I arrived home from class and dropped my backpack in the entryway. Hesitating there for a moment, I disappeared into the stairwell, because I could hear Carlisle in the throes of an intense lecture around the corner. He sat on the ottoman, leaning forward with elbows on knees, while my Renesmee was seated on the sofa before him, gazing blankly back at his impassioned face. I sympathized, as I too had been on the listening end of such lectures on scores of occasions.
What concerned me was that Ness was obviously not listening.
"You more than anyone else, Renesmee, must grasp the importance of doing as you are told. Because of who you are and the circumstances surrounding your existence, you must realize what I mean. I know you didn't ask for these troubles, but there isn't anything to be done except make the most of it.
"If your grandmother instructs you to put away your laundry—even if it doesn't seem very important—you must respect her as your elder and behave accordingly. We keep you safe, and we keep you invisible—in the human world as well as the supernatural. But you must listen and obey...even when it comes to the everyday, menial tasks. That's what makes it possible for us to keep you safe—when we know that you will listen and do as we say."
Ah, the joys of raising a child in close proximity with other family. In addition to two parents, Nessie had two aunts, two uncles, and two grandparents sharing our household, as well—a total of eight authorities. Fortunately for her, she had one werewolf boyfriend who waited obediently at her feet to do her bidding. Of course, she had us all wrapped around her littlest finger, and we strived each day to make her happy. But when she made a mistake or sloughed off responsibilities, as any teenager is likely to do, she was under a lot of scrutiny. A lot of chiefs in the house, and only one little Indian. (No racial discrimination intended toward Jacob or the Quileute Nation.)
Carlisle posed a question, gaining my daughter's attention temporarily. "What does it mean to listen, Renesmee?"
"To hear with one's ear," she recited like an audio dictionary app.
He nodded with encouragement. "That's part of it. You hear with your ears, absorb it into your brain"—at this he used his index fingers to tap on her head—"and act on what you hear. Listening also requires action, Renesmee. To listen is to give heed. To obey." He paused to allow the message to sink in. "Now you tell me…what is listening?"
She opened her mouth to reply but then stood up suddenly. "OMG, did you see that eagle!" Then she edged by his knees and ran to the glass doors that opened onto the back deck.
Carlisle's fingers came to his brow, his thumb rubbing his right temple.
I mimicked the same pose on the stair…except that I was laughing silently. I didn't always listen to his motivational speeches either, but at least I gave him the answers he wanted. Only Nessie would not feel obligated to actively participate in a Carlisle Cullen lecture.
Once I recovered my mood, I walked into the room.
"I'll take it from here, Carlisle," I said quietly.
"That didn't go as well as I had hoped," he told me silently and shrugged. "Welcome home, Edward," he said aloud. "Tag. You're it."
"Daddy!" Renesmee turned around from the doors and greeted me brightly, leaping so I had to catch her.
"Hello, offspring." Grinning, I twirled her once then set her down.
Carlisle smiled genuinely at our affection.
I suggested Nessie and I take a walk around the grounds. We had relocated to the province of Alberta, and our secluded new home was nestled in the Canadian Rockies; it featured a big wraparound deck, a wall of windows (an Esme classic design), and a giant stone fireplace. The main level on the rear side of the house was on the second story, so we waked out the back doors and took the staircase down to the ground level and strolled around the yard. I watched Nessie's mind construct chronological scenes of her day until I recognized that she was ready to focus on her grandfather's displeasure.
"Did you catch any of Carlisle's lecture in there?" I asked, pointing my thumb at the house.
Her eyes pointed up and she bit her bottom lip. "Um... I think he was saying that if I didn't put my clean clothes away, he was going to give me up to the Volturi."
"That's what I thought, too..." I agreed with a sly smile. "Don't worry. I wouldn't let them give you away."
"I will insist that you do as Esme says, or else she may turn her attention to me, and the wrath of Esme is a force better left to a stronger man than I." I pinched her chin. "So go do what you must to make it better."
"Well, I would, but she did it for me," Nessie explained absently, gazing down the driveway.
See, that was the problem right there! Esme was constantly doing that. Telling us to do something, eventually doing that something herself because she gets tired of waiting for it to happen, and then complaining to Carlisle about our slacking.
How was I supposed to raise my child with ethics and accountability when I had to put up with that? Now Rosalie was better about making Nessie take responsibility, but she was also terribly strict. We needed to find some balance here. Clearly I needed to take control of this situation.
"All right," I sighed. "Go apologize to your grandmother and offer instead to accomplish a chore of her choosing."
Ness groaned, prepared to argue. "But Jacob's coming over when he gets off work."
"Without hesitation, Nessie," I snapped, adding a motivational smack on her behind.
Gasping with indignation, she remembered her spanking of last week. She took two steps toward the house and then turned around to challenge me with a scowl. She crossed her arms over her chest. "It wasn't that big a deal, and you're only ordering me to because Granddaddy got involved."
Damn it. My first inclination was to drag her over to the nearest log and paddle her sassy, impertinent backside. After taking a couple of deep breaths, however, that desire fortunately diminished.
What was with the backchat? It was like a live-action replay of last week's fiasco. I knew one spanking wasn't going to miraculously change things. Two…? Perhaps. If she thought she could get away with it, she would continue to let her temper talk. What she said was accurate, and she knew it, too.
How was I supposed to respond to that?
"One..." Oh, God. Was I really giving her a three-second count to change her mind?
Yes, apparently I was. So what was going to happen when I got to three? And how was this reinforcing the lesson of instant obedience? If that was what we required from her, wouldn't I stop at the count of one? Nessie also happened to be silently asking me those exact same questions.
I wanted Bella.
In a flash she was up to the house. A breath of relief whooshed out of me and I took a moment to celebrate her cooperation. I did a little spying while I was still outside to see if any others had happened to hear our row, but there wasn't any evidence of that. However, during my reconnaissance, I found that Nessie had not run to follow my instructions as I had expected, but had simply run away. I rolled my eyes and took off after her.
The great room was crowded. With Alice, Jasper, Rosalie, and Emmett casually chatting and commenting on the CNN broadcast, the hangout seemed to Nessie a safe place to escape me. My siblings, however, noticed my colossal frown and became curious instantly. Alice knew why I was unhappy, of course, and Jasper suspected he knew. They offered me a grim smile.
"Edward! Man, what's wrong?" Emmett asked.
I was giving Renesmee, who was peeking at me from around Jasper, the Edward Cullen brand of the you're-about-to-go-down death glare. Deliberately, the others turned to follow my eyes.
Emmett, again, didn't hesitate to open his mouth. "What did you do, Ness?" Without looking away from me, she extended her hand, like an indifferent royal offering her fingers for a kiss of greeting. He slapped his palm into hers, knowing that she wanted to show him. It took a minute for Emmett to get the whole story.
"Aw, no way, you didn't! Carlisle, get the belt!" he yelled enthusiastically.
Nessie blushed and stared back at him in horror. Alice and Jasper excused themselves quickly and quietly.
"Come on, Em. Let's leave Edward and Nessie to sort this out," Rosalie said. "I don't think they need any help from you."
"No, don't go!" Nessie exclaimed impulsively, grabbing Emmett's hand again. "My dad is going to whip me with a belt! You've got to help me!"
"What?" I was confused and mortified by her lie. "I didn't say that!"
She wouldn't look at me but continued to plead with Rosalie. "Please, Aunt Rose. He's done it before."
"What? Edward! You are not going to hit this child with a belt!" She stepped between me and Ness.
"Oh, I—no, I did not—I mean, I will not! I have never, and...I never even considered it. Renesmee, you know perfectly well that I gave you a spanking last Friday—well deserved, I might add—and my belt was otherwise occupied holding up my pants. What is wrong with you?"
Rosalie got in my face and took three-quarters of a second to smooth away any signs of aggression in her countenance. "Edward," she drawled in an altogether pleasant voice, "if you so much as threaten her with a belt—or paddle or switch or cane or tawse, hairbrush, wooden spoon, or flyswatter"—she took a deep breath—"I will grind your ear off with my high heel." Then she cocked her head and smiled sweetly at me.
Emmett pulled on her sleeve and persuaded her to leave us, which she did calmly, because she trusted me not to violate her orders regarding her cherished niece. (I typically did as Rose said, since she had a truckload of dirt on me; the one good thing about Rosalie—she never told on you. However, she did use your secrets as leverage to get what she wanted.)
As the couple climbed the stairs to their room, Em whispered, "You forgot ruler."
"Or ruler!" Rose yelled.
Big sisters were such a pain in the—
"Jacob will be here any moment," Nessie informed me, backing up.
"He can wait. We have an important discussion to get through first. Nessie, you talked back, disobeyed, ran away from me, and then lied! What do you have to say for yourself?"
"That I learned from the best," she gibed. Meaning me.
My mouth opened to respond, but she cut me off.
"And speaking of the best, you are giving an Academy-award-winning performance over my clean laundry. What do you have to say for yourself?"
Shaking myself from the shock of hearing her ridicule me—very much like Rosalie would have—I stuck out my finger to scold. "No, you, young lady, have turned a simple chore into a major struggle. And for your lack of respect and disregard, you will be punished."
I paused and she set her jaw in defiance.
"Go to your room."
"Then we will do it here. Come," I commanded. As I wanted Ness to comply without hesitation, I would not hesitate or defer discipline any more.
She stayed where she was so I crossed over and grabbed her elbow. I pulled her over to the ottoman and sat, bringing her down with me so she was seated on my right knee. Then I pushed her down further and forward, so she was suddenly kneeling between my legs and bent over my left knee, the seat of her jeans located conveniently over that thigh. I pushed on her back to keep her still, because she was wriggling.
Then I waited for her to calm. It didn't seem like it was going to happen anytime soon. If I spanked her now, it would turn into a fight. She was trying her darnedest to twist her upper body so she could hit my back with her tightly balled fists.
This reminded me of several shameful episodes from my past. I myself hated to be in Nessie's position. There were times when I had been so angry and out of control, that Carlisle had his hands full keeping me restrained over his knee. Suddenly I would be bent over, staring at the floor, cursing myself (damn it!) for landing us in this fix again. It was all that I needed to redirect my attitude and elicit repentance. Then he would let me up without a beating. He had great instinct for that sort of thing. I thought I could conveniently use this tactic with Nessie in this situation.
She was so furious with me, crying and pounding her fists on the ottoman since she couldn't reach to hit me. I slapped my right thigh, hard. She stopped struggling immediately, giving me her full attention. I kept her bent over. Then I cracked my palm down on my leg a dozen more times to imitate a spanking.
"Next time I tell you to do something, you do it," I said, leaning over close to her ear, my voice gruff. I grabbed her under her arms and pulled her up to sit on my lap. I was met with teary brown eyes and a rosy pout. "Jacob's out front. You may go. But don't think this discussion is over. We will talk about this with your mother later." Reluctantly, she nodded, and I let her go.
I sat there for a moment longer and congratulated myself for this clever bit of parenting. And then—ow! The throb in my leg grew to a flaming bite that I couldn't ignore and I rubbed the sting resentfully, gradually realizing with the pain that I had fallen through on my personal promise to give my daughter consequences. Instead—as usual—I was the one who ended up hurting.