Few things truly shock me anymore. Living over three hundred years has put a lot of experiences under my belt and, sadly, it means there are few surprises in store for me now. Such is the life of an immortal.
Three years ago, a typical shift in the emergency room at Forks Hospital provided a jolt from the ordinary. Edward had saved his future wife from a sliding van. When Bella insisted Edward had covered the length of the parking lot in the space of a few seconds, keeping my composure had been difficult. My family's secret was suddenly in the hands of a fragile human. Fate must have a sense of humor.
Today, fate surprises me yet again—my composure rattled by a very small girl. I recognize the scent even before I enter the room. Seeing her lying on the bed, I am concerned. Did I miss something? Her heartbeat and breathing sound good. I smell no infection. Why is she here?
Large, hazel eyes sparkle with innocent curiosity as they move about the room. The eye color and her dark blonde hair are the only contributions her father made to the little girl's features. The rest is all her mother—the round face, the cheekbones, the upturned nose.
The woman standing next to the hospital bed introduces herself as Kathy Miles from Child Protective Services. Her elevated heartbeat tells me she is having difficulty keeping her professional front intact around this sweet girl. I do not need Edward's gift to know she is extremely concerned for her young charge. Her touch is gentle when she pats the small shoulder closest to her.
"This is Cindy. Cindy Landrum."
Cindy's state of mind is far from expected. Lying in my emergency room, the calm displayed on little Cindy's face is unsettling—her small world has just been turned upside down. While I am not responsible for her situation, the guilt I feel is nearly painful. Her guardian does not offer an immediate explanation for the whereabouts of the girl's parents. There is no need. I know exactly where they are.
Her parents are in my home—transforming into vampires.
I know this because I am their sire.
None of these thoughts are allowed to show through my mask of professional courtesy as the nurse completes her preliminary questions and gathers the girl's vitals. Blessedly, everything looks good. She has a few cuts, surprisingly few, and without consulting her chart I know there are no broken bones. Not only do I know she is physically fine, but I also know how she got the cuts that mar her small hands and arms.
I had been the first to examine her after the accident.
"Thank you, nurse." I take the chart from Dorothy who gives me a small smile. The news of the Landrum tragedy has fully circulated through the staff here. Being the closest hospital meant we received the ambulance—only one.
The five Landrum children had insisted on riding together.
Cindy sits calmly as I look over the results of her tests. When I look up at her, she has a thoughtful expression. Her eyes shift between me and her guardian, but there's nothing that tells me what is going through her mind.
The effect of small children is not lost on me. I smile.
"Well, hello five-year-old Cindy. How are you today?"
"My Mommy and Daddy died."
Miss Miles winces as her arms cross her chest. She's having a hard time holding herself together it seems. I motion to the closest chair and she sits with a rigid back, her arms still tightly crossed. At this point, I'm not sure who needs my reassurance more.
I nod at Cindy. "I am sorry."
Her long, annoyed sigh catches me off guard. "Everyone keeps saying that." Her small fists hit the mattress. "Wish they'd stop."
My eyes shift over to the uneasy social worker. "Miss, Miles, is there a medical reason Cindy is here today?"
"It's Kathy, please, and…I'm not sure." Her hands grip the edges of the chair as she shifts in discomfort. "Cindy seems to be in some kind of shock."
"And why do you say that?"
Cindy huffs loudly. "It's all 'cuz I'm not crying, isn't it?" Her little hands flail with each word. "My sisters, my brothers, this lady…" She throws her hands in the air. "…they're all sad and I'm not!" Her eyes flash with anger. "I'm not sick! I want to go back with Stacy and Laura and Jack and Caleb!"
Kathy explains because she has no clue I have already met them all. "Those are her sisters and brothers. They're with the Weber's." I nod. Angela and her parents are a good choice. "Forks is a small town, Dr. Cullen. I'm breaking all kinds of rules here. But they were the only ones who'd take all of them, and your wife was most insistent that they stay together when we spoke…that day."
That day was only two days ago. I was hesitant to leave Scott and Diane Landrum during their transformation, but the hospital needed me when two doctors called in sick. Edward and Jasper stayed at home to look after our unexpected guests.
"I 'member you." Cindy squints her eyes at me, making her even more adorable. "You helped us out of the van."
"And you tried to help Mommy and Daddy."
My chest begins to ache. Rarely do I fail as a doctor. Not being able to save the humanity of Cindy's parents weighs heavily on my mind. "I wish I could have."
"I know. You're a nice man."
Kathy clears her throat. "That's why I wanted you to see her…" Another nervous shift in the seat.
"So you used the emergency room?" I stifle the well-rehearsed lecture about the overuse of emergency rooms before it gets out. "Why didn't you call me?"
"She refuses to talk to anyone else. The other children will talk to…our doctor. Cindy said she would only talk to you."
Closing the chart, I consider my options. I am not a psychiatrist, but I get an inkling something is not as it seems. When I glance at Cindy again, I see a hint of a smile…
"What would you like to talk about Cindy?"
Her little nose wrinkles in thought. "You got a office? My doctor at home gots a office. He took me there when he tried to convince my mommy that we needed vaxa…vaxa…" She huffs in exasperation. "You know, shots."
"Vaccinations?" I offer.
She nods. "Yep. Doctor said we needed them, but Mommy said no cuz Jack got sick from one and Mommy said we'd never get another one."
Stubbornness appeared to be something I could expect from Diane.
My mind goes back to the accident. Esme and I had been hunting earlier that day. Our bloodlust satisfied, we had been making our way back to the car when we heard it. Silence exploding into breaking glass and grinding metal. The minutes that it took us to run to the road had seemed much too long.
How I wish I could erase the sight from my mind.
The battered van lay on the passenger side, perched on the edge of the cliff—the front doors with no ground underneath them. I could hear the children. Some were crying, while others tried to comfort their siblings. While I knew they needed help, I had to check the front seats first.
"Esme, go to the back. If it's safe, I will signal and you can pull the van away from the edge."
Once she was in place, I climbed carefully and looked inside. Sadly they were both awake. I glanced up at Esme and shook my head. It wasn't safe to expose our strength. "My name is Dr. Cullen," I said as my eyes went over inside of the van, stopping on Diane. She was lying on a door with the widow cracking from under her. The sound of shifting metal told me it would not hold her much longer. I had to get her out of there.
"We have five children in the back!" she shouted at me. "Get them out first!"
Scott's voice was flat, his eyes never leaving his wife. "Yeah. Get them out first."
So I did. After making sure their children were safe, I got back to the window—just in time to see Diane and Scott fall…
By the time I had reached them, there was little time to explain and offer a choice. Biting them so many times had been a painful necessity.
I have spent a lot of the past two days in prayer and guilt. Praying they would survive the transformation. Knowing that I could have handled it differently kept the guilt flowing. Now I have to live with my actions. We could have moved the van—fled during the night to avoid the accusations that were sure to follow. The move would have been uncomfortable for us, but the Landrums would have lived. Esme refused my guilty confession and told me it was right to keep our family safe. Looking into the small face of the girl who lost her mother has me questioning myself—yet again.
"Let's take this to my office, shall we?"
"Am I gonna get to talk to you all by myself?"
My chuckle seems to annoy her. If this little one was anything like her parents, we were in for a lot of trouble. "I think that will be all right. Kathy?"
The look I get is a definite no. I walk slowly over and squat down, making my gaze level with hers. "Now, Kathy, no one will mind." I give her a small smile and put a soothing tone in my voice as I looked deeply into her eyes. "Cindy will be just fine with me. Why don't you go to the cafeteria, get some coffee. Relax."
If the others could see me now…
Kathy nods slowly and stands. "Coffee sounds good."
"I will call you as soon as we are done."
Without any more protest, Kathy leaves.
Cindy looks at me wide-eyed. "Can you teach me to do that?"
"I'm sure you will have no trouble in that area, young miss. Shall we go?"
The walk to my office is quiet. Not long after we exit the elevator, Cindy places her hand in mine—and does not flinch. Surely she feels the hard, cold skin. This girl is causing more questions than she has answered.
Walking to the center of the room, Cindy twirls slowly, taking everything in. Her eyes stop on the picture on my desk. My family—a picture from Bella and Edward's wedding. The last family picture of her as a human.
Cindy is staring at it.
"So, Cindy, you wanted to talk to me?"
She looks around again in worry.
"No one will bother us." I sit in one of the chairs in front of my desk and offer her the offer one. "What is on your mind?"
The girl surprises me yet again by climbing into my lap. Once settled there, she looks up at me without speaking. She seems to be pondering something—so I wait. Never before had a child made me feel so uncomfortable.
She leans in closer and whispers. "I know about you."
There is not much I would not give at the moment to have Edward here now. I reach for my phone…and return it to my pocket. He is needed at home. Scott and Diane should wake tomorrow. However, transformations are not an exact science and move at varying paces. While I am sure Jasper can handle both of them alone, I prefer to have all of them there just in case.
Cindy is looking at me, waiting for me to respond—still wearing that small smile.
I whisper even though no one would hear if I spoke normally. "What is it that you know?"
"That you're a special doctor. That you know angels." She looks around as if someone might be trying to hear us. "The ones that watch over us."
"Watch over you?"
"Not justs me. Me and my brothers and my sisters. They came to the nice family's house last night."
A cold foreboding settles on me. My thoughts immediately go to Aro. Are we being watched? Do they know what I have done? He might consider the children a threat…us criminals…anyone who knows would be eliminated…
"Cindy, have you told anyone else about these angels?"
"No way!" Her eyes widen. "Not even Stacy or Laura or Jack or Caleb. They said not to. I gave my word!"
"Your word? Do you know what that means?"
"I do now. Mr. Angel splained it to me."
The cold foreboding melts into irritation. Aro is not someone to talk about giving one's word, but I know someone who is. "Can you tell me what Mr. Angel looks like?"
She laughs. "He's right there!" She points to the family picture, so I pick it up and bring it close. Her finger immediately stabs down into the glass. "There he is! There's Mrs. Angel, too!"
Jasper and Alice.
I set the picture down as my mind goes into damage control. "Tell me about when you saw Mr. and Mrs. Angel."
Cindy's small face lights up. "Well, it was our first night there, and I was crying because…because…"
Tears threaten to fall, so I finish for her. "You miss them."
"Uh-huh. And it was still dark but the sky was a little bit light. I used to get up when it was like that, but Mommy said I had to stay in bed till the little hand was on the seven, and the big hand was straight up." She stiffs. "But Mrs. Weber didn't say that so I got up and I was being real quiet…just sitting and looking out the window. Then plop!" She claps her hands together and smiles. "Mr. Angel fell outta the sky! That's when he saw me, and he looks real surprised."
"I bet he did." I chuckle at Jasper being caught off guard by this little one.
"Then I banged on the glass…and he shook his head no…so I banged louder."
I begin to laugh.
She is so engrossed in her story that she keeps going. "Then Mrs. Angel fell outta the sky right next to him…."
Cindy goes on for another ten minutes telling me all about her encounter with Mr. and Mrs. Angel. Once she is finished we have a long talk and she promises never to tell anyone. Taking some crayon and a coloring book from my credenza, I get Cindy occupied then buzz my secretary.
"Yes, Dr. Cullen?"
"Janet, could you come in for a few minutes, please?"
I like Janet. She is capable, and a hard worker. After entering, her blue eyes settle on our guest.
"Janet, this is Cindy. I'd like you to say with her while I talk to Miss Miles."
Cindy put down her crayon. "You have to go?" Her faces clouds.
"I will send Miss Miles back here when we are finished talking. After that, I have other patients to see."
"So we gotta say bye now?"
She crooks her small finger and without a thought, I drop to my knees to let the tiny human hug a vampire.
Putting her lips right to my ear, she whispers softly. "I'll never tell. But I can still get up early to…you know…?"
Not trusting myself, I nod without looking in her eyes.
Once outside my office, the phone rings and I answer without checking the caller ID. "Alice."
"We're waiting in your study."
The drive home tests my patience. What if Cindy had not come in today? Would I have never known? The thought of being kept in the dark begins to anger me...until I remember who I am dealing with—my family. I promise myself to hear them out.
Esme greets me on the porch of our home. "Hello, darling. I get to see you before we go. Lucky me." Her arms glide around me and I sigh. The embrace of my mate soothes me in a way nothing else does.
"Edward and Emmett are in the guest house, with them."
A scream bursts from that direction and Esme shakes her head. "Poor dears. Jasper said things are progressing well, and they should wake tomorrow. I wish there was more we could do for them."
"You ladies all packed?"
"Do you really think this is necessary, Carlisle?"
"No. However, Edward insists that Bella and Renesmee leave, so it is better that the rest of you go, too."
Her laugh rings out, and I am already counting the minutes until I see her again. "So this is all to make Edward feel better?" Her lips form a bit of a pout so I kiss it away. "Spill, doctor."
"All right. I admit it. I will feel better if none of you are here when they wake. Two newborns, Esme. If anything were to happen…"
"Nothing will happen, we're going." She pulls me in for another kiss, and I willingly comply. "I will be calling you daily. As your wife, I reserve the right to pester you."
"I would not have it any other way."
Twenty minutes and several goodbyes later and all the women, save Alice, have driven off. They will be staying in Seattle until we know Scott and Diane can handle the presence of so many and have better self-control. I've never been a man of violence, but if they hurt one of my family...
Jasper would be allowed to do the deed.
For now, I am hoping it does not come to that.
When I enter my office, Alice and Jasper say nothing. They wait while I remove my tie and jacket. Their eyes follow me as I hang up my shed clothing. Jasper's silence I am used to. He has no trouble waiting for me to start.
Alice, however, appears to be uncomfortable and fidgets. "Carlisle, I—"
Jasper puts a hand on her shoulder, and she quiets. His eyes go to me. "Sorry. We should've told you as soon as it happened."
"That would have been nice."
"We were waitin' for a chance to talk to you privately. I just got back from meetin' with Jenks. I have yet to even see those two." Jasper nods in the direction of the guest house. "And Edward's high strung enough as it is."
I nod at the truth. Edward is going to be a problem. He is most unhappy with our situation. "Everything go all right with Jenks?"
"Yep, everythin' will be ready and I'll pick it up when it's my turn to visit in Seattle."
Alice crosses her arms. "Can't believe we're getting shipped to Seattle."
Pulling her close, Jasper rests his chin on her head. "Just for a little while." He eyes lock on mine. "You never know how a newborn will be when they wake, Alice. They may be fine or they may be wild and I'll have to…" He lowers his lips to her ear. "Just do this for me."
"Fine. Least I can still do some more shopping for them."
"Good grief, woman! There's no more room in that monstrosity you built for them that you call a closet!"
"You take care of your specialty, Jazz, and I'll take care of mine."
I cough to get their attention. "So, tell me, Mr. Angel, how did a five-year-old girl get the drop on you? Losing your touch?"
Jasper looks chagrined and I laugh, knowing the vampire before me—once called the God of War—who has a bit of a soft spot for Renesmee, has made room there for Cindy.
"There are ten heartbeats in that house. We stayed on the roof and checked—thought they were all asleep."
I tell him what he already knows. "The smaller the body, the faster the heartbeat."
"Anyway," Jasper rubbed the back of his neck. "It was the craziest thing. We drop from the roof and right into her line of sight. Then she starts bangin' on the window!"
Thinking of Cindy telling the story has me laughing—much to Jasper's irritation. "She told me you fell out of the sky."
Jasper growls when Emmett's snicker comes from the guest house.
"Once she quit with the racket, Jazz got her to come downstairs to the back door, and we had a little chat. Cindy came up with the angel theory so we just went with it." Alice tone begs for my understanding. "She's just a little girl. No one would believe her if she did tell."
Jasper's voice has a hard edge to it. "I agree with Alice."
Looking up, I find Jasper staring at me intently. I know, as the coven leader, if I gave the horrible order, he would take care of the girl—and it would weigh on him for years. Once Scott and Diane discovered the dark deed...they would fight us to the death. Still, Jasper would do it—all of it—if he thought Alice was in danger. He had been the one to suggest eliminating Bella in the beginning, when he perceived her as a threat to the family—to Alice.
Holding his gaze, I shake my head. "No one will believe her. I've made sure of it."
Jasper's shoulders relax a bit.
"I spoke to Miss Miles, from CPS and told her Cindy has had some very vivid dreams. That in these dreams, angels have told her they are taking care of her parents and that they are happy in their new home." I level a reproving look at Alice. "That was risky."
"I hate lying. We have to do it so much." Her hands tighten around Jasper's arm that holds her. "I wanted to tell as much truth as I could."
"The early mornin' thing, darlin'." Jasper kisses his wife on the top of her head. "Don't forget that. It's my favorite part."
Alice drops her gaze and her voice softens. "I told Cindy, that when the dawn breaks, angels like to look down on the earth. That the light gets stronger because God uses the power of the angel's love—for those they've left behind—to make the sun rise." When Alice looks up at me, her eyes are glassy. "She smiled so big when I said that."
Reaching into my pocket, I pull out the drawing. "You've given her hope during a black time in her life, Alice. That's not a bad thing. I think Cindy, as well as her siblings, will be just fine." I hand the paper to my daughter. "She left this on my desk."
Jasper looks at Cindy's gift and chuckles. "Look at that, Mrs. Angel. We have wings."
©2012 Midnight Ariel
Beta: SushiBrat – Thanks for saving my story!
Graphic Artist: Christag_Banners and Sunray16
Written for Fandom for Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
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