So long time no see. It's been the worst summer ever and writing is hard. But, things are looking up. So many of you were so kind about the fire thing, and it really helped. Thank you so much.
Also thank you for sticking with this story. There will probably be one more chapter as this little epi, but it's kinda silly. It will be up soon.
I've got something else in the works. It's a big project for me and it's way more canon than I usual do, so I want to have it at least halfway betaed and posted before posting. On a related note, does anyone want to beta for me? You can read it first!
I love you all. Very much. See you next time.
"That was so freakin' great, Dad!" My eight year old daughter still bounces with energy , despite it bein' way past bedtime. Exceptions are made for Panther games especially during the playoffs, of course, but Bella sighs audibly from her seat beside me. Nessie's elation is sure to keep her up late, meaning that gettin' her to wake up in time for church in the morning's gonna be a real bitch.
Still, we've made it through the first round. Damn good night, overall.
"Thanks, kid," I saw, grinning at her in the rear view mirror. She sits in between her two little brothers, both who conked out before I even made it out of the locker room. Anthony, at six, tries his darnedest to keep up with his big sis who he idolizes while three year old Masen really didn't stand a chance stayin' up to this hour.
I told Bella I could get a ride with Coach, but the little lady insisted on waiting it out.
"I'm so serious, Dad," Nessie continues, babbling happily. "It was like, we were losing. And then bam! 30 yard pass and into the end zone. And just like that, we were winning. And then we won!"
Bella and I exchange grins. Ness is just so damn excited about life. It's infectious.
"That's pretty much exactly how it went, baby," I agree.
Bella turns around in her seat, talking to Ness about the plan for tomorrow. Church in the morning, brunch at Em's which has turned into a weekly thing over the years. Plus, with it bein' so close to Christmas Jazz, Alice, and Jax are in town.
Nessie recently took an interest in all the kitchen stuff, and she gleefully joins my wife in menu planning.
I glance in the rearview mirror again, seeing every member of my family. Our dark haired boys, looking far more angelic in sleep than they every do awake, with their chubby baby faces and rosy cheeks. Vanessa, our oldest who was a bit of a surprise, but pretty much the best ting to happen to my life, second only too the woman who sits next to me.
Sometimes I still wake up surprised that all this is mine. Bella did that.
I asked Bella to marry me the second she got her diploma from the University of Denver, pretty much literally the second.
Hard to believe all this was nearin' ten years ago.
A couple summers before graduation Charlie sat me down and made me swear that I'd wait until we finished up college to pop the question. Some drunken thing about him and Renee bein' too young and such. Or maybe he just thought we'd eventually drift apart, being at separate schools and the like.
That sure wasn't the case.
I do not recall when I first made up my mind to marry Bella, staring with the gettin' down on one knee part. She's always been the kinda gal to really get into the whole romantic bit, but I made a promise to Charlie so I held off.
Bella says it didn't make her cranky but I think she was gettin' right impatient near the end there.
CU was done for the year a full two weeks before DU, so I guess I was kinda impatient too, waiting until she was officially done.
Fuck, was I nervous.
Turns out my fear were unfounded, obviously. We met with her in a grassy knoll after the ceremony and I did it right there, in front of friends and family and teachers, gettin' down on one knee and fishing the modest ring I'd been saving for out of my pocket. All I managed to get out of my prepared speech was her name before she lunged at me, screaming a resolute "yes!"
That was a pretty good day.
She made me give the little speech later that night in bed. Don't remember the specifics now, but the gist was that she's my whole life, that she changed my whole life, and that I love her with everything I have.
We didn't waste much time with a long engagement. Living together in sin is one thing in Boulder, but a whole different thing in Dillon. Plus, we were just ready to go about the business of being married.
The wedding was nice. The party was better. Bella absolutely glowed.
A week after gettin' back from a honeymoon on the cheap to the coast, we started work at for the Dillon school district. Bella got a job right away teaching kindergarten. One of the older teachers even put off retiring a year in anticipation of her arrival.
That's just the kinda town Dillon is.
It was kinda the same for me. I coached offence for the JV team for my first two seasons back with the Panthers before Coach Mac retired. It was a strange moment, takin' over for the man who saw me through the very worst of party days.
All that on top of teachin' band to a bunch of punk high schoolers. Turns out I'm pretty all right at both. Still, it's rough on game day what with my loyalty somewhat divided between the team and the pep band. My drum majors handle the whole thing, but it's hard work not glancing over my shoulder constantly at my band kids.
Somehow I manage to balance everything, with the band kids and the football kids and my actual flesh and blood children.
This is a life I never dared to imagine.
We barrel down the two-lane highway towards the horribly inadequate home we're been living in since Ness was born. There's been talk since Masen came along of upgrading to one that will fit a family of five, but it just ain't happened yet.
When a small white for sale sign catches my eye at the end of a familiar road, it's a little eerie. I pull over abruptly, startling the only awake members of my family.
Both ladies screech at me, but I'm outta the SUV before they can really say much. Bella and Ness both join me a moment later.
"Where are we, Mommy?" my daughter asks, grabbing my hand as my ladies come look at the sign.
"Your daddy's favorite golf course, I believe," Bella replies. I can feel her eyes on me but I'm too busy looking into the dark, visualizing those rolling green hills I know so well.
"Ain't golf courses more flat and stuff?" Ness muses.
"It's not that kinda golf, kid," I mutter. "It's just wackin' golf balls. I'll show you sometime."
"This was our very first date, your dad and me," Bella says, moving behind Nessie and laying her head against my shoulder. I grin down at my lovely wife.
"First date, huh?" That whole time period was rough, what with her dating my best friend and all, but the bitterness and pain is gone now. All I really remember now is how Bella fell in love with me.
I was a goner pretty much the moment I saw her.
"That doesn't sound very nice at all," Nessie comments, frowning slightly. She works her lip between her teeth, just like her mother. Her big brown eyes are all Bella. Her messy bronze hair she gets from me.
"It was perfect," Bella insists, smiling up at me with affection. I kiss her nose.
"Damn right," I say. "That's why were gonna buy it."
"Daddy!" Ness cries, aghast. "No cursing."
"Edward," Bella says. I wince at her tone. It tells me I'm gonna have to do a lot of convincing. "What on earth do you have in your head now?"
"I think you know."
"Oh, no. No, no, no. Is there even a house on this property? What in the hell are we gonna do with 15 acres?" she asks.
"Baby, look at this sign," I say, gesturing somewhat wildly in my excitement. "Foreclosure. It's in foreclosure. We can get it on the cheap. Plus, Emmett just finished paying me for my part of the house."
When she chose to abandon her children and disappear into the wilds of Texas, my mother left us with the only thing she really owned in the world. Her house. Em and Rose have been living there together since we graduated high school, and they've slowly been buying me out with the extra income they make now that they've opened another few auto shops.
"And what would we do with it after getting it on the cheap? Where are we gonna live?" she asks, repeating her very good question.
"I'll build one," I declare.
"You'll what?" Bella snaps.
"That's so cool," says Nessie, picking up on my excitement.
"I know how," I say, heading off my wife's first argument. "Remember all that construction I worked before Em needed me at the shop senior year? I've build all sorts of houses. Why not my own? Plus, I know people."
"You know people?" she demands incredulously.
"People," I explain with a shrug.
Bella gives me a long hard look, sighs heavily, and climbs back into the car without another word.
"I'm cold, Daddy," Nessie says, tugging on my hand. "If this is our new house to we have to sleep outside?"
"Naw, kid," I say. "We're not quite there yet. Wanna help me wear down your mom?"
"Okay," she says with a shrug. "Sounds fun."
"Apparently, it's been a life long dream," drawls Rosalie. She sits on her kitchen counter, sipping a beer and watching Esme and I prepare the meal. Sunday brunch has been pushed back to early Sunday dinner to accommodate the Cowboys game.
"What would you know of his life long dreams?" I reply, checking on the chicken. Still has awhile to go. That's good. It seems like we're timing the cooking right.
"Emmett just happens to have some insight," Rose says, sounding all snotty. "My husband did raise your husband, after all."
Esme lets out a snort as she stirs the coleslaw. "They raised each other," she observes, quite accurately for someone who moved to Dillon when we were in high school. She's been a Dillon citizen for almost fifteen years and she's still considered something of the new girl. That's just the kinda town Dillon is. "With a little help from you two girls, I would say."
Rose and I share a look because ain't that the truth.
"What's this life long dream?" Esme asks, reminding me of the topic at hand.
I mutter under my breath into my wine glass. Rose smirks at me, loving my discomfort as usual.
"Edward wants to buy this huge chunk of land to the west of town and build a house on it," Rose explains.
"Oh," says Esme, blinking rapidly. "Well, that seems like a pricey venture."
"Yeah, that's part of it I guess," I reply with a shrug. "I mean, we've been saving for years for a bigger home. You've been to our place. It's impossible to get from one room to the next without stepping on a child. The land Edward wants is in foreclosure and impossibly cheap. He wants to build the house himself next summer. As in with his own two hands."
Esme smiles. "Oh, that sounds lovely. Just like Edward."
I groan because it seems like everyone is on my husband's side.
"If money isn't a problem what are you worried about?" Esme asks, obviously confused.
"The time," I say. "Like we already don't have enough on our plate as it is. Edward basically is working two full time jobs. Which is basically why money isn't a problem, but it was supposed to be a transitional thing after Mac retired, but here we are seven years later and he still can't decided between football and music. I mean, he does all right and is paid well for this sort of thing. He manages to spend plenty of time with the kids and even manages to take me out occasionally, but this would be like working a third job! A third freaking job!"
I've really worked myself up at this point. Esme looks at me with concern. Rose has that evil smirk on her face that has always pissed me off so much it's a miracle we've stayed friends this long.
"I understand your point, Bella," Esme says, nodding consoling. "You'd miss your husband."
"Exactly," I say, nodding enthusiastically.
"You're an idiot," says Rose. Esme gapes at her. I just give her the evil eye. "He could do it this summer. Y'all are teachers. Don't you get a nice little vacation?"
I blink at Rose because I honesty hadn't considered the summer.
Nessie lets out a shrieking giggle from behind us at the Cullen's kitchen table. I turn around to check it out and smile when I see Jackson attempting to cover my daughter in flour handprints. After helping me back a pie they took to playing with the leftover bits of crust. Like play dough. It's getting a little disgusting and I should really set them about the business of clean up, but they're just having so much fun and being so cute doing it.
The Whitlock's like to make it out to Dillon a couple times a year. It really completes our strange extended family when they are around. We all love it, but Ness is especially thrilled to have Jax around, even if it just adds to the number of boys she's surrounded by. Between her little brothers and her cousins, Em and Rose's two little boys, she's the only girl amongst the kids.
Not that she seems to mind. She dives right in to backyard football games and wrestling matches with the rest of them.
I turn back to finish up preparing the meal. Twenty minutes later were all seated in the dining room. Conversation rises and falls. Masen falls asleep with his face against my shoulder. Edward rests his hand on my thigh, and I think about the summer.
I grunt in response, not totally knowing in my half asleep state if this is a dream or if my wife is overcome with the overwhelming urge to talk even if it is the middle of the night and it's been a long day and all the love making.
"Edward." This time the word is harsher and accompanied by a shove to my shoulder. I open on bleary eye, taking in the outline of my wife with her head propped up on an elbow as she stares down at me.
I grunt again.
"So this house thing," she starts. Suddenly she has my full attention. I open both eyes. "Are you really serious?"
"When ain't I serious?" I ask, semi offended by her question.
Bella giggles. I crack a smile because she's just so perfect. I like this time of night when it's just the two of us. I like ending each day this way, just her and me.
"I'm serious, Isabella," I say when she quiets.
My wife sighs, but it's a totally different sigh from last night. That was exasperation. This is more fondness tinged with annoyance.
Nine years of marriage plus five years of dating and I've finally decoded even her sighs.
"Show me the numbers," Bella replies. I blink at her, not totally believing what she's actually telling me. "I'm not thrilled with the idea, but if you show me a detailed breakdown of what you want to do and how it we'll pay for it… then yes. Maybe. Build us a house."
More blinking on my part.
Nine years of marriage plus five years of dating and she still manages to surprise me. One day. I thought it would've taken weeks plus those detailed plans she asking for to get her even to consider it.
"Really?" I squeak out, sounding far too much like my daughter for comfort.
"If it's actually feasible and you actually know what you're doing and you get your people you supposedly know to help, then probably," she says, not sounding thrilled but not as irritated as she did yesterday.
"Fuck, I love you," I tell her.
She giggles again, throws her leg over my waist, and molds her naked chest to mine as she kisses me.
Marriage is awesome.