I was holding little Catie in my arms, soothing her in the rocking chair that had been her mother's. Edward and Bella's little cottage was not so little any more. Not since all of the renovations done to accommodate a family of four.
I pressed the back of my hand against the little child's forehead. Her fever was running hotter than it ever had before, and no amount of worldly medicine would be able to relieve her. All any of us could do at times like this was wait it out and hope to whatever God there may be that she would turn out alright.
"Uncle Jazzy," she moaned with as much strength as she could muster.
"Darlin'," I replied helplessly. There was nothing I could do to make her any more comfortable.
She wrapped her tiny arms around me tighter and I could feel the unconditional love flowing between the pair of us. Her pure, radiant heart was so strong, even when her body was so terribly weak.
Her condition started just a few days after the girls had turned three. Catie fell down the stairs head first in a spell of delirium. All of us who were home ran to see what the matter had been and had to go searching for little Brook, who was sprawled out on the floor of the upstairs hallway in a catatonic state.
Edward and Bella had been out that night helping Jake and Jen make preparations for their impending nuptials. Alice made a frantic call to Bella and the two of them rushed home fast as lightning.
When Edward approached Brook's body, he could sense that she wasn't really in it any longer. He couldn't pick her up to hold her because her body had become impossibly heavy. Try as we did, no one could move her no matter what. Edward followed her thoughts to find that her body may have been in the hallway, but her mind was in Carlisle's office. The poor little thing had no idea that she was outside of herself! She was running around that big ol' desk trying to pick up some paper clips, all frustrated that she couldn't get a grip on them.
Alice called it projecting. She said it was something that she'd heard of before, but that she'd never actually witnessed it for herself until all this started happening with Brook. And every time Brook projected, Catie fell ill. It wasn't anyone's fault. Brook had never intentionally left her body. She had no way of knowing how to control it, but Alice was confident that little Brook would learn to master her talents one day.
Catie's talent would also prove to be impressive, if she ever learned to control it. Until then it would remain a literal nightmare. She would force all of our minds to see illusions. What she wanted others to see, and sometimes not see, would be grafted in all around and seem as real as anything else that was physically there.
Many times she would only see things by herself and she would get all overcome with fright. What she thinks she sees is real to her, and she is still unable to tell the difference between what she thinks she sees and what she really does see.
The first time it happened, she was just a baby, not even a year old. She made everyone see Irena. No one had been sure just how she could've done it because we couldn't figure out where Catie had ever seen Irena before in the first place. None of us had made any sort of contact with that witch since before the twins were born.
But one day, there it was: an image of Irena with shifty eyes, back hunched strangely, holding a lock of strawberry blond hair. Edward sure was startled by the vision. He insisted that the lock of hair had been the very same one that he had pulled from Tanya's head the day me, him, and Emmett had watched her burn.
Immediately we searched the property, hunting high and low for that lock of hair, but it was decidedly gone! Catie must have shown us some sort of subconscious memory from when Irena actually took it. The thought of that monster being in the same room as one of those little girls set my temper ablaze.
But the mystery had never been solved: Why would Irena want to take that lock of Tanya's hair?
About two months after Catie shared that first vision, Bella received a strange phone call. We couldn't believe it when she said that she thought she'd heard Tanya.
"Tanya is gone," Edward insisted. "It couldn't have been her."
Yet she swore up and down that it had been her.
None of us knew just what to make of it. We only knew that Bella thought she knew that Tanya was out there in the world. Not that tracing the call helped us find out where she may have been if she were alive. It matched a number that should not have existed in the first place.
After awhile, we very nearly forgot about the incident. Until exactly one year after the first call had come. That's when another call came in. It was confirmed: Tanya was somehow among us.
It became a tradition to expect a phone call from her on that same day every year. A few months ago, just as the girls turned five, was the first time that Tanya had made actual threats against us. Prior to that call she had just gone on and on about how much she hated us all. She would never answer any of our questions. I'm not sure she even took time to listen to anything we were saying, what with all that carrying on and such. But this time it was different.
"A little hell raised is a healthy sport," Tanya had said. "I plan on raising plenty!" She said that she had a gift for Catie and Brook. That's when Edward snatched the phone without missing a beat and demanded that she stay away from his children. "Or else what," she cackled wickedly. "You'll burn me?"
The fact was that there was no limit to her ugliness. She had been serious and honest when she boldly threatened: "I will devote myself to their destruction!"
Bella gasped desperately and buckled forward, knowing what we all knew: there was nothing we could do to stop her impending threats. We had no idea where in the world that devil was, or when she would come for them.
"How," Edward begged. "How is it that you are even alive?"
"Legerdemain," she whispered, then laughed as wildly as she had the day she was charred in oil and flames.
I felt a grievous fear come upon everyone as her wild laughter abruptly ceased and the line went dead silent.
From that day forward, none of us had the chance to recover fully from Tanya's threats. Each of us had been genuinely shaken, and there would be no snapping out of it until we could be sure that she was dead once and for all. But she should have been dead already!
Legerdemain. That had been the extent of her response to Edward's question as to how she was alive.
We researched everything about the word: its etymology; it cultural contexts the world over; every work that meant anything close to it; etc.
"It means 'sleight of hand,'" Alice had said.
"It can't mean only that," Carlisle added. "It has to mean more that that if not something else entirely."
Each day that escaped us without our understanding what Tanya had meant was another day of failure.
"Uncle Jazzy," Catie called as she sobbed softly. Her sweet little eyes pulled me out of my reverie. They were staring deeply into mine.
"What's on your mind, pretty one?"
"I was thinking about the stars," she said, pointing out of her window toward the vast night sky.
I chuckled. "What about them?"
"I like them so much."
"I like them, too."
"Why are they there?"
It was a good question. Why were those stars there?
"I think," I said, pausing for a moment, regretting that I'd never bothered to take an Astronomy class. "I think they're there for you, darlin'."
My answer made her giggle. I was relieved to see her smile a bit. Maybe she was getting ready to come to?
"I think they're for wishing on," she said. "And that's why there are so many of them."
"Why's that," I asked. "Why so many?"
"We're all meant to wish on our own star, I think."
"Which one's yours," I asked.
Her smile faded and her eyes rolled back slightly. I released my grip on her a little bit, knowing that she was in pain now.
I looked out the window and found a star of my own, and I wished with all my heart that she would be able to snap out of these terrible fever spells.
"Cowards die many times before their deaths," she whispered softly. "The valiant never taste of death but once."
"You are brave," I promised her. "You are valiant."
She moaned and twisted her body a bit, trying to find a spot of comfort against my stone hard body. I grabbed a pillow from the floor and tucked it between us.
"You're brave, too," she whispered, her eyes still closed. "I know you were a soldier. Did you ever get hurt?"
"Oh, sweetheart, they're not pretty stories. You wouldn't want to hear them."
"I do," she insisted, trying to open her eyes.
I delayed my response, not sure if Bella would approve. But then I figured that uncles aren't out to please their niece's mother quite as much as they're out to please their niece.
"I'd been shot, and stabbed a few times, too. But I'd be willing to get shot a thousand times if it meant I could spare you this pain."
"It's mine to bear," she said. What could she have meant by it? "Why don't you drink human blood, Uncle Jasper?"
"Well," I started, not sure what she was trying to get at by asking.
"I mean, it's just that some of our friends do. Don't they." There was no denying it. She had said it, not asked it, and she knew more than any of the adult folk around here gave her credit for.
"You don't have to worry about it one little bit, though," I promised. It would never be something she would have to see.
"Miss Samantha said that blood is like cookies," Catie said, pushing the matter a little. "She asked me if I saw a big, tasty cookie just lying on the table, if I could just walk away and let it sit there uneaten."
"What did you say?"
"I said I couldn't. I told her that cookies are for eating. And she told me that that's how some vampires see humans."
Damn those Wild Cards sometimes!
"Uncle Jasper," she asked shyly. "Am I a human?"
I pulled her a little tighter. "No one is going to eat you, honey."
"But I am a human… right?"
I wasn't really sure what to tell her. None of us were too sure just what these sweet little angels were.
"What you are, darlin', is loved. Very, very much."
"I love Miss Samantha," she said, hugging me. I felt a warm burst of love sweep through the room. "I love all of our friends."
Her fever stopped suddenly and she hopped off my lap and skipped casually over to her bedside table as if nothing had been wrong all along.
"Here," she said, taking out a small pouch of plastic stars. "I picked this one out for you. It's for your wishes. You can wish for anything on this star."
She hopped over and dropped the little plastic thing into my hand. I smiled at her innocence and how beautiful her non-judgmental soul was. Truly, she was pure.
"What will you wish for on your star," I asked. "You know, so I can get some ideas on things to wish for, for myself."
"I wish for mommy to be happy."
"Now, now, miss cowgirl," I said, scooping her back up in my arms and wrapping her in a blanket. "What makes you think your mama isn't happy?"
"I know she worries too much." She I sat on the edge of the bed right next to her and she cuddled into my side securely. "About me and about Brook, I mean. I can tell that she does."
"I think your mama is happy when you're happy. And I think she's very happy. Just 'cause she worries a little doesn't change the fact that she loves her life because you and your sister are in it, and it doesn't mean she can't be happy while worrying just a bit the way she does."
"Well…" She squinted her eyes just a little. "I have another wish, too."
"I wish that daddy could find Tanya. That way he can kill her."
I was stunned. It took a moment for me to find something to say to that.
"How do you know that's what your daddy would do?" It probably wasn't the right question to ask, but nothing else settled into my mind in time before my mouth started yapping.
She looked around suspiciously before whispering her answer. "Brook heard him talking to grandpa Carlisle about it when we were supposed to be sleeping. She projected herself into his office. That's where she saw mommy worrying, too. She said mommy looked sad. It was the day after that phone call came."
I hadn't been aware that they knew about those calls. We had always whisked them away with Alice and Rose to find something pleasant to do while the rest of us took the calls privily.
"Now listen to me. You don't need to worry about any of this. I promise you that your mommy is happy, but if she worries about things, whatever those things may or may not be, you have to let her take her course. That's the way women work. Just let her take her time to feel what she needs to feel."
I gently laid her back in her bed and wrapped all of her covers around her.
"I'll feel brave, then. I'm brave."
I could feel that she felt confident of her bravery. And I could feel all of her unease wash away as she drifted off to her sweet land of dreams.
After awhile, Bella and Edward returned to the cottage with Brook, who was sound asleep in her father's arms.
"Where did her mind wander off to tonight," I asked. Brook had fallen into her motionless state in the kitchen this evening at dinnertime.
"She went into the woods," Edward said.
Bella began sobbing and her fear swept over me.
"What happened there," I asked them both.
"She saw her," Bella whimpered. "She saw Tanya! Our enemy is closer to us than we ever imagined!"