For those who wanted an epilogue, here it is. If you aren't a fan of them you can skip it and it won't mess with the original story.
Jessypt spent her evening (and the last year of her life) editing this story. Thank you so much, bb. XoXoXo
All I want is for you to be happy and
Take this woman and make you my family and
Finally you have found someone perfect and
Finally you have found yourself
-Red Hot Chili Peppers
"Really? What did I do to you?" I ask after I get my daughter, who's sporting a pink tutu, crown, and sticky mess all over her face, into her booster seat. She has a donut firmly in her grasp, and I can tell it's going to be a long night.
"She wanted it." Em shrugs, laughing at me.
I roll my eyes. "She also wants to take over the world and force everyone to wear pink. Want to give her a hand with that, too?"
"If she gave me her pouty look when she asked, you know I would." I shake my head with a smile.
"The meeting go well?"
I smirked at him. "Of course." There hadn't been a client I've lost yet. We found over the years that I have a knack for handling difficult clients. It amazes me everyday how my survival skills from the streets have transferred so well in the business world. Last year, Emmett and I became partners in the brewery. It allowed him to focus more on his passion - the brewing - while I took over most of the business side. Never did I think I'd find myself in suits and khakis, but I've naturally fallen into the position.
After getting Maddie cleaned up and loaded in the car, I reach up and loosen my tie, unbuttoning the top two buttons of my shirt. I turn the car on and wave to Emmett as we pull out of his driveway.
"Wave goodbye to Uncle Emmett," I say, looking in the review mirror back at my daughter.
An arm covered in pink flies up as she frantically pounds at the glass, screaming goodbye. Em stands on his porch waving back. Rose and Em were never able to have kids. They tried for years but it never happened for them. Rose threw herself into her teaching, and her students became her children. There's probably no students on earth that feel more loved and cared for than Rose's do. Also, they've made the best God-Parents to our child. I find myself still untrusting at times, especially when it comes to Bella and Maddie, but I have found a friend in Emmett whom I can trust with anything. It gives me peace to know if something were to happen to me, he'd be there to take care of my family, even if he acts like an eighth grader most of the time.
I hear Maddie mumbling, going back from Italian to English. It's important to Bella that she carries the same tradition on with Maddie that her mother did with her. She mostly teaches her songs and riddles, but Maddie loves it. To this day when Bella is feeling overwhelmed we sit, and she points things out in Italian like we used to until she calms down.
"Did you have fun with Uncle Emmett?" I watch the road, but it's distracting when I can see my daughter's excited eyes in the rearview mirror.
"So much fun." The donut is gone and her wild legs, which are covered in tights with bunnies and yellow rain boots, are kicking the seat. I let her dress herself today, and I'm glad her mother's not here to see. I'm pretty sure part of her outfit is something she wore for Halloween. "We played dress up and I let Uncle Em wear my crown but then I took it back because he was not being a nice princess."
"He just says, 'Off with their heads! Off with their heads!' What does that mean, daddy?"
I smile at her lisp but squeeze my eyes shut and curse Emmett.
"I dunno, princess," I say, avoiding answering her question all together. Emmett had a habit of teaching the kids things far above their age level.
"What else did you guys do?"
Distracted by the wand in her hand, it takes her a second to focus on the question. "We made cookies and took Max for a walk to the donut store. Max ate one of my donuts, daddy."
One of her donuts? "How many donuts did Uncle Em give you?"
"Lots, Daddy."This was going to be a long night.
"Did you have lunch?"
"Yes, cookies," she says with a big smile, the evidence of chocolate still around the corners of her mouth. The downfall of her sugar highs are usually grumpy tantrums. I could tell we were headed that direction when the corners of her mouth turned down.
"Daddy? When is mommy coming home?"
Bella, Rose and Alice are out of town for a girls' weekend. It's the first time Bella has ever left Maddie overnight, since she was born four years ago, and she almost cancelled the trip three times. Rose and Alice had to forcibly drag her out of the house.
"Two days, sweat pea."
I hear the sniffles before I see the quivering lip.
"But... who's gonna tuck me in?"
"Who's gonna make dinner?"
"Me." I reach my hand behind me and wiggle her booted foot.
"But who's gonna read my bunny book?"
"I will, honey."
"But... but..." I see the tears starting to slide down her cheek. I want to pull over and wipe them away but know the sooner we get home the better.
"But... I want mommy!"
Not only is it the first time Bella has left Maddie, it's also the first time she's left me. I can't believe it's been ten years since she showed up on the streets of Portland. So much has change and that time in our lives feels like a distant memory - almost like it's someone else's story. I'm broke out of my thoughts by a sniffle. I turn my head and see her chewing on her lip. I can't stand to see her cry.
And the dam breaks, the tantrum taking over. She rubs her eyes with her fists, and I can see the signs of an overly tired little girl who skipped her nap.
By the time I pull up to the house she is fussy, whiney and begging for Bella. When I lift her out of her booster seat she wraps her legs around me and buries her head into my neck.
"I miss mommy." My heart breaks for her, and I squeeze her tighter.
"But you have daddy," I whisper and tickle her side after we get through the front door. Her arms squeeze tighter around my neck. Now, I see why Em gave her all the sweets. I would give her anything to make her happy right now. "Shhh," I say, kissing the top of her head as I bounce her, making my way back to her bedroom. By the time I peel off the layers of glitter and tulle she's practically asleep in my arms. Laying her on her bed, I softly wipe the remaining tears off her little face, still baby soft and round. Her brown hair lays wildly on her pillow, her long lashes rest on her cheeks as she falls asleep.
I run my hand through her hair before quietly stepping out the room. Leaning against the wall I close my eyes. I always thought I was one of those guys that helped their wives a ton, but now that she's gone I realize just how much she does. Since neither Bella nor I had our moms home with us when we were younger, we decided it was important to us for Bella to stay home once we had kids. She's a natural with Maddie, and I love nothing more than to watch them interact together. Maddie is a girly girl who loves to dress up, paint nails and pretend to put makeup on. Bella and I can't figure out where she got it from, but I've been the victim of "Hair Shop" and "Nail Salon" more times than I can count.
When I open my eyes I see our wedding picture hanging on the opposite wall. I'm taken back to that day, and I can almost smell the ocean breeze and see Bella walking toward me in her white dress on Charlie's arm. He and Bella became very close, salvaging their relationship and really turning it into something special. Even he and I developed a friendship, and the three of us had a few fishing weekends together. He married a few years back and lives in Seattle, but we make it a point to see him at least once a month.
We were married one year to the day after I proposed on the beach at La Push, not far from our house. Our wedding was a small affair with only the Cullens, Jake, Mrs. E and us - it was perfect. Bella wore a simple white dress. We stood with Jake and Alice as our bridal party and let Emmett have his way and marry us, after he took some test online. It was perfect. We didn't take a fancy honeymoon and chose put the money back into our house, where we still live. We've remodeled, added on, and I can't imagine living anywhere else. We never wanted to go back to Portland. While I owed a lot to that city for bringing Bella to me, it was still a place I didn't feel safe, and it held too many violent, depressing memories. When Mrs. E passed away five years ago, Jake, Bella and I made the trip together to attend her funeral and face our pasts. It was a wonderful thing to see all the people whose lives she touched. The church was overflowing, and there were more people outside.
Bella and I visited the waterfront. We sat on our bench in silence like we did so many years ago. When I looked over at her, I could still see the scars I had traced the first time we sat there together. Reaching over, I had repeated my motions, slowly tracing them on her body. She closed her eyes, and tears streamed down her face. But unlike the last time when she cowered away from me in fear, this time she stood brave and tall, grabbing my hand and saying goodbye to Portland for the last time. After that trip, we both noticeably changed. That chapter of our lives was finally closed, and it was time to start a new one. That's when we decided we wanted to be parents.
We both had a lot to work through and it took time. Bella and I both worked towards our GEDs and Bella went on to get her associates degree. We were all so proud of her that the entire family showed up after her first class with flowers and gifts, embarrassing the shit out of her. I smile at the memory just as the phone rings. I run to the living room, not wanting it to wake up Maddie.
"Hello," I whisper.
"Edward? What's wrong?" The panic in Bella's voice makes me think she's turning the car around and heading back.
"Nothing's wrong. I just put Maddie down and didn't want to wake her up," I laugh. "How are you? Did you make it to Leavenworth safely?"
"Yeah, we just got here, but do you need me? I can come back."
As much as I'd like to say yes, the truth is I'm a thirty-two year old man, with a child of my own, and I can make it through a weekend without my wife. "No, baby. I miss you, but I want you to have a good time." I can hear her breathing increase on the other line. Bella has made huge strides and is almost unrecognizable from the abused girl from the street, but panic and worry are two things she still struggles with. "Bella," I say softly. "Take a deep breath and calm down. Maddie is safe, happy and stuffed with sugar thanks to your brother." She laughs, and I can tell she's calming herself down. "Go out to dinner, have fun with the girls, and we'll be waiting for you when you come back."
"Yeah, I love you. And you'll call me if you need anything?"
"Of course. Love you. Have a great trip."
We say our goodbyes, but I'm sure I'll hear from her again before the weekend's over.
"Thanks, man, I was going crazy."
"No problem," I laugh, throwing more food on the barbecue. Jasper and his boys decided to come over. He needed to get the boys out of the house. The girls' weekend has turned into a 'guys and kids' weekend for us.
"Jake coming over?"
"Yeah, he'll be here any minute. He's closing the brewery tonight." Jake's been clean and stable for almost eight years now. His health is still a struggle for him, but he's determined to beat his illness. He moved here from Seattle a couple years back and has fit right into the brewery.
"Jared, don't push Maddie."
"But dad, she keeps trying to put her crown on me."
"Maddie, baby," I say. "Leave Jared alone, and keep your crown on your head."
The moms never parent from the deck, but it seems to be working for us so far... until we hear Maddie's shrill scream.
"Jared give the ball back to Maddie," Jasper demands, marching off the porch into the grass. Poor guy doesn't get a break from policing people. He's the chief of police now, and he and Alice have been married for seven years, Jared came a couple years later, and their newborn Bonnie is on the trip with the girls.
"Need any help, Edward?" Seth asks, a beer in his hand.
"Yeah, you can give me that," I laugh, taking the beer away.
"Ah, c'mon, Uncle Edward. Mom's gone, and I'm not going anywhere."
I look over to Jasper and then back to Seth. "A sip, but it stays here." I hand the sixteen year old kid, who's now taller than me, the beer and after a sip I take it away. I'm still the cool uncle, and I'm not corrupting him too badly.
"Are you and your dad still picking up your car tomorrow?"
His entire face lights up. "Yeah, you've gotta see it." He spends the next fifteen minutes describing the car to me for the third time. I still remember when he spent hours showing me his toy cars, now he's getting a real one. He's a great kid, and I feel lucky to have seen him grow up. The same day Alice and Jasper got married, he legally adopted Seth, and they've been inseparable since. Alice never did hear from his biological father again.
Jake joins soon after, and he and Seth get into an intense debate on foreign versus American cars.
Jasper is entertaining the two younger kids when I hear the front door open. Emmett and Carlisle walk in, their arms filled with food for our impromptu barbecue.
"Something smells amazing." I feel Carlisle's hand on my shoulder and turn to give him a one armed hug, noticing the coloring in his face is brighter than I've seen it in a long time.
"Steak or a burger, Carlisle?"
"Tough choice, but how about the steak?"
"Now, where are my grand babies?" he says, which garners squeals and screams from Jared and Maddie who run toward him shouting 'grandpa!'.
Minutes later, Emmett's by me, shoving chips in his mouth and his son, Max the Great Dane, is pissing all over my fence. "How was your first night without mommy?" he teases.
"Fine, except my daughter was cracked out on sugar. Thanks for that, by the way."
We both laugh and fall into conversation. Soon I see Carlisle sitting on a chair in the shade, watching the children play. There's a soft smile on his lips, but he seems to wear sadness like a second skin.
"How is he?"
Emmett shrugs, and I can see the hurt in his eyes. "He seemed a little better today. The dishes were done at the house, and he went golfing with some buddies yesterday."
I nod my head. "That's good. I was going to invite him to stay here tonight, if he wanted. Maddie would love it."
"I don't know if he will, but I know the offer would mean a lot to him."
Since Esme died of cancer six months ago, Carlisle has been lost. For the first few months none of us recognized the shell of a man he had become. We all took turns either staying with him or having him stay with us. The house went to ruins, dishes piling up, not showering... it was painful to watch. The past couple months and the birth of his new grandchild had helped bring him back to us, but there's still a fragility about him.
Esme's passing was hard on everyone, and it was another good reason for the girls to get away; Esme would have loved that. I don't think we'd be where we are today without Esme's love and support. She stepped into the role of mother without either of us having to ask. She was in the room when Maddie was born and at our house for middle of the night feedings and new parent panic the first week. My throat still tightens when I realize yet again she won't be walking through our front door ever again. Watching the woman who helped save us from our past die wasn't an easy thing for either of us, but watching Carlisle slowly deteriorate after was almost worse.
I look around the yard and smile. These people are my family, and I would do anything for them.
When I pull up to the driveway and say goodbye to the girls I can't get to the front door fast enough. Before I even reach the porch steps the door flies open and a ball of pink comes flying into my arms.
"Oh, Maddie," I say, falling to my knees and wrapping my arms around her, inhaling her sweet scent. "I missed you so much."
"We missed you, too."
I look up, and my breath still catches after all these years. He stands, leaning on the door jam, hands in his pockets and green eyes ablaze. They're the same green eyes he passed down to the perfect little girl in my arms. Standing, I pick her up and meet him half way, kissing him passionately, wrapping my free arm around him. My house feels like my safe haven, and it feels so good to be home.
To the people on the outside you'd think I was gone for months, but even though it was only days, this was a huge step for me. Even after all these years, with my tormenter long gone and no trouble since, I still don't like to be away from Edward. And now that we have Maddie the feelings are even stronger. I did have an amazing time with the girls though, and it's something we've vowed to do regularly from now on. It feels good to gain another piece - maybe even the final piece - of my independence.
"Let's get inside. We have dinner ready for you."
"You do?" I ask, eyebrow raised. Edward isn't known for his cooking skills.
"I helped!" shouts Maddie.
"Well awesome. I'm starving."
I sit at the table and smile. There's a candle burning in the middle and a million of Maddie's drawings scattered all around. She sits on my lap while she points out every detail of each one. I was touched at how clean the house was and what a fantastic job Edward had done while I was gone.
They both excitedly tell me about their weekend and ask about mine. We share, eat boxed macaroni and cheese, and life is perfect.
"You can't leave me again," Edward says playfully as his lips wrap around my nipple.
"I know. I missed you, too."
"It's been too long," he says pulling my panties off, kissing me between my legs.
"It's only been three days," I giggle. The man is insatiable.
Edward and I had waited a long time to have kids. We wanted to make sure we'd both worked through our issues and had come out on the other side. While our pasts had made us who we are, we don't let them define or control us anymore. We have Maddie Renee, after my mom, and we've talked about having another. We have a large family whom we love and who love us, and on my trip I discovered it would be growing larger still.
Once we're both undressed, I take a minute to just look him over as he hovers above me, placing kisses down my chest and waist. We were troubled runaways and fugitives, but we made it to the other side and are living in a dream. We've changed and grown but always together - stronger. He's seen the best and the worst of me as I've seen him. We've created love and life, and I'm so excited to share the news with him.
"Edward," I whisper. His eyes meet mine and the scruff on his chin tickles my belly.
I run my hand down the side of his face softly, feeling overwhelmed by him as tears gather in my eyes.
His lips meet my own as we come together. It's been the most amazing ten years of my life, and I can't wait to see what the next ten hold.
~*~*~ And They Lived Happily Ever After ~*~*~