Glancing up at the sky, she briefly considered grumbling a few choice words at the cloudy weather, but thought against it. No, she was too happy to even be that upset about the lack of sunshine on her remote Washington home.
Careful to be gentle, she pressed the moist dirt around the base of the newly trans-planted hosta, making sure that it was placed securely in the ground. The south side of the house got about an hour and a half of sun on a rare sunny day in Forks, and she knew that she had no hope of planning anything there that needed sun. The perennials she planted there would need little sun, and would surely flourish in the shady cover of the large Cullen house.
They enjoy the sun if they have it, but they prosper best in the shade…just like my little family, she thought with a smile.
She had escaped to the serenity of her garden that afternoon, and was doing her best to block out the frenzied movements and sharp words being exchanged within the walls of her house. Edward and Bella had just returned from their honeymoon a few days earlier, and everyone was in a mode of sheer panic about Bella's situation. Esme's heart went out to the poor girl, and she had decided right away to support her in her darkest hour – Edward had been nothing short of irate at her for showing such patience, but she couldn't help it.
If she was in the human girl's shoes, and that was Carlisle's baby, she knew that she wouldn't be able to do what Edward so wished Bella would – destroy it. Esme flinched slightly as she patted the moist soil down around the base of the plant again.
The house had been a complete flurry of activity for three straight days. The previous day, she and Rosalie had gone to Seattle to shop for the necessary baby items; it was the happiest she had seen Rosalie in decades.
She felt something in the back of her throat twitch slightly, and her ears pricked up as she heard the back door close. Sitting back on her heels, she briefly admired the sight of the freshly planted hostas in front of her as Bella approached.
"Esme?" she said softly, slowly waddling up to where she crouched. Esme turned her head, the unavoidable smile spreading over her face.
"Moving extra slow, I see," she joked to the young girl. Bella gave her a wry smile, standing in front of her with her hands on her hips. Jumping up, Esme stood behind her daughter in law and held out her arms.
"May I?" she asked. Bella nodded, and Esme gently lowered the pregnant girl down onto the soft grass.
"Emmett needs to mow," Bella finally said, brushing her pale fingers over the slightly long strands of grass.
Esme resituated herself on the ground in front of the hostas, smiling to herself. "Yes, but he's been busy," she laughed, and Bella joined her.
"Yeah, I guess he had enough things to assemble, even for a vampire," Bella mused. Esme snickered to herself, thinking of the large array of baby furniture she and Rosalie had purchased the day before. A crib, stroller, changing table, dresser, and various other baby items had come to the house that morning, and Emmett had quickly busied himself with the assembly process. However, he had found it a rather daunting, tedious task, even for his quick fingers and even faster vampire mind.
Bella giggled for a moment, and then her laugh faded as she watched Esme dart over to the front of the house and return with a large flat of inpatients to plant in-between her hostas.
"You're always working out here," she commented, leaning back on her hands to watch.
Esme smiled, nodding guiltily. "Yes…gardening has always been my weak spot," she admitted. "You can ask Carlisle…Through the years, every time we got a new house I would spend days at a time out in the garden, planting and re-arranging everything. I always wanted our new homes to look pleasing from the outside," she admitted.
Bella glanced around the extensive south end of the house, nodding. "It's always been beautiful here, Esme," she said with a nod. Esme smiled at her, her gaze falling to Bella's slightly protruding stomach. She and Edward had only been home for three days, and tension was high in the Cullen house.
Bella looked pensive for a moment, and then offered Esme a timid smile. "T-Thank you…Esme, "she finally stuttered. Esme looked up at her from her planting, surprised.
"Bella, I was happy to arrange the baby's room. That's no problem dear, I loved doing it," she said quickly, wiping a stray golden curl from her neck. Bella nodded, but looked as if she still had something on her mind.
"Well…thank you for that too, but…I mean for this," she said awkwardly, placing a hand on her small bump on her stomach. "Thank you for…believing right along with me," she said.
Once again, Esme's eyes fell to the bump on her new daughter's stomach, a giddy feeling rising up in her insides. She grinned, letting it spread to her eyes and emulate happiness to the young girl before her.
"Bella, of course. I would support you no matter what. Always," she added with a pointed look. "Please know that. I know that…this is hard, but…we'll get through it. We have to," she added firmly.
Bella's face softened and she continued to rub small, awkward circles on her stomach. "I know, I just…thank you for your support. Edward is…so angry he's barely speaking to me right now. And everyone else they just…they look scared to even talk to me. Well, minus Rosalie," she admitted.
Esme nodded, picking up her small shovel. She began to dig another hole in-between the hostas she had planted. "I have to admit, I am glad that Rosalie is finally coming around. I knew she would eventually, but I'm glad it was this soon," she said. She paused, resting her gardening boot on the top of the spade. "I'm just sad that it took this long to happen," she admitted.
"Rose has her reasons," Bella admitted. She lowered her hand to stroke the soft grass by her side, but eventually began to rip strands of it up nervously. "Why are you so supportive? Why are you not like Edward with this?"
Esme thought a moment, and then sat back down on the grass to plant her smaller, white flowers in between the larger plants. "Well…honestly Bella, I can't imagine that something that is half Edward and half of you as…evil. Malice. I just…I can't imagine that," Esme finally said. She gave the girl a small shrug, flashing her white teeth. She gently pressed the small white bundle of flowers down into the ground, moving dirt around it.
"That's exactly how I feel," Bella admitted. "I don't know why Edward can't see that."
Esme brushed the black soil off her shirt, sitting back on her heels again to admire her work. "He will," she said finally. "Over the years, I've learned that Edward can be one of the most stubborn people I've ever encountered, but he will come around when he knows he's wrong," she said, exchanging a knowing grin with the human girl beside her. Bella heaved a sigh, sitting up and crossing her legs in front of her on the grass.
"I think he's not looking forward to…"
Esme nodded, knowing that Bella was referring to the birth. The previous day, Bella had campaigned her idea to give birth to the baby, and then have Edward or Carlisle change her right away. Esme agreed with the idea, but knew that voicing her opinion would offend her son.
Bella stared at the green grass in front of her, and Esme's expression softened as she gently picked up another flower to plant. A comfortable silence had settled between them, and she smiled to herself. She was looking forward to spending time with Bella as an immortal member of her family.
"Are you nervous?" she asked softly, not looking up from her work. Esme heard the young girl's heart speed up, and she heard the air move around her head as she nodded.
"Yes, but…is it b-bad that I'm excited too?" she asked, her voice timid.
"I don't think so," Esme answered honestly. "You're a smart girl, Bella. I know that inside that mind of yours, you have probably thought everything out and I can see that. Of course it's not bad that you're excited. In many ways…you're starting over. You're one of the lucky few that chose this life, and…I'm happy for you that you feel so…good about it," Esme replied.
"You get it," Bella murmured softly, a hand roaming over her small stomach.
Esme nodded again. "I hope so. We are going to have a lot of time together Bella and I know that you've thought about that. I know that it will be sad when…people from your human life inevitably fade away, but please know that I'll always be here for you."
"Of course I know that," Bella replied with a smile. "I already think of you a second mom, Esme."
"I thought of you as a daughter the moment Edward brought you through the front door."
The two sat in silence for a moment again, but it was comfortable. The birds chirped in early October air, and Bella relaxed on her hands again, leaning backwards. Esme continued to plant flowers, stepping back every few minutes to check on her work.
"Esme, why are you planting things? It's going to be so cold soon," Bella pointed out. Esme grinned, straightening out her dirty clothes as she stood again.
"Yes, but it's best to transplant things before a frost. And besides," she added. "We can't have the first official baby Cullen arriving to an ugly house!" she laughed.
Bella laughed with her for a moment, and then her chuckles died off suddenly.
"So…you're sure it's a baby?" she asked. Esme looked first at her larger stomach, and then at the girls soft brown eyes. She smiled warmly, giving a nod.
"I do," she answered. "Don't be scared, Bella. Things will work out. You don't live this long and not realize that fact a few times in your life. "
"You have been around awhile," Bella joked, patting her stomach. She looked up at the cloudy sky, apprehensiveness dancing across her pale features.
"I have," Esme agreed. "I have a lot longer, as well."
"Is that ever a hard concept to think about? Forever?"
Esme scooted forward, patting the soil down around the little white flowers. "At first it was. At first I had a lot of time to worry about a lot of silly things. Living forever was…daunting. I was worried that I would get bored, and see it all, and eventually wish for death…or the end, or whatever happens to people like me. But eventually, I just relaxed and let it come. And ever since I embraced it so, it hasn't bothered me so much. Carlisle and the rest of the family help," she added with a cheeky wink.
"It doesn't bother you that this…is it?" Bella asked. "I don't mean to pry-"
"No, of course," Esme interjected, wiping another curl off her face. "That's a question I would assume you would have," she said. "Of course I think about it. Bella, we don't…die," she said softly, removing her gardening gloves. She wiped her hair back from her face, tucking it into a neat bun. "We're going to be here forever. "
"And that doesn't scare you?"
Esme shook her head. "No…When I was alive, my family was very religious. I went to church with the every Sunday, and it was always pounded into my head that I would do good here on earth, and then spend the rest of eternity in heaven as a reward."
Bella sighed softly, her hand running over her stomach again. "And now?"
Esme shrugged, opening her arms and motioning to the garden and house around her. "This is my forever now, Bella," she said softly. Bella listened as Esme's voice took on a more authoritative yet gentle sound; she showed her age at that moment.
"Being here, with Carlisle and the rest of my family…well…this is my heaven. This is my utopia, my bliss. Things will be rough sometimes, as you will inevitably see, but…I can assure you, things will work themselves out. You and Edward, and your little one will find your places in life, and find your stride, if you will," she said. "And you'll see what I'm talking about. You won't worry about small things after a few years; age will teach you that everything happens for a reason, and after time passes all the smaller troubles of life will slowly fall to the wayside."
"You sound so sure…I wish I could share your feelings," Bella admitted. "I'm still a little scared about…living forever."
Esme laughed a quiet, beautiful giggle as she moved to sit beside the pregnant girl on the lawn. She draped a stony arm around her shoulder, squeezing her softly. "You'll find your forever, Bella. I have complete faith that you will."
Bella's head dropped onto her mother in law's shoulder, the two of them sitting in the shade of the tall house. She reached a hand down to hold her stomach, and could only hope that she was right.