Author's Note: Yay! New chapter and it didn't take me months! :) Today, you get a new chapter AND a cover image for the story. Thank you to everyone who reviewed and I hope you all enjoy this chapter.
Alice & Jasper Cullen
The air smelled like moss and that incredible fresh scent the ground makes after a fresh wave of rain hits it. The wind blowing through the fir and maple trees surrounding her made the blend of aromas extra refreshing. Alice missed this scent. It was something she hadn't been able to experience in 16 years. The resonating smell of Northern Washington.
From her perch in the trees, Alice could see for miles. Downtown Forks was bustling with cars and shoppers, making their last minute purchases for Thanksgiving. Six days and counting to the big holiday. She was hoping to have a very special present for her family to be thankful for this year. Something money couldn't buy; her niece.
"What's the plan?" Jasper was perched on a branch directly below Alice and he looked up at her inquisitively, "We just wait until Charlie comes home and ambush him for information?"
"You know we can't do that." Alice sighed, swinging from her branch to Jaspers with the quickness of a lightning bolt, landing as softly as a feather as she crouched in front of him, "Charlie can't see us or talk to us. Then he'll know we're alive and he'll know more about the vampire world than he needs to and that puts him in danger with the Volturi. They already warned us about any more humans being alerted to the ways of our world. Bonnie was the last straw."
"Lucky for her that one of Aro's minions fell for her and turned her."
"And lucky for us that she harbors no resentment towards us for getting her caught up in all of this." Alice sighed, "No, we can't involve Charlie but, if we can listen to him and that woman talk maybe they'll talk about her or maybe we can sneak into the house when they're not there and find proof that she's alive. I know she is Jasper. I just need proof so we can convince Edward & Bella."
"Think they were suspicious of us taking a 'vacation' right before Thanksgiving?"
"I think we did an excellent job of keeping our thoughts from Edward and we'll be back before they really have a chance to analyze our whereabouts." Alice stared down at Charlie's house and sighed, "That woman never leaves."
They could hear her moving around inside. She washed the dishes and did laundry and even when she wasn't as active and the house was really quiet they could still hear tiny brush strokes and they assumed she was painting. They saw her through the windows sometimes with paint splattered on her clothes and in her hair.
"Still haven't figured out who she is." Jasper frowned towards the house, contemplating, "She doesn't seem to be romantically involved with Charlie but she lives with him."
"She likes him." Alice countered, "Whenever he's around, her heart beat quickens. I just wish they would talk about something other than the weather and baseball already. How many conversations can you really have about the weather and baseball?"
"Well, there was the one promising conversation about the holidays. They said 'the kids' are coming. Who do you think 'the kids' are?"
"Renesmee and Jacob of course." Alice retorted, "And if we have to, we'll stay in this tree until Thanksgiving to see that for ourselves but I was kind of hoping to have everyone reunited by Thanksgiving. I need evidence now."
Alice adjusted herself on the tree branch and let her foot dangle downwards towards the lush forest ground. Jasper smiled at her.
"I'm gonna go catch us a snack. I'll be back." He kissed her quickly and then went racing off through the trees, leaving Alice to observe and listen to the inhabitants of the house below.
The phone rang and she heard the woman in the house get up to answer it. Her interest was immediately heightened and Alice listened intently.
"Hey you." The woman said with a smile in her voice, "How's school? You done with finals yet?"
Alice wanted to get closer so she might be able to make out the voice on the other end of the phone, but she knew she couldn't risk it.
"I'm so proud of you honey. I'm sure you did fine and just think, if you didn't, you have forever to try again."
Alice frowned. That sounded like an immortality joke, but there was no way this woman would actually know about Renesmee's heritage, would she?
"Uh oh, bad news?" Alice could hear the smile fade, "Oh no, Charlie's gonna be disappointed. He was really looking forward to you guys being here for the holidays. No, I understand. They're paying for your college and your housing and you owe them. I just wish you could tell them you have other family who would like to see you too."
Alice was now thoroughly confused and frustrated. It's like this woman was purposely not using names or information that could be useful to her. Who wasn't coming? What college? What other family would take them away from this family?
"Oh honey, it's okay. They get you for Thanksgiving and we'll get you for Christmas. We'll just have to live with that. I love you both too. Take care of yourselves. Call me soon and we'll see you in a few more weeks."
The call ended and Alice growled in frustration. Instinctively she knew that had been Renesmee on the phone, but she still had no proof.
"Eat up." Jasper appeared as quickly as he had disappeared and handed Alice a terrified squirrel who was trying to squirm from his grasp.
"Not hungry." Alice sighed, taking the squirrel from Jasper and letting him scurry away unharmed, "I swear to you, Renesmee just called and they had an entire phone conversation without giving me any proof or further hints as to her whereabouts."
"Really?" Jasper looked down at the house and then back at Alice and sighed, "Maybe we need to create a distraction Alice. I could risk going down there and setting off a car alarm or maybe even knock on the door and talk to her like I'm a traveling salesman. Distract her long enough for you to get in the house and see what you can find."
Alice shook her head no.
"There's a chance that this woman knows what we look like. If Charlie has pictures or God forbid that she knows about Renesmee's powers and has been shown a vision of us, you can't risk that. And I doubt she'll leave the house for a car alarm. Those things go off all the time."
As if to illustrate her point, a car alarm went off at the exact moment on a nearby street. Alice pointed in it's direction and Jasper nodded, knowing that she was right.
In the house they could hear the dialing of the phone and their attentions turned to listen to the new phone conversation.
"Charlie, it's Marnie."
"Marnie." Jasper and Alice mouthed to each other, finally having a name to call her.
"Yeah, everything's fine. I know, I don't usually call you while you're working but the kids just called and it looks like they're not gonna make it for Thanksgiving. I know, I was looking forward to it too but the foster parents called and said they wanted to spend Thanksgiving with them and I guess they felt obligated to say yes. They are paying for Dartmouth and that condo after all."
"Dartmouth." Alice's eyes lit up like she had just been given the greatest gift anyone could ever give her, "They're at Dartmouth."
Jasper was grinning from ear to ear.
"No, she had all her finals this week so I guess they're gonna fly out to wherever the foster family lives tonight, spend the week there until after Thanksgiving and then they'll come here."
Alice and Jasper's faces both fell. Even if they left Forks that instant, they couldn't get to New Hampshire and locate Renesmee before nightfall. They went back to the conversation hoping to hear more useful information.
"Okay, I was just gonna run out to the grocery store. You need anything? Yep, I'll pick that up. See you later." Marnie hung up the phone and they could hear her shuffling around the house again.
"Well, she's finally leaving the house." Jasper pointed out, "We'll have a chance to snoop. Maybe we can find a picture. Something concrete to prove to Edward and Bella that Renesmee and Jacob are alive and at Dartmouth."
Alice nodded. She was poised to dash down to the house the second that Marnie left it. She was more anxious then ever to get this evidence and take it back to her family to prove that she was right. They would be so incredibly happy when they found out. She was sure of it.
It seemed like an eternity until Marnie was done showering and getting dressed and gathering her car keys and purse and coupons from around the house before she was ready to leave. Alice and Jasper watched her step out the front door, locking it behind her and heading down the front steps towards her car. They were just about to dash towards the back door of the house when they saw her sigh and turn back around towards the house, so they stopped.
"What could she have possibly forgotten?" Alice growled.
Marnie headed back into the house and they heard her mumbling and shuffling papers in the house until she must have finally found what she was looking for and repeated the process of leaving and getting in the car. She backed out of the driveway and pulled slowly down the street.
Alice turned to dash for the house but Jasper reached out in front of her and stopped her.
"Wait." He said, his eyes never leaving the back of Marnie's car as it reached the end of the street. Her turn signal indicated she was turning left and when she had, disappearing from their immediate view, Jasper removed his arm from in front of Alice. "Okay, go."
No one needed to tell Alice twice. She had dashed to the house and picked the lock on the back door before anyone would have even been able to see the wind from her sudden movement rustle the leaves of the forest. Jasper was right behind her as they entered the familiar Swan residence.
"It's like a time warp. Nothing's changed." Alice mumbled as they walked through the downstairs common rooms, careful to avoid windows where they may be spotted by passerby, "It even smells the same, except for that slight hint of gardenia and wildflowers. At least Marnie smells good."
"There's little hints that a woman lives here now." Jasper fingered the edge of a doily on a table in the hallway that he knew would have never existed when Charlie and Bella lived here alone, "And Charlie's chair has been upgraded. No recent pictures though."
Alice and Jasper both looked over the wall and mantle where pictures were proudly displayed. The most recent pictures were from Edward & Bella's wedding. After that, it was like cameras hadn't existed.
"Well, let's be smart about this. People in this town know Jacob, so it's not like he could just waltz around without being recognized right? So Charlie can't just display pictures of him. What if he had guests come over and ask questions? If Jacob is still fazing, which I assume he is, he hasn't aged a day."
"Yes, but when he stopped aging he looked 26. That's not much younger than he's actually supposed to be these days. He could probably get away with it in this town. I think they'd more question Renesmee and who she is and how she knows Charlie. If they've spent time here, with Charlie and Marnie, do you think people in Forks know she's Edward and Bella's daughter?"
Alice hadn't considered that. Enough time had passed that Renesmee could tell the truth about being a Cullen to anyone who asked and it wouldn't be weird. She could be sixteen and everyone in the town would just assume they had been right and Bella had been pregnant when she got married.
"Doesn't matter." Alice shook her head as if shaking away all the questions she wanted to ask, "We just need to find tangible evidence that she exists so her parents will stop living in denial. Come on, upstairs."
Alice and Jasper moved into the upstairs bedrooms on their search, starting with what had been Bella's room when she lived there.
"The entire house is a time warp." Alice sighed, running her fingers along the edge of the desk to her right, "Bella could walk in right now and it'd be just like when she lived here."
After a few seconds of reminiscing, Alice sighed and turned to investigating. Without messing up a single thing in the room, she thoroughly searched every nook and cranny, looking for anything that might indicate a teenage half vampire had been there recently.
"Who's Carlie Swan?" Jasper picked up a receipt he had dug out of the small trash can by the desk. The signature scrawled on it was unfamiliar but very clearly read "Carlie Swan." It was also the name that was printed on the receipt showing it had been her credit card used to make the purchase. "And why is Carlie Swan buying school supplies?"
The list of items purchased were a match for a typical school supply run for a college student. Pens, notebooks, a laptop computer and a backpack. The receipt was dated for the beginning of September.
"It has to be Renesmee. An alias maybe?" Alice frowned as she reread the receipt, "Her middle name is Carlie. Maybe this is the name she's using at Dartmouth. Maybe this is the name she uses with her foster family, the one she's going to see for Thanksgiving."
"Or maybe we're wrong about this whole thing Alice and Charlie really does have a niece or relative or something that is going to Dartmouth and was here in September buying school supplies." Jasper countered.
Alice shook her head no with a very resolute air of defiance.
"It's too much of a coincidence Jasper. Carlie is Renesmee's middle name. And randomly someone related to Charlie is named that? I don't think so. Besides, if Charlie had other relatives, wouldn't they have come to the Bella and Edwards wedding? He was a party of one that day. He didn't add anyone to the guest list. I've always gotten the feeling that he doesn't have or speak to any members of the family he might have outside of Bella. So, no, Carlie has to be Renesmee. But, on the other hand, this receipt is still not concrete evidence. We need more. Keep looking."
Jasper did what he was told and continued to dig through the trash, coming up with nothing else that may have indicated the true identity of Carlie Swan, one way or the other. When the trash can left him empty handed he began to search the drawers of the desk. He had gone through three drawers of Bella's old school papers when he found it. The tiny corner of a picture, buried beneath a pile of inconsequential nonsense, peeking out, just waiting to be found. He pulled on it and it slid out from the stack of papers easily.
"Alice." Jasper called out, his eyes wide as he stared at the image in his hand, "Alice, come here."
She returned from another room, but not as fast as Jasper would have expected. When he looked up, her own eyes were as wide as his. She held a stack of pictures in her hand.
"I found a picture." Jasper whispered, turning around the picture he held in his hand.
Alice nodded, looking over the image of Jacob and the teenage girl with long bronze curls, kissing on the beach.
"Me too." She handed Jasper the stack of images in her hand.
The pictures were posed. Jacob in a tux. The teenage girl in a ruby red formal gown. They looked like they were headed to prom and there were a lot of pictures in the stack. Multiple poses on multiple sets, some were even candid where they were laughing and falling and clearly having a good time.
"I found those in Marnie's room. In a metal box that was stuffed into the very back of her closet." Alice pulled the box from behind her back and opened the lid, where there were still what appeared to be hundreds of pictures, mostly of the same teenage girl and/or Jacob, "Look under the lid."
Jasper took the box and looked at the bottom side of the lid. This was something the owner had put time into finding, making sure it would be safe wherever she took it, and having it custom made. The bottom of the lid was engraved.
"Jacob and Renesmee, my family - whenever & wherever they go."
Jasper and Alice's eyes met. If she could have cried, she would have. She took a picture from the top of what remained in the box. It was just Renesmee, laughing as she sat somewhere in the forest, her hair blowing in the wind and sparkling in the glint of sunlight that made it through the trees.
"They're alive Jasper. I knew they were. I just needed proof and here's our proof."
Jasper took the picture and looked it over, smiling at the clear happiness reflected in his niece's eyes. He looked back up at Alice and smiled.
"So what are we waiting for? It's time to put our family back together."