So, I realize how incredibly late this is. Yes, I do own a calendar. I realize that Christmas is very much over. But I'm publishing this anyway. Because I'm a rebel.

And because it's Zodiacgirl's birthday, and she deserves it. Happy sixteenth! Don't do drugs. Stay in school. Use a condom. Whatever. I would bore you with the story of my own Sweet Sixteen, but it wasn't so sweet: I got kicked out of a Barnes & Noble in Florida. So I was sweaty AND depressed. It was a bad, bad day.

Er...anyway, on with the merry!

Oh, and the story ends where it does because I'd rather not spend another month of my life trying to think up characteristic gifts for them to give each other. I just don't have the attention span for that.


Thursday
5:01am

At 4:55 in the morning, Annie, dressed in a big red Christmas petticoat with green-and-red tinsel tied into her pigtails, kicked in our door and Christmas was officially on.

"JINGLE CRELLS, JINGLE CRELLS, JINGLE ON THE WAY!" she shrieked, wailing out a tune that was neither hushed nor on key. I groaned, dropping the notebook I'd been meticulously printing out my homework on, and buried my face in the crook of Edward's neck.

"How?" I whimpered pathetically, not entirely making sense. "How, how, how, how, how?"

Edward laughed and patted my back, putting down his book as Annie continued her shrill caterwauling. "English, Bella," he prompted, barely audible over Annie's refrain, which seemed to get louder and make less sense with each verse.

"SMASHING THROUGH THE SMOW! IN A BUN-HORSE HOPIN' SWAY! ODOR FEELS LIKE NOOOOOOO! SCRATCHING ON THE WAY!" And then she squealed out a very disturbing laugh that sounded like small animals screaming and various bits of scrap metal being put through a wood-chipper at the same time.

"How—how—how can something so tiny be so loud?" I finally finished, digging my fingers into the comforter.

"I don't know," Edward sighed. "The laws of physics say it's not possible, but the stabbing sensation just behind my right eye says it is."

The singing was suddenly joined by an impossibly loud booming noise like two large SUVs crashing into each other.

Over.

And over.

And over again.

"Oh dear god, what is it?" I cried, stuffing my fingers in my ears.

"Well, it seems that someone taught our adorable little house guest how to play the Titanium Frying Pan," Edward said. He prodded my side, urging me back up. "Come on, she's leaving."

The car-crash sound had started to fade as Annie turned her attentions on some other poor unsuspecting schmo. Though I doubted there was anyone left in the house who hadn't figured out that Annie, in her little faerie tutu, was our Christmas wake-up call, courtesy of Alice Cullen, Christmas Fascist.

Five seconds later, I was proven correct.

"Good morning, my little Christmas elves," Alice cried gleefully, sliding into view in bright red stockings and a petticoat that matched Annie's. A fluffy Santa hat was perched on top of her dark hair.

In her hand she carried a megaphone.

I'm not sure if the bits of Christmas glitter stuck to it were supposed to make it seem more friendly, but it had about the same calming effect as putting a smiley face sticker on a speeding eighteen-wheeler that was about to turn you into pudding.

"Alright, people," Alice barked into her sparkle-phone, stomping off down the hall. "The time is now 0500 hours and we have a lot to get done. I know a lot of you thought that, due to certain circumstances, we'd be skipping our usual holiday festivities this year. Well, you were wrong."

Alice's footsteps thumped up the stairs to the third floor where I could just barely hear Emmett's deep bass rumbling, "I appreciate the creative imagery, Rose, but, besides the fact that Carlisle won't let you kill her, I don't think we own a blowtorch. And even if we did, I'm pretty sure it's anatomically impossible to do what you're thinking of doing with it—"

"—Christmas tree," Alice was still booming, her tiny voice filling every corner of the house, making nowhere within a fifty-foot radius safe. "If we all work together I think we can easily accomplish what we're—Oh, hey Esme, it's nice to see you up and ready to—hey! HEY! Esme—OW! Wait, where are you going?! THAT'S MY MEGAPHONE!"


5:08am

Judging by the shouting and crunching noises from downstairs, Esme has just dismantled Alice's megaphone.

Alice does not sound pleased. She seems to be trying to wrestle the megaphone back from Esme. There's the sound of a scuffle and—

Oh.

There goes the garbage disposal.

Bye-bye, megaphone.


5:09am

Alice is not amused.


5:34am

Alice bounced back damned quickly from the Megaphone Incident and now everyone's been given an assignment that they must (on pain of being smote to ash) complete:

Emmett and Jasper are out getting a tree. It sounds like a simple enough job for two super-strong vampires, but has been turned into an extreme sport by Alice who has not only set them specific tree dimensions, but also a time limit. If they're not back in about six and a half minutes, Alice has threatened to do mean things to them with a tire-iron she found in the garage.

Rosalie has been sent into town for new tree decorations, as the old ones apparently don't fit in with Alice's Grand Plan De La Christmas. I can't vouch for anyone else, but I know I'm terrified.

Esme and Carlisle are on House Decoration duty, pinning garland along the walls and wrapping faerie lights around the banisters. Esme seems surprisingly cheerful for a woman who hit her daughter over the head with piece of amplification equipment less than 20 minutes ago.

No one can seem to get the two frying pans away from Annie, so we've given up on that.

Edward is still getting dressed (not sure what's taking him so long; maybe it's a guy thing…I won't go there, for my own sanity's sake).

And I am sitting on foyer floor in a mess of bows and wrapping paper, trying to wrap up a mountain of anonymous white boxes that Alice dragged out of a closet, and tossed into my lap, saying, "Have fun, and don't peek!"

It's actually not bad. I can wrap in a straight line, for once. Usually my gifts look like they were wrapped by a drunk.

I hear Edward. Finall—


5:37am

Edward appeared at the bottom of the stairs in a most intriguing ensemble:

Nothing.

Nothing.

Pajama bottoms printed with reindeer.

Then more nothing.

I stifled my giggle a bit too late and I don't think I really fooled anyone with the gagging/wheezing sound I made instead.

"Alice," Edward called calmly, crossing his arms over his pale bare chest. The movement made the muscles under his skin shift in a very interesting (and distracting) way.

Alice appeared smiling before him. Her Santa hat had been replaced by a headband of reindeer antlers. "Yeees?" she sang sweetly, blinking innocently up at him.

"Would you kindly stop shouting Jingle Bells in your head and explain why this—" he lazily indicated the hilarious pair of bottoms he had on and the vast expanse of naked chest above it— "is the only article of clothing in my closet?"

"It's a Christmas present," Alice replied promptly.

A second later the red noses on the printed reindeer lit up. And started blinking.

I had to tuck my head between my legs to stop from choking on my own laughter.

"That's funny," Edward murmured glancing down at himself. "I don't remember putting "partial nudity" or "mild humiliation" on my Christmas list."

Alice rolled her eyes. "I never said it was a present for you."

Edward's eyebrows drew together as he looked to me for some explanation.

I waggled my eyebrows at him.

I think he got the gist.


5:44am

Alice seemed to start regretting her early Christmas present after the fourth time I stopped mid-wrap and started, er…inappropriately biting Edward.

Which led him to do some of his own inappropriate biting.

And we were having all sorts of bitey fun.

And then Alice hit me with a plastic snowflake and banished Edward to the basement to dust off the Christmas candle-holders.

Grinch.


5:47am

This present-wrapping malarkey isn't half as boring as I'd thought it would be. All of my edges are perfectly straight and perfectly taped. I'm like a musician creating gift-wrapped symphonies.

Although, the tape does seem to detract from the overall effect.

Hold on, I'm going to try something with this ribbon and some of that glue…


5:52am

Oh. Well, that's not right.

I'll just tuck that bit in there and—

Crap, I've tangled it.


5:56am

Hell. I'm stuck to the present. I guess I could just pull free, but I don't want to rip it.

It looks so pretty. Like a Christmas masterpiece.

Or, it would be, if my thumb weren't glued beneath the bow.


5:59am

Agh! I squeezed the glue bottle too tight and it exploded. Things are stcking to me! I'm stucking to the keyboord. Dummit,,.


6:07am

"How's it goi—" Alice began, hurrying back into the room holding a clipboard. She froze when she saw me. "Um…how come you're all—"

"I wrapped myself by accident."

"Riiiight," Alice said slowly. "And what's up with your—?"

"I glued it shut."

Alice sighed in exasperation. "Bella, how are we supposed to get anything done if you keep playing with the wrapping paper?"

She flounced off in a huff when I threw the scissors at her.


6:11am

Carlisle went by with a box of dusty Christmas ornaments in his arms. "You have tape in your hair, Bella," he informed me politely.

"Thanks," I said, "but I'll work on the tape later. I think my biggest problem right now is the hand I've got super-glued to my scalp."

Carlisle chuckled as he swept through the living room doors, mumbling "Smart girl."


6:18am

Status report:

Edward: Still in the basement

Esme: Boiling cinnamon sticks (to make the house "smell Christmassy")

Carlisle: Hanging mistletoe in unlikely places to catch the unsuspecting off guard.

Annie: Trying to gift-wrap Paddy.

Me: All unstuck but still sporting quite a few bits of paper and tape and one very nice palm-shaped bald patch.

Emmett and Jasper: Still not back with the Christmas tree

Alice: Surprisingly calm.


6:19am

Frighteningly calm.


6:21am

"Alice?" I called cautiously.

She came pattering lightly into the foyer. "Yes? Wait," she said, bending down to pick a bit of green tissue paper out of my hair.

"Have you noticed that…" I began as cautiously as possible, not wanting to be the cause of an Alice explosion on the jolliest day of the year, "…that, um…something is missing?"

She was on her knees now, swiftly pulling tiny bits of fluff and tape and other debris out of my curls. "What, you mean Jasper and Emmett? I know. But it's Christmas, a time for forgiveness and leniency and—" she stopped at my dubious look and grinned "—and a time for sneaking in the extra sixteen pairs of shoes I brought home from Paris. The longer he's gone, the more hiding places I can find."


6:25am

Emmett and Jasper are back, by the sounds of scuffling and shouting out front. Alice is hurrying out through the front door.

"Holy…" I can hear her saying.

And now Emmett and Jasper are coming in with—

Oh, you're kidding.


6:34am

Jasper and Emmett shouldered their way through the front doors with a tree of such ridiculous proportions that there was absolutely no way the bottom would fit through the frame. Jasper, who was at the head of the great pine, smiled sheepishly at Alice.

"I know you gave us specific dimension requirements, but we feel that if you're going to do Christmas, you might as well do it right," he explained, sounding as if he'd spent the entire journey home thinking up that spiel and not looking particularly fazed by the expression of abject horror on Alice's face.

Alice glared at him. "You mean you and Emmett got carried away ripping up trees and brought home whatever you could find when you ran out of time."

Jasper cleared his throat, but didn't bother denying it.

"Jasper," she gasped, looking distraught. "How exactly am I supposed to get that thing into the house?"

"Well," came Emmett's muffled voice from somewhere behind the thick bundle of pine branches bulging into the foyer. He was still stuck on the other side of the door. "We figured we could get it in through the garage if it wouldn't fit in the front door." The branches near the door jerked and shifted as Emmett nudged the base of the tree to no avail. "But I don't think we thought this all the way through."

"Oh, really, you think so?" Alice shouted hysterically.

"Hindsight is twenty-twenty," Jasper mumbled, dropping the front of the tree and turning to examine the situation. "Alright, Em, let's push it back out and try getting it in through the garage."

"Isn't the garage entrance smaller?" I spoke up.

Jasper looked momentarily startled as he glanced toward where my voice was coming from. I poked my head farther around the mountain of boxes I was hidden behind and waved. A piece of red wrapping paper dangled pathetically from where it was glued to the back of my wrist and I peeled it off quickly.

"The door into the kitchen is," Jasper confirmed, thin amusement coating his words. "But there's another door on the other side of the garage that goes straight into the hall that's big enough to fit a bus through."

"Oh," I said. "What's it there for?"

"No idea," Emmett called from outside. "It's just a really big door. In a really weird place. Come one, Bells, you've lived here for four months. You can't still think there's any rhyme or reason to this house."

A fair enough point.


6:37am

Paddy just hobbled past covered from beak to butt in wrapping paper with a big, metallic bow stuck on top of his head.

Annie, toddling behind him, cried proudly, "I made a present!"

Oh, good lord.


6:49am

Chased after Paddy and untied him. Annie watched me unravel her messy work with a look of such confused hurt on her face that, when I'd finished and Paddy had waddled off (the bow still stuck to his head in the spirit of the holidays), I pulled her into the foyer, saying, "Come on, you can help me make some real presents in the—"


7:11am

Jasper and Emmett cannot get the tree out of the door frame.


7:21am

Honestly. They've tried everything. Emmett pulls and Jasper pushes, Emmett shifts branches and Jasper shifts the trunk. Emmett suggests cutting some branches and…well, Alice threatens to cut some parts off him (but I won't mention which parts for decency's sake).

"You cannot destroy my tree," Alice shouted as she and Emmett stood nose to…chest…arguing at a volume that scared flocks of birds from the surrounding area. "I have a decorating system and it will be ruined if there's a great honking chunk missing out of the branches—

"Fine, then we'll go out and get you a new tree!" Emmett yelled in exasperation, an emotion I'd rarely seen on him.

"There's no time!" Alice wailed. "You were gone for ages and ages getting the last one and we're already behind on my schedule—" Alice shook the clipboard in Emmett's face.

"And you think the six-billion years it's going to take us to dislodge this tree isn't going to affect your ridiculous schedule more than going out and getting a new tree?" Emmett inquired, then tried reasoning again, "I swear, we'll make it quick."

"Yes, but now you'll be too hurried and you won't pay attention to quality or dimensions—not that you did the first time—"

Jasper stepped in when Emmett lunged for Alice's throat.


7:25am

"Alice, can't we just hurry out and—"

"NO."


7:26am

I had to send Annie off to find Esme when she started chanting, "Fight! Fight! Fight!"

I think she's been spending way too much time with her Uncle Emmett.


7:27am

Oh, this tree's not going anywhere. No matter how they maneuver it, there doesn't seem to be a way to force the pine back through the door without damaging it.

We may have to just leave it here and start decorating.


7:38am

"Alice," Jasper tried again after another few minutes of fruitless, pointless pushing. "There is no way we can get this tree out without either shoving it through and breaking the branches or cutting the door frame—and somehow, I think Esme might object to that."

"Yes, I would," Esme's voice came floating down from the distant third floor where she was taking a break from the Christmas mania to answer her students' e-mails.

Alice looked pained, but determined. "No. You'll just have to find some other way to get it out of there."

"Well, then I guess it's time to break out the pig grease and slide this sucker out," Emmett called, outside once again, "because that's the only thing we haven't already tried."

Jasper—maintaining a startling calm, considering that he was standing half in a tree with pine needles all over him arguing with his wife who was being blatantly unreasonable—stepped forward and gripped Alice's little shoulders. His hands swallowed them up so completely that his thumbs pressed against the sides of her neck. "Alice," he said slowly, "at this point, I don't think God himself could figure out how to move this tree. Please—please—I am begging you: let us cut the branches or get. A new. Tree."

Alice looked miserable. "But…" she whispered, "but I had…a schedule—"

"Alice, I love you, but if you shake that clipboard at me one more time, I'm packing you into one of those boxes and leaving you there until next Christmas."


7:52am

Our lovely new Christmas tree is standing in the living room, stretching up almost to the dripping crystals of the chandelier. Emmett and Jasper were very careful in trimming away the branches, trying their best to spare Alice's feelings, and you can barely tell where the tree thins a little near the bottom. They managed to slide it back out and carry it through the (random and inexplicably large) garage door and set it up in the living room.

Alice is doing her best to move past the tree-snipping incident, just as she did with the megaphone, though I have to say, this one seems to have cost her a lot more. She keeps glancing at the tree and heaving mournful sighs as if she's lost a sibling.

Or a limb.

"Do you think she'll survive the trauma?" Edward whispered in my ear, sounding amused.

I smiled and pressed myself back even farther, tipping my head onto his shoulder. "Shh," I said quietly.

"Am I bothering you?" he asked, his arm tightening around my waist and his eyebrows rising skeptically. His confusion was understandable, since I'd never before tried to stop him talking. In fact, I'd encouraged it, even when he was just counting off math numbers or reading a book. I loved hearing him speak, even more now that I'd been deprived of it for so long. It was like an alcoholic refusing a bottle of gin.

I shook my head. "I don't want her to confiscate you again."

His laugh was so obligingly silent I felt it rolling through his diaphragm, more than I heard it.

Edward had sneaked up into the living room when the branch-cutting had started, as Alice had been too busy pulling out chunks of her hair to care that he'd left his post. That didn't, however, mean that she wouldn't banish him again when she eventually slipped back into insanity.

And let's face it, it's bound to happen sometime soo—

"Why the hell is my garage full of pine needles?"

Uh-oh. Rosalie's home.


8:06am

Ladies and gentlemen, I now give you: World War III.

Enjoy.


8:11am

"They're all over the place! On my cars, my tools, my—OH MY GOD, THEY'RE ALL OVER THE CARPET OF MY NEW MUSTANG!"

"I told you, it was the only way we could get the tree in. And besides, you shouldn't just leave a convertible top down if you're that worried about—hey! HEY! Get away!"

"Hold still so I can kill you!"


8:14am

Emmett's trying to intervene, but he's laughing too hard to be of much use. He has managed to wrap his arm around Rosalie's waist and pin her, though.


8:16am

"Come on, let me kill her just a little bit, just once!"

"You can't kill someone 'a little bit', Rose."

"Fine, you're onto me—let me kill her a lot!"


8:25am

While Rosalie was occupied demanding that Alice pick up every single needle with her bare hands, I reluctantly detached myself from Edward, scooted up to Jasper and whispered, "How did you guys manage to get needles all over her Mustang? You were supposed to be at the complete opposite end, and it's a thirty-foot garage."

Jasper didn't say anything, but eyed me critically.

"What did you do?" I asked, trying to convey censure, not irrepressible curiosity.

Still, he said nothing and still he stared at me, warily.

A thought came to me. "You were playing with the tree, weren't you?" I gasped. "You were playing with Alice's tree. In Rosalie's garage. Oh, you are in so much trouble!"

Jasper eyed me. "You're not hungry, are you?"

My eyebrows raised in surprise at both the question and the blatant subject change. "No, and that was a pathetic attem—"

"Not feeling any itching or irritation or…vindictive urges?"

I narrowed my eyes at him. "Is this your round-about way of asking if I'm going to tell on you?"

Jasper smiled just a little bit.

I thought for a moment, trying hard to look severe. Finally I asked, "What did you get me for Christmas?"

He frowned, surprised in his own brooding way. "What does that have to do with this?"

I grinned. "It's my round-about way of saying 'We'll see'."

It was the first time I'd ever managed to make Jasper laugh.


8:31am

Jasper's laughter managed startled Alice and Rosalie out of their fight. It was over with quickly, but when he was done chuckling, Alice was too busy beaming to care that Rosalie was upset, and Rosalie was too shocked to keep shouting.

So all's well that ends well.


8:40am

Alice broke down and decided to let us help decorate the tree when Carlisle explained to her that Christmas was supposed to be a time of giving, a time to make family feel as if they were living in a joy-filled world—not a particularly strict Nazi barrack.

"I just want our Christmas to be nice," Alice assured him earnestly.

"I know what'll make it nice!" Emmett hollered from the other side of the tree where he was doing his best to string together handfuls of popcorn and cranberries in the spirit of holiday tradition. So far he'd managed to spear four popcorn kernels and one mildly dented cranberry. The rest were being unintentionally pulverized between his blunt fingertips before they even made it near the needle. He and Annie—who was perched happily on his knee gobbling up every morsel she could reach—were completely coated in cranberry juice, the floor around them littered with popcorn dust and ruined fruit.

Alice didn't bother to ask what his plans for a "nice" Christmas were. She blinked at him for exactly six seconds, and then turned to Carlisle. "Alright, I don't mind sharing tree-decorating duties with anyone else, but he is not allowed near my tree."


8:47am

I don't remember Christmas tree decorating being this much fun. Usually it was just me at the last possible minute (i.e. Christmas Eve at about ten o'clock at night) meticulously positioning every last bit of tinsel, while Renee danced around in her Christmas boxer shorts singing "Jingle Bell Rock" at the top of her lungs.

And then, when everything was perfectly in order and all of my presents were flawlessly wrapped and placed carefully under the tree, Renee would drench the tree in her own tinsel and hideous ornaments she'd made herself (all of which looked like lopsided potatoes and hunchbacks in reds and greens), dump her shiftily-wrapped, mismatched gifts on top of mine, the entire effect would be ruined, and Christmas would officially begin.

This—though even more last-minute—was…fun. Maybe it was because I didn't have to do all the work. Or maybe it was because I didn't keep stabbing myself with ornament wires and pine needles.

Or maybe it was because I wasn't expecting anything less than the mayhem that followed.


9:34am

Our tree looks like Santa Claus and his entire workshop exploded all over it.

There are ornaments of every color, shape and size scattered all over it, including one roughly the volume and circumference of my head that Emmett made himself several years ago. It is a hideous electric orange and every time Alice looks at it, she winces like she's being beaten.

Eight (and a half, if you included the pint-sized Annie) vampires trying to decorate the same Christmas tree is pretty much just insanity waiting to happen.

Well, to be honest, there were only four (½) of us trying to decorate, as Rosalie had gone off to pout in the garage. Constant waves of annoyance and the occasional scalding-hot hate-beam kept leaking into the house.

Esme and Carlisle were relaxing together on the sofa, supervising the process and making sure that no one killed anyone else.

Jasper was less of a decorator and more of a step-ladder for Alice, who was too short to reach the top of the tree and had to by hung upside-down over the banister by her ankles in order to put the star on top of the tree.

That imagine alone is all the Christmas gift I'll ever need.

Emmett, who was, in his opinion, unjustly banned from the Christmas tree decorating, contented himself with passing Annie instructions from a safe distance when he thought Alice wasn't looking, until finally, Alice told him he could help if he promised not to break anything or hang anything vulgar.

"Oh," Emmett said, looking serious. "I guess that means my phallic-shaped glitter ornament made completely out of used condoms is out, huh?"


9:37am

There's also a thick fringe of tinsel coating the bottom boughs, courtesy of Annie. It looks ridiculous, but it was the only part of the tree that she could reach and she was in charge of the tinsel.

Well, when I say "she was in charge", I mean she tried to gnaw my hand off when I reached to take some for myself.

It was cute, really.

In a serial murderer sort of way.


10:08am

Alright, we are officially decorated and set up for Christmas—which, according to Alice's clipboard (I'm really starting to hate that stupid piece of wood) starts at exactly, EXACTLY, noon.

"Alright," Alice said, standing back and dusting her hands off. A veritable snow-storm of silvery-green glitter rained onto Annie's head. Annie giggled sluggishly from her pile of blankets on the sofa, having lost a large portion of her pep after spending twenty minutes retching up the sludge of popcorn and cranberry she'd eaten. Rosalie had sat with her, holding her up and rubbing her back, while Annie gagged into the toilet and bawled like she was dying.

Esme had pulled her aside after that, deciding that maybe Annie was having a little too much Christmas fun.

"Alright," said Alice again.

There was a brief silence and then Alice said, yet again, "Alright—"

"Alice!"

"Okay!" she shouted, passing a mass glare around the room. "According to my clipboard—GET AWAY!" Alice roared, putting out a warning hand toward Emmett, who had half-risen from the couch with a look of determination etched on his face. Jasper, halfway across the room, pushed away from the wall at exactly the same moment, his eyes darting swiftly from Emmett to Alice prepared to plant himself in his brother's path. After a moment of tense and frozen silence (into which Annie blew noisy bubbles in the cup of blood Carlisle had pulled from the fridge to ease her stomach), Alice hugged the clipboard to her chest like a protective mother. "Look, my clipboard has done nothing to you. In fact, it is the only thing standing between this holiday and complete anarchy. So you stay away, do you understand?"

Emmett slowly lowered himself back to the couch, looking disgruntled and murmuring threats under his breath.

Annie slurped into the empty silence.

"Alr—er, okay, " said Alice, changing her mind mid-word as Emmett jammed the heel of his palm into his eye as if attempting to keep back a migraine by sheer brute strength. "I've lined up a few movies for us to watch to pass the time until the scheduled present-opening, and I think you'll like…"

"Am I the only one who feels as if I'm in a very strict, very sparkly daycare center?" Edward breathed almost inaudibly into my ear, as Emmett, Carlisle, and Alice argued over whether a Quinton Tarantino film was a wise choice for a Christmas movie, especially since, besides the fact that none of them had anything to do with the holidays, there was still a certain impressionable mad-child in the room.

Annie had started gnawing on her straw, littering pieces of bright green plastic all over the carpet near her feet.

"If this were daycare, we'd get a snack and a bathroom break," I murmured back, trying to ignore the tingle in my ear where his breath had touched it. "I don't think we get any of those things. But," I said as I watched Emmett make an impassioned argument for Planet Terror that mostly consisted of fancy ways to say 'but it's awesome', "we do get entertainment, and the joy of watching Emmett try to sit on Alice. Now that's the kind of gift you can't put a price on."

Edward smiled into my neck, where'd he pressed his face to listen, his arm tightening around my shoulders. "Snowru," he mumbled into my collarbone, his voice coming out muffled and incoherent.

I glanced down at him, my face scrunching up in confusion. "What was—"

I would have liked to have finished my question, but unfortunately I haven't yet perfected the art of talking with someone else's tongue in my mouth.

"Oh god," Jasper said in exasperation, "they're necking again."

"I'll get the hose!" Emmett cried joyfully, leaping up from the sofa.

"Sit down, Emmett," Esme commanded.

Edward, whose kiss could hardly be called "necking", as it had lasted for approximately six seconds, sighed. "I think I need a new family."

There was a brief moment of symphonic laughter, but it was interrupted by Esme's startled cry.

"Oh!" said Esme suddenly, her face lighting up as if she'd just recalled something important, "that reminds me….ah…"

Her sentence petered out into an embarrassed silence. She seemed to regret her outburst in such a crowded room, but still glanced knowingly from me to Edward, the epitome of tolerant motherhood.

I had a very bad feeling.

As my brain blew frantically through a bottomless list of possible embarrassing conversations, broken heirlooms (and doorknobs and TV buttons and silverware), and that one terrible incident where I accidentally fell on the piano, trying to pinpoint exactly which one she was about to bring up, Esme stepped forward, reached into the pocket of her jeans and tugged out something small, and pink. I stared at it for a moment, not sure what Esme was trying to convey. The object looked like some kind of cloth folded into a neat and tidy sq—

OH. GOD. NO.

"I found this beside the couch," she leaned forward to murmur in my ear.

Though it took no more than an eighth of a second for my brain to see, examine, and name the object in Esme's hand, and consequently lunge for it like, Emmett was, for once in his abysmal life, quicker to spot the object's significance and got there first.

"Underwear!" he howled, positively exploding with glee. It was as if his own personal God had delivered the Ultimate Gift straight into his waiting hands and given him that Obi-Wan Kenobi, "Go Forth" speech. He was glowing and the malevolent light in his eyes spelled doom for me and whatever remained of my dignity.

Ho. Ho. Ho.

My head felt like it was swelling, which seemed to be the undead equivalent of extreme blushing.

Emmett seemed to be in such a euphoric state that he'd stopped breathing entirely, but was still holding my underwear like it was the Holy Grail.

Esme, with a look of mild self-disgust, sighed. "I suppose it would have been smarter to wait until we were alone. I just haven't been thinking lately." She rubbed her forehead as something in the kitchen dinged. "Those are the cookies." She turned to Emmett with a stern look. "You—I regret not thinking this situation through, but there's nothing I can do about it now except forbid you to say a word to your sister on the subject of her underwear or think anything lewd at your brother. And I can hear you from the kitchen, so don't think I won't know." She hurried out of the room, shaking her head and looking irritated with herself.

Emmett looked as if he were concentrating hard on not exploding.

"Underwear?" Rosalie asked, her voice full of distaste and censure as she eyed the carpet with a disgusted look on her face and gently pulled her feet off the floor, tucking them beneath her as if my filthy sex-germs were soccer ball-sized piranhas out to chew off her toes. "Seriously, you two? In the living room? Have some self-control."

Alice reached up and plucked the undergarments from her brother's hand and held it out. "This underwear is pink. And has ducks on it." She unfolded it, laughing. "And it's not even a pair of underwear. It's a piece of a pair of—" she choked as she got a better look at the large scrap. "Are these bite marks, Edward?!"

Emmett made a noise like he was strangling and ducked behind the couch, which shook as he leaned his massive shoulders against it and laughed so loudly that he frightened Paddy who waddled indignantly from under the tree and out of the room.

"Ew," Rosalie moaned, looking only partly disgusted now. If I hadn't known better I would have said that she also looked mildly impressed. "Girls who wear pink ducky underwear do not go around getting their underthings bitten off. And girls who wear pink ducky underwear shouldn't be having sex on the living room floor."

"Girls who think a bordello is kind of wine shouldn't have sex on the living room floor," Alice added, still staring at Edward in amazement.

"And girls who wince whenever anyone says the word 'pubic'—"

"And girls who are frightened of thongs—"

"And girls who are married to prudes. They shouldn't be having sex on the living room floor."

"No one should be having sex on the living room floor," Carlisle called down sternly from his study.

As the others laughed, my eyes narrowed.

"Whoever said we did it on the floor?" I asked innocently, pointedly eyeing the sofa Jasper was lounging on.

Emmett didn't seem to take offense when the entire sofa toppled over backwards on top him. The horrified look on Jasper's face as he shot across the room seemed to make the whole thing worth it.


10:21am

So after the epic battle of Emmett vs. Alice, we settled on an old vampire movie, complete with depressingly fake plastic fangs, horrible Transylvanian accents, and "blood" that is so obviously ketchup.

Because isn't that what Christmas is all about?

I think so.


11:42am

That. Was. AWFUL.

So awful.

I didn't think was possible for a movie to be that horrible. Even Annie lost interest partway through. And she's a toddler. She doesn't exactly have high standards.

"If I could get nauseous, that movie would definitely have done it," moaned Emmett, lying flat on his back beside the couch where Rosalie was draped over the arm, looking as if she'd like nothing more for Christmas than the ability to sleep.

Alice, who been digging vigorously through a new issue of British Vogue and not paying the slightest bit of attention to the movie, even though it had been her idea, glanced quickly at her delicate gold wristwatch and sighed, "I guess we can start the present-opening a bit early."

Everything stopped. Edward and Jasper froze mid-conversation, Emmett's hand halted halfway through sneaking up Rosalie's calf, and Rosalie was so shocked she dropped her book onto Emmett's head. Carlisle and Esme moved infinitesimally closer together, as though trying to protect each other from whatever horror would succeed this new development.

Alice glanced up at the terrified stillness that followed her words and, upon seeing the anxious looks on every face in the room (except Annie's who didn't really know enough to realize that she should be very, very afraid), threw up her hands and raised her eyes to the ceiling. "Why are you all so dramatic? I'm not so unbending that I can't deviate from my schedule by a few measly little min—"

"Shall we recap, Edward?" Emmett asked politely.

"I think so," Edward replied. "I believe our day went a little something like this."

Emmett cleared his throat. "Everybody up! You have twelve seconds to get downstairs! I don't care if you're not decent, your dignity and self-respect are nothing in comparison to my Chritsmas schedule."

Alice looked affronted. "That's not—"

"Jasper, Emmett, go get a tree," Edward continued, ignoring his sister. "You have one hour and forty-two seconds, according to my clipboard. Family Units 3 through 7 proceed with your designated tasks. Edward, no shirt for you."

"Well, that was—"

"You're late!" Emmett shrieked, teasing Alice with unnecessary glee. "And what's wrong with that tree? It's far too big. It's at least twelve-point-two centimeters too wide! And I asked for dark green not forest green. I would ask you to do the sensible thing and go get another one, but since my clipboard is All-Knowing and Almighty, you'll just have to spend a half hour trying to bend the laws of physics and push it back out of the doorway. And, according to my clipboard, you're also allowed one bowl of gruel at ten and then we move on to the main event where we stab you in the eye with a cattle prod—"

"Alright!" Alice bellowed in exasperation. "I get it! I've been a bit…a bit—

"Mental?" asked Edward

"Unhinged?" suggested Rosalie, lazily stroking her husband's hair.

"Hit-in-the-head-with-a-Crazy-Bat, mad as a hatter—?"

"Okay, Emmett, I get it," Alice moaned, curling into a sitting fetal position and banging her head against her knees. "I get it. I was crazy. But it won't happen again."

Edward and I shared a small, almost imperceptible look.

Alice would never be able to keep that promise. Eventually—and probably sooner rather than later, something would excite her and she would transform into the Anti-Alice.

Alice, we both knew, would keep on being Alice.

Esme and Carlisle would forever be the tolerant, accepting (secretly abnormal) parents.

Jasper would always keep to himself, except maybe when he (wrongly) thought no one was looking.

Emmett would continue laughing, possibly until he gave himself a hernia (which he'd probably find hilarious).

And Rosalie would keep staring around with that "Why do I like these people?" look on her flawless face.

But we were family.

And no matter how much you might want to change that…it actually is illegal to strangle your family in just about every state in America.

"What?" Alice was still demanding when I regained focus, taking in the skeptical atmosphere. "Look, I'll control myself, I really will!" She made a slashing motion over the left side of her sparkly red blouse. "Cross my heart, hope to—well, you know."


Look, I know it's cheesy, and not exactly Nobel-Prize-Winning, but this took me months, so love it or write your own story. T_T

Happy (late-as-hell) Holidays! (Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and all of those other holidays I'm too ignorant to know about--you're all included in that. Feel special.)