Disclaimer: I do not own nor make any profit off of Twilight. It belongs to Stephenie Meyer and Summit Entertainment, etc.
A/N: Thank you in advance for sticking around and here (finally) is the companion story that the Christmas season inspired. Back-Story/Companion Piece for To Hear The Angels. (I strongly recommend reading that story first.) This is a two-shot, since I found myself writing twice as much as intended.
Chapter 2: Gestures
"I'm shocked Alice wasn't the one to come find me," came Edward's morose yet sarcastic remark. He didn't even turn around.
"No need," he pointed out in reply to my thought, turning dourer than before and slouching uncharacteristically. "I'm sure you'll just call me an idiot, tell me to get home before I worry everyone more than I already have, and then run back knowing you've done a service to the family."
"You are an idiot," was my cool retort, but I didn't feel the remark as keenly as I normally did. Emmett's words were still running circles in my subconscious, dampening every rude thought or gesture I might typically have given Edward.
"Emmett finally snapped, I see," he murmured, much subdued. A tilt of his head displayed his disappointment. "I'd hoped he would never have to do that."
"You knew," I responded blandly, blinking away my surprise. In lieu of a reply, Edward just tapped his head deprecatingly.
"How long has he been waiting to say all that?" I couldn't stop myself from asking.
A pause stole over us, Edward fidgeting unnecessarily until he finally answered, "Decades."
Breath whooshed out of my lungs at this announcement. "He's been upset this long and never let it show? Never once let anyone see how it bothered him?"
"He tries to be the strong one for you, but it hurts him that... well, that you can't let go of your unhappiness to focus on the present with him." Edward shrugged awkwardly, allowing the knowledge to linger in the atmosphere, and I suddenly remembered Bella's words the night I had told her my story.
"He doesn't like to tell other people's stories – he feels like he's betraying confidences, because he hears so much more than just the parts they mean for him to hear."
"Told you that, did she?" Edward smiled fondly at the thought of his wife.
"She did," I nodded unnecessarily, shifting weight to the opposite foot as I thought over that conversation again. With all of my harsh interactions to and about Bella, Edward still had been kinder to me than I deserved. He had kept his word, as promised, and after finding out, I started acting kinder towards him. So why, after I had started feeling congenial, did I go back to hating him like I used to?
"Renesmee," Edward whispered, pain in every syllable as he turned away from me to stare at the water.
Staring at his lanky form, curled into itself on a cluster of rocks, it occurred to me how lonely he looked. A wife, daughter, parents, and siblings were all waiting back home for him, worried sick about his welfare, yet still he seemed so alone. Out of character entirely, I felt sorry for him. And I recognized that Renesmee was no longer an issue of contempt between us. The issue was, as I determined before searching out Edward, something I'd never even understood in my own mind.
"Why are you choosing to be alone?" I asked, some distant and deeply buried part of me already keenly aware.
"I could ask you the same thing," Edward replied with a deep sigh. "But I can only guess you'd become angry with me again and we'd argue. We always argue. Always about ridiculous things that neither of us can change. But it doesn't stop us from arguing again and again."
Edward's resignation toward my feelings and the status of our relationship began to tip the scales in favor of a change I wasn't ready to encounter. But there was nothing left to wait for. My human brothers had been dead for twenty and thirty years; one due to alcoholism and one due to cancer. Even if they still lived, the two of them would certainly not be capable of feeling betrayed by a sister they believed dead for almost eighty years.
"Is that what this is about?" Edward exclaimed, surprise splashed over his lean face when he whipped around to gaze on me. "Rosalie, you know I would never try and replace—"
"I know," I cut in before he could continue. "Really. I didn't even know this was a problem for me until today."
Intuitively knowing it would be impossible to forge ahead in our lives with the same old biting and scratching of the past, I inhaled a long, slow breath and moved uncomfortably to sit beside Edward on the rocks. Trying to find words became a daunting task, drawing the silence until the plain facts of the day slipped out suddenly.
"I found myself comparing you to my human brothers," was my abrupt admission. "I used to argue with them all the time too. Only it wasn't so hurtful. It wasn't an argument meant to wound. Just to tease, to make fun. But you and I… it's not a little game. It's always been a brutal war. Emmett was right. We're too similar and fight the same way. We scrape so badly on each other that it gets out of hand. When one of us tries to make a point, the other takes it immediately as an insult. I hate to admit it, but it's usually me. I just… always thought you hated me, resented me even. The way you talked about me when I was nearly through the transformation…"
"I never hated you, even on your blackest days," Edward sighed again, running frustrated hands through his hair for what looked to be the hundredth time that day. "I hated what those animals had done to you. I hated that our family could have been exposed if anyone recognized you. Admittedly, I got heartily sick of your vanity once the change was over…"
A twitch of his lip let me know he was partly joking, and my instinctively tense posture relaxed immediately.
Breathing deeply, Edward went on, "I've never been very good with niceties. Manners, yes, but not the sensitivity and compassion that comes so naturally to Carlisle and Esme. I wish I did. Maybe I could have been a better – I don't know – friend, brother, confidant? Someone who could use this ability to show you support when you needed it most? Instead I got annoyed with your constant complaining, despite the fact you had a right to it."
"Why?" I wondered coldly, trying not to overreact and failing miserably.
"Mostly because I didn't know how to help you," he confessed quietly. "Helping you through your feelings was a scary thought. Still is, if I'm honest. But with Bella I had to learn patience and get over that fear. Maybe I'm not totally fixed, but I like to think I'm improving."
"You are," I admitted simply, unable to stop staring at this different man, my coldness melting away. "I would never have believed we'd be talking like this. Trying to understand, rather than insult."
"I think the underworld might have frozen over, don't you?" Edward grinned slightly, the expression transforming his features into the happy, hopeful man he had become since Renesmee's birth. A grin ghosted across my own face before I could stop it.
"It might have," I murmured, amazed by the two foremost feelings beginning to flow through me. Hope? Happiness? Although I could hardly believe it, I truly felt them. Not a cheap imitation, nor wishful thinking. This was the real thing.
In letting go of my human brothers, I started to understand what Emmett wanted. What everyone always hoped I could do. All of my family had unhappy histories somehow. Emmett was dying slowly and painfully when I'd found him and was forced to give up the loving family he already had. Esme had been oppressed by her parents, brutally abused by her own husband, and lost her precious baby. Jasper was on the losing side of a war, forced to join the killing machine Maria molded, constantly depressed by the emotions of those he found sustenance from, and then spent years alone because of his ability. Poor little Alice was placed in an institution that tortured its patients rather than healed them. Although it had never been expressly stated, Carlisle was no doubt abused by his father for being less than the paragon of hypocritical virtue, and then spent centuries wandering, alone despite the many friends he made during his travels. Edward, though I little thought about it over the years, had lost both his father and beloved mother by the time he was dying; his death was a slow, painful one just as mine had been. Years of believing himself a monster and choosing the lifestyle to support that theory had done nothing but hurt him.
My own fiancé had assaulted and killed me. My life and death was a sick, horrible experience and no one deserved it. But was it so much worse than the experiences of my current family? They had faced horrors as well, and while it seemed against all my natural personality traits to not see myself as superior, it had to be done.
Edward was right. We both chose to be alone at times when we needn't be. Neither of us had the ability to change what happened to us in the past, nor the decisions we made before. Focusing on the past as I did, no true happiness or peace would ever come to me. I could make myself feel those things, though. For Emmett, who always worked so hard to make me as happy as he could in spite of my constant refusal to allow complete joy in my life.
"I hope this time, I can be more helpful," Edward commented kindly. "Perhaps we can be friends of a sort after all this time. If you want to."
"I don't want that," I said evenly, not even thinking it through.
The look of hurt on Edward's face, though carefully hidden, made me feel bad. I should have chosen my words more carefully before I spoke.
"I mean I want to be brother and sister, Edward," I corrected more gently than I'd ever done. "Genuinely brother and sister, and not an imitation for public consumption. It'll take a lot of work, but… I think you're worth it."
A slow smile spread across his face, reminiscent of the sunrise brightening the world around it. No wonder Bella was dazzled when her husband grinned.
Edward laughed out loud at the thought and the only response I could think of was giving him a hug. The first to ever occur in our long acquaintance.
"Let's go home," I told him comfortably, not taking it personally when he still hadn't hugged me back. It was shock, plain and simple. "They may not be worried anymore, what with Alice so anxious and watching out for you, but then that's normal."
We snorted together, sharing a conspiratorial look, and ran home side-by-side in pleasant silence.
Coming home at peace with both myself and Edward was a strange thing. It affected everything I did, everything I felt. Every time I looked at something in the house, a sense of home would wash over me.
"You're… different," Emmett told me quietly in the confines of our room days afterward. It was Christmas Eve and I was almost ready for Alice's picture event of the year. As I peacefully brushed my hair at the vanity, two sets of golden eyes met in the mirror and I smiled at my husband for diligently noticing the changes in me.
"I know," was all I could think to say.
"Edward, too," he remarked suspiciously, shoving both hands into his pockets in a boyish pose I was starting to adore. Head tilted, shoulders rolled back, and rocking back and forth on his heels.
"I know," I repeated amusedly.
"You're not going to tell me, are you?" Emmett sighed, humor bleeding through the annoyance.
"Let's just say… you won't have to choose between us anymore," I settled on.
"I can handle that," he grinned a little at me, and I cheered the return of his beautiful dimples. They'd been missing for too long. "I'll wait downstairs."
He'd reached the door when I found the courage to ask a question I'd been hesitating to put out there over the years. "Emmett?"
"Yeah?" he stopped, turning to look over his shoulder curiously.
"Why do you never walk down with me?" I forced out, slightly embarrassed yet confused nonetheless.
Taken aback at the vague feeling of hurt I tried to hide, Emmett came back to the vanity at top speed, crouching beside me and taking my hands in his.
"I love seeing you glide into the room," he confessed with atypical bashfulness. "You always look like a queen floating down the stairs. I'd hate to miss that."
A warm, sweet emotion rose up inside of me that I always felt whenever Emmett became sentimental. The rarity of his emotional side was such that I treasured the times he indulged it. Instinct pushed me to hug my greatest gift tightly.
"Em," was my hesitant beginning as I pulled away. "I, um… I wanted to… apologize. For not … for not being satisfied with what we have. All these years I only thought about what I didn't have. Never thinking about what that made you feel like. And I'm sorry."
"If Edward spilled the beans on me…" Emmett threatened, a disgruntled look overcoming his face.
"Then he obviously cares about his brother and wants the best for him," I cut in firmly, drawing a surprised expression from my husband. "You wanted to stop choosing between us, and you can. But that also means I'm not always going to automatically go against Edward, either. I'm glad he told me. It made me see what I was missing."
"Maybe I don't like this new change," Emmett said with mocking caution.
"You'd better," was my challenge, only half joking. "I don't want to go back to what I did before. That way was lonely and painful. I kept myself in a dark place for too long."
Solemnity overtook Emmett immediately, and he hugged me again. "I didn't mean it, baby. As long as you're happy, I'm happy."
"I love you," I told him seriously, pulling back for a long kiss before I pushed him towards the door. "Go on. I'll only be a few minutes."
Bestowing a tender kiss to the top of my head, Emmett disappeared from sight. His booming laugh echoed through the house not a second later and I smiled, hurrying searching out a suitable necklace to match my Christmas dress and get me downstairs to Emmett and my family.
Unfortunately, I was sorely disappointed in the selection I had. Frustration crept over me as I tried on every piece in my extensive collection without success. Nothing matched; something about each piece was just… off. It was ridiculous that I could have bought so much jewelry and nothing matched one, lone outfit. Tossing the last of the necklaces down on the table with a little more force than necessary, I sat with folded arms and glared at the offending mass of jewelry.
After a minute or two of useless anger, I stood in a huff and decided I would have to go down without. Sighing, I almost turned towards the door when something sparkling descended in front of my face. A startled gasp flew from my lips as I found my eyes drawn to the mirror and the image of my brother, wearing a dark gray dress shirt and black tie and slacks.
"Edward?" I wondered in bewilderment, only looking down from his eyes when he gestured. Glancing down, I was entirely startled to find a necklace hanging from his fingers before my throat. A delicate gold chain boasted two rectangular, wine-colored gems with four rounded gems of the same color hung in a cluster from the chain, tiny diamonds in the style of leaves surrounding them. It was exceptionally elegant and matched ever so perfectly. Yet there was one little catch to this lovely little gesture.
"Wasn't this…?" I trailed off tentatively, remembering the necklace in a picture Esme had taken years earlier for Edward to catalogue the small collection of Elizabeth Masen's jewelry.
"It was," he nodded once, trying to read the jumble of thoughts in my head and the conflicting emotions in my eyes. "This is probably quite a surprise. I know I've never…"
The fact went unspoken that while Edward had generously and lovingly given Esme and Alice several pieces of his biological mother's jewelry, I had never been a recipient of even one. Not that this was a surprise, considering our relationship for the past seventy-odd years, but the awkward feeling of this new and unusual situation would not go away.
"If you don't want it, I understand," he murmured sincerely, nearly pulling away when I reached up to grasp his hands, holding the necklace suspended above my collar bone.
"Thank you for letting me borrow it," I told him with genuine gratitude.
Silence, thick and uncomfortable, spread between us like heavy snowfall. Just when I thought he wasn't intending to speak again, he murmured tentatively, "Rose… it's not a loan."
I froze in the middle of pulling my hands away, searching out his eyes to see the sentiment therein. Honest affection gazed back at me, the kind I only started to see after the reconciliation we had enacted a week or so earlier.
"I can't keep this," I whispered, doggedly trying to ignore the growing emotion I felt.
"I want you to," Edward smiled understandingly. Another beat passed in which our eyes remained connected. I tried to find a chink somewhere in his emotion. Surely… surely it was merely that he felt badly for never doing it before? Even if it wasn't entirely his fault? That had to be it. Guilt.
"It's not guilt," he countered gently. "Although I do regret we were so distant as to prevent this ever happening before."
"I don't see the difference," I remarked unhappily, a frown creasing my face.
"Guilt, in my experience, is a bit more… unshakeable," he responded thoughtfully. "It incurs an obligation to repay what one has done wrong. When you regret something, you haven't necessarily done wrong, although that can be case at times. You may have simply made a choice that led to a different outcome. Not a bad outcome, per se, but one that was less perfect than you hoped for upon hindsight. I think that's how I feel about us. We didn't precisely do wrong. We still called each other family and we would protect each other, but the relationship wasn't as supportive as we now wish it had been. And rather than making up for a wrong I did against you, I'm trying to create a better outcome for the next seventy-odd years of our lives."
To that, I could find no adequate words. Edward had outlined a philosophy of life I had never bothered to understand. The past was behind us and it would never change, regardless what we did or said, no matter how we lashed out or called it unfair. Hope for the future was all we could work towards. Our family had a way of doing that. Maybe that was why we all fit together.
Feeling a hitherto unknown surge of fondness for my brother, I simply asked, "Will you put it on for me?"
Smiling, Edward pulled the necklace into place and clasped the hook. Yes, it was perfect. But not just for its color. The gesture it represented meant even more to me than its beauty.
"Walk me down?" I suggested, rather than ordered as I once might have done.
Edward grinned mischievously, stretching his arm out to me. "Emmett will be disappointed. He was expecting a good, clear view of his queen."
"I think he'll be more pleased with the view he's going to get now," I countered seriously, taking the proffered arm firmly.
"Maybe you're right," Edward agreed, grin softening into a serene smile as we walked down to the rest of our family, the sound of Carlisle singing a soft Christmas carol becoming clearer every step we took.
Emmett's face proved me correct the instant he spotted us; the content expression on his adult features melted into one of boyish glee with a wide grin, sparkling eyes, and brilliant dimples. Dressed in sleek black silk, Esme matched his happiness to the letter, and had I not known it to be impossible, I would have said she was in tears. Alice was still prepping the fireplace for our photo, but from her excitable movements I knew she had to be grinning like mad. Hence why Jasper looked so awkwardly cheerful, I suspected.
Carlisle's singing stopped when Nessie waved to us, and an odd, sentimental look entered our leader's eyes as he took in the comfortable change. I stared for as long as I could at those eyes, memorizing the emotion in them and trying desperately to put a name to it. I only knew he often wore it when he looked at all of us. It wasn't love, which I frequently saw as well, but when Carlisle had love in his gaze, the unnamed emotion tied in so closely that it was nearly interchangeable. Like he could not love us without also feeling that unknown sentiment.
My musings came to a halt when Emmett reached out to squeeze Edward and me into the same bear hug.
"It's about time," he commented quietly, humor clear in his tone, before pulling away with me still wrapped in one arm. Edward just grinned and gave Emmett a brotherly slap on the shoulder as he moved to embrace his waiting wife in her pale gray cocktail dress.
"All right, we're set!" Alice called out, sing-song in her joy as she began to place the family.
An hour (and fifty or more pictures) later, Emmett and Jasper were in such a good mood that they agreed on a wrestling match. More amazing was the fact that Alice was in such a good mood as to allow it in their nice clothes. Granted, they would never again wear those outfits, but my sister rarely felt so charitable.
Bella, Alice, and Esme had moved to the piano in order to watch Edward teach Nessie a Christmas duet. Pleasant and entertaining as my brother's abnormally patient demeanor was, my eyes slipped away to wander the room in search of the last member of our family. Only thanks to the open door at the back of the house did I locate Carlisle, who was watching everyone discreetly from the back yard, that same look in his eyes. Love and something else, that inexplicable something I couldn't help wondering about. Determining my presence was not expressly required either at the piano or out front with the wrestling match, I made my way outside.
"You look like a stalker," I murmured flatly as I came up next to him. Glancing over and gauging my expression, Carlisle finally pursed his lips in a semblance of a smile.
"I feared as much," he admitted with mild amusement, glancing back once when Nessie's giggles rang out. She had made a mistake, and even as I watched, Edward corrected her with the greatest of patience. Once more, I watched Carlisle's eyes melt into the mixture of love and unknown.
"Why do you look at us like that?"
I regretted the words as soon as they left my mouth, disliking the way Carlisle winced as inconspicuously as he could.
"That wasn't what I meant," I hurriedly moved to correct my mistake. "I meant… I've just seen that look in your eyes thousands of times and I've never been able to label it. I don't know why it's been nagging at me so much tonight."
He chuckled awkwardly, turning to face me completely. "I thought you would be inside watching Renesmee learn to play."
I shrugged lightly. "I thought you would be, too."
"I suppose I should be," he confessed reluctantly.
"What's stopping you?" I asked plainly, not exactly expecting a straight answer.
"I'm… not precisely certain," was the surprisingly honest admission. After a pensive pause, he went on, "Perhaps because I spent a great deal of my three-hundred-plus years doing just this."
"Doing what?" I inquired, confused.
"Watching," he responded thoughtfully. "Observing..."
He didn't seem inclined to go on, but I found I couldn't let it go. Like the unnamed emotion in his eyes, it nagged at me. "Why?"
"I could do nothing else," he said matter-of-factly. "I could not become involved in the lives of those around me. So I merely observed them when I was with them or when I saw them in the streets."
The idea didn't make much sense to me. I just couldn't see what would be so interesting about strangers he'd never met. "Why would you want to observe them?"
Carlisle blinked wonderingly, seeming to find as little comprehension in my words as I found in his. "Because I wondered what it was like to be them. To lead lives with a wife and family, to have friends who come to call, to have someone sharing life with me. That is why."
A part of me that had long been incapable of warming completely to my creator, seemed to crack with Carlisle's confession. So blunt, so forthright, so completely unaware of the harsh loneliness in his own words. Carlisle, like Edward and me, had been choosing a life alone. His aloneness had become such an ingrained part of his character that even after gaining a beloved wife and family, he could not let go of those habits which betrayed the truth of his lonely lifetime.
Suddenly I felt so terribly sick.
Sick because the one man I had hated for so long was a man who had felt little else from the world for a very long time. My hatred hurt him, but he accepted it as the way things had to be.
"What does that look in your eyes mean?" I found the courage to speak at last.
"I don't know what you saw in my eyes, Rosalie," he sighed slightly.
"When you look at us," I pressed, "when you looked at Edward and Nessie just now… what did you feel? I know you felt love, but what goes with it? Why do you look so—"
The words ended as abruptly as my throat closed up.
I knew what that look meant. It had come so naturally, so simply, that I could hardly fathom not having known it instantly.
"Rosalie?" Carlisle's voice interceded, bringing me back to myself with twice as sick a feeling as had passed through me a moment before. "What is it?"
"Grateful," I completed the thought weakly. "You're… grateful."
"Of course I am," he agreed confusedly. "It's a blessing to have all of you."
"But you… It's like you can't separate love and gratitude," I continued in that same weak vein.
"That is a given," he chuckled gently. "I love you. Every one of you. Whenever I think of that, I can't help but be grateful that I have someone to love."
All the years I had spent dreaming of something I could never have came rushing back into my mind, flooding me with rare, deep-seated guilt. Edward was not entirely right. I had done something wrong. I had taken for granted the people who loved me in spite of myself.
"Grandpa! Aunt Rose!" Nessie called out excitedly, inadvertently preventing any further discussion and forcing my emotions into lockdown. "Daddy and Uncle Emmett are going to wrestle!"
Why Nessie loved watching this particular spectacle was beyond anybody's understanding. The only thing we had been able to guess was that she loved to see her father acting so carefree and youthful as he did when horsing around with Emmett. Just as she had loved watching Bella crush rocks into dust.
Carlisle was already chuckling to himself, knowing the outcome before the fight even started.
"Come on, you two!" Esme called out, a hint of a command in her warm voice. "We're waiting for you."
"Coming," I called back absently, moving to the doors before thinking it through. Only once I realized Carlisle was not following did I stop and look back. In a split second of thought, watching him as he had watched so many others, I recognized that I had still been holding onto something from the past.
I'd been holding onto the idea that Carlisle was at fault for the end of my human life because he made me into something else entirely. The truth was, Carlisle saved me from the very fate I cursed in my last hours in the streets of Rochester. Had Royce's villainy played out to the very end, my family would have found my body used and mutilated in the road and never realized who the perpetrators were. I would have become a statistic without a solution and Royce King and his friends would have continued to hurt others in their drunken hazes. More women would have become casualties of that undeserved brutality. Who knew how many came before me? I shuddered to think of it.
Carlisle may have thought he only saved me, but by unknowingly allowing me the chance to rid the world of Royce King and his foul companions, he also saved innocent women he didn't even know.
I wondered if I was meant to be a vampire, after all; to take out the threat which almost killed me and live on when that sadistic beast was long dead. That was the ultimate triumph, really. To keep living and being happy when Royce might have left me broken forever. Carlisle had tried to tell me something of the kind before, but in my unwillingness to accept him I had ignored his wisdom. Now I could see the truth of it.
Perhaps that was what Carlisle saw when he looked at us. When he found me in the street long ago, perhaps he saw hope. A hope he continued to see, even when I was too blinded by anger to see it myself.
"Come on, guys!" Bella called humorously from the front yard. "Renesmee is bouncing off the trees out here!"
Carlisle was still staring thought the glass, love and gratitude shining in his gaze. We were so close yet so far apart. Not separated by feet and inches, but by centuries of isolation and decades of bitterness. If Carlisle even knew how to cross that chasm, he couldn't do it alone.
"Carlisle? Are you coming?"
For a moment he didn't seem to hear, brows furrowing with wistful expectations. It took a lot of courage and a very deep breath for me to say what I did next, but I knew it was a step in the right direction.
At that he froze, breathing stopped entirely. In disbelief, he slowly turned to me, blinking away a look of sleepy confusion as he whispered, "What did you say?"
More confident than a moment before, I answered, "You know what I said."
"Rosalie…" he tried to speak, but came up empty-handed. His eyes, so clear and pure gold, turned glassy.
"It's Rose," I corrected him more firmly, stretching my hand out to him. "Come on. They're waiting for us."
"I was going to…" he made to explain, gesturing at empty air, but still words eluded him.
"Stop watching the people around you and start being one of them," I murmured fervently. "You have a wife and a family. You have friends who come to call. You have people to share your life with. You don't have to wonder now."
Carlisle swallowed hard, eyeing my hand as though it were the last foothold on the mountain and he wasn't certain he could reach that far after how long he had been fighting his way to the top.
"I don't want my dad to be alone," I murmured.
Inhaling sharply, at last he reached forward to grasp my outstretched fingers. Without warning he pulled me by the hand into the circle of his arms.
"Thank you," he whispered against my head, holding me tightly for a long moment. Only Emmett's impatient voice broke us apart.
"All right, that's too much!" he shouted. "First Edward, now Carlisle! Next you'll be giving Jazz a bear hug! Why am I not getting anything sappy, huh?"
Snorting, I pulled back from the embrace with a roll of my eyes. Laughter bubbled up in Carlisle as we headed up front at a normal human pace.
We'd almost reached the front door when one last topic came to mind. An idea that started swimming in my mind during our family portrait.
"By the way," I remarked casually, reaching for the door handle, "I'm going to need a new birth certificate."
"What for?" Carlisle wondered curiously, beating me to the handle and holding open the door.
Smiling at his ingrained gentlemanly mannerisms, I answered, "Our wedding in March."
"Oh, Nessie can be the flower girl!" Esme exclaimed happily.
Alice and Nessie positively shrieked together at the announcement, leaving Bella wincing between them at the volume.
Emmett grinned excitedly. "I had Edward and Jasper as best man the last two weddings. You up for it this time, Carlisle?"
"He can't," I cut in immediately. The excitement died as quickly as it came, though Edward's eyes sparkled with humor as he read my intentions.
"Why not?" Emmett asked, seeming to prepare himself for a fight.
"He'll be too busy walking me down the aisle," I stated confidently, realizing too late how demanding that sounded. Looking over at Carlisle, I continued hesitantly, "Um, that is… if you… want to?"
He smiled widely.
"I would be honored."