A/N: First of all, I want to thank everyone who has add this story to their favorites and alerts list. I'm so glad that people are still interested in this story, despite the lack of updating recently.
I PROMISE I am not abandoning this story. Life has been crazy this past year and writing has had to take a back seat, but no matter what, I WILL finish this story.
I apologize for any mistakes in this chapter. I don't have a beta. I've been editing this chapter for the past three days and every time I read through it, I keep finding errors as well as adding content. I finally just had to make myself stop.
Hope you enjoy!
Chapter 45: Counting Blessings
"Time to get up...Come on Edward, you have to help your dad." I felt like I was becoming a pro at waking Edward up. Of course he never made it easy either.
"You promised you'd help. If you don't get up, that will leave your dad all by himself. That's not cool Edward. Now get up." I huffed.
"Fine...I didn't want to have to resort to such measures...but" and then I stuck my very cold feet on his very warm back.
"What the..." he yelled as he jumped out of bed.
"I told you to get up. Your own fault for not listening." I laughed at the expression on his face.
"You just wait. I'll get you back." And then he tackled me on the bed and started tickling me.
"Stop...please. I have to pee." I wailed. But at least it worked. He just laughed at me as I crawled out of the bed and ran to the bathroom. I had already been up for an hour. Esme and I had been drinking hot chocolate and just talking. I was never able to sleep late on the holidays, especially when I knew there was so much to do.
I was more excited about this Thanksgiving than any I could remember before. I do wish my mom and dad, and Phil were able to join us, but I knew they'd be here at Christmas. Despite how crazy things were, everything was running quite smoothly. Hence the ability for Esme and I to have our morning chat instead of rushing to get things ready.
I enjoyed the early morning talk with Esme. She opened up to me about a lot of things, only furthering our relationship. I feel extremely close to Esme, like she's another mom. Don't get me wrong. I love my mom, but up until recently, she really lacked the 'maternal' gene. Esme, however, seems to ooze it from all pores. Over the past few days, we've talked a lot about her's and Carlisle's decision to adopt. Of course with Edward, it was never a question. Esme had found out only the year before Edward's parents died that she was unable to have children. She and Carlisle had just finished grieving the lose of their potential children and making plans to adopt when Edward lost his parents.
After adopting Alice, there were thoughts of proceeding with a third adoption, but due to the circumstances of how both Edward and Alice came to live with them, they both decided to focus their attention on their two blessings.
I was very curious about Edward's parents and looked forward to him sharing more about them with me. But I was also very nervous. I knew that was a subject he rarely talked about...much less willingly.
I even broached the subject with Esme during our morning chat.
"Esme, I want to ask you something but I don't want you to think I'm sticking my nose where it doesn't belong."
"Dear, you can ask me anything. If I don't feel it's my place to answer you, I'll tell you. But please, don't ever hesitate to ask me."
She always made me feel at ease.
"Edward mentioned something last night about telling me more about his parents and sharing some photos with me. I just don't want him to feel that he has to. I guess I don't really have a question. I just need reassurance. I'm feeling very nervous and I don't want Edward to do anything that may cause him pain."
I could see the unshed tears in Esme's eyes when she answered me.
"Bella, I can't tell you how relieved I am that he wants to talk about his mom and dad. He talked to Carlisle and I last night. He wants us to sit down with the two of you so we can all talk about his parents. This is something I've been waiting for for a long time. He's never really talked much about them and I think this will be a great thing for him. I promise, he wouldn't do this if he didn't want to. I'm just so happy that he wants to share them with you." She smiled and I immediately felt better. I was excited to learn about his parents but sad at the same time that the only way I would ever know them was through memories and pictures. I hate that they weren't given the opportunity to see the man that Edward has become. I know they would be proud.
Edward was already downstairs by the time I finished up in the bathroom. I decided to take a quick shower while in there. He and Esme were sitting at the bar talking quietly. I didn't want to intrude, but Edward saw me and called me over. He pulled me into a hug and gave me a big ole kiss. Esme giggled and Carlisle coughed from the doorway.
"Okay son...we need to start on the turkeys. You'll have to let Bella go now."
Edward actually pouted at his dad. It was just too adorable. His parents just laughed at him.
"I'll come out and see you in a little while...after I'm sure that you aren't going to blow anything up."
"You wound me!" Carlisle pouted. "I'd never let things get that far...I like turkey far too much to see it ruined."
Edward and Esme just shook their heads at him while I giggled.
"Come on old man." Edward taunted his dad while standing up from the bar stool.
"Who's old?" Carlisle asked while punching Edward in the shoulder. He was in rare form this morning.
Esme watched the two of them walk out of the kitchen like they were her world. You could see her heart in her eyes. She turned those same eyes on Alice as she came down the stairs a bit later.
"Good morning sweetheart." She said as she kissed Alice on the head. "It's a bit early for you isn't it?"
"Uggg...don't remind me." Alice groaned and she wrapped her arms around Esme's waist. "But honestly, I just wanted to spend some quiet time with you and Bella. I've missed you both this week." She smiled. "As you know, I'm not all that great in the kitchen, but I can follow directions or just keep you company."
"You're always welcome in my kitchen sweetie."
Alice grabbed a cup of hot chocolate and then set down beside me at the bar. She leaned her head on my shoulder and closed her eyes again.
"Alice, are you sure you don't want to go back to bed?"
"I'm sure. I just...well, I just need to be down here this morning." She whispered. I could tell there was something wrong but didn't want to call her out on it. Esme gave me the perfect opportunity when she stepped outside to check on the boys.
"You okay?" I asked. "You know you can tell me anything and don't say it's nothing, I know you better than that."
"I promise I'm good. Just wanted to spend some time with two of my most favorite people. I'm so glad that you've been here to help out my mom. I'm never much help to her, no matter what she tells you. But it makes me smile to see you two interact. I just like being around the two of you when you are together. You two create a lot of positive energy."
"I've had so much fun Alice. I love Renee to death, but we never did this kind of thing together. I feel like I have a second mom in Esme. Renee was never really maternal, until the incident, but by that time, I had already taken on most of the adult roles in our relationship. I don't regret it at all. I love my mom but sometimes I wish we could have had more of a relationship like you have with Esme."
"Well how about this Bells...I'll share her anytime you want." Alice smiled at me.
"Are you pimping me out Alice?" We both jumped and turned towards Esme's voice. She was leaning against the wall, with tears in her eyes. I was starting to worry about her. She'd been crying a lot these past few days. "Just so you know, I don't mind it one bit." She walked towards us and wrapped her arms around the two of us. I heard her murmur 'my girls' as she kissed us both on the head.
"Okay, enough sappy. Let's get started. Your father and Edward have actually managed to start frying the turkeys without burning anything down...yet."
Esme turned on some Christmas music and soon we were all dancing around the kitchen and singing.
"Mind if we join?" We heard Rose ask. Angela was standing behind her giggling at the scene before her.
"Absolutely not...but you can't join unless you sing and dance." Esme responded. Just as she did, a jazzy upbeat song started to play. It was Harry Connick Jr. singing 'Santa Claus'. It was one of my all time favorite Christmas songs. Seems like it was a favorite for us all. We were all singing and dancing around, completely engrossed in the fabulous beats of the music and the heavenly voice of Harry. We didn't even notice the guys had been watching us until we heard the clapping and hooting. I couldn't believe Jake, Emmett, and Jasper were actually out of bed.
"Encore!" Carlisle called out. The others nodded in agreement.
"Maybe later. We've got some more cooking to do." Esme giggled out as she poured five cups of coffee. Jasper, Emmett, and Jake looked like they could really use it. "There's donuts and other pastries in the living room and I've got a fruit salad in the refrigerator if anyone would care for some." Those were like magic words to the guys. They all rushed to the living room for the sweets.
Carlisle just stared, slack jawed, at the three guys. Edward laughed at his dad's expression, simply saying, "you get used to it."
"How are the turkeys coming along?"
"We haven't burned anything down...yet." Edward answered Esme and I couldn't help but giggle at how much alike they were. I was giggling a lot this morning and I realized that I hadn't been this happy in years. I was so excited to spend this holiday with my family.
Alice, Angela, and Rosalie were munching on some fruit salad while Esme and I were making biscuits. It was a last minute addition to the menu. 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas' started playing and before I could comprehend what was happening...I was wrapped up in Edward's arms.
"Hi." He whispered while giving me his killer smile.
"What are you doing? I've got dough all over my hands." I mock scolded.
"A little dough never hurt nobody." He laughed. "I just wanted to hold you close and I love this song." He stated quietly. We swayed to the song and I was almost able to completely block out all the awws that were surrounding us. I laid my head on Edward's chest and could hear his heart beating. When the song was over, he dipped me and gave me a not so parental friendly kiss. I was lost in him. It wasn't until I heard the click of a camera that I even remembered we had an audience. I also realized that I had buried my hands in Edward's hair...dough and all.
I blushed when I realized that our moment had been caught on film, but I was also extremely happy to have that moment forever captured. Edward grinned at me before pulling me upright.
"What was that you were saying about dough?" I laughed.
"Sorry, but I kinda put my hands in your hair. You might want to go jump in the shower really quickly." I grinned.
"No way...I'm starting a trend. This stuff is way better than hair gel." He stated in a serious tone. "See...I'm actually able to tame this mane."
Nobody was able to hold back their laughs. It was pretty funny. Instead of 'taming his mane' as he stated...his hair was sticking straight up.
"Looks like your channeling Ben Stiller from 'Something About Mary' there bro." Emmett laughed. Edward actually blushed at the reference.
"Go take a shower." I whispered in his ear while kissing his neck. I could feel the shivers that went down his spine. "Later, I promise."
"Are you trying to kill me?" He whispered back while staring into my eyes. I watched intently as he lowered his lips to mine for yet another mind blowing kiss. He was dangerous with that mouth of his. I lost myself in him yet again, until I felt...
"Well that was the only way to break you two up." Esme grinned, standing beside the sink, holding the sprayer like she was wielding a gun. Water was running down my neck and soaking my shirt. Edward was in even worse shape.
"Mom...I can't believe you just did that!" Edward laughed.
"Just payback. Did you really think I'd forget? Was it or was it not you who did the exact same thing to me and your dad just this past summer..."
"That was Alice."
"Was not." She shouted. "That was so you Edward Anthony Cullen. Stop trying to get me in trouble."
"No worries sweetheart. I know it was Edward. But I also know that it was you put blue dye in my shampoo last Christmas." Carlisle stated with a maniacal look on his face.
"Oh shit." Alice squeaked. "I'm so gonna have to watch my back now. Daddy, I will not look right with blue hair." She pouted.
"Yeah, well neither did I. Try explaining to the Board of Directors why you have blue hair. I felt like I was in back in high school that day."
"I think I have found my long lost family." Emmett grinned at us all. "I mean, you guys are totally awesome. My parents KNOW how I am and would still blow a gasket if I did something like that."
"Well, welcome to the family son! Hey kids, it's a boy!" Carlisle shouted.
Even though I was wet and had dough all over my hands, I couldn't have been happier. This is what family was all about.
"For real this time. Edward, you go shower. I'm sure the turkeys need to be checked. Bella, go put on some dry clothes sweetie. We need to finish these biscuits and I can't risk you getting sick."
"Sure thing." Edward and I answered at the same time.
"How cute." I heard Esme respond as we made our way upstairs. Edward squeezed my hand while smiling at me.
When we got to his room, he closed his door and then pushed me up against it.
"Do you have any idea how much I love you?" He asked.
"Well, I hope it's just as much as I love you. If not, I need to be committee because I have to be honest, I'm quite obsessed with you." I answered while pulling him down for a kiss. We, once again, got lost in one another. It was that damn intercom that interrupted up again.
"Do I need to come up there?" Jake asked in his big brother overly possessive tone. I marched over to the intercom and pushed the talk button.
"Come up here and die Jake." He just laughed at me.
"Fine...come up here and no desserts for you."
"Aw Bells, you don't play fair. That's hitting me where it hurts." He whined. Everybody else just laughed.
"Come on, go get cleaned up. No need to give them anymore chances to interrupt us." I sighed as I pushed Edward away from the door.
He grumbled the whole way to his bathroom about meddling friends and parents. I heard the shower turn on and had to force myself not to walk into the bathroom with Edward. Instead I grabbed a dry shirt and peeled the wet one off.
"You ARE trying to kill!" I turned around to find a nearly naked Edward right behind me. He had a towel wrapped around his hips and boy was it hanging low.
"I thought you were in the shower." I defended myself.
"I was getting ready to get in, but remembered you were wet. Thought you might like a towel to dry off with." He answered and held up an extra towel as proof. "But damn...I didn't expect to walk in on you half naked. And as nice as that is, I'm pissed that I can't take advantage of that fact."
"Later." I promised as I took the towel from him.
"You keep saying that...you're going to owe me quite a bit if this keeps up."
"Well I'd say we're about even right now. I mean, I may be shirtless here, but you're wearing nothing but a towel. A towel that could very easily just...slip off, with one easy tug."
"Later." He stated with his cheeky ass grin fully in place.
I stuck my tongue out at him, pulled on the dry shirt, and ran out of the room before we got ourselves into trouble. Things to do, things to do, things to do...I kept chanting in my head. I knew it was pointless when I started answering my internal thoughts with more internal thoughts...Edward, Edward, Edward. So it went a little something like this. Things to do...Edward, Things to do...Edward...yeah you can see where that isn't helping. AT ALL!
"Looking a little flushed there, Bells." Jake observed as I came back into the kitchen.
"Don't you have something better to do?" I snapped. But yeah, like usual he paid me no attention.
"And cranky too..." he muttered.
"Jake, I wasn't kidding about no dessert."
"Okay okay." He chuckled. "I got it. No more interrupting you and Eddie boy."
Esme was standing beside the stove, pouring boxes of elbow noodles into the pot for mac n cheese. She winked at me then promptly shooed the boys out of the kitchen.
"Okay men, us ladies have control of the kitchen today. Go play video games or something. Or you could always go outside and hang out with Carlisle. There's a basketball goal out there too. Go have some fun. I'll send Edward out as soon as he finishes with his shower."
"Yes ma'am." They answered in sync as they walked out of the kitchen.
"And that ladies, is how it's done." Esme smirked at us all. "Okay, now that they're out of the way, let's get started. Bella, can you finish the biscuits. Let's try to keep them out of Edward's hair this time. Alice, can you peel the potatoes? The pots on the back burners are for those. Rose, will you help her? Angela, can you peel these sweet potatoes? We baked them yesterday. I need them for the sweet potato soufflé. We've got roughly four hours before we have to leave to deliver the food."
"I still can't believe we're all up this early." Rose commented.
"Early? Bella and I have been up since 5:00am. You girls must be rookies!"
God I love Esme. She is such a character.
"Well she's right there. The holidays have never been a big deal in my family. I mean we get together but more time than not, we go out to eat." Angela told us. "You've all seen the way Emmett eats...imagine that times three. My dad and his dad eat just as much if not more. We decided years ago it was better on the pocketbook to go out to eat."
"My mom banned me from the kitchen when I was ten. I nearly burnt the house down trying to make french toast." Rose laughed. "I poured oil in the pan, don't ask me why I was using oil to make french toast, but anyway. The oil caught on fire so i grabbed a cup of water...let's just say that didn't make things any better."
We were all laughing by this point.
"Well I'm glad to have you all in my kitchen. And should anything go wrong, there's a doctor right outside." She grinned.
We turned the Christmas music up and got to work. After I finished the ten dozen biscuits...yes ten dozen, I started on the green bean casserole. It was Charlie's favorite. I swear, he would eat that and nothing else if I let him. I finished the casserole and then moved to help Alice and Rose peel potatoes. They had put a massive dent in the 25 pounds, but there were still quite a few left. Esme made the dressing, Waldorf salad, and then moved to help Angela finish the sweet potatoes.
Once the potatoes were boiling and the sweet potatoes were peeled, we did a quick clean up.
"Nice work ladies. We're ahead of schedule. Carlisle should be bringing the turkeys in shortly. He'll do all the carving. All that's left is to make the cheese sauce for the mac n cheese, the gravy, and corn on the cob. Bella will you grab the list. I want to make sure that we've made everything."
I grabbed the list and a pen.
"Let's start with the favorites. We've got cranberry orange relish for Angela, mac n cheese for Rosalie, country ham for Jasper, sweet potato soufflé for Bella, my dressing for Edward, mashed potatoes and gravy for Alice, Bella's green bean casserole for Charlie, Waldorf salad for me, and turkey for Carlisle. The boys seemed to be more interested in dessert. There's pumpkin cheesecake for Emmett, Hershey bar cake for Jake, and pecan pie for Jasper. We already made the deviled eggs, biscuits can be checked off, and the corn will be going on shortly."
"Wow, you included all of our favorites!" Rose squealed.
"Of course I did. I wanted you to all feel at home while here."
"Thank you so much Esme! I hardly ever get that relish."
"Thank Bella, she made it. Matter of fact she made quite a few of the dishes."
Carlisle and Jake brought the fried turkeys in and boy did they smell good. The rest of the guys were playing basketball and Jake quickly returned to the game. While the fried turkeys were cooling, Carlisle started carving the baked and rotisserie turkeys as well as the ham. The carving took quite a while. I made the cheese sauce for the mac n cheese while Esme finished up the mashed potatoes. Angela, Alice, and Rose washed all the corn and put the ears into boiling pots of water. The gravy was the last thing to be made. I couldn't believe how effortlessly everything came together.
Dividing the food up was the most difficult task of the past two days. The amount of food in the kitchen shocked me. I had never been a part of making such a large meal. It made me smile to think that something I helped do was going to bring smiles to peoples faces today. Around 10:15, Esme ran me upstairs to take a shower. Everyone else had already taken their turns. At first only Esme, Carlisle, Edward, Alice, and myself were going to deliver the food but our friends expressed a desire to go with us. I was in and out of the shower quickly.
We were planning to arrive at the hospital at 11:15. Esme had rented warming trays for both the hospital and the police station. She said there was no way all of our hard work would go to waste by having luke warm food. I walked out of the bathroom and found Edward sitting on his bed, waiting for me. I panicked thinking I was holding everyone up.
"I'm ready, I'm ready. Sorry, I didn't mean to take too long."
"Calm down babe. We aren't running late. We still have thirty minutes before we need to meet downstairs to leave."
I took a deep breath to calm myself down. Edward was just smiling at me, giving me that look.
"So, what are we going to do for the next thirty minutes?"
"Well why don't you join me on my nice comfy bed...and I'll show you."
And show me he did.
"Come on guys. Time to start loading up the food." I heard echo through the room.
"I really am starting to hate that intercom Edward."
He just laughed at me while attempting to fix his shirt.
"You better go brush your hair babe, or you'll never hear the end of it from Emmett."
I jumped up and ran to his bathroom. Lord was he ever right. I swear. I looked like I had been caught in a wind tunnel. Getting a brush through it was going to be impossible and I had no time to wash it again. I quickly twisted it into a knot at the base of my neck and prayed it didn't look completely awful.
"New rule. Your hands stay out of my hair if we have somewhere important to be. I'm gonna have to wash it when we get back if I have any hope of getting all the tangles and knots out anytime soon." I scolded.
He attempted to look sheepish but utterly failed. Instead he looked pretty damn cocky.
"Sorry...but I didn't hear you complaining..."
"Keep it up and we'll see who's complaining later."
"Later?" He whimpered.
"Yes...later." I walked out of his room and down the stairs. He was right on my heels.
"I'm sorry babe. I promise I'll help you fix it...later."
We were both laughing as we walked down the stairs. Esme and Carlisle were standing in the kitchen having a quiet conversation. I felt like we were intruding but they both looked up and smiled at us.
"Ready to load up the food? We need to leave soon."
"Just tell us what goes where and we're on it."
Esme took charge. We had already separated the food into boxes, depending on where it was going. With everyone's help, it took less than ten minutes for everything to be placed in the vehicles and we were ready to go. Edward and I rode with Esme and Carlisle. The others divided themselves up into two cars.
"So, what needs to be done when we get back home?" Edward asked.
"Well, we aren't eating until later in the evening but I don't want anyones appetite to be ruined by having a big lunch. So we have some finger foods and appetizers to munch on. Most of the food for our dinner is ready but there are a few finishing touches that have to be applied. I figured that if you boys were up for it, you could start dragging out the Christmas decorations."
"I think we can arrange that mom. Besides, if we get it done today, we won't have to worry about it tomorrow. Plus I'm sure Alice will want to take inventory so she can start the design." Esme and Carlisle chucked their agreement. But I was lost.
"Yeah, she designs the layout of our Christmas decorations every year. It's her thing, her contribution. She absolutely loves it."
"We have six Christmas villages that we've been collecting pieces on since the first Christmas Alice came to live with us. Each village has a different feel or theme to it. I won't get into it right now, but needless to say, she never really celebrated Christmas while she was with her biological parents. So we wanted to do something special for her. We were out shopping shortly after Thanksgiving that year when we came across a Christmas village in one of the store windows. Alice just stood there and took everything in. She was so mesmerized. It crushed me to realize that she had never spent a proper holiday with anyone. I marched right in that store and bought the entire display." Esme smiled as she remembered.
"Alice was so excited when they got home that afternoon. It wasn't a very large display but she had so much fun arranging it just right. It just grew from there. But instead of buying a particular display all at once, we let Alice pick a few pieces a year. Over the years, our collection has grown quite a bit." Carlisle beamed.
"It didn't take her long to start arranging all the Christmas decorations. I drew the line though when she tried to glue fake snow to my ceiling." Edward laughed. "She was convinced that it would just be the coolest thing...until she woke up covered in the crap. Turns out she had an allergic reaction to the stuff. Should have seen her face. She reminded me of one of those bobble head dolls...you know. Big head on a little body." Edward was full on laughing at this point.
"Wow. I bet that was something to see. I can't wait to see what she comes up with this year. There are so many places to put decorations in your house." I gushed. "I love decorating. That's one thing that Renee and I always did together. I'll miss it this year, so I'm glad that your family gets into the spirit."
"Well you can help all you want, but you have to promise me that you will take time to relax and rest while you are here. I gave your mother my word that I would see to it that you took care of yourself while you're here."
"I promise Esme. Plus, I've already promised Edward that the only thing I would do tomorrow is help decorate. I do have a favor to ask though..."
"Well, I was hoping to sneak over to Charlie's sometime while I'm home and put his tree up for him. He hasn't bothered with it for years but I just feel like he'd appreciate it this year. He'll actually have friends and family in Forks."
"We can most certainly do that. Maybe we can go over on Saturday before going to La Push."
"Thanks so much Esme! I just hope he hasn't gotten rid of his old decorations."
"No worries, we have plenty. Just pick a theme and the box is yours." Esme offered. Again, Edward had to explain to me.
"Alice likes to have a theme every year, so we have quite a few boxes of unused ornaments. There will be plenty of choices for Charlie's tree." He smiled.
I felt such peace and contentment wash over me. My life had been such a roller coaster for the past two years. In the beginning I couldn't even tell you simple things...like what day it was. Sometimes I didn't even remember the month. I never would have wagered that my life would have completely turned around in such a short amount of time. This Thanksgiving was the complete opposite of my last.
Last year I couldn't help but think of everything that I had lost, of the things that would never be again, the tragedy the befell Elizabeth, the injustice that Katie faced. The complete and total unfairness of the entire fucked up situation. I sat in a pitch black room all day, refusing to be thankful for anything. I wasn't even thankful for my life.
Yeah...this year things were drastically different.
"What are you thinking about so hard?" Edward whispered in my ear.
"Huh? Oh, I'm sorry."
"No apologies needed. Just...are you okay?"
"I'm perfect. Just thinking about the difference a year can make." I kissed him softly as we pulled into the hospital parking lot. He squeezed me to him.
"I love you."
"I love you too Edward."
I noticed we had an audience and blushed, of course.
"Come on you two love birds. We've got a hungry mob waiting for us." Carlisle laughed. "I've heard rumors that some of the staff volunteered to work the morning/early afternoon shift just because someone was bringing food. We don't want to disappoint."
The others pulled up just as we were opening the car doors.
"Okay, I'm going to run in and make sure the warming trays are all set up. You kids start bringing the food in please. Bella, can you help me inside?"
"Sure no problem."
I followed her into the hospital and into a room that was set up with tables and chairs. There were just enough warming trays to accommodate the massive amounts of food that we brought. Carlisle was the first to join us, quickly followed by Emmett and Jake, who were both, to no ones surprise, carrying the desserts. I quickly started unloading the boxes and arranging the desserts. Esme was arranging the warmers under the trays and then quickly started filling the trays with food.
In no time at all, everything was set up. My mouth was watering. The food looked delicious.
"Oh mom, Bella. This looks fabulous. I cannot wait until supper time." Alice drooled.
"Me too." Emmett whined. "Do you know how many times I've been tempted to taste test, well...everything? I hope you two made enough for us tonight." He grinned.
"Don't worry. Bella warned me about how you boys eat. We are well more than prepared."
We quickly unloaded all the food, said a quick Happy Thanksgiving to the extremely appreciative staff and then headed to the police station.
Charlie was outside waiting with a few of his deputies when we arrived.
"Hey kiddo." He said while pulling me into a hug and placing a kiss on my head.
"Did you hide...well everything?" I asked. "You know how Emmett is."
"No worries. I assigned Sam here to watch over Em while you guys are in the building." I followed his gaze to the person in question.
"Sam?" I nearly squealed, sounding too much like Alice.
"You bet Bells!" He grinned. I ran over to him and threw my arms around his neck.
"Sorry I missed your last visit. Emily and I were at the Makah reservation visiting her family. Wedding plans are in full swing and everyone wants their say." He laughed.
"Well it's about damn time you two made it official." Jake stated as he walked over to us. "Good to see you." They did the man hug before continuing.
"Well Emily has finally put her foot down and insisted she make an honest man of me."
"When's the wedding?" I asked excitedly.
"June. You better be there." He demanded.
"Well you're in luck, because it just so happens that I'm planning to spend the summer in Forks with my dad." I beamed glancing behind me to see my dad smiling...and everyone else looking curious.
"I'm so sorry guys." I apologized to the group. "I haven't seen Sam in years. Got a little excited." I smiled sheepishly.
"No problem baby girl. I knew you'd be excited to see Sam. He joined the force not too long ago. I wanted to surprise you."
I made quick introductions with promises to elaborate more once all the food was set up inside. We followed the same routine from the hospital and in no time everything was ready to be served. My dad and Sam followed us back to the parking lot and I took a few minutes to acquaint everyone.
"Sam used to babysit me and Bells when we were younger. We always looked up to him as our big brother. He was extremely protective over both of us but especially Bella. She always called him her protector when we were kids. Kinda funny considering the tribal legends." Jake supplied while I glared at the two of them.
"Well you were exceptionally accident prone. Somebody had to keep you safe...even if it was nearly impossible." Sam teased.
"I still have the stuffed black wolf you gave me when mom and I left for Phoenix." I smiled while Sam grinned back at me.
"I had to send some sort of reminder of me when you moved. Thought a wolf was pretty appropriate."
My friends looked confused and Jake promised to tell them the legends when we had some free time. Sam promised that he and Emily would be at the bonfire on Saturday before saying his goodbyes and making his way inside to eat.
"Well kiddo I need to get in there and supervise."
"Yeah right dad. You aren't fooling anyone. You just want to go eat before your deputies eat it all."
"You caught me. Thanks again Esme. This was so extremely generous of you to do."
"Don't thank just me. Bella did quite a bit of work as well. Me and her make a great team."
"We really appreciate it. Hope you and Carlisle don't mind if I swing by after my shift tonight. Maybe I can join you for dessert."
"We'd love to have you Charlie. I've got some Vitamin R in the refrigerator with your name on it." Carlisle promised.
Charlie gave me a big hug before returning inside.
"Come on kids. We've got things to do." Esme rounded up the troops. "Quick meeting when we get to the house and then you are all on your own until supper time."
The drive back to the Cullen's home was filled with laughter and singing. I couldn't stop smiling. I was having such a wonderful time. Thanksgiving had barely started and I already was aching to spend Christmas with this family as well. Just thinking of spending Christmas and New Year's with my most favorite people in the world made me giggle.
"What are you thinking about this time?" Edward grinned at me.
"Sorry, just thinking about how much fun the holidays are going to be. Christmas is just going to be one big laugh fest. I still can't believe we are all getting together here in Forks and then going to Hawaii together. Still blows my mind."
"Me too! I can't wait."
"Us either." Carlisle chimed in from the front seat. "Esme and I are excited about hosting. We always wanted a big family so nothing could make us happier. Hawaii is just the topping on an already delicious cake."
It was a bit heartbreaking knowing that these two wonderful people were never able to have children of their own. They were two of the kindest, most generous, and loving people I had ever known. I once again felt myself giving a silent thank you that Edward had them. Alice too. The world would be a much happier and better place if there were more people like Esme and Carlisle.
Everyone piled out of the cars once we arrived back at the house and Emmett immediately started tossing a football in the air.
"Meeting first, free time second."
"Ohhh, come on mom..." Emmett whined while playing the mom card.
"Don't make me come over there." She scolded while shooting him a wink.
We were all laughing at their antics as we filed into the living room.
"Okay, so we have a few hours before it's supper time. Bella and I made lots of appetizers and snacks so we aren't fixing lunch today but there's food to hold you over until it's supper time. Just don't spoil your appetite! Now, I need you boys to help gather up the Christmas decorations and put them in the game room so we can start sorting them out later tonight. Bella, I want you to pick a box to take over to your dad's. With all of us pitching in, it shouldn't take long to have his place looking like Christmas."
"Thanks, I really appreciate that. I don't know how long it's been since he actually put a tree up."
"No worries. We'll make sure it's spectacular!" Alice promised.
All the guys followed Alice to the attic and immediately started filling up the game room. Esme moved into the kitchen and I followed.
"Anything you need help with?" I asked.
"Not at the moment. I'm going to relax a bit. Want some hot chocolate?"
We fixed enough for everyone to have a cup. It didn't take long before the game room was filled with storage containers. Alice was already sitting in the middle of them all, looking like she was going to explode with excitement. Esme and I handed out hot chocolate and then she left to find Carlisle.
"Bella, I have the perfect decorations to take over to your dad's house. See?"
It was beyond perfect for Charlie.
"Alice, why in the world do you have this?" I asked, full of wonder and amusement.
"Believe it or not, Carlisle actually really enjoys fishing. Probably one of the reasons he and your dad get along so well. Anyway, one year we all decided that he needed his own Christmas tree in his study. He was consulting on a pretty big case at the time and if he wasn't at the hospital, he was cooped up in his study doing research and reading over medical reports. Edward and I felt bad that he wasn't getting to enjoy the Christmas decorations in the house, so we brought the decorations to him. Think Charlie will like them?"
"Without a doubt." I answered as I gazed at all the fishing themed ornaments and decorations that filled the box she was peering in to.
Angela and Rose were just as excited about opening the boxes as Alice. It made me smile to see how much fun my friends were having.
"This is incredible Alice. I mean, we decorate a little at Christmas but it's nothing like this. Just a tiny tree with a few ornaments. I cannot wait to help you out." Angela was saying.
"I know what you mean. Mom and I are too afraid to put too much effort into decorating. Too many oversized boys to deal with. We tried it once and nearly everything we set up was broken two weeks before Christmas. We decided it was too much wasted time and effort to do it again." Rose told us. Her family sounded large and rambunctious.
"What about you Bella?" Before I could answer, Jake started speaking.
"Oh, we had a blast decorating. One thing that you could always count on was Renee being even more excited than us kids." Jake chimed in as he brought in one more box.
"Of course, she got grand ideas in her head...and they always ended up just terrible. Bella was always left to fix it or clean it up."
"What do you mean?" Edward asked.
"Two words...sugar snow!" Jake laughed and I groaned.
"Oh my god! That was just horrible. Renee got the idea that she wanted to set up a small Christmas village in our bay window. It had a window seat. She refused to use cotton as snow, wouldn't dream of using that white craft sand that sparkles, never even thought of using fake snow. Nope, she decided she'd use sugar...and mixed different colored glitter in with it. So let's forget for a moment the fact that sugar is extremely sticky, messy, and hard to clean up. Let's focus on the center piece she picked out. She decides to buy a village that had a working fountain, you know in the middle of the town square. Anyway, she didn't wait for me to get home to help set it up. Decided she could do it all herself. Well Renee has a problem with fully reading directions. She skims..very briefly, and then does it the way she thinks it should be done."
By this time Jake was already cracking up, remembering how this story ended.
"She did get everything set up and in place and it looked really nice, well from what I gathered from the pictures... anyway, it was really pretty until she turned the fountain on and lit a few candles to enhance the mood, as she proudly told me."
"When I got home from practice that day, I smelled something horrible. Renee, not noticing, started gushing about her Christmas village. She ushered me into the living room and I nearly had a heart attack. The water from the fountain had overflowed, she forgot to pull a piece from the hose that allowed the water to circulate, so it just filled up the the fountain and proceeded to turn the sugar that she used as snow into syrup. The candles she used were little tea lights and they weren't in any sort of candle holder...so they melted down, causing some of the sugar to burn. Ironically enough, the village she bought included a fire station...yep, it was just starting to catch on fire when I walked in."
"It took me forever to clean up the burnt and sticky sugar. It ruined the window seat. We had to have it replaced. She's lucky the house didn't catch on fire."
Everyone was enjoying a good laugh at Renee's expense. Jake then told about the time she decided to revolt against the commercialization of Christmas. He started the story but I finished it.
"She decided she wasn't going to play into any part of it. Except the eggnog. It just happened to be that she'd had a bit too much of her 'special recipe' eggnog when she came up with the bright idea. I woke up the next morning to the entire house decorated for Halloween. Don't ask me how it gets more commercial than Halloween, but in her mind, it made perfect sense. She had orange and purple lights strung everywhere, spider webs in the bushes and trees. She even managed to have pumpkins on the porch. I have no idea where she found the stuff or how she managed to decorate all by herself, but she did."
"Damn Bella, how did you turn out so normal?" Emmett asked between catching his breath.
"I don't have the slightest clue." I answered truthfully. "I guess I've always had a lot of Charlie in me. Plus Jake, Elizabeth, and Katie grounded me. Billy was there too. He always talked me down when it got to be too much to handle. But I can honestly say that I can top any story as long as Renee was and is involved." I laughed.
"You guys just wait until Christmas and Hawaii. But do not and I repeat...DO NOT try her special brownies. Charlie could arrest you if you did." Jake told them seriously.
"I have no comment other than I did not teach her that recipe." I defended. "I've never asked her where she got the recipe. I was scared that I could be charged as an accomplice."
By this time Carlisle and Esme had joined us and were joining in with all the laughter.
"Oh I can't wait to talk to Renee." Esme giggled.
"Well she'll have even more stories to tell you. Just ask her about her little foray into healing beads..."
"Oh dear." I heard Carlisle murmur. "That should be quite enlightening."
"Well yeah, as long as she doesn't try that shit on you." Jake grumbled while frowning, causing everyone to lose it again.
"You think I'm playing. I'm surprised I survived that phase. She was just discovering the power of the beads around the same time I inherited a bit of Bella's clumsiness. For a while there, it seemed that me and Bells were going head to head on injuries."
"I had forgotten that the two coincided. Seriously, you guys have no clue what poor Jake went through. He was such a trooper though. He wouldn't let Renee try any of that crap on me. He told her that she had to go through him first. Needless to say...I never experienced the beads."
"But it didn't take just one failed attempt to stop Renee. Oh no, she had different beads for different occasions and if that wasn't enough, there were different methods for applying and starting the so called healing. Took her roughly seven months to figure out it was a load of hog wash." Jake continued.
"She wrapped, pressed, draped, dragged, and dangled those beads over every cut, scrape, sprain, and sore spot I had. She even tried to get me to stuff a whole strand of them in my mouth when I got a cold. It was horrible."
By this time no one was able to hold back their tears of laughter.
"I think what finally did it for her was when I fractured my ankle. I was trying to learn how to skate board. I was doing really well and had managed to learn a few tricks. I was doing a simple kick flip when my board hit a rock, causing me to complete wipe out. My ankle was the victim of that fall. The doctor ended up putting me in a stabilizing boot versus a plaster cast. This was during the summer and I ended up staying with Bella and Renee for the first few nights. My dad was afraid that I'd need something and not be able to help me out."
"Jake woke me up screaming like a baby around 3:30 one morning. I rolled over to find Renee standing over him."
"She had managed to take off the boot and was wrapping those damn beads around my ankle while chanting. She jerked on the beads and I thought I was going to die."
"How did you manage to sleep through her taking the boot off?" Emmett asked.
"I was knocked out on pain killers. I'm typically a hard sleeper anyhow, but put me on pain killers and it's like trying to wake the dead."
"So how did that stop her bead healing attempts?" Angela piped in.
"Well when she jerked the beads that were wrapped around my ankle, the pain woke me up and on instinct...I kicked. To this day I'm still not sure what I hit, but I ended up in a plaster cast after that. The harsh impact of whatever I hit caused the fracture to become worse. My ankle still wasn't technically broken but close enough. The doctor decided that a cast was my best option. He also spent a good hour lecturing Renee on her attempts at alternative healing. Told her the next time she got a wild hair up her butt, to try it on herself and not someone who was truly injured."
Carlisle could do nothing but shake his head at my mother's absolute nonsensical behavior.
"But don't get me wrong. I love Renee. She is the closest thing to a mother I have. She might be flighty, crazy, and childish at times but I wouldn't give her up for anything. She certainly has made life interesting." Jake chuckled. I couldn't help but smile at his admission.
We spent the next hour going through all the boxes of Christmas decorations. After picking out what we were going to take to Charlie's, Alice started planning. She was really in her element. She took a bit of time to walk around the house, plotting where each decoration would work best. After she decided where things were going to go on the inside, she ventured outside. After walking around the property she declared that they would definitely need more lights and bows. She and Esme started making a list of things that needed to be picked up tomorrow while we were out getting the trees...yes as in many.
Edward and I decided to take a few minutes to ourselves and ventured to his piano. Together we played a few Christmas carols. Esme and Carlisle were floating in and out of the room singing to the songs we were playing. I finally decided I really did want to lay down, even if I didn't take a nap, I needed to rest.
"Edward, I'm going to go lay down for a bit."
He immediately closed the lid over the keys and stood up.
"You can stay here and play. I don't want you to feel like you have to join me."
"Are you crazy? I want nothing more than to steal a few minutes away with you."
By this time he was practically dragging me up the stairs to his bedroom. We passed Esme on the way up and she promised she'd let me know when she needed my help.
Once in Edward's room, both he and I got comfortable. He pulled on a pair of sweats and I slipped on one of his t-shirts. I crawled under the covers and he quickly joined me, covering my face in kisses.
"Hi." He said.
"Hi." I responded and kissed him. We didn't take things any further but I was okay with that. Just being wrapped up in his arms was enough.
"This is nice, just laying here with you. No distractions and no disturbances."
"I know. I can't tell you how happy I am that my family loves you so much, but I'm a selfish creature and I've missed you. I'm warning you now that I'm going to steal you away at some point before we have to go back to school."
"I'm perfectly okay with that. I have a feeling that once we get back to Seattle, things are going to be a bit crazy. Between studying for finals, practicing for the Winter Concert, and getting ready for Christmas and our trip, I'm already tired just thinking about it."
"But just think. We get to relax in Hawaii for two weeks. Sun, sand, clear blue water, lots of fun...plus I get to see you in a bathing suit. I will gladly suffer through finals, practices, and chaos to get that prize." He smiled.
"Yeah, I think I can too." I said while propping myself up on my elbow. I crawled on top of him and began kissing him in earnest. "I love you Edward."
He moaned as I deepened the kiss and he returned it with equal ferocity. We finally broke apart when our bodies were screaming for air.
"I love you too Bella. More than I can tell you."
I snuggled into his chest while he ran his hand up and down my back. It didn't take long for me to drift into a light sleep.
"Esme, it looks wonderful in here." I exclaimed as I made my way into the dining room. Edward and I slept for about an hour before Esme called up to us. I quickly dressed and rushed down stairs. Edward was a bit more sluggish and decided to take a shower to help him wake up.
"Thank you dear."
"You didn't take your own advice and rest." I mock scolded.
"Actually I did. Carlisle did this."
"Wow, I'm impressed!"
"Let's put the finishing touches on everything and then you and I can get ready."
"That sounds great!"
We spent the next 45 minutes plating the food and warming what needed warming. Carlisle was busy carving the remaining turkeys and Alice was filling the glasses with ice. When every thing was as ready as we could get it, Esme and I quickly changed into our dinner clothes. Everyone was gathering in the dining room when I came down the stairs. Carlisle was lighting the candles that Alice has placed on the table and around the room. It was a breath taking scene. As formal and elegant as everything looked, the atmosphere was still warm and welcoming.
"This looks great!" Rosalie exclaimed as she glanced over all the food that we had prepared.
"I don't even know where to start." Jake whispered in awe. "There's so much to choose from."
"Is that...country ham?" Jasper asked almost shyly. I was actually surprised no one had mentioned it to him yet.
"It sure is! I hope I got it right." Esme answered, sounding a bit worried. "I've never had country ham so I wasn't quite sure what I needed to get. Bella and I did some research and decided on a Virginia Country Ham. I ordered two so you could take some back to school with you."
Jasper's smile said it all. "Thank you ma'am."
"We tried to make sure that everyone had at least one of their favorites on the table. Don't worry, the pumpkin cheese cake, pecan pie, and Hershey bar cake are in the kitchen
"You made pecan pie too? I don't think I'm ever gonna want to leave." Jasper drawled.
"Tell me about it. Ang, call the family and tell them I ran away or something." Emmett laughed. "Because I'm with Jasper."
We all laughed at Em as he patted his belly and nearly started to drool.
"Okay, well I know we are all hungry but I just wanted to take the opportunity to tell you all how happy Esme and I are to have each of you joining us for this holiday. We couldn't be more grateful that Alice and Edward have made such good friends. And it's no secret how ecstatic we are that Edward found Bella and Alice found Jasper. You two have made our children very happy."
"We hope that we will have many more chances in the future to have such gatherings as this one, with all of you. I know we've only know you all for a short time, but Carlisle and I already think of you as family. We always wanted a house full of children and it looks like we've finally gotten that wish." Esme smiled beautifully at all of us.
"This family has a tradition that we want to share with everyone and give each of you the opportunity to participate if you so choose. After dinner during dessert, we like to share what we are most thankful for. So while we are enjoying the delicious meal that has been prepared, be thinking about what that is to you." Carlisle finished with a short prayer of thanks and then we all loaded up our plates.
I only got a small spoonful of everything and I still didn't have enough room.
"Ohhh...y...osh...la." I heard Rose mumbled around a mouthful of food. I don't think I've ever seen her look so much like...well Emmett. She was shoveling the food in just as fast as he was. She swallowed the mouthful that she was attempting to talk around and then gave us a sheepish smile.
"Sorry, that wasn't very lady like. Guess Em's rubbing off on me. Bella, Esme, this is an incredible meal. And this is by far the best mac n cheese I've ever had."
"Just wait until Christmas dinner. That's where Esme really shines." Carlisle bragged.
"And this year she'll have Bella in the kitchen with her too. We may cause the plane to exceed it's weight limitations." Jake chuckled.
"Jasper, how is the ham? Did we pick the right one?" I asked, keeping my fingers crossed that we had succeeded.
By the looks of it, we had indeed succeeded. He has a piece of ham in his hand, a bite on his fork, and a bite in his mouth. He just nodded his head and kept on eating.
I was enjoying the food immensely. The turkey was amazing. Especially the fried turkey.
"Carlisle and Edward, this fried turkey is out of this world. Great job!"
Esme and I received multiple compliments throughout the meal. Edward kept looking at me and smiling. He finally leaned over to whisper in my ear.
"I love you. Thank you so much for spending Thanksgiving with me and my family." He kissed my cheek and then returned to his plate of food...his second one. I think Em and Jake were on their third. And I was positive that Jasper had eaten at least half a ham by this point.
Conversation flowed throughout dinner, mostly centered on school, finals, the Winter concert and the upcoming vacation/wedding. There was quite a bit of food left after everyone finally laid their forks down. I was in shock at how much food Jake and Em ate. But Angela surprised me too. I'd never seen her put away so much food. She just grinned at me.
After everyone was finished eating, the guys took care of clearing off the table. The girls worked on putting the leftovers away. No doubt we'd be feasting on those for the next few days...and happily might I add. With the exception of Emmett, everyone was too full to start on dessert, so we decided to lounge in the living room for a little while and let our food digest.
"Well since our eyes were obviously bigger than our stomachs, for most of us, what do you guys think about sharing what we are thankful for now?" Carlisle inquired. "We can get dessert afterwards."
"I think that's an excellent idea dear!"
Everyone was getting comfortable...for Emmett that meant unbuttoning his pants. Rose just shook her head at him but smiled. Edward and I curled up together in the oversized chair that I was threatening to take back to school with me. Jake plopped down on the floor and groaned a bit while holding his stomach.
"Why didn't you stop me?" He looked at me with pitiful eyes.
"Yeah right. The last time I attempted to do that, you almost stabbed me with a fork. Suck it up." I stuck my tongue out at him. Angela sat down beside him and started rubbing his belly. I swear I thought he was going to start kicking his leg like a dog. I was so happy that my best friend had finally found someone to make him happy. I was even more grateful that she didn't have a problem with our friendship.
Christmas music played softly in the background and there was a fire burning in the fireplace. I was surrounded by friends and wrapped in the arms of the man I loved. This was almost perfect. I soaked in all the good vibes that were flowing around the room and marveled at just how much my life had changed in two years. I had a lot to be thankful and grateful for. Carlisle took the lead once again.
"Again, I just want to express how thrilled Esme and I are to have you all in our home. You are all welcome here anytime, even if Edward and Alice aren't with you. I know that most of you are far from home and we would be honored if you would treat this like your home away from home. Esme and I are here for you if you ever should need us. We'd also like to extend the Cullen 'Get Out of Jail Free' card. If there is ever a time that you need help but can't or won't divulge the circumstances...call Esme or myself. You get one freebie. Alice and Edward can vouch for this." Carlisle smiled.
"Hell yeah Poppa C." Em yelled in reply. "You guys rock. Can you adopt me? Like, for real?"
"I'm sure your parents wouldn't put up a fight." Angela deadpanned. "They'd probably be grateful to get you off their hands." I couldn't hold back the laugh at the wounded look on Em's face. She just stuck her tongue out at him while he flipped her off.
"Now children..." Esme interjected, attempting to get everyone back on course while fighting a smile.
"Sorry Mama Esme." Em sulked. We all laughed while Esme beamed at the most recent term of endearment.
"If no one objects, I'd like to take my turn first."
"By all means dear. You have the floor." Carlisle grinned at his wife.
"As always, I'm so thankful for my wonderful family. I have an amazing husband who just happens to be an amazing father and he is also an exceptional doctor. My children are the light of my world and I wouldn't be who I am today without them. They are caring, compassionate, and have a strength about them that I am so proud of." She smiled at her family.
"We started this tradition the first Thanksgiving that Edward was officially with us, as our son. It was a difficult adjustment period for all of us as you can imagine. Edward was so young and had suffered greatly. We wanted him to feel like a real part of our family and not as if he were only an obligation. Once Alice joined us, we knew we needed to keep the tradition alive. Of course, on her first Thanksgiving with us, she spent twenty minutes telling us ALL the things she was thankful for." I couldn't help but laugh at the image of a young Alice bouncing in her chair, talking without taking a breath.
"Hey, I had a lot to be thankful for and I wanted to express it." She defended herself. I didn't know how much of her past that the others knew, but I knew and I could completely understand Alice's excitement and gratefulness for having a real home with a loving family.
"This Thanksgiving feels a lot like those first ones that we spent with Alice and Edward; full of anticipation and excitement. The past year or so has seen this family go through many trials. Although it was Edward who was most directly affected, our entire family felt his hurt and suffered our own as well. There were times that I was scared to death that I'd never see his smile, hear his laugh, or see the twinkle in his eyes ever again. It took a long while, but Edward finally started to heal but he wasn't the same. Sometimes I worried that he would never fully recover." She wiped tears from her eyes.
"We all tried to be there for Edward as much as he would allow, but there was a part of him that none of us were able to heal. But that all changed in August." Esme smiled at me and I blushed.
"Both of my children had life altering experiences when the school year started. Which leads me to what I'm most thankful for. While each of you have had such a wonderful and positive impact on my children and through them Carlisle and myself, Bella is who I am most thankful for this year."
"She befriended Alice in a way that no one ever has. I could tell that Bella was someone special the day she moved into the dorm. Alice called me to tell me that Bella was just as sweet and nice as her phone calls and emails had lead us to believe. I could hear the excitement in Alice's voice that is still there every time she speaks about Bella." Alice smiled at me while agreeing with Esme.
"Imagine my surprise when Edward let it slip that he had met someone. I was so relieved yet so worried what the outcome might be. So you can understand my complete and utter shock when that someone turned out to be Bella...Alice's Bella!" Everyone laughed, remembering the craziness that surrounded our first trip to Forks. I don't think we'll ever live down the whole 'Anthony Marie' debacle.
"Even before Bella and Edward figured out the truth behind Anthony and Marie, I could tell that something good was going on in Edward's life. For one, he started composing agin. I could hear a subtle relief in his voice when we talked on the phone. Even with everything that happened when they came face to face and realized the truth, I could see that a weight was being lifted from Edward's shoulders. After Bella and Edward talked things through, well the change was damn near miraculous."
"I am so grateful to have my son back and I know that I have Bella to thank for that. Before he met you Bella, he was getting better, but I don't know that he would have ever been whole again. You gave that to him and in turn gave him back to us. So thank you." I couldn't really say anything..I was trying to hard not to become a sobbing mess.
"I also want to say how thankful I am that both Edward and Alice have made such amazing friends. You guys have been there for our children and given them the friendships that they always craved but never were quite able to achieve. It is my greatest wish and desire that twenty years from now, even if the romantic relationships don't survive, that your friendships will still be intact and that you are all still nurturing and growing those relationships."
"But just so you know...Jasper, Bella. We approve whole heartedly." Carlisle laughed while Esme agreed.
Edward was being quite still and quiet during this whole time and I was starting to worry. I wanted to talk to him but Carlisle stopped me before I could.
"As always, I'm most thankful for my family. Esme, Alice, and Edward have made life worth living. They have given me the opportunity to be a husband and a father and I only hope that I have shown them the love and support that they have always shown me."
Edward and Alice both smiled at Carlisle while Esme gave him a big kiss.
"We love you too sweetheart. And we are so proud of you." She whispered. He cleared his throat before continuing.
"I just want to say that I agree with Esme. I feel that each of you have made a profound impact on both Edward and Alice. I'm more grateful than I could ever express that they have made such great friends. Again, I want to echo Esme's thoughts and feelings on how important Bella has become to us. Jasper as well. No pressure, but nothing could make us more proud or happier than to one day welcome the both of you to our family...in a more permanent way." He smiled, making both Jasper and I blush.
"I am also most grateful for the job opportunity I was given here in Forks. Edward and Alice would have met each of you regardless but I would have been left lacking. By moving to Forks I was given the great opportunity of meeting Charlie. Even if he isn't here to hear this, I still need to say it. He has done for me what you all have done for my children. He has offered me a genuine friendship. Not one based on the success of my career, or what I can do for you, or the opportunities my wealth can bring about. He offered his friendship, pure and simple. For once, somebody actually took the time to ask if there was anything that they could do for me. I feel blessed that I was given the chance to meet Charlie Swan. The fact that he is Bella's dad only makes it that much better. And Jake, I just want you to know that I'm quite anxious to get to know your father. I have a feeling that the three of us will have many chances to get in trouble together." Carlisle grinned, making him look like a mischievous teenager.
"I'm sure of that. Charlie and my dad got into plenty of trouble when they were younger. So much so, my Aunt always had the spare bedroom ready and waiting for them. Renee was more forgiving than my mom was but I can't tell you how many times one or both of them ended up crashing at my Aunt's place. Some of the stories I've heard about those two...But let me give you a word of advice...don't ever let my dad talk you into seeing a wolf howling at the moon." He chuckled.
"OH MY GOD! How could I have ever forgotten about that!" I screeched through barely contained laughter. "I should also warn you about Charlie and his hidden handcuffs. Just don't...if he asks...actually you don't want to know..."
"Yes...we do." Came the consensus from our friends. Carlisle the most eager.
"Don't say we didn't warn you." I reminded them all. I let Jake tell the story because quite honestly, I knew I would never get through it...the mental images alone, well it was just better for Jake to tell the story.
"I think it's pretty safe to say that our dad's are quite thankful that Bells and I didn't take after them in their youth. I'm also certain that Charlie has used his position of power to make sure none of their youthful indiscretions ever turn up. The gave our grandparents grey hair way before they were due and I'm sure they caused premature wrinkling for both our moms. Even as grown men they tend to forget that they aren't teenagers anymore. You'll have to pry those stories out of them yourself, Carlisle. But I'll give you this one freebie.
"One weekend, my dad and Charlie went ice fishing. Bells and I couldn't have been much more than two or three. Anyhow, Charlie and Billy are always betting on something. Doesn't matter how big or small...and they rarely bet money. The wagers are usually based on masculine pride...testing nerves, or proving who is more worthy..."
"So they were gone on a weekend fishing trip and according to our moms...the taunting and betting started before they could even get in the car. Ice fishing for those two is more or less a game to see who can consume the most alcohol. They claim that the alcohol helps keep them warm thus keeping them from catching cold, in turn keeping them healthy." Jake rolled his eyes while Carlisle nodded in agreement.
"Oh dear lord..." Esme exclaimed. "I can already tell that you will be getting into trouble." She smiled indulgently as she gestured for Jake to continue.
"Anyway, no one really knows what the bet was, those two don't even remember, but when they came home, they had both acquired a tattoo and a the beginnings of frost bite...on their back sides. My dad's is a wolf howling at the moon. Use your imagination if you must. Charlie's is a pair of handcuffs...one on each cheek. The consequences of losing the bet was a tattoo...however, by the time they made it to the tattoo parlor, neither could remember who had actually lost. So they both pretty much said 'screw it' and decided to both go for it. As for the near frost bite...well lets just say, they had a difficult time sitting down for quite a while after they got home."
"Dad...maybe you should limit the time you spend with Charlie and Billy." Alice laughed.
"Are you serious? I think it's wonderful!" Esme spoke. "Carlisle needs to have some fun once in a while. I'll even keep bail money handy. Just try to keep the frost bite on the cheeks to a minimum please." She laughed.
"Again...can you adopt me?" Em asked. "You all have the coolest parents ever! Actually no need to adopt me, I think I'll just bounce around from house to house."
After calming down, we continued with what we were thankful for. Emmett decided he wanted his turn.
"Well I'm thankful for Bella's cooking." He smile at me and then looked around the room.
"Is that ALL you're thankful for Emmett?" Rose asked cocking her eyebrow. He grinned at her, letting us know he was playing with her.
"Well...I didn't figure you'd want me to tell them how thankful I am for that thing you can do with you..."
It didn't take a genius to figure out what was coming next. Em even knew he was in for it, and ducked just in time.
"Just playing babe." He said while giving her his dimply grin. "I'm always telling myself how lucky I am to have you. I'm grateful you gave me the time of day, well everyday. I'm also feeling pretty lucky that I've met such wonderful people these last few months. I've had the 'college experiences' that people always talk about but I'm glad to be sharing them with people that I know will be a part of my life long after I get my diploma. Seems like Bella and Jake moving to Seattle was the catalyst for a lot of great things." He smiled at us. "Jasper, Edward, and Alice have given me friendships that I have always wanted and needed. Bells is the little sister I always wanted and Jake is my brother from another mother." He once again shot us his dimpled smile.
"I have to agree with Em on that one...boy would my mom have had her hands full with the two of us. Someone knew what they were doing by separating us while going through adolescents." Jake laughed.
"Good grief. Just thinking about having to put up with the two of you...I'm getting a headache just imagining it." I added.
"Lucky for you, you don't have to imagine it. You get to live it!" Emmett reminded me with a great burst of laughter.
"Yeah but at least now the two of you do have a little training and know when to behave...for the most part." I replied.
"Just wait until they are let lose on the unsuspecting people of Hawaii." Rose chimed in.
"Carlisle...you may want to take a few tranquilizers...I'm worried we may get kicked off the island otherwise."
"Angela! I'm shocked." Jake shrieked.
"What? I know the two of you...better pack double Dr. C."
We were all laughing at the exchange. It was so good to see Angela opening up and becoming more comfortable with the group. Out of all of us, she was the most shy and reserved. But what few realized was just how witty and sarcastic she could be. We were the lucky few that really got to see her true self. I was looking forward to our time in Hawaii.
Things were quieting down when Jasper cleared his throat. I could tell that he was slightly uncomfortable but he had such a determined look on his face that I knew it was important to him to say what was on his mind. Alice looked at him and gave him a reassuring smile before he continued.
"I just want to thank you, Carlisle and Esme, for including me and welcoming me so warmly into your home and lives. I also want to thank each of you, for accepting me so easily and allowing me the honor of getting to know each of you."
He swallowed hard before speaking again.
"Most of you don't know this, but I'm not very close with my family. I'll spare you the sob stories, the end result is the same whether I divulge the details or not. I will tell you that this is the first time I've not been alone for the holidays since I moved to Seattle. I haven't been home since I made the initial move. That's my choice but I've never even been asked if I was coming home. Before I started college, my holidays were spent pretty much the same way, alone. That however, was not by my choice."
I couldn't help the few tears that escaped. I knew that Jasper had issues with his family, but I didn't know the extent of them. I made up my mind that I would talk to him privately over the next few days, just to let him know I was willing to listen if he needed to talk. After all, he had been a shoulder for me quite a bit recently.
"I feel very grateful that I have been included and welcomed into such a large and loving family, because although the majority of us have no blood ties, this is a family. This is the type of family I always wanted but never imagined I would ever get to be a part of. The world works in mysterious ways. I don't know if any of you but Alice and Edward know this, but Edward and I weren't supposed to be roommates. It just so happened, my original roommate and Edward's original roommate are best friends. I was asked if I would mind switching rooms. I saw no harm in switching so I agreed. Turns out, it was the best decision of my life, so far."
"It lead me to meeting Edward, which lead me to meeting my Alice. She gives me a reason to smile and laugh each day, something that my life was mostly lacking. Through Edward and Alice I was given the pleasure of meeting the rest of the gang. I have learned so much from each of you. Strength, courage, compassion, sacrifice, determination, and love. I feel like I have a real purpose in life now. Each of you make me want to succeed and be better. So thank you, all of you, for making my life better." He smiled at each of us before kissing Alice on the head. All the girls were sniffing and all the guys were pointedly not looking at anyone.
Esme regained her composure first.
"Jasper, I'm so sorry for whatever it is that you have gone through but rest assured, I am so glad that you are now a part of our family. No matter what, you will always remain that way. If there is ever anything you need, please don't hesitate to lean on Carlisle and myself. That goes for all of you children." She beamed.
"Well I for one, will gladly take you up on that offer." Angela smiled. "I never thought I'd ever be grateful for having such uninvolved parents, but this year, well I am. My parents love me but we've always sort of done our own thing. Even holidays tend to be, well pretty bland. You've all allowed me and Em to see what a real holiday spent with family is like. Don't get me wrong, I love my family, but we've never done anything traditional. Our family is loud, proud, and in charge. Anytime we get together...either the police get called or we end up in the ER." She and Em laughed together.
"Sounds like you two could entertain us with some stories of your own." Alice hinted.
"You have no idea. Some of the stuff our family gets into...well it's a miracle Em and I are so normal. God, I love them. But I can honestly say that I am enjoying spending this holiday away from home. You can only take so much craziness before you need a break."
"So, as unconventional and cold as it may sounds, that's one of the things I'm most thankful for this year...uninvolved parents. Because of that, I have been able to see what a real Thanksgiving should be and I have absolutely loved it. I cannot wait to see what else this weekend holds and I'm so giddy with anticipation for Christmas that I swear I'm channeling Alice at times."
"Hey! I'm just a happy person!" Alice defended.
"And I love you for it. The most important thing that I'm thankful for this year is new friends. Rose, Em, and I have been our own little group for so long. You may not think so but before you guys came along, it was typically just the three of us. Most girls shy away from Rose because they tend to be intimidated by her. Em's uber big heart and kindness make him an easy target for people to take advantage of, and that has happened on many occasions. And most people don't bother trying to get to know me. They take my quiet nature for aloofness. It's just nice to have friends who took the chance to get to know us. So thank you, to all of you. I feel like I've gained not just friends, but brothers and sisters."
"Emmett was spot on when he called Jake his brother. I never thought I'd ever meet anyone whose heart was as big and caring as Emmett's, but I did. Jake is the most caring person I have ever met and the most sacrificing. I've never met anyone like him and I feel very fortunate that he gave me a chance." She smiled adoringly at her boyfriend, my best friend. I was so happy that he had found happiness after everything I had put him through. He smiled back lovingly at her and I knew that he was finally happy and at peace.
We were interrupted by the door bell ringing. Esme excused herself to answer the door and I took the opportunity to escape to the kitchen to start fixing dessert plates for everyone. I kissed Edward quickly on the lips before moving from his lap.
"Hey, who want's dessert?" I yelled and in return heard multiple voices calling out orders. I managed to catch most of it...at least I hoped I did. But I was pretty sure I could figure out what each person wanted.
"Well I for one would love a piece of that Hershey Bar Cake."
"Dad! I didn't think you'd be by until later."
"Well the guys were so impressed with the spread that you and Esme made that they shooed me off early so I could enjoy some time with my wonderful daughter." He walked over to me and threw his arm around my shoulder, while squeezing me to him. "The green bean casserole was just as wonderful as I remember it. But I didn't have not one bite of dessert. I wanted to enjoy that with you and your friends."
"Get in line Chief." Emmett spoke up from the doorway. "Hey Bells, since mine and Jake's requests were for multiple helpings, we were sent to help you out." He laughed.
"Dad, take this piece and run...I don't want any fighting to break out with these two savages near by. i don't think they'd take mercy on you old man."
"I'm not old..." he scoffed. "Besides, I have reinforcement, I have handcuffs."
"Don't we know it." I heard Jake mumble, but Emmett wasn't so quiet about it.
"Yeah Chief, we've heard all about your handcuffs..."
It took him a moment, but realization soon dawned. I'd never seen my dad blush that profusely.
"It wasn't me...it was all Jake."
"Way to throw me under the bus Bells." Jake grumbled as my dad glared at him.
"Anytime. Now, do you want this plate of food I just fixed for you or would you rather stand there and pout all night?"
He swooped in a grabbed his plate closely followed by Emmett. Of course I had fixed him a plate as well.
"Next!" I yelled laughing at my dad's amused face.
Edward came bounding into the kitchen and quickly made his way to my side. Esme was right behind him.
"Hey Charlie. How did lunch go at the station today?" Edward asked.
"Excellent. All my deputies are in food induced comas right now. If anyone ever wanted to commit a crime in Forks and get away with it, well tonight's the night."
"I heard that Chief."
"Emmett...in addition to handcuffs...let me clarify that I mean real handcuffs, I also have pepper spray and a taser."
"Awesome!" He responded.
"There is something seriously wrong with that boy! Reminds me too much of me and Billy back in the day. Damn, I sure am glad I had a daughter."
Esme laughed while shaking her head. I smirked at my dad before answering.
"I'm sure you're much more grateful for being able to hide the evidence of past indiscretions."
"Smart ass, you know your old man much too well for my liking."
I saw Edward watching us out of the corner of my eye. He had a serene look on his face. He caught me and smiled.
"Need some help?"
"Well I'm pretty sure neither your mom nor I will turn down an extra pair of hands."
"I second that. Coffee and hot chocolate are almost done. Edward, be a dear and carry this tray of cups to the living room for me. Charlie, feel free to make yourself at home. Everyone is gathered in the living room. We were just partaking in a Cullen family tradition. You are certainly welcome to join in."
"Thank you Esme. Bells, can I have a piece of pecan pie now?" I looked at his now empty plate and laughed. "Sure dad...want a sample of pumpkin pie cheesecake too?"
"Well, if you insist." He grinned.
I loaded up his plate before I continued slicing the pies and cake. Once all the plates were filled, I placed them on two serving trays that Esme had pulled from her magic pantry. I swear, she had any and everything you would ever need to make cooking and serving easier in that room.
"Let me take one of those for you. Mom just took the coffee and hot chocolate out. I made her sit down and relax."
"You're a good son Edward. Thanks for the help today. I know she appreciates it."
"Me...I've done very little today, but you on the other hand. I'm surprised you haven't fallen out yet."
"I'm good. I promise. But I do intend to be very lazy for the rest of this vacation. Now, grab that tray. I think we all need to put a little more food in our stomach's tonight."
"I don't think that will be a problem for anyone. This all looks amazing."
Everyone enjoyed dessert immensely...some many times over. I was glad for the little break we were given by Charlie's arrival. I had a feeling that 'what we were thankful for' was going to get emotional, very emotional for some of us.
I was in the middle of my cheesecake when the house phone rang. I wasn't paying much attention until I heard my mom's voice.
"Happy Thanksgiving everyone!"
"Mom?" I asked while looking around the room for her.
"Hey baby. Phil and I just wanted to call to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving."
Although I knew she wasn't there, my heart still sank a bit. When I first heard her voice, although I knew she wasn't here, I was hoping. I nearly started crying. Edward, being Edward and knowing me so well, pulled me close. I noticed Jake had made a move to come to me as well but I shook my head and gave him a watery smile.
"So, did you cook for Phil?" My dad asked while suppressing a laugh.
"Of course I did! I even made dessert. We're having brownies right now."
Everyone started laughing at her admission.
"Would those be your special brownies Renee?" Jake asked.
"What other kind do I make?"
"Mom, dad is in the room."
"Pssss...who do you think gave me the recipe?" She laughed.
I was in shock.
"RENEE! Don't tell her those lies."
"Lies? What lies?"
"I did not give you that recipe. Billy did." He stated with smug grin on his face. Jake nearly fell out of his seat.
"Same difference." I heard her mutter.
Once he picked his jaw off the floor, Jake whipped out his cell phone and soon Billy was joining in on the conversation. I had a sudden regret that he wasn't here with us, but I knew he was where he needed to be today.
"Charlie...how could you rat me out in front of my kids. You old geezer you just wait. I've got stories about you that our sweet Bells would never believe. But luckily for you...I have quite a bit of photographic evidence!"
"You wouldn't..." Charlie threatened.
"Oh yes I would." Billy laughed.
"Well your dear son has already informed all present about the tattoos..."
"Jake!" Billy shouted.
"Brownies!" Jacob retorted. We all heard Billy laugh. And that was saying something because the entire room were suffering from fits of giggles.
"Frost bite!" My dad yelled only causing us more laughter.
"Some things never change." I heard Renee say with a fondness in her voice I hadn't heard in years. She really did still love my dad, but now it was in a way that was healthy for all involved.
"And I hope they never do." My dad responded.
"Okay, enough mushy sh...stuff." Em correctly quickly. I want to hear more about the Chief here.
The conversation went way down hill after that. Emmett was eating it up and I was a bit scared that he was taking notes for later. Charlie and Billy together is bad enough. When Jake is with them, there are no words...add in Carlisle and there could be real trouble. If Emmett fell in with them, well I don't know if we'd have enough bail money. I had to agree with Angela and Rose...Hawaii just isn't prepared. Thirty minutes later the three way phone call ended. Phil even joined in and shared a few stories of his own, things I'd never heard. I never even considered him getting involve in all the antics, but now...well let's just say anytime our entire family gets together, memories will definitely be created.
There wasn't a dry eye in the place by the time all the phone calls ended. It was just the break we all needed. Esme and I made more hot chocolate for everyone before getting comfortable in the living room. Rose indicated that she would continue.
"What I'm thankful for this year is something that most people take for granted and never even really think about, being accepted. Angela mentioned earlier how the three of us have never really had very many close friends. She's right. Growing up, I had a hard time making friends and it has continued throughout my life. I don't know why but people tend to be intimidated by me. I don't know if it's my looks, confidence, the air of bitchiness I put off'...but the point is, I don't have a lot of friends, especially girlfriends. Bella and Alice never even hesitated to get to know me."
"I may come across as vain, arrogant, standoffish, or whatever, but that is not who I am. I've just developed a thick skin over the years. But now I finally found a group of people that I fit in with, that accept me for me with no preconceived thoughts or without any expectations. It's very freeing." She smiled.
"I also want to thank the Cullen's for allowing me to be a part of your family holiday. And to Bella and her family, thank you for inviting me along for the wedding. It's a wonderful feeling to be included."
"Hey what about me?" Emmett whined, such a big baby.
"You big lug...yes I'm thankful for you as well. You've helped me learned that it doesn't matter what others think of me, taught me it's better to be my true self than what others want me to be, and you've given your big heart to me." He beamed while she kissed his cheek.
Their relationship was like one I'd never witnessed before, well not exactly. From what I remember, they were a lot like Renee and Charlie, when their marriage was still happy. From the far away look my dad had in his eye, I suspected he was thinking along the same lines as well. I really did hope he meet someone to share his love with. He had so much to give.
"My turn!" Alice squealed. She was once again bouncing up and down. She was the most happy person that I had even known. I doubted I'd ever meet anyone else like her either. She was just...Alice.
"Every year my list is pretty much the same. This year is no different, I just have a few additions. First of all, I just want to thank my mom and dad for bringing me into their home, lives, and hearts all those years ago. They rescued me from a life of grief, despair, poverty, neglect, hunger, and a life with no love, hope, no future. It is because of them, as well as Edward, that I have become the person I am today. With their help, I have been able to overcome my past and look at all the great things life has to offer. I know this is going to sound completely crazy, but in a way, I'm glad for the life I had before meeting the Cullen's, because without that beginning, I would have never been granted the blessing of knowing them and becoming part of their family. I am proud to be Alice Cullen."
It was hard to miss the looks of utter despair on Esme and Carlisle's faces as they remembered the circumstances that brought Alice into their lives. I was pretty sure that Jasper knew about Alice's past, but I didn't think Rose, Em, Angela, nor Jake knew much more than she had been adopted. I made a mental note to make sure Alice knew just how much she had helped me in facing my demons. If not for her, I don't know if I could have done it so soon.
"This year I'm beyond thankful for such awesome roommates. It's no secret that last year was a sheer disaster in that area. I was so nervous about living with strangers this year but I convinced myself that I needed to try. I wasn't ready to close myself off from potential friendships just because I had a bad experience. Angela, Rosalie, and Bella are the best roommates anyone could ask for. They are more than just my roommates, they are my friends...and family. Bella is the sister I always wished for. She has helped me in ways she doesn't even know..."
She stopped to compose herself because she had started crying.
"On that note, we'll talk later Bells." She smiled at me before continuing. "Rose and Angela have become like sisters to me as well and I love them both dearly."
"I feel I've gained two more brothers in Jake and Emmett. Of course no one will ever replace Edward. Sorry guys, but that's just the way it is."
"I'm super thankful for getting my brother back this year. Like Esme, I was worried I'd never see happiness and contentment in his eyes again. But Bella was all it took. I'm glad for the whole Anthony/Marie fiasco. They were able to meet and start forming their relationship without me...and mom, meddling. I think, no...I know, if I had been the one to make introductions that things would have taken much longer to progress. I know Bella and Edward pretty well and I'm positive that he would have stayed quiet because she was my roommate and best friend and she would have done the same because he was my brother. There is no telling how long they would have stayed 'friends' just to not rock the boat. They also needed to make a connection with each other on their own terms."
I had to agree with her, she had us pegged pretty good.
"She knows us well." He whispered, making me laugh. It truly is scary how often we are on the same page without even speaking.
"So this year I got my brother back, saw my parents truly happy for the first time in a year, made great new friends, and gained an even larger family. That alone is too much to ask for, but to top it off. I met my soul mate. I know without a doubt that Jasper and I were made for one another. He makes me smile, makes me laugh, calms me down, makes me feel special...like I'm the center of his universe. He makes me feel even more loved and worthy than I ever thought possible. I have so much to be thankful for this year and I hope that every year here after is just as wonderful."
"I'm quite hopeful of that dear!" Esme beamed. "I see nothing but good things for us in the upcoming year."
"Well any year that starts off with all of us vacationing in Hawaii is a good year in my book." Carlisle agreed as did everyone else. I decided to take my turn since the atmosphere seemed light. I thought it may help me to keep my composure a bit.
"I'd like to go next, if that's okay with everyone." No one objected so I took a cleansing breath before beginning. "First of all I want to thank Esme and Carlisle for not only opening their home but their hearts. You are such positive role models for everyone around you. I was thinking earlier that if the world had more people like you, it would be such a better place. I'm also thankful for the friendships that you have given my parents. Whether near or far, both my mom and dad have benefitted greatly from you two."
I took a breath, knowing that I'd be talking for a while.
"Please forgive me if I get too lengthy but I have quite a bit to be thankful for this year. In the past two years my life has been one hell of a roller coaster. Last Thanksgiving was especially difficult for me. I was in a very bad place. I believe I was in a darker place then than I was right after Elizabeth was killed and Katie and I were injured." I heard a two sharp intakes of breath and knew it was my dad and Jake. Even after all the therapy and progress I had made, speaking so bluntly about what happened was out of character for me.
"Their reactions should tell you a lot. A year ago I was in a constant state of denial, not wanting to accept the way things were. I never said Elizabeth's name. Barely even allowed myself to think her name, much less about her. I closed myself off from Katie and pretty much everyone else. The exceptions were my mom, dad, Jake, and Phil to some extent. I was not a whole person. I was not well...physically, mentally, or emotionally. At that time, I honestly didn't care if I lived or died." I felt Edward's arms tighten around me and I knew if I looked at Jake or my dad, I would lose it. I knew I couldn't handle seeing the pain and anguish that their faces would hold.
I could hear sniffling around me and knew that Esme and Alice were most likely shedding tears on my behalf. I couldn't look at them either.
"With the love and support of my family, especially Jake, I was able to see that just because this tragedy had visited my life, didn't mean I had to stop living. Slowly I started to pull myself back together. It took a long time before I actually embraced life again. Reconnecting with Katie and getting through James's trial were big steps, but Jake was the biggest push. I would have been content to stay in Phoenix but Jake wouldn't allow that. He knew that if I stayed in Phoenix, I'd be giving up my dream. So, instead...he gave up his."
I saw Jake shaking his head at me.
"Jake. Stop. You and I both know what you gave up but I promise, I no longer feel guilty about it. I am beyond grateful. I just want you to know how much your friendship means to me. I don't know that I could actually tell you...there aren't words enough in any language to convey what your friendship, love, and support mean to me."
"I know Bells." He assured me with a smile.
"I knew moving to Seattle would force me to start moving on, but I was ready for that step. The decision to accept my scholarship and move is what really pushed me into therapy. I was prepared to struggle with the past, with moving away from home, with being mostly alone. I was not prepared to meet all of you...and you guys have been the best thing that could have happened to me."
"Each of you have helped me to gain the strength and courage to finally confront the past. Before moving to Seattle, I just wanted to forget about the past, not deal with it. But each of you helped me to realize that forgetting about it was not the same thing as moving past it. Alice and Edward really helped me to figure out that before I could completely heal, I had to meet the demons head on. If not, I'd never fully recover."
"I'm not quite where I want to be yet, but I'm much closer than I ever thought I'd be at this point. So this year I'm thankful for strength, courage, inspiration, and support."
"Dad...I love you so much and I'm so happy to be living so close to you now. I'm also extremely excited about living with you this summer. The rest...well, we'll talk later." I wanted to talk to him, tell him how much he meant to me, but I couldn't do that with an audience. For both his comfort and mine.
"I'm also feeling pretty lucky that I have made such wonderful, albeit at times, crazy friends. You each have such a zest for life, it makes me even more eager to live mine. You make things fun and fun was something that has been missing from my life for some time. I've actually become fond of shopping..."
This made Alice squeal.
"When I think of everything you have all done for me in the past few months, it's a wonder I've had time to get any work done. So far my semester has been filled with road trips, birthday celebrations that last for days, drum lessons, paintball, being kidnapped, arcade runs, time spent in the park, shopping, concerts. I've even managed to get some work done. But it's what I needed. I needed to be forced into fun, forced into acting my age. Everything has become better and brighter because of each of you. Even music had more meaning to me now. I am enjoying it so much more now that I have Edward with me."
"Edward...well I just want to let you know that you were my biggest inspiration. You made me see just exactly how much I needed and wanted to move on. You gave me the extra boost, courage, and strength I needed to get through that trip to Phoenix. I'm forever grateful to you and for you. I'm so very lucky that you are in my life." I smiled at him while attempting to keep the tears from falling. I would tell him later, in detail, just how much I loved him. He squeezed me to him whispering his love for me in my ear.
"Finally...yeah I know, told you I had a lot to say. I want to thank Angela. You have not only been a wonderful friend to me, but a wonderful girlfriend to Jake. You have given me your compassion and support and never once made an issue of how close Jake and I are. Without jealously, hesitation, regret...you allowed yourself to love Jake and allow and even encouraged mine and his relationship. Jake has had very few girlfriends because they could never cope with our friendship. It was their lose and they weren't good enough for him anyway. But you, you are perfect for him. I'm so glad my best friend has finally found someone that makes him so happy."
She was beaming as was Jake.
"I'm pretty happy about that too. I didn't think I'd ever find someone that would be so accepting and supportive of mine and Bells relationship. But Angela understands."
"Of course I do. People are crazy if they can't see how important you two are to each other. I'd be an idiot to try to come between that. But honestly, that was one of the biggest draws as well. Seeing that much loyalty between friends was inspiring. You have a big heart Jake, big enough to hold multiple people. I wouldn't want to take that away from you."
See...perfect for him. Jake actually blushed a bit.
"So, it's pretty obvious why I'm so thankful for Ang. Like each of you, I'm also thankful for new friendships. I didn't have a very large group of friends back in Phoenix, but the ones I had, we were extremely close. I was dreading moving away from my friends but knew that I would be okay as long as Bells and I were in it together. Like her, I wasn't expecting a pretty much ready made group of friends. I can't tell you how glad I am that Em didn't hesitate to room with an underclass. He saved me from hell."
We all laughed at the memories of Mike. After a short explanation to the parents, that had them laughing as well, he continued.
"To get a bit serious for a moment, I'm most grateful for steps forward, progress, and recovery. And that doesn't just pertain to you Bells. Of course you are a big part of that. I'm so relieved that I'm getting my friend back. I was so scared for so long that you'd never fully recover. I can admit that now. Then, I didn't want to accept that fact. Bella likes to say and likes to think that I moved here just so she would, but the truth is that I moved for me too. I needed a change. I needed to get away as well. We both needed a new start, a fresh perspective. And we got it. I don't regret the decision for a moment."
"Meet everyone here was just the icing on the cake. We took the steps forward but it is due to each of you that progress was made. For me, it was making a new group of friends who accepted me for me. For Bella, it was meeting Alice and then Edward that pushed her forward in her progress. After they shared their pasts with her, Bella made the decision to stop existing and start living. Thank you so much for being that catalyst."
"I'm also thankful that my dad has made the decision to move back to La Push. He's been struggling for years with his decision to return home, but he held out because he knew I wouldn't want to leave. That was another deciding factor in my choice of schools. It's also taken a very long time to be able to think of La Push as his home, without my mom being there. So he has also been taking steps to move forward. It seems that he has finally gained the courage to take that last leap. Since I'm no longer at home with him, he needs his tribe now more than ever. Charlie too for that matter. The fact that Bells and I will be so close will only seal the deal."
"Like Bells said earlier, this Thanksgiving, life is completely different than last year. I could go on and on and talk all day about what I'm grateful for, but it all boils down to family, friends, love, and support. Without those, none of us would be where we are at this moment. And from where I'm sitting, this moment is pretty damn great." The exuberant smile on his face was further proof that Jake wasn't just happy...he was ecstatic.
"Couldn't have said it better myself Jake. Things are looking pretty terrific and I have a feeling that from now on, things are going to continue to get even better. I have my daughter back...not just physically but in every way. She's moving past the trauma of the last two years, she's physically close by, she's happy and living again. I have Jake back as well and up until recently, those two kids were the only ones I had to worry about, in a good way. Now I feel like I've adopted six more worry spots...and I love each one of them.
"Edward, I can't thank you enough for giving my baby the push she needed. I couldn't ask for anyone better for my Bells." I could feel the happiness rolling off Edward from my dad's words.
"Billy is moving home. I've made a wonderful friend in Carlisle who I hope will become just as good a friend to Billy as he has become to me. I'm looking forward to our upcoming adventures. My ex wife is getting married..."
We all laughed at that. He laughed too but then got serious.
"Hey, I'm happy for Renee. We finally have the relationship we were always meant to have. I don't regret the time I spent with Renee, it brought me Bella. But we are better friends for each other than we ever were husband and wife. She deserves her happiness and I don't grudge her that. She's found it with Phil and he is a good man. He stuck by Renee and Bella, even with all the craziness that was going on. He was there when I couldn't be. That alone would make him aces in my book. But he went above and beyond. I don't even know if Renee and Bella realize how much help he was during that time."
I made a mental note to talk to my dad about that.
"So yeah...Jake was right. Things are pretty damn good right now and I'm looking forward to seeing what the future brings...for all of us."
"I can drink to that." Carlisle grinned while lifting a glass of Scotch that I hadn't seen previously. Charlie tipped one back as well. Where did that come from? I looked over at Esme and she just winked at me. Yep, she is super hostess.
"Well, I guess that leaves me." Edward spoke up.
"My list is pretty much the same every year and has been since my first Thanksgiving with Esme and Carlisle. But no matter how many times I repeat the list, it isn't any less sincere and heart felt than it was that first year. I will forever be grateful and blessed that they saw fit to bring me into their family when my parents died. Yes, they were already family but they didn't have to do what they did. They opened their hearts and home to me and never made me feel like I was only with them out of obligation due to our relation. They took me in knowing it was going to be difficult. They lost loved ones too when my parents died, so they were grieving as well."
"I was never made to feel like anything but their son...their son by choice not by court order. That made all the difference in the world to me. They helped me get through that extremely difficult time in my life. I love them more than I can say. I'm thankful for their continual love and support no matter the situation or circumstances. I know that they will always be there for me no matter what life brings."
"Alice always makes the list too. She and I formed a bond before the ink was even dry on her adoption papers. As much as she says we helped her, she helped us. She made me laugh again. She brought an atmosphere of happiness and light with her when she came to live with us. We all needed that in the wake of my parents deaths."
"We've suffered through rough years together before but the last year for me has been one of the hardest. Nothing to the extent of what Bella went through, but I had my own personal demons to face...as did my family. Like Bella I was moving through life, existing, until a brown eyed brown haired girl name Maria stumbled into my life."
We all started laughing at the look on Edward's face. We would truly never live that down. But I didn't want to. That decision did and continues to bring me a world of happiness. I'm looking forward to telling my grandchildren that story. And did I just think about grandchildren...Edward was laughing at the look on my face. I'd have to share that with him later.
"That's when I started living again. As much confusion as it caused, I'm grateful for the whole name thing. Alice was pretty spot on with her theory. If we would have known who the other was, things may have taken a lot longer to get to where they are now. Had I known she was my sisters roommate and best friend, I would have proceeded with much more caution."
"I've gained a wonderful group of friends this year and that's something that's new for me. Growing up I had friends but not relationships, for lack of a better word. I have that now. I didn't realize that it was missing from my life until I met each of you. Despite what my family tells you, I was always a brooding bastard with emo ways growing up and I'm still the same way today. You've all seen that. I tend to over think and lock myself away when things get too complicated. But with each of you, especially Bella, 'that' Edward is starting to disappear. I like the person I am becoming."
"As terrible as the situation with Jessica was, in a way, I'm glad it all happened. It brought my family and I closer together and taught me that they would stand by my side no matter what. It's also helped me to deal with lingering issues of my parents passing that I didn't even realize I had. But the best thing it brought me was Bella. It's scary to think, but had Jessica not betrayed me like she did, we could have spent god knows how much time just being nice to one another and ignoring the bigger issues we had. I don't want to think what my life would be like today if that was the path I stayed on."
"Me either." I whispered but everyone heard me anyway and laughed.
"Alice and Jessica would have remained roommates to make me happy no matter how miserable they were together. Alice would have missed out on rooming with Bella. I doubt Carlisle and Esme would have ever decided to move to Forks. They were content in Alaska, not happy, but content. It wasn't until I started having problems that they seriously considered moving. Jasper and I would have never been roommates and that would have hinder him meeting Alice."
"I'm sure we would have all crossed paths eventually, but there is no telling how long that would have taken and how much we would have all missed out on. So as bad as that situation was for me and my family...without it, I don't think I'd be as happy with my life as I am right now. Like Bella, I'm not quite where I want to be but I'm pretty damn close. I have new friends, a wonderful and supportive family, but most importantly, I have someone special in my life who loves me for me...loves me for just being Edward. And that's the best feeling in the world."
He had no idea. I felt the same way. I had Edward and he loved and accepted me just as I am...scars, demons, and all. I gave him a kiss, ignoring the hoots and cat calls of those around us. I even heard my dad ask Carlisle for another drink. But I could tell he was smiling. I could hear Esme sniffling behind me and looked up. She bent down to whisper in my ear.
"Thank you Bella. I want you to know I love you like you're my own. I can never thank you enough for what you've done for my family."
"I love you too Esme. Thank you for raising such an amazing son." I replied quietly while Edward beamed at the two of us. But then raised my voice so all could hear. "Now, let me help you clean up the dessert mess so we can relax. I'm sure Alice isn't going to allow much of that tomorrow."
"You've got that right. I've got big plans for us tomorrow." She grinned.
"Well not too big. I promised Renee that Bella would rest while she was on break." Esme reminded Alice.
"Oh, I hadn't forgotten. Trust me. She will be plenty rested and pampered by the time we leave for Seattle on Sunday."
I started to climb out of Edward's lap but he stopped me.
"Let me help my mom, you stay here and rest."
"No buts. Except yours in this chair. I mean it."
"You are such a goof." I stuck my tongue out at him. He smirked before leaning down to me.
"Maybe, but you better keep that tongue in your mouth...at least until...later."
Swoon...I just swooned, and I'm sitting down. How the hell does he do that?
Surprising, all the guys chipped in to clean up the rest of Thanksgiving. My dad and Carlisle disappeared into his office...probably topping off their drinks. While the guys were cleaning, the girls picked out a movie. Alice limited our choices to Christmas themed movies.
We were trying to decide between 'Elf', 'Christmas Vacation', and 'A Christmas Carol' when my dad walked into the living room.
"Hey kiddo, I've got to get going. I have to work tomorrow."
"I'm glad you were able to come by tonight dad. Think I could steal some time with you before I go back to Seattle? I'd really like to talk." I smiled at him.
"How about we sneak away for a bit on Saturday while we're down at La Push?"
"That sounds great." I gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek. "I love you daddy."
"I love you too Bells. I'm so happy that things are getting better for you." He said through shining eyes.
"You girls stay out of trouble. I don't want to have to perform a jailbreak in the middle of the night."
"Don't you think you should be talking to Emmett Chief." Rosalie asked.
"Pffftt...I know who the real brains behind the brawn is missy. Now, I'll see you all tomorrow." He kissed all the girls on the tops of our heads before telling the boys, Carlisle, and Esme goodnight.
"You're dad is totally a DILF." Alice squealed. While Rose agreed.
"It's the uniform." Angela giggled while she pretended to faint.
"You girls are crazy. I do agree that my dad is very handsome, but can we not talk about his DILFness?"
We were all giggling like teenagers when the guys came back into the living room. They just shook their heads at us, completely used to our giggle fits by now.
"So what movie did you ladies pick out." Edward asked after our laughter calmed a bit.
"We couldn't decide between these." Alice answered while pointing to our final choices.
"Well that's easy! Come on Bells, we can't break tradition. it has to be Christmas Vacation. Every Thanksgiving Katie, Elizabeth, Bells, and I would have a sleepover and every single year we'd start our movie marathon off with Chevy Chase."
"Well then Christmas Vacation it is then." Em said as he put the movie in the player. "Besides, that's one of my favorites." He grinned.
I smiled thinking about just how far I had come in a year. I missed Elizabeth terribly but I knew she wouldn't want me to stop living. She was't the only one I missed.
"Will you guys excuse me for a moment? I need to make a phone call. Jake, wanna come with me?"
"Sure Bells." He knew.
"I'll be right back." I told Edward as I kissed his cheek.
"Tell Katie I said 'hi'. Take your time, I'm not going anywhere." And I heard the promise in his voice.
Jake and I went to Edward's room and I put my phone on speaker. I had talked to her several times since my trip to Phoenix but this phone call felt different...more important. It was another step forward, for all of us. Last Thanksgiving, none of us were in a good place. This Thanksgiving, things were drastically different. The three of us had all made significant steps in the grieving process. This Thanksgiving was a new beginning.
"Hey guys!" Katie's cheerful voice echoed through the room. "Happy Thanksgiving."
"Happy Thanksgiving to you too. Did you stuff yourself this year?" Jake asked.
"Don't I always. Actually I was getting ready to call you two. I'm getting ready to watch Christmas Vacation."
"Us too." Jake and I replied in unison. We were all quite for a few minutes just absorbing.
"I went to see Elizabeth today. I noticed there were already flowers from you and Jake. They were really pretty."
"We picked them out on line and had Renee pick them up for us and take them to her."
"So tell me all about your vacation so far." She begged. So Jake took a few minutes to fill her in on everything.
"I can't wait until Christmas. I'm so excited to meet all these new people. I feel like I know them already."
"They're excited to meet you too."
I hadn't said much during the conversation thus far. I was just taking in the moment. Thinking back on what had been lost but also focusing on the future and imagining all the wonderful things that were ahead of me, ahead of all of us.
"Bells?" I heard Katie's concerned voice.
"I'm here. Sorry, just lost in thought."
"You? That never happens does it?"
We all laughed because, yeah, I've been doing that since the day we met.
"Shut up." I laughed.
"As I was saying while you were apparently spaced out...I miss you sweetie."
"I miss you too Katie Bug. Give your mom and dad a hug for me. I can't wait to see you all in a month. Can you believe it? We are actually going to get to spend Christmas together."
"Screw Christmas. I'm ready for Hawaii."
We talked for a few minutes about the upcoming trip and how excited her family was to be joining us. I also told her just how excited our friends were to meet her. We talked about school for a bit and about the boy she was interested in. Of course Jake played the big brother role and demanded to know all about him and then proclaimed that he had to meet this guy before anything serious could develop. Katie filled us in on some progress she was making in therapy. Basically, we were just enjoying each others company.
"So Bella, how are you doing?" She asked and I heard the multiple layers that that question contained. I didn't hesitate to answer.
"I'm doing great! Really great. Better than I've been in a very long time." I answered with a smile.
"Yes, I think you are." She answered back while Jake pulled me into a hug.
What a difference a year can make. We all had so many things to be thankful for and we all had and abundance of blessings to count.
"I think we all are doing just fine." Jake interjected.
"And we are going to continue to do just fine. As long as we have love and hope, things will be okay." Katie said.
I couldn't agree more.
A/N: So what did you think? The rest of Thanksgiving break and the weeks leading up to Christmas will be next!