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This is unbeta'd. All mistakes are mine. Thanks once again to mycrookedsmile and jadsmama for lending me their eyes.

Word Prompt: Crunch

Tuesday, 24 December 2013 (~1 ½ years later)

I stood in front of the picture window that looked out over the backyard and watched the snow fall. Mom and Dad, along with Charlie and Sue, were set to arrive later that evening for the beginning of our holiday festivities, and I could hardly wait for them to get here.

Bella and I had spent last Christmas in Forks with her family, but after we'd gotten home, we'd decided we wanted everyone – both sides of the family – to be together this year. My parents were eager to visit with Bella's parents again. They hadn't seen each other since our wedding in Hawaii a little more than a year ago, and while things were probably going to be crazy and crowded, I knew we'd have a great time.

The sound of footsteps padding lightly across the floor and the clink clink of metal against ceramic alerted me to Bella's presence. I glanced over my shoulder and smiled at what had become a very familiar sight – Bella with a bowl of cereal.

I turned back to the window as she stopped beside me.

"We're going to have a white Christmas," she said in between bites.

"Mhmm," I hummed. It had been a long time since we'd had snow on Christmas day.

I wrapped my arm around her waist and pulled her a little closer to me, nuzzling my nose against her cheek. "How's your Cap'n Crunch?" I whispered.

She giggled and shook me off. "It's good. Want a bite?"

"Do you even have to ask?"

She grinned, dipped her spoon into her bowl, and raised a heaping pile to my mouth. I chomped down on it, relishing the crunch as I chewed and swallowed the milky, sweet goodness. Bella had always had a sweet tooth, but it wasn't until she'd gotten pregnant that I discovered her love for sugary cereals. We routinely switched between Cap'n Crunch, Lucky Charms, and Golden Grahams. She was a cereal monster if I'd ever seen one, and I was lucky she was willing to share.

"It won't be long before everyone gets here," she said absently.

"Nope. You still feeling up for it?"

She chuckled. "Well, it's a little late for that now, don't you think?"

I laughed. "True."

She lifted another bite up for me to eat, which I happily did. As I chewed, I watched the black spindly tree branches bob up and down in the wind, almost to the same beat as the Christmas music playing softly in the background.

"But yes, I'm ready. I'm excited everyone's going to be here with us. Do you think they'll be surprised?" she asked as she turned to set the empty bowl on the table beside the wall and wrapped both of her arms around my waist.

I still got that same thrill when she touched me, but it was different than it had been when we were apart. Since she'd moved to Princeton and we'd gotten married, things had felt less frantic and hurried. Bella had settled into her job at Rutgers with zeal and had flourished in her new environment. Things in Connecticut had heated up for a while but wrapped after six months. I had settled back in at Princeton, taken over Ben's job after he'd accepted a position somewhere else, and assumed the leadership of several other teams. With all those changes had come a sense of ease and comfort that I really loved. I no longer felt that aching sense of dread or unease whenever one of us walked out the door in the morning or had to be gone overnight. There were no more long-term absences or tears at the airport. Things were… perfect.

I rested my free hand on the top of her belly, smoothing my hand tenderly across the little bump that had just popped out of nowhere. When we'd found out Bella was pregnant almost five months ago, we were both surprised and ecstatic. We had talked about having kids right after we'd gotten married, but when things didn't happen right away, we'd decided to just let nature run its course.

It certainly had, and we were set to have a baby girl in April. We hadn't told anyone. Initially we'd planned to wait until the end of the first trimester, but as Christmas neared, we'd decided to surprise the grandparents.

"I'm pretty sure my mom is going to freak out," I said. "She's been subtly hinting about grandchildren for the last couple of months, and I'm almost positive she has no clue."

"I know. I'm pretty sure dad doesn't suspect anything, either. I'm excited to see his face when he opens his gift."

I pressed my lips against the top of her head. "They're going to love them. I have no doubt about that. I still can't believe you made those."

She pulled back. "Why? They weren't that hard."

"Maybe not, but they were time consuming. And it's not like you have copious amounts of free time."

"Well, true, but this may be the only grandbaby they get, and I want it to be special."

I smiled softly at her. "And it will be."


Wednesday, 25 December 2013

"Everyone find a seat. Edward's going to start passing out stockings," Bella said as I crouched beside the tree.

I watched as everyone I loved settled in with mugs of coffee and small plates of Sue's homemade cinnamon rolls. We'd opened most of the gifts the night before after everyone had arrived and we'd eaten dinner. We'd saved a few small things like stockings and Bella's baby gifts to open Christmas morning. I had hoped no one would notice Bella's little tummy, and as far as I could tell, no one had.

I passed out the stockings we'd purchased just for the occasion. Everyone laughed and joked about the mini bottles of alcohol, the mounds of chocolates, and the silly little gag gifts we'd thrown in each one.

"Anyone need a refill?" Bella asked as she stood up with her favorite snowman mug in hand.

While she was gone refilling drinks, I passed out the rectangular packages Bella had painstakingly wrapped in white tissue paper and bright pink ribbons.

"What are these?" Mom asked, surprised, as I set it in her lap.

"I guess you'll have to open it to find out," I said with a smirk.

She gave me a playful glare that turned into a curious smile as she toyed with the pink bow on top. I placed the other package in Charlie's hands. He looked at me with that same appraising look he always got in his eye when he wasn't sure what we were up to.

Once Bella was seated, everyone slowly began to peel away the ribbons and the paper. I sat down beside Bella, and she snuggled against me as we watched the paper fall away and the confusion on their faces morph into looks of surprise and exclamations of glee.

"Really?" my mom asked, not even attempting to hide the tears that were already falling.

"Yep," I said, looking at Bella. She glanced at me and then looked back at her dad as he slowly ran his finger across the glass.

He hadn't said a word, but by the tears Sue was blinking away and the way Charlie's fingers wound tightly around hers, I knew he was happy. When he finally looked up, the tip of his nose was pink, and his eyes were glassy.

"A baby girl?" he asked thickly, his eyes locked with Bella's.

She scooted away from me and moved closer to her dad. She nodded as he wrapped his arm around her shoulder and buried his face in her hair. I loved the special bond they shared, and I knew he would make an awesome grandpa.

After more hugs and tears and laughs, Bella explained the family "ponds" she'd made. In the center was the name we'd chosen – Evelyn Grace, Evie for short – and radiating outward, each successive colored ripple represented a different generation of our families – Bella's on the left and mine on the right.


Later that night, long after everyone had gone to bed and Bella was asleep, I lay in bed looking out the window at the snow that had started to fall again and then at the "family pond" sitting on the dresser that Bella had made for us. Things hadn't always been easy, especially at the beginning when we were apart, but we'd learned to trust and count on each other in every way. She was my best friend and the love of my life. I tightened my arms around her, ever grateful she was with me and that my baby girl, the new love of my life, was alive and healthy and growing stronger and bigger inside her every day.

I had no idea how I'd gotten so blessed, how or why I'd been given a second chance, but the timing of my trip to Seattle two years ago was nothing short of a Christmas miracle. Bella had opened herself up, shown me what it was to trust and love again, and like a beacon in the night she had drawn me to her with nothing more than a simple promise to try.

And it had been enough to change everything, to form a foundation on which we could build a long, happy life together.

Over the last two years, I'd learned that love was a living, breathing thing. Just like the broken tree at my parents' house, what had once been cracked and seemingly beyond repair between the two of us had flourished with a lot of plane tickets, a daily dose of texts and phone calls, some very funny – and racy – Skype dates, and lots and lots of tender loving care.

Above all, though, it had been love and friendship that had sustained us through the rough patches and darkest days. As I breathed out a contented sigh, I pressed my body a little closer to Bella's.

She murmured something unintelligible, and I brushed my lips against her hair, smiling lazily.

Just as the joy of the day turned to fatigue, I whispered, "Love you, pretty girl," and finally fell asleep.

There are pictures on the blog: http : / jessyptff . blogspot . com /2012/03/winter-song-epi . html

Thank you all so much for reading! I can't tell you how much I've enjoyed this journey! Until next time... xoxo