Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns everything Twilight related. No copyright infringement is intended and there is no financial gain by myself in this story. The original characters, plot, and setting are the property of the author, NTJB. Please do not reproduce this story without the express permission of the author.

A/N: Hi :)

"Living with someone you love can be lonelier-than living entirely alone!-if the one that y' love doesn't love you."- Maggie, the Cat from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Chapter 44- Orange Red Orange

December 19, 2010

My love was okay.

When I called my mom to tell her Edward had an emergency and that I had to cancel our plans for this Christmas to help him, all she asked was if Edward was okay, and I said yes. My love was okay as long as I was with him.

She understood.

"Maybe New Year's?" Her voice was shaky over the phone.

I couldn't promise her that. If Carlisle passed on, who knew how long we'd be in L.A.? Edward just couldn't be alone, now. He needed me and I had to be there for him.

Edward and I were joined at the airport by his Aunt Victoria. It seemed Emmett had wanted her to come to L.A., too. Edward held me closer when he saw her hurrying towards us in front of our gate, her ticket in hand.

"If she's coming, then my dad's in really bad shape," he murmured in my ear as she approached us. Her shaped eyebrows turned upward and her full painted lips were turned downward.

"I'm sorry, Edward." She smelled like coffee and cigarettes.

"Why? I'm not the one who's dying, am I?"

She sighed. "And who is this young lady?" Her smile was curt. I was taken aback. I hadn't expected anyone in his family to ever smile at me.

"This is Bella, my girlfriend." A rush ran through me. "Bella, this my Aunt Victoria."

I blushed furiously. She nodded as Edward took my hand, leading me past the flight attendants and into the jet bridge.

Once we were settled in our comfy seats in Business Class, Victoria got comfortable with me. Perhaps too comfortable, according to Edward's reactions.

"Your father lived his entire adult life with drama. Now, he'll die with it."

Edward and I side-eyed each other while we sipped from his tiny can of ginger ale or my tiny bottle of water. We swapped them whenever we wanted a taste for something new. I leaned my head on his shoulder as Victoria looked at us with a cocked eyebrow.

"Too cute," she tossed her wavy red mane. The shade was the same as Edward's with some gray curly sprigs hidden inside. Her eyes were brown, which was the only thing about her that was more like Emmett than Edward. If we were living another life, people would assume she was their mother.

"Thank you," I replied.

"She wasn't complimenting us," Edward said under his breath. He sat on the aisle seat, while I sat in the middle, his aunt at the window.

When I peeked up at him, I heard her hoarse voice say, "Your father and Lizzy were just as cute all those years ago... before the drama."

Edward rolled his eyes.

"Aunt Vicki, come on. Bella doesn't need to hear old stories about my parents for the next couple hours." With a whisper in my ear, "I would much rather the silence, wouldn't you?"

"No, I wanna hear this." I turned away from Edward to give Victoria my undivided attention.

With her eyes golden from the sunlight streaming through the window, she grinned at me, tapped the back of my hand with her wrinkly one, and began this story about who her sister, "Lizzy," was, how much she loved Carlisle, and how great she was on stage.

"I had never seen anyone like her. She was masterful, Bella. Sometimes, it seemed like she became possessed on stage."

"Kinda like Edward," I said, squeezing his hand. He squeezed it back, but when I looked up at him, his eyes were closed and his head was tilted back against the headrest.

"She would've been proud of him, particularly with this Cat on a Hot Tin Roof production. She loved Paul Newman growing up," Victoria had a faraway look in her eye. Then, she bowed her head.

"What?" I asked. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing." She had tears in her eyes when she looked up. "I've bored you enough." With a sniffle, she turned her head towards the sunny window.

For all the love she spoke about, I wondered why she had said Carlisle lived with drama. He seemed to be the one who assuaged drama, not instigated it. After what Alice and Esme claimed he did all those years ago, he also seemed like a great man, helping them out when they needed him. Edward seemed like the only one who had issues with him. He took Alice's side in the rape case over his own son's, but considering Edward's temper, I could see why he felt that way. Maybe the drama revolved around only Edward?

When we were about to land, Edward grabbed my thigh. He was sweating.

"Hey, it's okay. We're almost there." I pried off his fingers and interlocked them with mine, but Edward was still sweating even after our safe landing and after the plane had come to a full stop.

"Hey," I patted his brow and his temples dry with a napkin . "We're here. We're about to see your dad." I smiled for him. He just gulped and took the napkin from my hand to dry the back of his neck.

"He hates LAX," Victoria said to my right. She unbuckled her seat belt. "Always has."

We grabbed our carry-on bags and made it to the sunny concourse.

"It's smaller than I thought," I told him.

"Isn't everything?" He said, checking his phone. He had gotten a text message.

With CNN on every TV screen, magazines showing off the latest celebrities, and dozens of abysmal security guards, LAX was no different from JFK or SeaTac. And the only celebrities I saw were on those magazines.

"Emmett should be right outside," Edward told Victoria and me. He put the cell phone back into his pocket.

"Good." She beamed at him. "I can't wait to see him."

As soon as we walked out to the balmy street, the exhaust fumes my first idiosyncratic taste of L.A., Emmett ran up to his aunt, lifted her up high in the air, and twirled her around. His baby blue polo shirt stretched around his biceps.

"You. Look. Mahvelous." She said as if she were Billy Crystal. Emmett grinned up at her, revealing a row of straight teeth I think I had only seen once before: outside of the penthouse right before he met me. Once he had laid his eyes on me, they lost their humor. Now, smiling up at his aunt, his dark brown eyes looked different. They looked human.

"You should see Dad." He lowered his aunt to the ground. Then, he looked straight into Edward's eyes. "He looks like he could run from Malibu to Hollywood."

"What?" Edward turned beet red.

"How?" Victoria's eyes bugged out of her head.

Emmett grinned. "He's got great news for us."

"Great news?" Edward let go of my hand, forming fists at his side.

"Emmett, what's going on?" Victoria crossed her arms over her chest. "You told me something was wrong with your father."

"Yeah, there is. He hasn't been himself since last night, and he was even weirder when I called you two this morning."

"So, you told us to fly over here because Dad was 'weird'?" Edward asked using air quotes. "What the hell, Emmett?"

"No. It wasn't like that. Dad asked for you two to fly over so that he could tell us this news. He thought it was urgent." Emmett shrugged. "I didn't know how else to get you here," he said, giving his brother a pointed look. After looking me up and down, Edward narrowed his eyes at his brother. Then, Emmett looked down at his aunt, "And Dad thought you'd appreciate the surprise."

"Ah, he's returned the favor," she chuckled. "Well good for him! He didn't have such a sense of humor when I surprised him."

"Emmett, can I talk to you for a second?" Edward cocked his head to a row of empty taxi cabs to our right. Rounding his boulder-sized shoulders, Emmett let his brother lead the way. As they began to talk, he pulled a ring of keys from his pocket. He swung it around and around his thumb.

"You look worried," Victoria said, walking up to me. "Don't be. Those two love each other as much as two brothers could."

"That was a really crummy thing for Emmett to do, though. Edward's not in the right place for such a prank."

She raised her eyebrows. "Exactly how long have you two been dating?"

"Almost a year." I said this too quickly and could feel my face heat up.

"So you know... everything?"

I nodded.

"Well, you're a brave soul, Bella."

"Everyone has a demon or two. And we've put that part of his life behind us. We're ready to move on."

"Together." She reached into her purse for a carton of cigarettes.

"Yeah." I peeked over her shoulder at Edward and Emmett. The latter no longer played with the keys. They were both still too tense, though.

"Well, Edward's not his father's son, I'll tell you that." Victoria's sarcastic tone reminded me of what she had said during the flight about "drama." When I asked her about it, she said,

"It was a long time ago." She flicked her Bic lighter onto the tip of a cigarette hanging from her lips. After an inhale, she said. "I shouldn't have said anything," with the smoke swirling all around her.

"Okay..." I peeled off my jacket, sweat dripping down the middle of my breasts. "I know Edward caused a lot of drama. Is that what you're referring to?"

She shook her head. "It wasn't-" She began speaking but her words didn't register. Over her shoulder, I heard Edward yell,

"You son of a bitch!"

Victoria turned around and grabbed my shoulder as I took a step to them. Edward's face was flushed, and his chest heaved as he cranked his fist back to punch his brother. All too quickly, Emmett caught Edward's fist and lowered it.

"They'll be fine. Emmett's a pro." She took another puff.

"What does that mean?" I watched Emmett pull Edward into an awkward hug. Edward didn't hug him back. His arms remained down at his side.

"He's a counselor in rehab facilities across the country. He knows how to distill... situations. They just need to talk."

He wouldn't let go of Edward until he loosened up. Eventually, Edward's fists opened and reached around Emmett to reciprocate the hug.

"You see? They're fine." She squished her cigarette butt on the concrete. "Now, let's get our bags in the car. I can't wait to find out Carlisle's great news."

On their way back to us, Emmett shook both of Edward's shoulders from behind him, then playfully knocked him on the side of his head. Edward grinned.

"Aunt Vicki, let me help with those!" Emmett bent down and picked up all of our bags, even mine. I eyed Edward as he took my hand and led me to the back seat.

"I'm sorry you missed Christmas with your mom this year," he said as I climbed up inside. It was a stylish black Land Rover with a tan-seat leather interior.

"Don't be. I'm glad I came."

"Are you sure you don't want a ticket back?" Edward asked. He reached around me for the seat belt and locked me in. Quickly, he did the same for himself as I nodded.

"My mom understands. And I wouldn't wanna be anywhere else."

Emmett hopped in with a wide grin on his face.

"Alright! Let's get this party started!" He started the engine. As he peeled away from the curb, he glanced up into the rear-view mirror and looked directly at me.

He stopped smiling.

The drive to Malibu was quiet. I took in the scenery along the way—concrete, cars, and buildings with a palm tree or two in between, and was underwhelmed. I was thankful we had the windows up and the AC on. The city didn't look as bright as I had expected. Once we were closer the beach, though, everything looked brighter.

"Mom used to jog along this stretch of beach every morning. Remember, Edward?" Emmett asked.

"Yeah, I do," Edward replied quietly.

"She'd probably be in the ocean, now, surfing. Remember when she tried to teach you? You had so many wipeouts."

"Yeah." Edward looked out his window, which was the side facing the highway. When I squeezed his hand, he just leaned back into the seat without squeezing back.

A few minutes later, we approached a couple of huge wrought iron gates and a strapping security guard keeping watch inside. He buzzed Emmett in, flashing his pearly whites after Emmett complimented him on his tan.

"He looks like a Calvin Klein model," Victoria quipped as we drove through the gate and passed by a couple of mansions. The further we drove down the road, the bigger the mansions became. I let go of Edward's hand to dry my clammy palms on my jeans.

"I think he's past his prime," Emmett replied. He turned right into a driveway that immediately rose up to a hill. "Dad suggested he get a facelift." I heard Edward scoff. "Dude thinks everyone should get a facelift." I saw Emmett's eyes glance up into the rear-view mirror at Edward, then back down at the winding, shrub-lined driveway.

"Your father would give himself a facelift if he could," Victoria said, while turning around to face Edward and me. "Maybe that's his good news? L.A.'s preeminent plastic surgeon operating on his own face?" She smiled at Edward, who reached out for my hand again. My palms were still clammy. This made Edward finally face me again.

"Don't be nervous," he whispered. His hand covered my heart, which was beating a mile a minute.

"Okay." I took a deep breath. "Okay."

Emmett made one final turn and approached a classic-style home that looked like the mansion on "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air." Two gleaming white columns stood tall on either side of the grand entrance. Emmett drove past the entrance, a garden of rose bushes and hydrangeas, and to a two-door garage. The door to the left was already open.

"It's 2:00, so Dad's probably done with lunch and in the study playing video games." Emmett turned his head, grinning sheepishly at his aunt. "He would stay in there all day if Siobhan and I let him."

"Who's-" I began to ask Edward. He replied immediately.

"His nurse."


As the door slid down behind us, Emmett parked the car next to a black Mercedes. Immediately, he opened the door, running around to the trunk for our luggage. Victoria sighed, slowly stepping out and following him. Edward and I remained inside.

"Dad hasn't been doing well the last few months. Because of the chemo, his energy's zapped and he looks emaciated. Try not to stare. I made that mistake a few weeks ago." Edward frowned.

"But Emmett said he had great news. Maybe it has to do with his health?"

Edward shook his head.

"Emmett's like Dad's puppet. I doubt the news is that great. He just wants Dad to be happy, even if he has to lie about it." He grimaced. "Hollywood was made of lies and liars. I will never be one of those people. I will never be a liar, Bella."

"You aren't. You're good."

He furrowed his forehead.

"You're too good for me."

"No." I erased the lines of his forehead with my thumb. Back and forth it went until his skin was pink and free of shame. "I'm just right."

Emmett was nice enough to bring all of our bags in for us, chatting away with Victoria on Carlisle's other daily habits as we made our way inside through the garage. Emmett complained how his dad's appetite had waned up until yesterday when he got the "great" news. Now, he was eating like a horse.

The garage led to an expansive kitchen with half a dozen floor-to-ceiling windows and glass doors that revealed a stark gray backyard with a couple of steel patio chairs, an infinity pool and a breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean. I took a deep breath.

"Have anything you like," Edward said against my cheek. "My house is yours." Then, he grabbed my bag from Emmett's shoulder and they walked through a hallway to my left.

"I wish I lived here, too," Victoria said walking towards the windows.

"I miss the Pacific," I mused. "It doesn't sparkle like this where I'm from."

"Oh?" She raised her eyebrows, her freckled forehead wrinkling like her hands. "Where are you from?"

As she said this, I peeked over my shoulder to watch Edward and Emmett walk past a family portrait that included their mother. Her smiling brown eyes captivated me, even from so far away.

"Well, I was raised in Phoenix but most recently lived in Washington State." I took a step closer to the portrait. Edward looked all of five with a bowl cut and his green eyes as bright as his father's. His mother and Emmett were smiling just as enthusiastically. "Before you ask, not Seattle. A small town called Forks."

Victoria hummed. "I love Seattle. I always wanted to vacation there with Lizzy, but never had the chance after..."

"I'm sorry," I interjected.

"Oh, it was something I wanted to do with her since we were children. Nirvana was one of her favorite bands, so it was always a dream of hers to see their hometown. But she never had time once..." She cleared her throat. "Once she married."

"But..." I rolled my eyes up to the ceiling and around the kitchen. "Look at this place. They could've hired nannies to help, right?"

"Neither she nor Carlisle wanted strangers raising Emmett and Edward." Her voice had a chilly overtone to it, as if Carlisle was the one who demanded this of Edward's mom, rather than mutually agree to do this with her. Was the portrait a lie, then? Had she been in a loveless marriage?

And was this what Victoria meant when she'd said Edward and I reminded her of Elizabeth and Carlisle?

"They looked so happy," I said, tilting my head towards the portrait.

"Unusual, isn't it?" She narrowed her eyes down the hall. "Especially Edward. But Lizzy had that effect on people. She was spontaneous and so vibrant, so full of passion." Her eyes relaxed as they shifted back to me. "She had a wicked sense of humor, too."

"I wish I knew more about her. Edward hasn't told me much."

Victoria crossed her arms over her chest. "He wouldn't. It was such a shock to us all, how she died. It shouldn't have happened in the first place."

"How did it happen?"


"Hey Bella?" Edward walked in from the hallway without our bags and his shoes off. He ran his hand through his hair. "Did you find something to eat?" He took my hand.

"I'm not hungry," I replied, walking into his arms. His right arm wrapped around my waist and I rested my head on his chest. "How's your dad?"

"In his study playing video games," he said with smirk. "Emmett says Dad'll tell us what's up when he's done, but there's something about The Sims that's transfixed him. We'll be lucky if we see him before Christmas."

December 25, 2010

Christmas morning, a bright warm sun washed Edward's bedroom in light. I swear I could hear the ocean waves crash against the sands. I think I dreamed of swimming in the Pacific with Edward, diving down so deep, we transformed into mermaids and lived a whole new life under the sea. It was something I wished to do for him, because the last few days had been hard.

Edward had been joking before, but his premonition had been right. Carlisle had remained in his study, refusing to see me until Christmas morning, bringing Edward to a near breaking point. Last night, Christmas Eve, I had overheard Emmett beg Carlisle to join us to open gifts around the tree, but he had refused. The living room had been draped in silence, as the four of us sat on the carpet opening gifts none of us had wanted. I had received no gifts from anyone, and after seeing Jane's name multiple times beneath the tree, I had excused myself. Edward had promised he would give me my gifts Christmas night, as if it would make the half dozen gifts Emmett and Carlisle had bought for Jane disappear.

Edward had gone for a late-night run after that, not returning until I was in his bed, feigning sleep. I felt his forearms slide over my waist as we slept in our usual position these days, face to face. I had felt his forehead touch mine and heard a quiet, "I love you," before I had found the depths of the Pacific in my dream. But I couldn't remember much of the dream as I woke up and smelled smoke.

Out on the balcony off of his side of the room, with the sunrise marking every freckle on his bare back, I heard Edward sniffle. The smoke wafted in through the glass sliding doors, over his plaid sheets, and onto my skin. I rubbed my cheeks as I sat up, watching Edward do something he hadn't done since early on in our relationship: smoke a cigarette. He paced to and fro, then leaned forward and rested his elbows on the white stone parapet.

He pulled at the elastic of his boxers, squished the cigarette butt on the balcony floor, and dragged his feet inside. He was red all over when he climbed back in bed and into my arms. I stroked his hair as I felt new tears dampen my warm skin. My heart was beating only half as fast as his.

"So, you're gonna meet my dad today." His nose was stuffed, and his voice was heavy.


"Whatever he thinks of you won't matter. You know that right?"

"I guess so."

He turned onto his stomach, sliding up so that we were face to face. He smelled of cigarettes, and my stomach rolled. I couldn't believe I had ever been turned on by this scent. I could feel my lips turn down into a grimace before I could stop myself.

"Dammit. Sorry." He got up on his knees and knelt down beside me. "I'll shower." He hopped onto the floor before I could stop him.

"Don't worry about it."

"I shouldn't have asked my aunt for them. I don't know what I was thinking."

"Just don't do it again, baby."

With the most intense gaze, he stood with his hands on his hips.


When he sat down again, I crawled over to him at the edge. I kissed his neck, once... twice. He didn't pull away.

"Why were you crying out there?" I rubbed his stomach up and down.

"I- I don't wanna get into it now. I'll tell you later tonight."

"Did something happen with your dad?"

"No, he's fine." His voice wavered as I began rubbing his arms. "Um, I think I'll shower anyway." He turned to face me, my arms dropping at my sides. "Emmett hates the smell, too."

"Edward," I said, sighing. "I just wanted to touch you, nothing more. You don't have to run away every time I wanna comfort you."

"I know you want more."

"Not now."

Edward nodded.

"So, if your dad's fine, what's wrong?"

"Let's just..." He groaned. "We'll find out what my dad wants to say to you and then we'll talk."


"Yeah." He jutted his thumb out towards his bathroom door. "I'll be out in a minute."

While he showered, I ventured downstairs to the foyer. This part of the house was dark, and I had to turn on a table lamp to near the staircase to see anything.

Even under the dim glow of the lamp, Edward's mother's smile illuminated the foyer. She gazed at me in various photos and paintings on the granite and marble walls around me. Two 8 x 11 photos were on a white marble table in the center of the room. These photos surrounded a centerpiece of white lilies.

One black and white photo was framed in gold. She looked like she was about Edward's age or mine. Wearing a black t-shirt and jeans, her face was painted white, and I immediately remembered Edward's New York Times photo. Her eyes were black orbs, as his had been. The second golden framed photo was in color. She was pregnant and laughing on the floor with Emmett.

"There you are," I heard Edward say from upstairs. His hair was a wet mess, but he was clean-shaven in a white t-shirt and boxers. "Get into the shower. My dad should be ready soon."

"Your mom was beautiful," I said, stroking the frame of the second photo. She was pink all over, freckled and pudgy and gorgeous. "And Emmett was so cute in this pic."

"He hates it," Edward said in a matter of fact way.

"What? Why?"

"That spot was where he found her. You know, when..."

"Oh." My stomach tied in knots. "Was she already..."

He nodded. I reached out for his arm, but he pulled back. I sighed.

"If Emmett hates this picture so much, why is it out here?"

Edward looked up the staircase to the right where Carlisle's room was. He narrowed his eyes.

"Your dad doesn't even care?"

"Nah," Edward replied. "Now get your pretty little ass up there so we can get this over with."

About forty-five minutes later, with my hair blow-dried and styled, my t-shirt and jeans ironed, and my lips glossy, I walked hand in hand with Edward down the grand staircase, past his mother's loving gaze, and towards the study.

Off the foyer, we stepped down a couple of steps into the living room with floor-to-ceiling windows and doors like the kitchen. We had only been in here at night, last night, when it looked like one could step off the pool's edge and fall into oblivion. The infinity pool stretched even to here, where the vista was breathtaking. We passed a gigantic abstract painting that hung over an electric fireplace. It was made of two blocks of red and orange. The painting and the Christmas tree's tiny white lights added much needed warmth to the cold dark room.

Edward had told me before he had opened his gifts that it was a Rothko, as if that were a big deal. And I guess it was. I just had a feeling Carlisle bought it for more than just the name, because what intrigued me was that it was the exact shade of Edward's and Elizabeth's hair.

"Breathe, Bella," Edward said with a little smile, when we arrived at the study door. It was opened a crack. He kissed my cheek. "Dad likes anything with breasts."

I giggled, which made Edward's eye light up.

"Edward?" I heard a smooth voice from beyond the study door and jumped.

"Breathe." Edward stroked my cheek with his thumb.

"And Bella, I presume?" The voice was warmer than anything in the house. It was as warm as Edward's thumb on my skin.

I took a breath.

"Come in," Carlisle said from beyond the door. "Let me see you."


Here is the Rothko painting: http *colon* *forward slash*forward slash* bit*dot*ly *forward slash* 120icXV

Sorry for the delay, everyone. I've had a lot of stuff going on in my life that suddenly took up time. On top of that, this part of the fic is hard for me to write, since it's near the end, and I have so much to cover. I think I'm afraid to let it go. It's like my baby's gonna go off to college, and I don't want her to leave. :( Alas, I must let her.

I'm working on the next chapter now. I should have it up by Thursday, July 11th. Over the next couple of weeks, I will be writing as many chapters as I can, so the week of July 15th, I plan to update three chapters so that I can get back on schedule. I would like to post the final update by the last Thursday of July, July 25th.

Bye :)