Disclaimer: The author does not own any publicly recognizable characters herein. No copyright infringement is intended.
A/N: This one is for NewTwilightFan, who encouraged me to write this, way back when! Happy Birthday, Maggie!
Bella stared at the card with raised brows.
"Share our delight... 30 blessed years... renew vows... together forevermore," she muttered, eyes skimming the decorative cursive. "Unbelievable. Hey, Edward, you have to see this! Edw..."
She stopped short, throwing her head back with a groan. Her husband was on his annual adventure trip with Jasper, a tradition she had insisted they continue, even when she'd been pregnant two years ago. He'd gone then, reluctantly, but had cut their week-long adventure to a quick two day scuba diving experience. The little break had relaxed him, making him less likely to annoy her with his over-anxious concern for her comfort; and it had given her a chance to miss his care, making her less likely to snap off his head in a hormone and discomfort-fuelled fit of annoyance.
It was small things like that, the way they were both so in tune with what the other needed, that had made the last four years the happiest of her life.
She cast another glance at the card in her hand, nose wrinkling in bewilderment. Oh well, she needed him now, but he was off hiking a section of the GR20 in Corsica, and wouldn't be home for another three days. With a huff, she tossed the offending card onto her desk and decided to ignore it till he was back. Best thing about being married? She didn't need to deal with these things alone.
"So I told him, if he had empirical facts to back his claims, we could discuss them, but I wouldn't waste another minute trying to answer interjections based on what he thought the outcome of our experiment should be." Rose paused to catch her breath, huffing with indignation as she related the latest drama from university. "Seriously, who lets these idiots into college? And you'd think after all these years they'd have actually learnt something, but no! Seriously, B, I'm wondering if I shouldn't just lock myself into the lab for the next six years till my PhD is done, so I won't have to interact with these imbeciles."
"Well, you know, I'd have said it probably isn't as bad as you imagine, but I've actually met Royce King, so... yeah, I absolutely sympathize."
"Oh lord, I'd forgotten that!" Rose exclaimed, immediately diverted at the memory of the last time Bella had visited her at university. "It was, what, a year ago? Maggie must've been four months or so, right? Oh Bella, his face! His face when Edward turned up with Mags, and he realized the hot woman he was hitting on was married, with a baby!" She hooted with laughter, shaking her head at the memory. "He's just lucky Edward didn't hit him for ogling your new boobs."
"Ugh, 'new boobs' makes it sound like I've gone silicone," Bella grimaced.
"Speaking of," Rose said, raising up on an elbow and eyeing her sister quizzically. "Did you get the card yet?"
"From our favorite plastic surgeon and his wife, witch-face? Gosh yes!" Bella exclaimed in fake delight, clasping her hands together.
"And I'm not dealing with it till Edward's here, obviously," she replied airily. "Oh ew, did you just poop, Maggie darling?"
Her daughter gave a grunt and a happy, gummy grin, displaying all four of her teeth. "Poo!" she agreed.
Rose laughed, poking at her niece's chubby cheeks. "Here, I'll take care of it. C'mere, little poo-bottom."
"Poo!" Maggie chortled.
"This kid picks up the weirdest words, I swear," Bella said, laughing. "Sometimes, I don't even know if she's warbling or actually forming a word, cause she goes French on me! Edward's much better with deciphering that stuff. Does that make me a bad mom or what?"
Rose scoffed, then gagged, as she removed her niece's stinky diaper and quickly got to cleaning her mucky behind. "B, you and I both know it takes more than that to make a bad mom."
"Mama!" echoed the little wriggling child.
"Right you are," cooed Rose, nuzzling her and blowing raspberries on her stomach. "See, the kid agrees."
"'Gheese," Maggie piped in.
"She is the most agreeable kid in the world," Bella declared, taking her child and cuddling her. "And the sweetest, and the smartest, and the most adorable, aren't you, ma petite?"
"She really is. Gets it from me, of course," smirked Rose.
Bella cast her eyes heavenward. "Bien sûr. C'mon, let's eat something before we take little miss out to play."
"Sure. Hey, you want to drive over to Châlus for a bit later? Mom wants me to get some groceries and things, so we could stock you up as well. She said she'd watch Maggie if you liked."
"That'd be great. Seriously it's such a godsend, having your parents as neighbors. I don't think I can ever thank them enough for… for being there. I love my mom, but since I had Maggie, there've been so many things I just wasn't prepared for, things that I needed a mom to tell me. God, I sound whiney, but Aunt C made my life so much easier just by being here."
"You should tell her that, it'd make her day!" Rose laughed, hugging her briefly. "But you already know how happy it makes her and dad to be this close to you, and to have so much time with this little girl here."
Maggie laughed, squirming to get away from her aunt's teasing fingers.
Bella was exhausted. Maggie had been particularly active and demanding of her time and attention that day—Carmen suggested she was missing her father, and Bella thought it was a definite possibility. She really didn't begrudge him his guy time, but it was the plain truth that she was really looking forward to having him back home.
She dropped onto the bed with a groan, taking a moment to just feel the pain pulse through every part of her—oh, her back!—before it ebbed as her muscles gradually relaxed.
This was bliss, she mused. Eyes shut, she smiled, listening to the small night time sounds she'd become so used to, living on the farm. It was warm, so her window was open, and the slight breeze that puffed out the sheer lace curtains was more than welcome.
Letting go of her fatigue, she concentrated instead on the things that brought her such joy every single day. Her life here, her family, friends, her daughter, and most of all, her husband. She squirmed in excitement at the thought that he would be here in the morning. Just a few hours more. She fell asleep with a smile on her lips.
She woke to a slight noise, and sat up, thinking it was Maggie. But a quick glance at the baby monitor showed that she was sprawled out comfortably in her crib, fast asleep.
She lay back, but almost immediately heard the noise again.
A quiet click.
She strained her ears, following the sounds as they moved stealthily through her house.
A creak of the floorboard in the kitchen. A shuffling, as though of cloth.
Then nothing for a few minutes, till the doorknob turned slowly, and a dark, shadowy figure crept in.
"Bienvenue, monsieur. You're home early."
He started at her voice, then laughed softly, crossing the room in three swift strides to take her in his arms. He picked her up, straight off the bed, holding her close and breathing in the scent of her sleepy skin.
"Ma belle, mon cœur," he whispered, dropping tiny kisses all over her upturned face. "How I missed you." He paused, pulling back for a moment. "It was fantastic, though. We must visit la Corse together. You would love it."
"I love you."
"Really?" he grinned. "I would never have guessed. Hmmm… this love, where do you keep it? Let me see…" His feather light touch skimmed her body, from the smooth curves and planes of her face, down her slender neck, sliding along her collarbones, her arms, around to her spine, up her shoulders, down to her rounded hips and tempting derriere. The simple shift she had slept in was no barrier to his seeking fingers, and within minutes they were both breathing heavily, tugging off clothing, drawing closer. She gasped when he cupped her heavy breasts, still a little tender though she had tapered off breastfeeding over the last few months. Her lips rubbed against his slightly chapped ones, her tongue darting out to moisten them. He groaned, tugging her even closer for a moment, before laying her out on the bed, taking his time to admire her naked form. His restless fingers drew circles on her sensitive abdomen, slipping along stretch marks and blemishes, loving every inch of her with his eyes.
"Tu es incomparable," he whispered. "Magnifique."
She gloried in his adoration, breasts peaking, legs moving restlessly to create friction where she needed it desperately. She reached out to him and he came gladly, entering her swift and hard, cutting off her guttural moan with a powerful kiss that stole her breath and left her trembling, begging for more.
"Edward," she gasped. "More! I… ah! Yes, yes."
Spurred on by her incoherent gasps and moans, as much as by his own need, it was not long before he was with her at the cusp of completion. Panting, sweat beading on their skin, hands clasped and bodies meshed as closely as humanly possible, they came together desperately. And in the midst of that storm of lust and desire, she opened her eyes and found herself caught in his gaze; he tugged her soul from her body, and she gladly gave in, losing herself in him, as he lost himself in her.
Spent, he lay in her arms, knowing he should move, knowing she was probably getting crushed underneath him. It was hard to part from her, though.
"Mon trésor," he whispered, "Tu m'as manques."
She pecked his lips. "I missed you too, ma moitié."
They had at length parted and cleaned up, but even though they fell asleep on their respective sides of the bed, they still woke tangled together. Blinking sleepily at each other, they shared a smile, before their daughter's babbling through the baby monitor broke the moment.
His smile widened, and Bella laughed as he jumped out of bed, dashing to the nursery to cuddle the baby.
"Marguerite, ma chérie," he exclaimed. "Did you miss papa? Oh my little darling, I did, I so missed you and maman! Were you good for her? Did you play with Aunt Rosie?"
She babbled back, just as excited, with flailing arms and animated face. Watching from the doorway, Bella felt her heart expand with love.
It was a busy morning, but for once, it was just the three of them, and they loved every moment together. It was past noon when a light tap on the door heralded Rose's arrival.
"Hey, Edward," she hugged him, taking a seat at the table, next to Maggie's high chair. "Got in late last night, I hear? You owe me, you know, I convinced mom and dad that they should let you guys alone for at least half a day. They'll be beating down the door any minute now."
Edward laughed. "Oui, I came back a little earlier than I had thought. And merci beaucoup for allowing me time with my family."
"No problem," she said airily. "So have you seen it yet?" She turned to Bella, who had just entered the kitchen. "Have you told him yet?"
Seeing Bella's face wrinkle with distaste, Edward was intrigued. "Well now, what is this thing that I must see or hear that makes my wife look so… unenthusiastic?"
Grumpy face still in place, Bella turned around and walked off without uttering a word. Rose shrugged nonchalantly, though her eyes twinkled.
A minute later, Bella returned with a heavily embellished card in hand.
Edward accepted it and took a sip of water as he skimmed the text… and promptly sprayed out most of the water onto the card.
Maggie grinned and blew spit bubbles to imitate her beloved papa, while Rose let out a most unladylike belly-laugh.
Even Bella cracked a grin. "It wasn't that funny," she said, trying hard to stay annoyed.
"It kind of was… or it will be, once he hears your rant about it," Rose insisted, wiping her eyes.
Edward shook his head, hacking a couple of times, before taking a deep breath. "Ben and Angela are renewing their vows?" He opened and closed his mouth a couple of times, finally giving up and shaking his head.
"You know what this really is?" Bella said, casting her hands up in frustration. "This is Angela being a bi… wicked woman."
Rose looked at Maggie, who looked back, adorably confused at the strange behavior of the adults around her.
"How's that?" asked Edward, still staring at the card. "Listen to this stuff… 'Everlasting love and commitment'. Sheesh."
"She wants to upstage Vicky, that's all," declared Bella. "That poor sap James finally got his act together and made something of his life, got Vicky to agree to a relationship, convinced her to marry him, and instead of being happy for him, that woman just wants to grab their thunder any way she can. Ugh, she's so annoying!"
Over the last four years, James and Victoria had formed a closer bond, helped greatly by the fact that James actually did his best to be there for Annie, and make something of his life. It was, however, only in the last year or so that they had decided to take a shot at a real relationship. Even Rose, who took great pleasure in ridiculing his idiotic behavior, had to agree that he'd been almost tolerable in the recent past. Besides, Vicky and Annie had become regulars at their summer get-togethers, and everyone had grown quite fond of them.
As a result, the Hales and Masens were quite pleasantly surprised when James called to let them know that he was going to marry Vicky. The couple was planning a quiet wedding in the English countryside where Vicky's aunt, her only living relation, lived. The Le Mazet crowd decided to throw them a wedding party when they motored down the week after that.
Everyone was excited, and Edward had even bought Marguerite an adorable little dress trimmed with daisies.
Bella had laughed on seeing it, of course. "Daisies, Edward? Really?"
"It is her name, mignonne," he shrugged. "I still think her middle name should have been Daisy. Then she could have been…"
"Then she would have been, essentially, Daisy-Daisy Masen. No, thank you, my daughter will not have a ridiculous name! It's bad enough that Jazz insists on calling her Daisy all the time."
"Well, if you put it like that," he conceded reluctantly. "I suppose Marguerite Sophia isn't too bad."
"Not at all," she agreed. "It's beautiful, just like little Maggie."
"Relax, Bella," Eleazar said soothingly. "It's hardly the first time my brother and his wife have done something ridiculous, and I'm sure it won't be the last."
"But this is… it's not even close to their anniversary, Uncle E. It is, of course, the same weekend that we planned the party for James and Vicky," she protested.
"And we're still having the party," insisted Carmen calmly. "Has Renee spoken to you yet? She and Charlie will be flying down here as well. She called me last night and said they've booked the tickets."
"No, but we usually talk on Wednesdays," said Bella, with a laugh. "Wait, she and dad? Has she actually convinced him to get back together?"
"Not that I know of, but you know your mom… she doesn't give up when she really wants something," teased Carmen.
"Hush, don't upset my wife," said Edward, hugging a cringing Bella. "If you ask me, Renee has settled down considerably since I first met her, chérie. If she and your dad want to try for a friendship, or a closer relationship now that they are both older and wiser, so to say, it's hardly a bad thing, n'est ce pas?"
Bella nodded slowly. "You're right, it isn't bad at all. Friendly is better than angry and fighting. Just weird for me, I guess, but I can get over it."
"Bien," he kissed her cheek. "Now, about this…" he flicked the card onto the table. "We cannot possibly be here and on a yacht in Monte Carlo at the same time."
Rose snorted. "Monte Carlo. Who renews their vows in Monte Carlo anyway? Aunt Angie just wants to pretend she's a jet-setter."
"Hush, Rosie," chided Carmen. "Even if you're right, you don't need to be mean about it. Anyhow, Eli and I are going to talk to Ben about this, see if they can't move the dates or something. If they can't, we'll just have to miss it, because there is no way we are cancelling on James and Vicky."
"And before you ask, yes, I'm ok with missing it," Eleazar spoke up. "I was there for their actual wedding, and witnessing that kind of mistake once is enough for a lifetime."
Bella had been fighting the urge to speak, and finally gave in. "But I just don't get the two of them! I mean, they go to such lengths to avoid each other. Edward and I have seen them both with different people over the last few years. Uncle Ben still stalks my mom. I'd think they would be headed for a split, not a renewal of vows. It's such a sham!"
Eleazar nodded sadly. "You're right, but the one thing I've learnt in life is that it's a total waste of time to trouble myself over other people's actions. Even when it's my own brother, and I keep feeling I ought to do something, talk to him, convince him… beyond a point, there's literally nothing you can do. Their life, their decisions."
They were all quiet for a moment, the atmosphere uncharacteristically heavy. Then the rumble of an engine and slam of a car door broke the peace.
"Bumpkins! Where are you all?" Jasper's voice boomed out.
Before anyone could react, Alice ran into the house, straight for Bella… or rather, Maggie, who had fallen asleep in her arms.
"Where's my Daisy girl? Oh, sleeping, so precious," she exclaimed, grabbing her and rocking her gently. Looking up, she waved at the bemused adults at the table. "Hi y'all. Ignore me, I need some baby-time."
"And yet she won't let me knock her up," moaned Jasper, sauntering in. He dodged the spoon Alice threw at him, and did a quick round of the table, hugging and greeting all his favorite people.
"No Emmett?" he asked.
"He'll be here next week," said Rose with a slight blush. She and Emmett had been dating for years now, but for some reason she still shied about talking about what they had, especially in front of her parents.
"Oh excellent," nodded Jasper, grabbing a croissant and a chair. "Why was it so quiet in here? You are a noisy lot usually."
"Just discussing Uncle Ben and Aunt Angie's latest," said Rose.
"I see. Yes, yes, Angela is a sobering thought if ever there was one," said Jasper with a shudder.
"Now that the heavy conversations are done, for the moment," began Edward, turning to Jasper. "Want to tell them?"
"Tell us what?" asked a confused Bella.
Jasper nodded. "I'm impressed he hasn't blabbed about it already. He usually can't keep a thing from you, young B. So anyway, during our hike, Edward and I were talking about Le Mazet, and the surrounding villages. As we all know, there are plenty of small villages that are nearly deserted, buildings lying vacant and untended. Families have died out, or moved to the cities, and all these beautiful structures stand around slowly decaying."
The others nodded, because at some point or the other, they had all discussed how sad it was to see a 500 year old barn or a homestead crumble out of neglect. Despite the beauty of the place, it was hardly appreciated.
"We have come across instances, in Spain, among other places, of entire villages being redeveloped as resorts, offering a slice of authentic village life. We were wondering what you thought of trying that here."
"Just down the lane, for instance, we have Les Jarosses," said Edward, leaning forward. "It has a couple of farms, but the owners have rented the land out. No one actually lives there. The houses, barns, everything is lying empty. Some of the houses are rented out for the summer, but the place is falling apart. We were considering hiring it entirely, and then renovating the buildings. We could refurnish it all in authentic rustic French style. Whoever visits would have a real taste of what life in a village here would be like. No added luxuries, no extravagant redevelopment, no swimming pools or whatever. We could offer them information about the historical sites around, the lakes and the hikes, and they can explore at their will."
Jasper tapped the table, a staccato beat that showed his excitement. "What d'you think? It could work, right? Young Bella and Alice here could maybe help out with researching the décor to make the houses as authentic as possible."
Bella and Alice were wide eyed, a silent conversation taking place between them. Finally, they both grinned.
"I think that is a great idea!" Bella exclaimed. "And yes, Alice and I could easily do this. It'll be a lot of work, though."
"But worth it, I think," said Eleazar slowly. "Maybe you could think of offering writer's retreats, or something in winter. Summers will be easy, of course. This place is beautiful, lots of people will jump at the chance for an authentic village stay."
"Brilliant!" said Jasper, rubbing his hands together in glee.
Jasper and Alice left after an early supper, for their yearly pilgrimage to Luxembourg. Carmen, Eleazar and Rose went home soon after, reluctantly tearing themselves away from an especially playful Maggie.
Alone again, Edward and Bella spent a quiet evening together. Maggie was entranced by the colorful postcards and picture books her father had picked up in Corsica, and the time till her bedtime was spent happily pointing at pictures and listening wide-eyed to the stories her parents cooked up just for her.
Edward tenderly wiped the drool from his sleeping daughter's round face, before leaning in to kiss her gently on both cheeks and smooth her soft, curly brown hair. Then he took Bella's hand and walked down to the living room, where he held her close and happily listened to all her stories about the week and a half that he had been away.
Outside, night deepened and stars emerged in the firmament, twinkling brightly down at the slowly revolving earth. The sounds of human activity gradually dropped away. One by one, electric lights clicked off for the night. A gentle breeze rolled over the fields, flirting with the tips of the swaying crops, making the trees protest in loud, leafy whispers, and cooling the heated memory of the day from the minds of sleeping men and women.
It was the end of the day, and it is the end of this story. Maybe someday, as you take a moment to appreciate the beauty and love that surrounds us even in the midst of all the terrible things people do to each other, you'll think of French Edward and his Bella, and smile.
Bien sûr : Of course/Sure
Bienvenue : Welcome
la Corse : Corsica
Tu es incomparable : You are incomparable
Mon trésor : My treasure
Tu m'as manques : I missed you
ma moitié : My other half
A/N: Yes! This is finally complete!
This was my first story, the first time I tried to put the impressions in my head into words, so this has been incredibly special for me. Completing this is a huge deal for me. I'm grateful to everyone who read this, and even more so to those who continued to follow it in spite of the time it took, and the rambling storyline.
I've tried to answer reviews, but sometimes, that couldn't happen; and there were guest reviewers every so often, so I'm just going to thank you all here. Every review meant a lot, because it let me know that you were reading this.
I also want to thank all the lovely readers who pointed out the little mistakes I made with my French! I will be using their inputs to go over the whole story and correct things, now that I've actually completed it.
Oh, and in the event you're ever interested, I'm going to make a pretty pdf of this with pictures. Ah, the little things that make me happy!