Thanks for everyone who's faved it, reviewed it or read it! Much appreciated.
Things I own: a pair of charcoal gray pants that I had to pick up for a spur of the moment performance today, a blister on my heel and some nasty ass acne on my jaw.
Things I don't own: Twilight and all characters associated with it. They belong to the esteemed Stephenie Meyers
This is it, folks. The EPILOGUE…it's been a long journey, tumultuous, exciting and nerve-wracking. I'm really sad to say that it's the last chapter. And there will not be a sequel. Maybe futuretakes, but no sequel. See you at the end, kids.
Five Years Later…
"Uncle Eddie! Faster! Chase me! See if you catch me!"
"I'm getting old, Masen," I grumbled as I tried, in vain to keep up with my godson. "Do you know how old I am?"
"A million years old," Masen smirked. "Daddy's older, though. He's TWO million!"
"You got that right, kid," I said as I captured him, ruffling his blonde hair. "Where's Auntie Bella? Uncle Eddie needs a time out."
"Are you in trouble?"
"No, Masen. I'm not in trouble. I'm just…really tired, bud," I said, crouching down to his level.
"She's with the baby," Masen whispered conspiratorially. "She's trying to get him to sleep. So be quiet."
"Okay," I whispered back as I left Masen in the backyard of my house. Kate was standing on the porch, giving me a smile.
"You're so good with him, Edward," she said as she hugged me. "He absolutely adores you."
"I love him, too, Kate," I said as I kissed her cheek. "But, I have my own baby to check on. I'll be back." Kate nodded and turned back to Masen. I went inside of the house and jogged up the stairs to the nursery. Bella was in the rocking chair, cuddling our adoptive son, Brandon, to her chest. "How is he?"
"Cried himself to sleep," Bella muttered. Her eyes were tired but she was ecstatic. She was finally a mother. Brandon's birth mother was a young girl who couldn't care for her child, similar to Bella when she gave Paul up for adoption. However, Brandon's birth mom was an affluent teenager with an unhealthy sense of entitlement. I personally couldn't stand her, but she was willing to give up custody of her baby boy. We were willing to adopt. "I can't believe he's here, Edward. All of those months waiting for him and we have a baby."
"I know, Mrs. Cullen," I said as I crouched next to my two angels. "I can't believe that he's here, either. I love you." I kissed Bella's cheek three times before turning to my son's head and doing the same.
"I never thought this would happen, Edward," Bella sniffled.
"Me neither, Bella," I sighed. After I graduated from college, I started working at Legacy Clinical as an addiction counselor. Things were going swimmingly. In the fall, I started my masters and plowed through that degree in a year and half. We decided that after I completed my masters degree, we'd try to get pregnant with the help of a surrogate. Bella's eggs were harvested and fertilized with my sperm. Alice donated her womb for our would-be child. However, each attempt started successfully. Then Alice would miscarry. Rose volunteered but she had too much scarring in her uterus from when she was attacked. After nearly six rounds of trying to get a baby to 'stick' with Alice, we decided that it wasn't going to happen. We turned our attempts on to adoption.
Nearly three years of waiting, we now were parents of Brandon Gregory Cullen. He is three months old with brown hair and blue eyes. He's perfect. Absolutely perfect.
"Jesus, boy," I said as I wrinkled my nose. "What did eat?"
"Baby formula," Bella chirped. "It's amazing that something so small can much make such a foul odor."
"I know. Come here, little man. Daddy's going to change you," I said as I gingerly picked up Brandon from Bella's arms. Placing my baby boy onto the changing table, I expertly removed his shit-filled diaper. "God. I can't believe this. So nasty, Brandon. I can't wait until you have to change your children's diapers to experience the joy of what I'm going through."
"At least he didn't pee in your mouth," Bella giggled. "I got a mouthful of piss at three this morning."
"Don't pee on your mother, Brandon Gregory," I chided to my three month old son. "It's not cool." He stared at me with his blue eyes, giggling quietly. "Don't think that giggling is going to make it all right, child."
"You're so good with him, Dr. Cullen," Bella said as she kissed my shoulder.
"You're better, Mrs. Cullen," I said as I redressed him in a blue outfit. "Why don't you get dressed before the rest of our family comes, okay?"
"Yeah. I can't believe we're moving, Edward," she sniffled. "This is our last hurrah in our first house. Well, that we owned together."
"I know, beautiful," I said as I settled Brandon into the crook of my arm. "But, Garrett's practice is in Portland. It's not like we're leaving the Pacific Northwest. We're just moving closer to work, for me. And for you."
"I'm nervous, Edward. An editor for a major publishing house is a big deal," she squeaked. "I mean, I'm starting at the bottom of the totem pole but…"
"You'll do wonderfully, Bella. You're so smart. Even smarter than me," I smirked.
"Says the man who just successfully got his doctorate in half the time it should have taken him," Bella said as she slipped out of Brandon's room. "Freaking genius, you are."
"I'm not a genius, Bella," I said as I stepped out of the bedroom. She gave me a smirk before heading into our bedroom. I carried Brandon, who was snoozing in my arms, to the kitchen. Kate was talking to my mom in the kitchen, balancing Masen on her hip. "Hi, Mom."
"Hello, Edward," she smiled. "Where's my grandson?"
"Right here," I said as I handed him over to my mom. "No hello to your offspring?"
"I said 'hello,'" Esme said absentmindedly. "Who's Nana's big boy?" She tickled his belly, completely ignoring me. Well, kind of. "Edward, Emmett and Jasper are attempting to start your grill. It's not going well. Go fix it."
"Yes, Mom," I said as I kissed her temple. I ambled back into the backyard where Jasper and Emmett were unsuccessfully trying to light my grill. "It helps to turn on the gas line, morons."
"Excuse me, Dr. Cullen," Emmett said snidely. "Not all of us are as brilliant as you."
"Fuck off, asshole," I said as I smacked his head. I flipped the gas line and lit the fire easily. Emmett scowled at me.
He and Rosalie are happily living in sin. Emmett proposes every year on their anniversary and Rose replies that she doesn't need a ring or a piece of paper to dictate how to love. They did end up buying a house nearby. Currently, they were trying to get pregnant but it doesn't look all that promising since of Rose's injuries from her previous attack. Emmett was Brandon's godfather while Alice was his godmother. They both spoiled my son as often as they could.
Each time they come to visit, Brandon would get a new outfit (from Alice) or a new truck (from Emmett). Most of it is currently in boxes preparing for our move to Portland. Alice and Jasper are actually moving into our old home in Seattle while we moved to Portland. Alice was finally over living in the apartment and Jasper was ready to make a commitment to a house. The fact that he received tenure at University of Washington helped, too. Their daughter, Annie, was going to take Brandon's room while obviously, Alice and Jas were taking our bedroom.
"Where's the midget and mini-midget?" I asked Jasper.
"Alice is changing Annie's outfit," Jasper said, rolling his eyes. "That girl goes through a million costume changes a day to match her mother's mood. Christ!"
"Shut it, Dr. Whitlock!" Alice barked, holding her daughter's hand. "She spilled apple juice on her shirt. I refuse to have my child look sloppy."
"Alice, do you have an unlimited fund for children's clothes?" Kate asked.
"No. But being a clothing designer has its perks, Kate," Alice winked. "The prototypes for my children's line are designed with my baby girl in mind." Annie tugged on Alice's hand, wanting to play with Masen. She crouched down and whispered in Annie's ear. Alice's 'mini-me' nodded and took off with Masen. They ran around the backyard, shrieking happily.
We were only waiting for one other person at our barbeque: Father Gregory. He had become a trusted friend, confidante and father-figure to Bella. Also, to me as well. He stepped into that role because my relationship with Carlisle was strained at best.
Until I took the position at Garrett's practice, I was on the psychiatric staff of Virginia Mason. I would have to go down to the ER for psych consults and every so often, I'd run into Carlisle. To say he was shocked to see me with a badge on my jeans proclaiming me "Edward Cullen, Doctor of Psychology" was an understatement. Our interactions were stuffy, professional conversations.
When I was called in to a sticky situation with an underaged girl who was hurting herself, Carlisle eyes popped out when I spoke to her candidly about my drug addiction and constant struggle to keep myself clean. I then took her hand in mine, staring into her vacant, glassy, drug-filled eyes and asked why she was hurting herself. She explained that her step-father was raping her nightly. She then fell apart, flinging herself into my arms, finally allowing herself to let go. I promised her that she would be safe and that her step-dad would be punished. The next day, he was arrested and the girl was placed into a foster family's care who could meet her needs. Her mother disowned her and left her on her own.
I still meet with her on a weekly basis. She's still fearful but is slowly healing. She was very upset when I told her that I was moving and begged to let her come with Bella and me. We are certified foster parents but that would blur the line of the patient and doctor. It was also the biggest fight that Bella and I had since we had gotten married. Bella wanted to take in Tanya, my patient. I was uncomfortable doing so since she was my patient. I didn't want to take her away from her family.
"Edward?" Esme called. "You have a phone call. It's Department of Children and Families."
"Thanks, Mom," I said as I jogged to the kitchen, picking up the phone. "Hello?"
"Is this Dr. Edward Cullen?" asked a bored woman.
"Speaking," I answered. "What can I do for you?"
"I have the paperwork and information about Tanya Denali you requested. She's been approved to be a foster child in your care and the move has been okayed through the Portland office Department of Children and Families."
"Does Tanya know?" I asked.
"Okay, thank you," I smiled. "When can I pick her up?"
"Anytime, Dr. Cullen."
I said goodbye and went to tell my mom the news. With a quick explanation, I told my mom that I was going to pick up a foster grand-daughter. I stuck my head into our bedroom to see my wife putting on a soft summer dress. "I'm going to run an errand. I'll be back soon, Bella."
"Should I be worried?" Bella asked, arching a brow.
"No. But, can you make sure that the guest room is clear so someone can sleep in it?"
"Edward?" Bella asked.
"I hated fighting with you, Bella. About Tanya," I said as I wrapped my arms around her waist. "I recused myself of Tanya's care and turned it over to Kate. She's going to be a part of our family. I'm heading to her foster family to pick her up. I've also started legal proceedings in Portland to adopt her as well. Mom isn't fighting it and Dad is out of the picture."
"So, we're getting a teenager?" Bella squeaked.
"Be prepared, baby. A newborn and a teenager, who would have thought?" I snickered, kissing her lips three times.
"It's another date we need to add to our necks, Edward," Bella murmured against my mouth. Right at the hairline, we have two dates tattooed: our wedding anniversary and Brandon's birthday.
"When the adoption is finalized, that's the date we need to add," I said. "Love you, Bane."
"Love you more, Whip," she smiled. "Go get her."
I nodded and darted out of the bedroom. I wasn't dressed professionally. I had on a pair of shorts and t-shirt. However, this was unexpected and I was honestly excited. I typed in the address into my car and eased out of the driveway. Father Gregory was pulling up as I was pulling out. He waved me over. "What's the rush, Edward?" he chuckled.
"I'm on my way to pick up my foster daughter," I said. "I'll see you when I get back, Father."
"By all means, Edward," Father Gregory chuckled. "Drive safely."
"Thank you!" I smiled as I sped away from my home and toward the old neighborhood where the mansion my grandfather had left me. The foster parents that Tanya was living with were on the outskirts of Bellevue and were a nice family. However, I could tell that they were at wits end with her behavior. The only time she behaved was when she knew she was coming to see me. I spoke to Carmen, her foster mom, at length regarding the change in her attitude. Tanya had confided to Carmen that I was the only person that she trusted since I 'saved her.'
I parked in the driveway of Carmen and her husband, Eleazar. I blew out a breath before jogging up the steps. My hand was shaking when I rang the doorbell. "Tanya, can you get the door?" I heard from inside.
"Sure, Mama Carmen," Tanya said, with a touch of sarcasm in her voice. She pulled open the door. "Dr. Edward?"
"Hi, Tanya," I said. "Can I come in?"
"Um, sure," she said as she moved the side. Tanya was fifteen years old. Her hair was long and strawberry blonde. Her eyes were green like mine and told her entire story of hardship and pain. "Am I in trouble, Dr. Edward?"
"No, Tanya. Quite the opposite," I answered. Carmen came out of the kitchen. "Hello, Carmen. How are you doing?"
"I'm good, Dr. Cullen. You're looking very casual," she snickered.
"That's because I'm having a barbeque at my home. Kind of a last hurrah before the movers come on Tuesday to pack everything up and move it to Portland," I answered. Tanya scoffed and crossed her arms over her chest. "Anyhow, I came over here for two reasons. The first reason is to invite you and your family to the barbeque."
"That sounds lovely, Dr. Cullen. However, wouldn't you be in trouble?" Carmen asked. "Tanya is technically your patient." She smiled knowingly. Apparently the Department of Children and Families had already contacted her.
"Not anymore," I said, looking over at Tanya who was sniffling quietly. "Tanya, I know you're upset about my leaving. I've since removed myself from your case and a very close friend of mine named Dr. Kate is going to take over your care."
"I want you, Dr. Edward. I feel safe with you. You understand," she cried. "Besides, isn't your friend, Dr. Kate based out of Portland?"
"She is. Tanya, prior to coming here, I received a phone call from the Department of Children and Families. My wife and I received approval to be your foster parents," I said, bending slightly to look into her eyes. "I know you care about Mama Carmen and Papa Eleazar but…"
"I love you, Dr. Edward," she cried. "You're the first man who's been kind to me." She wrapped her arms around my waist and sobbed against my chest. "I'm going to live with you?"
"Yes, Tanya," I said as I kissed the crown of her head. "That's why I removed myself from your case. I can't legitimately be your psychologist and your dad at the same time."
"When? When?" she asked looking up at me.
"How soon can you pack?" I asked, giving her a crooked smile.
"Be right back," she squealed as she ran up the stairs. "Irina! I need your help! I'm getting a permanent family!"
"I'm sorry, Carmen," I grimaced.
"No, it's okay, Dr. Cullen. She wasn't happy here. I mean, she went through the motions but was never comfortable. She was moved from her parents' home of shit to our home and she felt like an outsider. Even with our other foster children, she still felt removed since she was the oldest. Her closest friend here was Irina and she's thirteen," Carmen snickered. "She also didn't trust Eleazar. I know that he would never touch that little girl but in her mind, she was afraid of…you know."
"Carmen, this placement will be good for Tanya for a couple of reasons. Number one, she feels comfortable with me. That's the biggest one. The second reason is that my wife knows what Tanya went through. She was raped by her foster brother when she was about Tanya's age. She'll have someone to talk to in my wife; someone who understands."
"Dr. Edward? Can I get some help?" Tanya called down to me. Carmen led me upstairs to the bedroom that Tanya shared with Irina, another foster child. There were three large bags sitting on the bed along with a few stuffed animals. "I can't carry all of this downstairs."
"I'll get most of it if you just get the backpack and these guys," I said as I handed the animals to Tanya. She smiled and nodded enthusiastically. I slipped the duffel bag over my shoulder and heaved the suitcases down the stairs with a happy Tanya following me. We load up my SUV with her bags before we head back inside to Carmen and Eleazar's home.
"I'll miss you, Tanya," Carmen said as she smiled at Tanya. "You are a good girl and I wish you the best. Please keep in touch. Here's my email address and cell phone number if you ever want to talk." Carmen handed Tanya a small slip of paper. She stepped back and leaned against her husband. Tanya didn't like to be touched since her admittance to the hospital. I was genuinely surprised when she hugged me. Then she surprised me again. She held out her hand to Carmen, shaking like a leaf as she did so.
"Thank you for everything, Mama Carmen," she said, her voice trembling. Carmen shook her hand, tears falling down her cheeks. "I'll miss you, too. I'm sorry that I…that I was difficult."
"I understand why, sweetheart. But, you can now truly get better with Dr. Edward and Mrs. Cullen," Carmen said. Tanya quickly hugged Carmen and stepped back to my side.
"Papa Eleazar, I hope you understand but…" Tanya muttered.
"I do understand, Tanya. I'm happy for you. Be safe and behave for Dr. Edward," Eleazar said with a soft smile. He was a good man but Tanya's trepidation around men was understandable. Eleazar would never hurt her but in her fifteen year old mind, all men were the enemy.
"Do you want to say good bye to your foster siblings?"
"Just Irina," Tanya answered. "I'll be right back."
I heard quiet sobs from Tanya and Irina. Soon, Tanya came back downstairs. Her face was bright red and her eyes were puffy. She held a tiny stuffed animal in her arms. "It's from Irina. She said that he would keep me safe. Can I call her?"
"Anytime, Tanya," Carmen and I both said. We chuckled quietly and Tanya stepped outside, walking to my car.
"Are you coming to the barbeque?" I asked.
"Probably not," Eleazar said. "As much as Tanya was a troublemaker, she was still a part of our family and we need to explain this to our other foster children. The Department of Children and Families explained that you want to adopt her."
"I do. She deserves a family and the right to feel safe," I said. "I appreciate everything you did for her."
"You did most of it, Dr. Cullen," Carmen explained. "You reached her and made her feel safe. You love her, Dr. Cullen. In a fatherly way."
"I do see her as my daughter. However, I would have had to have her when I was twenty-one since I'm thirty-six now. Oh my god. I'm thirty six."
"You don't look a day over thirty, Dr. Cullen," Carmen teased. "The only thing that gives you away is the hair. The gray at the temples."
"Ugh, don't remind me. Too bad Clairol doesn't have bronze as a hair dye," I chuckled.
"Dr. Edward! Come on!" Tanya chuckled.
"Okay, she's beckoning. I'll talk to you both soon," I smiled.
"Good luck. Taking on a teenager. You will get a higher place in heaven, Dr. Cullen," Eleazar teased. I rolled my eyes and jogged to my car. I helped Tanya into the front seat before heading back to the house.
"I'm so happy, Dr. Edward," she said as she looked at me. "Thank you."
"Enough of this Dr. Edward business," I said. "I'm no longer your doctor. Just call me Edward."
"Edward," she said, trying it out. "Sounds weird. How about I call you dad?"
"That's even more weird," I laughed. "I go from not having any children to having a newborn and a teenager in less than three months. Oh, the irony. Let's work up to 'dad.' Anyhow, I know that you feel comfortable with me, Tanya but you have realize that there will be rules. You will need to abide by them."
"What are they?" she asked.
"You will need to respect my wife, your brother and me."
"My brother," she said softly. "What's his name?"
"Brandon Gregory Cullen," I said with a reverent smile. "He's three months old and he can clear a room with his gas."
"Oh goody," Tanya said dryly. "Am I going to be your built-in babysitter?"
"No, Tanya," I said. "Your time is as valuable as mine or Bella's. She's my wife."
"I overheard you talking to Mama Carmen. She was like me?" Tanya asked, biting her lip and wringing her hands.
"She was, Tanya. However, it wasn't her step-father that raped her. It was her foster brother," I frowned. "She's still working through her feelings that she has regarding her childhood. There's a great deal of resentment. But, she understands. There will be other rules, but we will create those as we go. The biggest rule will be to respect everyone in our home. If you do that, you'll be golden."
"I will, Dr. Edward," she said with conviction. I shot her a look. "Sorry, Edward."
"Now, we are having a barbeque. At this party, you'll meet Bella and Brandon. In addition to them, Esme, my mom will be there, along with my business partner, Dr. Garrett Burke and his wife, Kate."
"She'll be taking over my treatment?" Tanya asked.
"Yes. She's normally a substance abuse counselor but she also has a similar story to yours and was adamant on helping you. Besides, you may be more comfortable with a woman in discussing what happened in your bedroom with Rick, your step-dad. You just glossed over it with me."
"It's because I don't want you to think that I'm dirty," she shuddered.
"Tanya, you're not. What Rick did to you was abhorrent. You are a child and he's an adult. If anyone has issues, it's him. He felt it necessary to do things without your consent and he hurt you, Tanya. I could kill him for doing that to you," I growled. "Don't ever think that you did something wrong, sweet girl."
She blushed and smiled. "I like that," she murmured.
"You called me a sweet girl," she said, looking over at me.
"You are. A sweet girl," I smiled crookedly. "Hopefully, you'll be my sweet girl after the mandatory waiting period in Portland."
"What do you mean, Edward?"
"I've already submitted paperwork with my wife to be your permanent guardian and hopefully, be able to legally adopt you. So far, your mom is not fighting it."
"She came to visit me one time while I was with Mama Carmen," she growled. "She said that she was giving up her parental rights to me. I was an 'abomination' that ruined her marriage to Rick. I told her to fuck off."
"Tanya, watch your language," I said, chuckling as I reprimanded her.
"It's a little hard to believe you while you're snickering, Edward," Tanya giggled. "But, do you blame me?"
"No. I essentially told my father the exact same thing. Numerous times," I sighed.
"He's the blond-ish doctor that treated me initially?"
"Yep. He's a first class douche," I growled. "Sorry. I have my own 'daddy' issues."
"Have you seen a therapist for those issues, Dr. Edward?" Tanya teased.
"Yeah. He's now my business partner," I smirked. "We're here."
"Damn. You live here?"
"Only until Tuesday. Then, we move to Portland. My wife will help you decorate your room or she may sic her best friend on you. Alice is a force to be reckoned with."
"Who else is here?" Tanya asked.
"Besides the people that I mentioned, my best friend, Emmett and his long-time girlfriend, Rose, Alice and her husband, Jasper. They have a little girl named Annie. There's also Dr. John Carter who is my mom's boyfriend. He's a surgeon at Virginia Mason. He actually saved my life seven years ago."
"I was shot by a man who was obsessed with my wife. He actually raped her and caused her some serious damage where she couldn't have children naturally. We tried surrogates but nothing took so we ended up adopting. Anyhow, he shot me in my chest and I was pretty, um, 'fucked up.' I have a lovely scar across my chest from the surgery. But my wife fixed that with her artistic expertise."
"What do you mean?" Tanya asked.
I raised my shirt sleeves to reveal my ink which were usually covered by my conservative button-downs. I also angled my head to display the 'B' on my neck. "I'm a bit of a bad ass, Tanya. These are just the tip of the iceberg."
"How many tats do you have?" she asked as she traced the tribal ink on my arm.
"Too many to count," I chuckled. "I'm also pierced, too." I reached into the cup holder and slid my eyebrow ring, earrings and slipped on my tongue ring.
"You look so square, Edward. I would have never guessed," Tanya said, raising her brows. "Am I ever going to see the chest tattoo?"
"Perhaps. Not now, though. I'm too pasty," I chuckled. "Come on. You have a new family to meet. I'm certain they will love you."
"I hope so. All I want is to be loved by a family," she said quietly.
"You will, sweet girl," I whispered as I tucked a hair behind her ear. She nodded and got out of the car. She nibbled on the lip as I offered her my arm. She took it and we walked into the foyer of my house. She gripped my hand as she furtively looked around. "You're safe here, Tanya. No one will hurt you."
"Promise, Dr. Edward?" she asked.
"I promise," I said.
"Hey," I heard. I turned and saw Bella in the living room with Brandon in her arms.
"Hello, beautiful," I said as I led Tanya into the living room. "Everything alright?"
"Fine. I just needed a few moments. I got really emotional knowing that this was the last time that everyone was going to be here while it's our house," she sniffled. "You must be Tanya."
"Yes, ma'am," Tanya mumbled.
"Oh, god. I'm too young to be a ma'am," Bella snickered. "I'm Bella and this little guy is Brandon."
"Nice to meet you, Miss Bella," Tanya said. She looked at Brandon who was eating from his bottle. "Hi, Brandon." He turned toward his name and spit out the bottle. He fussed some.
"Would you like to hold him, Tanya?" Bella asked as she handed me the bottle.
"What if I drop him?" she squeaked.
"Sit down first," Bella said as she led Tanya to the large wingback chair. She placed Brandon into Tanya's arms who was enamored with his new sister. "Perfect. He loves you."
"Hello, Brandon," Tanya cooed. "I'm Tanya and hopefully I'll be your big sister soon."
"No hopefully, Tanya," I said as I wrapped my arm around Bella's waist. "It will happen. We're a family."
"A happy family," Bella said as she hugged me.
xx EC:AWIP xx
Seven Years Later
"Dad! We need to go!" Tanya screamed. "I'm graduating from college and I don't want to be late because my parents were too busy getting it on."
"Tanya!" Bella snapped. "We were not getting it on!"
"Sure, Mom," Tanya said as she leaned against the doorframe of our bedroom. "Why is your blouse not buttoned correctly?"
"Damn it," Bella growled, smacking me on the shoulder.
"Why are you hitting me? You're the one who couldn't button your own shirt," I snickered.
"I hate you, Whip," Bella growled. "Ass."
"Mommy, swear jar," Brandon said, pointing to the filled jar on our dresser.
"Right, little man. Let's go. Bella, fix your skirt."
"Shut it, Whip," she said, tweaking my nipples. I stuck out my tongue at my wife and tossed Brandon over my shoulders. Tanya was adjusting her cap and gown nervously. She was class valedictorian and was nervous about her speech. Bella had helped her write the speech but Tanya hated speaking in front of a crowd, much like me.
With one more adjustment to her cap, Tanya proclaimed herself ready to go and we all clambered into the car. I drove us to University of Oregon where Tanya Denali Cullen would graduate with a degree in biology. Before we parted ways, she hugged me and said that she loved me. I kissed my daughter's forehead and watched as she darted to the field house.
"It seems like yesterday that she came to our home as a scared teenager," Bella said as she wiped a few tears. "She's changed so much."
"A lot of it has to do with you, love," I said, kissing her temple
"Ewwwwwwww! Kissy face!" Brandon bellowed.
"Just you wait, Brandon. In a few years, you'll want to kissy face with someone special," Bella chided. "Did Tanya tell you that she's bringing someone to dinner tonight? A boyfriend."
"God, I think I'm going to die," I groaned. "She's too young for a boyfriend."
"Edward, she's twenty-two," Bella snickered. "You should be happy. This is the first man she's trusted since you. The first one to capture her heart. A man who can give her love."
"Are you saying that I don't love my daughter?" I asked, arching my brow over my new glasses.
"Edward, I know you love your daughter. But she's finally okay with the fact that she can move forward. Someone other than her daddy can keep her safe," Bella answered. "Though, you are the best at protecting your loved ones."
"Hmph," I growled. "He better treat her good or I'll kick his ass."
"Daddy, swear jar," Brandon chirped as he tugged on my belt loop of my pants.
"When I get home, bud. Remind me, okay?"
He nodded and we took our seats in the bleachers. The ceremony started a few moments later and we watched as the dignitaries and board of trustees gave their speeches. Right before the distribution of the degrees, Tanya gave her speech. She was well-spoken and brilliant. Her confidence shone through in her words and smile on her face.
"…There is one more thing that I want to say before I conclude my speech. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for my parents. They didn't give birth to me but they opened their home to me and showed me that I wasn't broken. They showed me that I was worthy of love and I'm eternally grateful for my mom, Isabella, my dad, Edward and my brother, Brandon. I love all of you and thank you for not giving up hope. You've taught me that each day is a work in progress. Learn from your mistakes and cherish your accomplishments. God knows that I'm proud to be your daughter."
Bella sobbed, cupping her hands over her mouth. Tears were falling down my cheeks as well. I slipped out my cell phone and sent my daughter a text.
I'm so honored to be your father, sweet girl. You continue to amaze me and I love you. And you made me cry – Dad
Dad, sorry about making you cry but it's the truth. I love you and mom. But, I have to put my phone away. The chancellor is giving me the evil eye – T
Sorry if I got you into trouble – Dad
;-) – T
The rest of the ceremony went by slowly with the time-consuming task of announcing all of the graduates. Brandon was getting antsy and we each had to take turns entertaining him. Nearly two hours later, the ceremony was over and we were waiting for Tanya at the entrance of the football stadium. Brandon was on my shoulders, looking for his sister. He started bouncing on my shoulders when he saw Tanya weaving through the crowd.
"Mom! Dad!" she squealed as she ran toward us. Once she got to us, she threw her arms around Bella, hugging her fiercely. "What did you think?"
"You did wonderful, Tanya," Bella said as she cupped Tanya's face. "I'm so proud of you."
"Thanks, Mom," she smiled. She turned to me, giving me a timid grin. "Daddy?"
I lifted Brandon off my shoulders and told him to stay with Bella. I opened my arms. She melted into my embrace. "My sweet girl," I said. "I'm so incredibly proud. I love you."
"I love you, Daddy," she said as she held me tighter. "Thank you for being there for me. Always." She pulled away and looked at both of us. "I have a strange request."
"What's that, sweetie?" Bella asked.
"I want to get a tattoo. I know that both of you used to have licenses," Tanya said. "I can get it from Uncle Emmett but I want a tattoo from both of you. Something that represents each of your personalities. Please?"
"When we get home," Bella said. "After dinner. Besides, we need to sketch something out, right, Whip?"
"Right," I winked.
"Okay, I have to know. Why do you call dad, 'Whip?'" Tanya questioned as we started walking toward the car.
"When I first started working at Dreamstyle, I was the shop 'bitch,'" I snickered. "But, I was your mother's personal whipping boy since I was her apprentice."
"I started calling him 'Whip' and it stuck," Bella shrugged. "Every so often, he calls me 'Bane.'"
"Like she's the bane of my existence," I bellowed. "But, we all know that we love each other very much."
"We wouldn't have been married for thirteen years if we didn't," Bella snickered.
We climbed into the car and drove back to our home in Portland. Tanya changed into black dress with blue, gold, red and white polka dots. Her hair was curled and she looked so happy. "Daddy, I know that Mom told you about Cole."
"Who in the hell is Cole?" I asked as I slid on my black suit coat. God, I look like a fucking lemming.
"Cole's my boyfriend, Daddy," Tanya said as she bit her lip. "He's special. Almost as special as you."
"Aw, hell," I said as I ran my hand over my face. "Are you trying to butter me up, sweet girl?"
"Possibly?" Tanya said as she smiled. "Daddy, he is a good man and he doesn't think I'm a freak for what happened to me."
"Tanya, you are not a freak. Period," I said sternly. "Rick is a fucktard for hurting you."
"Swear jar, Daddy!" Brandon chimed from his bedroom.
"God, he has ears everywhere," I said as I slammed a ten dollar bill into the swear jar.
"You do have a potty mouth, Dr. Edward," Tanya chided.
"It used to be worse, daughter," I sighed. "Much worse. Anyhow, how serious is this Cole character? What does he do? Do I need to flash my tattoos to have him be afraid of me?"
"Dad, your neck tattoo is enough to cause Cole to have a heart attack," Tanya said dryly. "But it works on you. Anyhow, Cole is a pre-med student at University of Washington. We met at a biology party before the end of last semester. We started off slowly, as friends, and we went from there."
"Is he being respectful of you, Tanya?"
"Very much so, Daddy. We haven't progressed further than kissing and he's been very gentle and understanding when I freeze up," Tanya blushed.
"How often is that?" I asked.
"Too often. What if I can't be with him, Dad?" she asked, biting her lip. "I mean, how long did you and mom wait after she was attacked to make love?"
"Roughly six months and in retrospect, it was too soon," I said. "If I had known what I know now, I would have told my younger self to pull back the reins. However, I was young and thinking with my hormones. It could have caused your mom to regress back into someplace scary and unhealthy. Thankfully, it didn't and we quickly fell into a healthy sex life."
"You still do, Dad. I've had to invest in some earplugs. You are such a screamer. Ew," she said wrinkling her nose. "I'm surprised that Brandon can sleep through all of the moaning and banging."
"This conversation is moving to a creepy place, Tanya," I said flatly. "There is a line and you, my dear, are straddling it."
"Sorry. But, seriously, what if I can't stop these flashbacks? Whenever Cole tries something different, I picture Rick," she murmured.
"I don't know, sweet girl. Those are questions you should ask your mom," I said. "She has first had experience. I can only draw on my professional expertise and that won't honestly help you."
"She told me to talk to you," Tanya laughed nervously.
"Hmmm," I grumbled. "My answer as a father is that he should never touch you until he has a ring on your finger and you're married."
"But, we both know that is probably not going to happen. My answer as a psychologist is to tell him what you're feeling when you feel scared and out of control. When do you typically freeze up?"
"When he touches my chest or moves below the belt," Tanya answered, blushing. "Rick was very rough when he…"
"I get it. You need to work with Cole to replace those negative feelings you have with positive ones. Work with him to help you understand what makes you feel good. Also, take it slowly. Start over your clothing and then progress from there."
"Okay," Tanya murmured.
"Am I done?" I asked, blushing on my own.
"I think so," she laughed.
"Good, because that was very awkward," I shuddered. "I'm dreading giving the sex talk to Brandon. I'm almost tempted to find a porno and show it to him."
"No, Dad. He would be scarred for life," Tanya said. "We probably should go, though. We're meeting Cole at the restaurant. Is Aunt Kate watching Brandon?"
"Yep. Masen and Brandon are having some kind of game console tournament," I shrugged. "I think Uncle Garrett is in on it, too."
The doorbell rang and on my doorstep was Garrett, Kate and Masen. My godson raced past me and into the basement. Garrett shrugged and followed him, giving Tanya a congratulatory hug. Kate rolled her eyes as she went to check on Bella in the bedroom. A few moments later, Kate and Bella came downstairs. My wife wore a blue and black scarf-like dress with black pumps. Her hair was curled down her back and her makeup was soft and smoky. She looked amazing for a woman who was thirty-nine.
"For the love of God, Edward. Stop eyefucking your wife," Kate bellowed. "Yes, she's hot. You want to bone her. You can do that when you get home, okay?"
"Jesus, Kate. Blunt much?" Bella chuckled.
"What? He was totally undressing you with his eyes," Kate said.
"And I do plan on undressing her when I get home," I snickered. "Let's go, Mrs. Cullen and Ms. Cullen." I offered my arms to my wife and daughter, heading out to the black Mercedes that I had bought for special occasions. My sweet girl graduating from college definitely qualified as a special occasion. We drove to the restaurant; the same place where we had our rehearsal dinner. I parked the car and we walked into the posh restaurant. Just inside was a tall man with dirty blonde hair and grey eyes. He reminded me a lot Jasper but lankier.
"Hi, Cole," Tanya said as she danced over to him, lacing her fingers with his.
"Congratulations, gorgeous," he said. "Your speech was awesome."
"Thanks," Tanya smiled. "Cole, these are my parents, Dr. Edward and Bella Cullen. Mom, Dad, this is Cole Ranos."
"Nice to meet you Cole," Bella said as she shook his hand.
I eyed him up before offering my own hand to shake. "Pleasure," I answered coldly.
"Dad, behave," Tanya hissed.
"Right," I said as I stood a little taller, giving Cole the evil eye. He shrank back, gripping Tanya's hand for dear life. Oh, I can have fun with this. We were quickly seated and ordered our food. Bella made polite conversation with Cole. He was currently a third year medical student and was starting to do his rotations at Seattle Grace Hospital. I asked him what his specialty would be. He smiled and said pediatrics. I melted a little bit with that response. He started rambling about he loved kids and felt a special connection to the children in the peds ward. Before dessert, Tanya and Bella head to the bathroom. My wife pinched my nipple and told me to be nice. I rolled my eyes.
"So, Dr. Cullen, what made you choose psychology?" Cole asked nervously, playing with his napkin.
"I was a drug addict and I really fucked up my life. However, I got lucky with my friends and family who placed me into a great rehab facility here in Portland," I answered. "I wanted to pay it back by becoming a psychologist. Now, I work with addicts and children of addicts, specifically."
"Wow," Cole murmured. "You turned your life around. That's awesome, Dr. Cullen."
"Thank you. Now, what are your intentions to my daughter?" I asked, arching my brow.
"I love her, sir. She's so smart and funny and beautiful and loving and I can't imagine my life without her. I know that she's going to University of Washington to start her own medical degree but I'm hopeful that you will give me your blessing to marry her."
"You've known her for how long?"
"Six months, Dr. Cullen but she's it for me," Cole said fervently.
"She's told you about her past, right?"
"Yes, sir. I know that you and Mrs. Cullen adopted Tanya after she turned sixteen because she was removed from her home. Her step-dad raped her," Cole gulped down. "There's something that you should know, Dr. Cullen. I'm a virgin and will wait for Tanya. I'll wait until she's comfortable and ready. If it's on our wedding night, great. If it's a year from our wedding night, I'll work with it. She needs to feel loved and cherished, sir. I hope that I'm man enough to do that. Please, let me love her."
"I'm giving you the okay to propose. However, if you hurt her, Cole, I have a friend who can toss you into Puget Sound and make it look like an accident," I said. "And that's after I cut off your balls with a rusty butter knife."
"I'll make sure I won't hurt her, Dr. Cullen," Cole squeaked.
"Good. And call me Edward," I said as I held out my hand.
"Thank you, sir. Edward, sir," Cole stammered with a nervous smile.
My wife and daughter returned. I got an icy glare from Tanya. "I behaved, sweet girl," I said, holding up my hands. "There was no bloodshed, right Cole?"
"Right, Edward," Cole smiled.
"Hmmm," Tanya said. "Is it alright if Cole drives me home?"
"That's fine," Bella answered. "Just be safe. Don't drink and drive."
"I don't drink, Mrs. Cullen," Cole answered. "I lost my dad to a drunk driver and I took a vow to never drink. So, I've never had a drop of alcohol. Ever."
"I'm beginning to like you more and more, Cole," I smiled as I sipped my water.
xx EC:AWIP xx
Many Years Later
I sat on the porch, holding my wife's hand. Running around in our backyard were our grandchildren and grand nieces and nephews.
Alice and Jasper's daughter, Annie, ended up marrying Masen in a lavish ceremony that put any royalty to shame. Their children, Rebecca, Seth and Iris, were each two years apart and spoiled rotten by their grandparents. Annie took after her mother and became a highly sought after clothing designer. Masen became a tattoo artist and was featured in several magazines. He actually had his own show on one of the stations on cable. He was truly a dynamic boy.
Garrett and Kate had one more baby that a surprise. Masen had just turned eighteen when Kate thought she was going through the change of life. Instead, she was pregnant with twins, Samantha and Abigale. They were both seniors in high school now and preparing to go to college. Samantha was going to NYU while Abigale was staying closer to home and attending University of Washington. Masen never attended college. He just took some business courses to make sure his tattoo shop stayed afloat.
Garrett was still working in our practice but was going to retire once the girls were done with college. Kate had decided to be a stay at home mom with the girls and it suited her. She still counseled Bella and Tanya when they needed it but as friends and not as a professional.
Rose and Emmett finally got married ten years after they met. It took Rose's pregnancy to get her to commit to Emmett. They had quick civil ceremony two days after he proposed and six months later, Emmett Junior was born. EJ took over Dreamstyle Ink once he became old enough. He apprenticed with Masen before moving to Dreamstyle. EJ never met a girl that caught his eye. He is a perpetual bachelor and always the 'cool' uncle. Rose and Emmett did try for other children but was only blessed with EJ. Emmett teased his son that they stopped at perfection. EJ just rolled his eyes.
My father ended up drinking himself into an early grave. Around the time that my son was graduating from high school, I received a phone call from Virginia Mason. My father was admitted to the ICU with extreme cirrhosis of the liver and did not have a good prognosis. I drove up to Seattle that night to speak with him. When I got there, he was too far gone. His mind was hallucinating and he was so sickly looking. I just sat with him until he took his final breath. He passed away early that morning, holding my hand. I kissed his forehead and said that I forgave him. He was buried in the family plot, next to his mother.
Esme and John ended up marrying shortly after Tanya's graduation from college. They spent John's retirement traveling the world and living the high life. Esme felt loved and adored and I couldn't be happier for her.
Father Gregory is still our good friend and confidante. However, he's losing his marbles, slightly. Even though we are not his children, we've adopted him as our own. Once he left the priesthood, he moved into an assisted living home. We visit him daily. However, he doesn't remember much. Bella is saddened that her 'father' figure is wasting away. I'm sad for her. He's healthy as a horse, but his mind is withering.
In regards to me and my family, it was a work. In progress. Bella and I had a time when Brandon was in high school where he started using drugs. It hit us really hard. He started with pot and then was moving to LSD and more heavy duty stuff. I was the one who found the cocaine in his bedroom. Oh, my God, I wanted it. But I refrained. When he came home from school that day, I sat in the living room with the small packet of white powder on the cocktail table. I gave my son two choices: get clean or get out. I sounded like Carlisle but I refused to have drugs in my home. So did Bella. It was too much of a risk for both of us. Brandon chose to get clean. I admitted him into an in-patient facility. Within two months, he was clean and back living with us with some very strict rules.
He hasn't touched drugs or alcohol since.
He did take an extra year to graduate from high school and he took classes at the community college before he decided on his major: restaurant management. He is now a chef in a lucrative restaurant. He met his wife, Mia, there and they have two little boys, Lucas and Daniel.
Tanya is a pediatric psychiatrist. She graduated with honors and worked with children who were like her: children from abusive homes and scary situations. She really connected with them. Tanya and Cole did end up getting married after she completed her medical degree. They waited until their wedding night to make love for the first time. Now, technically, Tanya was not a virgin but Cole treated her as such. Her virginity was stolen away from her and he gave her what she should have had. Something special, loving and perfect. Tanya had no flashbacks. Thankfully. It was tough though, walking down the aisle with my daughter on my arm to give her to another man. I cried like a fucking baby. They have two children, Edward Anthony and Madelyn Isabella.
Bella and I, we've been married for thirty years. We had our happy times and our sad times. We also had times where we wanted to kill each other like when we first met. But, I wouldn't change any of it for the world. I married my best friend. She is a wonderful mother, loving grandmother and still the most beautiful woman in the world to me. Her chocolate hair has since changed to gray but her eyes are still the color of cinnamon and she can still get me hard as a rock. No Viagra needed here, kids. Yes, we're both older but our love is going strong. Stronger than ever.
Oh, and for our twentieth wedding anniversary, I finally got the damn Prince Albert. It hurt like a mother fucker. What the hell was I thinking?