This story will be twelve chapters long (including the prologue and epilogue), and even though it begins with a Charlie POV, the rest is in Bella's. It takes place over a series of New Year's Eves - the chapter titles will be named for the new year, not the old.
Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. This plot belongs to Tor, and I thank her for trusting me with her idea. The words are mine.
When you've lived your whole life in a small town, tradition begins to get a bit tedious. In a place like Forks, you're forced to do the same crap over and over, just because you're out in the middle of nowhere and you don't have a whole hell of a lot of options.
Fathers and sons didn't attend the same high school to maintain an idiotic birthright; they did it because there was only one high school in the whole damned town. Generations filed into The Forks Diner for dinner every Saturday night, not because the food was particularly good, or to keep up some kind of moronic custom. No, they ate at that diner because it was the only one within a thirty mile radius, and if they didn't they'd be stuck trying to choke down some god-awful homemade slop being passed off as dinner. I was a newlywed; I knew a lot about choking down god-awful homemade slop.
Since I'd spent the entire twenty-four years of my life forced into one bit of monotony after another, I wasn't exactly thrilled when Renee wanted to start up a New Year's Eve tradition. Unfortunately, she could persuade me to do just about anything when she gave me that look; batting her pretty brown eyes, her long eyelashes sweeping across her cheek. That look made me feel like my insides were melting, and it was the best and worst feeling I'd ever felt.
"Why is this guy from Bandstand on the TV?"
Renee stood at the stove, stirring something that for once actually smelled kind of good. I snuck up behind her and wrapped my arms around her waist and she giggled, one of my favorite sounds in the world.
"It's a New Year's Eve show, Charlie," she answered, sounding a little bit mad. "He's going to do a countdown to midnight."
"What do we need to watch a countdown to midnight for? We have a clock." I held her tighter and kissed her neck so she'd know I was just kidding around.
She put down the wooden spoon she had been holding and stood there, her arms hanging down at her sides, not touching me. Renee and I hadn't been married that long; hell, we hadn't even known each other that long. Even so, I knew right away that I had messed up and gone too far.
Her hand finally moved when she reached up to rub her eyes, and I felt like complete shit because she was crying. I had made my own wife cry, and this wasn't the first time. I wasn't sure if it was because this was all so new to her, or if maybe she just didn't get my sense of humor. All I knew was that when I tried to make her happy, sometimes I made her sad, and no matter how I tried to avoid it, I always wound up stepping in the same mess over and over again.
"Don't cry," I said quietly, pushing a piece of hair that had fallen out of her ponytail back behind her ear. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean-"
"I know you didn't. I just...I miss being home. Doing these things makes me feel like I'm there with my family, even though I'm not."
She leaned back into my chest, so warm and small. I wrapped my arms around her, so tight, because I just wanted to protect her. I wanted her to have everything, but we were both so young, and we barely had a pot to piss in. If I could make her happy by watching a stupid countdown and eating whatever it was she was cooking that really did smell delicious, then I would do it.
"This means a lot to you," I said.
"I thought it would be a nice thing to do every year, something we could share with our kids once they're old enough, and then they could share it with their kids, and on and on and on..."
Our kids. I'd be lying if I said that thought didn't bring a smile to my face each and every time it crossed my mind. I couldn't wait to have babies with Renee. Little hell-raisers with my eyes and her free-spirit; the best things about both of us all wrapped up into one. The thought that one day we might share this with them made it a little bit easier to tolerate.
My hand grazed the bottom of her shirt, and I lifted it up just a little so I could touch the soft, warm skin of her belly. I smiled and kissed that spot on her neck she liked so much, the one that made her make that noise that almost always brought me to my knees. "We could get started on that right now if you want to."
She smacked my hand away, laughing. "You distract me, and I'll burn the beans! They're supposed to be good luck for the new year. If I burn them, who knows what'll happen."
"You're too superstitious," I said playfully as I turned to get a beer from the refrigerator. "What's going to happen is going to happen whether you burn your beans or not."
"I know that," she said, her voice a lot softer than it had been before. "I just want to start the new year off right."
"We'll be together, baby. There's nothing more right than that."
A couple of hours later, with the new year's beans perfectly cooked and put away in the fridge for dinner tomorrow, Renee led me into our cramped living room. She turned the volume on the television down, and then walked over to our worn-out record player, putting on one of her favorite LPs.
She held onto me tightly during the last few minutes of our first year together, and I sang off-key into her ear as I held her.
"I've got sunshine on a cloudy day...When it's cold outside, I've got the month of May..."
I dipped her when the song ended, and she laughed at me like she usually did. Everything was perfect; I had my girl with me, and soon we'd have a new year to make all new memories. I brought my lips to hers, their favorite place to be, and I kissed my wife over the cheer-filled countdown of the crowd on the television.
'Five... Four... Three... Two... One...'