Disclaimer: Yep, Stephenie Meyer still owns Twilight. I still own this. Good to know some things never change.
A/N: This outtake was originally written for the Fandom 4 Floods compilation and was inspired by swimom7. I wrote this for you, darling and I hope you enjoy it.
The Red Lady: An Outtake from The Arranged Marriage
I ran my hand over the smooth, white wood and glanced around the light yellow and green walls. My other hand absentmindedly caressed my swollen stomach as I took in the room my babies would soon inhabit. It seemed like an impossible dream to me. Within weeks, I'd be the mother of three when less than two years ago, I was doubting if I'd even live long enough to have one.
The white rocking chair I'd wanted stood sentry in the corner, just waiting for me to sit with one of my little ones in my arms, and I carefully made my way over to it. A quick check of my watch confirmed that my boys should be back any moment; I'd insisted that they be back for naptime and it was already past.
The chair took some of the pressure off my aching back, thank goodness. The two babies in my womb were stretching my body to its limit and, as I approached my due date, I was allowing people to do my normal activities more and more. Thus, Carlisle was picking up a few last minute items for me today. He and Edward hadn't spent a lot of time together lately and I figured it was also a good time for some father/son bonding.
Thump, thump, thump.
It was the unmistakable sound of something being dragged up the stairs by someone that was too small to carry it. An instant smile broke over my face as my little boy rounded the corner. Each time I saw him, my heart expanded that much more.
"Momma, we ate at McDonald's an gots lots of stuff!" Edward declared, struggling to lift the bag in his hand.
I chuckled. I'd only sent Carlisle after some extra preemie diapers, bottles, and wipes. It looked like he'd gotten a little carried away. "Why don't you come here and show me, big boy?" I asked with a smile.
He toddled with the bag over to the chair, hooked it over my fingers and crawled up into my lap. As usual, his mop of red hair was unruly and there were a few stains on his shirt—ketchup, most likely. Edward was an enthusiastic eater at the best of times.
"Dere's some toys and some new cwose in there for da babies. Daddy got me one dat says big brudder on it!" he told me proudly.
I smiled at him. "And you're going to be the best big brother in the world, aren't you?"
He shrugged. "I'm a bad penny," he told me.
Instantly, my eyebrows creased together and I frowned. "Who said you were a bad penny?" I asked him. Carlisle hadn't spent a lot of time with Edward and was easily frustrated when he acted like a normal two year old. He'd always called Edward "Penny" because of his hair, and I couldn't imagine him twisting his nickname for Edward like that.
"Da red lady in da store. She tole Daddy dat I was a bad penny." He curled up into me and popped his thumb into his mouth. He didn't suck on it often any more and usually only when he was really upset about something.
"You're not a bad penny," I reassured him. "You're the best little boy in the entire world."
He shook his head. "She say dat I shoulna be here. Do I hafta go away, Mommy?"
Anger lanced through me first, because there was only one woman in the world that would dare say something like that about my son. She had never deserved to call him hers in the first place.
"No, Edward, you don't have to go anywhere. You are going to stay here with me and Daddy," I told him firmly. I was trying not to let my sudden doubts creep into my voice. Edward needed reassurance and love now, not my fears.
"Okay, Mommy," he said sleepily. "Will you still wove me when da babies get here?"
I ran my hands through his thick, wavy hair. "Of course, my angel. I will love you forever. Even when you're all grown up."
"I'm growed up now, Momma."
"You sure are, big boy, but I meant when you're big like Daddy."
"I'm gonna marry you when I'm big like Daddy," he told me seriously.
I couldn't help the smile. "You can't marry me. I'm your mommy. But there will be a really pretty girl for you one day."
"Okay, Mommy," he murmured again.
He didn't speak again and within minutes, I felt his breath evening out against my chest.
The joy from our light-hearted exchange leached out of me quickly when I thought back to what started it. Why? Why did she have to come back into our lives now? It had been almost two years since she walked out the door and now she was back. Did she have plans to try to take my family away from me?
There had never been any question that I was thankful for Carlisle's presence in my life. There was no comparison between him and Charles. Where Charles was hard and angry, Carlisle was soft. After my divorce, I'd feared I'd never find anyone that could love me and I cowered at any show of temper. Carlisle saved me from a life of shame and spinsterhood and with his kind and gentle manner, he'd won my heart in no time.
His was more guarded and I often wondered if there would ever truly be room for me in his heart. Elizabeth, his first wife and Edward's mother, was his first love and I knew that he had pined for her for almost a year. His son had reminded him so strongly of his loss that he'd even removed himself from Edward's life. Edward had floundered under the care of various nannies. In fact, he was well over a year old before he spoke his first words. Mrs. Cullen had finally insisted that Carlisle take a wife. I'd never been sure how my name came to Carlisle for our arrangement, but I'd never regret it.
We met a few times and got along well before we made our marriage official in a small ceremony.
The back yard of the Cullen estate was in full bloom and I couldn't have asked for a more beautiful place to have a wedding ceremony. There weren't a lot of people in attendance anyway, just our parents and a few friends that Carlisle had. His mother was holding Edward.
There was no grand entrance, no announcing anthem. We just met at the altar and exchanged age-old promises to love and care for each other until the end of our days. It struck me as odd to vow such a thing to a man I hardly knew, but deep down, I felt like I wouldn't break them or his heart for anything in this world. My world, which had spun on its axis for more than a year, righted itself as Carlisle slid the simple gold band onto my finger. It felt stronger, more significant than my marriage to Charles and I'd known him most of my life. Carlisle would be it for me. I didn't love him yet, but in that moment, I knew that someday I would.
He held my hand in his as we were announced as husband and wife, and for the first time, our lips met. There were no fireworks, no grand band playing when we kissed, but it lit a fire inside me. Later that night, when the lights were out and all the guests had gone home, Carlisle had hesitated. He didn't want to pressure me into anything because, as he put it, "a piece of paper says we should." So, he held me instead. And over the next couple of weeks, we got to know each other and finally took that step. Then, we just couldn't seem to stop. I'd found something in him, his mind and his body, that I'd never known and he seemed to find the same in me.
Since then, it had been almost idyllic. We had our fair share of arguments, but we loved and respected each other. Elizabeth was just a specter, a shadow that loomed around the edges. But her memory hovered and she turned up often enough to keep us on our toes. Even now, a year later and pregnant with his children, there were times when I worried that if she returned and wanted to stay, he'd choose her over me.
And now that possibility stared me in the face.
She'd been there today, though I couldn't fathom why a woman that hated children would be in a baby store. I had no doubt that the "red lady" was Elizabeth. No one else would call Edward a bad penny and say that he shouldn't be here. He was a darling child, somewhat precocious on occasion, but it was no reason for her ire. She was a selfish, ungrateful bitch that never learned to appreciate what she had. The little boy in my arms had done nothing to her and she couldn't find it in herself to love him. I couldn't imagine how. I'd fallen in love with him the first time I saw him.
It was our second meeting and Carlisle was showing me around the house, giving me an idea of what it meant to be Mrs. Carlisle Cullen. He had a staff, of course, so I wasn't going to be expected to shine the floors, but with wealth came power and with power, responsibility. My parents had drilled this into me, I supposed because they didn't want me coming back home again from another perceived failure of mine.
He stopped nervously as we neared a hallway and wrung his hands. "You, ah, you know that I have a son?" he asked.
I nodded. "You mentioned him, yes."
"Would you . . . I mean, would you like to meet him?" he asked nervously.
"Of course!" I exclaimed, more than eager to meet the child.
Carlisle turned swiftly and swung open a plain door on the right side of the hallway. Inside was what could have passed for the most clinical nursery in history. There were no bright decorations and few toys in sight. A large, manly woman held the small baby in her arms disinterestedly, feeding him because it was necessary, and not interacting with him, no matter what he did to get her attention.
Instantly, I held out my arms to her and she passed him off without a second thought. His bright green eyes widened at the new face and he relinquished his hold on the bottle with one hand to touch me. I smiled and cooed. He blew milky raspberries at me. I took in his skinny feet and legs, hoping that he'd just gone through a growth spurt and wasn't always this thin. He looked happy, though, and I fell in love with the little boy.
"If I'm not careful, I think I'd lose you to my boy there," Carlisle commented from the doorway.
I grinned wickedly at him."Well, lucky me! If I marry you, I get both of you." I tickled Edward as I said it and delighted in his giggle.
That was the last time I walked into that pit of a nursery. As soon as I moved in, Edward was moved into a room next to our suites and I redid the entire room in planes. Just because they made him smile.
I tried not to jostle Edward too much while I dug through the bag. Sure enough, there was a small blue shirt with "I'm the Big Brother" embroidered on it. There were also several bottles of gas drops, and fever reducer, a couple of yellow and green sleepers for the babies and a handful of colorful baby toys.
That only distracted me for a minute, though. As Edward's little body pressed against mine, the fear of losing him, of losing the husband that I loved so dearly, overwhelmed me and I fought the urge to cry. I needed them like I needed air.
I was still sitting there ten minutes later, blinking back tears, when Carlisle's soft tread sounded on the stairs.
"There you two are," he said softly as he took in our position. My arm was curved protectively over Edward, almost daring anyone to try to take him from me. I wasn't going to be forced from my home and my son without a fight.
"I was wondering where that bag had gotten to." He pointed to the plastic sack lying limply next to my feet. "I had no doubt as to where he would be."
I gritted my teeth, willing myself not to say anything biting about his ex-wife. Our only truly major fights had been concerning her, his willingness to protect her, and my absolute loathing. "He needed his Mommy," I said simply.
Carlisle swallowed and frowned. "I'm sure he did."
"What happened at the store, Carlisle?" I asked quietly when he didn't elaborate.
With a heavy sigh, he crossed the room and stooped next to the arm of my chair, his fingertips grazing his sleeping son's back. The gesture was simple, but filled with care.
"We stopped by the grocery store. I wanted to pick up something for dinner so you didn't have to cook and it was our last stop. Edward was tired and he kept telling me that he wanted 'mashnas.' I couldn't figure out what he was talking about; I got frustrated and turned my back so I didn't yell at him. My hand was still on him," he assured me when my eyes widened.
"Then, she was right there, telling him that he was a 'bad penny' and that he shouldn't make his daddy so mad. That I'd leave him too if I didn't get my way. I told her to go away and to leave my son alone and she just laughed. She asked me if keeping him was worth the loss and told me that he shouldn't have been born." Carlisle's eyes sparked in anger at the memory. "He cried, Esme, as she walked away and told me that he was sorry for being bad. Then he told me that he didn't need the 'lello mashnas' if I would still be his daddy."
Carlisle's eyes watered and he choked on his closing throat. "My son thought I would give him away because he asked for a fucking banana."
The tears I'd worked so hard to keep at bay rolled down my cheeks. I laid my hand in my husband's hair as he struggled to recover himself, offering him all my love and what strength I had. I knew that Edward's first year had been hard on both of them. Edward looked so much like Elizabeth that it was hard not for him not see her in him. There had been many nights when he told me how guilty he felt for ignoring his son.
"You know I love you, don't you, Esme?" he asked earnestly, his eyes shooting to mine, searching for the truth. "You and Edward and the new babies?"
I wasn't sure who he was trying to convince, himself or me, but I smiled at him and nodded. I knew he loved me and I would assure him of that. I just didn't know if he still loved her more.
His eyes were fierce and I knew he'd seen through me. "I mean it, Es. I love you more than life itself and I will be grateful everyday that she walked away so that you could come into my life. Mine and Edward's. You saved us both and no matter what I do for the rest of my life, you will know how much you mean to me."
"I love you," I whispered as my own emotions got the better of me. I could see the truth in his eyes and it astounded me. He did love me with his whole heart and there was no place for her left.
For the first time I could remember, Carlisle reached for Edward and took him from my arms. He held our boy close to his chest and nuzzled his hair, inhaling brokenly. "I would never give you away, Edward. You are my son and you always will be," he whispered firmly, squeezing tightly to the sleeping child.
It wasn't the last time Elizabeth attempted to interfere in our lives, but it was the last time I truly worried about her presence. She had let the most amazing family slip through her fingers in her selfishness and I wasn't going to give them back. They were no longer hers to have.