The NHI has issued another *Tissue Warning* for this chapter, though not nearly as severe as the one the last chapter needed.
Chapter 7 (I Won't Let You Go- James Morrison):
It's Christmas Eve morning and Seth and I are getting ready to begin our day. No, we're not getting ready to celebrate a happy and joyous holiday like we have in the past; today we will be celebrating Charlie's life and mourning his death.
I grab my black pearl earrings, the ones Grandma Swan gave me in her will, and put them on while looking at my reflection in the mirror one last time. Smoothing out the front of my modest black dress, I sigh before turning my back on the sad woman in the mirror and walk out of my bedroom. I stop in the hallway and tap lightly on Seth's door, and as I wait for him to respond, I hear nothing but my son's attempts to silence his sobs.
"Come in," he says brokenly once he pulls himself together enough to speak.
I open the door and step through, my own heart breaking yet again as I take in the sight of the distraught little boy sitting on his bed. "Oh my sweet boy, it's alright, I'm here," I say as I sweep him into my arms and rock him gently on my lap, much like I used to when he was younger and in pain. "Sweetheart, I miss him too. But Seth, Grampa wouldn't want you to be so sad. Remember what he said to you? He said that this wasn't goodbye, it was see you later. It's okay to be sad and to cry, but you need to remember all of the fun and good things about Grampa's life too."
"I know mom, but it's so hard. I miss him so much," he whimpers.
"I know sweetie, I know."
We sit like that for a few more minutes until we are disturbed by a knock at the front door.
"That'll be Emmett most likely, picking us up for the service. Are you ready?" I ask him, holding my hand out for him to hold on to. I think I actually need the connection more than him right now.
Together we walk down the stairs and to the front door, opening it to a solemn-faced Emmett and a waiting black town car. Harry Clearwater wanted to send a limo for Seth and I to arrive at the memorial service in, but I told him that Charlie had never been a limo kind of person and neither were we. Emmett piped up and offered to rent a car and drive us, and because I wanted to be as close to him and the support I knew only he would give me, I accepted.
"Ms. Swan, Seth, your car awaits… I'm Jeeves and I'll be your driver today," Em says with a small smirk and a wink and a really bad British accent, but his attempt at humor makes me smile for the first time today. It makes Seth giggle a bit too, and for that reason alone my smile gets even bigger.
"Thank you Jeeves, please, lead the way," I say as I place my hand on his offered forearm.
The three of us walk down the porch steps to the car where Emmett opens the back door for Seth, then opens the front door for me. He holds my purse and my hand as he helps me in and waits for me to get seated before he leans down to place a tender kiss to the back of my hand. "Have I told you that you're simply beautiful today?" he asks me before standing back up and gently closing my door.
I watch as he crosses in front of the car and climbs into the driver's seat. He looks over at me after buckling his seat belt and catches me watching him and he smiles softly at me before starting the car up. He reverses out of my driveway and after we get on the road he reaches over to hold my hand. I'm not sure if he knows exactly what this gesture means for me or not, but the comfort and love I feel for him intensifies in this quiet moment.
"Hey Em," Seth says from the back seat and gets Emmett's attention, "Mom said that there won't be a casket, just a little jar full of ashes at this thing. She said that it's what Grampa wanted, but I don't get it, why would he want to be burned to ashes instead of being buried like normal people?"
Emmett turns and looks at me, a million questions and more than a bit of apprehension swirling in his eyes, so I nod and give him my permission to try to answer Seth's question, wanting to see how he's going to deal with this sensitive subject matter myself since I'm not completely sure how to answer him either.
"Well, I don't really know Seth. I guess the easiest thing to say is that it's a personal decision everybody will need to make at some point in their lifetime. I would guess that Charlie wanted to be in a spot where he spent a lot of good times while he was alive and it just so happens to be a spot where we can't bury him in the ground, so I think it makes sense that he wanted to be cremated and have his ashes sprinkled over the lake. He really enjoyed fishing; just think of all the times he went to Tacoma to visit you and all of the times he took you out fishing. It was Charlie's favorite thing to do to relax and unwind, right?"
"Yeah, Grampa loved fishing a whole lot," Seth answered him enthusiastically.
"Well, don't you think that it's a better place for him to be then? Out on the water instead of stuck in some hole in the ground?" he asks my son.
"I suppose, but what about when I want to visit him? I can't do that if he doesn't have a grave. JR said that his gramma is buried and they go visit her grave every year and he can talk to her there whenever he wants to."
"Well, I have a theory about that too Big Guy. You've learned about the water cycle in school, right?" he glances in the rearview mirror at Seth, waiting to see if he has. Apparently Seth gives him some kind of affirmation because he starts explaining again, "So you know that water falls in the form of rain or snow and is either absorbed by the ground or held in lakes, rivers and oceans, right? And that when the sun shines down on them, those rivers, lakes and oceans send evaporated water back into the air where it turns into clouds, right?"
Again Seth nods and Emmett continues, "Okay, so then the clouds, once they cool down enough, form rain or snow and drop it back down to the ground. Well, I was kinda thinking that might mean that every time it rains here in Forks, it'll be like Charlie is saying hi or that he loves you. And we all know how much it rains here, so I think that'll mean that Charlie will never leave you. You can talk to him at the lake or in the rain anytime you want to and I know that he'll always listen to you."
My eyes mist up again at his explanation and how simple he made it sound, like Charlie will always be there for us this way. I look back at Seth and see that he's rolling the information around in his mind, waiting to see if he can accept it or not.
"So that means that every time it rains it'll be like Grampa's giving me a hug?" he asks quietly.
"Yeah, something like that," Emmett answers and I tighten the grip I have on his hand when I see my son smile.
"Well then I hope it rains today because I really need him to hug me again," he says matter-of-factly; Emmett's theory noted, digested and accepted.
Emmett pulls up in front of the church where Charlie's memorial service is being held and hurries to open mine and Seth's doors for us. Once we are out of the car, he reaches out with both hands and grasps one of mine as well as one of Seth's. While I know that Seth would normally not want to hold anyone's hand now that he's older, he doesn't make a move the pull away from Emmett. It strikes me as we make our way into the church, that we look like a normal grieving family, the three of us together like this, and I find that I rather like the idea of Em being a part of that.
The service goes by quickly and I realize that the nurse, Angela, was right in saying that most everyone in town has their own 'Chief Charlie' story to tell. I find myself laughing at so many of the things people remember about my father, reminding me once more that though his life may have been cut short, it was still a full and happy life. Sitting between Emmett and Seth and being surrounded by people I have come to think of as both friends and family, I know that this is where I want to be; that sometime in the last four months Forks has become my home again.
Em and I are just walking through my front door, Seth having already raced upstairs to his room to get out of his suit, when the wall phone starts ringing. Though I don't recognize the number I know it's local and I assume that it's another friend of Charlie's calling to offer condolences. "Hello, Swan residence, this is Bella," I answer the phone, speaking without thought the greeting Charlie had always insisted I use when I was growing up. He used to say that answering the phone like that was a way of showing that we were civilized people living in a house full of manners.
"Hello Bella," the caller's voice comes through and is instantly recognizable, nearly dripping with venom as she continues without pausing for me to return her greeting, "It would seem like we have some important matters to discuss now that your father is gone."
"I really don't think we have anything to discuss Esme, regardless of my father's passing," I answer coldly and as soon as I say her name I see Emmett's head snap towards me.
"Well I think we do, namely your continued residence in Forks. I think it's time you took that brat of yours back to whatever rock you crawled out from under and leave the fine upstanding citizens of this town in peace." I swear the woman bathes in ice cubes, it's the only reason I can think of that she's so frigid.
"Actually I rather like it here in Forks, though there are a few of the…," I pause mid-sentence, pretending to think out loud, "what did you call yourselves- fine upstanding citizens?, that I could do without. So Esme, I'm so sorry to burst your bubble but we're staying, no matter what you think I should do."
Just as I turn to slam the receiver back onto the cradle Emmett grabs the phone from my hand, surprising me with the furious look on his face.
"Aunt Esme, so nice to know that you care enough to call Bella to let her know how sorry you are to hear about Charlie," he says sweetly, his tone completely belying his still angry countenance. "Oh, that's not why you were calling? Well then, it must have been to see if there was anything that the Cullen family could do to help her and her son through this difficult time, right?"
I watch his face as there is a pause in his side of the conversation and can see his jaw clenching, the muscles tightening and loosening repeatedly, while the knuckles of the hand holding the phone are literally losing color. His normally cornflower blue eyes darken as his anger increases and hold mine as he speaks his next sentence.
"If I have my way, they won't ever be leaving this town." Pause, listen, clench, unclench. "Well you can tell that asshole that if he's so uncomfortable being in the same town that I'm sure there are hundreds of hospitals all over the world that are just dying to add yet another egotistical asshat to their staff and that maybe he should think about taking his tramp of a wife with him when he goes."
Yet another tension filled pause hangs in the air before he says anything, but I can see him revving up for another round. "You go ahead and do that, but before you do, I can tell you what she'll say. She'll tell you that she doesn't care what kind of shit you're selling, she won't be buying a bit of it, and then she'll tell you that she'll support any decision I make." Pause, more clenching, more anger. "Oh yeah, you can count on that. She's my world now and he is too, and I'll go to war if it means protecting them from the likes of you, family or not. Don't push me, Aunt Esme, I can promise that you won't like it when I push back. Remember that I know exactly where some of your oldest skeletons are buried." Pause, deep breath, chilling smile. "Nope, it's a promise," and with that same chilling smile still in place, he turns and gently but firmly hangs up the phone.
"Well that was just a bit intense, huh Em?" I ask lightly, hoping to relieve some of the lingering tension still holding his body rigid. I watch him take a deep breath before turning to look at me again. The anger is gone from his face, though his eyes still hold a bit in their still darkened state, but there is also a look of such intensity, such emotional upheaval in them that it momentarily takes my breath away. He makes the two steps it takes for him to reach me, pulling me into his arms, and once he does I am instantly surrounded by such a feeling of security it nearly brings tears to my eyes.
"Bella, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to overstep, but I know her and how she 'deals' with things. I couldn't let her make you leave or even let her hurt you by saying anything mean without doing something about it," he says, his words spoken softly into my ear and the warm moisture of his breath both send bolts of longing throughout my body.
I wrap my arms around his waist and pull myself closer to his chest, placing light kisses across his shirt-covered collarbone. "Oh Em, you haven't overstepped anything here. I'm glad you talked to her because someone needed to and I couldn't do it today. But what did she say to make you so angry?"
"She told me that now that Charlie is gone she didn't see any reason for you to stay and that Fuckward and his bitch of a wife were uncomfortable with you living in the same town as them. Then, when she didn't like my response, she actually threatened to call my mom and tattle on me. Now don't get me wrong, I think mom'll think it's hilarious if she really does call her about this, but I don't think she will. She hasn't talked to mom in almost 25 years and I'm sure she knows that mom'll tell her to shut the fuck up and to mind her own damn business," he says laughingly. "But then she said that it sounded like I might be wrapped around your finger and that she could tell that I was going to be 'unreasonable' when it comes to you and," he uses finger quotations here to emphasize her wording, "'that boy'. That's when I told her that she could count on it."
"You also told her that we were your world now. Is that true Em; are we part of your world?" I ask while looking up into his eyes.
His whole face softens as he looks down at me. "No Bella, you and Seth aren't just a part of my world; you're my whole world. You and Seth, you're what I want, all that I want in fact. Well, maybe another kid or two sometime later, but yes, you two are already my life."
"God Em, I'm kinda speechless here. I want you to be a major part of our lives too; it's just… are you sure? I mean, taking on a woman with a kid is a pretty big job, but when you factor in whose kid it is it becomes monumental. Are you really sure about this, us?" I ask him, hoping beyond hope that he's sincere in this and believing that he most likely is. His next words send my heart soaring.
"I've never been more sure of anything before Bella. I want you and Seth; I need you to be with me every day and every night. I love you guys so much my heart hurts when I'm not with you guys. Jesus Bella, I love you so, so much. I love you."
I can see the tears waiting to fall from his eyes as I untangle my arms from around his waist and reach up to hold his face, pulling his mouth to mine. The repressed passion ignites between us and the kiss becomes more powerful than I think either of us ever thought possible. The silky firmness of his lips moving against mine is unbelievable, but when his tongue traces my bottom lip and gently pushes, asking permission to enter, the taste of pure Emmett nearly knocks me off my feet. Thankfully his arms are still around me and he catches me, holding my boneless body as close to his as possible without actually pulling me into his skin.
Our tongues find a pulsing rhythm, one that closely mimics the tiny pulsations rippling throughout my heated core and the gentle uplifts of his hips into mine. His hands travel the length of my back, up over my shoulders and up the sides of my neck before he uses them to tilt my head to give him a better angle to take control of the kiss. His lips push and persuade mine to do their bidding while his tongue takes possession of my mouth and my mind. My hands are now tracing the hard lines of his chest and down his abdomen, pulling at the fabric of his shirt at his waistline, eager to feel the heat of his naked skin.
We are brought back to reality in an instant by my son's disgusted voice, causing us to jump apart like two teenagers caught necking by their parents. "Oh gross, you guys. Do you have to do that where I can see it? Oh my God, I think I'm gonna puke," he shouts dramatically as he makes fake gagging noises and runs from the room.
"Well at least we know that, aside from seeing us kiss, he doesn't seem to have an issue with us doing it," Emmett chuckles, running a hand across the back of his neck in embarrassment. "But I gotta say I love the color of the blush on your face right now, it's downright sexy. In fact," he says huskily right next to my ear, pulling me back into his arms, "I think it's fucking hot."
Again his lips meet mine, again the passion sparks between our bodies, and yes, once again Seth catches us kissing. "Mo-om," he cries out, almost like he's in physical pain, "Yuck! That's just… Ugh! Get a room already."
"Hey Big Guy, I think it's time we had a little talk," Emmett says as he ruffles Seth's hair. "Give your mom and me a few minutes to talk first and then I'll meet you out back, okay."
"Yeah sure, whatever; just don't make me watch you guys kissing anymore. I swear it's gonna make me hurl," he answers on his way out the back door, but not before I catch a hint of a smirk on his face that lets me know that he's not totally opposed to the idea of Emmett and I together.
"Are you okay with this? With me telling him that we're going to be in a relationship?" Emmett asks me, the expression on his face letting me know that if I express even the slightest bit of apprehension he'll back off.
"I'm fine Em, but maybe we should talk about it first. You know, like setting guidelines, boundaries… expectations, those kinds of things. I mean, are we in a relationship now? Are you my boyfriend, am I your girlfriend? What do you want to tell him?" I pose the questions to him, not just to see what he plans on telling my nine year old son, but genuinely wanting to know the answers myself.
"I would like to think that we've been in a relationship for a while now, but if you want to put a label on it then yes, it's a full-out, no-holds-barred, all-capital-letters RELATIONSHIP. As for whether or not you're my girlfriend, you're so much more to me than that. I know you're not ready to be my fiancée yet, but you are my future wife, so you can call yourself whatever you want to, but I plan on calling you MINE. And I want to tell him that I love his mother and that I plan on being his stepfather one day, hopefully sooner rather than later. That I love the two of you with all of my heart and that he'd better get used to seeing us kiss because I will be doing it a lot more now."
"Wow," I whisper, my breath hitching in my chest at the intensity of his declaration. I realize, almost belatedly, that this is the second time he has told me that he loves me, and that aside from kissing him earlier, I haven't verbally returned the sentiment yet. "Oh Emmett, I love you too. I really hope that you understand that. These last few months would have been impossible without you by my side. You've shown me that you care for me every step of the way, not only by helping and supporting me emotionally with Charlie, but by being here for Seth too. You know that he really does like you and looks up to you, right? I don't think he'll have a problem with this at all, in fact, I'm pretty sure he loves you too."
"You… you love me?" he stutters with excitement, tears filling his eyes and watering down his voice.
"So much Emmett, so very much," I answer, reaching up and bring my lips to his once more. We kiss for a few minutes before breaking apart slowly.
"Hot damn woman, kissing you could easily become a full time obsession," he tells me, all traces of anything but laughter gone from his joking tone. "But we gotta stop for now; I got me a kid to talk to." He turns away, heading towards the back door and my son but stops before he reaches the door and turns back to look at me over his shoulder. "Do you want to join this conversation Bella? I don't want to say anything that might freak him, or you, out."
"Go on Em, I trust you," I tell him, the honestly of that statement ringing out in the strength of my voice, "Besides, if you're gonna be his stepdad soon, don't you think you should get used to dealing with these kind of talks, you know, sooner rather than later?" I toss out with a wink and a smile at the man.
"Stepdad… sweet angels above, I like the sound of that," I hear just before the door closes behind him.
See, this one wasn't so bad, right? Anyways, they're officially together now and you can bet Emmett's pretty darn happy about that.