Stephenie Meyer is the genius behind Twilight!
I heard Sophie get out of bed, but she didn't come into our room. After a few minutes, I got worried, so I went to her room. She was standing by the window, staring out at the wide expanse of ocean that was my mother's back yard. She stood up on the tips of her toes to see out below her window, wondering if the sand came right up to the house.
"Do you like it?" I whispered so I didn't startle her. She turned around, a wonderful, bright smile upon her face.
"It's so beautiful, like my sunflower fields back home." Her voice trailed off as she thought about her home in France. I hugged her, and she squeezed me tight, her memories suddenly filling her with sadness. I wished I knew how to make her feel better. When she released me, her eyes glistened. "I miss them." She turned around to look out the window again. I stood there quietly, admiring this brave little girl who lost her parents and moved far from home. I felt so lucky that she loved us enough to come with us.
I felt Edward's hand on my waist. The look on his face let me know he felt the same way I did. He nodded his head in the direction of the living room. Renee and Phil were both awake. After a few more moments, I whispered to Sophie and asked if she would like to meet Renee. She turned to us, putting on a happy face as she sighed. She took my hand as we walked out of the room.
"Good morning mom. Morning Phil." They were sitting on the couch, conversing quietly. They greeted us with smiles, then both of their eyes went to Sophie, who was peeking from behind Edward and I. "I'd like you to meet Sophie," I said as I tried to urge her forward.
"Hello," she whispered. She remained next to me, pressing against my leg, her hand holding on tight to mine.
"Good morning, Sophie. Did you sleep well?" Renee's smile was warm and welcoming.
"Yes, thank you." Her eyes scanned the room, taking in the panoramic view through the many windows.
"Do you like the ocean?" Renee noticed how eagerly she looked outside.
"Oh yes, it is beautiful. You must swim all the time."
"Well, not all the time, but we do enjoy living so close to it. Do you like to swim? Would you like to go for a swim later?"
"Oh yes, I would love to. Bella? Can we go swimming later?" She looked at me with a face no one could refuse. I didn't want to, anyway.
"Of course. Why don't you have some breakfast first?" Edward and Phil had exchanged handshakes, and were busy talking about sports. Renee stood up and walked with us into the kitchen. She pulled out a couple different boxes of cereal, the carton of milk, and a box of frosted, strawberry Pop-Tarts. Mom remembered what I liked to eat for breakfast.
Renee watched, surprised as Sophie walked past my once favorite foods, and went over to the bowl of fruit sitting on the counter. She picked an orange and an apple for herself. Mom looked at me, shocked. "Wow, I'm impressed." I put my hands up in front of me.
"I had nothing to do with it. She ate well when we met her in France. I've made the mistake of introducing her to McDonalds!" As soon as I mentioned McDonalds, Sophie turned to look at me, eyes bright with anticipation.
"Are there McDonalds here in Florida, too?" Renee and I began to laugh.
"Yes, Sophie, they're everywhere." She returned to peeling her orange, I'm sure thinking of eating a Happy Meal for lunch. I knew Renee had purchased the other breakfast foods with me in mind. I felt a little bad if it went to waste. "Sophie, would you like to try something that I loved to eat for breakfast sometimes?" I had opened up the Pop-Tarts, and slipped one into the toaster. Sophie watched curiously.
"You didn't have to do that." Renee said to me, quietly.
"Oh come on, I practically lived off of those things, and I turned out okay." Renee smiled while her eyes glanced quickly up and down my "new" body. "Okay, so, I've had a little help." Her smile was real, but I could see that she was still trying to absorb the news I broke to her last night.
Phil and Edward entered the kitchen. Phil smelled the pop tart in the toaster and smiled at me. "Your mom insisted that we have some on hand for you." He leaned over and kissed Renee on the temple, then grabbed his bag. "Well, I'm off, but I'll see you guys later." He paused, then added, "uh, oh right, we've decided to order in and stay home tonight. That's good. It will be nice to just relax and talk. Have fun today!"
Sophie looked curiously at the flat, rectangular pastry in front of her. She rubbed her finger over the pink, speckled waxy frosting. Then she lifted it up and broke it into two pieces. She stuck her finger into the strawberry filling, then licked her finger. Her eyes widened as a huge smile formed on her face. She took a bite, smacking her lips as she enjoyed this new taste.
"Uh oh, I've done it again. What will Beatrice say when she sees what I'm feeding Sophie?" Edward rubbed my back comfortingly.
"Beatrice is..." Renee started to ask.
"Sophie's aunt. However, she is occupied with... the re-organization. She would keep Sophie if her position didn't require so much travel and well, possible danger." I watched as Renee's brows raised, wondering what kind of danger she would be in.
Renee put another pop-tart in the toaster when she saw Sophie had finished the first and looked eager for another. I looked at Sophie, worried about how I was ruining her healthy diet. Renee saw me.
"Like you said, look how you turned out," Renee said, her brows raised, teasing me. We all broke into laughter. Sophie was too busy watching the toaster to pay attention to why we were laughing.
When Sophie was done, we all changed into our swim wear. Edward and I put on some lightweight, long-sleeved shirts and pants over the top... just in case. Sophie insisted on wearing only her swimsuit. She was very anxious to get going. When we finally went outside, Sophie was thrilled to find that the sand really did come all the way up to the house. Edward took her hand and they ran off down the beach, towards the ocean. Renee was watching them rather closely.
"You know, if I didn't know anything about you three, I could easily assume that she was yours. Look at them, their hair, their eyes. It's amazing." I watched her face as she spoke. I still couldn't believe how easy it was to tell her the truth, and how she accepted it. The relief I felt was so thick, I was saturated with a peaceful feeling.
"Mom, my only regret, and I don't like to call it that, but, I'm sorry I'll never be able to give you, you know, a real grandchild." I looked down at the ground, not wanting to see her reaction. I was surprised to hear her chuckle.
"Oh Bella, don't worry about that. My only worry was when I thought you two were too young to be getting married, and possibly making the mistake of starting a family too young. I'm sorry you won't have that chance, now. But in a way, you have a family, I mean with Sophie. I know she's not yours alone to raise, you're lucky, you've got a lot of help. But I see how much she loves you, and Edward. You will get to experience being a mother after all, and I'm glad for you."
Renee was carrying a large nylon beach bag. When we reached Edward and Sophie, they were busy trying to build a sand castle with their hands. Renee laughed as she dumped the contents of her bag out onto the sand. She had sand pails, cups, shovels, scoops, Jell-o molds, utensils, and other odds and ends. Sophie came over and gave Renee a quick hug before she rifled through the things, looking for the tools she wanted.
The four of us worked together, for the next couple of hours, building the most elaborate, intricate sand castle I have ever seen. Sophie declared herself the queen of the castle and we were her humble servants. We pretended to cook meals, make beds, and pick flowers for our queen. She gave us our orders and we followed willingly. Finally, as a reward for our dutiful service, she ordered us to go for a swim. We gladly obliged her.
"Go ahead, I'll keep an eye on her for a while." Renee urged us to go swimming, by ourselves.
"Thanks mom. We'll be back soon." Edward and I grinned at each other as we ran towards the oncoming waves. We dove into the water, coming up briefly to wave goodbye, then we disappeared from their view as we explored this new ocean, together.
When we came back, Renee watched with wonder as we walked towards them. She was trying to imagine what it would be like to swim as we did, the way I described to her last night. Renee had a vivid imagination, and I was starting to think that that was part of the reason she was able to accept my story. A lot of things about us intrigued and fascinated her. I think she was thrilled about my new abilities.
The rest of the day flew by. We took a little scenic drive, which conveniently went past a McDonalds, for Sophie's pleasure. Renee ordered Chinese for dinner. Edward kept Phil happy in conversation, allowing Renee and I to talk. Sophie drifted off to sleep pretty early, exhausted but happy.
When Phil and Renee went to bed, Edward and I went for a walk on the beach. The moon was bright in the now cloudless sky. We planned on being on the road before sunrise, because it was going to be a sunny day.
"If you want to leave a little later, I would understand." Edward was smiling, thinking about how Renee was so curious about how we look in the sunshine.
"No, but thanks. I think she has enough to keep her mind occupied until we see her again. I have a feeling she'll be coming to visit us soon."
"That will be a fun visit. I think she's going to get along really well with Alice, now that she understands us better," Edward said grinning. I couldn't help but smile, too, thinking about how much more fun we could have now.
"Do you think you'll ever be able to tell Charlie?" Edward asked. I had to think about it for a little while.
"No, I don't think so. He's not as... open minded as Renee is. I think he's happy with the way things are. I don't want to take a chance of changing that. Even if it means... deceiving him." I didn't want to lie to him, but things were going so well as it was. Edward stopped walking and pulled me into his arms.
"I had no idea it could be like this. I have... hope. More hope than I have ever dared to have. You are the reason for this." He stared deep into my eyes, filling my mind with hope intertwined with his immeasurable love. He leaned in and kissed me until I could no longer stand. He carried me back to our room, and never stopped kissing me.
We were up early, eager to get on the road. We wrapped Sophie in her blanket and carried her out to the car. Renee came outside with us. "Are you sure you don't want to stay until after breakfast?" she taunted, her ulterior motives gleaming in her eyes. I rolled my eyes at her.
"You'll just have to come see us."
"May I come and visit you soon? There are so many more things I'd like to know about... you." Renee put her hand on my arm when she asked. Her touch, and the way she looked at me, let me know that she had really accepted me, and who I was now.
"Mom, you are always welcome." We hugged each other, grateful that there were no more secrets between us.
As we drove, I began to feel the excitement of returning to Dartmouth, where I once thought our normal lives would begin. So much had changed in just a few months. It felt like ages to me. I hoped we could live as normally as possible. I was starting to believe that we could. I turned to look at Sophie, still fast asleep. I stroked her hair, enjoying the maternal feelings she stirred inside of me. Then I looked over at Edward. My Edward. I had everything I wanted and needed. I closed my eyes and thanked God.