SMELL THE FLOWERS IS FINISHED
There will, however, be out-takes, sort of one-shots, that tell about the future. This is such a one-shot.
There will be no sequel, only out-takes of the lives of the family in specific situations.
Setting: not long after the return from Italy. 4.5 or so years after the Volturi attacked.
Theme: Closure to Bella's human life.
The house in Denali was fully furnished once more, and the family were scattered around us, doing their own things, yet never straying far. Carlisle and Esme were looking at plans for a house closer to the Denali house, but in the opposite direction of Anchorage this time. While Kate, Tanya, and Irina's house was big, it was far from big enough for all of us, and we wanted to be closer to each other for the time being. The event in Anchorage had changed us forever, and it would take a while until we were ready to move further from each other.
I recalled hearing once, that change for vampires were difficult, but major events could do it – usually meeting your mate. What happened to my family had been a paradigm shift in each of us, and we were altered forever by the event.
Garrett and Kate had joined Esme and Carlisle, as they considered building a house to themselves nearby as well, as they were newly mated. Irina was joining them with ideas, trying her best to put on a happy face, but I knew she was hurting from Laurent's betrayal, but willing to let it go – for now. I hoped Laurent was clever enough to stay away from her – far away. The Denali siblings had been singles for over a thousand years, so what Laurent had done to Irina had been truly cruel.
There was an unspoken agreement that no one wanted to return to the house in Anchorage, it simply held too many bad memories. I knew many in the family were scared to consider even visiting the old house, and through Alice's gift, I knew that in years to come, we would visit, and we would all have our own closure. For now, the pain was too raw, too fresh.
Carlisle and Eleazar took the experience the hardest, but then again, they had been friends with the Volturi brothers – or so they had thought. Both Esme and Carmen were incredibly attentive to their mates, but even the kids were attentive as well. All, save me, were back to calling Carlisle and Esme mom and dad, due to the massive need to feel closer. The time after Italy was incredibly emotional for all of us, and each of us reacted in our own way.
Rosalie and Alice were very emotional and stayed close to Carlisle and Esme, sometimes reverting to a needier age, a safer age. Emmett and Jasper were close by, always, but they liked to wrestle in order to relieve the tension. Jasper, who had been in the army, spent a lot of time with me, going over the events, and trying to strategize for any future needs, and generally talking about the experience, while Edward shifted between doing what he could to make me happy, and to make Esme smile. When Esme smiled, everyone smiled.
The Denali sisters were just as attentive to each other, and to us. Tanya and I became very close – she was just as eager as Jasper to plan, and to ensure the future. Irina tried hard to distract herself, and was often around Esme, Alice, and Rosalie, while Carmen and Eleazar varied between everyone, and Kate and Garrett shuffling as well. Garrett hadn't experienced what the family had; he hadn't nearly been killed, or threatened, and he observed the changes in the family and the bonds, and he was in awe of how much of a family we truly resembled.
I felt exhausted, and my mind longed to rest. My body, on the other hand, was perfectly awake and alert, as it would always be. Instead of sleeping, I slumped unnecessarily into a chair.
"Bella." Edward's voice was soft and needy. I leaned into his embrace, trying to calm down. Through my time with Edward, I had always felt things moved so fast – too fast for me to digest, anyway. I never got the time to let the dust settle before something had to stir it again.
"I'm okay," I replied, vaguely. I wasn't entirely okay. Things needed my attention, and while I wanted so much to just relax, my heart was twisting in my chest, calling for Charlie and Renee.
Having Alice nearby allowed me to borrow her gift, and I had already scouted for my parents once, but I wanted to do it again, though I was still afraid.
"You don't have to say goodbye," Edward suggested, vaguely. I knew he believed the lie – he would do anything to help me and to make me happy. "The Volturi is gone, I mean, technically we could tell them…"
The idea had merits, and I knew the rest of the family was following the conversation while doing their own things.
"I want to," I revealed, "but I don't think it's wise. The Volturi may have been a bunch of power-hungry crazies, but they were right about keeping the secret…" I didn't need to mention that revealing the secret to my parents would definitely be bad in the eyes of all our new allies. "It's just hard… Somehow, I feel exhausted…"
"We have some time," Edward insisted, just wanting to make me happy. I looked up at him and smiled. I stayed in his embrace while I considered my options, but I already knew that I would visit my parents sooner rather than later; no time like the present, after all. Besides, humans were fragile, and I wouldn't be able to bear putting it off and then missing the chance due to an accident, or worse: time. I seemed to lose track of time so easily; I didn't notice how the seasons changed, or at least I hadn't before. Perhaps, with the family up and running again, I could finally pause and smell the flowers, enjoy the sun, relax.
Seeing Renee in the flesh hurt, but it was a happy sort of hurt. She looked happy – tired, but happy. Phil was her steady companion, and he went above and beyond to make her happy, which made me happy.
At night, I visited their house, and I saw the many pictures of me. Many picture albums had been uncovered from the attic, and were now readily available on the shelves. I wondered how many times they had been opened and looked at. I found droplets of dried salt, which indicated Renee's tears. It hurt to realize how painful my death had been for her, but it was inspiring at the same time to see how well she was doing. Phil had truly been there for her, and helped her. I owed him everything.
"So, stocks," Edward mused, while flipping through the picture albums interestedly.
"Yeah, Alice set it up. I got some cheap stocks a few years ago, and they've magically exploded. Both Charlie and Renee are going to get huge earnings from it…" This was the best excuse we could come up with in order to add some more money to my parents' accounts. Sure, they had gotten money from my death, but it hadn't been enough, as it still needed to be realistic. It was not enough to make their dreams come true, to make let them live comfortably for the rest of their lives, and this was easier and more believable than suddenly winning the lottery they didn't really play.
"Will you really be okay?" Edward's eyes searched mine, and I knew he was troubled about my emotionally state. Technically, the entire family was troubled.
"I think I need a vacation after this," I replied, not joking at all. Edward quirked a smile, relaxing a bit at my calm demeanor. "It's hard, but thank you for being there for me."
I said goodbye to Renee, taking comfort that her life would be easier from now on – economically. She could travel and take up any sport she wanted, or hobby. I recalled visions of Renee and Phil with another child, sometimes a boy and sometimes a girl – the future wasn't set in stone, and the future with the child might never come to fruition. Either way, I hoped they would be happy, and I hoped Renee wouldn't linger over my death for too long. She deserved to move on, to be happy. The loss of a child would never be forgotten, but hopefully the pain would lessen soon enough.
Charlie was worse off than Renee. He was deep in work, doing extra work for other departments and cities, and burying himself in distractions. It hurt to see him surrounded by work, rather than friends. Charlie had buried himself when he had buried my empty coffin nearly 4.5 years ago.
"What did you expect? He lost his daughter." Jacob's voice was almost cold, and Edward growled in warning. I touched Edward gently, reminding him that we were visitors in the town, now. Jacob sighed, "I'm sorry," he said. "You know I love Charlie to bits…" Jacob's voice was resigned and pained. He didn't know what to do. I could tell he was anxious as well, and his alertness was overriding any polite manners he might have. Jacob had stopped changing half a year after the family had left Forks, and now the entire clan was back to being normal humans.
"I expected," I replied, pensively, "that his friends would be there for him." My tone made Jacob wince ever so slightly.
"Yeah, I know…" Jacob fell silent, uncomfortable now that he was among vampires again, yet unable to shift.
"Jacob," I whispered, pained. His eyes met mine, and I saw my own pain reflected. "He's not doing well… Billy…"
"-Sucks at this," Jacob revealed, sighing. "I- my dad doesn't know how to do this, and Charlie won't talk, and it's not like Billy can force Charlie to talk about it… Anything regarding you, or even the mention of your name, makes him mad, or makes him leave. He ignored the entire thing, and he works constantly. My dad hardly ever sees Charlie…"
"Then what? Billy will just leave Charlie to waste away?" I growled shortly, but shot Jacob an apologetic look. He had agreed to see me, and I had promised to be on my best behavior now that Jacob was vulnerable. He had taken a huge risk meeting with me. Still, I recalled perfectly how Billy had acted before I was turned, and I recalled what a poor friend he had been then. I wanted to remind Jacob of this, but I knew he didn't need the reminder, and now wasn't the time.
"He dated Sue for a short time," Jacob revealed.
"He did?" I replied, surprised. I was pleased, but I wondered what had happened.
"It didn't… I mean, Sue knows what you are, she knows the truth, and it hurt her seeing Charlie in pain, yet unable to tell him the truth… He was devastated, and he refused to talk, and she didn't know what to say…" The metaphorical knife in my chest twisted further, and I cried out in a soundless sob. Edward's grip on me held me up, and I turned and hid in his chest.
The money Charlie had gotten hadn't done him any good. He was hiding away in work, ignoring his emotions and my death. He wasn't happy, and he wasn't moving on.
The silence stretched for a while, until Jacob excused himself and left. My phone rang, and I picked it up upon seeing Alice's number.
"Alice," I whispered, wondering if she'd seen anything useful.
"This is a stretch," Alice replied, without preamble. "Go talk to him. At night, preferably when he's sleeping. Add a sleeping pill to his beer without him noticing, as well as one morphine tablet. This will make him more tired and more receptive if awoken…" I already knew where she was going, and my breath hitched and stopped in sudden hope.
"Alice," I whispered, unable to form any sentence.
"I've already made the prescriptions – you can pick it up in Port Angeles. Use only one tablet of each, and do it just before his dinner."
"Thank you!" I replied, beyond grateful.
We were already running towards Port Angeles by the time my conversation with Alice was done. I felt ecstatic at the thought of talking with Charlie, and I wondered what I should say.
That night, Edward distracted Charlie from his beer just before dinner, and I slipped two ground-up pills into his beer and swirled it gently before Charlie was back. I waited with baited breath for Charlie to drink and eat, and he fell asleep half an hour after dinner. The TV was still on, and he lay sprawled on the couch.
"I'll be in the kitchen." Edward hugged me tightly, and kissed the top of my head.
"Keep an eye out," I asked, kissing him lightly. We slipped inside the house and I quickly spotted Charlie. He looked so much older than I remembered him, and his face looked gaunter. He wasn't eating enough, and he wasn't sleeping properly. Even now, I could tell that his sleep was unfit.
"Is he having a nightmare?" I wondered, quietly.
"Not as you'd think. It's more like every thought is touched by sadness, so even the thought of fishing is somehow sad…" Edward replied, his tone too high for humans to detect. I clenched my jaw in pain, and lowered myself to the ground by Charlie's side. I shut the TV off, but Charlie didn't notice.
"Dad," I whispered, gently. He didn't seem to notice, and I gently stirred him. Still, no response. The sleeping pill and the morphine had really knocked him out. I continued prodding gently, until I got a response.
"Urghll…" Charlie mumbled, trying to slowly wake up from the deep slumber I had put him in.
"He's disoriented and very tired. I think he'll remember this as a dream," Edward told me from the kitchen where he hid.
"Dad." I spoke more severely now, and the sternness of my voice seemed to startle Charlie.
"Bella?" Charlie whispered, groggily. His eyes struggled to open, and I could tell that his pupils were fully dilated, making him unable to focus properly.
"It's me, dad," I whispered, unable to choke back a sob.
"Oh sweetheart, why are you crying?" Charlie was struggling to get up, and I could tell that his main priority was to keep me from crying. He didn't seem to recall yet that I wasn't supposed to be here. He clumsily held me.
"Dad," I whispered, still pained.
"Bella, you're not here," Charlie suddenly responded. His eyes seemed to be swimming, and I could hear his heart rate pick up.
"I'm here," I told him. I reached out to touch him, and as we connected, his heart thudded in his chest. He swallowed thickly, and I could smell salt. He was crying. I leaned into his embrace, and he held me tight, or as tight as his drug-induced body could.
"I miss you, Bella," Charlie said. "How is this possible?" His words were slurred, and he seemed to want to ask more questions, but unable to form the necessary coherent sentences.
"I had to come," I replied, sobbing tearlessly. "Oh dad, you look like crap!" I told him, almost scolding him. He looked saddened at my reproach. "Dad, how could you let yourself go like this? You know that's not a healthy way…" He looked distraught at my words, but made no move to deny them.
"Bella, I lost you…" His voice cracked, and his fist clenched my shirt.
"Yes, but I'm happy, dad. I'm okay," I promised him. "Thank you for all you did to me…" I hugged him closer, taking in all of his smells and the feeling of his embrace. I would remember this forever.
"I got you killed," Charlie whispered, as tears slid down his cheeks.
"Don't be silly," I admonished, my voice loving and serious. "I wasn't even in the same city as you," I reminded him.
"If you'd stayed with Renee, you would've gone to a different college…" Charlie replied, trying to shoulder the blame.
"I love you," I replied, forcefully. "It wasn't your fault..." I let my hand run over his damp cheek, and I stroked his hair gently, soothing him. He hadn't even noticed or remarked on how cold I was. "You need to take care of yourself," I told him.
"Bella-" Charlie objected, vaguely.
"No," I replied, trying to put steel in my voice. "You're going to take better care of yourself, and then you're going to invite Sue out for dinner, and then you're going to tell her everything. All of your feelings, and then you're going to tell her that you're not ready to forget, but you're ready to move on, to be happy…"
"Bells," Charlie whispered, pained.
"And you're going to talk to Billy, too. Get drunk, and tell him how you're doing. And you're going to start eating more salad, and working out, and doing less work, and more friends. And you need to fish…" I was ranting now, but Charlie seemed to take it in a stride. His eyes crinkled as he smiled at me, and then his face dropped, and he looked tired and sad again.
"Dad," I whispered, making him look up at me. "I need you to promise me you'll take better care of yourself…" I looked at him imploringly.
"Your eyes are a different color," he noted, tired and distracted.
"I'm just a dream," I reminded him, "but that doesn't make it less real," I added. It was a silly thing to say, but it seemed realistic in the eyes of a dream. His breath hitched in a quiet sob.
"I miss you…" Charlie's eyes closed, as he was overwhelmed with emotions.
"You need to sleep," I told him, and gently helped him upstairs. His swayed alarmingly due to the drugs, and he hardly noticed when I started to carry him. I tucked him in, and his eyes seemed to drop with the heaviness of the drugs.
"What do you promise, dad?" I whispered, insistently.
"I'll take more care… Talk to Sue and Billy," Charlie responded, tiredly. His voice was very slurred again.
"I love you!" I whispered, urgently. I sat with him for a while after he had fallen asleep, and Edward joined me.
"Love?" Edward sat next to me, holding me close. I felt much better than I thought I would. I had talked to Charlie, I had gotten closure, and so had he. I hoped it would be enough. "Alice texted and said Charlie would be okay…" The relief was palpable, and I sighed deeply.
"One last thing," I whispered, wondering if Charlie would notice the significance. I slipped into the kitchen and grabbed the leftover pizza. I packed it gently and put it in the fridge. This was something I'd always done, while Charlie had always left it on the table, only to throw out the next day. I wondered if he would see the significance in this small act, and perhaps he would be reminded of me. The fridge was empty, save from the leftover pizza.
We stayed in Forks until the morning. Charlie came down, groggy from such a long night's rest, and until he reached the bottom of the stairs, he hadn't remembered what had happened.
"It's like the second he saw the couch, he remembered," Edward told me, as we watched from our perch in the trees. I shifted to see Charlie as he moved around. Even if Edward hadn't told me, the sound of Charlie's elevated heartrate and the hitch of his breath made me aware that he remembered something. I shifted my spot so that I could see the kitchen more clearly. Charlie was moving around, dazed.
"He doesn't recall cleaning after dinner," Edward explained, just as Charlie opened the fridge. The loud gasp from Charlie almost sent me over the edge, and Edward held me tightly as we watched Charlie break down in the kitchen. He crumbled to the floor, and cried painfully. I wanted to go to him, to comfort him, but I knew that I couldn't, and I knew that these tears had been long overdue, and were, hopefully, a sign of a better tomorrow. I heard him whisper my name, and trying to make sense of last night. He promised he'd be better, and he told me he loved me.
I texted Jacob, and I told him to bring Billy, and some beer to visit Charlie. When they arrived, I saw them look around, and I, briefly, stepped out from the trees. Billy's eyes widened in surprise, but he sent a small wave to me, which I briefly reflected. The moment was over after a few seconds, and I heard Billy console Charlie, who was trying, in vain, to gather himself in front of his sudden guests. Billy would have none of it and despite it being the early morning hours, opened a beer and shoved it at Charlie.
For my part, it was time for a long vacation. Esme and Carlisle were willing to lend us their private island as a late honeymoon present. The rest of the family was taking up their own activities, though they planned to stay close to each other. Even Carlisle wanted to stay home for a while with Esme.
No one in the family believed we had all the time in the world anymore, since we had forcibly been reminded of our own mortality, and it made the time we had that much more precious. The love was stronger, the care more evident, and the bonds between us was thicker, unbreakable. We would persevere.
I had faith in the future, and for the first time in my life, I felt I could finally have the peace to enjoy the present.
There will be more one-shots, so if you're interested, feel free to follow the story.
I plan to explore the family's future ventures, as well as the surveillance-society we live in, and the consequences it might have. There won't be a sequel, these stories are strickly out-takes from the lives of the family - set out to explore specific situations.
I do not know when the stories will be uploaded - it could be from tomorrow to a few years.