Wow, what a response. Thank you! Again, it's short, I'm sorry, but let's hear from Padreward, yeah?
Emotions run high in this, so watch out for the odd curse word.
I don't. Stephenie does.
I saw red.
That asshole thinks he can play something like this? Yeah, well he's got another thing coming.
"Tell me exactly what he said, Jasper."
"He asked if you were in, I said no, and then he said: 'tell him Garrett phoned and that I want to talk to him about Cooper'." If he thinks for one second that I'm going to let him anywhere near my son, chance would be a fine thing. No, Garrett gave up the right to be a father before Coop was even born; there is no way in hell he is getting a second alone with him.
Bella let go of my hand and linked her arm with mine. She rubbed my shoulder in comfort; sensing the anger I felt. "I'm sorry you had to end the night early," Jasper apologised, "I would have waited until later…but I wasn't the only one who heard the conversation." We all turned our heads to the stairs as we heard the creaking of a floorboard. My heart dropped at the crippling sight – Cooper was huddled up on the top step, playing with his hands and head bowed.
I didn't delay in heading up to him. "Come here, Buddy." I opened out my arms and he shuffled over, climbing onto my lap and gripping my tee to keep him closer to me. His whole body was shaking and he sucked his thumb; something he only does when either terrified or extremely upset – now, I think it's both.
"Do you want to talk to me, Coop?" He didn't say a word, but his shaking subsided slightly. "You don't have anything to worry about; I won't let anything happen to you." I've never hated Garrett, but that's all changed now – I could quite happily kill the bastard for what he did and how his thoughtlessness has affected Cooper. He'd never been this cold with me and it's all down to that phone call.
"I don't…" He finally mumbled around his thumb, barely audible mind you.
"Don't what?" I gently coaxed. His lips were wobbling and he was on the brink of crying. "Please don't cry, Bud – you know I don't like it when you cry. Can you tell me what you were going to say?"
"I don't want to…go with him; I want to stay with you…"
What killed me the most was that I couldn't promise him anything. I could say he won't leave me, but how do I know that's going to happen? Garrett could have something up his greasy ass sleeve – something which could take Coop away from me…fuck, I feel sick.
Hiding my nerves, I put on a brave face; "I am your daddy, Coop, and if anyone tries to make you leave, I'll get Uncle Jasper to teach me fighting moves."
A tiny, faint smile formed on his lips. "Uncle Jasper said I was really good at the fighting moves," he spoke in a tiny voice.
"And that is because you're really good at everything you try. Maybe you should be the one to teach me." I hoped that would cause his smile to brighten, but it had the opposite affect and faltered instead.
"He is my real Daddy; I'll have to stay with him?"
Pfft, over my dead body.
"That doesn't matter. Remember what I told you when you watched Tarzan? Sometimes it doesn't matter who your real parents are; it's whoever loves, cares and looks after you that matters. You know big important people like judges and lawyers?"
Cooper nodded, "a boy in my class, Tony Jenks, his daddy is a lawyer."
"Oh, is that right? Well, with judges and lawyers, they help you when you need to 'fight' someone for something. Say you were married to someone and then you have a divorce and you're not married to them anymore, you might 'fight' over who gets to keep the house. And quite often people 'fight' over the custody of children."
"It's when you have the care and rights of a child (or children). I have had custody of you since you were born." I was in two minds whether to continue and have him see the possibilities of what could happen, or not and allow Coop to calm down and relax, but if the worst happened he wouldn't be prepared for it, and that is why I carried on. "I need you to understand something…there is a chance that…Garrett might want to fight me for custody and-."
"No!" He tensed up and squirmed in my arms. "No, no, I don't want to…Daddy, no!"
"Sh, sh, sh…Coop, listen to me, Bud, I'm here." I kissed the crown of his head. "You need to remember what I said, about staying with someone who loves and cares for you. Who has been there when you've been ill?"
Oh, hell yeah I have.
"And who makes sure you have breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, clean clothes to wear, and takes you to school every morning?"
I felt the grin forming. "And who has been there since the day you were born?"
Fuck yeah, high score! "Exactly. Judges and lawyers, when working with a child case, make sure the child lives with the people who will look after them the best. They don't think about DNA and who the real parent is, they think about the child's safety. And because Garrett hasn't been there in your life, and I have, that also gives me more of an advantage."
"So I don't ever have to leave and we can be best friends for ever?"
Fuck! What was I meant to say to that? I had to comfort him and reassure him, but I couldn't make a definite promise. "We will always be best friends, and you'll always be my son."
"Is Bella still here?" He asked after not saying anything for a couple minutes.
"Yes – I saw her walking into the kitchen."
Climbing out of my lap, Cooper slumped down the stairs with my following slowly behind. Jasper and Bella were seated around the breakfast bar with mugs of coffee in their hands; Cooper raced over to Bella and leaped at her, wrapping his legs around her waist like a koala – she held his butt up with her arms. Seeing this helped my mood brighten a bit.
"Can I stay with you too?" I over-heard his mumbling.
Bella lowered her head slightly when answering. "Of course you can. You have me, your dad and all your uncles and aunts who'll protect you."
"I have my Uncle Emmett – he 'lot stronger than my Dad and everyone in the whole world."
"Exactly, you don't need to worry about anything."
Cooper refused to leave my side for the rest of the evening, but his body couldn't keep up and soon exhaustion took over and he fell asleep on the couch between Bella and I. Jasper had apologised again for ending our night, but I assured him that I prefer to be here, looking after my kid. He left when Coop fell asleep, but made me promise that I'd ring them if I had to.
"Are you okay?" Bella whispered, reaching over the unconscious boy between us to grip my hand.
Was I okay? No, but I didn't want the guilt for me to over-run them – I needed to be strong for Cooper and that won't happen if I lose my own hope. But Bella's not stupid; she can read me like a book and tell when I'm lying, so why bother? "Not really, but I don't want Coop to know that."
"Edward you have every right to be worried."
"And I am – I'm fucking petrified, but Cooper is torn up already and he'll lose faith if he finds out I am."
"You're losing faith?" Bella squeezed my hand in a flinch. "Oh, Edward, you can't. No-one is going to take him away from you – I've never met someone more devoted to their child and if people can't see how much you love that boy and that'll do anything for him, they're clearly blind or delusional."
"Thanks, Bella. I really appreciate you staying this evening." Cooper whined in his sleep, almost as if he's agreeing to my words in his own special way.
"Anytime. But I'm afraid I'll have to head home now. I'm right in guessing that Cooper won't be at the swimming class tomorrow?"
Crap, I completely forgot what day it was.
"Um…I don't know…I'll see how he feels; might be that it makes him better."
"Yeah, could be. I'll tell Angela that he's ill or something and there's a possibility he won't turn up."
I put as little pressure on the couch as possible when sitting up, but Cooper barely moved a muscle. "Thanks," I smiled half-heartedly, pulling open the front door, "I'll message you in the morning."
"Okay." Bella hesitated, nibbling on her bottom lip. She surprised the hell out of me when grabbing the lapels of my jacket, pulled me close and brushed the lightest kiss on my lips. "You're not alone in this," she whispered, "Garrett can spew off as much shit as he likes, but we all know he won't get anywhere."
She kissed me once more and headed out to her car.
If it wasn't for the circumstances, I would have fallen asleep without a care and allowing my imagination to take over from that not-sure-if-it-counts-as-a-kiss, unfortunately nightmares plagued me and I woke sometime during the night to heavy sobs coming from down the hall.
"Will you watch me again, Dad?"
I can't explain how relieved I was when Cooper announced that he wanted to go swimming and even turned up with his towel and swimming shorts in a plastic bag. Either he's feeling better, or wanted to distract himself. As always, I had Flash in the trunk, ready for his walk, except today, I had something else to do whilst on the trip.
"I'm going to take Flash around the block again, but I'll be there for most of your lesson."
Bella was waiting expectedly at the reception counter – I had messaged her to say we were coming. She had a large smile on her face and dropped down to accept Coopers koala hug, "Good morning, Sweetheart. Do you want to run and get changed?"
"Okay…let me say 'bye' to my Daddy first, 'kay?" Leaving Bella, he ran to me. "Bye, Dad."
I dropped a kiss to his head, "you be good for Bella, Bud."
"I will. Bye!"
Once he was out of earshot, Bella voiced her thoughts. "Wow…he's chirpy; I didn't expect to see that."
I shrugged, "he hasn't been like that for long – he was crying in his sleep last night and…God, I can't take much more of this."
"I realise that this is difficult, but he'll break out of it and will return to the Cooper we all know and love once he realises that he has nothing to be scared about."
She made everything seem to easy, there was no way I could deal with this if it wasn't for her support. I let out a slow breath, "I'm going to phone Garrett back whilst he's with you."
Bella's eyes widened, "really?"
"Yeah, I need to see what he wants. Just…tell Cooper I'm walking Flash if he asks, okay? God knows what would happen if he finds out."
"Absolutely." Just like the night before, Bella ignored the chance of someone seeing us and tilted up on her toes and pressed a small, delicate kiss on the corner of my mouth. "I'll find you after this lesson and you can tell me everything he says…if you want."
"I'll do that…thanks again, Bella."
She waved me off, "don't thank me. Right, go and see what that asshole wants." She grinned, winked and sauntered off to the pool.
Damn, that ass.
What? I'm a guy.
Returning to the car I let Flash out of the trunk and clipped on his leash, then unfolded the scrap of paper which had Garrett's number on it. I rehearsed my words once again as we started to walk. My hands were shaking and I squeezed the leash like a stress ball.
Swallowing back the bile in my throat, I keyed in the numbers and waited for Garrett to answer…
I know, I know, another cliffhanger, but, hey, it's a (kinda) early update!
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