SM owns it, Dollybigmomma made it pretty.

Chapter 30 – Epilogue

My grandfather pulled through for Grams and had my parents at their house a week later for dinner. Grams came with her stuff packed and ready to move back in with him, but she wasn't taking a bag out until after dinner. They originally wanted to have dinner at my house, but there was no way I was doing that. I wanted to be able to leave if shit went down.

My father shook my hand, and my mother patted my shoulder. It probably would have gone unnoticed by me in the past, but my granddad mistakenly thought he had to smooth things over with Bella's dad, too, so Chuck was also there. He hugged us and kissed Bella's cheek and the top of little Jake's head. His affection made my family's lack of it blaringly obvious. My dad actually glared at Chuck, but my grandfather bumped him. I guess he was keeping them in line. I was glad Chuck was there. I knew he'd be on my side.

Grams, Bella, Chuck, and I spent the evening passing my son back and forth, caring for him. My father took a page out of my grandfather's book and said he was a fine boy. Nothing offensive was said, and at the end of the night, my grandfather gave me a shoulder pat and an almost one-armed hug. He was a painfully awkward man, but it made Grams smile. It seemed like he was actually trying.

Thing were going well. Dr. Rogers changed our visits to just once a month. I was a little freaked out about that. Who would have thought I would've ended up liking my shrink? It was for the best, though. With Bella and me both in college, we had very little extra time. We had worked up to both of us taking classes on campus. We split the days, so we never had classes on the same day. I still didn't trust anyone but us and Grams to watch our boy. Between the three of us, we had it covered, and Grams still babysat once a week for our date night. The only difference was, now she was bringing Gramps along with her. He stood around like an awkward freak, but he had a genuine smile for my boy, so I let him stay.

Chuck was no stranger to my boy, either. He was down for every holiday, showing me how a real dad did it right. He made my girl so happy. I considered moving us up by him, but he told me that when he retired, he planned to settle by us. The nutty thing was I was looking forward to it. Our family was small, our holiday dinners always consisted of just the six of us, but that was all we needed.

Bella and I ended up graduating at the same time. She took fewer classes a semester than I did, which lined us up. Believe it or not, I went into real estate, just like my grandfather. Owning the little house by the university had caused my interest to peak on the subject. The freaky thing was, at some point, my Grams had somehow gotten me and my grandfather together to study. I didn't know how the hell she'd pulled it off. It was some kind of freaky voodoo surprise thing, where we were suddenly talking about real estate law, just like we would the weather. It was nuts and cool at the same time.

Once we were finally out of school, I was happy to say it was time to be married. I'd waited to damn long for our wedding day. I would have never thought that I'd be itching to settle down, but once I got my hands on my girl, there was no way I was letting her go. I think that was abundantly clear the day I'd kidnapped her. She was beautiful, of course, and for my wedding gift, she informed me she was pregnant with our daughter. To say I freaked the fuck out would've been an understatement. Of all people, it was my grandfather that talked me down. The bastard was right; I had this dad thing down. I could do it.

They went from babysitting on Saturday night to us having Saturday lunch with them, me playing a round of golf with Gramps, and then Bella and I would have our date. I would swear Grams was always smiling so big at Gramps, I thought her face would break. I hoped that was how we would end up, too.

Not long after my daughter was born, I heard from my father. He congratulated me and hoped my wife was well. It was a lot more than I expected. Unbeknown to me, Bella had started to send pictures of our family to them. It took another five years, but my dad showed up on my grandparent's doorstep for Thanksgiving. My mom was working through the holiday, but he hoped we'd let him pop in.

It was sad, my kids had no idea who he was, and he was even more awkward than Gramps was in the beginning. My dad actually looked confused when my kids ran to Gramps, and he got down and hugged them, letting them tell him about their day. Maybe someday my dad would figure it out, but I wasn't holding my breath.

We got a call letting us know that Phil had been killed in a prison attack. Alice informed me that he'd been the target of five very large angry men, who'd worked him over together on a daily basis for years. He hadn't been doing well after the latest round of rectal tearing, but ended up dying from choking to death. She didn't say on what, but she giggled like the maniac freak she was. The prison hadn't stop the beatings, because there'd been a push to not torture tormented prisoners by putting them in solitary confinement, even if it was for their own protection. He'd had several broken bones and internal injuries from his numerous attacks, but Alice made sure the prison knew they couldn't punish Phil by putting him in solitary confinement, or she'd go to the press about it. I had to give it to that sick little bitch, she was pretty damn awesome.

Renee wasn't any better off. Somehow word got out about why she was in there and how she'd helped her husband rape and kill several young girls. Let's just say she wished she was one of those several young girls. It didn't look like Renee was going to last much longer in prison, either.

Of course, I kept this all from my wife. She was there for the cremation of Phil's body, though. I thought it might help her to see him literally burn in hell, before he actually got there. I looked forward to taking her to her mother's cremation next. I got the impression from Alice that it would be soon. Bella had a few extra visits with Dr. Rogers after she watched the sick bastard burn. I was glad he was still in our lives and helped her worked through it. We were down to one visit every six months, and it was mostly to check in with him, but it felt more like meeting with an old friend.

My grandparents were in their early seventies, but still kicking, and I thanked the heavens for that. I was taking my wife away for our tenth anniversary. Much to Jake's dismay, the kids stayed with their great-grandparents for the week. Jake was sixteen and usually a good kid, but like Dr. Rogers taught me years ago, I needed to be the parent I wished I'd had. There was no way I'd let my boy get into trouble and spread STD's like butter cream frosting. I saw the hoochies at his school when I watched his football games. His school was just as big a cesspool as mine was back in the day. There were not going to be any unsupervised weekend in either of my kid's futures. Jake was not getting a naughty babysitter anytime soon.

My little Maggie was only ten, but could put her brother in his place with the drop of a hat, or tear. He was six years older than her, and he loved to play the protective big brother. He planned to go to college locally. I knew part of the reason he chose to stay close was to scare little cretins away from my daughter. I'd raised him well.

When I got home from work on Jake's graduation day, I was shocked by what I found. My mother was standing in the living room with Bella, who had a gritted-teeth smile. Maggie had her standard twelve-year-old attitude on high. I could see by the annoyed look on her face that something was very wrong, even if no one had raised their voice.

"I asked a logical question. If she's my grandma, then where has she been? We've lived in the same house forever, it's not like she couldn't find us."

"She lives out of town," my wife tried to play nice, but my Maggie wasn't having it. She definitely took after her namesake.

"Grandpa Chuck lived out of town for a long time, and he was here for every holiday and most of our birthdays."

"Your grandmother…" my wife started, but I finished.

"Was a bitch and nothing like your angel of a mother, who's to damn polite to not throw her out as soon as she stepped on the front porch."

"Edward!" my girl hissed.

"Mom tends to be way too nice," Maggie agreed with me.

My mother actually scoffed. I so wanted to backhand the bitch. I actually took a step in her direction, but was cut off by my girl.

"Edward, I was just chatting with Elizabeth. She would like to attend Jake's graduation and the dinner as well. Your father is in town for business and was hoping to pop in, too." She stepped closer and rubbed my arm. "It'd be good to have more family. Gramps learned when we gave him the chance."

It was my turn to scoff, "Grams had his balls. That was why he straightened out. I don't want the bitch near my family."

"I don't think she should come to a family dinner. Who's to say she's not an imposter?" my little Maggie sassed.

My mother looked like she was about to say something to get herself thrown out the front door, when Bella jumped in loudly. "I think Elizabeth should sit for a moment, while I get her drink. Edward, please take your daughter out of the room and have a talk with her."

"About what? She just calls it like it is."

My wife took in a deep breath, and when she opened her eyes again, I could see she was barely holding it together. "Take your daughter out, and keep in mind, I know where you sleep. You teach her the proper way to act in front of a stranger, because that's what your mother is. You tell her that it's a good thing to look for the good in people. That's why I stuck with you all these years, so go show off some of that good I know is hiding up your ass," she hissed the last part. She was definitely pissed and was about to twist my balls if I didn't make this right.

I had stepped into the hallway and told my little Mags to be quiet. "Your mom is a sweetheart. I won't let that woman upset her or hurt her."

When I looked away from the living room, back down at my daughter, I could see that she looked worried.

"Elizabeth, I'm so sorry this went so badly. I would've prepared him better if I'd known you were in town. We'd love to have you and your husband at the graduation and dinner. We're very proud of our little Jacob."

"From the looks of his pictures, he's not so little anymore."

"No, he definitely towers over me. Are you sure you don't want to tell Edward about the breast cancer? It might make this easier on the both of you."

"No, I want his honest reaction, not his pity. That daughter of yours has a mouth on her."

"I think Edward lets her get away with too much."

"I do not," I whispered to myself.

She continued. "He always says 'she just tells it like it is.' Being polite and kind are important, too. One of these days, I'll get that through both their thick skulls."

"From what I remember of Edward, he didn't take to directions, rules or suggestions at all, either."

"Yes, well, things are different now. I'm sure you can see it's pretty obvious, since he graduated from ASU and does so well at work. He turned out to be an excellent father, someone Jacob can look up to."

"That's what Margaret tells me." I would swear there was a sneer in my mother's voice. I didn't like the way she said Grams' name.

"We've been lucky to have Grandma Maggie around to help out with the kids. They really enjoy their time with their great-grandparents."

The room was silent for a moment, and I wondered if they were glaring or what. I finally gave in and stepped back into the room. "Mom, good to see you," I gave her my fake grin. I hoped my wife would give me my balls back soon.

She actually chuckled and looked to Bella with an eyebrow raised. Her eyes landed on my little Maggie next, who'd picked up on what I was doing. "It's nice to meet you, Grandmother. I guess I'll see you tonight." She gave a little wave and ran off to her room.

"Well, I should be going. I need to let my husband know that we're expected at the graduation."

"And the dinner," my wife insisted as she helped my mother off the couch. My mom flinched a little, like she was in pain, but gave Bella that grimacing smile again. I realized it wasn't because my mother was being a bitch, but because she hurt. I felt like an ass…well, not really, maybe a little ass.

My parents were surprisingly cordial that evening. I realized things must have been bad, because my dad kept checking on my mom. If I hadn't overheard she was sick, I would've sent him to the nut house. I guess having another set of grandparents around for the kids wouldn't hurt.

I was nervous about letting my parents back into my family's life, but it seemed like the cancer really changed my parent's perception of things. My mom beat the cancer, and thankfully still loved to be around her grandkids. Maggie was a tough nut to crack, but my wife worked on her, and now it was nearly impossible to pry my daughter away from her grandma's side.

My boy, Jacob, was getting married. He'd found himself a girl with a mouth on her and a wild streak. She reminded me a little of my Bella, only without the crazy serial-killing parents. Vanessa was originally from New York and came to ASU to finish her degree in criminal law. They met when Vanessa stopped Jake from beating the shit out of a kid for saying something crude to little Maggie. My little girl's mouth got bigger and sassier after she hung out with Vanessa, but Vanessa also taught Maggie a few defensive moves that would incapacitate men bigger than her brother. When I heard that, I knew she was a keeper.

As my son readied to begin his life as a husband and an eventual father, I looked back on our lives and smiled, knowing I'd done my best. I might not have been perfect, but my kids were loved. My little Maggie was a spitfire, but with the help of her mother and grandparents, we'd kept her out of trouble so far. If I had my say, she'd never be a naughty babysitter, thank god for that, but I'd never regretted falling in love with mine. My naughty girl was still the love of my life and my favorite form of trouble, and she always would be.