A/N: All standard disclaimers apply.
As Children After Play
My name is Mason Ryan Cullen and I am eight years old.
Granddad got me a journal for my birthday yesterday, almost just like the ones in the library, except mine has lines so I can write neat. Dad is helping me with the hard words.
I live in a big house in Lancashire, England, and I have the best family in the world. At the house there is Granddad Carlisle and Gran Esme, me and my mum and dad, Aunt Alice and Uncle Jasper, Uncle Edward and Aunt Bella, and baby Ellie. Even with all of us the house is awfully big, and there's always room to play. I bring my friends home with me and we run around and play hide-and-seek and Aunt Alice lets us use the art room and we slide down the bannisters and make lots of noise and no one ever tells us to be quiet, only not to hurt ourselves.
My mum is the prettiest lady in the world. When I was little I wanted to marry her but dad always said I couldn't because he got there first. Now I do not want to marry her but some of my friends get all googly-eyed when they see her. I punched Declan in the chin once for staring at her too much. She's my mum after all and I have to protect her.
Dad is asking who is the second prettiest lady in the world. He wants to know if it is Declan's mum, so I can stare at her and then Declan will know how it feels. But Declan's mum is not pretty at all. She has saggy eyes and frizzy hair and she wears big ugly shoes. Second prettiest would be either Gran or Aunt Bella, I don't know. They are both so soft and sweet, and they make me the best cookies. I thought Aunt Bella was Gran's little girl until Uncle Edward told me he was Granddad's son and he married Bella. It doesn't make sense to me because Gran and Aunt Bella are not like twins but they are still the same. Uncle Edward and Aunt Bella are Ellie's dad and mum, and Ellie is my cousin.
Except it gets confusing, because I know my mum is not my biological mum (Dad helped with that word). Bella is. So Ellie is sort of my sister, but also sort of my cousin. I asked lots of questions last year about why I am different from my family. I have blue eyes and I eat food and I am a wimp next to my dad. Dad and Mum and Bella and Edward sat down with me and told me that when I was born, Bella was my mummy. But she was not a grownup yet, and she was not married to Uncle Edward, and she was scared and couldn't take care of me, so she gave me to my mum and dad. Aunt Bella held my hand and told me she promised she wanted the best for me, and the best was my mum. I think that's pretty cool because now I have a big family with lots of people who love me. And my dad's way better than Uncle Edward anyway. When I asked about my first dad, they said he was a bad man but not to be afraid because he is never coming back. Also that I am not like him, and I am not like Bella. I am like me, Mason Cullen, and no one else.
We have secrets in my family that I am not allowed to tell but Dad says I can write them here in my journal just like Granddad writes. I am a normal kid but everyone else is super strong and fast. They don't never ever sleep and they can't be in the sunshine. They leave the house to eat wild animals, not people food. Declan showed me a movie about vampires and I asked my dad if they were vampires and he said yes, but not like in the movies, and I had to keep it an extra-secret secret. I can do that. I'm old now.
Ellie is even weirder. Declan's baby brother grows fast but Ellie grows slow. She is six years old but really she is still a baby. She only has one tiny little tooth, but Mum says to be careful and never let her bite me because she could hurt me. She got her scary Mum look, so I listen. I asked if Ellie was a vampire too, but Aunt Bella said she didn't really know. Just that Ellie was special and was growing in her own time. She's a pretty baby, I guess. Prettier than Declan's brother, anyway. She's got red hair and it sticks up everywhere like Uncle Edward's. Sometimes he fights with Aunt Bella about who gets to hold her and it's pretty funny because Ellie likes both of them but she loves when Uncle Edward plays the piano and I think maybe she knows that word, because she claps when he asks her if she wants him to play.
Mum says eventually we will have to leave our big house and go somewhere else because I am the only one that gets older and people will start to notice. But Granddad says he hopes it won't be for a long time, and he got makeup and started painting wrinkles on him and Gran when they have to go out to the village. They look awfully funny like that, but I know most granddads and grans are old. Granddad is older than them all, he just doesn't look it.
I asked Aunt Alice one day why she and Uncle Jasper didn't have a kid. She said it was much more fun to play with me and leave the worrying to my mum. I guess she's right because Mum worries a lot. Sometimes it feels like I wouldn't have any fun if it weren't for my dad. He's lots of fun and he gets in trouble with Mum, just like me.
My family is the best. I only wish I could have a pet, but Mum says no because animals are afraid of vampires and it would not be nice to bring home a pet that was scared all the time.
For my birthday I had a monster truck cake and a sleepover and we watched monster trucks on the big TV until we fell asleep in the middle of the night. Declan ate so many sweets he threw up and my mum said she told him so. I didn't throw up. None of my friends had seen monster trucks before but they love them now. My dad showed them to me first and we watch them together and my mum says it's a waste of cars but she doesn't stop us. It was the best birthday. I have the best friends and family ever.
To Renee Dwyer,
My name is Esme Cullen. I don't know that you remember me, but my husband and I received custody of your daughter, Isabella, when you signed away your parental rights.
There's a great deal I don't know about you. I don't know whether you'll ever get this—I've sent it to your last known address, but you and I both know that's no guarantee. I don't know whether you're still living out of an RV or have now settled down somewhere. I don't know whether you think about Bella at all, or wish you maybe had done things differently. All I know is that you're no longer married, or at least not to the husband you had when we met. Part of me wants to express condolences on the breakup of your relationship but another part of me doesn't like to say things I don't mean, and I just can't find it in me to forgive you entirely for your treatment of Bella.
I know you don't agree, and probably never will, but the way you reared your daughter hurt her deeply and while giving her up was probably the best thing you could have done for her, that also hurt. She loved you, Renee. I believe part of her still does, and always will. You were her mother. You were part of her life when she was young, and while you never nurtured her, that still means something.
So while there's so much I don't know about you, there are a few things I need to say. First and foremost, your daughter is beautiful. Inside and out. I still can't wrap my head around your choice to give her up, but your loss was my gain. Bella has brought so much light and love into my family, and I couldn't love her more if I'd borne her myself. She's a treasure, and in case you were wondering, we treat her as such. She's given the love and respect that she deserved from birth.
She's grown into a lovely young woman, Renee. So intelligent, and so giving of herself to others. She cares so much. She graduated from college with a degree in psychology, and has written two well-received books—under a pseudonym, of course. She plans to attend graduate school eventually but is taking time right now to enjoy her family. Yes—my husband and I have been blessed with the most beautiful little granddaughter you could ever imagine. Bella has asked me not to enclose a photo so I won't, but I just wish I could convey to you the depth of what you've missed out on. I understand that it probably doesn't matter to you, but I honestly can't comprehend such a thing. I suppose we're just such different people, you and I. To me, family is everything. I don't know what you place importance on, but it was never Bella, was it?
Still, I didn't write to you because I wanted to pick a fight. I don't expect to hear back from you, and that's all right. I just thought that, as a mother, you might be curious about what happened to your daughter. My daughter. And I wanted you to know that she's okay, Renee. She's more than fine. She's thriving. So you can rest easy knowing that she is loved and looked after, though she's also perfectly capable of standing on her own. That's the thing about family—it doesn't make you weaker. It makes you stronger.
So be at peace, if you ever worried. Bella's strong now. She's whole.
A/N: I want to send huge thanks to hev99, my UK Consultant, and all my readers. This was my very first Twilight fic, and it's been a labor of love from beginning to end. I just can't even express to you what finishing this means to me.
I won't be writing any futuretakes as far as I know, but I might be open to an outtake or two if someone comes up with one that sounds really good. Other than that, this story is complete. I will be going through my Word document and doing some minor editing, then posting at The Writers' Coffee Shop and Archive Of Our Own, and making a .pdf available.
What's next for me? Wisp, of course, and a oneshot for Fandom for Safe Horizon, which benefits victims of crime and abuse. I am aiming to have Wisp completed by Twific Meetup time in July. Thank you for sharing the journeys of both ACAP Bella and Wisp with me. I am truly honored by your reviews and encouragement.