"Daddy, daddy, it's happening!" Her little eyes were glowing so brightly with excitement that it wasn't even necessary to grab the flashlights in order to see. "Hurry!" she shouted when Edward didn't get up fast enough.
"Ok, ok," he said with a light chuckle as he rolled out of our bed. He paused, only to kiss me tenderly. "Are you coming?"
I smiled. "Wouldn't miss it."
I checked on Masen, still sleeping peacefully in his crib, and then followed them out to the beach. The moon was bright that summer evening, and the ocean waves rolled in and out in a calming steady cadence as if it was calling to the freshly hatched sea turtles, lulling them towards it.
"Do you think they'll all make it?" she asked worriedly as the first one began its monumental trek to the sea.
"Technically their chances are…"
I put my hand on Edward's shoulder to shut him up. "We can't be sure what happens to them once they make it to the water, but we're going to make sure they all make it past the beach," I assured her.
"This seriously goes against nature's law," Edward mumbled. "If the guys at work knew what we were doing…"
"Oh hush," I chided him playfully. "What was it you told me before, these few extra turtles aren't going to throw off the ocean's ecosystem."
"Yeah, I said that the first time we did this…but every time, every summer, is a different story."
"This is her first time, give her a break."
"She saw it last year…. and the year before," he argued as we watched our daughter dancing around turtles protectively.
"But this is the first time she actually understands it," I pointed out. "Remember how excited Em was the first time she really got to participate in this?"
"Yeah," he said with a crooked smile. "She refused to go to bed until every last one of them was in the water out of sight….but then she stopped caring."
"Oh, she still cares, she's just really tired from how busy we've been, and she knows there will be more turtles later."
He shook his head in disagreement. "It's already happening. Just wait, a couple more years and she's going to want to stop coming altogether; she's going beg us to let her stay home in the summers so she can hang out with her friends and hate us if we say no."
"We'll deal with that when the time comes," I said with a sigh. I was trying to think of ways to convince him he was wrong, but Em was a social butterfly and I was secretly worried that he was more than a little right. If Em didn't want to go to the island anymore, it would be heartbreaking for both of us.
"Dad!" Anthony shouted from a few yards down the beach. Edward and I both ran to our oldest son to see what was wrong. "A snake just chased a turtle into this hallowed log. I have its tail so it can't go any further, but I'm not sure what type of snake it is so I don't want to pull it out."
"Ok," Edward said before taking the snake from Anthony. "Back up," he instructed us.
"Edward, be careful," I said concerned.
"What is it?" Little Carlie asked curiously. I grabbed her by her waist and pulled her back so she wouldn't get in the way.
Slowly, Edward pulled the snake out of the log, and then smiled as he examined it. "Oh, it's anEpicrates Cenchria Maurus; I didn't even know these were on the island."
"Really?" Anthony asked excitedly.
"Uh, English please?" I asked them.
"It's a Rainbow Boa, mom," Anthony told me enthusiastically. "Usually found in the Colombian rain forest."
"Cool, is it poisonous?" I asked.
"Nope," Edward assured me.
"Can I hold it?" Carlie asked eagerly.
"Sure," Edward said before handing it to her. "It may still bite so hold it behind its head."
Carlie's face lit up as she held the slithering creature in her hands. - Out of our four kids, she was definitely the biggest animal lover.
"Ok, let it go now so it can go back to its home," Anthony insisted.
"I don't want it to eat the turtles," Carlie protested.
"Fine, give it to me," Anthony said with a huff before taking the snake inland into the trees.
Carlie nearly cheered. "Now we can make sure the rest of the turtles are safe too."
Edward and I wrapped our arms around each other and watched our two middle kids continue their mission to save the sea turtles, but I couldn't help but think of Em. Time was racing forward and I wondered how many family summers on the island we had left together.
Em had turned eleven that year, and even though I was in denial, I definitely noticed the way her face dropped when we were first making preparations to come to the island that summer. She never actually said she didn't want to come, but she wasn't thrilled about it either.
Thankfully, our other children were still more than eager to spend as much time on the island as possible.
Anthony was eight, and he was born almost nine months to the day after our native wedding. The Kachiri were thrilled to hear of his birth because even though he was born in an American hospital, they were certain he was conceived on the island, which Edward and I had to agree with. I was on birth control at the time, but the sacred island was known by the natives to have mystical powers that included fertility; it was the only explanation that I could come up with for his existence.
Edward and I had planned to wait to have more kids until after college, but as we've learned on our journey along the way, life doesn't always follow plans, and somehow everything seemed to work out for the better. And having Anthony at that time was definitely a blessing in disguise….
Eight and a half Years Prior – A month after the wedding.
"It doesn't make sense for you to go to the JC with me when you made it into the UC," I argued. We had both completed our high school equivalency and received our GED, but after taking the SATs, Edward had scored so high that he was basically accepted wherever he applied and I didn't want him holding himself back just to go to school with me.
"I can get all my basic courses done at the JC just as easily as I can at the UC," he insisted. "I already told you, wherever you go…"
"Yeah, you'll go too, I remember, but this is different."
"No, it's not," he said stubbornly.
"Ok, how long are we going to stay together in that way? Are you going to go into the same career as me so we can work together as well?" I pointed out. "You could be anything, and you're just going to throw it away for no reason. We need to support our family, and you're passing up on a chance to be able to get a well-paying job just to stay with me all day every day. We're married now, we'll still be together no matter what so it won't be any different than every other couple who goes to separate jobs during the day. Everything will be fine."
He didn't have a proper argument for that, but he huffed anyway and refused to budge. I wished we could spend all our time together just as much as he did, but it wasn't about us, we needed to build our future for our family and he knew it… it just may take a little more time for him to accept.
But a couple weeks later the morning sickness set in.
"Could be the flu," Edward said quickly. "We're not stuck on an island away from civilization, so it could definitely be the flu."
I shook my head slowly. "I'm late."
"But you're on birth control."
I shrugged. "Didn't the Kachiri say something about how the island has fertility powers or something?"
"Yeah, but that's just ancient mythology. It's no different than the Greeks believing in Zeus and whatnot."
"Well, we don't have to sit and wonder about it, I can go buy a test and we'll know one way or the other."
We bought the test and Edward was so anxious that we didn't even wait until the next morning like the box recommended. It didn't even take three minutes for the bright pink double lines to show up in the little window.
"Holy crap," Edward said to himself….and then he got excited. "We're going to have another baby!"
But for once I was the more sensible one. "We were supposed to wait… Going to college is going to be hard enough for me, and what about Em?"
"What about Em? She's going to be ecstatic to be a big sister."
"Yeah, but these next few years are going to be so busy, and now we're going to have to divide our time with her even more."
"Bella," he said softly while holding me at arm's length so he could look me in the eye. "We'll figure it out…We always do."
His conviction calmed my nerves, just like it always did, and then I took a deep breath and allowed myself to be just as happy as he was. Of course I was thrilled to have another baby, I wanted a bunch of kids, it was just the timing that I was worried about. But of course he was right, we would figure it out, that I could be sure of.
But as the days past, my mind stayed busy on the baby and I realized something – "I don't think I want to go to school," I told Edward one evening.
He was definitely surprised, and frankly, so was I. I was the one who had pushed us to go back to school in the first place, and it was still something I wanted to do, but being pregnant forced me to think of a new path for me…well, for all of us.
"People are pregnant in college all the time," Edward told me. "It's not the same thing as being pregnant in high school."
"No, I know, that's not it…I just…don't want to. Our moms aren't going to be close enough to watch Em and the baby during the day anymore, and I don't want to leave them with a sitter….I don't want to leave them at all."
He stared at me for a moment, as if he was trying to really understand what it was I was saying, and then he nodded. "Ok…whatever you want to do."
But I didn't want to stop my education altogether, so after some more thought and discussion, I decided it would be best to enroll in an online college, that way I could still be home and get my credits at the same time. The arrangement also helped my argument with Edward about him going to a UC; with me being home, he'd have no reason not to go.
We moved our houseboat to a marina in Seattle and Edward enrolled in the university, majoring in science with a special focus on bio chemistry and animal sciences. Marine Biology as a career was hard to break into since there were few jobs for such a degree, but with his background and intelligence there were already organizations lining up to employ him after he graduated.
Edward took on a full load at school, hoping to get through it as quickly as possible, and luckily we had enough money from his inheritance that neither of us needed to work. His school was paid for by a college fund that Esme had set up when he was a child, so basically all we had to worry about was our family and getting through our courses.
Our son was born several months later, and we named him Edward Anthony Cullen the Third, and called him by his middle name 'Anthony'. He was just as beautiful as his big sister, but I had to admit, I missed the tranquil solitude of the island during his birth. Sure, there were doctors and pain meds, but I couldn't help but think that Em had less of a traumatic entrance into the world – of course, Edward disagreed; his stress over the event was nothing compared to what it was when Em was born.
We settled into a comfortable routine as a family. Edward would go to school in the mornings and I'd spend that time with Em and Anthony. We'd go to the park and play dates, and I'd just watch them grow into little people. In the afternoons Edward would come home and we'd all have quality family time together, and when the kids went to bed, Edward would do homework while I caught up on my online courses. And every night, when everything was finished for the day, Edward and I would reconnect and make love before falling asleep in each other's arms.
It was a busy and hectic couple of years, but we knew it would be worth it in the end….and it definitely was.
Edward graduated with honors in only three years, and I discovered a love of writing. After taking a few creative writing courses, I wrote an autobiographical novel about our time on the island. It began the week before we left on our class trip, and ended with our wedding at home with our family. It was our story; the good, bad, and even the ugly. It was as honest as I was capable of being, and every word was sincere. 'Twilight on the Blue Lagoon' made the New York Time's best seller list and there was even talks of a movie deal, which was absolutely amazing. But the best part was the reaction our family had from the book. It was a way for them to really see firsthand what we went through, and to truly understand the love I have for my husband. And even more importantly, it was something my children would always have – the story of how they came into existence.
Since that novel was a hit, I was also able to write fictional novels, each based on romance and adventure, and each making the top seller's list. It was a perfect career for me because it allowed me to stay home with the kids and take off with Edward on his work travels whenever I wanted.
Eventually our little family outgrew our houseboat and we moved to a real house, but we never sold the boat. It was old but reliable, and even though it was a tight fit for our growing kids, it was a fun and crazy time when we did set sail on it. No matter how busy we got, we always found a few weeks every summer to return to our island home.
When Anthony was three years old and Em was six, we welcomed Carlie into our family. She too was conceived while I was on birth control and was born nine months after a summer trip to the island. And little Masen, our youngest, was born three years after that…nine months after a summer trip to the island. - We just laughed about it.
Each one of our kids were three years apart, and each conceived on our island which only made the Kichiri that much more enamored with our family - I had to agree with them, our family was amazing.
Present Day – On the island
After the success of the turtles the night before, Edward decided to spend that day teaching the kids about the importance of the ocean's ecosystem. I just rolled my eyes at him. Luckily, Anthony and Carlie were both fascinated with every aspect of the island and what Edward did for a living, but Em and obviously our youngest, had better things to do.
"Where are you off to?" I asked Em as she walked past me with a pad of paper in her hands.
"I'm going to write my friends a letter," she said with that 'duh' expression.
"Ok, watch for…"
"I know what to watch for, mom," she said irritated.
"Ok, sorry," I said defensively, and just to annoy her even more, I added - "I love you honey. I'll miss you until you get back."
"Whatever," she replied bitterly. Jeesh, and I thought the teen attitude thing wouldn't start until she was thirteen.
While she was off doing whatever it was that she was doing, and Edward was lecturing Carlie and Anthony, I took that time to bring Little Masen into the lagoon to work on his swimming. He was just two years old and was already pretty good for his age, but of course he still needed the practice. All of our kids learned to swim in that lagoon, just as Edward did, which was remarkable and I wouldn't have wanted it any other way.
About a half hour later, Edward brought the other kids to join us for a swim.
"How's he doing?" Edward asked as he waded in the shallows with us. The older kids just cannon balled right in the deep part; even Carlie at five years old was a great swimmer.
"He's doing great," I said with a smile. "Do you want to swim to daddy?" I asked Masen.
"Daddy, catch me," he said excitedly.
"Ok, I'm right here," Edward replied just as excitedly.
Masen pushed off my lap and swam with his face in the water all the way to Edward a couple yards away.
"Wow, good job," Edward said enthusiastically while bouncing him in his arms. "Hey, where's Em?"
"She's off writing somewhere," I said dismissively, hoping Edward wouldn't freak out too much about it.
"I hope she gets bit by a snake," Carlie interjected.
"Hey, don't say that about your sister," Edward chided her.
"Yeah, that's terrible," Anthony agreed. "I hope she just gets stung by a bee."
"Guys," I scolded. "That's enough."
"She's just so grumpy all the time," Carlie said defensively.
"Yeah, she's been mean since we got here," Anthony agreed.
"Em yells at me," Masen added.
Edward and I looked at each other and knew we needed to have a talk with her. We thought we'd give her some time to work through her issues, but our past lack of communication had taught us that talking it out was always best. So that night, after the other kids went to bed in their cottage add-on rooms, we took Em to the rocks so we could talk.
"So, what's going on? I asked her.
"Nothing," she said sourly.
"Obviously something," Edward said. "Do you not want to come here anymore?"
She sighed. "No, I like coming here, it's just…"
"What?" I asked because she had let her sentence trail off.
"Em, you can tell us anything," Edward assured her.
"Well, everyone at school makes fun of me and calls our family weird. They even say I'm not American because I was born on an island."
I looked at Edward and I could tell he was upset; it was his childhood all over again…except it seemed so different. Em was a beautiful girl who seemed to always have friends around, so to hear she was having trouble with kids at school was more than shocking.
"Who's saying things like that to you?" I asked, knowing her friends wouldn't be so mean.
"A lot of people…but mainly this boy. Everyone always follows his lead and does whatever he tells them to. He doesn't like me, so now everyone doesn't. When I go back to school this fall, people are going to ask me what I did over summer, and I'm just going to lie because I don't want him making fun of me even more."
I really didn't understand why any kid would make fun of another for going to an island every summer. We didn't do anything odd, we didn't even do the topless thing anymore, though I did live in my bikini when there; I just didn't get it, unless….
"Honey, I bet he just likes you," I said, surprising both her and her father.
"How do you figure that?" Edward asked me confused.
"A lot of times when kids are mean, it means they actually like that other kid and are embarrassed or just don't know how else to act."
"Really?" she asked hopefully.
"I think so. Just ignore him for a while and wait and see what happens. If he likes you he'll start to be nicer and if he doesn't then he'll leave you alone."
"Ok," she said after a minute. "And I'm sorry for being grumpy. I really am happy to be here; this place still feels like home and I think it always will."
She gave us both a hug before running back to the cottage to go to bed for the night, but Edward and I hung back and decided to go for a little walk – far enough so the kids wouldn't hear us talking, but close enough that we would know if they needed anything.
"I don't think I agree with that whole 'if he's mean it's cause he likes her' thing," Edward said as we walked along the beach. "I've been bullied, and I highly doubt any of those kids liked me."
"Eleven year olds are different than teenagers," I told him. "But, being bullied by kids of the opposite sex doesn't change very much. They either bully because they like someone, or they do it to go along with the crowd. Usually the instigator is the one who has the secret crush."
"I had girls pick on me, and none of them liked me like that," Edward argued.
"Tanya definitely had a thing for you, even before we got back from the island, she was just too much of a coward to admit it."
He wrapped his arms around me. "Well I'm glad she was a coward."
"Why, you would have fallen for her?"
"I was young and easily manipulated," he said with a smirk.
"We both were," I agreed. "It's just a good thing fate stepped in and forced us to grow up."
"Growing up with you has truly been the best experience of my life," he said sincerely.
"I love you so much."
He smiled that crooked smile that still took my breath away. "I love you too."
For the rest of the week Em was back to her happy carefree self that we loved so much, and the six of us just savored the time in our own piece of heaven together. We may have knocked Em's bad mood this trip, but we weren't stupid enough to believe the kids would always want to visit the island with us so we weren't going to take that time for granted.
The years passed quickly, and before we knew it, our kids were grown and beginning families and lives of their own so they couldn't always make our annual summer trips to the island. As much as we missed our time with them, Edward and I couldn't help but enjoy our solitude on the island once again. We were back to skinny dipping and making love under the stars, which was something that we missed when the kids were young. But every few years or so, our children would bring their families to the island with them, which was odd for us in the beginning. It almost felt wrong to have 'outsiders' there, but we quickly realized that our children's spouses and their children were all extensions of us, therefore absolutely belonged.
The Kichiri had told us the island contained the magic of fertility, but when actually dissecting the word I realized that it also had other meanings - fruitfulness, abundance, richness, fecundity, luxuriance, productiveness - The island wasn't just sacred in reproduction, it was sacred in living life to the fullest.
I had no idea why the island had pulled Edward and me there so many years ago, but it saved our lives and gave us everything we had, and I was forever grateful. It was our home, the core of our lives, and it was where we would always return to….