Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight. It belongs to Stephenie Meyer.

Hey everyone, it seems I am always apologizing for being slow to update. As some of you know, my four year old daughter was recently diagnosed with Infantile Autism, as well as an intellectual disability. It's been a rough couple of weeks and we're still trying to figure everything out. I still have my thesis, my job and my two years old son to take care of on top of all of this, so as you can imagine, I am busier than ever. Feeling a bit worn, to be honest. I won't take this story of its temporary hiatus, because I don't want to get everyone's hopes up. I will still update my stories when I am able to, I promise. Writing keeps me sane and I can't give it up entirely. I want to thank all of you who have been so kind to me since we got the diagnosis, offering advice, articles and sharing your stories with me. It helps a lot.

A huge thank you to EdwardsEternal who is not only my beta, but also my friend. She is always there for me, and I hope she knows how much I appreciate her. You should all check out her stories, if you aren't reading them already. She updates several times a week and writes sublimely!

I also want to thank Mauigirl60, who helps me sound more American and less like someone who's stumbling her way through what will always be a second language. There is always more for me to learn. Thank you. :)

Finally, thank you so much for all your reviews! I know I am not very good at responding to them but I swear that I read and cherish each and every one of them!

So…it's been a while. There's a summary of the story up to this point in the beginning of the previous chapter, in case you need it. You probably do. I don't blame you.



She looked exactly the same as when I last saw her, and yet didn't. It was difficult to explain. I recognized her immediately even though the image in front of me didn't match the memory in my mind. I had spent so long being angry with her, which over time, turned into resignation and, finally, acceptance of the fact that I no longer had a mother. That I no longer had a family. There were so many things I had wanted to ask her: Why hadn't she stood up to my father when he cast me out? Why couldn't she have supported my decision to enlist? Why hadn't she come to my wedding when I'd married Tanya? Why hadn't she been there to take care of me when I'd returned to the States, utterly broken and disillusioned? Why didn't I have a home to go to when I needed it the most?

But, as I held the woman who gave birth to me and saw, really saw, how unkind the years had been to her, all those questions faded away. I decided that they didn't matter. I didn't care. She had made mistakes, and so had I. I had my scars to prove them and so did she. I saw them clearly in the deep set of the lines on her once flawless face, the streaks of grey in her hair and the hollowness of her pale cheeks that even carefully-applied cosmetics could not cover.

My mother had grown old.

'I love you, Mom,' I mouthed. 'I'm sorry, I'm so sorry!'

"I don't understand, I don't understand," she kept crying, as she touched my face.

Her hand was so cold, her fingers bony with perfectly-manicured nails. Were these the hands that once applied cold rags on my feverish forehead during a bout of influenza and wiped away tears when I took a tumble on my skateboard when I was eight years old? I remembered them being warm and soft, soothing and caring. What seemed a lifetime of aging was written on her face and hands. Even her eyes had changed; they were nearly black.

Dilated pupils?

I looked at Alice.


"W-what?" she sniffed. "I didn't catch that."

I shook my head. It could wait. We had to get Mom inside. She let out a small yelp when I scooped her up and rose to my feet. God, she weighed next to nothing. Her dark eyes never left my face as I carried her inside. How did I look to her now? Could she see how much I had changed, both inside and out? I wasn't a boy anymore; lanky, headstrong and stubborn. I was a man who had seen more human suffering than most, and yet experienced both kindness and love. Real love. I looked over my shoulder at Bella who was trailing behind us. Could my mom see how much I loved the woman who was now holding my sister's hand, supporting her as though they were old friends? I hoped she could.

"Put her on the couch," Alice directed, as we entered the living room.

I lay her down gently, but when I attempted to rise, her hand clamped onto mine, refusing to break the connection between us.

"Mom," Alice said. "Can I get you a drink or something?"
A burst of laughter escaped her, which quickly turned to tears.

"A d-drink?" she hiccupped. "No, I don't want a drink. I want to know…I want to know. I don't understand anything! Edward, you're alive. You're here! I don't…I don't…" Her words were drowned in a rush of tears.

She cried for a while then and I did the same, never letting go of her hand. I was worried that she might pass out again, but she didn't.

"It wasn't Edward," Alice whispered, once mom had calmed somewhat. "Someone stole his stuff, and…"

"But where have you been all this time?" she asked me, her voice high-pitched. "Why didn't you come home? We thought you had died!"

I couldn't answer her. My eyes found Bella's, searching for help.

"Mrs. Cullen," she said. "Let me try and explain."

Mom looked at her, confused.

"Who are you?"

"I'm Edward's girlfriend, Mrs. Cullen. My name's Bella."

"Oh, err, pleased to make your acquaintance."

I nearly laughed. Even in a moment of crisis you could always count on my mother to uphold a sense of decorum.

"Likewise," Bella said, shifting a little in her seat.

I couldn't imagine how awkward this whole situation had to be for her. Not exactly the ideal way of meeting your boyfriend's mother.

"Edward, please talk to me," mom said, turning her attention back to me. "Where have you been all this time?"


'Bella?' I mouthed.

"What's going on? Why won't you say anything?"

Mom was starting to sound hysterical.

"Mrs. Cullen," Bella said again. "That's the thing. Edward - he can't talk…right now."

How I loved that she added the 'right now'. She had so much faith in me, even when I didn't.

"He has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It's taken his voice away."

I listened as Bella and Alice explained everything to Mom. Bella told her about finding me in the freezing cold, how I became a part of her life, the treatment I was currently under and how we were now living together. Alice spoke of the phone call, seeing me again for the first time and, finally, setting up this meeting. Afterward, Mom was quiet. Really quiet.

'Mom?' I gave her hand a soft squeeze.

"H-homeless?" she whispered. "You'd rather be on the streets than come home to me?"

I swallowed and blinked back the tears in my eyes.

"Mom," Alice murmured. "Dad kicked him out, remember?"
"Of course I remember!" she yelled. "You think a day goes by when I don't think about that, if I'd just…if I had…"

Her sobs tore at my heart and I sat there, useless, with no words to comfort her.

"I'm sorry," she cried. "I'm so sorry, honey! I never meant for that to happen. I thought…I thought you'd come back right away. That it'd be okay and then, we hadn't heard anything for so long until they'd said you'd been found in that awful place downtown, dead for weeks and weeks, and all alone!"

I couldn't make out her words after that. I held her as she wailed and screamed and sobbed against my shirt, crying my own tears of regret.

"I-I know you must hate me," she stuttered. "And I don't expect you to f-forgive me, b-but please, don't leave again, honey. Let me be in your life."

She pulled back a bit and looked up at me.

"Can I be in your life again?"

I nodded without hesitation.

'I'm sorry, too.'

"No." She shook her head. "You're my son. You and Alice, nothing means more than the two of you. If you had come home…I would have welcomed you. I don't care what your father would have said or done. I would have left with you, if necessary. I'm sorry. I'm sorry I made you think you couldn't come home."

Would she really have left with me, if I had showed up on their doorstep, dirty and broken? I would never truly know, but I wanted to believe the sincerity in her voice.

'I forgive you,' I said, very slowly. 'I love you, Mom.'

"Oh, Edward!"

She launched herself back into my arms. I looked over and saw that my beautiful Bella was smiling through her tears and Alice was outright sobbing. I motioned for them to come closer, but only Alice did, wedging herself in between myself and our mother.

"We're going to be a family again," my mom promised, holding us tighter. "Everything's going to be all right. I love you both so much."

"I love you, Mommy," Alice cried. "I love you, Edward. We'll be together now."

Together, like a family.

I knew that included Bella and even though she wasn't a part of our tearful embrace, I felt her love radiate toward me from her seat on the other couch. I felt as though something had shifted inside me, as strange as that sounded. Until that moment, I hadn't realized how much I had missed them, how much I had needed my mom and sister in my life. I knew it would never be the same as when Alice and I were kids: when our dad had been away on weekends attending medical conferences, and we'd stay up late watching movies with Mom until we had fallen asleep on the couch, just the three of us. We couldn't go back to that, but now we had a chance of starting something new. We could still be a family, in spite of everything that had happened in the past. No, not could be. We were a family. We weren't perfect by any standard. I had PTSD, in some ways Alice still seemed like a confused kid trying to figure out who she was after a childhood filled with strict rules, and I was fairly certain that Mom was on some kind of drug. And yet, we were a family, nonetheless.

"I think I'll take that drink now, Alice," Mom chuckled, drying her eyes with the back of her hand. "Oh, I'm a mess."

A Kleenex appeared in our periphery.

"Here you go, Mrs. Cullen," Bella said kindly.

"Oh, please," Mom said, taking her offering. "Call me Esme. There's hardly any need for formality after what you just witnessed, my dear, dear girl."

She grabbed hold of Bella's hand.

"Thank you," she said. "For everything you've done for Edward. I can't even begin to tell you how grateful I am that you saved him and took him in, you gave him a place to call home and you're taking care of him and…"

Mom started tearing up again.

"Please, Esme, there's no need, really. I did what any decent person would do the night I found Edward during the blizzard. And as for the rest, well, I…I love your son. He's my home as much as I'm his. I wouldn't want to be without him. Truth be told, he takes more care of me, of everything, these days. I'm really quite spoiled, never having to clean or do laundry anymore."

I smiled at her sweet words, even though I didn't feel like I did nearly enough to contribute. Bella did, though, and that was the most important thing.

"You do laundry?"

I shrugged and smiled again before pulling out my phone.

"I just like to help Bella out and she pays all the bills so it's only fair," I texted.

"Not anymore," Mom said. "Anything the two of you need; money, clothes, a new car? How about a nice vacation somewhere?"

I held up my hands.

"Really, Esme, we're good, but thank you for the offer," Bella said in a gentle-sounding voice. "We'll let you know if we ever need any help, okay?"

Mom looked dissatisfied, but nodded just the same. I wondered how on earth she would have smuggled that kind of money out from under my father's watchful eye without him noticing.

Alice handed Mom a glass of red wine and I snatched it away, unthinkingly.

"Edward," my sister complained. "You could have just asked for one of your own."

I felt torn. Mom was a grown woman and it felt odd to be the one to question her actions, especially in front of other people. On the other hand, I couldn't just ignore the signs I had picked up on since she arrived.

'Your eyes,' I mouthed and motioned to my own.

Mom frowned. I put the glass on the table, out of her immediate reach.

"Pupils dilated," I texted, cringing a bit for exposing her like this.

"Oh." Mom's pale cheeks flushed. "It's nothing."

I raised my eyebrows.

"Really," she insisted.

"Mom?" Alice's voice was very quiet. "Are you okay?"

"Oh, honey, I'm fine. It's just some medicine. Your brother's right, though. I shouldn't be drinking."

"What kind of medicine?" Alice asked. "You're not sick, are you?"

"No, of course not, I swear. They're just…I take them to feel better."

Mom looked down and brushed something invisible off her skirt.

"Like, anti-depressants?"

I glanced at Alice whose question hung in the air, unanswered, and I remembered how she had said that Mom was miserable.

She's like this because of me. Because I left. Because she thought I was dead.

Only, I wasn't dead. I was here and I could do something about this. Help her.

"It will be okay," I texted and held her hand.

"It will, Mom," Alice agreed. "Edward's back now. You don't have to be sad anymore."

"Oh, sweetheart," Mom merely said, pulling Alice down for a hug.

I took this chance to check in with Bella who was, once again, seated across from us.

'You okay?' I mouthed, putting my hand on my stomach.

She nodded and smiled.

"Happy," she whispered, her eyes shifting to Mom and Alice for a moment.

'Me too.'

I felt so incredibly happy and it seemed a bit surreal how quickly things had fallen into place for me. Mere months ago I had been on the street, wondering when I might get my next meal; now, I was living with the woman of my dreams, who was also carrying my baby. I had it all: love, family and hope for a good future. What more could a man truly ask for? It all came back to her. My angel.


'Yes?' she mouthed, smiling wider, eyes twinkling with humor.

I didn't say anything. I refused to speak my words of love silently. That was the goal I was working towards: to be able to tell Bella I loved her, out loud. I just wanted to say her name, in my own way. Moments later, I said it again, against her lips, before I kissed her as chastely as I could manage.

"I love you," she whispered.

I love you.

We sat in silence for a few moments, simply enjoying being close. Alice and Mom talked softly across from us.


I turned my attention to Mom.

"Will you go outside with me? I need a little air, I think."

I nodded.

"Bring your phone," she said. "I'd like to hear more about your life."

I smiled and grabbed it before giving Bella another quick kiss and followed Alice toward the door leading outside. Looking over my shoulder, I met Bella's beautiful gaze and her encouraging smile, before walking out into the yard bathed in the last golden sunlight of the day, my mother at my side.


Alice practically collapsed onto the couch once we were alone, letting out a long breath.

"Weird day, huh?"

I laughed.

"You could say that," I agreed. "It's really great, though."

I looked outside at Edward and his mom, walking slowly toward a bench at the other end of the yard.

"This place is beautiful, Alice," I said, looking around the large room.

"It's been in Jasper's family for generations. I guess they're what you'd call 'old money'." She shrugged.

"I've never met anyone like that," I said. "Not a lot of wealthy folks up in Forks."

"Is that where you're from?"

"Yeah, Washington state. It's really nice."

"It sure sounds like it, the way you talked about your childhood and everything," Alice said, with longing in her voice.

"It's not for everyone. My mom, she really hated it but she stayed there for me, for as long as she could, I guess. My dad still lives there, probably always will."

"They're divorced?"

I nodded.

"I moved with her to Arizona when I was six. I guess mom knew she'd be stuck in Forks if I started school and stuff. I think she did love my dad once, but it wasn't enough to make her happy. It took her some years to find the place she belongs. She was on anti-depressants too, you know."

"Really? But not anymore?"
I shook my head.

"What did she do?"

"Married a much younger man and became a Wiccan," I chuckled. "It's a little strange, but it works for her. She's really happy."

"That's good. I wish my mom could do the same," Alice said, sounding defeated. "I don't think there's a divorce or younger men in her future."

"She has Edward back, though," I whispered. "That's something."
"Yeah," Alice nodded and smiled a little. "That is something."

The conversation had come to a lull and I figured this was a good time to freshen up.

"Alice, can I use your bathroom? And, uh, possibly borrow a toothbrush?"

"Oh, my God, of course!" she exclaimed. "I had completely forgotten."

She led me toward the bathroom, all the while peppering me with questions on my pregnancy; if we wanted a boy or a girl, and if she could arrange a baby shower. It was a little overwhelming, but her enthusiasm was nice.

"I think my best friend Angela would want to do that," I said. "The baby shower, I mean."

"Oh, okay."

"But, um, maybe you two could do it together," I added. "She's really busy and she might like some help."

"That would be great!" Alice said. "I'd like to be involved with everything, Bella."

She fidgeted a little.

"I know Mom already offered, but if you and Edward need anything…please just tell me, okay? I have money."

I could see how sincere she was, how much she wanted to help.

"Well," I started. "I don't know much about design, and you obviously do."

She nodded eagerly.

"I'd like some help setting up the baby's room, when the time comes. Make it look nice."

"Of course!" Alice gushed. "Oh, I'd love that. I'll start looking for stuff immediately!"

"Thank you. That would be great." I smiled. "I'm just gonna…"

I motioned to the bathroom door.

"There are new toothbrushes in the second drawer," Alice said before leaving me to it.

I felt better after cleaning my teeth and fixing my makeup.

"Quite a day, huh, baby," I murmured, caressing my abdomen. "That was your grandmother and your Aunt Alice. They're going to spoil you rotten."

With a smile on my face, I left the bathroom and went in search of Alice, which proved to be quite a feat in the large house. I was coming down the stairs when I heard a door slam followed by a loud, angry voice that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.


I froze mid-step at the bottom of the stairs, my heart pounding in my chest. Before I could decide whether to run back upstairs or continue down into the hall, I was discovered.

"Esme! I thought I told you, that…oh, hello."

The man in front of me looked to be in his late fifties or early sixties. He was dressed in khaki-colored dress pants and a polo shirt, a sweater draped across his shoulders. His hair was nearly white and his eyes icy blue. He looked nothing like Edward and yet I somehow knew: this was his father. The moment he saw me, his whole demeanor changed; the anger in his eyes disappeared without a trace and his stance became relaxed.

"Hello," I managed.

Oh, God, oh, God. What do I do?

Edward wasn't ready for this.

"I'm Carlisle Cullen," he said, walking closer. "And who might you be?"

"I'm…" I attempted to swallow the lump in my throat. "I'm Isabella Swan."

"Well, it's a pleasure to meet you, Ms. Swan," he said, coming all the way over to where I was standing, still glued to the spot. "You wouldn't happen to know where my wife is, would you?"

I couldn't lie. Esme's car was parked right outside and he obviously knew she was here.

"She's helping Alice," I said.

It sounded unconvincing, even to me. Dr. Cullen raised his eyebrows and pursed his lips.

"I'm working on a charity project with Alice, for the place I work, and I understand your wife knows a lot about hosting those kinds of events," I rambled nervously.

"It's for a good cause," I added lamely.

"I see. Well, that's good, Ms. Swan. What type of work do you do?"


Alice. Thank God!

"W-what are you doing here?" she asked, walking over to where we were standing.

Dr. Cullen looked her up and down with unmasked disdain before his façade went back up. He smiled.

"Alice, dear, don't be rude. I was just looking for your mother and getting to know the lovely Ms. Swan here." He turned his attention back to me. "Now, you were telling me about your work?"

"I'm a librarian," I said, shooting Alice a quick glance. "We're having a banquet to raise funds for a literacy program and Alice is decorating it."

"That's right," Alice chimed in. "And Mom…"

"She's helping us," I added. "It's for a good cause."
Shit, I already said that!

Dr. Cullen smiled again. It was unsettling.

"A librarian. Isn't that wonderful, tinkering around with books all day." He gave Alice a meaningful look. "A very admirable and fitting profession."

For a woman.

"It certainly sounds like a wonderful program and with my wife's list of contacts, the banquet will be a splendid occasion," he continued. "And not a bad way of meeting some suitable eligible bachelors, eh?"

The bastard actually gave me a conspiratorial wink.

"Right," I managed to get out through my clenched teeth.

On the inside, I was fuming.

"Do you want me to get Mom for you?" Alice asked her father.

"Oh, no. I wouldn't want to disturb her while she's poring over color schemes and deciding on chicken or fish."

He laughed. The bastard.

"Just tell her I'll see her at home later. Have a good night, my dear."

"'Bye, Dad."

"Ms. Swan, a pleasure," he nodded to me.

"Likewise," I lied.

He walked toward the door and I breathed a sigh of relief.

"Ms. Swan?"

Fuck, just leave already!


"Perhaps you could take it upon yourself and bring Alice with you the next time you go clothes shopping. Your taste might rub off on her," he said casually, before he left.

I was speechless. With my pretty dress, modest heels and long hair, I realized that I looked exactly as a woman should according to Dr. Cullen's antiquated view of the world. The man made me out to be someone who merely worked until I was able to snag myself a rich husband and become a trophy wife. Part of me wanted to chase after him and give him a piece of my mind. I wanted to yell at him that there wasn't anything wrong with Alice's clothes, that being a librarian wasn't just 'tinkering around with books' and, most importantly, that he was an unfeeling bastard for kicking his son out. Of course, I couldn't do any of that. I was grateful that he had left when he did, before he discovered Edward or the other way around.

"So, yeah," Alice said. "That's my dad."

"He's…" I had no idea how to finish the sentence.

"I know. Come on." She tugged on my hand, breaking the trance I was under. "Let's make some coffee and eat some chocolate. That always makes me feel better after seeing him."

"You make him sound like a Dementor," I said.

"Someone who sucks all the happiness in the world away? If the cloak fits." She shrugged.

"I'm sorry," I offered, as we walked into the kitchen.

"I'm used to it." She shrugged again. "I got away from him. He can't tell me what to do anymore."

"Should we tell your mom and Edward that he was here?"

"I think we have to," Alice said, pouring water into the coffee maker. "He wouldn't have come here looking for Mom unless there had been a reason."

"He was really angry when he got here. He was yelling."

"Yeah, he does that."

Alice stopped what she was doing and pressed her lips together.

"I wish I could help somehow," I whispered, putting my hand on her shoulder.

"You can make the coffee," Alice said, smiling slightly. "I suck at it anyway. As for Mom, I've tried talking to her about the way he treats her, but…"

She shook her head and hopped up on a barstool next to the kitchen island. I made coffee, located cups and the chocolate while Alice talked about growing up in the Cullen household. She spoke of Dr. Cullen's horrible temper, how he'd be away a lot and how those would be the best times. She told me that Edward was one of the most popular kids in school, but he rarely brought his friends over and mostly spent time at their houses, which left Alice and their mom alone a lot of the time.

"I don't think Edward really understands how bad it was," Alice concluded. "How bad it still is. I was really angry with him for leaving. Dad got even worse afterward. He was always yelling at us, and he got even stricter with me. I felt like a prisoner, until I met Jasper."

"He helped you?" I asked.

"So much. We got married during my second year and I moved in here. Dad was furious. I don't know why, though. All he's ever talked about is how my purpose is to go to college and find myself a husband. I guess I didn't do it the right way or something. I just couldn't stay there anymore and Dad refused to let me live on my own while he was paying for school."

"And now?"

"Well, Jasper paid for the rest of my time in college. I got to pick the major Iwanted, wear the clothes that I liked, and see the people I wanted to see. It was amazing - the freedom." She smiled.

"Jasper and I are different in a lot of ways; he's older than I am and a lot more conservative, but he loves me and he lets me be my own person. He put me through school and helped finance my company after I graduated. I never would have been able to do any of those things on my own. I love him."

I nodded. My impression of Jasper hadn't exactly been good, but I knew that he loved Alice.

"I wish I hadn't left Mom, though," she added sadly.

I didn't know what to say.

"We should get back to them," Alice said, picking up the coffee. "Thanks for listening, Bella."

"Anytime, Alice," I said, and meant it.

"Hey, is it a secret?" she asked. "The baby, I mean. Will you tell Mom tonight?"

I pondered for a moment.

"A few people know," I admitted. "I'd rather not tell any more, until we're sure nothing bad happens."

"Why would something bad happen?" Alice asked in a gentle voice.

"I was pregnant once before." My eyes watered a little at the thought.

"Oh. With Edward?"

"No. It was before met him. He knows, though."

"I'm sure everything will be fine," she said. "You're glowing, you know."

I laughed.

"I am not."

"You are," Alice insisted. "You look so happy. You both do. It's meant to be. I'm sure of it."

"Well, if you're sure," I joked.

"Come on," she said. "Edward's probably missing you."

We walked into the living room and my heart melted when I saw Edward sitting on the couch, holding his mother's hand. He looked so happy and relaxed that I felt bad for interrupting them.

"We made coffee," Alice announced softly.

Edward jumped to his feet and took the tray from my hands before sitting down next to me, while Alice chose the seat next to their mom.

"Everything go okay?" I whispered.

Edward laced our fingers, nodded and smiled, looking down at our joined hands. He was so handsome; his hair in its usual state of disarray, his long eyelashes, strong square jaw and perfectly-shaped lips. I wanted to kiss them, to feel them on my body, nipping, sucking, caressing.

Whoa. Pregnancy hormones.

I needed to get a grip. Now was not the time for that. I turned my attention to the coffee being served and the talk that followed.

"Mom," Alice began. "Dad came by looking for you earlier, when you were in the yard."

Esme's relaxed posture became rigid and Edward sat up straight.

'He saw me?' he mouthed.

"No, don't worry," I said. "He was only here for a few minutes."

"I should get home," Esme said and started rummaging through her bag. "What's today's date?"

"Mom, wait," Alice protested. "You don't have to rush off."
"The date," she demanded.

"The 27th," I supplied.

She pulled out a day planner and flipped the pages frantically.

"The 27th. Oh, no. Those stupid pills! They make me so…he was having people over after his golf game."
"So what?" Alice said, sounding defiant.

"I was supposed to be there," Esme said, standing up quickly.

"To do what, exactly? Pour drinks, refill the snack trays? He can do that himself!"

Alice's voice had become loud and shrill.

"Honey, you know-"

"No! He's going to yell at you again when you get home. You know he will! He'll throw things and he'll call you all those names again. You think I couldn't hear them when I lived at home? Bitch, lazy ingrate, stupid, weakling!"

Alice sobbed into her hands, Esme looked like she had been struck and while Edward was silent, the expression in his eyes screamed bloody murder. I had to say something. Edward couldn't and Alice was too upset right now. I was worried now, terribly worried.

"Esme," I said, as gently as I could. "Is it safe for you to go home?"

"What do you mean?" she asked, having recovered a little. "Of course it's safe. It's my home."

Edward looked straight at me, his eyes pleading. He wanted to know, I was sure of it.

"I mean…will he hurt you?"

"No," she said, shaking her head.

I looked at Alice, but I couldn't find any answers in her expression. My eyes found Esme's again.

"No," she said, more firmly this time. "Carlisle doesn't hit. Never has. Not once."

"But he yells," Alice cried. "He screams and breaks things and blames you for everything, Mom. It doesn't matter that he doesn't hit you. He still hurts you! Please don't go back to him!"

"He's my husband," Esme whispered.

"Who the fuck cares? He promised to love you and cherish you, and does he? No!"

Alice wiped her face and grabbed her mom's shoulders.

"He's mean, Mom, and he won't ever change. I got away and you can too. Stay here with me and Jasper, please."

Esme looked bewildered and started shaking her head.

"Please stay here." Edward's phone sounded out. "Don't go back."

"Or, you can come and stay with us," I offered. "It's not much, but we have an extra room."

Edward whipped his head around toward me.

'Really?' he mouthed.

I nodded, feeling absolutely certain. After having actually met the man, I couldn't send Esme back to him. He may not hit her, but I was pretty sure it still counted as abuse, the way he was treating her.

"No, that's…that's very kind of you to offer," Esme said to me. "But…"

"Please, Mom," Alice whispered. "You're not happy and you deserve to be. I can take care of you now. We can take care of you now. Please let us."

"All right."

The whisper was so faint that I thought I had imagined it for a moment.

"You'll stay?" Alice asked.

Esme nodded.

"I don't know what to do," she said, sitting back down. "What should I say to your father?"

"The truth," Edward said, using his phone. "That you want to be happy and you will be again, without him."

"I'll call Jasper and tell him," Alice said.

"He won't mind?" Edward asked.

"No," Alice said simply.

I had a feeling she and Jasper had discussed this option before and were in agreement on it. I leaned into Edward's side and he wrapped his arm around me.

"Everything's going to be okay," Alice promised, looking around the room. "For all of us. I have a good feeling."

I smiled, believing her words.

I don't have much to say now, if you can believe that. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones. Thank you for reading. :)