I clutched tightly to Edward's hand while listening to Carlisle and Chief Black discuss our fate. We were sitting in a small ante-room at the community center—three vampires and three wolves. Needless to say, "charged atmosphere"didn't come close to describing it. Like Edward and me, Sam and Jake stood behind their spokesperson. Unlike them, we weren't trying to shoot death rays across the room with our eyes—makes one look awfully constipated after all, and is rarely successful.
His hand felt warm in mine—shockingly warm. Staring at our linked hands, I turned them a little, looking at them closely. The conversation going on in front of us was incredibly important, but all I could do was marvel at how similar our hands were starting to look: the pale skin, the lack of any lines or creases—only cold, hard deadness. As I watched, his thumb stroked the back of my hand, and I looked up to see Edward smiling at me.
"You okay?" He mouthed the words, not wanting to interrupt.
Automatically I started to nod, but then I realized I honestly wasn't sure if I was okay. Let's see: my change from human to vampire was now in full swing, thankfully still slow and no burning; my dad had been giving me the hairy eye-ball lately, like he was trying to figure out where I'd come from; and now, listening to "the old ones" as I'd started to call them, there was a pretty good chance I was going to turn into a raving, blood-sucking lunatic for oh, say, the next entire decade.
"Nope," I mouthed back at him.
He grimaced and pulled me closer. It was kind of nice how he felt warm now, but since it only highlighted the problem at hand, being wrapped in his arms wasn't as comforting as usual. His arms were still the only ones I wanted though, and I pushed my face into the spot where his upper arm met his chest and happily huffed in his delicious scent—more effective and far safer than a whippet from a can of whipped cream.
The conversation I was simultaneously trying to ignore and focus on continued. Carlisle's voice came through loud and clear, even though by now both my ears were completely covered due to my success at burrowing into Edward like a hamster.
"Yes, I'll admit there is a chance that regardless of her unconventional transition, she may still exhibit typical newborn tendencies. We have contingencies in place though, to mitigate such a result."
This was Carlisle talk for, "Yeah, she may go crazy, but probably not. If she does, we'll sit on her."
Luckily, Chief Black didn't seem phased by the vamp-lawyer speak. "Be that as it may," he said in a snooty tone. "She kills anyone, you all die."
Huh, that last didn't sound snooty at all—very menacing, in fact. I guess he didn't get the memo about how my new vampire family could pretty much kick wolf butt whenever they wanted and were only trying to be courteous.
Carlisle's statement brought me out of my hiding place. I was afraid he'd forgotten my other request.
"There is one other matter we need to discuss."
Tempted to snuggle back into Edward, he gently turned me around until I was facing the room and he was behind me. His arms remained wrapped tight around my middle though, and he whispered in my ear, "Let them see you. They need to know how important this is to you."
Thankfully, Carlisle seemed to realize a change in tone was needed.
"I think you know this already, but Bella and her father are very close. We're considering allowing her to tell him what's going on. This would be an alternative to faking her death and causing him much grief and agony."
The thought of what my dad would go through caused me literal pain every time. It was like a rock being dropped into my stomach.
Carlisle continued. "While Bella is very sure her father can be convinced to keep the secret, there is a chance he could go the complete opposite direction once he realizes his wife was killed by a vampire. If that were to happen, your own secret could potentially be revealed. For this reason, we wanted to consult with you prior making a final decision."
The shocked look from all three faces across the room did not bode well for a happy result here.
"Are you out of your mind?"
Yeah, the chief didn't seem to like this plan very much.
Waiting for Carlisle to answer him, I honestly didn't even notice when my legs started walking me away the haven of Edward's arms to stand by Carlisle's chair. I didn't notice when I sank to my knees and put both hands out in front of me like a begging supplicant. I certainly noticed though, when all of a sudden everyone was looking at me instead of Carlisle.
Maybe it was time to be less of a spectator and more of an adult.
"It would kill my dad. Literally kill him. Please, sir? You've gotten to know him since we moved here. I know he likes you a lot, and I think you like him, too. Won't you even consider it?"
The angry look on his face softened as he looked down at me from his chair. "Bella, I do know how much this will hurt your father. You made a choice though. Now it's time to deal with it."
He spoke kindly to me, and even as I replied—raged—in response, part of me told myself this side of Bella wasn't going to help anything. She was having her say regardless and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
"My choice?" I shouted in the quiet room, coming to my feet and stalking to the wheelchair. "I chose nothing! Stalked, kidnapped, abused: you call that a choice?"
As I got closer, I could see my reflection in the metal rods of the wheelchair, my distorted figure warped and twisted around the aluminum coming closer and closer to him.
Oh, my God, is that really me?
Seeing myself this way was enough of a shock to put the brakes on my advance and settle down to where I didn't seem threatening. It hadn't escaped me that both Jake and Sam were starting to tremble like they were about to phase into wolf form.
Looking closer at Chief Black, I could now see fear in his eyes. Instantly I felt ashamed and small. Slowly, I backed away until I was up against Edward once more. He didn't put his arms around me, and I knew it was only because he didn't want them to think he had to hold me back.
Quieter now, I continued. "Look, I'm sorry. I've always had a temper. It's nothing to do with—well, you know." Shaking my head, I wondered how the hell I was going to undo the damage I'd done. "I know you have no reason to believe me, but I really can keep it together. And my dad will keep your secret—all our secrets. Please?"
He raised his eyebrows at me but didn't say another word about my outburst. "Bella, you have no idea when you're going to complete this transition. Already you look different. You could wake up tomorrow and kill your own father and be on the loose in Forks before anyone knew you'd lost control. Surely you see the risk?"
Grateful to be back on track, I pushed forward. "No one here knows more than I do the destruction a vampire can inflict on a family. Even though we want to stay in Forks, I'm planning to leave school and my home. I'm moving in with the Cullens tonight."
Chief Black looked at me kindly but still didn't seem inclined to see things my way. "Why stay, then? If you won't be able to see your dad anyway, there's no reason to remain in the area and put everyone at risk."
Edward finally wrapped his arms around me, speaking to the chief over my shoulder.
"Sir, this is why we want to tell her father about us—about everything. If he knows, then we can stay in the area and Bella will still be able to have a relationship with him. Otherwise, she'll have to stage some sort of huge fight between them and run away. If we leave at the same time, her father will never stop searching for all of us. The alternative would be to fake Bella's death, and I'm sure you can understand her wanting to spare her father that level of grief."
I kept my eyes on the chief as Edward spoke, hoping to see some sign of him relenting. Once Edward was done, Chief Black sighed, closing his eyes and rubbing his forehead with his hands. When he met my gaze again, he looked a little older and some of the fight had left him. He didn't say anything to me, but turned again to Carlisle.
"You really think you can keep her contained? You'll leave at the first sign of trouble, no matter what it does to her father?"
Carlisle nodded. "You have my word."
"I'll want to hear from you daily. A complete status report. And she moves in with you immediately. Tonight. Tell her father whatever you want about yourselves, but you're not to reveal anything about us. One of our pack will be in constant patrol around your property. We'll smell when she's full vampire and be ready to attack if she steps a toe out of line. Got it?"
Carlisle nodded while I gushed, "Thank you, sir! I promise, I won't be any trouble. I'll be the best vampire you've ever seen!"
My outburst made everyone chuckle, and I had to admit I probably won some sort of dork award for that comment. The chief had a smile on his face now though, so I didn't kick myself too much.
"Okay, Bella. I've come to know your dad a bit these past few weeks. We've had some fun fishing trips, and I can see he's a real good man. I'm doing this for him. Make sure I don't regret it."
I nodded. Edward gave his thanks as well. "We'll take good care of her and keep you posted exactly as you've asked. Thank you very much for letting us stay. It means a great deal to her, and to the rest of us too, since we enjoy living here very much."
Chief Black's expression when answering Edward wasn't quite as friendly as the look I'd gotten. "Well, I can't say we're happy to have you here. But as long as you don't cause any trouble, we'll keep the peace."
"That's all we can expect," Carlisle replied.
Carlisle stood, and we all turned to head out of the room. It seemed sort of awkward without the typical hand shaking and polite good-byes, but it was clear they were ready for us to be gone. We stepped out of the small, windowless room and walked through the function hall of the community center. Our footsteps on the old, wooden floors echoed in the large space. It wasn't till we were back outside and all was quiet again that the thought I'd been fighting to keep back was able to came through. It was time to tell my dad.
Because the Quileute demanded I move out of my home immediately, we really had no choice but to head right over to my house and break the news. Carlisle called Esme and let her know the meeting went well. He also asked her to start packing up some emergency supplies in case we did end up having to make a quick getaway at some point.
Carlisle kindly played chauffeur, driving his sleek Mercedes while Edward and I attempted to occupy the same space in the back seat. I simply couldn't get close enough to him. Every nerve in my body was in complete panic mode, and if Edward wasn't there to hold me together, I had no doubt I'd explode into millions of subatomic particles all over Carlisle's nice leather seats.
Carlisle had offered to be the one to actually tell my dad about the existence of vampires, and I accepted since it seemed to make the most sense, but I was going to have to be the one to break the news about my moving out. It was going to be so much to hit my dad with all at once, and I hated what I was going to do to him. I couldn't help but feel guilty too, since even though we weren't planning on telling my dad this little tidbit, once I was living in Edward's house, I'd be living with Edward—in his room. And, I had to admit, I was looking forward to it probably more than I should given how upset my dad was going to be.
Quicker than I'd hoped, we arrived at my humble abode. Looking at the small house with the sagging front porch and ugly, rutted driveway, it seemed surreal to think before the day was out I'd no longer live there—no longer live with my father. We'd been each others touchstone for so long, and even though I had Edward now, my dad would have no one. I swallowed, trying to get rid of the lump in my throat signaling imminent bawling. Knowing tears were on their way, I buried my face in Edward's shirt, but the expected wetness never came.
I lifted my head to look at Edward, confused. As if he could finally read my mind, he gently placed a finger under one of my eyes. "No more tears. Vampires don't cry."
Well, I'd always hated crying. But knowing I couldn't cry made me even more upset. So, of course, I pretended to be fine.
"Did you know those tear free baby shampoos use formaldehyde to numb the eyes? That's why the rugrats don't cry. Isn't that horrible?" I offered up this lump of useless information and tried to smile, but as usual, he saw right through me.
"You can hit things now without getting hurt?" he offered.
Pouting, I pulled away and crossed my arms over my chest. "It's supposed to hurt. That's how hitting things makes the pain go away."
Unwilling to accept distance between us, he reached over and pulled me next to him again, my jeans easily sliding across the leather. Done joking, he nuzzled my neck and whispered in my ear, "I know, honey. I know."
Closing my still dry eyes, I tried to pull myself together. It was time to get out of the car and face the music. Carlisle had been patiently waiting in the front seat and now turned the car off and stepped out. I moved to follow, but Edward held on to my hand.
"After this, home. Okay?"
I gave him a wobbly smile. "Home?"
I reached up and pressed my lips to his in a quick kiss, breaking away fast when I heard the front door open. Spinning around, I saw my dad framed in the doorway, his uniform still on, but a beer already in his hand since he'd gotten home probably, oh, five minutes ago.
"Bella? I didn't know you were bringing company home. Everything okay?"
Hah. Okay? Nope, Dad. Not by a long shot. Unable to come up with a reply, I shrugged my shoulders at him as I walked up to the porch. Carlisle eased in front of me and greeted my father.
"Chief Swan, good to see you again. Sorry to arrive unexpectedly."
My dad looked at Carlisle with suspicion, one of his hands coming up to briefly touch the spot on his jaw where Carlisle had hit him before. He stepped aside after a short moment and let us in, his eyes finding mine and wordlessly asking what the hell was going on. I ducked my head, afraid to even look at him knowing what was about to come. My dad wouldn't let me slink on by him though, gently taking my arm when I was in front of him.
My face crumpled and I didn't resist when my dad pulled me into a hug. I hugged him back and started to sob, shaking in his arms.
"Just what is going on here? Why is she so upset?" My dad demanded answers from the others as I cried. I wanted to be able to reassure him, but couldn't stop falling to pieces. This was turning out to be even harder than I'd thought. And how was I going to explain the lack of tears?
Thankfully, Carlisle spoke then, getting things going. "Chief Swan, there is something important we need to discuss. I assure you, Bella's fine, just very upset about breaking some difficult news to you."
My dad pulled away and held me at arm's length to look me in the eye. "Bella? What is it? You can tell me anything. You know that." Like Edward had only moments before, he lifted a finger to one eye, and I could tell he was very confused to find no wetness.
I shook my head and turned to Carlisle, hoping he'd just spit it out and get it over with. My dad looked to Carlisle too, obviously angry that someone else's father knew more about me than he did. So, standing there just inside the door, Carlisle told him.
"My family and I are very different from you and the other residents of Forks," he started. "We're vampires. I know this probably sounds like some sort of sick practical joke, but it's not. Vampires do exist, and your daughter is turning into one."
Shifting slightly, I peeked at my dad, trying to get an idea of his reaction. He looked a lot like the fish he loved to catch as his mouth kind of gaped open and closed. Finally, he shifted his angry gaze from Carlisle to me. "Is this some really weird way of telling me you're pregnant?"
His reply was so unexpected, I couldn't help myself, and a small laugh came out. Smiling at my dad, I finally found the ability to speak. "No, Dad. I'm not pregnant. Just turning into a vampire."
"Bella, come on now. What's really going on?"
It was time to tell him everything. "Dad, I know this sounds crazy. Please, just hear me out, though."
He nodded, grasping my hand and shooting Edward a dirty look before giving me his attention again. "Hey, Edward hasn't done anything wrong." I sighed. "Let's just go in and sit down. This is too big for a doorway."
We all went in and took seats in the living room, my dad and I on the couch, Edward and Carlisle in the other chairs. Taking a deep breath, I let it all spill out: Mom, James, Edward, the kidnapping—everything. Watching my dad as I spoke, it was like I was hitting him over the head with a hammer each time I revealed something new. He seemed to age right before my eyes, and I wanted nothing more than to be able to simply stop talking and run away. I couldn't, though; it was up to me to make sure he not only understood, but that he would never reveal any of this to another soul—well, living soul. I knew he'd talk about it with my mom. He told her everything—not that she didn't already know.
When I was done spilling everything, I sat and waited, watching his face for some sort of clue to what he was thinking. It was impossible to tell, though, since I'd never seen this particular look before.
He opened his mouth like he was going to talk but then closed it again and looked over at Edward and Carlisle. If looks could kill...
Carlisle started to say something, but my dad wasn't ready to hear from anyone else yet and raised his hand then looked back at me.
Finally, his face settled on an expression I'd only seen once or twice in my life but knew well. That much anger wasn't something one would be able to mistake. I cringed when he started shouting at me.
"Isabella, are you telling me that the man who killed your mother came back for you? And you never told me? And what? These people here are somehow related to him and call themselves vampires? Where is he now? Why wasn't I involved in this rescue? Dammit, Bella. I'm your father and Chief of Police here. This doesn't make any sense!"
He was turning an alarming shade of purple, but I had no idea how to calm him down, and I started to worry he was going to be physically ill. Thank goodness we had a doctor with us.
Carlisle broke in, using the voice I'm sure he'd honed over years of talking to distraught patients. "Chief Swan, will you please let me explain a bit more and answer some of your questions?"
My dad turned to him and practically growled. "Well? Give me your answers. I'm waiting."
"The person that killed your wife was a vampire. We're not exactly as Hollywood and books portray us, but we do exist. While the majority live solely on human blood, my family and I only drink from animals. I assure you, there is no relation between us and the one who killed your wife. It is only due to the most beneficent of circumstances that your daughter moved to a town where we lived at the same time the vampire she'd met previously came back for her. Thankfully, by the time he'd targeted her, she and Edward had already met and we were committed to keeping her safe. I apologize for the subterfuge we enacted that night, but at the time, we didn't realize Bella had been changed and thought we could keep you from finding out about us."
Suddenly, my dad covered my ears with his hands. It was muffled, but I could still hear him reply to Carlisle. "Do I look like a fucking moron to you? Vampires? Don't talk about my wife, you sick piece of shit. I don't know what the fuck is going on here, but you people get the hell out of my house right now and stay away from my daughter."
"Dad!" I tugged at my dad's hands, easily removing them from my head even though I could tell he was resisting. "Don't treat me like a kid! You cover my ears just because you're fucking swearing, and then you tell the guy I love to stay away from me?"
He looked at me like I'd gut punched him. "Bella! What's going on with you?"
This was getting ridiculous. "Edward? Carlisle? Isn't there something you can do to prove it?"
Carlisle and Edward looked at each other, Carlisle gesturing to Edward. Edward's eyes searched around the living room a little before his gaze settled on a wrought iron lamp we had near the couch. He picked it up and very slowly bent the thick iron, twisting it till it broke in half. That accomplished, he took the dangling cord in between the thumb and forefinger of each hand and making it look like he wasn't using any effort at all, ripped the cord apart. Sparks flew and the light went out.
"We're much stronger than humans. If you'd like to shoot one of us, we can also show you how we can't be harmed by bullets."
Stupefied, my dad stared at the lamp, completely ignoring Carlisle's quiet voice.
"Dad?" I whispered. "Look at me." I waited until his eyes met mine, but then wished I hadn't. The anger he'd shown before had given away to something completely different—something dead and defeated.
Pushing on, I spoke again, trying to get him to come back to me. "My hair's grown five inches in a matter of weeks. My eyes are tinged with red, and my skin is even paler than it was before. I know you've seen the changes. You must have known something was going on. Is it really so hard to believe?"
"Pregnant," he mumbled. "I was scared you were pregnant, and like an idiot, I didn't say anything because I wanted it not to be true."
I smiled and tried to lighten the moment. "Well, it's not. Like I said, only turning into a vampire. No baby."
"Bella," he said, much calmer now but back to looking at me like I was crazy. "Do you really expect me to believe this? This is insane."
"I'm sorry, Dad. But yeah, you've got to believe me."
He turned to Carlisle but took my hands in his as he spoke. "Okay, suppose for a moment I'm willing to believe this. What happened to the one who killed my wife?"
"He's destroyed," Carlisle replied. "We killed him shortly after we rescued Bella."
"So, what, did you stab him with a wooden stake or something? I mean, aren't vampires supposed to live forever?"
"It takes a lot more than a wooden stake, actually. The only way to kill a vampire is to tear it to pieces and set it on fire. Barring that, we're immortal."
"Immortal," my dad repeated dully before turning back to me. "Bella, really? This is too much. I know you wouldn't make something like this up involving your mom. But, please, am I missing something here? Something that would make all this logical?"
I shook my head at him. "No, Dad. You're not missing anything. It just...well...really doesn't make sense, but it's still true."
He looked at me, then Carlisle, and finally Edward, before turning back to me. "What's this about you turning into one of them?"
This was Carlisle's territory, so I let him answer and took a moment to give my brain a rest. Carlisle was droning on about how humans turn into vampires and all that and it was easy enough to tune him out. The hard part was over, and I'd thought I would feel a sense of relief , but I was still extremely anxious. I couldn't figure out why, but it was really freaking me out.
Unable to handle my own thoughts any longer, I interrupted Carlisle and started babbling all over the place. "I'm still me." I clutched my dad's arm, making sure I had his full attention. "Okay, so I'm not going to be human anymore...and, yeah, I'll be just like him, the one who killed Mom. I'm sorry!"
A vague idea of something important was starting to form in my head. Not wanting to acknowledge it, I started talking louder, my grip on his arm getting stronger. "I never wanted for this to happen. Even when I realized I was in love with Edward, I didn't want this. It's not his fault though. It just happened. And now I have to go, and I'm so sorry, and I hope you can still love me."
I was crying again, no tears, but my body was shaking so hard, I was afraid I'd break. It had only hit me as I was talking what my biggest fear had been all along—losing my dad's love.
He winced and started pulling on his arm. I grabbed it tighter, afraid he was rejecting me.
"Bella, sweetheart, you're hurting me." He spoke quietly, and there wasn't a hint of anger in his voice, but I was horrified I'd caused him pain.
I threw his arm away from me and wrapped my arms around myself so I couldn't hurt him anymore. My head hung low, and I muttered to myself over and over, "I can't believe I hurt him. I can't believe I hurt him."
When I felt a strong set of arms cover my own, I thought it was Edward at first, but then I heard my dad's voice in my ear. "Honey, stop. I'm okay, and of course I still love you. You don't have to go anywhere. We'll figure this out. This is your home, though, and no matter what, you're still you. You're my Belly-Bell, my little girl, and I'm the one who's sorry. I'm sorry I couldn't keep you safe—so sorry I didn't know what was out there." My dad was crying now too, and I hated to have to tell him I really did have to go. It seemed like there was a lot more we had to say to each other. I was still freaked out from hurting him though, and felt the need to leave immediately before anything else horrible happened.
As gently as possible, I stepped back but took his hands in mine, focusing on how much pressure I used. "Dad, I can't stay. Once I'm full vampire, there's too much of a chance I could hurt you. Look what just happened! I have to leave. Tonight."
"What? I don't understand. I thought he said something about eating animals?" My dad was the one squeezing me tight now, unwilling to let me go.
Carlisle spoke to him gently, but firmly. "Until she learns to control her strength, she's still a danger to you. There will also be a period of time when the urge for human blood will be strong, and we need to make sure she's capable of resisting before she can be around humans again."
I felt like such a monster.
We all went quiet after Carlisle was done speaking. I wanted to give my dad a moment to process all he'd heard, and I think Carlisle and Edward thought the same. It was a lot for him to take in: finding out what killed his wife, learning his daughter was becoming one of them, and losing her all in the same night. Would I ever be able to forgive myself for what I was putting him through? I was still floored at the realization of what my biggest fear had been all along. Even with his reassurances, I still felt like he could end up disgusted with me when the whole vampire thing sunk in. I knew my dad; it wouldn't surprise me one bit if there was still doubt percolating in that head of his, explanations darting around left and right like dancing bumble bees.
It felt like a long time, but was probably only a minute or so before he spoke again. He let go of my hands and stepped around me till he was behind me and rested his hands on my shoulders. For one crazy moment I thought he was using me as a shield, but then when I felt myself sink back against him, it was apparent that no matter how much I'd changed, he still knew when I'd reached my limits. I stared across at Edward while he spoke, wishing there was a way they could both hold me at the same time.
"So if I have all this correctly, you and your family are vampires, you drink from animals, but you prefer humans. The first thing I need to know, have you or anyone in your family killed anyone?" Oh no, he was going into Police Chief mode. This is what we were afraid of. I could tell Carlisle was going to answer him, and decided to keep my mouth shut for now.
"Yes." For a second, it looked like Carlisle was going to say more but then changed his mind, and let his simple one word answer hang there.
"I'm guessing you never went and confessed to the authorities. As an officer of the law, I should drag you right to jail. But I suppose that wouldn't work out too well, would it?"
Carlisle shook his head. "Not really. The last time anyone died by family's hand was before any of us were supposed to have been born."
My father's hands tightened on my shoulders then, and I could tell he hadn't really thought about things in quite that way yet. He soldiered on though, and it only got worse.
"I see. Well then, your family has killed people, drained their blood exactly like my wife's blood was drained, and now you're telling me my daughter is going to want to do the same thing to me. And you...what...expect me to just let you walk out of here with her? Pretend everything is okay? Tell everyone she ran off with her boyfriend?" My dad was upset but calm. Dangerously calm. I was starting to get really worried.
Edward had been mostly quiet, but at the word boyfriend, he stepped a little closer. Once my dad was done talking, he asked a very simple question, "Is there any other option?"
At that, my dad's hands dropped of my shoulders, and he tried pushing me to the side. "You little..."
Before he could get any further, I turned around and blocked him. He strained against me, trying to get to Edward. I wouldn't let him get past me though, afraid he'd end up injuring himself. It was only a moment, but then suddenly he seemed to notice his little girl was keeping one hundred seventy pounds of enraged father back like it was nothing. I could tell the exact instant he understood. He stopped pushing and backed away from me, a look of horror on his face. Eyes darting between me, Edward, and Carlisle, he kept backing up until his calves hit the couch and then heavily sat down.
My dad's eyes closed and he rubbed his face with his hands before dragging them through his hair. His head fell back, his hands clasped behind his neck, and I could see tears seeping out of the corners of his eyes. Sinking to the floor, I sat down in front of him and whispered, "I'm so sorry." I didn't know what else to say; it was obvious I disgusted him.
Edward came and sat behind me. I thought he only meant to offer me some comfort, but then he started talking to my dad. "Sir, I know this is all a terrible shock. Please don't reject Bella, though. She's still...Bella. Her personality is the same, her loyalty...her love for you. And I promise, sir, I will cherish her and care for her till the end of all days."
My father's head straightened then, and he looked angrily at Edward. "Where do you get off? I have no intention of rejecting my daughter. And I think I know her personality better than you. If I didn't love her so much, I wouldn't be this upset, now would I?" His head fell back again, and he closed his eyes. It was like he hadn't said anything but then we all heard a muttered, "Imbecile."
Edward's quiet chuckle behind me assured there were no hard feelings on his part, and I was able to relax a little. They both loved me, and that was all that mattered. For the first time in as long as I could remember, I felt the band of tightened nerves constantly across my chest loosen.
Finally, he opened his eyes again and sat up, really looking at me and seeing me—seeing what I'd become—for the first time. I withstood his scrutiny, knowing it was necessary, and when he opened his arms to me, I launched myself into them, hugging him tight as I could. He squeaked, and then said in a much higher voice than normal, "Ouch, Bella! Whoa, you're breaking my ribs."
I decreased the pressure but refused to let go. I'd heard the smile in his voice, and knew it was all going to be okay even if I did squeeze him a little too hard once in awhile.
"Honey, no matter what, you'll always be my daughter, and I'll always love you. You go and take care of what you need to. But if you need one, you'll always have a home with me, even if it means I need to wear a garlic necklace."
We all laughed, and I snuggled up against him, shifting a little so I could see Edward. He wore a big smile on his face, but I could tell he was still somewhat worried about something. Thinking it through, I realized even though my dad wasn't rejecting me, he still really hadn't given Edward any sign he would be accepted, too. Knowing how close I was to my dad, it would be important to Edward.
I leaned back a little and reached out a hand to Edward. He scootched closer to us till we could hold hands.
"Dad, I'd like you to meet my boyfriend, Edward. He's a vampire but a heck of a nice guy, and I think you'll like him."
They both laughed a little, and then my dad reached a hand forward and held it out to Edward. "Nice to meet you," he said. "I may not be able to shoot you, but you break my little girl's heart, and I'll come up with something to make your life miserable."
He was smiling, though, as he said it, and I impulsively reached forward and hugged them both. I'd never been much of a hugger, but today nothing else would do.
They shook hands, and then Carlisle came forward and also shook hands with my dad.
"You take care of my Bella, okay?"
"On my honor, she will be like my own daughter."
The two fathers shared a moment of understanding between them, and I wondered if they had any clue how lame they were being. Cute, but lame.
Edward and Carlisle chatted with my dad while I went and packed my stuff. After all the super emotional moments of the day, gathering all the junk I wanted to take and going through the process of actually moving out was strangely anti-climatic, and I just threw a bunch of random things in a couple of suitcases I dragged out of the closet, eager to get back downstairs to my family. I scampered down the stairs, carrying the cases and an overnight bag. My dad turned at the sound, and I could tell he thought I was going to fall down any moment when he rushed right over. He smirked when he realized I actually wasn't going to fall on my face. And, wouldn't you know, I threw down my bags and hugged him again.
After, he bent down to take one of the cases, then gave me a raised eyebrow when he noticed the amount of weight I'd carried downstairs.
"Well, I guess you're already a lot stronger than you were. Maybe I could get you to bring in some wood and move some stuff around before you go."
Shaking my head, I told him, "No fair turning me into your draft horse. Bring in your own damn wood for once instead of going fishing."
We all laughed. It was incredible; telling my dad had been horrible, but we'd come out on the other side and were still a family.