A/N: This is the last FGB outtake, an epilogue for the epilogue. I felt like it should tack onto the end here, instead of over on the outtakes story. I'd once again like to thank the generous FGBers for allowing me to post this, Fantasy Mother and aleighy for prereading, and songster for her help with the end. The year is 2015, Lily 10-5th grade(she grew up!) and Jack 4. Warning: I shift POVs like the Mad Hatter changes teacups in this one and...
My last tissue warning for TINML!
Epilogue 3: What Came After the Happily Ever After
"I'm sorry, love," I whispered, staring down at the minus sign on the counter. She sniffled, shaking her head.
"No, it's okay. I just really thought this time because I was late…"
I wrapped my arms around her and hugged her tightly, trying to not let her see I was disappointed too.
"We could take another one tomorrow if you want," I tried. "Sometimes the second time around the hormone is weaker and it doesn't always show up. We could go to the doctor…"
"No," she rasped, pulling away from me. "They're just going to say the same thing. Everything looks fine and we should just wait and try again."
"We can go see the specialist if you want…" I offered again.
"No," she shook her head, seeming to recover herself. "I told you, I don't want to force it. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it's just not meant to be."
I stopped her from moving any further away from me, eyeing her carefully. "It's okay to be upset, though. Don't put on this act with me."
"I'm not. I am disappointed, but…I love our family. We have two beautiful kids. I'm not about to get greedy," she smiled genuinely.
I smiled back, satisfied. "I love you."
She wrapped her arms around my neck and kissed her love back into me.
I looked up from my computer to see Lily hovering in the doorway to my study, tall and lanky just like her dad.
"Yeah? What's up, Lily?"
She crinkled her nose and stuck her hands in the back pockets of her jeans. "Can I talk to you about something?"
Confused, I waved her in towards the chair in front of my desk. "Yeah, sweetie. What's going on?"
She leaned forward, steepling her hands together. "You know how I couldn't decide after fifth grade career day about what I wanted to do? Like, I want to be a writer, but I kind of want to be a pediatrician, too?"
I nodded, proud of her ambitions.
"I think I want to be both," she nodded firmly. "But like, I want to be a pediatrician when I'm older, and be a writer now."
"Now?" I repeated, my eyebrows high on my forehead.
"My stories. I want to make them into a book. Like, for kids. But just change our names."
I sat back in my chair, mulling it over. She'd continued them for years now, adding her brother as the prince of yellow and expanding into all sorts of adventures. It was an ingenious idea for a book series, really, but due to the story's origins, I'd always felt they were private.
"I don't know," I mumbled hesitantly, tapping my finger absentmindedly on the side of my keyboard. "Writing a book is a lot of work."
"What are you writing right now?" she asked curiously, her eyes on the motion of my fingers.
"The auction piece for that charity me and your dad are going to next month," I answered, still thinking about her request.
"The one for cancer?" she asked, her eyes drifting out my window. "There's lots of charities, right? Like ones for kids, too?"
"Yeah," I replied slowly, trying to keep up with her train of thought.
She glanced back at me, her eyebrows furrowed. "Like ones for kids that get hurt?"
I sucked in a sharp breath, nodding seriously. "Yes. There are several charities for abused and neglected children. Why do you ask?"
"So can people write books for those charities too? Like your thing you're doing?"
I shook my head at her, bemused. "Well, what I'm doing is just an extension of a book I already wrote. It's just a little novella to be sold, and the benefits go to the cancer research foundation. There are tons of ways to give to charities. People don't usually write an entire book for a charity auction, but sometimes an author will have the proceeds from a book go toward a charity, or a portion of the proceeds, or whatever."
"Could we do that with my book? Except for the one for kids that are hurt and neglected or whatever?"
I leaned forward, resting my face in my hands. "I'm having trouble keeping up with you. You're saying you want to take your stories and make them into a book, but you want to donate the profits to a charity for abused kids?"
"Why is that hard to keep up with?" she asked, arching her eyebrow at me. Mmm. Pre-adolescent sarcasm. Awesome.
I sighed, arching my eyebrow right back. "Because you're bouncing all over the place and I'm just trying to understand. Are you really sure you want to do this? Those stories…Lily, I love them, you know I do, they just…when we made them…"
"I know, Mom," she interrupted. "That's why I want them to help kids that are hurt. I don't need the money for it. It'll be cool enough to have a book written by me that I can put on my shelf. And I know it's hard, but you could help me! Wouldn't that be cool? Our stories written by us? But it's just…maybe if a kid reads a book written by another kid, they might want to try it too, you know? In case they don't have somebody to teach them how. In case they don't have somebody to keep them safe like I did."
My eyes stung and I blinked back tears, my throat too thick with emotion to speak yet. I couldn't grasp onto just one emotion to feel everything that was rippling through me. Talking about that time was obviously upsetting, simply because of the pain and fear I still remembered vividly, even after all these years. I knew I couldn't give her an answer without talking to Edward first, and I didn't know how he was going to feel about this, either. But I was absolutely bursting with pride to hear her ambition to accomplish this for the sole sake of accomplishing it, her desire to help, her generosity…
"We'll talk to your dad about it tonight," I said softly, as she stood and walked around the desk to give me a hug.
"He's your son," Bella groaned, throwing herself onto the bed completely clothed. I chuckled silently, closing and locking our door before walking over to her and pulling her shoes off.
"Baby," I coaxed. "He was just trying to give his momma a present."
She jerked her head up, glaring at me. "A frog, Edward. A wart-infested, mucus-covered, insect-ingesting frog."
I choked on a laugh, remembering the look on her face when he came inside for dinner with his 'present.' Right in her lap.
"Do not laugh at me right now," she threatened, her own lips twitching. I smiled, trying to go for contrite, but obviously failing miserably as her eyes narrowed. "It jumped in my face, Edward."
I nodded solemnly and reached up, unsnapping her jeans to pull them down. "I know, love."
She arched her eyebrow as I tossed her jeans aside and crawled up her body, sliding her shirt up as I went.
"Why are you making me naked?"
"Checking for warts," I quipped, throwing her shirt behind me.
She laughed, unbuttoning my shirt quickly. "Okay, look. We can do this, but I'm tired. You've maybe got fifteen minutes before I pass out."
"Mmm," I hummed, leaning back on my knees to take my shirt the rest of the way off. "It gets me so hot when you start talking time limits."
Grinning, she pulled me back down to her and kissed me languidly while her fingers worked the front of my slacks. When she finally worked them free, she shoved them down as far as she could and then moaned her protests into my mouth. Chuckling, I rolled off of her for a moment to kick them off along with my boxers while she slipped her panties down her legs. I reached around her to unsnap her bra, but she rolled onto her back, pouting.
"No, don't. They're too saggy."
"They're beautiful," I argued gently, and for the thousandth time. Ever since she finished nursing Jack four years ago, this was an ongoing disagreement between us. Like always, she allowed me to take if off, trying to cover herself with her arm. And like always, I kissed and sucked on her neck until she was so worked up she forgot what she was embarrassed of in the first place. As if there was any basis for it. As I slid slowly into her, I whispered. "You're beautiful."
I rocked over her until we came together quietly, mindful of the two sets of ears probably still wide awake down the hall, moaning into the other's mouth with our bodies slick from sweat. I rolled onto my back, taking her with me to lie across my chest.
"Now I have to go take a shower," she mumbled.
"I'll go start the water," I smiled, kissing the top of her head before walking away to the bathroom. She entered a few minutes later, her lips still swollen and her hair a curly mess. So gorgeous. I pulled her into the stall with me, still feeling the post-coital glow and grin that wouldn't leave my face.
While she was rinsing the soap from her hair, her eyes popped open suddenly. "Oh! I forgot to tell you. Angie called me today. She was contacted by some group homes and shelters in the area that heard about the Princess series. They want me to come do a reading. I think I'm going to do it, maybe take enough copies for the kids there and stuff."
"That sounds great. D'you tell Lily yet?" I asked, maneuvering around her to rinse off my face.
"Yeah. It was her idea to bring copies for the kids," she replied, and I could hear the pride in her voice.
"We've got one hell of a kid there," I stated, leaning against the tile and pulling her to me, wrapping my arms around her waist.
She nodded and wrapped her arms around my neck, smiling. "And then there's your darling son."
I shook my head at her, grinning. "You know damn well he's your little darling, too."
"He tells me I'm pretty every morning," she protested lightly. I nodded, because I already knew that. I taught him. "But frogs."
Laughing, I reached over and shut off the water. As she climbed out, I smacked her ass once. "Get into bed before I check you for warts again."
She wrapped herself in a towel and started walking backwards toward the bed, a wicked grin on her face. "You say that like it's a bad thing."
With a running leap, I tackled her onto the bed.
Early August 2016
"Thank you so much for coming today, Mrs. Cullen."
I smiled at the kind director of the group home I was visiting that day. "It was my pleasure, Jane. I'm so glad you contacted my agent about this. I hope you'll let me come back and do it again. And please, call me Bella."
"We would love to have you anytime you're willing, Bella. Your whole family, if you'd like. I think my kids would die to meet the people behind the characters," she smiled warmly.
"Well, Jack would probably tear the whole place down in less than five minutes, but I know Lily would like it. My husband, too," I nodded, looking around at the walls of the old house.
"Would you like a tour?" she offered kindly.
"Would that be okay?" I asked nervously. "I brought some books for the kids…"
"Are you serious?" she gasped. "Oh my goodness, they're never going to let you leave. Some of my kids here never had a present before they came."
"It was my daughter's idea, actually," I said proudly. "Let me get them out of my car and we'll start."
"I'll help you."
After we unloaded my backseat, we took an armful at a time and started walking through each room, passing out books to the kids playing within. We worked our way through the boxes until we only had one left.
"I thought…" I pursed my lips, double-checking the number in my head. "I could have sworn Angie said fourteen."
"Hmm…I bet that's my Annie. She'll be hiding around here somewhere. C'mon," she motioned for me to follow her as we walked outside, where kids were running around and playing in the backyard. "There she is."
I followed her pointed finger, not to where the kids were playing and laughing together, but to a corner in the yard, where a little girl sat alone, watching the every movement of the kids almost wistfully.
"She's painfully shy and barely talks, but she doesn't miss a thing," Jane explained, but I couldn't tear my eyes away from the little girl.
"She's so tiny," I breathed.
"She's three and a half, if you can believe it," she sighed. "But malnourishment will do that to a child. Just came here two weeks ago. Dad's in jail for life, mom's on her way for drugs, rights terminated. No other family that the state was able to find. She'd be in a foster home if they had room, but they don't, so she's here for now."
Finally turning away to look at Jane, I held up the book in my hand. "Could I…? I don't want to frighten her."
She gave me a Mona Lisa smile and shook her head. "I don't think you will. I'll be inside if you need me."
Walking slowly over to her, she was attuned to my movement immediately. She watched me with wide eyes the whole way, never moving or even blinking that I could see. I stopped a few feet away from her, gazing over her little body. From her blond, wispy hair to her hazel eyes, all the way down to her cute, little pink-polished toes.
"I like your toenail polish," I offered, just to see if she'd talk to me.
She looked down at her feet, wiggling her toes a bit.
I nodded, even though she wasn't looking at me. "Did you get to hear the story earlier?"
She nodded, her head still down.
"Did you like it?"
Again, she nodded. I moved closer to her until I could sit next to her on the ground. "Is it okay if I sit here?"
She looked up at me then, nodding. Her gaze was piercing, much more intense than a child her age should have been capable of, and I wasn't prepared for what it was doing to me to see it. I'd felt this way once before, but it had been a long, long time ago, and I didn't know what to do with it.
"I have this book for you, if you want it," I said softly, holding up the book in my hands. Her eyes widened and locked on the book, her fingers twitching slightly in her lap. "Here."
She took it immediately, clutching it to her chest. "All mine?"
I nodded, blinking back tears. "All yours. I could bring you another one, next time, if you wouldn't mind me visiting you again."
"You wanna see me?"
"I do," I nodded, trying to smile.
Her eyebrows wrinkled on her forehead and she wrinkled her nose.
I almost choked on a sob, but held it back. Trying to keep my voice level, I answered. "Because you remind me of a little thing I know. Only she's not so little anymore. And you're even littler than she was. You're more of a Little Bit, I think. But just as pretty."
"You tink I'm pwetty?"
"Oh, I know," I said firmly, my smile easier and more genuine that time.
When I left that day, I left a piece of my heart behind me.
I crawled into bed behind Bella, spooning her to me. I was so tired after a day of kids' soccer games and celebrations that I didn't even want to bother to shower. She stirred, turning her head slightly.
"Hey, baby. You went to bed early," I smiled, kissing the back of her head and settling into the pillow.
"Where're the kids? What time is it?" she slurred, her voice hoarse.
Sitting up, I looked down on her. "Lily is at Grace's for a sleepover and Jack's in bed. Are you getting sick?"
"No," she shook her head, clearing her throat. "Just tired."
Though I was concerned, I let it go. "How did the reading go?"
"It was great. I'm going to do it again next Saturday. You should come. You should see how much they love Lily's stories."
I smiled, lying back down behind her. "That'd be great. I'll be there."
"So through here's where the kids go to eat, and that's where I'm at most the time," Jane said with an amused smile. "Somebody's always hungry around here…And that's about it."
"It's amazing," I said, shaking my head in awe. "I don't know how you do it with this many kids."
"Well, I'm not alone and I've recently had a great new volunteer," she winked, nudging Bella with her elbow. Bella just shook her head, smiling shyly. "Would you like to start setting up the chairs and such for the reading?"
"Yeah, of course," Bella nodded, moving to follow Jane.
"Uh, Jane. Real quick, can you point me in the direction of the bathroom? I'll meet you guys back in the living room," I offered. "I can't remember if it was down this hallway or…"
"Left, left, right," she smiled, pointing and waving her directions. She and Bella walked off to get started and I followed her instructions, finding it easily. On my way back out, I was alarmed to hear some whimpering come from within one of the bedrooms. Following the sound, I found a tiny little girl crying in a corner, curled up into a ball.
"Hey now," I said softly, freezing when her head jerked up and she looked at me in alarm. "It's okay. Don't be scared. Can you tell me why you're crying?"
Her chin started quivering and her eyes filled and spilled down her cheeks.
"'C-c-c-cause I woosed my b-b-b-book!" she wailed, rubbing tiny fists in her eyes and choking on tears. Walking over to her, I crouched down and rubbed her arm gently.
"That's okay. Maybe we can get you a new one. Or maybe we'll find it if we just look for it," I tried.
"You hep me?" she asked, her sobs quieting and her eyes truly curious.
"Yeah, of course," I smiled.
My smile fell as I wondered what this child must have been through to not be able to understand a person caring enough about their happiness to help them.
"Well, because you're so pretty, of course."
Her eyes lit up slightly, her jaw dropping.
"You tink I'm pwetty?"
I nodded and she smiled for the first time. And she was really, really cute. With little dimples in her cheeks and eyes that almost seemed too large for her face. She was Bambi-caliber cute.
"She tinks I'm pwetty too."
"Who does?" I asked, confused.
"Book wady. She gabe me a book. My only book."
I inhaled deeply, looking over the little girl again. Bella had mentioned meeting a little girl that was so sweet, so innocent, too aged. She'd wanted me to meet her today and I was starting to think I just had.
"Is Book Lady pretty? With long hair?"
She nodded, her eyes shining with adoration for this Book Lady.
"I'm a Wittew Bit."
"A little bit what?"
"Her Wittew Bit."
A lump in my throat started to form as she spoke, my eyes threatening to leak any second. When she reached up and wiped away the traitor that escaped, I felt it. I knew. And I didn't know about fate or destiny, about higher beings or deities, but I did know now that there had been a reason why we weren't gifted with another child after Jack. Because if we had been, there was no telling what we might have been doing other than what we were now.
Bella had once told me that she never believed in love at first sight until she met Lily, and I had nodded and smiled, but didn't really get it. But looking at this little girl as she watched me with concern, I did finally. I understood.
Because I loved her.
Sitting down on the floor in front of her, I breathed out slowly to control my emotions. My eyes serious but a smile on my face, I asked her.
"Well, Little Bit. I just need to know one very important thing. How do you feel about frogs?"
The End. Again.
New Story: Remember Me begins Monday September 27. Fluff and drama, no angst. M for language, limes, and a lemon. Summary on my profile page.
You can follow me at isakassees on Twitter. I'm absolutely hopeless, and can never figure out how to work it, but from time to time I'm able to drop some knowledge. : )
Thank you all for reading. Very, very much.