Plain To See
Authors note: Ok, so obviously the Twilight series is not mine. I wish! I'd love to hear what you think, this is my first go at actually publishing fan fiction. Normally I'm too chicken!
Charlie pulled into a free parking space outside the local chemist, he needed some aspirin or his head was going to fly off, he was certain. He'd be heading home shortly and Edward was bound to be there...again. Who was he kidding? Edward was always there, whenever the conditions of Bella's grounding allowed. No matter how much Charlie glared at him, the damned kid wouldn't be scared off. It was enough to turn a headache into a full blown migraine.
This grounding was backfiring a bit on Charlie. He felt like an intruder in his own home when he walked in and felt the atmosphere between Bella and Edward. They were never doing anything, but always they seemed cocooned in their own little world, smiling blissfully at each other like they knew a secret no one else did. It was sickening. Edward was putting a damn good show on for Bella he had to admit. He'd obviously convinced her he was sorry for leaving, that he he'd never leave her again. Charlie wasn't so sure about that. Not at all. He winced as slammed the car door shut a bit too hard.
Ouch! Headache, remember? Don't let your anger at Edward get the better of you, he told himself.
The bell over the door tinkled as Charlie walked through. At the back of the store he could see Maisie Green bent over a handful of photos and chatting away with Eve and Lily Sanderson, wife and sister of John Sanderson, one of the local electricians.
Maisie worked here on Saturdays just as she had for almost 30 years, developing film for those people of Forks who still used real film. He shook his head; you never could keep Maisie from good gossip. Never malicious, but very definitely Maisie felt about most long time Forks residents as she did about her own family. Their business was her business was everyone's business, and she was always ready to dispense some words of wisdom if she felt it necessary. If you wanted your photos kept private you took them to the mall across town. But if you were looking for someone to admire the latest batch of baby photos of your children / grandchildren, or remark on how lovely some family get together was, or someone endlessly interested in your holiday snaps, this was the place to go. Most people were fond enough of her that they actually looked forward to her comments about the photos she developed and wouldn't go anywhere else.
And Eve was as big a gossip as Maisie. No wonder Lily was starting to look a bit desperate. She was probably finding it impossible to get away!
Charlie idly wondered what the topic of conversation was today – Eve's 3 year old grandson perhaps? Or her new puppy? Riveting stuff either way, he was sure. He took a deep breath and wandered closer, hoping they'd finish up when they saw him in his uniform, and not try to drag him into looking at all the shots with them. He shuddered at the thought. He could be here for hours if that happened.
He drew closer trying to figure out what they were so animated about – if it was babies he'd come back later or he was never going to get away....
"...just the sweetest, aren't they girls?"
".....that Edward....always so gentle with her..."
Charlie's hackles rose. Edward? Could they be talking about...?
"...and look at this one! They way they look at each other! That Bella is just the luckiest girl..."
They were talking about Bella. His Bella. And Edward Cullen. Just thinking about that Cullen kid had Charlie scowling to himself. He didn't deserve Bella. Why she forgave him Charlie couldn't understand at all. In Charlie's opinion – rather biased admittedly - Bella should refuse to have anything further to do with him. Of course, he'd been back now for a couple of months, and didn't look at all like Bella was going to do any such thing. Charlie was starting to get worried about how close those two kids really were.
Did he really want to see these photos? If he didn't leave that was exactly what was going to happen. Maisie wouldn't be able to help herself. Oh hell, if he didn't look at the damn things he was going to worrying about them all weekend. They were probably nothing after all. The kids hadn't had a chance to go anywhere together but school and Charlies lounge room and kitchen – how bad could this be?
"Maisie, Eve, Lily. Afternoon ladies, how are you all?"
"Why Charlie! I'm well thank you, it's a fine day, don't you think?" Any day with people to chat to was a fine day as far as Maisie was concerned. In fact, the drizzle outside was threatening to turn into an all out downpour.
Lily and Eve nodded and smiled their hellos too. "Chief, good to see you!"
Lily obviously sensed a chance to escape, and took it while she could.
"Gotta go – bye Maisie, good to see you Chief!" Lilly gabbled as she tugged on Eve's arm and headed for the door.
Seeing her gossip buddy disappearing, Maisie needed someone else to chat to – just as Charlie knew she would. He pressed his hand to his forehead briefly, taking a deep breath to calm himself and try and soothe the headache that was building in intensity.
"Ah, Charlie, it's so good to see you – you have great timing." Of course he did. He'd bet Maisie would have found a way for him to see these photos one way or another. Hell, half the town had probably seen the photos.
"I have some just adorable pictures of your Bella here! You know little Amy Wetherley? She's a junior at the high school."
"Maisie you know full well that Jim Wetherley and I went to school together. Of course I know his daughter. What about Amy has you three women clucking over a pile of photos this time?" Charlie spoke in resigned voice so as not to sound too interested.
He wasn't going to let on that he knew the photos were something to do with his Bella – Maisie had a stubborn streak in her. If she knew you wanted to know something she'd withhold the information a while just to tease. Charlie didn't have the patience right now to do any wheedling. He wanted a quick look at the photos, grab some aspirin and leave. He wanted to find a quiet dark room at home – preferably an Edward free zone.
"Well, Amy's doing an art project for her art class. They were given the topic "Love" and had to do a piece on it. Amy's chosen to do a painting, unposed, of three couples – three generations, as it were, and she's taken the photos of the couples she chose to use as models. She didn't want them to know they were being photographed, so they were all snapped when the couples were unaware of it."
"Mmmm...so? Not sure how Edward fits into that one Maisie. You know what a number he did on Bella last year. That's not love Maisie. Lust I'll believe of any teenage boy, but love? I cannot understand why she took him back again." Charlie was aware he sounded just a little surly, and reddened slightly. Maisie was sure to notice and lecture him. Yep, here it comes.
"Charlie Swan!" her tone was filled with censure. "You need to have some faith in your daughter. She is old enough to make her own decisions now." She paused for a second, looking sideways at Charlie. "Come to think of it, you weren't much older when you married Renee."
"Yeah, like that worked out so well", Charlie huffed.
"I know you're not too fond of Edward Cullen since Bella was so devastated by his leaving last year. But maybe these photos just might show you something you wouldn't see otherwise. You're a stubborn man Charlie, I'm not sure you are looking at either Bella or Edward very clearly lately."
See – for her project Amy chose her parents Jim & Anita, and Louise and Hank Stephens – they are her best friend Coralie's grandparents, you know."
Right. Romance. Lovely.
"Amy chose Edward and Bella to be her third couple."
"They only think they're in love Maisie. They're too young to know any better, just like Renee and I were", Charlie said sharply.
"Charlie, you were in love with Renee and you know it. Just because you two didn't work out is no reason to think others won't. Renee was the one who wasn't old enough to have a serious relationship and you know I told you so before you married her – it had nothing to do with her physical age. I'm not sure she's old enough now. That girl was always a flighty one. No, have you ever really looked at your daughter and Edward together?" Maisie asked him softly.
"Love is not a function of age but of maturity."
Charlie glared at her.
"Bella is too young. That boy is no good for her. He left her without a word. That doesn't spell love to me Maisie."
"Hmm. I'll grant you that is an odd one. Something happened there. But I don't think he left because he didn't love her Charlie. I saw them together before he left, and he was always just as caring and loving with her as he is now. She accepted him back – you have to trust her judgement. People make mistakes."
"Mistakes." The way Charlie snarled made it sound like the worst curse in the book. "That's what Bella says. That if you love someone enough you have to be able to forgive their mistakes when they make them for the best of intentions. That is not an explanation. How the hell could he have left for the 'best of intentions' for heaven's sake?" Charlie was exasperated by that explanation even after the third time Bella had used it to him.
He ought to have known Maisie would come back with the motherly advice. She always was willing to mother anyone that came to her.
"Charlie, the explanation was owed to Bella, not to you. And it sounds like she's received that explanation, forgiven him, and loves him anyway. That shows true maturity, Charlie Swan, and you know it. And if Edward was man enough to come back, to explain to her and admit he was wrong, and risk her anger, well, that shows maturity too. Admit it. They're both more mature than most kids their age. You know they are."
Charlie scuffed the toe of his shoe against the counter. Maisie always managed to make him feel like he was 16 years old again and being scolded for his wrongheadedness. How did this happen? He was the cop here! He was the father, for heaven's sake!
Maisie pushed a photo under his nose.
"Look at them Charlie. It's as plain as can be. Try to forget she's your Bella and that that's the boy you are so angry with and tell me what you see." Saying that, Maisie lined up 4 photos on the counter for his perusal.
Unwillingly, Charlie stared at the first.
It was taken in the cafeteria at the school, by the look of it. Crowds of kids out of focus in the background, tables and benches covered in trays and food and books throughout the room. Seated in the foreground, slightly to one side were Bella and Edward, Bella's face lit up from within, absolutely joyful, mouth open as if she'd been caught midsentence chattering as animatedly as he'd ever seen, her eyes locked to Edwards face. One hand held a bottle of soda; the other was casually touching Edwards hand on her shoulder, as she leaned trustingly against his side. Unwillingly Charlie looked at Edward next to her in the shot. His eyes were sparkling as he gazed into hers in wonder and amusement, that crooked half smile on his face (the one that made Charlie cringe), and was holding her close.
Hmph. Did they ever let go of each other, Charlie thought grumpily.
The next photo showed Bella in her PE outfit with a blood running down the side of her face – just a trickle. She looked dazed. Charlie remembered that day – she'd managed to run into the goals while trying to use a hockey stock to hit a puck. She ended up with a slight concussion. Again. PE was a dangerous class for Bella. That wasn't unusual.
What was not what Charlie expected- but considering how often it seemed to happen it probably should have been - was that Bella was in Edward's arms as he effortlessly carried her...somewhere through the school hallways.' Probably the nurse's office. He cradled her close to his chest and had a fiercely possessive and protective expression on his face as he stared down a teacher who looked to be trying to take over. As if. Charlie knew how hard it was to pry the two of them apart at the best of times. When something went wrong Bella wouldn't turn to anyone else. The idiot teacher obviously had a lot to learn. Bella was snuggled in and hanging onto his shirt with both hands – near enough to a death grip if he knew his daughter. Charlie thought back. That would have been the day Bella managed to run into a tree while playing hockey. Edward had been very reluctant at being evicted from the house at 9.30 that night, like something would happen to her if he wasn't there. Huh.
The next shot was a family grouping of the Cullen's playing in the car park at school, snow flying. It looked like the sort of snowball fight Charlie would have enjoyed, all of them smiling. They really were a very close family, very loving no matter how strange they were. He'd never seen them mucking around like that...all eight of them...eight? Oh, the eighth kid was his Bella, of course, hiding behind Edward's broad back as she peered cheekily grinning over his shoulder with a snowball in one hand. He held his arm behind him and to the side against her hip, seeming to hold her there, half crouched protectively in front of her. He was covered in snow – his brothers and sisters had obviously hit the mark several times. But Bella was unscathed. Edward was always so protective – it didn't make sense that he'd just left like that. It didn't add up.
The last was obviously Maisie's favourite. The two of them were snuggled together on a blue blanket under a tree – Charlie had no idea where that one was taken – but probably somewhere on school grounds. It's not like they had much time together outside of school and the time they spent under Charlie's roof. Alice and one of the other Cullen boys – the blonde one, stood together in the background, looking away. The picture tugged at Charlie's heart. Bella was curled trustingly asleep on Edwards lap, one hand slightly inside his shirt, the other pillowing her cheek. She looked so young, her face relaxed and serene. Nothing like the sleep she fought and thrashed through when Edward had been gone. This was the sort of sleep everyone should have – completely peaceful.
Edward leaned in a sitting position on the tree behind him, both arms securely around her, supporting her body as she slept. It actually didn't look all that comfortable a position to Charlie. Even when she wasn't awake to know any different it seemed he cared more for her comfort than his own. His chin rested on the top of her head, her hair blown across his cheek. The expression on his face arrested Charlie's attention. He practically glowed as he looked down at Bella, a gentle smile curving his lips, and his eyes golden and soft. He looked...like she was the most precious thing in his existence, Charlie thought.
The most precious thing. Hmmpph. He did come back after all. Maybe Alice wasn't being completely untruthful when she hinted that Edward hadn't been happy away from Bella either.
He'd seen them together so often he no longer saw what was right in front of him. And to be truthful they were careful not to touch too much in front of him, they couldn't help but be aware he disapproved. He'd practiced his glaring technique for years on rebellious Forks teenagers long before Bella came to live with him after all.
He looked up and caught Maisie's knowing glance. She knew he'd seen it. He may not want to admit it, he may hate the thought, they were undoubtedly too young... but Bella obviously loved Edward, had obviously forgiven him for leaving and not calling her, unfathomable to Charlie though that was. And Edward... Well, the photos made it plain. He wasn't going anywhere any time soon. That boy adored Bella. And if he was honest with himself, the reason Charlie was so hostile towards him was out of fear that Edward would leave again. Would leave Bella broken again. He didn't think she'd recover from that. Not a second time. He wasn't altogether sure she would have recovered if he hadn't come back last time.
He lifted a hand in a half wave to Maisie, and walked slowly out of the shop, his head throbbing, and the aspirin forgotten.
Maybe he should cut them a bit of slack after all. Maybe he'd think about lifting Bella's grounding. Maybe.