Chapter 24


"Are you sure you're okay with this, Bella? I can easily find a babysitter."

"Edward, I told you that it was fine with me." I try to kiss him but he moves his face away.

"Well, you have all my numbers? And I left a schedule for you so that you'll know what he likes to do. And I'll call probably every hour to check up on him."

"Edward..."

He pulls out his wallet. "And here's some money just in case."

"Stop it." I grab the front of his shirt. "Pull yourself together."

"You're right." He sighs. "I'm unnecessarily freaking out."

"Yes, you are. Jonathan Francis and I will be fine."

Edward looks around my foyer. "Where did he get off to?"

"I'm not sure, but you need to get going."

Jonathan Francis and I were spending the entire day together. He didn't have school and I volunteered to watch him before Edward even got the sentence out of his mouth. I was a little overly excited.

And this might be a bad thing for me to say, but I think it had something to do with the fact that Edward was finally getting a divorce.

It's been a quick process, and they used a mediator to keep things out of the court. I don't know much, but Edward said he would inform me of what was going on after he settled things.

It was rough for him even though he acted like it wasn't. I don't care how much I hated Irina, even I had to admit that the demise of their marriage must be tough on he both of them. There were several nights when Edward would call me, in somewhat of a panic attack. He had been together with her for his entire adult life, since he was seventeen, it only made sense to freak out.

He was off to handle that this morning before work.

"Theo and Seb get out of school at three." Edward places his hands on my hips and pulls me close. "They'll take the train here."

I nod. "I know. We've been over this ten times."

"Right."

"I'm not incompetent, you know."

"Of course you aren't. I just want to make sure that everything's going to be okay. I always get like this when I let my kids out of my sight." He chuckles, "I'm a little overprotective."

"I've noticed, but I don't mind." I kiss him shortly on the lips.

"Daddy! Daddy! Look what I found." JF comes into the foyer carrying Sam, who does not look pleased at all. The cat's face is scrunched up in anger and the noises coming from him tell me he's obviously not amused.

"Jonathan, you know better than to touch other people's pets without asking," Edward says.

"He was hiding from me." JF lifts Sam up higher into his arms. "What's his name, Bella?"

"Sam." I laugh quietly.

"Does he bite?"

"No, he doesn't, but he doesn't look very pleased at you right now. Maybe I should take him." I gently grab Sam and set him on the floor. He runs off as if I tried to burn his tail.

"You're going to be good for Bella, right?" Edward bends down and talks to his son.

"Yes, Admiral." He salutes.

"At ease, sailor."

"We're going to have a great time."

Edward leaves five minutes later. JF waves to him from the steps and then shuts the door when he comes back inside.

"Bella, come color with me." He takes my hand and leads me into the family room. We sit on the floor in front of the coffee table. "This is my superhero book. You can have Batman if you want."

"That's very nice of you." I take the page and pick up a Crayon.

"So, when did you get a cat?" JF asks very pointedly.

"Two months ago, I think. I just wanted a friend to hang out with."

"You don't have many friends?"

"No, not really." I laugh lightly.

"Daddy's your friend." He furiously scribbles in his coloring book.

"Yes, and so are you."

"But Daddy's your best friend."

Uh oh!

"I think my sister is my best friend," I deflect.

Jonathan Francis, always the sneaky boy, huffs in frustration. "Daniel across the street, his dad has a friend, too. She lives at their house."

"That's nice. Do you want something to drink? Let me go get you a juice." I pop up from the floor and briskly walk into the kitchen.

JF follows me. "Bella, will you come live with us?"

"What? No, I don't think so. I have my own house here." I reach into the fridge for a juice pouch.

"Yeah, but it's so far away. Don't you want to see me more? And what about Daddy? He gets sad when you aren't around." He climbs onto a stool at the counter.

"Well, I think that right now, your Daddy is going through some things and it would be best if I stay here."

"Is this about the divorce?" JF stares at me.

How old is this kid?

I try not to appear so shocked at his outright questions, but it's hard to hide my emotions. Children are so perceptive. I knew JF picked up on a few things over the past few weeks, but I shouldn't be having this conversation with him.

"George told me all about it. Daddy and Mommy can't get along so she's moving away. But you are Daddy's new girlfriend," he adds.

Without thinking, I spear the tiny straw into the juice pouch and drain the thing myself. I frantically sip just to keep myself occupied.

"You should move in with us. I'll ask him tonight at dinner." JF, seemingly satisfied with his conclusions, sits down smugly.

This needs to be handled, and quickly.

While JF is occupied with his coloring, half an hour later, I have a text session with Edward. He informs that he will talk with the boys tonight.

They have a right to know what's going on.-E

Should I be there?-B

Sure. We'll do it at your house.-E

How was the divorce stuff?-B

All done! I'm officially single. Well... I guess not single since I have you. But not married. haha-E

Funny. This is happening really fast. I always thought divorce takes a lot longer.-B

It would have if Irina gave a shit about the kids. Assets are easy to divide; children, not so much. But she just wants visitation a couple times a year. I'll explain everything to you tonight.-E

We end our conversation with a silly round of "I love you's" and then I went off to find JF.

He was crouched under the sofa, his small butt sticking up in the air.

"Come on, kitty. Come play with me."

"Jonathan, what are you doing?" I ask.

"Trying to get Sam. He won't come out."

"If you promise to be gentle, I'll get him for you."

JF shimmies out from under the couch, his hair sticking up all over the place. "Really? Please, Bella. I promise I won't hurt him."

"Okay, okay." I go to the back of the sofa and coerce Sam into my arms. I lift him up. "You're going to be a good boy, right?"

Sam snuggles against me and I sit down in front of JF. Slowly, his hand pets Sam who purrs gently.

"You can't be too rough with him or he'll get mad. He's a little spoiled," I say.

"He's so soft. Where did you get him?"

"A shelter. I thought I would help out a cat in need so I went down and picked him up."

"When you come live with us, do you think Daddy will let Sam come, too?"

I cough a little. "Uh, we can ask him, I guess."

"Good." JF sits next to me and we continue to pet Sam together.

Ten minutes later, I feel comfortable enough and transfer the cat into JF's arms. He seems amazed and his smile is contagious. Sam also doesn't seem to mind anymore and looks as if he's fallen asleep.

By the time I look up, it's noon, and I suggest we get some lunch.

"How about we go to the park and have a picnic. The weather looks like it's cleared up," I suggest.

"That sounds like fun. Can we bring Sam? We can put him on a leash." JF smiles up at me as I'm making sandwiches.

I laugh, "I don't think he'd like that very much."

He thinks about this for a second. "You're right. The other cats might not be nice to him. He will be okay until we come back, right?"

"I guarantee it."

Laden down with a picnic basket filled with sandwiches, chips, pasta salad, and drinks, we lock up the house before walking down the street. JF holds my hand on the way to a park nearby. He's carrying a blanket we can sit on and my hope is that he'll tire himself out at the park for a nap later.

We find a nice location on a patch of grass and spread out.

"I think we should do this every day," JF says happily, taking a large bite out of his PB&J.

"But you have school. Don't you like your friends and your teacher?"

"Yeah, but I like you more." He grins at me. If I didn't know any better, I would think he's flirting.

Out of anyone, I would say that Jonathan Fracnis is more like Edward than the rest of his boys. George might look identical to his father, but their attitudes were totally different. JF is exactly like Edward, in every way. That's probably why we got along the best.

"Why aren't you dressed up today? I was looking forward to meeting Cowboy Jonathan again," I say.

"Oh, I don't dress up as a cowboy anymore. I want to be a miner now. I forgot my hat at home, though."

"Miner? That sounds adventurous."

"I want to find diamonds underground. Daddy says I can dig in the backyard. Do you think I'll find any?"

"Of course. I'm sure they're out there somewhere."

Jonathan Francis and I pack up lunch after we lounge into the grass for a little. We hold hands on the way home, and Edward calls as we walk into the house.

"Hey, how are things going?"

"Fine," I answer. "We just came back from a picnic and I'll put him down for a nap soon."

"He's probably too excited to sleep."

"Sam! Where are you?" JF shouts up the stairs. He runs off in search of his new friend.

"He probably doesn't want to talk to his old man right now."

"Probably not. He's very busy. By the way, he told me about his new mining job looking for diamonds." I set the picnic basket on the kitchen counter and start to unpack it.

"I bought him a shovel and everything." Edward laughs.

We talk for a couple more minutes before I end the call and go in search of Jonathan. I find him on the couch, an angry look on his face.

"What's wrong?" I ask.

"I can't find Sam. I know he's hiding from me."

"How about you continue looking and I'll help."

"Okay." JF shoots off of the sofa and runs into the living room.

I walk slowly towards the bookcase in the corner and peek behind it. Sam is sitting, looking up at me, glaring. He hides behind here sometimes when he knows he's in trouble.

"It's not so bad. He just wants to be friends. You're such a big baby," I say. I lean down and pull him from behind the shelf. He hisses at me.

I search the house for Jonathan Francis and find him sleeping peacefully on my bed. His little face is smashed against my pillow and lips are open slightly. I pull the covers over his body and kiss the top of his head.

I clean up the kitchen and the small mess that we've made throughout at the day. I didn't even realize it was so late in the afternoon until there's a knock at my door. Theodore and Sebastian are standing on the steps, smiles on their faces.

"Hi. You guys made it." I take their coats from them and shut the door.

"It was really easy. Just a couple stops on the train," Theo says.

"Well, your brother is sleeping so let's try and be quiet," I warn them.

I set them up at the kitchen counter so that they start their homework. I make them a snack and smile to myself while I'm doing it. I would have paid a million dollars to have Renee make me something to eat after school when I was growing up.

"This is really good, Bella," Seb says, taking a bite of the ham and cheese pinwheels I made earlier.

"Thank you .You'll have to tell me what you like so that I can make it the next time you come over."

"Do you think Dad will let us?" Theo asks.

"I'm sure he will. I hope so. I like you guys."

They smile at each other proudly.

After they finished most of their homework, I go wake up Jonathan. He is groggy for a minute, but brightens up when he sees Theo and Seb. I suggest that we start on dinner. Chicken and vegetables. Nothing fancy, but they seem excited.

"Bella, I want to stir it," JF says, pulling on the hem of my shirt. "You said I could."

"Okay, here you go." I set the bowl of cookie dough on the lower counter so that he could reach. "Don't eat it all."

"I promise I won't." His eyes have a gleam in them that tells me I need to watch him.

"I think the chicken is done." Theo bends down to look into the oven.

"It smells really good. Are you sure you've never cooked before?" I stuffed my hands in some oven mitts and pulled it out.

"No, Dad won't let me."

"Well, I think he'll be very proud to see this."

"Really? You think?" Theo smiled.

"Of course." I set the chicken on the counter to cool.

The boys help me set the table; I'm surprised that they know exactly where each item goes - even JF. Most young kids don't pay attention to stuff like that.

"I can open a bottle of wine for you and Dad," Theo offers.

"I think I better do that," I counter. "You boys go wash your hand before your Dad gets here."

They all scurry off, their feet making pattering noises on my hardwood floors.

I stop myself from smiling too big. I like this. It's domestic and safe. Company is nice, no matter how young they are.

A knock at the door signals Edward's arrival, and I quickly go to answer it. He pulls off his sunglasses and pushes into the house, grabbing my hips.

"I missed you." He kisses me hard.

"I missed you, too," I tell him, pulling him as close as I can.

"It's done. The divorce is final."

"I still can't believe it was that fast."

"Me either, but it's over." He rests his forehead against mine.

"Daddy!" Jonathan Francis runs into the foyer and attaches himself to Edward's leg.

"Why, hello, sailor." He lifts him up. "Where you good for Bella?"

"Yes. We baked cookies because I was so good."

"Well, I'm glad to hear it."

We all sit down for dinner. It's very pleasant. I've never had this in my life, but I want it. I want it every night. I don't think I will be able to have dinner the same way again. Edward and his boys here; it's just how it's supposed to be. It is easy and simple.

Edward sits at one end, and I at the other. The conversation is silly and unimportant, but I don't mind. Sebastian keeps telling me about how he's trying to make a volcano for a science project. I tell him that he can come over this weekend and we can work on it.

"So, boys, I need to tell you something." Edward wipes his mouth and puts his napkin on the table.

My heart beats a little quicker, knowing what's coming.

"As of today," Edward begins, "your mother and I are divorced. We talked about what that meant, remember?"

They all nod their heads.

"She has decided to let you guys stay with me and she will visit throughout the year," he continues. "Your mother and I still love you all very much, but we've just decided to end our marriage. I'm trying to make things as easy as possible so that nothing will change that much."

"Are you and Bella going to get married now?" Jonathan Francis asks. I almost fall out of my chair.

"Uh, no... Not yet, at least," he says softly. "But Bella will be around a lot more."

"Because she's your girlfriend?" Theo says in understanding.

"I guess so, yes," Edward answers.

The table is quiet for a second.

"Okay. Can we go play with the cat now?" JF jumps up from his seat.

"Yeah, we ate all our vegetables. Can we go play?" Seb adds.

Edward is speechless for a couple of seconds before he nods. "Take your plates into the kitchen and then you can go."

They quickly clear the table, leaving just the two of us at opposite ends.

"I'm so confused," he says, rubbing his face. "I've been stressing over this conversation for the past month. I've read articles and books and done research on the best way to do this and they don't even care."

"I'm sure they care, but... maybe it just doesn't mean as much to them right now. They're young," I think out loud.

"It just seems... too simple." He leans back, taking a sip of his wine.

I get up from my seat and walk down the table to be closer to him. "How did it go today?"

"Fine, I guess. I'm giving her a lot of money. And we lost all the trust funds." He rakes his hands through his hair. "Carlisle is trying to sort things out to see if we can recoup any of it, but I don't know how that's going."

"I'm so sorry."

"Don't be." He takes my hand. "It's never been about money to me. And I still have a lot left. I just want to be happy. With you."

"That's very sweet of you to say, but I never wanted you to give everything up like that."

"After she brought up the affair to the lawyers, it was over for me. It could have gotten messy, but I'm glad she didn't drag it out. I think she wanted to be as free as me."

"And the boys don't seem to mind your new life." I smile.

"No." He laughs to himself. "George even called to congratulate me."

"So... I guess this is our new beginning." I lay my head on his shoulder.

He kisses me softly. "We're only getting started, Miss Swan."


A/N: Sweet, yes? Can you believe it all worked out?

It's over. Obviously, this is probably not how things would go down, but this is fiction. I can write what I want.

This is the last chapter. A stellar epilogue is to come.

Thanks to Jenny for all the beta work so that my stories actually become readable. And thanks to everyone who braved the shady subject matter to read and review. I didn't think anyone would read this, but you all proved me wrong. Thank you!