So, before I say anything else, I need to get my
'thank you' cards out. I'm honoured and stunned
speechless by the love that has been shown to me and
these characters, but above all I'm absolutely
BLOWN AWAY and reeling from the news that
you voted Pinky Promises as the No.1 Fic of September
over on the TwiFanfictionRecs site!
I honestly cannot believe it, and I have no words
except…THANK YOU, from the bottom of my heart.
It means so much to me to know how much you treasure
this little world and the characters in it.
Thank you for being cheerleaders, fans, and loving these
characters like I do. They, and I, love you back.
As a thank you for being so wonderful, I'm going to
begin posting this a little earlier than planned. You're welcome ;)
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I SHOULD MENTION, IF YOU'RE A NEWBIE HERE -
WELCOME! NICE TO MEET YOU! :)
BUT YOU SHOULD CHECK OUT 'PINKY PROMISES'
FIRST OR A BUNCH OF THIS ISN'T GOING TO MAKE
A LOT OF SENSE. IT'S ON MY PROFILE xo
~ oOo ~
All the familiar characters of course belong to
Stephenie Meyer. The originals are all mine.
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Summary: Happily Ever After; it's a lovely concept. Bella
is ready to embrace it after twelve years in captivity. Finally
home with her family, she wants to live a quiet life with the
ones she loves most. But they're not alone looking for happy
endings in the wake of her captor's demise; big questions still
go unanswered. The past may be behind them, but that doesn't
mean it can't catch up.
Promises To Keep
August 11th, 2019
"Mamma, Mamma, Mamma!"
Bella laughed, shaking her head as she pulled a platter of mini quiches and sausage rolls from the fridge. When she turned, knocking the door closed with her hip, she revealed the toothy grin of her son. Laughter bubbled up from her stomach as she took in the mess all over his face; he had blue icing over his cheeks and a smudge of what looked like frosting across his forehead.
"Baby boy, what on Earth have you been doing?"
Bodhi shrugged, completely unconcerned by his messy face, and wiped his rosy cheeks with the back of his hand. "Mamma, the c-cakes are all g-g-gone!"
"Well, sweet boy, it looks like you might have had enough for now…"
Uh oh, there's the pout. "But, Mamma—"
Sensing a great opportunity to distract her son, Bella gestured for him to go and greet his new guests. "Mimi and PopPop are here, baby. Go say 'hi,' please."
Bodhi looked between the platter of food in his mother's hands and the doorway, sighing and trudging toward the latter as Esme and Carlisle appeared. His face brightened as soon as he spotted the colourful wrapped box in Carlisle's arms.
Esme swung Bodhi up into her arms; no mean feat considering his size. He definitely took after Archie and Charlie and already had their stocky build, even at only three years old. "Happy birthday, gorgeous boy! Are you having a fandabidozi day?"
Bodhi grinned, flashing his teeth and leaning in when Esme pointed at her cheek, silently requesting a kiss. "The b-bestest day, M-Mimi!"
"Good! And how old are you, again?" Carlisle asked with a teasing wink for Bella. She grinned and watched Esme and Carlisle love on her boy for a moment before heading outside with the food. Unsurprisingly, just an hour into her boy's party the food was already dwindling. Luckily, they'd prepared a feast, having anticipated the heart appetites of their large family.
"Ah, there you are! Uncle El wants a photo of you with the kids. Do you want me to take over food duty?" Rosalie offered, looping her arm through Bella's once she'd set the food down and taken a step back to take a quick look around.
The garden was full of family and friends. With the fence between the Swan and Hale houses long-gone, they had just about enough room to accommodate everyone. If the family grew any bigger they'd have to look at breaking into Jasper and Alice's garden next-door, or having large gatherings like this one at another location better equipped to deal with the rapidly expanding group.
Charlie and Peter were there, of course; they were manning the barbecue, occasionally assisted by a combination of Emmett, Eleazer, Archie, and Edward when they weren't off socializing. All the men had beers in their hands and smiles on their faces. Every now and then they clustered around the barbecue, their raucous laughter and macho showboating over their meat-grilling skills bringing smiles to the faces of their families.
Most of the women were gathered around the picnic tables, which had been pushed together to create one long bench along the back of the garden. There were soft drinks on the tables for now, but Bella knew there were bottles of wine waiting in the fridge to be brought out once the kids were asleep.
Bella smiled as she spotted Alyssa and little Riley over by the paddling pool. Marley had befriended shy, sweet Riley during the first week of school – in fact, she'd also defended him from an overzealous boy from another class, winding up getting her first Sad Face card for kicking him in the misters after he took Riley's glasses and snapped one of the arms. She and Riley had been fast friends ever since and Bella often collected him from school with Marley, so they could have playdates while Alyssa worked her shifts at a local café. As a single parent living on the opposite side of the country from her disapproving parents, Alyssa had been absorbed into the folds of the big, mish-mashed family as though she'd always been there – she and Riley were now firm favourites of the entire clan.
There were kids everywhere; in the pool, playing on the rope-swing attached to the oak tree at the foot of the garden, and running through the house and garden despite the distracted, half-hearted protests from their parents.
An excited bark preceded gleeful squeals and a big splash. Sammy leapt into the pool, drenching all the children and splashing anyone nearby. Now ten-months-old and definitely no longer a runt, Sammy bounced around in the water to the delight of the children until he spotted Charlie sneaking Faith a sausage from the barbecue. He leapt out and sprinted across the garden, all thirty-five wet kilos of him slamming into Charlie's legs as he skidded on the grass.
Bella's smile widened as she turned to watch Esme and Carlisle enter the garden with Bodhi dragging them by their hands. All three wore beaming grins.
Remembering that Rosalie had asked her a question, Bella turned to her friend. "If you're sure you don't mind? That would be great, thank you."
Rosalie laughed lightly, brushing a lock of her hair behind her ear. She was wearing it down a lot more these days; she'd admitted to Bella that Emmett preferred it that way. "No problem. Grab the munchkins and don't forget to use the props!"
Bella left Rosalie to fetch more food from the kitchen and headed toward her children. Bodhi had towed his Mimi and PopPop to the paddling pool, where his sister was overseeing some of the friends he'd made through playgroups he and Bella attended while Marley went to school. Bodhi's best friend, Jonah, was the three-year-old younger brother of Marley's friend, Matthew. Both boys were at the party, as well as their parents.
Eleazer was snapping photos of the children splashing in the pool, but he caught Bella's eye and waved her toward the photo booth they'd erected beside the shed when he spotted her making her way over.
"Bodhi, Marley! Can we take some photos together, please?"
"'Kay, Mamma!" Bodhi scrambled out of the water, tugging Marley with him by the ruffled skirt of her swimsuit. Bella's eyes scanned the garden in search of Edward. Where on Earth is—
"Gotcha!" Edward's arms looped around Bella's waist as his chin came to rest on her shoulder. As she gasped and reached back to jab him in the side for scaring her, Edward chuckled and pressed a soft, warm kiss to the bare skin of her neck. "Sorry, mi amore. I couldn't resist."
"Hmmm. I'll remember that when I can't resist dumping a bucket of water over you later," Bella teased, enjoying the warmth and strength of his body wrapped around hers. There was no nicer feeling than Edward's touch.
"C'mon Mamma an' Daddy! Unca El's gotta take p-pic-shurs!" Bodhi cried, pulling props from the bucket in the makeshift booth with Marley.
Ten minutes later, the quartet was laughing at the resulting images of their mini photoshoot.
"I like this one the best," Marley giggled. Bella couldn't help but agree with her daughter. She was sitting on the stool wearing a Hawaiian flower necklace and neon pink sunglasses, with Edward standing behind her clad in a top hat and fake nose. She had Marley on one knee, Bodhi on the other, both wearing strings of beaded necklaces, space-hopper headbands, and Bodhi had added an extra pair of glasses with 'Birthday Boy' standing above the lenses. Faith and Sammy had been corralled into the booth and sat, side-by-side in front of Bella and the children, both dogs wearing Hawaiian flower necklaces; Sammy's was white and red while Faith's was pink and purple.
They little family wore the widest of grins and looked beyond happy. It was all Bella had ever wanted.
~ oOo ~
"Thank you for coming, Uncle El. And for taking all the pictures."
Eleazer chuckled, a loud, booming sound. "Not a problem at all, sweetheart. I had a great time. I'll get the pictures edited and send them all back to you to hand out." He drew her into a tight hug and Bella was reminded of the first hug he'd given her after their reunion.
"Crikey, you look just like your mother," Eleazer finally breathed, a tear sliding over his cheek to drop onto his blue shirt. Charlie's chuckle was watery, Scarlett's shuddering exhale shaking her entire body. Eleazer's eyes roamed over her face, taking in this familiar yet so unfamiliar young woman. Both Charlie and Scarlett could see the wheels turning; see the recognition as it dawned in his eyes. He was the first, and definitely wouldn't be the last, to notice how inconceivably closely she resembled Penelope.
"How are you? Are you okay?"
Scarlett nodded jerkily.
"Is it okay if I give you a hug?"
This time, Scarlett's nod wasn't just jerky, it was hesitant. She wanted so badly to be able to hug her uncle, but she was very aware that it only seemed to take the smallest things to send her into a panic attack. That wasn't what she wanted, not today, not on her brother's birthday.
Compartmentalizing her pain and fear, Scarlett took a step towards Eleazer. Slowly, so as not to scare her, he moved closer before finally wrapping his arms loosely around her shoulders. The shudder rippling through her made him want to let go, but she shook her head when he made to move, so he stayed. They were still hugging five minutes later when his wife and their children found them.
As he let go, Bella breathed out shakily and gave him a wobbly smile before stretching up to kiss his cheek. Then she moved on to hug Carmen and the rest of the family. They were the last to leave so Bella closed the door after watching them pile into the minivan and then headed into the kitchen, where she'd left her family. Pausing in the doorway, Bella felt her lips spreading into a relaxed, content smile.
Charlie had Bodhi against his chest, the little boy's head hanging over his Pawpaw's shoulder as he drooled and softly snored. Edward was sitting at the breakfast bar with Marley, their heads bowed over his phone as they watched a video together. Bella could hear the quiet sound of puppies playing and realized they were probably watching a video from the Dalmatian page Edward had joined on Facebook. They both loved seeing all the antics of the Dalmatians in the thousands-strong group and often shared pictures and videos of their own crazy duo in there.
Through the slightly opened patio doors, Bella could see Emmett and Rosalie sitting together on a lounger; her back to his front, their arms joined over her stomach. They'd stayed behind to help pack up and get rid of all the debris left over from Bodhi's third birthday celebration. Bella had been glad of the help, not realizing just how much mess a bunch of three-year-olds and their families could make.
"Mamma, do I hafta go to bed yet?" Marley asked softly, hope infusing her sweet voice.
Bella smiled and crossed the room to loop her arms around her daughter, pressing a kiss to the crown of Marley's head. "No, baby girl. It's only seven…"
Bella trailed off, shooting a wink at her dad on the other side of the kitchen. He smothered his mustache-topped grin, and they all waited patiently. They'd all been working hard on helping Marley master telling the time, so they wore encouraging smiles as Marley calculated how much longer she had before bed time. Edward had made her a promise earlier in the day; that she could have an extra half hour added to her regular bedtime of seven-thirty if she behaved.
Marley frowned, humming. "So…I have one hour? 'Cause it's seven, and Daddy said I can go to bed at eight if I'm good." She turned to peer hopefully at her dad. "I've been good, right, Daddy?"
Edward's eyes flashed with mischief. "Hmmm…I don't know. You did splash Mimi in the pool earlier…"
The comically disgruntled look on Marley's face broke Edward's stern composure. A chuckle burst from his lips as he leaned in to Eskimo kiss her. "You were so good, little sweet. Of course, you can stay up. Well done for working it out for yourself, too."
Beaming with pride, Marley returned her attention to the phone, scrolling through the feed of Dalmatian pictures.
"Awww, Mamma, look at this!"
Bella leaned over Marley's shoulder to see the picture she'd enlarged; a litter of twelve, spotted puppies tumbled over each other in a big basket, their sweet, black noses making Bella's lips curl into a smile. "Very cute, baby girl."
"Is that the one you showed me earlier, Mars?" Charlie asked, shaking his head fondly when Marley nodded. "I bet they eat a whole lot and do a ton of poops in the garden. I mean, Faith and Sammy do enough, and there's only two of them."
Charlie's frank statement coincided with Emmett and Rosalie's entry into the kitchen as well as the sound of a soft knock-knock on the front door.
"I'll get it," Emmett offered, squeezing Rosalie's hand and heading for the hallway. "I've got to run out to the car anyway," he added.
"All right, thanks, Em," Bella told him, snuggling her daughter once more and watching a new video on the phone. This time, a fully-grown Dalmatian with a small eye patch chased after a seagull on the beach, his long legs stirring up the shallow waves. Marley giggled when he ran back, to presumably, his owner and shook heartily, splashing water everywhere. It reminded Bella of the first time Faith and Sammy had visited the beach. They'd taken a risk that they wouldn't run off and let them off their leashes for the first time, as they were pretty much alone. A canvas of the children and puppies running together along the water's edge at sunset hung over the fireplace in the living room.
"This one's messy, Mamma."
Bella hummed into her daughter's hair, her heart full and happy. It had been a perfect day.
She'd woken to Edward's soft kisses up and down the back of her neck and along her bare shoulder. Only minutes later, Marley and Bodhi had careened into the room, both half-dressed because they hated pyjamas and usually ended pulling them off halfway through the night. They'd clambered into bed with their parents, Bella and Edward both thankful they'd thought to pull clothes on after making love the night before.
"Mamma, it's baby Beesy's birthday!" Marley cheered, bouncing onto the bed before hoisting her brother up, too.
Bodhi grinned toothily, but Bella and Edward could tell he hadn't woken himself. A certain, exuberant little girl had definitely had a hand in it.
"Good morning, handsome boy. Happy birthday."
Bodhi crawled up to snuggle into his mother, his smile turning bashful. "Gwazie, Mamma."
Edward stretched out, tugging Marley down between him and Bella before leaning over to kiss his boy's head. "Happy birthday, tesoro. Do you feel three?"
Peals of laughter erupted from Marley's lips. She clapped her hands over her mouth and watched with glee as Edward unfolded himself from the covers and lifted Bodhi from Bella's arms, holding him high in the air.
Bodhi laughed sleepily, flailing his arms and legs in the air. "Daddy, p-p-put me d-down!"
Bella quickly grabbed her phone from the nightstand, videoing Edward as he lowered his son to sit on his belly before shooting her and Marley a wink; they knew all-too-well what Edward was about to do.
"Tesoro, do you feel three? Do you want me to check?"
Before Bodhi could answer, Edward began his assault, tickling his baby boy all over but making sure to hit the spots where he knew Bodhi was most ticklish; his thighs and neck.
Bella sighed happily. It had been the perfect start to what had been a wonderful day. Waking up with her handsome, self-titled Hubs and their beautiful children just couldn't be beaten.
"Uh, B? Please, can you come here a sec?"
Frowning at the odd tremor to Emmett's voice, Bella stroked her daughter's hair, planted a kiss on Edward's cheek, and headed out into the hall. As she reached the doorway separating the kitchen from the hallway, she got an unexplainable, heavy feeling in her gut. Stepping through the arch, she spotted Emmett rubbing the back of his neck wearing a nervous expression.
It was the figure beside him that caught her attention and held it, though.
He was tall, lean, and sporting a smart suit. It was black and appeared to be tailored to fit his frame. He was standing side-on to her, looking closely at a photo on the wall. Charlie had changed them just the day before, updating them from the childhood pictures of her youth, so she didn't know which picture had captured his attention without getting closer.
Something in her subconscious told her not to take a single step anywhere near him, no matter how harmless he initially appeared.
As Emmett spoke her name, the stranger began to turn.
As he spun to face her, Bella suddenly realized…he wasn't a stranger.
The man's sandy brown hair used to be longer; shoulder-length, almost. It was now short and spiky with a manhandled touch of chaos. His skin looked paler than she remembered, as if it needed a little more sun. His frame had changed, too. He was more built, more muscular, but still on the lean side.
A flicker of a memory from Archie's birthday party two years ago shoved its way to the forefront of her mind.
Bella huffed, but she was smiling as she waited for Carl-Roman to leave the bathroom. Bodhi babbled happily in her arms, content to munch on his prawn cocktail Skips. He had two in each chubby fist and several mashed into his curls.
The bathroom door flew open, Carl-Roman grinning wide as he shot past Bella and ran down the stairs.
Bella quickly took care of business before following him, and was just getting to the bottom of the stairs as Esme began closing the front door.
"Who was that?"
Esme shrugged. "A nice young man. I think he had the wrong address, poor love."
As Esme swung the door closed, Bella caught a quick glimpse of the man climbing into a small car on the other side of the road. He looked familiar, but somehow not; she couldn't place him.
He was familiar, because she knew him. He hadn't had the wrong address at all.
His face came into view then, and she gasped. One of her hands shot out to grip the door frame to hold her up, her legs shaking and perilously close to giving up.
They were the wrong colour, but they were the same. She hadn't noticed it before, but now…
There was a sudden flurry of activity then, and Bella didn't realize why until later.
Her legs gave up their fight, and she slid slowly to the floor, warm hands caressing her face as she tucked her face between her bended knees and sucked in shallow breaths.
He can't be here. He can't. This wasn't supposed to happen.
"Who the hell are you?" Edward. His voice sounded like…like it was coming from underwater.
"I'm…I'm sorry. I didn't mean…shit. I didn't mean to scare her. Is she okay?"
No, no, no. Bella shook her head. His voice is the same.
"I said, who the hell are you?"
The man coughed. Bella mumbled his name before he could. She heard the sharp intake of breath; Rosalie.
"What…what did you say?"
Prying her eyes open took a monumental effort, but Bella did it. As she looked up at Edward, her gaze blurred by tears and her entire body trembling like a leaf, she breathed out a gust of air and prayed fervently that this was all an awful dream and she'd wake up soon. The pain and fear in Edward's jade eyes broke her heart, and the panic clutching her chest made Bella want to run to her babies and hide them away.
"Bella…do you know this man?" Edward asked softly; his eyes gave away the fact that he already knew. On some level, Edward recognized the same things in this man's face that she had. He just didn't want to admit it.
Bella closed her eyes for a moment, reaching out blindly to hold onto Edward. "I do." Emmett and Rosalie do, too. She opened them again, looking over at him.
Him – the unwanted intruder in her perfect family life.
Him – the man whose appearance had changed almost completely, except for the almond shape of his eyes.
The almond-shaped eyes she saw each and every day in the face of her three-year-old son.
"His name is Paul. P-Paul Lucien."
I know, I know. I'm mean. I'm sorry, but if you've come from Pinky Promises, you'll probably not be all that surprised.
I will make a promise now though – this, like its predecessor, will be a HEA. Cross my heart.
I was too eager to post this and made a few changes after the wonderful SunflowerFran and annaharding worked their magic; thank you, ladies! You're the best, and I'm so glad you've decided to join me on this crazy ride. All errors are mine.
Thank you for joining me, and these characters we all know and love, to continue their journey. And thank you for trusting me enough to not freak out and abandon us halfway through this chapter. It won't all be doom and gloom, I promise.
Strap in tight, guys and girlies! xo
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Also... SunflowerFran's PAY IT FOWARD blog will be hosting a new story by a newbie author, an old, much-loved classic, and a story from a returning author each month. If you want any help or to know more, please contact myself or Fran. We'll be happy to assist you! Fran was an amazing help in building an audience for Pinky Promises, so I'd love to give back by helping someone else xo