Setting: This excerpt takes place after Breaking Dawn; New Moon, Twilight, you get the drift.
Note on Reunion: This short story is written in memory of Mike Newton. A touch of his story needed to be written too.
Disclaimer: Every single one of these characters in this excerpt belong to Stephenie Meyer, so I will not take credit for this.
~ Angela Cecil
'Use me as you will
Pull my strings just for a thrill
And I know I'll be okay
Though my skies are turning gray'
~ Guardian Angel by Red Jumpsuit Apparatus
"Do you think you can at least try to make it a little challenging for Nessie?" I complained. "My child's not daft." I flicked my eyes heavenward. Jacob was getting all over my nerves.
I swished my fingers the almost seventeen year-old werewolf, Jacob Black. He was hiding brightly colored Easter eggs for my daughter in the front yard of Charlie's home. There were plenty of nooks and burrows in the tall blades of lime-green grass and feathery pine trees that encompassed Charlie property-where I had lived before marrying Edward Cullen.
Charlie was helping Nessie wash off the watercolors off her little fingers as he held her on his hip in front of the kitchen sink. Big pink streaks of paint decorated Charlie's cheek and plaid flannel shirt.
Nessie crowed delightfully, "Ooo, I'm colorful, Mommy." Her brownish-red curls had pink and blue paint in it too. I crossed my leg and leaned back in my kitchen chair bear the dining room table.
I smirked over at her and craned my neck to look at Charlie. "So is Grandpa." I stabbed the air where a little yellow got into Charlie's mustache. "Missed a spot."
Charlie raised his thick eyebrows and mumbled, "Oh well."
He cast an extra glance over his shoulder at me. "Renee's spending today with what's-his-name."
Ouch. No bitterness there, but at least Charlie had progressed to the public dating venue with Sue Clearwater. He shook off his hand and helped Nessie dry her tiny hands with his striped blue dish towel. This kitchen smelled of boiled eggs, chocolate, Reese's peanut butter cups, sweet strawberry and grape jellybeans. I could think on and on of the other scents that wafted in the old house but I tuned them out and peeked out the window again at Jacob.
He scurried by himself with his basket of the hard boiled eggs that he, Nessie, Jacob, Charlie and I had painted. He probably looked ridiculous to the neighbors. I knew they would be asking questions about a teen shirtless boy and a basket. He hid a line of bright eggs under the shrubs near the house. He looked through the glass at me and pretended to throw an egg at me but halted in mid-air. He smiled so big that he looked like he may sneeze.
I rolled my eyes. So not impressed.
Jacob's lips moved but I heard every word. "I can interpret that look, Bells. Just 'cuz your husband's not here doesn't mean we can't have an egg fight."
I scowled at him and gave him an oh-brother look with one eyebrow arched. I propped my chin in my palm and rested my elbow on the round table. Hey, wait a minute. I whipped my head to glower at Jacob. He was all teeth as he sat in a crouch with no shirt on of course and buried an egg In a mound of grass near the lilies I had planted there.
"And what's that supposed to mean?" I snarked with my nose pressed against the glass. He could hear me just as well. "What, you'd throw eggs at him?"
"Well, yeah, if the opportunity arises," Jacob said with a nonchalant shrug. "Sure."
"Yeah. Good luck with backing that up." I ticked my eyes to Charlie. He wrinkled his brow and shook his head with his brow cocked. He was still decorated in blue paint.
I had brought Jacob and Nessie alone to Charlie's to celebrate Easter here because Charlie had gone all out and bought Nessie an entire basket full of sugar-coated prizes, stuffed bunnies, plastic eggs full of prizes and chocolate everything. I missed eating those little Starburst Jellybeans but I couldn't stomach them anymore. Not since I'd been changed into a vampire.
Charlie heaved a content sigh and shuffled to the counter to hand me my straw basket. He seemed to be embarrassed about holding a basket unlike some boys outside.
"Here ya go," he said in his usual deep voice. He waved his hand at it as he passed it to me. "Didn't think you wouldn't get anything did ya?"
Nessie padded up to me and smoothed my arm with her warm palm. She had already received her basket from Charlie-her fourth one today. And counting. "Mommy! Is Jake done hiding the eggies?" her bright brown eyes were animated. A luminous beam spread across her face as she watched me in anticipation, ready to bolt out the door like a race horse for Jacob's famous Easter Egg hunt. I lowered my face down to hers and kissed her forehead. "Give him about two minutes, all right my love?"
She bobbed her head and pointed her pink painted fingernail at my basket. "Can I see what you have?"
"Of course," I said through a proud smirk.
She pawed through the chocolate. Dove, Godiva, Ghirardelli; not the cheap stuff.
"Save me the jelly bellies," I heard Jacob bellow as he poked his head in front of the window. His light, husky voice was all muffled but I heard him loud and clear.
"You don't need any more sugar," I said loud enough for Charlie to huff a laugh to himself as he sat down next to me. He already had a beer in his hand. "So what do you think Edward has planned tonight for you all?" Charlie quizzed me.
Edward was definitely up to something today and wouldn't breathe a word to me. I even tried pouting with my lower lip jutted out but all he did was kiss it. "You mean what's Alice got planned today? Probably another Easter gala no doubt." I picked out those little egg shaped malt balls and said to Nessie, "Hold out your hand. I know you'll love these."
She gasped dramatically and started popping them into her mouth. At least Charlie thought her denial of real food was because she adored sugar-anything. I was the one who discovered that by feeding her a pop tart. I set my basket down and smiled sheepishly at Charlie. "Thank you. You didn't need to do this." I looked downward sheepishly at the gift.
"You're still my kid and as far as I'm concerned, you'll never get older," he replied.
I let out a faint, dry huff of a laugh and blinked my eyes rapidly.
Charlie lifted his finger to the window and peered out like he saw something intriguing. "You expecting anybody, Bells?"
I had heard a vehicle cruising outside on the asphalt but I figured that it was Alice or Edward. Charlie's face was wrenched in perplexity. Nessie sat up straight and peeked over the window pane and twitched her mouth to the side pensively.
"Ooo, who's here?" she trilled, about to get overjoyed at someone new. She loved people.
I saw a mini silver-blue Prias parked behind my vehicle. I gawked in horror as Angela popped out of the driver's seat. But she wasn't alone-Mike slid out of the passenger seat. He was wearing a navy-blue T-shirt. Angela was dressed up in a white and black skirt and a tight black blouse. I could hear their conversation loud and clear. Angela was going on about Eric ironically being absent from Forks while she was in town because of family. Then they switched the rail of conversation to Jacob and how odd it was that Jacob was hiding eggs but they quickly shut up when the approached the wolf in human's clothing, or maybe not so much cloths.
"Hey, 'sup?" Jacob greeted with a lift of his head at the visitors. "To what do we owe this surprise?"
That comment was so directed to me so I would have a heads up.
"Uh, no," I stammered, finally answering Charlie's question. Holy crap, I had to get out of here and hide. I raked my fingers through my hair and stood up, furtively eyeing Angela and Mike. They were chatting with Jacob about why he was hiding Easter eggs. Mike was shaking with laughter with a wide grin on his face. Then he spotted me through the kitchen window.
"C-crap." I sighed and remembered to calm myself since Charlie wouldn't get why I was in disarray. At least I had brown contacts in with plenty to spare in my sleek black Coach diaper bag Alice had given to me.
Charlie gave me a dubious once-over. "You all right?" he asked me slowly as if I had just ran into a wall.
Nessie swung her feet from her chair while craning her head to look out at my old classmates, happy-go-lucky as always.
"Yeah, I am. Just didn't expect them." I patted Nessie's shoulder. "Those are Mommy's old school friends. Once they come in, you can meet them and then you can go Easter egg hunt. All right Precious?"
She licked her lips and nodded buoyantly and watched as Jacob turned his head in my direction and gave me an are-you-ready glance. It was too late to run from this one; Mike and Angela were looking in at me anxiously.
Angela shook her hand at me eagerly with a thrilled-nervous smile and Mike smirked at me like I had just made his Easter day. Why hadn't I listened for the difference in the vehicles when Angela had pulled up? Fantastic job, Bella. I would need another lesson in vehicles and their sounds from my husband.
Mike seemed adamant about coming in to see me. That was the motive I was sure. That's probably why they were here for the holidays-to drop in on their old buddies. I had lost track of them and didn't know what they were doing with their lives lately. I wanted to reminisce with them but they'd notice a difference in me and I couldn't slip out of this one. I nodded in acknowledgment and allowed my lips to curl up at the ends.
Charlie stared at me with flat eyes like he was waiting for me to answer something. "Do you want me to let them in or are you still avoiding this Newton kid?"
"C'mon Dad," I scoffed. I pushed my palm down. "No, it's just…they don't know about Nessie." I stroked her curly long hair lovingly.
"All right, well…" Charlie went to the front door since Mike and Angela's footfalls were scraping against the sidewalk to the porch. "Perfect opportunity to tell 'em."
"Nessie come with me to the bathroom?" I took her hand and led her to the guest bathroom and snatched up my black bag on my way. Nessie dug through it and put on my cherry lip-gloss. I popped in two more brown contacts in my eyeballs. It was convenient that Alice had placed a plastic Ziplock bag with a label that read: 'BELLA'S CONTACTS'. Bless her little heart that she was so thorough much like Edward. I couldn't wait to tell him about this. Once I was finished, I found the blush in my bag, also Alice's doing, and put some on my cheeks so I'd look flustered as I used to be. "Mommy's got to get prettied up. They do not know what we are, Sweetheart. So please do not tell them anything about us. Remember, public story? Can you do that for me?"
"Yes, Mommy." She reached for my blush and I gave it to her. "I will lie for us."
Wonderful. Teaching my child to lie.
I could hear Mike telling Charlie that he was going to college in Portland to become a psychologist. That suited him well. Then Angela mentioned that she was attending a university in Seattle for photography. Charlie cooed and congratulated them just as I took Nessie's hand and took a deep breath to make my entrance. I gaited sluggishly and clumsily to the living room.
Mike's eyes appraised me appreciatively. Even the blue in his eyes warmed and I could sense that he truly missed me because his heart rate sky rocketed and his face flushed a shade. Then his eyes fell on Nessie. He smirked crookedly with obvious confusion in his eyes.
"Hey, long time no see Bella?" He made his way to me to hug me. When he held out his arms to receive me, I had to think fast. I reached out and did the weirdest thing-I rubbed his chest and rested my other hand on his shoulders. He just gawked at me, but didn't seem to mind. He was taken off guard just like the rest of us.
Angela was gawking at me with a fading smile.
Charlie just watched with his lips parted.
What else was I to do? Let him hug me? A statue? A cold vampire who happened to be awkward-even in her most poise, graceful years that had been so promising. Now I would complain to Edward later and tell him that the change hadn't fully worked.
"Mike," I sighed. I bobbed my head and made sure I stuttered. It wasn't that difficult when you were Bella Swan, "Pleasant surprise." I patted his chest then dropped my hand. I took a step back and flashed Angela a welcoming grin. "I'd give you a hug but I was helping this one, Nessie paint, and well, we got watercolors all over us." I averted my eyes to my daughter. She was staring up at the strangers with an infectious beam. Her charm worked on Mike and Angela; they were smiling back rather shyly.
"Well hello there," Mike said in a deep voice, trying to be humorous. "And who might you be, Cutie?" he asked her with a fond, flirtatious smirk. His dimples showed at the edges of his mouth. I had never really noticed them before but now that I could see him clearly, I saw them there. I swung my eyes to Angela. She bit her bottom lip ecstatically and dropped her eyes to Nessie again. They both seemed bewildered.
"Who's this?" Angela asked me politely. She bent down on her knees and faced Nessie with an inviting grin. I detected a suggestion of mystification in her eyes.
I rubbed Nessie's shoulder. "This is my adopted daughter, Renesmee."
Angela gasped quietly in her throat and ogled at me. "Really? You guys adopted? Just like Edward's parents. Huh. I love it." She focused on Nessie. "Hi Renesmee, it's so nice to meet you. I'm Angela," she introduced herself elatedly.
"Hi. You're very pretty," she replied in her high, baby voice.
"Awww," Angela crooned and eve blushed. She hunched up her shoulders in excitement, dazzled with my daughter's innate charm that probably came from Edward.
Mike was breathing at a quicker pace than before. He eyed me curiously for a moment and then turned on his own charismatic smirk. He crouched down to her level. "And I'm Mike. Me and your Mom here were always good friends. It's a pleasure to meet you little lady."
"It's a pleasure to meet you," Nessie replied in a bubbly voice . She smiled so wide that she squinted her eyes at them and then leaned into my leg bashfully.
I heard Jacob strut into the house. "Hey, who's ready to go egg hunting?" He closed the front door and strutted in like he owned the place.
Nessie sucked in an excited breath and jerked her head up at me energetically. "Mommy?" she asked politely.
I nodded once. "Go ahead."
Jacob and Nessie bound out the front door.
Charlie sauntered into the kitchen. "You kids want some pop or anything?"
Angela shook her head appreciatively. "No thank you," she replied in her small voice.
Mike's mouth stretched wider at Charlie. "I'm good, thanks, Chief Swan."
Mike exhaled pleasantly. "Wow, so you adopted. Bella a Mom. In a hurry huh?" He nodded his head as if convinced he had just told a comically pun. And he had.
"Definitely. I can't have children of my own, so." I lifted my shoulders. "And you two, gosh it's been months."
Angela seemed enthralled to be talking to me. "Yeah, I'm down for the weekend and so I found Mike. Eric went to some family reunion in L.A." She splayed her fingers in the air as she spoke. Her eyes landed on Mike in amusement. I guessed that she was waiting for him to supplement something but he swung his eyes from her-to me.
And Jessica, I wondered, where was she?
Mike was studying me, hard. Did he notice any alterations I wondered? "Yeah, we were on our way over to my parents' BBQ then saw this vehicle here and thought it might be yours or, uh, Edward's." Mike's voice faltered at the last word. He analyzed the rug beneath us for a moment, overtly uncomfortable about my marriage. He panned the living room and kitchen, most likely looking for Edward. I was shocked my significant other wasn't here yet. I'd been here with Nessie for over an hour.
"Where is he anyway?" Mike lowered his tone and searched my face. For some reason he seemed to be in awe by me. I guessed that wasn't a novelty.
Angela seemed enchanted as well. She clasped her hands together and ran her eyes over my hair. She appeared to like what she saw, judging by the glee in her eyes.
I was standing too perfectly still so I flipped my hand in the air toward the living area window, where Nessie trotted past it with Jacob watching her closely, arms crossed and teeth showing. I straightened my long green sweater and said hoarsely, "He's at his parents'. He'll be back."
"Nice," Mike answered gently, but I heard his heart thud louder and then pick up its quick pace. He dipped his chin. "So you guys still living here? In town? We lost contact after the wedding."
Did we ever, and all for a good cause. It made me feel guilty though.
"Yeah, we do. We live at the mansion," I divulged.
"I'll have to tell Jess," Angela replied with an amused intonation. "She was wondering about that."
"I'm sorry I hadn't emailed you," I said to her. She batted the air to forgive me.
"I haven't either so don't worry," she excused me kind-heartedly.
I remembered my manners. "You two may sit you know," I offered genially with a sweep of my fingers at the cream-white overstuffed sofa that Esme had bought Charlie. The whole set and loveseat to boot.
Just as Angela squatted to sit, I heard her cell phone buzz in her purse. "Oop, this might be Jess." She fished out her phone and checked the caller on the screen. "No, it's my Mom can you guys give me two minutes?" She answered and turned to step outside.
"Sure," Mike answered, obliged. His breath was chopped for a second.
I sat down on the same sofa next to Mike and turned to him, recalling that I had to move my hair a lot and assume my prior mannerisms of poor posture and nervous habits. I cleared my throat and crossed my leg and exchanged a nostalgic look with him. He did not stop smiling. Even his eyes were shining. His heart beats skipped and sputtered and from there, it picked up. Adrenaline rush. Even his breathing caught in his throat and deepened. Poor thing, I felt for him. I was reminded of our high school days when he wanted me bad and if it weren't for Edward, I might have had ended up with him. He was my type, but I'd never noticed him like that. But I couldn't make myself think in that direction since I was completely content with my life.
Mike hunched over his legs, opened them partially and cleared his throat. He shaped his hands together. He was a bundle of nerves but he concealed that. He grinned boyishly at me and relaxed his shoulders.
"So how you likin' the married life?" he opened his palms and put them back together as they dangled between his knees.
Oh how to answer that one. I could hear Charlie moving stuff around in the kitchen. I heard a newspaper open, followed by a the beep of his cell phone. He started speaking on it in a fond, quiet tone, probably to Sue. Next he tromped up the steps like a teenager.
I flicked my eyes at him and then looked into Mike's. They were wide and expectant.
"Uh, I do, it's working for me better than I expected," I uncovered with a bob of my head. I moved my long hair behind my shoulder and fidgeted with my ring. I had to fumble somehow or he'd notice I wasn't. If there was anybody that would've noticed my previous mannerisms it would be Mike Newton.
The space between his brows puckered for an instant. He seemed confused but recovered it rapidly. His dimples reappeared. Perhaps he was trying to feign being truly gleeful for me. "Ah, sweet." He made a slight sour face but it only lasted for a twentieth of a second. I would've never caught it if I were human. He inhaled sharply. "You know, you look…different." He let out a soft laugh that sounded more like a sigh. He fanned his fingers in the air. "Like you're wearing more makeup. You're radiant is what I'm trying to say." He breathed out another laugh and drummed his fingers on his knee-then stopped. I felt such empathy for him. It was like he was in front of a celebrity, meeting her for the first time after daydreaming about her. Fumbling for the right words and stumbling over them.
I put on a merry, content face and dunked my chin as if flattered. "Thanks, I, uh, I put on a lot. Was playing dress up with my Nessie."
He swung his head and whistled in awe. "Man, that's still…woa. Blows my mind. Weird to think you adopted." He nodded convincingly but he couldn't fool me. He was stunned. His heart thumped and practically vibrated, poor thing. If I could give him a hug, I would. "Not that it's a bad thing, I'm impressed."
"Well, like I said. I can't conceive and I wanted one daughter, so. Yeah, Edward made that happen."
"She's beautiful though," Mike said tenderly. His eyes searched every aspect of my face.
I gloated and uncrossed my legs and switched them, smoothing my skinny jeans. "So what's happening with you? You're going to college, right?"
"Here, yeah, to be a councilor. Help troubled teens, that sorta thing. It's kinda my thing." He was smiling so hard I thought it'd hurt his face.
"Wow, that's impressive." I paused and finally gathered the guts to ask him: "So, uh where's Jess? Have you seen her?"
His brows shot up at the inquiry. He fluttered his eyes. "Well, we're uh, kinda dating but it's rough sometimes since she's living in the dorms, working at a teen slash kid's club with her spare time. So, yeah." He cradles his chin in one hand and stared at one of my baby pictures on the fireplace mantle, since Charlie never removed all my kid photos. I caught Mike's line of gaze staring at a family portrait of Edward, Nessie and I where we'd gotten it professionally done. We were all wearing nice, sophisticated cardigan sweaters, wearing green. Edward's prior eye color.
Something inside me felt like a stab of pain but not for me-for Mike. He obviously didn't want Jess as much as he wanted a chance with me. Still. It was plain on his face. He snapped out of it and ticked his eyes to me and leaned forward to engage in further conversation.
"You should keep in touch." He snatched his cell phone and wiggled it at me. After we exchanged phone numbers because I felt horrible to deny it when he asked for it, he sighed serenely. I noticed the undercurrent of trembling in his breath. He was a bit worked up, which did make me feel missed. And I needed that. I missed my old friends.
Mike dropped his eyes down to my hands and rolled them up to my eyes. "He'd better be treating you right," he said with a bit of a squeak with a wag of his index finger. He must've been trying to sound humorous and not so nostalgic and earnest.
I cracked a sincere smile for his benefit. We locked eyes and stared for a moment. "Of course he is. No worries about that." I swayed my head and looked at his T-shirt. It was a logo for a Red Jumpsuit Apparatus band on it. I recalled the song they were famous for: Guardian Angel.
"Or I'd kick his butt," Mike threatened but it ended up making me let out a stream of chuckles.
I shook my head and scratched my head. I played with a strand of my hair and said, "Look, it's good to catch up. And I'm sorry I rejected you in high school." I had the pleasure of watching his eyes widen. "I know you probably thought you weren't good enough but…" I trialed off. I tossed up a limp hand, wanting to offer him some condolence for the past. "I so would've except I you know, was distracted. Still am."
He was pleasantly astonished. He opened his mouth to speak but nothing came out at first. "Ah well, thanks for that. It's all good. I'm sorry too but hey, you're happy where you're at, right? And I want that." He nodded as if convincing himself. His gaze on me never deviated from me.
"Just had to let you know that," I said under my breath.
Outside I heard Nessie squeal and giggle. Jacob let out a triumphant laugh after she screamed joyfully.
Mike let out a soundless laugh and looked at me. He was shaking a measure. "Well that means a lot to me. Really."
I saw the torment in his eyes but he concealed it with a sweet, pleased smile at me. I could hear Angela making her way to the front door out on the gritty concrete.
I stood to grab my brown jacket and slipped it on as I said to Mike, "If you ever need to talk to me, call, text, email. I don't have facebook but-," just as soon as I pulled on my jacket, it was safe to hug him. I wrapped my arms around him gingerly, careful not to squeeze too hard. I minded my neck contact with him. He wrapped his arms around me and hugged me tight-well, as tight as he could.
"I'll take you up on that." He stood up to finish the hug and slowly let go of my waist.
"I have to watch my daughter," I explained so he wouldn't think I was cold-in more ways than one. His eyes were glossy. "I'm glad you stopped by."
That's when I heard Edward pull up. Now that vehicle I knew from a parking lot of cars.
"Me too," he said softly.
Mike seemed to catch on. He rubbed my back with one palm and prolonged our gaze before he stepped aside just as Edward opened the front door, his eyes on me. My husband flashed me a slanted, relieved smile and ticked his guarded eyes to Mike. Edward's face smoothed over from any anguish and jealousy. He bowed his head a measure so he wouldn't appear rude.
Angela shadowed behind Edward and stood next to Mike and observed our miniature high school reunion gleefully.
"Hello, Mike," Edward greeted in his rich, silky voice. He strode over to me and rubbed my shoulder and tugged me to him. I gave Mike a rueful smirk and cuddled against Edward.
"Mike and I were just catching up," I murmured as I tilted my face toward Edward. "Angela was sweet enough to bring him and drop by to say hi." The four of us sauntered to the front door but Edward and I stayed because of the bright sun. The clouds had cleared.
"Well it's good of you two to check up on her," Edward said in the most syrupy voice. The one he used on me and the public.
Angela gave me a quick hug and then embraced Edward. Good thing he was wearing a rainproof jacket, but he was wise like that. He returned it and nodded cordially at her with a flattering smile at her. She smiled bashfully and turned to step out the opened front door. The sunshine streamed up to the doorframe.
Mike looked over his shoulder and shot me a grateful smile. "Congratulations on the little girl. I'm sure you'd make an awesome Mom," Mike said contritely with a lasting gaze on me before he disappeared into the sun. At least I had given him something to take with him with what I had said. Least he had hope that there would've been hope and that was enough to boost his confidence. I had noticed the way he had strutted out of the house with an extra bounce in his step.
"What was this all about?" Edward whispered huskily. He pulled me against him and smirked.
"I think he needed closure," I said in his ear with a kiss on his neck. "No need to worry."
"Well." He let out a harmonious chuckle. "You don't even want to know what he was thinking."
"No," he said immediately as if there wasn't a prayer in the world to get it out of him. He shook his head. "Never." His bright golden eyes dropped down to mine and he held our intense stare. "Trust me. You would not want to know." He was biting back laughter. "It's your fault," he teased, "you gave him your number." He didn't seem intimidated because he was secure in our relationship.
Just then Dad stepped down to the landing. It was inevitable he had overheard the tidbits of our deep conversation. He lifted an eyebrow. "Oh well." Then he mosied out the front door to watch Nessie and Jacob.
I faced Edward to pick up where we had left off. "So what? What if I did?" I shook my head slowly and pinched his stomach. I showed him my left hand. "You trust me."
I could only imagine what Mike was thinking since I let him hug me. I didn't want to know because those private thoughts weren't mine to keep.