Made of Porcelain
by Mackenzie L.
Written for Mother's Day, 2011.
I know I have quite a few readers who are mothers themselves, so this little one-shot is dedicated to all of you!
*The Twilight Saga belongs to Stephenie Meyer.
The library was a fascinating place.
It was like a big, silent palace overflowing with books and movies, computers and music. On weekends Nessie liked to visit the library with someone from her family. She never grew tired of the tradition as there was always something new to discover in the library.
Whenever Nessie found herself growing exhausted with the endless shelves of books and movies, she asked to be taken for a walk on the street.
"I'd like to get some fresh air," she liked to say. It was a line she must have picked up from a TV show somewhere. She liked the way it sounded. It made her seem more mature, important.
There was a Hallmark store on the corner of the street, just a small distance away from the town library. If one followed the narrow concrete sidewalk down to the corner of the block, the cheerful clang of the store bell would invite them to look inside.
But Nessie could never simply bear to look through the window. She had to walk through the door.
Often she came here with Alice and Rosalie. They liked to look at the Precious Moments dolls together, and sometimes they would buy something for Nessie if she asked politely. As she grew older, she stopped asking for things and became content to appreciate them from afar. There comes a certain time in a child's life when she realizes that the beauty of store-bought items is at its most potent when those items are seated on shelves beneath fluorescent spotlights.
Alice considered it a bittersweet milestone when Nessie first refused to be given a gift before leaving the shop.
Nessie reasoned that she could come back and see it on its shelf anytime she wanted, after all.
The child's excessive logic was beginning to worry some of their family.
They would have gladly spoiled her anyway, but she wouldn't have any of it. Instead, they beheld a fascinating turnaround as Nessie slowly became the one who wished to shower others with gifts.
On the eighth of May, Nessie's class took a field trip to the local library. Nessie found herself fixated on the ticking of the clock while Ms. Morris tried to teach her library class the structure of the Dewey Decimal System. It was a bit frustrating having to sit on the nubby blue carpet for thirty minutes straight with nothing to do besides listen to the woman talk nonstop about numbers and tables and classes. Nessie had understood the lesson well enough, but she had to admit it was an awfully dry lecture to sit through on such a spectacular spring day.
The rain would come and go so quickly that it made her dizzy to watch it out the window. The library had huge, wall-length windows with plated glass that stretched all the way up to the ceiling. They let in streams of brief sunlight on occasion, and Nessie was clever enough to scoot slightly out of the way as she had been taught. There were several library volunteers who would swear the child glowed ever so slightly under those brief bouts of sunlight... But many of them believed it was simply a trick of her exceptionally fair skin.
Nessie took a quick glance over the area to be sure that no one was watching before she leaned a little closer to the window to watch the clouds pass rapidly overhead. They rolled and undulated and stirred against each other in a sensual dance below the sun, keeping the rays from peeking through. Nessie knew that in just a short while, another fleeting rain storm would strike the windows, only to disappear five minutes later just as it had the last time.
The beginning of spring was Nessie's favorite time of year for that reason. The erratic spontaneity of the weather was so exciting to watch.
"So children, can anyone tell me which class of books is represented by the number 300 in the Dewey Decimal System?" The librarian's stuffy voice drew the children's low chatter to a stifling silence. "Come on now, who's been paying attention and wants to impress Ms. Morris?"
Nessie thought it was a bit silly how Ms. Morris always referred to herself in the third person. Sometimes her Uncle Emmett did the same, but in her opinion it sounded better when he did it. Plus, he made her laugh. There was nothing at all funny about Ms. Morris. She was as dull as powder, quite honestly.
But she was still a teacher, and teachers were to be respected.
Knowing her classmates would be inclined to sit in silence for another hour, Nessie reluctantly raised her hand.
Ms. Morris raised her eyebrows at the little brunette. "Yes, Renesmee?"
"The number 300 stands for social sciences," Nessie answered clearly, stretching her neck to see over Toby Seagle – the tallest boy in their class who always managed to block her view of the teacher.
"That is correct!" Ms. Morris seemed pleased as she adjusted her glasses and reached into her pocket for a golden star sticker. The children all watched intently as the head librarian clip-clopped her way over to the place where Renesmee Cullen sat. "Well done. I see someone pays attention in class," she murmured as she placed the small star on Nessie's sweater.
After Ms. Morris walked back to the front of the room, Toby turned around and gave Nessie a thumbs up.
Nessie smiled. Toby Seagle wasn't all bad, especially when he wasn't blocking her view.
Once the class had settled down, Ms. Morris announced that they were going to see a film on how to properly use one of the library's copy machines. Nessie resisted the urge to sigh, though many of her classmates were not so shy about vocalizing their displeasure. She glanced longingly at the clock again, then out the window where the clouds were doing an agitated sort of exercise in the sky. A little smile crept onto her lips while she watched the clumps of white turning gray as the sun once again dipped away.
While Ms. Morris was preparing the projector screen, a clap of thunder sounded in the distance, startling some of the children to yelp in surprise. The lights in the library flickered and buzzed, stirring up a commotion in the usually quiet atmosphere. Ms. Morris, being the stickler she was, hushed the students accordingly. But the perfect silence was ruined once again as an army of eager raindrops pelted against the windows.
Nessie's eyes went wide with delirious excitement as she leaned closer to the window, pressing her hands against it as the droplets raced down the glass like vertical rivers. As her eyes came back into focus, she could make out a familiar figure coming up the sidewalk with a pretty red umbrella in hand.
"Gramma," Nessie whispered happily through the glass, knowing at least one pair of ears was bound to hear her.
Her grandmother had perfect timing indeed, for just as Ms. Morris was about to begin the film, Esme Cullen stepped out of the rain and into the library class.
Every child's head turned to see their unexpected guest as she opened the door and walked up the side of the room towards the librarian.
"I've come to pick up my granddaughter – she has an early dismissal today. I have a note from the school principal and her doctor, if you'd like to see them."
Esme spoke quietly enough that she was not making a scene, but by now the children had hushed themselves enough to hear every word that was said. A few jealous gazes landed on the little brunette who sat quietly in the back of the room. There was nothing more coveted in grade school than an early dismissal.
"Of course." Ms. Morris regarded Esme with a smile before turning to Nessie. "Up here, Miss Renesmee – you're going to be leaving us a little early today."
Nessie hopped to her feet, gathering up her satchel and library information packet. As she was walking to meet her grandmother, one of the little girls in the front row, Cassie, suddenly declared in her high pitched voice, "That's the prettiest umbrella I ever saw!"
Nessie watched as her grandmother beamed humbly, twirling the red umbrella she always carried at her side. "Do you think so?" She gave it a click and opened it to the small crowd of children, revealing the beautifully patterned underside.
The class erupted in "oohs" and "ahhs", leaning over one another to get a better look at the dizzying vintage art that was hidden beneath. With a sunny grin, Esme allowed her granddaughter to hold the captivating umbrella as they walked towards the door. Nessie felt more proud to hold that umbrella than she had when Ms. Morris had pasted the gold star on her sweater earlier that day.
Esme covered her lovely caramel curls with her hood before opening the door. She put a hand on Nessie's shoulder and guided her out into the storm. The rain showered down around them like crystal confetti as they came out of the library; it felt like the most enthusiastic welcome to Nessie after having gotten out of class.
"So, what's the occasion?" Nessie asked her gramma, another TV line she'd picked up as a young child.
Esme giggled in the secretive way she usually did when she was hiding a surprise. "Just a weather precaution."
Nessie cocked her head to look up at her grandmother from under the umbrella.
"We never can be too careful with these springtime cloud conditions, can we?" Esme said with a wink.
As they approached the familiar shiny black car in the parking lot, Nessie was surprised to see her grandfather step out of the driver's side door with a black umbrella in his hand.
"You both came to pick me up?" she asked in slight shock.
"Your grandpa is going to take you to the Hallmark store while I go pick up some groceries," Esme explained before sliding into the front seat her husband had just abandoned.
Nessie looked hopefully up at her grandpa to confirm this piece of information as true.
"Will you take me to see the angel dolls?" she whispered wistfully.
"Of course I will," he whispered back, and they shared a secret smile.
"I'll see you two in an hour or so!" Esme called above the pounding rain before she shut the car door, waving to the both of them through the tinted window as she pulled out of the parking lot.
"Let's get walking, then, shall we?" Carlisle suggested, letting his granddaughter lead the way down the sidewalk.
Nessie's youth was disappearing fast, Carlisle noticed. Where she had once been impatient to get from point A to point B, she was now perfectly content to walk alongside her guardian rather than skip impatiently ahead of him. She was small in stature, but every once in a while she would surprise him with a mature gesture that made her look more like a tiny adult. Her inherited grace was apparent even in her child's body.
She flung a tiny hand out from under her umbrella to catch a few raindrops as they walked along. "It's rather humid out today, isn't it, Grandpa?"
Carlisle smiled to himself. "Listen to you! You'd make a fine meteorologist one day."
"Maybe," Nessie consented with a shrug. "But I wouldn't want to be on TV like the other weather people."
"Why not?" Carlisle asked. "You're certainly pretty enough for it."
"I just wouldn't appreciate having that sort of responsibility," she explained precociously in her sweet little voice. "Everyone watches to see what the weather predictions will be. Then if the weather man makes a mistake, he gets blamed for it. Everyone talks about it all day long as if it was his fault it rained when he said it wouldn't."
"Hm. I see your point," Carlisle considered thoughtfully. "Perhaps you'd be better off with a career in astronomy."
"Astronomy?" Nessie tipped her umbrella back to look up at her grandfather. "What on earth made you think of that, Grandpa?"
He bent down slightly to point out the golden star on her sweater. "I couldn't help but notice you caught a falling star, there."
She giggled uncontrollably as he tickled the place above the sticker on her chest. "I answered a question when no one else would," she explained, unable to keep the slight hint of pride from creeping into her voice.
Carlisle smiled. "Good for you. What was the question, if you don't mind my asking?"
"It was about the Dewey Decimal System."
Her grandfather's blond hair shook as he laughed. "Ah, back in my day we didn't bother assigning a number to every single book in the world."
"Back in your day there were probably only enough books around to count on your fingers!" Nessie teased.
"Why, Nessie, how old do you think your grandfather is?"
They found themselves at the front door of the gift shop in fits of laughter, attracting the wayward stares of several people who shared the sidewalk.
"Come on inside, sweetheart," Carlisle ordered with a hint of gentle urgency. Nessie noticed the way his eyes flicked toward the sky, as if he were nervous that the sun might peek through unexpectedly before they were concealed by shade.
She grabbed hold of his hand and hurried inside, shaking the droplets off her umbrella before tucking it shut.
The sugary tang of scented candles was alarmingly strong whenever she first entered the shop. It was a familiar scent, one that would forever remind her of this one place. Inside the store was quiet, the floors covered by dark purple and red carpeting that muffled any noisy shoes. Sometimes she could hear the prancing sneakers of a toddler on the next aisle over, or the squishy thump of someone's wet galoshes as they dragged them along the floor. Someone would sneeze in the back of the store,and every customer would suppress the instinct to call out a polite "bless you" when they heard it. But one of the things Nessie appreciated most about the store was that it was mostly silent inside, save for the occasional jingle of the bell on the door or a rogue whisper passed between browsers.
The people who roamed the endless aisles of cards and gifts consisted mostly of elderly couples and middle-aged men in business suits, searching for that last minute card to give to their boss on his birthday. Sometimes Nessie had to step on her tip toes to get a look at the cards at the very top of the display, and sometimes she would need to ask her grandpa to pick her up. Today he had done so without her asking; simply slipped his wrist through the cord of her umbrella and lifted her off the ground to hug her against his side.
He paced through the aisles of card displays for a few minutes, walking slowly enough that Nessie could have a close look at everything before they passed it up. She requested to peek inside a few cards of significant selection – those that sported front covers decorated in either metallic coating or glitter. Carlisle noticed the trend and after a few more minutes of walking the aisles, he came to recognize which cards his granddaughter would be likely to ask for before she requested them.
Looking through the cards was fun, but Nessie's favorite part of all about this gift shop was the ceramics and crystal section, right beside the store's front window for everyone to see. It was conveniently placed, for they only chose the prettiest items to set on display.
The most beautiful series of shelves were the ones that held the angel sculptures.
Some were made of glass and crystal, sparkling under the lights in all the colors of the rainbow – red, yellow, green, magenta... If she turned her head at just the right angle, she could quickly catch that fleeting spark of purest teal-blue before it vanished. She could never seem to find that angle a second time, and so it was quite rare to catch that ray of blue in the crystal.
The most precious angels – the ones made from real gemstones and gold – were placed on the uppermost shelf, too high for young children to reach. They stood behind glass cases with stark white bulbs suspended above them, trying to mimic the light found in heaven. Although they were striking to the eye, Nessie thought those lights were just a bit too bright.
The rest of the angels stood on the lower shelves for customers' hands to touch and move them about freely. These angels were made from ceramic, porcelain, polished wood, and tin. The ones on the very bottom were made of stone. Esme had once said they were meant to be placed in people's gardens.
Nessie could never quite pick out a favorite angel. There were some that she wished secretly in her heart that she could keep for herself, but she never wanted to ask. Her family had always given her more than enough, and she was not a selfish child by nature. Some part of her even thought that purchasing an angel would make her feel like she was taking it away from its family. It always disappointed her whenever she would come into the shop and discover that one of the angels was missing from the collection. They were all so pretty when they were together...
Whimsical figures with their arms outstretched toward heaven, their tiny hands serving as perches for doves, their wings spread wide with abundant white feathers. They stood in stillness, though their limbs had been carved so intricately that the suggestion of movement became a trick of the eye, spurring a second glance to be sure that their wings were not fluttering, their hair was not flowing. Each statuette was unique, ranging from the small, nude, chubby cherubs to the svelte, goddess-like women of ideal beauty dressed in garments of gold and white. The artist's interpretation of an angel was timeless, and it showed in every piece on the shelf. Each statue was a work of art, and each one spoke the same themes of love and faith and hope and mirth. Just their presence was indeed stirring to the soul.
When she looked into the eyes of her grandfather, Nessie could see a similar sparkle of fascination with the display. It was evidence that not only children were moved by the sight of all those angels together.
If asked, Carlisle would have confessed that he, too, felt a certain comfort in the presence of angels. He often compared his wife Esme to an angel, as she would likewise return the term of endearment when referring to him. They just as often called their children angels, and he had always been convinced that real angels existed in their midst. He had spent many decades of his past carving winged figures out of the simplest wood with the hopes that they would protect him in his lonely years. It soothed his soul to know that his granddaughter found just as much joy in these beautiful beings from heaven as he did.
"This one looks like Gramma," Nessie murmured suddenly.
Carlisle's drifting interest sparked back to life at the mention of his wife. He glanced in the direction his granddaughter pointed, eager to see if the resemblance was noticeable as she claimed it to be.
A smile touched his lips as he took in the appearance of the humble statuette, dressed in a white porcelain gown with wings drawn together behind her back beneath streaming tresses of tawny colored hair. If not for the prominent rouge upon the statue's cheeks, everything from the pale vanilla tone of her skin to the way her slender arms reached toward the sky reminded him of his wife.
"Hmmm, yes, I suppose she does look very similar," Carlisle said. "However, I see one glaring difference between this angel and your grandmother."
Nessie's eyebrows furrowed together, perplexed. "What's that?"
"Your grandmother isn't made of porcelain," he whispered.
Nessie giggled softly so as to not disturb the customers that walked past. "You're silly, Grandpa. I know that."
"I know you do," he said with a quick kiss to her cheek.
"I think we should buy this angel for Gramma," Nessie suggested quietly, touching a careful finger to its wing.
"For Mother's Day?" Carlisle guessed.
Nessie nodded. "And I'll pick one for my momma, too."
"I'm sure they'll both love that."
She placed a little finger to lips and studied the angels on the bottom shelf with an expression that one might call endearingly critical.
"Which one of these do you think my mom would like most?" She asked his opinion, and Carlisle quickly looked over the display with an equally critical eye.
At the very end of the line, his eyes stopped to behold an earthy wooden doll with long wings made from purple webbed filigree. The figure had been hand-painted as a slim brunette, slightly smaller than the rest of the angels in line, but more lively in gesture. Her face was sweet and peaceful looking, set with rosy cheeks and two small amber beads for eyes. In her hands she held up a bouquet of tiny silk flowers, and her dress was made from floaty purple lace.
"I would say this one, wouldn't you?" he said at last, gently picking up the fragile wooden angel.
"That's the one I was thinking of, too," Nessie whispered excitedly, her fingers joining his to stroke the small green circlet that rested on the angel's head. Carlisle never ceased to be confounded by how thrilling it was to hear his granddaughter's secrets whispered into his ear, to feel the entirely human heat of her breath touch his skin in her enthusiasm, to marvel at the way her fingers tightened on his shoulder when she sought his undivided attention.
It was all precious to him.
"Then it must have been meant to be," he conceded, placing the angel entirely into his granddaughter's trustworthy hands.
They left the store as soon as the rain stopped, with two neatly wrapped boxes in tow. No one would have guessed that those two unassuming white boxes hid little angels inside.
Once outside, Nessie spotted her father's car parked on the side of the street just outside the shop. She and her grandfather made it safely into his car just before the clouds could part way for the unpredictable sun.
"What have you got there?" Edward asked when he saw the boxes plus his daughter's suspiciously glowing face.
"Surprises for Mother's Day," Nessie answered mysteriously. "I'd show you what I bought for mom, but I don't want to ruin the box wrappings before I give it to her."
Edward smirked affectionately back at his daughter. "Fair enough."
"We picked something out for Gramma Esme, too."
"I can't wait to see."
Carlisle shared an amused glance with his son in the front seat as Nessie bounced excitably behind them. "Drive fast, daddy! I want to bring them their presents as soon as possible!"
Edward's face broke into an appreciative grin. "You know I will."
The drive home could be a lengthy one if anyone else were driving, but Nessie could always count on her father to get her there twice as fast. He just seemed to posses some sort of magical ability to drive a car faster than anyone else she knew.
She hoped one day she would be able to drive a car just like he did.
When they arrived back at the house, Esme was already in her studio, helping Bella with her gift for Renee. They both stood before a beautiful canvas painted with a beach full of palm trees and a bright orange sunset over an ocean. The painting was only halfway finished, but Nessie still thought it was the most beautiful piece of art she had ever seen.
"Pretty!" she exclaimed, waltzing up to her mother's side. Bella wrapped a loving arm around her daughter as she stepped back to appraise her work so far.
"Do you think so, Ness?"
A few enthusiastic nods from her daughter was all Bella needed to regain all her confidence plus more. She could do no wrong in Nessie's eyes.
Esme looked on proudly as Bella stroked back Nessie's mane of coppery curls. "What do you have there, baby?" she asked when she noticed the white boxes tucked beneath each of Nessie's arms.
Nessie's head turned tentatively to look back at the door where Edward and Carlisle were watching. Her grandfather smiled warmly while her father made an encouraging gesture with his hand, urging her to give them their gifts. Suddenly feeling slightly shy now that all eyes were on her, Nessie curled her fingers hesitantly around the boxes and presented them to both women who stood at her sides.
"These are presents for you... for Mother's Day," she said, all her shyness fluttering away when she saw the instant spark of light that filled her grandmother's expression. "Grandpa and I picked them out at the gift shop today."
Esme suppressed a bittersweet sigh, knowing that just a few months before now, Nessie would have used the improper phrase "Me and Grandpa." Her granddaughter was growing up too fast for any of them to keep up. It was wonderful, though at the same time slightly sad to watch her change so quickly.
Bella gasped happily as she accepted the box, stealing a quick glance at Carlisle before she turned back to her daughter with glowing eyes. "Oh, that's so sweet of you! Especially since I was beginning to think someone forgot..." Bella said as her eyes traveled pointedly in the direction of her husband.
Edward raised his hands innocently. "I didn't forget!" he assured with a charming laugh. "I'm bringing you my present later tonight... I promise."
Esme and Nessie giggled as Bella turned away with a wry smile. "I'll hold you to that," she said softly before tearing the white wrapping off of her gift box. Esme's hands scraped away the wrappings at the same time, and Nessie found her hands folded tightly in anticipation, hopeful that they would both like what they saw when they opened the lids.
The duet of delighted gasps that filled the air at the moment they both opened their boxes was like music to Nessie's ears.
"You picked these out yourself?" Bella asked, holding her angel up to the light.
Nessie nodded shyly. "Because you're both like angels to me."
"Oh, sweetheart, you know you're an angel to us," Esme gushed, bending over to place a lingering kiss on each of her blushing cheeks.
Just before her grandmother could slip away, Nessie tucked her hand into hers and pulled her a little closer to whisper in secret, "Do you think I'll ever be a mother one day, Gramma?"
Although she could not produce tears, Esme sometimes wore a look that made her seem teary-eyed. It was this look that graced her face when she heard her granddaughter ask this soft-spoken question.
Nessie looked questioningly up into her grandmother's face, the teary-eyed gaze and brilliant smile reminding her of the beautiful contrast of springtime rain and sunshine.
"I'm sure you will."