C H A P T E R O N E
"Jason!" I yelled up the stairs, glancing at my watch in annoyance. If he didn't hurry, we weren't going to have much time as a family. I sighed and looked to my youngest son, Luke. He was sitting on the first stair, waiting for my signal. "Sweetie go get your brother, will you?" I asked pushing the hair from my eyes. He jumped up with an excited grin and scurried up the steps. I could hear their raised voices and I rubbed my forehead.
"What have I said about barging into my room!" Jason yelled.
"Well Mommy said it's time to go!" Luke countered.
"Get out!" I sighed.
"Jason!" I yelled louder. "Luke! Come on! In the car in ten seconds or you can go stay with Aunt Alice and your cousins!" I threatened. They were both down in a flash. The threat to send them with Alice and her daughter Camilla always worked. Both girls loved to take them out shopping and dress them up. Now that Alice was seven months pregnant, she was even more hormonal and crazy than normal. I sighed and tried to straighten out Jason's hair as he passed but he glared at me. "Fine." I said holding my hands up in surrender. I walked outside and to the car, Jason and Luke right behind me. Simon was already in the back seat of the car, waiting patiently. I rolled my eyes at him. "Simon, how long have you been in here?" I asked glancing at him in the mirror as I got in. He shrugged.
"I wanted to miss Jason's morning stomp." He said chuckling. Jason reached back to punch him and I grabbed his wrist.
"Hey!" I shouted. Jason grumbled and sat back, facing out the window, away from me. I made sure Luke and Simon were buckled in before I pulled out of the driveway. "Guys, please, I know we don't all always get a long, but can we try not to fight, just today?" I asked hopefully. They all sighed and nodded. I looked to Jason who was doing his best to ignore me. He had his ipod headphones in and he was staring out the window. I sighed sadly. I was young, to have three boys. Too young. I had been only sixteen when I had Jason. The man who had raped me had been sentenced to jail and from what I heard, had been killed there during a brawl. I couldn't have cared less about him. When I turned 22, I had started dating a man, Tyler. We had even gotten married and that's when I had Simon, who was five years younger than Jason. After I got pregnant with Luke, Tyler demanded a divorce. He just up and left us out of nowhere and I hadn't heard from him since. Only the monthly child support checks told me he at least remembered us. At 31, I was the only mother I knew who had a 15, 10 and 6-year-old. I loved my boys fiercely and I couldn't imagine my life any other way, my only regret would be them not knowing a father.
I pulled up to the park and the boys smiled. There was a carnival going on today and I thought it would be the perfect time for us all to get out. I got out of the car and gathered the boys around me. I could tell Jason wanted to be anywhere but with his family, but I needed to spend some quality time with all of them, even just for a short while. "Alright boys, listen up. We are going to spend one hour together as a family. Then Jason, you can go hang out with your friends." I directed. Jason moaned and I sent him a sharp look.
"Fine." He grumbled.
"Good." I nodded. I pulled out my wallet as we approached the ticket booth. "Four please." I said to the woman. She looked at the boys then at me.
"Baby sitting are we?" she asked with a knowing smile. I frowned.
"What? No, these are my boys." The woman frowned. "I'm their mother." I said slowly. The woman blushed and busied herself with the tickets. She slid them to me and I thanked her before we walked inside. I couldn't believe I had been mistaken for their babysitter, but of course, it hadn't been the first time that had happend.
"Mom! Can we go on that?" Luke asked, pulling on my shorts. I looked up to see the Ferris wheel.
"You know mom is afraid of heights!" Jason said rolling his eyes. I shook my head.
"No, you boys go. I'll get you some lemonades or something." I handed them each an activity bracelet and they nodded. "Jason, watch your brothers please." He nodded and rolled his eyes as he herded them toward the line.
"Emma! Girls let's go!" I called from my room.
"Hold on dad!" Emma yelled. I rolled my eyes and Clara giggled. I looked at her sitting on my bed.
"Are you excited Sweetie?" I asked. She nodded, her small pigtails dancing excitedly.
"I'm so excited daddy! Can we go on all the rides?" she asked clutching onto her doll tighter. I laughed.
"Sure, if your sisters will take you on the ones I'm too afraid to go on." I teased. She rolled her eyes.
"Daddy, you're not afraid of anything." She said giggling. I nodded and scooped her up in my arms. She squealed in excitement.
"Why don't you go get your sisters now." She nodded and squirmed out of my arms before running down the hall.
"Emma! Jodi!" She cried. I chuckled and slipped my watch on before stepping out into the hall. Jodi was walking by and I smiled at her, patting her back.
"Ready to go sweetie?" she nodded.
"Come on Princess!" Jodi called sarcastically down the hall toward my eldest daughter's room. Emma's door flew open and she glared at Jodi.
"Oh shut up Jodi." She snarled.
"Hey, Emma. Be nice to your sisters." She sent me a glare and I sighed. She was wearing too much make up, again, and her skirt was too short. "Emma, you are not wearing heels to a carnival." I said shaking my head. She sighed, which sounded more like a scream and went back to change. She came out a moment later in some white tennis shoes.
"Better?" she sneered. I nodded and lead the way downstairs.
I was young to have three daughters. Too young in some opinions. I was only 32. I had been married to my ex wife Tanya since she got pregnant when we were 18. We had stayed together until four years ago when I had found out she had been cheating on me for quite some time. By then Emma was ten, Jodi was five and Clara was only one. Tanya had left us all making me suddenly, a single father of three growing girls. Life had never been scarier.
We piled into the car and I headed towards the park. It seemed that with my constant schedule as a doctor and with all the girls having various social lives, we hardly spent any time together. So I had decided to call today a family day. I knew it would only last an hour or so once we got there, but that would be enough. As soon as we got in Clara started squealing. "Daddy! Daddy! Look!" She pointed to the large Ferris Wheel. "Can we go on it daddy? Please?" she begged. I nodded.
"Sure, why don't you and your sisters go on it. I'll get us some cotton candy." They all nodded and started over to the line. I turned around and walked over to the snack stand where a small brunette woman was fishing her wallet out of her purse.
"I'm sorry." She apologized to the man serving the food. He rolled his eyes and tapped his foot impatiently. I looked to see what she had ordered. A frozen lemonade and some cotton candy.
"I'll take a lemonade." I said handing the man a bill. I motioned that I was paying for the woman's things and he nodded, handing me the change. The woman looked up finally with her wallet.
"Please enjoy." The man said, handing me my food. The woman pulled out a bill and the man shook his head. "It's been paid for." The small woman whirled around and looked at me. I was instantly stunned by her absolute beauty. She had soft pale skin and deep brown eyes. Her lovely heart shaped face was framed by her chocolate hair. I smiled at her and she blinked. Her long dark eyelashes enchanting.
"You?" she asked softly. Her voice was beautiful and smooth. I nodded and motioned for her to follow me. I didn't know what I was doing. I was a single father of three. She probably had a boyfriend or husband. But I couldn't help myself. She gathered her things and came to sit next to me on a bench by the Ferris Wheel.
"I'm Edward Cullen." I said holding out my hand to her.
"Bella Swan." She said shaking my hand. Her skin was soft and smooth and I felt a jolt of electricity shoot through me at her touch. "And you really didn't need to pay for all this." She said shaking her head. I frowned.
"Don't worry about it." She sighed.
"Well thank you." She sat back on the bench and took a sip of her lemonade. I waited for her to get up, to tell me that I was out of my league and that she was going to go back to her lover, but she never did. "So what brings you to the fair on this fine day?" she asked after a moment. I bit my lip.
"Family outing." I saw her face fall a little and I internally scolded myself. She wasn't interested in a family. "How about yourself?" she smiled shyly.
"Family outing as well. It's been a while since we've had a day where we could all be together." She explained. I wondered if she was speaking of her siblings or her own family.
"So, if this is a family outing, where is your husband and kids?" I said, trying to sneakily get information on her marital status. She sighed.
"I'm not married. My sons are up on the Ferris Wheel. When it comes crashing down on us, you'll know it was them." She said sarcastically. I laughed.
"Well what about you? Where is your wife and kids?" she asked taking a small strip of cotton candy. I shrugged.
"I'm not married. I'm a single parent like yourself and my daughters are actually up there as well." She nodded.
"You have girls?" I sighed.
"Yes, three of them. Can you see my hairs turning grey? My oldest is determined to make all my hair fall out before she's out of high school." I joked. She laughed and I found myself trapped in wonder. She had the most amazing laugh. Like wind chimes dancing in a cool breeze.
"That's like my oldest. I don't know what happened because when he was younger, we got along so well. He used to totally be a momma's boy." She sighed. I nodded.
"How old is he?" I asked curiously. She rolled her eyes.
"15. He is going to be getting his driver's permit soon." She said rolling her eyes. I choked on my lemonade.
"You are not old enough to have a 15-year-old son are you?" I asked shocked. She blushed.
"Well, yes I am. How old is your oldest?" I shut my mouth.
"14." I mumbled. She nodded. She didn't look older than 22 in my opinion.
"Well there you have it." I nodded.
"So how many kids did you say you have?" I asked. She smiled.
"Three. One is 15, one is 10 and the other is 6." I smiled.
"Really? My girls are 14, 9 and 5." She smiled.
"Mom?" We both looked up to see a tall boy about 15 approaching us. Two younger boys stood with him. They all looked much like their mother.
"Hey Boys, how was the ride?" she asked hugging the youngest. Even he looked tall. They all nodded, eyes on me. I smiled. "Boys, this is Edward Cullen. Edward, these are my sons. Jason, Simon and Luke." She said introducing us. I shook their hands and noticed Jason, the oldest, wouldn't stop glaring at me.
"Mommy, can I have some of your cotton candy?" the youngest asked. She nodded and handed it over to him. He grinned and pulled a large strip off.
"Guess who we saw on the ride mom!" The middle one said jumping up and down. She shrugged.
"Who Simon?" Jason quickly punched his brother's arm who punched him back. Bella sighed and placed her hand on her forehead. "Boys please." She growled. They stopped fighting but glared at each other.
"We saw Jason's girlfriend!" Luke sang. Bella's head snapped up and she looked at Jason. He was looking everywhere but her.
"Excuse me?" she asked her son. He started to shake his head when Luke laughed.
"Look! There she is!" I looked in the direction he pointed to see Emma, Jodi and Clara coming towards us. I felt the familiar father overprotective instincts kick in and I glared at Jason.
"Daddy!" Clara yelled. She ran up and gave me a big hug. "Daddy it was so much fun! You have to come on with me!" she yelled. I nodded, kissing her forehead. Jodi and Emma approached slowly.
"Bella, meet my girls. Emma, Jodi and Clara. Girls, this is Bella and her sons." I said slowly. Jodi glanced at Emma who glared at her. Jodi turned to Bella and smiled.
"Hi Miss Swan." Bella smiled.
"Hello Jodi, how are you?" Jodi nodded.
"I'm good. I got an A on that report." She said smiling happily. Bella beamed.
"That's wonderful sweet heart. I told you you could do it." I looked back between them, slightly confused.
"Mom, can I go now?" Jason asked. Bella looked at him and stood. She was at least a head shorter than him and a few inches shorter than Simon. Wow her boys were really tall.
"That's fine, but when we get home we are having a serious talk." She said pulling her purse out. She handed both Simon and Jason twenty dollars each and instructed them to stay together, giving Jason a stern glare letting him know that if he ditched his brother he would pay for it later. He nodded his head dismissively and started off, not waiting for Simon to catch up. Simon gave Bella a hug before running after his brother. Bella sighed.
"Dad, can we go too?" Emma asked. I rolled my eyes.
"Fine. Just make sure you don't get lost, and please don't wander off by yourself." I said handing her and Jodi twenty dollars each. They nodded and took off. I turned to see Clara and Luke sitting on the bench between Bella and me, sharing the cotton candy. Both of their feet dangled off the bench as they spoke. I looked up at Bella who was rubbing her forehead.
"Well, shall we enjoy the carnival while it's here?" I asked her. She looked up at me and smiled.
"Sure. That sounds good."
We spent the rest of the day going on rides with Clara and Luke. I was growing very fond of Clara, just as I had Jodi. I owned a small bookstore right by the middle school and high school and one day, Jodi had come in, looking for some books for a project. She had confessed to me that she had to do a speech and she was really nervous, so I had offered to help her. For almost a month she would come by the store after school every day and we would work on her project. She was a sweet girl and I found her younger sister to be just the same. "Daddy." I looked down to see Clara tugging Edward's hand. He looked down at her and frowned. "Daddy I have to go potty." He sighed and looked slightly uncomfortable. I smiled.
"Come on sweetie, I'll take you." I said holding my hand out to her. She nodded and took it. I looked up at Edward to see him smile gratefully at me. I nodded and headed for the bathroom.
"Miss Bella," I looked down at Clara.
"Yes sweetheart?" she smiled.
"You're really nice and really pretty Miss Bella." I blushed lightly at the complement.
"Thank you sweet heart. You are pretty too." She grinned.
"Miss Bella?" I nodded and waited for her to continue. "Do you like my daddy?" she asked after a moment. I was caught off guard by her question.
"Well, he's a very nice man." She looked at me as if she knew better.
"Miss Bella, can I tell you a secret?" I nodded and lead her to wash her hands.
"What is it sweetie?" she lathered up her hands and smiled.
"I think he likes you. I like you too." I smiled and kissed the top of her head.
"I'm glad. I like you too. I think we could be good friends." We walked back to the boys who were playing a tick tack toe game. We watched as they threw the small bean bags into the boxes. Edward lifted Luke up and he tossed a bag. It went in and the man working the booth clapped.
"Wow. Very good aim! You've won a prize." He said smiling. Luke screamed in excitement and picked out a small brown teddy bear. He hugged it tightly and then hugged Edward. I smiled.
"Mommy! Look what I got!" I nodded.
"That's great sweetie!" he grinned.
"Can I get something too?" Clara asked hopefully. I grinned.
"I know the perfect thing. Come on." I said leading them away from the stand. There was a small booth tucked away with water guns lined up in a row. I sat on a stool and sat Clara next to me. I showed her how to play and waited as the man came around. He smiled at us and handed us each some colorful bead necklaces.
The little bell rang and we started shooting our guns at the target. Clara was surprisingly really good at it and beat me by just a second. The man smiled and asked Clara to pick out a prize. She looked up and saw a small purple unicorn and pointed to it. The man handed it to her and she hugged it.
"Stacy will love this!" she cried happily. I grinned.
"Who is Stacy?" she smiled and I helped her off the stool.
"My dolly." I nodded and she hugged me tightly. "Thank you Miss Bella." She whispered in my ear. I nodded. Edward looked at me and grinned.
"Thank you." He mouthed. I nodded.
"Mommy look, the sun is going down." Luke pointed to the sky. I looked up and nodded.
"I think it's time we find your brothers." He nodded and stifled a yawn. I pulled out my cell phone and tried calling Jason. It went straight to voice mail. I growled in annoyance and tried Simon.
"Mom?" he asked after the third ring.
"Simon, where are you? It's time to get going." I heard shuffling in the back ground before he spoke.
"We're by the kissing booth." He said slowly. I silently groaned. I knew my boys were approaching the land of teenage hormones, and I could have easily navigated that, had they been girls. I had no idea how to speak to my boys about growing up because I had never had to be a teenage boy. I knew though that I needed to get that conversation in with Jason soon or I'd really be paying for it later.
"Is your brother with you?" I asked.
"Yeah, he's here." Simon confirmed.
"Stay there. We are on our way." I hung up and turned to see Edward on the phone. He hung up and looked at me. "My boys are at the kissing booth." I said sighing. Edward nodded.
"My girls are over there as well." We made our way across the grounds until we found the kissing booth. I spotted Jason leaning against tree, talking to Emma. Simon was sitting on a bench with Jodi and they were having an animated discussion.
"No, no no!" Simon said shaking his head. "Science is way more filling than sports! Look at what the great scientists have achieved!" He cried animatedly. I was surprised by his zeal. My son was usually very reserved and distant, especially around new people. Jodi shook her head.
"Physical achievements are way greater! Sports bring people together, science just confuses people!" She countered. I glanced at Edward who rolled his eyes with a small smirk.
"Boys, come on." I called, interrupting Simon's retort. Jason looked up at me and instantly came away from Emma.
"Look, Bella I had a really great time today." Edward said before everyone joined us. I nodded.
"I did too." He nodded.
"I was wondering if maybe I could see you again." He asked gently. I felt my heart soar. It was too good to be true. A gorgeous single man with kids of his own and who liked my kids? Please feel free to wake up anytime Bella.
"I would love to." I managed. He grinned.
"Great. Can I have your number?" I nodded and recited it to him and he gave me his. I smiled.
"Thank you Edward, for everything." He nodded and smiled to his girls as they approached us.
"I'll see you soon." He said nodding. I smiled and nodded. I looked at the boys and they were all staring at me.
"What?" I asked frowning.
"I don't trust that guy." Jason said glaring over at Edward. I rolled my eyes.
"Come on you three. Let's get home."