Chapter One: Family Photograph
In my wallet, stored secretly behind the picture of my imaginary dead parents, is another photograph. A picture that if I were being sensible; I wouldn't be carrying around with me. But I can't help it. It's one of my most treasured possessions and I don't want to leave it in the photograph album hidden under the floor of my bedroom. It was taken on my birthday in September; my eighteenth or my seventh, depending on which side of my life you live and it's a candid shot of a group of eighteen people.
We were trying to get a family picture; having all of us in the same place at the same time was getting more and more unusual. But two seconds before the shutter clicked, Emmett told the most appalling joke and the camera caught everyone, even my Dad, falling about laughing.
Everything that I love about my family is present in this picture. The people, the love, the unlikely bonds, the fun and the sheer unpredictability of life when your family unit consists of eleven vampires, four humans, two human vampire hybrids and a guy who can turn into a wolf.
The people in this picture are so very dear to me. But it wasn't always that way. I spent a large part of last year fighting with most of them and trying to split my life into two separate parts. My vampire side I pushed into a closet and turned the key. I embraced my humanity and like most people who try to divorce themselves, I wound up in one heck of a mess.
I am a human vampire hybrid and I'm slowly learning to manage the balance between the vampire me and the human me. The vampire me is Renesmee Cullen. The human me is Vanessa Masen; but I have settled on a middle ground and I'm known simply as Ness to everyone. You can Google Ness Masen, I'll show up in all the places you'd expect me to and I can social network with the best of them. You won't find a trace of Ness Cullen though. She is mythology.
The relationships and bonds in this photograph are a little complicated, but while I have it out I'll do my best to explain them. It's important that you know who is who in my life and that what you see is not what you get. For example, I may look exactly like any other eighteen year old girl, but I've only needed seven years to get this far. We hybrids don't exactly follow the rules of nature.
So that's me in the centre, the girl with the long bronze curly hair. The huge Quileute man I have my arms around is my Jake. In the human world he's the guy who runs the auto repair shop; but in my family he's the one who can turn into a wolf. He's also my boyfriend. Boyfriend doesn't quite cover what he is to me; but we start having to use terms like destiny, predetermination and other words that can't really explain what's going on between us. But it's important that you know one thing; he's mine. In a come-near-him-and-I'll-rip-your-head-off kind of a way. I think that pretty much sums it up.
The woman sat next to Jake and the guy sat next to her may look like my siblings but they're actually my parents, Edward and Bella Cullen. I'm sure you can see that my hair is the exact same shade as my Dad's and my face is the same shape as my Mom's. I have her brown eyes too, although you won't see that because she's a vampire now. She went through a lot to give birth to me and having seen it again more recently, I am totally in awe of her.
Things are great between the four of us now, but rewind five months and I hated the very sight of them, even Jake. I got myself lost in so very many ways and for a while I couldn't think straight about things. Add to that the effects of another family trait I inherited - my Mom's stubbornness - and for a while I had the human teenager thing down to perfection. Dad had his own difficulties going on, which nearly resulted in the first ever vampire divorce. Thank goodness we sorted that out.
My parents and my (now) boyfriend are back in my life, but it does come at a price. I may be humanly eighteen and legally an adult, but Dad is not ready to give up being a Dad, so that means he's close and unless I get ten miles away from him, he can hear my thoughts. Yeah, you learn not to think about certain stuff until he goes out of town. It took a while to get the hang of it. I lost count of the number of growls, but I did clock two hundred and forty seven text messages asking me to cut it out. What can I say? I'm a girl in love with a handsome guy! You're not telling me he doesn't have those same thoughts about Mom… and we've wandered into territory that no child wants to think about, so let's move on!
Sat next to me is the Forks Chief of Police; I have friends in high places. To the rest of the world, Charlie Swan is looking after me whilst I finish up High School. The story is that my (imaginary) parents were killed in a car crash fifteen months ago. The authorities tracked down my cousin (Edward) and I went to live with him, his wife and baby daughter. But three adults and a baby in a small house didn't work, so Bella's Dad invited me to come live with him, which I did.
On the surface, it's an entirely plausible scenario and it's working. Grampa knows what I am, what his daughter now is and all about the vampires and wolves that inhabit this small corner of the Pacific Northwest. He, however, is just your regular human. There's nothing special about him, other than being my Grampa and therefore a completely awesome guy.
There is, however, something special about a woman not in this picture, Grampa's girlfriend, Heather Scott. By profession she's the Minister of the local Baptist Church; but other than that the Cullens haven't quite worked her out yet. She appears to be part angel and for now she remains firmly on the rest of the world side of my line. But things are going well for Grampa and Heather, so at some point we'll need to decide whether she crosses the line or not. Having an angel in the mix could be fun; although quite how she'll deal with what we are will be interesting to discover.
Sat next to Grampa is Jake's Dad, Billy. He's not strictly speaking part of our family, but he's as dear to us as if he were. He's equally in love right now. He and his beloved Maggie are close to setting a date for their wedding. Billy himself doesn't change into a wolf, but he knows that Jake does and that he's not the only one. The wolves down on the La Push Reservation and the Cullen vampires didn't always have such an easy relationship; but Jake and I being together meant that things had to be re-evaluated.
Standing behind the sofa are more of my vampire family. On the right, the blond haired man is Carlisle. He's the head of our family. He may look in his early twenties, but he's over three hundred and sixty years old. Next to him is his wife Esmé, but I call her Grandma. Stood next to her are my aunts and uncles: Emmett and Rose, Jasper and Alice.
With the exception of me and someone else I'll introduce shortly, everyone else chooses to belong to our family. They all have their own talents and histories that they bring to the mix: Alice can see the future, and Jasper can influence moods. Rose can fix anything with an engine and Emmett you'd want by your side in a fight. I love them so very much, but I do wish Alice would cut me some slack on clothes. Yes, I do like wandering around looking like a hobo if truth be told. There's no point dressing up just to end up with half the forest smeared on, or attached to me. My talent is attracting dirt. I also have the ability to let other people see my thoughts, by touching their face or neck. I don't use it very often these days. I would use it more with Jake, but my phone seems to go off a lot when I do.
Sat in front of the sofa are the more recent members of our family. In front of my parents are Dan and Jane. Dan is in my class at school; he's entirely human but has fallen in love with a vampire and what a vampire! Jane spent twelve hundred years as an enforcer for the Volturi; the police officers of the vampire world. That was until she came to dispense justice to me after a slip-up (the less said about that the better) and fell head over heels in love with Dan. He fell head over heels in love right back and it wasn't fun trying to keep those two apart.
I was fearful that Jane may have him for lunch or that Dan might freak out at what she was. Either way he was dead. In the end, with everything else falling apart in my life, I gave in and let them fall into each other's arms. Amazingly, Dan didn't become lunch or freak out. In fact, he seemed entirely unfazed by it and more concerned that it severely narrowed down restaurant opportunities. They got married a few weeks ago. The weekend after his and his twin sister Jess's eighteenth birthday, all of us got on a plane one Friday and flew over to Italy for the weekend. There, in a chapel, deep in the heart of the Volturi fortress, someone timeless and older than any building around her, bound herself to someone his sister described as a 'spotty herbert from Grasmere'. But then again, Jess always does have a phrase for every occasion.
That's Jess there, sat in front of me; the blonde girl who looks like she's ironed her hair. She's my best friend and now part of my family. She too has fallen in love with a vampire; although unlike Jane and Dan, I didn't see that one coming. She managed to find one in a club in Port Angeles. Scared of what her friends might say, she kept him out of everyone's way, which was a sensible precaution. Plus, he wasn't entirely sure what I was, so there was a lot of secrecy on both sides.
The day I finally met Jess's vampire boyfriend Will, was also the day I discovered that she was pregnant by him. I've already told you that I didn't give my Mom an easy pregnancy, but Jess was in good hands and all the experience my family had gained with Mom was brought to bear on Jess. In July she gave birth to Ben, the boy sat on Will's lap. He's the most gorgeous little boy, although there's a chance we could be biased. As you can see, even at two months old in this picture he looks almost two years old. He's another hybrid.
Like her twin brother, Jess is still entirely human and both she and Dan are staying that way for now. We have a final year of High School to complete and they've both decided to wait a while before they too make the transition to being vampires.
Will is twenty five, so Jess is mulling over the idea of going to University. Jane got frozen in time at fourteen so of the two of them, I'm guessing Dan will make the change first.
Right at the end there, sat next to Will, is Daniel. Jess calls him our rescue vampire because that's what we did, we rescued him. Things got so bad last summer that I ran away to San Francisco. I was picked up by Daniel, who worked for the vampire who controls the city. I say worked but that's not entirely correct. Daniel was the lowest of the low; the gopher, the dogsbody, the Dobby the House Elf figure. But he put his life on the line trying to save me and in return, my Dad pieced him back together and invited him to see a different side of vampire life; a life where people cared about you.
Daniel's in transition himself, changing from a traditional vampire to one that chooses to live as we do – as a 'vegetarian'. We consume animal blood not human blood and that's how we manage not to tear each other or our human family members apart. Daniel has a daughter, Madison, who is still in San Francisco with his former wife. She's nine years old and she has no clue what happened to her Daddy, who went missing on her sixth birthday. It's his biggest wish to find some way of being a father to her.
Daniel's sweet on our History teacher, Stephanie Chambers. It's going to be difficult for him to try and cope with transitioning and trying to date Stephanie, but he's giving it a go. It's still early days and Dad and he have concocted a mad cover story, which Jess laughed out loud at.
"She's not daft, Edward! She's an intelligent woman, she'll see right through that." Jess chuckled. Dad, however was optimistic that it would work. Jess looked somewhat perplexed at the stack of equipment they'd bought for it and then rolled her eyes when Will signed up to help out. "Pfft!" She grumbled. "One sniff of space and you're there. Well I suppose all that Star Trek watching you've done will come in useful."
"It's Astronomy classes Jess, we're not joining Starfleet." Grinned Will.
"Well whatever the hell you've got planned for her, you're all a load of Space Cadets." Jess rolled her eyes and sauntered off, to find out what mischief Ben had managed to get into with Jasper.
Last year we were all together for Christmas. We spent it in Denali in Alaska and some not very nice things happened to me there. So this year, I'm determined it's going to be better. But we're not together. Grandma, Carlisle, Rose, Emmett, Jasper and Alice have gone to Denali again. Daniel's staying in Forks to keep an eye on things. I guessed those 'things' included Miss Chambers, when Rose turned to my Dad, sighed and said,
"Oh fabulous, it's you all over again."
Grampa and Billy are also in Forks and they're spending Christmas with Maggie and Heather. Grampa has promised Mom that he won't try and cook.
I am spending Christmas with Jess and Dan and their parents, Susie and Brian Taylor. We don't travel light these days. Jess does not go anywhere without Will and Ben, Dan will not leave Jane and I can't possibly spend Christmas apart from Jake. So they're with us too. Dad and Mom do not want to spend Christmas away from me and as last year was such a disaster, we're hoping that spending Christmas overseas might work out better.
So here I am, in Britain for Christmas. I'm in the small Cumbrian town of Grasmere in the north west of England, where Jess and Dan used to live. I'm in a pub right now. More specifically, I'm in the ladies' washroom checking to see if there are any phone messages from Jake. They're on their way up and I can't wait 'til he gets here. While Dad's not within ten miles of me, I'm making the most of letting my head think about Jake all it wants to and about what it wants to. I'm enjoying it!
I feed the picture of my real family back behind the photograph of my imaginary family and pick up my drink again. Jess bought it for me; it's her drink of choice. It's got W-K-D on the label, it's got vodka in it and it's bright blue. Anyone who knows my track record with vodka might be wondering why I'm drinking it again and in such close proximity to humans. To which all I can reply is, 'when in Rome…'
Drinking Coke tonight would be drawing serious attention to myself. And you know that any girl, even a half vampire girl, wants to blend in.