So it's nearly Christmas now (falalalala, la la la la) and although I have no hope of matching the awesomeness that is Twicali's Christmas story (look her up now, it's awesome), I thought I'd write one all the same. I want to clarify that although I love Christmas, I just don't do happy and shiny. Hope you enjoy! Song this was written to: A Winter's Tale by David Essex (hence the title).
Charlie was twitching a little in the driver's seat, waiting in the tiny car park outside Port Angeles airport. He hated leaving Bella alone at the minute unless he absolutely had to, and the car journey he would shortly be making was sure to be awkward. In a desperate attempt to make Bella happy, he'd called Renee and asked her to come up for Christmas. Phil was meant to be at his parents' house, then suddenly he changed his mind (Charlie suspected that Renee had a lot to do with that), and now the pair of them were coming to stay. He had nothing against Phil, and it had been a long time since Renee left, but her leaving him had left a scar that wasn't going to fully heal. Being civil was doable, but he felt that civil just wasn't going to cut it for the next hour or so.
He saw what appeared to be an Eskimo shuffle out of the doors to the airport, dragging a large, pink suitcase, then yet another Eskimo following, carrying three large bags and a medium-sized rucksack. They shivered as they looked around, then spotted the cruiser and came towards it, the wheels on the pink suitcase now a hindrance as it ploughed the snow covering the car park. Charlie got out of the car to open the boot- this was clearly Renee and Phil. He looked at the amount of luggage they'd brought, wondering how it was all going to fit in the car. He smiled to himself, thinking perhaps they'd have to leave Phil behind to fit it all in. He bore the man no real ill will, but until a couple of years ago he'd hoped Renee would change her mind and come back- Phil was the representation of the dream that was now never going to come true. Renee got to the back of the car, pulled down the scarf covering her face and smiled at Charlie, reaching up for a one-armed hug. He could just about get his arms around her with all those extra layers- he didn't think it was that cold, probably only a couple of degrees below freezing. Wordlessly, he pushed in the handle of the suitcase and proceeded to wedge it in the boot. After a particularly hard shove that actually rocked the car a little, it slid in. He turned to see Phil holding the other bags, then looked back at the boot dubiously. The suitcase had essentially filled it. Phil laughed, and pushed the rucksack in beside the suitcase. Renee was already sitting in the front seat, her still-gloved hands pressed against the tiny heater.
"You know, just the rucksack is mine," said Phil, laughing good-naturedly. Charlie smiled. It was going to be really easy to like Phil. He was going to have to try very hard to continue not to.
"She never changes. Guessing she didn't call because her cell ran out of charge?"
Phil roared with laughter. "Actually, she has the charger. What she forgot was the cellphone itself!" Charlie joined in with the laughter.
"We'd best get going, the snow is really falling now."
They'd been driving for around twenty minutes in a suitably awkward silence (that Charlie was doing nothing to abate), when they came across a car half off the road, hazard lights flashing, and a freezing cold Jessica Stanley standing outside it with her thumb out. Charlie chuckled softly. That girl always drove too fast. He pulled over, and went over to her.
"Miss Stanley. You do know it's illegal to hitch-hike, don't you?" Jessica hung her head, looking embarrassed. Charlie laughed. "Don't worry, I'm not going to arrest you! Did you call your parents?" Jessica shook her head.
"Cell out of range. I've been stuck here for an hour."
"If you're alright with leaving your car here, I can give you a lift back home where you can call a tow truck?" Jessica smiled.
"That would be awesome! Thanks!" She followed him back to the cruiser, and hopped in the back, shoving the bags out of her way as best she could.
They'd barely been driving for a minute when Jessica started fidgeting uncomfortably. Charlie realised he'd not introduced them all, so he cleared his throat.
"Uh, Jessica, this is Bella's mom, Renee, and Renee's husband Phil. Guys, this is Jessica, one of Bella's friends." Renee turned around and smiled kindly at Jessica.
"Hi there Jessica! It's nice to finally meet you, Bella's told me so much about you!" Charlie held back a snort. He doubted that.
"It's nice to meet you too Mrs...uh...Bella's...Renee," Jessica stammered, colouring. Renee laughed. They then lapsed into silence for a while. Charlie was hoping it would stay that way, but Jessica's busybody nature prevented that. "I'm sorry, I have to ask- why are you guys here? I thought you, like, lived somewhere warm." She eyed their over-zealous clothing pointedly. Charlie bit back another laugh- that girl was the nosiest he'd met. She was just like her mother.
"We're here to spend Christmas with Bella," said Renee kindly, but with a hint of annoyance.
"Oh," said Jessica. "How is Bella?" Charlie cleared his throat.
"She's been better."
"Yeah, she's not really talking to any of us at school. I mean we're totally worried and everything, but it's kinda annoying. We tried to be good friends and help her but I don't think she wants help. She just sits where they all used to sit and stares out the window like she thinks they're coming back for her or something. We told her they weren't coming back but it was like she didn't even hear us. I mean, they've been gone like forever, she should be over it by now." After her rant, everybody in the car sat in stunned silence. Renee was completely shocked, but Charlie was actually angry. Her 'friends' had abandoned her when she needed them most. Jessica seemed to realise she might have over-stepped the line. "Uh, but, it's, like, really sad, and I hope she gets better soon."
It was welcome to everybody when Charlie pulled up outside Jessica's house, who got out without even thanking him. Once Jessica was opening her door, Charlie set off.
"I don't like that girl," said Renee, "if that's what all of Bella's friends are like then it's no wonder she's not any better."
"Hmm," said Charlie and Phil in unison.
Charlie was hanging his coat up on the hook, looking around to see if he could see Bella. She didn't appear to be downstairs, so he went up to look for her.
Renee walked into the house for the first time since she'd left Charlie all those years ago. The carpet was different, and the table had moved. The phone was a modern, cordless one, and the mirror above it was now a photograph of Charlie and Billy with a very large fish. Billy was standing up, so this had to be some years ago.
She wandered into the kitchen, content to leave Phil to get the bags, and it was disconcerting to see how little had changed. Again, the flooring had been re-done, but nothing else had. The cabinets were the same colour she'd painted them, and judging by the way the paint was peeling, Charlie had never re-painted them. She then went into the living room, pleased to see that all the furniture was different, the walls were a different colour, and the floor was now hardwood rather than carpet. The cabinets had made her think that maybe Charlie hadn't managed to move on, but it was the only thing that had stayed the same. She looked at Bella's old school photo on the mantelpiece, then at a picture of a grumpy-looking nine year old version sulking in a tutu. Her first and last ballet recital. Renee was laughing, then noticed another photograph laying down behind the photo frame. Its edges were bent backwards and frayed a little, like it had been in the frame for a long time until very recently. She picked it up, and saw herself all in white, smiling and looking into Charlie's eyes, him smiling her favourite smile. She heard movement in the doorway, and put the picture back quickly where she'd found it. Perhaps her first instinct had been right.
"Bella?" Charlie knocked gently on her door before pushing it open a little. "Bella are you in here?" He poked his head around the door. She was on her computer, but seemingly not doing anything. "Bella?" She turned around.
"Got you an early Christmas present." She blinked, like she was unfamiliar with the concept of Christmas. He smiled at her. "Come downstairs." She got up obediently and followed him down the stairs. They walked into the living room together, where Renee squealed with delight when she saw her.
"Bella! I've missed you baby!" She flung herself at her daughter, kissing her cheek and holding her tightly. "Merry Christmas! We've come up for a few days!" Bella forced a weak smile.
"It's good to see you, mom." She didn't return Renee's hug. Her smile was fixed and she stared off into the distance. "I'm really tired, I'll be back in a bit." She extricated herself and went back upstairs.
Renee turned to look at Charlie, but didn't say anything. Their eyes met and hers were filled with the worry he'd been feeling for a while.
Christmas morning, Phil woke up early and started preparing the Christmas dinner. He didn't trust Renee in the kitchen (with good reason), Charlie wasn't a cook, and Bella wasn't really anything at that point. She'd spent the entire time since they'd arrived in a melancholy daze- and Charlie said that had become the norm. The only time they saw her showing any real emotion was during her nightmares. She woke up screaming every night. The bags under Charlie's eyes told Phil this was nothing new to him, and he was worried about the both of them. He hoped that maybe proper home cooking and some nice presents might cheer her up- Christmas had always cheered him up, no matter what was wrong. He smiled, deciding this was going to help, then started peeling the carrots.
Bella sat surrounded by wrapping paper with that glazed expression still plastered on her face. She glanced at the books, CDs, socks, and various other oddments she'd been given, gave her thanks, picked them up, then went back to bed. Renee's face fell. Phil's hopes for a happy Christmas had been dashed, and Charlie's brilliant plan to cheer Bella up had not worked.
Charlie sighed heavily, then reached under the tree to get Renee and Phil's gifts from him, when he noticed a small, neatly wrapped silver box he didn't recognise. He checked the tag, and in a neat, slanting script were the words "For Bella". He scowled. He pulled back from under the tree, inspecting the box. Bella hadn't added any gifts to the pile, and he'd never seen this box before, but he instinctively knew where it came from. He got up angrily, deciding what to do with it, and marched outside to the bin.
Edward watched Charlie throwing the present in the garbage, understanding his desire to protect his daughter. He'd known it was a bad idea to get her anything, much less break in to their house to deliver it (although in the name of tradition he'd entered via the chimney), but still he couldn't help himself. He looked around, seeing no-one, then darted to the bin. He retrieved the present, stowing it away in his jacket pocket.
The diamond heart was going to have to wait.