Future-take – The Next Generation
Disclaimer – Twilight belongs to Stephenie Meyer.
~*~*~*~ F F ~*~*~*~
"Mom, we can't sit Uncle Seth and Uncle Mike with Mark's cousins." Mhina plowed her hands through her hair, pulling the curls away from her face. "You know how they are."
Bella rolled her eyes at her oldest child, seeking patience from somewhere, anywhere. "Yes, baby, I know how they are . . . but the point was—your point was—to mix up the guests so there was no bride's side or groom's side."
"You're right; but just not those cousins. He's a total homophobe, and she's a closed-minded bitch."
"Language, Mhina." While she agreed with her, the rebuke came as a reflex. Grown woman or not, Mhina was still her little girl. "Okay, so we move those cousins to another table and switch them with . . . how about Mark's college roommate?"
"Perfect! He and his wife love everyone." She looked up from the seating arrangements spread out on the dining room table and gave Bella a smile of relief. "I think that's it!"
Bella was skeptical and raised an eyebrow. "You sure? I want to have this done so we can move along, honey." She held her breath and prayed they were finished with this stage of the wedding preparations.
"I'm sure. Geez, I'm glad, too. This is a full-time job all by itself. I should have hired a wedding planner just for this. Ugh." She pulled out her tablet and made the changes, and Bella chuckled.
"Your sister create a program for you?" Bella couldn't imagine her eldest taking the time to create a program to track all her wedding details. Mhina was the polar opposite of methodical.
"Of course. You know Sage, she's got a program for everything. She's actually pulled a few together for this; the seating, the database, tracking expenses, calendars, the honeymoon. Look—she brought in pictures of almost everyone for the seating." Mhina pulled up a three-dimensional image of the table they'd just finished and showed Bella each person virtually 'sitting' at the table. "You name it, she's thought of it."
The pride was apparent in Mhina's voice. Although she was younger, Sage was by far the more mature of the two girls. Bella considered this for a moment and realized it had always been that way. "That's why she manages everything you guys do. Why wouldn't you let her do this for you?"
Mhina shrugged. "She's got other things to do beside take care of my wedding stuff. She's juggling all of our music now, including Dad's collection, plus she's still working with Mark's band, although I have convinced her to let him go as a client after the wedding. He can find another manager, and she can relax a little bit. Plus, she's got that guy she's seeing—you know, the one Cole can't stand."
"Which one? Craig? The blond guy from the bank?" Mhina nodded. "Why doesn't Cole like him?" Rose and Emmett's son was just a year younger than Sage and had been her best friend most of her life. When they were young, Edward commented constantly about her having a boy as a best friend, but as they grew, he'd adjusted and accepted.
"Pft, I have no idea. Cole barely speaks to me."
"That's because you teased him mercilessly in high school and played pranks on both of them through college." Bella was quick to remind Mhina that she'd made her own bed. While Sage forgave her sister easily, Cole was very protective of Sage. "And he does speak to you."
"Only when he has to," she muttered. "Or when Sage makes him."
Bella smiled at her tone. No matter how old they were, the relationship between the sisters would never change. "So, what's next on the list?"
Mhina tapped her tablet. "Wedding programs . . . I need to check with Gabri—"
"Hello?" a deep voice called from the kitchen. "Where are you?"
"Speak of the devil." Mhina turned her head and shouted, "We're in the dining room!"
The kitchen door swung open, and Bella smiled at her youngest child. Tall, like his father, and with Edward's clear green eyes, he resembled Esme more than anyone else. He's a handsome one. His hair was darker than Edward's, but lighter than her own—not quite dark brown, but not red, either. He kept it short, for it tended to curl, and judging from the looks if it, he'd just had it cut.
"Hi, honey," Bella said as he leaned close to kiss her cheek.
"Hi, Mom. Hey, Mhina. Um, where's Dad? He's not out back." Gabriel looked around the room. "Where's Sage?"
"Sage is with Cole, and Dad went down to the store." After semi-retiring, Edward began to teach lessons again in his spare time. Change Your Tune had gone through different managers over the years, but he could never be convinced to sell it. "He thinks he left sheet music there."
"Sheet music? I can't believe he still composes on sheet music." Mhina was aghast, as usual; she might not be the most organized, but she refused to work with anything but the most up-to-date technology.
"You know your dad likes to do things the old-fashioned way, honey. He lets you do things your way, show him the same respect." Bella was firm in this. The kids were grown and had their own opinions, but Mhina was her most outspoken child and often needed reminding that other's opinions counted, too.
"I'm glad you're here, Gabriel, we were just talking about the wedding programs . . . how're those coming along?" Mhina batted her eyelashes at her baby brother, who seemed to pull himself out of whatever was bothering him and laughed.
"They're coming along fine. You need to make a decision on the paper, and I can finish them. I can't finalize the ink colors until you settle on a texture, weight, and color. Once that's done, it's just a matter of sending the file to the printer. He said he can turn around the three hundred you need in a day and overnight them back to you."
Bella listened with a grin; it certainly wasn't the first time Gabriel had been put in charge of graphic design of one of the family's projects. Her only child to not inherit his parents' musical ability, Gabriel's talents were visual and startling. He'd begun drawing and painting before the age of two, and had complete graphic novels written by the time he was seven. He worked with paints, oils, and pencils, clay and metal, computer graphics, animation, and photography—any medium he could conceive that might express the images and concepts he couldn't articulate with words. Having completed his first year at Savannah College of Art and Design, he was still uncertain about his direction. Bella wasn't worried, though. She was certain he'd find his path; it might take him longer than it took the girls, but he'd find it.
Mhina huffed in frustration. "What's wrong with white paper?"
"You want it to be a handout from the high school production of "Romeo and Juliet," then we'll use white paper." Gabriel raised his eyebrow at his sister, and Bella chuckled into her hand. It was exactly the face Edward made at her when he knew he was right.
"Ugh, no!" Mhina thrust her hand through her curls again. "Fine. Show me the sample paper. Mom, can you help? We can make a decision right now."
"You don't want Mark's input?" Gabriel asked, obviously concerned about excluding his future brother-in-law.
"Oh God, no. Mark doesn't care, as long as they look nice." Mhina waved her hand toward her brother before looking to Bella for confirmation. "Right, Mom?"
"No, she's right, Gabriel. Mark won't care; he knows you'll do a fantastic job."
"Okay, let me get the samples, and we'll do this right now." Gabriel headed for the stairs but stopped before he got halfway up. "Mom, can you see when Dad's coming home? I need to ask him something."
"Sure, honey." Bella dialed Edward's number from the house line.
"Don't call me Three, Meanie."
~*~*~*~ F F ~*~*~*~
Edward's phone rang as he was walking out of the store. He smiled at the picture that showed up on the screen and sat down on the bench a few feet from the door as he touched his phone to answer it. Choosing privacy over video, he brought the phone to his ear.
"Hi, beautiful girl." The anticipation of her voice sent his heart beating just a little bit faster.
"Hi, yourself. Why am I looking at your picture instead of video?" He could hear the smile in her voice.
"I'm sitting on a bench outside the store. No privacy. Would you like me to switch the video on?" As much as he enjoyed sitting and watching the people walk by, he'd much rather see his wife's lovely face.
"No, sweetheart, it's fine. Gabriel was just looking for you; he was wondering when you were going to be home."
"I'm on my way right now. I'll be home in about ten minutes." Edward looked up when he noticed a familiar car. "Is Sage home?"
"No, she's out with Cole, I think."
"Isn't she dating that guy from the bank? The blond one—Fred or Greg or something? " Edward was confused by the sight that greeted him from across the street.
Bella's laughter was musical, even over the phone. "Craig. And I think so. Why?"
"She's kissing Cole." Edward wasn't sure what the protocol was when one's grown daughter was kissing her best friend outside the flower shop in the middle of town on a Saturday. "I'm not quite sure how I'm supposed to react, honestly."
Bella was quiet on her end of the phone, and Edward couldn't blame her. If he really thought about it, the realization wasn't something that made him unhappy; Rose and Emmett were his best friends, and their son was a good man. But Sage and Cole had given the appearance of platonic friendship all of their adult lives, and Sage was reportedly dating someone else. Why the deception?
"You still there, honey?"
"I'm trying not to show any excitement in front of Mhina and Gabriel," she whispered. He could hear muffled sounds, as though she were moving around. "Edward, they are so perfect for each other, but they've been dancing around this forever. They complete each other, can't you see?"
"What? You knew?" Edward ran his free hand through his hair. "Why haven't you mentioned it before now?"
"I wasn't even sure she was aware of it. I didn't want us to influence anything either way. She and Cole had to figure things out for themselves."
"But I don't get the other guy—"Edward was focused on the flower shop door. As Sage and Cole walked out, Sage noticed him sitting on the bench and waved. "Well, she just noticed me and is coming over."
"Oh, okay!" Bella giggled into the phone. "Call me back."
"Okay, baby. I love you."
"I love you, too."
Pressing the end button on his phone, Edward looked back up as his youngest daughter and her best friend approached the bench where he sat. One of the benefits of looking so much like her mother was the pink blush that spread across her face and chest when Sage was nervous or uncomfortable. Judging from the color spreading across her cheeks, Sage was indeed nervous.
"Hi, pumpkin. Hi, Cole." Edward nodded toward the flowers in her hand. "Picking up some flowers?"
"Hi, Mr. Cullen. Yeah, just, um, celebrating." In his discomfort, Cole lost all vestiges of his tough-as-nails mother and was all Emmett. He really was a good kid, but for some reason he was nervous.
"What are you two celebrating?" Judging from the kiss and his conversation with Bella, he had an educated guess, but he waited to see if Sage would tell him.
"Nothing, Dad. Don't worry about it." Sage was more reserved than usual, which concerned Edward.
"You sure, honey? Everything's okay?"
Sage and Cole exchanged a look that Edward didn't even try to translate, but she smiled. "I'm sure, Dad. Everything's great."
"Okay, then. Your mom was wondering when I was coming home, I guess that would be now. You two heading home?"
"Yeah, I'll be home in a little while." Sage said.
"Mom and Dad are expecting me for dinner, so I'll have her home before then."
Edward blinked at the choice of words. He sounded almost proprietary, something he'd never been before. He looked . . . more mature, somehow—as if he'd had some maturity growth spurt recently. It fits him, Edward thought. Glancing at his Sage—his wise, old soul—she seemed lighter, less weighed down than ever before. And Edward smiled, wondering if maybe he'd just had a glimpse of their beginning.
"Okay, kids. I'll see you both later. Your mom is waiting for me."
Gabriel had his tablet at the table, and there were small squares of paper spread out across half the table's surface when Edward walked in. Three of his four favorite people were discussing wedding programs. Their heads were close together over the table, in varying shades of reds and browns. Mhina tucked a curl behind her ear, much the way her mother always did. As similar as she was in coloring to him, Edward was delighted at how much her mannerisms reflected her mother.
"Oh, Dad, you're home. Can you help Mhina decide on a paper before I just choose for her? Please?" Gabriel was flushed, clearly irritated with his sister's indecision, when he was apparently certain of the correct choice.
Edward joined them at the table, kissed his wife hello, and then addressed his son. God, he looks like Mom. That thought always made him smile. Everyone noticed the similarity, which made Esme puff with pride. With the rest of the grandchildren resembling their parents—even Sophie had grown to resemble Jasper—she loved having one kid she could claim as all hers. "What're the choices?"
"Gabriel thinks I should use this one." Mhina pointed at a lightly textured paper that, to Edward's untrained eye, appeared to be some shade of gray. "He says it will enhance the colors I want for the lettering and the graphics will be cleaner." She pointed at another square, some shade of blue that seemed heavier than the other paper. "I want this one; it matches the dresses better, and I like the design."
Gabriel hung his head and groaned. "Mhina, the dresses aren't this color, it's got too much yellow in it; the taupe is better. I can use the right shade of sapphire ink to match the dresses exactly, it's similar in color and texture to your invitations, and it's just classier."
Mhina aimed a dirty look in his direction. "Are you saying I'm not classy, Three?"
"No, Meanie, I'm saying the blue isn't classy, and this wedding is."
Edward looked at Bella, who simply sat and let them work it out. He knew without question who was right; Gabriel's artistic eye was second to none. If he said the gray was the right paper, then the gray was the right paper. Mhina, as the oldest and presumably wisest, had a very hard time deferring to Gabriel when it came to things that mattered to her. The rest of the family had learned early on to nod and smile and appreciate his talents.
"Mhina, do I tell you what notes to write? Do I ever suggest you try a flat versus a sharp note? An eighth versus a quarter? I don't, right? 'Cause that's what you're the expert at. This is what I do. Please trust me."
Edward watched Bella smile at the wise words of her youngest. The pride was clear in her eyes. It glittered with the tears that built up on her lashes as she listened to her son make his point.
"Okay." All the fight went out of Mhina, and she sagged, picking up the gray paper and studying it. "You're right. This is what you do. You'll make them perfect; I know you will." She raised her eyes to her brother. "Thank you."
"You're welcome. Thank you for hearing me." Gabriel smiled at his sister before turning to Edward. "You got a few minutes after we finish this, Dad? I want to show you something."
Edward turned to Bella, who shrugged almost imperceptibly, raising her eyebrows. Looking at his son, Edward saw the questions in his eyes he hadn't noticed before. "Sure, of course."
Drawing Bella from the table, Edward left Mhina and Gabriel to finish what they were working on. The kitchen—and the privacy it offered—beckoned. Once the door swung shut, he wrapped his arms around her and buried his face in her neck. The smell of Bella, a scent he could recognize amid countless others, soothed and excited all at the same time.
She wrapped her arms around his middle, hugging his waist tightly at first, and then slowly rubbing her hands up and down his back. "Hi," she murmured into his shoulder.
Chuckling, he pulled his face out of her neck and smiled. "Hi, beautiful girl. How's your day been?" He angled his head toward the door. "Have they been like that all day?"
"Oh, good Lord, no." She took his hand and led him out the door and to the deck, where they curled up on their favorite lounger. "Gabriel just got home about an hour ago. Before that, Mhina and I finished the seating arrangements." She rolled her eyes, looking twenty years younger.
"Oh boy. Glad I missed that."
"Be glad—be very, very glad." Giggling, Bella took his hand and laced their fingers together. "It wasn't so bad, really. She's stressing—it's perfectly normal."
"I don't recall you stressing, baby."
"We didn't have three hundred people coming to our wedding, and honestly, the Azalea Inn did most of the work."
"True, very true. Is that why you continue to send Mrs. Norman a Christmas card each year?"
"That, and the fact that she's found a way to accommodate us and the kids year after year. Sooner or later she's going to retire, and then who'll take care of us?" Bella looked up at him, wide-eyed and dramatic. And then giggled. "She's good people. I love seeing her every year, so I hope she never retires. I wish she was planning this wedding."
"Don't let Mhina hear you say that." But he chuckled, knowing she didn't really mean it. "How many more things need to be taken care of?"
"Honestly, not that many. Little details need to be addressed, things like the programs and the place cards for the tables. But now that she's made a decision, Gabriel can finish them."
Mhina stuck her head out the back door. "Hey, Mom? We're done. You guys wanna take a look?"
Bella waited until her oldest child's head was back inside before gazing up at Edward. "Is it awful that I just want to stay right here for a little while? She wears me out sometimes."
He studied her face—the face he'd studied for thirty years—mapping out each freckle, each crinkle around her expressive eyes, each curve and line that made her even more beautiful every day. She'd grown into such a stunning woman, stately in her grace, for although small in stature, she was grander than most in her selflessness.
"Babe, of course not. It's a lot of work—planning a wedding. And you said yourself she's stressing." He shifted on the lounger, drawing her to sit up in front of him before kneading her shoulders gently. "You're the best mother ever . . . but Mhina's a whirlwind. She tires everyone out."
Bella tipped her head from side to side, stretching her neck and working out the kinks. "I know you're right." She shifted back to look at him. "Maybe I'm just getting old." The lines around her eyes crinkled as she smiled. "What does Gabriel need?"
Edward dropped a gentle kiss on her soft lips. "We're getting old together," he whispered; it was a vow he made often, certain of their future. "Let's go see what the kids need."
Edward found Gabriel in his bedroom, the room farthest from the stairs, at the back of the house. As the only boy—and youngest—he'd lucked out with the room facing the ocean. Stopping in the open doorway, Edward was surprised at the easel set up in front of the window. Gabriel had focused mainly on animated graphics for a while; he hadn't set up an easel to paint in months—not since before he left for school.
Now he stood beside the open window, gazing somberly at the canvas. Closing his eyes, he ran his hands through his hair and tugged, frustration coming off him in waves. He scrubbed his hands over his face, appearing very young and very lost, for a few moments before he noticed his father.
"Hey, Dad," he said softly. "C'mon in." Gabriel's demeanor had changed dramatically from downstairs, and Edward guessed the image on the canvas had something to do with it.
"I didn't realize you were painting," Edward said, letting Gabriel lead the conversation.
"I didn't really have much of a choice." He raised clear green eyes from the canvas to his father. "Can you come take a look?"
Gabriel rarely needed validation of his talent and almost never requested another's opinion. But to Edward, this felt like something different, something . . . more. Gabriel was uncertain and yet . . . not.
Moving to join him by the window, Edward took in the image before him. His first impression was one of beauty; the colors were soft and lovely. There was a crowd of people; it was a blurry crowd, as if all the people were slightly out of focus in the large room, and in the center of the blur was the sharpest of images. A girl—a young woman—with long blond hair, in a soft blue dress, with the clearest, bluest eyes Edward had ever seen. Her face was lovely; she seemed to be caught in a state of shock, her mouth drawn open slightly, and her eyes wide and surprised. But there was a hint of a smile there, as well, as if what had surprised her also pleased her. There seemed to be a glow to her that didn't reach the rest of the crowd.
"She's lovely, Gabriel." Edward said quietly, almost reverently, the image drawing that much of a reaction. "Who is she?"
"I have no idea." He sank down onto his bed and dropped his head into his hands. "Dad, I think I'm losing my mind."
This startled Edward out of his reverie and sat down next to his son. "What's put that idea in your head?"
But even as the words left his mouth, he knew. He was just surprised. Edward had thought it would be Sage to inherit the visions, as she'd dreamed of Gabriel when she was young—before he'd been born.
"I've never actually seen her before, but I can't get this . . . this dream—daydream, image, nightmare, whatever it is—out of my head!" He groaned. "Only . . . only, it's not a dream. At least I don't think it is. It feels like I'm wide awake, and suddenly, this scene is all I can see. Her, in this crowd, and the crowd fades away . . . and it's just her." He shot his father an anguished look. "And then I wake up. Only I wasn't asleep. And it's like I can't quite grasp the image from my memory, but when I sit down with paint . . . well, this is what happened."
Was I this freaked out? Edward knew he hadn't been, but then again, the visions were simpler for him; the woman of his dreams had been standing in front of him. And he'd had time to get used to the first one before the second one had come barreling into him—and then actually happened. And he'd been older, a little wiser, a whole lot more mature.
"You're not losing your mind, Gabriel. You had a vision." Edward said simply. Better to explain it clearly than beat around the bush. "I had them when I met Mom. For months. And then they just . . . stopped." The ache hit his chest; the same ache that hit each time he accepted that the visions were done and he'd never get another glimpse of their future again. It had dulled over time, but it never truly went away. "I saw Sage and Mhina, too. Not you, though. You were a surprise."
Gabriel's eyes went wide. "So I'm not going nuts? This is normal?"
"Well, I wouldn't call it normal, but I don't think you're in any sort of danger. I had a full medical check-up after mine stopped, and the doctors found nothing wrong. I talked with your grandfather about it, too. He vaguely remembers a story about one of his uncles seeing the future. Of course, no one talked about that back then. They would have locked him up for even mentioning it, which is probably why it was such a surprise to me."
"What does it mean? Why am I compelled to draw her, paint her?" Gabriel looked at him sharply. "Wait, what do you mean you saw Sage and Mhina, but not me? Why not me?"
"You surprised us all," he said, smiling at Gabriel's reaction. "The day I met your mom I had a vision of the day we'd get married, a day with Sage and Mhina, and a day when we're very old. You surprised us both."
"Glad I could keep things interesting," he said, his gaze once again drifting toward the canvas.
"Tell me what you see," Edward said, following his son's gaze back to the woman.
"All I see is her. She's the focus; everything else fades into the background. Even the light is drawn to her, and she's just radiant."
"Any idea where the crowd is?" Edward asked, already knowing the answer. Gabriel didn't know; he hadn't been there before.
"I don't know; I don't recognize it. Everything but her fades into the distance, and all I can see is her. I can't tell if the light is coming from a chandelier or a skylight or something else."
Something like stained-glass windows.
"I think you just need to be patient. This is your vision. She may be your future."
"You mean like mom was yours? Dad, I'm only nineteen." He'd paled a bit at the idea.
"Gabriel, do you see her in a wedding dress? No. You see a vision of a pretty girl in your future . . . is that such a bad thing? It doesn't mean you're getting married the moment you meet her. It doesn't even mean you'll marry her. I think it just means you'll meet her." Edward believed differently, but felt no need to panic his nineteen-year-old son with anything more serious at the moment.
"Oh . . ." The color returned to his face, although Edward was sure he heard a bit of disappointment in his voice. "Okay."
"And who knows, it could be years before you meet her. Relax." Right, years. Or two weeks.
~*~*~*~ F F ~*~*~*~
Bella looked up from the piano as Edward walked into the music room. Behind him, Gabriel walked past the door and toward the kitchen, a dazed look on his face.
"Is everything okay?"
Edward chuckled quietly, and Bella calmed instantly—he wouldn't laugh if something were wrong. "Remember when Sage had the dreams—before Gabriel was born—about a new baby? And we thought she'd be the kid to inherit the visions? If they're inheritable, I guess?"
"Yeah . . . no! Gabriel?" In true motherly fashion, she balked. "But he's so young, Edward. You were nearly ten years older than he is."
"And whose fault was that?" He raised an eyebrow at her. "If you'd shown up ten years earlier, who knows what might have happened. But it's a little more interesting, actually. He hasn't actually seen her yet, and he's got no idea what he's painted."
"And you do?" She could tell he did. The anticipation was bouncing off Edward like sunlight reflected off the water.
"He painted her clearly in the middle of a blurry crowd, with light from above her head almost like a golden beam washing down over her. I recognized the where immediately; we've been there so many times with Mhina lately. But he's been at school, so he hasn't been there yet."
Bella gasped. "The church?"
Edward nodded. "The church. You know how the afternoon sun comes through the stained glass on the western side of the windows, and the yellows almost bathe the church in light?" He shook his head, and Bella smiled at the joy and pride on his face. "It was beautiful; he bathed her in the golden light, and the rest of the crowd faded into the background. Which is exactly how it'll appear to him the minute he sees her."
Never having experienced it before, Bella just couldn't grasp it. No matter how many times he explained. "He must be nervous. Did you tell him where it was?"
"No, and I don't think we should. He's a grown man, love. He can handle it. And it's not like she was wearing the wedding dress. She could simply be his first love, his first real relationship."
Bella eyed him suspiciously. "But you don't believe that, do you?"
His eyes crinkled and one side of his mouth lifted in a sexy smirk. "Of course I don't. You know me so well." He kissed the tip of her nose. "He's had girlfriends—okay, maybe not a lot, but he's had his share. And while he's respectful, he keeps a distance."
"He's always so focused on his art, creating something important that he can be proud of." Bella sighed.
"He knows we're proud of him, love. That's never been an issue." Edward sat down on the bench next to her.
No, it hadn't. "But he's not sure how he fits in with all the musical people in this house, huh?" Bella dropped her head onto his shoulder. "Will he always feel like he has to prove himself?"
"I don't know . . . I hope not. Maybe he's seeing her right now because he needs help making a decision that he's been struggling with; she could be the one to direct him along his path."
"But you didn't have the first vision until you saw me. Why is he having one before he's met her?" Worried, Bella let her fingers skip along the piano keys, the low notes fitting the tone of her concerns.
Edward skimmed his fingers along the upper keys; a light and uplifting melody breaking free. "Maybe it's what he needs right now." Over and over, he played the same melody, until Bella joined in on the lower keys with something contrasting, yet complementary. "I think she'll bring some much-needed levity to Gabriel's oh-so-serious life."
"All that from a painting?"
"Wait 'til you see it. I'd say it's his most stunning painting ever . . . there's so much light to it."
Without a word, Edward segued seamlessly into their song, and Bella reacted instinctively, playing the lower notes as they'd done thousands of times before.
"I'm looking forward to seeing her."
They played together, shifting from one song to the next without a word, playing whatever felt right at the moment. It could have been minutes or hours; the time passed without notice, the sun began to set, and when they stopped, Bella found Sage watching from the door.
"How do you guys do that?" she asked, her expression hard to read.
"What, baby?" Bella turned on the bench and leaned back into Edward. His arms came around her automatically, thirty years of moving together making the motions unconscious.
"That. You don't speak but know what each other is thinking, feeling, about to do. You complete each other's sentences, you move in tandem—you shift, Dad shifts." Sage rested her head against the doorjamb and exhaled slowly, the weight of the world appearing to rest on her delicate shoulders. "I'm in love with Cole."
Bella felt Edward's body stiffen slightly, and she desperately hoped he didn't give any outward display. She traced her fingers along his forearm, soft as a feather against his skin, and felt him relax again. "I know, baby. Have you told Cole yet?"
"Yeah, today." She smiled, and some of the stress lifted from her face. "How'd you know? I didn't even realize . . ."
"It's my job to know, Sage. And if you really, really dig deep, you'll see that you knew, too."
Slowly, a dreamy smile appeared on her face. "I think I've always known . . . but Mom, it's terrifying. I mean, this is Cole." The smile slipped, and she looked fourteen again, having her first crush.
Edward's chuckle shook both their bodies. "Hush," Bella whispered to him, smacking the arm she'd just been tracing lovingly. "What makes Cole different, honey?" Cole won't let you stay unaffected and boss him around, I'll bet.
"Cole's . . . well, his opinion matters. He's my best friend, and he loves me, too—but what if this is not supposed to happen? What if we ruin everything? And then we have no relationship, no friendship, nothing." Sage twirled a fat lock of hair around her finger as she worried.
"Craig's opinion didn't matter much, hmm?"
"No, I mean . . . Craig's a nice guy—God, Cole can't stand him, but at least now I know why."
That made Bella smile. She'd bet Cole had made it perfectly clear to her confused daughter that he was tired of waiting for her to figure things out for herself and had shown her exactly how he felt. It was probably better Sage didn't go into that, Bella wasn't sure Edward was ready to hear it.
"Honey, we've been watching you and Cole for years. He's loved you his whole life, he's the one person you can't walk all over or bend to your will." Bella laughed as Sage started at her comment.
"Mom, really? I don't walk all over—" Sage stopped and scrunched up her forehead for a moment. "I do, don't I?"
"Yes, dear. You do. You're not mean about it. In fact, I'll bet each of those boys would say they had the upper hand in your relationship, but if you look back, did you ever really step out of your comfort zone at all, or were they all bland enough so that things were easy . . . nice."
"Cole's nice," Sage said, but then she laughed. "You're right. He's definitely not bland."
"Not even a little, Sage."
"But I'm scared, Mama."
"It's normal to be scared, Sage. What you can't do is allow the fear to cripple you. Be scared, but face your fear head on. Cole loves you. It's always been clear to us; I'm surprised you never saw it. Trust him. He's been your best friend your whole life for a reason."
"Thanks, Mom." With a smile and a nod, Sage left the music room, most of the weight of the world having been lifted from her shoulders.
"What was all that 'we' stuff? I didn't know jack." Edward ran his hands up and down her arms. "I'm so lucky you're so damn smart."
"Yes. Yes, you are." Bella giggled as Edward growled in her ear. "Our babies are all grown up, aren't they?" she asked, unable to shift her focus from Sage.
"Yes, they are. And I must say, we did a wonderful job raising them."
Bella turned to look into the green eyes she'd fallen for thirty years before. "We did, didn't we?"
~*~*~*~ F F ~*~*~*~
Edward watched from side door of the church as people mingled in the aisles, not quite ready to take their seats. The air was buzzing with the excitement of a wedding—and the voices of three hundred people who had come to see his princess marry her Prince Charming. Taking that thought and tucking it into his pocket for later, Edward smiled at the sight of his handsome son on one knee at the feet of his elderly grandmother. Carlisle stood behind her, his posture only barely bowed with age, his hands resting gently on her shoulders, and from her wheelchair, Esme reached out a hand to touch Gabriel's face.
They shared a special bond—his mother and his son. Edward couldn't be sure if it was the fact that he looked so much like her or that he was the only grandson, but from his birth, it had been evident. While the girls had the musical talent, Gabriel had inherited his grandmother's love of art, and she had cultivated it early and often. While Carlisle had taken the older girls fishing or hiking, Esme had taken Gabriel with her to art shows and museums. Each time she explained something to him, she would lay a hand on his face and he'd close his eyes and listen, enrapt. To Edward, it had always been startling to watch—the two spoke on a whole different level than the rest of the family.
The light in the church brightened, and Edward smiled, realizing that the sun had decided to make an appearance after all. The entire room took on a warm golden glow as the sun's rays filtered in through the stained glass at the top of the window. His eyes were drawn to Gabriel, at his grandmother's knee, leaning his face into her hand as she spoke.
With an almost calculated precision, the two turned their heads toward the center of the church at precisely the same moment and froze. Gabriel's mouth dropped open slightly, and he sagged visibly—as if all the air had left his lungs. His hands, which had been resting on his bent knee, slowly lifted, reaching out.
Edward followed the path of his hands as they reached out, and then he saw her.
She was as beautiful as Gabriel had painted her, her flaxen hair lit by the glow overhead, her blue eyes clear and bright, enhanced by the blue of her dress. The crowd around her didn't fade away, however, and Edward knew that Gabriel's vision would make it appear that way to draw the attention to her. But from the look on his son's face, Edward was quite sure she had his attention.
Only a moment passed, and she turned toward Gabriel and stopped in her tracks, heedless of the crowd behind her backing up and bumping into each other. Her face appeared blank before a shy smile took over, and she regained her step and took her seat. But Edward watched as her glance fell Gabriel's way once she'd settled in.
Simultaneously, Esme and Gabriel looked back to each other, and Esme said something that made Gabriel laugh. He rose, straightening his tuxedo jacket before bending to kiss her cheek, hugged his grandfather, and then looked around the church, his search stopping once he'd met his father's gaze. He nodded—words weren't necessary—and Edward nodded in return. Volumes were spoken with those small movements.
Edward watched as Gabriel walked toward her, self-confidence in every step.
And so it begins with the next generation.
~*~*~*~ F F ~*~*~*~
Thanks for reading! This little slice of the future smacked me upside the head and needed to be told. Gabriel wanted to be heard, and the girls needed to have their say. No music for this chapter, but my youngest has had Für Elise on repeat for days...she wants to take piano lessons.
Thank you to Katie (tanglingshadows) for steering me along the right path and always encouraging me, and thank you to Jen (Jen733) for her neverending encouragement. Thank you both for being my friend!
I'm writing something new...it's slow going in between the responsibilities of real life, but I hope to have something for you soon.
So, if you don't mind, click the button, let me know what you think.