This time, Charlie had gone too far. I could understand him wanting to give Renesmee a normal childhood–we all wanted that insofar as it was possible–but he had overstepped his bounds as a grandfather and now I was having to clean up the mess.
It had all started with one of our usual visits. Charlie had nothing to do on a lonely Saturday and I offered to bring over spaghetti, meatballs and his favorite granddaughter. It was the middle of the playoffs and Charlie spent most of the time trying to explain things like the infield fly rule to Renesmee. Before she could start to fidget as all good Swan-Cullens did when listening to one of Charlie's sports soliloquies, I made a quick trip to the car to find the book of Shakespeare stories that she had been reading this morning.
And then I heard them, the words that ruined my day.
"So, Nessie," Charlie cooed in his kooky-old-grandpa voice, "what are you going to be for Halloween?"
"What am I going to be?" she echoed, sounding confused.
"Yeah, are you going to be a princess? A ninja, maybe?"
There was a long pause while my daughter contemplated the nonsense her grandfather was spouting and Charlie guessed everything from Snoopy to a Mighty Morphin' Power Ranger. If I had been a human, I probably would have gotten a headache around now. Instead, I ground my teeth and dashed off to her rescue.
"Hey, Bells," Charlie called, "this cutie doesn't know what she's being for Halloween. Don't you need to decide that soon?"
"We've got plenty of time," I rationalized frantically, "and we hadn't really thought about it yet."
"Well, you'd better hurry," he counseled. "I was at Wal-Mart the other day and most of the good costumes are already gone."
I'd have to relay this to Alice. She balked at the idea of Renesmee wearing anything that wasn't designer and I could just imagine her reaction to the idea of her niece wearing a polyester catsuit from Wal-Mart.
"Thanks for the advice," I said smoothly. "Here you go."
Renesmee took the book, but was too engrossed in watching a replay of a throwing error by Victorino to read. I rolled my eyes.
"Hey, I need to make a phone call," I said blithely. "Do you mind watching the munchkin for a minute?"
"Sure," he called around a mouthful of meatball. "Jacob and Billy are going to be here soon anyway, so she'll have plenty of babysitters."
Great. Jacob would probably be just as helpful with this as Charlie. I headed upstairs to my old room and sprawled on the bed with one hand over my eyes more out of habit than need.
"Bella," Edward greeted. "How's Charlie?"
"Nosy," I answered with a sigh. "He wants to know what Renesmee's being for Halloween."
There was a contemplative silence. Finally, he spoke again and sounded annoying unperturbed.
"It's not something we forgot," he admitted. "I just don't think we had planned on celebrating. We certainly didn't last year."
"Last year, we all had other things on our mind," I pointed out. "This year, Charlie probably wants to drag out that gosh-awful plastic pumpkin suit that he used to wear for the policemen's Halloween party. I hadn't thought of making her go through that."
"Of course we hadn't," he deadpanned. "No one foresees plastic pumpkin men."
"It's not as if we can take her trick-or-treating!"
"Well, not around the neighborhood," he agreed, "but we could always visit a few family friends…"
"Absolutely not," I interrupted. "I don't want to know what a succubus thinks is a trick or treat."
"I was talking about Charlie, the Blacks, maybe the Clearwaters," he soothed. "You know Seth would enjoy it."
Last I checked, Seth was planning to be a zombie for Halloween, but I doubted that would bother Renesmee. She had enough experience with the macabre undead to last her a lifetime.
"If you're opposed to the idea of taking her, Jacob can do it," he suggested.
I was not so much annoyed as flustered. I hated being caught off-guard and Charlie had managed to pull off that feat.
"No, we can do it," I sighed. "I'm not sure what she'd want to be, though."
"We'll talk about it when you get home," he assured me. "I'm sure Alice can talk her into something Chanel-related."
"Don't you dare give her ideas," I ordered.
He just cut the connection with a laugh.
"…So we dress up in funny costumes and hit up strangers for candy," Jacob concluded.
"Fun!" Renesmee declared.
"Yeah, it is," he agreed.
"It'a stupid human tradition," Rosalie muttered. "The egging, the candy-grubbing, the bobbing for apples…"
"The fat men in spandex," Alice commiserated, "the girls in faux fur and polyester everything…"
They both shuddered. I hadn't understood their aversion to synthetic fabrics until the moment that Charlie wore his old suit and I caught a whiff of what polyester actually smelled like. It could be politely described as raw sewage marinated in vinegar.
"So, Ness," Jacob said, ignoring them both, "what do you want to be?"
"Belle!" she squealed.
Of course. She'd seen Beauty and the Beast a month ago and we'd all been subjected to her first real obsession. It was probably going to be another year before I could get the lyrics of "Gaston" out of my head.
"I can see that," Rosalie said, nodding with no attempt at hiding her smirk. "Perfect girl falls for a hairy monster with no table manners. The parallels are obvious."
"Hey, Rose," Jacob shot back immediately, "what do smart blondes and UFO's have in common?"
"Mongrel," she muttered back.
"Naw," he chortled. "You always hear about them but never see them."
"Heard that one," Rosalie, Emmett and I said in perfect unison.
"That's a great idea," Alice commended Renesmee. "We can dress Jacob as the Beast or just get him to phase."
"Not on your life," he rejoined. "I'll work it out on my own."
Edward inexplicably snorted at whatever he was thinking.
"Good, we've got that settled," I commented. "Let's get her home, shall we?"
"Yes," Alice enthused. "I'll get the fabric tomorrow when the shops open and we can start tomorrow night after her piano lesson."
Jacob always left with us since he wasn't fond of hanging around a bloodsucker's house without "Nessie" around and because he wanted to make sure she got home all right. Of course, with two vampires as parents, the chances of her coming to harm were close to zero, but he was a big, stubborn mutt anyway.
"Look at the bright side," he commented. "She could have gotten obsessed with Aladdin."
That was a bright side. After all, I didn't want my one-year-old even thinking about baring a midriff.
"Thanks, Jake," I said, tugging him into a side hug. "Next year, I'll get her hooked on Monsters, Inc. and make you dress as Sully."
He gave one of those laughs that was more a bark than a human noise and grinned at Renesmee's retreating back. "I'm not sure I'd mind that, actually."
I gave him a grin of my own, thinking of a huge werewolf dyed blue. "I'll keep that in mind."
There were distinct advantages to having a seamstress who didn't have such things as a schedule or budget constraints. By the end of the week, Alice had perfectly duplicated Belle's ballgown, complete with opera-length gloves that looked strangely non-ridiculous on my daughter.
Edward refused to say what he was going to dress as and since Alice wasn't in charge of his costume, I could hardly snoop. Since we were obviously operating independently on the costume front, I enlisted Esme's help in creating a Bride of Frankenstein costume.
Finally, the day arrived. Edward insisted in maintaining her usual schedule–classes in the morning, 'gym class' in the afternoon and her piano lesson after dinner–but he played along. All of her word problems in math were about multiplying spiders and finding the volume of a witch's cauldron. She watched a Spanish-dubbed version of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" during her Spanish lesson with me.
Jacob arrived halfway through her piano lesson, when she and Edward were hammering out the duet version he'd found of "In the Hall of the Mountain King." I opened the door and promptly burst out in uncontrollable laughter. I could hear Renesmee's part faltering, though Edward kept on at his usual frenetic pace.
"I vant to sok yoor blahd," Jacob announced theatrically through a mouth full of plastic vampire teeth.
If that wasn't funny enough, he had on a 100% polyester opera cape that put Bela Lugosi's to shame.
"Ness," Edward said quietly, "why don't you go say hi to Jake and then ask Aunt Alice to help you get dressed? I'll be down when I'm changed."
Renesmee slid off the piano bench and crossed the space to the front door at record speed before plastering herself against Jacob's left leg.
"Hmmm, vot haff ve hir?" Jacob said, trying not to laugh as he pulled her off. "A haf-vampire? Mabe I tek care of die other haf…"
He held her up high enough to blow a raspberry on her neck, then set her down while she laughed. "You'd better get going," he said. "Paul and Rachel are at my house and they might eat all the candy before we get there."
Renesmee scrambled up the stairs, leaving two horrific monsters standing near the front door.
"Nice hair," he muttered with a smirk.
"Nice cape," I shot back.
The smirk became a full-blown grin. "What can I say? Edward inspired me."
Maybe that was what he had been snorting at on the day Renesmee first heard about Halloween costumes. "I dare you to say that to his face," I commented.
He glanced up the stairs and his jaw tightened. "I just might."
I turned to see Edward strutting down the stairs, looking exactly like Lon Chaney's version of Wolf-man. He stopped a within arms length, looked over Jacob with an appraising eye and then let out an ear-splitting howl.
"Geez," Jacob gasped. "What was that?"
"What can I say?" Edward said mildly. "You inspired me."
"I bet," my werewolf sniggered.
Any further conversation was cut off as Renesmee came skipping down the stairs. After the obligatory oohs, aahs and a few pictures taken by her doting grandmother with a digital camera, she scampered off to find the candy bag that Alice had grudgingly found at Thriftway for her.
"Hey, Vlad," Edward murmured.
Jacob's lip curled over the fake teeth at thename. "Yeah, Wolfgang?"
"I don't mind," Edward assured him, "but can we add one more stop to the route?"
"Sam and Emily's," I guessed.
They both nodded. "Wait 'til Sam finds out you do a better werewolf impression than he does," Jacob laughed. "He'll just go furry with envy."