"What's going on?" Edward asked, entering the house with the others following behind. He placed his hand on my shoulder protectively as they all began to circle around me.
"Hello," Mrs. Stanley smiled, extending a hand. "I'm Mrs. Stanley, Jessica's mother. Mr. Stanley and I just wanted to come by and have a little visit with Bella and to see Bethany. Are you her husband?"
"No," I said quickly before he could open his mouth to speak. Shaking off her question, I sighed inwardly and fought the tears forming behind my eyes. "These are my friends."
Her face showed surprise.
"Oh," she said. "Well how nice of them to be here."
"We should probably go," Alice said, saying what the others felt they couldn't. I nodded and bid goodbyes to them all as they walked out the door. Before I knew it, it was just the Stanley's and I standing by my front door.
"Would you like some coffee?" I finally asked, walking into the kitchen.
"No thank you," she answered, looking around the open living room area. I prepared myself a cup and took a seat at the table, just as they did the same.
I looked nervously to Bethany's bedroom door. A part of me knew the reason as to why the Stanley's were sitting at my kitchen table and I didn't need Bethany in close range.
"Why are you here?" I asked in a clipped tone. "Actually, how do you even know who I am or where I lived?"
"We made a few phone calls and they put us in contact with Bethany's social worker," Mr. Stanley answered.
"Were here to discuss Bethany's wellbeing," Mrs. Stanley told me. My grip on the coffee cup tightened as I braced myself for what I was about to hear. "We are very, very saddened by the sudden death of her daughter and we would have been here sooner but we've been on safari for weeks and there was no way that we could have been contacted. Imagine our surprise when we come home to find that our daughter is dead and our granddaughter in the custody of some stranger."
"I love that child dearly," I hissed.
"And you know as well as I do that she shouldn't be living with a young woman who has no experience in motherhood."
"And you do?" I spat.
"I raised my Jessica right and to do the right thing. When she got pregnant, it came as a shock to all of us but she decided to raise it, as any woman should do. Now we never met the man that got her pregnant and we have no intentions of doing so…"
"That man was my husband and that man died weeks ago," the tears were unstoppable. "He was the kindest, most caring man I'd ever known. I was surprised to find out that he had a daughter just moments after his death but I know that if Jacob had known about Bethany, he would've made an effort to be in her life."
I stood up from the table.
"I think you two need to leave my home," I pointed towards the front door. Mrs. Stanley exchanged a glance with her husband before standing up and walking towards the front door.
"Be expecting a call from my lawyers," she said to me as I opened the door. "Say your goodbyes to Bethany while you still have the opportunity because when this is all said and done, she will be ours."
"Goodbye," I repeated, watching as she appeared offended before leaving my house with her husband in tow.
I slammed the door shut, sighed loudly and turned around to walk back into the kitchen, only to find a teary eyed Bethany standing behind me.
"Am I gonna go live with grandma and grandpa?" she cried as her lip quivered. I shook my head and immediately took her into my arms.
"No, sweet heart," I promised her, holding her close. "You're gonna stay right here with me. You aren't going anywhere."
Although I didn't want to admit it, I had no idea as to whether or not she would stay here with me.
"Edward, what can I do?" I said on the phone later that night. I'd already put Bethany down and my efforts at contacting Lauren proved futile. No matter how many times I called her, she wouldn't answer. "I can't lose her."
"Bella, you won't," he promised. "Now, I'm not saying this court case will be easy because most of the time, the judge does side with the blood relative. You just need a good lawyer to support you and I actually happen to know one…"
I smiled at him, though I knew he couldn't see it.
"Really?" I asked, feigning stupidity. "Who would that be?"
"Well I hear he is quite good and he wins a lot of cases," he chuckled. "In case you haven't caught on, its me."
"Edward, I can't ask you to do that. You're probably so busy and my case isn't even as big as some of the ones out there…"
"It's alright Bella," he promised. "I would love to take on this case. I can speak for all of our friends when I say that we love Bethany and we don't want to see her go and we love you too much to see you hurt so much again."
I couldn't argue with Edward. After so much conversation, I agreed to take him as my lawyer and that was the end of our conversation, as Bethany approached me just seconds earlier.
"Hi, baby," I smiled, wrapping my arms around her she took her spot on the sofa. "What are you doing up?"
"I had a bad dream," she said sadly, wiping her nose with the back of her hand. "My momma was there and she was holding me but then, she just went bye and I was all alone."
"Oh, Bethany," I frowned, my heart breaking at the tears in her eyes. "Its okay. It was just a dream."
To me, the dream didn't sound so horrible but I could only imagine how awful that would seem to a four year old whose world had fallen apart right under her nose.
"Will I see her again?" she cried softly. "I miss her."
"Bethany," I sighed, unsure of how to explain what I needed and wanted to. "You know how in Sunday school, people go up to heaven?"
"Do you know why?" I continued. She shook her head. "Well, its because god needs them. He needs them to help him watch over all the little boys and girls like you and make sure your safe. That is exactly what your mom is doing right now. Someday, I promise, you will see her again."
Almost immediately, her face lit up. "Really? When is that?"
"I don't know," I shrugged with a smile. "It all depends on when god wants you. He has something special planned for everybody. Now, why don't I go tuck you back into bed so you aren't tired tomorrow when you see aunt Alice?"
"Okay," she agreed, hopping off the couch. With a smile, I followed the suddenly exuberant child to her bedroom.
The next day, I unfortunately was stuck at work. As she normally did, Alice watched over Bethany while I was stuck running the counter at an art shop. Even through all of it, Jasper was nice company.
"What's on your mind, Bella?" Jasper suddenly asked as I restocked the paintbrushes. With the messy roads, business wasn't exactly booming. "You seem kind of down."
"Oh," I laughed lightly. "Its nothing really. Just stuff at-."
I was interrupted by the tingling bells of the front door and Bethany and Alice walking in with lunch. The ring of chocolate around her mouth and on her coat shocked me- as Alice was an extremely clean person.
"Hi, guys," I smiled, taking Bethany into my arms. "I see you had some chocolate?"
"Alice got me ice cream," she beamed.
"I couldn't resist," Alice chuckled, her gaze moving to Jasper and he stood at my side. "Who is this, Bella?"
"Oh!" I exclaimed, forgetting to introduce him. "Alice, this is my boss Jasper. Jasper, this is my best friend Alice. She watches Bethany during the day."
"Pleasure to meet you," he grinned, laying on the southern charm much more than he normally did. He kissed her extended hand and I watched as a wild blush covered Alice's cheeks. "Bella, you have very beautiful friends."
"Thank you," Alice chuckled in a way I'd never heard from her.