A/N: Hello again! I'm going to keep it short and simple, Thank you from here to the moon for continuing to read and for your lovely words. It means so much to know that somewhere someone is enjoying. A special thanks to my wonderful beta, polisher and advice giver, Nachos4Children! You are one in a million, honey.
Disclaimer: SM owns all things twilight!
"She looked so sad-I wish there was something I could do for her."-Lazybones, 1925
"Stories can be rewritten."
I took a long look at Noah standing in front of me, orange light casting his handsome face in deep shadows. I had known him since he was a little boy, mischievous and free, driving Juliana up the wall with his guitar and harmonica. He was still just a boy - blue-eyed and foolish. He liked bugs, music, and being outdoors; now his head ran rampant with dreams of a future that would never be. Could never be. Bella was all he wanted, innocently enough now, but not so much later.
Without a word, he stalked into the darkness of the forest.
Poor boy, I thought as I watched his plaid shirt retreat into the darkness.
Around me the celebration continued, unaware of Noah's absence and pain under the stars that winked from the dark face of the sky. Heat billowed from the bonfire, snapping and sizzling with each new wish. My girls were scattered, roaming, dancing, playing as they pleased, letting go of the weight they carried around from day to day. Even Bella, my little Bella, who seemed much heavier as of late.
They were growing up, all of them. Nothing I could do would stop it.
Old words danced, woven together in the resonant voices of the old and young. Notes swirled in the air, strung together like a necklace, warm and familiar. The song was mine, I'd know it anywhere. In the sea of bodies, limbs, and flowers, flames licking logs and embers glowing hot, I caught sight of my husband standing tall amongst his fellow musicians. His head was bent over his instrument and dark hair tumbled over his eyebrows. He was calling me, I smiled and made my way over to him.
Music danced in his head always, flowed from his fingers when he touched his instruments, the guitar, the violin, me. Music is love, he told me once, I make music for you because you are my love. It was as true now as it was when I was sixteen.
He lifted his head, found me, and grinned, the corners of his eyes crinkling with true affection.
I could feel the cares slip away - the heartbroken look in Noah's eyes and the murky cloud of Bella's thoughts - as the thin material of my dress slipped down my legs. I'd pick the worries up tomorrow; tonight, I was going to celebrate.
"She's hiding something from me," I commented to Nik the moment the girls left the tent. He lifted one shoulder and went about drying the breakfast dishes. "Noah knows," I continued, watching him carefully. "Whether she told him or he found out on his own, I haven't been able to find out."
"Don't all teenagers keep secrets?"
"Yes, but they can't usually keep them from me. Bella has never been able to keep me out so perfectly. Now... she's a fortress. It's like she's purposely keeping it from me."
His hands stopped moving, the rag dropped into the water bucket and the cup was placed on the table. Slowly and deliberately, he lifted his dark eyes to mine with a glance I knew all too well. He disapproved. "Aren't you being a bit hypocritical, considering all the secrets you're keeping from her?"
"Nik, not again."
"Secrets are secrets, no matter why they're kept, and maybe, my dear, this one is none of your business." He arched his brows, thinking of Noah and Bella, together.
I shook my head and spread my hands out in front of me. "No, Nikky, that's not it. No, it's something more…serious."
If it is, she'll tell you in time.
"I know, but I'm not so sure she'll come to me. She is getting to that age. You know the one." He nodded, taking up the cup and rag, murmuring about our Dana and Vi, how they had gone from our sweet little witches to irritable banshee overnight. Teenagers. I laughed. "Lila isn't as bad, but she has her moments. Bella...my sweet girl, she will have a rough time of it."
"Perhaps not, süßling."
"She will rebel in other ways. I wish I understood her better." Hearing her thoughts was a far cry from understand the person behind them. "She seems happy, and she loves us, but..."
"Something - or someone - is missing," Nik finished for me, recalling moments during their time together where her mind would wander and her eyes would search for something she couldn't see.
She didn't feel whole, nor could she explain why. Total happiness and peace were always just out of reach, an inch away. That inch was bothering her more and more every day. I wanted to find that piece for her, to just hand it over and watch as everything fell into place, but it was her journey and it was too soon.
It was too soon.
"She has a old soul," I nodded, distracted, thinking. "Curious as well."
We both fell silent, only the dishes, the rage and water spoke.
"You're worried. Usually, you're more at peace with these things."
"I try - I am trying to be. It's harder now. All she wants is to understand, and when I don't help her she gets angry." My shoulders sagged with the weight of denying her answers, keeping her in the dark. "I don't blame her - she has every reason to question me, every reason to distrust me, especially now that she's met Eva. All she needs is a little push, and…"
I'd lose her if I wasn't careful, like I lost Cilla. So many wasted years - years I couldn't get back.
My sisters and I were as close as sisters could be. The five of us loved each other more than words can ever express, but Cilla and I were the best of friends. There was nothing we didn't do together. My mother often said that our souls had been one and split between the two of us in this world. What she felt, I felt. What she thought, I heard. We fell in love at the same age. And when she had Bella, I could not love her any more than if she had come from me. The same could be said for Nikky.
As a baby, Bella had been comfortable with very few people, the same could be said of her now. She had cried her eyes out when my eldest sister Vivian held her. Squirmed liked a worm when Lori and Mae had tried to kiss her cheeks. But she had taken to Nik right away. Something about him soothed her, the music in his soul calmed her, even when she seemed to be feeling so much. The first year of her life they were inseparable. I had pictures of them together - her a tiny bundle in Nik's muscled arms. My strong and proud husband was reduced to mush by her gurgles and heartbroken when Cilla took her away.
Even now, after so many years apart, they were close.
"This situation is very different from that one, Jo," Nik told me, soft and comforting as a whisper. Sometimes I wondered if he could read my mind as I could read his. "It's not magic, it's marriage and love. What did Eva say?"
"She offered her everything I haven't: answers." His lips pressed together, but he said nothing and kept drying the cups. I knew how he felt about fortune tellers. "She mentioned Carlisle."
The cup slipped from his hands and into the bucket with a splash. "By name or…"
"Bella saw his face in her head, among other things." He cursed in German, low and fierce. "He is everywhere; she dreams of him, misses him so much it hurts, even if she doesn't realize it's him she's hurting for. I don't know how long I can pretend to be ignorant of him."
"I can't imagine how hard it must be."
I arched a brow at him. "For me or for her?"
For the both of you...but… He frowned, his thick dark eyebrows knitted together. Nik loved all the girls equally. Like a good father, he had no favorites, but he had a soft spot in his heart for Bella.
"Jo," my husband started, grabbing my hand in his calloused, wet ones. "I know that she's too young for the truth, that she needs to find it on her own, but don't let her go on like this. You heard her last night...It's not right."
"It's cruel," he said with an air of finality, his dark eyes pleading. "How would you feel if you lost me the same way?" The grip of his hand tightened. "And were then forced to live with the empty place where I lived, not knowing if it had been real or a dream?"
They bore into mine, his eyes, hot and serious and full of unshed tears.
"It would be agony." Some of my resolve melted; my heart, his in every way, seized at the thought. I laid my palm on his cheek. "She's thirteen. She can't understand that type of pain, my love."
He clicked his tongue and kissed the corner of my mouth. "We both know that isn't true."
We finished the rest of the dishes in silence, and when the last cup was stored in the Vardo, I left the comfort of our tent and my husband in search of Bella. Outside, Lila and Nate were in the hammock reading, swinging between two trees in the soft breeze. Laid out on the hood of their RV was Noah, staring at a book unseeingly. The camp that just yesterday had been teaming with vibrancy was quiet, empty, save for us and bathed in a golden mid-morning light.
"Vi and Dana decided to go swimming with the Ellis clan," Lila informed me, looking up from her book briefly. Nate smiled in greeting and turned the page.
"And Bella didn't join them?" She loved swimming.
Lila's eyes flicked in Noah's direction before answering. "She wanted to be alone." Hearing this, and perhaps the tone of amusement in her voice, he slid off the car and walked towards the lake, leaving his book behind. "Good! Go for a walk - maybe the stick lodged in your ass will fall out!" Lila shouted after him.
"That wasn't very nice."
"Jo, he's been in a mood, muttering under his breath and frying eggs." She smacked her lips together, imitating the sound eggs made in hot oil. "Since breakfast! I almost threw a spoonful of Kamut at him."
A faint smile graced Nate's lips, imagining his twin covered in hot cereal and berries, before he hid that smile in her hair.
I smiled indulgently, both at her fire and the display of affection between them - young love, fresh and magical. Just as I turned to leave the couple in the hammock to their cuddling, Lila told me that Bella had taken Nik's guitar and Carlisle into the woods. I nodded and went to find the youngest of my girls.
The woods here were deep green and lush with tall trees and bushes covered in bright red berries and devoid of man made trails. One made their own way, both in the forest and in life. Summer baked the air, hot and thick with the scents of pine, wood, and earth. Where the forest thinned, the mountain, Mount Ball, burst against the blue sky, white and grey at its peak, rust and green at its base.
It wasn't long 'til I found her, the tune of that old guitar pulling me forward. The melody in the trees gave her away, sitting in the shade of a huge oak. For a moment, I just watched as she played, taking full advantage of catching Bella rarely unaware. She wore a bright-yellow printed dress, one that had belonged to her mother at Bella's age, stored in the trunks in our attic, a relic from a bohemian age. Her eyes were closed, hair hanging loose, curly, and wild from an uneasy night of sleep. It wasn't a happy song per se, nor was it maudlin - a mirror of her mood perhaps? It reminded me of old folk songs, the ones that told tales of maidens and magic. Her thoughts, so often scattered in a million directions, were calm and centred around the strings, her fingers, and the notes. They came spontaneously from somewhere deep inside her.
Often times I forgot how much she looked like my dear sister; it was so very obvious in this moment. Even Cecilia's musical gifts had been imprinted on her.
What would she do if she were in my place? Would she tell her? Give a relatively small comfort? Or would she be stronger?
Cilla had always been the strongest of us.
"That's a beautiful song - does it have any words?" I asked softly as the notes trailed off, coming to sit with her on the blanket.
When she opened her eyes, she actually looked surprised to see me. "Not yet...I was just playing, really." She draped her arm over Nik's guitar and rested her head on its neck.
"You should write some. It would be a shame to lose that melody." A curl of dark hair fell over her eyes and she brushed it back behind her ear, though it wasn't up to the task. I noticed then the absence of her feline shadow. "Where's Carlisle?"
"Around. He wandered off a bit ago." Hearing his name, the black cat sauntered out from behind a bush and slinked over to Bella, rested his head on her leg, and purred.
"You should be careful with him, there are bigger animals out here. He could get lost or hurt."
She nodded, but continued to look at me with her mother's eyes, deep, dark, and searching. The young girl had no idea how disarming it was, her stare. I hoped Cilla would forgive me for what I was about to do.
"We need to wash this thing," I commented, absently running my fingers over the raised diamond pattern of the green blanket beneath us, grasping for anything else to talk about.
"You're stalling," she said simply, after a moment.
I was. I should've known she'd see it. "You caught me," I sighed. "What do you remember from before your parents died?"
She flinched and took a deep and deliberate breath. I'm not sure what's real and what isn't. "Small things, like...mom's hands and dad's eyes."
I nodded, Nik's words still echoing in my mind.
"Did you know that we all used to live together?" Her eyes widened. "You guys weren't always so...nomadic. Your aunts had moved away by the time you came along, but Cilla and I, always planned on staying in Black Tree together. We were, well, we were a lot like you and Lila - the best of friends."
I smiled, opening myself to her a little more than I had, showing her a dozen or so memories of that life.
"Things changed of course, as they have a way of doing. Plans," I sighed, "the future is so fragile, infinite possibilities hinge on tiny decisions that lead to more decisions, the ripple of those decisions spreading out through the whole of time-which is why seeing the future is so difficult, so painful at times. Like you. You, my sweet were a surprise to us all, especially your parents. A daughter, born on summer's twilight, just before the fall."
The significance of my last sentence was lost her.
"Anyways, you were about one when she and I got into a terrible fight. We said things - things I never got to apologize for. It was the first time in our lives that we couldn't agree. I couldn't."
I could still remember the look in my sister's eyes when I told her she was making a mistake. She was scared for her daughter's life - we all were, but to strip the girl of her powers felt drastic, like a betrayal to our kind, to our family. To us.
"Nana Cora had just told us that you were in danger, and that we were as well. No one knew what to do. Your dad was frantic, as was Nik. But your mom, she thought only of your safety, of your happiness. She wanted to bleed you."
Her expression was one of confusion and horror, her thoughts dwelled on barbaric ceremonies of slashed virgins on stone tablets and blood flowing like a river, so I rushed to explain and made a note to be more mindful of the books she was reading. "It's not what you're thinking, no blade would've touched you. It's a spell - a complicated one - to bleed you of any and all magic."
"Why are you telling me this, Jo?" she whispered, more than a little hurt by what her mother had planned to do.
She was scared, Bella. It was the only thing she could think of.
She didn't acknowledge the thought, but asked again why I was sharing this with her, and now.
"Because you're getting older. Because you needed to know in order to understand that there are things I want to tell you, but can't." She opened her mouth to argue, but I held up my hand. "I can't. Your mom and I made a promise to each other: she wouldn't bleed you, and when she died - because she knew she would - I would take you in, protect you, teach you, and when the time-"
"You never said why I was, am in danger, but you know."
"She bound me to my promise, promise is binding and touches everything and everyone that can answer that question before you're suppose to know. You'll find that your mom thought of everything."
She was silent, both her mind and her mouth. Moments passed while I waited for her say something. When she didn't, I reached over and lifted her face so that I could look her in the eyes. They were unfathomable, their secrets and emotions hidden so perfectly I wondered where my darling witch had learn such control so quickly.
"I cannot tell you everything, answer every question, and I know that it must be frustrating to you, but...I can give someone back to you."
Carlisle. I saw my sister's hand in how little of him was left of the surface of Bella's mind. All that she had was a face. I had never met this man, but I had heard stories, all of my life. The moment Charlie opened that door, Bella just behind him, I saw the infamous Carlisle swirling in her thoughts. I saw that face time and time again in her dreams and the memories that lay hidden, forgotten, fragmented.
One by one, I gave them back to her, pulled them to the surface; him reading to her in the company of bluebells, playing hide and seek, holding her. They weren't very much, murky little snatches of moments a child holds on to, but it seemed to be enough for her.
Beside me, my little witch's eyes filled with tears, and a surge of joy radiated from her.
"Who was he to me?"
I hesitated for a moment - it was on the tip of my tongue, and then I couldn't remember what I had been on the verge of telling her.
Cilla's magic held.
"He was your friend," I answered softly caressing her cheek.
A/N: Thank you for reading and hope you come back for more!