My apologies for the delay! I've been frantically catching up on so many things because of the holiday break. But hopefully you're like me and believe that any period of the year is a good one for a Christmas story. It brings out the happiness in us. And though this is happy, I am also sad to be bringing you the final chapter. It's been so fun to hear your feedback on different characters and POVs, and I enjoy writing for Christmas very much. But who knows what the future will bring?
I was nervous, though I didn't understand why; I was the matriarch towards them, and I was, in Carlisle's words "The queen ruler of this household".
Of course, I would never intentionally make them feel as if they had to do something just because it was I who had asked. I was not their true mother, and it was not my place to do so. Besides, I know how I would despise such an authoritative figure.
No, no, I'd lay the situation out there. I would do so in a non-threatening manner, and they would be free to decline without retribution. I would just hope that they'd accept my idea.
I'd spent the day away from Edward in an effort to leave the proposition concealed.
And as I now began my suddenly unsure departure from my desk, I was racked with butterflies. They were flapping their little wings just as quickly as they could.
Yet as soon as they'd appeared, they were gone. I smiled. I'd have to thank Jasper later.
I was not surprised by their generally curious expressions at the moment; no one was aware of what I would ask…Except for Alice of course, who was grinning and who I'm sure already had contributions to make. I liked that about Alice; she could be a bit frustrating when I wanted to surprise her, but she always found the positive points of a situation and was eager to cheer everyone up. I can't count the amount of times she's acted with shock to humor me. I've always appreciated that.
As I approached the table, Carlisle took my hand and winked at me. He didn't know about this either, but perhaps he was thinking about being in the woods earlier…
"We should be getting back" turned into us leaving an hour later. It was so magnificent out, and we were so connected that we…Well, a lady doesn't kiss and tell.
Edward cringed lightly. Sorry dear. I flashed him an apologetic smile.
I squared my shoulders and began. "I'm sure that most of you are wondering why I've called together this random meeting. Well, it does serve a purpose. Lately I've been feeling rather disconnected from some of my human traits. I also understand that we maintain our human façade by sometimes having to stray away from more common aspects of life. That, combined with the fact that we've had so much bestowed upon us and the urge that I have to give back, has led me to the conclusion that volunteering for the shelter tonight would benefit us and the other citizens."
Emmett began clapping and threw in a whistle. I suddenly felt silly for how formal it had sounded.
"I do want you all to know that you are completely free to decline leaving with me tonight."
Carlisle hugged me. "I think that that is a wonderful sentiment. I'd love to go."
I smiled. One down. "Alice?"
"Of course I'll go! Jazz and I spent the day making Christmas cookies together; I need someone to pass them out to."
"If it makes Alice happy, then consider me on board as well." Jasper chimed in.
"I want to go with Grandma!" Nessie squealed from beside Jacob, Edward, and Bella.
"Thank you, Renesmee! I trust that the three of you will also join?"
Jacob grinned. "You've got that right, Mrs. Cullen."
I smiled but sighed mentally as I looked at Rosalie. She was the only one that I had had any true doubts about. Plus, I knew that if Rosalie refused, Emmett would stay with her. "Well, what do you say, Rose?"
She took her time responding, but I understood her desire to think it through.
"I suppose," She started, "that it would be for the best. It might even make me feel…like a person again."
"And you know that I'm up to it!" Emmett chuckled and high-fived Jacob.
"Very good!" It opens in half an hour, so be ready!"
"Wait, I have an idea!" Alice looked around the circle. "We have so many clothes that I take to Port Angeles, but what about going through our wardrobes and taking them to the shelter here?"
"Alice that is a lovely idea! Is everyone fine with that?"
The boys and Bella shrugged. Why was I not surprised? But I knew that they would do their best, despite their disdain towards sorting through clothing.
"Alright then, get ready!" They took off in a flash to prepare as Carlisle and I remained.
He whispered, "You could've told me."
"Oh please, if Renesmee had asked about anything remotely related to the situation, you would've been putty in her hands!" I said as I laughed.
"Perhaps you're right about that." He spoke with a smile. "I suppose we should gather our things."
"Don't worry, I gave Alice a signal, she's on the hunt for us." He seemed surprised. "Well, I wanted this to be as stress-free as possible for you. I hope it's okay that I'm having her do that."
"It is, I'm just amazed! How did you do all of this without me finding out?"
"Haven't you realized that I'm Wonder Woman by now?"
He chuckled. "I'm seeing that you really are."
"Mom, we're ready!" I heard Alice pip from the garage.
"I guess that's our cue." I smiled.
We had to take three cars. Bella, Edward, Jacob and Nessie were in the Volvo, with Rosalie, Emmett, Alice, and Jasper in Rose's new highway terror. Carlisle and I took the Mercedes, storing most of the clothing in the backseats and trunk.
I felt a bit too…ostentatious pulling into the lot at the shelter. True, it was not a sin to spend money, but I was more aware than ever of how pretentious and prideful we must appear.
I felt another wave from Jasper. Poor boy, I thought. This will be so draining for him. But I was confident in Alice's ability to keep a smile on his, and the faces of everyone else.
We entered, and the place was already filling. I wasn't surprised. Though Forks itself was small and didn't have the highest rate of poverty, many travelled from neighboring towns due to an inadequate amount of food and chance of warmth.
It was unsettling and I was amazed at how far I had fallen away from helping those in need.
Shake it off, I told myself.
We assembled our own table and stocked it with water, soups, Alice and Jasper's cookies, and the clothing we had gathered.
Normally humans would avoid us by unconsciously protecting themselves from danger. Tonight that instinct told them that the only way to survive was to face it head on.
Jasper did his best to keep me from being overwhelmed by my emotions upon helping each person throughout our section.
I thought that I was strong enough to remain somewhat chipper, despite the situation, but my heart had great trouble when it registered that the majority of the consumers were in groups with their whole family being in need.
I smiled at the children, but I was saddened inside. Carlisle sensed this and sporadically stroked my arm between rounds.
The crowds eventually slowed and the night was coming to a close. Everyone had been served and seated, and given new clothes.
Nessie was in the corner with Jake, feeding him a cookie Alice had given her. Rose and Alice were currently playing hide and seek as best as they could with the children; after giving them Christmas looks of course. Jasper was in a corner. He didn't trust himself to be out the entire time, but he sometimes joined them with the little ones. Emmett was teaching another group some games and was also giving piggyback rides.
Bella and Edward had been helping me check tables to see if anyone needed anything.
As I spun around to do a final check, I felt a gentle tug backwards and landed in a familiar set of arms.
"I was wondering where you'd slipped off to." I said through a smile.
"I was getting the car ready. You and I are leaving early."
I tilted my head. "What about the people here?"
"Don't worry, Esme. Bella and Edward already agreed to finish rounds, and the others will clean up."
"Everyone will be home soon?"
"Everyone." He kissed the back of my neck. "Follow me."
He led me outside and helped me into the car. He coolly pulled out of the lot and we coasted through the area.
"It's so beautiful right now." I marveled at the powder gently hitting the windowpane.
"A splendor indeed." He lifted my hand and wove his fingers through mine. "And look at the sky."
The evening's backdrop had become a light purple as the sun fought to retain some of its dominance. The snow now looked as if it was falling down a lilac canvas. Its impact left me entranced.
"Thank you so much, dear."
"It was nothing…I thought that you might need something brighter."
I squeezed his hand and leaned over to softly kiss his cheek. "I did, and this was perfect."
He smiled. "I do think that the kids appreciated tonight. It was quite a reminder of our fortune underneath the curse."
"Well, Alice certainly embraced it."
"She wanted to, and she looks up to you and your charitable disposition, they all do. And I think that you brought them all closer through the teamwork…This is the first year that this truly felt like a complete Cullen Christmas."
"I agree. It felt…so much more right." I paused and then laughed.
"What's so funny?"
"Wait until you see what I have planned for next year."
Carlisle started laughing with me. "Something tells me that Alice is already helping you arrange it…"
"You have no idea."
Ah, well, I wrote every chapter from the male POV except for this one...I just can't stay away from writing Esme! She's too much fun for me to not write through. :) That being said, this is a bit of a bittersweet moment for me. The positive response to this was incredible for me, and I have heard from so many more reviewers!
And Esme's line at the end DOES have meaning...That's right, prepare for a second edition of "A Cullen Christmas" later this year. I've already got plot ideas lined up for the holiday season, and I hope to have you all back on for the ride. If you want to catch when I have it up, be sure to add me to your Author Alert. I'd love to keep hearing from you all.
Jess1177: Aw, well high five! Hope you like the bits I snuck in of them this time :)
AnnelieAhuisCullen: Yay, we can crush together! Ah, Peter is exactly how I pictured Carlisle...Perfection. ;D I'm so very happy to hear how much you liked their chapter! I'm glad that it was worth it, because your reviews mean a lot to me!
Ali Shaw: Aw, thank you, I hope you had a nice one as well. I'm sad too...Hope that you like this parting chapter though!
EsmeCarlisle1921: Ah, I appreciate that! I'm also thrilled to have that feedback about my take on the other couples. That meant so much! Oh, blue and orange? I like that! My old school colors were Grey and Red...Not as fun haha
Emma-MasenCullen: :D Thank you very, very much! Glad to have had your feedback throughout the run of the story, and I hope I hear more from you in the future, dearie!
Carolina Grey: Aw, thank you for the compliment! You set the bar pretty high for me for this chapter! haha Hope you like!
Greenfairyrose: Thank you! Hope you did too...Maybe your icon became reality? ;)
TwilightLover-CarlisleandEsme: *hugs* Big thanks! Gah, I'm so happy to have it recieved so well! Hope you had a lovely holiday as well!
youreconfusingme: Yay! I'm happy to have had you find it! I'm glad you like it, and I hope to hear your thoughts on this too :D