Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. I am in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. No disrespect is intended if I just tweak things a bit.
I have the most incredible pre-reader, suggestion maker and beta ever! Ficfangirl's skills are amazing but her mind reading skill is astonishing. I still stand by this! She truly made this a perfect ending. I will never be able to thank her enough. Thank you again, ficfangirl! Also, I added little bits here and there, so if there are any errors, they're mine.
A special thank you to QuinnLark. In her story, Caged Skylark, she recommended H~~H. It's a really great story. Check it out.
I thank everyone who has given reviews, pm's, followers, story favorites, rec's and your time. For a first time writer, you have all been so generous in your encouragement and kindness. I'm so thrilled that you gave this story a chance. Thank you all so much!
I just received a beautiful banner made by lellabeth. It's perfect. You can see it on the blog for pictures. Thank you lellabeth, so much!
It's been a month since we returned from our trip to New Orleans. Felix and Demetri keep us apprised of the investigation. True to their word, none of us will have to return as witnesses for the trial of James and Victoria De Sade. Their crime spree started almost a decade ago. Men are coming out of the woodwork to testify against them. There were dozens of victims who never reported their encounter with James and Victoria, primarily due to embarrassment. Once they realized how many others there were, they came forward to press charges. There are currently forty six men willing to testify about their ordeals. The victims are from as far west as Texas, across to Georgia in the east and as far south as the tip of Florida. We did find out that the liquid in the vials was chloral hydrate. In small doses it's used to relax a person with anxiety issues. I know first-hand the effects of a larger dose.
Emmett and I have been busy plowing under the spent cotton plants. I'm continually amazed by its remarkable properties. The most important is the fiber or lint, which is used in making cloth. Linters is the short fuzz on and from the seed of cotton. Linters are incorporated into high quality paper products and processed into batting for padding mattresses, furniture and automobile cushions.
Obviously, the seeds are the basis for the next year's growing season. Excess seeds can be crushed for cooking, salad oils and shortening. There is one brand of shortening, called Crisco, which is made solely from cottonseed oil. If the husk is removed, the meal of the seed can be ground down and used in breads and cereals. Left whole, seeds can be used for feeding livestock, poultry and fish, or returned to the soil as fertilizer. The leaves and stock, when plowed under, help nourish and replenish the soil. There's not a part of this plant, when all is said and done, that is wasted.
When we're not in the fields, we're busy maintaining the farm equipment in preparation for the coming planting season. Or you can find us working on the vehicles, updating the plumbing and electrical fixtures in our homes, smoke house or well. There's always something that needs attention and I'm thrilled to be able to use my hands and head, while honing my new found skills.
We completed the refurbishment of the Carriage House. Emmett and Rosalie are enjoying their new home. The first floor has a master bedroom with and en suite bath and sitting room. There are two more bedrooms, a parlor, a small dining room and kitchen. On the backside is a mud room with Rosalie's new washing machine. Yes, Emmett secretly ordered a new one from the Sears catalog, picked it up at the train depot, and installed it without her knowing a thing. You would have thought he gifted her with a diamond mine the way she went on and on about it. The upper floor is currently used for storage, but can easily be expanded to add more rooms if needed. Who knows, they just might, since we were recently informed that they, too, are expecting, in the summertime.
We also enlarged the Foreman's cottage that can be used for either visitors or maybe my parents, if they decide they could do with some privacy once the little ones arrive.
We are turning one of the barns into a cook's station and dining hall for next year's workers. Emmett and I decided one day, without consulting with Bella and Rosalie, I might add, that the cooking for the hired hands would be done away from the house. We were trying to help ease the burden for Bella and Rosalie of those daily chores. Both Bree and Laurent were on board with our plan. Bella and Rosalie… not so much.
It was our first argument. Bella finally relented with the stipulation that, until she knew how well she would handle motherhood, she would bow to my underhanded ways. She actually tried to bow, but her baby belly wouldn't let her. I started laughing at her situation. She gave me what Rosalie calls her 'bitch brow' and I tried to stop the chuckles, but I couldn't, it was too funny. Eventually, a small smile curled around the corners of her lips and then she lowered her eyelids in that sensual, sultry way of hers and I stopped laughing–instantly. I worshipped her and made it up to her for my laughing and underhanded ways. A very satisfying end to our first argument. Very satisfying, indeed.
Bella has been busy reorganizing the household. After many conversations with Alice, she conceded and decided to move into the master suite. Alice pointed out that the overseers of the Plantation have always resided there and the room should be utilized by a Swan-Cullen. I agreed with her for tradition's sake, as it is part of her heritage. Charlie and Renee would be happy to know that a Swan lives and loves within those walls.
Bella turned the guest room next to the master suite into a nursery for our expected additions. The hardwood floors were sanded down and polished to their original light oak finish. In the middle of the floor she placed a throw rug that featured a baby Mickey Mouse on a see-saw with two lovely bunnies. She became obsessed with the Disney theme. The walls are painted in a light blue and decorated with framed prints of brightly colored animated scenes of baby Disney characters. I have to admit, they are cute. From the cellar she brought up her bassinette, crib, a hand carved wooden cradle and a rocking chair.
Alice and Jasper are decorating their nursery with a nursery rhyme theme, and she, too, brought her crib, cradle and bassinette to their home.
One night, during a dinner conversation, Jasper was bit solemn about not having any of his personal childhood belongings or his family during this joyous time. It was the first time he revealed information about his early years and his parents.
Both his parents came from well-to-do homes. His father had inherited his family's fortunes at an early age and his mother gained hers during the first year of their marriage. Jasper was born one year later. By the time he was five, the idea of playing house no longer appealed to them. It wasn't that they didn't love him, they did! They were just bohemian in nature, with a craving for travel and adventure. They sought excitement, while habitually leaving Jasper to his own devices from the time he was about 8 years old. While they searched for gold in the foothills of the Sierras in California, Jasper read about the history of the forty-niners or how the town of Paradise got its name. They mined for silver in Nevada, while Jasper read about the rise and fall of towns like Bodie and Silver City.
They spent a year hunting for the Lost Dutchman's gold mine in the Superstition Mountains of Arizona. This led Jasper to read about myths and legends such as King Midas and the Lost City of Gold.
Next, they went digging for diamonds in Arkansas and hit pay dirt. The sale of the diamonds, fueled their desire to search for sunken treasure off the coast of Texas, in the waters off Padre Island. So Jasper read about ships from all over the world, bearing treasure troves of gold, silver and ancient relics.
Near Padre Island, Spanish galleons ran aground or sank in waters off the coast. Spanish coins, even silver bars, had been found in the sand. At one time, Padre Island was called Money Hill for all the treasures found. However, it was there, diving in the waters, not paying attention to the surges and swells of the tides that his parents drowned.
Jasper, fifteen at the time, was very disciplined and dedicated to his education. His parents' lust for treasures fueled his desire to learn everything he could about artifacts found in museums and private collections. He worked his way through college until he lost his job and hopes due to the Great Depression.
"So you were homeless when your family died. No one you could turn to, no friends?" Emmett asked, astonished at Jasper's fortitude.
"Not really. I had a few friends but their parents had issues with the fact that I was mostly left alone growing up. They worried that their kids would become wild if they spent time with me," Jasper chuckles, remembering his younger years.
"My best friend at the time was Antonio Houston. His mom was from San Antonio and his dad from Houston. He got into some trouble when he was 17. Drinking, being belligerent, starting fights, not going home, etc. His parents immediately blamed me and my bad influence on him for his troubles. One day, he and his mother came to my little apartment. She raged at me for my evil doings and corrupting her son. And my friend didn't defend me. Funny thing was, I never did any of those things. That's when I decided to leave Texas." He shakes his head, momentarily lost in the past. "So much for a long term friendship, huh?" Jasper tries to laugh off the ache that still resides in his heart.
"You want to know what I've learned about friendship? Friendship isn't about the length of time you've known someone. It's about those who came and never left your side." I smile at Jasper, "I learned that from you. From the day we met, you've always stood by me." Jasper's smile is once again genuine as he tilts his head in gratitude.
I look around the table at the faces of those I call my family. I honestly don't think of them as friends anymore. I pick up my glass and raise it to acknowledge all those present. "To all of you. Thank you."
Smiles abound, glasses are raised and clinked together with several, 'Here Here's and cheers.'
Of course, then there's Emmett, who remarks, "Ah, I feel so warm and fuzzy inside." He instantly backs away from Rosalie, only to have Alice retaliate, by bopping him on the back side of his head. Emmett rubs the spot, while glaring at Alice.
Rosalie huffs, "No dessert for you." Emmett's eyes bulge out at Rosalie's comment. This has everyone at the table laughing hysterically.
December 15, 1935
Christmas is on its way and, as I'm walking out the front door to meet up with Emmett and work on one of Bella's presents, I'm treated to an interesting sight. Three trucks slowly make their way up the drive to the front veranda. When the first truck stops, I immediately recognize the driver, it's a déjà vu moment. As I make my way down the steps to greet them, my mom jumps out of the passenger side and runs into my open arms.
This time is pleasingly different. No tears of relief or stress on her features. Her eyes reflect only pure happiness to be welcomed back home. My dad helps Mrs. Cope down from the truck and she too smiles as she arrives for a welcome home hug. Then the front door is opened as Bella, Alice and Rosalie come out to welcome the missing part of our family. When my mom and Mrs. Cope see the ever growing roundness of Bella's and Alice's tummies they shed a few tears of joy that all is well with them. When Rosalie tells them of her impending addition to the fold, she is hugged again in congratulations with more happy tears.
I walk up to my smiling dad for a quick welcome home man hug, and tilt my head towards the trucks.
Just as he's about to explain, Bella waddles up to him with her gorgeous smile on high, "Papa C, we missed you so much. Welcome home."
He smiles as bends to hug her, "I missed you too, Bella. It's good to be…" He pulls back suddenly and places his hands on her very large belly. "Did you just kick me?" he asks, with a comical grin on his features. Her stomach moves about under his hands. Bella is in the habit of clasping her hands under her belly and laughs at my dad's expression, while it shakes.
"I think they wanted to hug you too, but can't quite reach," Bella snickers.
"They? As in more than one? As in two?" my dad sputters. Bella stares at my dad for a moment and then looks at me. She starts giggling and I now know I am definitely my father's son. I grin, shrug my shoulders, and walk to stand behind her, helping to hold her belly still, while she silently laughs at us.
"Esme, did you know that Bella and Edward were expecting twins?" My dad is still in obvious shock.
"Yes, dear. Alice told Melissa and me before we left. I thought I mentioned it to you." My mom titters and I think she purposely didn't tell him so she could see the look of surprise that is plastered on his face. It is pretty funny and I know I must have had that same expression.
Emmett came in from working at the new cook's station, just as Seth, Tanya, Leah and Sam arrived by truck. Embry and Daisy ride in with Jasper from the Whitlocks' home. Even Laurent and Bree come out. I have a feeling Alice made the calls. She loves the telephone. It had recently been installed here on the Plantation, on the Clearwaters' Plantation and the Swan-Whitlock Plantationette as Alice calls it.
Jasper tried to argue with her that it wasn't a word.
Alice rolled her eyes as she patiently explained, "The suffix ette means smaller. Our land grows cotton as does the Plantation. We're a little Plantation. Hence, Plantationette ."
No one could or dared to argue against her logic, so that was the end of that. The Swan-Whitlock Plantationette is now what it's known by.
Telephones in rural areas are hard to come by. Lines stretch for miles on end just so we can have this luxury. Alice enjoyed researching bits of information on them. She would blurt out little tidbits such as, "Did you know the first operators needed to have good memories to know which people went with which plugs?" Or how in the 1880's in Lowell, Massachusetts, there was a measles epidemic. The doctors were worried that if all the operators got the measles, then nobody would be able to control the telephone operating system. A doctor suggested that rather than relying on operators' memories, each person should be assigned a number. This is how the telephone number came into play. My favorite, however, was the story of a farmer in Gratiot, Wisconsin in the 1900s. He took apart his telephone to see how it worked. When the carbon in the phone spilled out, he figured he could replace it with gunpowder. The instant he tried to call someone, the telephone blew up! The farmer wasn't harmed, but he learned a huge lesson: telephones don't make good guns.
Once everyone had welcomed back my parents and Mrs. Cope, we all turned to one of the gentlemen who cleared his throat. I think we were an intimidating group to the three men. The gentleman cleared his throat again and asked, "Mr. and Mrs. Cullen, where we should unload your belongings? We would like to get back before dark. If that's okay?"
My dad and mom turned to Bella and me. Bella then cleared her throat. "I hope you don't mind, but Edward and I moved into your room. I put all of the things you left in the downstairs guest room."
I hug her close. I know she felt uncomfortable moving my parents' personal things, but it needed to be done.
"So you have a choice. Bella worked really hard to get the downstairs room ready, or you can take a look at what Emmett and I did with the Foreman's cottage. It's really nice and would give you privacy," I suggest, hoping to relieve Bella's discomfort.
My parents were curious about the cottage, so we all walked over to it. We had taken most of the furniture out. It was very old and not in the best condition. So we moved it to a storage shed. Upon entry there is an open sitting room, with a large fireplace on the right. Behind the sitting room is a dining area and fully equipped kitchen. A bathroom is off the dining area. To the left and down the hall from the sitting room are two large bedrooms. Both rooms have bay windows with built-in seats under them and fireplaces. One bedroom had an en suite bathroom with cream color tile on the floor and halfway up the wall. It also had a large claw foot tub next to a smaller bay window that looked into an enclosed little flower garden area.
"Oh my, it's gorgeous. It's quite comfy and cozy, isn't it?" Esme gasps.
"Emmett and I did the work ourselves. No guarantees on how well it will withstand the test of time," I laugh. Emmett snorts. "But we figured we could always use it for guests if you would still like to live in the house."
"The decision is completely up to you. Edward said your home in England is quite grand compared to ours, so this might feel a little too closed in for you," Bella quietly offers.
"The home in England is large, but you know, I like the feel of this cottage. It's very light and airy. And even with everyone standing in here, there is still room to spare. I like it quite a bit. What about you Esme?" My dad is letting the final decision be hers.
"I really like it. All of our belongings would fit quite nicely, I think. We're just across the drive from the house, and yet can feel like we're in our own little world when we're here." She has a contented look on her features as she looks at Carlisle.
Carlisle walks up and embraces her. With a quick kiss on her lips he says, "We're really home."
It didn't take long to unload the trucks with so many volunteers helping. Trying to keep Bella and Alice from helping was a whole other issue. My mom, seeing Jasper's and my frustration when we caught them carrying in a heavy coffee table, set Bella, Alice and Rosalie to unpacking and hanging their clothes, shoes and other garments in the closet or folding them into the highboy dressers that they brought. The men set up their bed with mattress. Between the movers and us, the divan and chairs that used to be in my parents' favorite room in England, are now in the sitting room. They brought lamps and Pembroke tables with matching chairs and settee for their bedroom. These items were irreplaceable to them and they couldn't bear to see them covered up and not used. Within hours, the cottage was completely furnished and did truly feel like a miniature of their home.
My parents had also been busy dealing with their business assets. They sold off all their properties, except for the home of my birth in Kensington Palace Gardens. With whispers of the possibility of war with Germany running rampant in the United Kingdom, they sold the mill in Scotland. The shipyard was sold to the Royal Naval for retrofitting their fleet. If war is in our midst, Carlisle wouldn't take the chance of our merchant ships being seized by the government and put into service or pillaged and burned by the enemy. He wouldn't risk the lives of his crew in that fashion. Carlisle retained his flagship, the Savior, with many of the crew, including his captain, packing up their families and belongings to make their home in the States. Many of them grew up on farms and were interested in either working here or pooling their monies together to create a co-op farm, in which they all would work together.
My parents brought some of my baby furniture to add to the nursery. Bella was thrilled and thanked them profusely. They also brought photograph albums chronicling my birth to right before I came to these shores the second time.
One picture in particular caught Bella's eye as she gasped and put a hand to cover her mouth. It's a profile shot of me, at three years old. I have a hand on my hip, staring into the fields of cotton, with a look of contentment in my eyes and a calm smile of wellbeing on my features. It's probably the earliest of my memories as a child, but I remember it well. I had just slayed the evil dragon and protected the cotton from his fiery breathe. I remember thinking that I wasn't going to let him ruin my kingdom, as I thought of the Plantation back then. It's as if, even at the young age of three, I knew this is where I always wanted to be.
Alice, glancing at the picture, looks from Bella to me and back to Bella. She grins as she stands up from the settee and walks into the library. She calls for Jasper's help. A few minutes later she returns and puts a photograph album on my lap, open to a picture of my Bella. She's wearing a white bonnet, white dress and stockings with black boots. It's a reverse side profile. She too has one hand on her hip staring out into the cotton fields with a gentle smile and an utterly satisfied gleam in her eyes. The only difference between the two pictures is you can tell Bella wiped her dirty hands on her white dress and there is a smudge of dirt on her cheek. It's so adorable and so Bella.
"We have got to get these enlarged and framed together," my mom exclaims staring in wonderment at the two pictures.
We're all sitting at the dining table after a wonderful dinner. Mrs. Cope is gushing about her time in England with my parents. It's fun to hear her opinions and perspectives of her time in London. It's such a different environment than it is here in Savannah.
Over the conversation, I hear the sound of a vehicle coming up the drive. I squeeze Bella's hand, letting her know that I would see who's arrived. I've already reached the door when I hear two car doors close. I open the front door, stepping out and I'm surprised to see Carmen and Eleazar Denali, dressed to the nines, standing by their car, gazing back at me.
"Mr. and Mrs. Denali, what a surprise to see you," I greet them politely. Then I realize that they had to have arrived with my parents. But, why didn't they say anything?
They look up at me with wary smiles, taking in my white work shirt, jeans and boots. "Edward, it's good to see you. How are you?" Mr. Denali inquires nervously. Mrs. Denali nods up at me.
"I'm good. Very good. Thank you. Would you like to come in?" I'm bewildered by their hesitancy. Surely my parents have told them I'm married and that my Bella is to make them grandparents soon. I hear a noise behind me and turn to see Bella in the doorway, her hands clasped under her belly.
"Edward, is everything okay?" she asks. I can't help but smile when I see her.
"Everything's fine, my Bella. We have visitors." I hold out my hand, which Bella takes and I pull her in front of me. I love wrapping my arms around her and putting my hands on her belly. "Bella, I would like to introduce you to Mr. and Mrs. Denali, Tanya's parents." Then I look back at the Denalis. "Mr. and Mrs. Denali, this is Isabella Swan-Cullen. Bella, my wife."
"Bella, it's wonderful to meet you. We've heard so much about you," Mr. Denali smiles gently. Mrs. Denali nods again, still not speaking a word.
"Thank you, Mr. Denali. Won't you please come in? I can only imagine that you must be most anxious to see Tanya. I'm sure that she'll be very pleasantly surprised.
"She's here? She will?" This was from Mrs. Denali.
"Of course she will. Come on in," Bella softly replies and Mrs. Denali looks like she's beginning to relax.
Bella and I walk into the house as Mr. and Mrs. Denali come up the steps. We wait at the door and Bella asks to take their coats and hats. We can hear everyone laughing at the table and Mr. and Mrs. Denali smile genuinely when they hear Tanya's laughter.
Bella surprises me when she asks, "Would you like to meet everyone at once or would you like some private time with Tanya?" It's as if she can tell that their hesitancy has to do with Tanya and her reactions to their presence. Mrs. Denali's expression is so relieved at Bella's offer that I begin to understand. They're worried that Tanya won't want them here. But I don't understand why.
"If you could ask Tanya if we might have a moment of her time, we would be extremely grateful," Mr. Denali requests.
"Certainly, Mr. Denali. Let me show you to the library. Can I get you anything to drink?" Bella graciously offers, while leading them to the library door.
"No, thank you, dear," Mrs. Denali is finally relaxing more.
"Edward, while I get Tanya, would you please start the fire and make our guests comfortable?" Bella suggests while opening the library door and ushering our guests in. The room has a slight chill. Alice was in here earlier in the day, so there were coals that would easily light the kindling. Before Bella leaves, I gently place a kiss her lips. It's important to me to show the Denalis that any idea that I may still be available is completely wrong. I don't doubt Tanya's love for Seth. I just remember how adamant the Denalis were about me being the 'perfect match' for their daughter.
Bella smiles up at me and cups her small hand on my jaw, lightly rubbing the stubble. She knows what I'm doing and is very pleased that I'm laying claim to only her. It makes me love her all the more for not calling me out on my possessiveness.
Once Bella leaves, I turn to get the fire going. Mr. Denali has already started adding the kindling to the coals. Mrs. Denali is looking at me with a happy smile.
"Your Bella is very lovely. Your parents honestly couldn't stop talking about the life you've created here in the States. How enthralled you are with Bella. They love her too and constantly spoke about how wonderful everyone is here on your Plantation. We're very happy for you, Edward," Mrs. Denali sighs.
"Thank you, my Bella is perfect, and all those that surround me have enriched my life beyond the life I had in England. I think you'll find the same holds true for Tanya," I reply, just as the door opens to reveal Tanya with Seth behind her.
"Mom? Dad? You're here!" Tanya's features move from shock and surprise to joy as she runs to embrace her mother. Her father stands up from the fireplace to join his wife and daughter.
Seth is standing by the door, looking a little lost, with a 'should I stay or should I go' expression. I walk up to him and, before I leave the room, I put my hand on his shoulder, pat it a few times and offer, "Good luck."
His gaze snaps to me and he quietly questions, "Do I need it?"
"When meeting the parents, you always need it," I respond, smirking as I watch his face drain of color.
"Mom, Dad, I want to introduce you to Seth Clearwater, my fiancé." Tanya happily holds out her hand to Seth and I close the door.
While Tanya, Seth and Mr. and Mrs. Denali reunite, my parents tell us an interesting story.
Tanya's parents learned, quite by accident, about her secret endeavor. A month after Tanya left for the States, Mr. and Mrs. Denali were attending a fund raiser for a hospital expansion. They started a conversation with a new doctor at the hospital. He spoke about a young woman he recently treated for various injuries sustained from a man she was dating. He didn't know to whom he was speaking at the time, he was merely trying to express the hospital's need to expand its services.
They enquired about the woman's future plans. He told them about a wonderful home for abused women, endowed by a young woman named Tanya Denali. Her parents, obviously surprised by this news of their daughter's generosity, asked how she became involved in such a project. The doctor replied, "How else is one likely to become involved? By being a victim herself."
This information, of course, troubled her parents. They easily tracked down the home. They toured it, and learned more about their daughter's philanthropic ways by speaking with many of the women living there. They felt very proud of their daughter.
Then they found and spoke with the new arrival of whom the doctor had spoken. Quinn Lark spoke freely of her ordeal. Quinn told them how she had met Aro Volturi and thought she had found her prince charming. One night he gloated about his time with Tanya. He told her how Tanya wanted revenge on a certain gentlemen by the name of Edward Cullen and how he fulfilled her request by notifying his cousin of his expected arrival in the States. Tanya tried to stop the plan after it was already set in motion. But Aro shut her up and his cousin profited greatly from his encounter.
He became enraged as he spoke of Tanya leaving for the States with the parents of Cullen, who had suddenly returned to the land of the living after he had been missing for a year and a half. He laughed evilly knowing that Cullen wouldn't want anything to do with her after he learned of her betrayal. She was a weak woman as far as he was concerned, with her need to confess her sins.
Quinn didn't understand his comment about shutting Tanya up until she made a grievous error by expressing her approval of Tanya's change of heart. Not only did he beat her to a bloody pulp, but in his blind rage, he kept calling her Tanya. Once the beating stopped, he realized she wasn't Tanya. He mumbled that he would be paying a visit to Tanya's family, to find out when she would be returning. He threatened Quinn's life if she ever told anyone who did this to her. But with help from the doctors, and counselors at Tanya's safe haven, Quinn decided she wouldn't be a victim again.
Her parents never knew that Tanya had suffered at the hands of Aro. They knew that she had changed. She became withdrawn, anxious and quiet. She lost her desire to be part of the social scene and they couldn't engage her in any conversation. They attributed it to my leaving and a true love lost.
They were also concerned that Aro would pay them a visit soon. They informed their staff of the possible danger and made sure that any woman in their employ would not be alone with him. They didn't expect him to arrive unannounced to find Carmen alone in their den. He assumed they were alone and demanded to know when Tanya would return. Carmen refused to answer his questions and he pushed her into the fireplace mantel.
Carmen, knowing his history of violence, grabbed the first thing that her fingers touched upon, which was the handle of a fire iron and hit him on the head, furious that he had hurt her daughter. She didn't hit him hard enough to prevent him from smashing his fists repeatedly into her ribs. But she fought back hitting him again. The mantra of "you hurt my daughter" repeating in her mind, gave her strength to fight back.
Mr. Denali came into the room followed by two servants. Seeing his wife fighting off Aro, he couldn't speak, he just reacted. He grabbed Aro by the shoulder and landed a hard fist to his jaw, causing Aro to fall to the ground. However, Carmen was not done. The adrenaline rush brought on by her fear and anger was her undoing. She hit Aro with the clawed edge of the fire iron landing repeatedly on his head. By the time Mr. Denali was able to take away the fire iron from Mrs. Denali, the damage was done. The severe head trauma impaired his mind.
While Aro deserved the beating he received, the effects it had on their lives, especially Carmen's, was heartbreaking. Of course, the incident was investigated for months. In the end no charges were brought, especially in light of the information provided about Aro when Quinn Lark came forward, told her story to the authorities and pressed charges against him. It took months for Carmen to regain her mental health. Anyone touching her, even a hug from her husband, set her mind to flight for fear of being hurt again. It was Tanya's doctor from the home that eventually helped her cope, heal and regain her life.
When Carmen heard of the Cullens' return, she came to our home and asked about Tanya's whereabouts, expecting a reunion with her daughter. Instead, she found that not only had Tanya not come back, she was engaged to a younger man and living on his plantation. They asked to join the Cullens when they returned, unsure whether their request would be granted considering the events that Tanya set in motion. But both Carlisle and Esme reassured them that I would have found my Bella, one way or another.
Christmas Eve was celebrated at the Clearwaters' home. Tanya and Leah were excited to have everyone over. Tanya was proud to cook her first dinner with all the trimmings for us. It was delicious.
It was an eye opening experience for her parents to find she wasn't the same girl who left England six months ago. They had learned of everyone's stories of loss and how we had all come together in a tight knit family from my parents. What they hadn't fully comprehended were the changes in their daughter. It's been over a week since they first came to our door. They've been staying with Tanya and Seth ever since that night.
They watched Tanya smile, laugh and hug all the women—it warmed their hearts.
They watched her speak and joke with all the men without flirting or pouty looks—it surprised them.
Her clothing of work blouse, jeans and boots—amused them.
Her makeup free features and ponytailed hair—amazed them.
Watching her toil in the family garden, take care of livestock or retrieve eggs from the hens—astonished them.
But, it was the love Tanya and Seth openly showed for each other that convinced them that their daughter had indeed truly found her place in the world and was home.
When Seth proclaimed his love and requested their daughter's hand in marriage, they could only thank him over and over again for bringing their daughter such peace and happiness. Of course they said, "Yes."
Its Christmas morning and I awake to a warm but empty bed. I can hear Bella in the en suite and I know the little ones are causing her discomfort, but she doesn't complain. She has trouble sleeping and getting comfortable. I just can't imagine there's any room left for her belly to grow.
Mrs. Cope has been brushing up on her midwifery skills. She was originally brought here to help deliver a baby that Renee miscarried in the fourth month in her pregnancy. The bond that grew between Renee and her was so strong that she never left. She became their housekeeper and medic, with her valuable medicinal and medical knowledge. When the time came, she did deliver both Bella and Alice.
At one point, I did ask Bella about delivering the baby at the hospital. Bella informed me that all Swans, except for the founding members, had been born here. She didn't want to break tradition, nor did she have reason to believe that an unknown doctor would take better care of her or the delivery of the little ones then the woman who helped bring her into this world. I honestly couldn't agree with her more. She asked if I would be with her when the time came and I couldn't have been more excited and nervous at the same time. To witness, firsthand, the birth of my children was something I needed to be part of.
The door opening pulls me from my thoughts. Bella comes out of the en suite and slowly makes her way to the bed. She removes her robe. I'm surprised to see that she's wearing a night shift. Very rarely does Bella ever wear something to bed. She knows it will be off in moments. My need to feel skin on skin with my Bella is simply too primal.
She climbs on to the bed and kneels. She looks so uncomfortable and I wish there was something I could do. I prop my head up on my hand. "How are you feeling?" My concern is evident.
"Very large at the moment," she sighs.
"You are carrying two extra people around. Has Mrs. Cope told you about any ways that could help speed up your delivery time?" If there was anything that could be done, I would do it gladly.
She giggles, "Yes, she did actually."
"And what was that or is it a secret?" I smile simply because she laughs. I can't help it.
"She said, and I quote, 'A vigorous round or two of lovemaking should help with that,'" and she laughs again.
"Really? And what are your thoughts on that idea?" I smile even more, amused, because I could definitely help her with that.
"I think that you started this, you need to finish it," she chuckles at me.
"Bella, if I recall correctly, I was minding my own business, when you first came in to my room offering me a back massage. So, in reality, you started it," I remind her, affronted to take all the blame. Not that I would ever regret or forget every minute detail of that first night of perfect bliss.
"That was only because of all the daydreams and night visions I had after the first time I met you. Then you had to go and smile at me the second time. What was I supposed to do when you came here and worked in the fields, looking so devastatingly handsome out there, in your jeans and t-shirt? You are simply too fine-looking for a young naïve girl with many lustful thoughts to resist. I plead innocent for my lack of self-control. What's a girl to do? It really was all your fault." She huffs and then grins wickedly at me. "The ball's back in your court, Mr. Swan-Cullen."
I chuckle to myself. So she wants to play, does she? I raise a brow, lower my voice a notch, and give her my most carnal smile. "Are you suggesting that I should have said no to the massage?" She's momentarily stunned by the question.
"That I shouldn't have let your hands roam freely on my body?" She lowers her eyelids and her sultry eyes stare into mine.
"That I shouldn't have returned that sweet, soft first kiss?" I sit up and kiss her, reminding her of our first kiss. Her breathing is starting to pick up.
"That I should've stopped you when you took off your shift, exposing your glorious body me?" I whisper in her ear and then leave a trail of kisses from below her ear to the corner of her sweet mouth. My hands reach for the hem of her shift and she sits up from her knees just like that night, but this time I raise it up and over her head.
"That I should've resisted pulling you into my arms, feeling this skin on my skin, and not kissed you like this, my Bella?" I groan as I feel her skin, her hands and her mouth on me once again. It's always the same, this unquenched thirst I have for all things Bella.
"No," Bella moans into my mouth, and I smile.
We reenact our first time together, only this time whispering the words we were thinking. And now I have new memories to add with the proof of our love in full bloom showing on her beautiful body. Then we make joyous new memories the second time around.
Bella, Rosalie, Mrs. Cope and my mom spent days transforming the house into a Christmas wonderland. My dad, Emmett, Jasper and I went into town and picked up a large tree for the house for everyone to enjoy, while Emmett, Jasper and my dad bought smaller ones for their homes. We planned on an early supper. Both Alice and Bella tired easily as the days draw closer to their due dates. We guess that Bella's due date is mid-January.
Everyone arrives, including the Denalis. Christmas cheers and well wishes are said and presents to all are put under, around and in the tree. We've just sat down to enjoy the holiday meal, when I feel Bella's fingers dig into my thigh. I gently place a hand on hers and her hand relaxes. I look down at her face and notice its tightness. I slowly start rubbing her back and lean over, whispering in her ear, "Are you okay?"
She forces a smile on her face and nods. I don't like the forced smile at all. Someone asks me a question and I automatically answer it, but I'm concerned for Bella. I let my gaze wander to Mrs. Cope and once her eyes are on me, I slightly tilt my head to Bella. She instantly understands me and continues to surreptitiously watch over her. We start passing the dishes around the table and I offer to fill Bella's plate, but she asks for nothing but water. Minutes have passed when I feel her fingers dig into my thigh again. As I put my hand over hers to soothe her, I look to Mrs. Cope. Mrs. Cope's eyes move to the tall case clock across from the dining room and I guess that she's timing her contractions. Bella's features once again are forced into a pleasant expression while she speaks with Alice across from her. Alice doesn't buy it any more than I do.
I've listened to many conversations around the women, and even some of the men, regarding labor and delivery. Minutes pass again and then I feel Bella's finger hold. I look to Mrs. Cope who again looks to the clock. Mrs. Cope looks back to me, then tilts her head towards our room.
I whisper in Bella's ear, "Come with me," and she gratefully nods. I smile at everyone around the table as I help Bella up. "We need to check on a few things. We'll be back."
"You won't be back for a long while. Let me the first to congratulate you two." Alice knowingly smiles up at us. Then the excitement in the room is palpable as everyone takes turns congratulating us.
Mrs. Cope and my mom left the table and went upstairs ahead of us. I knew they were probably readying the bed. They would remove the good sheets, lay a large rubber pad on the bed, then cover it with old towels and old, clean sheets. Bella felt better walking towards the stairs, when another contraction hit. She stopped, as I stood in front of her and leaned down to put my forehead to hers. Her grip on my hand is stronger than I have felt from any man. I try to soothe her by rubbing her belly. I'm astonished to find that it is rock hard. Then I feel the tension in it subside and so does her grip. She inhales and blows out her breath, visibly relaxing before my eyes.
"Do you want me to carry you upstairs?" I offer.
"No, I want to walk. It feels better," she murmurs.
I nod my head and we slowly make our way up the stairs. "So, do you think this is it? Their time has come to show us what they look like?"
She nods. "I hope they look just like you." She smiles up at me.
"Well, if Alice is wrong and we have a girl, I hope she looks just like you," I counter, grinning.
"Alice isn't wrong," Bella huffs.
"Well, I wouldn't bet against her. Just saying that if she is, and we do have a girl, I want her to have your beautiful eyes." She laughs and relaxes more.
We make it to our room and Bella walks into the en suite to change. I follow her in and help her remove her shoes and clothing and slip on her nightshift. "This is a first," I smile at her. She giggles and then doesn't, as another contraction hits her, and I hold her to comfort her through it.
Once she's able to catch her breath and relax, I give credit where credit is due, "Well, I think we know now that Mrs. Cope's idea to induce labor works." Bella lets out a bark of laughter as she smiles up at me. I kiss her because she is the most precious thing in the world to me.
Mrs. Cope checks Bella and says that it'll be a few hours yet and we all try to make her comfortable. Mostly she wants to walk around. We talk about everything - the gifts we gave to everyone; the gifts we gave each other; the trip to London; the trip to New Orleans; my dad's desire to purchase and open a mill in Savannah; the coming planting season; how Bella will plant her new seeds; everything and anything, including the weather. It is a fine day.
Finally, the time arrives. I'm sitting behind Bella as her back support in aid of birthing the little ones. She rests on my chest briefly before her fingers, once again, are grasping my bent knees. I watch in amazement as she strains to push Swan-Cullen number one into the world. Mrs. Cope announces that it's a boy. My mom's in love already as she takes him from Mrs. Cope to clean, measure and weigh him. His cries are lusty after his first breath. But, Bella's reprieve is short lived when, seven minutes later, Swan-Cullen number two enters our world. He is the more docile of the two, at the moment, as Alice takes him, pure joy in her eyes, from Mrs. Cope. I hug an exhausted Bella to me and kiss her cheek.
"I love you, my Bella. Forever and always. Thank you for my sons," my voice rough from the miracle I just witnessed and the strength of my love.
"I love you too, my Edward. So much. Forever and always. Thank you for giving them to me," her voice also filled with awe at what we created.
An hour later, the bed is refreshed with clean sheets, Bella has changed into a clean gown, and the little ones are bathed, swaddled and being held in Bella's and my arms. They look identical, both seem to have my wayward cowlicks, in the color of brown with shades of red and gold. Their eyes are blue with a hint of green in the mix. My mom says they look just like me when I was first born. It seems Bella got her wish.
The only difference is baby number one, Edward Anthony Swan-Cullen, weighed in two ounces heavier than his younger brother, Charles Carlisle Swan-Cullen. My mom is overjoyed and my dad is overwhelmed by our decision for the boys' names.
I look at my Bella. She is tired, but so content, staring down at little Charlie and then little Edward. She's simply radiant. Charlie starts fussing a bit, but when Bella speaks quietly to him, he calms right down. I know in my heart that she will give our children all the love a child could ever need, tenfold. Our family comes in by couples to see the new additions. Surprisingly, the guys are just as anxious to hold the little ones as are the girls. Luckily, we have two, so there are no disputes.
After everyone has conveyed their good wishes and good nights, it is just Bella, Alice, Jasper and me alone in our room, late into the evening. Jasper is holding Charlie, while Alice takes possession of Edward. Bella and I are eating our warmed up Christmas dinner when Jasper asked, "So Edward, how was it? Being there to watch the birth? Were you worried? Scared? Wished you weren't there?"
I snort out a laugh and almost upend my dinner. I know those are the things that worried him, but for some reason, none of those things crossed my mind. Of course, I worried for Bella's pain and health, but she never complained during the whole experience, which made it easy to focus solely on her and her needs.
"It was perfect. I'm glad I was there. If or when the time comes for another little one, I assure you, I will be there also. All you have to do is try to make Alice as comfortable as possible. You'll do fine," I grin at him while Alice winks at me.
He nods his head as he gently holds little Charlie's hand. He looks up at Alice and tenderly smiles at her. "Yeah, we'll do fine."
The Cullen coat of arms has been part of my family's heritage for hundreds of years. It is made up of three symbols: an open hand, the lion, and the trefoil. The hand represents faith and sincerity; the lion represents strength and serenity; and the trefoil represents perpetuity. I made, as one of my gifts for Bella for Christmas, a hand carved sign with a coat of arms. In addition to the symbols from the Cullen coat of arms, I included two white swans with their heads resting together, their elegant long necks bowed out, then slanting down towards where their chests touch, creating a heart. I carved them so they are resting in the palm of the hand. A visual honor of the love Charlie and Renee shared and for the Sisters Swan.
Just as Bella changed the history of the Swan Plantation by being the first female heir, I am the first to change our crest to include my wife and children. The Swan-Cullen sign has just been hung up at the beginning of the drive. Bella was so pleased and proud of the craftsmanship when she saw it for the first time this morning that she insisted we hang it up immediately. She also insisted she be present for the installation, as well as Little E and C. The rest of the family helped mark a historic moment in the Swan family journals.
The harvest is again upon us. I stand with pride, watching all the activity from the veranda. It never gets old watching the little cotton plant begin and end its life cycle, year after year. With Emmett in charge, everything is running like clockwork.
My dad did end up purchasing a small mill in the spring of 1936. The mill was upgraded with the latest in technology and opened in time for that year's harvest. Two men from the Savior had worked in various mills and became my father's foreman and manager. Between the Clearwaters, the Savior's Crew Co-Op, and our crop, the mill could be kept busy for most of the year. Once the material is ready, it is either shipped via train towards the west or loaded on to the Savior for delivery along the Atlantic Seaboard. Men from the mill or the Co-Op multitask, never forgetting their enjoyment in being out to sea. Since World War II is in full swing, every one of the men are indebted to Carlisle for giving them the opportunity to come here to the States and not have their families near the conflict. Of course, we all worry about the people and the nation we left behind, but knowing our families are safe from the bombings and fighting brings great solace.
Bella ended up thanking me for relieving her of cooking duty for the laborers. Quite nicely and several times over. She definitely has her hands full with the our children. Little E and C are in first grade and will be turning 6 this Christmas. Alethea Ashley, named after the pioneering Swan, is her mother's spitting image and just turned four. Identical twins, Eric Evan and Joseph Jasper, shortened to Ease and Jays, will be two next week, and look exactly like their older brothers. When Bella wants the boys' attention, all she has to call out is, "little greenka's" and they all come running. Last, but definitely not least is baby Elizabeth Alice or Lellabeth, as the littler ones call her, who is one month old. She is a wonderful blend of the both of us.
Mrs. Cope is no longer spending all her time in the kitchen. She handed the reins of not only the kitchen but her heart to Laurent. They plan on marrying in the winter and have plans for their honeymoon in France. Laurent does most of the cooking for the family. Every night as we thank him for his delicious creations, he thanks us for bringing him here and to his love. She has her hands full with all the little ones. And not just ours. She has delivered a total of 22 babies in the last 6 years, just in our extended family alone.
Jasper and Alice have been three times blessed. Renee Esme, or Reme as we call her, is a mini Alice. Jasper Edward, or Jazz, is his father's son in looks and bearing. Jackson Alexander is an interesting combination of the two. One day he looks like Alice, and then the next, like Jasper. We call him Chippy, as in a chip off the old block, but in his case, two blocks.
Rosalie and Emmett's three are: Jaclyn Virginia, or Jax, named for Emmett's dad Jack and his mother Lynne, and has Rosalie's looks, but her father's exuberance; Robert Douglas, Rob for short, is the masculine version of Rosalie with his handsome fair looks; and Emily Rose is a beautiful feminine likeness of Emmett.
Leah and Sam have Harry Samuel, whom I'm told looks just like Leah and Seth's dad. Samantha Susannah, or Sassy girl as we call her, is a beauty like Leah but with Sam's inquisitive nature. Lastly, there is the sweet and gorgeous Rebecca Diane Michelle. They couldn't settle on her name but we call her RD or Mickey for short.
Tanya and Seth have three also. Seth Anthony a strapping lad at 5 with Tanya's fairness. Sandra Carmen, or Sandy, has blonde hair, but Seth's open, honest features. Little Isabella Alice, or Lili, is Tanya's reincarnation. Carmen and Eleazar now reside here in the States with the Clearwaters. Both are enjoying the lifestyle change very much.
Daisy and Embry have added four beautiful children into our mix. Flavia was named after the princess in the Prisoner of Zenda. Daisy loves that story. She also enjoys Roman history. Constantine and Justinian, the only other set of twins, are smart and strong. Their newest, Basia, is a beauty at only two months old.
Due to her wonderful care for our woman and children, other couples, such as Angela and Ben Cheney and Jessica and Mike Newton, started asking if Mrs. Cope would deliver their children. The woman never tires of her renewed occupation. Luckily for us, we're her home.
We all get together weekly and it's a sight to behold. The adults are preparing food or eating, playing music or singing, and playing games with all the little ones. The children all play well together and are best friends. Their bond is as strong as the adults with each other. I never knew that life could ever be this good.
I hear the front door open behind me and turn to see my Bella smiling at me. I stretch out my hand to her and she takes it. She always takes my hand and I always sigh when I feel that current flow between us as our souls touch. I pull her in front of me and encircle her within my arms. I rest my chin on her shoulder and we both watch the harvest. I kiss her cheek and she smiles that warm sultry grin that always speeds up my heart. I have everything and more that a man could ever hope for. My children, my family, my Bella, and the Plantation. The land that accepted me and invited me to stay. I'm forever grateful it did.
March 16, 2013
I've spent years reading and re-reading the Swan family journals. I've read about the first pioneers to set foot on this land, taming the wilderness with brains, brawn, and sweat. They created this grand Plantation with little cotton seeds. The Swan family persevered through wars, for independence, the Civil War, and both world wars. They held on through depressions, diseases affecting both man and crops, fires, droughts, and an occasional hurricane. A Swan has subsisted and thrived off this land and continues on, breathing, working, living and loving, one generation after another.
Bella and Alice kept separate journals, apart from what was written in the family historical ones. I found them, and Charlie's metal box, in a hidden compartment in the heirloom Wooten desk, which still resides in the office today. It was through these journals that I learned of their personal struggles, and how each girl lived before the trying times of the Great Depression and coped after their parents' deaths.
It was their family, the one they grew up in, and the ones they created and inspired, that held them together and eventually brought happiness back into their lives. The detailed writings of finding their true loves, and some very intimate moments of their love lives, brought me closer to these two women then I could've ever hoped. They were passionate, strong and feisty women who never settled for anything but what was best for them and those around them. I admire that spirit and fortitude and often wonder if I would have been able to survive intact, the way they did.
Around here, the names McCarty, Clearwater, Uley, Call, Swan-Whitlock and Swan-Cullen stand for honor, commitment, loyalty and trust. If you can count anyone with one of these names as a friend, you can count on all of them to stand beside you, through thick or thin. It's just how the land grows them out here.
I know. I'm one of the lucky ones who married a Swan-Cullen. My Edward is the fourth generation of the original Edward Anthony Cullen. He looks so much like his great grandfather, with his autumn colored hair and fern green eyes and his wicked grin. He's almost an exact replica, not only in looks, but in mannerisms, character, intelligence and loving nature, based on the way Bella described her Edward, except about an inch difference in height.
Coming in from checking the fields, he slowly walks up the steps, dressed in tight Levi's, boots and a white work shirt. He favors me with his slow burning, smoldering look that makes my whole body tremble every time.
He cocks his brow at me, "Are you finished?"
"Yes, it's done," I smile up at him.
"It's a wonderful story you wrote about my family. If only one person enjoys it, I will be forever grateful that you took the time to write it," he smiles down at me.
"You liked?" I ask, loving that line.
"Yes, I liked. In fact, I loved it. But, I love you more," he chuckles deeply, lifting me up from the porch swing to hug and kiss me tenderly.
"Are you coming upstairs?" He murmurs in my ear and I shiver warmly at those tantalizing words.
"In a moment. I just need to do one last thing," I whisper and turn in his embrace.
When I've retrieved my laptop, Edward rests his chin on my shoulder, his hands resting below my baby belly. Twin boys due to arrive next month. Relaxed in the comfort of Edward's arms, I let my eyes wander over the vastness of this land, in the twilight of the evening. For almost three hundred years, generations of Swan heirs have gazed upon this very same view. And what a view it is.
I push the send button and wait a few moments to ensure my writing is delivered. I close my laptop with a happy sigh. Their story is now told and I can only hope that people will find as much inspiration as I have… from the story of the Sisters Swan.