A Tennessee Christmas
Song: A Tennesee Christmas
Summary: After a disasterous trip to DC is cut short, Bella and Rosalie are stuck in a Ice Chalet with her daughters, Hayley, Hannah and the Masen Clan. Does love happen at first site? Warning- some girl/girl kissing, lots of cursing.
Disclaimer: Author does not own the song, or any public/recognizable characters, including those from Twilight, by S. Meyer
[Bella]- Christmas 2009
The drive from Atlanta to DC was pure torture. At least with two children in the backseat, screaming "Mommmeeeeee!"
I thought back to my joke about giving them benadryl and how Lauren Mallory said, "I'd never drug my children!" Sure you wouldn't, bitch. Because you don't have any, yet.
I had had to pull over twice too because Rose couldn't get my little Hannah Houdini-baby back into her car seat. Hayley had to advise us of it every time.
I should have just bit the bullet and flown up to see Alice for Christmas. Then they wouldn't be stuck in the backseat of my 1998 Honda Accord screaming and fighting. I was beginning to understand how some parents beat their children, I was sorry to say.
"Momma, she's done it again!" Hayley tattled. I was just ready to let Hannah turn backflips in the backseat. My kids were pissing me off.
"Traffic Congestion. Ahead," my phone's navigation unit said. "Alternate Route?"
"Yes," Rose said. "Do it. I hate interstate traffic."
I touched the "yes" button on the GPS and it directed me off the interstate. The snow was falling onto the windshield; giant, floppy flakes that melted once they hit the ground. I knew what to expect from the snow- it was nothing like Forks, Washington, my hometown. It didn't scare me at all, but it scared the living shit out of Tennesseans, and for that fact, anybody who lived in a southern state. It made driving in snow incredibly stressful to me, now.
We hadn't stopped since spending the night with Angela in Chattanooga and picked up Rose, who was now pursuing a career in country music in Nashville.
The traffic seemed to dissipate when we got off the interstate. "It's so pretty up here!" Rose cried. The snow was sticking to the trees sticking out of the mountains.
There was a shrill scream and I glanced in the rearview mirror. "Mommy, she's bweathing my airr!" Hannah squealed.
"That's it, I'm killing them both, where are we going to hide the bodies?"
"Calm down," Rose said. "Let me handle it. Girls, who wants to watch Spongebob?"
"My… aiiirrrr!" Hannah screamed.
"I have to breathe, Hannah!"
"I see you, Hannah-Banana!" Rose cried. "Seatbelt!"
"You not gonna do that!"
"Hannah just pooted!" Hayley complained, holding her nose. Hannah was resorting to chemical warfare to reclaim her air. Maybe she needed a diaper change.
At that moment, I lost control of my car, feeling it's backwheels fishtail over a patch of ice. Rose screamed. I pumped the brakes, attempting to regain control, but my car began to spin in circles. We were suddenly stopped by a ditch- my car was at an angle.
I felt my heart racing. My first thoughts were on my daughters. I turned back as best as I could, my seatbelt locked.
"Momma?" Hayley asked. She was ghost-white in her car seat, her chin quivering. She began to sob.
Hannah- she had been sitting right behind me. "Hannah!?" I cried. Hannah- what if- she was in her seat, heaving.
Her eyes met mine, and her lower lip poked out, her lashes fluttering. Just seconds earlier, I had been envisioning drugging her.
A wail errupted from Hannah.
"Bella, I'm calling 911- turn off the engine!" Rose shouted.
I did as told and then turned around in my seat as best as I could to reach my babies.
I started to bawl, adding to the noise of my children. "I'm an awful mother, Rose!"
"What? No!" she cried. "It's okay."
I had gotten the good fortune of getting off from the UT Medical Center for a week. Emma and I were packed up and ready to go.
"Are you ready for an Ice Chalet week with Daddy?" I asked.
"Uh-huh!" she cried. "Are we gonna go sledding with Unca Emmett?"
"Oh yeah," I said, grinning. I loved Redneck Mecca Gatlinburg. It was kitschy, cheesy, corny, but it was a family's delight. This would be my Christmas with Emma.
"Is Nana gonna be there?"
Emmett, my fraternity brother and best friend had come down from his job in Louisville and we had rented an Ice Chalet in the mountains. Emmett was raised by his grandma, who passed away in college, and my parents had long since taken him in as another son. I named Emma after him.
I buckled Emma into her car seat, turning on the in-car DVD player for Dora the Explorer. The traffic was getting worse and I was going to be cursing my head off in ten minutes at some of these snow-retarded Tennessee drivers who couldn't drive in the first place. We had been told to expect flurries.
I loved Christmas with my daughter. I wanted each of them to be something she remembered forever.
The scenery faded from the urban downtown of Knoxville to the tree-covered inclines of the Smoky mountains, dusted in snow. I got off at Highway 66. The occasional tree was covered in twinkle lights and there were Christmas decorations out. Ahh, Christmas in Tennessee. Homemade and honest. Nothing like it anywhere else.
"Daddy!" Emma cried.
I tore off my earphones to see a little Honda at an angle in a ditch, the hind wheels still spinning
As a doctor, I could not pass it by. It was in the oath. I pulled over and pulled the parking brake. "I'll be right back- you watch Dora," I said.
I tugged on my coat, getting the First Aide kit out of the back. I snapped on some plastic gloves and went up to the car, tapping on the driver's side window. Two little girls were in the backseat, screaming with tears.
A woman with long hair and mascara dripping under her eyes turned around to look at me.
"Ma'am," I said. "Are you alright?"
She looked a little dazed and confused. She reached for the door handle, but stopped.
I could see a blonde in the passenger seat. "We called 911," she called, mutely through the window.
"Can you open the door?"
She tried, but shook her head.
About then, a fire truck siren came up the mountain.
Suddenly, I saw a small truck zipping up the mountain pulling over- and it rammed right into my SUV.
"Shit!" I screamed. Emma was in my car!
I ran, my heart thundering in my chest and tore the door open to where Emma was. She looked a little jarred and surprised. "Daddy!"
I unbuckled her. "Oh, Em!" I cried, picking her up, squeezing her in my arms. The ass hole who had hit a fucking parked car got out, looking shocked and upset. I saw red- nothing but red. "You hit a fucking parked car, asshole!" I shouted. "What the fuck, man! My kid was in there!"
"It's okay," he said, feebly. "I didn't hit it that hard. I mean, it's barely a scratch on the bumper!"
"Daddy, stop saying 'fuck,'" Emma said. I needed to calm down. I didn't like Emma hearing me say fuck.
The firetruck pulled up. They tore the driver's side doors open and helped the passengers out.
"Thank God they were in their car seats," the driver was saying, shaking.
"Excuse me, I'm a physician," I said.
"Our EMTs didn't see any signs of trauma on them, so far," the fireman said. "The ambulance is on it's way. We're going to take them to Fort Sanders. What happened to your car?"
I turned around and saw that the small truck had sped off. "Fucking hit and run," I muttered.
The dark-haired woman sat down on a tree trunk and held the little girls. The blonde, who was a complete fucking knock-out, was walking around, talking on her cell phone.
Taking Emma's hand, I went over to the blonde and checked her, first. "Get the fuck out of my face!" she snarled.
Fine. See if I come around your Ice Chalet to fuck you later.
"I'm a physician, ma'am," I said. "Can you hang up the phone, please? And not curse in front of my little girl?"
"Oh," she said, glancing down at Emma. "I didn't see her. Sorry."
I got out my pen flashlight. "Follow the light with your eyes, please."
She did as asked, answered all my questions. Her name was Rosalie Hale, as her wallet confirmed, she lived in Smyrna, Tennessee and she was aware it was 2009.
Emma and I went onto the woman with her little girls, trudging through a small snow drift.
The woman looked up, scared.
"I was trying so hard to keep them in their car seats, I swear!" she blubbered.
"It's alright, ma'am," I said. "They were in them when I got to the car. Can you follow this flashlight with your eyes?"
I checked her reflexes, her pulse, her blood pressure. They were all a little elevated, as expected. No trauma there.
I noticed Emma was playing around the snow drift. After that ass hole hit-and-run, I jumped at the realization. "Emma, come over here by me," I called.
"I got her," Rosalie said, taking her hand. She started showing Emma how to make snow angels.
I checked the woman's name- Bella Swan- no, Newton, her married name- and it was 2009 she was sure. She was shaking pretty hard. I checked the children out- they were wailing. A few ambulances and police cars had arrived by then.
"I don't see any immediate trauma," I said. "But of course, an X-ray will tell us a lot more."
"What about your car?" the cop asked.
I looked at it. The bumper. Fuck me. "Yeah." I described the truck and driver.
"Probably uninsured," the cop said. "I'm sorry. Was your daughter in the car at the time of the accident?"
I sighed. "Yeah, she was."
"Since you're a doctor and it's snowing and we're by a highway, I'm going to let it slide, no ticket. Can I see your license, proof of insurance and registration?"
I dug out the items. While the cop was going through my paper work, I dialed Mom.
"Hi, honey. Where are you? It's starting to snow really hard- and the news says that it's only going to get worse!"
"I know. I was witness to an accident, I stopped to help."
"Oh, sweetheart," she said in her I'm so proud of you voice.
"No, really, Mom, I think an uninsured driver hit me while I was parked by the side of the road and drove off," I said. "Emma was in the car."
She gasped. "Is she alright?"
"Yes, she's fine," I said. "She's playing in the snow drift with the kids from the accident right now."
The little girls from the accident were making snow angels with her while the EMTs conversed. Kids could bounce back well.
"There were children in the first accident?"
"They're fine. I don't think there's any trauma, but I advised the EMTs to send them to the ER just in case."
"Go with them," Mom said. "Just to put them at ease. And come home when you get a chance."
"What ER are they going to?"
"I've been cooking all morning long. I've got plenty of food- how many of them are there?"
"Four- two kids, two adults."
"You're going to be in there so long," she tutted. "I'm going to come by with food."
"Okay, Dr. Masen," the cop said. "Your car's just fine to drive."
I took Emma's hand.
"Okay, Em, we need to go the hospital."
At the last minute, I got the pieces out of Bella's trunk and shoved them into my car.
The ambulance came to life and we were rushed to a hospital.
I'd have to call Mike. No wait, he was in Austin with his new girlfriend. Shit.
That cute Doctor had followed us to the ER with his little girl. I felt some relief seeing him there.
"I'm sure you're just fine," he said. "But, we can never be too careful with our children, can we?"
We waited in a cubicle with Rosalie while the girls went through X-rays.
I still felt horribly guilty for being so angry at my children. Of course children fought being strapped into small seats for hours at a time. Hannah desperately needed changing, but the diapers were in the trunk of my car at the side of the road, probably being towed off by a wrecker.
I needed to call Alice. Badly. Dr. Masen asked the ER doctor to prescribe me a Xanax.
"I need to change Hannah," I said, smoothing Jeannie's hair back, "but, I left everything back in the car, Dr. Masen."
"I got it," he said. "It's Edward, by the way. If you'll watch Emma, I'll be right back."
The nurse came back with a Xanax and a cup of water for me. By the time I took it, Dr. Masen was back with the diaper bag.
"Thank you!" I cried. "She's probably pooped twice in this diaper by now."
"I know I almost did," Rosalie snorted.
"In the immortal words of Bill Cosby, first you say it, then you do it, no need for clean underwear," a new voice said. It was a man about my Dad's age.
"Hi, Dad," Edward said. "Mom?"
At the door was a middle-aged woman and man. She had a few paper sacks. "Hi!" the lady said. "I'm sure you girls are starving."
"Oh, we are!" Rosalie grumbled.
"Nana!" Emma cried. She hopped up and ran for her. The older man picked up the little bouncing copperhead and hugged and kissed her.
"I'm Liz Masen, Edward's mother. And this is Tony, Edward's father. Edward was on his way up to our Ice Chalet in Gatlinburg for the weekend," she said. "Is everything going okay?"
I nodded. She started unpacking food- tons of it. I hadn't realized how hungry I was until just now. It was still warm and it smelled heavenly. "Thank you so much!" I cried.
"Not a problem," she said. "I'm sure you were scared to death."
We ate fast while Rosalie got her X-rays done.
"So, were you just passing through the mountains?" Liz asked me.
"Yeah, I got the bright idea that it would be cheaper to drive from Atlanta to DC," I said. "I picked up my best friend in Chattanooga last night."
"Bad idea," she said, smiling, gazing at Hayley and Hannah. "Especially with small children. Why were you going to DC?" she asked.
"A job interview in Arlington," I said. "I just got divorced."
"Oh," she said sympathetically.
"It's a higher-paying job and… well… more money would help us a lot," I said. "I can hardly afford Atlanta right now."
"Bella?" Edward asked. "The nurses are saying the snow's getting really bad."
"I need to call my friend up in DC," I said. "No signal."
"We can watch your girls," Liz offered.
"Thank you," I said. I picked up my coat and cell phone and went outside.
"Bella! Where are you?" Alice asked. "It's snowing like crazy in the Appalachians, are y'all doing okay?"
"No, Alice," I said. "We got into an accident."
"WHAT?" she screamed shrilly into my ear.
I felt myself breaking down. "I lost control of my car," I said. "We're okay, we're in the ER right now, just to be safe."
"My car's almost on it's side in a snowdrift on the side of the highway,"
"Is it okay?"
"No. I don't know. It's being towed away as we speak."
"Noo! You're going to miss out on my Christmas party! And that interview! What are we going to do?"
"I'm just taking it easy right now," I said.
"I had so much I wanted to show you at Christmas in DC!" Alice moaned. "And you're missing it!"
"I know. I was so stupid. I should have flown up."
"No! Be careful, okay?"
"I will." In the ER, the adults were getting the coats on the children. "We got release papers," Rosalie said. "Come on."
"We need to get a rental car," I said. "And a hotel room."
"Oh really?" the nurse said. "There's no hotel rooms available this weekend."
"Forget it, hon," the older nurse said.
"We have to go back to Atlanta."
"There's no getting out of here," another nurse said. "The snow turned to sleet and iced the roads over. Interstate's shut down for miles."
I felt my head go light. I had nowhere to go.
"How?" I muttered.
"We're stuck," Rosalie muttered. "I can't believe it."
Dr. Masen placed a hand on my shoulder. "Ms. Swan? We could never let a woman and her children go homeless on a night like this. Come on, we've got plenty of room in our cabin in Ober Gatlinburg."
Staying with complete strangers? This was idiotic. But then again, There really was no other option.
"Look, what do I need to do to verify myself-"
"We'll let the four of you have the only room that locks," Liz said. "We're not sex perverts, I swear."
"Well, we don't have anywhere else to go," Rose said. "Bella, let's just go with these nice people and…"
"Okay," I said. Edward had disappeared.
Edward's car was waiting, the bumper hanging by a thread. The two men had our luggage and were transferring it to a Cadillac's trunk. When it was ready, there were new carseats in the back from the police. I buckled my girls in. "Momma, I sorry," Hannah drawled.
"It's okay, baby," I said, kissing her on the head. "No getting out of your car seat, okay?"
"Okay," she said.
"Momma, sit back here with me!" Hayley whined.
"I will," I said. Once the girls were secured, I buckled myself into the futherest backseat while Rose got in shotgun. What am I thinking? I reprimanded myself. Well, I was caught between a rock and a hard place. They were nice people, obviously. Coming to feed us despite not knowing us at all.
We started to go through Sevierville, but the traffic was awful. He turned on a DVD for the kids, but my mind raced with doubts. I was an idiot for going with these strangers. But really, what else was there to do?
It took almost two hours before we reached the base of the mountain. The wheels of Edward's car spun and we slid down.
We'd have to climb the mountain with our luggage- just the bare necessities. Well shit.
"Just a moment," Edward promised. He got out of the car. They parked at the side of the road and started loading bags into the back of his car again.
I started to get out to help them. "Bella, no," Liz said. "You stay."
It took the Masens about twenty minutes to transfer the luggage and put the chains on the tires. The Masens got in with me.
"Everybody buckle up," Edward said. "Do we have cell signal?"
We all did.
"Alright," he said. He began the drive up.
My SUV roared and I touched my foot to the gas. I could hear the chains crunching against the gravel as we crawled up the mountain. I could hardly see the drive from the snow, now. I could feel the tension in the car from the adults while the girls giggled at the DVD. Rosalie grabbed the Oh Shit handles and Dad grabbed the one in the backseat. I saw Mom grab Bella's hand, her breathing erratic.
I realized I was off the narrow path slightly. I had at least three miles to go up the side of the mountain.
I pressed a little harder over a small swell in the ground and the whole car jostled. AWD seemed stupid at purchase, but now I was glad I got it.
I hoped to God we didn't topple over. Rosalie's freehand hit the clear button on her phone, and I could see the signal was still decent. I had almost no view out the back window with all the extra luggage.
Around the curve of the road, I could see the Ice Chalet all lit up and the smoke curling out the chimney. It seemed like it was twilight already from the cloud cover, although it was only three.
I slowly pushed my gas pedal, reminding myself not to be hasty. "Slow and steady wins the race, son," Dad reminded me. Dammit, Dad. You and your quotes.
The children were suddenly silent, realizing the danger we were in. The car teetered for a second and then we were on all four wheels, again. I realized I was on the left side of the road and that I couldn't see under the snow drifts. I exhaled and steered towards the right to correct myself.
As I drove up the trail, it started to flatten out a little more. Almost there.
I parked behind Emmett's Wrangler. At least we had AWD cars up here if we needed to get down the mountain.
I pulled the parking brake turned off the engine. Giant, fat flakes attacked me the moment I opened the door.
Emmett came out the door. "What took you so long!" he bellowed. "Hey look, Em multiplied!"
"Emmett, shut up," I muttered.
"Hey, you brought some entertainment," he commented, his eyes glancing over Rosalie's figure.
Rosalie's eyes flashed. "Bite me, loser," she snapped.
"Emmett!" Mom admonished.
"Stop your yapping and earn your keep," Dad said, tossing a suitcase at him.
"I've been thinking about it, and I think that it's best if the girls get Emmett's room. I know it'll be a tight squeeze," Mom began, always planning. "Emmett you can sleep on a palette on the floor in Edward and Violet's room or you can sleep on the couch. I'm sorry about this, but we've got to just do the best we can with what we've got."
Emmett groaned. "Well… okay."
"Be a gentleman," I muttered. "You can share my bed." I bent over to kiss him just to freak him out, and he darted away.
"I'm not a fag!"
"Excuse me!" Bella cried. "I don't teach my children those words!"
"I was just messing with him," I said. "Better get used to it."
Dad, Emmett and I started working on the model train set while the girls toured the cabin.
"We can just take the downstairs," Bella said, coming down from the loft.
"Why don't you girls get freshened up, give the little ones a bath and warm up?" Mom asked. "We can heat up the hot tub."
"There's a hot tub?" Rosalie cried.
"Yeah," Emmett said, giving her a pervy look.
"Thanks, Liz," Bella said. She took the girls to the second bathroom in the cabin. Rosalie went into the kitchen to help Mom and Emma.
"Man," Emmett said. "You had to go and pick them up."
"Ice crotch. Is. Yours," I said, picking up my beer.
"Hey, I like a challenge," Emmett said. "You're just going to settle for the MILF?"
"Guys, let's not get ahead of ourselves," Dad reminded us. "And there are three tiny sets of ears in this house-"
"I'm just saying," I said. "Frost bite's pretty- meow."
"Daddy, Daddy!" Emma called, running into the living with a cookie. Her face was covered in icing and she was holding out a cookie between her sticky little hands.
"Emma, come back here!" Mom yelled.
"Daddy, this is for you," Emma said, ignoring Mom.
"Thank you, but you need to listen to Nana, please," I said.
Mom came out with a wet paper towel. "Sweetie," she said. "Don't run into the living room with food."
"Thank you for the cookie," I said, kissing her on the cheek once Mom had her face wiped off.
"Where's Unca Emmett's?" Emmett asked.
"It's coming!" she cried.
"Oh, fine!" he snapped.
"What about Pop-pop?" Dad asked.
"Coming, coming!" Emma whined.
"We've got them in the kitchen," Mom said. Rosalie was icing sugar cookies at the table.
"Can I have one more?" Emma asked.
"No, you'll spoil your dinner," I said.
"Come on," Rosalie said. "The Frost Bite thinks it's just fine. Meow."
I washed my face, cleaning off my runny mascara while the girls played in the bathtub. I felt strangely comfortable in this house with these weird, but kind strangers. I scrubbed off the last of the mascara drips. There. I had a clean palate to work with. I put on some moisturizer and reapplied my makeup and pulled my hair down. Taking the girls out of the bathtub, they seemed much happier now that they were out of the cold. Hannah was crashing fast.
I took them to the bedroom and put them in their footie pajamas. "Much better, huh?"
"Uh-huh!" Hayley said.
They ran out into the living room and saw the model train that had been set up. "Hey girls, you like trains?" Tony asked, tugging the thighs of his pants up and groaning softly as his knees popped, kneeling.
"Uh-huh," Hannah said.
"Yes sir," Hayley said.
Emma came out from the kitchen. "They have pajamas with feet!" she squealed with her little accent. "Daddy, I wanna wear mine!"
"Just a minute, just a minute," Edward said. He carried Emma into the smaller bedroom and they emerged a minute later with Emma in yellow polar fleece footie pajamas.
The three girls gathered around the train while Tony turned it on.
"Bella, want a cookie?" Rosalie asked, coming into the living room with a plate.
"Who's up for the hot tub?" Emmett asked. "Hope you girls brought your bathing suits! If not, that's okay!"
"Emmett," Edward said warningly.
"We're going to have some chili in a moment," Liz said. "And cornbread."
"Sounds wonderful," I said. "But my girls are picky eaters."
"Yeah? I raised one."
"Can I help you set the table?"
"No, Edward's got it. What do your girls want to drink?"
"Milk is fine."
I was horribly hungry since the accident. That lunch Liz brought us had only temporarily quelled my hunger. Liz made sure that the kids got separate servings of each dish, none of it mixed.
"So, Bella, you said you were into advertising?" Edward asked.
"Yes," I said. "Four years, now."
"And Rosalie, you never said what you did," he said.
"I'm an aspiring country singer," she said. "I live in Nashville."
"Well butter my butt and call me a biscuit!" Emmett cried. "My Mom had a country hit in the late 70s before I was born."
Rosalie sighed and rolled her eyes. "Oh really? Anything I've heard of?"
"A country recording of These Boots," Emmett said. "Nancy Sinatra recorded it first, then my Mom. She was a one-hit wonder though. Recorded a few more albums, but they never cracked the top ten."
"I… I've heard that song. What was her name?"
"Mabelline Harris McCarty."
"No- not Mabelline and Jackson McCarty- the record producer that died in a car accident and left a son behind? That was you?"
"I'm so sorry," she said. "I've seen their tribute on Music Row in Nashville- it's a legend and a warning- to never- never marry your producer. Bad luck."
"Yeah, that was my momma and daddy."
"That's so sad," I said.
After wiping the cornbread crumbs and chili off my girls, I tucked Hannah into bed. Her head was lolling. She had had a big day with lots of adventure.
"Hannah-Banana, I love you," I whispered. "And I'm so sorry I thought such awful thoughts." I knew I shouldn't do this, but she was reaching for my breasts. I had just weaned her but... I sighed, my guilt was making me do it. I unbuttoned my top and lowered my bra cup. Within a few minutes, she was asleep. I tucked her into the giant bed and kissed her one last time before adjusting my clothes.
In the living room, Emmett was playing his guitar for everyone, singing the Big Rock Candy Mountain and ad-libbing every chance he got. "Where the lemonade springs where the bluebird sings. In the Big Rock Candy Mountains," he sang. "And of course, girls," he said. "Those bluebird do what…? Shoo-shoo on your head and a make a mess. Right in your eye." Hayley and Emma giggled. "Birdie, birdie, in the sky, why'd you shoo-shoo in my eye?" They rolled on the carpet, giggling.
"Get on the song, Emmett!" Tony said. "And keep it clean."
Emmett let them finish giggling before singing again. "… Oh, I'm bound to go where there ain't no snow. Where the rain don't fall and the wind don't blow. In the Big Rock Candy Mountains," he sang. "And of course, we all know we're not on the big rock candy mountain because it's snowing so hard out there."
"Maybe I was wrong about him," Rose whispered in my ear.
"We're only here until the snow melts," I whispered. "Don't get any bright ideas."
After Emmett sang a few more songs, Liz came out with some popcorn, fishing line and needles. We started working some pop corn strings for a tree. By then, the girls were exhausted. We put them to bed.
I looked at the bed and realized there was no way Rose and I could fit in there with them.
Rosalie, Edward, Tony, Liz and Emmett were setting up a game of Taboo when I came out. I was teamed up with Liz and Edward while Tony and Emmett teamed up with Rose. It was incredible fun playing with them although we got a little loud. Rose miscounted our wins, I think on purpose.
"I think we're winning," Edward said. I hadn't noticed how green his eyes were until that moment. He flashed a crooked smile at me. I felt that tingle in my stomach that I hadn't felt since I fel in love with Mike seven years ago.
"Fine, if you say so, I'll recount it," she said. "Just to be nice. It's Christmas time."
"If you say so."
After losing to Rosalie, Emmett and Tony, we settled in to watch a really old version of A Christmas Carroll.
I noticed Bella rubbing her neck and shoulders. "Bella, you need a backrub?" I asked.
"Yeah, actually, are you good at it?"
"Sure," I said. I opened my legs and indicated for her to sit on the floor between them. She sat down, pulling her long hair over her shoulder.
"I hope my babies are okay," she said.
"It's just a little bit of whiplash," I said. She had really taut, smooth skin under her clothes. Damn.
"We can just send them to a chiropractor," Emmett said.
"Voo-doo doctors?" Dad snorted.
"Dad, come on," I said. I jammed my thumbs into Bella's neck muscles and she moaned, almost sexually. I felt the hairs raise on my arms at that sound. Jesus…
"You know, the hot tub can help that out," Dad said. "I can fire it up."
"I didn't bring a swim suit," Bella said.
"Neither did I, and I'm getting sore up here, too," Rosalie said.
"We can give you both some privacy if you'd like to use it," Mom said. "It's a big hot tub."
"Thanks," Bella said. "That would feel so good right now."
"I'll get it going," Dad said. "I'm pretty worn out- I'm probably going to hit the hay."
"Me too," Mom said. "I'll make some bedtime tea, first, alright?"
"Thanks," we chorused.
After tea, I offered to find a movie for one of the girls to watch while the first one got in the hot tub.
"We're fine, don't worry. I'm sure you're exhausted," Bella said.
"We're probably going to drink a few beers and just chill out watching SportsCenter."
"Okay. Well, don't wait up for us," Bella said. She and Rosalie got up.
Both Emmett and I watched them exit.
"Holy shit," he muttered. "They're getting into that hot tub together? Naked? Fuck me, this is awesome! I wanna see if I can get a peek. Do you think they experiment?"
"Emmett," I said. Although the idea of Bella and Rosalie climbing into the hot tub together naked crossed my mind. So did the idea of Rosalie going Hey, Bella, how long has it been since you and your ex even kissed? And then, Bella shyly replied, Um, I don't know. It's just been so long… And then Rosalie arched one of those perfect eyebrows and leaned forward- "Just shut the fuck up!"
After a dinner tea, Rose and I went down to the lower deck where the hot tub was waiting.
She and I had gone skinny dipping a bunch of times in graduate school at our apartment's pool while we were partying the summer we lived together.
I took off my clothes and climbed up over the side, dipping my feet in, hissing. Rose climbed in and I noticed she had waxed. "Rose, did you go… Brazilian?"
"Oh yeah," she said, sinking down under the rolling currents. She sighed. "Wanna see?"
"No!" I cried. "Although… isn't it itchy when it grows back?"
"No," she said. "It's actually less itchy. It really makes your orgasms better."
"Well, that's not a problem for me," I grumbled.
She laughed. "Oh please, girl. You're on the market again. Let's go get you waxed when we get out of here."
I heard the upstairs double doors to the living room slide open. "Oh shit," I hissed, covering my breasts. I could see someone walking around.
"It's Emmett!" Rosalie whispered. "Emmett, you asshole, we're trying to relax out here!"
"I can't see anything, baby!" he said. "Just let a man enjoy a beer outside."
"You can see everything through the floorboards," Rose snapped.
"You perv!" I cried.
"I can't see anything!" he cried.
The living room sliding door opened. "Emmett, get your fat ass inside!" Edward said.
"My ass is not fat. I'm pure muscle."
"I know what you're doing," Edward said.
"Asshole," Rosalie snapped.
"Five minutes ago you were going on about how sexy he was," I said, squeezing into the corner of the hot tub. Damn it if this thing was lined in LED lights. Suddenly, Rose grabbed my head and crashed her lips into mine. I squeaked and tried to pull away. There was shuffling above us.
"Dude, they're kissing!" Emmett said.
"Emmett, shut the fuck up and get in the fucking house!"
"That's like the fifth time you've said that."
Rosalie let got of me. "Okay boys, you got what you wanted! Your turn."
There was "duh" sound from upstairs. The door shut to the upstairs living room and I heard a soft click. "You fucking locked me out here?"
Emmett ran around the stairs leading around to the front entrance of the cabin. There was pounding on the front door and Rose giggled to herself.
"Rose, you ass!"
"Oh yeah, and you just killed my game with Emmett."
I slid down to my chin in the water.
A few minutes later, I heard Emmett get into the cabin.
"What game?" I asked. "You were ready to hop in his lap."
"Oh please! Letting Edward rub your back, moaning like a slut? He's putty in your hands, now."
I climbed out of the hot tub, and grabbed a towel.
I locked Emmett out for about ten minutes after he was spying on Bella and Rosalie in the hot tub. Perv. Emmett claimed they had been kissing in the hot tub last night. Fuck me, this was idiotic. Real girls didn't do stuff like that. College girls, yes. We were all adults, here.
After a good nights sleep, I woke Emma up. She had unzipped and kicked off her pajamas. I got her dressed and up for breakfast.
Bella and Rosalie were already in the kitchen with Mom. The sun was shining bright.
"Smells great. Let's go for a hike," I said. "After breakfast."
"We still need a tree. There's a tree lot down the mountain," Dad suggested.
"You girls feeling better after the hot tub?" Dad asked.
"Oh, much better," Rosalie said. There was a hint of malice in her voice. Emmett groaned into his coffee.
"Good coffee," he mumbled.
We dressed in snow gear before going outside. Dad and Mom were going to drive down the hill in my car to put the tree on top. I gave him specific instructions on the All Wheel Drive and the rest of us started down the hiking trail.
Emmett and Rosalie walked ahead and Jeannie's little legs got tired. Bella picked her up and started carrying her.
"Are you sure I can't help?" I asked. We were walking on a crunchy snow path. Hayley and Emma held hands and skipped down the trail with us. Rose and Emmett wiped off the fluffy snow on the signs indicating that we were on the right trail on their way down. We followed their footprints.
"No, she's fine," she said. She had a Snuggli on and fastened Hannah into it.
"I'm sorry about last night," I said. "Emmett can be a real perv, sometimes."
"Rose liked it."
"Did you really… kiss?"
"Yeah. I didn't like it. She was just doing it to get Emmett's attention. She's a bit of a show off, being a performer."
"She's pretty. That's just Emmett's type."
"He wants a trophy wife?"
"Yeah. But, I think he'd get bored."
"What about Violet's mother? What's her story?"
"Oh… Well, have you heard of Tanya Summerfield?"
"Yes." Bella's upper lip curled.
"We had a long-term relationship while I was starting medical school."
"It's okay Bella, I was taken in by her charm. Tanya has her dark side."
"I didn't know she's ever been married. Although I don't stalk her on the internet or anything," she said, avoiding my eyes, her cheeks turning red.
"No, we were never married. But, we had a baby. Emma. Emma goes to visit her once a month or so."
"What's it like having a child with a socialite from old money?" she asked.
"Long story. You want to hear it?"
"If you want to tell it."
"Well, we had similar backgrounds- old money families, trust funds- I was just so enamored with her I couldn't see her real personality. I was about halfway through medical school. She got pregnant and her parents and mine both started putting pressure on us to get married before she started to show. We tried to plan a quickie wedding, but with all the prenuptual paperwork... Tanya got cold feet. She was picking fights with me for no good reason. We ended our relationship. Her family decided she was going to have this baby quietly and she'd be hidden as much as possible and send to boarding school once it was old enough. I had felt her kicking inside Tanya. It amazed me, but Tanya hated it. It killed me inside and I refused to let my child be raised like that, so I said I'd take custody and raise her. She gave birth at Vanderbilt hospital and they handed me the baby and that was it. They put her under and the plastic surgeon came in and they shooed me out, holding a little baby in a pink beanie. After that, I was in my apartment, alone with a little baby and medical school exams. My mom moved down to Nashville to help me raise Emma, Tanya came by once a week or so to take Emma shopping at the Green Hills Mall like a toy or something, and when I got residency in Knoxville, Tanya moved up to New York. It's just me and Emma. Mom helps out a lot. Dad, too. I work hard to be civil to Tanya, but it's tough. She skips out on her weekends with Emma a lot so she can jet-set and party. It's hard to make plans."
Bella nodded and sighed. "That sounds a lot like Mike and me."
"Mike is your ex?"
"Yes. He was having an affair with his secretary while I was having this one," she indicated Hannah. "I was dumb enough to give him a second chance and blamed myself for getting so fat during my pregnancy. He cried and said he was sorry and I took his apology. And about nine months ago, it started up again, and he thought he was being stealthier this time. I blubbered about being the cause of it again, and Rose promptly drove down to Atlanta to smack me across the face and knocked some sense into me. Mike's got a new job in Austin. With that skanky secretary."
"How dreadfully cliché."
"Yeah," she agreed. "I hate it. But, I don't really have a choice. We were going to fly them from DC to Austin tomorrow. I don't know if that's going to work out."
I nodded. "Well, Mike can just reschedule."
"I already talked to him this morning," she said. "I guess he just got bored of me."
"There you go, blaming yourself again."
"Edward, you don't know what happened."
I looked at her shimmering beauty in profile against the snow-lined trees. And the long hair with snow flakes in it. And the head full of curly strawberry blonde hair right under her chin, bouncing along, looking up at mommy. Bella was really beautiful. And easy to talk to. "There's no reason for that," I said. "He made a vow to you. If you don't have your word, what do you have? If you can't keep a vow, you're not a good man in the first place."
"Would you have made a vow to Tanya?" she asked.
I sighed, seeing that we were close to the bottom of the mountain, near the tree lot. Mom and Dad were waiting with my car. "Knowing her true personality, her true motives… No."
"Did she talk about babies and a family?"
"Oh yeah. She went on and on about how she really wanted one until she actually got pregnant and reality came crashing down. She'll even bring Emma home early from visitations, sometimes," I said.
"You don't feel that way, do you?" she asked.
"God no," I said. Emma was my light. My life. My world. Everything I did I did so I could be that dad for Emma. I wanted to raise her and give her the world. "The moment the doctors handed her to me in the delivery room, I finally knew what love at first sight was."
"Really?" Bella asked, her eyes brightening. "You never had it before?"
"No," I said. "Have you?"
"No," she admitted. "Mike chased me down across campus to ask me out and I turned him down, thinking he was a weirdo."
"Aw, you had a stalker!"
"He stalked because cared, okay?" she replied in an equally sarcastic tone. "He kept on asking me out, and one day, outside my sorority house, he brought a group of brothers to sing his fraternity's sweetheart song to me and I knew I couldn't say no, so I went on my first date with him that weekend. And he was nervous, but okay. I went out with him again. And again. And before I knew it, he had lavaliered me, and then senior year, he proposed. We got married the summer after college and he went to law school in Atlanta and I got pregnant after I got my first job in advertising. And you know my life story, now."
"Phi Mu. All my best friends were Phi Mus at University of Georgia with me," she said. "What were you?"
"An ATO," I said. "At Dartmouth."
"You went to undergrad at Dartmouth?"
"Yeah, Yale rejected me, I'm still bitter about it," I joked. Emma and Hayley had gotten so far ahead of us that they were talking to Emmett and Rosalie and Mom and Dad, playing. We had reached the clearing. I thought I saw Emmett and Rosalie just barely holding hands.
"No Vassar jokes, okay?" she asked.
"Let's find a tree, Daddy!" Emma cried, skipping up to me.
By afternoon, we had the tree in the stand and watered, and the ornaments and popcorn strings on the tree. We put the girls down for naps and finished up with the decorations.
"Not bad," I said, sitting down to rub my neck. I felt Edward's cool, strong hand. He dug his thumb in and I sighed.
"A Tennessee Christmas," Dad said. "This is God's country."
"It really is," Mom agreed. "I love it here."
"A Tennessee Christmas!" Emmett cried. "Amy Grant recorded that!"
"I hate her," Rosalie muttered. "But it's been so long since I heard that song. I like the Alabama version better."
"I bet you could sing it better than her," Emmett said. He got out his guitar. "It's not really a hard song- you know it?"
"Well… yeah, I do," Rose said. "I've got my guitar in the car."
She ran outside to the car and Emmett followed.
This was really perfect. I just absolutely loved the idea of Rosalie singing that song. I was so sad it wasn't Christmas, yet, suddenly. And even more sad that my girls wouldn't be with me when Christmas Eve rolled around.
"Bella, what's wrong?" Edward asked quietly.
"Nothing," I muttered.
Emmett and Rosalie sat out on the front porch, singing together and working on the song. I realized at one point they were working on another original song.
"Does Emmett song write?" I asked.
"Oh yeah," he said. "I guess it's in his veins."
"I can't believe he went to Dartmouth."
"Yeah, he play a horny moron really well- because he becomes one around hot girls— but when it comes down to it, he's actually a genius. Smarter than me, if he wasn't distracted all the time by his dick. He said he got stoned the night before his SATs, didn't go to bed the night before and he still managed a perfect score the next morning."
"Jesus," I muttered. I had worked so hard at getting a 23 on the math portion of the ACTs.
"He's his own worst enemy," he said. "He became an architect to build things that looked like phallic objects."
I laughed awkwardly, but rolled my eyes. "That's just… stupid."
"That's Emmett for you. He's already a junior partner."
A few minutes later, the girls woke up and came running into the living room.
Liz came into the living room with fresh hot cocoa for us. "So, the roads have cleared, the interstate is back open," Liz said. "We can drive you girls back to town."
I knew we were barely going to meet Mike in DC, but there was a chance. I wished I could stay with the Masens. I was so comfortable here. And I liked it. It was nice. But, I had plane tickets in DC and we really had no excuse.
"Well… maybe we should try flying to DC from here," I said.
"I think that would be best. With two kids," Liz agreed. "I'm sorry to see you go, Bella. And Rosalie, too. I know Emma loves having friends her own age to play with when we're together as family. It's been great having you with us."
"I really liked it here," I agreed.
"I liked you being here, too," Edward said, slipping an arm around my shoulders.
"Well, if you're on your way back down after you send the girls off to stay with their father," Liz said, her voice trailing off. "We're all here until after Christmas. Come on, I'll help you get your things together."
I didn't want to admit that maybe I had feelings for Bella Swan- Isabella Newton- Just Bella- possibly. And she was leaving.
I helped her get her suitcases into the back of my car and got Hayley and Hannah packed into their seats.
"I'm coming, too! I want to get the Caddy!" Mom called, running after us. She hopped in the back.
Bella got in shotgun and I put on the AWD just in case. We had to wait on Emmett and Rose hugged for a long time on the porch, talking until Bella reached over and slammed on the horn. Rose reached out and flipped us the bird, glowering, and came down down the steps.
"I know it was you, Bella," she snapped.
Dad appeared with Emma. "Bye, Hayley, bye Hannah," she drawled. "I'll miss you." He put her in the car to hug them.
"Come on, Em," Dad said. "Let's let everybody go to the airport."
Mom and Rose sat in the back while I carefully drove down the mountain. Mom got out to get the Caddy and drove it back up right as the sun set.
The four girls had their tickets and had called Alice up in DC to pick them up. We checked Rose's guitar and the presents and luggage and car seats.
"Well…" Bella said. "Thanks. Thanks for stopping. And thanks for feeding us in the ER and…. Thanks for everything." She stood on her toes and pecked me on the cheek. "Bye."
"Bella, wait!" I cried. "Can I have your number?"
She pressed her lips together, biting her lip. "Well, sure…" She rattled off her number and called my phone just to make sure it was right. "Okay… Well… bye!" she said.
"Come on, Momma!" Hayley called from Rosalie's feet. She went to Rosalie and the girls and picked up Hayley. Hannah blew me kisses from Rosalie's arms, I pretended to catch them.
I felt kind of dead to the world as I left the Knoxville Airport. I really liked Bella. She was so different from everything. I didn't even find myself comparing her to Tanya, I realized. And Emma liked them all. It just seemed so… perfect. It only took a few hours to drive from Atlanta to Knoxville.
I secretly hoped that Bella didn't get that job in DC. That way, she'd be closer to me, somehow. Maybe that was bitter and stupid, but…
Rose and the girls disappeared at the metal detectors, blowing me kisses.
Everything had just blown up. Rosalie had been offered a chance- a huge chance- the chance of lifetime. She had sung Tennessee Christmas for her manager over Skype and had been offered ten minutes on stage to sing it and an original song at the Grand Ole Opry in the Ryman Auditorium on camera. "I might actually get a record deal this way!" Rose cried, elated. I promised I'd watch her and Alice would record her on her DVR. She was going to take my girls to Nashville and Mike would meet them there.
I felt so empty when they were gone.
Alice put her arm around my shoulder. "So, are you ready to go home and eat some leftover catering with me and Jasper?"
We went to short-term parking and got into Alice's car. I had programmed Edward's number into my phone. I grinned. Edward.
I sent him a text message. My two whole worlds just left for Austin.
On the way back to Georgetown, I got a new text message from him. They'll come back. We're excited about Rose.
I smiled to myself. My phone dinged again from him. I'm going to be curled up in a ball when Em goes to NYC.
I smiled, thinking of Edward. He was a good Daddy. That's how I feel right now.
I'm heading back to Atlanta tomorrow. Got my rental car, I texted back.
Stop by, we're having a slumber party with Em, he texted. My phone text dinged again. If you have a chance.
"Well, we're just going to be shopping and decorating," Alice announced. "That's about it! Until Tuesday- that's the office Christmas party!"
"Who were you texting?" Jasper asked.
"That cute doctor who took them in," Alice said.
"Alice!" I shouted.
"I know these things," Alice said, tapping her temple. "Bella, seriously… Go to him. It's been long enough."
"Bella, it's alright," Jasper said. "You're single, a mom… This interview and this advertising company isn't that family-friendly, trust me. It's not really worth the extra salary, they're going to work you to death, you won't have time for your kids."
"Get in the car and drive down to see him," Alice said. "Momma and Daddy won't mind if you're not around. Not for… love at first sight."
Well… maybe it was.
"Sleep on it," Jasper said.
"Daddy, look, the train! We made a tunnel out of a shoe box!" Emma cried.
"That's nice, Emma," I said, distracted.
"Rosalie's gotta be up soon," Emmett said, playing with the remote. "They've already had Sugarland and Dierks Bentley up. They've only got LoneStar coming up, and they can't have Rosalie as the last act."
"I don't know," I said.
There was a knock on the door- almost frantic.
"I got it!" Mom cried, running out of the kitchen to the door. She opened it and gasped. "Bella!? What are you doing here?"
I stood up. "Bella?" I cried.
"Come in here, you have to be freezing!" Mom cried. Bella stepped in the door, stomping her feet. Her cheeks were pink and her lips were red.
"Bella," I said. "You just flew up to DC yesterday morning."
"Yeah," she said. "The girls are with their father. And… I just… I got up at four in the morning to get here- can I use your bathroom?"
"Sure," Mom said. She did a mad dash to the bathroom. When she came out, I took her by the arm.
"You're skipping your interview?" I asked quietly.
"It's not really the company for me," she said, shaking her head. I felt a little guilty for a moment for what I wished. "I'd rather be here with you. At Christmas."
I realized all eyes were on us. "Um, Bella, let's go outside," I said, grabbing my jacket and taking her arm. We went outside and our breath turned into billowy clouds. "So, you drove- how many hours?"
"Well, my GPS said it was twelve hours, but I made it in eleven because I didn't take bathroom breaks," she said. "And I drove like a speed demon. I stopped for gas once. It was a gasoline electric car. Really cool."
"Did you not really want me here?" she asked, her expression falling.
"No, never! I just- this is exactly what I wanted for Christmas. You to come here and be with us," I said. "And your kids, but… that's okay. Half a wish is okay."
"You wanted me?" she asked, her eyes shining. "Really?"
"Yeah, I do," I said. And I realized something- I was in love with her. Maybe it was too soon to say that, but really… I was. Love at second sight. I'd take it over love at first sight. I cupped her face. "I'm so glad you came back down."
The cold breaths of air came out her nose and were less visible than before between the two of us. It felt natural. I leaned in and kissed her. Truly kissed her.
And I knew it was right.
There was clapping and cheering from the storm door. Emma and Emmett were watching. "He's such a perv," Bella mumbled.
"Come on," I said, taking her hand. "We've got plenty of room and plenty of food."
"Rosalie's on," Emmett said.
We flopped down on the couch right as Rosalie crossed the stage. She stood on the patch of the original Opry stage with her guitar. "Yay Miss Rosalie!" Emma cried, clapping.
She had on a new dress and looked great, her hair done and straightened out. She strummed the guitar and began singing- she sounded like Chely Wright, almost- and was singing the song- A Tennessee Christmas. The world was perfect. Glowing. Rosalie had her dream and Bella and I were together.
We cheered and clapped when Rose was done, and the audience gave her a standing ovation. The stage manager rushed her into an original song, and she sang something I had never heard before- "That's our song!" Emmett shouted. "My song's on the Grand Ole Opry! You Don't Lie Here Anymore!"
"Yay, Unca Emmett!" Emma cried.
We cheered and high-fived over Emma and she hugged him. Rosalie sounded like a complete bad-ass on stage with her band backing her. She had completely won over the audience.
This was the epitome of a perfect night.
[Bella] - Christmas 2010
Luckily this year, it hadn't snowed or sleeted in East Tennessee, and my new car was handling the road just fine. I was switching country stations from Atlanta to Chattanooga- Rosalie's album through the EMI label was still in the top five and had hit platinum status. The song she and Emmett wrote had hit number one for three weeks on the Contemporary Country charts and they were still together, despite her crazy tour opening with Dierks Bentley. Unfortunately, she was still on tour this week, but she'd get a chance to play Tennessee Christmas at the White House for President Obama.
I had the right Ice Chalet. It was a different one, I could see Edward's car and Liz and Tony's Caddy parked out front. The girls had done much better on this trip, this time. They hadn't fought at all. But four hours in the car with them was my new limit.
Edward came out with Emma, who ran up to my car, pounding her little fists on the windows. "Emma!" Hayley cried.
"Em-mee!" Hannah cried. We got them out and did our mandatory hugging and kissing. I had stayed with my job in Atlanta for now, simply because I was fooling myself if I thought that Edward and I weren't a serious couple. On our first night together that he came down to visit us in Atlanta last New Year's Eve, we made love and he confessed that he loved me- really and truly. It should have scared me, but it didn't. He couldn't. The words flowed out of my mouth naturally along with happy tears. It was natural. And it was obvious- we were meant for each other.
At dinner, we had a big meal prepared by Liz and the girls had on their matching footie pajamas and the train was setup around the tree. The girls ate quickly and went to play with the train. Tony got up to play with it, too, but Edward stopped him.
"Dad- stay in here, I've got something to tell you."
"We both do," I said, taking his hand. My heart pounded- I hoped they'd take it well.
"Hannah's going to be a big sister," Edward said.
Tony and Liz both paled for a second.
"Will you marry her this time, son?"
"If she'll have me," Edward said.
My heart stopped for a moment.
"Yes, of course, Edward. I will."