Note: Well, I'm back, and having the damnedest time getting this posted for some reason. Going to try again, and hope I didn't submit it twice.
This one's a little different. If I gave my chapters proper titles, this one would be called "Conversations with Carlisle". Rather than being one continuous story, it ended up being more like a series of vignettes. Also, you'll need to know that when Bella was changed in Captive, she was injected with venom collected from not only Edward, but Carlisle and Jasper as well.
PS: Oh hell. In my eagerness to get this posted after an absence of...way too long, I uploaded the wrong version of this chapter to doc manager. It's still readable - only the last bit is affected; it isn't quite as fleshed out in this version as in the one I intended to post. Unfortunately, that version is on my laptop at home, and I won't be getting to it until late this evening, or possibly even tomorrow morning. Sorry about that.
"Bella. You're doing it again. Stop sitting so still, fidget a little."
She stopped staring glassily into the middle distance, and focused on me, only her head swiveling toward me in a highly unnatural, non-human manner.
"Mmmm?" she hummed absently, fixing me with a vacant amber stare.
I sighed, placing the journal I was reading face down on my desk, and prepared to repeat myself yet again. "If you expect to go to college any time soon, you're going to have to get used to acting human constantly." I leaned forward, resting my elbows on the ink blotter, noting the annoyed look that flitted, lightening-fast, across her face before she composed herself again. My unwillingness to allow her to go to college yet was still a sore point between us, but there was nothing I could do about that. She just wasn't ready for that level of contact with humans, and this had been made abundantly clear to us on a recent family outing to a nearby mall.
We had gone late in the evening to ensure a smaller crowd, and with the sole purpose of giving Bella some exposure and evaluating her comportment around humans. Esme and I walked arm in arm, six feet behind the kids, watching Bella closely as she glided past the few patrons who were still out that late. The arm that was looped through Alice's was stiff, and she moved her head a fraction too quickly to look completely human. Not that any of the passing people would have noticed anything more than a very highly strung young woman clinging to her friend's arm. She drew looks, but then we all did. The problem was that in college, she wouldn't be just passing through. At present, she could not sustain the act for any length of time, and that simply would not do.
Bella fought me more on the issue of college than she'd ever done over anything else, and it had never been harder for me to keep a hold of my temper with one of my children. Unlike the rest of my kids, Bella was a child of the modern age with a very different relationship to parental authority. It had been a while since I had raised a newborn, and I was unprepared for how much the parenting experience had changed over the decades. She tried my patience more than all of my creations put together ever had, and I'd had to let my human veneer slip and handle her not as a father, but as a coven leader would, temporarily setting aside my feelings for her to make her finally drop a subject that as far as I was concerned had been closed quite some time ago. This wasn't a matter of deciding whether to indulge a beloved daughter or not; it was a matter of not only our safety, but the safety of the humans she may someday be around. I could not and would not bend on this. She would go to college when I was absolutely certain she was ready, and not a moment sooner.
As the beginning of the spring semester came and went, Bella finally accepted that she wasn't going to go to school yet, and more importantly, grudgingly admitted that maybe she wasn't ready. But she didn't like it, and made no secret of that fact. When the summer semester started and we still hadn't moved, she settled into annoyed resignation.
"You can't let your guard down for even a second," I continued patiently. "Going completely still when you are lost in thought is going to get you noticed quickly. Especially if you are around the same people day in and day out, like you will be in school. Do you understand?"
She nodded, and then slumped back in the armchair, jiggling her knee and toying with a strand of her hair, wrapping it around her finger, and then unwinding it again. Her eyes slanted my way, looking for approval.
I nodded. "Better." Her posture and movements were slightly wooden, but I saw no reason to tell her that right then. It would come to her with practice eventually.
As I watched her, I became fascinated anew with the process of adjustment all vampires go through as they "grow up" and adapt to their new bodies and abilities. They had all had their own individual foibles and issues, but with Bella...let's just say that nothing had come easily for the poor girl. She was the vampire equivalent of a difficult child - rather like Edward, though not int the same way - and that had surprised me considering she had been such a biddable human being. Then again, human behavior was never a guaranteed indication of how that person would be as a vampire, and there were times when it looked like Bella had made a 180 degree about-face. Every newborn cliché seemed to have found a home in her. She had managed to escape none of the problems that seemed to plague newborns, and the results, though not always pleasant, were almost always entertaining.
I grinned. All things considered, she was handling her newborn issues as best she could.
Pride in her swelled inside me. She had come such a long way from that human girl who let Edward get away with too much, and I was looking forward to watching her continue to unfold into her full vampire and human potential. Bella had an avid curiosity, a sharp mind, and had developed a profound thirst for knowledge. I very quickly came to look forward to her visits to my study.
Her routine was the same every time she came. She would wander around to room, studying the artwork on the walls, running her fingers lightly over polished wood, worn leather and the spines of the books that lined walls. She would touch almost everything in the room, getting to know all of it by her enhanced sense of touch. She explored texture and temperature with her fingertips, her circuit eventually ending behind me, where I usually sat at my desk. She'd loop her arms loosely about my neck and prop her chin on the top of my head so she could see what I was reading or working on. I would reach for one of her hands, resting lightly on my collar-bone, and give it a gentle squeeze. A minute or so later, she would go back to the bookcases, select a book, and then curl up in the armchair by the window. We would sit in companionable silence, until whatever she had been thinking of resulted in a question so completely out of left field that it would startle me. This usually lead to a discussion that more often than not would open my eyes to something I had never even thought to consider.
She didn't disappoint me this time either.
I looked up, preparing myself to be delighted yet again.
"Do you believe in a loving, compassionate God?"
She was still mechanically bouncing her leg and twirling her hair, and I briefly debated drawing her attention to the fact that repetitive jittering looked as unnatural as complete stillness. More interested in the intellectual journey my youngest was sure to take me on, I discarded the thought. There was plenty of time for that later.
"Yes, I do. Why do you ask?"
"I've been thinking about Edward's belief that he - and therefore all of us - have no soul." She stared at the wall with a slight frown wrinkling her nose. "Does it make sense to you that a loving God would consign people, the people he created, to 'everlasting torment?'" She made air quotes around the last two words.
I sobered and looked at the large wooden cross leaning against the wall in the corner of the room. "It's not that simple, Bella," I murmured sadly.
She sat up and faced me, the hard light of avid inquiry shining in her eyes. "What if it is?" she said. "What if it is exactly that simple?
"If God created everything, wouldn't it follow that he or she - or it? - created us too? I think maybe we are just a different kind of human. An evolutionary tangent, so to speak. Isn't it possible that during the change the areas of our brain involving aggression, whatever they are..."
I interrupted her. "That would be the lower portions of the brain, the more 'reactive'" - I too sketched air quotes in the air in front of me as I lectured - "and primitive part. They would include the amygdala, hypothalamus, prefrontal and cingulate cortices, the hippocampus..."
She interrupted me right back, impatient to share her theories. "Well, what if some kind of regression occurs during the change, something that causes those parts of the brain to change somehow..."
Fascinated and engaged in the conversation, I forgot my manners and interrupted her again. "Loss of cortical function through various pathological processes - including, one could very well imagine, the transformation from human to vampire - can lead to a loss of cortical modulation of arousal, impulsivity and aggressivity which would necessarily result in persistence of primitive behavioral reactivity, thereby predisposing one to violent behavior..." I paused. "Yes, that's an interesting theory, Bella. It is entirely possible that the venom - or even only the trauma of the change itself - altered those parts of our brains when we turned into vampires."
She hopped out of the armchair and came to sit in front of me. "It could explain why we are so out of control as newborns," she said, pulling her legs up on the seat and crossing them. "Maybe it takes time to get that modulation you mentioned back."
I shook my head. "Once we become vampire, we are as good as set in stone. The transformation fixes any physical flaws, but once we are changed, that's it. Any loss of cortical modulation would likely be permanent."
She frowned, pursing her lips in thought. "Then why don't we stay in that newborn state for the rest of our existence?"
"We have the capacity to adapt, but if you think about it none of it is strictly physical. Our physical brains, the part you could technically touch with your hands, is unchanging. It will not degenerate, or evolve - at least not in the way we see it. Yet it still functions, and even better than it did before. It's more likely it finds new ways, new pathways to compensate for and deal with this lack of modulation."
She hummed pensively and sank into thought again, lapsing into her usual preternatural stillness almost immediately.
I cleared my throat pointedly, and she began jigging her knee up and down, and biting her thumbnail. With a fond smile, I left her to her thoughts and went back to my reading. Not five minutes passed before Bella spoke again, veering wildly to a new subject.
"Venom," she said absently, out of the blue, her hand falling away from her mouth. I gladly put the journal down again and waited for her to continue. I didn't have to wait long.
She stood and walked over to the book-case, looking at the medical journals with her lower lip caught between her teeth. "Do you think it has any part in forging a special bond between a vampire and his or her maker?" she asked, observing me with a frown. "A bond that is different from that between unrelated vampires? I love the whole family of course, but I feel like my bond with you and Jasper - Edward is my mate, so he is in a category all of his own - is somehow different from my bond with Rosalie, Esme, Alice and Emmett. I love them all very much, and I can't really describe the feeling, but my connection to you and Jasper seems...different. Somehow...amplified."
I leaned forward, tenting my fingers. "Again, there is no way of scientifically proving it, but it is generally accepted by the vampire community that there's a closer bond between a vampire and the one who created him, and also a similar bond, but to a somewhat lesser degree, between vampires who share the same maker."
"That could explain why Jasper pisses me off so much sometimes," she mused. "Those closest to us always have the capacity to hurt or anger us more than people we have no connection to."
" True." I smiled. "But possibly not entirely fair to Jasper. There are other factors to take into consideration. First of all, he is privy to every one of your emotions - and you must admit, they used to be pretty extreme. Secondly, he's had the unenviable task of being in charge of a large part of your upbringing..."
"Ha ha, dad, " she interjected pertly. "You're hilarious."
"...and that alone would be enough to drive any vampire crazy," I continued, keeping a straight face.
She rolled her eyes and snorted in a decidedly teenage manner, rose from the chair with stunning grace and flounced out of the room.
Her curiosity took her too far sometimes. There was the time she decided to see if mixing blood with small amounts of human food - melted chocolate and freshly squeezed orange juice, both separately and combined - would make the food more palatable.
It didn't. She did inadvertently discover that while eating human food didn't harm us, taking it with the right amount of blood was incredibly painful, and felt not unlike the change from human to vampire, albeit not nearly as agonizing. Nevertheless, when one of those attempts caused enough pain to have her screaming for half an hour, I forbade her to keep experimenting on herself. At least I would have, if Esme hadn't gotten to it before me.
Not surprisingly, it was Edward who sensed something wrong first, before the sound of smashing glass reached us, before the first of her agonized screams rattled the windows and her shield blew wide open, battering Jasper with her fear. Edward and Emmett reached the kitchen first, cannoning off each other as they charged through the doorway. Edward dropped to his knees and slid to a stop beside her, in a pool of murky maroon liquid and shattered glass.
"Bella!" he cried, reaching for her, his voice shaking with his fear for her. "Bella, what's wrong? Carlisle..." He turned to me, his dread making him look very young.
I took over. "Get her up on the table,' I ordered, as Emmett sent the jars stained with blood, and the gutted oranges to the ground with a sweep of his arm, making space for her. Edward lifted his writhing mate into his arms and on to the table.
"Pen light," I muttered to the room, peeling back her eyelid with my thumb, and taking the light from whomever had retrieved it from the medical bag in my study. "Keep her still," I told the boys, and swept the light underneath the right eye and up, repeating the assessment on the other side. Her pupils reacted normally, and a hand to her forehead reassured me that her temperature was in the normal range for a vampire, as was her skin tone. If anything, it looked healthier than usual. Beyond that, there was little else I could do to determine how she was doing, as she couldn't stop screaming long enough to answer my questions.
When Jasper finally managed to cut through all the feelings swirling around the room, pinpoint Bella's fear, and minimize it, her thrashing became less frantic and she was able to talk to me between her cries of pain.
"What did you do?" I said curtly, unable to keep the fear-induced anger out of my voice.
"Orange juice...blood," she groaned, breathing heavily. "Drank it..."
I crouched down touching a finger to the liquid on the floor and tasting it. The flavor was...interesting. I had never eaten an orange, so I had no basis for comparison, but Bella's concoction actually tasted good.
"How rapid was the onset of symptoms?" I asked, standing again.
"What...?" she muttered, squinting up at me through glazed eyes, unable to focus her thoughts.
"How quickly did the pain start?" I rephrased, touching the back of my fingers to her cheek. "Was it immediate? Did it take a few minutes? Where is it it localized?
Haltingly, she told me that the pain had started within about twenty to thirty minutes of her drinking the orange juice laced blood, and it was initially focused around her lower abdomen, but had soon spread to the rest of her body. This confirmed to me that the pain was probably a direct result of what she had ingested. It sounded to me very much like combining the orange juice with blood had allowed its nutrients to be absorbed with the blood into her system. I couldn't know for sure, but I suspected it was those nutrients that were causing the pain throughout her body.
Later, this would lead her to theorize that maybe those nutrients, combined with blood, fed our dead cells and initiated a reverse change, from vampire back to human. "Maybe If they continued to take in blood with human food in it," she would tell me excitedly, "Vampires could turn back into humans!"
It was an interesting theory. Unlikely, but it made for an animated and fascinating discussion.
"I think she will be fine once she's burned though what she ingested," I told Edward, placing a comforting hand on her shoulder. "Take her upstairs to bed. There is nothing we can do but wait."
While her body ached for a couple of days, the worst of the pain was over in a few short hours. Esme didn't wait moment longer to read her the riot act. "You will stop this nonsense immediately, do you understand?" she scolded, the moment we both walked through the door to her room to check on her. "I absolutely forbid it." Only I could tell how worried she was underneath the scolding tone.
She started arguing. Of course. "But Esme..."
I immediately backed up my wife. "No," I stated firmly, cutting her protest short before they could escalate. "You heard her. Enough. We have no idea what this could do to you in the long run. You're still too young. I won't allow you to take stupid risks and harm yourself."
"But..." she tried again, stopping short when I leveled an icy glare at her, the one that made most vampires, never mind my children, immediately reconsider the wisdom of saying another word. Her lower lip pushed out ever so slightly, but she wisely held her tongue.
She gave up the experimenting grudgingly, but out of those experiments, and our earlier discussions on the brain, an interest in studying vampire physiology was born.
"...I mean, has anybody ever tried?" She babbled animatedly, following me from desk to bookshelf and back again, allowing me no time to answer her spate of questions. "Has anyone looked at vampire dust under a microscope? What about an MRI? No, a CAT scan! Have you ever considered that? Is there anything that can cut us? Do you think it would be possible to get a cross-section of a finger, or something to analyze? Hey, did we keep any of Victoria? I'm going to buy a microscope. Can you recommend one? A really strong one. One that can take pictures..."
I grinned delightedly at her as she tapped on the keys of her laptop, muttering to herself, mentally changing her major from English Literature to Hematology before she had finished googling microscopes.
"The answer is in the blood," she said pensively, staring at the wall. "It has to be."
I hid an indulgent smile behind the medical journal I was holding and went back to reading.
Chief Swan was starting to ask too many questions. He hadn't seen his daughter in about two years; it was natural that he wanted to see her. Now Renee was adding her voice to his, trying to convince Bella and Edward to spend the next holidays with her and Phil.
It was getting harder for Bella to put them off. I was surprised that she was able to them off for so long. Then again, webcams had made keeping up with loved ones ever easier, and Bella made use of them often to stay in touch with her parents and a few select friends. The quality of webcams was still such that Bella needed nothing more than a pair of brown contact lenses, and she was able to communicate with them without arousing suspicion.
But even that had its limits. I know if I was Charlie, or Renee, I wouldn't be content with Skyping for very long. I would want to see my only daughter in person, have her come visit for the holidays...or worse - for us - show up unannounced to visit her.
The possibility of that concerned me. I also knew that if Bella simply disappeared, Charlie would move heaven and earth looking for her, and would likely never stop. In the process, he could draw unwanted attention to us. Worse, we may become implicated in her disappearance. At this point, the only solution I could see is Bella "dying", preferably in a way completely unconnected to us.
She would not be happy about this.
I broached the subject carefully. "Bella..." I paused, trying to find the best way to formulate my concerns. "We need to start thinking about what to do about your parents."
She had been stretched out on the sofa and sat up, panic in her eyes. She knew exactly what I meant, and I saw another battle looming with her. I had a feeling this could make all other battles with my headstrong daughter look like walks in the park – should I end up deciding her "death" was the only solution. She opened her mouth to speak, but I continued before she could get a word out.
"Thinking, Bella. I said we need to start thinking about it. I have come to no decision yet."
My words did nothing to appease her. "Carlisle…" Her voice was unsteady, and she sat up straight, twisting her hands together in her lap, looking very convincingly human all of a sudden. "I can't die. I can't hurt my parents like that. I just can't. There has to be another way."
"And if there is, we will find it," I said gently. "But you'll abide by my decision, whatever it ends up being, just as you agreed."
She said nothing, her eyes shifting away from mine, a flicker of something in them as she chewed on her lower lip. Somewhere in the house, Alice gasped, and I didn't need to be a mind reader to know that she had most probably seen Bella's decision to defy me, should she not agree with my decision when I finally made it.
"Bella," I said firmly, when she didn't speak. "You may not have been human when you gave me your promise, but I know you remember agreeing to accept whatever I decided when I gave you my conditions for changing you."
"I remember," she murmured, still avoiding my eyes, and drawing invisible patterns in the fabric of the seat with her fingernail.
I left my desk and went to sit next to her on the sofa. "Look at me," I said gently. She did, albeit reluctantly. "You won't fight me on this, will you, whatever I decide?" I watched her face carefully as I waited for her reply.
She hesitated, and then surprised me yet again. "I don't know," she replied, her topaz eyes free of guile and fixed openly and honestly on mine.
Rendered temporarily speechless, I simply stared at her. "Could you elaborate, please?" I finally asked.
She looked at her hands, evidently collecting her thoughts, and then looked back up at me. "I mean I don't know if I will accept your decision if it means I have to put my parents through the pain of losing me to death. Carlisle...there has to be another way."
For a split second I considered letting out the coven leader and frightening her into acquiescing, since reason had failed, but the idea died before it had even fully formed. It would not make a difference in the long run. I could not - nor did I want to - control her actions forever. The best I could do was work with her to find a solution that satisfied us all and kept our secret safe.
I had no idea what that could be.
Time to call on the expert. I spoke Alice's name, and seconds later, the door opened and she popped her head in. She knew what I was asking, and shot Bella a guilty look, telling me everything I needed to know. Bella understood the subtext immediately, and shot to her feet. "You can't get mad at me for something Alice sees in a vision, that I haven't done yet!" she seethed.
"Sit down," I said calmly, and waited for her to comply before I continued. "Nobody is mad at you, Bella, and I'm not going to force you into anything. I can see that there is no point. I just ask that you make no move without discussing it with me first. We need to be very careful in what we do. We need to consider the Volturi. You could put us all in great danger."
Shaken, she nodded.
"Come on, Bella," Alice said kindly, "Let's go for a run. I need to talk to you about the wedding, and I don't need Edward listening in."
Bella made a completely pointless sound of annoyance. "Alice..." she said, resigned, following her sister out of the room. "There is no wedding yet. Edward hasn't even proposed, and anyway, you know I don't care about the details. Do what you want. Or better yet, talk to Edward. He's the one with stars in his eyes about this. I just want to get hitched; the how doesn't matter to me."
As their voices faded, Jasper appeared in the doorway, looking a little stressed, waiting until Bella and Alice disappeared out of the range of our hearing. I took this to mean that he wanted a word with me, and didn't want Bella around to hear it.
"You have some concerns about Bella?" I guessed correctly, patting the seat next to me. Jasper joined me there, dropping in his seat with his elbows on his knees.
"Carlisle..." He scrubbed his hands over his face and through his hair. "She's driving' me crazy. She doesn't listen to me, she doesn't do as I tell her...I have no control over her."
I thought back to what Bella had said about those closest to you being able to get to you the most. She and Jasper were very close, but they locked horns more than any of the others did. Perhaps it had been unfair of me to ask him to take such a prominent role in her upbringing. His skills were most definitely needed, but maybe I should have asked him to be more subtle about using them, to operate more from the sidelines.
I dismissed the thought and hastened to reassure him. "Nonsense, Jasper. You've had plenty of experience with controlling newborns..."
He interrupted me. "But I can't treat her the way I did the others. Hell, I only smacked her on the ass once, and you saw how that turned out." He leaned back, dropping his head on the back of the sofa and staring at the ceiling. "Humans spank their kids all the time. It's an accepted way of dealing with discipline. Hell, I'm pretty sure my daddy whipped me more times than I can remember, and it didn't harm me."
"Different times, son. And Bella isn't exactly a child, despite being a newborn. Besides, exercising authority doesn't have to involve violence, you know that. Anyway, recent studies have shown that that's not the best way to handle discipline. But Jasper, I really don't think you have to worry about it anymore. Bella's emotional control has improved immensely, has it not?"
"Well, yes it has. She's definitely a lot more stable." He leaned back, dropping his head on the back of the sofa and closed his eyes.
"Well then. Maybe you don't need to be so vigilant anymore."
He rolled his head to look at me, quirking up the corner of his mouth. "You saying I should let go?"
I chuckled, putting a hand on his shoulder. "You stepped up when I asked you to help, and you've done a great job with her. But maybe it is time to let go. Maybe we all need to let go, let her stand on her own two feet, learn from her mistakes. Keep an eye on her emotions, step in only when our secret or a life is in danger, and leave whatever parenting is necessary to me, ok?
He turned his face back to the ceiling, staring at it and thinking. "That sounds really good, actually. Maybe we'll get along better if we go back to being just brother and sister. He barked out a laugh, sitting up again. "Yeah, right..."
Before I could comment on that, we heard the sound of Emmet approaching. It sounded like he was talking to himself.
"No...No. Dude, if we had specified a power factor of point-eight lagging, we would have needed a lower excitation voltage. I'm telling you...No. There's got to be a mistake in there somewhere. Yes...I'll run the numbers again and...What? Oh...OK...I'm taking it out for a trial run. I'll call you when I'm on site. Later, man."
He stuck his head around the door, pulling his bluetooth out of his ear and addressing me with his customary irreverence. "Hey, Old Man, have you seen...? Oh, there you are," he said unenthusiastically when his eyes found Jasper. "I'm going to test fire the rocket, Jazz. Since you're going to show up and point out everything I'm doing wrong anyway, you might as well come along and help me carry everything."
"It'd be my pleasure," Jasper drawled with a smirk, not even bothering to conceal his amusement at Emmett's sour expression. He stood and headed toward the door, turning just before passing through it. "Thanks, Carlisle," he said, and then they too disappeared down the hall, with a considerable amount of pushing and shoving if the sounds I heard were anything to go by.
I shook my head with a wry smile and went back to my desk to wait for the potential explosions. The literal and figurative explosions.
After going about as far as he could with his orange cannon design - and being forbidden by Esme to fire anything within a two-mile radius of the house - Emmett had moved on to designing bottle rockets, and then actual rockets - at which point Esme had extended the no-fly boundaries to 10 miles. He'd found support in an online community of fellow aficionados, and could be heard arguing or conferring with them at every hour of the day. Or night. Rosalie was starting to get a little annoyed.
Jasper had dogged him mercilessly, criticizing and offering unwelcome suggestions for improvement at every turn, even occasionally influencing Emmett emotionally, to rile him up and start an inevitable fight. In the early days of testing this had led to a couple of major fist-fights. On one memorable occasion a spectacular misfire, followed by a violent altercation between the boys, had prompted the authorities to investigate our little corner of the world. Fortunately, we had managed to evade scrutiny. They did come to the house, but Emmett had moved anything related to his rocket building far out into the wilderness in case they asked to search our home, and after a brief conversation during which we denied having noticed anything untoward in the area, they left us in peace. That was when Esme had imposed her no-fly zone.
I sat down and picked up my pen. I had a feeling we could be in for another eventful afternoon.
"What are you thinking about?" I had been watching Bella for a minute or so, curious about the expression on her face. She had been hanging out with me in my study again, and was stretched out on the sofa, eyes closed, a paperback book resting open on her stomach. When her lips started twitching into a smile every few seconds, I just had to ask.
"Mawwage," she intoned in a funny, nasal voice, without opening her eyes.
I blinked. "Excuse me?" I had no idea what she'd just said.
She sat up, holding up the paperback for me to see. It was a book I was familiar with but had not read, The Princess Bride by William Goldman. I raised my eyebrows to indicate that I still didn't understand.
"Mawwage. One of the characters in the story talks funny and...oh, never mind." She tossed the book lightly on the sofa, and continued speaking. "I was thinking about marriage."
"Ah. Marriage in general, or yours in particular?"
She thought for a moment. "A bit of both, I suppose."
"And your conclusions?"
"It seems like much ado about nothing to be honest. I don't get it. I especially don't get it for us. We have fake identities, well, you guys do anyway, and fake paperwork to go along with them. Why not fake marriage licences too? In fact, in this day and age, why bother with marriage licences at all? We'll shed our old identities at some point, which will make them invalid anyway." She chewed on her lip for a moment, and then continued. "Then again, that's what makes them so much easier to go through."
"How do you mean?"
"Well, humans have only one life, one identity. When they marry, it's generally intended for life, even though it doesn't turn out that way for many of them. It makes marriage a much bigger commitment than it is for us. Our marriages only last as long as our identities do - that's actually the main reason I'm ok with getting married, to be honest. I mean, I know I'll always be with Edward, so why should I care, right? But for some reason I find it comforting that the legal aspect of it will only last until we get new identities."
Before I could add my two cents to the discussion, she changed the subject.
"I'm thinking about asking Edward to take my last name when we finally do it," she mused. "Do you think he'd have a problem with that?"
That, I had not expected. "Well, he is a bit old fashioned, as you know, though he has come a long way since you've been changed. Why?" I asked, genuinely curious.
"It'll be a long time before I can use that name again; I'd kind of like to hang on to it as long as possible."
"That makes sense, and I think he'd understand."
"Anyway. No sense in deciding right now. He hasn't even asked me yet." We heard a car pull up, and Bella reached for he book and hopped to her feet with a huge smile. "Gotta go, Edward's back. Oh, and Carlisle?" She put her index finger to her lips, indicating that she didn't want me to say anything - or think anything - about the whole name change thing. I mimed zipping my lips. She nodded her thanks and practically skipped to the door.
Just before going out, she turned in the doorway, her hand on the handle. "Carlisle?" she said again.
"Yes, sweetheart?" I looked up at her, closing the book I had just opened.
She seemed to be struggling with whatever it was she wanted to say. I waited patiently, smiling reassuringly as she searched for the words. She finally drew in a breath and spoke.
"Would you be really upset if I walked myself down the aisle?" she said somewhat shyly. "I want to do it for Charlie. If it can't be him, I...I want to walk by myself."
"I think that's a lovely thought, Bella," I said, feeling only a hint of wistfulness at the thought of not getting to give her away. There would undoubtably be more weddings. I would have many opportunities to walk the newest addition to the family down the aisle.
Note: Emmett's rocket-speak? Totally made up. They are engineering terms, but I know nothing about rocket science, and I highly doubt they have anything to do with it.
Next up...I'm not sure. If I continue as I began, there should be another Carlisle chapter, followed by two Alice chapters, then two Edward chapters, and then maybe a Bella chapter to sort of tie everything up. That's six more chapters. Actually, that doesn't seem so bad now that I think about it, but still, I have been seriously considering doing only one Alice chapter, Edward chapter and Bella chapter, so I'd be done in three more instead of six.
So, stay tuned (or not) for either another Carlisle, or Alice.