"You're putting on your ugly face."
I hum noncommittally at my daughter's comment, as I continue to apply my makeup. I want to get it just right. Besides, she doesn't really need a response, and I can't exactly disagree with her.
"It makes you look old."
She obviously isn't going to let me off so easy. "That's kind of the point."
"Well, almost totally."
I turn to look at the adorable cherub sitting on my bed. Adorable, but also sometimes a bit irritating. Like all children.
"Almost totally," I repeat. "I mean, I can't very well look eighteen at my daughter's Sweet Sixteen. Can I? But I also don't want to look too good around a bunch of teenage boys. They're constantly flirting with me. And that kind of temptation, I don't need."
"Oh, you'd never cheat on Jacob!"
"Of course not! But I might cheat on my diet."
She giggles. Which gets me giggling. I try not to think about how easily my daughter can wrap me around her little finger. Not that it's much harder for her sister. But, when it comes to tugging at heartstrings, Nessie is a force of nature.
Our brief bout of giggles is interrupted by a distant boom that sounds almost like thunder. We both pretend not to hear it. Nessie goes back to posing angelically on the bed, and I go back to my makeup, reminded that I don't have much time. A minute later, my other daughter joins us, announcing her arrival with "Mom, I'm home!"
"We're in my room, Dear. I'm getting ready."
She joins us, sprawling on the bed. "Free at last! Free at last!"
I smile tolerantly at her dramatics. In the mirror, I see Nessie roll her eyes and scrunch her nose in irritation.
"You broke the sound barrier – again," she stage whispers.
"She can hear you, you know."
"Then I'm sure she heard you."
"You two don't fight. Ren, I'll let it slide this time; you're sixteen today, and graduation is tomorrow. Those are good enough excuses for a party. Nessie, let's cut your sister some slack."
"My name is not Nessie! Why can't you call me by my real name?"
I'm a little startled by her sudden outburst. I do understand how difficult the charade is for her – especially for her. But I thought we were past that. Her outburst sends my mind back to that fateful day when she first became a vampire. The day that Claire Young died.
"I should be with them."
"Don't you think there are enough vampires in that tent already?"
"Alice! George and Carol are my friends!"
"This is not about you, Bella. Jacob, Carlisle and Esme will keep them safe. And actually, Carol is closer to Esme than she is to you, and you only barely even know George."
That was true, as far as it went. But I still felt that I was a bit more connected to the human world than the other vampires were, even Carlisle and Esme. I still had my mostly-human family, after all. What other vampire could say that? And I could well imagine what George and Carol were going through, watching their daughter change, knowing that she was going to die. No, even worse than that, knowing that she would have to be killed, because what she was changing into was – a monster. Reflexively, I looked over at my own daughter. She was bouncing happily in her Aunt Rosalie's arms a few dozen yards away. Imagining that it was her inside that tent made a cold anger well up inside me.
"You knew. Didn't you?"
Alice didn't answer. Which really was an answer, but not enough to satisfy me.
"You said that you could see the Pack's future by focusing on Claire. You've been focused on Claire's future for weeks now, and all through the battle. And that bastard who attacked her, that was no snap decision, that was deliberate. You had to have seen it coming."
Alice looked at me then, with sad eyes, and gave an almost imperceptible nod.
"I don't get it. I mean, I know we had to put her in danger by having her there at the battle, but we were supposed to protect her! You saw that attack coming. You could have stopped it. I could have stopped it. All you had to do was shout a warning. Why didn't you shout a warning?"
For a moment, it looked like she wasn't going to answer. Then she clinched her eyes shut and took a deep breath before she spoke. "You remember, I told you that I see vampires' futures most clearly, because I am one, and humans' futures a little, because I used to be one?"
"Well, I was wrong. I don't see werewolves' futures – not because I was never one of them, but because they can never become one of us. I do see humans' futures – not because I used to be one of them, but because they can become one of us. And the future paths I see most clearly are the ones where they are most likely to become vampires. I should have figured that out a long time ago. I kept seeing your future more and more clearly – until you started falling in love with Jacob. Then the odds of you becoming one of us started dropping, and you got harder and harder to see. Of course, once you got pregnant, all bets were off."
She shook her head before she continued. "Seeing Claire's future let me see the Pack's future, because of their connection to her. But I could only see it clearly as long as she was destined to become a vampire. That's probably why it didn't work for any of the other imprints; none of them had any real chance of ever becoming one of us."
"You deliberately let this happen – to give us an edge?"
She turned away from me then. She stared at the tent where Claire Young was quickly finishing her mortal days, and gave me the proverbial cold shoulder, as only a vampire could.
I thought back to those last few minutes of the battle. Quil and Claire had been attacked while my attention was focused on Edward, Jacob and Renesmee. And Alice... was focused on the exact same place – just a few seconds ahead. Seeing the future in Alice's mind had given Edward the edge he needed. He was able to position Caius in exactly the right spot for Irina to skewer him, because he could see it all happen in Alice's mind. He was able to save Jacob and Renesmee, because he could see exactly where their attackers were about to be, and what they were about to do. But without Claire, Alice could not see past Jacob, and Edward would not have been able to see a way through that battle. If Alice's vision had not been so clear, he would be dead. They all would be – Edward, Jacob, and Renesmee, and quite possibly the rest of us as well; I don't know if I could have held it together long enough to protect the rest of us, if I had watched them die.
"The nomad was a friend of Victoria's," I said in a small voice. "He attacked Claire because he thought she was my daughter."
Alice stiffened. That was the only sign that she had heard me. We stood in silence for a few long minutes. "Listen," she whispered. "It's happening."
I did not want to hear this. But neither could I abandon Quil or the Youngs, or little Claire. From inside the tent, I could hear her heartbeat grow stronger and faster. I was sure that even her parents, with their poor human ears, could hear it. To me, it sounded like a washing machine with the load out of balance. It was pounding now, rather than beating, faster and faster, louder and louder.
And then it stopped.
Esme got Claire's parents safely away from her. Carlisle positioned the child carefully and firmly in his arms before he gave the word for Alec to release her and Quil, from his psychic anesthesia. Carlisle had to be very careful. If she managed to wriggle out of his grasp, she'd attack her parents, or possibly Quil, before she even knew what she was doing. And worse, even if she did know what she was doing; she wouldn't be able to stop herself. A two year old child, with the cravings of a vampire – I wanted to cry. Aro chuckled gleefully. He had been looking forward to seeing an immortal child again, even if it would only be for a few minutes. Then his chuckles turned into something else, something... more. The change was subtle but unmistakable. What had been glee turned into... I wasn't sure. Then he, and the other vampires in the room gasped.
Claire Young was reported missing three days after the battle. It was a simple enough cover story. No need to produce a body. Children and even adults go missing in the forest outside La Push all the time – though no one has actually been lost that way since the Cullens moved back to the area. Three days after that, she was re-introduced to human society, as Nessie Black. The paleness and ethereal beauty that came with the transformation into a vampire made her look a lot like Renesmee's Nessie form. No one, who wasn't in the know, ever suspected the switch. And we had already established that Nessie was ill, so we used that to explain why she couldn't get close to people, why she was so pale, and why she stopped growing at such an early age.
Renesmee did not stop using her Nessie form, but that persona goes by Ren now. And she seldom becomes Ren when 'normals' are around. Officially, for those occasions when she does go out in public, she's Ren Hale, Alice and Jasper's daughter. They travel a lot, so most of Renesmee's human, non-Quileute friends have never even met her. There are lots of pictures of her around the house, though, and she is friends with most of Carlie's friends on facebook.
No one is happier than I am that Claire did not die that day. She is truly a precious child, and I'm glad that Jake and I became her guardians. It's a privilege and an honor. And it solved the problem we had, trying to pretend we had two daughters, when we really only had one. But sometimes – well, really all the time – she can be quite a challenge. Sometimes worse than others. She's obviously got one of her moods coming on this evening. I try to calm her down.
"Sweetie, it's best to stay in character all the time, so we don't slip up when humans are around. You know that."
"When am I ever around humans? Except my real parents. And they already know my real name."
The r-word should be banned from every adopted child's vocabulary – and every adoptive parent's. When she's in a very bad mood, Nessie uses it like a fist.
"Ooo, somebody got up on the wrong side of the coffin," Renesmee teases unhelpfully.
"Go chase a squirrel."
"Girls," I warn them both. "Ne... Claire, many vampires have two sets of parents, if they're lucky enough to have parents in their immortal lives. And George and Carol would be the first ones to tell you that Jake and I are just as real, and just as much your parents, as they are – just as Carlisle and Esme are mine." I give her a calm and reasonable argument – one that she doesn't want to hear, and doesn't do a lick of good. I know it doesn't. But the r-word hurts.
"That's because they're... big... dummies." She says it petulantly, almost crying. But even her insults sound cute and endearing; such is her gift and curse. I barely suppress a giggle. But Renesmee has a very different reaction.
"You take that back! George and Carol are the best. And you know it. It's not their fault they can't take care of you."
"They could, if they became vampires!"
That's not an argument I care to have again right now. We've had it often enough. And I suspect it's not what this is about anyway. "What's really the matter, Claire?"
"She's just upset that I'm having a party, and she's not invited."
Claire sulks, silently confirming Renesmee's suspicions. But I suspect that there's more to it than that.
"Claire, you know you're going to have a better time with Quil and Tanya tonight anyway. We'll have a second birthday party later, with all the vampires and the werewolves. Even Peter and Charlotte will be there."
"I don't want to go to her stinking birthday party! What are birthdays to us anyway?"
"All right. If you don't want to go to the party, what do you want?"
"I said I didn't want to go to a birthday party."
"I want to go to a graduation party!" she cries.
Renesmee winces in guilty sympathy.
"Oh Claire," I whisper.
"It's supposed to be my graduation! Renesmee's only sixteen." She takes a sharp breath between each word. "She's not supposed to be graduating. I am!"
Windows rattle at the sound of her voice, and I'm across the room in the blink of an eye. It's been a long time since she's been this upset. I try to comfort her, but she shrugs me off. I guess I should have expected this; I know it has always bothered her that she can't go to school. But she's always held it in. She only pouted a little when Renesmee first started school – a year early – while she stayed home and played the sickly sister with developmental problems. She pretended it didn't bother her when Renesmee was double promoted two years later. And last year, when Claire should have graduated, if she had never become a vampire, she didn't even seem to notice.
But, back when she was five and should have been starting kindergarten, Carol told her that she and George would probably have kept her home for another year, even if she hadn't become a vampire, since her birthday was right on the edge. It was a little white lie that I'm sure she saw through. But she accepted it, and she didn't forget. Claire never forgets anything. She's not stupid – far from it. But despite her lightning-quick mind and perfect memory, she just doesn't have the patience for a formal education, or the willpower to be around humans. Even George and Carol have to have regular transfusions of werewolf plasma to make the smell of their blood less appealing, just so that they can get close to her. And even then, we're all on high alert whenever they visit. We try to home school her, of course. But even that's a challenge. And she's much too bright to be placated with fake grades.
"Maybe...," Renesmee offers. "Maybe she can come. Grandpa Carlisle could hold her. Or Jasper."
I shake my head. "If it was just a matter of keeping her from biting anyone. But you're forgetting about her talent." Her talent was, in many ways, the most amazing of any vampire's – and the most frightening. Carlisle has told us about the immortal children, and how they were so precious that whole covens and even groups of covens fought to the death to defend them. I can well imagine. Because Nessie Black, born Claire Young, takes that to a whole new level. If she bats her eyes and smiles at you, you will know what it's like - to imprint!
Alice had been right, of course, that there was no argument about destroying her. Once he saw her as a full vampire, Aro could no more harm her than Quil could. Neither could any of the other vampires present that day. As near as we can tell, the only real difference between their/our imprints and Quil's is that with Quil the feeling is somewhat mutual. In her way, Claire is as devoted to him as he is to her, though she's not quite as... smitten. It's her devotion to Quil, more than anything, that keeps her from becoming a true monster. She works very hard to keep from disappointing him. She has grown to love the rest of her family too, but she's not as devoted to us as she is to Quil.
"Please," Claire begs. "I promise to hold down my cuteness." She smiles at me angelically, melting my stone heart and completely undermining her case.
"Claire. It's just not a good idea. The last thing we need is a bunch of teenage humans captivated by you. I doubt any of them have the maturity to handle it. I doubt I could have handled it, if I hadn't been able to adopt you, and if I didn't already have Jacob and Renesmee to keep me grounded. Listen, I think that you will be able to get it under control some day. In a few years, we will try, with someone safe, someone who won't be hurt if we fail. But for now... You don't really want to hurt Renesmee's friends, physically or emotionally, do you?"
Her pouts are almost as cute as her smiles, and even more damaging. Seeing that I've softened her up, Renesmee moves in to seal the deal. "If you're a good girl, I'll sneak out tonight and take you swan diving."
Nessie eyes her sister suspiciously. She doesn't want to give in too easily. It sets a bad precedent. But she doesn't have the patience for long negotiations.
"You'll hit the water like a meteor."
She pretends to think about it for a few seconds. I hear Quil and Tanya come in the front door downstairs.
"Nice of Tanya to volunteer to go hunting with you two, wasn't it?" I ask her.
"Yeah. She's nice. I think I'm going to make Quil marry her."
"For one thing, they can hear you."
"For another, Quil loves you. He's not your thrall."
"All you thralls say that. But you know you don't mean it," she says. I think she's teasing.
"Go," I tell Nessie. "We need to get ready, some humans will be here soon."
"Okay. Bye, Mom. Bye Ren." She heads downstairs the way an Olympic gymnast would—if she couldn't get hurt, and never got tired, and had super strength, speed and dexterity. She alternately runs, jumps, skips and hand springs the whole way. At times, I feel very bad for Nessie, forever stuck at almost three. But other times... to have a vampire's power, coupled with a toddler's simple joy and enthusiasm...
As I hear the door shut downstairs, I notice an almost imperceptible darkening of the room. I turn to see that Renesmee's hair has phased from Ren's copper blond, to Carlie's jet black. I smile and absently reach out to stroke the soft dark tresses.
"I don't see enough of Carlie."
"Well, you know... I have to be me all day at school, and when I sleep. And it's a lot easier to deal with the munchkin if she's not complaining about my b. o. – and if she's only a few times stronger than me, instead of what? Fifty? A hundred?"
"Something like that. Sorry."
"What? She got that way saving my life. Didn't she?"
I nod. "All our lives."
"Then I think I can handle it. She's no worse than a lot of my friends' sisters – better than most."
My breast swells with pride at my little girl. Renesmee is sixteen today, but she shows a maturity well beyond her years, certainly more than I had at that age. Maybe that's just normal for a werewolf. But it's still amazing to me, as amazing as any of her physical or mental abilities. I finish putting on my makeup while Renesmee gets dressed for the party. A short time later, her phone rings.
"Answer," she commands. "Hey, Uncle Em!"
She has it on speaker, which means it's okay for me to listen.
"Hey, kiddo. Happy birthday!"
"You know I got it—them. Driver's license, Eagle Scout and high school graduate. Not bad for a day's work, huh?"
"Not too shabby. Hey Rose, our son's an Eagle Scout."
I silently groan at that, and I hear a half-hearted whoopee in the background. Rose much prefers spending time with her niece than with her pretend son. I think her favorite part of that charade is that she knows how much Jake and I hate it – especially how much Jake hates it, but she certainly doesn't mind that I hate it too. I wonder if they can hear my teeth grind. Probably not; the phones aren't that good. But Renesmee can.
"Pretend son," she quickly adds. "Isn't it good enough that I'm your niece?"
"Sure it is. But my niece didn't make Eagle Scout."
"Yes she did. What the Scouts don't know won't hurt 'em."
"Okay, okay. Well, get over to your grandparent's and get your present. I recommend you don't drive anything you don't plan to leave there. Hint, hint."
"Aww, Uncle Em, Aunt Rose, you shouldn't have. But I can't get it tonight. I have a par-tay! And anyway, I bet Carl will like it better than Carlie."
"So, you going to invite your 'cousin' to the party again? Because that was hilarious."
"Oh, I'm so glad that the dumbest thing I ever did provides my family so much amusement. No, thank you. I told everyone he's in Europe with you guys."
I can't help chuckle. It was pretty funny. For a lark, she attended her last sleepover as both Carl and Carlie. That night, every few minutes – from the time they went to bed at twelve thirty, to almost two thirty – she had to sneak out of her room and into the guest room, phase into Carl, and politely decline one of her friends' advances. Then she had to get back to her room before she was missed, only to repeat the whole thing a few minutes later. Of course, for all her care, people did notice that Carlie kept sneaking into Carl's room. Now all her friends think that she and her cousin have something going on. One more minor scandal for the Cullen family, and the Blacks. Well, at least he's only supposed to be her adopted cousin. And of course no one blames her; Carl looks remarkably like his grandfather, Carlisle. In fact, unbelievable as it sounds, Carl looks even better. Renesmee seems to have envisioned him as a younger version of Carlisle, with a little more color to his skin, and touches of Rosalie and Emmett tossed in for good measure.
"So, how is Europe, by the way?"
"Awful. Especially England. The only good thing to eat here is off limits."
"What? No Jack the Rippers to hunt?"
"Ugh. A little too much information. No wonder the crime rate is so low there. I wonder if there'll be any food suitable for an American werewolf in London?"
He laughs his hearty laugh. I do miss Emmett, and even Rosalie, a little.
"I hear they have good vegetarian joints. I really wouldn't know. Okay, I know you have to go. But tell your mom to give me a call as soon as she gets a chance. There's something I, uh, need to talk to her about."
"Something about your middle brother?"
"Huh? What makes you say that?"
Renesmee laughs. "That's the only time people clam up around me. Never mind. Some day, I'm going to uncover the whole Uncle Edward conspiracy. But not today. Today I party!"
She barely gets off the phone with Emmett before it rings again. This time, she doesn't put it on speaker, so I tune her out to give her some privacy. She isn't on the phone for long though, and I can't help notice her silence afterward. With her ability to mimic any voice in the world – and improve on them – there's usually music coming from her room.
"Is anything the matter?" I call.
She comes back into my room with just a little less spring in her step than she had earlier.
"Not really. That was Michael. He wanted to know if it would be okay if he brought Lindsey to the party."
Michael took Renesmee to the Last Night dance a week ago. He's nice. She likes him.
"And is it – okay?"
"Yeah. I guess," she says wistfully. "I guess it kind of bothers me that it doesn't bother me. You know?"
"I just, I think that maybe my ability makes me – asexual."
"Which, I'm really okay with," she hastens to add. "But sometimes, I think me and Nessie have a lot in common. I mean, she'll never... And I don't think I will either."
"Oh, Renesmee." I hug her and stroke her hair. I'm glad I'm wearing heals. It gives the illusion that I'm a little taller than she is, which seems appropriate right now. "You know, from Leah's experience, we don't think female werewolves ovulate until after they imprint. You shouldn't worry about it."
"I know. Or at least I know the theory. One isn't much of a sample. The other three lady wolfs never imprinted, remember? But I'm not the same as Leah, anyway. She stopped ovulating until she met Wes, but she didn't stop being interested. She didn't even stop being in love. She was still in love with Sam. Still is, even if she does love Wes more. And, well... When Leah changes into a wolf, it's like: she's still a woman. She's a woman in a wolf's body. It's the same with me – with my animal forms, that is. Vanessa, Odile, Bueller, they're all kind of like costumes I wear. But I'm as much Carl as I am Ren."
"Really? But you don't even become Carl very often."
"No. But I think that's partly just because I'm more used to being a girl. I mean, I guess I'm more Carlie and Ren than I am Carl, but not much more. For a while, I even hoped that, maybe with a teenage boy's rampaging hormones, I'd feel... something. But nope, Carl's no more interested than I am. Sigh."
"And the thing is, I know what love is like. I know exactly what it's like. When I'm part of the Pack, I see it, like it's a part of me. But I've never felt it for myself. They say that imprinting is like when a blind man first sees the Sun. But I've already seen it. I just don't get it."
"Heck, I didn't even imprint on Claire."
"Because you already loved her. As an infant, you absolutely adored her. No one who already loved her has imprinted on her. Her parents didn't, nor her grandparents, nor the Pack - though you could say that they'd already imprinted. Her talent mirrors a normal imprint; and a werewolf doesn't imprint if he's already found his true love. That's why Jake never imprinted on me."
"Yeah, I know. But... But what if you're wrong? What if I never imprint. Or worse, what if Dad does!"
"Then we'll deal with it."
"Or deal with her?"
"Cope, I mean. You know I'd never harm anyone your father cared about. But for the record, that wouldn't be worse. You've heard the saying: 'tis better to have loved and lost? Well, it's true. I'd be devastated if your father imprinted on someone else. But I'd gladly take it, if the alternative was you never getting the chance to know love at all. To experience it for yourself."
"That's just so wrong, Mom. I know love. I love lots of people. I won't be devastated if I never fall 'in' love, or imprint. And if the only way I can fall in love is if I imprint, then I'm not even sure I want to. I mean, it's pretty scary, you know?"
"Yes. Love is scary."
"I meant imprinting."
"Same thing." She starts to object, but I go on. "I've heard that analogy: 'Like a blind man first seeing the Sun.' But I've got a better one. Seeing Claire for the first time after she became a vampire was like the first time I saw you."
She looks at me, a little bemused and slightly embarrassed. "That's right. It was exactly like the first time I saw you – except that, with Claire, it was a little less frightening, because I'd already been through it with you. I was more prepared."
"Jeez, Mom. You had, like, two weeks to prepare for me."
"Oh, I knew that I was going to love you, as soon as I knew that I was pregnant. I was ready for that, or I thought I was. But nothing prepared me for the reality of it. When I first saw you, when you were first born, that was the most exhilarating, frightening, wonderful experience of my life. It was exactly like imprinting."
"Somehow, I don't feel very reassured. For someone else to have that kind of power over me... I don't know."
"I completely understand. Listen. I've had four great loves in my life. Four people have had the kind of power over me that a werewolf's imprint has over him or her."
"You, Claire, your father," I took a deep breath, "and Edward Cullen."
"Wait. What? Edward Cullen? Oh. My. God! Did you have an affair? Is that why no one will talk about him?"
"No, silly. Or, well, sort of. But it was before I started dating your father. Edward was my first love, my first boyfriend, really."
"You dated a vampire – while you were still human? Wow, mom. And I thought dad was brave!"
"Your father is brave. But yes, well – actually, I think insane might be the word you were looking for. But love is like that: daring, reckless, foolish and even crazy. Caution goes out the window when there's something, someone, more important than yourself."
"Still not not scary, Mom."
"No, I guess not. Anyway, we'd better finish getting ready. Your friends will be here soon. We'll talk more later."
"Ha! You're not getting out of this one that easy. I'm a great multitasker, and I've got pretty good ears. Remember?" She says, as she goes back to her room. I hear her changing while she talks. I have pretty good ears myself.
"So what happened? With you and Edward, I mean."
"He left me. He was afraid that he was putting me in danger. He worried about my immortal soul, and he had some crazy idea that my life wouldn't be complete if I never had children. Okay, I have to give him that one, but that was just a lucky guess. So, anyway, he left, 'For my own good.'"
"But then he came back, right? To protect you from that crazy vamp, Victoria?"
"Right. Along with the rest of his family and later the Denali. But by that time, I was with Jacob, and pregnant with you."
"Okay. I get how that might be awkward, and why he had to go away again: to get over you, or avoid temptation, not sure I want to know which. But how come no one ever talks about him? And it's not just when you or Dad are around. No one ever talks about him when I'm around."
It's a while before I answer – over a second and a half, in fact. There are a lot of things we need to talk about before she goes off to college. She'll be starting at Oxford in the fall, joining Rosalie and Emmett who are already enrolled, a year ahead of her. That was our grand compromise. She insisted on Europe. We insisted on bodyguards. I don't think it's any coincidence that Oxford will bring her much closer to Edward. She would have gone to the University of Bologna, if we had let her. But minutes before her party is not the time to tell her about her once and possibly future imprint. On the other hand, I have to tell her something. And, while I've kept a lot of secrets from her, I've never lied to her.
"Renesmee, I sent Edward away. And before you ask – no, it wasn't for Jacob's sake, or mine. It was for Edward's."
"You sent him away, so that he could get over you?"
"Not to get over me, not exactly. Vampires don't do that. Our memories are too perfect, our emotions too permanent. We are what we are, and we feel what we feel – forever."
"Then why? If he can't get over you, doesn't being away just hurt him more? It almost sounds like if Claire sent Quil away. He'd be miserable!"
I'm slow to answer. I hadn't realized how painful this conversation would be. "Edward was... well, he loved – loves – me. And he absolutely adored you. If he had stayed, he would have been like a second father to you – and, almost, like a second husband to me."
"Aww, that's so sweet! I mean, as long as Dad didn't kill him."
"After Edward saved your life, not to mention the rest of us? No, Jake wouldn't have killed him, but it would have been – was – very awkward. Besides, don't you think Edward deserves better than to be an almost husband, an almost father?"
"So you sent him away, for his own good?"
"No. I have no guarantee that I did the right thing. But I can absolutely guarantee that hurting him was the last thing I ever wanted to do. And I sincerely believe that he will be happy some day. Much happier than if he had stayed."
I'm slightly startled by the sound of the doorbell. We've been talking longer than I realized.
"Well, I hope you're right," she says, as she heads downstairs to welcome the early arrivals. "And I hope I get to meet 'uncle' Edward while I'm in Europe."
Will she still want that when I tell her the likelihood that she will re-imprint the moment she does? I'm not sure. This is not the first time she's talked about her trepidation towards imprinting. I don't blame her. And I certainly won't force it on her.
Suddenly, I am panicked. I should have heard humans approaching long before they rang the bell. I've let myself get distracted by thoughts of Edward. To late, I hear Renesmee open the door with an exuberant welcome. I hear no other sound. No other heartbeat or breathing can be heard through the open door. I race to the stairway as fast as my legs will propel me. I leave deep divots in the oak floor and a deeper gouge in the door frame where I grab it to help me turn. I fly like a bullet, but I know that I am not fast enough – not if the vampire at the door wishes Renesmee harm. Then I hear something that makes me stop, as if I have run into an immovable wall. The law of inertia becomes a week suggestion, without force or conviction. A voice like no other, not only stops me, but transports me back to when I was just a little older than Renesmee. That voice, I realize, still has far more power over me than Time or Space or any mere Newtonian force.
I don't believe in coincidence. I haven't, for a very long time. Is he here because Renesmee needs him, misses him? Or was Renesmee missing him, without knowing what she was missing, because she sensed that he would soon be here? I wonder. But I doubt I will ever know the answer.
I hear another sound. A sound so soft that no human ears could hear it, but so powerful that even the blind and deaf couldn't miss it. So profound that even the soulless must be moved by it.
The sound of a changing heart.