*sniff* I'm almost heartbroken to see this end, but it's time to say goodbye! You have all been an absolute pleasure to write for!
I know most people don't like ANs, but please read the one at the end? I'd totally appreciate it. =)
July 13, 2012
Bella gazed out of her kitchen window, seeking serenity in the large expanse of lush, verdant grass. There was a large tree house, which looked more like a small cottage, nestled low in an enormous tree, close to the middle of the yard. She felt the heat of a glare upon her back and took a deep breath before turning around.
Glittering green eyes met hers angrily, causing her to sigh.
"What now?" she asked tiredly.
"Why can't Riley and Garrett spend the weekend? It's not fair, Mom. I never asked to move to this stupid place!"
Bella rubbed her temples, the onset of a headache quickly attacking her temples.
"Jack, baby, we've already gone over this. Your dad is out of town for work, and I just don't have the energy to deal with all three of you this weekend. And knock it off about the house. You know you love it, and it's not that far away from our old one."
His eyes cut down to her bulging belly and sneered. "It's that thing's fault. There wouldn't even be a problem if you weren't having the baby."
Bella leaned against the counter. "Jack, we've been over this before, sweetheart. Just because we're having a baby-"
"Doesn't mean that I'm any less loved," he mimicked while cutting her off and rolling his eyes.
"Little Bit, please-" she started, before he cut her off.
"Argh, I hate you sometimes! I wish that baby would just die!"
With those parting vicious words, Jack stormed out of the kitchen, stomping loudly up the stairs. Six months pregnant and already dealing with erratic hormones, Bella burst into tears and walked into the den, dropping onto the couch and burying her face into a pillow. Fifteen minutes later, her tears hadn't ceased yet, so she picked up the phone and dialed her husband's cell number.
"Hi baby," his velvety voice caressed her aching heart. "Is everything okay?"
A fresh sob broke out of her chest.
"Shit, Bella! What's wrong? Are you okay? Should I call Charlie?" Edward starting spouting off questions in panic.
"No," she sobbed, "I'm fine."
"Then why are you crying like that, baby? What happened?" His voice softened to a soothing tone.
"Jack," she hiccuped. "He was mad that, sniff, the boys couldn't come over for the weekend."
Edward sighed knowingly. Jack had been acting out for the past three months, ever since his parents told him about the baby.
"What did he say?"
"That he hated me and wished that the baby would die!" Bella began her sobbing anew.
"Ssh," Edward whispered. "You know he didn't mean it, Bella. Remember what Kate said a couple of weeks ago."
"I don't care what Kate said!" she wailed. "I don't care if he's only acting out because he feels safe and secure. I mean, I do care, sniff, but it's not fair! Neither me nor the baby deserve this. It hurts so bad." Her last sentence was barely more than a whisper.
"I know, I know," Edward replied calmly. "I wish I was there with you, baby. Ground him indefinitely and then we'll talk it over when I get home in two days. If he gets to be too much to handle, call my mom or Sue to come over and hand him his ass. Try not to stress yourself, love. It's not good for you or the baby."
She sniffed and wiped her nose with the back of her hand. "Alright," she replied quietly.
A few loud voices echoed over his voice and Edward sighed. "I'm sorry, Bella. The meeting is starting. I'll call you as soon as it's over, okay?"
"Okay. I love you."
"I love you too, baby."
The line went quiet and she hit end. She placed her head in her hands and quietly began to cry again. A hand touched her tentatively on the shoulder and she jerked her head up, meeting her son's remorseful eyes. His bottom lip quivered as he took in his mother's face, wet and blotchy from crying. She let out another sob, before pulling him down and into her arms tightly.
"I'm so sorry, Mom!" he cried. "I didn't mean it. I love you and I love the baby!"
She rocked them back and forth in a comforting gesture. "I know, Jack, but it still hurt so much. Please don't ever say anything like that again."
"I won't, Mom. I promise," he replied earnestly. They leaned back against the couch, neither releasing their hold on the other.
"You just can't say whatever pops into your head, Little Bit. You need to think about what kind of impact your words will have. Even though I knew you were mad and didn't mean what you said, it still hurt, baby."
"I'm so sorry, Mama," he whispered, hugging her tightly.
"You're grounded until you're thirty," she murmured against his hair, exhaustion settling over her.
"Understood," he chuckled softly.
"I'm serious," she yawned. "Wait until your father gets home."
Jack gulped audibly and nodded. "I know."
The notes of a song drifted through her head as she slipped into a peaceful sleep.
Words they'll try to shake you
Don't let them break you
Or stop your world from turning
When words keep you from feeling good
Use them as firewood and let them burn
Soon, Bella's breathing evened out and soft snores filled the air. Jack's heart clenched and he truly felt horrible for lashing out at his mother. He had no idea what had made him say the things he had. She had never been anything but good to him and proved her love over and over again.
The phone chirped next to him and he answered it quickly, not wanting to wake her up just yet.
"Hello?" he asked softly.
"JACKSON CHARLES CULLEN! What is wrong with you, boy? Why would say something like that to your mother?" his father's voice boomed from the phone's speaker.
"Shh, Dad, please quiet down," he replied in a hushed voice.
"Quiet down?" Edward yelled. "Are you seriously telling me to be quiet? Boy, have you lost your mind?"
"No, Dad, please," Jack whispered, "Mom is sleeping next to me."
Silence fell quickly over the line.
"She's sleeping? Not crying anymore?" his father asked at normal volume, though his voice was still tinged with anger.
"Yeah, she fell asleep on me about ten minutes ago."
Edward sighed. "Jack, seriously. What would possess you to talk to her like that? She's overly emotional as it is and you sent her over the edge."
"I'm sorry, Dad. I wasn't thinking."
"You're damn right, you weren't thinking. I trusted you to be the man of the house while I was away, Jack. Sending your mother into hysterics in her condition wasn't part of the plan."
Jack stayed silent, unsure of what to say next.
"Did you at least apologize to her?"
"Yeah, Dad. I said I was sorry and that I didn't mean it. I felt bad as soon as the words left my mouth. I would never want anything bad to happen to Mom or the baby."
"I know, son. We need to work on controlling your temper. It's alright to be upset, but it's unacceptable to lash out like that. Are we clear?"
After a few moments of silence, Jack spoke up again.
"Did Dr. Kate really say that about me?" he asked hesitantly.
Edward groaned. "Yes, she did, but that doesn't excuse your behavior, Jack."
"I understand, but why would I act out because I feel safe? I don't understand?"
"No one really understands why the mind works the way it does, son. How about when I get back, we call her and talk to her together?"
"I'd like that, Dad. I don't want to make Mom cry like that again."
"I know, Jack. Look, I'll let you go. Tell your mom that I'll call her later."
"Okay, I will."
"Be kind to her, Jack. Please. She needs it right now."
"I will, Dad. I promise."
"Alright, I'll talk to you later. I love you."
"Bye, Dad. Love you, too."
Jack hung up the phone and looked down at his mother's peaceful face, vowing to himself that he'd never raise his voice to her again.
Three days later, Edward walked in their bedroom for the first time in just under a week and he stopped short at the sight awaiting him. Jack and Bella were curled up together, sleeping. Jack's hand rested on his mother's belly, causing a contented sigh to well up in Edward's chest. He placed his bag next to his bureau and looked at the clock. It was well after eleven pm, so he decided to hop in the shower before joining his family.
Bella awoke several hours later, feeling overly warm and with a heaviness upon her stomach. She blinked her eyes open slowly and smiled down at Jack's peaceful face, fast asleep. She looked further down and her eyes widened as she noticed that the boy's hand was resting on her belly, covered by a larger hand that reached around from behind her body. She turned her head and pressed backwards, feeling her husband's hard chest against her back. She sighed and closed her eyes, falling back into a peaceful dream.
September 15, 2012
"Bella!" Laurent called from the stockroom of Odds and Ends.
She placed her hand on her burgeoning belly and carefully slid off of the stool that she had been sitting on at the front counter. She waddled a few feet before hollering back.
He poked his head out of the door and smiled, his light green eyes crinkling around the edges.
"Did you want both stacks of the new Patterson book or just one?"
"One should be fine, it's been kinda slow this week," she replied, before deciding to stroll through the aisles to see if anyone needed help.
She had just finished helping a young woman find a book for her Lit class when the chime over the door sounded.
"Hi, Welcome to-" Bella cut off her greeting when she looked up and saw her father standing in front of her, looking nervous.
"Dad? Is everything okay?" she asked in concern, moving to his side as quickly as her girth would allow.
He rubbed the back of his neck and nodded. "I just needed to talk to you about something, and I didn't want to do it over the phone."
She shot him a confused look.
"It's about James Brooks," he added quietly, causing her eyes to widen.
She swallowed the lump in her throat and glanced over at Laurent, who was now at the front counter watching on curiously.
"Let's go up to my office," she suggested, motioning for Charlie to follow her.
"Steve, I'll be upstairs if you need me."
Laurent shot her a concerned look, but nodded. Leading Charlie up to her office, Bella settled into her comfy chair and motioned for her father to have a seat on the other side of her desk. Charlie smirked and shook his head.
"What?" she asked, amused at his out of the blue reaction.
"It's just funny that I'm the parent here and you're in the big chair," he replied, his eyes glazing over for a moment before continuing. "I don't think I've ever said it enough, Bells, but I'm damn proud of you, baby girl."
She smiled and blinked back tears. "Thanks, Daddy," she murmured. "Now, what is this business about James?" she asked anxiously.
Charlie sighed. "As you already know, I have various connections and I've been keeping tabs on him."
Bella nodded, biting her lip and waiting for the worst possible scenario to escape her father's mouth.
"Well, I got a call earlier from my friend Danny, who let me know that Brooks was found dead today. The prison hasn't released an official statement yet, but he was pretty sure that he was shivved sometime in the shower this morning."
Bella blinked, not expecting that to have happened. She felt a strange twinge of pleasure shoot through her and cringed internally, not used to having such malicious thoughts.
"Shivved? Meaning that someone stabbed him?"
Charlie nodded grimly. "Someone sharpened a toothbrush handle, but I don't think you want to hear the details, Bella. It's pretty gruesome."
She felt her stomach turn and bile rise in her throat. Clearing her throat, she smiled as best as she could. "Thank you for coming to tell me, Daddy. I just need a moment to process this."
She ran a hand through her hair and leaned back, sighing. "I don't know what I'm supposed to feel."
Charlie's brow furrowed slightly and looked at his daughter, carefully choosing his words. "There's no right or wrong answer, baby girl. How do you feel right now?"
She sighed. "I feel relieved that he's out of the picture, but also angry that it wasn't justice. He should be rotting in jail, being miserable."
Charlie chuckled, causing Bella to shoot him a glare. "I don't see what's so funny about that, Dad."
"It's not you, sweetie. Well, it is you, but not that way." He smiled kindly at her. "How did you feel when Victoria was killed?"
She stiffened in her seat. "What does that have to do with anything?"
Her father shook his head. "It has everything to do with it. How did you feel, Bells?"
She held her head high and met his gaze, knowing full well that she had walked right into his trap. "I was sad and angry and a little relieved."
Charlie tugged on his mustache thoughtfully. "Let me guess. Sad because of how she died, angry because she got off easy and relieved because she was never going to be an issue in our lives again?"
Bella broke his gaze, taking a sudden interest in her nails. She refused to look up when she heard his chair scrape across the ground. She let a few tears fall when she felt his large, warm hand on her shoulder. She looked up to find that he was kneeling beside her chair. She reached out and wrapped her arms around his shoulders, reveling in the comfort only her daddy could give her at that moment.
"Ssh, don't cry. It's fine, Bells. We all went through therapy sessions after that bastard took you. It's perfectly normal to feel like this. Don't beat yourself up over it."
"I know, Dad. It's just a lot to take in, you know? I'll be fine." She leaned back to wipe her eyes when the baby moved and surprised Charlie, whose arm was still touching her abdomen.
She felt her chest warm and all of the previous sad thoughts flew out of her head as she watched her father's face fill with awe and adoration. She reached out for his hand and placed it on top of her belly. When the baby moved again, his eyes flew up to hers and a wide smile broke out over his whole face.
"Wow, I haven't felt something like that in over twenty-five years. It's even more amazing this time, because it's a baby inside of my baby."
She leaned down and kissed his cheek. "I love you, Daddy," she whispered in his ear.
Charlie reached out and cupped her cheek, his eyes shining with unshed moisture. "I love you, too, Isabella. You are the best thing that I've ever done in my entire life."
He kissed her forehead gently before standing. He stayed a few minutes longer, to make sure that she would be alright when he left. Once he was out of the store, Bella folded her arms on the desk, laying her head down and sighing. She knew that dwelling on things too much would drive her insane, so she closed her eyes and tried to focus on the positive. Like how Esme and Carlisle owned a beautiful little house about ten minutes away from theirs. They still lived primarily in Chicago, but bought a home in Washington over a year ago, so that they could visit whenever they wished. Esme was actually flying back here in two weeks, planning to stay until a few weeks after the baby was born. She wanted to be close by and help out in anyway that she could.
Over the past two years, Sue and Esme had formed a strong friendship and it made Bella incredibly happy to see how their lives had blended together seamlessly. Renee had even made good on her attempt to become a fixture in her daughter's life. They spoke occasionally on the phone, although things were still awkward. She had hope that things would work out well between them.
Bella was broken out of her thoughts by the phone buzzing in her pocket. She pulled it out and smiled at the text message.
Pizza or Chinese for dinner, Love?
She laid a hand on her belly. "What do you say, kiddo? Pizza or Chinese?" As if comprehending it's mother's question, the baby gave a sharp kick after the second option. Bella laughed and rubbed the sore spot softly. "Ouch. Not cool, kid."
She grinned and replied to his text with one of her own, just slightly racier. His response was swift and expected.
Really, Bella? How am I supposed to get through this meeting with a hard-on?
You're getting a spanking later.
She bit her lip and grinned, getting the exact answer that she was hoping for.
October 23, 2012
Bella rubbed her aching back and sighed. She had been sitting at her desk for over an hour, staring at a blank page of what was supposed to be her next Jack Attack book. She was under no obligation or contract for this one, which she was extremely grateful for at the moment. She decided that she finally had enough and waddled over to the couch for a nap. She laid her head against one of the decorative pillows and rubbed a tender spot that seemed to be the baby's favorite kicking place. Her due date was in less than two weeks and she was eager to meet her little one, as was the rest of the family. Alice was still grumpy about her and Edward not wanting to find out the baby's sex, but they wanted it to be a surprise.
A few moments later, she felt a large movement under her fingertips and smiled. "Settle down, kid," she murmured sleepily. "Let Mama get some rest."
Two hours later, she awoke and stretched, feeling cold and wet.
"Oh, shit," she whispered, thinking that she had peed herself in her sleep. She stood as quickly as she could manage and felt a twinge in her belly, as well as a small rush of liquid down her legs. Her eyes widened in a combination of excitement and surprise.
"Are you ready to join us?" she spoke to her stomach calmly, feeling the baby give a particularly hard kick, as if the baby was responding.
"Well, then, let's call Daddy."
She picked up the phone and dialed Edward's number, only to reach his voicemail. She tried the office next and his assistant answered.
"Edward Cullen's office, how may I help you?" Beverly asked in her sweet, kind voice.
"Hi, Bev, it's Bella. Is Edward around?" she replied, her nerves just beginning to fray at the edges.
"Hi Bella! He's in a meeting with a client right now, do you need me to get him?"
She weighed her options and figured that she could make the other calls while she waited for him. "No, that's fine, just ask him to call me as soon as he's finished. It's really important."
Next, she dialed Esme, who answered on the first ring. "Hello, my lovely daughter. How are you and my granddaughter doing?"
Bella chuckled slightly. Both she and Esme were convinced that this baby was a girl, while Edward, Carlisle and Jack were all certain of the opposite.
"Well, I think she's on her way, actually," Bella replied breathlessly.
"Oh my!" Esme exclaimed happily. "What's happening? Are you having contractions? Did you call Edward? Wait, what do you mean you think?"
"Calm down, Mom. Take a deep breath," she replied, on the verge of laughter. "I called Edward, but he's in a meeting with a client, and I didn't want to bother him. And as for if I'm sure, I'm leaking like a faucet and it's terribly uncomfortable, so I think so. I don't feel any pain though."
Esme took a deep breath. "Okay, okay, I'm calm. I'm on my way over to pick you up. I'll call Carlisle and Emmett since I'm sure they'll want to fly in sooner now. You call your Dad and then call Edward back. Screw the client, he'll want to know asap. Tell him to meet us at the hospital."
Bella giggled at her mother-in-law's use of language. "All right, all right."
She dialed her father next and he assured her that he'd call Alice to let everyone else know. "Seth will pick up Jack from school and bring him to the hospital afterwards. I can't believe I'm going to be a grandfather," Charlie laughed. "Well, I know I already am, but the birth part is completely different."
Bella smiled and rolled her eyes. "Yeah, I think I get that part."
Charlie chuckled. "I'm sure you do, baby girl. Okay then, I'll let you go and meet you at the hospital, sweetheart."
Fifteen minutes had passed since her last call to Edward's office, so she tried again. This time, when Beverly answered, she had her patched straight through.
"Hey, baby, is everything okay?" his velvet voice caressed her ear. She sighed, instantly feeling relaxed.
"Yeah, everything is fine. I just thought you should know that your child is on the way."
Her reply was met with dead silence.
"By child, do you mean that Jack is skipping school?" he responded. She could hear the excitement in his voice, letting her know that he knew just what was going on.
"No, dear, I mean that your spawn is attempting to claw its way out of my hoohah."
She heard the breath whoosh out of his body. "Is anyone on their way to get you? Should I come there or meet you at the hospital?" he asked, his voice growing in octaves as he went on.
"Your mom actually just walked in the door, so you can meet us at the hospital."
"What about Jack? Is someone-"
"Already taken care of," she interrupted.
"What would I do without you?" he murmured. "I love you, Bella. I'm leaving here in five minutes."
"It's fine, baby, we're leaving now. I'll see you in a little while. Love you."
She hung up the phone and looked over to see Esme rushing down the stairs, carrying her overnight bag. Her normally immaculate hair was a disorderly array of caramel locks, reminding Bella of Edward's always tousled mop.
"Okay, I think I have everything. I've got the bag, I've called Sue and Carlisle and Rose. Let me put this in the car and we're good to go."
She rushed past Bella and out the door. Two minutes later, Bella heard the car start and pull away. She let out a chuckle and picked up her cell phone, dialing Esme's number.
"Hello?" she answered, her voice still frazzled. "I'm sorry, sweetie, can I call you back? I'm in a bit of a rush to get Bella to the-" Esme cut off her rant abruptly and muttered a quiet, "Fuck."
"I'll be right there, Bella."
She waited until her mother-in-law hung up before bursting out into laughter. Who would have expected the normally calm, cool and collected Esme Cullen to freak out more than the woman who was actually in labor? Not her certainly.
Ten hours later, Edward and Bella introduced their new daughter into the world. Her head was covered in dark blonde peach fuzz and her eyes were a dark blueish color. Bella cradled the little girl to her chest and nuzzled her hair.
"I wonder what color her eyes are going to be?" she mused, mostly to herself.
Her husband stretched next to her on the bed and gently rubbed the baby's back, gazing down on his wife and child with adoration.
"We'll just have to wait a few weeks or so, I think. Jack's eyes were green from the beginning, which is really rare."
A knock on the door sounded and Jack's head poked in. "Can I come in?" he asked quietly.
Bella smiled brightly and motioned him over. "Of course you can, silly."
After their breakdown a few months ago, his behavior had changed drastically. It's like a switch was flipped and her son was back, instead of the little monster he had become. She only hoped that he stayed that way and didn't lash out again because of the baby. But, she knew that if he did, they'd work it out, like they always had; with love, strength and support from their family.
As Jack reached out and gently touched his baby sister's face, Bella somehow knew that she wouldn't have to worry too much about that. It was easy to see that this little girl would have everyone wrapped around her little finger immediately. A serene smile washed over his face as he gazed down at her.
"So, what's her name, Mom?"
"Ashley. Ashley Kara Cullen."
Jack looked up into his mother's eyes and nodded. "That's pretty, Ma. It fits her."
Edward looked over at his son and smirked. "I think we're going to have our hands full, Jack."
Jack let out an exaggerated sigh. "I know, right? I have so much to teach her. Like, how to read and ride a skateboard. Oh, and not to let any boys kiss her."
Bella raised an eyebrow. "What would you know about kissing girls?"
The boy's cheeks inflamed and he started to stutter. "Wha-what? I- I have n-no idea about that. Girls are gross."
"Uh huh," Edward chuckled, shaking his head and enjoying his son's embarrassment. "Really? That's not what I heard Garrett saying the other night."
"Whatever, Dad," Jack replied with a laugh, rolling his eyes at his father before leaning down to kiss Ashley on the top of her head.
Bella's cheeks hurt from smiling so much, but it couldn't be helped. The joy that radiated in her felt like it would explode out of her chest at any moment. Her family was happy and healthy and now larger by one. She rested her head against Edward's shoulder and slowly started to drift off to sleep, exhaustion finally winning it's fight within her body.
Seven years ago, Jackson Cullen had completely changed her life and she would never want to change a thing. Not if it led her to this moment, holding her newborn daughter, nestled between her son and husband. She would always strive to be her family's parachute, holding them close should they fall. She knew without a doubt that they would always be there for her as well.
They would always hit the ground, running.
*Ashely's picture/birth announcement can be seen on the Parachute Blog: (kitsushel . blogspot . com)*
** To clear up any confusion, Laurent's first name is Steven, we met him back in Chapter 9. **
Final Author's Note:
I want to thank each and every one of you who have read this story, reviewed or pimped it out in some way. I never, ever expected it to get the response that it has. I am constantly in awe and amazed by you!
Thank you to so many people who have helped by pre-reading and pimping the story out over the months! Special thank you's to Meeple (Grope-Worthy Cullen) who was my first Beta and supporter, Eifeltwr who was the person to "pressure" me into writing my little plot bunny in the first place, Sondra and the rest of the girls on Facebook and the Parachute Support Group who have continued to be nothing but loving and supportive, as well as the ladies from Twitter and WCs. This story would have nowhere near as fun to write without all of you! Thank you to Stratan and LaMomo, who have been to two best Betas that any writer could have asked for!
Quite a few people have asked about my next story, so here are the basics:
Title: Rabbit Heart
Summary: When a stalker gets too close to rockstar Izzy Dwyer, she makes a choice that brings her back to her hometown and leads her on a journey full of new love and friendships.
The story will start posting on February 18th and will follow Parachute's posting/teasing/review reply schedule. In fact, any reviews for this epilogue will be replied to with a RH teaser. I'm really excited to start this next one and sincerely hope that you guys will give it a chance as well! I've received some pretty awesome feedback so far!
It is with a sad heart that I hit complete on our story, happy with where I'm leaving the end. There are still a few outtakes that I want to write (an EsmePOV and an EPOV of his naughty nurse Bella fantasy from chapter 17), so keep an eye out for those to be added to the Parachute Outtakes under my profile. If you have any ideas or things that you would like to see in an Outtake, let me know in your review reply! I make no promises, but I will definitely give all of your ideas consideration!
I'm also up for a few Shimmer Awards! Best Fluff (for Parachute) Best One Shot (for I'm Not That Girl) and Best Storyteller! Take a peek over there if you can! The Link is on my profile.