HOWDEEE! I'm back from my long weekend and I'm happy to post the next chapter. I went to Dallas, and I had a lovely time, but it's always good to be home! Thank you for your reviews of the last chapter. Things are moving along! BTW - over 1400 reviews? You guys ROCK!

Thanks to my beta – Scorpio11. You're a doll, really.

SMeyer owns all Twilight characters. I don't infringe.

[NOTE: This chapter was written before the ban on Russian adoptions, so please allow me the creative license on this one.]

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44.

BELLA

"Auntie Belllla! Lilly won't share," Nicki called from the living room. It was June. Rosalie and Emmett were in Russia to finalize the adoption of their son, and Edward and I were keeping the girls on weekends so Siobhan, who still worked for them, could have a break. They'd been gone for three weeks and were supposed to come home the next weekend.

It was great having my nieces around and witnessing their personalities. They'd turned four in December, and they were both so smart, they continued to amaze us. We enjoyed having them over so much they had their own room at our house. Edward spoiled them like crazy, and I enjoyed playing with them.

Life had been busy. Edward and I would be celebrating our fourth anniversary in August, and it was still like watching a movie when I reviewed all of it in my head.

Tanya and Andy finally got divorced after his futile attempts at reconciliation and then issuing a legal battle for half her money which he lost miserably. She showed mercy on the stupid bastard by covering his legal expenses and writing him a check for a hundred grand which he managed to blow through in four months. When he returned to the well, he got the hell beaten out of him. At the time, we didn't know by whom, and when we found out, we were all shocked.

Alice and I were officially partners in 'Alice's Attic'. After working for her for a few years and seeing the profits the woman was capable of accruing, I bought in. We expanded the store to include home furnishings, and we were doing quite well. It was doing so well, it wasn't just the two of us any longer.

Jess worked for us as well as a nice young woman named Claire who, incredibly, I'd met through Jake and Quil. She carried a baby for them, and after she delivered their son, she stayed with them for a few months. She was only twenty-two, and she wanted to go to college, so they paid her way, and we gave her a job at the store. Unknown to us, the girl had an eye for design, and she and Alice worked very well together regarding what we stocked at the store.

Alice and Jasper had gotten married at Thanksgiving the same year as Edward and me, and they were as busy as we were. Alice and I had talked about when we wanted to start our respective families, but Edward and Jasper were working so much, it wasn't talked about much in our homes.

Edward kept up with his college friends on a regular basis. De and Kim were living happily in Manhattan, but Felix and Gianna finally called it a day. She'd moved to Los Angeles and was working as an agent for a modeling agency, which was no surprise to me at all.

Peter and Charlotte had become a regular fixture at our place on weekends, along with their two little boys, Brady and Colin. When they were over and the twins were around, my nieces tried to dress them in princess clothes, which sent Peter into fits. All Edward did was laugh.

Alec, well, he was still playing the field. Edward said it was just because he was too damn stupid to find a girl who could put up with him, but I wondered if it was something more. He was a successful stockbroker, so I didn't believe he could be that stupid. I just assumed he hadn't found what he was looking for.

As for our parents…they were all still alive and well, and they were pushing us about starting a family. When Rosalie announced she and Emmett were going to adopt a baby, my parents were a bit appeased, but Esme and Carlisle were ruthless in their pursuit of grandchildren.

"Nicole, you know what happens if you don't share," I scolded as I walked into the living room, seeing they were playing with something that gave me heart failure. The scene was quite gruesome. There was blond hair all over the floor. A pair of scissors was in Nicki's hands, and Lilly was standing with her hands on her hips just like her mother.

"Oh, God! Where'd you find those? Uncle Eddie is going to shi…have a cow!" I shrieked, scaring the hell out of them. They both looked at me and started crying, but they knew better than to pull that business.

Edward had made the mistake of showing them his Barbie collection one night when they were both distraught because they missed my sister and Emmett. I told him not to do it, but it calmed them down, so he didn't listen.

I'd moved things in the closet in the spare room where Edward's collectibles were stored because I was looking for his childhood photo album. His thirtieth birthday was approaching, and I was having a surprise party for him. In my haste to find it, I hadn't put the box back in the closet, and apparently, my nieces, the two mini-detectives, had found it.

"Oh, God…oh God…oh God," I chanted as I saw the naked dolls with newly shorn hair. Before Rose and Emmett left for Russia, Rosalie had had their hair cut. They were both amassed with blonde curls, and it was difficult to tame, so she'd had it trimmed to their shoulders. Apparently, they decided that three of Edward's prize Barbies needed the same treatment.

I picked up the boxes that had been pristine for years to assess the casualties. One was a Limited Edition Winter Barbie, who was missing her very long braid. She wasn't as old as some of the dolls, which was a bit of a relief because maybe I could replace her.

The second casualty was "Junior Prom" Barbie. Poor thing was completely scalped. "Why'd you cut off all of her hair?" I asked as I held up the pile of polyester that had once been her hair.

"Liwwy wanted hewr bawwette," Nicki informed. I saw a tiny blue barrette in Lilly's hair, and I groaned. It was an old-fashioned doll, and I knew it was rare. I'd pay any amount of money to replace her, but something in my gut told me I'd never find another.

The last one I picked up nearly had me puking on the area rug in our family room. It was #1. It was the hand-painted 1959 Barbie…the prize of his collection. The black and white striped one-piece she'd been wearing was gone, as was her little ponytail. I couldn't hold back the tears.

"Oh, God. Girls, these things aren't yours to play with. Uncle Edward showed these to you and explained about them. He told you they weren't for play. You have your own Barbies you brought with you. Where are they?" I asked between my tears.

"Mommy towd us we couldn't cut theiwr haiwr. Uncle Eddie nevah said no," Lilly snapped.

"You've ruined them. Go to your room and think about what your punishment should be. You know better than to touch things that aren't yours," I ordered as I began cleaning up the mess.

"Why he have dem? These awre giwls' dolls," Nicki asked innocently. Deep in my gut, I knew it wasn't exactly their fault. They were four. They didn't really know better, but I could only think about how to explain it to my husband when he got home from golf with Jasper. It wasn't going to be pretty at all.

"Why Uncle Edward has them doesn't matter. They are his, and you two know that. How many times has your mother told you not to touch things that don't belong to you? Now, go to your room for a timeout. No playing. You're to sit on your beds and think about how we're going to explain this to Uncle Edward when he gets home," I sobbed.

They both hugged me and chanted, "Sowwy," in the way they could which would have melted the Grinch's heart, but not this time. I was pretty sure when Edward got home, I'd be sitting on our bed in a timeout as well, and my timeout would be a hell of a lot longer than four minutes.

##

While the girls were in timeout, I cleaned up the carnage. I placed the ruined dolls and their boxes in a bag and hid it in the hall closet. I vacuumed up the hair, and I began wringing my hands. When the four minutes were up, I went to their room to release them from their punishment, but happily, they'd dozed off on Lilly's purple bed.

I slipped back into the kitchen and grabbed the phone, calling the only person I thought could offer me any insight into what to do. "Hey, Bellsy," Tanya answered. I would have laughed at the fact she'd picked up on the nickname all of Edward's friends had bestowed on me when we were in Vegas.

"Tan, can you talk? Are you alone because I don't want your boyfriend privy to this conversation," I demanded.

"What's wrong, honey? He and Daddy are on the golf course. Momma and I are just perusing a Sotheby's catalogue to see if we wanna call in bids. You sound upset," she surmised.

"Put me on speaker," I ordered.

"Okay. Momma, it's Bella," Tanya stated.

"Hi, honey. What's wrong?" Esme called over the line.

"God, it's awful. We're watching the girls this weekend to give Siobhan a break, and they…they…" I began sobbing hysterically, not able to talk at that point.

"Bella, sweetie, calm down. If we can't understand you, we can't help. What's wrong with the girls?" Esme asked.

I took a deep breath, grabbed a tissue from the drawer, and blew my nose, trying to get ahold or myself. "Okay. So, last weekend the girls were here, they were inconsolable because they miss Rose and Em. We tried everything to calm them down, but nothing worked, so Edward pulled out the Barbie collection," I began.

"Oh, shit," I heard Tanya gasp. Oh, she was spot on with that.

"Yeah, so I was looking for a photo album in the spare room and pulled out the box. I didn't put it back, and the lid wasn't taped on. The girls found it. God, they got to three of them, and they… cut… their… hair," I wailed. I couldn't hold it in any longer.

"Bella, honey, calm down. I'll look for them on-line, and we'll replace them. Tanya, get my laptop," Esme offered.

"Esme, no, I can't let you do that. Besides, that's not even the worst of it. One of the ones they got to was #1. He's going to leave me over this. I was in the kitchen making cookies, and I thought they were playing with their own dolls, but they told me Rose told them they couldn't cut their hair. Rosalie had their hair cut before she left for Russia, and Edward never told them not to open the packages or cut their hair. I should have been there. How am I going to tell him…" I sobbed.

"What's going on?" I heard in the distance over the phone.

"Um, Nicki and Lilly broke something of Eddie's, and Bellsy's tryin' to figure out how to tell him," Tanya responded.

"Hey, Bellsy. Nothing Edward has could be worth that much. Take your top off when you tell him, and he won't hear a word of it," I heard Felix tease over the line. "Ow, babe," I heard after a slap I knew came from Tanya.

It had come as a surprise when we found out Felix had called Tanya in the aftermath of his break-up with Gia, which occurred not long after our wedding. Apparently, unknown to any of us, he'd been quite impressed with Tanya's heel grinding into the crotch of some jackoff in a bar the night we all went out to gamble, and after he and Gia ended it, he called Tanya to see how she was after the revelation she and Andy had split.

Edward had warned her that part of the reason Gia and Felix had split was because Felix had been unfaithful to Gianna while they were together in college, but she didn't care. She'd told us she found her "one" and she didn't give a shit. She liked Gia well enough, but in Tanya's opinion, Felix deserved better, and better meant her.

"Hi Fe. How was golf?" I asked, trying not to continue crying.

"Daddy Cullen kicked my ass like usual. I wish I was a doctor so I could practice my game all day long," I heard Felix taunt. I also heard Carlisle laugh.

"Edward and Jasper are playing right now, and from what I've been told, Carlisle is quite the savvy golfer," I answered.

"So, what's got you cryin'?" Felix asked.

"Uh-oh. Do I detect a hint of an accent from the New Yawker? You gotta watch those Cullens…that accent sneaks up on ya. Only Carlisle seems to be able to resist," I teased, trying to change the subject.

"Well, I'd say some off color things if we weren't standing in their kitchen, but I completely understand how the accent can grow on ya. So, how's the store?" Felix asked. I was glad he didn't push the other issue, and I knew that Esme and Tanya wouldn't betray Edward. Felix would never let him live it down.

After a forty-five minute discussion which turned into seeing them in two weeks when they came for Edward's birthday, we hung up. I had no answers, but I was at least calmer. I wasn't sure how long it would last, but for the moment, I was calmer.

##

After the girls woke from their nap, I made them sandwiches for lunch, and while they ate, I began compiling a grocery list. I went from room to room, checking on toilet paper, paper towels, dish washing liquid, and last but not least, tampons. I was low, so I put them on the list without a thought.

I walked back into the kitchen and asked," Okay, girls, what would you like for dinner?"

"Cas'wole," they chanted, causing me to laugh. Over the years, they'd become as addicted to Esme's broccoli-rice-and-cheese casserole as I had when I was carrying them. I'd suggested it was because it was about the only thing I could keep down in the beginning of the pregnancy, to which Rose laughed.

The girls weren't big on vegetables, so Emmett and I had modified the recipe over the years, adding cauliflower, zucchini, and peas. My sister still couldn't cook for shit.

"Okay, and what else?" I asked.

"Chickie," Nicki called which led to a round of clucks from the two of them.

"Fine. Go to the bathroom and wash your hands and faces while I clean up," I ordered. They both climbed down from their booster seats that had taken up residence in our kitchen and scampered off.

I opened the freezer and saw nothing that looked remotely appealing to me. I decided to make Edward a steak and baked potato in hopes of lulling him into a food coma, and I also knew a peach cobbler wouldn't hurt my cause.

I'd feed him a good meal including dessert and a nice bottle of red wine, and then, after the girls were in bed, I'd break the news. It was going to suck, but I'd take the heat because it was my fault.

I opened the cabinet to put away the clean dishes from the dishwasher before I loaded in the lunch dishes and glanced at the calendar to my right which hung from a thumbtack. I saw various notations regarding Edward's alumni events, various meetings or trips, our weekends with the girls, when the pool guys were scheduled to show up, and all of the things we had going on in our life.

As I flipped back to May, I noticed a notation that wasn't on the calendar, and as I thought about it, I made a notation on my list to pick up something else at the grocery store.

##

So, those poor Barbies… I remember doing something similar to my mean cousin's dolls. Hell, she was a brat…she deserved it!

Thank you for reading. About six more chapters left, friends.

Till next time…xoxo