Author's note: All of the Cullens wanted to be in this chapter, and...well, they got a bit rowdy. I tried, but I couldn't control them. What can I say? They are a very physical family. I know about these things, as I, too, live with a coven of vampires (with a couple of werewolves in the mix).
And I want to apologize for Edward's mood swings, but we're all used to that, aren't we?
Nessie took her ice cream in her room. The crying bout was over, but she didn't want to be teased by her uncles. It was a relevant concern, so I didn't push her to come out. I stayed for a bit, watching her eat. Then I gave her a kiss, tossed her a book to read—while she lay on her stomach—and left her to recover.
Bella was entertaining Jake in the backyard, throwing various objects at a distance for Jake to run after and catch in the air. I wondered if she knew that I could do that too.
"How is she?" they asked simultaneously when I appeared outside. Even their uneasy expressions looked identical.
"She's good. Getting better anyway," I answered.
"Can I go up?" Jake asked impatiently. "Uh…unless Bella wants to see her first."
She smiled at his insincere consideration. "That's okay, Jake. I'll see her soon."
"You can go," I told him after verifying that Nessie had dressed again, "but see if you can persuade her to come down." The way his face lit up reminded me of why I should be happy Jake was meant for my daughter.
"What are you thinking?" I asked Bella after he was gone. She was laid in the grass gazing at me thoughtfully while I finger-played a sonata on her leg.
I watched her bite her lip. "I'm thinking I owe you an apology. I shouldn't have left you alone to deal with the monster. That was…kind of mean. And disloyal."
I sighed. "I deserved it."
"Was she awful?"
"No worse than you can be." I smirked. "I think she gets her temper from you."
" 'I don't like double standards.' Perhaps you don't remember, but you said that exact same thing to me in the Forks high school cafeteria when I accused you of having a temper."
"Well, it's no wonder. You probably get that accusation a lot," Bella huffed.
"See, you do have a temper," I pointed out.
"Renesmee's is of the Edward-Cullen-throws-things-through-walls-when-he-gets-angry sort. Just more passive and thought out."
"She wasn't thinking anything," I argued. "If she had been, I would have stopped all this before it started." I sounded confident, but I was beginning to question how much control I actually held over Nessie.
"She must have picked it up from Rosalie then. They spend so much time together."
That seemed to be a possibility. Rosalie was the queen of revenge. "Fine. It's my temper, but she's got your stubborn streak."
Abruptly Bella changed her expression, looking up at me through her eyelashes. "I'm sorry. Have I been stubborn?"
"Very. I'll deal with you later," I whispered back. "We should get inside or everyone will assume we're up to no good. Which we will be if you look at me like that again."
Esme and Rosalie had arrived home and the rest of the family were gathering in the kitchen, where Nessie was refilling her ice cream dish and helping Jake make a giant hot fudge sundae. I was surprised and gratified to see that Ness had fixed her hair into pigtails. This served as a sort of code between the two of us, meaning she was still my little girl and she wanted to please me. It was an apology, and I took as such.
"So, what happened here today?" Rose inquired.
"Nessie got a spanking," Emmett volunteered enthusiastically. "It was a good one, too. I heard it. You wouldn't have thought so, but Edward really delivers."
Nessie gasped and hid her face in her hands. Emmett, who had the decency to act sheepish, apologized. "Aw, Ness. I'm sorry. Don't be embarrassed." I hadn't thought about or even detected my brother overhearing during the event. I suppose I was too caught up in my own anguish.
Esme pressed her lips tightly together. Is that true? she asked me, her eyes wide. I nodded grimly. She was desperate to know what Nessie had done to deserve it.
Rosalie, sensing her niece's mortification, tried to shrug it off. "Oh. Well, I'm sure there's not one of us here who hasn't been in the same situation." Then she muttered in her mate's ear, "I think you ought to worry about your own ass, Emmett."
"Really?" Nessie asked curiously, having not heard the latter private comment.
"Certainly," Rose said flippantly. "My mother used to whack me with the back of her hairbrush. It was a common occurrence when I was growing up. You're fortunate that your father cares enough to take you across his knee when you need it."
And just like that, Renesmee was feeling proud of her spanking. I could have kissed my sister at that moment. Jasper, however, didn't approve of the new feelings he discerned in my daughter; he thought shameful emotion was a necessary part of the punishment. Nevertheless, he was too polite to interfere. I was relieved. This would make it easier for Ness to reenter our intrusive family lifestyle after her chastisement.
"I don't remember spankings myself," Alice explained, "but your father did threaten to spank me, too, so maybe I'll know what it feels like then." The saucy little minx had the audacity to stick her tongue out at me. I was starting to believe that all of Nessie's character defects were gotten from her aunts.
"Honey, I'm pretty sure you could avoid a spanking, even if you had one coming to you," Jasper said. "It's no use, Edward. She would evade you until you eventually gave up."
"Perhaps we could gang up on her," Emmett suggested. He was trying to work out how we would accomplish that without Alice knowing and preventing it.
"I don't remember ever getting spanked," Bella admitted, "but that doesn't mean my parents didn't want to. It just wasn't as acceptable when I was young."
"Huh," Jacob grumbled, "I guess my parents didn't get that memo."
"I imagine your parents found it necessary if not accepted," Jasper commented with humor.
I couldn't see Bella's mother being a disciplinarian, but I remembered her father thinking about it twice. "Charlie considered it," I revealed.
"What?" she shrieked. "Why didn't you warn me?"
"I would have were there ever any danger of his following through. But you wouldn't have had to worry—I would have broken his arm had he tried." Jacob thought this was hysterically funny.
Nessie was smirking at Bella, who elbowed her in the side. "You're in no position to look so smug, young lady," Bella admonished. "After what you did…"
"What did you do, Renesmee?" my mother asked.
"I told Daddy off and then crashed Jacob's bike. I'm sorry, Daddy. Sorry, Jake," she added, giving him a kiss on the cheek.
"Don't worry. I've got another," Jake smiled. Oh, damn! I groaned. I had forgotten that there were two motorcycles. "If your mother will loan it to me," Jake amended. "You took your medicine, so as far as I'm concerned, the matter's settled."
"At least you didn't listen in on it," Nessie hissed, wielding her glare to Emmett.
"Do you want me to teach him a lesson in manners, sweetheart?" Jasper asked her. She nodded, and Jasper swiftly cuffed his ear. Emmett balked and rubbed the side of his head. "That was for being a voyeur."
"Esme? Rosalie? Alice…say something to him," Emmett pleaded defensively.
Rose kissed his head. "You had that coming, you big oaf."
Emmett opened his too-big mouth again. "Really Ness, you only screamed twice. It was impressive. If it had been your father getting that spanking, he would have screamed through the whole thing."
I had entertained several paternal personalities that day: doting father, possessive father, over-protective father, jealous father-in-law, and disciplinarian. I had even struggled to control my inner monster while I had Nessie over my knee. All this in addition to my customary family roles of husband, brother, and son.
And with Emmett's provocation, Edward the adolescent, or Edward the little brother, we might call him, demanded his time, too. Where was my self-control today?
I barely heard Alice's shout, "Edward, no!"
I reacted without premeditation, leaping into the air and crashing into Emmett. When we hit the floor, his shoulder cracked the tile, grinding sections of it to powder.
As I fought to keep him down, I sensed my mother's irritation and saw Alice's vision of Esme's raised hand, intent to deal me her own brand of discipline. Taking advantage of Emmett's struggle, I allowed him to flip us, so that I was laid safely under his body.
"Ha!" he crowed. Then Esme's palm cracked down on his behind instead.
He yowled. "Ow, Esme! Not fair! Edward attacked me, and Jasper already hit me!" She narrowed her eyes at him. "Sorry, Mom," he said more softly.
"I told you so," Rosalie reminded him.
"I was just trying to make Nessie feel better." After Emmett stood up, he growled at me, "We'll finish this later, Cullen."
"Not in the house, you don't," my mother warned.
"Edward. Emmett." We snapped to attention. It was Carlisle, come home to witness the shameful display. "Think of the example you are setting, boys. Edward, you will need to replace these tiles," he instructed, pointing at the damage.
"Yes, Carlisle. Sorry, Esme," I responded sincerely. I was not going to apologize to Emmett.
"Quite an eventful day, hm?" Carlisle noted with raised eyebrows. Then he greeted each of us individually. He asked Bella about her courses, and he gave Nessie a tender kiss on top of her head.
"All right, you two," Esme announced to Jake and Ness, "it's time to clean up the mess." She indicated the counter, which was cluttered with ice cream paraphernalia.
"Yes, ma'am," Jake replied.
"I can't," Nessie claimed poorly. "I'm injured."
"Oh," my father said slowly. "Do you need a doctor? We could step into my study and I could give you a professional exam." He sounded so genuinely concerned that the rest of us tried unsuccessfully not to laugh.
"Uh-uh," she answered warily.
"Then do as your grandmother says." But she was already flashing around the kitchen cupboards. Emmett was wiping up, trying to gain back his niece's affection.
Bella and I walked into the great room with Carlisle and Esme, who wanted a debriefing.
Carlisle sighed. "She's almost grown," he murmured with nostalgia. "But it's comforting that at least once in a while she shows us how young she still is." He chuckled.
"I must admit that's what started the trouble today. I wanted her to stay with me when Jacob came over. I don't know how much longer she'll be with us as a girl, and it frustrates me. I was feeling envious and desperate, so when she started her little rebellion, my emotions were already unstable."
"Oh, Edward. It's not your fault. We all feel that way," Esme consoled. Bella wrapped her arm around my waist, and I slipped mine over her shoulders.
My father quoted from Scripture: " 'Do not be like the horse or mule…who must be fitted with bit and bridle, or else they will not stay near you.' Psalm 32, from this morning's Daily Office."
I smiled and nodded. Carlisle read his prayer book faithfully—the 1604 version that his father would have known before the Puritans had forbidden its use in England. In fact, I thought he'd had it memorized, as a sort of tribute to his father and a concession in recognition of their troubled relationship.
I looked up unexpectedly as the message of the psalm registered with me. His warm gold eyes instantly met mine, and he smiled back gently at me.
Oh, no, I mourned. How often had I abandoned this man? Not even counting the times I had run away from home, I made a regular habit of withdrawing from my family whenever the pressure got to me. The ache I felt when I sensed Renesmee slipping away from me—I made Carlisle feel that, too. It was a bitter realization. My relationship with Nessie served as a just mirror for the relationship with my own father.
"Being a parent is complicated," he told me, noticing my chagrin. You've been worth the wait, Edward, he thought kindly to me. I'll wait again if I have to.
His words created a contradictory mix of emotions; I felt both absolved and ashamed—rattled and relieved. Would this perpetual adolescence of mine ever end? Not quite yet, I thought. I watched in quiet awe as he and Esme excused themselves for a more passionate end-of-day reunion.
"What are you thinking, Edward?" Bella asked me, reaching up to brush the hair off my forehead. Her question caused my mood to change again.
I grinned playfully. "Oh…I'm thinking that I'm glad we didn't have twins."
Author's note 2: Thanks for reading. I was very excited to share this with you all. I think I was actually living off this story. My husband was having to remind me to eat. (Oh, yeah, I am hungry.) So, please, I need nourishment! Let me know how I did.