4 Years Earlier
"What do you mean she's gone?" I stared at the empty hospital bed in complete disbelief.
"She was discharged about an hour ago."
My head swam in disbelief; I took a seat quickly as my knees shook. I'd gone home to shower and grab a bag of baby items and clothes and she left.
"Where's the baby? Where's my baby?"
"She's here. She didn't want to take the baby. But she did leave you a letter."
The nurse handed me a small white envelope with my name printed on the front in blue ink.
Relief washed through me knowing that she hadn't taken the baby and I stood again.
"I want to see my daughter, please." The envelope clenched between twitching fingers.
"Of course, let's go."
I sat, holding my daughter in the NICU for hours. She was so tiny, so fragile and vulnerable. How could Valerie have done this to us, to our child? After the four years we'd spent together, I'd proposed not two months ago and though things had been rocky, I'd chalked it up to hormones and first time mom jitters. Apparently she wasn't ready to be a mom, wasn't ready to be married or to settle down. I was heartbroken for our daughter and confused beyond all measure.
"Sometimes things don't work out the way we wish they would, Punky, but I love you so much and I'm not leaving you."
There were definitely mornings when I wished my alarm clock wasn't so persistent, or cute.
"Daddy. Knock knock, Daddy." A small set of knuckles tapped at my head. "I'm hungry. Now."
"There is no Daddy here."
I felt a tiny hand land on my bare arm.
"Yes. You are right here."
Not moving an inch I replied in a deeper voice, "This is the tickle monster and do you know what he likes to do to little girls named Piper?"
Squeaky giggles erupted as I wrapped an arm around my daughter's small waist and dragged her into the bed with me.
"Ahhhhhh! Stop!" She wiggled to the other side of the king size bed and rested her head on a pillow looking at me with her wide green eyes.
"Is it you now?"
I grinned, enjoying the moment. "Yeh, it's me, Punky. You want some breakfast?"
"Yes! I am the hungry monster and I need bacon." Piper growled and sat back up, a grin lighting her face. Her dark hair was a wreck and looked like some creature had taken up residence in the back overnight. Her pink pajama shirt was a size or two too big with the words, "I Love My Daddy" splashed across the front of what looked like a tattooed heart.
"You got it, little lady." Sitting up, I rubbed at my eyes and blinked a few times.
"Can I color you later?"
"That's what you want to do today?" I got out of bed and pulled a clean shirt over my head and stretched until my spine popped a few times. One of my daughters' most favorite activities as of late was using markers to color in my tattoos on my arms and back. "I thought maybe we could go outside and play, maybe Sam will let us take Fozzy to the dog park."
"Yes! I want to do that too! And color you. And walk Fozzy. And eat bacon." The word bacon came out as a growl with grin.
Laughing I crouched down and waited for Piper to jump on my back, her little arms wrapped around my neck and we walked through the house to the kitchen together.
"Orange juice, P?"
I set her on the counter and she dug an old Ninja Turtle cup out of a cupboard while I grabbed the juice pitcher.
"Thank you, Daddy." The way she took down the glass of juice made me worry that she'd drown herself.
"Pancakes and bacon? Or eggs and bacon?"
"Uhhhhh, cakes and bacon."
"Your wish is my command."
"Seriously, Pie, what do you do in your sleep that knots your hair so completely from top to bottom?"
I was working slowly and steadily on the rats nest of bed head.
"In my dream I like to jump and I think that's what happens; in my dream my hair gets messy."
"Well then, less jumpy dreams, Piper."
I'd finally wrangled her thick hair into a ponytail with the green rubber band she had chosen for the day. Adjusting her hair once more I looked at her small, round face in the mirror in front of us. Everyone said she was the spitting image of me, except for her dark hair. Her bangs were getting a little long and fell close to her eyes.
"And time for a haircut."
"Gramma can take me. She gets me painted too on my fingers." At this she flashed me what looked like the worlds smallest show of jazz hands and grinned.
"We'll go see Gramma later and bring her some flowers."
"Let's go, Daddy!"
Piper was off and running down the hall before I could put her brush away.
"It's gonna be a minute, Piper. I have to brush my teeth and get my shoes."
"Iss okay, Daddy, but hurry."
I laughed, grabbed my toothbrush and smeared a healthy dose of Crest on the bristles. Pea size amount be damned.
"Alright, Pie," I called out as I walked down the hall to the living room where I found her dancing to The Strokes. I perpetually wore a smile around this child; there wasn't a damn thing she couldn't do that didn't make me happy. Though I'd heard horrid rumors that when she hit about 11, I'd be in for rough ride until she was 30. "Let me get my shoes on and we'll get out of here."
"Wear dis one." She dropped a pair of old black Chucks in my hands. "They are park shoes. See?" She tapped her orange mini velcro Chucks on the floor.
"I see. Very smart choice." I laced my shoes and went through our normal before-we-leave-the-house routine.
"Alright, spin for me, let's see how awesome you look."
Piper held her arms out at her side and slowly spun in front of me. She wore dark jeans and a black t-shirt with a picture of the Cheshire cat on the front with the words, 'We're All Mad Here', written across the bottom.
"Looking pretty cool today, Pie. Let's grab a hoodie, it's chilly out."
"You too, Daddy. Spin." She pointed her tiny finger at me, face serious.
Putting my arms out, I moved in a slow circle for her inspection.
"You need new pants. You have a hole." Her cold finger jammed itself inside a tear at my knee as she tisked the way my mother always did. Wonderful, she was becoming my mom.
"These are my play pants. This way I can go to the park and I won't ruin a good pair."
"Okay. If that's what you say."
I laughed and grabbed her up, kissing her cheeks as she squirmed and laughed.
"It's what I say." Putting her back down, I pointed to her sweatshirt. "Go get it on, Pie while I grab the bag."
She was potty trained, but that didn't mean accidents didn't happen. I learned this the hard way. It only took one pee accident for me to remember to always have spare clothes no matter what. Piper had looked so sad and had cried about her little accident, it had broken my heart a bit.
"Your jacket too." She dragged my old green zipper hoodie behind her. She had managed to put her own on, upside down, the hood hanging at her butt. I just laughed, put my own jacket on and locked up the house behind us.
"Come come, Fozzy!" Piper's giggles filled the air outside of Sam's house. The English sheep dog galloped at her, tongue hanging out. I swear that dog smiled when he saw her. Her arms looped around his furry neck and Fozzy gave her a nice face washing.
"Damn, Ed, she's getting big." Sam was watching the exchange of love between the dog and my kid.
Sam and I had known each other since forever. He had been a year behind me in school, and when I went off to New York for college, he'd come out to visit a few times before deciding to stay in Seattle for school. He'd come back to Forks after graduation to be close to his family and open a small auto shop.
"I know. I feel like I just brought her home yesterday."
"We'll bring Fozzy back in a few hours. I need to go over to my parent's house for a while, we'll just bring him along if you're cool?"
"Yeh, no worries. I have to work today, so he'd be here alone or bored to death in the shop office."
"Cool man." We fist bumped and said our goodbyes.
"Bye, Piper. Make sure Fozzy doesn't get into trouble." Sam grinned from the top of the drive.
"Bye Uncah Sam! I will keep Fozzy safe!"
Sam rubbed his chest and his eyes softened at the moniker.
"Gets ya every time, big guy." I laughed and followed Pie and Fozzy to the car.
Piper and I chased Fozzy around the dog park for about an hour before heading into town, a tad muddied and red cheeked for some hot chocolate and a cookie.
"I like the hot choc-it today, Leah." Piper gulped down another drink. "Thank you."
Leah just grinned and rested her chin in her hands on the bar top. "You are most welcome Miss Piper. How's that chocolate chip cookie? Riley made them extra special this morning because he knew you were coming in."
Piper just nodded, mouth full, crumbs at the edges and on her cheek. Laughing I sipped my to-go cup of coffee, Fozzy lay quiet at our feet.
"Thanks, Leah. Tell Riley we said hi. I have to get the little lady here over to her Gramma's house. They have a lunch date and I'm hoping I'll be invited to stay."
"Of course, you two have a great day." She looked at Piper and smiled, "Tell your Gramma I said hi."
I piled the three of us back into my car, made sure Piper was strapped into her car seat nice and snug, Fozzy laid next to her, his head at an awkward angle so that he could rest it in her lap. Piper's little fingers twirled through the dog's hair mindlessly.
"Let's wipe your face up." I grabbed a wipe from the brown leather messenger bag of stuff and cleaned her up.
"Looking good, little lady."
"I know, Daddy."
I laughed and closed her door. The kid would be the death of me.
"So we need to stop and get Gramma some flowers, Pie. What kind do you think we should pick up?" I glanced at her in my rear view mirror.
"The pink kind." She said in a serious tone.
"You think she wants the pink ones this time, huh?" I pulled into the local grocery store and parked the car.
"Gramma loves the pink ones I got her. I will get them again."
Leaving the windows half open on the car for Fozzy, Piper grabbed my hand and we walked into the small florist shop attached the grocery.
"Grammmmmma! Piper is heeeerre!" Piper let herself into my parent's house, skipping toward the kitchen, Fozzy right on her heels.
"Well who do we have here?" My mom's green eyes lit up as soon as Pie came into the room, her small hands full of pink flowers. "Looks like my favorite Granddaughter and her best buddy, Fozzy." Piper's chest puffed at the compliment, my mom's gaze met mine. "And well, well, look here, the most handsome son in the world." She kissed my cheek and then bent down to Piper's level.
"He's my hans-um Daddy, Gramma and we got this for you. And from Fozzy too, we love you." Piper thrust the bushel of flowers at my mom and smiled brightly, certainly proud of herself.
"My favorite, Pie! You remembered." She scooped her up into a hug and sat her on the counter. "Let's get these into water before we eat."
My mom grabbed a crystal vase from a cupboard and turned to me. "Are you staying, Edward? Pie and I had decided on BLT's and iced tea today." She winked at Piper, knowing full well that BLT's were my favorite sandwich, and filled the vase with water.
"Stay Daddy. I will make your saw-wich special." And just as quickly, her thoughts were off and running in another direction. "Gramma, I need a cookie for Fozzy. He was so good today."
Reaching out, I grabbed Pie from off of the counter and carried her to a shelf in the pantry where Esme kept a jar of dog treats just for Fozzy.
"Thank you, Daddy." Piper grabbed one treat and I stood her back on the ground.
"Sit, Fozzy." She smiled and patted the dog on his head. "Good puppy." She handed him the treat and Fozzy swallowed it faster than I could blink.
"Why don't we put Fozzy out back to run around for a bit while you help Gramma make lunch."
"Okay." Piper patted her leg and started skipping toward the back door. "Come on, Fozzy, lesss go outside." The dog followed without a second thought.
Back in the kitchen, Esme had already started cooking the bacon and sliced up the tomato.
"Hey there, son of mine." She smiled over her shoulder before flipping the meat in the pan. "How are you?"
"Good. Finished up another project last night, might need to make a trip to Seattle in the next week or so."
"Just let me know, I'm here if you need someone for Piper for the day."
"Thanks." I grabbed a few grapes from a glass bowl and popped them into my mouth, leaning against the kitchen counter.
"I'm back!" Pie came running into the kitchen. "I cleaned my hands so I can cook."
I swung her up onto the counter next to me and she diligently placed the slices of thick bread on small plates.
"Such a big helper, Pie, I have no idea what I'd do without you." My mom took the bacon from the pan and laid it out on paper towels to sop up the grease and cool.
"You welcome, Gramma."
I kissed my daughter on her head and breathed in her sweet scent.
The front door opened and Piper looked up at my mom. "Is Grampa coming?"
My mom shrugged, "I guess so, baby. I thought he'd be gone longer."
"Help me down, Daddy." I helped Pie jump from the counter. "Thank you, Daddy!" she hollered as she tore out of the room. My mom and I listened to her greet my dad in the living room, giggles filled the room as they entered, she was hanging upside down in my dad's arms.
"Anyone missing a monkey? I found this one running loose in the house."
"I'm not a monkey. I'm a Piper!" She giggled, her cheeks turning pink.
"What? A Piper?" My dad righted her in his arms and wore a mock face of surprise. "Oh my gosh! Piper! I thought you were a monkey." She hugged his neck tightly and kissed his cheek.
"You're silly, Grampa."
"Hey there, son." He smiled, his blue eyes crinkled, not a single blond hair out of place, but it was plain as day that he was exhausted. Carlisle worked a lot of hours at the local hospital, he was never neglectful of his family or friends, but he loved his job.
"Hey, Sweetie." My mom kissed his cheek and hugged him around Piper. "Long night?"
"To say the least." He looked at Piper, "Can you do me a huge favor, Pie?"
She nodded solemnly. "Yes."
"Could you go into my bedroom and get my special phone please?"
"Yes." Piper ran off leaving the adults in the kitchen.
"What's up, Dad?"
"Charlie Swan came in last night. He was shot twice. Once in the right leg, once in the lower back."
"Oh my gosh!" My mom's hand fluttered at her throat. "Is he okay?"
Charlie Swan is the local Chief of police here, and even though Forks has a reputation for being a sleepy little town, we still have a few off color characters, as my mom would say.
"He's going to be fine. He'll be hurting for a bit and definitely not going to be out on the street working for quite a while, but he's not in any life threatening danger."
"What happened?" I'd known Charlie forever; he'd brought Sam and me home one night after catching us egging a house. Needless to say, I didn't see the light of day for weeks and I had to go clean Mr. Hutson's front porch with a bristle brush and bucket of soapy water. Later that summer, Sam I went over and repainted the porch.
"From what I know, and don't quote me, someone was trying to rob the gas station, Charlie just happened to be slower than the bullets. But they did catch the guy, so there's a plus."
"Holy shit. That's crazy."
"Ummm umm! Daddy! I hear you!" That kid always walked in on me dropping a bomb.
My dad laughed at me.
"Tisky tisk." She handed my dad his phone and gave me the sternest look she could muster.
"Glad to know someone is keeping you in line." My mom whispered as she finished putting lunch together.
Piper and I stayed and had dinner with my parents, as I was cleaning the taco mess off of her in the bathroom, my mom came in and sat with us.
"If you two don't mind, maybe Pie can stay here overnight and she and I can go get her hair done tomorrow morning? Just a Gramma and Piper day?"
Piper immediately perked up and started bouncing around on her toes.
"Can I? Can I, Daddy?"
"Of course, but you have to be a good girl, best behavior and make sure Grampa doesn't cause any trouble."
"Yehy!" Piper flung herself into my arms. "Love you, Daddy! Bye!" And off she ran to harass my dad for the night.
Shaking my head, I hung up the wet washcloth that I had used on her face and hands.
"She's going to miss you, don't worry."
I looked up at my always knowing mom.
"Yeh. I just sometimes think I miss her more."
Esme came and sat next to me on the edge of the tub. "It's not always fun being the parent, is it?"
"No." I blew out a breath. "Not always. But I wouldn't trade it for anything."
My mom nodded and patted my hand.
"Maybe you should think about a haircut as well." She winked and stood. "I'll bring Pie home tomorrow after lunch. Go out with Sam tonight, enjoy a night off."
"Yeh, maybe I'll do that."
And we're off on a new adventure! I do hope that you enjoy it.