Disclaimer: SM owns Twilight. No copyright infringement intended.
A/N: This is the expansion of one of my We Love Mobward Contest entries. It was the winner of The Secret Keeper, 2brown-eyes' 1st place pick, Judge deJean Smith's 1st place pick, as well as earned the Best Swim With the Fishes nod.
We're going to go back in time for this one, and start from the beginning...
Just minutes into the private graveside service, a light rain began to fall. The small drops pelting the tent overhead, along with the dark heavy clouds accompanying them, reflecting my mood. The priest is droning on and on about Charlie's entry into heaven when all I can think about is that I want him here. He was all the family I had. Sixteen years wasn't enough time with him. The whole day has felt like a bad dream; as though, at any moment, I'll wake up, and he'll be here to calm me with a hug, telling me everything will be okay.
Being a spectator today has been a surreal experience. People I've never met before have offered their condolences, telling me what a great man he was, what a great officer he was, but none of it has brought me comfort. I know enough about my father and his motives ... about some of the choices he made to know he wasn't exactly the honorable officer that all of the Boston PD believes he was; his relationship with the Cullens was proof enough of that. However, sitting here between Carlisle and Esme, each of them holding one of my hands in theirs, is comforting in a way I hadn't expected.
Their presence has been constant in the week since that horrible day that I lost my father. But then, they've always been around. I remember meeting them when I was quite little; playing with their two youngest sons, Emmett and Edward, while the adults 'took care of business,' as Charlie used to say. As I got older, heard more rumors, I knew that his quiet meetings with the Cullens meant he was involved in something bigger. But, I always felt safe, protected, when I was around them.
Letting my mind drift, I look around at the small crowd gathered. I see a few familiar faces, a few that aren't. Seated just past Esme, is Emmett then Edward, their youngest sons. They're only a few years older than I am; Emmett at nineteen, and Edward, who just this month turned twenty-two. Em's usual dimpled smile has been replaced with a somber expression today. Though, when I catch his eye, the twinkle that's always present is still there. Edward's sharp features have always been tempered with the softness in his eyes. I always thought he was a serious kid, but I think he's turned into an even more serious man. But, he was always kind, patient, even though he was a little more than five years older than me. And he loved Charlie; they both did. I remember the many times the two youngest Cullen boys would welcome their 'Uncle Charlie' with open arms.
Edward's been away at school the last few years, and just finished his classes, so I haven't seen him in a while. Emmett's been gone this last year too, having just finished his first year. Apparently, Carlisle made the call to bring them both home for Charlie's funeral.
"Lest us not forget, that The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and blessed are those who mourn, they shall be comforted."
The priest's loud words startle me back to attention, but it doesn't last long. On the other side of Carlisle, is Jasper, who's the oldest Cullen son at twenty-six. With his lighter hair and sharp blue eyes, he resembles his father while his brothers take after Esme with their dark hair and green eyes. They're all strikingly handsome, and under other circumstances, my attention would be drawn to them.
Jasper's new wife, Alice is seated just past him, and she seems to be texting or playing a game, I'm not quite sure. Shaking my head at the absolute disrespect she's showing, not only toward me but also my father's memory as well as to the Cullen family, I turn my attention to the front.
The service doesn't last much longer, and we're soon asked to come and say our last respects before his casket is lowered into the ground.
"Bella, a leanbh, do you want to go up and say anything to your father?" Esme's soft voice brings me from my near-numb state.
I just shake my head, fearing that if I speak, I'll again start crying. I know no one here would judge me, but I feel like I've cried enough.
Esme pats my hand. "Okay, a stóir. If you change your mind, you still have time." She kisses the side of my head. "Carlisle and I will be up there if you need us." Turning to her side, she looks at her younger sons. "Emmett, Edward? Could you boys please sit with Bella for a few moments?"
"Of course, Ma."
Carlisle and Esme's vacant seats are quickly filled with Edward and Emmett. Their broad shoulders and imposing forms make me feel safe; protected from even the light wind swirling around us.
"You doing okay?" The deep but soft timbre of Edward's voice, combined with his hand over mine, surprises me.
"Yeah, I'm all right," I answer in a whisper, but the tears that fall from my eyes betray my words. Shaking my head, knowing it's a lie, I'm soon crying into my hands as quiet sobs run through me.
"Shh, I've got you, álainn. Things will be all right." Edward's arm wraps around my shoulders, bringing me to his chest, holding me together. "Your Da was a good man, Bella. And now he's up there watching over you. You've got your very own guardian angel."
Though meant to comfort me, his words just bring on more tears. Em reaches over for my hand, offering his own support. Knowing that the whole Cullen family is here for me, supporting me, gives me hope that the days ahead might be brighter.
Edward and Emmett continue to hold onto me until my tears run dry.
"Thanks," I murmur into his suit jacket. Pulling away, I notice the mess I've made of his likely, several-thousand-dollar suit. "Oh, God, I'm sorry." I try to use the balled up Kleenex I've been holding to wipe it away, but I'm only making it worse. "Oh, no. I'll have it cleaned. I'm so sorry!" He reaches up to gently grasp my wrist, halting my efforts.
"Bella, it's okay. It's just a jacket. You have other things to worry about."
I nod, knowing not to argue with him. Looking up, I see Carlisle and Esme waiting patiently for me.
"Are you ready to go, Bella? We've arranged for a meal at the house for the family and a few close friends."
"Yes, Mrs. Cullen, thank you."
"Ah, none of this Mrs. Cullen nonsense. You'll be callin' me Esme, understood?"
Her serious, yet light tone makes me smile.
Carlisle extends his hand to me and helps me to my feet. Glancing back at the casket, I change my mind.
"Um, Mr. Cullen?"
"Yes, Bella?" The kindness in his voice is in stark contrast to his usual hard demeanor.
"Could I have just a minute," I say, pointing back toward my father's final resting place.
"Of course. Take all the time you need."
I start to step away when he speaks again. "And Bella?"
Turning back toward him, I look into his kind eyes. "Yes?"
"Please, call me Carlisle."
"Okay," I say with a small smile.
I step toward the casket and face the harsh reality that I've been dealt. My father, my protector, has been taken from me, and I feel utterly lost.
Surrounded by the heavy fragrance of the floral arrangements, I run my hand along the cool, smooth surface of the wood, as my mind is assaulted with a memory ... a time when life was simpler.
Turning the crank on the bottom of the smooth, wooden jewelry box, a pretty song plays.
"Oh, Daddy, I love it!" I wrap my arms around his neck. "It's so pretty, thank you!" His mustache tickles me as I kiss his cheek.
"I'm glad you like it, Bella. It's for all your special treasures, since you're such a big girl now. It came all the way from Ireland."
"Where is that? Is it far away? Oh! Can we go there today?" Sitting on my knees, perched on my bed, I'm bouncing in place in my excitement.
Daddy's laughing a little now. "No, honey, it's far away. We'd have to take an airplane to get there, and you start school tomorrow. You don't want to miss that, do you?"
"Nun-uh. But, we could go now, and come back tomorrow for school."
"No, Bella, not today. But, someday, I promise I'll take you to see it."
"I promise. Now, it's time for sleep. You have a big day tomorrow."
"Okay." I climb under my covers, and Daddy takes my new music box, placing it on my nightstand, and kisses me on the head.
"Goodnight, Bella. I love you, baby girl, all the way to the moon and back."
"Love you to the moon too, Daddy. Night."
"To the moon and across the stars, Daddy," I whisper. "I'll try to make you proud of me. I love you." Leaning down, I kiss the smooth wood, and lay my cheek against it. A rumble of thunder in the distance reminds me that it's time to go. After one last kiss, I stand straight and steel myself for the uncertainty of my future.
As Carlisle escorts me to the waiting car, a feeling of foreboding comes over me; as if my life will be forever changed from this moment onward.
The Cullen's home is filled with people that I don't really know. I've been told that many of them are business associates. Though, I'm not sure if they're associates of my father or the Cullens. I'm startled from my thoughts by a shift in the seat next to me. I've been graced with Alice's presence.
"So, little Bella, where do you go to school? You are in school, right?"
Though her appearance is a little irritating, I'm grateful for the reprieve from the somber atmosphere that's settled around me.
"Yeah, I'll be a junior in the fall. And I'm not sure yet where I'll be going."
"Oh? Why not?" The smell of alcohol is strong on her breath; her face entirely too close to mine.
"Mr. and Mrs. Cullen said I'd be changing schools. I was enrolled in public school, but they said private school might be a better choice."
"They do like their privacy." Her somewhat mocking tone puzzles me. You would think being a newlywed, she'd be a little more respectful of her in-laws.
"Well, nothing has been decided. I think that we're supposed to talk about it later; after everyone leaves."
"Well, if you ever need anyone a little closer to your age to help you with your" hiccup "wardrobe, I'm your girl. God knows Esme is too old to know anything about what's fashionable." She leans over to whisper, her alcohol-ladened breath hot in my ear. "Besides, they've got money to burn. Might as well take advantage of it. It's a bonus to living with them. I consider it my incentive to be married to that husband of mine."
"I'll keep that in mind. Thanks." Even though I'm surprised by her blatant dislike of, not only her mother-in-law but her husband, I don't acknowledge it. Her dilated pupils tell me that later, she may not even remember what she said to me. Thankfully, her attention is soon diverted elsewhere, and I'm once again left alone with my thoughts.
Hours later, as the last of the guests filter out, after stopping to offer their condolences once again, I'm left alone with only the Cullen family, and a few...associates. I've come to realize that all of these associates are armed as well. I'm not sure if that makes me feel as if I'm safe or if I'm in danger.
"Bella? Could you please join Esme and me in my office?" Carlisle is standing in the doorway to the room.
"Yeah," I say, rising to my feet. Remembering my manners, and who I'm speaking to, I correct myself. "I mean, yes, of course."
We're joined in the office by Esme, as well as another man; short, balding, and rather inexpressive.
"Bella, this is my lawyer, Mr. Jason Jenks. His firm also represented your father."
"Nice to meet you." I reach out to shake his hand.
"Now, I've asked you to join us since what we've been discussing concerns you as well."
"Yes, sir." I'm suddenly nervous, and I'm not sure why.
"Now, nothing is wrong, so try to calm yourself, a stóir. Mr. Jenks here has your father's will and other documents that pertain to your future, so I thought it would be best to include you in the conversation. You're a very intelligent, level-headed young lady, and I thought you could help us make some decisions regarding your future."
Esme reaches over from where she's seated in the chair next to me, taking my hand, and offering me a warm smile.
"So, Mr. Jenks, why don't you go ahead and tell Bella what her father's wishes were."
"Yes, well the summarized version then?" he asks, looking at me.
"First, you should know that financially, there isn't any worry about your future. Your father made sound investments, and there is a trust, along with several accounts. You'll have a monthly allowance for everyday expenses, and your guardians will be able to access the rest of the accounts as needed. As far as guardianship, well, his wishes were for you to remain here with the Cullens. Though, legally, on paper, your guardian would be an, Anne Platt."
"That is another name I've gone by in the past, a stóir," Esme says to me.
"Yes, your father was aware of the implications of being under the legal guardianship of the Cullens, so this was the alternative. But, he wished for you to remain in their physical custody."
"How do you feel about that, Bella?"
"Um, yeah, okay. I mean, yes. I'd like to stay here. You've all been very welcoming to me. I think I would feel at home here. At least eventually."
"And we'd love to have you." Esme's warm smile reminds me that not only have I lost my father, but I've also missed out on the love of a mother, as she was also ripped from my life so very long ago.
"Well, then, that brings us to the decision of where you'd like to go to school. We would prefer that you not stay at your public school. There isn't enough security there, and Esme and I both prefer that you attend a private facility. We can tour a few over the next few weeks, as we have the advantage of it being summer break. We don't have to make a decision right away. How does that sound?"
"That sounds fine, thank you." I try to smile, show them my gratitude for all that they've done for me, but it's lackluster at best. I just don't have any energy left to show any more enthusiasm, and Esme must notice.
"Okay, if that's all, gentlemen, I think Bella has had quite a trying day, and I'd like to get her settled into her room for the night." She takes my hand, waiting to be dismissed.
"Of course, mo grá. Could you perhaps send the boys in on your way out? I need to speak to them." Esme nods at Carlisle's request, and we're dismissed.
Passing the rest of the family on our way to my room, Esme directs the boys to their father's study. As Edward moves by me, his hand brushes mine to get my attention, causing me to look up at him.
"You feeling better now?" He seems genuinely concerned, which makes the decision to stay here with this family seem like the right one.
"A little. I just need to go to bed, and hope that tomorrow's a better day." He nods, seemingly satisfied with my answer. "And, um, thank you...for earlier." I feel awkward talking to him; the boy I used to know barely recognizable, only the shadow of him left in his eyes.
"Anytime, Bella. You're family now, and family is always there for each other."
"Come along, now, Bella." Esme has already moved down the hall, waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs that lead to the bedrooms. Moving my feet along, she quickly leads me to my room. Many of my things have already been unpacked, and it makes the space feel more like my own.
"Now, I know I've already told you, but remember, our room is just at the end of the hallway. If you need anything at all, don't hesitate to ask. If there's an emergency, we're nearby."
"I will." I attempt another smile, but it falls flat, and it's quickly replaced with tears; the weight of the day finally crashing down on me.
"Oh, Bella." Esme rushes to my side, holding me while I allow myself one last breakdown for the day. "We'll help you through this, a leanbh. Anything you need, we're here for you. Even if all you need is time. You're so strong; I just know you'll get through this."
"Thank you," I rasp as the tears come to an end. I wipe my sniffles on a tissue from the box in the room.
"There is no thanks needed, sweet girl. Your father was like family to us, and by extension, so are you. We'll get through this together."
Later that night, as I'm curled into my blankets, I notice someone had unpacked my music box and placed it at my bedside. Reaching out, I turn the crank, and put it back on the nightstand as the soothing sounds of An Irish Lullaby help me drift off to sleep.
A/N: Please keep in mind that as we begin, Bella is sixteen, and Edward is twenty-two. For many reasons, it will be a while before they are together. It's possible that some of the original content of the one shot will be changed or tweaked to fit the expanded story, so if you've read that, please keep an open mind. This story will contain mature themes, including implied sexual assault, though not written in detail, and at times, graphic violence. I'll be sure to list any warnings when needed.
My plan is to post weekly, but I only have six more chapters pre-written, plus the content of the one shot. I get nervous when I don't have more than that in the bank, so we'll see how it goes.
Since FFN is difficult with links, I've shared the link to the YouTube video of the lullaby in my Facebook group, Sunshine Fics. It's absolutely beautiful! Hope you have a few minutes to watch it!
A giant thank you to Fyrebyrd, for not only pre-reading, but helping me brainstorm this monster. Thanks to Gabby1017, Life and Death's Lullabies, and my favorite BIL, TheMetroDad for pre-reading, and to SunflowerFran for being my beta once again! Couldn't do this without you lovely ladies and gent!
Leave me a review and let me know what you think! Thanks for reading!
* a leanbh (uh LAN-uv); my child
* a stóir; my dear
* álainn; beautiful
* mo grá; my love
* Anyone willing to give me some tips or advice on the few Gaelic or Irish phrases I'll be using, feel free to drop me a line!