A/N: Loved hearing all you guys' personal stories on your experiences with love at first sight, either your own love, or your parents' or family or friends'. Yes, love at first sight does exist, and sometimes the person you fall in love with isn't the most convenient, but what can you do?
Anyway, here's the epilogue. Hope you guys enjoy it.
All characters belong to S. Meyer.
My girlie Michelle Renker Rhodes betad this. Thanks for everything, bb. :)
They say a child is a blessing…
Especially one born on December 24th, exactly six years after her mother and father first met.
They say a child brings family together, heals old wounds, makes it easier to forgive and forget.
They say a child changes everything…
After those first twelve days we spent together, Bella and I dealt with a few months of separation, broken up by monthly visits and constant phone calls and texts during which we spoke about anything and everything: how her mom was doing, how school was going, how work was going, how Jake was doing with his new girl, Rebecca, the weather, Romeo and Juliet's latest antics, the color of the shirt she was wearing that day, what Penn Station smelled like on a crowded morning, how many pages she had left in her journal, the new recipe I'd picked up from my boss at work - anything and everything.
On my second visit, Bella brought me back home with her. Renee greeted me with a warm hug, Jasper greeted me with a clap on the shoulder, Alice hugged me tight and told me she loved the ring, while the girls both hugged my legs and Romeo and Juliet pawed at me for equal attention.
Charlie muttered a gruff hello and barely glanced my way for the rest of the day.
It was progress.
Still, things with Bella's dad improved in direct correlation with Renee's improving health.
Eleven months after the most important holiday season of my life, I opened up my own architectural firm – in Seattle – and Bella moved out of student housing.
The day Bella received her undergrad degree Renee was in complete remission. Charlie shook my hand tightly and in a shaky voice thanked me for being there for his little girl…for his family…and for proving him wrong.
The firm did well, and a couple of years after moving to Seattle, we broke ground on a piece of land in a wooded section of Forks – a decent distance from Bella's parents. Bella picked the spot because if you took the trail behind the lot, it opened up to a beautiful meadow. Excited and happy, Bella and I gazed out at the lot that would someday be our dream home, though it would be at least a couple of years before we could complete it; before we could make reality all the things we'd dreamed about that day we went ice-fishing - plus a few additional dreams we'd come up with along the way.
So though we wouldn't be living there for a while yet, the land itself served a good purpose on the day we set up a tent over it and invited friends and family to watch Bella and I become husband and wife.
Everyone came – everyone except the one person Bella had been holding out hope for the most.
There had been no communication between Bella and Rose since that holiday season. We alternated holidays; Rose would spend every other Christmas with her parents and then New Years with her husband Royce's family. The following year we'd switch holidays.
And then six years to the day that Bella and I met, two months after she'd completed a year-long internship at a great veterinary hospital in Seattle, our entire lives changed again.
And kept right on changing…
On Christmas morning, Emmett bounded into the hospital room, his face practically split in two from the width of his grin. In one hand he held a pair of pink helium balloons, one shaped like a baby bottle, the other like a pacifier, in the other hand, a box of chocolates and a pink teddy bear.
"The balloons are to announce to the world that I'm an uncle."
Sure enough, in black sharpie marker someone had written on both balloons, 'I'm an Uncle!'
"The teddy bear is for my niece, and the box of chocolates is for both you guys," – he grinned at Bella and me – "because I'm told that's the only sweetness that'll be allowed between you two for four to six weeks."
I smirked at him without taking my eyes off of my daughter, which made me realize that I was really smirking at her.
"You're making me smirk at my daughter," I complained.
Emmett just laughed.
Bella chuckled from her bed. "Emmett, I'm so glad you came!"
I looked up at my wife and grinned, still so friggin' grateful and awed over the crazy shit she'd just put herself through to give us our daughter.
Emmett walked over to her and gave her a warm kiss on the cheek.
"How could I not come? I'm an uncle! Mom and dad send all three of you lots of love and say to remind you guys that they'll be up in a couple of weeks."
With obvious excitement, he handed her the box of chocolates and let the balloons float to the ceiling before quickly turning to greet everyone else in the room.
"Jasper! My man! We're uncles!" he proclaimed again.
"Yeah, we are!" Jasper agreed with almost equal excitement. In his defense, he had three daughters now. Newborn baby girls weren't exactly a novelty to him.
"Al, sweety!" he greeted Alice, giving her a big hug. "Where are your princesses?"
"At home with my parents," Alice smiled. "They're dying to meet their baby cousin, but it would've been too hectic here with the three of them. They'll have to wait until she goes home."
I was secretly grateful Alice had left the girls home. Not that I didn't love them, because I did, and I could only hope that Bella and I could raise Ava Leigh the way Jasper and Alice were raising their girls – to respect everyone, especially and including each other.
But the germs!
Holy hell, since Ava had popped out of her mom less than twenty four hours ago, all I could think of was how many god damned germs were floating around in the world! In this room, on everyone's hands…
Emmett finished greeting everyone; Bella's parents with congratulations to each on becoming grandparents for the fourth time, and then a quick inquiry towards Renee regarding her health and an equally quick assurance of how great it was to hear that she was doing great.
And then he turned to me.
"Alright, bro, hand that little bundle over here." He wiggled his fingers, holding his arms up.
I narrowed my eyes at him, holding Ava closer to me.
"Do you even know how to hold a newborn?"
He snorted. "Do you?"
"Not the point," I scowled. "She's my daughter."
"So you're allowed to drop her?" he chortled.
I clenched my jaw, nostrils flaring. "I would never drop her!"
"Emmett, Edward's feeling a little…possessive and territorial this morning," Bella informed him with a hint of amusement in her tone. "I see it all the time at the animal hospital."
I frowned down at her, startled by her betrayal, and so soon after we'd shared such a moment of bonding. "I am not feeling possessive or territorial. I just want to make sure-"
"Honey," she cut me off with that soft yet tired grin she'd been wearing all morning, and it reminded me of what she'd done for us, for me, and all feelings of betrayal melted away. "No one's going to drop the baby. You can let Emmett hold her," she assured me gently.
I pursed my lips and with a heavy sigh looked back up at my brother.
"Wash your hands first, thoroughly," I hissed.
"Relax, dude," he snickered, walking off to the sink to wash his hands. "I'm a doctor; I know all about washing hands. Matter of fact, I considered becoming a GYN but then changed my mind." He walked over to me, holding his hands out again. "You know, because of all the B-L-O-O-D involved," he whispered.
When I handed him my daughter, all comedic amusement faded away. His shoulders relaxed. Awe filled his face.
"Wow. She's beautiful. Man, Edward, you're lucky you've got Jasper and me to help chase the boys away in a few years."
We all hung out for a couple of hours, and then Jasper and Alice left to go spend the rest of the day with their own girls, and Charlie and Renee left for a while too, promising to be back later that night with a feast Renee was preparing to celebrate the holiday and the birth of the baby.
As for little Ava, she'd been alternating between sleeping and staring up dreamily at every face she encountered. She'd ended up in her mother's arms again, and when she started fussing, Bella began pulling her own pretty pink pajama shirt up.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, love, what are you doing?" I asked, my eyes growing wide.
"I'm going to nurse her," Bella replied matter-of-factly.
I turned my eyes to Emmett - who was sitting on one the chairs grinning over at us – before turning back to Bella.
She shrugged. "It's just a breast, Edward. It's all part of nature. Where do you think babies got their nourishment from before big corporations and marketers invented formula?"
"Yeah, Edward," Emmett agreed.
She started picking her shirt up again.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" I held out a hand, and she stopped once again.
I turned to my brother. "Emmett, get the fuck out."
He howled hysterically, rising to his feet before my sentence was even out. "I'm going, I'm going. I'll be down in the cafeteria getting a snack. You think half an hour is enough?"
"That should be fine," Bella laughed.
And with another chuckle, Emmett walked out.
Thirty-five minutes later, my baby daughter was fast asleep, sated and warm and safe in her mother's arms. I sat on the edge of the bed and carefully took her from Bella.
"Why don't you take a nap, love?" I suggested.
Bella shook her head. "I'm okay."
I grinned at my wife, wondering how it could possibly be that she grew more and more beautiful as the years passed. Time had given her a maturity, a self-confidence that made her absolutely breath-taking. Her hair had always been long and thick and silky, but the pregnancy had made it even more so. Her dark eyes were deeper than ever, sparkling with a happiness and fulfillment I'd never seen before, not even on our wedding day. Her skin practically glowed with radiance. Even before the pregnancy, her figure had gone from sweetly slim to womanly curvy.
I remembered the first time I'd seen her, huddled with Romeo and Juliet at her parent's kitchen door, her creamy cheeks red from the cold, a halo of snow crowning her dark head of a hair.
"You're a Christmas angel," I whispered, verbalizing my thoughts. "That's what it is."
She smiled softly, doe eyes full of love. "That little bundle in your arms is the Christmas angel."
I gazed down at the bundle, gently tapping her minuscule nose with the tip of my finger. It was hard to tell since she was barely twenty-four hours old, but I could've sworn she had her mom's features, her round eyes, her uplifted nose, that full pouty bottom lip. She was as bald as a cue ball, so it was impossible to know what color her hair would be, but from what I'd seen of her eyes so far, they looked like they might be a grayish green right now. Again, it took me back to that first Christmas with Bella when she'd assured me that a child born to parents with brown and green eyes would most likely have brown eyes. It looked like she might be wrong.
"Our daughter is a Christmas cherub – the most perfect cherub possible." I looked back up at my wife. "But you will always be my angel. I love you, Bella. Thank you, so, so much"
She grinned that impish grin that had gotten to me since the first time I'd seen it. "Let's see how much you're thanking me in a couple of weeks when that perfect cherub keeps waking us up every couple of hours demanding grub."
"Well, I'm thanking you now just in case I forget to do so then."
We both chuckled and held each other's gaze.
We'd timed the completion of our house to when Bella's residency in Seattle would end. We'd moved in just a couple of months ago, and with everyone's help, especially Jasper and Alice, we'd managed to get everything unpacked and ready before the birth of the baby. Her nursery was all set up and waiting for her at home. And the good thing about being an architect was that I'd designed my own home office, so that I could do most of my work from Forks and only have to head to Seattle for client meetings. And for my veterinarian wife, I'd designed and built the most state-of-the art office for her to treat her patients in – right from the comfort of her own home. Romeo, Juliet, and our spaniels Lucy and Desi had already given it their seal of approval, and it would be waiting for her too, once she was ready to start practicing.
With our daughter bundled happily between us, our heads moved closer together, eyes trailing to each other's lips because though we'd had a rocky start, right now, life couldn't get any more perfect.
That is, until someone cleared their throat behind us.
I sighed at the gruff sound of my brother's voice while Bella and I moved apart. But it was at the shock etched across her face that I turned around.
Emmett was indeed standing by the door, but so was Rosalie, watching us warily and gripping a large brown teddy bear tightly to her stomach.
"Rose," I heard Bella breath behind me.
"Hey," she answered back shakily.
We hadn't seen Rose since that fateful Christmas holiday six years ago. But from what we'd heard, things were going well for her in New York. She'd gotten married about a year after our break-up, to Royce King, a fellow architect I'd worked with a couple of times. They'd done well for the first few years, but had separated a few months ago. Bella had come home close to tears the day Renee had told her:
I'd held her in my arms in bed and then lifted her chin so that her eyes could meet mine, and in them I'd seen the guilt I'd feared finding.
"Hey, I understand you being upset, but why do you feel guilty?"
She hadn't answered me. I'd tried to be as careful with her as possible because I knew the pregnancy was making her more emotional than usual.
"What? Do you think that somehow you and I getting together caused this to happen? Does that make any sense?"
She'd shaken her head slowly.
"Then don't feel guilty, Bella. Like I said, I can understand you being upset for your sister," – a sister that hadn't tried contacting her in almost six years, but I didn't add that because she was pregnant, and I didn't want to upset her - "but that's as far as it should go."
"But my mom says she's taking the separation pretty hard. I wish…" she'd trailed off. "Maybe…maybe I should try contacting her."
I'd drawn in a deep breath and once again refrained from my full opinion, due to her state.
Cupping her cheek I'd said, "If you want to try contacting your sister, I'm not going to try to stop you, but just do me a favor, love, okay? Wait until after the baby is born. I don't want you upsetting yourself in this state."
Slowly, she'd agreed, and that had been the end of it.
Emmett cleared his throat again because the three of us seemed to be frozen. He grinned carefully.
"I…uh…found this young lady wandering the hallways, looking for the new Baby Masen, but I told her Baby Masen was in the middle of a feeding, so I took her down to the cafeteria with me for a while. She says she's your sister." He winked at Bella.
Out of my periphery, I saw Bella nod slowly.
For what felt like an eternity, the four of us just stood or sat around.
"I…" Rose began, and then with a deep breath and a shrug, "I came to see the baby."
I turned to my wife. Her face was frozen, expressionless, but then heartbreakingly slowly, a smile formed across her lips.
"Come in, Rose."
Rose didn't walk in right away, and when she did, her steps were measured and hesitant, the bear clutched tightly to her midsection. Her eyes met mine when she reached the edge of the bed. She gave me a small, unsure smile.
"Hey, Rose," I said.
She leaned her head over carefully and peered down at the bundle in my arms.
And as hard as it had been to hand Ava over to Emmett, it was doubly hard to do so to Rose. But this was Bella's sister, Ava's aunt, and I could feel the emotion rolling off of Bella in waves. So with deliberate care, I placed my daughter in her aunt's arms.
Rose started crying.
"She's beautiful," she said between tears.
"Thank you," Bella responded, her voice shaky. I moved in closer to her side and wrapped an arm around her, kissing her forehead.
"What's her name?" Rose asked.
"Ava Leigh," Bella responded.
"Ava Leigh," Rose repeated. "A very pretty name."
"She looks like you, Bella," Rose whispered, her eyes still on my daughter, "when you were born." She started crying again, while my wife's own sobs shook her body. I held her closer.
Emmett just sort of stood quietly by the door.
"I'm sorry, Bella," Rose murmured, trying to hold her tears in, still gazing at my daughter. "I've been…" she trailed off and then looked up at my wife, "But I never wanted you to drown. You know that, right? I would've never wanted you to drown."
"I know that, Rose," Bella whispered, a small smile in her voice. "I know that. And I'm sorry too."
Rose nodded, smiling faintly. She drew in a deep breath. "I have...things I need to work out with myself, but..."
"So how big was she?" she asked in a stronger voice.
"Seven pounds, three ounces, twenty-one inches."
"That's a good size. Bigger than you. You were a munchkin. I thought mom and dad had brought home a skinned rabbit when they brought you home." She grinned teasingly.
Bella chuckled, sighing unevenly at the end.
"But man, were you ever loud!" Rose went on. "Woke the whole house up. Have you heard her cry yet?" she asked, gazing at the baby.
"Yeah," I smirked. "She's got a good set of lungs on her."
"If that's the case, I think I'll look into staying at a hotel for the rest of my visit," Emmett added, propped up against the door, hands in his pockets.
We all laughed.
"Who said you were welcome to stay with us, anyway?" I taunted.
"Don't worry, Em," Bella chuckled, "Romeo, Juliet, Lucy and Desi have all agreed to make room for you downstairs so that you don't have to be awoken by crying babies."
"See how they treat guests?" Emmett asked Rosalie. He moved in closer, peering at the baby over Rose's shoulder. "You see how they treat your uncle, Ava, honey? What are you going to say to them, huh? What are you going to say?"
Slowly, little Ava opened her eyes, gazing at her uncle before closing them again, completely uninterested.
We all laughed again and made small talk for about a half hour, until my wife started yawning and I sent everyone away.
"Hey, Rose, you know this area well. What's a good place to grab some dinner around here?" Emmett asked.
"There's a nice Italian place in town," Rose replied.
Emmett grinned widely and then placing his hand on the small of Rose's back, led her out of the room.
"Oh yeah? Well what say you and I go grab some nice Italiano. I'll tell you all about how I became a psychologist." He turned and winked at us, walking out.
When I looked at her, Bella was frowning, but there was a curious smile on her face.
"You don't think…I mean…you think?" she finally asked.
I shrugged. "Who knows?"
And then she closed her eyes, and with Ava asleep next to us in her bassinet, I lay next to my wife, kissing her lips softly.
"Merry Christmas, Bella."
She grinned against my mouth. "Merry Christmas, Edward."
A/N: And we're done with this relatively short little story. (At least short for me!) Hope you guys enjoyed it. Thanks, once again, for reading.
A few things:
I'll be starting another story in a few weeks or so. Put me on Author and/or Story Alert if you're interested in that. You can also follow me on Twitter - PattyRosa817 - or check out my facebook page, 'Stories by Patty Rose' if you want to be kept up to date.
Next, I know lots of you totally hated Rosalie. To me, she wasn't an evil person, just confused and mistaken and human, and let's face it, Bella did take her man away. To me, this wasn't a story about good guys versus bad guys – and I have written a few of those. I meant this as a story about love and family. The thing is, most families are dysfunctional in one way or another. Doesn't mean they don't love each other.
Once again, totally loved hearing all your stories about your experiences with love at first sight. Some of you have suggested that I write a story based on my brother and his wife, and yes, it would actually make a great tale. It's got a jealous ex-girlfriend, a dysfunctional family, more than one bad boy, and the sweet and quirky heroine. We'll see. Maybe someday...
So for the last time in this story, THOUGHTS?