One Final Eve
For the "A Canon Christmas" iFic Contest
Angela Cheney sat in her favorite armchair by the fire, staring out through the window beside her at the snow-covered forest that bordered her childhood home. She was wrapped up in the hand-knitted quilt that her grandmother had made for her as a child, the faded and worn, eighty-something year old woollen creation still providing as much warmth as the day it was made. Angela had tried many times over the years to make similar quilts for her grandchildren; however, they never seemed to turn out as good as her grandmother's. She always said it was because the wool just wasn't as pure as it used to be, which did have some degree of truth to it, but secretly she knew that she just did not possess the knitting skills that her grandmother had. It did not bother her though; her talents just lay elsewhere.
It was Christmas Eve, and at the age of ninety-seven, Angela knew that this Christmas was likely to be her last. She had felt it coming on for a few months now, the light at the end of the tunnel of life growing ever closer, waiting to lead her on to her future in Heaven, where she would be once again reunited with her loving husband, Ben. The past three years without him had taken their toll on Angela's happiness and she knew, no matter how hard she had tried to hide it, that her children and grandchildren had noticed. The spark in her eyes had dimmed; her energy and excitement over the small things in life had decreased. Her body was also slowly failing her. Each day she grew weaker, and found that most daily tasks she could not complete on her own.
She was not scared; her impending death was something she wholeheartedly welcomed. Her family would be devastated over her passing, but she knew they would overcome their grief and learn to live with the memory of her in their hearts. She had lived a full life with Ben by her side, graduating high school, then university, moving forward to marry Ben and carry his children. Their children were the highlight of her plentiful experiences, and the knowledge that she was leaving them pained her to an indescribable level. However, she knew that it was time, that she could not live here on Earth forever, and the fact that she would see them again someday, in the afterlife, was enough to ease the guilt and allow her mind to accept her fate and leave this life with grace and peace.
Thoughts of her life, and the people who had passed through and left their mark in it, began to filter through her mind. Angela found herself laughing, crying, biting her lower lip and shaking her head at the multitude of memories that rushed by. One particular memory, or rather person, came to the forefront of her mind, causing her to pause. As the image of Bella Swan swam into view, Angela felt a few hot tears begin to roll over her cheeks. She could remember the day she found out about her high school friend's disappearance as though it were yesterday. She and Ben had been married for a little over a year and had just found out that they were expecting their first child. She remembered the smell of the cookies baking in the oven as she had answered the phone, the feel of the cold tile underneath her as she sank to the floor in shock, the warmth of Ben's arms as he wrapped them around her crying form …
Out of all the losses she had experienced over the years, apart from Ben's, Bella's had hit her the hardest. They weren't the best of friends in school, and had really only known one another a short time, but they had had a connection that Angela could not describe.
Bella had not been like the other girls; she had been above all of the bitching, cattiness and jealous competition that seemed to radiate from all the other teenage girls in the school. She had also seen beyond the quiet, shy, bookish exterior and had been a friend to Angela because of who she was, not what she was. Angela could count on her hands how many people in her life had done the same, and Bella and her husband and sister-in-law, Edward and Alice Cullen, had been the only three from Forks, excluding Ben, included in that list. Everyone else had seen her as someone to copy notes from, to help them with assignments, to try and cheat off in an exam …
Angela sighed heavily and wiped the tears from her eyes. Thinking of Bella was bringing back some memories she almost did not want to think about, yet at the same time cherished.
Watching the snow falling outside her window took her back to when Bella had first arrived at Forks High. She remembered catching a glimpse of Bella's face one day at the end of lunch when it had started raining, washing away the traces of the snowfall from that morning. Bella's expression had been the only one of relief amongst the sea of disappointment surrounding them. It made Angela giggle.
Other random moments of her interaction with Bella played through her mind, before settling on the last time she had ever seen her.
It had been Christmas Eve, seven months after Angela and Ben's wedding. Angela had invited Bella and Edward over for eggnog and a quiet celebration between friends, before the manic chaos that was Christmas Day fell upon them and before Bella and Edward were to return to Alaska.
Bella and Edward had shown up bearing gifts and huge smiles, though Angela couldn't help but feel there was something amiss about them. Ever since Bella had married Edward, she had seemed to have become a more beautiful and strong person. Both Edward and Bella had a certain glow about them; one that Angela could have sworn indicated a new addition to their family, however, in the three years that had passed since Edward and Bella's nuptials, nothing had ever been mentioned about children.
That didn't stop Angela from thinking she was missing something.
That Christmas Eve had been one of the best Angela had ever experienced. Bella and Edward had stayed well into the early hours of the morning, talking and laughing with her and Ben, reminiscing about the past and shedding light on what their futures held.
When the topic of children had eventually popped up, Bella and Edward had swapped, what Angela had thought they believed to be small, discreet knowing smiles, only adding to the suspicions that Angela held about a possible new Cullen. Neither Bella nor Edward voiced anything solid on their opinions or hopes of children, even when Ben had directly asked them about it.
"Edward, man, surely you'd want to have kids, right? I mean, look at who you're married to! With the looks and brains of both of you, any kids of yours are sure to turn out perfect!" Ben explained.
Edward shook his head and chuckled, wrapping his arm around Bella's shoulders.
"I've got all I want in this perfect package right here."
Bella smiled and snuggled into him, closing her eyes when Edward leaned down to plant a soft kiss on her forehead.
"What about you, Bella? Give Edward a son and you can have two stunning specimens running around your house," Ben winked in Bella's direction, earning a soft giggle from her.
"I think I'd combust if I had two of him. One can only handle so much male perfection …"
The four of them burst into laughter at Bella's comment, before Edward casually changed the subject.
When the time had come for Bella and Edward to leave, Angela had begun to develop a sinking feeling in her gut. She didn't know where it had come from, all she knew was that she had not wanted to say goodbye to Bella so soon.
With one last hug and a "Merry Christmas," Angela had watched as Bella and Edward climbed into Edward's Volvo and drove off into the night.
A few hot tears leaked once again from Angela's eyes as the memory faded. She knew that she should have been happy; it was Christmas Eve and her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren would all be arriving in the morning to celebrate another traditional Weber/Cheney Christmas. She just couldn't help the melancholy that she was feeling at the absence of three of the people who had helped shape her into the person that she was.
Sighing heavily once more, she tried to distract herself by making patterns in the snowflakes that drifted past and settled on the window ledge outside.
The distraction was only fleeting; a movement in Angela's peripheral vision caught her attention. Her gaze focused on the edge of the forest outside. She could have sworn something moved out there - something bright in the moonlight.
It happened again. She couldn't make out what it was – it was moving too fast. Whatever it was though, it was coming closer to the house.
Angela's nerves began to tingle with anticipation and fear, the rapid beating of her heart causing her breath to come in short gasps, leaving her feeling slightly light headed.
The house was locked tight. She knew that, because she and her youngest son had double and triple checked every window and door before he had left for the evening. In the current day and age, even small towns like Forks were no longer considered safe from crime, though they were considerably less prone to it than the larger cities. It was why Ben and Angela had moved back to Forks a few years after completing their study in Seattle. When Angela's parents had passed on, Angela inherited their house, so she and Ben had moved into it with their young children and had continued to raise and build their family in Angela's childhood home.
The intruder alarm was still set – Angela could hear its soft resounding beep from her chair in the living room, so she knew that she would be alerted instantly if anyone – or anything – tried to get in before her son came home. That knowledge still did little to calm her nerves.
If Ben had been there with her, she would not have felt afraid. He would have made a joke about her "losing the plot" in her old age, trying to create adventure and excitement out of the "zealous stirrings" of a "senile old brain."
But Ben was not with her; she was all alone in her large, empty house with nothing but an overactive imagination to keep her company.
A knock sounded from the front door. Angela froze. It was after ten o'clock in the evening. Who on earth was calling on her at this time of night? Her son would not be home for hours, as the Christmas Eve party he was attending sounded as if it was going to go well into the early hours of the morning. Even if he did come home early, he had a key, so he would have no reason to knock.
The unknown visitor knocked again.
"Who is it?" Angela called, her frail vocal chords straining to create a volume loud enough to carry her voice through the house.
There was a beat of silence, before the visitor replied.
"Some old school friends."
That voice sounded oddly familiar to Angela. It was a voice she had not heard in many, many years. A voice that confirmed she was going crazy. Seeing non-existent things in the snow, hearing voices she shouldn't be … it was definitely time for Angela to go to bed. The late hour and the multitude of reminiscing she had done were making her brain work in overdrive.
"Angela? May we come in?" a second voice called.
Now she really was going crazy. There was no way the person who belonged to that voice was standing outside on her front porch.
Making to rise from her chair, Angela replied, "Just a minute," but before she could fully reach a standing position, the door to the living room creaked open.
Angela almost fainted at the sight before her. There, before her, were Bella and Edward Cullen, looking exactly as they had the last time she had seen them over seventy years ago. Surely this was some kind of joke. Her imagination must have been playing tricks on her. There was no way the two people she had just been musing over were standing in her living room. It was impossible. Preposterous.
"Hello, Angela," Bella said, smiling.
A moment later, she woke up in the cold arms of Edward, who was helping her back into her armchair. She reached her hand up to touch his cheek; it was cold and hard underneath her fingers, definitely there. She wasn't just imagining him.
Unless she was dreaming. Or dead.
"You're not dreaming, Angela. And you most definitely are not dead," Edward chuckled.
"How did you … then why … but you're … aren't you supposed to be missing? Dead?" Angela managed to choke out, her shock and surprise still clearly evident on her features.
Bella walked over to give Angela a swift hug, before taking a seat on the sofa next to her armchair, followed closely by a beautiful young girl that Angela had not noticed earlier. The girl was tall and lean, with gorgeous long curls that were the exact same shade as Edward's bronze locks, and deep chocolate brown eyes that sparkled in the soft firelight.
The girl was stunning. Angela did not think she had ever seen someone so beautiful before in her life.
"Angela, this is our daughter, Renesmee."
Angela looked up at Edward, who had perched himself on the armrest of her chair.
Of course, it was so obvious! The girl, Renesmee, was a perfectly balanced mixture of both her parents. It wasn't just the hair; it was everything. Her eyes, her facial structure, her smile, the way she held herself … she was perfect.
"Hello, Angela," Renesmee said quietly, her voice melodic like the ringing of church bells. "It's lovely to finally meet you. My parents have told me so much about you."
Stunned, all Angela could do was smile back at the girl. She was lost for words. She still wasn't certain that this was actually happening.
Bella leaned forward and took Angela's hands in her own cold ones, squeezing them slightly in reassurance.
"Angela, I know that our appearance is extremely unexpected, and I know that you must have a million and one questions for us, but I promise that we will explain everything to you. I just could not stay away from you any longer, especially seeing as Ben is no longer with you."
Bella stood and pulled Angela into another hug, this time embracing her like the long lost friend that she was. Angela relaxed into the arms of her friend and felt a smile of relief flood her face at the familiarity of the moment. It was exactly like the hug the two women had shared on this night seventy-three years ago.
"It is so good to see you again, Ang!"
"It's wonderful to see you, too, Bella," Angela smiled.
Once Bella had resumed her position on the sofa, Edward moving to sit beside her, Angela voiced the question she was dying to hear the answer to.
"How is it that you're here in my living room, looking like you haven't aged a day in seventy years, when you're supposed to be dead?"
Bella and Edward exchanged a small look that Angela couldn't quite decipher, before they turned their full attention to her.
Bella cleared her throat and began to speak.
"Ang, Edward and I, and all the Cullens for that matter, are … we're vampires. But not the evil, human-killing ones," she added quickly, seeing the look of apprehension that appeared on Angela's face. "We only drink the blood of animals."
Surprisingly, Angela found this information a lot easier to accept that she thought. It definitely explained a lot about the Cullens. A myriad of memories from high school flooded her mind, images of the Cullens flashing before her.
"So that's why you're all so pale and cold?" she asked.
Edward nodded. "It's also why we look like we haven't aged. Our physical bodies are essentially frozen in this permanent state of adolescence."
"What about Renesmee? How did you conceive her?"
"Nessie is a very rare … species, if you will. There are only a select few of her kind on this earth. She is half vampire, half human."
"I fell pregnant with her on our honeymoon," Bella added, noticing the look of confusion Angela was giving them. "Because of her vampire genes, the pregnancy was only a few weeks long. The day I gave birth to her was the day Edward changed me into a vampire. I would have died, otherwise."
"So …" Angela began, trying to process the information she had just received, "Renesmee was born before Christmas of our graduating year?"
Bella and Edward nodded.
"So, that means you'd had her a few years before that last Christmas Eve?"
Again, Bella and Edward nodded.
"Why didn't you say anything? Here Ben and I were, thinking neither of you wanted children when we knew you'd be excellent parents …"
Laughing Bella replied, "We couldn't tell you, Angela. The only human who knew about her was Charlie. She was growing so much every day; we had to keep her existence under wraps until she had fully grown. I wanted to tell you, I swear, I wanted so much to tell you everything, but I just couldn't. There were rules against it, and you might have thought we were crazy."
Thinking back to the woman she had been back then, Angela nodded her head in agreement. She most certainly would not have accepted Bella and Edward's story as well as she was now. With the many years of life and experience under her belt, nothing seemed to surprise her anymore.
"So, what about the car accident? Your disappearances? Why did you have to go through with all that?" she asked.
After a slight hesitation, Edward answered, "Convenience. Necessity. Too many people were prying into our lives, so we had to take drastic measures. Even Bella's parents didn't know the truth."
"Charlie knew there was something going on, but he preferred to remain blissfully ignorant. His thoughts were that if he didn't know, it wasn't happening. He absolutely adored Nessie though. We told him where we were going, but made him swear to go along with our story. We just couldn't bear to separate him from Nessie. He was a wonderful grandfather -" Bella broke off, her voice disappearing in the wave of melancholy nostalgia that had settled over her.
Edward wrapped an arm around her shoulders and placed a gentle kiss on the top of her head.
"Grandpa Charlie was the only non-vampire who knew about me, aside from Jake," Renesmee stated.
Angela's attention snapped to the girl.
"Jake? As in, Jacob Black?"
Renesemee nodded. "He's my husband now. He imprinted on me when I was born."
A quizzical look from Angela sent Bella and Edward into a detailed explanation of the Cullen's history, the Quileute wolves, and the treaty, which in turn led into a description of their lives since they had "disappeared" from Forks.
"… and so, that's how we ended up here tonight, with you. Alice saw that we probably wouldn't have another chance to see you, so we wanted to give you some closure. I know it's a few years too late for Ben -" Bella explained.
"You do realise that I'm never going to hear the end of it. He's going to be really annoyed that you decided to tell me this after he died," Angela laughed. "I'll spend my entire afterlife listening to him complain about it."
Edward and Bella chuckled, Renesmee's tinkling laugh creating a perfect harmony with her parents. It was a beautiful sound.
The four of them sat in silence for a moment. Bella reached for Angela's hands once more and gripped them tightly.
"We were there, at his funeral. It was so beautiful, Ang."
"You were there?" Angela asked, amazed.
"It was a wonderful service. I'm not sure how Ben would have felt about the purple suit though. I didn't think it was quite his colour."
Angela couldn't help the laugh that escaped her lips.
"That was our daughter's doing. She and Ben had this long-standing joke about purple suits, ever since she tried to make him wear one at her wedding. She wanted him to match the groomsmen and bridesmaids, when he walked her down the aisle. To cut a long story short, he refused and made a deal with her; if he could wear what he liked to her wedding, she could dress him in whatever she wanted for his funeral. She took the deal."
The laughing fit that followed Angela's story kept the four of them speechless for a long few minutes. It was only when Angela broke into a series of breathless coughs that the laughter ceased.
Snapping into doctor mode, Edward moved over to her and checked her vitals.
"Angela, how have you been feeling lately?" he asked with concern.
"Not the best," she replied truthfully. "I can feel that I don't have long left. My children have been trying to ignore it; I think they think that I'm going to live forever. But I'm not afraid. I'm ready. Ben's waiting for me, so I think it's time to end his impatient suffering. I miss him terribly."
"Oh, Angela," Bella cried, rushing over to pull her old friend into another, almost bone-crushing embrace.
"I've missed you, Bella. I'm so glad you're okay. All I ever wanted was for you to be okay. When I thought that you had died, all I could think of was how happy I was that you didn't die alone, that Edward was with you. It's what I want for myself; to die happy, surrounded by the ones I love."
"You will, Ang. We'll be with you, right to the very end. You won't be alone," whispered Bella, cupping Angela's cheek with her hand and smiling a brave smile.
"We'll deliver you safe and happy to Ben," Edward added, gripping Angela's shoulder lightly.
The tears that had been put on hold for the last few hours began to return, making small tear tracks down Angela's cheeks. She pulled one of her hands from Bella's grasp to take a hold of one of Edward's, then gave both cold, firm hands a light squeeze.
"Thank you, both of you," she whispered. "Seeing the two of you again after I'd thought I'd lost you … it means the world to me. No one could give me a better Christmas present."
"You're more than welcome, Angela. There's nowhere we'd rather be right now than here with you," replied Edward.
Angela gave him and watery smile and turned her gaze to Renesmee.
"Renesmee, thank you as well. No words can describe the contentment I feel knowing the amount of joy and happiness that you have brought into the lives of my two wonderful friends. You truly are a wonderful gift."
Renesmee blushed slightly and gave Angela a shy smile.
Bella shot up suddenly, a bright smile on her face.
"That reminds me! Ang, we've got a gift for you!"
She reached across to Edward, pulling open his coat and fumbling around inside it for a moment, before pulling out a small navy box. She handed it to Angela.
"Oh, you really didn't have to -" she protested.
"We know we didn't, but we did anyway."
Hesitating, Angela said, "But I don't have anything for you."
"Angela, just open the damn present," Bella laughed.
Angela grinned and carefully lifted the lid off the box.
"Oh, goodness …" she gasped.
Inside the box lay a gold locket, which opened to reveal a photo of Angela, Ben, Bella and Edward just before their high school graduation. The tears began to flow even more freely than before.
"Thank you so much! It's beautiful," she breathed.
"It's so you'll have the four of us together forever, wherever you go," Bella said quietly, as Edward fastened the chain around Angela's neck.
Angela pulled Bella into a hug, before releasing her and ensnaring Edward. She also beckoned Renesmee forward for a quick hug.
"Merry Christmas, Angela," Renesmee said, pecking her on the cheek.
Angela jumped a little at the flood of emotions and feelings that ran through her upon contact with Renesmee. The amount of love that radiated from the girl was almost too much for her to bear.
"Merry Christmas, Nessie," Angela smiled through her tears. "Merry Christmas to you also, Bella and Edward."
"Merry Christmas," Edward murmured in response.
"Merry Christmas, Ang," Bella smiled warmly.
"Merry Christmas, Ben," Angela whispered, as she sunk back into the cushions on her armchair, fingering the cold metal of the locket around her neck.
Bella began to gently stroke Angela's hair, helping to lull her friend into a peaceful sleep. Before Angela allowed the heavy waves of slumber to claim her, one last question formed on her lips.
"How did you get into my house tonight?"
Edward laughed softly.
"That was me. I heard the alarm code in your son's head earlier. Emmett also taught me a trick or two on how to open locked doors."
"I thought it might've been something like that. Sneaky vamps," she mumbled.
With a final silent prayer up to heaven, Angela allowed herself to fall asleep to the feeling of Bella's gentle touch, a content smile on her face, and the knowledge that her high school friends were alive and well and there with her on what had started out as a sad and lonely Christmas.
It was some hours later that her son found her there in her armchair, cold as stone and heart silent, with that same peaceful smile on her face and her hand still clasped around the locket, holding in the secret memories of what had been a magnificent final eve.