The Christmas Book
Epilogue – February 2012
It had been nine weeks since Edward and Alyssa walked into a little bookstore that served the best hot chocolate, named Hidden Treasures. That same little corner store also had the creamiest frosting on top of the most delectable cupcakes.
And it was the same place that it was rumored laid a book that granted wishes. Two wishes that had been added to the magical pages only days before Christmas had already come true. Alyssa, had on Christmas night, confessed that she was happy as she'd fallen asleep on her little bed between Bella and Edward after they read to her.
It was the first of many days and nights together.
Things between them weren't always easy. Alyssa threw her first tantrum when Edward and Bella tried to drop her off with Esme so that they could go out for New Year's Eve. It had taken hours to console her, and she fell back to her safety net and refused to talk to anyone, especially Bella.
Days passed before Alyssa said a word to anyone. Then one night, she crawled into Edward's lap as he sat alone in the living room, because Bella had left in tears when he snapped at her. His frustration, after everything had been going so well, made him lash out.
Alyssa had told him she was sorry for making Bella cry and causing her to leave. Her first words in almost five days, and the relief he felt when he heard her was swift and tore at him. Even though he tried to tell Alyssa that Bella wasn't angry with her, the little girl begged him to fix it. That same night, within twenty minutes after Alyssa asked him to help, he had knocked on Bella's front door.
Bella had opened it, nose and eyes rimmed red, her eyes bright from the tears that fell the moment she saw them. With a grunt, Edward caught her as she threw her arms around them both. At that moment, as they held each other close, Alyssa whispered to Bella that she loved her and didn't want her to go ever.
From that day forth, they were inseparable. Not a day or night passed without seeing each other. Edward and Bella were often seen in town, each of their hands entwined with the little girl's. Town gossip ran rampant and not many of the rumors were far from the truth. She loved him. He loved her. They both loved the little girl they swung on occasion in between them as she giggled with joy. Others said that there would be a summer wedding in the little country chapel.
They were close, but it would be a spring wedding.
Charlie waved at Ms. Cope who ran the consignment store next door. He closed his umbrella, careful to shake off the rain. Once inside Hidden Treasures, he shed his jacket and hung it up. He smiled when his daughter greeted him from the "Craft Corner" she added to her store the previous month. There were a few little faces there, all of them in deep concentration as they glued and glittered a new project.
His eyes lingered on Bella's smile, she's glowing, he thought. Waving, he laughed when a little boy he knew as Emmett stuck a picture of a horse on Bella's forehead. She crossed her eyes, making a face when she reached for the gooey picture. A cute little girl, a tad taller than the boy, stuck on her tongue and smacked the back of his head.
"Rosalie!" Bella exclaimed. "That's enough of that. He only thought it would be funny." Emmett pouted and looked as if he were on the verge of tears. When Bella turned to help another child, he stuck his tongue out at Rosalie. She only glared. The way those two tikes fought, Charlie thought, they had to be siblings of some kind. But they weren't.
Charlie looked for another familiar face, but knew she wouldn't be with the other kids. Though Bella and Edward, along with Alyssa's doctor, had made breakthroughs, she still wouldn't talk to other kids her age. He often found her in one corner of the store, coloring or reading by herself or with Esme.
He laughed when he saw Edward cleaning up after the little girl in question. There were books piled around her, she was a whirlwind and often needed someone to pick up right behind her.
"Hey, Charlie," Edward grumbled and rose to his feet.
"Doc. How's vacation going?"
Edward rolled his eyes. "Considering your daughter thinks vacation means working at the store for her, not good."
"I heard that," Bella called out, laughing.
"You were meant to," he returned as he started to pile the stack of books on a cart. "I'm just giving her a hard time, but she's a slave driver." Charlie knew Edward put up with it because he loved to be around Bella. Good thing the background check he had done was clear and with an impeccable credit score, too.
Charlie chuckled and nodded. "If she's anything like her mother, I believe you." He sighed, giving Edward a hand. With a smile, he added, "I see she said yes."
Edward grinned. "I really thought she'd say no or that we'd have to have a long engagement."
"When you know, you know."
Edward nodded and laughed. "I did know days after meeting her, but I thought people would think we were nuts. If not for that, I would've asked her then."
Charlie patted Edward's back. "She's stubborn, but she could care less about what others think."
His future son-in-law gave him a mega watt smile. "Thanks for watching Alyssa while we…um, went to that conference I had."
Charlie arched an eyebrow, but chose not to comment about the so-called conference. "No problem. It was really smart of you to try having someone watch her at her house."
"Bella's idea, actually."
He nodded thoughtfully as he followed Edward. "I see she still won't try," Charlie said. His gaze was on Alyssa, who was walking around the store at the moment. Though she moved away from Bella and the other kids, her eyes always remained on them.
Edward sighed and nodded. "We've tried lots of things," he murmured. "After Bella and I realized she loved to do art projects, we added that to the store. But it backfired because Alyssa just waits patiently for art hour to be over."
"Seems real popular to the other kids, though," Charlie stated.
"That's a good thing," Edward said after shelved the last book. "With the school district cutting out art out of the budget, more and more kids are coming in, even older ones. She's thinking of adding a more advanced class upstairs."
Charlie nodded and said he'd call his friend Paul to see about doing some construction and remodeling.
"I noticed something while I've been working here," Edward whispered, looking over his shoulder to make sure no one was listening. They both watched as Bella helped a customer at the counter as Angie, an employee, remained with the kids. Immediately, Alyssa attached herself to Bella's side.
It was then that Edward pointed out the book. The pages fluttered as it had before, only softly. The wishes Edward and Bella had made had already been granted, so why did it still flutter?
"You noticed that it does that when Bella's around right?" Charlie asked, shaking his head when Edward nodded. "You still haven't figured it out, have you?" Edward remained silent as confusion filled his features.
Alyssa was seated at a little table with a fresh sandwich and juice as Bella returned to the counter. And again, the book fluttered and rattled inside the display case as she passed.
Charlie watched Edward for a moment as realization dawned on him. "It's not the book," Edward whispered. "Is it?"
Charlie laughed and shushed Edward. "You figured it out faster than I had. It was Bella's grandfather that actually put two and two together. The book hadn't always been in the family's possession. It's been stolen twice. It never worked for them or anyone they knew and was returned with a note that said the book was cursed. That it gave them bad luck." Edward confusion deepened. "But that's because it only works in the presence of a family member."
"You're saying that it's not the book that holds the magic, but Bella?" Edward asked.
Charlie nodded. "We think that the book is an outlet, a way to channel the magic and use it."
"But she doesn't know," Edward said firmly. "None of them ever knew."
"Yes," Charlie murmured. "And I think it's best it stays that way."
If the book had been stolen before, who knew what people would do if they found that it was her all along. Edward took a few deep breaths and turned to Charlie. "I had a feeling. Knew there was a reason why people are naturally drawn to her. But that book hadn't started to do that all the time until recently."
"I think it's because she's happy."
Edward smiled at that and nodded. "Still, I think it'll choose someone soon."
"I think so, too."
"The secret is safe with me." And it was. "How's the arm?" Edward asked as he led them out of the children's section.
"Feels good," Charlie said, showing him how much more mobility he had in his thumb and wrist since his surgery weeks earlier. "Your uncle said one more surgery should do it"
"Good," Edward indicated as he brushed a kiss on Bella's cheek.
"You finish shelving?" Bella asked as she thrust a plate at Edward.
He smirked at Charlie and rolled his eyes. "Yes. See, slave driver." He walked over to where Alyssa was eating.
Bella eyed her father for a moment. "Here." She handed him a stack of flyers. "Hand those out at your shop."
"See what you mean, son," Charlie teased. Edward laughed from where he sat. "How was the trip?"
Bella blushed and only whispered, "It was good. Thanks, daddy." She wrapped her arms around him suddenly.
Charlie grunted but wrapped an arm around his daughter. "For what, baby girl?" His chin rested on her hair as she shrugged. "He's good for you. They're good for you."
"I love them," she whispered. After a few stolen moments with his little girl, Charlie pulled away and asked for a sandwich. "I swear, you're all taking advantage of my new menu."
"Best sub in town," Charlie stated as he took a seat beside Alyssa. "What's up, princess?"
Alyssa smiled up at her Pops with a full mouth. She swallowed and primly wiped her mouth. "Gas prices," she said with a giggle. Pops was always complaining about them. He grunted and nodded. "What are we going to do, Pops?" She looked at him in question, seeing him smile.
"Buy boats and move to an island," he deadpanned, making her giggle more. He always had a different answer, each one sillier than the one before.
"But don't boats need gas, too?"
Edward laughed and elbowed Charlie in the arm. He wasn't going to get out of explaining that. Finished with his lunch, he joined Bella at the counter and wrapped his arms around her from behind. Together, they watched their little Alyssa chat it up with Charlie.
He'd been the first person she talked to after Bella. When they first met, he was introduced as Bella's daddy, and instantly, the walls Alyssa usually built around her crumbled. She was shy, at first, only shaking his hand and offering a curtsy as her mother taught her. By the end of the evening, she was sitting in his lap playing with his hair as they watched a movie. Charlie had taken the attention easily and loved every second of it.
After a while, something seemed to bother her, so her first words to Charlie had been, "What's that under your nose?"
Bella had burst out in a laughter-cough, excusing herself when she couldn't contain it. Edward chastised Alyssa for being rude while Charlie flushed hotly. Soon, he was laughing along with his daughter.
Charlie's answer had poor Alyssa just as confused. "Why would your lip need a sweater?" That made the adults only laughing harder. That night, Alyssa had her Pops wrapped around her little finger.
"He's doing well, Bella," Edward whispered. He knew she'd been worried since Charlie lived alone and with him still recovering, she had been even more concerned. "Besides things seemed to be going well with Sue."
"I know," she murmured, laying her hands over his. Unconsciously, Edward twirled her ring around her finger, as if their future was never far from his mind. "You two were very chatty earlier. Care to elaborate."
"Nothing much," he replied. "He asked about the conference."
She snorted. "You are such a coward sometimes."
"I couldn't tell him I was taking his daughter away to ravish her." She laughed as he kissed her neck, nipping gently. "Besides, he owns big sharp tools, and I'd like to have more children."
She loved that he said "more" children, already counting Alyssa as his own. "I want that, too."
"My uncle and aunt should be here soon," he said, pressing another kiss on Bella's head. "Good thing we're closing early."
Bella nodded and sighed. The next few hours may be difficult.
It had officially been a year since they lost Alice and Jasper. Earlier in the day, they had visited the cemetery, which was something Edward hadn't done since the funeral. Alyssa had a hard time understanding why they were there and what it all meant.
Though she understood her parents were gone, she couldn't grasp the reason why they "rested" there. Bella hoped she'd understand eventually, and planned to discuss it with their family therapist.
The whole family was gathering at the store for a small get together, where they could share memories and talk about those they lost. And Alyssa was excited to meet some her parents old friends and see all the pictures and video they said they'd bring.
Edward and Bella wanted to make sure that Alyssa would never forget them.
But first things first, Bella thought. "I think the kids need another hand." Edward sighed behind her, squeezing her once more before releasing her.
Bella joined the kids and started to help Angie with cleaning sticky fingers, while the ones that could started picking up all the books and magazines scattered everywhere. After a few minutes, the chime of the bell rang through the store.
Bella looked up in time to see the blur of Alyssa as she ran toward Carlisle. His bright blue eyes were covered by her little head of black curls as he lifted her up in his arms. "Princess!" he exclaimed, making her giggle.
Esme patted his shoulder and walked around him. "Hello, Alyssa." Brushing a kiss on her forehead, she whispered to her, "There's some candy in his pocket."
Alyssa's eyes brightened as she pulled back enough to look Carlisle in the eye. "May I please have some candy?"
Carlisle arched an eyebrow at his wife, who only smiled. She'd do anything for Alyssa, even feed her sweet tooth. When the little girl in his arms had first said something to Esme, it was to say she was sorry. His poor wife had cried for hours after that, feeling awful for making Alyssa feel guilty.
To Carlisle's delight and to Edward's chagrin, the first words Alyssa uttered to him was that she'd seen Edward kiss Bella a lot.
Carlisle set Alyssa on her feet, handing her two little golden kisses. She giggled and offered him a little golden treasure of her own – a sweet kiss to his cheek. He laughed. "Run along and help the other kids." He winked to Bella, who returned it with a smile.
The family had been working in tandem to help the child make friends. Never forcing the issue on her, just providing the opportunities to be around kids more.
Alyssa hesitated for a moment, biting her lip as she watched Bella talking with Rosalie. She wanted to help. She didn't have to talk to the other kids to do that. Slowly, she made her way over and tugged on Bella's shirt. She acknowledged her with a smile, but continued to help Rosalie. She knew it wasn't to be mean, but because she hadn't finished with the other girl. She sighed and tugged on her again.
"May I help?" she whispered to Bella.
Rosalie stopped what she was doing. "What did you say?" Bella bit her lip, desperately wanting to intrude, but she knew she shouldn't. Alyssa looked down, shrugging.
"I like that color of nail polish you have on," Rosalie said, pointing at Alyssa's little lavender fingernails. "What do you think of my picture?"
All eyes turned to watch and hoped, since it had been the first time Alyssa had willingly walked over to Bella and the other children. Little black curls bobbed as Alyssa cocked her head to one side and then other as Rosalie held up her picture.
There was a lot of purple glitter. They looked like clouds.
"I think it looks stupid," Emmett snickered behind Rosalie's back.
Alyssa put her hands on her hips and glared at him. "It's beautiful!" she said loudly.
Rosalie smiled and fist-pumped, turning to stick her tongue out at Emmett. Then she stuffed his art project down his shirt. Afterward, she gave Alyssa a brilliant smile and pointed toward the wall where more of her art hung. "Come on, I'll show you more."
Alyssa nodded and slipped her hand into Rosalie's. They smiled at each other and walked hand in hand toward the wall. Bella cleared her throat and helped Emmett get cleaned up again, once done he quickly went to join Alyssa and Rosalie.
"That's almost exactly how Bella and Alice had met," Charlie murmured at the table where Edward and his rest of his family sat.
"Who was the shy one?" Esme wondered aloud.
"Bella stuffed something down a boy's shirt?" Edward asked, still basking in the big step Alyssa had taken.
"Nope, slung some mud at his face for making Alice upset."
"Looks like it's going to be the start of beautiful friendship," Carlisle said, wrapping an arm around his wife. They watched as the girls completely ignored Emmett.
"Oh, poor thing," Esme whispered, wiping a tear from her eye. "He only picks on her because he likes her." Another boy joined them, and his little name tag said Seth.
"It looks like Seth is finally making his move," Charlie said. Edward's eyes narrowed as he looked at the little boy. He'd been staring at Alyssa for weeks; how hadn't he realized his interest in Alyssa?
Charlie chuckled under his breath. He needs to get used to it. Alyssa was going to be a heartbreaker with that pretty little face of hers.
***The Christmas Book***
For over an hour after closing, the store was filled with close friends and family. Peter, a good friend of Alyssa's father, offered some pictures from when they went backpacking in Europe and she laughed when she'd seen that her Daddy used to have a ponytail.
Heidi, a friend of her mother's, had given Alyssa a bracelet that Alice had left at her place long ago. They used to be roommates in college and were very good friends. She was in Alice's wedding, too.
Alyssa loved to listen to the stories, watch the funny things her Daddy did in a video. She cried when she saw her Mommy sing in another. All the while, Edward or Bella held her close, since she was too shy to talk, and perhaps, a little overwhelmed.
Even though a year had passed, Alyssa still remembered how her parents smelled and the sound of their voices. And with the help of everyone she knew, she'd never forget them. But there was something she needed to tell Edward and Bella. When everyone started to leave, she knew she had to ask before she got too scared.
"Edward," she said, looking up at him from his lap. "May I ask you something?"
"Sure thing, baby cakes," he said. Softly, he fixed her loose ponytail. Bella locked the door behind her father and walked over to them.
"Can I be yours?"
Edward eyebrows shot up. "I, um, don't understand what you mean?"
Bella rubbed Alyssa's hand as she sat beside them. "What's the matter, honey?"
"I want to be yours."
"You are ours," Bella said softly.
Alyssa shook her head. "No, I'm not." Tears started to spill down her cheeks.
"Alyssa," Edward murmured. "Why would you think you're not ours?"
"Cuz I'm Mommy and Daddy's."
"Oh, sweetheart," Bella said as she wiped at Alyssa's tears. "That doesn't mean that you're not ours, too."
Alyssa hiccupped as Edward squeezed her against his chest. "I'm not."
"Am I your Bella?" Alyssa nodded. "Is Edward your Edward?" She nodded again, sniffling. "Then if we're your Edward and Bella, why can't you be our Alyssa?"
"Or our baby cakes," Edward whispered, tipping Alyssa chin up. "Or our princess."
"I am, huh?" Alyssa sat up on Edward's lap and looked at Bella. "But I want you to be my Mom." She turned back to Edward. "And you to be my Dad. So that will make me your baby girl." Just like Bella was Pops baby girl.
Edward squeezed Bella's hand that slipped over his thigh when Alyssa had started the line of questioning. He needed the support desperately.
"In a way, you already are," Bella said. "Are you asking if it's okay to call us that, baby girl?" Alyssa's chin trembled at the name and she nodded several times. Edward exhaled harshly and crushed her against his chest. Bella smiled and wrapped her arms around them both. For a few minutes, they sat together, trying out the new titles.
They all startled when someone knocked on the door. "It's my dad," Bella sighed and popped a kiss on both of their foreheads. "Looks like he forgot his wallet."
"At least he didn't forget his lip's sweater," Alyssa said with a giggle. Bella nodded and walked over to let her father in. Edward settled Alyssa in a chair so that he could clean up in the bathroom.
Alyssa sat in her chair, munching on some chips, feeling a lot better, when she heard a hum as Bella talked to Pops. She couldn't tell from where it was coming from. Curious, she rose to her feet and made her way over to the counter. The pretty book that Bella always locked away at night was making the noise. She looked over her shoulder and could see that Bella was still busy with Pops. Alyssa ducked behind the counter where she knew there was a step stool.
Carefully, she moved the case off, but it was a little heavy. She huffed and puffed and finally put it down on the counter. The book was open to one full page and one blank page. There was a gold pen with funny marks on it that shook a little. She bit her lips when she picked up, wondering if it would feel funny to hold it. Giggling, she held it in the palm of her hand. It tickled as it moved.
She looked up from where she stood and she could see Mom and Dad and Pops nearby. Mom started to turn toward her so she knew she'd be in trouble for touching the book. Quickly, she tried to close it with her free hand.
But then it started to glow. Her eyes widened as her breath hitched when letters started to form on the blank page. She was getting better at her letters and she recognized many. "B-a-b-y," she read softly to herself.
"Oh my God," Bella murmured as the lights started to flicker overhead, much as they had before when the book had chosen someone. Edward's wide eyes met hers as an unearthly glow emanated somewhere behind them. She spun on her heels and ran toward Alyssa, who stood with her hand on the book and the pen in the other. "She's been chosen!"
"All right, princess!" Charlie said as he winked at Edward. "The book chose you!"
Edward laughed and watched as the glow of the pages started to diminish. He wasn't worried, the book wouldn't hurt her. Bella made her way over, removing the pen from a shocked Alyssa's hand. "You okay, baby girl," Bella whispered as she helped Alyssa down.
"What was that?" she asked.
Bella sighed. She knew she'd have to explain to Alyssa one day, but she had hoped it wouldn't be until she was older. Though she wished the book would choose someone more often, it was a rare event, though in four months, it had chosen three. She chose not to dwell on that. She'd have to tell Alyssa what the book could do but that it should remain a secret. She only hoped she'd understand.
Edward walked over and asked Alyssa if she was all right, when she nodded, he said when they would get home later they'd explain everything. Turning his attention back to his fiancée, he was shocked to find her pale and immobile, leaning over the book.
"Bella, what is it?" Charlie asked from the other side of the counter.
"Bella?" Edward squeezed her arm. She snapped out of it suddenly, pulling his cell phone from his pocket. Whispering under her breath, she looked over the calendar.
"Will you look at that," Charlie said as he read the book.
"What does it say?" Edward asked, but kept his gaze on Bella.
"I, Alyssa Isabella Whitlock-Cullen wish that Mom and Dad will have a baby so I can be a big sister."
"Are you saying the book makes wishes come true?" Alyssa asked, climbing back onto the stool.
"Maybe, princess," Charlie said as Edward wrapped an arm around Bella's shoulder, whispering something in her ear.
"Oh my God," Bella gasped, looking up at Edward. "By Christmas, it'll be granted." Edward looked at her, at Alyssa then at the book. His brow furrowed as he tried to calculate. "We're having a baby."
Alyssa screamed and ran around the store, then wrapped her arms around her dad. Then she did some more giggling and running before hugging her mom.
Charlie grumbled under his breath, "Conference my as—"
"Dad!" Bella said, smacking his arm. Edward only blushed and coughed, averting his eyes from his soon-to-be-father-in-law.
"I was gonna say arm."
And before anybody else could say another word, Alyssa grabbed Edward's cell phone and pressed the number two button. "Nana, guess what?"
More screams, more knocking on doors and bells chiming. Soon, their little group of four turned to six. Esme walked in several minutes later with an armful of wedding magazines she already had in her trunk.
And as Alyssa, Carlisle, Charlie and Esme discussed wedding plans, Edward held his hand over Bella's abdomen. "We're going to have a baby," he murmured in awe. Bella nodded and kissed him softly, still in shock but happy, too.
"I love you so much," he whispered, taking her face in his hands. "Thank you. Thank you for giving everything and so much more." She nodded as he laid his forehead on hers gently.
"I love you, too," she cried softly as he started to pepper her face with kisses. "You really do believe in the book now, don't you?" Grasping his wrists, she closed her eyes as he continued to his exploration.
Edward smiled and sought her lips for a sweet, slow kiss. "Pure gold," he murmured as they caught their breath, causing her to laugh. "I believe in the magic and in you."
She smiled up at him, her heart full and warm. She never had expected the changes in her life that had occurred in the last few months. When she'd taken over her grandmother's store, she knew she was starting a new chapter of her life. A new adventure and it seemed that the chapters that would follow would lead to a life full of love, hope, family and many more treasures.
Edward looked down at Bella, brushing a thumb under her eye. "We're so eloping," he said to her, making her laugh again.
"We heard that," Esme said loudly.
"You were meant to," Edward returned.
Bella laughed and wrapped her arms tightly around her future husband, and soon, their baby girl snuggled in between them. They all smiled and held each other close. Overhead, the lights flickered and Bella swore she heard the laughter of her best friend.
AN: Betaed by kyla713. There you go. Really I could have gone on and on, and gone over every incident that I went over in this epilogue in full detail, but then it would be a hundred chapters long.
This is the gift I give to you – use those brilliant minds and imagine what comes next. Thank you and I hoped you enjoyed this magical ride.