"I don't understand what's so lucky about beans," Emmett said as he leaned on the counter next to the stovetop, peering into the pot suspiciously. "I mean, unless you're having, you know...issues." He motioned toward his stomach, and I rolled my eyes at him. "But then I'd consider them magical, not necessarily lucky, since-"
"Em," Rose snapped, interrupting him. She shook her head, and soft blonde waves cascaded down her shoulders. "Don't go there."
"Thanks, Rose," I said, turning to give her a grateful smile.
"Besides, why are they called peas if they're really beans? And why do we eat them every New Year's?" Emmett was not going to give it a rest tonight.
"Why don't you save us the twenty questions and Google it?" Edward asked sarcastically as he stood in the doorway and kicked off his shoes. I gave him a huge, goofy grin, because he saved me again, just like he always did. He winked at me as he shrugged his shoulders out of his jacket and hung it on the coat rack.
"You really don't get tradition, do you?" Rose asked, as she thumbed through the magazine that was sitting on the kitchen table.
Emmett stepped back and clapped his hand on his chest, like he was personally affronted. "I've been eating them for the past hundred years, haven't I? I just want to know why I do it."
"Why don't you go ask your sister," Rose said. "She knows everything."
"Eh, she's off somewhere with Jasper being disgusting. You know how those two are. Doesn't anyone here know why we do this?"
"What's with the sudden thirst for knowledge?" Edward asked. "Did you make a resolution to boost your brainpower or something?"
"Nah, resolutions are bullshit. Just a promise you make to yourself that you'll wind up breaking anyway."
Edward smiled at me then, because he knew as well as I did that for every broken resolution, there would always be one that would change absolutely everything.
"Who are you, and what have you done with my husband?" Rose asked, her eyebrows knit together in confusion. It wasn't like Emmett to be so cynical, but boy was he on a roll tonight.
"Dunno," Emmett said, shrugging his shoulders. "I think I need some sugar or something. I haven't had any since dinner."
"You can have your pick of what we've got in the refrigerator in the garage," Edward said. "James is down there with that hunk of scrap metal on wheels that he wants to restore."
"I forgot I told him I'd look at that," Em said as he stood up and walked over to the stairs that led down to the garage. "You wanna come, Rosie? You know more about Fords than I do."
"Yeah, all right," she replied as she rose and brushed the wrinkles out of her shirt. She bunched her hair back into a ponytail, securing it with the elastic that she usually wore around her wrist.
"Do me a favor," Edward said, walking over to where his brother stood. "Victoria's scared shitless that he's going to kill himself in that thing. You know how she is. She's down there; just put her mind at ease and let her know he's safe."
Emmett clapped Edward on the shoulder. "Will do."
When the clunking of footsteps down the stairs died out, Edward walked up behind me and slid his arms around my belly, where his thumb rubbed small circles across my skin. He rested his chin on my shoulder, holding me while I stirred.
"Why do we eat these?" he asked.
"They're supposed to bring prosperity in the new year," I explained. "Health and happiness."
"We can definitely use some health and happiness," he said, as he brushed his lips across my shoulder, making my heart skip a beat. I leaned into him and put the spoon down so my fingers could run the length of his arms until my hands rested on top of his. Then he kissed my neck, and that spot right beneath my ear, and-
"If you don't stop, I'll burn these and we'll have bad luck all year."
Edward breathed a hushed laugh against my skin before kissing me there. "You're not superstitious, B."
"I know," I said, smiling at the way his hair tickled my cheek. "I just don't want to tempt fate. And I would be really disappointed if I couldn't have two or three bowls of these tomorrow."
"You and me both. Your-"
Edward was interrupted by the small thumps of tiny feet running across the floor, and even from a room away I could hear the hushed giggles trying so hard not to escape that cute little mouth.
The soft tinkling of something that might've sounded like a melody under more experienced hands rang out through the air, and Edward laughed as he let go of me to move a little closer to the hallway.
"Renee Esme Cullen!" he said, sounding stern, even though he had a huge smile plastered on his face. He'd created a monster with that child; ever since the first day he sat her on his lap to play Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, she couldn't rest until her fingers were touching ivory keys.
"I got her, I got her," Dad said, flying past us in a flash on his way to the piano room.
Seconds later, there was a high-pitched squeal followed by tiny peals of laughter that sounded like sunshine. When my dad returned looking positively exhausted, Edward reached out to take our wriggling three-year-old daughter into his arms.
"What did Mommy and I tell you about the piano?" Edward asked, brushing her long, loose reddish curls away from her face.
Renee pursed her little lips and looked repentant as she buried her face against Edward's shoulder. "I'm sorry."
"Did you two give her sugar or something?" Dad asked, running his fingers through his hair. "She never stops." Renee looked over at him, and he tickled her chin.
"Grampa!" she cried, squirming.
"She's just excited," I said, leaning across Edward's shoulder to plant a kiss on her forehead. "All the people, the noise. She's been waiting for tonight."
"Just like her grandmother," Dad said quietly.
"I have Grandma's name," Renee replied, rolling the collar of Edward's shirt between her fingers. She sounded so proud when she said that, and I was proud that someone so small who'd only seen pictures and been told stories about my mother always seemed to remember so much about her.
"I know you do," Dad said, smiling that soft, sad smile that we really only saw on nights like these, when I wondered if he still felt just a little bit empty. "It's a very special name to have." Dad reached over and lifted her from Edward's arms. "Let me take her. I don't get to spend as much time with her as I'd like to with you two living so far away."
Edward's expression was soft as he looked at me then, because he was used to my father getting his digs in while he could. Edward only needed to venture into the city every once in a while to deal with the business side of his music, but my father knew that there was very little, if any, work for someone in my field in a small town like Forks.
"You act like Seattle is on the other side of the world, Dad," I said sarcastically, rolling my eyes at him. "You don't see Carlisle and Esme making a big deal about Rose and Em living out there. And Alice and Jasper travel-"
"You could be closer, is all I'm saying." He kissed Renee's flushed red cheek, effectively ending the conversation for now. "One more story," he said, nuzzling his face into her hair, "and then you have to go to sleep."
"I wanna stay up and watch that big ball fall down," she said through a huge, mouth widening yawn.
Dad smiled at her, and tried to appeal to her book-loving side; the one that could sit through hours and hours of stories without so much as a peep. "Let's just read a story and we'll see how that goes."
"Four stories," she said, puffing out her bottom lip into a pout. She had my father wrapped right around her little finger, and she knew it.
"Two," my father replied. "Two stories. It's late."
Renee pressed her little hands against my father's cheeks and simply said, "No, Grampa. Four is good."
Dad kissed her cheek, and I didn't think I'd ever seen his face so bright. "Okay, pumpkin. We'll see how it goes."
The two of them disappeared upstairs in a flurry of chatter about monsters and forests and the king of all wild things, and at that point even my father knew that he would be reading four stories that night.
Edward turned and gave me that sly grin he sometimes wore whenever it was just the two of us in the wonderful, peaceful quiet. I rose up on my tiptoes to kiss him then, because we had to take advantage of moments like these, and Edward's hands moved to my hips to steady me.
It's funny how some things get worse over time, and yet others get better. Edward's lips knew mine by heart, and as our mouths melted together in soft, slow, warm kisses, it was the absolute best kind of familiarity.
Edward's lips brushed my forehead as I came back down to solid ground, and we held onto each other in the middle of our kitchen with the faint voices of our family members floating around us.
"If they're reading what I think they are, your services are going to be needed in less than five minutes, tops," I said.
Edward laughed. "I can't help it if I have an unparalleled talent with monster voices."
I sighed softly, closing my eyes and leaning into Edward as his fingers massaged that spot on my back that was becoming achier by the day. "That feels really good."
"Well, these hands are like magic," Edward said, laughing.
I lightly swatted at his stomach, and smiled. "Such an ego," I said. I couldn't deny it though; after all these years, whether they were brushing across ivory keys under the spotlight of the stage, or brushing across ivory skin under the covers on our bed, those hands could definitely do some magical, magical things.
"You love me," he said, gently placing his hands on either side of my face.
"I guess," I replied. "You possess all the qualities I find hard to resist. Nice voice, sturdy build. You can fix a leaky faucet, and you know how to use a lawn mower."
"Don't forget the magic hands," Edward said, running them down my neck and across my shoulders down my arms, as a wicked, wonderful grin spread across his face.
"I could never. And to be honest, I'm kinda fond of these, too," I said, reaching up to press my lips against his, all sweet and tender.
When I pulled back and looked at him; his eyes so green and bright and full of life, I could see that boy who had always made my heart race, even before I knew he was the one chasing after it. The one who helped me pull myself up when I fell, who pushed me when I needed pushing, and who gave my memories light and life and breath.
My fingers slid down his neck and over his broad chest until I rested my palm right there in the center. "But I think this," I said, feeling the steady thumping through my skin, "this is the part I love the most."
Then that boy put his hand over mine, and dropped his forehead down to rest against mine, and we were just two kids all wrapped up in each other, a million years and miles away. Until-
"Daddy, we need you!"
We laughed, because this was just the way things happened for us these days. We could get lost and then snapped back into reality in the blink of an eye. And we wouldn't have it any other way.
"Looks like I'm being summoned for my performance," Edward said, gently pulling away from me while letting our hands linger together for as long as they could.
"Break a leg," I said, smiling at my husband as he looked back at me before he disappeared down the hallway.
I went back to my beans, and not a single soul passed through the kitchen until they were cooling and almost ready to be put in the refrigerator.
"I think she's starting to konk out," my father said, picking a piece of bread up off of the plate next to me. "She's a little live wire. I forgot what it was like when you were that young. I don't think my ancient knees can handle trying to keep up with her."
I laughed. "Stop it."
"How are you feeling?" he asked, standing back so he could give me the usual once over.
I smiled, and shrugged my shoulders. "My feet hurt a little bit, but other than that I'm good. Great, actually."
He placed his hands on my shoulders, then leaned over and kissed me on the forehead. "Thank you for this," he said, his eyes a little watery.
I nodded, and smiled at him. "I promised, didn't I?"
"You sure did," he said, reaching over to pat my hand.
I knew there was no way for Dad to understand that our New Year's gatherings were not an obligation, and that I looked forward to them more than almost anything. I never would've guessed it was possible that so many big things in one person's life could be tied up into one night, but the story of me and Edward could be mapped out over the course of the hours that turned one year into another. And while our yearly tradition may have reminded my father of the love of his life, it helped me find the love of mine.
"Twenty years from now, you'll be standing here complaining about chasing a mini James around," I teased. Even if James never procreated, it was an amusing thing to think about.
Dad grinned. "That's if the kid doesn't break his neck driving around in that Mustang," he said.
"Emmett wouldn't let him go out in it if it wasn't safe," I said. As much as my dad joked about that, I knew it worried him as much as it worried Victoria.
"It's safe," James said, rolling his eyes as he loped into the room, his shoulders hunched to hide the height that had suddenly stretched his body out over the summer. He flipped his shaggy hair out of his eyes as he leaned over the kitchen island to grab an apple. "Em said it just needs new brakes and a tune-up."
"A Christmas miracle," I said sarcastically, swatting at him. James just rolled his eyes at me, a habit he still hadn't grown out of in his seventeen years. It was almost comforting, the way the smartass always remained a smartass.
"You go on up and say goodnight, Bells. Let me take care of putting this away," Dad said, pulling a stack of Tupperware down from that cherry wood cabinet he'd spent so much time inspecting all those years ago.
"Okay," I replied, smiling. "Make sure James keeps his hands off. I only made enough for an army."
"Nice, Bella," James said, his voice strangely deep now. "Nice."
I winked at him as I turned the corner, and I walked up the stairs and down the long hallway until I reached the very last door on the left-hand side. The room was dim, lit by two small nightlights shaped like butterflies. Edward stood right in the middle, holding our sleepy daughter in his arms, her hands clasped loosely around his neck and her feet dangling on either side of his hips.
His back was toward me, so I leaned against the door frame and watched him as he rocked her gently from side to side.
"I've got sunshine on a cloudy day...When it's cold outside, I've got the month of May..."
She'd always loved it when he sang to her, and in that respect she was very much her mother's daughter. It was moments like these, the quiet ones here in Forks away from the bustle of the city, that made me realize how much I longed for my children to have the same kind of upbringing I had. I wanted them to ride their bikes down to the ice cream shop on a lazy summer day, and to work in the diner after school, just like I did. I wanted them to find their own Rosalie, Emmett, Alice and Jasper; those friends who stick by you no matter what, who sometimes know you better than you know yourself.
And it was moments like these, when I felt so full and I knew I was right where I was supposed to be, when I wanted, more than anything, for them to find that person who made their heart fly and their knees weak and their lips smile. The one who made them believe that they could do or be anything, who helped them become those things, by loving them and letting them be themselves, just like Edward had done all of that for me.
"Hi, Mommy," Renee said in her sweet, sleep-hazed voice.
"Hi sweetie," I replied, smiling.
Edward turned to walk over toward me, and when he was close enough, he tucked me under his free arm. I rested my head on his chest and smiled at my daughter, rubbing her back through the bright pink fabric of her footie pajamas.
"I see how it is," I said, teasing Edward. "Now I'm the low man on the totem pole when it comes to this singing business."
"Oh," he replied mischievously, twirling his fingers around the ends of my hair, "I've got something special planned for you later."
I could feel myself blush as I turned my cheek against his soft cotton shirt. From the tone of his voice, I knew he was talking about more than a song.
"Is it time for the ball?" Renee asked, rubbing her eyes with her fists. I should've known it would be pointless to try to get her to sleep tonight.
I looked down at my watch, and nodded. "Yes, it's time."
"Can I see?" she asked as she looked up at Edward, all wide, hopeful eyes and excitement.
"Yes," Edward said, before pressing a soft kiss on her forehead. "You can see."
A few minutes later, we stood in the living room, which was just bursting with chatter and laughter and love.
"C'mere, munchkin," James said, holding his arms out so Renee could latch herself around him. She ran to him, of course, because he was the one who pushed her Big Wheel around the driveway and helped her catch frogs underneath the tree in the backyard. He laughed as he kissed her cheek and held her, the two of them standing next to my father, who had Victoria wrapped in his arms.
Once children entered the picture, the loud late-night celebrations at the diner gave way to quiet, smaller affairs here at our house. I was sure one day we'd make our way back to that old place where so many wonderful things happened, but as I looked at the faces of all the people I loved, I knew it didn't matter where we did the celebrating, as long as we did it together.
And that was the best tradition of all.
Edward and I stood back from the small crowd of people, always wanting to steal a little piece of this night away for ourselves. I smiled as I looked up at him, running my finger through that unruly patch of hair that I loved so much, still wild after all these years. The backs of his fingers brushed my cheek as he brought his other hand down to rest on my side, his thumb gently brushing my belly.
Edward said a soft 'I love you,' in a quiet breath that warmed my skin, and I whispered the same with words that brushed his ear, his cheek, his chin.
Then slowly, so slowly, I brought my lips to his, their favorite place to be, and I kissed him over the cheer-filled countdown of the people standing around us.
Now, if you'll indulge me for just a second, there are a few people I need to thank:
This story was my friend Tor's plot bunny. I don't know if it would've ever been written if she hadn't asked me to do it, and even though it wasn't always easy, I'm so thankful that she trusted me with her wonderful, original idea. I've enjoyed letting these characters live inside my head for the past few months, and I'm very proud of the final product.
At various points during this story, WriteOnTime, siouxchef and shutupinyerface have had the unfortunate task of reading through this and catching my mistakes. Believe me, I make a lot of them, and these ladies are saints. Any errors that you spot in the final product belong to me, not them.