This is really... it's nothing, but I kind of love it, and I love Charlie. I forgot I wrote this and just found it tonight-I'm posting it for the five of you that love Charlie, too. :) Let's call it an outtake. It takes place a few years before the Christmas described in Comfort and Joy.
I never really know what to do while Garrett puts Elliott to bed. Usually I just turn the game on and drink another beer. It's been a few months of dates like this, quiet nights at home with the kid pushing trucks around on the floor while we watch baseball. It's not bad.
Pretty nice, actually.
"Someone wants you to tell him a bedtime story," Garrett announces, rolling his eyes as he steps back into the living room. He sounds like maybe he's offended but he's smiling a little.
"All right." I drain the last few sips of my first beer and stand up-just as Garrett sits down. I raise my eyebrow at him and look down the hall, toward Elliott's bedroom. "You coming?"
"I think you can handle it," Garrett says, reaching for the fresh beer I'd grabbed for myself.
I look down at Garrett, sprawled out on the couch, and then back down the hall. A bedtime story.
"Okay then." He stops me as I'm turning to walk away, reaches out and grabs my hand.
"Hey." He waits until he has my attention, and then he pulls me closer and closer, until I bend down for a kiss. "Mmm. Nothing scary, okay?"
It's my turn to roll my eyes at him. "I think I can handle it."
"Have fun," Garrett says, grinning as he raises my beer bottle to his lips again.
I make my way down to Elliott's bedroom, opening the door just as he yells "Daddy! Charlie! I still need my story!"
"Calm down there, kid. I'm coming."
"Daddy wanted to tell the one about Diego but I don't like that one anymore," he confesses, sitting up in his race car bed. He points at a stack of books piled high on his nightstand. "I don't want any of those, I want a new story, Charlie." He adds a hasty "please" to the end of his demand when I stare him down like Garrett does when he gets bossy.
"Looks like you've got plenty here," I tell him, reaching for a brightly colored book. "How about this one?"
"That's for babies! I'm three now," he says, alarmed. His little eyes get narrow when he's angry, just like Garrett's. "Don't you know any stories like Daddy does? With pirates and princesses?"
"Uh, sure." I sit on the edge of the bed-it's not very comfortable but the kid's looking sleepier by the minute. As soon as I lean back against the wall behind us, Elliott turns on his side to face me. He rests his little hand on my knee, and I open my mouth to start telling him a story.
Except I don't really know any bedtime stories.
I start to panic, thinking back to when Bella was little-Renee always rocked her to sleep when she was a baby. By the time Bella started coming back to Forks on her own to visit me, she was too old for bedtime stories.
It digs at me. Something about the fact that I can't even think of a story to tell this kid-that I never did this for Bella-it twists something in my chest. For a minute, I feel like I can't breathe.
And then Elliott says, "Charlie?" in that stubborn voice of his. I can hear how sleepy he is but I know he won't fall asleep until he gets his story.
I pat his back and breathe out slowly. I never did this when Bella was little, but I'm doing a lot of new things these days.
I can do this.
"Once upon a time, there was, uh... a princess. Princess Bella."
"Did she know any pirates?" Elliott mumbles, his hand sliding from my knee. He wraps his arms tight around his stuffed elephant and yawns.
"Yeah, there was a pirate. He was a sneaky guy, always trying to kidnap the princess," I tell him, a smile spreading across my face as Elliott's eyelids flutter. Maybe I can be good at this storytelling stuff-it's not so bad.
"What was his name?" Elliott's voice is muffled, sleepy, but he's still fighting to stay awake.
"Edward. The pirate's name was Edward..."