Title: The Jewelry Box
A/N – This was written for Nina's birthday. You should read all the wonderful stories that were written for her. A link is available in my profile. This is what happened with the prompts closet and gift wandering around in my head.
Seriously, wtf is up with me and canon O/S's?
Disclaimer – These characters are not mine, I am not Stephenie Meyer – you know this because I would never have ordered the veggie platter.
The memories of my human life were so murky and indistinct, it was easy to believe that they were a figment of my imagination. There was nothing precise about human thoughts and memories, my own included. The blurry recollections that occasionally flickered through my mind and seemed to be my own could be just another one of the thousands of mental images that I heard every day. They could have so easily belonged to a different person.
Really, it wasn't far from the truth.
But I would swear that this memory was real.
I must have been very small, as I remember that when I sat on my parent's bed, my legs swung freely above the ground. I was watching my mother. She sat at her vanity pulling various baubles out of her jewelry box. She would hold up a necklace or a ring for my inspection, asking which I thought was prettier.
The jewelry box was still sitting on her vanity though she had been dead for over a year now. I ran the tips of my fingers over the fine necklaces and bracelets. I picked up various pins and earbobs. I wasn't at all sure why. Perhaps I expected that by touching the things she'd worn, and loved if I recalled correctly, I could remember her more clearly.
"Edward, you don't have to do this now." Carlisle said softly from where he had been watching in my bedroom doorway.
It was well past midnight and the streets of Chicago were relatively quiet. Everyone in my old neighborhood was asleep. Now that my newborn hunger had diminished to a manageable level, Carlisle had suggested we move on to someplace fresh, where I could start life anew. So we were in my human home as I looked around wondering what, if anything, of that life I wanted to take with me.
I put the heart-shaped, diamond pendant I had been turning over in my hand back in the box and reached into my pocket. Carlisle had rescued my mother's engagement ring from the hospital shortly after she had died and I had been reborn. I traced the delicate gold web that surrounded the rows of diamonds before I settled the ring into the vacant, velvet slot in the middle of my mother's other treasures. The box's lid snapped shut with a sort of finality.
"This is all I want."
May 1931, shortly after Edward's rebellious period
In the decade I had known her, it still never failed to amaze me how happy Esme typically was in this life. Normally, she traipsed about the house with a smile playing at her lips. She occupied her time drawing out extensive floor plans while she hummed to herself. Her thoughts were always pleasant and content.
Today, though, was a definite off day. Her usual cheery humming was just a little off key. Her hands moved a little slower over the pad of paper she was sketching on. Her thoughts were tinged around the edges with a vague sadness.
Try as she might, Esme could not keep her thoughts from her child, dead now for 10 years, on today of all days. It would hit her every once in a while, typically on his birthday or at Christmas. She would find herself picturing her son - how he would have looked and sounded had he lived more than those scarce few days. She wondered what it would have been like to be a mother.
Days like today, the razor sharp minds of our kind were a curse. She could think about everything she had with Carlisle, about how happy she was that I was home to stay, about her latest remodeling project; she could think about a half dozen things all concurrently with how much she missed her lost son.
Again, I heard her try to push the thoughts away. She concentrated on me instead, recalling my melancholy and frustration as I tried to fit back into the half life we lived. Honestly, it pained me to cause her any sort of anxiety on top of what I had already made her suffer with my long absence. Some things could not be avoided though. I had not been able to prevent her from seeing me struggle. I had snapped at Carlisle and her a handful of times, my temper getting the best of me as I fought my very nature. Trying to resist the incredible allure of my natural food source, especially since I had lived off it freely for several years, was painful.
I can't say that I understood exactly how she was able to feel the sympathy for me that she was feeling. I could hear in her thoughts that she was worried. She wanted to make it better.
I sighed. A mother will always worry about her children.
My head snapped up as the thought went through my mind. The book I had been reading was swiftly forgotten.
I realized, with a suddenness that would have left me breathless, that at some point in the last ten years, Esme had become a mother to me. It had been easy to see Carlisle as my father. He was my creator, my mentor; the man I wished I could be. I had not applied the familial term to Esme before. It was, again, against vampire nature to have any sort of family ties, yet we were very much a family.
The more I thought about it, the more I understood that Esme had been every bit my mother as Carlisle was my father. She was encouraging and comforting in my new commitment to live a vegetarian life. She had been proud of even my smallest accomplishments. She had always loved me and never wavered in her faith in me, even when I had strayed so far from the right path.
It was both ironic and appropriate that this thought had occurred to me on Mother's Day.
Of course, I knew that the holiday was crass and commercialized, but the heart was in the right place. A mother should be recognized every day, and I was long overdue in recognizing mine.
I went to my closet, jumping to retrieve a wooden crate from the very top shelf. It was one that I had rarely looked at, and yet I had carried it everywhere I'd moved. In the years I was away from them, Carlisle and Esme had moved it along with all my other things, keeping it safe until I returned, which Carlisle was always sure I would.
They were both so much more than I deserved.
I took the crate back to my bed, digging through the protective wrapping to find what I was looking for.
My mother's jewelry box.
The pendant of the necklace I took out was, of course, just as I remembered it. It was an intricate silhouette - black against white - of a woman with her arms around a child. The child clung to her waist, utterly protected and encompassed by her love. The pendant hung from a silver chain. It was simple and elegant.
Esme was sitting at her desk with her back to me. She registered my presence in the room and turned to me with a smile. Her eyes followed me as I went to her and knelt at her side, resting my head on her lap. She was surprised at my actions, and ran her hands through my hair automatically, comforting me instinctually.
"What's wrong, sweetheart?"
I didn't answer. Instead I lifted my head, taking her hand and pressing the necklace there. Confused, Esme looked down at her hand. Of course, I could hear her thoughts as she processed the gift. Confusion, realization, surprise.
She looked up at me, not wanting to assume the significance. "Edward?" she whispered.
"I know it's not the same, but you have to know. In this life, you are my mother. I know I don't always show it, and I certainly don't deserve it, but I know I'm so lucky to have you."
Esme's eyes were soft, full of the love she had for me. The emotion in her eyes and her thoughts was overwhelming and all encompassing. I knew she would have been crying if such a thing were possible.
She slid sinuously out of her chair, kneeling in front of me. She kissed my forehead and the action seemed so natural. I vaguely remembered my own mother greeting me the same way in my old life. "You have always been my son, and I love you."
We filled a void in each other that day. If I had a mother, then I was a son. If I was someone's son, I had tangible ties to the humanity I had left behind. If she was a mother, there was nothing missing from her life. She was married to the man of her dreams, her perfect match. She had a son who loved her and who needed her.
When we moved on to New York, I became Carlisle and Esme's adopted son rather than the brother I had claimed to be before. By necessity our lives were a charade – a mask we put up of family relation where there was none, playing human when we were not. Now, a part of that lie was truth in every way that counted, and that made life just that much easier.
I could hear Alice's excitement before I even got down the stairs. She threw the door to her room open before I even knocked and flung herself into my arms.
"It's beautiful, Edward, thank you!" she squealed.
I rolled my eyes but hugged her back fiercely. "Couldn't you at least pretend you're surprised, Alice?"
Now she rolled her eyes at me. With a giggle she stepped back and held out her hand expectantly. Instead of putting my gift in her palm, I pulled her hand toward me, slipping the bracelet over her fingers, onto her slender wrist. When I released her hand she kept her arm extended. Her mouth formed a perfect "o" as she stared at the bracelet, twisting her wrist to catch every detail. She grinned at me. "Something blue," she mused.
The silver stands of the bracelet wove in crisscrossing loops. Each of the strands had small diamonds running in a line down the center. In the settings created by the intersecting bands sat perfect, teardrop shaped sapphires. It was truly a stunning piece. More importantly it went perfectly with Alice's wedding dress. She was marrying Jasper formally the next day.
"It was my mother's," I said softly, answering her unasked question. The symbolism was not lost on her. Were we blood siblings it might have been our mother passing on this heirloom to her daughter. I wondered, not for the first time, what significance this very human ritual held for a woman who remembered nothing of her humanity. Alice had only ever seen weddings at the cinema.
Seeing my question before I asked it, Alice just smiled at me. "You, Esme, Carlisle, Rosalie and Emmett taught me what a family was before I ever met you," she answered. "I could see you. The way you accepted Jasper and me; the way you lived; the way you supported each other."
She wrapped her arms around my waist, grinning up at me. "And you, of course. I know we don't share genetics, Edward, but don't you think we share a reality that no one else does? Isn't that the same idea?"
She lifted her wrist to examine my gift again while she thought. "Maybe I'm missing the human significance. I don't know. I, obviously, couldn't say for sure. But I know that I want to share the very best part of my life, my love for Jasper, with the people who love me, who are part of me."
I hugged her tightly again, understanding.
I was a dying man who had been reprieved. I was an orphan who had been given parents. I was an only child who now had three siblings. I was a loner who had found love, understanding, and loyalty with six others. In Alice I had found another soul who lived a secret reality within a secret reality. She lived in a future that hadn't yet happened as much as I lived in a present with no masked words or thoughts.
It was late afternoon. I had dropped Bella off at her house so she could spend some time with Charlie before I went back to her later in the evening. I was sitting, cross-legged, in my walk-in closet. My mother's jewelry box was on the floor between my legs, the lid and all the drawers open so that I could examine their contents. One single piece had caught my eye and now held my attention.
I heard Alice's thoughts approaching before she appeared in the closet doorway. Jasper says your moods are swinging faster than a pregnant woman's on a sweltering summer night in Houston.
I scoffed but didn't deny it. My moods were swinging wildly.
I had opened the jewelry box in search of some idea for a birthday gift for Bella. She had stipulated quite clearly that I was not to spend any money on a gift for her, but had said nothing about a hand-me-down. I had been thinking about the heart shaped, diamond pendant, though I'd have to buy a chain or a bracelet to put it on, which was against her rules. But when I'd opened the box all thoughts of gifts had been forgotten.
My mother's engagement ring sat exactly where I had put it so many years prior.
I was happy. I was happier than I could ever remember being; luckier than any man, living or dead, that I was able to have and hold a beautiful creature as Isabella Swan in my arms day after day. But the idea of making her my wife made me impossibly joyous. My imagination painted the picture time and again of Bella walking toward me, dressed in white and on her father's arm. Now I could see my mother's ring on her finger; could picture exactly how it would look against her perfect, pale skin.
With a sigh I plucked the ring from the velvet and proffered it to Alice without explanation. As she marveled at the intricate, elegant beauty of the ring, I buried my head in my hands. The feelings of elation and hope were battling with guilt and fear in my mind. Mood swings indeed.
"It's beautiful, Edward, and it suits her," Alice said aloud. I didn't see you were thinking of proposing to her.
"I'm not. Not really." Sadness began to seep into my thoughts. "What could I offer her, Alice? As a husband?"
Now Alice sighed, exasperation tingeing her thoughts. I looked up at her. "I mean it. How could I call myself a husband when I could provide her with so little that she deserves? I could not give her a stable home. I couldn't give her children. I couldn't even..consummate a marriage with her."
In her head Alice was picturing her solution to my frustration. She was replaying her vision of an eternally youthful Bella with ruby red eyes. "Alice," I growled between clenched teeth. I was not in the mood to have this argument again.
She shook the thought away and sat, cross-legged, in front of me. "You're such a pessimist, Edward. I doubt you're even capable of hurting her at this point. Even in the heat of the moment you'd be over thinking things," she teased lightly.
"I'm not going to risk it with her," I snapped automatically.
Alice thought about arguing with me, but we had been over and over these points countless times before. She knew better than to think I was going to give in now. She opted, instead, to try humor again. "Knowing Bella, she'd probably have some completely convoluted reason for not marrying you anyway." Alice smiled. She thought the idea of Bella turning me down was as hilarious as it was unlikely.
I had to roll my eyes. "That would be just like her, wouldn't it?" It would be just like her to be so unafraid of trading her soul for eternity and yet have some sort of fear of commitment.
"I know it terrifies you, Edward, but it's okay to hope. Don't toss out the idea completely. Just put it aside until after graduation. See where you're at then. She belongs with you and you with her. I don't even need a vision to know that, though I have several." She winked at me.
Unable to help it, I smiled. I sighed again, wistfully this time, as I replaced the ring in the jewelry box and shut it. "Alright," I agreed. "I need your help though. She won't let me spend money on a gift for her birthday."
Alice giggled. "I saw that. Silly girl. Carlisle and Esme already bought her something you know. And Emmett and Jasper were thinking about replacing that awful truck of hers one part at a time."
As I had fully expected, Alice was babbling and planning in a voice too quick for human ears to process before I had the jewelry box back in its place on the top shelf of my closet. As I listened to Alice, I allowed myself one glimmer of hope for the future: That I would be lucky enough to place that ring on her finger someday. That I could give her some of these things – tokens of love and adoration from my father to my mother – as symbols of myself and my devotion to her.
I was happy.
Push the button. You know you want to do it. Make an author happy today.