I didn't think I'd be adding to this story, especially when I have neglected works in progress. Sometimes, clearing the palate is irresistible. Plus, this is charity-related (please read on). I've decided 'Cats & Dogs' is going to be episodic. It won't post often, but when it does, you'll effectively get a short story each time. Yeah, this is a long one. Lolol: 76 pages, to be precise.
Sadly, I've had vertigo for 2 months. It's better than it was, but it's still slowing me down. I'm editing my original book (for those who've asked, no it's not related to any of my fics). It's going very well and the publisher has expressed interest not just in this book, but a series. I promise I'm not abandoning any ff stories, and I have 32 pages of 'Make Haste' roughed out. Soon, my loves.
A picture I found on the internet inspired me to write this, and my girls Lissa Bryan, ladylibre, LolaCullenx, nuttyginger, Tkegl and Twilly are really bad influences on me. Actually, our writers' circles are always a blast. They have begged for more involvement from my new guy, Clarence, and I'm giving it. Gladly.
All of them contributed something to this story.
Twilly: Apologies for the nightmares. You are my Clarence Research Expert. Snort.
Nuttyginger: Thanks for your input re: Reverend Weber. Still laughing.
Katmom: Thanks for the pictures and weird animal stories.
Ladylibre: Cows with Guns. Moo! You are in charge of Clarence's Fan Club, okay?
Lissa: The bear in the car? hahahahahahahahah… what next?
Lissa wants an o/t from Clarence's POV so I've written it as a piece for Stand Up for Katalina. Over 50 authors have signed up to take part. And guess who else is among them? Hunterhunting and 107YearOldVirgin! Let's all fight some cancer, shall we?
Katalina dot fandomcause dot info
Thanks is due to Raum for the hilarious banner for the charity o/t, which is entitled, "It Shouldn't Happen to a Cow".
A big thank you is due to my Beta, Room340C, and her cousin, George, who's a veterinarian. Any animal doctoring mistakes are my own, but there are a lot less of them thanks to these individuals.
Everyone incorriges me. I heart you.
Go look at Clarence and Company on my Facebook. You don't need to sign in to see my page; it's open to the public. You know you wanna.
After setting the potted plants from the nursery down in the drive, Bella waddled into the waiting room in a daze, barely registering that it was more crowded than she had ever seen it. The people inside greeted her warmly (their furbabies squalling, coughing, meowing, barking, and attempting to break free of firm grasps in order to 'speak' to other animals), but Bella's thoughts were clearly focused elsewhere. Shelly Cope beamed at her from her position behind the desk. Her expression turned to confusion when she saw Bella's face. Shelley set down the receiver on the phone, alarmed, and delayed making her reminder call.
"What's wrong?" She blinked rapidly.
"Can you tell me what you said to Irina Marques this morning? Woman's mad as a hatter."
"She said their new Hereford bull calf was sick, and asked if Edward could come out and see to him." Shelley strained her eyes to see past her boss' wife-to-be to the car parked in the driveway on the far side of the clinic. Weak spring sun was filtering through the sunroom's glass wall, blotchy from the rain that had dried there. She would have to see if anyone could be talked into cleaning it. At seventy, she was not inclined to climb up and do it herself.
As if on cue, thunder rumbled in the distance. No point in cleaning the windows today, she thought.
Shelley returned her attention to Bella. "I reminded her that you and Doc Cullen would be away as of tomorrow, so it's busy today. I told her he was doing delicate surgery this morning, and asked her to bring the calf in."
Bella ran her hand over her nine-month baby bump absently, and turned to look at the car in the drive, a worried line between her brows. "Did Mrs. Marques happen to mention how she was bringing the cow here?"
Shelley's eyebrows were on the ceiling. "She said she'd get him here, that's all."
"She doesn't have a truck, does she?" Bella shook her head sadly. "Her farm hasn't been doing very well."
"Well, this land's good for forestry, not crop farming," Shelley frowned. "She told me she's really counting on that calf to be a breeder. He's got a fantastic pedigree."
"Hm. I hope Edward's done soon."
Shelley consulted the clock on her computer. "It shouldn't be long now. He's been in there a couple of hours." Bella continued to peer at the car. It wasn't easy to see it from where she stood, and Shelley certainly couldn't see it at all from her vantage point.
"Is that…?" John Wolfe frowned out the window.
"Yeah, she brought the cow, all right," Bella murmured. People in the waiting room craned to have a look out the window, and several jaws dropped. Bella turned to Shelley, her eyes beginning to sparkle although she was fighting a smile. "Mrs. Cope, would you kindly phone my mother and tell her to bring her camera downstairs?"
"Certainly." It wasn't an unusual request to phone someone present in the building; Cullen House was huge. Edward had been talking about installing an intercom system, but it proved cheaper to have separate phone extensions for different rooms in the house.
"I'll be doggoned," Rufus Pearle chuckled, taking off his John Deere cap to scratch what was left of his hair.
The door to the surgery opened, and Edward's assistant, Ben, exited the room with a limp, sedated Jack Russell Terrier in his arms. The dog, Frasier, had an angry line of stitches on his belly, a result of Edward's skillful removal of foreign objects. Somehow, Frasier had contrived to devour the innards of his tennis ball, a costly and harrowing event for his owner. Luckily, the animal was young, and Mrs. Harlowe could afford the price tag. Frasier's prognosis was hopeful.
As Ben took Frasier back to the kennels, Bella invited herself into the surgery. "Knock, knock?" she called as she peeped through the door. Edward, and his student, Katie, were cleaning up the detritus of the operation. He deposited implements in the autoclave tray even as she picked up bits of gauze and tape for the garbage, and placed surgical drapes and sheets in the hamper.
"Hi Bella," Katie beamed.
"Hiya, Pima." Katie would be attending the Pima Medical Institute in Renton in the fall, with an eye to becoming a vet. Bella had instantly nicknamed her, and now practically everyone in town called her 'Pima'.
Edward's eyes caressed his fiancée's rounded form. "You're ruining our luck," he cautioned.
She crossed her arms and continued to stand in the doorway, blatantly ogling her man in his scrubs. "We live together. It was completely stupid of you to spend the night on the couch." She wanted to add that the wedding was more of a technicality than a moral necessity, but she didn't want to hurt his feelings. He had worked extra-hard to provide her with a weekend away in Seattle, and she meant to make the most of it before the baby came.
"Aw, thank you for humouring me, even if you think I'm a superstitious moron, Swan," he grinned, spraying the stainless steel table with disinfectant.
"Yeah, well, I'm only marrying you for your looks," she deadpanned. Katie snorted.
"I know that," he growled, pitching his surgical gloves in the receptacle.
"I'll put the linens in the wash, Doc," Katie giggled, in a big hurry to get away from the coming PDA.
Edward waited until the door shut to address his bride. "To what do I owe the honour of this disruption of our future marital bliss, Miss Swan?" He couldn't seem to take his eyes off her ginormous boobs. Two weeks and counting…
"There's a situation outside that I think you need to address, stat," Bella said gravely, keeping a firm hold on the laughter that was ready to bubble out of her. Really, was this a wedding prank?
Her almost-husband's face fell into serious lines. "In the waiting room?"
He marched for the door. "Is there anything you want to tell me before I-?"
"No, no," she said, waving her arms dismissively. "I can't begin to explain this. You're going to have to see it for yourself."
"All right." Looking anxious, he held open the door and gestured his bride through it, following her to the front door. To his consternation, the waiting room was empty, and Mrs. Cope wasn't manning the desk. There seemed to be a crowd gathered outside, however. Bella opened the glass door to the clinic, and waited for Edward to go through it.
"What's going-?" he managed to ask before people stepped aside so he could see the little blue Ford in the drive.
Edward stopped, did a double-take, and rubbed his eyes, gawking. Beside him, Bella snorted like a pony. He turned to her blankly.
"There is a cow. In that car."
Behind the Taurus in question stood Renée, wildly snapping photos with her digital camera.
"Moo," mooed the cow, staring balefully out the rear window.
"Holy cow," Edward said weakly, gaping at the poor creature.
"No, sick cow," Bella countered.
Edward put his hands on his knees and stared at the cow. In the front seat, Mrs. Marques glared at him, as though urging him to get a move on.
The calf's soulful eyes proved too much for Edward. His face lit with a grin, and he shook with silent laughter. Quite suddenly, he pelted for the clinic, without a word to anybody.
"Where do you think you're going?" Bella yelled.
"Pee!" his voice came back, much too high. He'd been stuck doing surgeries for three hours without a break.
"Don't know what's got him so excited," John Wolfe scoffed, holding his German Shepherd, Trigger, firmly back from Mrs. Hammond's hissing cat. "Livestock's priceless."
"Oh, he knows that," Bella placated him. "He's just… probably never seen a cow in a car before. I've never seen a cow in a car before, have you, Mrs. Morton?"
"My father talked about putting his cow in a flatbed truck during the Depression, when they moved," Mrs. Morton mused, "but I've never heard of one in a car, for sure."
Edward skipped out of the front door and beamed at the cow. Mrs. Marques got out of the car, slammed its door, and marched right up to him.
"I brought Clarence."
Edward tried and failed to repress his grin, unable to take his eyes off the cow. "I see that. Thank… you." For making my day.
"There's something very wrong with him," she growled. "Your Mrs. Cope refused to ask you to come out to my farm."
"I'm sorry." His voice was strained in the effort to hold back laughter. "Bella and I are getting married this afternoon. Couldn't one of your neighbours have loaded Clarence into his truck?"
"No sign of Gus this morning, and I couldn't afford to delay."
Edward cleared his throat. "Of course. But why didn't you ask Doc Gerandy? I'm not outfitted for livestock, here."
"Doc Gerandy wouldn't give me credit."
"Oh." Edward would never deny treatment to an animal that was suffering. "Well, what's Clarence's problem?"
"There haven't been any cow-plops since yesterday."
"Oh," Edward said in consternation. That could be serious. Edward grimaced; he was going to have to give Clarence an enema, and arrange for somebody to make house calls on the weekend. He hoped Clarence wasn't in pain. Because of the design of their stomachs, cows could die from constipation. "Well, we'll have to get him out of the car so I can examine him."
Mrs. Marques stomped over to the car in her big black rubber boots, and opened the rear driver's side door.
"Moo!" mooed Clarence. Edward looked at the baby cow standing on the back seat of the old beater, and frowned. Clarence was one very big bull calf. He was the size of a large pony. Edward ruefully acknowledged that he'd have to stop pestering Bella to replace their own red Taurus. Obviously, there was plenty of room for a baby to ride in the back seat. More than one baby, in fact.
"How old is he?" Edward asked.
"He was born September 30th."
Edward stroked his chin. "Eight months, then. How the hell did you get him in there?"
"I slapped that bugger's behind until he got."
"Moo," nodded Clarence, as though to confirm it. Thunder sounded in the distance. It was getting closer. Clarence shuddered, his ginger-and-white hide rippling.
"Well," Edward said, scratching his head. After peering in the car a couple of times, he walked right up to Clarence. There was a soft rope on the floor of the car. He picked it up and made a lasso around the calf's head.
Clarence didn't like it. "Moo."
"C'mon, Buddy," Edward coaxed, tugging on the rope. Renée's camera clicked and whirred.
"Moo," Clarence's eyes rolled madly.
"C'mon, out you get," Edward urged, tugging away.
"Watch the upholstery!" Mrs. Marques snapped. Edward looked at her incredulously. The car had to be from the 1980's and the once-buttery leather was cracked and full of holes.
"Clarence, out you get," Edward ordered. Clarence dug in his hooves and refused to move. Edward reached behind the calf's ear to adjust the rope, and the calf snapped at him. He recoiled, eyes wide.
"Vet's going to get himself hurt." Rufus Pearle shook his head mournfully and John Wolfe nodded.
"A little help here?" Edward asked pointedly.
"Geez," Mrs. Marques groaned, stomping around the car to open the door touching Clarence's behind.
"Danny, you help Doc with that rope before he strains something on his wedding day," John ordered his strapping eighteen-year-old son.
"Okay," Danny said obligingly, hurrying to grab the rope.
"Clarence, get your ass out of my car so Doc can help you!" Mrs. Marques snapped from behind her cow's butt.
"Go on, Clarence!"
Three things happened simultaneously: Mrs. Marques slapped Clarence on his rump, thunder crashed, and Edward and Danny gave a particularly strong tug. Eyes wild, Clarence pissed his cow pants -soaking the hell out of Edward and Danny- and leaped out of that car like his tail was on fire. Nimble Danny got out of the way. Not-so-nimble Edward didn't fare quite so well.
Edward and Bella both screamed.
Clarence stood on their front lawn, placidly eating grass.
A steaming cow-plop the size of a small child decorated the back seat of the Taurus.
"Augh! My upholstery!" Mrs. Marques wailed.
A highly nauseous Edward decided he was not getting the attention he deserved. "Aaaaaargh!" This sent Bella diving to his side.
"Edward! Edward!" she screeched, patting him all over. "Are you okay?"
He looked at her incredulously. "A fucking cow stomped on my arm, Bella. A fucking cow." They both looked at the bull calf that was now munching on the potted geraniums Bella had just brought home for her wedding.
Bella felt gingerly along Edward's left forearm. "Your arm is broken."
"Tell me something I don't know."
"We have to get you to the hospital."
Edward's jaw clenched. "There is no way in Hell I am missing our wedding again, Swan."
"Cullen!" she forced out weakly, "your arm is busted."
"You have to go to the hospital," Mrs. Cope said firmly.
The clients echoed her opinion. Edward's departure would be sad, however; Forks hadn't had this good a show in many a moon.
Ben stepped forward. "Sorry, all of you are going to have to go home, and rebook. Unless there's something serious that can't wait, that I can handle, like stitches."
Most of the clients nodded, mumbling, and left. John and Danny Wolfe, Rufus Pearle, and Mrs. Morton remained. Danny was not happy about the state of his jeans.
"Dad, I need to go home and change," he hissed.
"Shh!" his father chided him.
"Veterinarian needs our help."
Ben shook his head at Edward. "I'll drive you to the hospital, man."
"No." Edward stared mulishly at everyone. "This wedding is not getting called off again." He pointed at Bella's stomach. "This baby is going to be born in holy wedlock. And I am not spending my honeymoon in the hospital. No way."
"Cullen, your arm is broken, and not getting it taken care of could be dangerous," Bella argued.
"What about my cow?" Mrs. Marques demanded hotly.
"Your cow was constipated. He's not bunged-up anymore," Edward pouted. "He looks happy now. I'll come out to see him on Monday if you want. After we're back from our honeymoon."
Ben was on his cell phone. "Angela? Yeah, Edward broke his arm, and he refuses to miss his wedding. Could you possibly leave work early and make a house call?" He paused. "He has missed his own wedding twice now, thanks to freak accidents. Please give the guy a break? For me?" He beamed. "Thanks, Sweetheart!" Pocketing his phone, he grinned at the anxious couple. "Angela's on her way. She says if your X-ray machine shows a clean break, she can use your supplies to set and cast it, but she'll expect to see you on Monday to make sure that it's setting right."
"Oh, thank God!" Edward blinked, staring up into the blackening, rumbling sky.
"Up you get before we get wet," Ben said, offering his hand. Bella stopped him.
"No, he has to get up by himself so we know there isn't any other injury."
Edward moaned and rolled into a ball. He managed to get himself onto his knees, and then stood up, cradling his broken left arm to his chest with his good hand. Bella put her arm around him and escorted him to the door of the clinic. Everyone else followed.
"Shouldn't see the groom before the wedding," Rufus told Bella, shaking his head. She blushed strongly enough to light up the local ball park. To his credit, Edward bit back his laugh, squeezing his eyes shut.
"Shut up, Cullen," Bella growled, opening the door that connected the clinic to the house. Rain started to patter down; soon, it was a torrential downpour.
"At least all this rain means your marriage will be fertile," Mrs. Morton said encouragingly. Bella and Edward refrained from answering; they had both proven to be eminently fertile.
"Come on, stud, let's get you comfortable," Bella said, mounding up pillows on their new black leather couch. Edward sat down and tipped himself carefully over, keeping his arm elevated. Bella untied and removed his shoes. "Scrubs and white socks: I think you should wear them for the wedding, it's super sexy."
"Right," Edward moaned, feeling pretty sorry for himself. "Complete with bull calf urine. Incredibly sexy. They're gonna have to cut off the shirt. It's my favourite set of scrubs."
"Want to try to slip it off now?" Bella asked.
Sitting up, he hunched forward so Bella could pull the top over his head. Admittedly, he grunted when she manoeuvred the sleeve down his arm. Just a bit. When Bella tugged at his scrub bottoms and pulled them down, everyone averted eyes and tried to find interesting things to look at.
"I'll get an ice pack," Shelley supplied, disappearing into the kitchen. Bella tossed the afghan over her groom's legs before anybody could get an eyeful of his underwear.
"Young man, you sure know how to make special days memorable," Renée winked, taking a picture of Edward as he lay panting from the exertion, propped on his cushions. His arm was already turning six kinds of purple, and swelling to the size of a roasted ham.
Wednesday the cat and Pugsley the dog came running. Wednesday invited herself onto Edward's feet, and Pugsley put his front paws on the couch and tried to lick Edward's face. "Off," Edward ordered faintly. For the first time ever, Pugsley ignored Edward's order. Edward's face softened. "It's okay, I'm all right." The power abruptly went out, making the fire alarms peep. Pugsley started to shake. He ran off, probably to hide under the clinic toilet. Wednesday looked disdainfully after him and then turned her golden orbs on Bella, obviously telling her that dogs were stupid.
Mrs. Cope came back with an oversized ice pack, and Edward held his arm up and let her wrap it around. Ben lit a fire in the large fireplace. Edward shuddered, feeling the cold of the ice pack in his bones.
"Mrs. Cope, would you please warm up a blanket for Edward?" Bella asked. Nodding, she headed for the laundry room.
"Doesn't look like you'll be getting married in the gazebo today," Katie mused, looking out the casement window overlooking the driveway. The pouring rain looked like it might just go on forever. Such was life in Forks.
"Did any of the geraniums survive Clarence?" Edward asked, wincing.
"I'll go check," John Wolfe hurried outside and returned with a single large pot of slightly dilapidated white blooms. "Just the one, he ate all the rest."
"I'm sorry, Bella," Edward said, turning puppy-dog eyes up to her. "This makes three weddings that my job has ruined for you."
Bella frowned. "Don't be stupid, Cullen. A bloody cow stepped on you; you could have died. I'm just glad you're relatively okay."
"My bull calf!" Mrs. Marques yelped, appearing in the doorway.
Edward turned his head to look at her. "What about him?"
Everyone yelled in alarm. Oh, the whites of Clarence's eyes… He stormed into the living room and ran around like the hounds of Hell were after him.
"Who left the door open?" Edward shouted.
"I think he wants the flowers!" Mrs. Marques screeched.
"My flowers!" Bella yelled, snatching up the pot and running upstairs.
"Moo!" mooed Clarence, making as if to follow her. Edward was up in a flash, revealing navy blue briefs to the general population.
"No, no! Don't let him go up the stairs! Cows can go up steps, but not down. Somebody do something!"
Clarence ought not to have worried about the hounds of Hell; he ought to have been worried about the cats. Wednesday Addams shot up the stairs and stopped dead, hissing, her bristling orange tabby fur standing out in all directions. As Clarence put his hoof on the second or third step, she reached out and swatted his tender pink nose with her very sharp claws; bully-boy was not going to chase her mistress! The cow stumbled backward in surprise, long enough for Ben, John and Danny to block his path.
"Get him!" Renée shouted, flapping her arms."Moooooo!" Clarence bawled, evasive as a greased pig.Edward was past giving the orders; he was doing his best not to pass out. A freakin' baby bull in his freakin' house on his pristine maple floor. On his wedding day. He wondered if he was about to have that nervous breakdown, finally.
Bella virtually flew down the steps, brandishing a pillowcase, as the men attempted to catch and subdue Clarence. She drew the bag over Clarence's head and the men scrambled to hold him fast. After a few tense moments, the beast calmed down.
Edward was stunned. "How did you know that would work?"
Bella shrugged, panting. "I… didn't…. I saw it in a… movie once… with a horse."
"Impressive." He watched his bride appreciatively as the men slipped the lasso back around Clarence's neck.
"Where do you want us to put him?" John asked. Edward groaned.
"You can't put my livelihood out in that storm," Mrs. Marques wailed.
"Fine!" Edward pinched his eyes shut. "Not in my surgery. Not in the kennel. Maybe see… No, he won't fit in the examining rooms. I know! Stick him in the mud room; it's at the back just past the washroom."
"Okay." John saluted him and gave Clarence's rope a tug. "Come on, trouble." Clarence took three steps and laid an enormous cow-plop right in the middle of the floor.
"Aww," Edward groaned, pinching his nose.
"You cured Clarence! If you tell me where you keep your shovel, I'll have that cleaned up in a jiff," Mrs. Marques promised, beaming.
Edward winced. "It will scratch the hardwood."
"We'll bag it," Mrs. Cope declared, fetching a grocery bag from the kitchen. Putting her hands inside it, she laid it over the steaming cow poop and scooped it up, turning the bag inside out as she did it. She passed the bag to Mrs. Marques with a grimace.
"I'm so sorry Clarence was a bother. You know, 'bull in a china shop'?" that lady asked timidly.
Nobody really laughed. "Good thing I don't have any china," Bella muttered.
"Want to see the video, Edward?" Renée offered.
"I think we'll save it for when Ben's girlfriend is setting my arm."
"Maybe we ought to get you dressed," Bella mused.
"I really want to bathe."
Bella's nose crinkled. "Yeah, you really need a bath. Could you manage if I help you?"
"While you're upstairs, we'll get everything all pretty for you," Mrs. Cope promised, running to the kitchen to wash her hands and fetch supplies. "Come on, Pima. You'll help me, right?"
"Sure," Katie said, dusting her palms over her thighs. Danny watched her pass. Pretty girl, Katie.
"Can I borrow a t-shirt and a clean pair of pants, Doc?" Danny asked.
"Yeah, Bella will toss some down to you, okay? You can change in the clinic bathroom."
Edward sighed. "Hey, it's my fault Clarence peed on us; I should have lured him out with Bella's geraniums."
"Cad," she pouted.
"A few flowers would be a lot less expense than my broken arm; I won't be doing any surgeries for a while."
"You want me to call the insurance man?" Renée wondered aloud.
"Yeah, please. But tell him we're getting married today, and nothing is to interfere with this wedding."
"Okay." Renée took off to use the phone in the clinic.
"Can you walk upstairs?" Bella asked, uncovering her man. Edward put his no-longer-white sock-feet to the floor.
"I only broke an arm, Swan," Edward said, eyes rolling. "Not a leg." Still, he padded gingerly to the staircase, sighing as he put already stiff legs to the task.
"I'll give you a massage," she promised.
"I'll take it."
Cullen House was laid out in a big square, and the upper level was shaped like a 'U' with railings open to the lower level. There were twelve rooms upstairs, plus four bathrooms, one of which belonged to Renée (at the other end of the level) and one of which belonged to Bella and Edward. While he sat himself carefully on the john's lid, Bella set the tub to fill and went in their room to search for clothes that Danny could borrow. Once she had some, she stood at the railing and called for Danny. He caught the clothing with thanks and hurried off to the clinic washroom. Bella went back in her room and looked in Edward's closet.
"What are you going to wear, Love?" she called.
"What do you mean? I'm wearing my suit."
Bella poked her head in the bathroom doorway, eyeing a rather morose Edward with exasperation. "You won't get the shirt or jacket on over a cast."
Edward shifted miserably. "I'll put on the shirt before Angela casts me. You can cut it off tonight."
He snorted. "I'll wear the vest, too."
Bella entered the washroom and locked the door behind her. Immediately, she started to strip.
"Why are you tormenting me, Swan?" Edward winced.
"I don't want to get my clothes wet."
"Oh." His eyes were stuck on her boobs. He admired her boobs. Immensely.
Bella stuck her thumbs into the band of Edward's briefs and skinned them down. A bit wonkily, he stepped out of them. She aimed a playful kiss at a very responsive spot, and laughed at its twitch even though Edward angled himself away. "Come on, nothing gets you down," she winked.
"Hah, hah. Don't touch me! I've been peed on by a cow." With Bella steadying his waist, Edward stepped into the tub, sank down into hot water and instantly felt better. Bella grabbed the vanilla body wash and lathered up a washcloth. Were it not for his throbbing arm, something else would be throbbing; Bella's touch was soothing. Quickly, she removed all traces of Clarence from his body. Edward peacefully watched his bride's hands minister to him. Then, he bent forward while she washed his hair and rinsed him off.
"Yeah," he said groggily. "But I have to shave."
"Stubble is sexy, Cullen."
"I want to look as good as I can in the photos, Bella."
"You lather me up, and I'll do the razoring."
"I'll lather you up anytime you want."
"Hah. I'm gonna hold you to that."
The job done, Bella shut off the water and grabbed a towel for Edward. "Your arm is swollen."
Quickly, she dried him and donned her clothes. Then, she led him across the hall and sat him on the bed. There were dark smudges under his eyes, and she wondered how to broach the topic of delaying their honeymoon. Cullen was so stubborn; she couldn't see him agreeing to it. Well, he'd suffered worse injuries. He probably didn't think a busted arm was so bad.
Bella helped Edward into new briefs and sleep shorts. She went to the linen cupboard and chose an old sheet, which she cut up and fashioned into a sling.
"Flowered sheets? Seriously, Swan?" he slurred, having trouble keeping his eyes open.
"Challenge to your masculinity, Cullen?" She tied the sling and safety pinned the elbow, making sure to elevate his hand above the level of his heart.
"You wanted me to cut up the 600 count cotton?"
He didn't answer; he was asleep, his skin faintly clammy and his wet curls dark, clinging to his forehead. Bella fluffed out a light blanket over him and crept out of the room.
The smell of bleach permeated the living room. The hardwood floors gleamed and thirty rented chairs were set up with a row down the middle. The women folk were busy fastening white linen covers over the chairs, and the men were busy taking flower arrangements and candles out of boxes and placing them around the space.
"Everything under control?" Bella asked, thinking how pretty the room looked, and how pleased Esme would have been.
"The ladies from the church guild just got here with the food," Renée shared, waving toward the kitchen.
"Um, s'cuse me, but do you have any hay or oats? Or even some carrots?" Mrs. Marques asked shyly.
Bella thought about telling her Clarence could starve for all she cared, but a hungry bull was surely a troublesome bull. She looked at the glass partition between the living room and the front door. The storm had assumed almost hurricane-like proportions. Clarence would not be going home anytime soon, and they had no outbuildings in which to house him. Well, he might be able to stand in the gazebo…No, he'd have to climb and descend stairs. Bad idea. Clarence was stuck in the mudroom until the storm was over.
"There's some legume hay in the kennels for the rabbits we treat and board." Bella waved for Mrs. Marques to follow her. "You'll have to give it to him yourself."
"Thank you. Alfalfa?"
"I think so." They walked through the kitchen, where half a dozen Home Guild ladies were busily preparing trays of cut vegetables, hors d'oeuvres and finger sandwiches.
Bella showed Mrs. Marques where to find the partial bale of hay. Then, she led her back to the mudroom and let her inside.
"Moo!" Clarence mooed loudly. He barely had room to move.
"Shh! Eward's asleep!" Bella hissed. She then realized she was talking to a cow. Perhaps it was low blood sugar.
"Hi, Baby," Mrs. Marques cooed, stuffing a handful of hay at Clarence. He chomped it up with a blissful look. Someone apparently cared about cows after all, even that mean lady that took his flowers away.
Bella abandoned Clarence with his owner, and went back into the kitchen. "These trays look lovely. Do you mind if I take a sandwich or two? I didn't get any lunch."
Mrs. Brown handed her a paper plate and a blue napkin. "You just load that up, dear. Did Edward eat, do you know?"
"He's asleep," Bella said around a mouthful of tuna sandwich.
"Asleep?" Mrs. Brown looked appalled. "The wedding is in an hour. Shouldn't you both be getting dressed?"
Bella snarfed down a minced ham pinwheel sandwich with a maraschino cherry center. "We may be a bit delayed. His arm is broken. We're waiting for Angela to get here to set it."
"His arm is broken?" Mrs. Tobias echoed, gaping.
"Yep. Mrs. Marques' bull calf stomped on it."
"Gracious. How is he going to work?"
"Fortunately, it's the left one, so he'll still be able to do some things."
"That's a blessing."
A car door banged. Moments later, Angela walked through the door. "Hi-yo!"
"Hi, Angela," Bella said, chewing up smoked turkey on rye.
"Where's the groom?" She helped herself to a roast beef sandwich.
Bella wiped her lip. "He's in bed."
"You'll have to bring him down so we can do the X-ray."
"Okay." Bella cut through the hubbub and hurried upstairs. She brushed hair off her man's forehead. "Sweetheart? You have to get up."
"Mm. Tell the damn cow to get off my couch."
"And tell the two in the kitchen that I'm not feeding them at the table and they need to go outside."
"Edward, love, wake up."
Edward opened bleary eyes, then, sat up in a panic. "The wedding!"
"Hush, it's okay. Ang is here to set your arm. She says you have to come down to use the X-ray machine."
Edward slid his feet to the floor. Kneeling, Bella put some socks on him, then, looked up into his eyes. "You want a shirt?"
"I want my dress shirt."
Bella relented. "Okay." She grabbed the dress shirt on its hanger and watched her almost-husband rise. "What were you dreaming about?"
Edward shuddered. "Zombie cows." He headed for the stairs.
"You aren't going to develop a fear of cattle, are you, Cullen?" she asked warily.
"I highly doubt it. Not the cow's fault the owner's treating him like a human." Edward glanced at everyone in his living room, and bee-lined for the clinic. He hesitated when he saw all the women in the kitchen. All of them welcomed him, and not a few checked him out. His form-fitting black sleep shorts were pretty sexy.
"Hi," Edward said in passing. Ben was already in the surgery, setting up the portable X-ray machine. In no time at all, plates were placed, Edward's lip was half bitten-through, and pictures were taken. Ben put Edward's films up on the light board, and Angela took a good look at them.
"Yep, both the radius and ulna are broken straight across, see?" Angela asked, pointing at the fracture line with her pen. "On the upside, they're clean breaks. I can set them here."
"Thank you," Edward said gratefully, perched on a stool at the stainless steel table.
"Bella, take this prescription and keep it with you. Edward, I brought you sample packs of pain killers to tide you over until Monday."
"You're a lifesaver, Ang." Not for the first time, Edward was glad that Angela had bought Renée's house next door. Great to have a doctor at hand. Ben seemed to appreciate it, too. He and Angela set out supplies, and then Angela set Edward's bones. He yelped, turning white as a sheet, and Bella grimaced and drew his head down against her chest.
"Okay, first the sock." Angela took the thin fabric tube and prepared to roll it onto Edward's arm.
"He wants to put his dress shirt on first," Bella murmured.
"Sure, hon'," Angela smiled. Bella flapped out the white cotton while Angela carefully stretched out his arm. She inclined her head at Bella. "Scrunch up the sleeve so it goes on all at once."
The deed done, Angela covered Edward's arm with the sock, and cut a hole for his thumb. He lay his head back down on Bella's chest and she held him. Ben brought over a tray of plaster, and Ang started building the cast. "You just have to get attention, don't you?" she teased.
"Glutton for it," Bella winked.
"Hey! A cow stepped on me!" Edward growled.
"Stay out from underneath cows, then," Ang recommended. Ben brought her a hot washcloth, and she quickly cleaned up splatters of plaster. Bella eased Edward the rest of the way into his shirt and did up the buttons. She soon discovered that the sleeve was very tight on his bicep.
"Cut it," Angela ordered, handing Bella a pair of very sharp scissors.
"No!" Edward objected. "I want it to look decent in pictures."
"We can pin your jacket over the sling."
"Oh," Edward blinked. "Well, okay. The shirt's going to be garbage anyway."
"That's the spirit." Angela stood up. "Well, you know the drill, right? Keep your arm elevated. Any swelling or discolouration, you call me."
"I'm going home to change out of these scrubs. You coming, Ben?"
Ben perked up instantly. "You guys okay for a bit?"
"Sure," Bella said dismissively. She put Edward's newly-casted arm in the flowery makeshift sling and adjusted the angle. Sighing in relief, Edward stood up. He wandered out to the kitchen, where he met with appreciative stares.
"Footloose! Footloose! Kick off your Sunday shoes!" Mrs. Brown sang. She was 43, not dead.
"Nothing like a half-naked man in a dress shirt," Old Mrs. Hendrick grinned. Yeah, she had to be 80.
"Please! Louise! Pull me off-a my knees!" Mrs. Lane added, wiggling her substantial backside as she chopped vegetables.
Edward rolled his eyes. "I am not sliding across the hallway."
"Aw, Cullen, you're no fun," Bella teased. "I could get you some shades; it's a good look on you."
He waved dismissively with his good hand, pink to the ears. "Make sure somebody wakes me before it's time to say 'I do'."
"Hour and a half, Babe."
Edward disappeared. Bella considered whether she ought to eat a plump radish, and decided she didn't need heartburn to commemorate the day. Instead, she filled Pugsley and Wednesday's bowls with chow.
"Good kitty, giving that cow what-for," Bella told Wednesday in a baby-voice, scratching behind her ears. Wednesday purred; she knew she was all kinds of awesome like that.
The front door opened, admitting a gust of chilly air and a whole lot of rain. The temperature had to have dropped into the 50's. A man stomped on the mat and drew down the hood of his black slicker, casting droplets everywhere. He was a tall, close-cropped blond with blue-grey eyes.
Bella couldn't believe her eyes. "Emmett." They hadn't heard from him in, well, forever. Clenching his hands at his sides, he looked with determination at the floor.
"You," she said weakly, "Where have you been?"
"In rehab. And then, working." He shifted on his feet. She realized that for the first time since Esme had fallen ill, ten years ago, he didn't look skeletal. He really wasn't using.
"I wanted… Please, can I talk to you?"
Emmett hung his coat on a peg. After a moment's deliberation, Bella led him back to Edward's office. She leaned curiously against his desk.
"Wow, he's done well for himself, hasn't he?"
Bella was wary. Was Emmett going to ask for money? "He works hard."
Emmett laughed sadly. "Yeah. Listen, Bee. I… I'm sorry." His lip trembled.
"Did you fall out of contact because he yelled at you?" She was angry. Edward had been so upset over the miscommunication with Emmett that had lost him Bella. He had told his brother off. They hadn't heard from Emmett since.
"No. Yes, well, not because I was upset with him," Emmett said, eyes tearing up. "I'm sorry. I moved into a treatment facility and stayed until I got clean. I screwed up. I couldn't even express myself right, you know? To tell you he … It broke him, losing you. And then the accident. And I wasn't there for him." Emmett husked. "I fucked up my life and everyone else's. I don't expect you to forgive me, Bella. But I love my brother, and we're the only family we've got. Can I… can I please come to your wedding?"
Bella dropped her eyes. "He loves you. He's missed you a lot."
"He's been through so much, and you are a heroin addict."
"I've been clean six months," Emmett said hopefully. "I've been working at a newspaper in Spokane for three months."
"A newspaper?" Bella was intrigued.
"Fact-checker. Coach got me the job."
"That's good, Emmett."
Emmett licked dry lips. "Can I see him?"
She sighed. "He broke his arm this morning."
"How'd he do that?"
"Long story." Bella's forehead creased. "He should rest, but I don't want him to be… surprised by your presence."
"I'll just take a minute," Emmett promised.
"In the master bedroom."
"You're a good girl, Bee." Pulling her close, he kissed her forehead. "Mom would be so happy."
Bella's eyes stung. She hugged Emmett back. "You hurt him again, I will finish you."
"No more drugs."
"Never again. I did it because I was depressed. Self-medicating. I take anti-depressants now."
"You're on trial with me, Emmett."
"Okay." Emmett sniffed and wiped his nose. Then, he hurried out of the office and upstairs. Bella sighed, and supposed that she ought to go do her hair. She wondered how long it would be until her best friend, Alice, arrived.
Emmett knocked quietly on the door upstairs and let himself in. Apparently, they had some kind of blackout curtains because the room was dark. Edward's breath was even. Peaceful. Emmett sat gingerly on the edge of the bed and watched him sleep, hating to disturb him.
"Hey, Buddy?" he essayed at last. "Eddie?"
His brother groaned, and slapped his good hand blearily over his eyes. "I'm gonna eat that damn cow."
Emmett was very confused. Was Edward on drugs? "Hey, I like steak, too, Bro."
"Mom made you steak and eggs when you were trying out for foot…"
Edward sucked in a breath and opened his eyes. Wide.
"Hi." Edward felt perplexed. "What are you doing here?"
"My baby brother's getting married."
"You dropped off the face of the earth," Edward growled.
Emmett opened his mouth to answer, and shut it again. He shrugged. "I wanted to be clean before I came back into your life." Although he had dark circles beneath his eyes, Emmett looked… healthy. Edward couldn't remember the last time his brother didn't look like hell.
"You're not using?"
Emmett shook his head. "Six months. And I've been working for two."
"How'd you know about the wedding?"
"Jasper. I ran into him in Seattle."
"I don't want to squander any more of my life. I don't expect you to trust me, but can I please just come to your wedding? I miss you, Buddy. I want my brother back."
"I missed you, too."
"I haven't been there for you. I should have been. I fucked up."
Edward's lips pressed together. "You fucked up a lot."
"I know. The accident. I was just so scared. I couldn't see you, man. Dad said you were gonna die, and I just couldn't… after Mom."
"He gave me hell every day over it. I was alone. I had six surgeries, Emmett."
"I was too strung out to be any help to you. But I'm here now. Please."
Edward couldn't look his brother in the eye. "We'll see. We'll talk more another day."
"I miss Mom."
"I miss you. I love you, Buddy."
"Yeah." Edward's voice was soft, and a moment later, Emmett realized that he had drifted back to sleep. His eyes welled up as he realized that the athletic, energetic kid he had known was gone. However, Edward had an inner strength that Emmett could only hope to possess. He hoped Edward would teach that strength to him.
Tiptoeing downstairs, he ran smack-dab into a girl carrying a large box. Hurriedly, he snatched at her to keep her from falling. Somehow, she retained hold of the box.
"Bella's flowers!" she cried.
Edward's brother was convinced that he had just met an angel. "Emmett Cullen. And you are?"
"Pissed off, you great donkey butt!"
"Charmed. Sorry. Are the flowers okay?"
"Yes, and it's a good thing, too because that damned cow apparently ate most of the other ones."
"Beautiful." And perplexing. What was all this nonsense about cows? First Eddie, now this golden-haired Aphrodite.
"It's a lovely bouquet." She smiled at the flowers, quite forgetting her anger.
"Oh, I suppose," Emmett purred, giving her the eye. "Your name?"
"Rosalie!" Alice Hale yelled from the upstairs railing. "Hurry up, she's not even dressed." She did a double-take. "Hi, Emmett."
"Hiya, Ms. Thing."
The blonde beauty rushed up the stairs, giving him a fantastic view of her backside. And then, she was gone. Emmett looked around; the room was warm and inviting with its big fire in the fireplace, little white candles everywhere, and the white chairs. Up near the front, there was a cloth-covered card table on the groom's side with two silver frames on it. Emmett recognized a picture of his mother, Esme, and Bella's father, Charlie. His throat closed up.
Several of Edward and Bella's friends were already seated, chatting happily as the rain whipped down outside. Emmett chose a seat near the back on the groom's side, wondering how often people wore rubber boots to weddings in Forks. He'd never been to a wedding before. Something blue intruded upon his vision; he looked up to see Edward's childhood friend, Jasper, looking down upon him benignly. Edward and Jasper had been close in high school. Then, Jasper's dad, who was career army, had been transferred to Texas. Emmett wondered how recently the boys had reconnected.
"Hale!" Emmett enthused, standing up to give him the standard man-hug. "Look at you, Sarge, in uniform! The army agrees with you."
"They give you your new posting yet?"
"I'm going to be training guys in Colorado. Alice and I leave in six weeks."
"No more tours?"
"Two was enough. I'm done with that."
Alice leaned over the upstairs railing. "Jasper? Edward's asking for you."
"Duty calls." Jasper slapped Emmett on the shoulder and hurried upstairs. Emmett's heart was grieved. He knew he didn't deserve to be part of the wedding, but it still hurt. He watched Jasper walk Renée to her seat, wishing it had been his job.
Mrs. Hubert, the church pianist, bustled down the aisle and settled herself at the electric keyboard like a roosting biddy hen. She flipped it on and then realized something. "Aw, the power's still out."
"I have a small emergency generator in my truck," Rufus Pearle piped up. "I thought it might come in handy." The little congregation expressed lots of appreciation for his forethought.
Soon, a long extension cord was fished through a window to the noisy gas-powered generator outside. Mrs. Hubert started playing old time church songs, interspersed with stuff like Bach. Emmett wondered if his brother believed in God. Their mother had been a firm believer. Emmett hadn't prayed in a very long time. He hoped they wouldn't have to sing hymns from memory; he wouldn't know the words.
More people arrived, wet and bedraggled with the rain. Mrs. Cope took coats and welcomed them. There seemed to be a lot more people than there were chairs. And they had brought food, too. Huh. Before long, the room was crowded, and there were only seats left in the two front rows, meaning seven of eight places were empty. It was beginning to grow warm; someone cracked open the casement windows just enough to let the air in. Good thing the fire had burned down to just coals.
At four o'clock, a lady drew the drapes shut over the windows, and the room was cast in a golden glow. Footsteps thumped on the stairs, and three men went to stand at the front. The first was his brother, looking sharp in a black suit with the empty sleeve tucked away, and a black tie. One, Emmett didn't know. He looked younger than Edward, and was wearing a similar black suit. The other was Jasper, clad in his service uniform.
Edward smiled and waved sheepishly at his guests. Then, his eyes fell upon the empty chairs in the front row, and he frowned. He searched the very full room, wondering where on earth all the people had come from. They hadn't budgeted for a big wedding. Finally, his eyes fastened on Emmett, and he strode smartly down the aisle. Without a word, he prodded his brother on the shoulder and urged him up. Emmett was worried. Was Edward going to throw him out?
Edward put his arm around his brother's shoulders, and pushed him to the front. Emmett was so grateful that he dove into a seat in the front row, but Edward wasn't having it. He pointed at his chest and told him to take a place beside the guy he didn't know. Beside Edward, Jasper looked pleased.
Emmett stood up with his brother and his brother's friends, believing in second chances.
The piano lady started to play, and Emmett huffed a laugh. Not everybody got married to a song by Savage Garden. She played it well, too; simple and elegant. He found himself humming along. Maybe it's intuition, But some things you just don't question…
"Sing it, Em," Edward pleaded. And how could Emmett refuse him on his wedding day? He started singing from his heart. The piano lady looked disconcerted for a moment, then, she winked at him and just played the song. Rosalie and Alice descended the stairs wearing one-shoulder, dark coral dresses that went to mid-calf. They passed the people seated on the bride's side to process down the center aisle.
"Like in your eyes
I see my future in an instant
and there it goes…"
And then, it was time for Bella. Her dress, like her friends', left one shoulder bare. Chiffon roses and carnations tumbled down from the top of the gown. It was the palest peach chiffon, Grecian-waisted with a slim ankle-length skirt that flattered her pregnant silhouette. Her hair was up, with cascades of large, soft curls haloing her face.
Edward thought she was exquisite. His face shone with profound love. Seeing his regard, she returned it; it was as if she lit up inside.
"I think I've found my best friend
I know that it might sound more than
a little crazy but I believe
"I knew I loved you before I met you
I think I dreamed you into life
I knew I loved you before I met you
I have been waiting all my life;"
One might not fault Bella for being surprised to find her future brother-in-law singing at her wedding. Her eyes turned soft, and regarded Edward with warmth. She accepted her bouquet from Mrs. Cope, and started slowly down the aisle.
"There's just no rhyme or reason
only this sense of completion
and in your eyes
I see the missing pieces
I'm searching for
I think I found my way home
I know that it might sound more than
a little crazy but I believe…"
The delicate white orchids in Bella's bouquet trembled as she proceeded toward Edward. She thought how wonderful the flowers were, with their coral centers perfectly accenting her gown.
"I knew I loved you before I met you
I think I dreamed you into life
I knew I loved you before I met you
I have been waiting all my life;"
"Oooh-hoo oh, hoo-hoo-oo woo-hoo-oh, whoa-oh;
Rosalie and Alice got into the act, singing the countermelody while Emmett crooned. "A thousand angels dance around you; I am complete now that I found you!"
The three of them did it twice more making Edward and Bella chuckle. She reached the front of the aisle and kissed Rosalie and Alice, handing off her bouquet. Then, she hugged Emmett, eyes shining. Turning to Edward, she mouthed, "Hawt, Cullen." He smirked at her.
Meanwhile, in the mudroom, Clarence was not a happy camper. Sure, he was warm and safe from the scary thunder and lightning, but he was all alone in the dark, and his hay was all gone. Such a shame that cows did not possess thumbs to turn doorknobs. Fortuitously, a little girl had been told there was a washroom at the back of the clinic. She opened the door and peeked in, but it was dark and she almost thought she could hear a monster breathing. She decided to ask her mother to come and wait while she used the potty, and she scooted back to the living room so fast that she failed to notice she had not closed the door.
Clarence nudged it open with his nose.
In the other room, the humans were getting down to the good stuff. "Who gives this woman?" Reverend Weber wanted to know.
Renée stood. "I do, in memory of her father, Charlie Swan."
Edward and Bella joined hands.
"Today, we come together to celebrate the union of Edward Anthony Cullen and Isabella Marie Swan." Reverend Weber grinned cheekily at the audience. "Finally."
"Amen!" Renée yelled. There were a few chuckles.
"Edward and Bella, today you celebrate one of life's greatest moments, and acknowledge the worth and beauty of love, as you join together in the vows of marriage." He held out the Bible, and the young couple placed their rings upon its open pages. "As a symbol of this holy union, you have chosen to exchange rings, circles representing the endurance of love and hope." He blessed the rings and looked at Edward.
"The groom told me that he met his bride when he was eight and she was five, and he knew at that moment he was going to marry her. I think many of us expected this day to come a lot sooner, young man. But better late than never."
"I tried," Edward deadpanned.
"I know you did," Reverend Weber said matter-of-factly. "Edward Anthony, do you take Isabella Marie to be your wife?"
Clarence paused in the kitchen, smelling mouth-watering things he'd never smelled before. He shuffled over to the central counter. There was a big tray with bread stuffed with meat. He wrinkled his cow nose at the meat; the smell of it bothered him for some reason. But he had a nibble of the bread.
"Do you promise to love, honour, cherish and protect her, forsaking all others and holding only unto her?"
"Isabella Marie, do you take Edward Anthony to be your husband?"
"Do you promise to love, honour, cherish and protect him, forsaking all others and holding only unto him?"
In the kitchen, Clarence sniffed at some other trays. One of them held some of his favourite treats, in more abundance than he had ever seen. He helped himself to some carrot and celery sticks. Then, he smelled something even better; there was an enormous glass bowl practically in front of his nose, and it was full of chopped apples and pears, and other fruits to which he couldn't put a name. Happily, he dove right in. The bowl skittered across the counter, slopping juice onto trays. Clarence licked at it, not wanting to miss a drop.
Edward took Bella's ring from Reverend Weber and tried not to cry like a wuss. "I, Edward, take thee, Isabella, to be my wife, to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, and I promise my love to you. With this ring, I thee wed." He pushed the ring onto her finger, and it got stuck halfway.
Darn pregnancy swelling… Bella curled her finger so it couldn't slip off, surreptitiously pushed the gold band the rest of the way on, and took Edward's ring from Reverend Weber. She was so excited she could scarcely breathe.
Pluuuurrbbt! Clarence farted and dropped a huge pile of cow plops on the pristine kitchen floor. This made lots of room in his four stomachs. Something smelled really edible. What could it be? It was tall and round and oddly shaped, and it smelled of carrots and flowers.
The bull calf snuffled at the object, and gave it a tentative lick. His cow eyes widened; he'd never tasted anything so sweet. He licked the strange thing, and came away with a mouthful of sugared blue violets. Sweet flowers? Best. Thing. Ever. He chewed them up and took another lick.
"I, Isabella, take thee, Edward, to be my husband, to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, and I promise my love to you. With this ring, I thee wed." She slid the ring onto his finger, and he held her two small hands within his one large hand, attached to his one good arm.
Clarence the very full and contented cow made his way almost silently up the aisle. The congregation collectively held its breath. It was definitely the best show Forks had ever had. Cameras clicked and whirred.
Reverend Weber decided it would be prudent to finish marrying off his wedding-challenged, very knocked-up couple at top speed. Heaven only knew when he might get another chance to finish the job. He therefore ignored the Cullens' bovine guest, while the wedding attendants looked on with bated breath.
"Am I crazy, or is that a"- Emmett began.
"Shh!" Jasper demanded, slapping a hand over Em's mouth and glaring.
Reverend Weber gulped. "Edward and Bella, two very different threads woven together can form a beautiful tapestry; let your lives merge to form a very beautiful marriage. A strong marriage takes love; it should be the core of your marriage, for it... um, love each other."
Edward and Bella were very confused as to why their officiant was botching the ceremony. Both their foreheads wrinkled, and they exchanged a worried glance.
"Remember in your hearts to do what is best for each other," Reverend Weber urged… pleadingly? He was cutting the pre-written ceremony short. Why was he rushing it? Edward and Bella were growing alarmed. "Stay open-hearted. Learn and grow together even when it's hard. Keep your faith; hold true to the journey you both have pledged to share together. Um, cow."
The young couple froze as Clarence stopped five feet behind them. They looked at each other, horrified. Reverend Weber doubled his pace.
"Edward-and-Bella, I now-pronounce-you-man-and-wife." He held up his hands in benediction. "The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you; The Lord give you…"
"… peace," he finished weakly. There was obviously none of that to be had around here. "You may kiss the bride."
The gathered humans waited in a mixture of anxiety and excitement. Edward looked like he was about to blow a gasket. Bella's brown eyes were the size of dinner plates. What would her new husband do?
Edward did the only decent thing a man could do: he kissed his bride, ignoring the elephant –uh, bull calf- in the room.
Wild applause and a couple of cat calls erupted. Clarence liked the good vibes coming off of Edward. What he didn't like was the mean lady nibbling and nuzzling at the mouth of the friendly man. The friendly man seemed to like it, but Clarence didn't like it one bit.
Clarence gave the friendly man a great big soppy cow kiss, from the collar of his shirt, up his neck, to the top of his head. He gave the man a Zen cow smile, knowing he had gifted him with crumbs of sugared violets and fruit salad that could be licked off for hours. The man was startled; he stopped nuzzling the mean lady and turned shocked eyes on Clarence. The mean lady didn't like it, which made Clarence all kinds of happy.
"Moo," he lowed softly, making cow-eyes at the nice man.
"This bull is low on testosterone," Edward muttered.
But oh, hey, what was that in the hand of the small lady beside the mean one? Flowers. Flowers more gorgeous than any Clarence had ever smelled. While the lady holding them was busy laughing at the newly-weds, Clarence reached out and wrapped his fat cow lips around the flowers. Nom nom.
"No!" the tiny lady bellowed, running down the aisle with the flowers. The tall lady wearing the same dress picked up her skirts and pelted after her.
Yes! "Moo!" Clarence answered, dropping his head and running after them both.
Rosalie turned around, wide-eyed, and screamed, retreating toward the dark kitchen.
"Clarence!" Edward, Bella and Mrs. Marques all yelled, chasing after him as people stood up in their seats.
"Sit down and shut up!" Jasper bellowed, and the wedding guests crept reluctantly back into their places. Jasper nodded approvingly. "Better. We're just gonna wait here while they get that bull under con-
As Edward, Bella, and Mrs. Marques made it to the glass wall between the great room and the kitchen, there was an unholy crash and a huge scream.
"Rosalie!" Emmett thundered. He motored down the aisle and pushed his way past his brother and sister-in-law. They couldn't get into their own kitchen, because Alice and Mrs. Marques were conducting a screaming match in the front hall.
Rosalie, unseen, let out a string of curses that would make Yosemite Sam blush.
Emmett picked his way across some very slippery kitchen tiles and lifted her upright. His nose wrinkled. "The hell?"
"Cow shit!" Rosalie shrieked, clutching at him. "That damn cow shit and pissed all over the kitchen, and I slid in it. My dress is ruined!" Sobbing, she laid her head on Em's chest "My Louboutin heels!"
Clarence was nowhere to be seen. Presumably, he was hiding out in the mudroom with Bella's bouquet.
"There, there, honey! I'll save you," Emmett crooned, sweeping Rosalie into his arms and rushing full-tilt past the assembly, upstairs to his old bathroom.
"Get your bloody animal out of this house!" Alice ranted at Mrs. Marques. She hugged Bella's frosting-reduced violet-free wedding cake to her chest. "Do you know how much love we put into this wedding? Six hours to decorate this wedding cake! Six! And now we can't eat it! And the food! He destroyed half the food! Look at all the people here, and we can't feed it to them! All because of your stupid cow!"
"Now, now, I'm sure we can cut off the part of the cake that the cow touched. It's not poisoned," Rufus said in a placating tone. "Give it here, and I'll give it to Mrs. Morton to cut up."
Lip trembling, Alice did as she was bid. Her hands and Rufus' were all on the cake and Mrs. Marques watched it pass. Her temper flared out of control.
"I can't believe you people are worried about a cake!" she howled, "when my bull calf could die! He's eaten all sorts of stuff that could be toxic to him! I'm going to lose my farm!"
"Now, Mrs.," Edward began, holding up his good hand to placate her.
"Aargh!" Mrs. Marques bellowed, putting her hands under the cake plate and levering it upward. The top layer of the cake slid off, landing in Alice's hair, the middle layer went to pieces all over Rufus' pants, and the bottom layer struck Alice's skirt and rebounded onto the floor. Alice and Mrs. Marques started a cat fight in the middle of the kitchen, getting carrot cake and frosting everywhere. The real cat watched in horror from her basket in the far corner. Jasper argued his way into the room, pried his wife off of the crazy cow lady, and carried her upstairs. John Wolfe picked up the crazy lady and carried her outside, where they could hear her shouting at him.
Bella fetched a large candle and carried it into her kitchen, inspecting the trays of food sadly. Edward followed her, picking up bits of food that Clarence had obviously ingested, and examined them.
The house at large could hear John giving Irina Marques what-for, out in the pouring rain.
Ben, Mrs. Cope and Katie watched Edward and Bella with dejected faces and trepidation, wondering when Bella would burst into tears.
"Love, I have to check on Clarence," Edward said gently.
"I won't be long, okay?"
Bella said nothing. She got out a black garbage bag. Ladies from the church guild tiptoed into the room and started sorting out things that might still be edible. They worked in hushed monosyllables, as though someone had died. Outside, Irina Marques' engine roared as she backed out of the driveway and drove away.
Edward came back, putting his good hand in his trouser pocket. His hair was all stuck up at the back from Clarence's kiss.
"Well?" Bella asked softly. Edward shrugged.
"He's okay. Might get the runs tomorrow. The storm's quieting. Would someone please drive Clarence over to Doc Gerandy's?"
"Danny and I can put him in the F150," Rufus offered.
"Thanks," Edward said. "He doesn't seem to have ingested anything toxic, but he's apt to have one heck of a tummy ache."
John came back in. "That's one crazy woman," he said, stomping muddy feet on the mat. "She doesn't even like that bull calf. I told her she ought to sell that farm and move to her sister's in Memphis."
Edward shook his head thoughtfully. "She's never going to make it in cow breeding."
"No patience," John Wolfe said, staring out the door.
Edward agreed. "She should have had Doc G. check him over before she bought him. I measured him and he doesn't conform to the standards of the breed. That calf is not a suitable breeder."
John scratched his chin. "Wonder if that will make her more determined to make it work, or make her give up."
"Well, I'm gonna take him over now, so you can …" John gestured around at the disappearing mess.
"I can take him, John," Rufus offered.
"That's okay, Rufe. Dan and I can manage. You stay here and enjoy the party."
Edward shook John's hand. "Thanks. Make sure you and Danny come back."
Mrs. Morton approached Bella. "Pretty much all the meat dishes are fine, dear, and the sweets and salads were safe in the fridge. Long as everybody eats lightly, we'll have enough."
"Hell with that," Rufus Pearle snapped. "Boys, we aren't going to let these folks get a bum steer! Open your wallets. We're ordering some take out, and some of us can pick it up in an hour. What do you want for dinner, kids?"
Edward looked at Bella with a naughty gleam in his eye. "Burgers."
Her eyes warmed. "Burgers would be perfect."
Soon, the wedding guests were dipping into their wallets and discussing where teams of people could go to pick up take out. Jack in the Box, Kentucky Ducky and pizza would be on the menu.
Edward looked down at his bride. "Hi." Mrs. Cope drove a mop between their feet, making them shift aside.
"Hi," Bella answered, eyes bright with tears. "Hamburger?"
Edward smiled a little and shrugged. "Bulls must meet standards if owners want to breed them." He kicked at the floor. "Actually, I think he has a crush on me."
Bella huffed a laugh. "Well, he'll have to learn to live with disappointment, Cullen, because you're mine."
"Poor you." He smiled. Sad eyes.
"None of that." She curled an arm around his neck. "I wasn't done kissing you."
"I'm a Cullen now. You can't call me that anymore." She twisted her fingers in his hair; it was getting long, the way she liked it.
"You'll always be my Swan."
She liked that, too.
An hour later, everybody was listening to music in the iPod dock while chowing down on all sorts of tasty treats. Rosalie had caught what was left of Bella's bouquet, and Ben had caught the garter. The chairs had been pushed out of their neat rows into random clusters, and everyone was talking and laughing over the video footage that Renée, and Seth Clearwater, had taken of Clarence in the car and walking down the aisle.
By eight o'clock, the rain had let up. Edward burrito'd Bella in a coat, made her put her arms around his neck, and carried her out to Esme's gazebo. He set her carefully on her feet.
"Cast still feels a little damp," she said, caressing it.
"Yeah." Large fuchsia roses waved everywhere, defying the unseasonably cold, damp night. Edward pulled Bella tight to his chest, and started to hum in her ear as he danced her around.
"What are you singing?" she chuckled. Edward put on a Southern drawl and rocked his bride from foot to foot.
"He was a scrawny calf, who looked rather woozy; No one suspected he was packin' an Uzi..."
"Edward, really!" Bella squealed. "Weird Al?"
"Hmph!" he scoffed. "Dana Lyons."
"Ah," she nodded, caressing his neck.
"Cows with guns!"
"Cows with guns!"Edward frowned as he sang. "They came with a needle, to stick in his thigh; He kicked for the groin, he pissed in their eye...Cow well hung!"
Bella had a big belly laugh. "That's not Clarence."
Edward continued. With enthusiasm."Knocked over a tractor, and ran for the door; Six gallons of gas flowed out on the floor...Run cows, run!"
"You are so bad!" Bella gasped. "You would turn poor Clarence into a Whopper?"
"Nah, I'd let him be a Jack in the Box Sourdough Cheesesteak."
"Generous," Bella hissed.
Edward pressed his mouth against her shoulder and giggled, which made her giggle, which made him hysterical. Giggling all pressed up together like that did interesting things to their bodies. Eyes smouldering, he drew back and looked at his bride. "Let's blow this popsicle stand."
"It's only eight o'clock," Bella protested.
"If I don't get out of here soon, I'm going to lose what's left of my mind."
"Cullen!" Bella mock-frowned. "Most unforgettable moment of the day?" They circled slowly under the light of the moon.
"The Lord grant you Moooooo." He dropped his voice an octave for the moo.
"Alice covered in cake, screaming and throwing cake at Irina!" Bella giggled.
"Rosalie wearing my running pants."
"Alice wearing my Converse."
"Now, that? We need photos."
"Drive me to Seattle and throw me in the Jacuzzi."
"Three hours, Swan. Three hours to get to the hotel."
"When you put it that way…"
"I love you."
"Sweetheart, wake up."
"Hm?" Edward jolted in the passenger seat, startled. He squirmed and stretched. "Sorry."
Bella shut off the car. "No need to be sorry. Sleep is the best thing for you." The newly-weds had been pretty overwhelmed by the generosity of their friends and acquaintances. The good people of Forks had quietly taken up a collection, and the gifted money was sufficient not only to pay for their weekend away, but also to pay their living expenses for the next month. If Edward couldn't do parts of his job, he and his wife wouldn't have to worry.
Bella opened the door and Edward blew out his breath and exited the car. Reaching into the back seat, he extracted their suitcase. His bride put her hand on his sling-covered shoulder as he shut the door and turned toward the hotel.
Edward prayed that Bella would be happy with the Four Seasons. It was a pretty ritzy place to stay. He was glad there was a doorman; he couldn't have opened the door himself while carrying the suitcase.
After a warm welcome from the night desk, a bellhop escorted them up to their room. "I do hope you have a wonderful stay, Mr. and Mrs. Cullen. There's a complimentary bottle of champagne in the ice bucket for you, that and the fruit basket are gifts from the hotel. Congratulations.
"Thank you," Edward and Bella said in stereo. Edward tipped him.
He locked the door as Bella stepped out of her shoes with a relieved sigh. He leaned on the door, grasped his left lapel with his right hand, and shrugged out of his jacket. The sling and vest disappeared next. He wrestled the knot of his tie loose, and Bella slid it from around his neck. Edward, refreshed from his nap, was stoked to get busy. Bella reached for his top shirt button, and it was about that time that they both realized something…
"Uh oh," she grimaced.
"We didn't bring scissors," he said.
"Maybe we can slip it off." Carefully, Bella undid all his buttons. She gathered up the material at his shoulder and pulled it down. The cast prevented; it was a no-go.
"Crap." He grimaced, foiled again.
"Maybe I can tear it," she suggested.
"Go for it."
"Um… okay." Bella picked up his collar and examined it, wondering how best to go about rending the shirt. "I think it will be too hard to rip through the collar, but maybe I can rip it loose from the front panel and then tear the shoulder seam, after.
She gave a good pull at the collar while grasping his shirt front.
"Chest hair!" Edward grunted.
"Sorry. Can you sit down so I can get some leverage?"
"Sure." He sat at the simple wooden desk chair and waited patiently. Bella stood behind him, grasped the collar, and pulled for all she was worth. A very small rip appeared at the very front of the collar.
"Good job," Edward smiled.
Bella strained her muscles and pulled again. She succeeded in separating about two inches of collar from the shirt. "This is" grunt "bloody" grunt "well made."
"See if you can rip the shoulder now," Edward urged. Well, Bella pulled and pulled until her small hands were sore, and that's saying something, because as a massage therapist she had plenty of muscle. The shirt refused to tear.
"Damn Clarence!" she panted.
"It's okay, Love. We'll just… have to call down to the front desk." Not an appealing idea, but neither was wearing a torn shirt for the weekend.
Bella stuck her head out in the hallway. Mercifully, there was a housekeeper a few doors down, tidying up messy people's abandoned towels and takeout containers. "Excuse me?" Bella called.
"¡Hola!" the housekeeper said, unsmiling.
"May we please borrow some scissors?"
"Um, scissors, por favor?" Bella winced, and mimed cutting something.
"Um…" Bella was stumped. She beckoned to the lady, who followed her warily into the room. The housekeeper was surprised to see Edward sitting patiently in his chair with his shirt undone and his casted arm in his lap. She was even more surprised when Bella pointed at his cast, took hold of the ragged shirt sleeve, and mimed cutting it.
"Ohhhh! ¡Sí!" The housekeeper nodded enthusiastically. She hurried out to her cart and returned with a massive pair of rusty work shears that looked like they belonged in a Saw movie or a hundred year old garden shed. She handed them triumphantly to Bella. Edward eyed them with apprehension.
"Watch the jugular, Swan," he cautioned.
"You worry too much, Cullen." Bella thought about where to make her cuts. "If I just cut it from the bottom of the sleeve to the top of the shoulder, I should be able to get it off without cutting through the collar."
Bella decided it would be best to get Edward's good arm out of the shirt first. She unbuttoned the cuff and slipped it down his arm. The housekeeper seemed to be enjoying the show; Edward blushed lobster red all over. He was very glad he was wearing an undershirt.
Bella loosened up the shirt and reclaimed the huge shears. Carefully, she inserted the bottom blade against Edward's skin. She tried to close the shears, and they wobbled without cutting through. "Darn it, these are dull." Edward grasped the material of the sleeve with his good hand, and Bella murmured her thanks and tried again. The shirt would not cooperate.
The housekeeper tut-tutted and held out her palm. Bella trustingly handed over the weapon. Edward braced himself, turning redder, as the lady patted him and nattered away in Spanish. Bella obligingly held the sleeve taut, away from her husband's skin, while the lady closed the shears. They wouldn't cut, so she angled them upward until the tip poked a hole through the shoulder of the shirt. Then, she sawed at the fabric in between until it parted.
"¡Eso es major!" she beamed.
"¡Gracias!" Bella sighed.
Edward shrugged out of his shirt and opened his wallet. "¡Gracias!"
She beamed at him and gave him two thumbs up, then took her leave.
Bella walked into the bathroom and turned on the tub. Edward saw her yawn.
"You're tired. Turn off the tub and we'll wait 'til morning."
"Not like we weren't already married in the eyes of God."
Bella was touched that he'd admitted it; she'd used that argument on both occasions when unforeseen events had prevented their nuptials. "Are you sure you don't mind?"
"I just want some Vicodin and some sleep," he groaned, turning back the bed clothes.
"Okay," Bella agreed, eyelids heavy. "Help me with my zipper?"
Fourteen hours later, Edward twitched. The pain in his arm was muted. However, a different appendage was exquisitely wet. He opened sleepy eyes to a very welcome sight, and decided a trip to the washroom would be unproductive.
"Mmm. Morning Mrs. Cullen."
His very naked bride released him with a hum. "Morning."
He caressed her hair, getting a kick out of it that she had gained access via the pocket of his briefs, and he was still wearing those, and an undershirt. "You don't have to do that."
"I couldn't wait any more. Hormones." She straddled him, and sank down until he was blissfully buried in her heat.
"I love your hormones. I may keep you pregnant all the time."
"Well, at least there's room in the house. But I refuse to have enough kids to get us on reality TV."
Smiling, he enfolded her in his arms and gave himself over to joy.
A significant amount of time later, they snuggled, exhausted.
"That was…" Bella purred.
"Yeah," Edward growled.
"I was about to say, 'a real marathon'."
"I have to pee."
"Then, go," she grunted.
"I can't move."
She crawled up and peered into his eyeballs. "Vicodin's pretty powerful. You want me to fetch you the wastebasket?"
Edward lay flat on his back and chuckled. "I don't think our housekeeper would appreciate that." His stomach snarled loudly.
"You'd better take care of that body, mister."
Groaning, Edward managed to get himself upright. His arm panged. "What do you want to eat?"
"I have this bizarre craving for beef."
"Just after one."
"We'll have to grab something fast. I have a surprise for two o'clock."
Bella cocked an eyebrow at him. "Sneaky. What's the surprise?"
"Not telling." He grinned goofily. "Don't try to guess."
Bella kissed his shoulder and rolled out of cozy sheets. "Okay."
They dressed in t-shirts and jeans (Edward needed a little help) and hurried onto the streets of Seattle. Soon, they were once again indulging in burgers and fries. It was pure psychological revenge.
By two in the afternoon, they were back in the room. Edward opened the closet and pulled out a white terry robe, handing it to his bride with a Cheshire Cat grin. "Strip."
Bella slowly took the robe and held it to her chest. "You didn't."
"Maybe," he said cheekily.
Edward was busy trying to undo the button on his jeans with one hand. It wasn't going very well. By the time Bella was clad in her robe, he had managed to get his jeans halfway down his legs. Tipping him over on the bed, she finished the job.
"I can't believe you did this," she giggled.
"Did what?" he asked oh-so-innocently.
He had just managed to cover his naked posterior with the bulky white hotel robe when a knock came at the door. Bella stood by, fingers knotted, as he opened it.
"Good afternoon," the hotel employee smiled. "May we come in?"
"Yes," Edward agreed, opening the door wide. He stepped out of the way while a masseur and a masseuse wheeled massage tables into the large room. Bella clapped her hands, delighted.
"Surprised?" he asked, arching a brow.
"You amaze me," she chuckled, smiling from ear to ear.
"We understand you're a massage therapist, Mrs. Cullen," the Rubinesque masseuse said warmly.
"I thought, with all the massages you give, it would be nice for you to get one," Edward murmured.
"That's so… This is why I love you."
Edward fake-frowned. "I thought you married me for my looks."
"Ah, you'll do in a pinch."
"I'm Siobhan, and this is Liam," the masseuse said. "I'll be giving you a pregnancy massage, Mrs. Cullen. And for Mr. Cullen, a relaxation massage. You have us for an hour."
"Sweet," Bella said, feeling very spoiled.
"We'll just step out while you get comfortable on the tables. Mrs. Cullen, you might be most comfortable lying on your side."
Liam and Siobhan stepped out, and Bella untied her robe and looked at the high table, wondering how she was going to get up there. Edward slipped his arms around her from behind.
"I'll help you up. Put your arms around my neck."
"Like this?" she purred, turning to rub against his front.
"Don't make me embarrass myself, madam. Liam might think he does it for me." Edward lifted her smoothly onto the table, and steadied her while she pivoted and arranged herself on her side.
"Hah. He is sort of cute."
"Bite your tongue."
"Mmm, you are so getting laid after this." Bella's dark hair spilled over the pillow and Edward brushed it off her cheek.
"My ulterior motive worked, then." He pulled the sheet and blanket over his bride.
He hurried to the other table and lay down on his stomach, pulling his sheet and blanket up with a bit of difficulty. He was very glad that there was a little shelf below the head of the table on which he could rest his broken arm. A knock came at the door.
"Ready," Edward called.
They heard a master key card swipe through the lock, and then Siobhan and Liam entered, the former bearing hot pads, the latter carrying a tray of essential oils, candles, a CD player, and towels. Soon, all was at the ready. The light was dimmed, and some relaxing nature music with wolf song issued from the CD player.
Bella selected a fragrant oil laced with lavender, and Edward picked one with a hint of sandalwood and green moss. Siobhan and Liam made it their mission to hunt out every knot in their bodies, and by the end of the hour, the newly-weds' energy was renewed. They lay on the cots, devoid of tension. Siobhan and Liam let themselves out, taking their tray and CD player, but leaving behind the candles. They advised their charges to get up carefully.
Edward stretched, his skin gleaming, and put on his robe. He helped Bella into bed, and rolled the tables to the door, where Siobhan and Liam whisked them away.
He locked the door. He eyed her in a way that was positively leonine. He dropped his robe and slipped into bed. She dragged him down and cuddled him up, doe-eyed. He kissed her mouth, cheeks and nose, and pressed their cheeks together.
No words were needed. Each explored the contours of the other's form. They gave themselves to each other, proud, unabashed, and grateful. They gave, they took. In short, they worshipped each other.
Hours later, they ordered steak dinners from Room Service, and ate them in bed. Naked. They also ordered chocolate ice cream, which they ate in bed. But not out of a dish. And after dinner, they went back to bed, rather enjoying the naughtiness of being messy. And then, they slept, wrapped up together, straight on 'til morning.
"Swan," Edward slurred, wincing at the light glaring through the crack in the drapes.
"What is it?"
"I think my face is stuck to your boob."
"Ugh. So, drool yourself free." She pushed on his head a little. He was, in fact, a bit stuck. They both started to giggle.
"For every act of decadence, there is a consequence," he chuckled.
"Like a bandage, Cullen."
"On three," he grinned.
"Three!" He sat up fast, and his skin and hair pulled away from hers.
"Ouch!" they both yelped, and laughed as he tumbled over.
"Your hair!" she cackled.
"Yuck it up, Swan, That's gonna leave a mark." He rubbed his cheek.
Bella considered it. "We could have a bath, if it's not too hot."
"Yes! Jacuzzi time!" he enthused, zipping off to fill it.
The rain stopped as suddenly as it had started, and left the ground soggy and green. Pugsley lay in the patch of sun inside the door, snoozing and snoring as only a Bulldog can. Wednesday sat beside him, tail twitching. As the family car pulled into the driveway, she stood.
"Ruff?" Pugsley stood up, wriggling all over. He ran circles around his master as the door opened. Edward studiously ignored him, as usual. Wednesday didn't even condescend to say hello; she headed straight for the back door and asked to go out. Bella crossed the room and opened it. And gaped.
"What the frick?" she managed to get out, thoroughly shocked.
"What now?" Edward frowned, coming to stand behind her.
"Mooooooo!" enthused Clarence. He was tied to a tree in the yard with a length of rope.
"Renée!" Edward yelled. Of course, there was no answer; the house was too vast for her to have heard him. He stomped over to the phone on the counter and called her room. "Renée? Why is Clarence in my yard?" There was a pause, and he set down the phone as though it were a vial of nitro, knowing that if he wasn't careful, he was going to smash it into the counter until there was nothing left of the headset but bits. His mother-in-law flew into the kitchen.
"Oh, hi, honey, you're home!" she wailed, throwing her arms around Bella, who stared at her in awestruck silence. "Ooh, Edward!" she continued, hugging him and kissing his cheek.
"What about him?"
"Why is he in my yard?"
"Well, we couldn't let him be hamburger."
"Nobody wants him."
Bella decided it was time to collect some facts. "Mother, start at the beginning and kindly don't leave anything out."
"Well, John and Danny took Clarence to Doc Gerandy's."
"Yes," Edward said, raising a brow, "and?"
"Doc Gerandy wouldn't take him. He said Mrs. Marques owed him too much money, and Clarence obviously wasn't a prime candidate for stud."
"And then?" Bella prompted.
"And then John Wolfe said that Irina Marques wasn't fit to own him, and she said she ought to have him castrated and sent off for meat."
Bella and Edward looked at each other in alarm. Not that they liked Clarence, mind.
"So how did he end up here?" Edward wanted to know.
"Well, Doc Gerandy wouldn't take him, and Irina wouldn't let John put him out in her barn. John said she was loading her belongings into a U-Haul this morning and that she's moving to her sister's."
"She's abandoned her animal?" Edward asked, thin-lipped.
"Exactly. She said John could go back and take whatever feed was in the barn, because she wouldn't need it. Apparently, she showed up at Rufus' house this morning with her chickens and Guinea fowl, and asked if he wanted them."
"Tell me he said 'yes'," Edward pleaded. Guinea fowl were not usual poultry to be found in Forks. He didn't want to be saddled with obtaining them a home, too.
"Yes. He sees it as a nice little side business."
"Thank God for small mercies," Bella sighed, watching Clarence sniff noses with Wednesday.
"How did I end up with a cow?" Edward practically growled.
"Emmett accepted him."
Edward's eyes narrowed. "Where is he?"
"He and Rosalie are in his old room," Renée supplied happily.
"Rosalie?" Bella echoed. "My friend Rosalie, Rosalie?"
Renée beamed. "They really hit it off. They're so cute together."
Edward picked up the phone again and dialed meticulously. "Emmett?"
Five minutes later, the man himself stood before them, looking… far too relaxed for Edward's liking. Edward would have much preferred Em to look as though he were afraid of him.
"Emmett, what were you thinking, accepting that bull calf?" his brother demanded, pulling him outside to look at Clarence.
"Moo," Clarence said, all starry-eyed.
"I couldn't let them turn the cutie pie into rump roast," Emmett protested.
"Moo," Clarence agreed.
Edward grabbed his temples and kneaded them. "I'm not allowed to keep a cow inside the town limits, Em. He can stay a couple of days until you find a place for him, but he can't live here."
"But Buddy, you're a vet," Emmett protested.
"He's not here to be treated, Bro. You're suggesting we keep him as … a pet."
"He's pretty loveable for a bull," Em wheedled.
"I can't give him the kind of attention he deserves. Get the Rolodex in my office and start calling people."
"Like who?" Em asked, turning pale.
"I dunno. I have fast facts about my customers in there. Look for someone with a farm, I guess."
"What's that on your arm?"
Edward turned red. Em couldn't tell whether it was from anger or embarrassment.
"I played a prank on him while he was asleep this morning," Bella admitted, crossing her arms.
Emmett pushed up the sleeve of Edward's white t-shirt, and Edward pushed his hand away.
"Is that a tattoo?"
Edward harrumphed. Emmett looked to Bella to explain.
Her eyes rolled. "I drew it on him with a Sharpie while he was sleeping."
Emmett's lip tipped up on one side. He was delighted. "You drew a cow with exed-out eyeballs on Eddie's bicep while he was asleep?"
"I'm getting it tattooed there as soon as my arm is better."
"My baby brother is cool," Emmett declared. He darted to the door, planning to get a pen. "Hey, Eddie! Can I sign your cast?"
Edward turned to face his brother, and Clarence licked him up the back of his head. Edward closed his eyes and counted to ten. "You can sign it as soon as you've found Clarence a home."
Three hours later, Emmett abandoned his post at Mrs. Cope's desk and sought out his brother, who was closing his Excel program, happily having completed his books for the month.
"Eddie, can I sign your cast now?" he beamed.
Edward leaned back. "You found Clarence a home?"
"At the petting zoo in Spokane. And the Wolfes said they'd be glad to transport him."
"Well done, Emmett," Edward said, opening his desk drawer and extracting a Sharpie. He beckoned his brother in.
Emmett had plenty of spots to choose to write on; only Bella, Ben and Mrs. Cope had signed it so far. He noticed that someone had drawn a big cow hoof on the cast and blacked it in, then, written 'Clarence was here' beside it. Emmett chose a spot on the inside of Edward's wrist, careful to scribe his message in a way that his brother could read it.
To my little brother, the biggest man I know. So proud of you!
Bella stuck her head in the door. "John's here."
"Yay," Edward said flatly. He took his family outside to greet the apple farmer. Renée took a few parting pictures.
Danny led Clarence forward on his rope as John set a ramp to the back of the pickup. Clarence trotted blithely in.
"Bye, Clarence," Edward said happily.
"Moo," Clarence replied, making cow-eyes at him.
Soon, the Wolfe men and Clarence were gone. Edward slipped his arm around Bella and nudged her to go indoors.
"Let's hope there's no more excitement for a couple of days," he said grimly.
Bella stopped dead. "That may be …impossible."
"I think my water just broke."