Chapter Twenty Five

Are You My Mother?

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He sighed, and began to rip open the envelope. I suddenly dreaded what was kept inside.

He held out the papers within like they would burst into flames, and I took them gingerly. He sat on the steps with his head in his hands.

I tried to make sense of the legal jargon that was smeared in tiny black ink all across the page. I didn't understand what the papers meant until I got to the second page.

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:

MS. ROSALIE LILLIAN HALE REQUESTS FULL MATERNAL SUPERVISON AND CUSTODY OF ESME ELIZABETH CULLEN, AGED FIVE YEARS, ONE MONTH. MS. HALE AND ASSOC. REQUEST THE PRESENCE OF BIOLOGICAL FATHER EDWARD ANTHONY CULLEN IN PATERNAL COURT NINE A. MARCH THE SIXTH, TWO THOUSAND AND TEN. FURTHER CUSTODIAL ARRANGEMENTS WILL BE DISCUSSED IN OFFICE 109, SEATTLE COURTHOUSE FOR RE-OPENING OF CASE C-187736.

MR. CULLEN'S FAILURE TO ATTEND THIS COURT SUPERVISED HEARING WILL RESULT IN POSSIBLE REVOCATION OF CURRENT CUSTODY AGREEMENT AND 48 HOURS SERVICE IN COUNTY PENITENTARY.

"Edward, what does this mean?" I asked shakily, although I already had a pretty good idea.

He sighed. "I know I should have told you this from the start, but it was so hard…"

"You couldn't tell the one person who needs to hear it most the truth?"

"I didn't want to hurt you, Bella. I know all the pain Rose put Emmett through and I didn't want that to affect your relationship with Ellie if you guys really clicked."

It kind of made me sick to think I had been doting on Rose's daughter.

No.

She was Edward's daughter- Edward's perfect, sparkly daughter who called me Mommy.

"Does Ellie know about Rose?"

"She's met her Aunt Rose a few times," he muttered. "I don't know why Rose is doing this. She told me before Ellie was a year old that she wanted no part of motherhood. Rose and I were friends with benefits after she broke Emmett's heart. We got carried away in the heat of the moment more than a few times and nine months later, we had perfect Ellie. To give you the short version of a long and painful story, Rose had postpartum depression and she gave me full custody of Ellie before deciding to join the Peace Corps. I guess she's back, now. But why is she suing me for custody? She hasn't even talked to me or seen Ellie in years."

He looked so defeated. And even though I was so angry with him, he needed someone to help him, not tear him down. I sat on the steps with him and put and arm around him, resting my head on his shoulders.

"What are you going to do?" I asked quietly.

"I have to go to court. If not, it looks bad and I could do jail time. Will you watch Ellie? This hearing is next week."

"Of course."

"Thanks, Bell. I'm so sorry. This wasn't the way I wanted you to find out."

"Were you ever going to tell me? You know how I feel about Rose."

"Of course I was!" He bristled, "there just never seemed like a good time."

"No time like the present…" I hinted. "Do you have any more skeletons in your closet that I need to know about?"

He sat a little straighter, thinking. "No… none that I can think of. But I can promise you, honey, if something comes up… you'll be the first person I tell. Thank you for respecting me and not running out on me. I don't deserve you."

"You sure don't," I chuckled, "Who else would put up with your crazy ways?"

He kissed the top of my head. "Thanks, love."

"Anytime, sweetie. Ellie's still napping. I think I'm going to run out and do some errands. Pasta for dinner?"

"Sounds amazing, Bell. I'm going to go back to my books."

He helped me off the stairs and we went our separate ways.

That night, we sat down and had dinner as a family. Ellie was back to her normal self and if Edward was stressed about Rosalie's subpoena, he didn't show it.

I was concerned, though. As far as Ellie knew, she didn't have a birth mama. Introducing Rose into her life would be something we would have to just let happen, and see how it turned out. In the meantime, I would need to call Emmett.

.

"Hey, Baby Sis, what's shakin'?" Emmett sounded unusually cheery, but as usual, he was chewing something.

"Have you talked to Rose?"

"If by talk you mean 'sex up', then yes, many times," he chortled.

I huffed. "Be serious, Em."

"Sorry, Bells. You know humor is my defense mechanism. Yes, I have talked to Rose, and I'm surprised you didn't call me sooner. She and your Ed have a kid, huh?"

"Yes, and she's the sweetest little thing, Em. How could Rose just abandon her?" I seethed.

"Now hey, hey, Bells. She may be a bitch but she is my girlfriend. Rose had a lot of issues back in the day. I've made peace with the situation and you need to do the same."

I couldn't believe my normally hot headed brother was being so rational about this.

"She doesn't deserve Ellie, Em!"

"Everyone deserves a second chance. Rose was scared and still shaken up over our breakup. It hurts me that she ran to Edward, but if her leaving for a time and then coming back has made her the woman I see today, then I can't complain. I have my Rosie back."

He sounded so happy.

"I'm just saying, Em, if she hurts that little girl…. And after five years, why does she want full custody of Ellie? Doesn't she realize how much Edward has done for their daughter? Em, she's robbing me of my daughter!"

I heard him sigh heavily on the other line. "This is such a screwed up situation, Bells. I can't explain Rose's behavior. I encouraged her to re-connect with Ellie, but suing Edward? I didn't know she had done that."

"Yea, we got the papers this afternoon."

"I'm so sorry Bells. I don't know what to do."

"I think if Edward and Rose are amenable, they need to meet and work out their issues before the court meeting."

"I agree. I'll bribe Rose one way or the other- she and Edward need to talk."

"Ok, I'll do the same with Edward. I just want what's best for Ellie."

My brother laughed softly. "You sound so much like a mother Bell, it's scary."

We said our goodbyes shortly after that and hung up. I sighed and looked heavenward. One man down, one to go.

.

"Absolutely not."

I blew out a breath and snuggled closer to him on the bed. We had watched a movie with Ellie in Edward's room after my phone call with Emmett, and she was fast asleep on his lap. I was trying to convince Edward to meet with Rose, hoping that Ellie's sleeping form would keep him calm and his voice low.

"Please, for me?" I batted my eyelashes dramatically and he laughed at me.

"If I must," he sighed.

I reached over him and grabbed his phone off the bedside table, dialing Rose's number. I held it out to him and kissed his cheek before jumping off the bed.

He groaned and held the phone to his ear while I gathered Ellie up and went to put her in her own bed.

I was reading a book in my room when he knocked on my door about twenty minutes later.

"I talked to her," he grumped, leaning in the doorway.

"See? That wasn't so bad, now was it?" I teased.

He ran a hand through his hair. "I barely survived. We're going to meet for lunch tomorrow. Can you watch Ellie?"

"Sure. We'll go to the park."

"So… since I did something you wanted me to do, will you return the favor?" His cheeks suddenly flamed.

I looked at him curiously. "What?"

He seemed sheepish. "My bed's lonely. Will you stay with me?"

I grinned and snatched my pillow. "I thought you'd never ask."

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"Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!" Ellie squealed, barely letting Edward come in the house before attacking him with kisses and hugs.

"Ellie, Ellie, Ellie!" he chanted back, toeing off his shoes and swinging her up into his arms.

"You were gone for a long time, Daddy," she said seriously, playing with the lapel of his shirt.

"Sorry, baby, but a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do."

He walked into the kitchen with her and noticed me standing in the doorway.

"Hey, Love," he said, giving me a quick kiss, "Was she good for you?"

"Practically an angel. How did it go?"

He grimaced. "It was tough, but like Emmett suggested, we met in a neutral sandwich shop so we couldn't start screaming at each other. But you didn't tell me you didn't talk to her yet. The two of you need to have your own little pow-wow. She wants to apologize."

I frowned. I did not like Rosalie. She had hurt the three people I loved most in this life- Edward, Emmett, and Ellie.

"Hey, if I had to, then you have to. Besides, if things go the way she wants them to, we'll be seeing a lot more of her."

"A lot more of who, Daddy?" Ellie asked, peeking up at us.

"Do you remember Aunt Rose, baby?" he asked gently, setting her down on the granite countertop.

Ellie nodded cheerfully. "Yes, she brought me Sunshine!" Sunshine was a little stuffed toy that resembled a golden retriever. It was quite worn due to Ellie's constant loving on it.

"Well, Aunt Rose moved to Seattle, so you might see her around more often."

"Yay!" Ellie cheered, "Do you think she'll bring me more presents?"

"Hey, don't get greedy," Edward chided, "Visits from Aunt Rose are nice without presents."

Ellie looked doubtful.

I knew I was doubtful. I didn't appreciate Rosalie's stunts.

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"I didn't think you would actually meet with me," Rose confided softly as she sat in the booth opposite me, a few days after she and Edward had lunch.

"It's not like I had a choice," I joked. "Edward is a wicked with persuasion."

It suddenly got awkward as I realized how my statement could be taken.

"I didn't mean it like that, Rose," I quickly backpedaled.

She waved it off. "I'm not offended, Bella. Edward and I really did not have a connection beyond the sexual attraction. Emmett's always been the one for me- I'm sorry that I had to be such a fool to realize it. I'm so, so sorry for causing your brother pain, and in turn for hurting you. I was so stupid."

She looked bleakly into her cappuccino, and I shocked myself by putting my hand over hers. "It's in the past now, Rose. You did the right thing by coming back. Emmett is back to his old self. I accept your apology, but we can't go back to being the good friends we were just yet. You have to understand… Edward and I are pursuing a relationship, and Ellie and I have bonded. I have deep feelings for the other people who were negatively affected by your absence."

"I get it, Bella. I just… I want to see my daughter. I know that we'll probably never have the mother/daughter relationship you have with her, but I want to watch her grow up and be in her life as much as I possibly can. I talked to Edward, and I've retracted the papers suing for custody. That was another foolish move on my part. I need to realize that she's become her own person while I've been globetrotting. She's five now and so impressionable. I don't want to confuse her by coming back into her life as her mother. I think you've got that handled quite well."

"Rose, are you sure?"

She sighed. "Yes, I am. I need to think about what's best for her. You and Edward can give her a stable, happy home. I'd love to be the Aunt Rose who spoils your daughter ridiculously, if you'll let me."

My heart warmed. "Of course, Rose. Ellie would love that."

And just like that, the puzzle pieces fell into place. There was no ugly confrontation or tears. I walked out of the coffee shop feeling lighter than I had in days.

.TGND.

Yea I freaking SUCK! I feel so bad for leaving you guys hanging since JULY of LAST YEAR. I really apologize. I FAIL.

Sorry if you wanted to see a knock down drag out with Rose. Who, yes, IS the mother, which most of you guessed. I just figured I needed to cut to the chase already!

I'm not sure how much longer this story will be. Just a few more chapters? I need to wrap it up and work on Fireproof. Against My Will never really took off so I'll probably just delete that story.

Again, I am so sorry. School's out for me so hopefully I can get chapters to you sooner!

Thanks for reading!

Any cute suggestions for scenes with Ellie? It's been so long since I've been around a 5 year old!