"Lily, honey, I don't think you're going to be able to find that piece-"
"Yes I am."
"I don't mean that you won't find it, sweetheart, just that it might be really hard right now. We just started... "
Lily's second gift from Edward lies before them. A puzzle of three horses. A family. A mother, a father, and a young foal.
The child has waited patiently for this day, when the three of them could work on it together, something that didn't happen that day they'd planned.
All because of a sniffle.
That seemed harmless with its first warning, but then knocked on the doors of this small town with an unrelenting vengeance.
Everyone was sick.
Edward could barely get away from the hospital...
But he did. He found the time. Made it. Every chance he could, to rush to the little girl's bedside.
He spent nights on her floor. Shared her stars. And wished on them to take her misery away.
Misery that killed him inside. Broke his heart. As a man, not a doctor. A man who couldn't love her more if she were his own daughter.
And just when his wishes were granted, and the fever released its grip on her, and the color returned to her cheeks, and the sparkle to her eyes...
And the worry left Bella's...
The heartbreak consumed him again. Because the woman he loved in so different but complete a way was struck down by this awful thing they thought had finally left them.
And, like with her daughter, he spent every moment at her side that he could. And ached for the moments he couldn't. The nights he couldn't spend on her floor. The nights that Alice did instead, in his place, because it just wasn't appropriate for him to.
Nights he spent miserable and alone, counting the hours until he could return to her side. A place he knew he'd always want to be.
Something he'd known already, but grew impatient about on those nights he couldn't be.
And something he vowed to himself he'd change as soon as he could. As soon as she was well.
Something he hasn't done yet, even though she is, but something he's ready for. After he keeps his promise to Lily, who's waited far too long for him to. And who is a very important and special part of his plan. And all of the ones that will come after, he hopes for the rest of his life.
Edward smiles at her determination, and the reason for it, as Bella continues to try to save her little girl from potential frustration. "Once all of the sides are put together-"
"Edward is doing that part, Mommy. You can help him while I find the piece."
Edward has indeed been working on the edges of the puzzle, but as soon as he had the first two fitted together, Lily began her search for the piece that would fit just inside of them. The piece that would connect them, and give them the first step of their path to the beautiful picture that waited to develop.
A picture he chose for exactly that reason.
"I think that's a perfect plan," Edward says, flashing Bella a wistful smile. "The sides are like arms, holding all of the little pieces inside."
"They are!" Lily agrees excitedly, "Like hugs!"
"Well, in that case," Bella says, finding the next edge and fitting it next to Edward's last, and squeezing her daughter until she explodes into a fit of giggles, "I definitely want to help with that part."
Lily resumed looking for her piece - after many more hugs, and a few tickles, which strew more than a few pieces all over the floor, leading to a game of pick up - and found it a mere five minutes later. The three gigglers then spent the next hour working on the puzzle, but after that period of intense concentration, the littlest giggler's eyelids are starting to droop.
"I think someone is getting sleepy," Bella says softly, tucking a stray curl behind Lily's ear. "What do you think about brushing your teeth and getting into your pajamas?"
"Okay, Mommy. Let me just put this piece in." She fits the piece she's just found into its rightful place and then jumps up. "Wait five minutes and then come up to tuck me in! Both of you!"
"Yes, ma'am!" Edward yells after her as she runs up the stairs.
And then he and Bella clean up, Bella putting the lid on the box and slipping it into the drawer of their coffee table, and Edward carrying the large board holding the work in progress carefully around the back of the couch and sliding it underneath, a place Lily had suggested it be kept for easy access until their masterpiece was finished.
"You said that you had to close the bookshop tomorrow night, right?" he asks her, disappointed and hopeful at the same time.
"Yeah, and thanks for bringing that up, because I need to call my dad and see if he can take Lily for a few hours so she's not cooped up there all night with me and stuck eating pizza in the back room for dinner."
"Actually, I was hoping you'd let me have that honor."
"Yes. Well, I am."
"Of course you can, Edward. If you want. She would love that."
"So would I."
"I could still get him on standby just in case?"
"No, I'd never need you to do that. Unless it would make you feel better to?"
"No... I just meant-"
"We'll be fine, I promise. I'll take good care of her."
"You don't have to tell me that, Edward. I'd never doubt it for a second."
"I'm glad you wouldn't."
"I'm glad you're glad."
"Of course I am. That you trust me with her."
"I'd trust you with her life."
He smiles and clears his throat at her declaration, because it's exactly what he hopes for in every way, and because that very important bit of confirmation of that hope has choked him up.
"And mine," she whispers, leaning up to kiss his cheek. "In case you didn't know that, either."
"Thank you, Bella," he says, his voice cracking with the simple-but-not words. And then he looks up, as the sound of tiny footsteps reaches his ears. "Are we late?" he asks the smiling owner of them.
"No. I can't get the cap open on the new toothpaste Mommy bought."
"Would you like me to come and help you open it?" he asks this time, to which she nods her silent answer before running away with her not. "If Mommy's done kissing you!"
He laughs and raises a questioning brow at Bella. "I'm done for now," she says, her own laughter delivering her answer.
"Then I'll see you upstairs," he tells her and rushes away to help her observant little damsel.
"Can I ask you a question?" he asks Lily, as he pops the top on the toothpaste and hands it back to her. "And you can think about it while you brush your teeth?"
"Sure," she says, carefully squirting the paste on her brush.
"Would you hang out with me tomorrow night while your mommy is at the bookshop? We'll visit her, of course, so she won't get lonely, but the rest of the night would just be you and me if you say yes."
She smiles and pops the pasted brush into her mouth and Edward steps out into the hall to give her privacy. And so that she can't see him hold his breath while he waits for her answer.
He thinks she'll say yes, like her mother did, but he doesn't want to assume. He hears Bella's light footsteps on the stairs, and lets out his breath in a whoosh, but he's pretty sure she'd already seen.
And is even more sure when she speaks. "You're adorable, just so you know."
"I'm glad you think so," he says with a proud boyish grin.
"I do," she says, instead of what he expects, and his heart flip flops in his chest at hearing such powerful words come so effortlessly from her mouth.
He's nowhere near recovered when Lily peeks her head around the bathroom door and giggles, and then says "Yes" in her most serious voice and grabs his hand, and her mother's in her other, and pulls them across the hall to her bedroom. "And I didn't need time to think about it. Silly."
"I'm glad you didn't," he tells her, reaching down with his free hand and tickling her side.
"I'm glad you're glad!" she squeals.
Once in her room, Edward takes his position next to the starmaker, and waits for the order to turn it on. His eyes fall to the photograph of Lily and her father as he does so. He's looked at it many times, like the many others around their house.
Pictures of love. And happiness. Everything their lives were filled with, just like his own had been.
They had everything... everything that mattered. He knows that.
That he isn't here because they chose for him to be.
They'd have never made that choice.
He's here because they didn't have one then.
And because they do now.
Edward heads towards the stairs when he leaves Lily's room, but Bella grabs his hand. "Wait."
He lets her pull him into her bedroom - the one he's never been in other than when she was sick - and waits patiently for her to tell him why she has.
"I saw you looking at the picture... " she starts, but then struggles to say more.
"Just because I think it's beautiful," he tells her. "I'm sorry if it upset you. My looking at it."
"No... it didn't upset me... " Her words trail off again and she drops his hand, reaching with both of hers to the jewelry box on the top of the dresser she's brought him to stand in front of.
She closes her eyes for a moment and opens the lid slowly, looking up at him after she does. "I noticed when we were working on Lily's puzzle that you took your ring off... "
"And then I realized that I couldn't remember the last time I saw it on your finger. And-"
He knows what she's about to do, and though his hopeful plans certainly hinge on her being ready to, he doesn't want his actions - or the ones he is planning - to pressure her to do anything. "You don't have to, Bella. Not now. Not-"
"I want to. I mean... I... "
"I understand, sweetheart. I promise I do."
"I've never taken them off."
"Of course you haven't."
"I never thought I... "
"I didn't either, Bella."
"But now... it seems wrong not to. And wrong that I didn't already. I should have... before... we... "
"Hey," he whispers softly, tilting her chin up gently, "You didn't do anything wrong. You couldn't possibly."
"No. No buts. You couldn't. And you won't now, because whatever you do will be what your heart tells you to do. Tells you is right. And... " His own words trail off this time, because she's slipped her rings from her finger. And because the tears in her eyes have taken everything from him. His voice. His breath. And his plans.
It's too soon. For her. She's not where he is. And where she is is different.
He left his painful reminders. She stayed in hers. Lives surrounded by them everyday. The painful and the not.
She was happy in this house. The home she shared with her husband and daughter. And in this room...
The one he'd never been in until she couldn't leave it...
The one he shouldn't be in now.
Because it was theirs.
Hers and her husband's.
So he leaves it. Slips slowly and quietly away from her and out the door.
So that she can say goodbye. Or not if her heart tells her it's wrong to.
The anger chokes him as he walks down the stairs. Anger at himself. For all of the things he let his happiness blind him to.
Things that are harder for her.
He thought they were the same...
Two people who'd suffered unbearable loss and pain. Letting something else in. Something beautiful. And pure. As beautiful and pure as what they'd lost.
He knew there was one difference. The precious something she'd gotten to keep. The pure and beautiful little someone...
And that that made her careful. But he didn't consider the rest. Not the way he should have.
She didn't just open her heart to him. She opened the door. The one that belonged to someone else.
The moments they've spent in his house are new. Theirs and theirs alone. But the moments they've spent in this one...
The moments that are so much greater in number...
Are mixed with old. And memories of that life she lost. The love that enveloped her before she let his.
When he walks into his house he feels only her. When he opens his eyes in the morning it's her he sees... her face that lures him from his bed so that he can. Because hers is the only that's shared it with him. His empty house.
But it's not the same for her.
She comes home to that life she lost every day. Opens her eyes every morning and sees it around her. And doesn't.
Chooses each day to let him in. Share it with him. And trust him with it. And that priceless treasure she got to keep.
Her daughter who she told him she trusted him with. Something he knew before she did, but made his heart soar to hear it.
And hurts it now... because he wasn't being careful enough with either. Her trust or her little girl's life.
He thought his plans were special.
But now he just thinks they were wrong. Dangerous. And selfish. Something he never meant to be with those trusting angels upstairs.
Because the other is down now. Watching him fight with himself. Rip through his hair as he paces her floor.
Edward didn't hear Bella come down the stairs. Didn't see her...
But he sees her now. "I'm so sorry, Bella... so, so sorry... "
"Sorry? What could you possibly have to be sorry for?"
"So many things... "
"Edward... what happened upstairs... my tears... if they're what this is about... You didn't cause them. You couldn't. Unless you turned and walked out of here."
"But that's exactly why I'm sorry."
"You're leaving?" she asks, in so strangled a voice the words barely leave her lips.
They don't flow freely like her tears, that now stream down her cheeks in painful misunderstanding.
"Do I ever do that?" he asks, rushing to her and trying desperately to wipe them away. "Without you having to give me a helpful shove?"
"But you said-"
"It's not what I meant, sweetheart. It's not what I meant at all. God, Bella, please don't cry... "
"It's not?" she asks, trying, but unable to grant his request as her fearful tears continue to fall.
"Do you not understand my feelings for you at all?" he asks her, thinking it's unfathomable that she might not.
"I thought I did... "
"I thought you did, too. Even though I never actually told you... never actually said the words... "
"I've been waiting for you to."
"Yes. So I could say them back to you. Because I was too afraid to say them first. But... well, that just proves that I can do things wrong. And-"
"I love you, Bella."
"Edward, I wasn't trying to-"
"Shhh... " he whispers, touching a tear-soaked finger to her lips. "I do. I love you so much it makes my head spin. And sometimes makes me careless. And selfish. And that's why I'm sorry. Because I don't want to be that. Either of those things... I-"
She reaches up to pull his hand away, holding it in her own as she tells him how wrong he is. "You're the least selfish person I've ever known. And careless? Edward, you could never be that. You-"
"You don't know what I was going to do, Bella. Tomorrow with Lily... I was going to do such a careless thing... because I was being selfish. And-"
"I'll tell you... because I'll never be anything but honest with you... and because I want you to give me another chance at that trust you've given me... even though I almost blew it... "
"Please don't hate me, Bella... "
"There's nothing you could tell me that could make me hate you. What were you going to do?"
"Ask her to marry me."
"Well... not her... I mean, sort of her... but... "
"And you were going to do this tomorrow?"
"Yes. It's why I asked you if I could take her. I even have a ring... "
"You have a ring?"
"Yes. Two, actually."
"Of course. One for you and one for her. I was going to give her hers and ask her if I could give you yours... even though you hadn't-"
"Yes. Like a man would ask a father for if he wanted to marry his daughter... "
"But instead of asking my father, you were going to ask my daughter."
"Yes. Because I do understand the order of things here... even though I'm-"
"Yes, Bella?" he asks, cringing with fear for what he almost did.
"That's the most adorable thing I've ever heard."
"You're not mad?"
"No. But I will be if you don't do it."
His fear has been replaced with shock. And the tears that fall down her cheeks now are not the same ones she cried a few minutes ago.
"I will. Really mad."
"You don't think it was a careless plan?"
"You mean because she would have said yes? And then been excited? And vulnerable to disappointment if I didn't?"
"Do you not understand my feelings for you at all?" she asks, repeating his moments ago question.
"I thought I did... but you've never actually said-"
"I love you, Edward."
"Oh, Bella, I'm so glad you do... "
"I'm glad you're glad."
"I hope you mean that... because I'm never leaving."
"I do. And look forward to the day when you don't have to."
"I wish that day was today."
"And now that I know you do, I really wish I hadn't have confessed my plan."
"I don't. Because it only made me love you more."
"Then I take my wish back."
"I hope that's all you want to take back."
"It is." He wraps his arms around her, pulling her close, and rests his forehead against hers. "And all I ever will, Bella."
Edward has been staring at Bella's hand for several minutes. Her hand that rests in his. Fits perfectly in, as if it were made to be there.
Her movement caught his attention. Her thumb that kept absently running along the empty place on her finger. The one she emptied for him, before she even knew he wanted to fill it.
He's not jealous, or upset... he's caught himself making the same movement many times since he removed his wedding ring. Something that, like her, he never thought he would do. Something that was hard to do, even when he knew he should.
Bella wasn't with him that night. Wasn't an audience to his struggle. Not physically, anyway.
But she was in his heart. And on his mind. Telling him it was time. To let go of the pain and grab onto something else. Something he could hold on to. Something right in front of him, rather than behind.
Who he did want to hold on to. Ached every time he had to let go of her. And saw each time he forced himself to that he wasn't the only one who did.
She wanted to be held. Trusted his arms and his hands to.
Trust he feels now as she seems to catch her own movement.
And hears... "I'm glad it won't stay empty for long. I don't like how it feels." Before the other thing he does. "That didn't sound right... " The thing that tells him she thinks she's done something wrong again. "I meant that I... I-"
"You don't have to explain, Bella."
"I want to."
"Okay," he acquiesces, because anything she ever wants, he'll give her.
"Colin loved me... in a way that I knew was extraordinary. Knew I was blessed everyday to feel. And when I lost him, I knew I'd never feel it again. Something that beautiful. That extraordinary. That special...
"I knew. And then I knew that I was wrong. Because out of nowhere came this man... who was so beautiful... and so extraordinary... and so special... in every way a person could imagine... and ways they couldn't possibly. Ways I'm amazed by every single day. And ways I know I haven't even seen yet...
"Ways I know he wants to show me. You want to show me... "
"I do, Bella. Forever."
"I am wrong sometimes, Edward. And sometimes that's hard... painful... but sometimes it's not. Sometimes being wrong is a wonderful thing. An extraordinary thing. And that's what I meant when I said I don't like how it feels...
"Because I like how you feel. Your beautiful. Your extraordinary. And because I want it. To feel it. The weight of it. You. Forever. That couldn't start soon enough for me, now that I know that I was wrong."
"I could run home and get them? The rings? And come running back with them... We could wake her up... so that I can BEG her to let me-"
Bella's laughter may very well wake the sleeping child, whose 'permission' he so desperately wants, though it's already been extraordinarily granted by this beautiful laughing creature before him.
"You will not need to beg her and you know it."
"I don't know... I just know that I would if I had to. And that I'll do it right now if you want me to."
"We can't always have what we want."
"You can, Bella. If it's in my power to give it to you."
"I know you mean that, Edward, and that... well, that just proves that everything I said about you is true. But waking her up would be wrong. And not the good kind. So... "
"And then forever."
"So, what are my girls up to tonight?"
Charlie Swan is having breakfast with the lights of his life this morning.
"Mommy has to work because Aunt Angela has to go somewhere important with Ben, and I have a date with Edward."
"Well, if I knew that, I would have asked you on a date first."
"Too late, Grandpa!"
He pouts at her obvious lack of disappointment in 'too late', but she only giggles. "That only works when I do it!"
"What if I stomp my feet?" he tries next.
"That only works when I do it, too," she answers with a devious smile. "But only with you and Aunt Angela. It doesn't work with Mommy, so I don't do it with her."
He pretends not to see Bella's I told you so smirk, and asks his next question. Because he really wants to know. "What about with Edward?"
"No, I don't do it with him."
"Because it doesn't work?"
"No, because I don't have to."
"I see... " he says, and looks at his daughter, who isn't smirking at him anymore.
And who is covering her mouth with her hand to hide her laughter.
And who he doesn't think has ever looked happier...
Even though something is missing.
Telling him something else is not.
"I hope you're not upset that we didn't go to a restaurant for dinner?"
"I'm not upset. I like coming to your house."
"I'm glad you do, Lily."
"And I like tacos."
"I know. That's why we're making them."
"You're making them."
"You're helping me."
Edward is doing the cooking, and the chopping, but Lily is putting everything he chops into bowls. And their dinner is now ready, except for one last very important thing. "Do you want to shred the cheeses? Or would you like me to do it?"
"I've never shredded cheese before. Is it hard?"
"No, it's very easy. You just have to be careful of your fingers."
"Can I watch you do it first?"
He picks up the first chunk of cheese, and the grater, and centers it on the plate. Lily watches closely as he starts to move the cheese up and down, but becomes quickly perplexed, because the chunk of cheese in his hand is definitely getting smaller, but she doesn't see anything. "Where is it?"
"Where is what?" he asks, knowing full well what she's asking, but pretending not to.
"The cheese. Did it eat it?"
He lifts the grater from the plate, revealing the small mound it was hiding, and bringing an excited smile to her face.
"I want to try!"
"Okay," he says, moving to stand behind her where she kneels on the stool in front of the island, so she doesn't fall off.
She centers the grater back on the plate the way she saw him do, careful not to smash any of the cheese he made as she does, and reaches for the block in his hand.
"How about you try with a new one?" he suggests, not wanting to take a chance at her hurting herself.
"I want to do the one you did," she says, grabbing it before he can put it down.
"It's more dangerous when they're small, Lily. You could get hurt if your fingers get too close. The grater is very sharp. All of the little holes are like knives. The kind your mommy doesn't let you use."
She studies the holes, thinking they don't look like knives at all, but believes him anyway, because she knows Edward is very smart. "I'll be very careful. Just like with my bracelet."
She wore her special gift today, but asked him to help her take it off when they started making the tacos because she didn't want it to get dirty. He knows how careful she can be. "Okay," he relents, but doesn't take his eyes from her tiny hand as it starts to copy his earlier movement.
She is indeed careful, moving it very slowly, and stopping every few seconds to look up at him over her shoulder, because she hopes she's doing it right. And that he's not too scared.
His smile tells her that he's not, not too scared, at least, and makes her even more excited to see if she's done a good job with the task he's trusted her with.
"I did it!" she squeals as she lifts the grater from the plate, and sees the mountain of shreds, that she knows is much bigger than before.
"You did. You are a master cheese shredder, Miss Lily O'Brien."
"Thank you, you are, too. Can I do more?"
"Yes, but I'd like you to get a new one now please."
"Okay, Edward," she agrees easily, putting down her small piece and grabbing one of the other two chunks he's laid out on the counter. "It's your turn to be in charge of filling up the bowls now."
"Yes, ma'am," he says, and carefully transfers their cheese into the last empty bowl.
She begins shredding the second piece as soon as he lays the plate back in front of her, peeking at her achievement with pride before handing him the made-smaller-by-her chunk of cheese.
"Be careful," she tells him in a very serious voice, and then giggles as he reaches both arms around her to take his turn.
"Are we done?" she asks when he puts it down, and their second mountain has been revealed and swept into the bowl. "The bowl is almost full."
"Well, that depends on whether you want two kinds of cheese on your tacos or three."
"I want three," she says without hesitation, and picks up the third chunk. "But how will it fit?"
"We'll have to make room. Or we could get a bigger bowl... "
"I don't want a bigger bowl. I like the one we have."
"Me too," he says, and then reaches into the almost-full bowl and grabs a large pinch of cheese and pops it into his mouth.
"That's still not enough room," she says, and happily abandons the grater to help make more by doing the same.
A few minutes and many cheese-accompanied giggles later, their bowl is full again, with three kinds of cheese, and it's time to eat.
"I hope you still have room for tacos," Edward teases.
"Good. How many do you have room for?" he asks, ready to scoop the meat into shells.
"I don't know," she answers, because she really doesn't, "But I only want one first. You have to make them one at a time or the shells won't stay crispy. They'll get soggy like if you let your cereal sit in the milk too long."
"I never thought of that before," he says, scooping meat into one shell each. "We both learned something new today."
"I saw something new today," she tells him as he watches her build her first taco.
"What was it?" he asks, smiling as she puts cheese both under and on top of her tomatoes.
"I saw Mommy's finger empty. Like yours."
It's not what he was expecting to hear. He thought maybe she'd seen a new kind of bird outside, or something along those lines that she wanted to tell him about. Something simple...
But that's not what she said. And what she did say isn't at all. And he doesn't know what to say. "Um... "
"I've never seen Mommy's finger empty before."
"Are you upset that it's empty?" he asks her finally, because as much as he wants to follow through on his plans - the ones Bella knows about, and wants him to follow through on - if Lily is upset, then he just can't.
"No. I know why it's empty. Like yours." She doesn't look upset, or sound... "Don't let your taco get soggy, Edward."
He takes a bite, like she does, but really wants to know what she thinks the reason is. "Will you tell me why?" he asks, before he takes another.
"You already know," she answers, and takes her second, chewing it completely before she adds "To make room. Like you did."
"To make room?" he repeats, more out of shock than anything else.
"Three kinds of cheese is good, but three rings is too many. For girls. And two is too many for boys. So you and Mommy had to take your rings off to make room for new ones. Because you love each other. And when boys and girls love each other they give each other rings to wear so they always know and don't ever forget. And so they always have a hug. Because rings are like hugs for fingers."
"Did your mommy tell you that?"
"No. I told her. And now I told you."
"I'm glad you did."
"I'm glad you're glad." She smiles and takes another bite, thinking while she does. "Are you glad because I'm right?" she asks, once her mouth is empty again.
"Yes. I'm glad because you're right."
"Daddy can't give Mommy hugs anymore. Not the real kind. And Mommy needs real hugs. Everybody does. Because real hugs make you warm. And I'm not upset because I want Mommy to be warm forever. And she couldn't be until she made room."
"I want your mommy to be warm forever, too, Lily."
"You should hurry now, Edward. Because I think Mommy's cold with no hugs. Aren't you?"
He nods his head, because he can't find his voice at this moment.
But can't wait for it to come back to him...
And for them to finish their tacos.
The ones he's making now...
That won't have time to get soggy.
"Mommy isn't hungry. Grandpa went to the bookshop so she wouldn't be alone and they ate pizza."
"Well, maybe she can try our tacos tomorrow for lunch, if she doesn't have other plans."
"She heard you. And she doesn't. And wants to know how yours are going."
"Tell her I'll work on mine as soon as our dinner is put away."
Lily listens intently to her mother through the phone, because Bella could hear him that time, too, but her eyes are focused on Edward and the smile on his face.
The smile that gets wider as he watches her put down his phone. "Mommy said she had to hang up to help someone with something special. And that she heard you again, but I knew she did that time because you said it really loud. And she told me I should help you put our dinner away, so you could take care of your plans even sooner."
He laughs and grabs the plastic wrap from a drawer. "I'll tear, you cover. If you want to help."
"I do," she answers, taking the first piece he's already torn from the roll and covering their bowl of cheese. And then she asks a question, because he has the second piece ready before she's even done. "Are your plans important? You're in a hurry."
"Very," he says, in a very serious voice, though he looks happy, like he might laugh.
"Do I get to help with those, too?" she asks next, wanting to help with anything that would make Edward smile or laugh.
"You do if you want to."
"I do want to," she says, trying to cover the next bowl as fast as she can.
"Well, I hope you will, but that will be up to you."
"But I already said I do."
"But you don't know what my plans are."
"Can you tell me what they are?"
"I can. And I will, but I have to show you, too."
"Then let's hurry, because I want to see your very important plans!"
They do, and then wash their hands, and once Lily is wearing her special bracelet again, turn off the kitchen light and go into the living room clean empty hand in clean empty hand.
"Are the plans you have to show me in here?" Lily asks, too excited to be patient.
"They are," he says, excited too, and glad she is, but nervous.
She looks around the room, thinking maybe she'll see something new, but everything looks the same, she thinks.
Everything except for Edward, who is starting to look kind of scared. "You look like Grandpa does when he thinks I'm going to throw a tantrum."
"Yes. But you shouldn't, because I'd never do that with you. I even told him that when he came over for breakfast this morning while you were at work fixing people."
"Well, thank you, but I think I'm a different kind of scared than that."
"I don't want you to be any kind of scared. Did I do something bad?"
"No, of course you didn't. I don't think you ever could."
"Then why are you scared?"
"Because I don't know if you'll like my plans."
"You said that about your tacos, too. And I liked those a lot, just as much as Mommy's, so you should stop being scared now and show me your plans so I can like those, too."
"You're right. I should." He takes a deep breath, and lets it out, and opens the drawer of the coffee table, because he has one too, and because that's where Lily wanted to keep her puzzle in hers.
He pulls the two small boxes from inside and sets them on the top, his fingers trembling as he does.
"Are your plans presents?" Lily asks, because that's what they look like to her.
"Yes. For me," Edward answers, because that's exactly what they would be if she accepted them.
"Are you afraid to open them?" she asks this time, because she doesn't understand why he hasn't yet. Because she never wants to wait to open presents.
"Kind of," he admits.
"Who gave them to you?"
"Well... I want you and your mommy to. But only if you want to, and I'm not sure you will."
"I don't know what they are. But I would only want to give you a present that wasn't scary."
"They're not scary to me."
"You know what they are?"
"How do you know if you didn't open them?"
"Because I bought them."
"You bought presents for yourself?"
"Kind of. And for you. And your mommy."
"But there's only two. And you said they're for you. If there were presents for me and Mommy too there would be four."
"No, still only two."
She scrunches her brows, because she's sure that can't be right, but can't imagine Edward being wrong about anything.
"I know that sounds wrong," he tells her, because he knows she'd never tell him that he was, and picks up the larger of the boxes. "But it's really not. This is your mommy's present, that would be one for me if you say I can give it to her."
"It's up to me?" she asks, not understanding why it would be.
"Yes," he answers, "Because I will only give it to her if I have your permission."
"Grown ups never ask kids' permission."
"Not usually, but this is a special case, and I need yours."
"Will Mommy be scared of her present?" she asks before she gives it.
"No. I promise she won't."
"Then you have my permission. You can give it to her."
"You have to see what it is before you tell me I can."
"But I can't because you didn't open it."
He laughs at this, because of course she's right, and because the look on her face is priceless. He sees her effort to be patient, but there are presents involved, and beyond her years or not, she is just a little girl...
"I'd like you to open it," he tells her, though it's not the way he planned this. He'd planned to give her hers first, but he thinks this way is better now.
"But it's Mommy's."
"I know. But since I need your permission to give it to her, you have to see it... "
She still doesn't understand why he needs her permission, and why he didn't take it when she gave it to him the first time, and doesn't think it's right to open her mommy's present, but she doesn't argue anymore and unties the satin bow. Because the sooner she sees it, her mommy can have it, and she's sure that any present from Edward would make her mommy smile.
But when she opens the box, and then the softer one inside, she knows that smile isn't the only thing it will make her.
This present will make her mommy warm.
Something she wants to make Edward now.
With the biggest hug she's ever given anyone, she thinks.
That she hopes he knows is permission.
I really wanted to wrap this up by Christmas, but it turns out I couldn't. The story, that is. So, you'll get one more chapter. And then forever. ;)
As for this chapter, it's for my Baby Bear. I hope you like it. I love you.