Stay calm and don't panic...this is not the final chapter...
This was the outtake written for the Toys for Tots-Christmas Wishes Compilation. When TotS is completed, I will go back and plug this chapter in where it belongs and renumber the proceeding chapters. This one lands somewhere RIGHT after E&B get back together, but before any pregnancy scares or realities arrive.
Summary: Edward and Bella have reunited in Okinawa, but there's a broken-hearted little girl in California who's none the wiser. A Skyping session between Uncle Edward and Bailyn suddenly takes a "royal" turn when Bailyn's favorite Princess Belle appears on the computer screen with an apology for past hurts and an invitation to take an unexpected adventure this Christmas.
^^Be Our Guest^^
^^A Tip of the Spear Outtake^^
The sound of the television in the living area wakes me, forcing my eyes open.
Why on earth would anyone voluntarily be up at this ridiculous hour on a weekend? My beautiful girl has some explaining to do.
Bella must have been out of bed for a while too, because her side is cool at this point. I gather my feet under me and manage to straighten up, even though my muscles are screaming bloody murder. I teamed up with a few other officers to start the Insanity workout program last week. Its name is well deserved. I need to get my head checked for continuing to show up to class every day to inflict the self-torture.
After rolling my shoulders and neck, I open the bedroom door to find Bella curled up on my sofa, drinking a mug of what I assume is coffee.
"I'm sorry I woke you," she apologizes, her face crinkling. I lean down and give her a peck on the tip of her nose before falling into the couch beside her.
"Is everything okay?" I yawn. "Why are you up right now?" She shrugs, but I don't buy it. "And why would you be drinking coffee of all things?
"You'll think I'm silly."
I grab her hand and kiss her palm. "I won't. Talk to me."
"I'm scared to Skype with Bailyn this morning."
My head tips forward the slightest bit, not thinking I heard her clearly. Scared. Of a four-year old. Who's across the Pacific.
When she doesn't elaborate further and seems to be waiting on my next words with baited breath, I decide to choose wisely to avoid hurting her feelings or pissing her off. It's too early to nitpick and ultimately, I know why she's fearful.
I take the coffee mug from her hands, but steal a swig first before setting it on the table. My eyes pop open at the unexpected kick.
"I may have added some Bailey's for a little liquid courage."
I chuckle, tugging on her hand and inviting her to come sit on my lap. Once we're face-to-face, I tuck a few strands of loose hair behind her ear, kissing her soft, Irish coffee-flavored lips.
"I don't want you to be scared. I'll be right there with you. And I'll get her primed before you show up on camera."
"I let her down so terribly," she confesses, her hands fisting my shirt. "I know you said she was upset with you for a couple days, but you're her Uncle Edward. She loves you to pieces. You get forgiven by default."
"It's going to be fine, Bella. I promise you." I sigh, saddened at her forlorn look. "I won't deny that she was wishing to meet you back in August. And when I showed up without you, she was devastated. I tried the best I could to talk our way out of it, but she's four. She felt let down by both of us."
Bella takes a deep breath, her lips twisting at the side of her mouth.
"But I also know that when it comes to things that she loves, she forgives pretty easily. Think about it. I was in Disney with her not three days later, and she was perfectly fine."
"See?" She snaps. "Forgiven just like that. She'll probably throw tomatoes at the computer screen when she sees my face!"
I can't help the guffaw that plows its way out of my mouth, earning me a well-deserved smack on the chest.
"Quit making fun of me!"
I bury the remaining laughter and pull her into a tight hug. She doesn't fight it.
"I'm sorry I laughed, baby. But I really think it's going to be fine. Do you want to do it now and get it over with?"
"You think she's available right now?"
I glance at the microwave to do the calculations in my head. "Yeah, we should be good. I assume she's walking in the door from her day at Pre-K."
Smoothing her hair back, she nods. "Yes, please. Just let me take a quick shower so I don't look disheveled. I'll feel much better once this first session is behind us, and she gets used to seeing me again."
"Can I join you?"
"That would be nice. I just need you to keep hugging me, I think,"
I lean forward and kiss her. "You got it, baby."
"Hi, Uncle Edward," she whines, her head collapsing into her hand.
"What's with the face? It's Friday! It's the weekend!"
"I was s'posta play at Eesha's house tomorrow, but she wasn't at school today 'cause Miss Gwen said she's sick."
"Aww, I'm sorry to hear that." I catch Bella's pouty face in the doorway. "Well, maybe I have something that'll make you feel better. Is Mommy there?"
"Here I am," Lauren croons, appearing behind Bailyn.
"Hey Mommy. Just wanted to make sure what you and I talked about a few days ago is still a secret?" I say, referring to the Christmas trip to Japan.
"Yup. None the wiser over here!" I smile and get more comfortable on the couch, repositioning my laptop on a pillow balanced on my knees.
"Well, listen Bay. I have a surprise for you…a few surprises, actually."
The word surprise is all it takes for her to perk up. Gone is my moping niece, her pout curling into a smile and her eyes twinkling in wonder.
"What is it? What is it?"
"Well…what do you think about spending Christmas with me?"
"YEAH!" She says, bouncing. "Will you come here to have sleepovers for lotsa days?"
"Oh, we'll definitely have sleepovers for lots of days, but not at your house."
"At Nanny and Paw's house?"
"Nope, not there either!"
She's thinking so hard, her little tongue just poked out of her lips. "At uhhhhhh— a hotel adventure?"
"Mm-mm." I shake my head.
She grumbles, tired of my guessing game already. "Uhhhncle Ehhhdward! I give uhhhhhhp!"
I crack up at her frustration; she's just too easy to torment.
"Okay, okay. How about if you fly on a plane to come visit me at MY house?"
"I don't know where your house is."
"It's in Japan, baby. Mommy and Mom-Mom know how to get here."
"Oh, are they coming, too?"
I bark out a laugh. "Well, yeah. Unless you want to fly all by yourself!" Bella's giggling quietly in the corner listening to this ridiculous exchange.
"No way, Josè!"
"All right, then! You, Mommy, Mom-Mom and Nanny and Paw are gonna fly to Japan to come be with Uncle Emmett, Aunt LeeLee and me for Christmas this year!"
"Mhmm! How does that sound?"
I shake my head again, chuckling. I love that she has no concept of time. "No, silly. We have three more months until Christmas. You still have Halloween, Thanksgiving and Mommy's birthday to celebrate before Christmas comes!"
"Oh, yeah." Clarity dawns before she breaks off on another tangent. "Guess what I'm gonna be for Halloween and the candy festibble this year!"
I love her baby words. I secretly hope they never go away.
"I don't know! What are you going to be?"
I glance at Bella whose face has morphed into a silent "Aww." I have a feeling I know where this is going. "Rapunzel, huh?"
"Yup! Mommy already bought me my be-yooooootiful purple gown, and we even went to the Disney Store, and she got me a Pascal!"
"Pascal? Who's that?"
She clicks her tongue, impatient with my ignorance. "It's Rapunzel's chameleon, Uncle Edward! You know that!"
"Oh, sorry. I forgot. I haven't watched Tangled since I was on vacation with Bella."
In an instant, Bailyn's shoulders slump forward, and I scramble to fix it before Bella— who still can't see the computer screen— picks up on my niece's change in mood.
"You okay, Bay?" Her little hand is holding up her head again, and her wispy hair is falling toward her eyes.
"I just miss Belle."
"I know you do…but I might have another surprise for you." She doesn't make any major gestures, no looks of glee flash across her face. She really is bummed out. "Wanna hear it?"
A nod. That's all I get. I wave my hand at Bella. Show time.
"Well, when I moved to Japan last month, I was busy working one night and then…guess who walked into my office?"
"Who?" Zero excitement exuded. Clearly, I'm not good at the build-up.
She takes her hand away from her head and stares back and me for a few seconds, sitting up straighter in her chair. Her brows are furrowed; she's got to be reviewing what I just said.
"I found Bella, Bay. She's here in Japan. She's a teacher in the school near my house." I'm trying to find the easiest way to explain the logistics to her four-year-old mind. "Isn't that exciting?"
Her eyes are wide as saucers now. "Will she be there at Christmas when we come to visit?"
"She sure will." My smile stems from both relief and happiness as I watch her still processing what I've said. "What do you think?"
"Are you really, really sure she'll still be there?"
"What if the Beast locks her up or locks her out like last time?" Her voice starts to rise. "I don't want her to run away again," she whispers, her eyes filling with tears, and my heart shatters.
I look over at Bella who's walking toward me, dabbing at the corners of her eyes, too.
"Let me talk to her," Bella says softly, her face steady, nerves long gone. "I'm okay. I should be the one to do this."
Edward sets the computer on my lap and steps out of the room. I can hear Lauren whispering to Bailyn from off camera. Bay has her eyes trained on her mom, listening intently to whatever she's being told while wiping her face.
I clear my throat to grab her attention. "Bailyn?"
The little girl's head whips around to the computer. Her precious Cupie doll-mouth falls open, but there's the teeniest hint of an excited glimmer in her eyes. It gives me the push I need to continue in the hopes I may be able to salvage this relationship.
"Belle?" Her astounded whisper tells me she thinks she's seeing things. "Is that you?"
I smile, wistfully. "It's me, sweetie."
She doesn't immediately respond. She's kind of frozen, her eyes falling away from the camera. I stay quiet for a few seconds more before trying to engage her again.
"Can we talk? I have to tell you some things…important things."
"Okay," she meekly replies.
I take a deep breath before launching into my apology. "I guess I should start by telling you how sorry I am that I missed getting to meet you last month. I was looking forward to it all summer, and then…" Crap, how do I explain this to a four-year old? "Well, things just got really sad for me, and I had to go away."
She nods. "I know. Uncle Edward told me."
"He said the Beast locked you out of the castle where you were living. And he said you couldn't get in no matter what you tried. The doors and the windows…they were all locked…so you just left."
Oh, my heart. That familiar stinging sensation that starts in my nose when I feel tears threaten has arrived. I've got to squash it, though. I can't fall apart before getting through this talk.
"Mommy once told me that if we ever have an emergency, there's an extra key to our house hidden in our side garden. She showed me the pretend rock! But it's a secret," she whispers that last part, "so I can't tell anybody about it."
I smile, blowing out a breath, listening to her sweet, unencumbered stream-of-consciousness tangent.
"Emergency keys are important, Bay. I'm glad you know where to find one. And you're right…all the doors were locked." Confession time. "But, I uhhh— I should've stayed longer and kept knocking, too." I gnaw on my cheek. "If I kept knocking…even pounding on the door…maybe the Beast would've answered eventually." I shrug. "But, I was scared and lonely, and I just left. And it hurt Uncle Edward's feelings terribly, and I know it hurt your feelings, too. And honey, I'm so, so sorry about that."
Her bottom lip has curled downward, her eyes looking glassy as she nods.
"I was really sad. Mommy made me a calendar to count the days, and then you didn't come," she mumbles through her wavering voice.
My tears spill over, and I dash them away just as Edward comes back in the room.
"I'm mad that the Beast locked you out, but why did you run away from Uncle Edward?"
Even though my creative boyfriend concocted this analogy by readily portraying himself as the Beast, it's evident that Bailyn never recognized the connection, and I'm not about to rat him out.
"I know it seems confusing, Bay, but—"
"Hey bubbs," Lauren's voice interrupts. "Know how sometimes Mom-Mom and I are talking and we tell you it's 'big people talk'?"
"Well, Bella and Uncle Edward had some big people talk. And that's why she couldn't come." Lauren's face pops onto the computer screen. "Sorry if I overstepped, Bella...just wanted to help a bit."
"Oh, no! Not at all. You know better than I what works."
She smiles. "It's good to see you again."
"Thanks. I've missed seeing you, too."
"I'll let you get back to the munchkin," Lauren says with a jerk of her head. "Talk to you later."
I nod, thankful she jumped in when she did.
I wait a few seconds before pressing on. "I never, ever wanted to hurt your feelings, sweet girl. I was very sad when I missed out on the chance at meeting you and getting one of your hugs." I grab Edward's hand and squeeze it, now that he's sitting next to me again, but still off-camera. "Uncle Edward says you give the best hugs in the world."
Her dimples reappear. "Will you be at Uncle Edward's house when I come visit at Christmastime?"
"I sure will."
"Well, maybe I can give you a hug then."
"I would love that."
"That Beast is soooo stinky. I am NEVER gonna be his friend again," Bailyn spits, and I have to bite my lip from laughing. "He does NOT make good choices, and he's a bully." She crosses her arms, huffing.
"Hey, Bay?" Edward joins back in.
"I bet if you asked the Beast, he'd say he was sorry he ruined your visit with Bella. But isn't it great that you'll get to see her when you come visit?"
Her smile is infectious. "I can't wait." She pauses for a minute, looking deep in thought. "Uncle Edward? Is Belle your honey?"
We both laugh. "My honey?" He looks at me. "Where did you hear that?"
"Hadley's daddy, Ben, calls mommy his honey."
"Well, yeah, then." His crooked grin takes over. "Bella's definitely my honey. Is that all right with you?"
"Mhmmm," she giggles.
"So you'll come visit us and be our guest just like the song says?"
"Yeah!" she squeals. "Will you have dancing plates?"
Edward and I exchange smiling, thoughtful gazes. "We'll try, Goofball. We'll definitely try."
A/N: Big thanks as always to Team Cabana for their prereading and editing awesomeness: Born, Cejsmom, Jules and Momo.
The final chapter is being split into two chapters because it was getting too long with too much happening. So, including the epilogue and one outtake I have planned, you'll have four more chapters coming to you over the next couple of months. Part one of the final chapter will probably be ready within the week. It's with Team Cabana right now.
An enormous thanks to my readers and those who take the time to review. I love hearing your feedback and I promise, promise, promise you that you'll all hear from me in a review reply once the story completes and my life isn't totally upside down with the stress of moving and being without the Major.