Story Summary: There she was, Bella, more than fifty years old, chatting with her daughter and cooing over her granddaughter. "Bella," I called helplessly. She looked at me in puzzlement as if I were a complete stranger, and I saw that she got exactly what I had hoped for her … and for me. Now what do I do with this despair?

Setting: Seattle, Washington. Saturday, August 26th, 2006: the weekend following the completion of my story "Our First Time."

Warning: This story does not contain lemons but there are implications and references to other M-rated stories. So, warning: implications and some light bandying of naughty words

It happened when we were on one of our trips in Seattle to get away from the dull dreariness of Forks and to get away from the ever helpful, but meddling, curious and not-so-subtle Cullens.

We were on Union Street as we drove from the Seattle convention center toward the Sound when we passed by yet another quartet of Starbucks…

In Seattle they don't have a Starbucks at every intersection, they actually don't … because they have four Starbucks at every intersection.

Why cross the street when there's a Starbucks right here for you?

Why, indeed!

Well, apparently, a 'frappe' (frappé? frap? What the Hell is a 'frap'?) with Bella's name on it was calling out to her from one of these particular Starbuckses(?) — À propos de rein, if we were speaking German, pluralization would be so much easier: 'das eine Starbucksen!' — so she squealed and pointed excitedly at the café, and I let her out at the curb and looked for parking.

Looking for parking on Union Street on a weekend? Not the easiest thing in the world, unless your aim was instead of avoiding hitting tourists actually trying to see how many points you could rack up.

But no, I'm a good girl. A good vampire girl, and Rule number one and all, so I didn't go on a killing spree, as much as I wanted to have fun just this one time.

Do you know what the most dangerous thing about being a vampire? It's not the danger; no, it's the boredom. It gets you every time. And then you get an idea into your head and forget that every action you take must be deliberated with your immortality in the balance.

That's how vampires die: they get bored and then they get a God-complex, because, let's face it: compared to the human rabble that surround us, so totally oblivious? We are gods. Well, in my case: goddesses. Until, that is, the Volturi come and remind you that your immortality is a privilege, and you, in your one time of foolishness, have just lost that privilege … forever.

I parked the car on an obliging spot and waited for Bella to return. It was cloudy out, but it's better not to risk it: Seattle is not Forks, it does have its share of sunny days.

And so I waited.

… and I waited.

Then I got nervous.

Great, just great. Bella got lost walking in a straight line, and now she's in a side alley being raped to death by Lonnie and his murderous friends.

I can't believe it: I've just pulled an Edward.

I was out of the car in the same instant that I thought that thought, walking quickly, for me, but not too quickly so as to draw the attention of the amazed bystanders.

Plan. I have to plan.

And now I hated not having a power like Alice's, so I could just see what Bella was deciding to do and from there pinpoint her location.

But I don't have that, so, start at the Starbucks where I dropped her off, and follow her scent from there.

I was at that Starbucks in under thirty agonizingly long seconds.

I got looks. I didn't care. It looked to them like I was walking so quickly that I was running, to me it felt like I was swimming through molasses.

But there it was, Bella's scent, going into the Starbucks.

And not coming out.

Ten million thoughts went through my head, mostly involving kidnapping … but in broad daylight? We vampires must be inconspicuous because we must hide the crime of our existence. A kidnapping would make a scene even if Bella didn't have the presence of mind to make one herself, and a criminal cannot afford to make a scene, … unless they are going for a big splash.

But that didn't make sense either: there was calm in the area.

Then I saw in my mind a smarmy man, named Mickey Finn, coyly asking her: "Hey, little girl, you want a sip of my drugged 'frap'?"

I was in the store, ready to kill every smarmy looking man I could get my hands on. I've had practice with Royce and his buddies already, so I knew how quickly I could go through the whole store to get to Bella and save her life. It would take me less than two seconds to kill everyone in the establishment.

But then I saw her: long chocolate brown hair, brown long-sleeved shirt, blue jeans. She was sitting in one of the lounge chairs, facing away from me.

I went up to her in relief, "Bella …" I began quietly.

But then I stopped. Her posture was pensive, and she didn't turn toward me or my voice, she just continued to read a newspaper she had picked up, ignoring me.

Was she sad? Was she crying?

"Bella," I called again to her quietly.

She didn't turn toward me.

What had I done? I wondered. Was she angry with me? We were just in the car, laughing, and then she said she wanted a cool drink. Was I not taking care of her enough so that she now resented that I was 'ignoring' her human needs?

A young woman with an infant in her arms approached us, looking at me quizzically.

"Hey, Mom," she said to Bella, "is everything okay?"

Bella looked up from her newspaper, and I saw her face in profile.

The whole universe shifted.

Bella had aged something like forty years. She wore stylish square rimmed glasses, her chocolate brown eyes had crows feet and there were lines along her swan-like neck.

It wasn't Renée, for Renée was younger, it wasn't somebody like Bella.

It's Bella. Bella, aged fifty or so.

"Hm?" She asked the girl not five years older than what Bella is supposed to be now.

She had a self-possessed air but also a world-weary one.

The girl with the baby in her arms nodded toward me.

Bella turned to me, and took me in, a small smile of puzzlement ghosted her lips.

She didn't recognize me.

I stood there, a stone. What had happened? Had I somehow entered a parallel universe or in parking the car the world had sped on forty or so years and Bella had carried on with her life, eventually marrying and having the family that I encouraged her to have?

Having a family that I never could. I mean, there she is, right there, living the life exactly how I wanted to live mine, one strand of grey hair in that rich chocolate brown hair with her child and grandchild right in front of her for her to admire.

Bella finally did break the silence in that cautious way of speaking that was so her: "I'm sorry, were you looking for somebody?"

It was Bella's voice, but aged, matured. But there was a very slight difference.

Each person's voice has its own cues, it's own signature. This was Bella's voice, but it had changed through the years, yes, but it was different, too.

I looked into Bella's eyes, looking up to me from her seat, tilted my head cautiously to one side and tasted the air.

It was filled with the scents of Starbucks, and of the young woman beside me, holding her baby (who's scent I absolutely adored), and the scent of the human in front of me.

Was it appealing? Yes: all human scents are, and indescribably so, at that. Was it Bella's scent of lavender and freesia? No.

It was dandelion wine.

This wasn't Bella. It couldn't be Bella, looking at me exactly as Bella does, forty years older.

Or can it? Do human scents mature over time? 'Ferment' … as in wine? We, the Cullen coven and I, had never been been in a place long enough to know either way.

But I had to know. And I had to know now.

"Yes," I began cautiously, "I'm looking for somebody by the name of Bella Swan …?"

I looked at her significantly. Tell me your name! I commanded with my look.

Bella's smile didn't shift at all. She simply took in what I said, weighed it, and then moved on. She looked up to her daughter questioningly. The young woman looked at me and shrugged. The baby kept her eyes fixed on her own mother and then began to close with sleep.

"Okay," I pressed into the Bella-like silence, "my error, I'll just …"

My cell buzzed with a new text message.

"Excuse me," I said to the women as I flipped open my phone and read the message. It said: 'at back of store!'

"Ah!" I said by way of explanation to my audience and also with extreme relief for myself. I looked up from the phone to the back part of the café to see Bella — my Bella — at a corner table looking back at me. She was as white as a sheet.

The Universe realigned to how it's supposed to be: me-and-Bella and Bella-and-me.

"There she is," I said quickly to the women looking at me, "forgive my intrusion."

They murmured back the usual platitudes of 'It's okay' or whatever they said. It didn't matter, because I was already in motion and then sitting right across from the reason for my existence. My love. My Bella.

"Hi!" I said brightly and easily.

Bella's look was neither: it was scared and nervous.

"You saw her?" Bella demanded, looking past me to the family now seated and chatting together and cooing over the sleeping baby over the din of the café.

I nodded. "I saw her," I answered easily.

"You talked with her?" More seriousness bled into Bella's voice.

I tried to catch Bella's eye, so I waited until she looked at me. I nodded again and said simply: "Yes."

Bella's eyes flashed back to the woman.

"God, Rose," she whispered feverishly, "I am so totally freaking out!"

I glanced over toward the front of the café. So that's the cause of Bella's delay.

"Why?" I asked coolly.

"Huh?" Bella snapped out of her near-panic enough to look at me again, so I extended my hands to her on the table. She looked down at them as if they were snares. She looked at them suspiciously. But then she tentatively lifted her hands that were trying to wring each off their respective wrists beneath the table, brought them above the table and put her hands into mine.

Her hot flesh burned into me with a pleasant fiery heat, and I saw my own coolness calm her a bit more: the familiarity of my alien touch an anchor in this maelstrom of unreality what we were caught, being in this one of many Starbucks here in Seattle, Washington.

I repeated my question, trying to call her back further into this world, into our world: "I asked why are you 'freaking out,' Bella."

I worked, very hard, trying not to sound as if I put quotation marks around the modern colloquialism.

"Rose," Bella said seriously, "That's me over there."

I shrugged. "Okay," I said coolly, not agreeing.

Bella wasn't 'over there.' My Bella was right here, 'freaking out,' her hands in mine, and that's all that mattered to me.

"No, Rose, you don't get it: that's me over there!" Bella stated emphatically.

"Bella," I said soothingly, squeezing her hands lightly, "okay. I got it. I hear what you're saying: that's 'you' over there, but that's no reason to …"

"Rosalie," Bella interrupted, "I'm old!"

Ah, of course. Well, let's have it out, then.

"Yes," I said, keeping my smile in check, "and …?"

The woman may be 'old' in Bella's estimation, but that woman was easily half my age. Of course that doesn't help Bella any, and she would just as easily counter that I'm eternally eighteen, as if being frozen forever, never advancing nor progressing, nor changing like a woman should and does, month after month and year after year is something other than the curse that it is.

Bella pulled her hands out of mine and gesticulated angrily as she whispered intensely.

"Don't you see? That's exactly what I'm afraid of! Exactly!"

I leaned back into my chair and gazed at her thoughtfully. What she claimed 'exactly' to be afraid of was exactly the thing I craved … and would never, ever have.

I pushed my feet out, that is, forward until my calves just so lightly touched hers. I hope she saw it not as me being possessive of her but as me needing her more than anything, needing her here with me in this moment and in every moment.

"What, exactly, Bella," I asked back quietly, "are you afraid of? Because, I'm sorry, but I just don't get the exact concern this is raising."

Bella paused, thinking, then leaned forward, glaring at me. "She's old. I'm old. How can you love me in that condition when you're like …" Here she waved angrily at me. "… that! You can't. You won't."

I narrowed my eyes at her. "You're wrong."

Bella threw up her hands angrily and then crossed them. "How, Rosalie? How?"

"By being," I hissed back.

Ever since the change, the change when I finally accepted, in defeat, that I love Bella, nothing is the same any more, and nothing matters. Except her. Only her.

I didn't want to love Bella. I wanted to go on hating her, that stupid little human marrying her fate to vampires, both figuratively and literately.

I wanted to hate Bella, but she made me love her. She looked right into my soul, saw the blackness in there, but then instead of recoiling in horror or disgust like everybody else did, she kept hammering away at my spite and anger and coldness until she cracked that shell of my defenses and took my heart that I thought I no longer had and instead of throwing it on the floor and stomping on it, as everyone else has done, she cradled that cold stone heart in her arms … lovingly.

I so wanted to hate Bella. I so wanted to.

Bella, the love of my existence, leaned back into her chair and shook her head at me. "But you won't love me in the same way," she stated sadly.

"You are right about that, Bella," I said drily.

"See?" Bella exclaimed. "I knew it! You won't …"

I interrupted: "I'll love you more!"

"Huh?" Bella asked stunned.

"Sweetie," I just so love using terms of endearment with my Bella, my beloved, … even as I'm scolding her, "as far as I can tell, you're looking at this entirely backward, what does she have that you haven't got?"

"Um, …" Bella looked at the woman, "gray hair?"

I sighed exasperatedly. "Yes, she has one strand of gray hair that I barely noticed. And she has life experiences that you do not which gives her wisdom and poise and a peace at all times and joy and insight and happiness and …"

Bella held up her hand.

"Okay, Rosalie. Ouch, okay? I get it," Bella rejoined angrily. "She's lived the life you've always wanted to live, so she's Mrs. Perfect and I'm just this stupid little girl with her stupid little worries making her stupid little choices. Thanks."

"You're welcome," I answered coldly.

"God!" Bella said incredulously, her eyes filling with the tears threatening to spill.

"But you're forgetting some things," I continued, still cold, "like everything about you that … God, Bella, are you fishing for the litany of praise from me? Have these last months meant nothing to you? They've not meant everything to me because they are everything to me. And do you know why? Because you've been in them. You got that I would love you more, you 'old' woman sitting with your daughter and granddaughter, but did you get that I love you now, fully and completely and always? Or do I have to say that again?"

Bella put her sleeve to her face … it came back down with wet stains.

"I think you need to say it again," she whispered, so sadly.

I closed my eyes and reopened them.

"Bella," I said, "I love you. I love you more than anything in the world. I love you with my existence in its entirety. I love you now and I love you forever, even if you look like this now, even if your heart stops beating and your flesh turns to stone, even if you look like you over there," and I waved angrily toward the front of the café. Then I put both hands down on the table, palms down, and leaned forward and demanded: "I love you. Okay?"

Bella looked a bit awed. Her eyes shifted to the front of the café, then back to me.

"Yes, but …" Bella stuttered, "but if I'm like that …" her eyes flicked to the older woman, "… you won't love me like you did, you know, like …"

"Like last weekend?" I finished for her.

Bella looked away, embarrassed. "Yeah," she finally concurred.

I leaned back and couldn't repress the smirk. So this whole fear Bella was entertaining was because she was afraid she would be getting any in a few years?

Well, then, we better start front-loading as much as possible.

"Like for the rest of this weekend, too?" I smiled at her hungrily.

"Jeez, Rosalie!" Bella exclaimed, blushing bright pink.

I welcomed the burn as I swallowed the venom, because I've finally figured out what Bella's blush means.

It means: fuck me until I'm beyond caring whether I'm embarrassed or not.

The way I found that out was last weekend when I did exactly that: I fucked her until she was beyond caring about her embarrassment.

And then I fucked her some more.

Just to be sure.

Hey! She wasn't complaining … quite the opposite, in fact. And it was my civic duty to ensure her first time was … well, memorable and, … well, enjoyable, too, if possible.

I worked hard to exhaust quite a few possibilities … and Bella, too, in the process.

But Bella now was being just so demure! So teasable!

So that's what I did: I teased her.

"I think, Bella," I said causally, "there's a term more commonly used to describe the …" and here I cleared my throat significantly, "physical activity to which you refer, but I may be wrong …"

I blinked twice.

Vampires don't need to blink, by the way.

"So," I continued, "since we are being so 'exacting' here today, what exactly are you talking about, Bella?"

I leaned forward, putting my elbows on the table and resting my chin on my hands.

Bella's eyes shifted about like those of a cornered animal.

"You know what I'm talking about!" she hissed defensively.

I felt my lips turning upward.

"Say it, Bella," I sang gaily.

Bella's face hardened: "No," she declared firmly.

"Why not?" I asked, all innocence.

But I think my smile rather spoilt the effect.

"Because I don't want to," Bella countered.

In an instant I sat up straight and my hand flashed to my purse then slapped a bill on the table.

Bella looked down and gulped.

I smiled at my Bella's saucer eyes and said: "A hundred dollar bill says that you do."

Bella pushed the bill toward me. "A hundred dollar bill says that I don't!"

I snorted. My Bella is just so feisty!

I took the bill back and flashed my hand onto the table a second time.

"Okay, then, Miss Tough Negotiator," I said easily, "two hundred dollar bills says you'll say it."

This time Bella didn't pause. She was the one to snort at me. She raised her chin, turning away from me slightly and made the zippering-closed motion across her lips.

By this time we had drawn attention from the surrounding tables.

I looked around and smiled.

"My dear lady witnesses," I announced to the all-female crowd of casual onlookers, "this young girl here is too … hm, what's a good word for it, … ah, yes! proper to say the word she's thinking. Well," I said and my hand flashed to my purse, "I've got five hundred dollars here saying she will say that one little word."

There were gasps as five bills, each showing the number one followed by two zeros fanned on the table.

One of the gasps was an indignant "Young girl?" from the girl in question.

I shrugged, "Prove me wrong and collect the five hundred dollars, Bella." I smiled at her evilly, "Just say it."

Several women spoke at once. More than one offered to enter into the bet.

"Now, now," I said to them, "this is the coming out for her," indicating Bella.

One woman got righteous. "Excuse me, but trying to make your sister swear is bad enough already, but then offering to bribe her …? That's just wrong."

After she said her piece, she got up and marched out of the café with her drink, incensed.

I shrugged. Judgmental people. They were just so effective in carrying their point.

I turned back to Bella. "So," I said smiling.

Bella looked down at the money. Working part-time as she used to at Newton's Outfitters at nine dollars an hour? She was looking at almost an entire season's pay. She was looking at about half her father's take-home paycheck.

"Um …" Bella said, wavering.

"That's not the word, sweetie," I said and smiled, waiting for her to cave.

Bella stopped wavering: "No," she said clearly.

"That's not the word, either," I said, looking down at the table.

"No bet," she clarified, crossing her arms.

I looked at my Bella and then shook my head.

There were both pleased and disappointed 'Aw's coming from the lady witnesses as I swept the money back into my purse.

"Bella," I joked, "my money's safer with a wager against you than it is in a bank."

One woman offered: "You really shouldn't flash around money like that. You could get robbed, or something."

I smiled at her: "Thanks for that," I responded coolly.

"I'm just saying," the woman said unmollified even as she was unnerved at my golden-eyed unwavering attention and disdain.

I rolled my eyes and turned back to Bella.

Bella wasn't in a jokey mood. "Are you disappointed with me, Rosalie?"

I grimaced. "Yes," I said and sighed.

"Oh," she said mournfully.

I so didn't want to say that, but I would have to lie to her if I didn't admit my disappointment in her self-censure that so constrains her.

"But, hey," I added on reflection, recapturing her attention, "I'm proud of you, too."

"Really?" Bella asked surprised.

"Yes, really: you made your stand, and who can say they faced down Rosalie Hale, with a large purse on the line to boot. So yes, I'm proud of you."

Bella beamed.

I let her have her moment.

"Do I get a prize for that?" she asked.

I smiled back. "Now or later?"

"Huh?" Bella asked, but then she got it, and blushed again.

"Um," she said eventually, "how about both?"

I was not disinclined to be in disagreement.

"Okay," I said, "how about we get you that 'frap' you had been craving?"

"Oh," said Bella, surprised to rediscover why she had come into this Starbucks in the first place, "okay," she added.

We enqueued.

"That woman …" Bella began tentatively.

"Hm," I asked, distracted, "which one?"

"The one who stormed out? She said I was your sister. Isn't that crazy?"

"No," I answered simply.

"But we don't look anything alike!" she complained.

I pointed to a table where a family of four were seated, sharing muffins and drinking their beverages. There were two children — two young girls in their preteens — about two years apart. The older, taller and thinner one had long, straight hair the color of Bella's and her nose was buried in a book. The younger one had curly hair of a lighter brown color and ruddy cheeks and bounced from person to person and the play area and back.

Bella's stomach growled. "Oh, I want a muffin, too."

I chuckled. Once again, human nature distracted me from making the material point.

So, with good humor, I ordered the requested cranberry orange muffin and the 'grande caramel frappuccino' that is so similar to the caramel macchiato Alice orders, too, every time when we have our chats to remind her of her Jasper.

We sat back down at our table and Bella dug in while I pretended to drink the bottle of water I ordered.

After Bella had devoured about half the muffin, she slowed and asked me "Why did you point to that family?"

I passed Bella a napkin. It was hard to talk to somebody with cranberry muffin crumbs on her cheek with a straight face.

Bella looked heavenward as she wiped.

"Those two girls didn't look anything alike, right?" I asked.

"Yeah …" Bella agreed hesitantly.

"But anybody and everybody could tell that they are sisters because even though nothing outward showed, did you see how the older one just made herself aware at all times where the younger one was? Did you see how the younger one looked toward the older one from time to time?"

"Okay," Bella said, "but we're not sisters. I mean, 'Hey, this is my sister Rosalie'?"

Bella shrugged at that statement, then busied herself with her muffin again, trying, unsuccessfully, to hide her incredulous smile.

"But the world sees it as so," I pressed, "that is, they see us looking out for each other; they see that bond that is in a way sisterly, and then goes …"

'Then goes much deeper than that' was what I meant to finish saying, but somehow I had an inexplicable difficulty completing that thought.

Bella looked up at me in askance, and I had to look away.

"Rosalie," was Bella's diminutive voice reaching out to me, "are you okay?"

"Yes, Bella," I said quietly, looking past the bar out the window to the traffic on Union Street.

"What is it, Rose?" Bella begged.

I looked at Bella, then looked away.

"I just love you so much, Bella," I whispered. "I just love you so much."

"Hey," Bella said, and covered the cold stone hand of mine with her supple warm one, "I'm here, okay?"

I looked back at Bella and nodded solemnly. "Okay," I agreed, then commanded: "now finish your 'frap.'"

Bella rolled her eyes. "Actually," she said, "can I take it with me?"

I sighed. No greater love hath this: that you let your girl take her frap into your M3 allowing the condensation to ruin your interior.

"Sure," I said, and smiled at her.

She grinned back. "Lezgo," she said around her straw as she rose from her seat.

We started to head out of the café when I turned toward the family in the lounge chairs in front.

"Let's say goodbye," I said to Bella.

Bella froze. "You go ahead," she offered.

I stopped and turned to her. "Why?" I demanded.

"I'm scared," she explained.

I knew this. Her pulse told me that quite clearly.

"Of an older woman who's chatting with her daughter?" I clarified.

"Yes," Bella said embarrassedly.

"Hm," I said, thinking, looking at Bella.

"So, …" I offered, "What do you do in the face of fear?"

"Run away and hide?" Bella mumbled.

"And that's so like you, Bella," I said sarcastically, recalling the kidnappings and threats of the stockade whenever there was a threat from wolves or newborns to keep Bella from charging headlong into danger.

"Well, …" Bella quavered.

"Oh, come on, Bella!" I exclaimed impatiently. "She won't bite, and if she does, you get your heart's desire."

I grimaced at my odious tactic.

That worked. Unfortunately.

Bella brightened considerably and took a step forward.

"Okay," she complained, "but don't make me say anything."

I shook my head but pressed my lips together at the irony of my shy-brave little Bella: standing up to me, but cowering before an ooh-scary grandmother.

I went up to the family. "Hello," I said pleasantly. They looked up from their conversation and smiled kindly at me. "We're heading out, but I wanted to introduce Bella to you. Bella," I said to my shoulder, as Bella was hovering behind me, "this is …"

I looked at the family. "Oh, I'm sorry," I said easily, "I didn't get your names."

The grandmother, who looked exactly like Bella, stood and smiled. "I'm Leslie Hamilton, and this is my daughter Ann O'Brien and my granddaughter," here she glowed a bit, "Chelsea."

"A pleasure," I said, "I'm Rosalie, and Bella …"

Bella sighed and stepped forward. "Hi," she offered to her toes.

The eyes of the daughter, Ann, still seated with the sleeping baby in her lap, widened a bit, and she whispered a 'wow!' looking between her mother and Bella.

Mrs. Hamilton smiled pleasantly at Bella.

"We're even dressed the same," she observed.

I looked at Bella whose eyes were still hidden in her hair.

I smiled, "Yes," I said, "so I hope you can forgive the mistake."

"Yes, there's an obvious age difference," Mrs. Hamilton chuckled lightly and easily, "but I see how the mistake could be made. So, what brings you two to meet at this particular Starbucks, if I may ask?"

I opened my mouth to answer, but then Bella rushed out an: "Oh, this is my sister Rosalie!"

She then stuck out her tongue at me, squeaked a small squeak and then ran behind my back.

I shook my head and contained the laughter but couldn't hide the smile as I was looked at with open curiosity by the two mothers, one a mother to the other.

"Yes," I said easily and naturally, "I lost my way in foster care and adoption and it wasn't until I was old enough to relocate Bella, and now that I've found her …"

I felt joy and love fill my being.

It must have touched my smile, because Ann again said 'wow!' looking quite dazzled.

"Well, then," Mrs. Hamilton said, "that's quite lovely, and I'm sure you two have a lot of catching up to do. Enjoy the rest of your weekend."

"Thank you," I said and added the thought: quite a bit of catching up to do, savoring the images of the 'catching up' Bella and I would be doing later this very day.

"Well," I added, "good bye … Bella?"

Bella harrumphfed but then stepped from behind me and smiled a shy, "It was nice meeting you."

We headed to the door. I could see the sun was out, but fortunately the shadows had lengthened so that I could building hop from shadow to shadow without being too conspicuous. We did that without incident — wearing long sleeves helped, and is not an unusual sight in Seattle — and started the drive back toward the Cullens for our weekly 'sleep-over.'

As I drove Bella asked, "You'd love me if I were that old?"

"Yes," I answered without hesitation.

"But you do … I mean, I have to be turned, like, this year, right?"

"Yes," I said again quietly. We had no choice, and the Volturi were becoming impatient as Alice's ever so helpful obvious oracular ability informed us.

"Good," Bella whispered.

"Why?" I said, not letting it pass.

"Well," Bella answered after a moment's thought, "what happens to you if I die?"

"Bella," I sighed, as I drove, "we don't have to think about that."

"We don't," she answered firmly, "because I'm going to be turned."

We were silent for a while.

"Turn me now?" Bella whispered.

"And say what to your father when he shows up with a warrant and finds you screaming in the basement?"

Bella's silence was sullen.

"But …" she said after a moment, "so how can you ever explain that?"

"Usually there's no survivors from airline crashes," I said.

"That's going to be the cover?" Bella asked.

"Yes," I said.

"How many people?" Care touched Bella's voice.

"None, of course, Bella, the plane will be chartered, and I have a pilot's license … we're going down in Alaska near Denali," I explained reassuringly.

"Oh, okay." Bella said relieved.

After another moment: "Car crashes work, too, you know."

I snarled, "Not my M3, they don't."

Bella chuckled. "Okay, but then …"

"Bella," I sighed, "let's go to Dartmouth for a semester first and then pick up the why-car-crashes-don't-work-because-there-has-to-be-remains-from-bodies-that-are-easily-identified discussion, okay?"

"Okay, okay," Bella groused, then mumbled petulantly: "You sure want that semester in college, don't you?"

Now it was my turn to laugh quietly. "You are forgetting an important point."

"Which is …?" Bella asked, mystified.

"We're roommates, and there's no Charlie supervision," I felt the smile creeping back onto my face.

"Oh," said Bella.

It was quiet again for a while and then Bella rested her hand on my thigh. It wasn't sexual, but it was very, very sensual for me, even if it was companionable for her and I felt an unbreakable bond of connection between us that melted me, the Ice Queen.

"I love you, Rose," Bella whispered and leaned back into her seat, closing her eyes.

"I love you, Bella," I whispered right back fervently.

The purr of the engine eating miles of the highway lulled Bella to a peaceful sleep.

Story end notes:

[1] Rosalie invokes the 'lady witnesses' whenever she makes a wager with (or more correctly, against) Bella. We see that in "The Bells are Ringing" ch 1 and in this story we see the genesis of this tradition. Now there may have been a barista on break at one of the surrounding tables, you know? With straight black hair and blue eyes? Or not. After all, how would I know?

[2] Now, as for Bella aged 55? That so happened yesterday. Totally. I saw her, sitting there, working on her computer when I was headed out for the day. So, so beautiful and so engrossed in her work, but there was an air of melancholy in the way she carried out what she did.

Hypothetically speaking, of course. I could have been out walking my dog in the park when I saw her, right? Except for the minor detail that I don't have a dog, so there goes that alibi.

[3] Now for Bella's concern about sexual activity in later years, well, I'm not there yet, but I do have older friends who are postmenopausal and are, well, … they continue to enjoy sexual relations. I mean this applies differently to every person because intercourse is a really personal thing. And I was going to have it where Bella challenges Rosalie that she wouldn't be interested in relations with a person 'that old.' And Rosalie accepting the challenge by marching off to Mrs. Hamilton to proposition her before an extremely mortified Bella stopped Rosalie. This could have worked for this story, but I think it would have distracted too much from the main thrust of this story.

[4] Rosalie is a consummate liar. She made up the foster care/adoption story on the spot. She's had years of practice to be able to generate a credible story and deliver it with rock solid sincerity. That's what it is to be a vampire living among people. But it still made visiting Renée a rather difficult thing to orchestrate for Edward back in Eclipse and then for Rosalie in my story "Our First Time."

[5] "We're roommates, and there's no Charlie supervision," pretty much describes what happens in at least half the chapters of "The Bells are Ringing" … over and over again. IYKWIM AITTYD.

[6] The title. Yeah. There were a wee bit o' fireworks going on in this story, weren't there? Well, yeah: anytime you put feisty Bella and righteous Rosalie together, between the sheets or otherwise, there's some explosive somethings bound to happen. God, I love this couple: they are just so sweet and so right for each other, balancing each other perfectly. And then a reviewer mentioned that compared to a vampire's existence, a human life burns so brightly and briefly, like a roman candle in the wind, and that metaphor was just so true and so beautiful. AND … well, it just so happens to be the 4th of July, which is Independence Day for the U.S.A. and usually the festivities include launch of various kinds and assortments of fireworks. This story is my fireworks present for you. Happy July 4th!