, thinking yes, she's right about all of that, except the "you can't possibly be serious" part. Because I think I could be. For her, I could.

"I am serious. Bella, if that's something you think you'd want, we should talk about it. Clearly there's a lot to consider, but you wouldn't be the first woman to have a baby after forty, nor would I be the first parent of a teenager to start over with a baby."

She just stares at me blankly, clearly stunned and processing. And I don't know, maybe I've gotten us ahead of ourselves here… I don't want her to think I'm trying to rush her into anything else right now. This move to be with her is enough to ask for, for now. But I do want a life with her, no matter what we decide that will look like for us.

"This isn't something we need to decide right this moment," I tell her. "Once I'm moved, and we're settled, we can at least consider it. In the meantime, we can contemplate two possible futures together…"

My phone pings with a text, bringing me back to the present. I'm nearly to the airport as I glance at my phone's screen.

Landed.

Masen's flight has arrived a few minutes ahead of schedule but with me running a little late, the timing works out perfectly. I can skip the cell phone lot and just swing by and pick him up curbside.

As I get to the appropriate terminal, I spot my lanky vagabond from a distance. He's in jeans and a T-shirt, with his sweatshirt tied around his waist, his backpack slung over one shoulder, and his stuffed-to-bursting duffel bag parked by his feet. Christ… How much shit did he bring home?

He waves and smiles as I pull up, and as he steps forward to open the rear door, I stay put behind the wheel. There's nothing worse for a teenaged boy than a public display of affection from his father—even if it's among complete strangers. The small boy who used to yell, "Daddy!" and come running with outstretched arms is long gone.

"Hey, Dad." He gives me a big smile as he stows his carryon and backpack on the backseat. He looks good. Happy. Healthy. Clean and shaven, too, surprisingly.

"Hi. Welcome home, Mase."

"Thanks." Slamming the back door, he opens the front door, rids himself of his sweatshirt, and tosses it over his shoulder as he drops into the front seat.

"It's good to see you. You look good." I give him an affectionate clap on the shoulder as he shuts the door.

"Thanks, you too." He reaches for his seatbelt. "Where's Bella?"

"She's at home, making dinner—remember, Grandma and Grandpa are coming over." I check for traffic and pull away from the curb.

"Oh, yeah." After a beat he chuckles. "How weird is it to say, Bella's 'at home, making dinner?'"

I chuckle. "It is a little weird, isn't it?"

"Yeah. But in a good way. What's happening between you is cool. I'm glad she was able to come visit and help you." I look over at him and smile. We had a long talk on the phone after my week in San Diego with Bella, but I'm still touched that he's been so supportive.

"I really appreciate you being so understanding about everything, Mase. I know how much this move affects your life, too."

He shrugs. "Things were going to change with me going off to school anyway, and come fall, most of my friends will be elsewhere, doing the same thing. But we'll keep in touch, and I can see them whenever I fly back to visit Grandma and Grandpa." I nod. I'm going to try to make that a priority, and I'm glad my folks are willing and able to take him in.

As we leave the airport and head for the I-90, I start covering the basics of his arrival. "So, how was your flight? You got to the airport in plenty of time?"

"Yeah, everything was fine. Bree dropped me off before she had to go to work. Oh, shoot. That reminds me…" He shifts, working his phone out of his pocket. "I'm supposed to let her know I got here okay."

I smile as he begins texting. His involvement with her is probably what's keeping him looking respectable. I should have figured as much. The few times we've talked on the phone, Bree always gets a mention.

"She must care about you…for some reason."

He snorts a laugh and looks over with a grin as he pockets his phone. "Well, duh… I am pretty awesome." I laugh at his cocky act. He is a fairly confident kid, but he's got doubts about himself like every other normal teen.

"You are awesome, even though your self-esteem is a bit much to handle." He laughs at that.

"How's school? Everything still going well?" Even though we've talked some, I'm still hungry for information about his life apart. That's still a new concept for me, and I can't help but worry. He may be a young man but he'll always be my boy.

"School's fine. I got a 96 percent on that test I told you about. It was easier than I thought it would be. Most of the questions came right out of the notes."

"Good job, Mase. Keep up the good work." Thankfully, he's always been concerned about doing well in school.

"How's your living situation?" I ask. "Any problems?"

"Not really. Rooming with Riley is fine. He likes to get out and do stuff, so that's good. We shot hoops last night with a couple other guys from our floor. Oh, remember I told you about that annoying girl from the end of the hall…Gianna?" I nod. Mase has a not-so-secret admirer. "She finally quit hanging around and bugging me every five minutes."

"I told you she'd get the message."

"Yeah. I think she got the picture after Bree came over a few times." I smile to myself. That would do the trick. Especially if he was hanging all over her.

"Let's see, what else… The food's been okay. I've figured out what to avoid. And… Oh, my god. The laundry. I swear, people leave their stuff in the machines for freakin' ever." I smile. I remember those days.

"Just take it out and move it. They'll get the message."

"I'm not touching someone's skeevy underwear!" He rolls his eyes in disgust, shaking his head at the mere thought. Then he shrugs. "I just brought it home."

It takes me a second.

"That's what's crammed in your bag?! Yourdirty laundry?" I can't help it, I'm laughing.

"Not all of it. It wouldn't all fit in my carryon, and I didn't want to have to check a bag." Still laughing here.

"Well, I guess you can wash your imported dirty clothes after dinner. And maybe air out that bag, too."

"Yeah, I'll do that. So, what's Bella making for dinner?"

"Something special. You'll have to wait and see." I glance over to see a smile spreading across his face.

"As long as she's not making your infamous pork chops smothered in green beans and salsa, Bella and I are good." I smile at the memory of our father-son dinner disaster years ago. And then I give him a noncommittal shrug.

"I can't make any promises." He just chuckles. I think he trusts Bella not to ruin his weekend.

*I*

It takes a little over an hour for us to get home from the airport, and Dad and I have covered a lot of ground. We've talked about what's been going on here while I've been at school, and what I need to do while I'm home. I've also gotten a clearer picture of what's involved in selling the house, and Dad explained the sort of pod-arrangement he's using for moving our stuff. It struck me funny every time he referred to the movers as the pod-people. Do we really want pod-people handling our stuff?

As funny as that was, it's still sad to think about leaving, but I know nothing stays the same forever. Things change. Life does too. I know that for a fact.

It's crazy to think how much our lives have changed in such a short time. I mean, I graduated from high school exactly three weeks ago today. Now I'm in college in Washington, I have a girlfriend in Washington, and Dad's got a girlfriend in Washington. Three months ago, I'd never even heard of Bella Swan, and now she's 'at home making dinner'. And in a couple weeks' time, home will be in Washington, too. At her home. Because Dad's in love, and he's been a total man on a mission about it. But I think that's kind of cool. Even if it is kind of crazy, too.

I realized how important Bella must have once been to him during that first trip to Washington when we spent more time in Forks than Seattle. From the night she invited us to dinner, it was pretty clear they still felt something for each other. But I liked her. She almost felt like family—like a long lost aunt or something. And by the time we left, I knew for certain Dad liked her. He'd extended our stay, he'd found a plausible excuse to see her again in June, and he'd even invited her to come with us to Seattle.

When we returned to Washington in June, I already suspected Dad felt more for Bella than he ever had for any other woman he'd dated. Even after spending two months apart, they seemed closer. So, it didn't surprise me much when they wound up in the same hotel room in Seattle. Or when he decided to follow her to San Diego the next day.

Two days later, he called to tell me he'd decided to move, and I'll admit I was surprised by that. It was so quick! But clearly they just wanted to be together. And it wasn't like they'd just met. They'd spent countless hours on the phone or online for the last two months. Plus they had a past together. And I'm guessing it must have been a really good one. Maybe they even thought of each other sometimes during the years they'd been apart.

At the end of that week, Dad called me again from home. We talked about a lot of things. Relationships, second chances, leaving Chicago, moving to Forks. He also told me Bella had asked him—well, us—to move in. He admitted he'd already agreed to it, but he was anxious to know how I felt. He also said he was probably setting a poor example for me by doing everything ass backwards, but he and Bella both really wanted to pursue this second chance.

I told him I was okay with the situation. Most of the time I'll be in Seattle, anyway, so I would only be there on the occasional weekend and for holidays and breaks. I also told him I understood their position. Obviously the only way to really pursue a relationship with someone who lives two thousand miles away is for one person to move…and maybe move in. And I know this isn't something casual for Dad; he's hoping Bella will be more than a girlfriend someday soon. I know because I asked him.

*I*

"Grandma and Grandpa are here already," Dad says, noticing their car parked at the side of our street. Then we spot them, walking up to the house. Grandma's carrying a cake container and Grandpa's holding a bottle of wine. Dad beeps the horn, and when they turn, we give them a wave before continuing down the street and around back to the garage.

"Grab your backpack. I'll get your bag," Dad tells me as he hops out of the car. He's hustling, but I match his stride as we head through the backyard to the house. He motions for me to go ahead of him, and opening the backdoor, I'm struck by an incredible aroma. It never occurred to me that she might make the same thing she made that first night we ate at her house. I turn to Dad, inhaling deeply.

"Please tell me Bella made her lasagna."

"Bella made her lasagna," he responds with a smirk and a nod.

"Yes!" That dinner was amazing.

Walking into the house, I get a big greeting from everyone. They're all there in the kitchen, and I start making the rounds, collecting and exchanging hugs and hellos. It's good to see them. Grandma says she has missed me, and I look older than I did the last time she saw me. She gives me a laugh and a kiss on the cheek when I tell her she looks younger. I get a clap on the back from Grandpa. He thinks I might have gotten taller and broader. I just laugh. I can't possibly have changed much in the three weeks since they saw me at graduation.

Bella hangs back a little, smiling and watching the Cullen family greeting-hoopla, but Dad edges over to greet her. He gives her a kiss hello, and she blushes at his PDA. Not that he slipped her the tongue or anything. But there's no denying she's part of the family mix now. Nothing like that has ever been done before. I even catch Grandma and Grandpa exchanging a look and a smile. As Dad moves aside, I move in, trading greetings and a quick, friendly hug with Bella.

"You're awesome for making lasagna again," I tell her. "I started salivating the minute I opened the door." She laughs, but I'm totally serious.

"I promise, it's not the only thing I can cook," she says. "I just happened to have that recipe here on my laptop. It'll be in tomorrow's first Focus on Forkfuls corner of my Focus on Forks newspaper page." I smile in surprise.

"You decided to use my title?" She nods, smiling. "That's cool."

"It was the best one of the bunch. I couldn't come up with anything catchier."

Grandma wants to know what we're talking about. So, while Dad takes off upstairs to change out of his work clothes, Bella and I tell the Grands about our dinner with the Cheneys at the Forks diner, and how we wound up tossing around name ideas for Bella's food column.

They think the name is catchy too, and Grandma says she can't wait to try Bella's debut lasagna recipe. Which reminds her—she has recipes for Bella. While Grandma gets them from her purse, Bella tells me what that's all about, and I think it's really nice of her to want to be able to make some of Dad's and my favorites that Grandma always makes.

"Are you giving her your pot roast recipe?" I ask when Grandma returns.

"I certainly am, Masey." She grins, waving a little stack of index cards. "Along with my caramel apple almond cheesecake recipe—which I brought for dessert tonight."

"This is going to be the best meal I've had in weeks," I sigh happily, draping my arms around Grandma in a hug. They all smile at my theatrics.

"I was told that cheesecake leftovers would not be coming back home with us," Grandpa adds. "Apparently, I'm the low man on the totem pole again." I laugh at him. Grandma is the best.

Dad returns then, and I decide I'd better make a quick pit stop before we sit down to dinner, so I excuse myself and head off to the bathroom.

Once I'm done and washed up, I return to the kitchen as Bella is putting some garlic cheese bread into the oven to toast. Glasses of wine and a soda for me have been poured, and Grandpa says a quick toast to me being home. We drink to that, but I'm curious about something I noticed on my way to and from the bathroom.

"What's with all the colored dots on everything?" They all trade smiles and look at Dad.

"That's Grandma's sorting system for our move," Dad says. I'm still confused, but then he launches into an explanation of those different colored dots.

"Just make sure your dad isn't getting rid of anything you would really like to have," Bella tells me afterwards. "We'll make room for things that are important to you. I want you to feel as at home as possible, Masen, because it is going to be your home, too." I nod, thinking how strange that sounds, but also how kind she is to worry about me. So I smile at her. Then I look at Dad.

"What about the game tables upstairs? And the video games and TV?"

"They're coming with us."

"And all the stuff in my room?"

"It's all coming, unless you decide to get rid of anything."

I nod. That's good. But then I'm thinking about Bella's house, wondering where everything is going to go. And more specifically, where I'm going to go. So I ask if my room will be the upstairs den—where Dad slept the night we spent at her house.

"We're going to have to do some remodeling," Dad says. "But until we get everything figured out and done, you'd probably be in the den temporarily." He looks to Bella for confirmation and she nods, giving me a sympathetic little half-smile.

"That's fine," I tell them with a shrug. I've slept on couches and floors at friends' houses. A fold-out bed isn't terrible.

"We're hoping to get it all done by the end of summer," Bella says. "I'm going to meet with someone when I get back to Forks to get some ideas to share with your Dad."

"We'll probably build up over the garage and add two, additional rooms, for one thing," Dad says. "That way, we could keep the den as is, and it can still double as a guest room, but Bella and I would have a new home office to share, and you'd have a new, big bedroom."

"How big?" I ask, and Dad chuckles. I'm nosy.

"Hopefully, big enough to squeeze in a mini man cave at one end. We were thinking you might want some of the sectional sofa in the living room to go with the video cabinet and TV from upstairs."

"That would be awesome." I look from Dad to Bella, because it is her house.

"Just cross your fingers it all works out the way we're hoping," she says. I nod. I will.

The timer goes off on the oven, and Dad asks Bella what he can do to help. While she gets the lasagna and garlic cheese toast out of the oven, Dad gets the salad out of the fridge and adds the dressing Bella made. Once everything is ready, we move over to the table to eat.

"Everything looks and smells delicious," Grandma tells Bella.

"It sure does," Grandpa agrees.

"Wait 'til you taste it," I tell them. Because I have insider knowledge.

"I guess we won't be eating in the dining room?" Grandpa asks Dad as he pulls out a chair for Grandma. I look at Bella and grin, because she just snorted a laugh, and now she's looking at Dad. Grandpa's kidding, of course. Our exercise equipment is in the dining room, and the table is here in the kitchen, like always.

"You're welcome to eat in the dining room, if you'd prefer," Dad tells Grandpa. "Have a seat on the weight bench and one of our serving staff will be right in with your food." We all get a laugh out of that. Serving staff. As if.

Grandma shakes her head and reaches out to pat Bella's arm. "If Edward tries to do any strange home decorating in Forks, Carlisle and I are just a phone call away. We'll be happy to give him a stern talking to."

"I'll keep that in mind," Bella chuckles.

While she starts serving up the lasagna, we begin passing the bread and salad.

"So, what else is coming with us?" I ask as I dig into my salad, letting my lasagna cool. "I mean, what other big stuff?" I'm just itching to take a quick tour around the house to check out Dad's dot-situation.

Dad and Bella look at each other, and start giving me an inventory off the top of their heads. They're planning to switch out some of Bella's things for ours, but it's kind of funny listening to them. They keep completing each other's sentences. Like it's a team effort. But I guess this whole thing is.

"So, what do you think about this move, Masey?" Grandma asks.

"Mostly, I think Dad can't stand being so far away from me," I tell her with a grin. She laughs and looks at Grandpa. He's smiling and nodding.

I know they're curious about how I feel. And maybe Bella is, too, although Dad has probably already told her what I've said. I'm not pitching a tantrum about it, or anything. I'm old enough to understand, and I can deal with it. But there's a definite downside. But they all know that. They've all moved multiple times in their lives.

"It's definitely weird to think this house won't be home anymore," I tell Grandma. "I'll miss it here, and I'll miss you and Grandpa and my friends. But I like Washington. It's pretty, and there's a lot I want to see and do there. And I'll be there for the next four years anyway, and more like ten years if I get into U-Dub's Med School. So it's okay. I'm glad Dad will be close. I'll be able to go to Forks some weekends, and I can bring friends from school. But I can still come back to Chicago from time to time and stay with you and Grandpa and visit everyone here."

I glance at Dad. He's giving me his fatherly smile. The one that tells me he's proud of me. But Dad didn't raise an asshole. I know he feels bad about the move, as far as I go, but I also realize he'll be moving away from the same things I am.

"You're welcome to stay with us anytime you want to visit, Masey," Grandma says, patting my hand and smiling. "We'd be happy to have you—all of you." She smiles at Dad and Bella.

"Absolutely," Grandpa agrees. Then he looks back at me.

"Moving always involves a period of adjustment, Masen, but you've always been very adventurous. And you're outgoing. You'll meet a lot of people at school and make many new friends. And you never know… You might wind up working in Washington someday down the road, or maybe you'll come back to Chicago, or you might even wind up in another state or country even."

"Let's not go overboard, Dad," Dad tells Grandpa, and we all chuckle. I don't think Dad will ever be ready to cut the cord completely.

"I know," I tell Grandpa. "And I've already made some friends I'll keep in touch with when the regular school year starts." I turn to Dad. "Riley and I are thinking we might want to room together in the fall, rather than take the luck of the draw."

"Yeah, we can look into that," Dad says, nodding.

"Speaking of school," Grandpa says, "I want to hear all about it. How's everything going?"

Between bites of lasagna—which everyone agrees is phenomenal—I tell them about my classes, the campus, my dorm, and some of the people I've met.

"How's Bree?" Grandma asks. Her eyes are all twinkly. "Are you still seeing her?"

"Yeah. She's fine. We're good. We had dinner at her house last Sunday—with her parents. I met them once before, but this was the first time we spent any real time with them. Bree helped her mom make tamales, and they were insanely good. Her mom's family is from Mexico, and Bree told her I had four years of Spanish in high school, so she started speaking to me in Spanish."

"How'd that go?" Dad asks with a grin.

"It was a little nerve-wracking. Bree just sat there grinning at me because she speaks Spanish fluently. But I understood pretty much everything her mom said, and I answered her okay—at least she said I did. She said my pronunciation was good, too. She was really nice. Bree's dad is the intimidating one. I mean, he was nice enough, but he's got these bushy eyebrows that make him look like he's always frowning." Dad chuckles and looks at Bella.

"That sounds kind of familiar…except in my case it was a bushy mustache that used to intimidate me." Bella laughs and the Grands smile at them.

"I'm pretty sure my dad used his mustache as an intimidation technique on everyone," Bella says. "Suspected criminals, his own daughter, her friends, and her boyfriend. So don't feel like you were being singled out." We laugh at that. I've seen a photo of Bella's dad, and the Grands knew him. He did have one heck of a manly mustache.

Dinner is a big hit. Dad, Grandpa, and I all have seconds, and Bella splits a second piece with Grandma—who wants Bella's recipe. Luckily, there are a couple servings left over, and Bella says she'll save it for me. How awesome is she?

After dinner, the Grands and I head into the living room while Dad and Bella clean up the kitchen a little. My money's on them sneaking in some shenanigans while we're out of the room, because there's not a whole lot of dish-clatter going on, and they're slow to join us. But that's fine. I've got photos to show Grandma and Grandpa, so I start scrolling through pictures on my phone, showing them a little bit of Seattle, U-Dub, my friends, and Bree.

When Dad and Bella join us in the living room, Bella gets her laptop and emails her recipe to Grandma. Then she puts her laptop aside, and chewing at her lip, she exchanges a look with Dad, and he nods. Something's going on. Bella stands and gets a plastic shopping bag out of the cabinet beneath the TV, and returning to where we're sitting, she says she has something for me.

"What is it?" I ask as she hands me the bag.

"There's no way we'll ever know," Dad says wryly.

I roll my eyes, because yeah, it's a dumb question, and I can already feel that it's a book. Pulling it out of the bag, I see Chicago scrawled across the top of a panoramic image of the city skyline and Lake Michigan.

"It's a photo album…" I look up, and Bella nods, looking a little uncertain.

"Look inside," Dad murmurs, and I flip the cover open.

"Oh, hey, it's me." I smile at the old photo of little me, sitting out on the front steps of our house, eating a Popsicle and wearing most of it. Turning to the next page, I see more photos of me: running through the sprinkler in the backyard, building a snowman with Dad, playing Batman with Alec Demetri and Brady Fuller… "I haven't seen these photos in ages," I tell them. Flipping further, I realize the album is filled with photos spanning my childhood up through graduation, some with family or friends, inside the house and out, here in Lincoln Park and elsewhere in Chicago.

"This is cool," I say, looking up at Dad and Bella.

"I bought that album yesterday," Bella says, "thinking I'd fill it with photos of my trip to Chicago. Then last night, your dad and I were looking through your family photos, and it suddenly hit me that this would be the last time you'd be coming home to this home. So, I asked your dad if he thought you might like to have this album, filled with memories of your life here. He helped pick out the photos and I put it together today…" She pauses. "I'm sorry we're making you leave so much behind, Masen." I nod, knowing she gets how I'm feeling, and I'm touched by her thoughts and this gesture, and the very fact that she's concerned about me.

"I'll be okay," I tell her. "And this is great, Bella. Thank you. This was a really thoughtful thing to do."

"I left some pages blank at the back, in case you want to add anything we left out or maybe take photos with your friends this weekend."

"That's a great idea. I'll definitely do that."

"That was very sweet of you, Bella," Grandma says.

"Well, you know…" Bella shrugs, looking kind of embarrassed.

We wind up looking through the album while we eat dessert, reminiscing, telling stories, and laughing.

At nine-thirty, the Grands decide it's time for them to leave. They pass out the hugs all around, saying how glad they were to see me, thanking Dad for having them over, and thanking Bella for a wonderful meal. Grandpa reminds us we're going to the Sox-Cubs game at Wrigley on Sunday before I fly back to school. Finally, wishing each other a Happy Fourth for tomorrow, we say our goodbyes.

After they've left, I thank Bella once again for the photo album, and then I help her and Dad finish cleaning up. Just as we're finishing up, I get a text from my friend, Alec, who lives a few houses down.

You still busy?

He knew I got home today, and wanted me to come over, but I told him we were having a family dinner. I send him a quick reply.

No. We're done.

His response makes me smile.

Get your ass over here.

"Hey Dad? You mind if I go over to Alec's for a little while?"

"No, that's fine. But what about your laundry?"

"Oh, yeah. I'll go put it in the washer first."

After I've gotten the machine started, I head for the living room. Dad and Bella are sitting on the couch together, watching TV, and I let them know I'm leaving.

"Be home by one?" Dad asks as I head out the door.

"No, I'll be back by midnight. Bree gets home from work then, and I told her I'd call." Dad waves, and I'm off to hang with Alec. Meanwhile, Dad and Bella can have some alone-time.


A/N: Hmm... I wonder if Masen will remember his laundry or leave it in the machine "for freakin' ever" like his dorm mates. ;) I hope you enjoyed hearing from Edward and Masen for a change. :)