Author's note: Okay, brave readers... Edward is not going to win the father of the year award in this one—nor the best brother prize—nor the number-one son trophy. It is up to you to decide whether to forgive him for that or not. But please forgive me. It is out of character, but I couldn't resist. I hope you find it fun.
Disclaimer: Twilight belongs to Stephenie Meyer—not me.
Warning: Corporal punishment ahead. Please do not read further if you find that subject upsetting.
"What things live in these woods, Daddy?" Nessie queried silently as we tread through the forest on our way to the big house.
She meant what sorts of dangerous animals lived here. Renesmee hunted in the Olympic National Park frequently with her mother and me, so she was well acquainted with the local wildlife. But she was working out an idea in her head—creating categories—what things she hadn't seen yet. The child's mind was fascinating, the way she absorbed and acquired new information.
"What do you think, Ness? You explore these woods daily."
She pondered the question in her head. "Well, there are wolves...and bears...and ballerinas—"
"Ballerinas?" I questioned, halting her thought.
"Yeah, you know," she said, matter of fact. "The girl bears that dress up like ballerinas..."
"Yes, of course. I've not seen the ballerina bears personally, I mean, but the legends make them out to be rather fearsome." I couldn't quite hide my grin as I said it.
"Mm-hm," she nodded with solemn authority.
I couldn't help but imagine members of the wolf pack trying on tutus and slippers. "The wolves don't dress up like ballerinas, do they?" I asked tentatively.
"No!" Nessie objected. Then she looked at me in that funny way she had, like she was concerned for my sanity.
"Daddy? What about... Um, what other things are out there?" Her thoughts interpreted for me: "Things like us." So she was wondering about supernatural creatures—besides vampires and werewolves.
I didn't want to frighten her, and I didn't want to pique her curiosity too much either. With Renesmee, the line between repulsion and obsession was thin. "I don't really know. What do you think?"
"I've wondered about Bigfoot, but I've not seen a Bigfoot in these woods yet."
"That's because he lives on the east coast," I explained.
"Aliens?" she asked.
I was prepared to tell her about the famous sea monster in Scotland's Loch Ness that shared her nickname, but our conversation was broken by a loud shout from the big house. We were close enough that Nessie heard it, too.
"I mean it, Jasper Whitlock and Emmett McCarty! If you boys know what is good for you, you will stay away from me!"
It was my mother. Our mother. It so happened on occasion that we brothers would somehow spill what was left in Esme's seemingly endless cup of patience. (And we knew it was trouble when we no longer shared our mother's last name.)
"In fact, you may want to barricade your doors," she continued, "because if I can get to you, you won't like it! I will hurt you!" she threatened.
Next came a series of clicks as my brothers fled behind their bedroom doors.
I looked at Nessie to reassure her that Grandmother wasn't angry at us, but she looked more amused than worried. That's when I remembered that Ness and I had a deal to close—a mission to execute.
"This is perfect..." I muttered.
"What?" Nessie lowered her voice.
"Remember what we talked about last week? About who spanks whom, and if you can't spank somebody yourself, you can try to get them spanked?"
Her eyes grew big. "Yes! And we were going to get Uncle Emmett in trouble for Momma."
"Exactly. This is the ideal set up."
Esme was already on edge—it would be easy to push her over. Carlisle wasn't home, which was better because I didn't want to get myself in any trouble. Rosalie, Alice, and Bella were taking an extended hunting/sunbathing trip in the new RV, which meant no goody-two-shoes tattletale psychics and no scary big sisters with an axe to grind.
"What do we do?" Nessie asked carefully, as we approached the back doors.
"You don't do anything." I lifted a finger in warning. "I don't want to risk you getting into trouble, too. Even though I think this is foolproof, you just watch."
"This time," I amended. "All right? And when I say 'run,' we beat it to the kitchen. Got it?"
Even though she was disappointed to be assigned a passive role, Ness reluctantly agreed.
When we entered the living room, we immediately saw what had agitated Esme. There was an Emmett-sized hole in the drywall, and...I was pretty certain that was a Jasper-sized dent in the doorframe. I instantly checked my piano for damage, but it was untouched.
"Where's Grandmother?" Nessie asked.
My senses found Esme upstairs in the master suite, angrily punching out a text message for Carlisle. "GUESS WHAT UR CHILDREN DID!" While she waited for a reply, she was muttering, "You work and work to give them the best—it's all for them—but what do they do in return? Make more work for you, disrespect the home you provide..."
"Um," I answered Nessie, "she's taking a time-out in her room, trying to calm down. She'll be a while. Grown-ups take very long time-outs."
It happened frequently that my brothers or I were involved in an argument that got out of hand and resulted in some sort of household destruction. Historically, the situation would proceed as follows: (1) Carlisle would come home from work and deliver a stern lecture about how disappointed he was that we boys couldn't solve our differences without violence, and how upset our mother was...et cetera, et cetera. (2) Then we would be charged with the repair and required to think about our wrongdoing. (3) We were expected to hang our heads, grovel to Esme, shake hands, and promise to take future disagreements out of the house.
"Jasper, Emmett." I called out, sounding friendly and supportive. "I'll help you fix this wall. Come down."
The guys came out of hiding looking sheepish and feeling more than a little anxious about Esme's whereabouts.
"It's safe. She's reorganizing the catalogue collections in her room," I whispered. "She won't come out any time soon."
"Hi, uncles," Nessie chimed. "You are in BIG trouble!" She stated the obvious with a wide smile.
They agreed uncomfortably. Jazz rubbed Nessie's head and Em good-humoredly asked her for a five.
"What happened?" she asked.
"You should have been here!" Emmett brightened and gave us a dramatic play-by-play on the action. "And then Jazz yelled, 'I'll teach you a lesson, boy!' and I said, 'Yeah? You and what army, Major?' And I pushed him into that doorjamb. It was so dope. But then he overpowered me and threw me into the wall. I would have slammed him again, but I couldn't retaliate because my balls got caught—"
"Oh! Okay, Emmett," I injected. "Too much information! There are little ears present."
"Keep your voice down, you fool," Jasper cautioned. "You don't have to tell all the guts and feathers of it."
Nessie rolled her eyes. "Yeah, yeah, yeah. Because there are about a hundred stories just like it on FanFiction."
"Really?" Emmett asked. "What happens? Who wins?"
"They're all pretty much the same. The Cullen brothers get in a fight and end up breaking the house. Then Carlisle comes home and—"
"Emmett can find out for himself, love." I interrupted before she could give the end away. (I would need to monitor her Internet reading.)
"But Emmett Cullen wins all the fights, right?" himself inquired.
"Sure, sure," Nessie said slowly, making a face. It was the perfect imitation of an incredulous Jacob Black.
I changed the subject. "Jasper, why don't you go get the materials we need for the drywall. This door is going to take more time. Some demolition is required, don't you think?"
"Yeah," Emmett confirmed. "We'll have to take out the door. Just go get the wall stuff, because we'll need to special order the wood for the frame. I'm gonna go get my tape measure and stuff from the garage..." he murmured on his way out.
"All right," Jazz complied. "Ness, you wanna come with me?"
"No, thank you. I want to stay here and watch." She sat primly on the sofa.
Jasper's eyes narrowed and he looked suspiciously at the girl...and then at me.
"You two are planning something," he guessed. "You sure now's the time to do it? All that shouting was on top a full dose of kindness and calm." He was referring to Esme's outburst. "Kindness and calm" was his special potion—a house recipe.
"Now's the perfect time," I sneered. "And if you don't like it, you don't have to participate. You're leaving anyway, so what's it to you?" As soon as I said it, I felt guilty for being sharp with Jasper and threw him the keys to my Volvo to make up for it.
"Okay, okay," Jasper said, one eyebrow cocked. "I'm just saying. Even if he's done dirt on you, you don't have to throw mud back. It's not your style, Edward. But, like you said, I'm out of here anyway. Good luck to you."
After he left, I realized that he had been making me feel sorry. Son of a—
Emmett returned with a metal toolbox the size of a small bed, from which he took out a tape measure and started memorizing measurements for ordering the new frame.
"Emmett, you want to play catch?" I asked, biting my tongue.
Kneeling, he looked up at me and grinned. "I know what you're trying to do, Edward, and it won't work. I know better than to play that game when it's your idea to play. I've learned that lesson—like four times already." He wagged his finger at me then went back to his handy-man gig, using a drill to take the door off its hinges.
"Playing Catch" was what we called a very risky in-house competition—Emmett's own invention. We picked up valuable objects and threw them randomly across the room. The pitcher's objective was to cause the catcher to miss, subsequently causing the object to break.
If the catcher missed, they apologized and made up some story to get excused. Esme—obviously—did not know this game existed, and so she never understood how we managed to break these things. She would sigh and forgive, because—let's face it—in a house with so many young vampires, things got broken.
It was an obnoxious, marvelous, inebriating, exhilarating game.
I smirked at Emmett. "Fine," I said.
This was favorable. He was so confident that he couldn't be had, that my plan was sure to work. I strolled nonchalantly over to a side table and picked up a small porcelain cat. This was Rosalie's favorite trinket acquired in the Czech Republic. I began tossing it recklessly up in the air.
Emmett noticed and stood up, leaving the door hanging from one hinge. "Oh, no you don't, Edward. That's Rose's. Give it here."
"You want it?" I asked, still flipping it in the air.
"Yes. Give it to me now." He took a step toward me.
"Here you go," I teased as I let it fly. Emmett ran in its direction and caught the cat, sliding expertly on the rug.
Now, in the game, once the catcher has caught an item, he becomes the pitcher, and his job is to one-up the previous pitcher. As I expected, Em set the figurine down to pick up a more valuable gadget: in this case, it was a Bose radio—an item I favored. The big guy raised his eyebrows at me in challenge, not caring that he said he wouldn't play. He was incapable of abstaining from competition.
He tried to trick me by feinting in one direction and spontaneously throwing in another, but I was on to him, and I flashed up to the stair landing to save it before it hit the floor. My back slammed into the wall a bit, but there was little noise and no damage. I listened to check in on Esme, but she paid no attention.
I replaced the Bose and, at Nessie's suggestion, chose a fancy Swiss clock from the mantle. I threw it low, and Emmett dove to retrieve it successfully.
I winked at Nessie, who giggled.
He walked to the bookshelves and found a sculpted plaster bust of Lord Byron, an article of Carlisle's collection of English literary figures (along with a first edition publication of the first two cantos of Don Juan). He tossed it high, but I stood frozen. It hit the floor by the back doors and the head fell off the shoulders at impact. Renesmee yelped. Emmett crowed, his hands raised in victory.
"Nessie, run," I directed in a low voice, and we took off to the kitchen as preplanned.
Emmett was confused. Wasn't he allowed to rag on me now?
"Three-two-one...and cue the angry mother," I murmured just as Esme yelled, "What was that?"
"Oh, hey, Esme. Well, Edward—"
Esme gasped when she made it downstairs to see the decapitated Lord Byron.
"Who broke that?" she asked, unable to look away from the crime scene.
Emmett stuttered. "It—it...Edward—"
"Edward dropped that?" Esme asked skeptically.
"Uh, not exactly. He didn't catch it."
"So you threw it at Edward," Esme deduced.
This was dangerous territory. My mother's behavior was eerily calm. Her thoughts were explicit and resolute, but it was all hanging by a thin cord. Fortunately, in her mind, I was innocent. I had expected that, of course; we all knew I was her favorite.
"Uh...yeah," Em answered, squeamishly honest. "Not at Edward, necessarily, but he was supposed to catch it..."
"WHY did you throw that?" Esme raised her voice suddenly. "You know? Never mind. I don't want to know why you were throwing things." She grabbed him by the ear so that he was bent over. "Edward! Do not come upstairs."
"Yes, ma'am," I answered hastily.
"You, young man," she said to Emmett, "are coming with me." Then she proceeded to drag him twisting and grunting up the stairs.
The situation was serious. This rarely happened, and Emmett would be mortified. I had assumed she would wait for Carlisle to come home to do the smacking as usual. Instead, she was almost possessed by this exigency to carry out the punishment. Outwardly, Esme was in control; but below the surface, she was a seething loch monster.
"Esme..." Emmett, guessing her intention, was trying to talk her out of it. "Mom. This isn't fair. Edward started it. I swear! Edward! Tell her."
"I don't care who started it—I'm going to finish it."
"Dammit. I'm going to throw your daughter next time we play and see how you like that!" Emmett was yelling at me.
"Just who do you think you're talking to?" my mother scolded.
"EDWARD, Mom! I was talking to Edward. Not you!"
In her irritation, Esme pinched his ear harder.
Holy catch phrase, Batman! My mother had gone psycho and my brother was going to be killed. Oh, boy—did I feel terrible! My guilt lasted all of twenty seconds, however, and then I turned smug.
"Can I watch?" Nessie asked me, pulling on my sleeve.
"No. But you can go listen. Wait until I say it's safe." She might could get away with that if I couldn't. Of course, I had a prime vantage point from here in the kitchen. I held on to her arm to keep her close to me.
Towing Emmett by the delicate appendage, it took Esme an extra minute to reach her bedroom and close the door.
"Now you can go, Ness. But come back before it's finished. I not sure I can help you if you get caught. Understand?" She nodded and scurried upstairs. My little spy, I thought with affection and pride.
"Mom, please don't do this," Emmett begged. "Give me extra chores, take away my video games, shave my head and send me to military school..." He continued to offer alternative consequences to the one she seemed bent on giving. Ignoring him, she unfastened his jeans and pulled them down to his ankles. Then she sat on her bed and made him lie over her lap.
I didn't hear Emmett pray to Jesus often, but he was doing so now—praying for the self-control to stay down and not run away like a little boy. He could easily overpower her, but she was his mother. He resolved to be a man about it.
Nevertheless, he whined. "You can't do this..."
"I can, and I will, Emmett Cullen. You belong to me. Your behind is mine...for eternity. So hush!"
Esme was coaching herself. "Stay calm. Do not punish in anger. Stay calm." Once she started spanking, though, she went "postal on his ass"—as my big brother would say. Her teeth were gritted together as she quick-fire slapped the back of his boxer shorts. Emmett was howling and pleading and apologizing. He kept reaching back to cover the target, but she didn't miss a beat. Twice she hit the back of his hand, and he wailed.
I submitted my own humble prayer to Christ—or whichever deity would hear me—asking for continued favor with Esme. I specifically prayed that what was happening to Emmett would never happen to me. Whether that request would be honored or not, I couldn't be sure. Considering my responsibility in this situation... I promised in exchange to make it up to Emmett and ultimately be a better brother. Being subject to a mother's unchecked wrath was infinitely worse than taking correction from a patient, compassionate father, who didn't allow his anger to show up during a disciplinary session.
No matter what it sounded like, Esme wasn't killing him. Nobody felt sorry for Emmett, except for Emmett. When it was over, things would go back to normal—Esme would go back to being the sweet, gentle mother we knew and loved. Emmett would continue to be an ass—albeit a lovable, sensitive-in-surprising-moments ass...the best sort.
Renesmee returned to the kitchen looking a bit rattled, while Esme was still in full swing. "We need to get out of here," she said. "When Grandmother quits and actually listens to what he's saying, it might not be good for you." She was protective of me now.
That was unlikely, but nonetheless... I nodded. "Let's go."
We headed out to leave Emmett to his fate. Is she ever going to stop? I wondered. We must really be pushing the poor woman to her limits. I would need to find a way to make it up to her, too...hack into hospital scheduling and give her and Carlisle a vacation perhaps. I would talk to Alice about it.
Walking beside me, Nessie was lost in reverie about her new experience. I still didn't feel guilty about playing catch, but I did recognize that I was setting a rotten example for my daughter. That made me ashamed, and Bella would no doubt be cross.
I wanted to distract Nessie from her delicious musing; perhaps I would bring up the discussion we were having before all this mess started. But then I quickly changed my mind. I would tell her about the leprechauns when she was older. I didn't want Ness to go looking for those sadistic little fiends.
She started snickering at the memory—Emmett begging for mercy. It was my turn to look at her like she was crazy.
"That didn't disturb you at all, Ness?"
Her brow wrinkled. "No. It serves him right for teasing Momma. He deserved it!"
If I wasn't going to hell before, I certainly was now. It was one thing to play this trick before I was a parent, but now... And to include my daughter in it was unacceptable and immature.
"You really are a monster, Renesmee Cullen." It was more of a revelation than an accusation.
She shrugged. "It's your DNA," she quipped.
I shrugged back at her. I supposed she was right; if it wasn't exactly DNA, it was mine, which made it my fault. The little monster came by it honestly.
Of course, by that argument, our legacy was courtesy Carlisle. That made me feel better, and he wouldn't mind taking the blame. I came by my behavior honestly, too. So if he later questioned my involvement in today's activity, I had my excuse. "It's your DNA, Carlisle."
He couldn't argue with that...
I shuddered and decided to stay far away from the Cullen house for the rest of the day. My brothers could fix the damn wall themselves.
"Hey, Nessie. You want to go look for mermaids?" I asked.
"Sure! I'm the leader!" She whooped with delight, grabbed my hand, and took off for the Pacific Ocean, resolved to practice another family pastime: cliff diving. I smiled to myself and looked forward to the rest of the day with my little sea monster.