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"Hugh," I heard Nessie sigh as she swung her feet back and forth underneath Charlie's dinner table. The silver fork, being gripped in her tiny hand, scraped against the plate of untouched warm honey-roasted ham and steaming mixed vegetables.
"Sit up straight, sweetheart," Bella whispered to our daughter, patting her gently on the shoulder.
Renesmee nodded solemnly, the ghost of frown threatening to tug at the corner of her lips. Her fingertips traced around the French words written on the locket Bella had given her as a Christmas present earlier today. Normally, Nessie was positively giddy just to be breathing, but today she uncharacteristically saddened.
If Santa Clause were real like Claire believes, I wonder if he would give me the thing I wanted most in this entire world. If only. . .
She pulled at the short sleeve of Jacob's gray t-shirt as he halted the food that was meant to go down his stomach. Jacob grinned down at Nessie instinctively, and not being able to help herself—a smile found itself onto Nessie's mouth as a reaction to Jacob's friendliness. Nessie was always at ease when Jacob was smiling.
"What's wrong, small fry?" He inquired sweetly, mentally figuring it had something to do with our current predicament. Nessie gestured down at her plate, smiling innocently as their hands entwined together so that she could push her thoughts into Jacob's mind.
Would you eat this for me, please?
"No sweat," Jacob chuckled, greedily helping himself, but made sure Sue wasn't looking at either of them.
Speaking of Sue, the aroma of freshly baked double- fudge filled the room, with a group, "Yum," followed by expectedly. Although, everyone else's stomach was about ready to burst wide open, the human world always left plenty of room for chocolate cake.
What's the cake for? Nessie wondered, glancing at the person whom was sitting across from her—me.
"It's to celebrate our savior's birthday," I answered aloud, while I, too, took delight in handing my unwanted human food to Jacob. He really was the perfect family pet.
"Mmhmm," Bella agreed, grinning warmly. "You see, Renesmee, Christmas isn't about the pretty boxes that come wrapped in shiny, green paper and ribbons—it's about remembering that the Lord gave us His only Son to forgive our sins—Jesus Christ," she explained, gently playing with the Nessie's copper curls.
Nessie perked in her chair, "Is He the one that grants prayers, too?"
Bella nodded, yet I. . .was reluctant.
"Not all prayers, though, but it's usually for our own good. Sometimes He gives you something you would never expect to have in your dizziest imaginings," I chose to add. There was no need to leave Nessie under the impression that the Lord would give her anything she wanted.
"Oh," Nessie murmured considerately. "May I go outside and play, pretty please, Momma and Daddy?"
"It's fine as long as you put on your coat," Bella retorted, though she was well aware it was nearly impossible for Nessie to become ill. All the same, Nessie scurried out of her seat at a human rate and went to put on the new jacket Paul and Rachel purchased her.
I pondered the course of Nessie's inclinations, for she had been overflowing with sorrow and dread all afternoon, but—just for a split second—an idea had come to her.
"I suppose I'll keep Nes-" Bella turned away from her conversation she was sharing with Jacob to shoot a viscous scowl my way, "Renesmee company."
"Hey, if a snowman comes to life, you be sure to come get me," Jacob joked as Sue placed a monumental slice of chocolate cake on his plate.
"I'll think about it," I said, wandering outside in the thick, rose-white snow.
When I didn't immediately spot my daughter kicking the snow around her feet, my first instinct was to panic. However, the faint sound of a sniffle coming from the distance calmed my nerves. I followed the sounds until my nostrils caught the familiar smell of orange blossoms and rosemary mixed with—mental grunt—wet dog all the way to the trees. There, I found my daughter kneeling down on the twigs and leaves, with her hands folded neatly—praying. I couldn't believe it.
"Dear Jesus, I know You must be terribly busy celebrating with Your Father—taking care of others as well, but if You could please squeeze in this request, I'd be eternally grateful," she said, closing her eyes tightly as tears streamed down from her eyes.
Long ago, I thought Jesus and His Father had given up on my soulless existence when I had become a part of an unholy world that feasted upon the blood of others. How many times had I wished to join my mother and father in the place above the skies, conversing amongst autumn-gold angels? Yet here I was, decades later, with a breath-taking wife and beautiful daughter—both mine to love and to be loved by forever. And there she was, my baby girl. A miracle praying for a miracle.
"I don't want or need anything else, but this one thing. Then, I promise to always be a good girl for everyone—that is if I'm alive to repay you."
I shook my head then, desiring more than ever that I couldn't hear the next part.
"I do not care if I am. You can take everything that I have—my heart, my soul, my very last breath, my whole life. . . Just please, don't allow the Volturi to take away my family and my friends? I love them so very much, and it wouldn't be fair to let them die just because I exist." My birth was an accident. "This is all my fault. They shouldn't have to pay. Please, save them? Amen."
"Nessie," I whispered, appearing at her side the moment she stood up from the ground, "you shouldn't say things like that.
She shook her head, her milk chocolate eyes moist from crying. "But Daddy, I-"
"Renesmee Carlie Cullen!" I shouted, regretting within the second I hadn't raised my voice at her. It was just the fact that a soul so pure—so good—would ask for death for other souls that damned themselves long before she knew any of them. Despite having known how cruel the Volturi could be, I was falsely optimistic that maybe we could really make them see Nessie for who she really is. "Oh, Nessie. I don't mean to be angry at you."
Nessie only cried more, jumping into my arms. "I'm so sorry, Daddy." I can't do anything right.
"Don't be. I'm frightened as you are" I said, holding her close to me. Not her. Lord, please not her! "I love you."
"I love you, too," Nessie replied, gripping the collar of my shirt, crying an ocean of tears on my shoulder.
Dear Jesus, take me, but protect her. Amen.