AN: I promised that I would repost this after I worked on it. I've started the revision process, and will be posting the updated chapters at least once a week, if not more. Some content is changed, especially in later chapters where I felt I either rushed it, or it wasn't consistant with the feel of this story. This story is complete and reworking it will not take away from time devoted to Homecoming and To The Extreme. This was my first multi chapter fic, and I'd like to think I've grown some as a writer since it. This reposting is dedicated to the girls at the Fan Fic Hunter Pack over on Facebook who let me know people actually want to read it lol.
Thanks to the talented and wonderful TwiDi for beta'ing my mess. Love ya babe...
2 years ago…
"How you holding up, Bells?" I looked up into the kind brown eyes of my father then back towards the black gleaming casket sitting in front of us.
"Ok," I whispered gently and squeezed the hand I'm holding tightly. The hand squeezed back like it needed my hand as much as I need it.
Shifting slightly, I leaned my head lightly against the hand owner's soft shoulder as she sobbed gently. More than anything, I knew I had to stay strong for her. She had been my rock through all fifteen years of my crazy life; and there was no way that I was going to let her down. She had never let me down. So, I refused to let her down. I was doing my best to stay composed and holding onto her hand for dear life to give both of us strength while we listened softly to Pastor Weber. He was saying many kind things about my late uncle Marcus—my estranged mother's only brother and a second father to me.
I kept telling myself that I could cry alone later, in private, where I wouldn't bring anymore grief to my family. My mother had done enough by not coming when my uncle had begged her to. He wanted to see his baby sister's face one last time before he left us. The sister he had protected from a set of alcoholic parents and basically raised, yet Renee, my mother, couldn't even be bother to take his phone calls. Her selfish nature had caused me enough pain in my life and it pissed me off that she could do this to Uncle Marcus and his family. My sweet Aunt Esme and cousin Emmett would drop everything and run if Renee called, but she couldn't give a shit that they needed her—that I needed her right now. Of course, Renee never cared if I needed her. Because if she had cared then she wouldn't have abandoned me when I was a mere year old; leaving my poor father Charlie alone with a full time job, a mortgage and a little baby when he was only twenty. No. Renee decided she'd rather ride off into the sunset with some guy who ran the Ferris wheel at the local town fair rather than be a mom, a wife, a sister and an aunt.
The hand around mine squeezed tighter; and I knew she felt my rage and pain. Being Aunt Esme, she was trying to reassure me and keep me calm even though her husband was being buried today after a long battle with his heart problems. The third heart attack was the final one to take him from us. He had been born with a faulty valve and he fought it his whole life. The doctors had told his parents he wouldn't survive past five years. He was so smug that he beat their prediction; and he made it to forty-three years and three days. The big bear of a man was a fighter and a teddy bear just like his son my beloved cousin and best friend Emmett. Who was sitting on the other side of his Mom holding her up. Like me he wanted to be her rock like she had always been for us.
Family was everything to Aunt Esme; she practically raised me because Charlie worked so hard. I even have my own room at the McCarty house. My uncle had taught Em and I how to ride bikes, how to swim, how to play pool and—much to Aunt Esme's dismay—how to play poker. And Aunt Esme had been there to hold us when we cried, bandage all my wounds—and there were a lot of those— and make sure that we ate and got plenty of sleep. She also made sure that we were at school and that our grades we good. Now, my Aunt was left alone and Emmett and I were going to take care of her for a change. She needed us now more than she ever had; and we'd promised Uncle Marcus that we would always take care of Esme and keep her safe.
One month later…
I sat in history next to Emmett and kept taking glances at him to make sure he was holding up ok. It was at times like this that I was glad that he had failed kindergarten— purposefully—so I could keep an eye on him and make sure he was ok. The classes I didn't have with him, either Rosalie or Jasper did; and they were as vigilant as I in our quest to keep an eye on Emmett. He had a major breakdown two weeks ago after seemingly holding up just fine. It had scared Rose badly. One minute they had been doing homework at her kitchen table, and the next he was in the corner rocking back and forth crying. After an hour of trying to calm him herself, she had called me up. I ran the five blocks in record time, not even bothering to knock on the Hale's front door. Luckily, Jasper, Rose's twin and Em's best friend, had come home and between the three of us, we had calmed him down.
That was the first night in years that I stayed in Emmett's room holding the big bear close as he slept and whispering that I would always keep him safe in his ear. He held me close and made me swear I would never leave him. And I laughed holding him tight and told him that I would never go anywhere without him. Personally, I couldn't imagine my life without my Emmybear. A year and a half older than myself, he had purposely failed kindergarten so we could be in the same year at school. He didn't want me there by myself, he wanted to make sure that if I were to fall down that someone would be there to take care of me. Very protective, so much so that I had never had a boyfriend because all guys feared that Emmett might actually try and kill them. And at 6'5 and looking like an all over muscled linebacker, no one messed with Emmett McCarty. Except Rosalie Hale. She had to be the most beautiful girl in the world, with her natural long blond hair, crystal blue eyes and a wit sharper than a razor blade. She was just as protective as Emmett; and they were perfect together.
Startled out of my thoughts I looked down at the piece of paper that had knocked me on the nose on the way to land on my desk. Laughingly, I recognized the handwriting that had written, "For Bella's Eyes Only" on the note. Picking it up, I had to laugh again:
Bells, you're giving me a complex. I know I'm hot but, stop staring! Ewww, I'm your cousin… well, more like your brother even, you sick freak. Ohh, only 4 months till summer vacation.
And umm… yeah, I love you too.
I gave him a small grin and rolled my eyes. Yes, Emmett was the hottest guy in school. He knew that with his dark brown closely-cropped curls and hazel eyes like his mother. A strong jaw and very manly face and a wicked grin that he swears it makes a girl cum just looking at it. But he was right, he is my cousin—well, more like my brother to be honest—and there was no way in hell that I'd ever think of him in that way. Plus, if I was honest with myself, even if he weren't a relative, I wouldn't think of him that way mainly because Rose would have killed me.
As the bell rang signaling the end of class, I stood up and punched Emmett on the shoulder hard as we headed off to lunch. There he and Rose would cuddle, Jasper and I would make faces at them and people watch like always. Jasper was between women at the moment—by choice he assures me all the time. I'm taking his word for it, because he was the second hottest guy in school, being the manly version of his supermodel twin. But, like with Emmett, Jasper was too much of a brother to me, therefore, not my type.
"So, what are we doing this weekend?" Rose asked looking at us each in turn. It was Thursday; and so far we had no plans.
"No clue," I told her politely.
"Shopping?" she asked me back. God, Rose loves to shop. While I was pleasantly happy, in my middle class roots, knowing I had a roof over my head, food in my tummy, new underwear when I needed it and the bills duly paid. Rose's dad was a very powerful lawyer and was downright rich. The girl felt the need to share the wealth by making me go shopping with her so she could give me a 'Rose make over' when she was bored. Don't get me wrong, I love Rose. But she shows way too much flesh for my taste; and tries to encourage me to do the same thing. Oh and to get a real sultry hair-cut to make the boys come running. I'm fifteen for Christ's sake. Rose just wants me to have someone like she does, I know this, but I know I'm not ready and right now Emmett and Aunt Esme need me too much for me to go falling for boys.
"Nah, shopping sucks, Rosie." Emmett let out one of his chair-rattling laughs and I rolled my eyes. "Let's just play it by ear. I think Mom would like us around the house this weekend anyways." A sad smile hit his lips. Poor Emmett, poor Aunt Esme. I strengthened my resolve to take care of them even more.
"Let's surprise her by cooking dinner Saturday!" I exclaimed and Emmett smiled.
"Sounds good, Bells," Emmett replied.
"Bella, my sweet, could you lean a little to the left so I can get a better look down Lauren's top?" Jasper asked wickedly and I laughed. Stupid horny teenage boy.
"Perv," I told him as I leaned to the left. I couldn't deny my family anything and somehow the damn Hales were part of my family. Sighing, I took another bite of my pizza and went over ideas for what to cook for dinner Saturday night in my mind. And I started counting down the months till summer vacation. At least, it gave us all something to look forward to. And at this point, we all needed that.
One year after the funeral….
Saturdays rocked in my opinion. The energy and freedom of it flowed through my veins. And for once—freaking rub-it-in-the-single-girl's-face-day was landing on a Saturday—I didn't have to sit through school watching Valentine's get passed around. Emmett was going out with Rose tonight. Jasper was going on a date with some girl we had met once—I think her name was Karen. And I was going to indulge in my Hugh Grant obsession and watch a ton of his movies and gorge out on the chocolate Em had gotten me for today. Plus it was the first Valentine's Day that Aunt Esme had since uncle Marcus passed away; and I wanted to be here if she needed me. Though earlier this afternoon, I had found her giggling and going up to her room with her lap top. Wonder if it's Smurf porn? Don't judge! Emmett found it one night and we laughed our butts off.
Maybe it was just her online buddy. Around Christmas, she had found an old friend from school online—one of those reunion websites—and they spent a lot of time talking. Em and I thought it was sweet and it had helped Esme through a lot. Almost every night they talked. It seemed like the conversations were getting longer and longer every day. But as long as this made her happy, I was happy. Nothing like some girl-talk to cheer you up. Rose was my girl-talk for better or for worse; and she generally did cheer me up. However, most of my talk happened with Emmett, cause quite frankly who needs girl-talk when you can have teddy-bear-goof-ball talk? Not Bella Swan for one. Popping in Two Weeks Notice I laid back against the plush sofa and sighed contently. A year ago everything in our worlds had crashed and now a sense of normality and even peace had returned to us. Time passes and life goes on. And though we have scars in our hearts, all of us were bouncing back.
5 months later, July 3rd…..
"Emmett, Charlie is the chief of police! And even though you're his only nephew, he will bust your ass if you shoot off fireworks tomorrow night!" Emmett just laughed at me as he continued to pull his haul of explosives out from under his bed. I call the fireworks explosives because Emmett mainly bought cherry bombs and m 80s to go off. "Rosalie is going to kill you!" Trying that tactic generally worked. Nothing scared Emmett quite like Rose did.
"Shit. You won't tell her, will you? Come on, Bellabear. Rosie is in Hawaii with her folks for another week. I figured that you and I could bbq up some ribs, blow up some fireworks and just have some fun, kiddo." He pulled the big hazel puppy-dog eyes out on me and I sighed. Every year we went through this. Emmett with his fireworks, me with the complaining and I'd never won. It was the only holiday he spent without Rose, since it was her family vacation time and I knew how depressed he got without her around.
"Fine." I sighed in defeat. Generally I made him work for it, but I just didn't feel like it. If we went to Forks Community Park for the fireworks show there, I'd have to put up with my fan club of one, Mike. Here, I just had Em. Aunt Esme was in Chicago on business and Dad was on duty and of course Jasper was with Rose in Hawaii.
"Bells, you rock!" He picked me up into one of his bear hugs and began dancing around the room singing "Jingle Bell Rock" only singing it as jingle bells rocks. I worry about my cousin sometimes. He just turned eighteen a few months ago and he still acts like an eight year old.
"I know, Emmybear, it's genetic." I giggled and he squeezed me tighter.
"Emmybear and Bellabear against the world," he whispered into my ear and I smiled. A mantra from when we were little that still held true. No matter what, I would always have Emmett and he would always have me. Throwing me on his back he ran down the stairs and through the door, throwing me once again into the passenger seat of his baby, the jeep from hell. "Food, Bella, we are going grocery shopping. We have to have ribs and mac salad. So it's like this, baby sis, I buy you cook."
"No, you buy, I'll cook, but you grill," I countered.
"Yeah, safer that way. Mom would kick my ass if I let you blow up the grill again." His laughter boomed and I flushed bright red. No one would ever let me live that down. I was ten, and had no idea you didn't put the whole bottle of lighter fluid into the grill. Uncle Marcus had left and told me to watch the grill but not to touch it. Well, the flames weren't as high as I thought they should be so I had picked up the bottle of lighter fluid and felt that it still was partially full. I consoled myself, at the time, that I wouldn't touch the fire… that I would just add more fluid. And then all hell broke loose. I ended up in the ER, again, and the fire department had been called out to extinguish the flames. Luckily, no one was seriously injured; and the house never caught fire. One great thing about the weather in Forks? Wet houses, trees and grass are harder to burn down.
As the morning of the fourth dawned warm and sunny, I let out a content sigh from my bedroom at the McCarty house. Though my contentment, of enjoying my soft sheets for a few minutes more, was ruined when Emmett ran in, lifted me fireman's style and dragged my butt downstairs. I silently cursed our genes that let him grow to a now astounding 6'5 and me a measly 5'3. We looked polar opposites outside having the same skin tone and hair color. Oh and yeah, we both had the McCarty mouth, slightly fuller on bottom, but a full mouth none the less. Rose assured me many times it was a sexy mouth that drives boys crazy.
"I made you breakfast, sis." Em cheered and I looked around worried that he either ruined another pan or I was going to get salmonella poisoning again. He broke out into a wide grin and plopped a plate in front of me. On it sat two perfectly toasted s'more flavored pop tarts. I returned the grin and dug in as he filled me a glass of milk. One thing Emmett did better than anyone else? Toast pop tarts.
"Thanks, Mom." I told him with a laugh, and he ruffled my dark brown hair.
"Ha! That's my baby girl, drink that calcium up." He mocked me in a fake girl's voice and we both laughed so hard we fell out of our chairs. Still grinning, Emmett ran over to the now ringing phone. "Hello? Oh hey, Mom," he paused, listening to Esme and smiling still, "sure, not a problem. Love you too." He turned back to me and shook his head. "She's going to be gone another week, short cakes, and said for us to let Charlie know, so he knows why you're not home." I nodded. With Esme out of town, Dad knew not to expect me home. I didn't like leaving Emmett alone in case he got melancholy thinking about his Dad. Not that I was ever home much—twice a week at the most. I love Charlie, don't get me wrong, but this was my home. The cute four-bedroom two-bath cottage in the middle of Forks is where I grew up. The house that Charlie lives in was a two-bedroom one-bath reminder of how my Mom didn't love me and how much Charlie still loved my Mom.
"Ok, let me get a shower. Call Dad and get the mac salad going and the ribs boiling." Emmett nodded and I ran gently upstairs finishing my last pop tart off before reaching my room.
Two weeks later…..
Esme was finally coming home today. She had to extend her trip, poor thing. Emmett and I knew she hated being away from home, so we were preparing her favorite dinner of lasagna for when she got here. Esme's job rarely took her away from home, but apparently there was some conference that popped up that she had wanted to attend that was held in Chicago. Illinois was a long way from Forks, WA. So, we knew this had to be a special conference. Esme was like that though. Diligent and dedicated. She has to be the best history professor at Forks Community College. Not that there were a lot of them. Just her and Mr. Baxter—the hundred year old prick who still thought the Cold War was going on.
"She's here!" Emmett screamed as the pretty blue Malibu pulled into the drive. I grinned and ran to the door so we could great her together. She looked startled her light brown eyes taking us in, grinning like fools with our arms open waiting on her. Then she grinned and ran over to us, only an inch taller than me and slightly curvier Esme and I easily hugged only to both be picked up as we were hugged into a large Emmett hug. Laughing still, he carried us into the kitchen and we surprised her again with dinner.
"You are the best, kids." She smiled. The sweetest woman in the world is what Esme was—and so beautiful. Carmel-colored hair, light brown eyes and an hour glass figure to die for. I swear, she doesn't look a day over thirty, even though she turns forty this year. In my mind, it proved that being nice did pay off by keeping you young.
"Spoken by the best Mom in the world," I told her and she gently touched my cheek and smiled. For all purposes other than biological, Esme was my Mom. She knew that, we all knew that. Even Renee knew it.
"So I'm to take it I was missed?" she jokingly asked us, and Emmett went into a long story on how much he missed his mommy. He sheepishly added in the story of how his Uncle Charlie almost arrested him on the 4th because of his little accident with a cherry bomb.
"Emmett, what are we going to do with you?" She looked at me as she spoke shaking her head. I laughed out loud.
"Love me as I am," he told us seriously and we both smacked him upside the head.
"Duh, Emmybear, we already do," I told him and laughed as he gave a huge grin that had way too much sauce coming out of his mouth. "Nasty!"
Later we all sat in the living room watching TV. Emmett on one side of the sofa Esme on the other and I was in my big comfy chair. Though, it was only 9pm Esme was starting to yawn a bit. But to be honest, it sounded faked, which was weird. So I covertly looked over at her, trying to pretend I was still watching TV. I was confused at the emotions I saw run across her face. Worry, happiness, anxiety and I could have sworn that there was some guilt. She almost flung herself off the sofa when she looked at the clock again. It was only 9:15pm, yet she started mumbling something about old ladies needing their beauty rest and jet lag. Emmett and I whispered 'goodnight' to her and continued watching NCIS.
Though hours later, as I made my way past her closed bedroom door, I heard her giggling like a teenage girl and I heard typing on the computer. It was weird but I felt hurt that she lied to us, saying she was tired to slip off after almost a month away to talk to her old high school girlfriend. Climbing into bed, I laid there staring at my clock wondering if I should say something to her or Emmett the next morning.
AN2: As usual, reviews are appreciated. However if you are just going to tell me something nasty or say you hate me, please save us both time and click the X and go on to something else to read.