~O~

Part III


A Year.

Five hundred, twenty six thousand minutes.

The song, Seasons of Love, rang through her mind. She had been forced to sing it in choir in high school, and while she had started out liking it, the repetitiveness of it grated on her nerves.

How do you measure a year? In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee?

The song was stuck in her head, and the question it presented resonated with her? How do you measure a year? Love, as the song suggested, seemed hard to measure.

You could measure a year in laughter and smiles, or tears and heartbreak, or quiet nights at home where you realize how lucky you are. Perhaps the time should just be measured in feelings of joy, sorrow, confusion, stress or happiness.

She had certainly had experienced all of the emotions in a way that defined the past year for her.

~O~

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOLLY! was written on a banner, a cake and dozens of cards.

The Cullen-Swan household was abuzz as guests crowded the area, cooing over the sweet little girl who was turning two. There had not been a party last year, leaving more than one of the guests feeling slighted at the opportunity to spoil Molly Belle Cullen, the girl with the big blue eyes.

The guest of honor was sitting on Alice's lap fiddling with the latter's engagement ring, fascinated by its shine while Alice grinned and bounced her.

"Don't let her have it, Al! She'll put it straight in her mouth," Bella called over the chatter of the guests.

Alice grinned up at Bella and winked before going back to intently listening to the little girl's words.

Molly had grown like crazy in just the past six months alone. She no longer looked much like a baby, and had turned into quite an intelligent toddler. She had got taller and gained more weight, as well as her motor skills improving along with her verbal skills.

In short, she was talking up a storm and running around, keeping both Edward and Bella on their toes.

Bella pulled the small cake out of the cupboard where she had placed it that morning. She had made a little one for Molly, and a larger one for the rest of the guests. As she set it on the counter, a finger came out of nowhere and attempted to snipe some frosting.

"Quit it!" Bella admonished, swatting away Edward's hand.

He grinned unapologetically. "You know I have a weakness for your baking."

Bella raised an eyebrow. "You're going to steal frosting from your daughter's cake, on this the day of celebration of her birth? Low, Cullen."

Edward laughed.

"We should probably give the people their cake soon, as I'm sure Rose will probably eat us otherwise," he grinned pointedly at Rosalie who was working on a plate of cheese and crackers…her third plate.

Rosalie narrowed her eyes at his comment. "Screw you, Edward. You try being pregnant with Emmett's child, knowing the way he eats."

Emmett and Rosalie had announced last month, on Mother's Day, that they were expecting their first child. Rose had just passed the first trimester a few days ago and while she wasn't showing, her appetite certainly was.

"Hey babe," Emmett said, coming into the kitchen and wrapping an arm around her waist. He glanced at the plate in her hands and raised an eyebrow, "Third one, babe?"

Edward started laughing while Bella tried to fight it but couldn't prevent the amused smirk on her face as Rosalie glared at her husband.

"You know, I was totally fine with having a kid in a few years, but no, you had to knock me up. This is your fault."

"What can I say, Rosie? My little swimmers are strong!" he grinned.

"Emmett!" Bella explained, grossed out by his manly show of pride.

"Your little swimmers aren't going to have anywhere to swim if you comment on the number of pieces of cake I'm planning on having," Rose threatened.

Emmett's face fell.

"I'm going to go and get the kid," Edward said, leaving his brother on his own with that one. "You ready with the candles?" he asked Bella, who nodded, still smirking at the exchange.

"Hey baby girl!" Edward exclaimed, crouching down in front of her and Alice. "You ready for some cake?"

Molly had been so excited about having her own cake. She had been asking about it every day for the past week and was beside herself in joy.

"Ya!" Molly exclaimed, launching herself out of Alice's lap and into her daddy's arms.

Edward smiled at how adorable his daughter was as he stood up. He turned to the guests who were milling out about and announced, "Molly's going to be blowing out her candles now!" Molly giggled as he tickled her belly.

Family and friends stood up and congregated to the kitchen where Edward sat at the end of the table, Molly on his lap. People quieted as Bella lit the two candles on the cake and then lifted it up.

People began to sing 'Happy Birthday' as Bella walked through them to the table. Molly beamed as her eyes locked onto the dessert. Bella and Edward both shared a wide smile as Bella set down the cake on the table.

"Blow out the candles, baby," Edward said in a voice which Bella could only describe as his 'Daddy Voice.'

Bella crouched down next to them and encouraged her to blow out the flames. After watching Bella mimic the action, Molly quickly puffed out her cheeks and blew at the candles, a delighted squeal coming from her lips when the flames went out.

Everyone cheered in celebration of the accomplishment. Bella was about to stand up and go and get a plate and cut the small cake in half perhaps, when Molly shoved both of her hands into the frosting.

"Hey pumpkin, do you want a plate?" Bella asked with a giggle.

Molly looked at her with wide eyes, and then shook her head. "No!"

"Well then have at it, kid," Edward laughed. They watched as Molly resorted to eating in way that she hadn't in quite a few months since having started with utensils.

Alice snapped away pictures of Bella and Edward laughing while Molly coated her face with orange and pink frosting and cake.

Eventually Bella realized that people were enjoying watching Molly's joy, but probably wanted a piece of the other cake that she had made. She moved to stand up and go start dishing it out, but when she looked over, Esme was one step ahead of her. She winked at Bella as she started to put pieces of orange paper plates.

"You know, since it's a Sunday, you're the one who has to give her a bath," Bella reminded him with a smirk. They had long since worked out schedules for everything, but with diapers it was always whoever said "Not it!" the fastest.

They were living a fun life in that respect.

"Hey Jazz," Alice nudged, "That's how you eat!"

The blonde rolled his eyes as several people chuckled.

"Just you wait, darling; come October 4th, you'll find yourself with a face full of cake," he smiled.

Alice and Jasper had decided on a fall wedding which was quickly was approaching within four months now. Alice had organized and planned well and efficiently with the help of Jasper and Bella and it was sure to be a beautiful day.

Bella stood up and went to get cake for Edward and her. She bumped into Kessler and his wife by the counter and grinned.

"Did you make this, Swan?" he asked suspiciously, peering at the cake with caution. Bella and his wife rolled their eyes.

"Yes, might want to watch out though, I may have gotten some rat poisoning in there."

"I wouldn't doubt it," he teased.

"Thanks for coming, by the way," she smiled at them after picking up two orange paper plates.

Kessler grinned. "Our pleasure, kid. Wait until you see what we got the little one."

"If it's any type of reptile, I'm never speaking to you again," she threatened, seriously.

Kessler rolled his eyes. "You ruin all the fun."

Bella laughed before going back to Edward and sitting in the chair next to him and Molly, where all three of them went to town on their cake.

Throughout the spring, Bella had seen a decent amount of Kessler. She had agreed to help out Kessler with the boy's high school tennis team which played opposite of the girls team. Working with teenage boys was…an interesting experience. Even though they knew Bella had played at a national level, they had been cocky, thinking they were better than her at first.

That changed within two days. Bella managed to beat them all with the other assistant coach who had played Division 2. After that arrogance had faded and they had all been put in their places, they had just found her really hot. Which was equally as interesting. Overall, they were a great group of guys and she had had tons of fun. She'd even brought Molly to one of the practices where she was doted above enough to rival the girls' team.

"Compliments to the chef!" Emmett called across the chattering room, winking at Bella as there were nods and chuckles of agreement.

"This is freaking amazing," Edward moaned as he took a generous sized bite.

Bella grinned.

"'Nazing!" Molly agreed excitedly. Bella kissed the top of her head, careful to avoid the frosting.

"Well I think you're 'nazing too, Molly!"

~O~

If you want a spun up two year old: a lot of cake, a first taste of soda and dozens of guests doting on her with gifts is the way to do it.

There was a betting pool of when she would crash. Edward had 4:30, while Bella was thinking she would hold off till 5 pm. Emmett had already lost at 3:30, though hardly surprised by his goddaughter's exuberance.

Molly was bouncing off the walls as she excitedly tore away at all of the wrapped presents which had been brought for her. She had originally planted herself on Edward's lap to open the gifts while Bella sat next to them on the floor and recorded who gave what, but the little girl was quickly on her feet, squealing and running to give hugs after each gift.

Edward couldn't keep the smile of his face as he watched his baby girl, the definition of innocence and joy. It was a bittersweet sense in which Molly's mother wasn't with them, and while Edward acknowledged Taylor's absence, he chose to focus on the smiles and giggles of the day.

Once Molly had opened everything, Edward discreetly slipped out of the crowded living room.

"Where's Daddy?" Molly asked in her high baby voice which Bella adored.

"He's outside with your present, sweetie. Should we go see what it is?" Bella asked, smiling as she ran her hand through the girl's hair.

Molly nodded vigorously.

"You're welcome to come outside and see how Edward and I have doomed ourselves for the love of the kid!" Bella announced, standing up and picking up Molly.

A few people who knew what they had gotten Molly smirked, while everyone else rose from their seats curiously.

Bella slipped out the back door, Molly settled on her hips. It was a beautiful, early summer day. It had rained earlier than morning, making things too wet to host a part outside. However, the sun was out and shining, having dried all the wetness.

Molly looked around eagerly, trying to set her sights on her dad. Bella knew Edward was in the garage and would come of the door after being called.

"We're ready, Edward!"

Edward came out of the garage, but no one was really looking at him. In his arms was a tiny fur ball of a puppy. Molly watched in confusion as Edward set the dog down in the grass which was half the height of him. When she saw the puppy move, she let out a squeal that may have rendered Bella deft.

Bella quickly set Molly on the ground and watched as she took off running towards the tiny German shepherd.

"Doggie!" she cried in absolute joy. The puppy saw her approaching and started to wag its little tail.

Edward crouched down by them, wrapping his arm around Molly and picking the dog up for her to pet. "He's your puppy, baby girl. Happy birthday!"

Molly's eyes widened comically wide and her mouth fell open to a big O. "Tank you, Daddy! I wuv you!"

Edward kissed the top of her head with a smile. "I love you too, baby."

"Mama! I got a uppy!" Molly squealed at Bella who had approached the loving scene.

Bella laughed, "I see that, sweetie. Happy birthday!"

"Can you give Bella a hug, too?" Edward asked with a smile.

Edward lifted his arm as Molly broke away from his embrace and raced the short distance to Bella. She threw her arms around her legs until Bella picked her up and hugged her tightly.

"What are you going to name the little guy?" Bella asked, sitting on the grass by Edward and the puppy who was trying to eat the grass.

Molly looked up at Bella with furrowed brows, making both adults grin.

"Well you have a name, don't you?" Bella reasoned.

The toddler nodded. "Mowy Cuwen!" she agreed, mangling her "l's" as she always seemed to.

"So what should the puppy's name be?"

Molly slowly petted the pup, pondering the question intently.

Suddenly, her face lit up. "Simba!"

Bella burst out laughing while Edward rolled his eyes, trying to hide his smirk.

The Lion King had remained a steady favorite over the past year in the household. Molly watched it at least once a week. She liked Finding Nemo too, but not quite to the same caliber.

"Simba's a lion, princess," Edward pointed out.

Molly gave him the same furrowed look. She looked over at Bella, unsure why her dad was protesting the name. Bella laughed even harder at the annoyed look.

"So, Daddy?"

"This isn't a lion," he argued, fighting to keep a straight face and failing utterly.

"I know, it's a uppy! My uppy!"

Edward grinned. "Actually, it's a puppy, with p."

"A uppy!" Molly agreed, clearly not getting her father's point at all.

"Well, I think Simba is a great name, Molly!" Bella said, having gotten her giggles somewhat under control.

"Simba!" she cried, throwing her arms around the puppy in one of the most adorable embraces either had witnessed.

"Okay, I've held out as long as I could. I need to get a picture of this."

Esme strode across the yard, camera in hand. She waited while Bella and Edward, who knew the drill, organized themselves into a pose.

The Cullen matriarch snapped a few pictures of the small, odd, yet completely happy family. Edward had Molly in his lap, his one arm hugging her, and the other hugging Bella to his side. Simba was in Bella's lap, barking excitedly. Esme even caught one picture of Edward and Bella smiling happily at each other when they thought she had finished.

"Who picked the type of dog?" Jasper wondered later as the party wound down. Most guests had left expect for family.

Bella rolled her eyes at the question and looked accusingly over at Edward.

She and he had argued for weeks about what type of dog to get Molly. Bella had wanted something small, and would stay small, like a Pomeranian or a Yorkie. Edward had had other thoughts.

"Why do I get the accused look?" Edward asked, holding a wounded hand to his heart.

Bella raised an eyebrow. "Because Mr. 'I want a man's man dog!' you were the one who refused to compromise."

Edward defended himself to the various chuckles. "I'm the one who's going to have to take it out in the morning. I would rather keep my dignity and be out with a normal sized dog, and not some glorified rat."

"I did suggest a cat so we wouldn't to take it out in the mornings," she reminded him as they continued to wipe down the tables and counters.

"I'm allergic to cats!" he protested.

"Oh, dear, we all know that's a lie," Esme said, strolling into the room with Molly on her hip. She had handed the droopy looking girl over to Bella as she smirked at her son.

"Do tell," Bella said, giving Edward a narrow eyed stare.

"Edward really just doesn't like cats. He took a page from his father's book who has claimed to be allergic for the past 30 years, when really, the man just doesn't like fur."

Bella glared at Edward.

Edward smiled and wrapped his arm around Bella, trying to get away from the subject.

"You know, Little One looks pretty tired," he pointed out, looking down at his kid who had finally crashed from her sugar high.

Alice, who was doing the dishes with her dad, snorted. "Oh shut up Edward, your 4:30 slot already passed."

"I'm really just not winning today, am I?"

Bella grinned up at him and was about to say something when Molly let out a big yawn.

"You know, you stay down with these guys. I'll give her the bath tonight, as I don't think she'll be able to keep her eyes open much longer," Bella said, looking down at the toddler.

Edward smiled in thanks.

"I'll be up in a little bit to say goodnight."

Bella nodded.

Edward leaned down at kissed Molly's rosy red cheek. "I love you, sweetheart."

Bella felt Edward's soft lips kiss her cheek next. "Thank you for today, Bella," he whispered to her before pulling his lips away from her.

She smiled at him before turning towards the stairs, snuggling closer to Molly.

Edward glanced around to see if they had attracted any attention with the quick display. Alice and Bella's dad was helping his eldest daughter do the dishes while her mom and Esme looked at pictures on a digital camera and Jasper, Emmett and Rose were in the other room with Carlisle.

He wasn't ashamed of the display of affection. However, he wasn't quite ready for the repercussions it would have if everyone in his life knew his feelings for Bella were more than purely platonic.

Over the past six months since the kiss and the subsequent falling out that had happened after, Edward had had a lot of time to consider his life. It had been a struggle to work through several emotions and ideas, but he was coming along.

He knew he liked Bella, and had really fucking liked that kiss they had shared. It had aroused him with shocking intensity. And he still thought about it. But he hadn't been ready for more than that, and nor had she.

But as the months had gone by, he and Bella had only grown closer. Nothing had happened anywhere near the level of the kiss they had shared. They did share more intimate touches though, such as gentle hugs and soft kisses on places excluding the mouth.

With each passing day, he felt himself liking the beautiful brunette he lived with, more and more.

Unbeknownst to him, Bella sat upstairs near the tub with Molly, softly talking to the two year old.

"I know being a one year old was pretty rough for you sweetie, but being two will be a much happier time."

Bella smiled as she rinsed the cake out of the hair of the tiny girl who had become her world.

"Actually, I think this next year will be happy for all of us, including your Daddy and me."


Hold on, to me as we go
As we roll down this unfamiliar road
And although this wave is stringing us along
Just know you're not alone
Cause I'm gonna make this place your home

Settle down, it'll all be clear
Don't pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found

Just know you're not alone
Cause I'm gonna make this place your home
Home by Phillip Phillips


AN: So, Part III starts us off six months after we left the unlikely (or really likely?) couple!

Nothing has happened with Edward and Bella as far as more kisses/anything smutty for a couple reasons. 1. Taylor hasn't been dead for a year yet, and while they have feelings for each other, they're really trying to reach that milestone, at least subconsciously. 2. That would be big event. 3. Time jumps and big events don't work well for me, 'cause it's awkward to recap things.

However, things are starting to get rolling really quickly with the duo! It's so close I'm sure I'm literally driving you all insane. But alas, patience is virtue (;

Would love to know your thoughts on Part III! Have a happy Easter to those who celebrate(: