DISCLAIMER: Twilight belongs to Stephanie Meyer
1: THE BEGINNING
6 YEARS LATER
"Pretty please with a cherry on top?"
"No, Danny," I said in a tone that rang with finality. My six-year-old son pouted adorably and stared up at me with wide, shining green eyes. I immediately turned my back on him, determined to keep a steel resolve.
I continued hefting packed boxes into the large moving van that had arrived earlier this morning. Behind me, Danny grumbled unintelligibly and went to join his sister in my bright red Ferrari, a gift from Mr Jenks and my band members after I had got my driver's licence and one of our singles had hit number three on the Top 40 charts almost five years ago. I wasn't that bothered about fancy sports cars but as soon as I got my Ferrari, I had fallen in love with it. Danny was all about speed and therefore adored it and Nessie merely like the 'pretty red colour'.
I turned once all of our boxes had been packed securely in the van, before calling the movers, who were chatting with the guys, who had come to see me off before they met us in Chicago. The guys had offered to put the last few boxes away but I had adamantly refused, determined to show them that I was capable of doing things on my own, and didn't need to rely on them for every little thing. Also, they contained my precious china and I didn't trust the guys with them.
In the car, Danny was helping Nessie with her seatbelt. I smiled; although a lot of young brothers and sisters fought and argued a lot, Danny and Nessie were always joined at the hip and went everywhere together.
As I neared the car, I heard Danny murmuring to the uncooperative seatbelt and watched, amused, as he glared disapprovingly at it. I had gotten sturdier seatbelts installed in the car after Nessie had bruised her nose against the seat in front of her when I had pressed the brakes of the car too quickly.
The new seatbelts were proving to be a bit of a challenge to put on.
"Momma, Nessie's seatbelt is being stubborn," Danny said as I approached.
I tried not to laugh as he bent and started whispering to it.
"Come on now, Belty, you can do it – just a little further…and – yes! It's in!" Danny whooped.
I couldn't restrain myself any longer and burst into laughter. Jake, Seth, Quil and Embry sauntered over to see what was going on, and grinned when they saw Danny smiling proudly down at the neatly secured seatbelt.
"Ah, Danero the Inanimate Object Whisperer strikes again! Look at that tamed seatbelt," Seth joked. It was a running joke amongst the guys that my son was the 'Whisperer' of inanimate objects because of how he often spoke to random objects that didn't cooperate with him.
"Momma," Danny began, smiling up at me innocently. I raised an eyebrow and shook my head firmly.
"For the last time, Danero Swan, no," I growled.
He crossed his arms and stuck out his bottom lip petulantly as I went to start the car.
"What does the little rocket want this time?" Jake asked.
I rolled my eyes. "He wants to sit in the front seat but he'll just be a distraction – plus, Nessie will be all alone in the backseat." I knew mentioning his sister would stop Danny's sulking.
Embry laughed and ruffled the twins' hair.
"Don't worry, guys, your mom's gonna have to let you sit in the front seat one day – but just not today," Quil said consolingly.
"Right, then, we'll be off now," I said slightly impatiently.
"Sure, Bells – have a safe drive and we'll see you in a few days."
The guys all waved as I revved out of the driveway of our old house and onto the street. It would take a day and a couple of hours to get to Chicago, depending on how many stops we made. Once we were on the highway, I put the radio on. 'We Will Rock You' by Queen came on and Danny and Nessie began singing along at the tops of their lungs. I smiled contentedly and joined in.
The house was large and spacious. It had six bedrooms, a playroom for the kids, a library, a large kitchen, a recording studio and on the top floor, the roof opened out to display a double-glazed window, which was the main reason why I wanted to buy the house. I had more than enough money and felt that I should make up for not splashing out in the past.
We slept for half a day once we arrived, as it was evening. The kids woke early the next morning and went to inspect the playroom. We spent the day checking out the rest of the house in more detail and unpacking our stuff.
Exhausted after a long day of chasing after two energetic six-year-olds and organising our belongings, I called one of my many assistants to do some grocery shopping for us.
I was going to have an interview in two days time with one of the best recording companies in the music industry. They were called CRC and had contacted me a little over a month ago to consider a contract with them and I had agreed with some persuasion from Mr Jenks and the guys, who were in need of a change of scenery and claimed that we would be more successful. I was feeling slightly melancholic, leaving Breaking Dawn, since I had been working with Mr Jenks for over five years. But he had insisted that Breaking Dawn was only the start of my music career, and the whole point was to use it as a step towards working with bigger and more successful recording companies.
"You're gonna do fine, Bells," Jake said yet again. We were sat in my car, waiting for the traffic light to turn green. I'd woken up earlier than usual this morning to get one more practice in with the guys – our interviews would be separate but we were going to have to perform for the three mysterious managers of CRC later today.
I had tried to find the names of the managers online but hadn't found them; I only knew their last names – one being Cullen, at which I had panicked over until the guys pointed out that Cullen was a fairly common name – but nothing came up, not even on their company website, which featured nothing about the managers other than the fact that they were very successful (and suggested that they were very private).
We arrived at their studios five minutes before 11 o'clock, when we were expected. Checking to make sure there was no one who would recognise us and no cameras, we ran from the car to the entrance and entered the air-conditioned building. It was very modern and sophisticated, all glass and chrome and black leather sofas in the reception area.
A stunning blonde woman sat behind the reception desk, a Bluetooth in her ear and tapping on the keys of her computer with her eyes fixed on the screen. She looked up as we approached, eyeing our sunglasses and jeans with an aloof gaze.
"We're here to see Mr McCarty," I said.
The woman didn't even glance up at us as she said, "And do you have an appointment?"
I raised my chin and replied, "Yes. Yes we do."
"Names?" she queried in a bored tone.
I exchanged a glance with Jake. "I'm Bella Swan, and this is my band member, Jacob Black."
Immediately, the receptionist jerked her head up, her eyes widening as we took our sunglasses off.
"I…erm…I'll just tell him know you're here then," she stuttered.
"Thank you, ma'am," Jake said, flashing his megawatt smile and showing off his blindingly white teeth.
"Rosalie," she said a bit breathlessly. "My name is Rosalie, Rosalie Hale. Please take a seat, Mr Black, Miss Swan – would you like some refreshments? We have coffee, water – mineral water –?"
"No, but thank you," I interrupted with a smile. I was used to this reaction towards us.
We settled on a sofa and I listened while Jake continued to repeat that we would do great. I didn't know whether he was trying to convince me or himself.
Rosalie the Receptionist called, "Mr McCarty is ready to see you; he's in room one-oh-six, second floor."
We got up and took the elevator. Although I was tense, I had been prepared by Mr Jenks before I had left Seattle and there was an underlying confidence underneath all the anxiety. Once we arrived on the second floor, I found room one-oh-six and shooed Jake back to the car, where he would wait until the interview was done.
Taking a deep breath, I entered the room.
Mr McCarty was a large man, packed with tight muscles and with a head of curly hair. He would have looked threatening if it weren't for the easy smile and adorable dimples he gave me once I settled down in the seat in front of him.
"Miss Isabella Swan," he said and shook my hand. "The pictures I have seen of you do you no justice."
I laughed, instantly feeling comfortable with his off-hand compliment. "Please, Mr McCarty, call me Bella – and I'm sure the pictures you're talking about must have been airbrushed."
Mr McCarty's eyebrows rose slightly in surprise. "A girl who can sing like you and still keep her modesty? Wow – and I'd thought I'd seen everything when it came to A-list celebs."
I smiled, instantly flushing my signature red. "Thank you, Mr McCarty."
The interview went well; Mr McCarty was surprisingly easy to get along with and we spoke longer than the allotted time, for which he apologised profusely for having wasted my time. I laughed it off and assured him that I would remind my band members that their interview would be at 2 o'clock, and our performance afterwards.
"So, I thought there were three managers?" I said as I stood up to leave.
"Yes, the other two couldn't make it today, but they'll be stopping by later – hopefully in time for you and your band's performance!" Mr McCarty said cheerfully, getting up to hold the door open for me. He followed me out of the room, and towards the elevator, in which he accompanied me.
"Oh, well, no pressure then," I laughed, only half-joking. Knowing that all three managers could be watching our performance made riotous butterflies flutter in my stomach, but Mr McCarty's booming laugh eased my nerves slightly.
"Yes, but I'm sure you'll do fine," he said with a smile. We arrived in the reception area, where Jake was waiting. The blonde receptionist looked up at the sound of the elevator dinging, and blushed when she caught sight of Mr McCarty.
"Miss Hale," said Mr McCarty, giving her a wide, movie-star smile. She smiled back, looking a little breathless. I hid my smile under the guise of getting out my sunglasses from my bag and put them on, ready to get Jake and leave.
Jake jumped up off the black leather sofa he had been sitting on and smiled at me nervously.
"So, Bella, how'd it go? Was it good? Did you smile? The key for a successful interview is to always smile, no matter –"
"Jacob, what have you done?" I cut in, raising my eyebrows and removing my sunglasses for maximum effect. Jake's wide smile dimmed and his eyes widened, trying to pull off the Look of Innocence; I, however, was a mother of two adorable six-year-olds and had mastered (okay, nearly mastered) to look – and feel – completely unmoveable.
There was a moment, in which I stared Jacob down and he fidgeted nervously in front of me – I half expected that old cowboy-showdown theme tune to come on. Finally, Jake snapped.
"Okay, okay – Danny and Nessie wanted to play pirates, so Quil said yeah and then Embry said yeah and Seth said yeah and then they were all playing pirates and then I told them not to – I was on the phone to Embry, see, when it all happened – and then I knew something was going to happen and I said to them, I said, 'Now don't you guys go playing pirates or Bella will have your heads!' but of course nobody listened to me – as usual – so –"
"Jacob – what have they done?" I said slowly and clearly, trying to stay calm. Had something happened to Danny and Nessie? Were they hurt?
"They kinda…broke your brand-new, state-of-the-art, glass coffee table…" Jacob mumbled, rubbing a hand through his hair.
I gasped. "My coffee table? MY BRAND-NEW, STATE-OF-THE-ART, GLASS COFFEE TABLE? Oh, wait 'til when I get my hands on them!"
I stormed out of the studios, Jake following quickly at my heels, and towards the Ferrari, which I unlocked with a jab to the button on my keys.
We got in and I started the car aggressively, all the while thinking of my poor coffee table, which I had spent days looking for.
I raced home, Jacob silent and nervous in the car. As soon as we arrived at my new, beautiful house, I charged inside, all guns a-blazing, before stopping abruptly in the doorway of the lounge.
"SURPRISE!" shouted the boys, Nessie and Danny, jumping up from behind various household objects.
I gawped at the colourful balloons, the crepe-paper streamers and the perfectly untouched glass coffee table. Then I turned to stare at Jake, who smiled at me sheepishly.
"We thought pretending that something had happened to your precious coffee table would make the party more of a surprise," Jake said, shrugging helplessly.
"Let's eat some ice cream!" Danny yelled, running into the kitchen.
"Ice cream?" I frowned. "But I –"
"It's melted!" Danny cried, aghast. We all rushed into the kitchen. Nessie pouted disappointedly.
"But we put it in the fridge," she said, sounding adorably confused.
"I never turned the fridge on," I explained a bit sheepishly. "We never had time – what, with all the planning for today and unpacking and everything. We've been eating out of tins and getting takeaways for the past two days – there was nothing to put in the fridge."
"What are we going to do now?" Quil said forlornly.
Jake rolled his eyes. "There's a Wal-Mart in town."
I brightened at the idea and said, "Kids, get your coats – we're going grocery shopping!"
"I like this one, Uncle Jake," Nessie said, pointing at a cake. Jake eyed it thoughtfully before glancing over at me, where I was helping Danny look for a cake. We had arrived in Wal-Mart and the kids had scrapped the idea of ice-cream in favour of getting a cake instead.
"You better ask your mom first, Nessie," Jake said. I called Danny and we went up the aisle towards Jake and Nessie, but once we got there, I saw that we had a problem.
Another little girl was standing beside Nessie, clutching the box of a large cake. Apparently, it was the one Nessie wanted.
"Mine," the girl said, looking up at me defiantly. I stared at her, surprised. She looked to be no older than four, with curly brown hair and dark brown eyes.
"But Momma…" Nessie pleaded, staring up at me with wide chocolate eyes. I bit my lip, torn between the two small faces, before I came to a decision.
"Nessie, sweetie, we can make our own cake at home. You can make it better than this one – we can get chocolate buttons, and whipped cream, and –"
"ELIZABETH!" a shout tore the air. We all snapped around as a tall, haggard-looking woman came marching down the aisle towards us. She would have been pretty if it weren't for the murderous expression on her overly made-up face.
She came to a stop before us, surveying the scene; Jake was standing protectively in front of Nessie and I stood between her and the other little girl – Elizabeth – with Danny at my side.
"What's going on here?" the woman demanded, putting her hands on her hips and glaring down at Elizabeth.
I smiled easily and stepped forward. "Nothing, just a little misunderstanding with my daughter, but it's all sorted now –"
"I'm sorry, ma'am, Elizabeth can be a bit of a nuisance," the woman started, grabbing the girl roughly by her wrist.
"Oh no, she had nothing to do with it, like I said, it was just a misunderstanding…" I trailed off when my eyes met Elizabeth's. Her eyes were watering slightly and she quickly looked down when the woman turned to her, as if afraid to show that she was crying. I thought, for a moment, that it was because she was in trouble, but when I saw her hand, hanging limp and small as the woman clutched at her wrist, I realised that she was hurting her.
"Um, excuse me, but I don't think you should hold her wrist like that," I interjected, gesturing to Elizabeth's hand. The little girl jerked her face up to stare at me, a panicked look clouding her eyes.
The woman smiled stiffly at me. Her eyes were blue, like a frigid winter sky. "I know what I'm doing," she said.
"Yes, but she looks really delicate, and you could unintentionally harm her. I think it would be best if you let go of her –"
"I don't need your advice!" she snapped.
"You're hurting her," I said firmly.
"Maybe you should mind your own business! Who do you think you are telling me how to raise my kid? I know perfectly well what I'm doing and I don't need your advice," she hissed and stomped away, dragging Elizabeth behind her.
"Wow, what a bitch," I muttered. Unfortunately, she heard me, as she froze halfway down the aisle and snapped towards us, her face red and furious. She stalked back towards us, enunciating between clenched teeth, "You did not just call me a bitch!"
As much as I wanted to take a step back, I stood my ground and watched her approach warily. She was close enough to spit on me (and not miss) when a small voice pierced the air.
"No!" Elizabeth whimpered. She ran up the aisle and whispered, "Please."
The Bitch sneered at her and was about to turn back towards me when Elizabeth said, "I'll tell my daddy!"
The Bitch froze.
"I'll tell him what you did," Elizabeth continued in a small, shaky voice.
The Bitch faced Elizabeth fully and marched towards her. "How dare you threaten me, you stupid little girl!" she spat, and slapped her across the face.
I felt my jaw drop and my eyes widen. We all froze, Jake stiffening beside me, Nessie letting out a soft gasp. Danny stared on in shock. I felt a sudden surge of red-hot anger well up inside me and the next thing I became aware of was my fist meeting The Bitch's face in an unplanned move. A sharp crack broke the silence, and then The Bitch's scream shattered the half-alert trance I had been in, bringing me sharply back to awareness.
"Oh, crap," I muttered, then turned, grabbed Nessie by the hand and ran.
"So there we were – surrounded by at least fifty FBI agents and ninjas and the baddies from Jackie Chan – there was nowhere to go, we were trapped, just me and Uncle Jake against all the bad guys in the world, when suddenly –" the guys jumped as Danny emphasised the 'suddenly' "– Momma jumped in, pulling out all these awesome karate moves! Then Uncle Jake tore the door off its hinges –"
"I thought you said you were trapped," Quil interjected, sounding confused.
"Err, yeah, there was a door but it was…um…locked… So anyway, Uncle Jake ripped the door off and it hit an agent in the face, and Momma single-handedly defeated all the other bad guys and then we jumped into the Ferrari and drove away," Danny finished triumphantly.
Seth gazed at me, looking impressed. "You single-handedly defeated all those FBI agents?"
I stared at him before shaking my head incredulously. "Yes. Yes, I did."
"Wow," Quil breathed, looking at me in awe. Seth nodded in agreement, his eyes burning with admiration.
I left the room, muttering to myself. The things those guys believed – I couldn't really blame them though; Danny was a wonderful story teller and had the most vivid imagination.
In the kitchen, the cake was baking in the oven and Nessie sat alone, situated on a stool at the breakfast bar. She looked so small, so sad, that I felt a rush of love and fierce protection course through me. I moved towards her and wrapped her in my embrace; she nuzzled against my neck as I kissed the top of her head.
"My baby girl," I murmured. "I'll never let anything happen to you or Danny, do you understand?" I said, pulling back to look into her eyes. She nodded, smiling up at me, assured. "Now, I really need your help picking out an outfit for our performance later on."
My daughter immediately brightened at the prospect of dressing me up and, making sure the cake was done, I left it in the oven (after turning it off, of course) and went upstairs, Nessie leading the way.
"Guys, are you ready? It's nearly two!" I called.
Nessie and Danny where already sitting in the car, ready to head to the studios for the guys' interviews and then our performance after. We had to get there to set up and since the boys were all having their interview together, it would take less time.
"Coming," Seth called, barrelling down the long driveway. Behind him rushed the other three, looking flustered.
"I can't find my lucky tie!" Quil complained, sliding into Jake's black Mercedes. I stood between the tow cars, rolling my eyes.
"You probably left it at your place," I said, assuring. "But there's no time to make a stop – you're just going to have to manage without it."
The boys settled into Jake's car and I reversed out of the driveway. Moments later, we were speeding down the highway.