A/N: Twilight is Meyer's. No copyright infringement intended.
Thanks for reading, and for reviewing.
First, a side note: If anyone creates soundtracks for the stories they read in the same way I create them for what I write, I thought I would share a song I came across recently. Joshua Radin's "Tomorrow Is Gonna Be Better" seemed like a perfect fit for Bella and Edward in parts of Cinderbella. If you listen to it, I hope you like it, and maybe think of this story. =)
As for this extra chapter, I blame the friend for whom I wrote Cinderbella for this as well. She sent me a picture of a decal on a car's back window that was Edward's "Be safe" note from Twilight, and, well… this happened. This is the Thursday before graduation, Friday night, Saturday night, and Sunday morning. I hope you enjoy the outtake, and as always, thank you for reading.
"My mom just texted again."
I looked up as Bella appeared in the entrance of the living room. She moved to the couch and sat down beside me. I wrapped my arm around her to hold her close against my side, soaking in her warmth and electricity and drinking in the freesia and strawberry scent of her. "Are they almost there?"
"Maybe another half an hour." Bella dropped her phone to the cushion beside her and snuggled into me.
"Right on time," I commented.
I smiled as Bella snickered. "Not early enough for her," she replied. "She hates the rental car. She doesn't like the smell of the cleaner they use on the upholstery, and she's complaining because it's raining and she can't wind the windows down."
"Good thing they're not keeping it."
"Hm," she agreed. Then she grew quiet.
I shivered slightly as she began to trace an absent pattern over my thigh with her fingertip. Her motions paused as the tremor rolled through me, then she resumed her sketching. Always the artist, I thought, watching her hand as she outlined intricate designs over the fabric of my jeans.
We'd been sitting together in the living room of her house for most of the afternoon. We hadn't said much, just enjoying the time and the "calm before the storm," as Bella called it.
Her mother and Phil would be here in an hour or so. Then any chance of calm would be gone, at least until after graduation.
Renee and Phil had had to change their plans, so they hadn't been able to spend the whole week of graduation in Washington with Bella. They had flown in this afternoon, on Thursday, and would be leaving again on Sunday morning, the day after the ceremony. Bella had been disappointed to have less time with them, but I think she also may have been relieved. For me.
I knew that Renee would be excited about her daughter's graduation. But she would be ecstatic over meeting her daughter's fiancé.
They would be meeting Charlie soon at the rental car place just outside of Forks. They had rented a car to drive from the airport, but they wouldn't need one during their stay. Charlie would be off work tomorrow while Bella was enduring the last day of school, then she would be free to drive them around in the afternoon. She'd told them not to waste money on keeping the rental, so they were returning it before coming here. And it seemed like that had been a good idea. Renee did not want to be in the rental car any longer than necessary.
And she already was filling the house with energy without even being here yet. Bella's phone buzzed on the couch beside her with her mother's fifteenth text of the hour. She reached over to pick it up. I felt her laugh as she read the message.
"She forgot how terrified she was of the logging trucks," she said. She held up the phone so I could read Renee's horror-filled text. "Charlie is going to have a fun drive home with them."
"At least they're close." And getting closer. I glanced at the clock. Reluctantly, I shifted so Bella was sitting up beside me. "I should go."
"You don't have to."
I smiled. We had talked about this earlier. Bella didn't mind if I stuck around to meet her mother and Phil when they arrived – I think she preferred to get her mother's squealing upon meeting me over with as soon as possible – but I wanted to give her some uninterrupted time with them tonight.
"I want you to have some time just with your mom," I reminded her. "You need it. And I'll meet her tomorrow." At dinner in Port Angeles. Sure to be an eventful meal.
"She'll want to meet you immediately." Bella paused, considering. "She'll also want to meet Carlisle. And see your house. She may make me drive her to Port Angeles tonight."
"So bring her over," I encouraged. "You're welcome anytime. You know that."
A faint blush rose on Bella's cheeks with my invitation. Even now, engaged to me, she still blushed at the most innocent reminders of my attachment to her. But as she flushed, she grinned. "You may regret that."
"I will never regret time with you." Her flush darkened a little, and I reached up to cup her cheek in my palm to feel its warmth. I studied her for a moment. "She'll wear you out."
"Yes." She nodded under my hand, her eyes filled with certainty. "She always does."
I skimmed my thumb over her cheekbone. Her electricity thrummed under my touch. I watched her eyes drift closed as I considered. I knew that she and her mom would stay up late to talk, and I shouldn't sneak into Bella's room while her mother and stepfather were visiting, anyway. But I also knew that she couldn't sleep without my being there to hold her. And I didn't want her to yawn her way through her last day of school.
"I was planning to stay away tonight," I told her. "But I don't want you to be tired."
Her eyes flashed open. "And I don't want you to have to wait until two in the morning to get here because she's still wound up and talking," she countered. "That's not fair. We have school tomorrow."
"Exactly," I replied. I trailed my fingers down her cheek. "It doesn't matter to me how late it is, Bella. I won't sleep until I'm with you, anyway. So I'll be around. Just text me when it's safe to come over." I gave her a firm look. "And don't worry. Take your time and have fun talking to her."
Bella grabbed my hand in hers and pulled it down to her knee. "You're telling me not to worry," she muttered. "You worry just as much as I do."
"That's why we're perfect for each other." I grinned and stood, pulling her to her feet beside me. "Now I'll let you go worry over your slow cooker. Your dinner should be about ready."
"You still could stay for dinner." When I raised a brow, she sighed. "Or at least take some with you."
I shook my head. "Carlisle has his heart set on the stir fry left over from what you sent home on Tuesday. I'll share that with him before he leaves for work."
Bella grinned widely at that. She loved it when Carlisle and I ate one of her meals. And we loved it even more than she did. Her food was the best either of us had ever had.
"You two really liked that," she remarked. "I'll have to make it again soon."
She watched me lean over to reach into her backpack where it sat on the floor beside her. When I straightened, she frowned. "What are you doing?"
I palmed her keys. "Taking your truck." I smiled at the expression on her face. "You'll be driving your mom and Phil around tomorrow. The Volvo will be more comfortable for the three of you than your truck."
"Edward, you don't—"
"Take it, Bella." I tucked a lock of her hair behind her ear and cradled her cheek in my hand again. "It's as much yours as mine now, anyway."
Her face heated again, just like I'd expected. I bit back a grin as she surrendered. "Okay."
"Draw me a picture of the reactions when you show up for the last day of school in the Volvo," I said mischievously.
Her eyes lit. "You're bad," she replied, giving me a light shove.
I just kissed her smile. "I'll see you tonight. Text me when your family is asleep. I'll be waiting."
Before I could move, she caught me by the back of my neck and tugged my mouth back down to hers. I stepped into her, sliding my hand up under her hair. Her hand burrowed into my own hair and her fingers tangled in their normal place. When she finally broke away, we both were panting for air.
I traced the outline of her top-heavy mouth with my thumb, still finding myself fascinated by the way her upper lip was a little too full to match the bottom. It was the most perfect imbalance I had ever seen. I dropped another quick kiss to that flawlessly uneven mouth before I stepped back.
"Be patient with my truck," she said suddenly. "It's elderly."
I chuckled. "I'll respect its age."
She trailed me out onto the porch to watch me go. I pressed a kiss to her forehead and headed to where her truck was parked in the driveway. When I had pulled out onto the street, I glanced back at her. She lifted her hand and curled her fingers in the shy wave that I adored.
I just adored her.
I smiled as I drove away. Her mother may tire her out as soon as she got there. But as long as I could hold her while she slept, my fiancée would be able to recover. We never were as well rested as when we were together.
No matter how short of a night it was.
Bella and I hadn't gone to bed until almost two in the morning. But she seemed surprisingly well rested despite having had to get up early for school. I wondered how she had managed to sleep so well.
I wondered about a lot of things, actually. Like the difference between the girl sitting across from me now and the girl I had spoken with so many times on the phone in the past several months. For weeks, I had been consumed with concern over my daughter's increasing detachment when I called her. She had tried to keep what had bothered her hidden from me, tried to keep her tone upbeat to hide her down moods, but I had noticed. But she never had opened up to me, and the few times I had managed to get in touch with Charlie, he had been just as vague in his answers, so I had fussed and fumed and driven Phil crazy for weeks as I'd tried to figure out what to do while I waited for Bella's graduation to arrive to give me a reason to visit – and to weasel out the information I needed.
Something had happened before I could get here, though. I marveled again over Bella's happy smile and bright eyes, and over the way her voice had changed from quietly resigned to quietly strong. Everything seemed to be okay – better than okay. And even though no one would tell me exactly what had happened, I knew the change was because her soon-to-be-ex stepfamily was out of her life.
And because Edward was in it.
I looked around again. We were in an Italian restaurant in Port Angeles, waiting for Edward to arrive. He wasn't due to meet us for another five minutes, and Bella had mentioned that he typically was punctual, so we'd gotten a table and our drinks while we waited.
Bella had requested the table in the corner farthest from the door in the least busy section of the restaurant. She probably was nervous about the volume of my reaction to Edward, which didn't surprise me, but now she was sitting with her back to the door, which did surprise me since I'd thought she would want to look for him to arrive. But she hadn't glanced toward the door once.
Meanwhile, I watched everyone who came in. I had no idea what Edward looked like – Bella hadn't really described his appearance and she hadn't shown me any pictures, not even her artwork, which she'd promised to show me when we got home tonight – but I had a feeling I would notice him. And I couldn't wait to see him.
While I scanned each person who entered the restaurant, Phil maintained a relaxed conversation with Bella. Right now, they were talking about Bella's attending Dartmouth, another topic that excited me. "Are you going to drive out, or will you get another car once you're there?" Phil asked.
"We haven't decided yet."
I may have been preoccupied by my search for Edward, but I hadn't missed my daughter's casual use of the word "we." I glanced over at her with a grin. She hadn't even noticed that she'd used the plural. Being part of a couple with Edward already was natural for her after only a month of being with him.
But I wasn't surprised. Bella always had been introverted and shy, so the rapid progression of their relationship had been unexpected, but she also was serious and careful. When she made a decision, it was with conviction. She and Edward had become eternally entwined the instant she had said yes to his proposal.
I knew I should have been worried about their engagement. She and Edward weren't even eighteen yet. But my daughter always had been far older than her age, and I could tell through even the short phone conversations we'd had that Edward was the same. I had no concerns about the choices Bella made for herself, especially when those choices involved someone as mature and likeminded as Edward seemed to be.
As Bella reached for her water glass, I was distracted by the flash of her engagement ring. My grin widened. I'd gushed over the ring for a while the night before, much to her embarrassment. But it was so suited to her, so completely perfect, and so beautiful. And I couldn't help feeling giddy every time I saw the symbol of Edward's devotion to her.
With the thought of Edward, I looked toward the door again just as it opened. My eyes widened.
The young men in Washington were incredibly handsome. The tall, athletic teenager who had just appeared in the doorway looked like a Greek god.
Bella's lips suddenly curved. Her head tilted toward the door as the young man stepped into the restaurant, and her eyes brightened. I watched in confusion as she glanced back for the first time all evening and stood just as the man's gaze landed on her. He was smiling before he even saw her, but when his eyes met hers, they lit just as hers had. He strode to her as she took a few steps toward him. I gaped as he dropped a light kiss to her forehead and she leaned into him.
My daughter's fiancé was gorgeous.
She murmured something to him and pressed her hand to his chest. He whispered back, and I saw her smile widen. Then she stepped back and let him take her hand as they moved together to our table. Their movements were coordinated, almost in perfect unison as they reached us.
I knew I still was gaping when Phil and I stood to greet them. Bella smiled shyly and squeezed her fiancé's hand where her fingers were twined through his. "Edward, this is my mother, Renee," she began. "And this is my stepfather, Phil. Mom, Phil, this is Edward Cullen."
Vibrant emerald eyes met mine as that Greek god face broke into a warm smile. Edward extended his hand. I glanced at it, then I stepped around the table and grabbed him in a tight hug. He hesitated only an instant before I felt him gently return the embrace. A second later I stepped back to beam up at him, observing his amused look as I tried my hardest not to squeal.
"I am so happy to finally meet you," I exclaimed, taking his hand in both of mine and somehow managing not to bounce up and down.
Bella had raised a brow at my impulsive embrace, and my exuberance made her grin affectionately, but somewhat nervously as she waited to see if my enthusiasm was going to explode. Edward wasn't even remotely flustered by my reaction to him. "I'm glad to meet you, too, Mrs. Dwyer," he returned politely.
I'd heard his voice before, but the phone had not done that velvet voice justice. I shot a glance at Bella to find that Edward's serenity had calmed her nerves, and she smiled widely at my expression. My amazement was extremely amusing to her. Probably because, even now, she still had the same not-sure-he-was-real reaction to him that I was having.
I turned back to him. "Call me Renee."
He nodded as Phil lightly touched my back. I shook myself and let go of Edward's hand as my husband said, "And you can call me Phil."
Edward offered his hand to Phil. "It's a pleasure to meet you both."
"Nice to meet you, too, Edward," Phil replied. He motioned toward the chairs to indicate that we should have a seat.
Edward pulled Bella's chair out for her. I had to bite back another squeal as Bella sat with a small smile and a faint blush. When Edward was seated beside her, their bodies instantly gravitated toward one another's. His hand found hers immediately, and their clasped hands rested lightly on her knee.
Neither seemed to notice any of the instinctive motions they had made upon sitting down at the table. But Phil and I did. I noticed my husband's intrigued look as Bella and Edward moved in a way that seemed choreographed as they shared a menu. We watched as Edward shifted in his chair and Bella shifted with him as though they were bound together by some kind of gravity, an invisible pull that drove him to ease closer to her in an almost protective way when she leaned forward slightly to look over the top of the menu.
It was a little unnerving, but also immensely fascinating. If they already were this deeply connected only one month into their relationship, I couldn't wait to see them in one year, five years, ten years…
I felt myself starting to vibrate in my seat as I surveyed them. Besides their undeniable connection, they looked incredibly good together. They truly were the most adorable couple I had ever seen. From the way his strangely shaded, tousled bronze hair contrasted perfectly with her dark, heavy waves to the way his green eyes shone every time he looked at her and her brown eyes shone every time she looked at him…
They were just so cute together.
Bella sat back just as the waitress appeared. We gave our orders, and after the waitress left, there was a short pause. I knew that Bella was hoping I would be able to control myself.
"Edward," I began. "Bella told me you play baseball. Are you planning to play at Dartmouth?"
Bella stared to fidget nervously with her napkin. Edward smiled. "No, ma'am," he replied. "At least, not the first year."
"Renee," I reminded him, though I was extremely pleased by his manners.
Phil had perked up at the mention of baseball. "Probably a good idea," he mused. "See how you handle the school schedule first."
Edward nodded. I moved on to my next question. "What are your other hobbies? What do you plan to major in?"
Bella's anxious motions picked up. Before he answered, Edward shifted subtly in his chair so that his arm brushed against hers, and he gave the hand he held a gentle squeeze. He was soothing her. Taking care of her.
And I was going to explode.
Bella's movements slowed, then stopped. When she was still, Edward responded to me. "Music," he said.
"You play an instrument?"
He was rubbing Bella's knuckles absently when he confirmed, "Piano."
Yes. I was going to explode. "Oh, you're both artists!" I gushed.
Edward's lips curved. "Yes, I suppose we are."
I asked a few more questions about his musical interests and talents, then I asked, "What is your favorite color?"
Bella stared at me across the table. Edward wasn't ruffled. He looked over at her and waited until she met his gaze. "Brown," he said with quiet certainty.
Bella's face flushed and her wide chocolate eyes instantly dropped to where their hands still were interlocked over her knee. Edward smiled softly and turned his attention back to me.
My entire body vibrated as I watched them. He adored my daughter. And she adored him. The way he looked at her… and the way she looked at him. I'd never seen anything like it.
"What's your favorite food?"
Another stare from Bella. But when Edward replied, "Spaghetti," her eyes shot to him, and she blushed again as they shared a private smile.
Bella stood abruptly, cutting me off mid-question. "Excuse me. I'll be right back." Her eyes were locked on my face, a clear signal to go with her.
"I'll come with you," I said, standing beside her and trailing her to the opposite corner of the restaurant.
In the restroom, Bella glanced around to make sure we were alone, then she turned on me. Her expression was a mix of exasperation and amusement. Before she could say anything, I commented, "Well, he certainly is handsome."
Bella smiled. "Yes, he is," she agreed.
"And he's so polite and sweet. And so smart! Bella, he's perfect."
She squeezed my hand with sincere gratitude. "I think he is." She paused. "Please remember that I am marrying him." I watched a look of incredulity seep across her features even as her eyes brightened. Then she shook herself and went on, "So you'll have time. You don't have to ask everything right now."
"I know, honey, but I'm just so excited."
Her grin was affectionately tolerant. She was just like her father, I thought. They both were so composed all the time. I didn't understand it. "I know," she said. "But just breathe, Mom. Save some questions for later."
"I will. For now, though," I began, studying her face, "can I ask you a question?"
She looked a little trapped even as she replied, "Sure."
"You didn't look toward the door once until he walked in." Bella's expression changed from trapped to anxious with my comment. I continued, "You had your back to him. But the second he showed up, you smiled and turned around to look for him. He didn't text you. How did you know he was here?"
Bella shrugged. "Just a feeling," she said casually.
My daughter was a terrible liar. I knew there was more to it. But instead of pressing that point, I moved on to another, connected one. "And when he met you, and you sat down together… The way you lean toward each other and move together. It's like you're drawn to each other… like gravity."
Something in Bella's eyes flickered. My description of her interactions with her fiancé had struck a chord. She agreed with my assessment, even if she wouldn't admit it. "Is that a bad thing?" she asked timidly.
"It's an intense thing," I told her. And it was. I'd never seen anyone behave the way the two of them did. Their connection was unmistakable – and I'd only seen them together for about ten minutes. But in those few minutes, I'd witnessed how they seemed to be completely in tune with one another. Almost an extension of the other.
My response had brought uncertainty to Bella's eyes. I covered her hand with both of mine. "Sweetheart, it's like I told you when you called to tell me you were engaged. I know it's only been a few weeks since you met him, and as your mother, I should be telling you that you're too young and this is too fast. But your father gave his blessing – and that should tell you everything you need to know right there – but he did because he knows the same thing I do. You've never been a teenager, sweetie. You've always been an old soul. And so is Edward. I know you're doing what's right for you. I know he's the one, and you're making the right choice."
She blinked back tears and stepped in to hug me. "Thanks, Mom."
"You're welcome." I stepped back and wiped the tears from her eyes. "Now c'mon. I have some questions for your fiancé."
"I'm kidding, Bella." I held the door open for her and followed her out of the restroom. "Sort of."
She glanced back at me and laughed, finally seeming comfortable. I trailed her back to our table.
As we approached, I could see Edward's body angling toward Bella even though he never looked up from his conversation with Phil. We sat down in the middle of a discussion about baseball. Edward and Bella automatically gravitated toward one another. He absentmindedly reached up to tuck a lock of her hair behind her ear before he twined his fingers through hers and set their interlocked hands on his knee.
If either of the men noticed his instinctive movements, they didn't react. The sports dialogue never faltered. But Bella glanced at me to see my reaction, and she grinned to herself when she took in the look in my eyes.
I couldn't have been happier for my daughter.
My mom had never been happier. And neither had I.
I'd spent most of last night listening to her gush over Edward. She had loved him. When she finally had fallen asleep, I had texted Edward, who had appeared within five minutes to slide into bed beside me. I'd briefly told him about her reaction, how she had noticed our connection, how she approved of our decisions, and how I thought she truly may explode from excitement. But I hadn't been able to delve into too much in my conversation with him because my mother already had worn me out. I'd passed out on his chest in less than ten minutes.
We'd gotten up extremely early this morning so he could get back to Port Angeles in time to get ready for his graduation. Once he had slipped out the window and I had watched him drive away, I had gotten back into bed to doze as much as I could without him holding me. It hadn't been long before my mother had woken up, eager and ready for my own graduation.
Edward and I had been disappointed when we'd realized that our graduation ceremonies were scheduled for the same time. We'd wanted to be able to support one another. But I'd had fun with Alice and Jasper, and Edward had been with Rosalie, Emmett, and Ness, so we'd both enjoyed the ceremonies. Even if we had been anxious to be together again.
Edward had met me at my house soon after graduation had ended. My mom, Phil, and Charlie already had gone to Alice's to help set up for the party Esme had thrown. Edward and I had modeled our caps and gowns for one another before following them.
We may have been a little late getting there. Because holy crow, my fiancé made a sexy graduate – and he seemed to think the same about me. Neither of us had wanted to be the one to end the make-out session.
Alice and Jacob had taunted me about being late – they both had been able to guess why – but I hadn't minded too much. Not with Edward by my side.
During the party, Edward had heard all about Forks' graduation, mostly from Alice and my mother, neither of whom could seem to stop talking. And Edward had told me about his graduation, including how Emmett almost had had his diploma kept from him because he'd brought an air horn, a beach ball, and several other items into the ceremony. Edward wouldn't tell me what the rest of the items were, but I figured Rosalie would want to complain about it, so I would find out eventually. Maybe tomorrow.
Tonight, even though it was well after one in the morning, I was faring better in my war against sleep than I had last night. I already had shown Edward my sketch of the spawns', Bree's, and the royals' expressions from when I had driven up in his – or, as he liked to argue, our – Volvo yesterday morning for the last day of school. He had gotten a good chuckle out of that before I had climbed into bed beside him.
I was stretched out on my back because I was trying to avoid assuming our normal sleeping positions just yet. I wanted to talk to him, at least for a minute, and I knew that if I snuggled up against him, I would be asleep almost immediately. He understood my intention, so he just waited, staring up at the ceiling in the dark and toying with my fingers on the bed between us.
"I didn't get to talk to you much last night," I began.
"No," he agreed. "You fell asleep pretty fast."
"She noticed everything."
"I had a feeling she would."
"I told you that she approved of our decisions." I felt him trace the band of my engagement ring with his fingertip. "Because she likes you."
His smile was evident in his voice. "You mentioned that."
I turned my head to look over at him. "Awake or asleep?"
I could see the flash of his grin in the pale moonlight. I talked in my sleep, so sometimes I wasn't sure whether I'd told him things consciously or not. "You did talk quite a bit," he mused. "But you told me that before you fell asleep. You told me that she liked me, and that she noticed how connected we are. You didn't mention how she had noticed that, though."
"She caught how I knew you were there even though my back was to the door. And how we kind of… react to that pull we feel."
"Ah." He rubbed my palm with his thumb, swirling electrical trails over my skin. "She is perceptive."
"And she's ecstatic." I rolled onto my side to face him. "I don't think she's taken a single breath since we met you for dinner last night. I've never heard her talk this much. She's so excited. Especially after meeting Carlisle today and getting to spend more time with you." I paused, burrowing into Edward's side as he slipped his arm around me, surrounding me with his energy and warmth. "I think she loves you more than I do."
Because I was tucked into him, I felt his heart stutter when I said the word "love." He knew how hard it was for me to tell him how I felt, so even though it hadn't been a direct admission, it still was monumental to him.
He acted casual, though, and simply tightened his arm around me before teasing lightly, "I'll have to work on that. I don't want anyone loving me more than you."
My heart skipped then. I fisted a handful of his shirt and smiled widely as I rested my head on his chest. "You don't have to worry."
His heart gave another spasm under my ear. He understood me perfectly. "Actually, I do," he countered. "We worry about each other, remember? I always will worry about you. For instance, you need to sleep. You're exhausted. Your mother wore you out again today."
"Yes," I agreed.
I felt him press a gentle kiss to the top of my head as our legs tangled together, the last aspect of our normal sleeping positions. "Sweet dreams, love."
I smiled as I slowly drifted off. Whatever I didn't tell him in my dreams tonight, I would tell him tomorrow.
Edward left early the next morning. He gave me an extended kiss at the window, lingering longer than usual before finally climbing out. He didn't want to leave.
Because he didn't like what I would be doing this morning.
I was having breakfast with my mom and Phil, then driving them to the airport. Edward was torn about leaving me. He wanted to give me the extra, uninterrupted time with them on the drive to Seattle, so he had decided to stay home, having said good-bye to them last night. But he didn't want me to have to drive back by myself, so it bothered him not to come with me.
He was comforted only slightly by the fact that I still was driving the Volvo.
I headed out to the shiny silver car with my purse and one of my mom's bags while she and Phil gathered the rest of their things. I slid the bag into the trunk and opened the front door to put my purse inside. A small white square on the driver's seat made me pause.
It was a note. Two simple words written in Edward's careful script.
I smiled down at the paper for a moment before I tucked it into the pocket of my hoodie. We always did worry about one another. Because we cared for and wanted to take care of each other.
And we always would.