I arrived at the quaint restaurant before both Phil and Renee and found a strategic parking lot. The exhilaration that I felt for this project was starting to fade, being replaced with eagerness to get back to my girls. Speaking of my girls, I decided to spend the time waiting with a pleasant diversion.
I picked up my cell phone and dialed Bella's number, holding my breath in anticipation of hearing her voice. However, it was an even sweater voice that answered. "Daddy!" Immediately, my silent heart melted.
"Hello, sweetheart. How are you?" I asked her, loving the sound of her voice. However, I rarely heard it, due to our other senses. She preferred to show me her thoughts, and we never had to announce our arrivals. Her voice had a familiarity to it, as she spoke with the same cadences as Bella, but the high tinkle of a vampire.
"Good, Daddy. Aunt Alice is so happy. I wish Uncle Jasper were here to feel how happy she is."
"Don't worry, Renesmee, I am sure Alice will still be just as happy when she gets home." Unfortunately, I had far too many memories of Jasper cashing in on the 'benefits' of Alice's shopping high.
"That's good. Mommy and Grandma are having more fun looking at pillows and lamps than clothes." She giggled as though she were telling me a secret.
"Well, that's good, pumpkin. It sounds like everything is going well there." I heard the faint sounds of Renee's thoughts in the distance, and I knew she would be pulling in soon. "It was good talking to you, baby. May I speak to Mommy now?"
"Here she is. I love you, Daddy." Does life get any better than this? "I love you, too."
"I hear our daughter is telling on me," my wife murmured in the phone. I could almost feel the longing coming from her, and it matched my own.
"Yes, and it's making me miss you even more than I thought possible. When are you coming home?" While I was sincere in my longing to see her, I also wanted to make sure she would not return before me.
"I think we are going to stay the night, finish shopping in the morning, and be home in the early afternoon." I would be returning home before morning, so I would have plenty of time to finish my surprise for Bella.
"That's fine, Love. Enjoy your time with your family." It pleased me to be able to provide her with the sisters she never had, and a mother and daughter to complete the picture.
I could hear her smile when she responded. "Thank you. I am enjoying it. Esme and I finding our styles to be very similar. Having Renesmee is making me understand her better. We can relate to each other. I wish Renee could meet Nessie…" her voice trailed off to a wistful end.
"I'm sorry, love." There were no words for her pain. I only hoped that my gift would help, not hurt, the situation.
Her voice brightened, although I could tell it was forced. "It's fine. I am focused on my blessings, and they are many."
"I love you, Isabella."
"I love you, too." She hung up right before I heard Renee's car round the curve. I retrieved the camera from the bag on the passenger seat and rolled down my window just enough to get the camera shot. As Phil rounded the car to open Renee's car door, I snapped a picture. I got another one of them standing together, kissing lightly, before they entered the restaurant. I also listened to their happy thoughts, thankful for my perfect recall. Those thoughts were just as much a part of my surprise as the images I was capturing.
I left the restaurant, returning to Renee and Phil's house. The darkening of twilight was a blessing as I quickly climbed the utility pole outside of their home and manipulated their telephone wires. I was up the pole and down before any human could have detected me, although that was impossible anyway since I had scanned the thoughts in the neighborhood before I left the car. A quick trip inside to fix the telephone connections there completed that phase of the plan, laying the groundwork for future teleconferencing between Renee and Bella.
I drove quickly back to the airport, my plan almost half complete. I waited impatiently to go through security, and then I settled into the waiting area of my gate. I only had a half of an hour to wait, but the anxiousness that was growing inside of me was making the time seem eternal. I knew now how my sibling felt being away from their mates all of these years. It even felt different now than it did when Bella was human. As hard as it was to be away from her then, now that we were married and more a part of each other, it was an agony I could have never imagined to be apart. The only thing squelching the depression was the purpose of this trip.
Eventually, First Class passengers were called, and I boarded the plane. I was careful to ignore the flirtatious thoughts, purposefully handing the flight attendant my boarding pass with my left hand. Sometimes it dampened the intensity of the thoughts, and luckily that was the case this time.
I spent the flight consecutively ignoring the droll thoughts of the passengers, absentmindedly monitoring the pilots, and daydreaming about my wife. While humans believe that absence makes the heart grow fonder, the immortal perspective makes that sentiment impossible. I could not be fonder of Bella no matter how long we were apart, and conversely our time apart recalled the crystal clear memories of the time when we were exiled from each other, due to the destructive nature of my will. A year later, and the wounds that I inflicted on myself were just beginning to heal. Luckily, those memories were but shadows to Bella due to her transformation. It did seem fitting that I should remember every detail of that time; a fair sentence for my mistake.
However, I found myself unable to wallow in the self-loathing that had accompanied me the past century. I reflected on this as well, and realized that the ease with which Bella had transitioned into immortal life, as well as the pure joy that our daughter brought to us, made it almost impossible to dwell on the negative. Everything had turned out as best as possible, better than I deserved. I was only glad fate had been kind to my Bella, and I was reaping the benefit of her reward. I was also doing what was in my power to ease the small burdens that were inevitable with our life, such as Bella's issue of missing her mother.
The plane landed in the middle of the night, and I raced home to complete my gift for Bella. As I approached the house, I caught the disgruntled thoughts of my brothers and father as they were passing time without their mates. I smiled internally, finally being able to relate to their annoyance. I walked in and Emmett and Jasper immediately ended their game. "How did everything go?" Jasper asked me.
"I exchanged the cables you asked me to and installed the filter inside the house," I told him, referring to the alterations to Renee's phone system. "I also was able to secure plenty of photographs that I think Bella will enjoy."
"Excellent. I will start working on the teleconferencing abilities," Jasper told me. He headed to our hidden computer room where his high tech offerings were located, and Emmett offered to Jasper. When Esme had showed an interest in wildlife photography a couple of years ago, Carlisle had installed a dark room in the basement. I heard Emmett following Jasper, so I headed to develop the film.
While the film was processing, I retrieved from our old room the scrapbook that Bella had brought from Charlie's house when we were first married. The first few pages were full of pictures of our high school friends, as well as pictures of Charlie and me, but there were still many pages left to fill. I started on the first blank page, captioning the photographs that I knew were processing in the basement. My accurate memory gave me the information on the pictures, as well as the exact thoughts Renee and Phil were thinking as the photographs were taken. I transcribed these thoughts, word for word, onto the pages, leaving spaces to affix the pictures when they were ready.
As I finished chronicling my trip, I had another thought. I imagined Bella's memories of her mother were starting to fade, as was the normal custom of our kind. I knew this would make her sad, so I turned the page and started writing in the style of a journal. I searched my mind and recounted every memory Bella had described to me about her mother and life as a child, from the moment that we first met. Since I had taken away all of Bella's natural memories, I would do the least I could by giving her my memories, a poor substitute to be sure.
I turned the page and continued on, describing the first time she had met my family, as well as their thoughts about the first time they had met her. I searched the house, and I included pictures of my siblings at prom, as well as one family portrait we had taken with Bella at the wedding. We were careful not to have too many pictures of ourselves as proof to our non-aging, going so far as to be absent any time pictures were taken for the yearbook. However, we did capture images of important moments, and we guarded these images fiercely.
Feeling like I had written as much as was needed, yet still feeling insignificant, I closed the book and went to retrieve the pictures. After affixing them to the scrapbook, I texted Alice, wondering when she would be home.
We are just heading out to the stores that open early. We should be home in a few hours. Tell Jasper that he will have to manipulate Bella's voice even more than her picture for Renee not to be suspicious.
I found Jasper, relayed the message, and followed Carlisle's scent to his study. He was sitting reading, and I could not even hear him turn a page from downstairs. I stood outside of his door, and he told me to enter before I paused there for even half a second.
I heard you tell your brothers that your trip was successful.
"Yes, it was. I wanted to show you the finished result." I handed him the scrapbook.
He glanced quickly over the first few pages that showed our high school friends, and then studied the pictures of Renee and Phil. "They look very happy," he said conversationally.
"Yes, they are."
It was very thoughtful of you to include their thoughts. Were these all of their thoughts? They are very pure and content.
"Those are almost all of their thoughts," I said with a smirk. "They are still technically newlyweds, after all."
Carlisle smiled, and then turned the page. He lingered over pictures of our family and my description of their memories of Bella. Bella is very lucky to have this. None of the rest of us has very many memories of our human lives, and perhaps this will help Bella hold and retrieve some of her own. I am glad…her choice to become one of us was as unselfish for her as it was difficult for you.
I nodded my agreement. "I'll let you continue your reading and go finish helping Jasper set up the teleconferencing software. Thanks for your insight." I left Carlisle's study, pausing only to check the text message that arrived as I was leaving.
We're on our way home.