As a little girl, Bella was visited by a strange and beautiful man who promised someday to find her again and take her away. Now a young mother to her own little girl, the memory has been shuffled to that part of her brain to which all childhood fantasies and imaginary friends are fated. The arrival of a new family outside of town sends Bella's unstable life reeling again, and brings back to the surface old desires, old hopes, old fears, and old promises.
Vampward, I think Bella's a bit OOC (because she has a personality here . . .) and she has a child, so if you don't like babies, you should skip this story. Twilight AU.
AN: So I hesitated to ever post this. It's actually on Twilighted under a secret name. But I'm posting it now finally because I'm the new and improved don't-give-a-shit-Shiloh and because I actually really want to see this story through. The fact is that if you don't like babies, it's sort of a crackfic. Maybe even if you like babies. I'm writing it from as serious a place as I ever do, but I embrace its crackficness streaks and hope you will too. But if you don't like babies, teen pregnancy, Jacob as a good guy, original characters, AU's, or if you require love at first site for Bella and Edward, this is probably a pass for you. My feelings won't be hurt. I'd rather you only read this if you're enjoying it than read it and send me snooty messages about it.
In case you missed it, let me reiterate: Bella is a teen mom in this story. If you don't like it, please don't linger.
The crickets were especially loud tonight. Bella huddled under the covers, her tattered old stuffed elephant clutched beneath her chin, his trunk held securely between her teeth. Mom was getting onto her that she needed to stop that, because big girls didn't chew on their stuffed animals, but it was how she felt closest with Tantor. And the closer they were, the safer she felt.
Bella shivered, feeling eyes on her, like someone was watching her sleep. She peeked out from beneath the edge of the covers, but her bedroom door was still closed; Mom wasn't checking in on her. This side of the room was completely still and dark except for a band of light sneaking in beneath the door and a faint glow from her Beauty and the Beast nightlight on the far wall. Belle was her favorite Disney Princess, and not just because they had almost the same name but also because they looked the most alike. She liked Jasmine the second best because she had a pet tiger. Their cat Bunny wasn't quite as much fun as Rahja; in fact, she was really mean and had scratched Bella on the arm yesterday when she'd tried to pet her.
"It's okay, Tantor," Bella whispered into her elephant's fuzzy ear. "Shhh." She ducked back beneath the covers and lay motionless for as long as she possibly could. Something knocked on the windowsill. She squeezed her eyes shut and held her breath for as long as she could, like Mom had taught her to do when she got scared at night. When finally her chest hurt she gasped for air and listened. There were no more sounds. Cautiously she peeked out from beneath the covers again, this time in the direction of the window.
The woman leaning against the wall gave a short wave and a warm smile.
Bella gasped and pulled the covers back over her head. She counted slowly to ten, then threw the blankets off, sure that, as always, the room would be empty.
It wasn't. The woman continued to lean against the wall, her arms crossed patiently as the moonlight bounced off her pale skin. Bella stared, her eyes wide with a mixture of fear and awe. She was beautiful. Her hair was the same warm red as Ariel's and fanned out from her head in long, gentle waves. The face smiling sweetly at Bella was flawless in the moonlight, sharp but somehow gentle, pristine features and dark eyes glowing from the bright moonlight. Tall and thin, exuding power and beauty, Bella knew who this was. It had to be a fairy queen come to announce that everyone had it all wrong and Bella was actually a fairy princess.
Movement to the right showed Bella that the fairy queen had been joined by a man, or perhaps he had been there before and Bella simply hadn't noticed him. This must be the fairy king. Blond like John Smith but with longer hair pulled back, he was every bit as beautiful as the woman, but his face was devoid of any and all emotion. He stared, his face pale and blank.
Bella gaped at them for what felt like forever. But she was seven now and big girls knew that fairy kings and queens didn't really exist and that she was the daughter of Charlie and Renee, not a fairy princess. Was this a dream, then, and these two beautiful people simply figments of her imagination?
Opening her mouth wide, Bella let out a scream, "MOMMY!" The woman took a step toward her but as quickly as she had moved the man had put his hand on her arm. They remained frozen like that as Bella listened for any movement from down the hall where her mother would be sound asleep. There came none. She continued to watch the two as she slipped from the bed, her bare feet padding along the hardwood floors and Tantor gripped firmly in her arms. The two did not move as she opened the bedroom door and disappeared into the hall.
Mom's door was, like always, cracked open. She knew her mom was going to be upset with her for not staying in bed. Perhaps she should just go back? No, she would ask her mom first if this was just a dream and then decide from there. Slowly she pushed the door open, then darted inside and leapt up onto the bed beside her sleeping mother's form.
"Mom! Mommy, mommy, mommy," Bella chanted, shaking Mom's shoulders until the woman groaned and sat up.
"Bella?" she asked, rubbing her eyes and glancing at the clock. "Bella, sweetie, what's wrong?"
"Mommy, there are two people in my room and they are the most beautiful people I have ever seen," Bella explained. She threw her arms around her mother's neck, not caring that Tantor fell to the floor, and asked, "Is it just a dream?"
She felt Mom smile into her shoulder as she nodded, "Yes, sweetie, it's just a dream."
"Did you set the alarm?" Bella pressed, pulling away to give her most serious look, which made Mom laugh and nod.
"Yes, my little woman, I set the alarm every night. You are perfectly safe."
"I saw them, though."
"Did you count to ten?"
"Yes and they were still there," Bella insisted.
"Well I bet they are gone now," Mom assured her. "Now that you've woken the whole house up, I bet you've scared them away," she teased, poking Bella in the side. "Look, you even woke Bunny up." She pointed to where the ugly orange cat had hopped up on the windowsill, her back arched and her yellow eyes wide as she scratched frantically at the window.
Bella frowned, "I'm sorry, Bunny. I'm sorry, Mom."
"It's all right, sweetheart. Do you need me to walk you back to bed?"
"No, I'm a big girl."
Mom hugged and kissed her, and Bella yanked Tantor up from the floor before creeping back down the hall and tiptoeing back into her bedroom.
The people were still there, frozen like statues on either side of the window. Bella watched them as she crawled back into bed and pulled Tantor onto her lap. She continued to watch for a long moment before asking softly,
"Are you really there?"
"You do not need to be afraid, little girl," the woman offered gently, taking a step closer. "Do you remember me?" Bella shook her head. "Oh. Perhaps you did not see us. We saw you at the park today with your mother. You were on the swings."
Bella nodded and her lower lip quivered as she asked even more softly, "Why are you in my room?" The woman's smile was so kind and warm, and her voice so gentle that Bella felt she should love and trust this woman. But still something about her made the back of her neck prickle and little goosebumps spring up along her arm. She felt her heart beat faster in her chest as the woman's dark eyes rolled over her tiny form.
"Are you afraid of me, little girl?"
"No," Bella assured her, afraid it would hurt the woman's feelings if she said yes.
The woman laughed in response and insisted, "You are very cute but a little liar. Still, you amuse me, so I will make it quick." Instantly the woman was towering over Bella. She pressed her fingers to the little girl's face and Bella shuddered, surprised at how cool they felt against her warm cheek. Bella's eyes leapt to the man in confusion as the woman lowered her face to the little girl's. Her lips pressed gently to Bella's cheek, then lowered to her throat, and Bella realized with alarm that she couldn't scream. Her eyes simply widened as they took in the blank stare of the beautiful man.
Suddenly the man's mouth turned down into a frown and his lips moved. Though Bella heard nothing, the woman suddenly stood straight up and hissed like a snake. The two continued to stare at each other, their bodies moving as though they were communicating yet no noise was made.
Then Bella blinked and the woman was gone. Only the man remained, leaning against the wall with his arms crossed, his eyes boring intently into Bella's. She stared back, confused and curious as to who he was and what he was going to do. Her eyes followed him when he finally moved, stepping slowly and gracefully across the shadows of her room until he could sit beside her. He didn't touch her, just watched her, and then finally smiled. Bella let out the breath she hadn't realized she was holding.
"Bonjour," he greeted, holding out his hand to her.
Bella stared hard at it before inquiring, "What does that mean?"
"It means 'hello' in French."
She remembered that people in France spoke French, and so asked in her piping voice, "Are you from France?" Something in his smile made her relax; something about the darkness of his eyes made her trust him.
He grinned and shrugged, "My parents were born there." Then, hesitating, he offered with a fake-French accent, "If I was French, I would sound like this." Bella giggled and his smiled widened.
"You sound like Lumiere," she informed him, turning to face him fully and clasping her hands in her lap.
"Who is this Lumiere?"
"He's the candlestick!" she cried, throwing her hands into the air like he should know this.
"Ah, of course." He pointed to her nightlight where Belle and the Beast were dancing and raised a questioning eyebrow. Bella nodded. "And you like the story of Beauty and the Beast a lot?"
Bella beamed, "It's my favorite movie of all time. I wish I was Belle."
"You look very much like her, I think," the man offered, leaning in and studying her face closely.
It made Bella nervous to have him this near her. She remained very still and closed her eyes, feeling his cool breath against her skin.
"No," he encouraged gently, reaching out to touch her cheek. His finger was cool like the woman's had been. "Open your eyes, princess."
She did so and was surprised at the blackness of the eyes staring back at her. She had never seen eyes so dark.
He grinned at her nervousness and leaned back, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable. You're a very beautiful little girl."
"Th-thank you," Bella stammered. "You're very beautiful, too. I mean handsome. Boys are handsome."
The man laughed, low and warm, and touched her cheek again, "Thank you. You are blushing."
"I do that a lot," she frowned, quickly looking down to her lap in embarrassment.
He watched her silently for a moment, then asked, "What is your name?"
"Bella!" he repeated, pointing again to the nightlight. "So close to Belle. Are you sure you are not in fact Belle?"
Her smile was back as she giggled, "No, I'm not."
"I think you are. Maybe I can call you Belle? Does anyone call you that?"
"No," she shook her head. "I mean, you can call me that! But no one else calls me that. My mom calls me Bella and my dad calls me Bells sometimes. What's your name?"
"Je m'appelle James." At her confused look, he explained, "It means 'my name is James' in French. J'mappelle James."
"J'mappelle Belle," she repeated, stumbling a bit over the funny words in her mouth. When James held his hand out, she slipped hers into it again. Instead of a quick shake, though, he raised her hand to his lips and pressed a gentle kiss to her fingers. She giggled and made a face, "That's what the Beast does."
"Are you calling me a Beast?"
"No!" she quickly assured him. "You are more like the handsome prince that he turns into. You even have his same hair." He didn't react when she reached around and wound her fingers into the long ponytail at his neck.
"Well, little Belle, I'm afraid I am very much like the ugly scary Beast."
"But you aren't ugly or scary at all," she argued. "I think you are very nice."
"Thank you, but you should be scared of me."
"Why? You aren't going to hurt me, are you? I think that lady was. You made her stop, didn't you?"
James frowned now and Bella feared she had said something wrong as he nodded slowly, "Yes, she was going to hurt you. But I made her stop. I told her I was going to hurt you instead."
"But you aren't."
"How are you so sure?" he asked, suddenly leaning close and pressing his face near hers. Bella gasped and leaned back in surprise, her eyes widening. "I'm a scary monster, beautiful Belle." His hand reached out and cool fingers pressed to her cheek. Bella remained frozen as he leaned forward and pressed a gentle kiss to her forehead. "But I will not hurt you tonight."
"Pinky promise?" Bella asked after a moment, her voice shaky.
The smile returned as James leaned back, "Yes, pinky promise." He looped his pinky through her extended one and gave a soft shake. "Now I'm afraid I have to leave you and return to that scary evil woman." He laughed as he said it but Bella's frown made him fall quiet. "What is it?"
"Why do you have to go?" The question seemed to startle him. Bella watched as his beautiful face took on a look of what she could only read as confusion, his head tilted to the side as he watched her closely.
"You do not want me to leave?" he pressed. Bella shook her head. "But why not? I have already told you that I am dangerous and scary. If I stayed, I would hurt you."
"But the Beast doesn't leave Belle," she argued. "They have to stay together."
He gave her a knowing nod, "Yes, but they are apart for a little while, are they not? That's when the mean Gaston comes in and tries to steal Belle away from the Beast."
"I know, but—"
"I told you I have to leave, my beautiful Belle, but I didn't say you would never see me again. I can't leave you forever, of course. I wish that I could but I'm afraid you are doomed . . . that I am your fate."
"Is she your girlfriend?" Bella asked curiously, ignoring all the talk about doom. She was trying to see the two of them together and holding hands like her mother did with her new boyfriend. It was hard to picture, though she couldn't deny they were perfectly beautiful for each other.
He laughed and nodded, "Yes, she is. And she will not be happy with me if she finds out that I left you alive tonight so you must keep this whole thing a secret, okay?"
"She wanted me to be dead?" Bella squeaked. He nodded. "Okay, I won't tell anyone." She pursed her lips together and pantomimed turning a key in them.
He patted her knee, "Good girl. You don't tell anyone and someday I'll come back for you."
"And take me away?" she guessed.
"Yes, I'll take you away. You'll be all grown up then."
She frowned, "But what if you forget about me? Or you can't find me? Mom said we might move to—"
Instantly his cool finger was on her lips, interrupting her as he insisted, "Don't tell me. You see, that's the fun part. I have to find you. I'll wait until you're all grown up, and then I'll find you."
"It's what I do, little Belle. I've never not been able to find someone."
"And you won't forget me?"
"How could I ever forget you? You're my beautiful Belle," he assured her, smiling wider as she yawned. After all, it was very late now and she hadn't been able to fall asleep. "You're tired, princess. You should sleep."
She frowned, "But you'll leave."
"I must leave now anyway. I've stayed too long as it is. Now lie down and go to sleep like a good little girl." Bella pouted but did as he instructed, stretching out beneath the covers and resting her head on her pillow. "Close your eyes."
She did so, regretting that now she couldn't see his beautiful face in the moonlight. She could feel him lean closer, though, and instinctively held her breath as he pushed her hair to the side and pressed his lips to her neck. He remained frozen in this tableaux for long enough to make Bella's heartrate pick up. His lips parted, and she felt his hard teeth touch her skin. But just as soon as she began to wonder if he was going to bite her, the curtains danced around her open window and he was gone, the room empty and silent except for the pounding of Bella's heart.
"À bientôt, little Belle."