I forgot to mention this last time, but THANK YOU to all of you lovely readers who helped crown Going Under as the Fic of the Week over at The Lemonade Stand! And, thank you to the gorgeous miss twilover76 for her wonderful and sweet words about this story. It meant the world to me.
Disclaimer: I own everything but their names.
July 25, 2033 – Santa Cruz, California
"But Dad! I promise we'll be fine."
"I have no doubt you'll be just great. At home."
"Dad!" She stomps and throws herself around a little. I have to fight not to laugh a little – she's so much like her mother sometimes it's frightening.
"End of discussion," I say instead, turning my gaze back to the baseball game on the television.
Clearly unsatisfied with my decision, she turns and runs toward the kitchen where I know Bella's making dinner, screaming for her as she goes. I stand up from my chair and follow right behind her. I know Bella won't undermine my decision not to let Tyler go on this little trip she's proposing – we don't do that to each other – but still, my presence in the room will make her feel less like she's winning this fight. Like she had a chance in the first place.
I don't care how many arguments she makes, or how many tears she squeezes out, my daughter is not spending the night in the woods with a boy until she's at least thirty! Not without my supervision, anyway. And maybe one of Charlie's shotguns. Or two.
"Mom— he's being unreasonable! It's one weekend and I'm sixteen and this is so totally not cool! Why is he trying to ruin my life?" Her arms are waving and I can feel my hair turning grayer with every second that passes. "It's just Benjamin! You guys have met him and you know he's a nice boy and I just want one night with my friends! He never lets me do anything—" She points at me accusingly.
Yes, we've met Benjamin. Of course he's a nice boy to our faces. Unfortunately for my daughter, I know how bad nice young boys can be when the parents are no longer standing in front of him. I used to be one of those very same 'nice boys.'
"This is between you and your father," Bella offers, reaching up to squeeze Ty's shoulder. I cross my arms over my chest and wink at Bella. I'm appreciative of how we work together. It makes me love her even more to know that we're a united front. We have to be.
"But—" Tyler tries one more time. She not only inherited her mother's looks, but her stubbornness too.
She definitely doesn't get it from me.
When neither of us says anything in response, I watch as she changes tactics. Visibly taking a breath and turning on the sweet side, going the calm and sweet route instead of the dramatic, loud one. "It's just one night, Daddy…"
"We've both made it clear you are not going on this trip, little girl. Now, you can stop asking and go set the table for dinner or you can go spend the evening in your room. Which will it be?"
She stares at me for a beat before her face turns red. "I hate you both!"
As Ty disappears to her room, Bella sighs and I do the same. We move closer together and I wrap her in my arms, swaying her in a circle of comfort. I know Ty doesn't mean the words she just said – that she's just upset – but it doesn't make them any less painful for either of us to hear.
Having a daughter is hard. Having a teenage daughter who likes to push your buttons? Impossible.
"You know she doesn't mean it, Baby," I whisper.
Bella sniffles a little. "I know."
"She loves you."
I squeeze her hips. "So do I."
"I know." She looks up and attempts a smile. I send her one right back. "I just miss those days when she was sweet and giggly and sweet and still our little girl."
"Me, too," I sigh, closing my eyes and holding her even tighter as I remember back to the first time Tyler opened up and spoke her mind…
April 15, 2019 – Honolulu, Hawaii
"God it feels good to be back here," Bella said, stretching her hands above her head. I shifted Tyler in my arms, keeping my eyes on the luggage making its way around in front of us. It was late and we were all worn out from the long hours on the plane.
"Yes it does," I whispered. It had been far, far too long since we'd taken a vacation. Even after our wedding we never went on a honeymoon. My thought was this: who needed to go anywhere when the best place there was, was under the sheets of your own bed with the woman you loved most in the world?
And while our bed was still my favorite place to be, I couldn't deny my own excitement for our trip. I missed Hawaii – plus, my baby girl was about to become an official Cullen.
"Dad, we've got our stuff. Want us to head out and try to grab a cab?"
I turned and looked at Lisle.
"Yes, please. Can you take Ty for me, too?" He agreed and we shifted her little body from my arms to his. I watched, happy, as she snuggled in close, not disturbed at all by the movement.
The way he used to look down at her (the way he still does), all doting big brother, always made me smile. They had quite the age gap, but there was no denying the bond they shared. Even with him living so far away, she seemed connected to him no matter what.
At that time, it was hard for me to believe just how much he'd grown in only four years' time. He was a man – a college graduate. Even though it was hard to admit my baby boy wasn't my baby boy anymore, I couldn't have been prouder of the man he'd turned into. What had once been a long, curly mess atop his head had become tame, trimmed short in a way that I'd never been able to stand. He had grown taller than both Jasper and me, and the kid still ate like a horse but seemed to stay fit no matter what.
Living on the east coast with my mom suited him. Not that I – we – didn't miss him every day, but he was happy there. His heart was there. I looked over and smiled at Senna. And I knew it was likely, even then, that he'd never be coming home to stay with us. Not as long as Senna's job kept her in NYC.
As crazy as it was to believe, he looked at her like I look at Bella. It felt like it was too soon, like he was too young to be so attached, but I couldn't argue with him about how fast I thought they might have been moving because she made it happy. It was what I'd always wanted for him.
"Where are you right now?" Bella asked, her face is a little red as I looked over. She was holding one of the suitcases in her hands. "Grab the other one!"
I turned and caught it right before I ran into a poor old woman who was standing in the way. "Sorry," I said, hoisting the luggage up and turning back around. "What the heck is in this thing, bricks?"
She huffed at me and turned in the other direction. I laughed. "Seriously, how many pairs of shoes are in here?" I called after her. She ignored me, of course, and we headed for the taxi.
Once we had everything situated and all the suitcases had been stowed inside, we were on our way to the hotel.
"Mom, are we seein' Kai and Ahe and the boys?" Lisle asked from the backseat.
She turned to smile at him. "I don't know yet; Pete has a competition on Maui this week; they might not make it back in time."
Lisle looked a little disappointed, but shrugged it off quickly. We continued chatting until the taxi had pulled up in front of our hotel. Bella and the girls headed inside to check-in while us boys unloaded everything.
"Where are we headin' tomorrow, Pops?" Lisle asked, stacking suitcases on the luggage cart.
"Waimea, I think. It's April, the waves will be calm…" He snorted, and my palm may have accidentally landed on the back of his head. Hard. He'll never be too old for that. "Watch it. Your mother is worried."
"I know she is, she keeps asking me to talk you out of it."
I narrowed my eyes at him. "You're supposed to be on my side on all the things. Some son you are."
"Hey! I'm a great son! I'm not trying to talk you out of it, am I?"
We both laughed as I slung my arm over his shoulder. "Yeah, you're not half bad. Let's get inside."
"Yeah, I'm sure you're pretty tired, you know, with the old age and all."
My hand once again met with the back of his head as we reached the elevator.
That kid… I still didn't know where he got it from.
April 16, 2019 – Honolulu, Hawaii
"Wake up, Baby Girl," I said excitedly. Tyler reached up, fingers wiggling as she blinked her sleep-scrunched eyes at me.
I grinned down at her suddenly grumpy face, leaning down to pick her up. I hoisted her on my hip and moved toward the bed to snuggle with her while I could.
"Do you know what today is?" I asked, settling us both under the blankets.
In lieu of answering, she wrapped one of her fingers in my hair and twirled it while the other went straight to her mouth.
I popped on the television, keeping the volume low, and minutes later her eyes were closed and she was breathing softly toward sleep once again.
From behind us, I heard the bathroom door open and the smell of Bella wafted through the steamy room. Even though it wasn't the time for it, I couldn't help peeking at her form the corner of my eye. Wearing nothing but a towel, I admired the curve of her thighs and the dip that lead beneath. My heart pounded a little faster in my chest, just like it always did when I got to see her beautiful body. It was moments like that one when I always knew we were meant for each other. The way she killed me with a look or brought me back to life with just her intoxicating smell.
"I can't believe you woke her up," Bella said lowly, coming to our side of the bed to lean over and kiss both of us quickly. "I'm pretty sure she has no idea what's going on."
I scowled at Bella and then looked back at Ty. "You know more than Mommy thinks, don't you Surfer Girl?" I whispered. She stirred, but didn't wake. I tucked the blankets tight around her before I climbed out of bed to take my turn in the shower.
On my way to the bathroom, I walked over to where Bella was lotioning her arms and trailed my fingers across the top of her shoulder. "Love you."
"I love you, too."
"If the two of you want to do some real surfing, you're welcome to do your own thing; you don't have to stick with us the whole time. Or you guys can always head up and check out the waterfall," Bella said, looking over her shoulder at the kids in the back. We were lucky that even though Kai and Ahe weren't in town, they'd given Bella a way to get into their shop so we could borrow boards and their van.
Lisle hummed and shook his head at her. "We came here to see you guys, not to take off on our own all the time. Plus, I want to be there for Ty's big moment."
At the mention of her name, Ty's head moved back and forth and she searched for her brother. "Lie-li!" she giggled.
He reached over and scratched her head. "I'm right here, Little Sister."
As was the norm, she wrapped her fingers around one of his, keeping him there until we pulled into a parking space at Waimea.
As we unloaded the van, I was feeling jittery with all the excitement flowing through me – perhaps even a little bit of fear. I'd promised Bella it was safe, that Ty was ready… and I couldn't let either of my girls down.
Towels were spread out and the sun was shining brightly as we settled in for our day at the beach. Tyler had plopped down in the sand, digging with her little pink shovel, and after what felt like only fifteen minutes, she was already covered from head-to-toe.
Never one to mind getting a little dirty, I sat down right next to her, enjoying the atmosphere of being surrounded by people I loved in a place that held so much special meaning for Bella and me.
Out a ways, I could hear Lisle and Senna laughing as he attempted to teach her how to boogie board. They hadn't wasted any time getting in the water, laughing and splashing as they swam out past the gentler waves in search of something a little less tame.
"They're so cute together," Bella said, bending over and pulling the baby bag toward her. She began unloading Ty's mountain of gear: sunblock, floaties, life jacket, visor, and of course, the little pink wetsuit I'd bought. "It's a bit too warm for this, isn't it?"
She held it up in front of her. And I knew she was right; a full-body wetsuit wasn't really needed, but still I frowned.
"Not giving it up easily, are you?"
"There's only one thing I give up easily." I wiggled my eyebrows.
She laughed and shook her head, ignoring me as she focused her attention on Tyler. "You ready to get in the water with Daddy, Ty?"
My eyes followed hers, and Tyler looked a little apprehensive, but nodded her head any way.
We knew she wasn't scared of the water. Last summer she and Bella had finished the Mommy and Baby swimming classes together. And of course she'd done amazing. But swimming in a pool was a little different than swimming in the ocean. It was natural for her to be a little bit uneasy.
Sadly, I hadn't been allowed back in the pool after the first class.
Something about the instructor thinking my interruptions weren't appropriate or some shit. Whatever. I just wanted my kid taught the right way; was that so wrong?
"Stop pouting over there and help me put these on," Bella said, holding out one of Ty's floaties for me to take.
"I wasn't pouting." I stood up, and we each grabbed one of her arms, tugging and pulling the floaties until they were secure around her chubby little biceps. Next was her vest. We were all about the protection; even if she somehow managed to get away from one of us, we knew she'd float with no problem at all.
"You were totally pouting."
"Woman, don't be difficult."
She snorted and rolled her eyes at me. I ignored her silent jab and picked up Tyler instead, holding her tight as we bent to pick up the longboard I'd borrowed from Kai's shop. "Let's go get you some waves, Surfer Girl."
She grinned at me as we made our way down the beach. I could hear Bella giggling behind us as she followed. I knew she couldn't stand to be too far away – and I didn't blame her, I would have felt the same if our positions had been reversed.
Once we'd made it into deeper water, I dropped the surfboard and let it float in front of us.
My insides were a little jittery as I went to set Tyler down. I hadn't planned on letting go of her for a second, but just before her feet could touch the board, she started screaming and scared the shit out of me.
I tightened my grip and pulled her back, using my hands to check and make sure she was okay.
Bella was at our sides immediately, eyes' taking the same inventory as my hands to make sure our girl was okay. "What happened?"
"Nothing!" I said defensively. "We just got out here!"
"Well she's screaming for some reason!"
I glared at Bella for a second and then looked back at Ty. Visibly, she looked fine. I tried to set her down again, but she was not having it. At all.
"What's wrong, Sweetheart?" I asked, using my thumb to wipe a tear from her cheek.
She shook her head at me and lifted her arms, leaning toward Bella in that silent kid way of asking to go to someone else. I only held her tighter, not wanting to give up control of the moment.
She just continued to lean toward Bella, lifting her arms up and grunting. When her eyes landed back on me, I never expected what came out of her mouth.
"I don't want you, Daddy," she said, clearer than her two and a half year old self should have been able. "I want Momma."
July 25, 2033 – Santa Cruz, California
By then, I'd known how it felt to have my heart broken. It had happened a time or two… but not by her. Never by my baby girl.
Until just that second.
I hadn't even considered the possibility that Tyler wouldn't want my help. I was used to Lisle. Boys and their dads, you know how it is.
Apparently little girls wanted their moms.
We both knew she'd been waiting for just that perfect moment to, well, let it all out. I'd just never imagined it would be then. I remember having to sit back and watch as Bella lowered Ty's feet to the board with no problem. She held her hands, keeping her steady as it bobbed with each wave that passed below them.
She was all smiles and grins, just like I'd imagined. And she rocked it. Just like I always knew she would. She still does. That girl can rip.
It's why I have to fight off these stupid boys and consider borrowing Charlie's guns.
"Are you daydreaming again?" Bella's voice brings me back from my memories. I blink and look down at her.
"Men don't daydream."
She lifts an eyebrow.
"Okay, we don't daydream much. It's not manly."
"You have serious problems."
"You love me anyway."
"We covered that before you slipped into your little daydream, didn't we?"
I narrow my eyes and squeeze her hip. She laughs and squirms.
"You think she'll ever be sweet again?" I ask.
"Maybe when she's older… and not quite so teenage-y and hormonal."
"Were you like this? I don't remember you being like this."
She snorts. "Well, I was a little bit older than Ty when we met. And, I'm sure I don't need to remind you that you weren't my father."
I bury my nose in her hair and laugh. "Gross."
She giggles, and I love it. I'm glad she's smiling and happy instead of upset. Ty will come around. She always does.
Then we'll go through this all over again.
And I wouldn't change a second of it.
This is truly the end for this couple, and I can't thank each and every one of you enough for joining me on this ride. It's been a rollercoaster of ups and downs that I'll cherish forever.