A/N: No copyright infringement intended. The Twilight Saga and all characters involved are the property of Stephenie Meyer.
Beta'd by JaspersDestiny. Much thanks and love to her.
I stared at the little white and pink object cradled in my hands. One line meant one thing and two meant another.
Two lines meant I'd managed to screw up everything. Two lines meant eighteen years of being reminded of that.
Just two simple fucking lines were all it would take.
I flicked the test between my fingers before setting it onto the counter and walking out into the hallway. Mom was standing there staring at me, waiting for an answer. I shrugged and her lips pursed.
"It'll take a few minutes," she explained quietly.
I knew this bothered her, even disappointed her, but she had always been my supporter, my rock. "Yeah," I said with a nod.
Without another word I walked into the kitchen and poured myself a glass of orange juice. I wasn't even sure how this had all happened. Well, I was, but it just felt surreal. No seventeen year old expects to wake up to their mother asking them why they haven't touched the box of tampons in the last month. And what seventeen year old really thinks about that shit anyway? I never bothered to. Of course, Renee no longer had a use for tampons or pads, not since her surgery that left her without most of her internal female reproductive organs. And ever since I asked to be put on birth control at sixteen…well, she kept a close watch on my daily pill supply and my monthly visitor.
Cool liquid slid down my throat as I watched the trees sway with the breeze through the window above the kitchen sink. It was almost too calm.
"Bella?" Renee called from the bathroom. "It's been three minutes."
"Will you check it for me?" I asked through a breath of air.
Oh God, I can't do this.
"One or two," I asked after she stayed silent for more than what I deemed okay. When she didn't answer, I repeated myself. "One or two?"
I barely heard her reply. "Two."
One Month Later
My feet hit the tiled floor soundlessly as I walked. I was exhausted, both physically and emotionally, but at least I didn't cry anymore. No, I'd done more than enough of that. People filed past me – some walking toward luggage claim, others to the little food court, and many to the several waiting gates that surrounded me. I didn't even care; I was too lost. Still, my fingers splayed across the bottom of my stomach as I walked, knowingly protecting the little thriving being within.
No one even noticed. But who would think to look for the seventeen – nearly eighteen – year old teen that was pregnant and just trying to make it to arrivals so she could see her father? Yeah, that's right. No one.
I'd graduated, but it hadn't been easy that last month of school. It was like everything in my world had just fizzled out. Why call friends when you know they won't understand? Why announce when you know people are going to start looking at you funny?
Who knows a secret?
Did you hear about Bella Swan?
I wonder who's the father?
She's gained some weight.
No, I didn't want that last month to be like that. I'd already seen how the sharks treated other girls who'd made the same mistake as me. I'd found one crying in the bathroom after a particular incident where someone had scrawled the word 'Slut' in permanent Sharpie marker across her locker. All for what? Because she'd had sex with the football team's co-captain and now he wasn't ready and willing?
I wouldn't let them do that to me.
Glass doors slid open automatically as I approached. Even from my position I could see my father's worried expression as his head poked up through the crowd of people milling about. My heart sank a little. I hadn't wanted this. I didn't run into his arms. I never even said hello when I walked up to him. But I did feel his hand squeeze my shoulder, and I heard his whispered words of, "How are you feeling, Bells?"
Why did I have to be lucky? I surely didn't deserve parents who cared enough not to yell at me, telling me that I'd failed. God, why couldn't they just tell me I had done wrong? Why couldn't Renee have kicked me out or told me how angry she was? Why did Phil have to tell me we'd do whatever I wanted? And why did Charlie have to be so willing to take me in for this and then help me through the rest?
Why was I the only one who felt like I had failed?
Didn't they want more for me?
"You hungry, kid?" Charlie asked as we moved toward the luggage claim area.
"No," I murmured, looking down at my hands still cupping my stomach.
His eyes followed my gaze and he grunted. "So how far along, or do you know?"
I nodded, swallowing the lump forming in my throat. "Uh, Mom took me to Dr. Fraser the day after we found out. She worked it all out and stuff, gave me some references for a couple good prenatal doctors here."
"Sure, we'll check 'em out and you can pick which one you like. So, how far along in months?" he asked again as I pointed to the black bag that rolled out through the opening.
I answered as he grabbed it. "Two."
Seven Months, One Week Later
My head turned at the tiny cry. Her little fingers curled into fists and I watched her hand pop up from the plastic cradle they had placed her in. Blankets swaddled her body tightly, but she always found a way to get that one arm out. She didn't like it being contained.
I couldn't get up to calm her and I knew she was hungry. The orders from the doctors and nurses were clear enough – I was to stay comfortable and still, accept the help offered until I healed, and then I could begin doing what I could.
Tears slid through my lashes.
I couldn't even walk over to her yet.
My body hadn't reacted well to the pain; it never had anyway. The contractions had been constant but nothing had happened. There had been nothing to show that I had been in labour for thirty-nine hours except for the contractions. I wouldn't dilate. They had tried to encourage – though I preferred the term force – my cervix to open using a balloon they inserted and inflated. Still, my cervix still wouldn't thin or dilate any more than what they had managed to gain.
The baby had gone into distress.
I screamed for them to get her out. My body hurt. And I was too tired to fight it.
They had me in and out of the emergency c-section within twenty minutes. Charlie held her first, all bloodied with a mop of blonde hair and a tight little fist that shook with her screams.
But Goddamn it, I couldn't even breathe.
She was a week late.
She was years too soon.
I wanted to cry a little, maybe even hide from the reality of it all.
Instead, Charlie let them measure, weigh, and evaluate her. She screamed when they gave her the vitamin K needle. Then, with a proud smile, Charlie moved through the IV wires and bent down to let me see the peachy pink skin swaddled in white blankets. Her soft skin pressed against my lips and I let the tears fall then.
"Kale Renee Swan."
Weeks…years…sometimes those numbers didn't even matter.
"How many ounces did she take?" I asked Charlie as he set the hospital bottle back down.
They wanted us to record how much she consumed every time she fed, as well as all the diaper changes just to make sure she was okay. She weighed a spectacular seven pounds, four ounces at birth. My surgical cut had already ripped open once when I tried getting myself out of bed, and now they were being extra cautious with me. I could hold her, but only if they brought her to me. I couldn't even pick her up myself.
He smiled as he patted her back lightly with his large hand. "Two."
Five Years, Six Months Later
Kale sat under the tree in the backyard, furiously colouring across the book with a blue crayon. I nodded – even though the woman on the other end of the phone couldn't see it – as Kale's teacher explained the incident to me. Charlie stood beside me, listening with rapt attention. He'd been the one who had had to go pick her up from the principal's office. I had been at work and unreachable at the time.
"Kale refused to explain what Madaline had said to her but it is obvious how defensive Kale is about you, even at her young age," the woman explained. At least there was no judgment in her tone. Years of people in our small town asking questions about Kale and me had gone unanswered. It only left them to fill in the blanks with their own assumptions. "Madaline was uninjured, other than maybe emotionally."
"Thank you, Mrs. Degrace," I replied. "I will find out from my daughter what happened. She'll be back at school on Monday with an apology for Madaline."
I hung up the phone and turned to Charlie with a questioning stare. He held his hands up and shook his head. "She asked me why her daddy didn't love her on the ride back here," he muttered through a grimace. "I didn't say anything because I figured this was better left for you."
My teeth clenched and so did my heart.
Damn it. This didn't need to be so hard.
In the five years since she'd been born, Kale had never really asked about her father. Maybe once or twice, but nothing like this. I filled her time with activities and friends, people and places, to fill a void I figured she might feel. I felt guilty. I worked hard, paying her way through all the expenses of those activities and trips and paying Charlie for what he'd given me. And I paid for my own schooling. But working hard didn't make up for what I couldn't give to my child.
Fuck, I had done her so wrong.
I made my way out to her, bringing along a peanut butter and jam sandwich Charlie had prepared. Sometimes kids were a little more forthcoming when they were filling their mouths with food – or at least Kale was.
She didn't even look up at me when I sat down in front of her and placed the plate beside her legs. She spoke though – so quietly that I had to strain to hear her. "Madaline said her parents said my daddy left you because of me. She said they told her he didn't care, so he didn't stay. Does that mean he doesn't love me?"
So innocent. I had to bite my tongue.
"Where is my daddy? Don't I have one?" she asked as she finally looked up at me.
I reached out and brushed a blonde curl out of her face. "Every child has a daddy, Kale. Some even have two," I added with a chuckle, thinking back to our conversation two months earlier about John and his two dads that were at parent teacher night. "Your daddy would adore you, sweetheart. He would, I promise."
"But he doesn't," she mumbled as she coloured harder against the paper.
"Hey," I said as I grabbed her hand before she broke her crayon. I tilted her head to look up at me and I saw tears brimming in familiar eyes. "Your daddy did not leave because of you, and I swear he would have loved and cared for you had he have been given the chance. Maybe when you're older you will understand better, but it was not your daddy's fault, Kale."
"Did you love my daddy?"
Oh God. "Very much," I answered through a deep breath.
"Well, how come he isn't here then?"
"Why isn't he here," I corrected her.
"Why isn't he here?" she repeated before scrunching up her face.
"Because Mommy made some bad choices."
I saw Charlie come out to sit on the back porch, and he lit up a smoke as he watched us quietly. Kale smiled at him and waved before grabbing onto her sandwich and standing up, littering crayons across the grass.
"Grandpa says bad choices are like mistakes, and sometimes you gotta make them to learn," she said, flashing her smile and the two front teeth she was missing as she did so.
"Grandpa is very right," I responded as I picked up the crayons.
It seemed like within minutes she was okay again. That was my girl though – she ploughed through. "Hey, Mommy?" Kale said, turning back to look at me through a mouth full of bread.
"Is my soccer game tomorrow? Can I still go or am I gonna be punished?"
"No, we'll go, baby." I nodded at Charlie on the porch. "Grandpa will be taking you."
Charlie stubbed his cigarette out as we both walked up the steps. He looked at me as I placed the coloring book and crayons on the stand by the sliding glass doors.
"What time is that game tomorrow, Bells?" he asked me.
Four Years, One Month Later
"Are you sure you're okay with doing this, Bells?" Charlie asked as I threw a couple more shirts into my bag.
"Of course, Dad." I smiled tightly.
"You don't look okay," he muttered half-heartedly.
Where was Kale? My God, that child took forever to take a shower and dress. "Kale!" I yelled into the hallway. "Bring me your bags, please!"
"Bells, will you talk to me for a minute?"
I sighed, flipping the top to my bag before zipping it up roughly and turning to look at him. "What, Dad? What do you want me to say? I've got the time off work, it's summer for Kale, and she opted out of soccer and swimming this year. Renee needs help. Ever since Phil died in that boat accident, she's been kind of out of it. The cancer came back in her other breast and she's not willing to go through any more surgeries."
"She could come here," he interjected.
He was right; she could. And she had twice a year since I'd left my little Arizona town. But Forks wasn't for Mom. She wanted to be comfortable and I wouldn't deny her that. And God knew I wanted Kale to spend some time with my mother outside of the life we had built here.
But fuck it if I didn't want my mother too.
"It'll be okay, Dad," I said, blinking back a couple tears that threatened to fall. "We'll be okay and we'll be back."
His hands rubbed together and I saw the truth behind his worry. "I just... Damn it, Bells. I'm not used to being alone without you two tearing up a storm in the house. It's gonna be so quiet and lonely."
I threw his earlier words back at him with a smile. "You could always come with us."
He grimaced. He and Renee had an agreement that a couple weeks were fine, but this could last a couple months and Charlie just wasn't up to that. Kale stomped into the room with a scowl on her face, trying to hold her hair back while pulling her luggage along behind her.
"Here," she snapped before turning to leave.
"Hey, dial back on the rude attitude, young lady," I warned.
"God, this is my summer, Mom," she whined before leaving my view.
My hand rubbed across my face and Charlie chuckled beside me. "Just imagine when she hits the teenage years, Bells. If you think this is bad, you haven't seen anything yet."
My eyes rolled. "I do not need a reminder."
Charlie's face grew sombre and he pulled Kale's luggage over to me. "You go and take care of your mom. Say hi for me and then bring my grandbaby back to me."
Charlie didn't do emotions well; neither did I.
"I love you, Dad," I said before pulling him into a hug.
"Yeah, me too," he replied before pulling away and nodding as he examined our luggage. "So what time does your plane land?"
Three Weeks, Two Days Later
Kale kicked the ball across the backyard and glared up at the sun as it shone down brightly at her. She wasn't used to this weather. She liked the rain. Renee stood up from the table, grimacing through the pain as she walked over to look out the window with me.
"She's so much like you at that age," she murmured with a faint smile playing at her lips. "Except you weren't into sports much."
I snorted before turning to grab the coffee pot as it finished brewing. I poured myself a cup and sat down on the stool at the island, going through the prescriptions my mother had set out for me to see, read, and examine. Not that I understood much – accounting really didn't go hand in hand with medication – but I wanted to know what they had her on and what she was dealing with now.
"Oh!" Renee exclaimed with a clap of her hands. I looked up and she was pointing out the window. "Looks like Kale made a friend."
I had hoped she would, but after three weeks of being here, Kale had mostly sulked about and talked about missing her friends back home. I hadn't done much either, other than shopping for Renee and emailing Charlie. I got up, abandoning the meds, and looked out the window. A pretty, black haired, short girl and a bronze haired boy were leaning over the brush ledge that separated my mother's property from her neighbours. The girl looked to be Kale's age; the boy was maybe a year or two older.
"Who are those kids?" I asked.
"Alice and Edward Cullen," she explained. "They're the doctor's children. I believe they are friends with Emmett's boy."
"Emmett?" I choked out. "As in Emmett Hale?"
My mother's eyebrow rose curiously. "Yes. His boy, Parker, uses my backyard a lot when he practices soccer. I don't mind. He's a very sweet child."
Another boy with dark curls and bright blue eyes leaned over the ledge as Kale smiled and nodded to the kids. He looked just like his father; it was uncanny.
"Who is his mother?" I blurted out before I could stop myself.
I knew the answer, and damn it if it didn't sear my soul.
"Rosalie Hale, though she was a–"
I was sure my eyes were going to burn out of my skull. Kale said something else to the kids before turning around and running back toward the house. I opened the back door and stepped out onto the porch and she bounded excitedly up the stairs.
"Hey, Mom, can I go over to Alice's and swim?"
"Uh…" I gaped. I was at a loss for words. It wasn't that I didn't want her to make friends; I just wasn't sure if I wanted to be that close to the parents of those friends. There was always the possibility we'd need to see one another. I shook my head of those thoughts. "Sure, baby. Have fun."
"Oh, and Alice mentioned maybe going to the take-out and getting some ice cream. I can't remember the name of it though," she said as her eyebrows knitted together in thought.
"John's Ice Cream Parlour," I answered with a heavy feeling pressing on my chest. "I went there a lot."
"Cool!" She grinned. I watched her pull off her cleats and toss them into her grandmother's waiting hands before she replaced them with her runners.
"Kale," I said as she jumped off the steps. "Be home by two."
"Kay, Mom," she agreed. "Two."
One Week, Three Days Later
Sprawled out on the back lawn, book in hand, while my mother hummed along to some old song I didn't recognize, I felt like I was home again for the moment. Kale had gone on a walk with Alice. The sun was bright. I had managed to avoid anyone who would probably recognize me, and I was okay, but barely.
"Have you spoken to him?" Renee asked me.
"Who?" I asked, pulling the sunglasses away from my face and setting the book down on the blanket.
She gave me a look and muttered, "You know who," under her breath.
I cleared my throat. "Do you mean since I've been back or since I left?"
"How about both?"
I shrugged. "How about never?" I said sarcastically. But it was the truth. She saw that too.
My fingers traced the spine of the book. I didn't want to meet her eyes. "He was gone, joined the army. What was I supposed to do? I didn't even know who to contact to get in touch with him. He was three years older than me, and it was a stupid, stupid mistake."
"Bella!" she exclaimed with a frown. "Kale was not a mistake."
I stared at her blankly. "I'm sorry, Mom. No, you're right – pregnant at seventeen, baby at eighteen, no career or college for years, no father for the child…it was not a mistake."
"It wasn't!" she snapped before forcing herself to stand up and look down at me. "You may have made a couple bad choices, and things might have come out unplanned and before the right time, but she was not a mistake, Bella. And I never – never – want to ever hear you say that again."
"I love my daughter," I whispered.
"I know you do, just like I love you. You came a little earlier than what I would have liked too, and God knows Charlie and I just never did right with each other, but you were my sun in a very dark world, baby. Kale was that for you, and maybe you should let her be someone else's sun too."
I knew what she was saying. I knew what she wanted.
"He made his choice – he didn't know but still. And that was okay. He had to go back and I grew up. We were not a foreverkind of thing, Mom; we were a for the moment thing. And that moment passed."
"He's a good man," she told me quietly. "He did damn well in his life and he should know what he missed out on."
"He wanted the world," I bit back bitterly. "And he wanted to have it by the balls. That wasn't me, Mom. It wasn't what I wanted."
She looked at me sadly and shook her head. "Everyone, at some point, wants the world, baby. Don't blame him for wanting it then."
I picked up my book as she walked away. I stared at the page and flipped it to the next one. I hadn't even really been reading it.
I stared at the page number: two.
Two Days Later
I thanked the pharmacist and moved toward the line-up at the cash to pay for the prescriptions. At least Mom had some kind of healthcare coverage, so most of this was covered for her. A blonde girl in the aisle beside the cash grabbed a bottle of prenatal vitamins before standing up and looking me right in the eyes. My heart stopped and I clenched my teeth, my hands fisting. She was still beautiful – shocking blue eyes and a stomach that said she was about ready to pop again.
"Bella? Bella Swan?" she asked in a shocked tone.
I turned and sat the bags of pills onto the counter before turning back slowly and smiling tightly. "Yeah, Rose, that'd be me."
I hadn't seen her yet, even though she lived right next door to my mother. Small world, and it could get even smaller, but I'd made sure to avoid that possibility at all costs. "Wow, Bella, you look great." She moved around a display, stopping to give me an awkward one-armed hug, before looking down at her stomach. "This is my second."
"Yeah, your son plays with my daughter, Kale."
"Kale's your little girl? God, she's a beauty. Oh, shit! I forgot that your mom is sick too. She's, uh, well, it's hard to remember when she runs around like mad, and she never stops or lets it show."
I nodded my agreement. "She's got a while left. Kale will probably go back to stay with my dad when school starts again and I'll stay behind to take care of her until…uh, yeah."
Rosalie's eyes turned sad before her head tilted a bit and she asked a question I had hoped she wouldn't. "How old is Kale?"
"Ah, ten," I said quickly, paying for the prescriptions and hoping to get out of the situation quickly.
Rosalie had been a good friend of mine, and so had her now husband, Emmett. Both had been a year older than me and and they had graduated ahead of me. She had been – because of her relation to him – one of the first people I stopped connecting with after I found out about Kale.
I watched her piece together the time in her mind and she stared at me shocked. "Was she why you left right after you graduated? Were you pregnant, Bella?"
A lump formed in my throat and I swallowed to get rid of it. "Yeah."
"Who is Kale's father?"
I grabbed the bag and the receipts from the girl at the cash before turning back to Rosalie. "I'm sorry, Rose. It's been nice catching up but I promised to take Kale to the beach tonight."
"Bella, wait!" Rose called out as I walked away from her quickly. "Just…how many months pregnant were you when you left?"
I didn't want to answer, but I did anyway. "Only two."
Six Hours Later
I listened to my daughter read a poem she'd found in one of the books Renee had. The tide moved in and out on the beach. The sky was darkening and the waves were crashing. There were a few others spread out on the sand too, but we were far enough away that it was just the two of us alone.
"How sick is Grandma really?" Kale asked after a minute.
I always believed the old adage that if a child was old enough to ask, they were old enough to have things explained to them. "They've found more cancerous cells and your Grandma is refusing to do more treatments or surgeries. Unfortunately, it's a bit worse this time than it was last time, and they haven't given her much hope if she chooses not to fight it."
"Oh," Kale mumbled sadly. "Will you miss her?"
I smiled and turned to look at my daughter. "Of course. She is my best friend, baby."
"You don't have any other best friends?"
I laughed. "Yes, I have Angela and your grandpa."
"Yeah, but... did you have anymore? Parker said his mommy knew you – and his daddy too."
"They did; they were friends of mine when I lived here."
"She's really pretty," Kale said to herself.
"Rosalie always was," I replied distantly.
"Was my dad your friend?" Kale asked quietly.
Her question shocked me and she looked everywhere but at me for a moment. "He was my best friend."
"Huh," she responded. I watched her lie back on the blanket before staring up at the sky. "How many stars can you see right now, Mom?"
I didn't see the stars; I was watching the familiar blue in my daughter's eyes. "Two."
One Week, One Day Later
I watched Emmett chase his son and Kale around his backyard. Rosalie was sitting on a bench they had set up, absentmindedly rubbing her large stomach as she watched. Her head turned and she saw me watching. I nodded my head and her eyebrow rose as she forced herself to stand and she made her way down their pathway and through a little passageway between the hedges that separated the two properties.
"Bella," she greeted.
"How are you feeling?" I asked.
She shrugged and patted her stomach. "Pregnant."
I chuckled. "Stupid question, I guess."
"Listen, I wanted to apologize for the other day. It wasn't my place to question–"
"No, that's all right, Rose," I told her. "I knew people would ask."
"Will you tell me the truth, Bella, please? I'd really like to know, and if you decide to walk away again, that's okay. You obviously had your reasons, and despite my suspicions, you have all the free choice in this world to make up your own decisions regarding your daughter."
Renee leaned into the open doorway, giving us a small smile and a wave to Rosalie. I sighed hard and watched my daughter toss a balloon filled with water at Parker. She was just getting to know the young boy, even though they were nearly the same age. It was unfair – had I made a different choice, they would have probably grown up together.
Tears gathered in my eyes but I blinked them away before finally answering.
"Kale is your niece."
She seemed to melt with the deep whoosh of air she let out at my words. "Why didn't you tell him?"
"He was gone," I answered quietly. "I wasn't going to bring him back for this. He wanted that."
Rose's eyes were filled with sadness. Renee cleared her throat and pointed to a non-existent watch on her wrist. "Honey, it's nearly–"
"Yeah, I know, Mom," I said as I gave Rosalie a sad smile. "Time for your shot; it's nearly two."
Two Days Later
I sat in the car, hands shaking around the piece of paper Emmett had brought over to me that morning. He hadn't said anything, he just shot a smile at Kale and gave me the paper. It had an address and a name. His name. I knew what she wanted me to do, and without thinking, I asked my mother to watch Kale for the day while I did something I should have done years ago.
I stared up at the house that was his. Mom had told me he'd been hurt overseas and when they sent him home, he hadn't been called to go back. Still, to the people in this town, he was a hero. He always had been in one way or another.
I forced myself out of the car and walked up the walkway slowly. My fist hit the door three times; it echoed in my mind. I looked down at the dark stained wood, not even noticing my fist was still connected to the door until it swung open.
My head snapped up, eyes meeting his as his mouth dropped open. "Bella," he whispered.
My hand, still raised, lowered as a smile graced his face. He stepped out onto the porch, eyes travelling every movement I made as if I were going to run away.
"It's been..." he trailed off, still staring at me.
"A decade," I answered for him.
"Amazing," he said instead.
"How are you, Jas?" I asked, wanting to change the course of the conversation.
"Older," he replied. I grinned. His response should have been expected; that was just the way he was. I watched as he dragged his fingers through his golden curls, his blue eyes watching me warily. "What are you doing here? I haven't seen or spoken to you since I left."
My hands shook again. I wasn't ready for this. "I just...uh, I was in town. My mom is sick. I wanted to say hi."
"Hi," he repeated.
His hand cupped his neck and his muscles strained against the white shirt he was wearing. I could see the one scar on his neck; it was large and it looked as though something had torn through the side of his neck raggedly.
"Mom said you were hurt over there."
He cleared his throat and his eyes narrowed. "Yeah, I was shot during a routine search."
I felt like air wouldn't come into my lungs. "How many times?"
He chuckled, pulling out a cigarette from a pack in his pocket and lighting it up. "Only two."
Three Days Later
Kale kicked the ball around the backyard with Parker while Rosalie and I sat on the back steps. She was a day overdue and she was already ready to do whatever was necessary to bring on her labour. "Why didn't you tell him?" she asked.
I shot her a look. "What was I supposed to say, Rose? How would you have said that to him?"
"He called me that night, right after you left. Usually I have to go over and see him; he never comes here anymore."
I couldn't help my curiosity. "What did he say?"
"Asked if I had been talking to you, since he knows I live right beside your mom. It's why he doesn't come around; he was worried he would upset her."
I snorted indignantly. "That's ridiculous. Renee adored him."
A car pulled up and I craned my neck around the side of the house to see who it was. When he stepped out of the sleek, black car, I nearly puked.
"Kale!" I yelled. "Go inside the house."
Rose stood up and leaned over the railing, seeing her brother walking down the pathway between the houses. "Oh, my God," she muttered.
Kale ignored me, kicking the ball to Parker again. "Kale!"
"What?" she yelled back.
I pointed at the house, "Now!"
Rose motioned for Parker to come over to her. The little boy followed her direction without even asking. Just as Kale slammed the sliding door shut, Jasper walked around the side of the house. I was half hyperventilating while Rose smiled innocently at her brother from beside me.
"This is an unexpected surprise," Rose said lightly, shooting me a look.
"Hey, Parker," Jasper grinned, ignoring Rosalie's comment altogether. "How's my little man doing?"
"Uncle Jas, will you kick the ball with me? Kale had to go inside."
"Kale?" Jas asked, shooting Rosalie and me a look.
I swallowed. "My daughter."
His eyes widened and he turned back to Parker before nodding. "Just give me a minute. All right, little man? I've got to chat with your mom for a minute. Go set up where you want the net posts." When Parker was out of ear shot, Jasper turned to me while Rose fiddled nervously with her fingers. "Kale, huh? I didn't know you were married."
"She's not," Rose blurted out before mouthing 'sorry' to me and then waddling her way off the porch and crossing the lawn to the opening in the hedges. I glared at her back until I couldn't see the traitor anymore.
"Divorced?" he asked me.
"Never married," I replied.
He looked confused and I was going to explain, but then Kale bounded out the sliding door, yelling at Parker to grab her iPod for her. She slipped on a rag Renee had left sitting by the step. I slammed past Jasper, reaching out to catch my daughter, but I missed her by inches. Her head cracked against the wooden plank on the steps and her cry of pain sent my mind spinning.
"Kale, baby…hey, look at me, honey," I ordered. I leaned over her, checking her breathing and making sure she hadn't cut herself. There was no blood, but her eyes stayed shut. "Come on, baby, open your eyes and look at Mom."
I felt Jasper lean down beside me, his eyes travelling the face of the little girl below us. I watched his hands clench and heard his teeth grind before I finally looked him in the eyes. He was putting it together in his own mind; he didn't need me. I could see it there – the truth, his realization. I had kept it from him, but I certainly didn't want him to find out like this.
"Fuck," he hissed. "Why? She's mine, isn't she?"
"I'm so sorry," I sobbed before turning my attention back to Kale for the moment.
"Kale, you want to open your eyes for us, sweetheart?" Jasper asked our daughter calmly.
Parker had made his way over to us, watching the scene silently. I heard him call for his father and then his mother. Renee came rushing out of the back door in a panic, though she stopped dead in her tracks at the scene before her.
"Oh, God!" Renee gasped.
Kale's eyelashes fluttered against her skin before her blue eyes opened to stare straight into the eyes of her father. Her mouth dropped open to form words, but she said nothing.
"Hello there, I'm Jasper," he said, smiling. I breathed deeply as he held up his hand for her to see. "How many fingers am I holding up, Kale?"
Her eyes looked to me and I smiled encouragingly at her. Her voice was a little faint but she spoke regardless.
Two Weeks, Six Days Later
"You can't just take her away from me again!" he shouted at me. "God, I've only known her less than a few weeks, Bella."
"I'm sorry! She has school, Jas. We have a life, and it isn't here. She'll be back to visit in another month."
"Please," he begged.
I muttered another apology before he slammed out the front door. Kale poked her head around the living room entrance doorway, a confused look on her face. "Mom?"
I wiped the wet stains off my cheeks and turned to look at her. "Yeah, honey?"
"If I ask you a question, will you be honest?"
"Of course." I smiled.
"Jasper's my daddy, right?"
I hated that we couldn't have sit her down like normal people and explained it to her, but she had pretty well known from the moment she had opened her eyes. And this last argument probably hadn't helped to keep it secret.
"If I said I didn't want to go back to Forks, would you still send me?"
I stopped tossing her clothes into her luggage that I had pulled into the hallway and turned to look at her. "No, baby, I wouldn't. Is that not what you want to do?"
She squeezed her eyes shut and scrunched her face up before shrugging. "Is it okay that I want to see him?"
"Yeah..." she trailed off quietly.
I heard Renee leave through the sliding glass doors and shut them to give us privacy. "Kale, that is more than okay, if that's really what you want. And if you want to stay here, you can do that too."
I opened her luggage and pulled out her favourite beach towel before tossing it to her. It was dark outside, but if I knew him, he wouldn't give a shit. She looked at me, confused. "Go get in the car," I ordered before waiting until she was gone. I pulled out my cell phone and dialed the number he'd given me. But his answering machine picked up and I left a message telling him where I'd be waiting if he was interested in coming.
I gave a quick explanation to my mother before meeting Kale out in the car. She asked no questions as we drove, and that surprised me. That same black car he had been driving was already waiting at the beach when we got there. I could see him sitting, legs crossed in the sand, as I parked beside his car.
"Go have fun," I told my daughter with a smile.
The clock on the dashboard said eight. Kale smiled and bounded out of the car before leaning her head back in to say, "Pick me up in two."
Six Months Later
I spoke with the nurses, the doctors, the attendants…everyone. No one had anything to say that would help. She was stubborn; the pain was overwhelming. My mother was dying, but she had been for a long time and it hadn't gotten any easier.
But like Rosalie had said, it was easy to forget with Renee. She never showed it; she moved through it like wind through the trees. When she finally had to be admitted into the hospital, I asked Charlie to take Kale for two weeks so I could handle everything privately. I didn't want Kale to see my mother like this; she didn't need that pain.
Charlie had been hurt that we'd decided to stay, but he was overjoyed that Kale was re-connecting with her father. He was also ecstatic that she was coming back to him for a short while. I missed my father too.
I moved through the quiet hospital hallways without noticing those around me. Visiting hours were nearly over but I was allowed to stay with her for the night. Someone called my name but it sounded so distant in my ears that I barely heard a thing.
"Bella," they called again. I lifted my head just before walking into my mother's room to see Jasper walking down the hallway toward me. He had understood my need to remove Kale from the situation and had agreed to let her travel back to Forks to stay with Charlie. "How is she doing?" he asked.
"It's hard to know when no one tells me much of anything," I answered hoarsely.
I felt his hands pull me into a hug. "Maybe they are telling you but you're just not hearing it."
"Maybe," I sighed.
He released me and pulled me over to a bench lining the wall before we both sat down. "How was Kale?"
"Angry, sad, and a bunch of other things," I replied.
We were silent for a moment, and the silence was nice until it was shattered with a sound I never wanted to hear. Machines within the confines of my mother's room began beeping and sending off unknown alerts erratically. I heard her groan and then gasp for air. I shot up from the bench and slammed through the closed door. Three nurses and one doctor came barrelling down the hallway.
I reached out for Renee, crying her name as monitors beeped and a flat line filled the screen.
"Miss Swan, you need to leave," I heard a nurse order.
Someone's hands pulled me out of the room. Tears fell and hit the linoleum floor. Strong hands secured me, wrapping my face, and whispering words of calm and reassurance floated in my ears. I slid against the wall, legs sprawling out from under me, but he met me there, his eyes still keeping mine.
He soothed me, shushing and rocking me.
Minutes passed; so many minutes. I heard the order for the crash cart and another for some kind of needle. I cried harder. More seconds, minutes. She was going to die. I wasn't even sure how many minutes passed, but he didn't move, his arms forcing me into a cage of comfort.
Without understanding, my arms wrapped around him and I heard them call the words.
"Call it, time of death."
My heart shattered.
"P.M. Eight fifty-two."
Two Years Two Months Later
I stared at my girl as she checked out her dress in the mirror. The light pink material flowed around her perfectly; she looked so beautiful. Her body was starting to fill out as well. She was becoming a very beautiful young lady. Jasper was already threatening the life of Edward Cullen if he kept coming around the house more than what he deemed appropriate. Jas even asked Charlie if it were possible to still buy chastity belts.
Jas was in for a major surprise.
"How do you feel, baby?" I asked her, standing beside her to look at our reflections in the mirror.
"There are a lot of people out there," she whispered. "I feel like puking."
I laughed. "Well, that's a wedding. And there are a lot of people who have waited a long time for this one."
"Five minutes," Charlie called from outside my preparation tent.
The flap opened up and Rosalie walked in, her two and a half year old son grasping tightly to her fingers as he walked alongside her. "Wow, you look fantastic," she told me.
I shrugged and adjusted the sheer material along my shoulders. She came up behind me, pulling a strand of my hair back and placing a comb into my hair. It was covered in pearls and I smiled at her.
"Something old," she told me. "It was our mother's. He'll be so shocked."
"Four," Charlie called again.
"Yeah I gotcha," I replied.
I turned to Kale, fixing her hair quickly and positioning her flower bouquet in her arms before pushing both her and Rose out of the tent.
"You ready, kiddo?" Charlie asked as he popped his head into the tent. He eyed me and smiled, his eyes brimming a bit with tears. I nodded and he smiled. "Good, because Jasper is pacing, Kale is terrified, and Rose's little boy just spit on my shoes."
I couldn't help but laugh. "Anything else?"
Charlie shrugged. "Just that I love you and you look beautiful. I'm happy you're happy... Oh! And we're on in two."
Four Years Three Months Later
Jasper watched Kale from his perch on the kitchen counter as she closed the zipper to her book bag and ran out the front door to jump into Edward's car. He sighed aggravatedly, and I couldn't help but giggle as I walked out from my hiding spot in the hallway.
"Do you think he loves her?" he asked me apprehensively.
"Jas, he's been calling on her ever since she was ten and he was twelve. Yeah, I am pretty sure the kid is so far over his own heels he's starting to use others to fall."
His lip curled into a half grimace. "But she's my baby girl."
I smiled, fitting myself between his legs and giving him a kiss. "Not so young anymore," I reminded him quietly.
"I wish I had gotten to spend that time with her – with you," he said with a sigh.
I twiddled my fingers for a moment before pushing myself away from him and giving him a coy smile. "Well, you may be able to have that chance, but not with Kale obviously," I amended.
"Huh?" he asked, looking as confused as his word sounded.
I pointed down the hall and whispered back to him. "Can you go into the bathroom for a minute?"
I waved my hands for him to go and he did, shooting me an odd look as he went. I followed behind him silently, holding back my smile of what I already knew. I stayed right outside the door, leaning against the wall as he scanned the area in the bathroom.
"Tell me what you see," I said from the hallway.
"What is that on the counter?" he asked instead of answering.
"A test," I replied. "What does it say? One line or two?"
"Holy fuckin' hell!" he cried before his head poked out of the doorway and he waved it at me. "Really?"
"What does it say?" I repeated. "One or two?"
His grin took my breath away. "Two."
A/N: Two now has a companion piece posted separately called Hero. It's basically Jasper's story.