Disclaimer: The Twilight characters belong to the creative mind of Stephenie Meyer. I am not benefitting monetarily from this story, my only rewards are your reviews.
Author's Note: So many people asked for Renee's reaction, that I finally decided to give you just that. Like the first chapter "Telling Charlie," "Telling Renee" is designed to be more humorous than realistic and the whole thing is AU now that we know Charlie and Renee's reaction, although everything is true to canon through Eclipse and the characters are true to themselves. I tried to write Renee as a bit ditzy but amazingly perceptive. Just to warn you though, this is a very, very long chapter (9,000+ words/24 pages). Parts are very funny, parts are sad. I hope you enjoy both parts, and if you do, please review. Thanks!
Chapter 2: Telling Renee
Sometimes it's best to say certain things face to face. Like telling the man of your dreams that you love him or telling the other man of your dreams that you love him but not quite as much as the first man. Or telling your future sister-in-law that, despite your rather frequent habit of blushing, pink really isn't your favorite color. Or telling your mother, "Hey, Mom, guess what? I'm marrying a vampire."
Of course, I wouldn't actually be telling Renee that I was marrying a vampire, although I was fairly certain that she would be more upset about the marriage part than the vampire part. Because I knew Renee would have a big reaction, I concluded that telling her about the engagement was definitely an activity best done in person. Or at least that's what I convinced myself and told Edward. In truth, I think part of me had simply been trying to delay calling her. But after I had not made any move to tell Renee three days after we told Charlie, Edward made the decision for me.
Edward threatened to buy us plane tickets to Jacksonville that very evening if I didn't contact Renee. Charlie and Alice backed him up completely. Charlie probably hoped that Renee might react even worse than he did, which would make him feel much better about shooting Edward. Alice supported Edward because she was eager to further her wedding preparations and this somehow involved my mother in scary ways she wouldn't tell me about.
So, I called Renee. I told her I missed her and asked if she would mind if Edward and I came back for a visit. Renee shocked me by suggesting that she and Phil should come to Forks instead. I think she wanted to escape the summer heat in Florida, but she said she wanted to meet all of the friends I had talked about before they left for school in the fall.
To avoid any further delays, Edward booked their tickets for that upcoming weekend and asked me to tell Renee that the Cullens had vouchers expiring soon for free plane tickets due to a bad flight experience. Renee bought the lie and was very grateful. I meanwhile wanted to curse Edward into oblivion, knowing that last minute tickets across the country to remote airports probably cost a thousand dollars or more each, especially considering that he had booked first class tickets. Showoff.
And that's how Edward and I found ourselves waiting at the Port Angeles airport late on Friday evening. I watched the arrivals board impatiently. Renee and Phil's plane was supposed to arrive a half an hour ago and Alice had even called to confirm that it had landed. Finally the board confirmed the same. I watched as other passengers picked up their luggage and left. Soon Edward and I were the only ones left in the baggage claim area. Two lone bags kept circling the luggage carousel. Edward checked the tags and pulled them off one-handed with too much ease for their bulk. I knew how heavy they must be. Renee always packed her entire closet for even the shortest trips, yet somehow she always forgot some common necessity.
"I'm sure she'll be here soon, Bella," he said reassuringly.
Had he noticed me biting my fingernails? Honestly, what was taking them so long? They couldn't possibly have gotten lost. The Port Angeles airport was so small that you actually had to disembark on the tarmac.
"Can you hear them?" I whispered.
"I can hear Renee now. They're almost here."
"What took so long?"
He smirked and shrugged. "Ask your mother."
That couldn't be good. I groaned and turned back to face the security doors just in time to see my mother walk through them.
"Bella!" Renee shouted as she ran towards me.
I met her halfway and hugged her. "Hi, Mom. How was your flight?"
"The flight was fine, but you won't believe what just happened to me." She started laughing. "When we got off the plane, I was going to call you, but I couldn't find my phone in my purse. I looked everywhere and then I tried to go back on the plane because I thought I left it in my seat. The airline employees were really rude and wouldn't let me back on. I was about to ask for a manager when I remembered that I had put my cell in my pocket so that it would be handy." She pulled out her cell phone and we both laughed. That sounded like something Renee would do.
"I'm so tired, I can't think straight," she yawned.
"It was a long flight," I sympathized. "Edward already has your bags, so we can go straight to your hotel."
On the drive to the hotel, Renee rambled on about all of the latest happenings in Jacksonville. She made it sound like a mini version of Miami, which I doubted was an accurate description. I could tell she was trying to lure me to come back and live with her. And a part of me felt a touch of sadness knowing that I would never live with her again.
When we reached the Quality Inn near Forks, Edward and I waited in the car while they checked in. I knew there was a problem when Renee and Phil came back to the car arguing.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"They're booked," Renee explained.
I looked at her pointedly. "Mom, you made a reservation, didn't you?"
She didn't answer, but Phil shook his head as he looked at me. Neither of them looked very happy.
"Oh, Mom," I groaned.
"Bella, how was I supposed to know they would fill up? We're out in the middle of nowhere. Who would want to go to this God forsaken place anyway?"
"Mother!" I snapped. "Are you forgetting that Edward and I actually live here?" I hissed.
She grimaced as she glanced at Edward. "Sorry about that, Edward. That wasn't very nice. Forks is a…lovely town."
"No offense taken, Renee," Edward said smoothly. I could tell he wanted to laugh. I wondered what else he was hearing in Renee's thoughts.
I, for one, was not so forgiving. "Mom, how could you not make a reservation? Of course it's packed. It's the only decent hotel for a hundred miles and it's near the entrance to Olympic National Park." Sometimes Renee's lack of common sense was truly frustrating. "Well, you can't stay at Charlie's. There's not enough room."
"Please, Bella," Renee scoffed, "You know we would never stay at Charlie's. We'll just have to stay in Port Angeles."
Edward glanced at me. I couldn't read his expression in the dim light. "Wait a moment please," he said. "I'll be right back."
He walked into the hotel. I could only guess that he was planning on using his powers of persuasion to make an arrangement with the hotel management.
"I think I'll help him," I said suddenly, quickly jumping out of the car and following Edward.
As I walked into the somewhat shabby lobby, I saw Edward leaning over the desk speaking to the poor bedazzled young receptionist. His velvety voice carried clearly over the air in the small and empty lobby.
"Don't you have anything for this evening? Perhaps a late guest whose reservation could be cancelled?" he inquired. I noticed him holding a folded bill in one hand, a bribe no doubt.
The receptionist started typing something hastily into her computer and looked up a minute later thoroughly disappointed. "I'm sorry, sir, we have a room available tomorrow, but we're sold out for tonight." Her expression then brightened. "But I have a spare room in my apartment."
"Ahem," I said, clearing my throat as I went to stand beside Edward.
"That's kind of you, but no," Edward said, wrapping his arm around my waist. "You see the room is for my fiancée's mother and stepfather." For once I found that I actually liked his use of that particular title for me.
"Oh," she said, startled as she glanced back and forth between us. "Well, like I said, we don't have anything for tonight, but you can make a reservation for tomorrow." Her tone was instantly cooler and much less apologetic.
"We'll take it." He turned to me. "Bella, can you provide the pertinent details? I need to make a phone call."
As I provided the necessary information to secure the reservation, Edward was talking in a low voice in the furthest corner of the lobby. The receptionist glared at me the whole time. I no longer felt pity for her.
By the time she had finished printing the confirmation notice for me, Edward snapped his phone shut and joined me.
"Did you find another place for tonight?" I asked as we walked back to the car.
He grimaced. "In a manner of speaking. They'll be staying at my house."
I gaped at him. "That's impossible."
"Bella, your mother was thinking it the whole time in the car. And what kind of future son-in-law would I be if I didn't open up my home to her?"
"A sensible one," I insisted. "They can't stay with your family. That would be disastrous."
"It will only be for tonight. I already talked to Carlisle about it. He's working it out with the others right now. They'll make sure it goes smoothly. And Renee and Phil can stay in my room. I certainly won't be needing it tonight," he said, his lips turning up into my favorite crooked grin.
I coughed. "Yes, well, we won't be telling Renee about that part." I looked up into his golden eyes. "Are you sure about this, Edward? I don't mind taking them to Port Angeles, or I could call Angela and see if they could stay at her house."
"I'm sure, Bella. It's one night, what could possibly go wrong?"
That question kept me up half the night. I lay awake in Edward's arms contemplating all of the frightening possibilities, while Edward tried his best to reassure me that everything would be fine.
"Bella, it's 2 am, love. You need to sleep."
"But what if they notice that some of the other bedrooms don't actually have beds?" I worried.
"I don't think Esme will be taking them on a tour. Nor would they likely want one since they were very tired when they arrived."
But that was only one of the many questions racing through my head. "What if Phil wakes up hungry in the middle of the night and finds out that there's no food in the house?"
"It's taken care of, Bella. You remember that new fridge we bought for the graduation party? It's completely full."
I peered at him in the darkness. "What do you mean?"
"Alice and Jasper picked up some groceries as soon as she foresaw what was going to happen. And you know Alice, she's nothing if not thorough."
I scowled at the waste, but I would have to remember to thank Alice tomorrow morning. Just the thought of all the work and worry that Renee's short visit might be creating made me feel incredibly guilty. "I hate that your family has to go through so much to accommodate them."
"They're not worried about it, so you shouldn't be either. Having company is actually kind of exciting for them. It breaks the tedium of day to day existence."
He pulled back a strand of hair that fell across my cheek and I felt his cool lips brush the skin he uncovered. He hovered there a moment, likely listening to my frantic heartbeat. "Bella, you're not relaxing. Are you still worried?"
The Cullen Family Bed and Breakfast wasn't the only concern on my mind. That was only something to distract me from the greater fear. How on earth was I going to tell Renee?
"Your heart is racing," Edward whispered with concern. "What are you thinking about?"
A long sigh escaped me. "I don't know what I'll say to her. I don't know how I can make her understand."
"You worry too much. She's your mother. She'll love you no matter what."
"But this is against everything she's ever taught me. It's her greatest fear – me as a teenage bride."
Edward stiffened beside me.
"There are worse things, Bella," he said coolly. "At least you don't have to tell her you're becoming an undead monster in the near future."
"Well, when you put it like that," I snapped sarcastically. "Seriously, Edward, what am I going to do?"
"You mean what are we going to do. We're going to be open and tell your mother the simple truth of our engagement first thing in the morning."
"First thing?!" If my heartbeat was racing before, it had just started leaping hurdles. A stream of expletives escaped me before I could contain them. "Why tomorrow morning? Why can't we wait until Sunday just before their plane leaves?"
"Don't be ridiculous, Bella," Edward said, the tone of his voice resounded with disappointment. "First, because that's not fair to Renee. Second, because I won't have you missing another night's sleep over this. Third, because if you stall again, Alice has promised to tell Renee herself."
I grimaced. "Why is Alice getting involved?"
He was silent just long enough to make me worried. "She's getting impatient. I'm sure you'll find out more tomorrow. Now go to sleep, Bella."
"Maybe I should go home then. I think I'm just keeping you up."
I glared at him in the darkness and could barely make out a smirk on his moonlit face. He knew my weakness. Well, two could play that game.
I turned around, facing away from him, and burrowed further under the covers. "Yes, maybe it would be best if you left." It would be foolish to hope that he missed the inflection on that last word that betrayed the distant tone I'd wanted to convey.
He didn't reply, but I heard him sigh heavily. In a moment, he had pushed the covers away from my face and held me closer. His lips moved along my shoulder and up my neck to rest near my ear. And softly, hypnotically, he began to hum my lullaby.
It wasn't fair. I tried to resist, but the otherworldly sound of his voice combined with his unbelievable scent was drawing me under. That was the night I learned that Edward could even dazzle in the dark.
When I woke the next morning, I was alone and the light filtering through my window was dull and lifeless. A cloudy day in Forks. It wouldn't please Renee, but at least I wouldn't have to explain why the Cullens couldn't leave their house.
As I stretched, my hand came into contact with a piece of paper on Edward's side of the bed. His intoxicating scent still lingered on the quilt. Picking up the piece of paper, I unfolded it to reveal Edward's perfect script.
My Dearest Bella,
Come to the house at 9, I'll have breakfast waiting. Yes, I'll be cooking. I know you won't be able to resist seeing that. And please, Bella, try not to worry yourself. Just remember it will all be over with very soon. I'll be counting the seconds until I see you again. You are my reason for being.
I had to admit that I was curious about what Edward would prepare and how it would taste. He had watched plenty of the Food Network in the last year and a half because he wanted to cook for me and most of his experiments had turned out well, if not quite seasoned appropriately. And the idea of Edward working over a hot stove was oddly appealing, insanely attractive even. But that still wouldn't entice me to get there early knowing what awaited me. The only thing that truly pushed me to rush through my morning routine was the desire to get Renee and Phil out of the house that much sooner. No matter what Edward said, I still felt very guilty for the inconvenience I had put the Cullens through.
"Dad," I called to Charlie on my way out, "I'm going over to the Cullens for breakfast. I'm not sure what time I'll get back. We'll probably take Renee and Phil somewhere after. See you later."
"Bella, hold on a minute." Charlie heaved himself off the coach and ambled over to me.
"What, Dad?" I said impatiently.
"Have you told your mother yet?" His eyes flitted down to my engagement ring.
I grimaced. "Edward wants to tell her this morning. He's buttering her up by cooking breakfast. I'm sure you're welcome to come along for the show."
His eyes twinkled with too much excitement and he was barely suppressing a huge grin. Clearly, he was expecting fireworks.
I glared at him. It seemed that a man who reacted to the news of my engagement by shooting my fiancé really didn't have any reason to gloat.
"But you know she'll just blame you," I added quickly.
The smile wiped off his face as quickly as it had appeared.
"Thanks, Bells, but I think I'll just stay here." He muttered something about visiting Billy as I walked out.
When I pulled up at the Cullens, Alice met me at the door.
"Good morning, Bella," she greeted me cheerfully, rushing to hug me. "Isn't it a wonderful day?"
I glanced up at the gloomy sky above. "Yeah…swell."
She rolled her eyes. "Not the weather, silly. Although that definitely has its advantages. What I meant was that you're going to tell your mother today."
I stared at her suspiciously. She was definitely up to something.
"And you've seen that, have you?" I inquired.
"Oh, yes," she insisted.
"And," I bit my bottom lip, "How did that go?"
She shrugged. "Well, it's not a complete surprise."
My eyes narrowed. "What do you mean, Alice?"
She looked up at me with wide innocent eyes. "I know how nervous you are about this, so I thought I'd help you out a bit. I sort of set a few clues around."
"Alice, what did you do?" I demanded.
She smiled impishly and flitted into the house.
"ALICE!" I yelled after her. The blood was rushing to my cheeks, Edward would be thrilled.
I stopped dead in the doorway. Alice had disappeared but Renee and Esme were staring curiously at me from the couch.
"Bella!" Renee scolded. She wore a cross expression that reminded me of the face she reserved for the rare times I misbehaved. Suddenly I felt like I was five years old again. "Bella, you know better than to shout in someone else's home."
"Sorry, Esme," I said sheepishly.
There was a gleam of amusement in Esme's eyes as she rose to greet me.
"Bella, dear, you're one of the family," she hugged me and kissed my cheek as affectionately as a mother. "You're welcome to scream in our home anytime. Besides, I'm sure Alice deserved it."
I turned to my own mother and echoed Esme's hug and kiss on the cheek. "Hi, Mom. How did you sleep last night?"
"I slept like a log, but I'm worried about poor Edward having to sleep on the couch."
I looked down as I replied so that Renee couldn't spot the lie on my face as soon as I told it. "I'm sure Edward's fine. You know boys, they can sleep anywhere." Unless they're vampires, that is.
A soft and familiar chuckling came from the kitchen and I realized that Edward must have overheard me.
"So, where is everyone?" I asked.
Esme responded. "Carlisle is showing Phil the grounds out back. Edward is cooking breakfast as we speak. And Rosalie, Emmett, and Jasper are –"
But I didn't hear what Rosalie, Emmett and Jasper were doing because my attention was suddenly and completed diverted to something else. There on the coffee table directly in front of us was a carefully arranged array of bridal magazines. I stared with abject horror at the smiling happy brides staring up at me and struggled with the urge to immediately bury them where they would never see the light of day again.
'ALICE!!' my mind screamed. If only Edward could hear my thoughts now and come to my rescue.
I would just have to hope that the magazines went unnoticed. Perhaps if I could just distract Renee.
"Mom, have you seen Edward's piano?" I said, leaping up and pulling my mother to her feet. "I know how much you love to play. You should try it." I dragged her over to the piano bench.
"This is Edward's?" she marveled. Her fingers gently traced the ivory keys. "Is this a Steinway?" She glanced back to Esme, who nodded affirmatively. Renee looked impressed. "It's a beautiful instrument. He must be very talented."
Esme smiled at the compliment. "Yes, Edward's quite the pianist. I'm sure he would play something for you."
"That would be lovely." Renee looked up at me with narrowed eyes. "Bella, you never told me about Edward's talent," she admonished.
"Didn't I?" This surprised me. Edward's music was so important to me now. I fell asleep to it every night, even when he wasn't there to hum it for me. It shamed me that I had never shared this one small truth with my mother, one of the few things I could share with her about my husband to be.
Renee plucked at the keys. The tune sounded like the beginning of something reminiscent. Perhaps if the tempo sped up…
Renee had stopped. She was staring at the sheet music propped on the piano with a confused expression. Was it one of Edward's complex scores?
"The Wedding March?" she asked. "That's an odd choice. Does Edward play at weddings?"
Blood rushed to my face. I would kill Alice if she wasn't already dead.
"Do you smell something burning?" I asked hurriedly. "I think I should check on Edward."
I dashed into the kitchen, as much to avoid an answer as to avoid having my mother see the blush on my cheeks.
Edward was leaning over the counter, shaking with silent laughter.
"Did you know anything about this?" I whispered angrily between clenched teeth.
The light in his eyes, evidence of his laughter, was distracting as he turned to face me.
"Bella, I was with you last night." He grinned my favorite crooked smile.
I wasn't letting him off so easily. "You didn't answer the question."
"Alice has been keeping her thoughts well hidden. I didn't know anything until she spoke to you a moment ago and I've been a bit…preoccupied." He spread his arms out directing me to look at the kitchen and dining room.
For the first time, I truly looked at our surroundings. There was a pot or pan on every burner of the stove. A neat stack of pancakes sat on the counter nearby, awaiting the next hot ones straight from the pan.
On another counter, there was a pile of smushed orange halves. I looked at the dining room table where there were four full glasses of orange juice. Since there was no juicer in sight, I had to assume that Edward squeezed them by hand. With his strength, he was probably faster and more effective than a juicer anyways. I was sorry I had missed that particular display.
The dining room looked like a page out of a magazine. The table was set immaculately with the finest china and silver. A crystal vase filled with bright pink peonies from Esme's garden sat in the center. Some food had already been set out – a platter of fresh sliced fruit, a basket of muffins, a bowl of sliced strawberries and a tiny pitcher of syrup.
"I take it you're impressed," Edward said, grinning at me. He wrapped his arms around me and kissed me once. "Now, if you'll excuse me, if I don't stir this hollandaise soon, it's going to curdle."
I was so stunned at everything I'd seen that I didn't think I'd heard him correctly at first. "Did you just say hollandaise?"
He nodded. "For the eggs benedict." I watched, dazed, as he gently stirred the yellow sauce.
"Edward, this is…" breathtaking, incredible, overwhelming, and, "completely ridiculous."
He frowned but continued to stir.
"I mean it's wonderful and sweet, but…who's going to eat all of this? I know you're not and I'm so nervous I don't think I'll be able to take a bite. Cereal would have been more than adequate."
"Don't be difficult, Bella. I'm trying to make a good impression." He spooned up a tiny bit of the yellow sauce and handed it to me. "Try this and tell me if it tastes right."
I hardly needed to taste it to know it would be perfect. And it was – smooth, rich and flavorful.
"It's fine," I shrugged. He could bear a little humility now and then. "Honestly, what teenage boy knows how to make eggs benedict?"
"One whose girlfriend cooks all the time. I learned from the best."
"I don't make eggs benedict."
"That's beside the point." He paused and stared at me. "Bella, your heartbeat is racing. Don't make yourself so anxious. Everything will be fine. And don't worry about Alice's little stunt either. I don't think Renee has noticed yet."
That was a relief at least.
I sighed. "Is there anything I can do to help?"
"You can sit down and relax. I'm almost done."
With vampire-fast reflexes, he flipped the last pancake with a quick movement of the pan. It was ten times more exciting and graceful than anything I'd ever seen in a movie. The only time I'd ever tried to flip a pancake in the pan, it ended up on my head. After that, I stuck to spatulas for all pancake flipping.
I was mesmerized, not unusually, by Edward's gracefulness as I watched him. He flipped the last pancake onto the stack with ease and turned his attention to the sausage and bacon frying in another pan. Seeing him cook was oddly attractive. Perhaps it was because I knew he was only doing it for me. He didn't have to cook, but he learned how to for my sake. It was sweet and endearing and, quite frankly, a turn on. Just watching his careful movements as he plated the eggs benedict and poured the creamy sauce over each one made me want to run to him, to embrace him, to kiss him, to declare my undying love for him.
I was startled from my thoughts when I realized he was speaking to me.
"Bella, breakfast is ready. Could you call in your mother and Phil?"
"Sure," I squeaked.
He raised one eyebrow as he looked curiously at me. "Are you all right?"
I stood quickly, scraping my chair across the tile flooring. I wrapped my arms around his neck. "Just kiss me," I sighed.
He grinned. "Your wish, my command." His lips met mine softly, but my kiss was anxious and aggressive. He stiffened at first, but then relaxed. We broke apart only when I was about to pass out from the lack of oxygen.
"Do you care to explain the sudden change in attitude?" he asked, amused. "Not that I mind it."
I dared not reveal my newfound weakness, lest Edward should decide that it gave him a reason to keep me human even longer. A picture lingered in my mind of him cooking every meal, all equally extravagant, for the rest of my abbreviated human life.
"Just reminding myself that the end goal is worth all of this." I smiled up at him and meant it.
On any other day, I'm sure I would have enjoyed Edward's humungous gourmet breakfast. He remembered all of my favorites and Renee and Phil raved over every bite. But my nerves made everything taste like sawdust and every morsel felt like a lump of lead in the pit of my stomach. The smell of the pancakes made me nauseous.
Eventually I gave up on eating, knowing that I would be sick if I had another bite. And any sign of morning sickness certainly wouldn't help my case when it came time to tell Renee that I was getting married. She would come to the same assumption Charlie had.
I glanced at Edward. He was leading most of the conversation, probably so he could avoid eating. Naturally, Renee wondered why the rest of the family didn't join us. There was certainly more than enough food. Edward smoothly explained that they were all early risers and had already eaten.
Now he was talking about Dartmouth. He had started off the morning announcing that we had both been accepted. I tried to smile through it.
Perhaps I hadn't fooled Renee though for she was eyeing me warily now.
"Bella, could you pass the pepper?" Phil asked.
I looked around the table. There was no pepper, nor any salt. I looked at Edward. He shook his head almost imperceptibly at me.
"I'm sorry, I think we're out," Edward apologized smoothly. He squeezed my hand gently under the table.
My mother raised one eyebrow at that response. I decided that this would be a good time to distract them.
"So, Mom, you must be happy. Dartmouth is a lot closer to Jacksonville than the University of Alaska."
"It's still very far, honey. Of course I'm thrilled and so proud that you were accepted to an Ivy League. But the real question is…are you happy, Bella?"
"I'm 100 happy with the decision I've made." There, that was truthful at least.
"It seems like something's worrying you, honey. Is it the expense? I'm sure Dartmouth is more expensive than anything you had planned."
"Bella's tuition will be taken care of," Edward assured her. I shot him a dirty look. Of course, he would choose this as the segue.
Renee looked at me, perplexed. "I don't understand. Did you get a scholarship, honey?"
"Not exactly," I said meekly. I could feel the beads of sweat start to form on my brow. I turned anxiously to Edward. He squeezed my hand gently and smiled at me before turning back to my mother.
"You see, Renee," Edward began, "I have a large inheritance and…what's mine will soon be Bella's. I asked Bella for her hand and she accepted." He looked lovingly at me. "We're getting married." His voice rang with confidence and happiness.
Renee's fork dropped with a clatter to her plate. Phil started having a coughing fit. I could feel the blood rushing to my face once again.
After Phil stopped coughing, there was a long and uncomfortable silence. I filled the time glancing between my mother and Edward to try to gauge her reaction from either of their faces, but both of them remained expressionless.
"Someone say something," I said finally, exasperated.
"When?" Renee asked flatly.
I bit my lip. "August 13th."
She nodded slowly.
"Are you ok, Mom? I know this is a surprise."
"Actually…I'm surprisingly calm." She looked just as bewildered as I felt.
I suddenly realized that I felt much calmer too. I would have to thank Jasper the next time I saw him.
"I think I must have expected this on some level. I knew the two of you were hopelessly in love. Of course, I hadn't expected that it would be so soon. There isn't a particular reason for that, is there?" she asked pointedly.
"I'm not pregnant, if that's what you mean," I said sharply. "And you're not going to become a grandmother in the near future. Believe me, I am well aware of your feelings about starting a family early in life. But Edward and I would have gotten married eventually and it only makes sense to do it before we go away to school together and while our friends and family are still close enough to attend the wedding."
Renee sighed in what I presumed was relief. She stared at me for a long moment. "Are you sure about this, Bella?"
"I know I want to be with Edward for the rest of my life. I know what it's like to be apart and I can't allow that to happen ever again."
"And I feel the same," Edward insisted. "Bella is my life. I love her more than words can express. We belong together. I promise you that she will want for nothing and that I will always place Bella's wants and needs before my own. I would do anything for her. And my family feels the same."
Renee looked a little stunned and Phil simply watched her anxiously the whole time.
I turned to Edward. "I think you overwhelmed her. That might have been a little over the top," I whispered.
"It's the truth," he whispered back.
"Okay," Renee conceded. That one simple word was so shocking, I wasn't sure at first that she'd said it.
"Really?" I asked. This was much simpler than I could have ever anticipated.
"Yeah," she said as tears dripped down her cheeks. "When have I ever been able to talk you out of anything?"
I rushed over and hugged her.
Within a short while, the rest of the Cullens joined us and Alice eagerly showed Renee her plans for the wedding. And Renee of course wanted to see my wedding gown, although I refused to try it on. Alice insisted that we go dress shopping for the mothers of the bride and groom. Edward and Emmett meanwhile arranged to take Phil to a Seattle Mariners game.
Although I didn't really look forward to another shopping adventure with Alice, I couldn't help but be pleased at how things were turning out. It was all going much smoother than I ever would have dreamed possible. Renee was completely taken in by Esme and Alice. It pleased me that she seemed to like them so much.
Renee and Esme chose similar dresses in the small shop in Port Angeles. They were appropriately conservative for the matrons of the wedding party, but not so drab or mature as to look inappropriate for their youthful faces. The dresses were silk with square necklines and flared skirts that reached mid-calf. They had an air of couture with interesting design details in the sleeves and at the waist and the dresses complemented each other perfectly. Interestingly enough, they even happened to be in shades that matched the color scheme for the wedding. I had the sneaky suspicion that Alice had custom ordered them in advance and conveniently arranged for us to find them. No wonder Alice had been so anxious for me to break the news to Renee.
Everything was going so well, it was like a dream…until dinner, when I realized that was exactly what it was – a dream.
Renee and I opted for an early dinner since we skipped lunch due to our mammoth breakfast. I took her to the same little Italian place that Edward and I went to on our first date. Alice and Esme made their excuses, saying that they had to pick up some items Alice had ordered at the local stationery store, but they'd meet us in an hour.
Shortly after our waitress took our orders and dropped off our drinks, I realized something was wrong. The conversation was light, we were discussing Renee's latest hobby – tai chi classes. But Renee kept looking around shiftily and her mind seemed preoccupied. She toyed with the breadstick, breaking it into bits without actually raising a single piece to her mouth.
"Okay, Mom, spill it."
She had a guilty look on her face when she looked up at me. "The Cullens," she began. I tensed, preparing my defenses. "They're a very nice family, but don't you think they're a bit…odd?"
"Aren't we all?" I said dismissively.
"They're all very attractive, but they're so pale and their eyes are all that same shade of yellow. It just doesn't seem natural, especially since they're not all related."
What would she think if she ever saw me after the change, looking exactly like them?
I had to be careful how I responded. My mother was very perceptive and could easily tell if I wasn't entirely truthful.
"The Cullens don't like to talk about it, but they all have a medical condition" called vampirism "that causes the eye color" and a healthy appetite for blood "and affects their skin's reaction to direct sunlight. That's why they're so pale. And that's how they came together, Carlisle specialized in…treating…the disease." There, that was close enough.
"Oh," Renee said, her eyes widening, "I think I read about something like that once. Some rare genetic disease that would cause third degree burns to people who had even a little bit of sun exposure. Something about the UV rays. Is it like that?"
I sighed in relief that she'd taken the bait. "Kind of, but not that extreme. It doesn't hinder them too much."
She looked sheepish. 'But…Bella, aren't you worried that your children will inherit it?"
I choked on the sip of Coke I just drank. "Mom, it's way too early to be talking about kids. Besides, it's a rare genetic anomaly. And if we ever had kids, I'd be more worried about them inheriting my clumsiness than Edward's…condition. Any kid who inherited half his genes would be lucky."
"Hmm," Renee pursed her lips.
"Seriously, Mom, it's not a big deal."
The waitress appeared at that moment with our orders – mushroom ravioli again for me and chicken marsala for Renee. I sighed with relief at the interruption, hoping that we could now drop the subject.
I speared a ravioli, savoring in the flavor that took me back instantly to that first night with Edward. I was about to offer Renee a bite, but when I looked up, she still seemed distracted as she wound the fettuccine on her fork and then released it.
"What, Mom?" I insisted.
"Well, I noticed that they don't tend to eat."
"Of course, they eat. You ate breakfast with Edward." But this time, I couldn't meet her eyes.
"He barely ate a bite, Bella."
"He was talking to you and he prepared breakfast. I don't feel like eating after preparing a big meal either."
"Why didn't Alice and Esme join us for dinner?"
"They told you. They had to stop by the stationery store before it closed. Besides, the Cullens like to eat together as a family." Well, at least they all hunted together. "And you've seen Emmett, do you honestly think he doesn't eat?"
"No, I suppose not. Perhaps I was being foolish, but there are other things. Things I've noticed."
"Go on," I sighed.
"Well…the pepper this morning. Why didn't they have any? It's a pretty basic necessity. And I had a headache last night and I noticed that there weren't any medications in Edward's medicine cabinet. I walked downstairs to see if there was anything in the bathroom on the lower level and the cabinet there was completely empty."
"You were snooping through their medicine cabinets?" I asked, outraged.
"Not snooping," she said defensively. "I was looking for aspirin. I had an excuse."
"Mom, you're blowing this out of proportion. So they don't have pepper or aspirin, does it really matter?"
She frowned, looking wary. "There's something more, Bella. Last night, when I walked downstairs, I noticed that Edward wasn't sleeping on the couch. He wasn't there, Bella, and I waited a while to see if he would return. I'm concerned, honey. Do you know where Edward's going in the middle of the night? What if he's keeping something from you?" she hesitated. "Or someone?"
A million emotions ran through me at once – shock, outrage, disappointment, embarrassment, and surprisingly confidence. I shook my head quickly. "There's no one else, Mom."
"Bella, honey, I know you don't want to believe that, but how can you be sure?"
"I just know, okay?"
Obviously, it wasn't okay. She raised her eyebrows, a clear display of her skepticism.
A confession was the only option I had left. "If you must know, Edward was with me last night."
Renee's eyes widened with shock. "In Charlie's house?!"
"Don't get so excited. Nothing happened…nothing ever happens. Edward's too much of a gentleman."
Renee closed her eyes and shook her head. That was not a good sign. She held a hand to her forehead as though she had a headache. "Well," she said after a long moment, "that explains some things."
I looked questioningly at her.
"When I told Edward this morning that you talk in your sleep, he said that was one of the things he loved about you," she explained, rolling her eyes.
I could feel the blush warm my cheeks. "Why were you discussing my sleeping habits?"
Renee averted her eyes. She was hiding something. "Some people might be disturbed by sleep talking. I wanted Edward to know what he was getting into."
My eyes narrowed to thin slits. Now I could see the entire picture coming into focus. She was going behind our backs to try to bring up anything that might question our decision to marry. My mind raced back to this morning to try to think of some time when she would have been alone with Edward. There was about fifteen minutes while Edward played the piano for her and Alice forced me to look through some items in her multiple wedding binders. Plenty of time for Renee to do some damage. "What else did you tell him?" I demanded.
"Please, Bella, it doesn't matter."
I stared at her. "What did you tell him?" I ground out through clenched teeth.
"Ok, Ok…calm down. I told him that you can be very…obstinate," she said, giving me a pointed look.
As if he didn't know that already. At least that was one flaw we shared. "What else?"
She sighed. "I told him about the first time you went rollerblading."
I winced. That was a torturous memory. I hadn't bothered with the knee pads, elbow pads or helmet – it wasn't "cool" to wear them. The consequence had been a broken wrist, scraped knees and a gash at the back of my head that required ten stitches.
"I told Edward he would need great medical insurance because your medical bills are likely to put him in the poor house." She laughed slightly, I didn't share her amusement. Embarrassment and anger flooded through me in equal doses.
Catching my expression, her laughter ceased but she looked thoughtful. "He laughed and said that wouldn't be necessary. Do you know what he meant? I saw you trying on those high heels today, sweetie, and I'm sorry to say that you haven't matured at all in the grace department."
Of course I knew what he meant. He meant that my clumsiness would vanish with my humanity. "Edward's very protective," I said dismissively. Renee seemed satisfied with that response.
"Listen, Mom, I know what you're trying to do. You're trying to talk us out of getting married. It won't work."
"Don't be silly, Bella. Of course, I'm not-"
"Yes, you are. Telling Edward about my sleep talking and trying to make me question what he's doing in the middle of the night. And by the way, Dad obviously doesn't know about Edward spending the night, and I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't tell him. Otherwise, Charlie might try to find another bullet with Edward's name on it."
Renee looked curious. "What is that supposed to mean?"
"Dad didn't react so well when we told him the news. He kind of…shot Edward. He's ok though," I said quickly. "It barely grazed him. Carlisle treated it right away."
I watched for a reaction. Renee's face was completely blank. After a long moment, she made an odd noise, like a cough without opening her mouth. At first, I thought she was choking on a breadstick. Perhaps she'd swallowed a piece after all. Then she started laughing, laughing so hard that she was soon gasping for air and tears streamed down her face. The other restaurant customers began to stare.
"Mom," I hissed, "it's not funny."
"Oh, Bella…hahahaha…I'm sorry, you're right. It's just…hahaha…your father has always been a bit prone to overreaction. Just think what he would have done if he caught Edward in your room." Another round of tear-inducing laughter.
I glared at her and waited for her to calm down. "Well, at least Charlie made his feelings clear. He didn't act one way and then go behind our backs."
Her laughter ceased immediately. "Now, Bella-"
"No, Mom. I thought you were happy for us and then you do this."
"Bella, you know my feelings about marriage. Did you honestly think I'd be happy to see my 18-year-old daughter getting married?"
"No," I admitted, "but I at least thought you'd be honest about it." That was it. I could feel the tears start cascading down my cheeks while the sobs shook my body. It didn't matter that it was a crowded restaurant or that I'd promised myself I wouldn't cry.
"Honey, please don't cry. I'm sorry I wasn't more up front with you. It wasn't fair to you or to Edward. It's just that you've always been so steadfast in your decisions, Bella. I knew you'd made up your mind and there was little use arguing over breakfast." She paused. "You just surprised me, honey. I never thought you were that kind of girl."
If I hadn't already been crying, I would have burst out laughing. The way her words mirrored my own response to Edward was too ironic. Still sniffling, I muttered, "I didn't think I was either."
Renee sighed. "I'm trying to be supportive, but does the wedding really need to be so soon? What happened to your plans for college and a career? You're so bright. I don't want you to lose all of that potential."
"I'm still going to college, Mom." Maybe several if I was anything like the rest of the Cullens. Of course, Renee didn't need to know that part or the fact that I wouldn't exactly be starting in the fall.
"But," Renee protested, still unconvinced, "things can happen, Bella."
I knew she meant that babies could happen, just as I had happened to her.
"Mom, Edward and I will graduate from Dartmouth. We're definitely not planning on starting a family anytime soon. I swear. My educational opportunities are hardly limited by having Edward in my life. And I never would have even gotten into Dartmouth without Edward's help."
"About that, Bella…" she frowned and stared at her plate. "There's no easy way to ask this, but I have to know. Charlie and I haven't been able to give you much. And your college fund is hardly enough for Dartmouth. Bella…did Edward's money have any influence on your decision?"
I shook my head, praying I hadn't heard what I thought I heard. "How can you even ask that? I am not marrying Edward for his money. I wish he didn't have any. It would make us a little more even."
"I'm sorry, Bella, but I had to ask. I just needed to make sure that you weren't making this decision for the wrong reason."
"I'm doing it for the right reason – because Edward and I love each other. And we know now that nothing will ever change that. Whether we marry now or ten years from now, it wouldn't really change anything. But we're ready to start our life together."
Renee appeared to be softening, but there was still a sad look in her eyes.
"I know you can't understand, Mom, but please have faith in me and know that I didn't come to this decision lightly."
"I guess if I'd thought about it a little more, I would have known how difficult that was for you. And I'm afraid that's my fault."
"I didn't want to disappoint you," I whispered, knowing now that indeed I had.
She grimaced. "Don't let my experiences or desires for you dictate your life, Bella. Marrying early was wrong for me, but that doesn't mean it will be wrong for you. You and Edward are both very mature and anyone can tell that you have the kind of love that will make this last. And I know Edward can offer you so much more than Charlie was ever able to offer me. He can give you the world. I didn't want to be locked away from the sun all my life, but that's not going to happen to you, Bella."
I sucked in a long breath to conceal any reaction to her last statement. Little did she know that no matter how many places I traveled in the world with Edward, sunlight would remain elusive for the rest of my existence.
"Wow," Renee said, looking surprised. "I think I'm actually talking myself into this."
"Really?" The happiness that bubbled up inside of me released with quiet laughter. We still had a lot of talking to do, but things were starting to look up and I knew that the worst was over. Maybe she wouldn't completely accept my engagement yet, but she was willing to try and that was enough.
When Alice and Esme returned, they revealed that their stop at the stationary store was to pick up the wedding invitations. I could see why Alice didn't tell me about them in advance. They were pretty, floral, elegant, expensive, and completely not my style. But Renee impressively gushed over them and asked for her copy on the spot so she could show Phil. From her behavior, no one would ever suspect that there had been something amiss – that she had been trying to dissuade me from marriage only a half an hour prior. Although I suspected that Alice might have known something from the cautious protective glances she shot me now and again.
The rest of the weekend went without a hitch. We transferred Renee and Phil to the hotel Saturday evening, leaving the Cullens free to resume their everyday lives, which chiefly circled on 24 hour wedding plan as far as Alice and Esme were concerned. Even Rosalie was joining that parade. I supposed she had planned enough of her own weddings that she might have some good advice. It pleased me that she was actually taking these small steps to bring us closer.
Sunday was a rare day away from my family to be. I had promised Renee that I would show her what my life was like in Forks. While my universe centered around Edward, I realized that it wouldn't hurt to introduce her to some of the distant moons that orbited my miniscule cloud and moss covered planet.
That morning, Charlie offered to take Phil fishing while I introduced Renee to some of our friends in La Push. No one other than Seth and Sue Clearwater looked particularly happy to see me. I struggled with the decision to go to the Blacks, but ultimately decided that it wouldn't be fair to Jacob after my last goodbye.
Lunch was a happier affair. I fried up Phil and Charlie's catch and invited Angela over to share it with us. Renee responded warmly to Angela's friendly personality. The conversation flowed easily, perhaps a little too easily since Renee let it slip that Edward and I were getting married. Although Angela was mildly surprised, she was the first human with the good grace not to question whether I was pregnant first.
In a world without Alice, Angela would be my first choice for a bridesmaid. But this wedding would be going overboard as it was and one bridesmaid was more than enough for me. If Angela had any expectations along those lines, she didn't show them, and she seemed genuinely happy for us.
The afternoon was surprisingly pleasant. For that moment in time, I actually felt normal. No werewolves, no vampires, just humans. It was an odd feeling. Even odder and sadder when I realized that I would have few if any moments like that ever again. My time with these humans who meant so much to me would be ending soon. I tried to savor every second left, but the time flew by and all too soon Edward arrived to take Renee and Phil to the airport.
It was a tearful goodbye, at least on my part. I think I worried Renee a bit when the waterworks started, because she quickly assured me that she would call every day and told me to smile because they'd be coming back shortly for the wedding. That only made me cry more, realizing that I only had a few weeks before I'd have to say goodbye forever. In that moment, I forgave her completely for not being truthful to me about her feelings on the wedding. How could I blame her when she was right? I was giving up more than she could ever imagine to marry Edward. But I knew I would never regret that decision. It was a painful choice, but not nearly as painful as the alternative.
When we reached the Cullens, I was still visibly upset and Edward all but carried me into the house.
"Bella, I hate to see you like this. Are you sure this visit was wise?"
"Yes," I said adamantly, "I'm glad I had some time with her."
"But I know that not all of that time was pleasant for you."
I knew he was referring to my conversation with Renee last night at the restaurant. He and I had talked about it late into the night. Edward had thought Renee's attempts to make us rethink marriage were highly amusing. He didn't take it quite as seriously as I had.
"She came around," I said dismissively. "I don't regret anything. I don't regret my decision to marry you and I don't regret telling my mother in person."
He flashed me his crooked smile and leaned in to kiss me. "Well, at least you can be relieved that some of your fears are over. We've told Renee and we've told Charlie. Now you can relax a bit."
"Angela found out too," I admitted.
Alice bounced down the stars. "But you're not done yet, Bella."
I turned to her with narrowed eyes. "What do you mean? My parents know. Jacob and Angela know."
She smiled brightly. "You still have to tell the rest of Forks," she said, pointing to a thick stack of stamped envelopes, which were addressed in fancy calligraphy.
I groaned loudly. I was not going through this again, not for the Mikes and Jessicas of the world.
"Let's get this over with," I grumbled. "Edward, get the car ready," I instructed as I grabbed the stack of invitations. "We're about to tell Forks the old-fashioned way – through the mail."
Hope you enjoyed it! Please take the time to review. Initially, this chapter has received a lot of hits and been added to many Favorites lists, but only has received 2 reviews and I'm anxious to see how people liked it. I struggled with this chapter for four months and am personally pleased at how it turned out, but I'd really like to know what you think!