Title: From my mother, this I learned
Characters: Renee, Bella, Renesmee (background canon couples)
Length: 1,700 words
Disclaimer: All belongs to Stephenie Meyer.
Spoilers: Post Breaking Dawn.
Summary: If she could choose, no mother would want her daughter to be part of a fairytale romance.
Renée has not seen her only daughter since waving her off on her honeymoon. They have spoken, a few times, on a line alternately static-filled and echoing, making Bella's voice ring like singing. They email often, although Bella seems to have little to say. She talks about Edward, and the house, and sometimes Charlie and the boy Jacob. She seems to have abandoned the idea of college entirely. Renée worries.
Phil laughs at this, and swings her into his arms. He reminds her that her daughter is a newly-wed, rushed into hospital in the middle of her honeymoon. Bella is entitled to a little while to enjoy herself. Serious little girl, such an old soul. She had been happy on her wedding day, Renée had been sure. If she hadn't been, Renée would have bundled her into the car and driven her home to Jacksonville, small town gossips be damned.
Bella sends photographs with her emails, when Renée reminds her. They are always blurry, at least around Bella. Renée can make out her daughter's familiar smile, and the wave of her dark hair. The rest of her is slightly out of focus, though the other parts of the photograph are fine. Edward smiles, and the house is lovely. Bella sends smiley-faces and exclamation points: sorry, mom, I can never get the camera steady on the tripod, you know how bad I am with stuff like this! :) Renée never asks the question: why can't Edward take the photograph?
She has a photograph of the two of them, from that flying visit they made, when Renée thought she had lost her daughter to the boy already. A crease in Bella's serious brow, and her hands wrapped tightly around Edward's. Edward looking down at the top of Bella's head, trying to guess what she was thinking.
Renée does not think she is a bad mother, though she might be an unconventional one. She does not believe there is a mother in the world who does not want better for her child than she had. What she wants, what every good mother wants, is for her daughter to be able to choose what will make her happy. Renée had not predicted Bella's choice, but she understands why her uprooted and lonely, too-mature child had made it.
They send her another photograph, when she presses – some kind of family gathering. Charlie is there, with a woman Renée doesn't recognise. She sees Jacob, and Billy, and some of the other Quileute boys. One uncomfortable looking teenage girl. All the Cullens, of course, with Bella in the midst of them, a little out of focus. There is a little girl in the picture, eight or nine, with a familiar expression that takes Renée's breath away.
She composes herself, waiting for Phil to come home. The child is obviously a relation of one of the Cullens. The same hair and the same features as Edward, though she always thought he had no other family. She has seen the resemblance and projected it, that's all. Forced it sideways, into the face of her daughter she has not seen clearly in two years now – a blurry photograph, only a curtain of dark hair and the hint of a smile.
Bella will be eighteen forever, one year older than her husband. Renesmee looks nearly sixteen, and Bella has to pretend to be her sister. She goes to J. Jenks.
He greets her politely – she is not Jasper, after all. "Mrs Cullen."
"Bella," she corrects, as ever. "I need a favour."
He pulls the legal pad clear of a stack of files. Bella drops the photograph on his desk. He blinks. "Renesmee again. What year of birth would you like?"
"I need a favour," she repeats, and he looks at her properly this time. "Pick two names," she says. "Nothing with any significance to anyone. Make her eighteen. Birth certificate, passport, driving licence."
"Of course," he says. He adds, "Bella," then. "Is there any special rush on this one?"
"Not really. But I have a condition. I'll pay treble, if that's what it takes."
She can hear his heartbeat quicken, and the way he inhales sharply. He starts sweating, and she can tell that too. All he says is, "What's the condition?"
"Don't tell anyone what name you put on it. Not me, and not Jasper. Not Edward. If anyone comes looking for it, lie."
"You're not in any danger. But if you can't do it, tell me now. Quadruple the normal price if you want, and I'll make sure Jasper puts in a good word for your daughter at Princeton."
He nods, slowly, and she drops the first instalment on his desk before she leaves.
Bella had all the ordinary experiences of her life before she turned sixteen. Renesmee can only have hers after. Her daughter has never had a human friend, never been to school, never had a ballet recital or a soccer game. Her playmates are shape-shifters and trackers and telepaths.
Bella had argued in favour of high school this year. Nessie has not been a recluse, exactly, but no normal person who has seen her twice has connected the two. She can make no friends her own age because she overtakes them all too quickly. Now, closing in on the oldest she will get, she could easily be another of Carlisle and Esme's adopted children.
But Rose worries. Nessie looks so like Edward, and so like her mother, that people will ask questions. Jasper is concerned that she will age too rapidly, turn seventeen overnight. (They didn't notice when Jacob did it. Not enough to ask the right questions.) Emmett just laughs and says she will be bored - their little genius knows it all already.
Bella thinks: we had a human life first. Happy or unhappy, snatched from us or willingly given, we had that. Nessie has never had an Angela or a Jessica. Even a Lauren, someone to focus petty hatreds on. Nessie has her family, and Jacob and the pack. They weave themselves tighter and tighter, so there is not even room now for an interloper like Bella had been. And no way out either. Edward loved her best, so he had given her forever. Bella loves her daughter best, and she will give her the choice of how to spend it.
"Do you miss it, baby?" Bella asks, weaving her daughter's hair into plaits, out of the way for hunting.
"Miss what, Momma?" Nessie says, smiling at her mother in the mirror. Bella tries to smile back.
When they celebrate her birthday, they call her seventeen, though her mother has been a vampire for just seven years. Grandpa Charlie still asks no questions, fastening the bracelet he presents her with around her wrist. He says, "I would have got you a truck, like your mom, but I think the boys have that covered." His eyes go misty, and he goes to talk to Emmett about the Seahawks game instead.
Jacob and her father have compromised - though her mother laughs to hear it called so - and presented her with a vehicle each. One beautiful silver Mercedes, one cherry red motorcycle.
Her mother strokes the side of the bike with an odd look on her face. Jacob grins at her, and Nessie's father frowns, just a little. Her mother whispers, quiet enough that even here, no one else will pick up on it. "I have something for you. Later."
Later, her mother sits in the bedroom, with an unopened brown envelope on her lap. Her eyes are shut, and her hands folded over the envelope.
Renesmee thinks her mother is the most beautiful woman in the world. Conventional wisdom (everyone except her father and Jacob) says that Aunt Rose is prettier, but Renesmee loved her mother before she first opened her eyes. Alice sometimes dresses them up like sisters, but Renesmee knows her mother. Her mother was her first protector, the only one who loves her enough to say what she's about to say.
Her mother looks at her and asks, "Could you leave?"
Renesmee does not have her father's gift, but she can fill in the rest of that question. When she was, or looked, fourteen, she wanted to go to Dartmouth and call herself Wren. She could have claimed her parents had left her with a cult or a commune, which would explain why her legal guardians look the same age, and why when she thinks 'home' there are never less than fifteen people around her. Why she has college level knowledge of medicine, and history and geography, but hasn't sat behind a school desk a day in her life.
Now, she looks at her mother and says, "What about Jacob? And the Pack? I can't just-"
"If you could," her mother says, "If you didn't have to think of anyone but you. If you couldn't think of anyone but you." She slides her the envelope. "Don't open it before you- Don't let your father hear."
"If you can-"
"I couldn't. The only thing I could do was love your dad. Better than anyone else, more than anyone else, and I couldn't leave. If there's anything else you can do, baby, do that first. Choose that first." She puts her hands on the sides of Renesmee's face and leans her forehead in. "Be selfish, honey. Choose wrong for as long as you can bear it."
Renesmee touches her mother's hand and thinks of home. Thinks of the future and Jacob, Jacob, Jacob. There has never been anything else. Renesmee has grown up knowing the perfect world falls naturally into matched pairs – she is just lucky that she never had to seek hers out. Jacob is her other half. About this, she is absolutely positive.
Her mother smiles weakly. "I always hoped Alice just wasn't looking hard enough. Sometimes, with you and him, she can't see all the-" She takes Renesmee into her arms; Renesmee is taller than her mother already, but folds against her shoulder.
Renesmee whispers, "Maybe later, Momma, when it's just us, we can all go together. Somewhere with snow. Papa can hunt lions, and the Pack can-"
Her mother shakes against her, with tiny gasps of noise that mean nothing. Vampires can't cry. Renesmee presses warm kisses to her mother's cold cheeks. She will remember this moment, much too late. The world turns ever on, but they are only constants, repeating.
FIN. Feedback is always welcomed.