Hi, pretties.

Happy New Year! Hope you had a nice NY celebration.

So, I wrote this LB Outtake as part of the SU4K compilation back in October. It was a specific request made by the lovely Katalina for our Bella. :-) Thank you to anyone who was a part of that awesome compilation. Cancer is something that touched my family very closely, so anything I can do to help, I try to do.

In my mind, this outtake doesn't fit the rest of the outtakes I've written, so I'm posting this separately.

Also, the very pretty Ange De L'Aube made a gorgeous banner for this outtake. You can check it out on my profile.

Many thanks to my beta Songster. She's too patient, lol.

I don't own Twilight.

O~o~O~LBO~O~o~O

"Wake up, Bella." I bury my head into my pillow, but smile none-the-less. It's early as hell, but this is how my birthday starts every year: Mom wakes me up at the exact time I was born to give me her gift before anyone else.

"Don't wanna," I groan.

I hear her laugh and feel the bed dip slightly. She's already under my covers as she gently rolls me over to face her. I don't resist.

"Come on, it's your birthday, the day I gave birth to the most beautiful baby ever." I open my eyes and see her smiling down at me, that pretty smile reserved only for Dad and me: the one that says 'I love you.' Still, she looks so tired, it hurts my heart to think of the reason why she's like this.

"Ever?" I ask her, teasingly, and push down those sad feelings.

"Yes, ever, ever. So tiny and pink and wrinkled. And let's not forget loud. Oh my God, Bella, you were loud." She laughs, and there she is, my Mom.

"Well, Mom, I had to make an entrance." I wink, and now that I'm fully awake and facing her, I wrap my arms around her, resting my head on her chest. I prepare myself for this story, the story of the day I was born that she tells me every year.

"That you did, the doctor and nurses were very impressed. And then everyone at the nursery told me what a beautiful baby you were: soft brown hair, pink pouty lips. You were beautiful from the moment you came into the world."

Her voice cracks a little at the end, and, just like her, I start feeling emotional as well. She tells me this on every birthday, but after this past year, I wonder how many of these mornings we'll have in the future.

"Well." I clear my throat; I don't want us to cry today. "I had good genes, Mom. You know, Dad has an awesome complexion." I feel her laugh against my cheek.

"That's true, your Dad is a very handsome man. But let's face it, everyone knows that you got his eyes and his hair; everything else is my doing." I can almost hear the pride in her voice.

That's true as well, everyone says I look a lot like her when she was younger, with a little Dad thrown in there. I've seen photos of Mom from that time, and if luck is on my side, I hope I'd look as half as good as she does when I'm her age.

"Well, you and Dad did a good job then, considering you made me from scratch and all," I smile.

"I think so too. We did make the most beautiful baby girl. Your Dad couldn't take his eyes off you from the time he saw you. He just spent time rocking you back and forth when he thought I was sleeping at the hospital. The nurses were not happy with him for not giving you back to them at the end of the day."

My smile broadens. Dad is very protective of us, so I can imagine what she's telling me.

"And then we took you home." She laughs at the memory. "He was so nervous when we left that hospital room, making sure no one would bump us or sneeze near us. He drove at a snail's pace all the way home!"

I laugh with her.

"He loved you so much; he loves you so much," she whispers and her tone appears sad now.

"He loves you too, Mom." So, so much. I look up and her smile is gone, now replaced by a serious face. I know what she's thinking, what we've all been thinking for the past few months.

"That he does." We stay silent for a moment, and I just watch her while she's deep in thought. I hate seeing her like this, thinking about things that she never should've had to. A second later, she shakes her head a little and clears that sad cloud over her head,and looks back at me, happy and excited about my birthday again.

"Okay then, enough about story telling. Now, let's get you your present." I know what she's doing. Much like me, she wants even just one happy and carefree day.

I sigh and remove myself from her body, sitting up against the headboard, while Mom turns to pick up the small box she placed on top of my nightstand.

"Happy fifteenth birthday, Bella." She kisses my cheek and mirrors my position on bed.

And just like that, staring down at the box in my hands, I'm feeling giddy and curious. Every year she gives me the same little box, just with something different inside. I wonder what it will be this year and what story will be behind it.

I open it and carefully retrieve the little square piece of fabric: it's blue and soft.

Ever since I can remember, this has been the gift my Mom gives me on my birthday. She might give me something else as well, but these little pieces of fabric are always a constant and are the first gift anyone gives me on those days.

Each of them are being used to form the blanket we've been working together on for the last ten years.

Ever since I was a baby, Mom has been doing this. From what she's told me, on my first couple of birthdays, she started this tradition on her own. She would sit down with me by my crib, where I was taking a nap, and started working on the blanket. When I got a little older, I would sit with her and just watch her work.

I remember being fascinated by her.

She concentrated so hard in her work and smiled often. God, she smiled so beautifully. That's what I loved about it, even when she would furrow her brows at some particularly rough section, she would still smile afterwards, happy about overcoming that particular problem. That's when I knew how much she loved what she did.

I finger the fabric and a smile tugs at my lips, little by little the memories start to come back and images form in my head of that day: the day I knew I wanted to be like Mom.

A few months before my sixth birthday, she let me thread a needle for the first time. I was so happy that I was allowed to help her, even though she did all the sewing.

"Do you remember this one?" She rests her head on my shoulder, and we both stare at the piece of fabric. It looks so familiar now that I can recall that day, and I actually laugh when I remember.

"Suzie's birthday." I trace the fabric and smile, remembering that day.

"Okay, Missy, you're gonna look so pretty in this new dress. You'll be the prettiest doll at Suzie's birthday party." I'm so excited to see Missy in the dress Mommy made for her. It's blue and so soft.

Mommy is the best. That's why everyone comes to our house so Mommy can fix their clothes. She spends lots of time in her studio, and I like going with her when she buys fabric. The colors are so pretty and all those buttons... I help her when she asks me to separate them into colors and shapes.

People come from everywhere for Mommy's help. She can fix their clothes and make new ones. They always leave happier.

The dress she made for Missy is much prettier than the one Suzie has for her doll.

Missy is the prettiest doll in the world. Daddy got her for me when he had to travel.

I lift her arms and try to fit them through the sleeves, but then they get stuck, so I pull a little more. Mommy said I had to be careful, so it won't rip and that she would help me put it on, but she's in the garden, and I want to dress Missy now.

"Ugh, come on." I pull a little, and then I hear a loud sound.

Oh, no!

I slowly turn Missy over, and in the back of her dress, there is a big hole where I had been pulling.

I ruined the dress Mommy made! She will be angry that I didn't listen to her and now I can't take Missy to Suzie's party.

"I'm sorry Missy, I didn't mean it." I hug Missy and cry. I'm so sad.

"Bella? Bella, what's wrong?" I hear Mommy and then feel her sitting next to me, putting her arm around me.

I hug Missy tighter and bury my head in Mommy's shoulder; she smells of grass and flowers. She was so happy when she showed me Missy's dress and now I ruined it!

"Shh, sweetie. Everything is okay, just tell me what happened." She kisses my forehead and rubs her hand on my arm. That always makes me want to cry less.

"Missy… dress… hole." I try to tell her, but all I want to do is cry. I lift Missy to her and turn her over, showing her the hole I made in her dress.

"I'm sorry, Mommy." I cry again.

"Oh, Bella. I told you to wait for me." Mommy lifts me up, and I sit on her lap.

She takes Missy from me and sees her dress. I just hug Mommy.

"Shh, baby. It's okay. We can fix Missy's dress. It'll be as good as new." She kisses my forehead, and I lift my head. She's not mad?

"Am I grounded, Mommy?"

"What? Why?"

"Because I didn't listen to you. You said I should be careful and wait for you." I want to cry again.

"Oh, sweetie. Is that why you're crying? You thought I'd ground you?"

I nod and look down to her blouse. It has pretty buttons.

"Bella, Bella, Bella. I could never ground you because of an accident. Yes, I told you to wait for me, but you didn't mean to rip the dress, right?" I nod, and I still don't look at her. "So, now we'll fix it and that's that." She kisses the top of my head and hugs me closer.

"I'm sorry, Mommy."

"It's okay." She lifts my head, and I look at her. She's smiling. She looks so pretty when she smiles.

"Now, let's get you cleaned up. We'll grab some chocolate chip cookies and we'll go to my studio to fix Missy's dress before the party. Okay?" She dries my tears, her hands are so warm; and then she kisses my nose. It tickles me and I giggle.

"There's my pretty girl." She kisses my nose again. "Now come."

After cleaning up and eating cookies, I sit next to Mommy in the seat next to the window. She always sits here; she says she can see when Daddy comes from work or see me play in the yard. She also says something about the light, but I don't know, there is light everywhere.

She brings her pretty green box to sit next to us. I'm not supposed to open it. Mommy says I could pinch a finger or cut my hand with her scissors. I still think it's pretty, and Mommy said that one day I could have it. I asked her when and she said when I was a grown up.

That's so far away!

I watch her and I hug Missy closer. She's now wearing only her white panties, and Mommy has her dress in her lap.

Mommy opens the box and I look inside. There are so many pretty things in there: needles and so many threads in different colors, and scissors, and this little cup that you put in your thumb. I can't remember the name.

Mommy takes a needle and then a blue string. She looks at them real close and passes the string through the little hole in the needle. It's so tiny.

"Can I try?" I ask her. It can't be that hard.

"You really want to try?"

I nod a lot.

She's quiet for a moment; she just looks at me. It's the same face she has when she wants to know if Daddy ate the cookies on the counter. He always says no, and then yes, when she looks at him like that. He says is the 'look of truth.' I don't know what that means; you're supposed to tell the truth always.

"Okay, then." She takes another needle and another blue string. I move Missy to sit next to me and take them.

"Okay, you know what to do, right? Just pass the thread through the little hole." I nod.

I slowly move the string to the needle, trying to pass it through. I don't even breathe so I won't move it. But I miss.

I try again and miss. I try a million times and always miss.

"Mommy, I think this needle is bad." It has to be bad. Mommy can do it on her first try.

"Is that so?" She takes the string and needle from me and when she tries, it fits!

"Maybe you need a little help the first time." She goes back to open her box and takes out this little thing that looks like a pen. It's pretty: white with flowers. She opens the top and it's not a pen inside, it's a little metal string, forming something that looks like a circle.

"What's that?" I point.

"This is a needle threader, this is something to help you pass the thread through the needle. This one is made of porcelain and it's very old, it belonged to your grandmother." She takes something else from her box and shows it to me. "I also have others, with different shapes. See this one? It looks like a coin."

That's true! It's a coin with a little metal string.

"And this one it's like a little heart." She takes another one from the box. It's so pretty!

"Ohh, and how does it work?" Mommy has pretty things.

"Well, you pass this wire part through the needle and then the thread goes in here." I move closer to her so I can see better. "And then you pull."

The string passed through the needle!

"Let me try, Mommy." I know I can do that!

"Okay, but be careful."

I take it slowly; I don't want Mommy to be angry with me. It's pretty with the flowers. I try it just as Mommy said and then the string passes through the needle! I pull the string out of it and try again and again. It works every time.

"Look, Mommy. I did it, just like you."

"Yes, you did. Now, one more time and I can use that to sew Missy's dress."

I do it again and pass it to Mommy. I helped!

"Oh, Mommy, can I have one?"

"Not yet, Bella. When you're a little older you can have everything that it's in this box, okay?"

"But I have to wait too long!" I sit back and pass the needle to Mommy.

"Yes, but by then you'll know a lot of things about sewing, and you'll be perfect at it."

I smile. Yes, I'll know lots of things and how to pass the string without help, like Mommy does.

One day, I'll be just like Mommy: making people happy by fixing their clothes.

"I was so happy to learn how to thread a needle." I smile as I finger the fabric. It's from Missy's dress. I still have her, in fact.

"I know. You looked so happy and concentrated, sticking out your tongue while you tried again and again to thread a needle." She sounds amused.

"Well, I wanted to impress you, Mom. I wanted to do a good job."

"Oh, Bella. You never had to work to get my attention or try to impress me. Everything you did was fascinating or cute." She squeezes my hand. "You'll know someday when you have your own little ones."

I close my eyes, hearing what she's not telling me. The grandchildren I probably won't get to meet. I don't want to think about it, not today or ever for that matter, but it's always a reminder, always just there in front of us.

I open my eyes and turn to look at her. Mom's head is still resting on my shoulder as she looks at the fabric on my hands.

I turn a little and kiss her bald head. She's wearing a pretty scarf to cover it, but it doesn't hide the fact that she lost all her pretty curls.

We recently moved here to Seattle for better treatment, so she wouldn't have to travel all the time from Forks. It's been a change for everyone, with Dad setting up a new office here in the city and me starting in a new school. I honestly don't care as long as Mom gets to have the best treatment possible.

Anything for her. It's not even a question.

"Well, those little ones will have to wait a few years, Mom. I'm not getting pregnant any time soon. Do you want me to kill Dad with that news?" I try to lighten the mood a little.

"That's true. He'd want to kill the boy who got you pregnant first, though." She sighs, and I can tell she's getting tired.

"Thank you so much for the gift, Mom. I can't wait to start adding it to the blanket. This weekend, right?"

"Yeah, I'll ask your Dad to get it from the top of the closet, and we'll add this new little piece."

"Cool. Now come, you need to sleep."

I help her a little and we both settle under the covers. She falls asleep really soon.

I stay up watching her and thinking about all the things I still want to experience with her, things that I want her to see with me. We were teasing about the kids I'd someday have, but in the back of our minds the fear is there: that she won't even see me graduate high school.

I settle closer to her and hug her, almost desperately. As if the action could keep her with me forever and stop the disease from spreading and weakening her body more and more. As if I could really stop her from dying.

I sigh and blink back my tears.

Life is so unfair.

O~o~O~LBO~O~o~O

On Saturday afternoon, the blanket is laid out in front of us: fourteen years of memories and more to come.

I trace each piece of square fabric, remembering the stories behind them.

A soft pink one: that was from my ballet skirt. I laugh at those days. I loved to dance, but most of all I had loved the experience with Mom.

She hated to drive her car; she still does, actually. She was in a car accident years before meeting Dad, and ever since she only drives when necessary and in a small town, that's not all the time. So, we walked to my lessons; we actually walked everywhere. I would dance around her, and she would carry my little pink bag, holding my hand when we crossed the street. On our way back I would tell her what we learned, even though she had been there the whole time.

In time, I became more fixated on my classmates' outfits than the dancing. I was usually the one pointing out if there was a tear in their skirts or if it didn't fit them. I always tried to fix the rip for them.

Mom would laugh, and soon enough she realized I was much better behind the scenes with her, helping with the costumes whenever the studio had a performance. I usually helped her at her tiny studio and watched her sew the tutus or long dresses for the mothers of the girls.

To be honest, I mostly played with the fabric at first. I would make a bit of a mess, but then I started to help her: handing her the things she needed or going with her to get supplies.

I loved those dance performances, if I'm honest. I loved to dress up in pretty and elaborate costumes, but it's true, I was more interested in making other people have the perfect outfit than learning my steps.

Up until we moved to Seattle, we still helped the local studio with their costumes and Miss Lydia always says that I was her weirdest student: loving the classes but not having the real passion for it.

Next to the pink fabric, there is a yellow one with white flowers: that one was from my first trip across the country. Mom said I had been excited about it, but also, it was the time when I declared that I wanted to design for a living.

"Higher, Daddy, higher!" He's not pushing the swings like he's supposed to. I should be higher.

"You're gonna fall, Bella. And then your Mom will kill me." I giggle. Mommy would never kill Daddy.

I love that Daddy brought me to this park. I've been looking at it from our hotel room since we got here.

Mommy needed to come to a shop for classes, here in Chicago. She said it was important, and then Daddy left Mr. Smith as the boss while we are here. Daddy said it was okay and that he needed a vacation.

I spend the mornings with Daddy while Mommy goes to the shop, and then we go have lunch and visit places. It's fun and Daddy buys me ice creams, but tells me not to tell Mommy. It's our secret. I pinky promised.

"Okay, Bella. I'm tired. Why don't I go to sit down for a little bit on that bench and you play around?" The swing slows down.

"Okay, Daddy." I run to the slides. There were big boys there when we came, but now it's empty.

I don't like big boys; they are mean. Daddy says that I have to remember that forever. Mommy laughed.

Grownups are weird.

I go up the ladder and sit down, ready to slide. It's so high up here.

I look down at my dress though; maybe I shouldn't slide. I loved this dress. Mommy made it for me. It has flowers, and it's yellow. I picked the fabric; Mommy let me.

I really want to slide, and maybe if I'm careful it won't get dirty. I fix it some and then push myself a little. It's so fun! I'm almost at the bottom and there is a boy at the end of it. He doesn't move, so I push him, and he falls on his knees.

I run to him, take his arm, and help him up. He stands and looks down at his hands. They are dirty and red. I hope there is no blood. I hate blood.

"You know, you shouldn't stand at the end of the slides, boy." I say, because that was just dumb.

"I'm sorry, I was looking for my Aunt."

The boy is taller than me, and in the sun his hair has a funny color. Like red and brown together.

"Your hair is funny." I point.

"Oh, yes. My Mom says it's called bronze." He runs his hand through it but then makes a face. He just remembered that it was hurt. He turns to me and I see his face is a little red, but his eyes are so pretty. Like a green, green apple.

"It's pretty." I've never heard of bronze; it's a weird color and I'll ask Mommy about it. I bet she knows.

"Um… thanks." He's red again. I giggle; he's funny when he goes red.

"Hey, do you want to play with me? I was at the swings, but Daddy got tired." I point to Daddy, and he waves when he sees me. He looks serious; I don't know why.

"I have to look for my Aunt. We're visiting her, and I don't know Chicago that well. She should be here any minute now." He looks around.

"Oh, well maybe we can wait together. We can play while we wait. My Daddy will take care of us." He's the best Daddy in the world.

"Um, no thanks. I just want to sit here and wait for my Aunt."

"Oh, okay. I'll wait with you." He looks sad and super white. Maybe he's sick. I don't like to be sick because I can't play with my friends.

We sit near the sandbox and the boy takes a notebook and a pencil from his bag.

"What's that?"

"Just some drawings," he says, and opens it, looking for an empty page.

There are so many colors there, and he draws really pretty. I like to draw too. I like to use all my crayons.

"Those are pretty, but why did you draw pants?" That's weird.

"Because I like to draw what I see, and maybe someday I'll do something with my drawing." He looks down and his face goes red again.

"Oh, I want to be like my Mommy. She makes clothes for people. They are always coming to our house so she can fix them. I help her too, but only a little, she says I have to be a grown up to use the needles and the scissors." I want to be a grown up so I can make dresses for Missy.

"That's cool. But you see, before making the clothes, you have to draw them, so you know how they would look. Then you can make them." He opens another page and shows me another drawing: it's a shirt and pants.

They are pretty and there are more drawings on the page.

"Ohh." I want to do that! I have to go get my drawing book now; maybe I can draw a new skirt for Missy.

"That's called designing."

"Desa-ny?" That's a weird word.

"Designing," he says slowly.

"That's what I said." Maybe he needs his Mommy to check his ears.

I'm going to tell him this but then Daddy shows up.

"Come on, baby. Say bye to your friend. We need to go, your Mom already finished with her workshop."

"Okay, Daddy." I stand up and take his hand.

"Bye." I look back and wave at the boy. He waves back.

"Who was that boy, baby?" Daddy asks me.

"I never asked for his name, Daddy!" I turn back and ask for his name loudly.

"Ed-d." I can't hear because a bus just passed by and then a woman is standing next to the boy, hugging him. Maybe it was his Aunt.

I turn to Daddy and shrug.

"Guess what, Daddy. When I grow up I want to be like Mommy, but I also want to be a desa-ny." I smile. This will be so fun.

"A what?"

"A desa-ny. You know, you draw the clothes and then you can make them."

"Oh, a designer."

"That's what I said, Daddy." Maybe I need to talk to Grandma so she can check Daddy's ears too.

I don't remember much about that trip, only that I got sick from eating too much ice cream, and Mom was so pissed at Dad. I think I made a new friend, but I can't quite focus on the memory.

"Ready to start?" Mom asks, all ready to begin, actually.

I nod and watch her start working. This is our thing: she's the one who sews the fabric together and then I do a second run, to make them tighter. First time I tried doing things on my own, I got them crooked and we had to re-do them.

I'm once again mesmerized by just watching her: how freaking easy it is for her to put two pieces of fabric together, like it's second nature. I guess after so many years, it really is.

I've learned so much from simply watching her: her technique, her quirks, little tricks. The more I watch her, the more it looks like her hands know exactly what to do without her having to think about it. Whenever she feels me watching her, she tells me to come closer, so I can see better and she explains what she's doing. She's a great teacher, always patient with me when I just can't get it right, or when I screw up royally.

Oh, that first skirt a few years ago. We couldn't even figure out how to put it on.

I watch as she passes the needle through the fabric and then again and again, making sure things are secure before continuing. She turns the fabric to see her progress and with a little nod, she continues. I always giggle when she does that, like it's a silent conversation with herself.

When she hears my giggle, she smiles and keeps going.

This is one of the few things she does without her sewing machine. She likes it better this way. She says it's more personal like that: it's literally a handmade work, as it's her hands doing everything: passing the thread and joining the fabric.

I stand up and move to sit in front of the piano. This is another part of our routine: I play while she works. I've done this for years, just for her. I actually learned to play just for her, thinking that this would make her happy while she worked.

Years later, I learned it was the simple fact that she was doing what she really loved that made her smile while she sewed, not the radio in the corner or my melodies.

It doesn't matter now, though. She often asks me to play for her while she sits here, and I tell her all about my days at school.

Sometimes, we just sit in silence. It's nice that way too.

A little later, I'm done with the song and Mom is done with the fabric. It's my turn.

We've done this so many times over the years; she doesn't have to tell me anything about how to do things. I only ask her when I find a particularly rough spot.

I sit down and start sewing, while Mom sits by the window and watches me. It's feels so good to do this, creating something almost out of thin air.

I started drawing years ago and that is such a rush as well. I show them to Mom, and she gives me her input here and there. She has a great eye, and she says I do as well. I feel so humbled when she says those things; I can only hope to be half as good as her.

She says she can barely draw and goes by instinct and experience when she creates, but that I have great talent for lines and colors.

God, that always makes me cry.

"So, any guy at school that you might be interested in?" she asks suddenly, startling me. I pinch my finger.

"What? No, Mom. No one." We always have this conversation. She's always encouraging me to date.

I date, just not too much.

"That can't be true, there must be someone out there."

"I'm sure there is, Mom. He's just not out here." I don't look at her, just keep sewing, I'm almost done actually.

"You should go out more, Bella. You shouldn't stay here taking care of me all the time." She sounds bitter.

I look up, angry with her for saying those things. I don't mind, and it's not a burden. But her face doesn't show the bitterness of her words, she looks so, so sad.

I set the needle in the fabric and put it aside, moving to sit next to her.

"Mom, please don't say that." I hold her hands in mine. "I stay here with you because I want to. No one is asking me to do this."

"But it doesn't matter Bella, you should be out there being a teenager, instead of staying here with me." She insists.

We've talked about this before, about getting someone to help her around the house. Like I said, I don't mind, but it does bother her and I can't stand that.

"Mom, I don't mind. Please don't worry about it. I'm just where I want to be." I really am. "Besides, boys are really immature around here. Do you really want me bring one of them to meet Dad?"

"Yes, actually. You should be giving your Dad gray hair with dumb boys and dating and parties. Not staying here with me. Bella, please, go out and enjoy these years. They will be gone so fast." Exactly.

I see tears run down her cheeks, and I hate that I was the cause of them, even when I never intended that.

I move my hands and cup her pretty face, wiping them away.

"Look, let's compromise, okay?" I sigh. "I'll go out with friends every Saturday. I'll go to the mall and hang out with them, even date." I cringe a little at that. I wasn't lying about boys; they are pretty dumb and immature.

She slowly starts to smile and looks so hopeful. I was initially saying this to calm her, but with her expression right now, I know I'll have to follow through.

"Okay, every Saturday. You're banned from the house on Saturdays." I kiss her forehead and smile at her.

"All right then, but you're telling Dad, though."

"Oh, I'll handle your Dad." She winks, and soon I'm back at sewing, and she's back at asking me about school.

O~o~O~LBO~O~o~O

I wake up to music. I check the clock on my nightstand and notice that it's past midnight and a Sunday.

I focus on the music and instead of being angry, I feel excited about what this means.

I get out of bed quietly, and opening the door of my room, I head over to the stairs. Halfway down, I sit on the steps and just watch.

Mom and Dad dancing in the living room.

The room is filled with lights and music while Mom and Dad dance around it. He's careful with her. She can't move the same way as before, but still, she laughs and kisses him whenever she can.

He touches her cheek, gently rubs his hand on her waist and whispers little things to her ear, making her laugh. He treats her like she's the most precious thing in his life. And I know she is, I know he'll love her forever and all of this breaks him even more.

He'll lose half of himself when she's gone.

Still, this is the happiest and most carefree that I've seen them in months. Nothing bothers them and they only have eyes for each other.

It reminds me of the first time I saw this image. Even though I was really young; I could feel their love and it left an impression.

"Mommy? Daddy?" I hear noise from downstairs, music. The kind Mommy listens to when she works.

I pick up Missy, and rubbing my eyes, I go to look for Mommy and Daddy.

I follow the music and then hear laughing. That's Mommy and then Daddy talks.

"Come on, Renee. I won't drop you."

"Do it and you'll sleep on the floor, Charlie Swan."

I keep walking, being extra quiet.

When I get to the middle of the stairs, I see Daddy dancing with Mommy and almost drop her to the floor, but Mommy just laughs.

"See? I can still dip you."

They laugh and keep dancing. Mommy looks so pretty in her red dress and the way it moves. She twirls and twirls, and I want one just like that one.

He hugs her and gives her a kiss on her forehead. Her eyes are closed, but she smiles.

"I love you, Charlie. Forever and ever."

"And I love you, Renee. More than you know."

Daddy looks so happy, and he's smiling just like he does for Mommy. No one else gets that smile, not even me. I get another smile.

They keep dancing and I sit a little while longer on the stairs. They look pretty and happy. But I'm tired, so I close my eyes just a little.

"Come on, baby." I feel warm, and it smells just like Daddy's cologne.

"Bella?" I shake my head and see both my parents looking at me. They still sway to the music though.

"Did we wake you? I'm sorry, honey." Mom moves to turn down the music, but I stop her.

"No, don't. It wasn't that loud. I must have been restless or something." I shrug, and standing up, I move to join them in the living room.

"Okay, I'm a little tired. You two dance now." Mom sits on the couch, and Dad looks torn for a moment. If she's feeling tired, he wants her to go back to bed.

"Don't give me that look, Charlie. Dance with your daughter." She might be tired, but her voice sounds nothing like that.

The song changes and assuming position, Dad starts leading. I giggle, he looks so serious. He has the same expression he did when he taught me how to dance years ago, although he had to bend much more to reach down to me.

This close to him, I notice things that I haven't in a while. I see him and kiss him goodbye daily, but never really see him.

His hair has more gray on it than before, new wrinkles cross his face, and the bags under his eyes show that he doesn't sleep very well. I know about that last one. We often help Mom on the nights after her chemo and stay close to her.

This has been hard on all of us, but I've been so focused on Mom that I haven't thought about Dad. He needs to rest as well; he needs some of his former life back. If Mom made me promise to hang out with friends more, I'll make Dad do the same. At least one night a week will be just for him and his friends.

Even Mom needs new people in her life, and I'll make sure we all get the rest we need.

"Come on, Daddy, dip me." I laugh; I'm finally tall enough for him to dip me correctly. He just used to hug me in his arms and lift me off the floor, trying to turn me upside down. I would laugh and laugh.

He smiles, perhaps remembering the same, and the little crinkles around his eyes are actually beautiful. Free. Relieved.

He does and I see Mom from my upside down position. She laughs and actually throws her head back, her pretty laugh echoing around the room, mixing with the music.

This moment, this moment is perfect. I close my eyes for a second, almost like I'm taking a snapshot of it, saving it in my heart: Dad's smile, Mom's laughter, the music around us.

It's perfection.

I resolve right then to make nights like this our routine from now on. No matter how much time we have left of this, I'll make sure they are the best memories for all of us.


Thank you for reading, pretties.