AN: The song used in this chapter is up on the Blog!
June 19, 2010
The sun filtered in through the multiple windows around the room. Bella groaned and cracked one eye open, only to immediately shut out the brightness. She would definitely have to remember to close the curtains next time. As she yawned and stretched, her hand hit something soft and feathery. She opened her eyes fully this time and saw her fingers resting on auburn hair. Warm green eyes smiled happily at her. She sat up quickly and glanced around the room before turning back to the person in her bed.
"What are you doing?" she asked, slightly confused at his presence. Jack grinned and sat up to hug his mom tightly.
"Morning, Ma," he mumbled against her shoulder. Bella laughed lightly.
"Morning, Little Bit. Were you watching me sleep again, Creeper?"
Jack shrugged his shoulders, not refuting her comment.
"I was waiting for you to wake up. Dad and MeMe were making breakfast when I woke up a little while ago. I came up a few minutes ago to let you know, but you were still asleep and I didn't want to wake you."
Bella sighed thinking about how sweet this kid was sometimes. She didn't know what she had done in this life to deserve him, but she was extremely grateful. She rubbed her hand up and down his back soothingly, trying to enjoy his warmth before having to go downstairs and face reality.
After a few moments of silence, her stomach betrayed her and rumbled loudly.
"Wow, do you have a monster in there? Should I tell MeMe to set you two plates?" Jack laughed and scampered off of the bed out of Bella's reach.
She narrowed her eyes and mock glared at her son.
"It's not nice to tease your mother five minutes after she's fully awake. What have I been teaching you all of these years?"
Jack cocked his head to the side and his brow furrowed in thought.
"To always put the seat down when I'm finished?"
Bella laughed heartily and shook her head.
"Yes, but that's not what I meant, wise guy."
Bella stretched her arms above her head and let out a small groan, cracking her neck slightly.
"Okay, kiddo. Why don't you change out of your PJ's while I do the same. We'll meet back here in 10 minutes. Sound good?"
Jack nodded enthusiastically and ran off to his room. Bella laughed and shook her. She walked over to the closet and pulled an outfit and her toiletry bag out to freshen up in the bathroom. She ran a brush through her hair and put it up in a ponytail before brushing her teeth. She threw on a pair of jeans and one of her favorite concert tees. It was red with white paint strokes spelling out "Viva la Vida". She had been in love with Coldplay after seeing them in concert a few years before.
She walked back out into the main room and into the closet again to dig out her red flip flops. While she was still waiting for Jack, she picked up her bag that contained the scrap book that she had been putting together for Jack's birth family. She had started making herself one and decided to make an extra one in case this day ever came. She wanted to be able to share what had happened in his life with them whenever the day came to meet them. She ran her hand over the cover and smiled. She just knew without a doubt that this gift would be welcomed and enjoyed by the Cullen's. She placed the book back into the bag and tossed the strap up on her shoulder.
Jack appeared back in her room less than a minute later. He was wearing wearing black shorts and his favorite Tony Hawk shirt that was white with black and red designs. Bella grinned when she noticed that he was wearing his black and red skate shoes. Jack noticed his mother's grin and shrugged.
"I miss my board," he sighed.
"I can tell," she laughed as she followed him down the stairs.
When they arrived at the kitchen, Esme was bustling around the kitchen all alone. Bella felt a curious wave of disappointment that Edward wasn't there. She was nervous to see what his reaction would be to waking up in her bed. It felt like they had made some kind of connection last night. She was hoping that today wouldn't be awkward between them.
Esme looked up and smiled when she noticed Jack and Bella.
"Good morning, dears! Breakfast is in the other room. There are pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage and home fries. Is there anything else that you'd like?"
Bella smiled and shook her head. "No thank you, Esme. That all sounds wonderful."
"Come on then, let's get you two fed." Esme dried her hands off on a dish towel and took them both by the hand, to lead them into the Solarium.
Edward and Carlisle were already seated at the table with their plates in front of them, reading the newspaper. Both men stood up when Esme led their guests into the room. Bella's eyes met Edward's and he smiled shyly at her before averting his gaze. Although he looked away from her, he kept a soft smile on his face. That made something small flutter in Bella's stomach.
"Good morning, Bella," Carlisle said, a wide smile upon his face. "Did you sleep well?"
She felt her cheeks heat up slightly and looked over at Edward from underneath her lashes. His gaze back on her and he looked at her nervously.
"Very well, actually," she responded. She fought a smile as she watched as Edward smile into his napkin and look down at his plate. The day was beginning to look up considerably.
She sat in the same seat as yesterday, directly across from Edward, who looked at her and smiled.
"Hello again, Bella," he said in his smooth, velvety voice.
"Good morning, Edward," she replied softly.
Esme shot Carlisle a triumphant look over Bella's head and grinned mischievously. Carlisle shook his head and internally laughed at his silly wife. He turned to Bella and struck up a conversation as she filled her plate.
"So, Bella, do you and Jack have any plans for today? Or for you visit in general?" he asked curiously.
Bella set her plate down and looked at Carlisle while bashfully shaking her head.
"I hadn't thought that far ahead, honestly. We'll be here for the whole summer hopefully, so I'm sure we'd like to explore. Like I said before, my friends are driving my car here and should arrive sometime Monday morning. I know Alice is eager to check out the malls and boutiques." She laughed lightly.
Esme clapped from her spot at the end of the table. "Oh! That is definitely my department," she said happily. "There are so many options!"
Bella laughed and looked down at Jack, who smiled back at her. He knew as well as she did that Alice and Esme would get along quite well. He looked over at his father, who's countenance had turned thoughtful.
"Hey, Dad?" he asked. Edward looked over at his son with such adoration and awe on his face that Bella had to blink back back tears.
"Do you know if there are any skateparks around?" he asked eagerly.
"A skatepark? What's that?" he asked, looking at Jack in confusion.
"Oh, sweetheart," Esme responded. "It's a park where skaters and BMXers can practice their moves and tricks."
Everyone at the table slowly turned their heads and looked at Esme in surprise.
"What?" she asked defensively. "I'm down with the kids."
"Oh, yeah," Carlisle teased her. "You're the bomb."
Esme rolled her eyes and tried to hide her smile. "Well, I'm fairly certain that there's one in Elk Grove Village, which is about 45 minutes away. I'm sure we can take a ride out there one day to check it out."
Jack grinned and nodded excitedly.
"That would be awesome. I'd need to wait until Nevaeh gets here anyway. My board is loaded on her."
Edward raised an eyebrow in questioning. "Nevaeh?"
"She's Mom's car. It's completely awesome. I picked her out," he said proudly.
Bella bit her lip and rolled her eyes at Jack's enthusiastic love for the car.
"Wait until you see her, Dad! It's ice blue and the top comes down. When we drove to the beach for the first time with the top down and music blasting, it felt like Heaven. So, we named her Nevaeh because it's Heaven spelled backwards. Cool, huh?"
Bella's eyes widened at how he was able to get all of that out of his mouth without stopping for a breath. She looked around and saw that the other's were gazing at Jack with love and happiness. She knew that no matter what, she made the right choice.
Once everyone was finished breakfast, Bella insisted upon helping Esme with the clean up while Edward, Jack and Carlisle went into the living room. After the dishes were all clean and everything put away, Esme turned to Bella and hugged her tightly. The move took Bella by surprised and she patted Esme on the back lightly and laughed.
"What was that for?" she asked as Esme pulled away and wiped a tear from her eye. She was shorter than Bella by a few inches so she angled herself to better look Bella in the eyes.
"You've brought my family back to life," she said quietly. "I can never thank you enough."
Bella gave her a teary smile and hugged her this time. "You guys gave me Jack. Well, not literally," she laughed, "but figuratively. I think I'm the one who should be thanking you."
Esme smiled and shook her head. "Shall we just agree to disagree?" she asked the younger woman. Bella nodded.
"Yes, that sounds like a good idea."
"Well then," Esme said while taking off her apron and laying it on the counter top, "let's go see what our boys are up to."
She held her arm out and Bella linked hers through it as they set off into the living room. The tinkling of ivory keys could be heard as they entered the room. Esme stopped and gasped as she took in the sight before her.
Jack was sitting at the piano, playing softly, while Carlisle and Edward stood by beaming at him in pride. Edward caught her eye. He walked over to her quickly, with a grin on his face, and reached out for both of their hands. He pulled them over towards the piano as Jack continued to play.
"You did this?" he asked Bella, in awe.
Her brows furrowed in confusion and she shook her head.
"Um, no, I don't know how to play."
Without missing a note, Jack rolled his eyes at his mother's obtuseness. "He means that you got Mrs Cope to teach me."
"Oh!" she said as she began to understand. "Yeah, once I found out that he could play, I hired someone to help him continue to learn. It seemed like such a waste to not let him develop his talent."
Edward grinned at her and it made her heart stutter. The way he was looking at her now was such a sharp contrast to just 48 hours ago.
"Sing with me, Ma?" Jack asked her, grinning.
Bella blushed and shook her head emphatically. He looked up at her and pouted.
Her heart melted and she sighed, sitting down next to him, as he started the melody from the beginning. She closed her eyes and let one of her favorite songs wash over her.
Come up to meet you, tell you I'm sorry
You don't know how lovely you are
I had to find you
Tell you I need you
Tell you I've set you apart
Tell me your secrets Running in circles Nobody said it was easy Oh take me back to the start I was just guessing Questions of science Oh tell me you love me Running in circles Nobody said it was easy
And ask me your questions
Oh, let's go back to the start
Coming up tails
Heads on the science apart
It's such a shame for us to part
Nobody said it was easy
No one ever said it would be this hard
At numbers and figures
Pulling the puzzles apart
Science and progress
Do not speak as loud as my heart
Come back and haunt me
Oh and I rush to the start
Chasing our tails
Coming back as we are
Oh, it's such a shame for us to part
Nobody said it was easy
No one ever said it would be so hard
Tell me your secrets
Running in circles
Nobody said it was easy
Oh take me back to the start
I was just guessing
Questions of science
Oh tell me you love me
Running in circles
Nobody said it was easy
I'm going back to the start
Bella opened her eyes once Jack played the last note. She smiled down at him and he beamed back in pride.
"That was beautiful!" Esme exclaimed. She had a few tears running down her face. "If you weren't such a great writer, I'd say you'd have great career in singing. I'm too selfish and love your work to say that, though." Esme winked at her and Bella ducked her head shyly at the praise. When she looked up again, Edward was watching her with an odd look on his face that she couldn't quite place.
She pulled her eyes away from his and suddenly remembered the scrap book. She hopped up from the bench and went to retrieve her bag, which she had left in the kitchen.
"Excuse me, I'll be right back. I just need to grab something that I wanted to give you!"
She rushed into the kitchen and was back again in no time. She smiled at their curious gazes and suggested that they all get comfortable on the larger couch. Edward sat in the middle, with his parents on either side of him as Bella pulled the large photo album out of her bag. She looked down at the cover and then back at Edward nervously.
"Um, I never knew for sure what happened to Jack before I found him, so I was never sure about your involvement in his life. When we went to therapy, Kate encouraged us to talk about you guys as much as Jack was comfortable with. What he could remember and share were loving and happy memories, so I had a feeling that you would be sad to miss out on things that happened in his life. I kept a scrapbook of memories to share with Jack's family if the day ever came and here we are."
She ran her hand across the tan cover that had 'Jackson Swan' written across is in dark blue paint.
"Yeah, so, um," she stuttered as she handed the book to Edward. He looked deeply into her eyes before casting his gaze onto the book. He took a sharp breath in through his nose and then smiled up at her reassuringly. She swallowed the lump in her throat as he flipped open the cover and started to look over the pictures. Each one had a quote or few lines written underneath of it.
The very first picture was of her and Jack the first night that she had found him. Charlie snapped a picture of them sleeping with his cell phone while they were at the SPD. Jack was curled up on her lap and even in the picture you could tell how vulnerable he was. It seemed like an odd choice to add to the album, but the picture was their beginning and it belonged there. As they stared at the first picture, not one of the Cullen's eyes were dry.
The three of them continued to pour over the scrapbook until they were at the last page. It was a picture of her and Jack from the wedding. It was a candid shot that the photographer had caught of the two of them laughing while dancing. She thought that it had been a sweet way to end it.
Edward closed the book and cleared his throat before running his hand over his face to dry his tears. He looked up at her and gave her a watery smile.
"Thank you so much for that. I appreciate it with all of m-m-my heart," he stammered out, tears filling his eyes once again. "Excuse me." He stood and headed out of the door behind the pool table to the patio. Bella looked away when she saw him hunch over the railing, his back shaking with uncontrolled emotion. She looked back over at the couch and saw Esme lovingly running her hand over the book's cover. She glanced up at Bella and smiled.
"That was very thoughtful of you. As much as it breaks our hearts that Jack was lost to us, I'm so very glad that it was you who found him."
Carlisle nodded and wiped his own eyes before walking over to the piano, where Jack was still playing softly. Still holding the book, Esme stood up and started to walk away.
"I'm going to put this in the study. Would you like to walk with me, Bella?"
Not having much else to do, she got to her feet and followed Esme, who carried the photo album over to the book case to find a proper spot for it.
Bella walked over to the desk and her eye caught a square piece of crystal with wording etched on it. She leaned closer and gasped. She swung her gaze back to Esme, who was smiling at her somewhat sadly.
"I have this same poem hanging on the wall in our living room," Bella said quietly. Her fingers involuntarily reached out and caressed the words gently.
Not flesh of my flesh,
Nor bone of my bone,
But still miraculously
For a single minute;
You didn't grow under my heart,
But in it.
"Esme?" she asked. "I don't mean to pry, but why do you have a copy of the The Answer (to an Adopted Child) in your office?"
She gestured towards a seat in front of the desk, as she sat in the other. She closed her eyes and thought for a moment before speaking.
"My mother was 14 when she had me. She was abused by her step-father and then forced to give the baby up for adoption by the state, who had stepped in. By that point, it was too late. A child's innocence was taken from her and another life was thrust upon her. I was adopted by a kind couple who were physically unable to have children. They loved me with every breath in their bodies and I never wanted for a single thing."
Bella's eyes widened and her heart ached for that hurt little girl and how Esme must have felt when she found out that she was the product of that kind of abuse.
"My adoptive mother, Caroline Platt is beautiful, inside and out. When I was about twelve, she sat me down to explain that I was adopted, although she didn't go into any details on the circumstances until I was much older. I have always felt extra blessed and thankful towards my parents. They chose me. They chose me. That kind of knowledge bolsters your self-confidence, let me tell you that." She smiled at Bella.
"I met Carlisle in college and it was love at first sight. We married right after graduation. He was just starting Medical School, so we agreed to hold off on having children. Two years later, I was notified by a lawyer that my biological mother, Elizabeth Masen, had passed away after giving birth to a little boy. She and her husband had been in a car accident and neither one of them survived, but they managed to save the baby. Since I was my brother's only flesh and blood relative, I was given the option as to whether or not I'd like to take him. I was in utter shock until Carlisle came home from school that day and took care of me. We talked about it long into the night. We came to the decision that a baby would be just too much for us to handle right now."
Esme stopped for a minute, lost in memories, before she continued with her story.
"So, the next day, we made our way to Children's Hospital to sign papers stating that I would relinquish my rights to the state. While we were waiting for the social worker to show up, a nurse asked us if we'd like to see the baby. My curiosity got the better of me and I said yes. She brought over this tiny little blue bundle. He had a head full of reddish hair and bright green eyes, from the day he was born the nurses later informed me."
She swallowed and her voice started to roughen with unshed tears.
"One look at him and my heart was lost. All I had to do was look at Carlisle and he knew as well. There was no way I could give him up. Edward Masen Cullen came home from the hospital with us two days later and we officially adopted him. Things were tough here and there, but we had both sets of our parents to lean on, which helped tremendously. Two years later, I was pregnant with Emmet. Carlisle was in his residency and things were hard, but never once did we lose sight of our love and happiness."
She gestured over to the plaque on the desk. "My mother gave that to me on Edward's first birthday. It was reminder that even if he and I hadn't have shared the same bloodline, I would have loved him just as much. That's a big part of the reason I am so adamant about your place as Jack's mother. I know what it's like to be a part of an adoptive family. Giving birth doesn't make you a mother. Caring and loving that child does. Victoria was never once a mother to that boy. As far as anyone is concerned, in my eyes you've always been his mother. He was just waiting for you in the right place, at the right time."
Bella's tears overflowed her eyes and she started to sob. Esme stood and pulled Bella into her arms.
"Come here, dear girl. Shh, it's all right. I've only known you a day or so, yet I love you so much, Bella. God truly blessed us all in the end."
"Thank you, Esme," Bella whispered, as her tears started to abate.
"Hush now. Why don't we get ourselves cleaned up and maybe relax by the pool? Emmett and Rosalie are coming over a little later and I'm sure they'll want to spend some time with you as well as Jack."
Bella nodded and smiled at Esme. There was something about this family. She was so at ease and overwhelmed at the same time. It felt like that she belonged there. That she was always meant to be a part of this family.
And that scared the hell out of her. She knew without a doubt at this point, that her heart would break at the end of the summer, but she made a resolution then and there to try and enjoy it while she could and not think too much about the future.