Not a short, sarcastic laugh, or a bitter, biting one, but an actual, honest-to-goodness laugh.
I was proud to say it was on account of me.
To be fair, it wasn't entirely because of me. It was because of Renesmee, but since I was the one who'd been forcing Edward to spend most of his time with her, I took credit for it.
I was appalled, quite frankly, that the others in his family hadn't been pressing Renesmee onto him every minute they could. Renesmee had a father; Edward had a daughter. Using his self-declared death as an excuse to keep them apart was as silly a reason as Bella's humanity keeping her and Edward away from each other.
I smiled smugly. "Edward, what's so funny?"
He'd recovered by then, of course. In fact, his whole body seemed to deflate, as if he'd suddenly remembered why he had been so sad in the first place, why he had barely even cracked a smile in weeks.
"Nothing," he said darkly. "It was nothing."
He frowned, and turned away, but I saw the desolation in his eyes again. The desolation that had, inch by inch, been slowly dissipating during the last forty-eight hours. Every smile, every touch that he and Renesmee shared had acted like a torch, brandishing its way through the darkness of his agony and lighting him up again.
It had been miraculous, really, to watch.
And here he was, talking on his cell phone to Renesmee as she called him from the home phone downstairs – she found the telephone a wonderful invention, almost as wonderful as food.
Renesmee babbled on into Edward's phone, but he seemed to have stopped listening. When she paused to take a breath, he cut her off. "Renesmee, darling?" he said. "Can you finish telling me later? I need to go."
"Go where?" she demanded.
"Go…well, I need to talk to Aunt Tanya for a moment, all right?"
"Okay, daddy!" Renesmee chirruped, and hung up the phone.
Very slowly, Edward closed the phone. He closed his hand around it, and I saw his muscles flex.
"Edward," I chastised gently, taking his hand and uncurling his fingers before he could break it. I took the phone out of it and set it on the table beside me.
He put his head in his hands and was still.
The silence stretched on, not even broken by movement or breathing. It was easy to figure out what Edward was feeling – guilt that he was alive and still able to laugh, and Bella was not. Guilt that he could laugh so easily and so soon after her death – did she mean nothing to him, that he could get on with his life so quickly?
"It's okay to be happy, Edward," I said finally, putting my hand on his arm.
He didn't move.
"I'm going to sound like a self-help book, I know, but Bella wouldn't want you to castigate yourself, Edward. You know that. She'd wonder how you could even consider leaving Renesmee when she obviously loves you so dearly."
He didn't move his hands away from his face, but his voice hissed out, low and terse. "Yes, well, I'm not Bella, am I? I'm not like her at all. She was the most selfless, beautiful woman, and what am I? A selfish monster."
"Selfish for what? For wanting to be happy?"
"Yes!" Edward said, exasperated, and he raised his tortured eyes to mine. "I wanted to change Bella. I convinced myself I was strong enough to do it, because it was what I wanted. I wanted her by my side forever, and it got her killed. The same thing is happening with Renesmee. I want to be with her, but look at me! I'm a mess. She doesn't need a ruined man in her life. I want to die. I do. But every minute I spend with my daughter, it's getting harder to convince myself of that."
"What do you mean, Renesmee doesn't need you in her life?" I whispered, shocked. "You're her father, Edward. Of course she needs you."
"Yes," Edward agreed. "She needs a father. I'm no more a father to her than you are, Tanya. I shouldn't be around her. She's too perfect and beautiful for me."
"Edward," I said, determined to talk some sense into him, "Do you realize you were saying the exact same things when you first met Bella? And look how that turned out-"
"Yes, it turned out wonderful, didn't it?" Edward cut in sarcastically. "I killed her. It was such a good decision to let her to stoop down to me!"
I wanted to throw my hands up in disgust. When Edward got like this, he was almost impossible to talk to. He held himself in such low esteem that, when added to a depression like the one he was in now, turned him into an almost unrecognizable man full of scathing remarks about himself and little else.
"Stop it," I snapped. "Stop degrading yourself. That gets really annoying after a while, Edward. What turned out was a beautiful relationship between two people made for each other. What turned out was the makings of a long and blissfully happy life that was only cut short by a tragic mistake."
"One that was caused by me," Edward spat bitterly. "You can mask it behind words like mistake and accident, but I can't hide from the fact that I killed her. My hands. My choice."
"Good God, Edward, when will you stop harping on about that?" Normally, I didn't take the Lord's name in vain - mostly out of fear for offending Carlisle or others - but since Edward wasn't exactly religious himself, I knew he wouldn' mind.
"Yes, Edward, you killed her. It was your hands that did it. Yours and no one else's. But honestly, does that really matter so much? If Bella had died in some other way, you would be in the same position you are now. If she had simply died because you were unable to save her from the hardship of her childbirth, you would be berating yourself too. Since you would be guilt-ridden by what you had or hadn't done any way she died, it's really irrelevant that you crushed her heart by doing one too many compressions of CPR."
He didn't answer, probably because he knew I was right.
It was then that I heard little steps pattering up the stairs, with heavier steps coming behind them. Renesmee and Emmett?
The steps danced down the hallway toward Edward's room, and I could almost hear her little legs straining to elevate herself to reach the doorknob.
"No, Renesmee," Emmett said – I was right. "Remember to knock. Always knock."
"Sorry, Uncle Emmett!" she said. A second later, a quiet knock came on the door.
Edward looked terrified – terrified, because of a little girl!
"Go on," I mouthed to him, and shook his head to clear it.
"Who is it?" he called, playing along.
"Renesmee!" Renesmee giggled.
"Come in, Renesmee!"
The doorknob jiggled, but then it opened surely a second later as Emmett helped her to open it. She toddled in, and then vaulted across the floor toward Edward. She climbed laboriously into his lap.
She put one hand on Edward's face, and Edward smiled. "What did Aunt Carmen show you?"
She put her other hand on the other side of his face and pulled it down to her level. Then she fluttered her eyelashes across his cheek.
"It's a butterfly kiss!" she announced. I'm sure she would have simply told Edward through her peculiar method, but obviously she wanted everyone else in the room to know as well.
I laughed, delighted at the enchanting girl.
"We finished The Secret Garden, Edward," Emmett told him from across the room. "And I think Renesmee had something she wanted to ask you."
Renesmee nodded enthusiastically and touched her hand once more to Edward's face.
"Of course I will, Rensesmee," Edward told her seriously in answer to the unspoken question. "What book did you want?"
"She wants Edward to read her another book," Emmett whispered to me in explanation.
"Well, Uncle Emmett said that I might like Anne of Green Gables," the little girl said, glancing back across the room.
"He's right," Edward told her. "It's about an orphan - very much like you - who is adopted by a woman and her brother. You'd love it."
A split second after he said the words, he realized what he'd unintentionally implied and his happiness dissolved once again, leaving his face stark and severe.
Renesmee continued on, oblivious to her father's pain and interpreting what Edward said the way he'd probably meant it, "But Aunt Alice told me that I'd like a different book even better. She said it was called Inkheart. Have you read that one?"
"I haven't," Edward said. "But if Aunt Alice said you'd like it, you'd better listen to her. She's usually quite right in her predictions."
"I've read it," I volunteered. I had read it in the original German as a way of brushing up on that particular language – after learning a solid dozen more while virtually ignoring the dialect, I'd read a children's book just to get myself used to the tone and sense of it.
"And did you like it?" Renesmee asked from Edward's lap.
"I did. Alice was right; I think you'd love it."
Pleased, she asked Edward another silent question.
"Alice told you we could go to the library right now and check it out?" Edward laughed. "Well, let's do it then. Why don't you go get ready to go? I need to speak to your Aunt Tanya for a moment longer, okay?"
Renesmee acquiesced easily and jumped off Edward's lap, running with perfect balance to the door, grabbing Emmett's hand on the way.
The second the door was closed, Edward turned to me. "How can I leave her?" he asked, anguished. "And yet, how can I stay without her?" I didn't need to ask who the second her was.
"Well, I can't answer that, Edward," I said softly. "No one can." I carefully focused my mind only on his face, on his pain, and away from what I wanted to tell him.
"Don't give me that, Tanya," he snapped. "I know you're bursting with an opinion you're going to force on me sooner or later."
I took a deep breath. I knew I might have just once chance to convince Edward to stay; I'd been perfecting this speech for a few days now.
Then you must know what I'm going to say! I think you should stay alive, Edward. If you need to hear me say it, I'll tell you again and again, as many times as it takes to convince you. I love you. You're my family. I hate to see you suffer, but I'd hate even more to lose you. And what you have with Renesmee is so special – she adores you. It will be hard to get on with your life after Bella, Edward. No one's denying that, but look at your web of support! Six family members, a daughter, and us – your extended family who will be here as long as you need us to be. Edward, I believe that if you just let yourself heal, you can. Please.
Edward's death seemed like such an odd thing to me! And here we were, calmly discussing it as if it were no more than an extended vacation or a job opportunity. I could barely come to terms with it any more than that. His presence in my life was so much more than just the casual ties most vampires acquired. Edward was a man who'd denied my many advances; because of that, I appreciated his intelligence and wit much more than I probably would have if at any point he'd been my lover. I had been his place of solace when he'd needed to escape Forks for a few days when Bella had first come. If I had a secret I couldn't tell my sisters, Edward would be the one I turned to. In short, he was one of my best friends and I wanted it to remain that way.
Edward didn't answer, pressing his palms into his eyes and not saying anything for two long minutes. Finally: "I have to go," he said unnecessarily, standing up abruptly. "She's waiting for me."
I didn't want to know who he was talking about.