Winning entry in the RosaBella Challenge. Stephenie Meyer own all Twilight.
"So, should I whip up the usual?" I asked Renesmee, though I knew what her answer would be.
"Make it a double!" she grinned as she slid into her customary seat at the kitchen table.
Every morning I stared at my daughter in amazement. Although she just recently had her third birthday, she was already the size of an average fourteen year old girl. She seemed to change daily, a constant reminder for Edward and me that our only child will not be a child for long. Where does the time go?
Snapping out of my reverie, I pulled out the frying pan to prepare her breakfast. "So, let's see, a double order would be six eggs and eight sausage links. Medium rare?"
"The rarer the better!" she chimed.
"Maybe we should just keep chicken and pigs in the yard and cut out the middle man?" Rosalie commented as she sauntered into the kitchen and sat across from Renesmee.
Renesmee's face lit up --as it did every time she saw Rosalie. I think she secretly worshipped her Aunt.
"Hmmm. Hadn't thought of that, Aunt Rose. Guess I just couldn't picture you slopping pigs. What do you think, mom, Farmer Rose?"
"Do you think they make Jimmy Choos for pig slopping?" I quipped.
"If they make 'em, Rose'll find 'em," Emmett interjected from the living room where I heard the familiar opening music of Sports Center.
We all laughed and I felt a deep sense of contentment – of being home.
We had moved to this house just a little over a year ago. It was Emmett's turn to choose the location. Knowing Edward and I wanted to attend Dartmouth, he began his search in Vermont. His criteria were simple: there had to be bears to hunt and the name had to be quirky. So we settled in Killington just outside the boundaries of Green Mountain National Forest.
The kitchen of our new home quickly became the hub of family activity as everyone knew they could check in with Renesmee during mealtimes. As I sat next to Nessie, envying her ability to enjoy eggs, Esme breezed in with the morning newspaper clutched in her hand.
"Oh, Rose, honey, I found something that you might want to read. I'm sorry, it's sad news," Esme said as she slipped the paper in front of Rose. The paper had been folded precisely to reveal the article. I glanced over and caught the headline: 'Final Hale Family Heir Passes at Age 92'.
Like Esme, I watched Rose's eyes scan the article. To our surprise she casually flipped the paper aside. Feeling our eyes upon her, she felt obligated to comment. "My youngest brother died. It appears that's the end of my family's line. They are going to auction off the estate."
In the living room, Emmett paused the TV. "Hey, Rosy, you okay?"
Rose snorted, "That life ended a long time ago. It means nothing to me."
Although her words disregarded the poignant news, I saw in the briefest of moments her eyes cloud over before they were swiftly averted toward the window. It was her careful avoidance of our eyes that caught my suspicion.
I was jolted out of my analysis by Nessie's silverware clattering on her cleaned plate. She got up and shoved the dish into the dishwasher before bounding over to kiss my cheek. "Gotta run, mom. Uncle Jasper's history lesson is on the battle at Chantilly Plantation. He was wounded during the fighting and promised me all the gory details!"
"Enjoy dear. Sounds like you'll be following in your grandfather's footsteps --- another Doctor Cullen," I called after her as she sprinted up the stairs. Though Renesmee's growth rate made it impossible for her to attend school, she obviously benefitted from her home schooling. It was a group project that each family member enthusiastically participated in.
"Well, I've got things to do." Rose said as stood abruptly.
I reached out for her hand, "Do you want to talk?"
I glanced toward the article.
"Nothing to talk about," she stated bluntly and left.
I continued to think about what transpired as I cleaned the kitchen. I knew there was something to Rose's subtle reaction. I planned to keep my eye on her, but then thought of something more effective. I went to get Edward.
I found him packing our books for class.
"Are you ready to go?" he asked without looking up from his task.
"Yeah, Nessie's at her lesson. Ummm, I need a favor, but I am not sure if you'll approve…"
That piqued his interest immediately and I could feel him mentally tapping on my shield. I contracted it quickly allowing him access my request. What is Rosalie thinking right now?
I waited as I watched him search the minds in the house, attempting to isolate her thoughts.
"Something about a house in Rochester. She's pretty worked up. What's going on?" he whispered.
"I'm not entirely sure, but I might be in for a little trip."
That evening I mercilessly kept my mental bloodhound husband trained on Rosalie's thoughts. It was just a hunch I had, an intuitive feeling, but it turned out I was right.
"She's leaving," he announced suddenly.
I knew just where she was going. Looking at Edward, I silently requested his approval. He just nodded and said, "Go."
My mind was set, but I knew it wouldn't be easy to convince Rosalie to accept my company.
I caught up with her just outside the front door. It was dark and with the exception of her blond hair she blended in with the surroundings dressed in all black.
"Going to rob a bank?" It was my attempt at humor to break the ice.
"Not necessary after Alice's last stock tip. Are you stalking me?"
"No. Just thought we could spend some quality time together," I hedged.
"I'm going for a late night snack. Didn't you already hunt tonight?"
I knew we could stand here and play this game all night, so I decided to cut to the chase, "Rose, you do remember who I am married to, don't you?"
"Edward's not content just sucking blood from his victims; he's got to suck the thoughts out of my head too?" It was apparent my prying presence was annoying her. But when I didn't back down, she pushed harder. "Bella, I've got something I need to do. Don't you have homework or some mother-type thing to tend to?"
"Rose, you don't have to face things alone."
I knew Rosalie was not the touch-feely type, so I spared her the emotional blather. I just wasn't going to let her return to her childhood home for the first time in 79 years without emotional support – whether she thought she needed it or not.
"Fine, suit yourself," she said in a huff. "Follow me to the ends of the Earth if you wish." And she bolted.
I swiftly caught up to her, but lagged slightly behind -- I wanted to let her warm up to my presence. We ran for several hours through the cover of night to Rochester. When I had the opportunity, I stole glimpses of her face – determined, focused, and distant. But wasn't that always her M.O.? I began to hope this journey might give me some insight into the Cullen I knew the least about – and felt the least connected to.
She began to slow indicating that we were near our destination.
The large brick home sat on approximately one acre of meticulously manicured land. Rosalie strode confidently through the shadowy back yard to the door, which had been secured by a lockbox.
"This is my house," she spat at the device and gripped it until the metal groaned under the pressure. She removed the chunk of warped metal and entered the house, paying no attention to me tagging behind her.
The smells that rushed to greet me made my nose crinkle. The air was stale and had that 'old people' smell – a combination of mothballs and Bengay.
When I caught up to Rose, she was in the cavernous main foyer. It was open to the second floor accessed by a curved grand staircase. The furnishing seemed over the top for the upper middle-class house.
"It looks the same," her voice echoed. "It's like it's been frozen in time. I wonder…"
With that she shot up the stairs and I wordlessly followed. At the third door on the right, she paused. I thought I heard her take in a breath of anxious anticipation before entering.
The air that gusted out of the room was very stuffy – like the room had been sealed for some time. But once the mustiness cleared, I detected the light scent of lavender.
Again, unsure if Rosalie was talking to me or muttering to herself, I heard her say, "Nothing's changed." This time I picked up a sense of awe in her voice.
The room was obviously a girl's bedroom. Faded lace curtains hung lifelessly over the windows and perfectly matched the equally faded bedspread. All the furnishings were made of highly-polished cherry wood. On the right side of the room was the most ornate oval floor mirror I had ever seen. Hanging on it was a large garment bag coated in dust – it captured Rose's eyes instantly.
Her demeanor started to crack; fine fissures were appearing on her stone exterior.
In that moment, I started to slowly put the puzzle pieces together. This was Rose's room – untouched since the tragic day she never came home.
As I eyed the garment bag, curiosity nudged me into speaking, "Is that your wedding dress?"
She nodded appearing to both want to approach it and flee from it.
I decided for her and moved across the room. I firmly held the top of the bag and unzipped it. Satin and lace burst out as if thankful to finally be released from their enclosure. I pushed back the sides of the bag to view the dress. The beading on the bodice had obviously been sown on by hand. The heavily beaded train was gathered and pinned to the back of the dress. It probably would have trailed her by six or seven feet as she walked down the aisle.
"It's gorgeous, Rosalie. I'm sure you looked stunning in it."
She scoffed, "I was a naive little girl caught up in my parents' aspiration for the finer things in life." She turned her back on the dress. Hastily I stuffed it back into the bag and zipped it closed. It had been thoughtless of me to spring it on her like that, but wasn't this her reason for coming? To revisit her past? I guess I needed to find out…
"Rosalie, why did you come here?"
She moved to her bed and sat heavily on the edge, a cloud of dust billowed around her. "I don't know. At first I was angry. The once respectable Hale name has now been reduced to memories and items to be sold to the highest bidder. All meaning lost and no one to mourn its passing. No one left to care."
"I care. Show me. Tell me their meaning," I urged, sensing that this visit was about to be over before it even began.
"I see now that it doesn't matter anymore. It's the past. That's where it should stay."
I was convinced this was just a pretense, so I searched the room for something to question her about, to keep her here to finish what she had come for. My eyes rested on a wooden chest in the corner of the room. "What's in that?" I inquired as I moved toward the chest.
"It was my hope chest."
Perfect. I kneeled before it and pushed open the lid. The hinges creaked in protest, as if they wanted to keep their contents a secret. The sweet, aromatic smell of cedar filled my nose. It was a pleasing, nostalgic smell.
Rosalie tentatively moved to my side and peered in the chest. It was filled to capacity with mementos of Rose's human life all packed neatly and lovingly.
Rosalie reached in and picked up what appeared to be a sterling silver box. It was rectangular, thin and had hinges on one side. She opened it slowly to reveal that it was a double picture frame. On the left was an unmistakable picture of a young Rosalie, maybe ten or eleven years of age. She was dressed in a tutu and posed in the third dance position. Her sleek blond hair pulled back in a tight bun. Though the picture was black and white, color had been added. The tutu and slippers were a soft pink; the same pink was used to color her cheeks. But her eyes were colored a bold, steely blue-gray.
"Were your eyes really that color?" I asked.
"Yes, they were very different, unique. My father said they got bluer when I was happy and grayer when I was sad."
My eyes moved to the right to another colorized picture of an older Rosalie standing alongside a handsome and debonair young man. They smiled broadly at me.
"That's Royce. I was eighteen and he was twenty. This was our engagement photo," she stated flatly.
I compared her eyes in the two photos: blue as a child, grayer at eighteen.
"He was a good-looking bastard, wasn't he?" she asked rhetorically.
"I am so sorry about what happened. You must have felt so betrayed," I whispered tentatively, unsure what her reaction would be to my offering of consolation.
I jumped as she snapped the frame closed, shattering the glass within.
"Yeah, well, what is it Carlisle said to me, 'everything happens for a reason' and that I would have never found the happiness I have with Em had I not gone through that experience."
From her tone, I couldn't tell if she believed Carlisle's words or thought they were just worthless prattle. Either way, Rose had reached in her chest of hopes for another item.
This time she produced a small keepsake box. Inside it held ribbons, pins and other trinkets of unknown significance from her days as a child. There was also one small picture of Rose. In it she appeared to be about fifteen years old. She wore a renaissance-type dress and held a bouquet of roses.
"What's this from?" I asked as I snatched the photo from the box before she could close the lid.
She carefully kept her eyes averted from mine as she set the box aside and rummaged through the chest. "I was Juliet in a production of Romeo and Juliet." After a pause she added, "I loved acting – the spotlight, the audience – I wanted to be an actress. But my parents frowned on that. They thought it was a silly dream and a waste of my time."
I noticed how difficult it was for her to keep her voice devoid of emotion. However, the next item she removed from the chest seemed to really test her resolve to remain detached from the chest's contents. At first I couldn't see the object. It must have been fragile as she held it cupped in both hands. Finally she balanced it in the palm of one hand and I saw that it was a music box. It stood about five and a half inches in height and had a polished oak base with flowers carved around the perimeter. Standing on the base and enclosed in a glass dome was a petite ballerina. Her yellow skirt was decorated with small red roses.
Rose gently wound the key on the bottom and slid the lever on the side. The ballerina came to life pirouetting to the sounds of the Viennese Waltz.
"It's beautiful, Rose. Was it a gift?"
"For my sixteenth birthday. I was still dancing then." She laughed, but it was a humorless noise. "I think my parents saw this ballerina dance more often than they ever saw me dance."
I could hear the sadness in her voice, but I knew she would not want my pity – she was too proud for that. So I tried another question: "They weren't around much?"
Rosalie kept her eyes glued to the dancing figure. "My father worked long hour at the bank and my mother was busy with social functions. Rubbing the right elbows was important to them. I was just part of their detailed strategy."
I then remembered that Edward had told me of Rosalie's family. 'Social climbers' he had called them. Obviously this had an unfortunate impact on Rosalie, pushing her into an arranged marriage of sorts that had a disastrous result.
"I'm sure your parents loved you, Rose. They gave you many beautiful things."
"Things," she sneered. "I didn't want things. I wanted their attention. I wanted to be what was important to them. You see, Bella, these things really don't matter to me." Suddenly she began to repack all the items hastily into the chest. "I shouldn't have come here.... Let's go home."
Though her abrupt change of heart startled me, I did notice the way she said 'home' – like it was something she longed for – it was where she wanted to be.
Just maybe, I had learned a little about Rose that gave me insight into who she really was. Her family had valued her beauty as a means to their end, but it left her feeling used and alone. It was not easy for her to relive the feelings she had worked so hard to repress.
But in the end, maybe she would come to value the family she had unwilling been force to join, yet loved her none the less – and not just for her beauty.
I stood, following her example. Dusting off my knees, I felt a twinge of reluctance to leave behind the only remnants of her human life – no matter how little she claimed they meant to her.
"Rose, we could ship your things to Killington."
"No. I told you, they belong in the past. I've said my goodbyes."
"Have you?" I challenged.
"What do you expect, Bella? My past sucked! It's not that easy to just 'move on'."
"You're right, Rose. You have to forgive to be able to forget."
Her eyes narrowed at my outburst of wisdom, but when she opened her mouth to reply, she seemed to think better of it and closed her mouth without another word.
Once she finished packing the chest, we left the Hale home. Sunrise was quickly approaching, requiring us to push our speed to the limit.
As we approached home, Rose slowed to a walk. When I arrived at her side, she spoke, "I let you tag along, but I expect you to keep this between us. So tell your mind-probing husband to keep his trap shut."
I smiled as the tenacious Rosalie I knew returned. But I had one more card up my sleeve…
"Okay, Rose… under one condition." I stopped walking to gain her full attention. "If you promise to let your defenses down sometimes. I never had a sister, and I know I can't replace your real siblings, but I'd like to try to fill that role…if you'll let me."
She seemed to ponder the idea for a moment.
"You know you're pathetic," she grinned slightly. "Alright. Keep my secret and I'll let you play my little sister. You know that includes giving me pedicures and running menial errands, right?"
I shook my head. She had found a way to deflect the emotion of the moment, but I still believed I had made some progress in our relationship.
"As my first sisterly duty, I want to give you this." I reached into my pocket and held its contents out to Rose. "I thought you might want to share something from your past with Emmett."
She took the small picture I had secreted away of her as Juliet.
Her smile faded and was replaced by a genuine look of appreciation.
"Thanks, Bella," she said quietly, then added quickly, "Race you to the house, sis!"
In a blur of black, she darted for home. I bolted behind her, but her head start enabled her to reach the door first. As we entered laughing, we were startled to find Edward and Emmett sitting at the kitchen table – waiting.
Quickly I let down my barrier so Edward could hear my mind. I immediately felt his gentle presence. Don't say anything. I'll explain later…
"Hey, Baby. Edward said you and Bella took off together. What's up?" Emmett asked. I could hear the not-so-well-concealed concern in his voice.
"Um, Edward, I'd really like to check on Renesmee. Let's go." I grabbed Edward's hand and tried to exit quickly to allow Rosalie a chance to share her emotional trip home with her husband. I knew she could use his comforting.
But as we dashed to our wing of the house, I heard her response:
"What's up, Muscleman, is my desire for you. Want to show me how much you missed me?"
"I did miss you…Are you sure everything's okay?" Emmett questioned.
"I've never been better," Rose lied.
I let out a heavy sigh.
"What's that for?" Edward asked.
"I just realized Rosalie got her childhood wish – she turned out to be quite the actress."
End notes: Thank you to Saxyad18 and MannipulativeRunner for offering such a thought-provoking challenge!
I never really understood what made Rosalie 'tick' -- this was my attempt to understand her character better.
Your thoughts/comments/reviews are welcome and appreciated!