NoMoreThanUsual: Thank you to all of you who left reviews. You guys rock! I've had so much fun in writing this story. I hope you all enjoyed it as much too. :o)
With pleasure, here's the 5th and final chapter...
A Dickens of a Dream
Chapter 5: The End of It
"What time is it?" I yawned and stretched.
"It's eight, sleepyhead! Don't you want to see what you got from Santa?"
The feeling of déjà vu disappeared as I followed Mom into the living room, where Phil sat patiently waiting for us.
Mom directed me to sit by the tree to hand out the brightly colored boxes and we took turns unwrapping them. I started with my father's present to me and was pleasantly surprised by Dad's choice this year – a new CD player. Laying it carefully beside me while taking a quick mental inventory of my CD collection, I read the next gift tag and handed the small green package to Phil.
My mother bounced in her seat with excitement at each new Santa gift – it didn't matter at all who received it – she greeted each one we opened with the same childlike delight.
It wasn't until I reached for the red and white gift covered with 'Ho Ho Ho' that I felt the tinglings of memory, just out of reach.
"Go on, Bella. Open the last one. What else did Santa give you?" Mom asked, trembling with excitement.
After fumbling awkwardly to open the wrapping paper without ripping it, I finally got it open, uninjured. I could feel Phil's amused eyes on me the entire time, inviting me to join him in joke we shared, both of us equally amused and frustrated by my mother's totalitarian control of the fate of gift wrap.
I didn't dare look at him. My laughter would be unavoidable and I didn't want to hurt my mother by laughing at one of her few actual "rules."
As the wrap fell away, I could see I held a dark blue book. A dove with outstretched wings graced the cover. The words looked oddly familiar as I read "Inspirational Quotes" in large red type. Smaller black lettering beneath elaborated: "On inspiring yourself and becoming your own muse."
No, that was wrong. There was something incorrect with that, something that I couldn't put my finger on. The feeling of déjà vu washed over me, coupled this time with a feeling of wrongness. Something was off. I read it silently to myself again: On inspiring yourself and becoming your own muse…becoming your own muse…
It was from my dream. What had I dreamt about muses? Was it…?
My mother's excited voice interrupted my thoughts and the memory vanished like fog in the morning sun. "Oh! What a coincidence! It looks like Santa and I were on the same wavelength. Look, we were both thinking about my little girl growing up and stretching her wings.
I suppressed my frustration at the timing of her interruption – I'd been so close to remembering.
Looking up into her excited eyes, I instantly forgave her and laughed gently at her expression. "Thanks, Mom . . .er, I mean, thanks, Santa."
I squirmed, watching Phil and Renée cuddle. Pancakes flashed through my mind and I beat a hasty retreat to the kitchen. Shortly after taking out the ingredients and the griddle, the phone rang.
"I got it," I called toward the family room.
"Hey, Bells, did I wake you?" Charlie sounded excited, not even letting me get a "Hello" out.
"How'd you know it was me, Dad?"
He laughed. "Renée only answers the phone if you're not home, and I was pretty sure you'd be around this morning. Merry Christmas, honey."
Hearing Charlie's voice sent a chill up my back. He was all alone...like me.
"Merry Christmas, Dad."
We chatted about gifts and plans for the day, but my heart wasn't in the conversation. A giggle came from the family room, and the crazy idea I'd had last night didn't seem so crazy anymore.
"...I should let you get back to Renée," Dad was saying, preparing to end the call.
Like rising mist, an echo of my dream last night wafted through my mind…a woman's voice, high and musical, saying "Your life seems to be at a crossroads…" Closing my eyes to concentrate, I could hear the woman – or was it a girl? – whisper, "Which future becomes reality, is up to you, Bella." Desperately, I struggled to grasp the thought and to remember the rest of my dream, but like the fog I'd just compared it to, the memory proved intangible and slipped away.
"Dad, wait." I took a breath. Wet, cold Forks for a year and a half? Choices, invisible, destiny...
"Trust yourself," This time the imagined voice was a man's.
There wasn't really a choice, though was there? Both Renée and Charlie would be happier if I moved.
"All of life is a choice – every day, every moment..." Was I imagining these voices or was I remembering them?
"What is it, Bells? Is something wrong?"
Decision made, calm filled me. "No, nothing's wrong. Dad, can I ask you for a favor?"
"Anything, Bells, you know that."
"Well..." I realized that I'd never really asked Charlie for anything before. The phone shook in my hand as my nerves woke up. "I told you that Phil's leaving soon for training in Florida, right?"
Charlie sighed. "If you want to go, too, it's okay," he said. The defeat in his voice took residence in my throat as a huge lump. He really missed me.
"No, that's not what I was going to ask. I was wondering...if it wouldn't be too much trouble...ifIcametolivewithyou."
At first I wasn't sure he understood the rush of words. "Bella," he said, the word coming out like a gravelly cough.
I hadn't considered that he might say "no," and had opened my mouth to say "forget it" when he continued.
"Of course you can stay with me. That's the best Christmas present you could have given me." I heard a soft hiss and then Charlie blew his nose. "I love you, Bells."
"I love you, too, Dad," I replied, my voice cracking. The silence that followed wasn't awkward, but after half a minute, we talked over each other, ending it.
"I should tell Mom," I said at the same time as Charlie's "I'll have your room ready." We both chuckled.
Another odd thought: "We thought you'd like to see your father again."
"I have finals in a couple weeks and could come after that – in the middle of January. Is that too soon?" I tried to sound enthusiastic, but remembered that Forks was susceptible to snow in the winter. I didn't have much of a winter jacket...or boots...
I was about to change my mind and offer to come in March, but Charlie's enraptured reply sealed my fate.
"That's perfect, Bella. And if you need anything, anything at all, let me know." He stopped abruptly, probably realizing how eager he sounded. "Ahem, not that you need my help, or anything," he finished.
"Thanks, Dad, I'll let you know. I'll call you once I get everything arranged with Mom, okay?"
Another pause, but he didn't ask what Mom thought of my plan. "Whatever makes you happy, sweetheart," he said.
After a quick thank you I hung up. Now that Charlie'd agreed to my hair-brained plan, I had to convince Mom.
I picked up the eagle dancer and looked it over one last time. She'd wanted me to spread my wings...
"Unless you look outside the insulated world you've created, you'll miss your true future." A whisper of memory slid through my mind.
I shook my head. Wasn't that written in one of the fortune cookies from night before last? It didn't matter – the future was now set.
"Mom," I called, warning her and Phil that I was coming in.
They pushed away from each other, like high schoolers caught kissing in class. "What is it, Bella?" Mom asked, her cheeks pinking.
"I have one last...present to give you," I said, nearly stuttering.
Renée sat up straight and clapped her hands. "Really? What is it?"
I handed her the kachina doll she'd given me.
"Bella? What, you don't like it?" Mom's face fell.
"No, it's not that. I'm taking your gift to heart." I swallowed. She could prevent me from going, if she wanted. "You said you wanted me to spread my wings, right?"
"Yeees," she said, her eyes tightening.
I cleared my throat. "I know how much you're going to miss Phil when he leaves, and I was thinking that you should go with him."
Mom frowned. "But Bella, we've talked about this. I can't leave you here alone, baby."
"I won't be alone." I looked down at my feet. "I could go live with Charlie."
Renée gasped. "Charlie?"
Phil tried to hide his smile – this was as much a gift for him as for Mom. "Bella, we don't want to impose on your father," he said graciously.
"I already asked him, he's fine with it."
Renée's eyes welled. "Bella, it's no trouble..."
"Mom, stop." I took deep breath and sat down next to her. "You know that this is the best thing for everyone. You can travel wherever Phil goes and I can spend some quality time with Dad." I took her hand. "Please?"
She looked at Phil, who nodded. "Are you sure, Bella? You hate Forks."
"I'm sure." I was proud that my voice didn't shake.
She squeezed my fingers. "Okay, we'll try it. But if it doesn't work out, you call me. We'll always have a room for you, whether here or Florida, or wherever, kay?"
A completely random "Are we done here?" echoed through my brain.
Mom wrapped her arms around me, and Phil reached around her to put his hand on my shoulder. "Thank you, Bella. The kids in Forks don't know how lucky they are," he said.
"I doubt they'll even notice me. I'm invisible," I mumbled.
Mom kissed my cheek. "Nonsense. A person would have to be blind, deaf, and dumb to not recognize you as an angel."
The feeling of déjà vu smothered me. Who'd said that to me before? Why did I both ache and rejoice at hearing it? In answer, I recalled a different quote, one I knew.
"His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him."
Maybe Dickens had it right. Seeing and hearing my parents happy made me want to laugh. Maybe that would be quite enough for me.
I hoped so. Rainy Forks didn't have much else to offer.
* * *
Two weeks, three shopping trips and fourteen thousand sticky notes later, I was ready to go.
My mother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down. It was seventy-five degrees in Phoenix...
blondie: I have loved playing with our beloved twilight characters in this fantastical little sandbox! No, Bella doesn't remember any more of the dream, but subconsciously she does manage to take that little step forward and talk to Jessica her first day at Forks.
At least, that's the way I see it. It really all was just a dream! 8-D
Thank you to everyone for reading, and for all the wonderful reviews! Replying to reviews hasn't been easy, so please know we both read them all and forward them to each other, usually giggling!
One last note: at the behest of my partner in crime, I'm reminding you that the voting for the Eddies and Bellies is still open. If you're a canon Edward fan, check out my entries, Dark Side of the Moon and Seduction. And vote, if you're so inclined.