Written for the inaugural Twilight Gift Exchange for Manyafandom based off of her prompts.
AN: This is a one-shot post Breaking Dawn and keeps Canon intact. Also - go easy on a girl, it's my first attempt at this sort of tomfoolery ;)
Her Father's Daughter by Smellyia
Some decisions steer your life in completely different directions. For instance, the day I decided to go to Alaska after Bella's scent found its way to my nostrils is one of those times. I had no idea then that Tanya would come on to me like a common bitch in heat and solidify the love for my wife of the last twenty years. I didn't know Jasper would attempt to attack her like a rabid dog and not two weeks prior to that ill-fated birthday party. I would have said then with the utmost hypocritical conviction that nothing would tear me from Bella's side. But I made a choice, just like I made one to eventually marry her and to yield on our honeymoon. I shake my head at these musings. You see, back then, I felt like I had no choices.
So many of us are unaware at the time we make our decisions and the daily matter of existing may go on as it always would; but one day, prevalent, conscious, unconscious and volitions willed iwill/i come back to haunt. They will be your driving force whether one acknowledges it or not and one day, you'll finally accept those past deeds as what you commit to – not something so abstract or disconnected as fate or destiny. That is what matters today for me.
I made choice after choice that changed the course of my life. But none so important as when I picked Renesmee.
In hindsight, I can see now that it is the moment which landed me here, solitary, on this familiar doorstep once again. These occasional epiphanies have long ago ceased to surprise me. I blame it on fatherhood. And unfortunately, the only person who would truly understand my current predicament is Charlie, father-in-law with a shotgun.
The gun itself never bothers me. It's the sentiment behind it that concerns. You'd think after all these years, after a safe and happy daughter, after a healthy and beautiful grand-daughter, Charlie could see it in himself to bend a bit toward me. I guess the whole immortal thing is still an issue.
Those nuances could not deter me now. Not when Carlisle cannot understand my rock and hard place. But Charlie could. He'd been there. I am sure of it. And with the vision Alice shared with me of Renesmee's not too distant future, I am running out of time.
I can feel the northwestern wind slash around me, forewarning all of human kind that rain shall follow shortly. It is unfortunate I have no jacket, but it is fortunate I exist beyond such trivialities. Charlie may raise an eyebrow, but after the first decade of being married to his daughter, I gave up on pretenses. If we were to play this farcical game of silence, Charlie at the very least deserves not to be treated idiotically. He has always been more intelligent than for what most took his stoic persona.
What we are has never been discussed openly. Although Jacob, in a rash youthful moment, shared his shape-shifting ability, we have never come out and said, "Charlie, we are vampires. What would you like for dinner?" It's a preposterous situation really. I have no doubt, being the mind reader I am, that Charlie has indeed worked out exactly what we are over the years between his knowledge of Quileute legend and relationship with the now deceased Sue Clearwater.
Rain droplets start to fall, fat and promising for torrents any moment now. The tall pines surround Bella's former home sway with danger, but I am confident they have withstood worse over the centuries. I am also quite sure Charlie would not appreciate sopping jeans saturating his modest furniture. I raise my hand and rap my fist against his front door.
It takes longer than it used to for him to approach. The footsteps are more sluggish than when I picked up Bella on our various "dates". There is drag to them now. For a moment, I feel pity for this man. We will never change and although our kind has always maintained the loss of human attachments and an eternity of mourning is worse than death, I have realized in recent years that being a part of our lives for someone such as Charlie must be a difficult existence. He ages when we do not. We run with the effort of a gazelle and he can barely grasp his fishing rod in his arthritic palms. Billy Black is dead and the remaining years Charlie has left is spent in the company of monsters who will always be young and beautiful – a constant reminder of his mortality and weakness.
The door opens and Charlie looks at me without much to say as is his usual.
I stand there in the presence of dropping temperatures and increasing rain, unsure of where to begin. It is not common for me to come here without Bella or Renesmee. I almost rake my hands through my hair, but unlike his daughter, the action is lost upon Charlie, so I refrain.
"Well, you going to come in or do I have to bring the TV out here?"
I smirk because it is what I do whenever Charlie makes his little remarks. For the moment, his mind is blessedly filled with baseball and dreams of slamming the door in my face for the interruption. He stands aside, letting me pass into his entryway. The house is much smaller than ours in Colorado. It's smaller than I remember. How I never noticed it before, I do not know. I realize the stifling aura of the walls when I am without the women in my life is a fact that does not escape me..
He still wears his flannel open with a white t-shirt underneath. Salt and pepper covers any semblance of his dark hair and his mid-section pouches out more than when I courted Bella, but it is the curve of his back downward that really shows me how age has not been his friend.
Charlie finds his way back to the chair he has sat in the last twenty plus years. I sit on the couch, the same spot for the last of my twenty years. With my sharp vision, I look at his face full of wrinkles and grizzle. He looks back at me through his glasses at my smooth teenage skin. I cannot help but be the boy now regardless of my forty years senior on the man.
"How are you Charlie?"
"I was excellent until you showed up. Kinda far from home I'd say, kid."
I cringe at kid. "Well, I thought it prudent to spend a few days here with you."
With all the spry of a young man, Charlie slaps his knee and leans forward, a slightly maniacal gleam in his eye. "I knew my girl would wise up one day!"
My eyes are the size of saucers most assuredly and with as much horrific appall as I can muster, I correct this assumption, "That is inot/i the case, Charlie. And I must say how absolutely aghast I am that you would even think such. I would never consent to any sort of separation."
Charlie sighs and shrugs. "Maybe next time then. So what the hell brings you west, boy?"
My pity evaporates like water on a hot summer sidewalk for the man at the word boy. "Is it possible for you and I to be civil after all this time?"
"Get the stick out of your rear, Edward. You've always been such a touchy little thing. Now Jacob knows how to take a joke. How is he doing by the way?"
I sit there, wondering if it would even make a difference if I came up with a retort to his below-the-belt stick comment. I let it slide, showing just how little I am not. "That is part of the reason I'm here."
Charlie's eyes become serious and he reminds me of the pillar of law enforcement he signfied prior to retirement. "What's happened?"
I realize the protective father role I ignite and quickly attempt to calm him. "It's not what you're thinking. There just have been some new developments with Renesmee."
"You are doing a mighty shit job of clarifying the situation."
"She wants to move out."
"Renesmee. I thought you were paying attention."
"I am, but you are making no sense. You're going to have to explain a little further if you think a twenty year old girl wanting to move out of her parents' home is an issue that really warrants you escaping to your father-in-law's."
I lean back on the couch and wipe my hand across my face. "It's not that Nessie wants to move out. It's that she wants to move away. She wants to go to college like everyone else her age."
Charlie shakes his head at me and chuckles. Idiot boy is getting a dose of my medicine. How ironic, but the justice tastes like nectar.
"This is more serious than that Charlie."
He looks at me sharply. "Get out of my head boy. I put up with some serious oddities from you and your people, but that whole rummaging around my brain business is not welcome."
"I apologize. The thought just leapt out. Over the years I've gotten a lot better at controling the intrusions, but when an internal voice is so strong, I can't help but hear it."
"Work on that. Go on, because I'm still failing to see your problems."
"Well, Bella and Jacob are not pleased by this new idea my daughter has concocted. They'd prefer her to continue on how we have all these years."
Charlie leans back, his body casual, his stare cutting. "And what do you want her to do?"
My hands are folded in my lap and for the first time in my life, I fidget involuntarily. I look down and stop twisting my fingers. "I want her to do what she wants. I owe her."
See, I told you I didn't hear a crack. You need your ears checked, Edward," Rosalie said smugly.
I stared at her, momentarily entertaining the thought of ripping her face off. Bella sensed the teetering tight rope walk I was doing with my temper and placed her hand on my forearm. So fragile. So breakable. So pale. I nodded and went over to the mini-fridge where we kept Bella's blood to refresh her cup. I looked at Carlisle, hoping for some thought on what his prognosis was. He shook his head. Now is not the time son.
She smiled at me, grateful tears threatening to spill. It took every ounce I had, but I remained impassive. Scooping her in my arms effortlessly, I walked passed Rosalie with her arms crossed and went downstairs, taking care with each step to accommodate for Bella's discomfort. She still winced.
In the living room, Jacob and Alice sat in chairs. I placed Bella on her couch and sat by her head. She continued to drink her blood and listened to Jacob update Carlisle on the wolf pack. Everyone needed to hunt – badly - me included, but I felt like I could walk through fire for Bella, a little hunger would not take me away from her. I brushed back a lock of her hair and she smiled weakly. It was enough.
When Rosalie stated emphatically that she would only hunt when I did, I was not surprised, but I was beyond caring. Bella so frail and small except for the distorted bulge at her belly captured all of my attention. I could not fault Rose for being cautious. I could not guarantee I would not do what needed to be done if left alone with my new wife.
New. After a couple of years, only the recency of our relationship remained intact. We survived the dangers my world brought with it only to have her ripped away by this ithing/i sucking her life force, killing my Bella kick by kick from the inside. I would not lose her and when this was all said and done, I would hold Rosalie accountable. And if I lost Bella….
No. Unacceptable terms.
"Has she heard it?" I heard Jacob ask me about some inane joke he tried to irritate Rose with.
There was no time. "No."
Jacob and Rosalie continued to bicker, their voices echoing in my ears, punctuating my thoughts, intruding on my time with Bella. She told them enough before I could snap and tell them where to really go.
"You want me to take off?" asked Jacob.
I stilled, irrational hope filling me with her answer. "No! Of course not."
I closed my eyes and sighed. Bella would never choose and I would always sit by and push hair out of her eyes because both made her happy. Their conversation continued until Bella mentioned she wanted another refill. My thoughts and her skin distracted me too much to do anything about her hunger. In this respect I could always count on Rosalie. She ran upstairs to get more blood.
A small sigh, almost imperceptible, reached my ears. I stared at Bella as I had being for the last few minutes. I knew it wasn't her talking, but it came from her. "Did you say something?"
"Me? I didn't say anything."
I moved to rest on my knees directly in front of her stomach. I concentrated, my eyes focused on her face. That sigh again. It couldn't be.
"What are you thinking right now?"
Bella stared at me, confused. "Nothing. What's going on?"
I ignored her question, an inexplicable need to know what I suspected. "What were you thinking about a minute go?"
My beautiful pale wife blushed then. No one else existed. "Just…Emse's Island. And feathers."
I bit back a groan and whispered, "Say something else."
"Like what? Edward, what's going on?"
Again there it was. Not so much cohesive words, but a feeling, a thought. Nice. I leaned over and placed both of my hands on Bella's stomach softly, scared to prompt the fetus into moving. I heard a gasp behind me, but I kept my mind tuned with who I really wanted to hear. Bella stared at me, eyes wide.
"The f-" No, not fetus. "It…the baby likes the sound of your voice."
"Holy crow, you can hear him!" Bella shouted then winced.
My hand immediately went to the top of her belly where I saw an appendage indent her taut and bruised skin. I rubbed, trying to soothe, wanting nothing more than to infuse peace to my child. My child.
Every feeling of anger, desperation and guilt fell away. My breathing stopped, unable to perform the basic bodily function of humans while still coming to this realization. The shadow of fear and terror residing in my wife, threatening to rip her from me had taken shape finally. It no longer held the outline of the monster I assumed it to be, but fresh and somehow pure. No malice emanated from the baby, just love. Love for its mother.
"Shh. You startled it…him."
My wife, center of my world, looked at me with such wide and wondrous eyes, I felt everything click into place. "Sorry baby."
I focused again, wanting more. A feeling of calm, contentment and happiness enveloped me. The words were garbled, but the feeling, creeped into my mind, spread to my bones, saturated my blood.
"What's he thinking now?"
"It…he or she, is…" I could not put any of it into words. I felt myself condemned for so long and never believed I deserved the graces of Bella, but I understood finally. I was allowed her to bring this into the world. The thought made me cautious. Surely I did not warrant such priviledges? I looked at Bella and said, "He's happy."
Bella's face broke apart before me. The anxiety and pain chipped away with one blow. She radiated through her eyes, her smile and her tears. A gleam replaced the coal of my corneas to match hers and finally together, in sync, we marveled at the awe bestowed upon us.
I knew nothing in this life or after would replace his moment.
"So you're doing that whole guilt bit again?"
I look at Charlie with no small amount of malice. "What guilt bit?"
"Don't play stupid. I'm too old for it and I'd like to get this conversation over before I'm six feet under, but preferably before the end of the Mariner's game." Charlie shoots a glance over to the flat screen on the wall and harrumphs at the losing score. "The only person who cares about your issues is Bella so let's just drop the bullcrap. You want to talk like a man, be one."
"I do not have issues."
"O-kay. You walk around with martyr tattooed on your forehead. It's tiring."
"If you only knew."
"Well then tell me, because I am failing to see your point."
I place my hands from folded before me to my knees and rub. "I wasn't there for her…when she first came to us."
"How do you figure?" he asks.
"I didn't want her," I answer in a quiet voice, looking down.
"It's not like you planned for her. Understandable."
"You don't understand. I thought…I thought she would…"
Charlie throws his arms up in the air. "I can already see you pussy-footing around the facts so let me tell you the ones that are apparent for us all. You have been there every day for that girl. It does not matter what your initial reaction was, you have more than made up for it."
"But it's more complicated than that."
"It always has to be with you folk," Charlie raises his eyebrow and just shrugs again, "Fine, if you don't want to admit it, our conversation is done."
He pushes his recliner back and puts his hands behind his head. "Hey, why don't you grab me a beer."
I am questioning the wisdom of coming here as I stand up and make my way to the linoleum laced kitchen. Charlie's fridge is the same as all those years ago. I asked him about a replacement once, perhaps one of the sleek steel appliances, but he only shook his head, obviously not amused - Cold is cold he thought. He has a point there I must admit. I assume he took the same approach with the yellowing Formica countertops. Esme could have a field day in here if allowed.
I grab one of the beers and as an afterthought, take a second. Perhaps if he saw me with it, he would feel more of a male camaraderie between us. I snort at my own grasping of straws and take both cans with me back into the living room.
Charlie's attention is on the baseball game and I open the top of his beer for him. He holds his hand out, attention never wavering from the large flat screen. I hand the can over and the pop and fizz of my own can breaks the drone of the television.
With the hearing of a dog, Charlie turns to me, "What the hell are you doing wasting a brew?"
"I just thought this might make us more…comfortable."
"We're not on a date and you sure as hell ain't getting into my pants."
"I have never plied a lady with alcohol for any sort of favors."
"Do you have splinters from that stick?"
"No. Is it possible to get back to the issue at hand?"
"Depends." Charlie takes a sip of his beer, letting out a grunt of satisfaction.
"Whether you're going to be honest with yourself or not."
"I never lie."
"Of course you do. Look at you, holding that beer like it's going to make you more comfortable," he says, pointing at me.
I look down at the beer in hand and see my denial staring in my face. I put it down on a coaster on the table next to me. "I guess it is possible there is a measure of artifice to my existence, but I would not consider me in denial."
"Then why is it so hard for you to just support your daughter? Why come to me?"
"Because I don't know if it's the right thing to do."
I walked next to Nessie down the path tourists, hikers and naturalists took everyday. She wanted to pretend she lived amongst the "normal" just one time before we left Forks. At the tender age of five with the body of a teenager, my daughter understands she is nothing like anyone else save for the geographically diverse few who have walked in her shoes. My heart aches for this loss of kinship amongst humanity.
Nessie knew it would be a matter of a couple short years before she would encompass all the physicalities of a woman. I wondered if she would look more like Bella's older sister rather than daughter. Emmett found this concept highly amusing on our last hunt, but I didn't. When I shared it with Bella she just looked aghast. I found it disturbing my wife had not considered this potential inevitability, but it's not surprising.
I never thought it possible to give yourself over so completely to one person, much less two, but the fact stood right next to me with flowing auburn curls. I felt a surge of emotion so poignant in its primal purity as I looked at Nessie walking ahead of me. Her fluid movements graced this earth, my life, effortlessly and unforgiving. My daughter woud be a force one day and the pleasure would always be mine to protect and let go.
Nessie stopped and turned toward me, her pert nose crinkling. Aside from her eyes, the curve of her lips, her carriage, even her smooth tone were reminiscent of her Masen heritage. I used to think it would be perfect if everything about Nessie screamed Bella, but seeing her manifest so much in my image pushed my paternal pride to new heights.
"Do you smell that daddy?"
I sniff the forest air. "Jacob must have come through this area earlier."
"It's not Jacob. I think it's Leah. She must be home for a visit from school."
"How you can suffer their scent enough to discern one from the other is beyond me darling."
She smiled a small sad smile. "I am not like you."
"But you are a part of me."
"Am I?" I frowned at this question. "I know you and mother made me, but sometimes it's as if she did it all on her own the way everyone talks."
"I'm not sure I follow you."
She didn't continue her explanation immediately, but walked to my side. She put her hand in my own and urged me forward. To any casual observer we could very easily be two young lovers, but hopefully with the resemblances they would assume us close siblings. I thought for a moment that she may just show me what she was talking about, but with age, the novelty of utilizing her power over speech faded.
We kept our pace slow and silent. I did not push Nessie for information as I knew she only gave it willingly. Jacob, on the other hand, never understood this. He was too much like Bella in this respect, always trying to force what should come naturally.
"Have you ever wondered why I choose to speak more than touch?"
I looked at her peculiarly. "I must admit I have wondered, but you are growing, so will your preferences."
"That is the thing. I am growing. I know mother wonders. She encourages me to use my power more. So does Jacob. I think it makes them feel like they have a special connection with me. But because it is what I was born into, the feeling is not reciprocated."
"Why is that?"
"Communication comes in all forms correct? Body language can easily change the tone of what one is saying for example, but when I project what I am thinking to someone I find the sentiment flat. Part of the human intrigue is what one doesn't know, having to read someone without the shortcuts." She casts me a furtive glance, almost asking for approval. "Don't get me wrong. Projection can be dead useful when I cannot explain something due to my ignorance, but I do not want to live my life in the head of another or vice versa. I want to work for my connections. Do you ever feel that way?"
"You want to be like everyone else."
In the distance I could hear the internal chatter of hikers. I turned off the beaten path. "I understand. If I could turn it all off, I think I would. There is a lot of life I miss or become jaded by with everything laid before me bare."
"Have you tried to block it out?"
"I am still trying. I hope one day to be…normal, as you might say."
"Why don't they understand this?"
I noticed the voices were gone and sighed. I led Nessie to a collection of logs and motioned for her to sit before taking my place next to her.
"By they, I assume you mean your mother and Jacob. Bella will always love you as you are just like I do, but her power is not like ours. She cannot understand what it is like to be open all the time and rubbed raw. While she can open herself to me, she is not the vessel through which the thoughts of anyone around are deposited. She also cannot share herself so thoroughly with anyone other than me like you can."
"But that doesn't explain why I feel like I am to be like her, so embracing of our existence."
"Do you question it?"
"Daily, but I never abhor what I am like you once did." I flinched at her astuteness. "I like being me. But that is who I want to be – me. Not my mother."
Sunlight peaked through the clouds and a ray cut across Nessie's features. My sharp vision saw the luminescence. When she grew older and mingled with others regularly, she would be able to go in the sun without worry, but women seeing her would flock to their cosmetics counters in search for whatever made this girl's skin look so.
"Do you think that is how I see you?"
"No, but so often I am left feeling that mother and the others think I will grow up, go to school over and over, move when my age no longer coincides with time and have Jacob by my side all the while. I will be perfectly complacent, in love and just existing. Just like my mother."
"None of those things have happened."
"No? But the cycle has started."
I wanted to comfort my daughter, but there was truth to her words. I would never see Bella as Nessie does, but she and I synced to make one whole. My Nessie was born unto herself, regardless of the imprinting. I would be forever thankful for Jacob's protection over my daughter, but a small part of me always had hoped she would be more than any half.
I laid an arm around my dear daughter's shoulders. She placed her head on my shoulder and looked up to me with earnest eyes.
"Do you think I will be different daddy?"
"Ness isn't like you or Bella."
"No, Nessie is not. She has always wanted more than we ever did."
Charlie snorts at my enunciation of Nessie. "Thank God for that."
"Is the life Bella and I have forged so terrible to you?"
Charlie shoots the television a longing glance and picks up his remote to turn it off. I am surprised by this. I always thought short of nuclear war, nothing would come between Charlie and a game of any sort. He adjusts himself upright in the chair and focuses all his attention onto me.
"I'm going to be honest with you Edward. While I love my girls and have come to have a sort of admiration for you and yours, I can't say this is the life I would have chosen for my daughter."
"I can understand that."
"Now what is the life you would choose for Ness?"
The question takes me aback. It should not be difficult to answer. I have many dreams for my daughter, but when actually prompted to give an answer, I am at a loss. It is an impossible task to decide whether I would wish to see Nessie happy within the strict confines we Cullens had cultivated over the last century. If the voice inside begging her to break free of the practical façade into something brilliant and admirable beyond expectation is screaming louder, I have to ask myself who we are to stifle?
There is no succinct answer that will satisfy Charlie's inquiry so I tell him the one veracious thing I know. "I would choose for her to be happy."
"And son, that is why when Bella told me she would be your wife, I didn't put up too much of a fight."
My mouth hangs open. "I was there if you don't remember. You planned on Renee doing your dirty work."
"Well, I couldn't give up too easily now could I? No matter how much Bella claimed to be mature enough to make a big decision like that, she was only eighteen. I had to be her father still, no matter what. But I gave her the room to breathe and that's what's important. Not to mention I had a shotgun all the ready."
I laugh at this. "Some things will never change."
"Spots and leopards and all that," Charlie chuckles.
My laughter dies and I voice what is really bothering me. "I'm scared Charlie, but I feel like I have to stand by Nessie. I don't know how much Bella has told you about how Nessie was first…came to us, but I wasn't there for her then. I need to be now."
"Then be there Edward. Let her go while you fight to hold her hand every step of the way and be there to pick her up. It's all you can do. That's what being a parent is about. And since we are doing the whole truth thing, I hardly think Ness with Bella's eyes and everything else that is you just showed up on your doorstep. But those little things don't matter do they? She is here and you have loved her. The decision you made to be her father outweighs all others."
I take a few minutes to take in his words. It seems so simple clear, yet the complications with Bella, Jacob and everyone else make the whole affair so very murky. But that is not my battle, it will be Nessie's. She would deal with the fallout. She will have to break Jacob's heart; not that she hasn't been doing so for the last few years by holding herself back from his more amorous attentions. I cannot help but sympathize with the wolf. First the mother, now the daughter. I think one day she will choose him, but just not yet.
Bella and Nessie needed to come to terms on their own. Every fiber of my being wants to fix this for them, but Charlie is right. I must let go.
My phone rings in my pocket, pulling me out of my reverie. I look at the caller id and see it is Bella. I answer it before it can ring a second time.
"Are you with Charlie?" she asks urgently.
"Of course. It's where I told you I'd be." I wrinkle my forehead in concern and walk out of the room to the hallway, raising a finger to Charlie to let him know I needed a moment.
"I need you to come home."
"Is everything okay?"
I begin to pace the hallway. "Bella?" No answer. "I can be home in a few hours. Just let me say bye to Charlie. Where is everyone else? Call them. Get them there."
A sob bursts from her end. "She's gone! She just l-left! We a-a-argued and s-she left! My baby is gone!" I can see tears that have not graced her face for twenty years.
I pull the keys out of my pocket and open the front door of Charlie's home, ready to leave without so much as a goodbye. "Do you know where she went? Have you called Jasper? He may be able to track her."
"N-nessie l-left her address and n-number."
I stop halfway to my car and speak clearly into the phone. "Tell me exactly what happened Bella."
I hear my wife take in a deep breath she does not need and then she unloads. "I'm not sure. One second we were sitting on the couch watching a movie and I casually mentioned that Jacob wanted to come for a visit. He does miss her so much and I think he has been awfully understanding with moving back to La Push until we settled here at her request. I might have pointed out that he cannot help it and then she just exploded."
I pinch the bridge of my nose, still standing in the middle of the driveway. "Tell me you didn't."
"Of course I did Edward! Jacob has given his life to her, to us, how can we not be sympathetic?"
"Nessie is your daughter."
"I know and that's why I am trying so hard to get her to see that we only have her best interest at heart."
"She doesn't want our life."
"So what? I'm supposed to just sit back and let her do as she pleases?"
"She is twenty. I'm afraid that is exactly as we should do. Tell me the rest."
Bella's voice is curt as she continues. "She just became irrational. She said she was planning on waiting for you to come home and then she would tell us both together, but she could not hold it in any longer. She went upstairs and started to throw things in her suitcase and kept saying over and over how she wasn't me. That this is not the life she chooses. When she was done she handed me a piece of paper and said it was her address and phone number. I'm to give it to you when you return."
I let out a sigh of relief. I knew this was coming. It's what spurned this visit to Charlie. The vision Alice told me about only showed Nessie in a place that looked all her own. I knew my daughter held discontent in her heart, but she is always so careful to mask it. There is a breaking point for everyone.
"I'm going to make my apologies to Charlie and I'll be home soon."
"Please hurry. We need to fix this."
"Have you thought about letting it fix itself?"
Her silence is telling.
"Wait for me. I love you." I hang up the phone knowing Bella would be livid at me later. From my spot in the driveway, I can see Bella's window, the one I climbed through nightly so many years ago. Things seemed so complicated back then, but little did I know what would be in store.
Everything during the first years of our relationship had always been life or death. After her change and the confrontation with the Volturri, we settled into the mundane idiosyncrasies of our blended family without preamble. We operated with the presumptions that all would always be well, but quickly the everyday functioning of being a family showed us not everything is rainbows and ponies. I found the matter of just living to be infinitely scarier than a vampire with a penchant for collecting.
Without the urgency Bella's call initially wrought, I am almost tempted to climb the tree and enter through the window for old-times' sake, but I doubt Charlie would find the action humorous. I walk back into the house and find Charlie still in his chair, the television back on.
"It looks like I'll have to be leaving."
"Let me guess, apocalyptic demise of your society?"
"No, Nessie moved out."
"So a close second then."
I laugh at Charlie being Charlie. "Quite."
As he struggles to stand up, I can hear his bones creaking and ligaments rubbing. I want to extend my hand for assistance, but I think he will take this as insult. A thought strikes me. "Have you ever thought about becoming-"
"You do not even know what I was planning on asking."
Charlie straightens himself to full height and the light in his eyes tells me he is not down for the count despite what his body may say. "I am old, tired and grumpy. Sue and Billy are both dead and fishing is not the pleasure it once was. But just because I am in the twilight of my life, does not mean I stop living or having the adventures. I love my daughter, granddaughter and even you, but I do not want to be with you forever. I want to fade and with the knowledge that the short time I spent in your lives made the difference because it was finite."
"If you ever-"
"Forever is for the birds son. I got family in need of my wisdom on the other side."
I nod my head in acquiescence and stick out my hand to shake. "Thank you Charlie. I shall see you soon."
He grasps me firmly. "Yes, two weeks the weather will be back in form. I could teach you a thing or two about the art of fish."
"I shall be here."
Less than twenty-four hours later I sit next to Bella in my newly acquired Volvo outside an apartment building within walking distance to the Univerity of Colorado, Boulder. She has an affinity for the car and we continued to replace it with a new one every few years – silver of course. The reliable vehicle has brought us about an hour from where we live and worlds away from our reality.
"It's clear out tonight," Bella says, staring out the windshield.
"Yes, you can see the stars."
"Not as well as you can at home."
"We live outside of the city. We don't have to deal with the gray fog of pollution hindering our site."
"Nessie will though."
"It's a fact about living here."
Bella takes my hand in hers and squeezes. "We can't suck the pollution from the air can we?"
"She is immune Bella."
"But not to everything."
I turn her hand palm up and trace my finger along the lines that supposedly tell our destinies. "No, not to everything."
Bella looks at me then, blank. "It's my fault, isn't it? She sees me as a failure, but she doesn't understand that you are what made my life. If she would only let that love in from-"
I place my index finger on her lips. "No and no. Nessie is not us. We cannot expect her to walk our path."
Bella closes her eyes and slumps back in the passenger seat. "I know, but I just want to protect her. I want her to be happy," she whispers.
I let go of her hand and cup her face. I stare into her eyes as I have spent thousands hours previous doing. The well of emotion should produce tears, which we are not, but how else can someone relate looking into the eyes of their lover, best friend, wife, mother of their child and seeing the same depths of devotion after so many years? Like watching Nessie walking with her grace, it is moments like these I know it will be okay. I tell Bella this and she brings her hands to my wrists and like we have done a thousand times before, she presses her lips to mine. It is short, sweet and solidifying. It is unchanged, but constantly new and reassuring. It settles my own heavy heart in this tumultuous time of a parent and I know we will do the right thing.
Before we can speak again, my phone rings. I answer this new number I have yet to program.
"Daddy, are you guys coming in or what?"
"Your mother and I will be right in. We are iboth/i very excited to see your home."
"Sure you are." I can see her eyes rolling in my mind and chuckle. "I've already called Aunt Alice and Aunt Rosalie. They'll be here soon. If you'd like a tour before it turns into Home Makeover, I suggest you get in gear."
"Let me just finish making out with your mom and we'll be right up."
"Unnecessary and gross. Do it on your own time old man."
"Oh I plan on it. What else do empty nesters do?"
"We'll be right up."
"Bye." Bella and I can both hear Nessie making retching sounds and we laugh as we get out of the car. I come around to my wife and put my arm around her waist.
"Do you think she'll be safe here?"
"Most of her neighbors are students and there are a few recent graduates on the ground floor."
Bella stops our tracks. "Edward Cullen. What do you know?"
I grin sheepishly. "A little birdy told me?"
Bella puts her hand on her hip. "Fess up."
"Well, Alice kind of told me she isaw/i Nessie here and I had a feeling so…I bought the building a few months ago and ran background checks."
Bella's eyes went wide and I can sense her anger. "You're kidding me."
I shuffled my feet, feeling guilty of my recent purchase. "Would it help if I told you there are two empty apartments reserved for 'family'?"
My wife looks contemplative for a second before a half smile appears at the corner of her mouth. "I suppose. So all that about letting her go live her life, crap?"
"I meant every word, but there is something to be said for baby steps."
Bella laughs and walks close, pulling me into her arms. "Spots and leopards."
I smile, knowing without a doubt, she is her father's daughter.