Twilight and its characters belong to Stephenie Meyer. I'm just playing around with them.
Lots of thanks to MelissaMargaret for making this pretty, and to anhanninen and xxluvCarlisleEsmexx for prereading.
Valentine's Day had never really meant much to me before. It was just another day, except for the heart shaped pastries I'd make for the coffee shop. But so far, this Valentine's Day had been so amazing.
The heart shaped pancakes Esme had made for breakfast were delicious, and the little stuffed animals and boxes of chocolate Lucy and I had waiting by our plates from her and Carlisle made me cry happy tears. The day was supposed to be about love, and for once, I really felt it.
But my favorite part so far was our girls' day. I'd asked Esme what was going to happen, but experiencing it was better than what she'd said it would be. Esme started it after lunch by taking Lucy and me to meet Rose and Alice at a salon. I didn't like being around all the people, but I felt safe with the Cullens surrounding us. The afternoon was supposed to be for us to have fun together, so I tried my best to forget my fears.
Forgetting wasn't that hard because the salon was the fanciest place I'd ever been, and they did such weird things to us. I had no idea what putting goopy stuff on my face did, but Alice said it was fun so I went along with it. Lucy thought our faces were funny, which made it worth it.
After getting rid of the goop, some nice women came and painted our fingernails and toenails, even Lucy's tiny ones. We all chose different shades of pink and red to match our dresses for the banquet tonight, and I felt so . . . pretty with the dark pink on my fingers. I'd never felt that before, but I liked it.
Hair and makeup was next, which made me nervous. I'd never worn makeup before so I didn't want them to put too much. I wasn't a clown. And I didn't want them to cut all of my hair off either. I knew I needed a trim, but I liked that it came down to the middle of my back. Rose stood close and held my hand while the women worked though, making sure no one did anything I didn't want.
In the end, I couldn't believe it was my face in the mirror. I was beautiful. For once, I looked like maybe I fit in with the Cullens, even though they looked so much better. Alice and Esme had gotten their hair styled so that none of it was down which looked so nice on them, and Rose had hers long and curly like mine. Now, I wasn't sure why Edward thought dressing up wasn't fun. I loved this.
"Thank you, Esme," I said for maybe the fourth time as she drove us home. "I had so much fun."
When we stopped at a red light, she turned to smile at me. "You are very welcome, sweetheart. I'm so glad you enjoyed our girls' day out. We'll have to do it again sometime soon. Did you have fun, Lucy?"
She clapped her hands and giggled. "Nona, petty fingers! Lucy petty fingers!"
Esme smiled at her in the mirror before the light turned green. "Your fingers do look very, very pretty, sweet girl. I'm so glad you had a good time, too. I loved spending the day with my girls."
"Love you all much, Nona. Love Mama all much. Love Rose all much. Love Allie all much. Love Eddard . . . "
She continued naming everyone she loved which included everyone in the Cullen family. Esme sniffled a couple of times as Lucy finished her list, but I didn't ask why. Sometimes I wanted to cry because she loved us, so maybe it was the same for her.
As soon as Esme parked the car in the garage, Carlisle came out and lifted Lucy out of her car seat, winking as he walked past me to carry her into the house. She was happy to see him and started telling him all about our day. I smiled as I followed behind them and listened to her. She'd been learning and growing so much since we'd been here, and I loved hearing her say so many new words.
Before I could follow them into the living room, Esme pulled me into a tight hug – even tighter than usual.
"I know I tell you all the time, Bella, but I'm really so thankful that you and Lucy are here with us. We love you so much."
I hugged her back just as tightly, carefully resting my head on her shoulder. This . . . this was what a mom's hug felt like. Warm and safe and just right.
"We love you, too," I whispered. "All much."
Chuckling, she pulled back a little and kissed my forehead. "All much," she agreed. "Now, let's go sit with Carlisle and Miss Lucy for a few minutes before we have to get our dresses on."
As we sat together, Esme and I told Carlisle everything Lucy left out about our afternoon. They also talked about some things for tonight. I didn't understand all of it, but I did understand that I'd be sitting by Edward for the dinner part of the banquet. That made me smile.
Edward and I had only become friends last week, but we were getting good at it. Or at least I thought so. At work, instead of eating lunch by himself every day, Edward ate lunch with us sometimes. At home was even better. I didn't have to worry anymore about him not wanting me in his room. After Lucy went to sleep, he'd go downstairs to sneak us a snack or some more dessert, and we'd eat while watching TV. Sometimes we'd talk about our day and sometimes not. I didn't care because I just liked being around him.
I didn't think Edward was so weird anymore. He was honest and nice and funny. Yes, he was different, but so was I. I knew I wasn't like everyone else, but Edward liked me anyway. And I was pretty sure he liked Lucy now, too. That made him special, not weird. He was very special to me.
I'd only held his hand twice now, but I hugged him every night. It was one of my favorite parts of the day even though it always made me blush. Besides being nice to me, Edward was also beautiful, and I'd started noticing that. I was excited to see how he would look dressed up.
Hopefully I wouldn't have to wait too long because soon Esme was leading Lucy and me upstairs to put our dresses on. The dresses were hanging in her closet, so we went into her large, beautiful room. I'd thought the room she gave us was huge until I'd been in this one she shared with Carlisle. My old apartment would have fit in it with room left over.
The extra room was nice today, though, because I was quickly learning that getting dressed in fancy clothes took lots of room. Esme helped me put my dress on so that I didn't mess up my hair and makeup, and after she zipped the back, she led me to stand in front of her mirror.
"Look at you," she said softly, placing her arm around my waist. "You look absolutely gorgeous. Stunning. What do you think?"
Looking at myself with wide eyes, I wasn't sure what I was thinking. The girl in the mirror . . . she looked so different, but she looked like me, too.
The dress somehow looked better from when I had worn it at the store. The dark pink looked nice on me, and so did the shape of the dress. There were no straps or sleeves on the dress, but I felt like I was covered enough to be comfortable. I remembered Esme calling it a sweetheart neckline with an empire waist. I wasn't exactly sure what those meant, but I really liked how the top looked like a princess dress with lots of jewels across the middle. The hair and makeup looked like it went with the dress, too.
For the first time, I looked like a . . . a woman. Tonight, I was a beautiful woman, and I couldn't stop myself from smiling.
"So you like it?" Esme asked, smiling with me.
I nodded, reaching down to touch the dress. "This is so beautiful. And I look . . . beautiful, too."
"Yes, you do. So beautiful. You'll have all the men in the room speechless."
I looked away from the mirror, feeling my cheeks get hot. I didn't really want any men to notice me. Except maybe one, but we were just friends. Was I supposed to want a friend to notice what I looked like? Now I was confused.
"Hey. Sweetheart," Esme said seriously, gently touching my chin and turning my face toward hers, "I promise no one will bother you tonight. We'll all be there to keep you safe, so come to us if you feel uncomfortable. I can't promise that men won't ask you to dance, but you can always say no, and please do if you don't want to do it. This is just a fun night so don't feel pressure into anything. Okay?"
I nodded, giving her a careful hug so I wouldn't mess my dress up. I knew I'd be safe with the Cullens around because I'd helped Esme with the guest list and it was only people they knew and trusted. And I knew how to say no. What I didn't know was how to tell Esme that I maybe wanted her son to think I was pretty.
"Okay. Now, let me get my dress on and then we'll take care of Miss Lucy."
When she heard her name, Lucy looked up from the dolls she was playing with and smiled. "Princess dress, Nona?"
Esme laughed and nodded. "Yes, ma'am. In a few minutes, you can put on your princess dress, too."
Lucy squealed and clapped before going back to playing. I was glad she was still distracted so I could help Esme. She didn't need as much help as I did, but I did zip the back for her. If I looked beautiful, Esme looked perfect. Her dress was dark red, sleeveless, and had the same shape but went up to her neck where there were lots of pretty beads. She looked like someone who should be in a movie.
"You look amazing," I told her as she put on some earrings. "Like a movie star."
She smiled and chuckled softly. "Thank you, darling. I've always loved the chance to dress up for a night. My girls seemed to have inherited that too – apparently even my littlest one." She nodded her head toward her big closet, and my mouth opened as I saw Lucy trying to put on some of Esme's shoes.
"Luce, those aren't yours," I said and started to walk over to stop her, but Esme lightly grabbed my arm.
"She's just fine, sweetheart. I certainly don't mind lending my things for some good dress-up play. But why don't we let her put on her own princess dress now."
Lucy wasn't so easy to dress because of how excited she was, but we managed to put it and some tights on her while she jumped and twirled around. Her pink dress was the prettiest little dress I'd ever seen. The bottom of it was very full and very sparkly, and she loved to twirl in it.
"Mama," she gasped as she twirled by the mirror, stopping when she saw herself. "Mama, my Rella dress. Petty, petty, petty!" She clapped for herself and ran back over to me, holding her arms up. I picked her up, and she placed her hands on my face. "Mama, I princess? I Rella and Punzel?"
"You are a princess like Cinderella and Rapunzel," I agreed, giving her a kiss. "You're always Mama's princess. Dressing up is fun, huh?"
She nodded quickly and gave me another kiss. "Uh huh. Fun, fun, fun. Petty, petty, petty. Mama so petty."
"Thank you, baby," I said with a giggle.
"How about we fix your hair now, precious?" Esme asked, and Lucy actually held still for her to pull some of her soft curls back into a beautiful bow. "There. Now you should go show Granddad your dress. I bet he's in his office."
"Kay, Nona," Lucy agreed, so I put her down. She ran out of the room, calling for Carlisle.
This was the best part of the night, even better than me looking beautiful. Lucy was already having fun, and the banquet hadn't even started. I was sure this was going to be a night I'd never forget.
After Esme did some "finishing touches" on both of us, we went downstairs to find Carlisle, Lucy, and Edward. We only found two of them, and I was disappointed that Edward was missing.
"Edward's going to meet us there," Carlisle said as he helped Esme put on her coat. "He's running a bit behind."
"Did he fall asleep?" Esme asked, sighing as Carlisle nodded.
"Yes, he did, but I woke him up in time. He'll just be 'fashionably late,' as Alice would say." He made a funny hand motion as he said it which made me laugh. Esme rolled her eyes, but she didn't look too mad at Edward.
Once we all had our coats on, we got in the car and headed toward the hotel. I couldn't decide if the swirls I was feeling tonight were good or bad. I was nervous but excited too. This was the first time I'd ever done anything like this.
When we walked into the hotel ballroom, I couldn't believe how much different it looked. The tables and chairs had all been out the last time we'd been here, but now there were table cloths and fancy things in the middle of every table. Everything was white and silver, but there were a few red flowers everywhere, too. It was beautiful.
Around the walls of the room, there were tables filled with items that had been donated to be auctioned. I couldn't see all of them, but the ones I saw looked very nice. Little things like tickets to see movies in the theater and big things like fancy jewelry, purses, and vacations. A lot of money was going to be raised tonight, and I was glad the shelters would be getting help.
Not many people were here yet either, which I was happy about. I'd planned to stay close to the Cullens all night, so I wasn't really afraid of anything happening. I just didn't want to have to talk to too many strangers.
Esme went off to talk some of the hotel staff, leaving Carlisle and I to entertain Lucy. It wasn't too hard since she mainly wanted me to carry her around to look at everything.
A few minutes later, Rose and Emmett arrived and came over to hug us right away.
"Bella!" Emmett said loudly, swinging me around a little as he hugged me. His greetings used to scare me, but now I could laugh and hug him back.
"Hi, Emmett. You look very nice tonight." Esme's boys might not have liked to dress up as much of the girls, but from what I'd seen so far, they were still good at it.
"Thanks, B." He put me down, stepping back slightly and whistling. "Damn, you look smoking tonight. Ed's not gonna know what hit him."
I furrowed my eyebrows, wondering what he meant. But before I could ask, Rose lightly slapped his arm.
"Hey! What? It's tru–" She poked his arm this time, narrowing her eyes. "Okay, okay. Never mind. I'll go give my Lucy Goosey a hug."
Rose nodded and pulled me into a hug. "Just ignore him, Bella. He thinks he's funny. But he is right. You look fabulous tonight! I love your dress."
"Thank you," I said as we separated. "Yours is . . . wow." I knew she and Alice both would probably have fancier dresses than mine, and I was right. Rose's bright red dress had a wide strap on one shoulder and was tight all the way down to almost the floor where it went out like the tail of a mermaid. "I love it. You look so beautiful."
She smiled. "Thank you. I'm surprised I pulled it together. Wrangling little boys into suits isn't easy. Especially when they'd rather wear only their Iron Man underwear all the time."
I giggled as she rolled her eyes and looked over to find Seth and Brady. It might have been hard to dress them, but they looked so cute in their little suits as they ran around and played with Lucy. They were having a fun night already, and I hoped I would, too.
Alice and Jasper soon joined us, and they both told me I looked beautiful. Just like with Rose, I'd been right about how Alice would look. Her dress was the same kind of pink as mine, but it was tight and had black lace all over it.
Everyone looked so perfect, but for once I felt like maybe I sort of looked like I belonged in this perfect family. As long as I wasn't sticking out or embarrassing them, I would be happy.
Seeing Jasper and Emmett in their nice outfits made me even more excited to see Edward. Rose and Alice led me over to our assigned table which was really close to the stage at the opposite end of the room, but I picked a seat where I could still see the door. As Rose and Alice talked about what their husbands did for them for Valentine's Day, I watched the ballroom begin to fill with people.
Even though I'd looked at the guest list, seeing this many people in one place made me want to go hide, especially since a lot of them came by our table to say hello to the Cullens before going around to look at everything that was to be auctioned. I tried my best to be brave, and it got a little easier when Carlisle, Emmett, and Jasper brought the kids to the table and sat down with us.
Lucy's excitement helped distract me, but I didn't really start to relax until Carlisle moved to sit beside me and wrapped his arm around my shoulders.
"This will be Edward's seat whenever he gets here," he leaned over to whisper in my ear. "But I figured you needed someone now."
I let out a deep breath and nodded. "Thank you. I . . . this is just . . . a lot. But I'm trying."
"I know it is, sweetheart. And you're succeeding," he assured me. "This is a lot for anyone to experience the first time. We've just been doing it for years now. You'll get used to it eventually, too." I wasn't sure about ever being used to this many people in one place, but I tried to believe him. "And I haven't had a chance to tell you yet, but you look absolutely beautiful. Esme and I have had several people ask us about 'the beauty' sitting at our table."
"Oh." I blushed and looked down, biting my lip. I hadn't expected anyone to notice me tonight. "Do they . . . do they know about me and Lucy?"
"Only that you're part of our family now, and we love you very much. And while I can't say that this room isn't full of gossiping women, and men, your – and our – privacy will be respected tonight. I can promise you that."
I nodded, feeling a little better. I didn't want to distract anyone from what the night was really about. Esme needed to succeed to help the shelters.
"Annnnd, it looks like I won't be needed anymore." I looked back up at him, and he winked and nodded toward the door. "I think my son would rather sit here."
Quickly, I turned my head to look for Edward. I didn't see him at first, but when my eyes found his, I couldn't stop the smile from spreading across my face. All my excitement about him being dressed up had been worth it. He looked perfect. He'd shaved and his penny-colored hair was a mess as usual, but he was perfect.
"Hey," he said, glancing around the table as he sat down beside me. "Sorry I'm late. Uhh . . . traffic."
"Traffic or you took a nap?" Alice asked with a raised eyebrow.
Edward shrugged. "Traffic. But I guess a little of both."
Everyone chuckled at his answer, but I couldn't stop smiling even to laugh.
"Hi," I finally said softly after everyone went back to their own conversations.
He looked at me and smiled. "Hey. You look . . . " My cheeks got hot again as he really looked at me. "Whoa. You look . . . yeah, you look nice."
"Thank you," I mumbled, feeling embarrassed but happy at the same time. "So do you." Nice wasn't as good of a word as perfect, but sometimes Edward got embarrassed too and I didn't want him to not want to talk to me.
"Thanks," he said. "I didn't mean to be this late. There really was traffic."
"It's okay. You haven't missed much. Just a lot of people."
"Yeah, I can definitely live with missing that. And at least I didn't miss the food."
Right after he said that, men and women dressed the same in black pants and white shirts started passing out plates of food to everyone. They'd all sat down sometime while I was talking to Edward, and I hadn't even noticed. We didn't get to talk much anymore, though, because we soon all had a small bowl of soup in front of us. It seemed like a small dinner, but Esme explained that it was just the appetizer and there'd be more food coming after we finished it.
After the men and women came back to take the empty bowls away, we were all given a plate with tons of food. I couldn't eat all of it, but it tasted so good. Lucy and the boys had the meal that was made special for the kids, but she tried some of the meat off my plate too and liked it. I wasn't sure I'd be able to eat anymore, but the dessert – a piece of chocolate mousse cake that was shaped like a heart – looked too good to not try.
By the time all the plates had been cleared, I felt like I couldn't move. Our whole tabled looked like they felt the same way. Emmett had even scooted his chair away from the table so he could lean back and rest his hands on his stomach.
"I promise I didn't raise him in a barn," Esme assured me, but I just laughed. At least he hadn't unbuttoned his pants at the table like he did at family lunch a couple of weeks ago.
The only person who moved from the table was Carlisle, and I wondered what he was doing when he walked up on the stage and grabbed the microphone.
"Can I have everyone's attention please?" The room got really quiet and he smiled. "Thank you. My wife and I, along with our whole family, would like to thank everyone for being here tonight. It is Valentine's Day, so we're here to celebrate love, for each other, our families, and the community.
"As you know, we went a bit of a different route with our chosen charity this year. Instead of a single organization, the proceeds we raise tonight will be donated to several shelters in the area who serve the homeless community. We hope to include as many as possible, so I want to ask you to please think about being generous." He called a few people's name which made everyone laugh. "But on a serious note, this means a lot to our family, and we hope it'll mean a lot to you all as well. Thank you again, and please enjoy the rest of the evening."
Everyone clapped for him and then the small band that had been playing softly all night started playing louder.
"What does everyone do now?" I asked Edward.
"I guess they finish bidding on stuff. And there's dancing."
"Do you dance?" I didn't know how, but I wanted to watch Edward if he did.
"Sometimes," he said with a shrug. "If Mom or Alice make me. I've never really had anyone I wanted to dance with before."
I had no idea why that made me happy, but it did. And I was even happier watching everyone start dancing around the room. Especially Carlisle and Esme. They were so good at dancing and laughed together the whole time. Alice and Jasper also went out and danced, and they were good too.
Emmett didn't look like he was ready to move yet, but Rosalie was pulling on his hand to encourage him.
"Not now, babe," he whined. "I shouldn't have finished off the boys' cake. Give me a few."
She sighed but was still smiling. I didn't think anything could mess up this might for any of us. It was so much fun.
"Fine," she said and turned to look at me and Edward. "You two can go dance if you want to. We'll watch Lucy and the boys until Emmett is ready to move his tail."
"Oh um . . . thank you, but I don't know how to dance."
"It's not hard," Edward said right away. "I can show you. If you want me to."
I was a little surprised, but really, I didn't want to say no so I nodded to him. "Are you sure you're okay with watching Lucy?" I asked Rose. Lucy had found her way into Edwards lap, and she was happy there as she waved to everyone who danced by.
"I'm positive. Now, go on out there." She winked at me and came over to lift Lucy into her arms. "Come on, sweet girl. You can help me convince Uncle Em to get up and dance."
Lucy was happy with this plan, leaving me no reasons or excuses to not dance with Edward.
So when Edward stood and offered his hand to me, I smiled and took it.
He led us out to an empty spot close to the side of the room, not letting go of my hand. Then he told me to put my other hand on his shoulder as he put his on my waist. Besides when I hugged him every night, this was the closest we had ever been. And I really liked it.
"Okay so just hold on to me like this," he instructed. "Dancing isn't hard, really. Just follow what I do? Okay? I'll go slow."
I nodded. "Okay. I trust you."
Like he said, he started out moving slowly. It wasn't hard to follow what he was doing, and I was glad that I was wearing flat shoes. There was no way I could have done it in high heeled shoes like Esme, Rose, and Alice were wearing tonight.
Even though there were a lot of people around, I was still having fun. Edward kept us mostly in the same spot, and he would quietly tell me funny things about the people who'd pass by us.
We danced and laughed together and didn't separate until Emmett danced over with Lucy who really wanted to dance with Edward. He didn't look too sure about the idea, but he held her, and she smiled so big as he swayed around with her. I danced with Emmett for a while, but soon we all swapped. I danced with every man of the family at least once, but my favorite was being back with Edward.
"I like dancing," I told him softly as we slowly moved back and forth.
"I like it better tonight than I usually do," he admitted, looking down at me. "I guess because . . . I got to dance with you."
That made me smile again. I was so glad I had him as a friend.
Unfortunately, the band took a break after the next song and Edward and I had to separate. Most people used the break to go back to bidding, but I realized I needed to use it for something else.
I started walking back to the table with Edward, but as soon as I saw Esme, I went to her to ask where the restroom was.
"It's right over there, dear," she said, pointing to a hallway off of the side of the room. "The ladies' is on the right. Do you need someone to go with you?"
I shook my head, knowing she had just been and taken Lucy for me a little while ago. "No, thank you. I'm sure I can find it."
She smiled and patted my arm. "All right, sweetheart. Carlisle and I will be here at the table if you need us, and everyone else is around here somewhere."
I nodded and turned to walk toward the hallway. I found the nice bathroom easily, but I started to regret not asking someone to come with me when I realized I wasn't sure what to do with my dress. It took a few minutes for me to figure it out, but I finally managed, thankfully before two ladies entered. I didn't want them to hear me fighting with my dress.
I couldn't stop myself from hearing them, though, because they were talking very loudly.
"Did you see her?"
"Yes, she's hard to miss, sitting at their table and dancing with Edward. Who is she? Where did she come from?"
"No idea. Mother said Esme is being tight lipped about it."
My heart started racing when I heard Edward and Esme's names. Were they talking about me?
"Hmm. Do you think it has something to do with this new charity idea? Who ever heard of doing this?"
"Oh, I'd bet anything that that's exactly where they got this idea. I'm sure she and that little girl of hers were on the street. There's no telling why Esme's keeping it such a secret. Probably trouble involved."
"Why would they mix themselves up in that? It can't be worth it."
"Who knows. I'm sure they'll regret it when her trouble finds them. Someone will get hurt and they'll learn why you don't let just anyone around your family."
I couldn't breathe. They were talking about me and Lucy. And they were right. They were right about everything. The Cullens shouldn't have let us stay with them because I was going to get them hurt. I hadn't really escaped. I was just running. And soon, they'd probably find me and hurt these people that I loved so much.
But what could I do? I couldn't just leave. Lucy was safe and happy and loved them too. I couldn't just take her away from that to go out in the cold again.
But they didn't know about Lucy. She would always be safe here. It was me. I was the trouble. Maybe I could just leave. But thinking about it made me want to throw up. How could I leave the Cullens? They were my family now. They loved me like no one else ever had. I loved them too, but I couldn't just stay if it meant they could be hurt.
The thought of leaving Edward especially hurt. I didn't know what I would do without his talks and hugs. He just made my heart smile. How could I lose that?
And Lucy? I put my hand over my mouth to stop myself from sobbing. I couldn't leave my little Lucy. She was my best friend and the best thing I had ever done in my life. I loved her so much. More than I ever thought I could love someone. But I'd already taken her out in the cold once. She had gotten sick because of me. She had everything she would ever need with the Cullens – but it wouldn't be safe if I was there too.
But maybe the Cullens could keep all of us safe so I wouldn't have to leave. If I told them everything, maybe they would know what to do. I just didn't know if I could take that chance.
I wished everything was a dream. Then I could wake up and just have the happy memories without having to give everything up.
Now I didn't know what to do. There wasn't a good choice, but I had to make one soon. I'd never done anything this hard before.
It was going to hurt no matter what. I could only hope the Cullens would forgive me when it was all over.
AN: So . . . yeah. I hope everyone can trust me! This is the start of big things, but just trust that the next chapter starts to set things right.
Sorry this is a bit late! Crazy RL and things like Veronica Mars have been distracting me, but I'll be trying my best to have the next chapter ready on time.
Thank you all so much for the amazing support you've given this story and for pushing it over 1,000 reviews. That's just incredible and I cannot thank you enough!
And extra thanks to anhanninen and MelissaMargaret for holding my hand so much with this chapter. I couldn't do it without them putting up with my craziness.
I hope you all enjoyed the chapter! And don't hate me too much. ;)