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I heard the sounds of feet padding down the hallway, the small tornado making its way to my room. Burrowing myself deeper under the blankets, I laid stock still and held my breath. I had hoped that if my sweet, but way too energetic, daughter thought I was sleeping she'd go on her way.
It didn't work.
The door creaked. I waited for a loud whispered, "Momma are you sleeping?" But that didn't come. Less than a minute later the bed dipped next to me and her little body scooted closer. I smiled and opened my eyes, blowing my cover. Only smiling wider when her pretty brown eyes stared back at me, hopefully.
"Good morning, Momma," she whispered, loudly, like usual.
"Morning sweetie." I moved some hair away from her face and felt her forehead. "Are you okay?"
She nodded, scooting closer. "I just wanted to see if you wanted to play with me before I go to daddy's house."
"Tempting." I grinned at her drooping eyes. "Maybe let's take a quick nap first?"
Yawning, she closed her eyes and two minutes later her body sagged against mine, her mouth dropped open letting out soft snores. I pulled her closer into my arms, resting her head on my shoulder, as I tried to run my fingers through thick tangled brown hair. Similar to mine in color and texture, her curls felt unmanageable at times. And chasing her after her shower to comb through it wasn't always my thing.
Another set of heavier footsteps stopped right outside my door a few minutes later. "Mom?"
"Come in," I said, reaching for my phone, which had died, then searched out the small clock in the corner. It was pushing close to 8 o'clock. On 'the weekends' that was sleeping in around these parts.
"Where's dad?" Victoria, my oldest, asked speaking my thoughts out loud. It wasn't rare for him to show up here before the sun came up, anxious to get his time with them started.
"Did you call him?"
"No." She stomped in, throwing herself at the foot of my bed.
Calm moments like this with the three of us were rare, but I loved and lived for them.
Weekday mornings consisted of last minute lunch making and rushed conversations; Shuffling through the laundry for what to wear, or tired yawns around Pop Tarts and toast. As much as I wanted to be that mom who got up early to make a big hearty breakfast every morning, I couldn't do it all the time. And thankfully the girls didn't seem to care too much.
Nearly an hour later the doorbell rang, startling me out of a surprisingly deep sleep.
"Girls." I shook the bed. "Go get your things. That's probably your father."
Their mumbling and grumbling made me smirk. They definitely got their love of staying in bed from me.
The doorbell rang again before I could get to it, which annoyed me. Edward never had the patience to just wait and that clearly hadn't changed no matter how much time passed. "Hold on, I'm coming!" I yanked the door open.
What, or who I should say, I expected on the other side wasn't what greeted me.
"Hey, Bella." She smiled, while I did my best to hide my scowl.
Tanya was one of the sweetest people I had ever met. Her love for my girls was clear without being overbearing, and she'd always been kind without being sugary sweet. Slim and a few years younger than me, she had the kind of natural prettiness others would kill for.
She was also my ex's girlfriend and no matter how much I wanted to like her, I didn't. We were friendly enough, but we would more than likely never be friends.
"Edward asked me to pick up the girls. Is that ... is that okay?"
I honestly had no idea how I felt. I knew of her existence, met her several times, and heard her name falling out of Irina's mouth a lot, but I didn't even know she knew where I lived. This was a new development, a new level to their relationship I supposed, and there was nothing I could do about it.
"Girls, Tanya is here!" I shouted out to them as her answer.
Irina ran up first, throwing her little arms around Tanya's waist. "Hi, Miss Tanya!" It was a sweet thing to see, in theory. Both warming my heart and shredding it all at once. My little girl loved everyone who loved her. Plain and simple. No questions asked, no hidden motives.
"Hey, sweetie. Ready for the zoo?" Tanya bent to her level and fluffed her hair.
"Hey." Victoria barely acknowledged Tanya then turned to give me a half hug. I would have to ask her about that later; whether she was just being a sully teenager, or if she had a legit reason to give Tanya the cold shoulder. "Later, Mom."
"By, Momma." Irina squeezed my waist, too. "Love you."
"Love you, too, baby."
I waited for the inevitable, 'mom I'm not a baby,' but she must have sensed the tension and let me have this moment.
I stood by the door until they drove away, waving back with a silly smile when Irina pushed her face against the back seat window.
Weekends were easier now, something I never thought I'd be able to say. For too long the feelings between me and their father were too raw. The pain and anger on both sides constantly simmering under the surface. "The exchanging of the kids" was a fucking spectacle and at times the longest few minutes of my life. Or just the same there were days it was the quickest when we rushed through forced pleasantries because neither one of us wanted to spend more time in each others presence than necessary.
But it's crazy what a difference a few years make. Where our face-to-face exchanges aren't always to recap events of the week or which kid was sick and needed their medicine doled out just right.
Between anger and animosity, the conversations became light and friendly. General concern replacing resentment.
I often wondered though how fake we were. Then. Now. If we've truly said all the things we've wanted. If our being cordial was sincere or because we knew what was expected.
Our friends and families had their theories with silly speculations about wayward glances and awkward silences. I wondered if they shared them with him the way they shared it with me. And what he said if they did. It made me smile: thinking about the old times with all of us, remembering the era before all of this.
But this is what we were now, better than before but not where we once were.
And depending on the day, I battled if I was okay with it.
"So how's it going?" The aforementioned friends asked me later in the day.
I slumped on the couch, exhausted and agitated from a failed shopping trip.
"Tanya picked the girls up from my house today," I blurted out even though in my mind I'd planned to complain about my search for this stupid hatching animal toy Irina wanted.
Rosalie's eyes widened, noting the same significance I felt this morning. It took her husband—my good friend—Emmett a long time before he trusted her with his daughter and it was at that point we all knew things had gotten serious with them.
Alice snorted and shook her head. Loyal to a fault, even though she'd known me and my ex equally as long, she hated every single girlfriend he'd had since our divorce.
To be fair, she'd never been fond of the people I tried to date, either, but I'm sure Edward didn't have to hear it the way I did.
Alice was, in addition to the girls, someone we had joint custody of. She refused to take sides and let it be known she prayed for both of us to succeed while secretly hoping our other relationships failed.
"Alice, be nice," I admonished, only half meaning it.
"What? She's literally the lamest person I've ever met."
"She's nice," Rose said.
"Fake," Alice coughed into her fist.
The three of us had a strange dynamic. Rose played the role of the optimist and Alice the cynic.
Alice was the one who'd been there through everything, seeing every bit of my ups and downs, both with Edward and just life in general.
Rose had come in right around my worst, when I was divorced but still hurt, and fresh off a break up with a nice guy who loved me but I didn't love him back. Irina wasn't in school yet, and Victoria was going through a terrible phase where she seemed to hate the world. I was on the brink of a nervous breakdown and barely holding it together most days, and now that we've gotten things under the semblance of normal Rose assumed I'm doing great.
She had no idea about my life before then; when it was as perfect as any life could be.
Now when she looked at me, I was at least better than when we first met.
But Alice and I knew the truth. I would never be where I'd been which killed.
And it made for interesting perspectives on the same topics. I appreciated the hell out of both.
The opinions and the women behind them.
A few weeks later, on Black Friday to be exact, I was home alone and cleaning while the girls were on a shopping trip with their Grandmother.
I missed them most weekends when they went with their dad, but times like today I was thankful to have the house to myself. This way I got to deep clean it in a way that Irina couldn't manage even when she tried and that Victoria didn't ever try. She wasn't a messy kid, and I didn't consider myself a neat freak. But her tolerance for how long you could go without sweeping a floor far exceeded mine.
I was pulling last year's Christmas junk out of the shed, while also spring—well winter cleaning—when a small box caught my attention. Familiar but like in a distant memory, I'd seen it before but couldn't place where. I opened the flaps of the box and looked on with confusion. It was stacked with drawings that screamed Irina's style, envelopes, Birthday cards and one unopened letter addressed to Santa.
I'd faked mailed every other letter to him so I had no idea how I missed this one.
Until I opened the letter, and with merely a few words was nearly knocked on my knees.
One simple wish. One thing I wasn't sure I could give my daughters.
We didn't have much, but we also had plenty.
I thought I had been doing a good job but this letter to Santa, that got missed in the shuffle or hidden from me on purpose, broke my heart.
Swallowing my pride, I knew what I had to do.
A/N: So, yeah, this is a wannabe one shot that turned into a short fic that I'm calling my "Kind of Christmas Fic." There are no angels or ghosts of Christmas past, but there will be some ugly sweaters and spiked egg nog. That counts right? There's no angst. Told only from Bella's POV, and will post daily over the next few days.
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