My regular readers will know that when it comes to the epilogue, I like to change up POVs sometimes, and The Fox is no exception …
Chapter 35- Epilogue
Dr Riley Cullen, BSc MSc PhD
Two tables were groaning with the weight of food on them, with Bella's delicious barbecue lamb as the centrepiece. The glasses were filled, with red wine for the adults, and cherry cordial for the kids. The plates were warmed, ready to be used. Everybody was sitting, crammed in on chairs, stools and benches, napkins on their laps, waiting for The Foxy One's birthday lunch to begin.
Everyone, that is, except Lindie.
"Ollie, where is your sister?" asked the man in question, carving knife and fork in hand.
"I don't know," Ollie, who was sitting next to me, replied, far too quickly.
"Ollie?" murmured his Grandpa Charlie, fresh from his beach house on Cape Cod. He bought old Nettie's house, next to my parents' place, when Bella was preggo with Lindie. The old man spent six months of the year in Massachusetts now. "Now, is that the truth, Cub?"
Ollie's cheeks went bright red. My godson seriously could not lie for shit.
"Give it up, baby boy," I told him, ruffling his quiff of wavy, chocolate-brown hair. "Where is she?"
Jake and Nessie, who were in their favourite spots under the dining table, ready to receive scraps, gave their encouragement. Cocoa and Truffles, the Masens' three year-old female chocolate Labradoodles, started to join in too. They had been bought by Edward to console Bella when they decided there would be no more Masen babies. Jake, who was getting pretty slow these days, lumbered to his feet and nudged his snout into Ollie's lap.
"See, even the doggies think you should spill."
My gorgeous godson stroked his dog's nose, looked up with those beautiful, verdant Masen eyes, and then leaned across to whisper in my ear.
"God-daddy Riley, she's got Jammy and she's holding him hostage," he murmured in a shaky voice, and my heart swelled a little.
Jammy was the teddy bear I bought Ollie when Bella was in the hospital giving birth to Lindie and he was pining for her. The fact that Jammy still meant so much to Ollie now, age ten, made me all kinds of emotional.
Where Ollie had been three days late, Lindie was three weeks early, and ended up being born on the same day as her brother, 2nd May, a year later. Although her second pregnancy was easier than the first, Bella's labour was real tough; she ended up having emergency surgery, and was in hospital for two weeks afterwards.
For five years after, Bella and the Foxy One tried for a third baby, but it never happened and they didn't want to go through IVF. As Edward approached fifty, they decided to accept that they would have only two gorgeous babies. It was a genius idea of PILFy to get Cocoa and Truffles; Bella said that if she couldn't have loads of kids, a house full of doggies was the next best thing.
My godson was like his dad in so many ways. He was intense and serious, but it didn't take a lot to make him happy. Soccer, his retro 'Operation' game, Jammy and playing Frisbee with the doggies … Any of those would bring him hours of joy. However, if the things, or people, Ollie loved were threatened, it would affect him deeply. I remembered when some sixth-grader decided to try to pick on Lindie last year.
Ollie, already tall and lean like Edward, had stepped in front of her and kicked the kid in the shins before grabbing his sister's hand and running away, Lindie screaming all the while that she was going to kick the kid's ass too one day. I had no doubt that she would; that kid was gonna have to watch his back.
"Don't worry, we'll get Jammy out alive."
"Promise," I echoed.
"Baby boy," Edward murmured, "you'll never be in trouble for telling the truth, son."
"Even if the truth isn't good?"
The Foxy One beckoned his son to his side.
"Yes, even then, Ollie. If the truth is painful, the way you say it becomes important. If you think it's going to be upsetting, you can try to break it to them gently."
"So if I told you that I knew where Lindie was, but you aren't gonna like it, that would be trying to break it to you gently?"
"That's right, son."
Ollie took a deep breath and paused, keeping us all on tenterhooks.
"She's in the treehouse," Ollie whispered. "With Mom's computer." He glanced at Bella.
"Jesus, not again," Bella muttered, just loud enough for a few of us nearby to hear, before she turned to the table. "Sorry everyone. Please bear with us while we go retrieve Lindie. Ollie, you did the right thing, Cub."
Bella got up, kissed Ollie on the forehead and beckoned me to go with her to the garden while Edward reassured Ollie. Despite my move to NYC, Bella and I were still super-tight, and I'd become close with Bree, Irina, and Emily, Bella's other besties.
Before she went outside though, Bella made sure to give Edward some sugar too, kissing the side of his mouth as she rubbed her hand across the back of his neck. Some people would go nuts working and living with their better halves, but not Foxy and Mrs Foxy. Their marriage was stronger than ever, and their reputation as foremost experts on excitatory neurotransmitters was super-solid.
In ten years, Edward had hardly aged, apart from a touch of grey and a couple extra lines around his eyes. He was still a hottie, always would be. Bella had only gotten more attractive as she got older, but the responsibilities of motherhood and her professorship gave her a serious edge, so she looked a little older than thirty-two. Nobody seemed to notice their age difference nowadays.
Edward was now Head of Neurosciences at Harvard, having taken over last year, when my dad Carlisle officially retired. Of course, Daddy-O didn't actually stop researching. He just handed the management stuff over and went back to his lab. Bella did her PhD almost entirely part-time, job-sharing with Bree, but when she got it, she got it with every award and accolade going. She then got tenure at Harvard almost straight after getting her PhD and joined her hubby's lab; she'd always maintained an interest in his projects.
"Rosalind Elizabeth Masen! Get your little bum down here right now! I know you're up there," she called when we reached the large apple tree at the bottom of the garden.
The PILFster had spent the whole summer three years ago building his beloved children the ramshackle treehouse high in the branches. The kids loved it, but weren't allowed up there without permission in case one of them fell or got stuck. Of course, Ollie always asked, and Lindie never did.
"One more minute, Mom!"
"Now! Everyone's waiting to start lunch."
"I'm just …"
"I don't care which whale, orphan or lesser-spotted space-cadet you feel the urgent need to help right now, but I assure you they will still be there later."
There was a beat of silence, and then a head of dark copper curls emerged. Damn, the girl had gorgeous hair, utterly wild, but then Lindie was kind of wild. I always imagined that if Bella's childhood hadn't involved a bitch-face mother (Bella hadn't seen her for over ten years), nannies, boarding school and all that British repression, she might express her passions and opinions as freely as her daughter always did.
"I'm not eating lamb. Sheep should be in fields, not being cooked for lunch," Lindie announced, her big brown eyes blazing.
"You've been a vegetarian for a year, Lindie. Have I made you eat meat even once in that time?" Bella sighed. "There is a cheese and spinach pie on the table just for you."
"Stop stalling, baby girl." I loved the kid, but damn, she was hard work. "You may not want barbecue lamb, but the rest of us do."
"Just wait 'til I get to Ollie," Lindie muttered.
"And bring Jammy too. There will be hell to pay if you've harmed a strand of that bear's fur," I warned, giving her my patented 'Girl, you in trouble' glare. The girl knew not to push me and with a pout, threw Jammy to me before climbing down, Bella's computer tucked into her backpack.
"Here, Mom." Lindie gave the computer to Bella. "Not that it matters to you, but I just raised $200 for the Spy Pond Bird Sanctuary using crowdfunding."
"Just 'cause I'm not into science like you and Dad and Ollie, doesn't mean I don't do some good."
Bella's hard expression softened and she placed her hands on her daughter's shoulders. First and foremost, before her research or her professorship at Harvard, she was mom to Ollie and Lindie. They always came first, which is why she took seven years to get her PhD in the first place.
"Sweetheart, you do amazing things, all the time. You're so clever, sometimes I forget you're nine years old. It doesn't matter to us what you're into, because we know that whatever you do, you make the world a better place."
"Yeah?" Lindie had been gearing up for battle, and Bella's warm words totally disarmed her. Apart from inheriting Edward's crazy auburn hair, Lindie was the spit of her mom, and it was never more apparent than in moments like this.
"Yeah," said Bella proudly, before clearing her throat. "That being said, Lindie, it's not okay to leave twenty guests waiting for Daddy's birthday lunch, especially when some have travelled hundreds of miles. Grandpa Charlie came over even though his hip's been bothering him. Riley, Embry, Aunt Tanya, Aunt Leah and Scotty all left New York at six AM to be here."
"Uh-huh, and I coulda really done with that beauty sleep I missed."
Life had been all kinds of crazy-crazy for me and Embry recently. We got married last month, and I was setting up a new dementia research lab with my old supervisor at Columbia, where I did my PhD after graduating from NYU. Meanwhile Em was Manhattan's hottest, and busiest, personal trainer, with a super-fly client list, which meant we could afford to buy a cute brownstone near Tanya and Leah last year.
"Emily flew in from Toronto, leaving behind her new hotel at a crucial development time, just to spend time with us," Bella continued. "Aunt Esme and your godmother flew back early from her conference in San Francisco …" Lindie hung her head.
"Sorry, Mommy. I know that conference was a real big deal to Bree and Aunt Esme."
Too right. Bree had joined my mom in her lab at MIT after getting her PhD and they were presenting their research to the International Neurology Society World Congress.
"It was. And it's definitely not okay to blackmail your brother to cover for you with the only possession you know he truly gives a damn about."
"Yeah, that was low, baby girl," I told her.
"I know," she admitted. "I just wanted to see if I could get that money. The birds need it so badly." She tucked her arm into her mother's. "How punished am I?"
"You're going to apologise to Ollie for kidnapping Jammy, and to Daddy and everybody else for keeping them waiting. You're on dishes duty today and all electronic gadgets, including the laptop and iPod, are confiscated for the rest of the weekend."
"I suppose I deserve that," she agreed. "By the way, when I was on your laptop, I think you got an email from someone called Mary Jane."
Bella stopped in her tracks.
"I didn't read it, I promise!" cried Lindie, taking in her mother's frozen expression. "The icon popped up and went away again."
"I believe you, sweetheart. It's just that Mary Jane is …" Bella paused. "A girl I used to know a long time ago. I'm surprised to be hearing from her, that's all."
Lindie ran in ahead of us, and I took her place next to Bella as we walked back to the house. Bella and Edward never did move from their first home in Arlington. They ended up buying the place and extending the back instead.
"Mary Jane?" I asked.
"Mary Jane or MJ as we used to call her, is the one who pulled a gun on my stomach in Oxford when I was pregnant with Ollie."
"Shit, she had that 'Master' thing with Volturi?" It was all coming back to me. Those looney-tunes put Bella and PILFy through hell.
"Yeah, I guess she's out of prison, or hospital, or wherever." Bella shuddered. "There's supposed to be a restraining order in place. Why the hell is she contacting me now?"
"We'll find out, honey. Don't panic."
Bella nodded, and we went back to the dining table, where Lindie was hugging her dad around the waist.
"I'm so sorry, Daddy. I got carried away again. I didn't mean to make everybody wait."
The Fox kissed Lindie's crazy, curly hair.
"I know, Cubbie," he replied. Edward was the only person Lindie tolerated calling her 'Cubbie.' Even Bella wasn't allowed anymore.
"I was trying to help the bird sanctuary. They just had their funding cut."
"And I bet you made them lots of money."
"Uh-huh. Two hundred bucks, and it's growing."
"That's brilliant, Lindie. But …"
"I know, Mom already reminded me about timing. She says I'm on dish duty and I'm not allowed to use any 'gadgets.'" Lindie mimicked her mom's crisp British accent perfectly.
"What your mother says goes," Edward said firmly. He was used to his daughter trying her best to get her way, but he and Bella were united parents. "Now, go take your seat between Jojo and Scotty."
Lindie nodded and sat next to Joanna, known as Jojo. She was just three months younger than Lindie and her best friend. Jojo was Bree's daughter, and Robbie's sister. Bella was Jojo's godmother. Robbie was eighteen nowadays. He had a full ride to Yale in the fall, and was talking about law school after that. He was a good kid, real sensible and fair; he'd make a good district attorney one day, I thought.
On Lindie's other side was Tanya and Leah's little boy, Scott, who was seven. They had been trying for a baby using IVF and artificial insemination when Rebecca, an old friend of Leah and Embry's in Washington, died suddenly, leaving behind her baby boy. Rebecca had no family who could look after Scott, and his father was some deadbeat, so Leah and Tanya decided to adopt him.
Scotty was a real cutie, with dark, curly hair and warm brown skin belying his Native American roots. Edward was his godfather along with Embry. Scotty told everyone he met that he was special because he had 'two mommies and two god-daddies.'
After the drama, we finally got our lunch. It was super-awesome as always and we all had second helpings, which meant that Embry would have me, Tanya and Leah running laps around Spy Pond at the ass-crack of dawn tomorrow. I loved him anyway though, and I definitely loved our matching six packs.
During the meal, we found out Irina, who was still working alongside my father on his neurological infections work, and her French husband Laurent, another Harvard neuroscientist, had never watched The Sound of Music. Can you fricking believe it? Anyways, after our huge lunch, I set up the movie on the outdoor projector and we got comfy on Edward and Bella's patio sofas. Meanwhile the more sporty ones, like my dad, Embry, Leah, Randall, Ollie, Joanna and Robbie, decided to play Frisbee with the dogs. Lindie looked on wistfully as she did all the dishes.
My sister Katie, eight months preggo with twin girls, fell asleep instantly. She was taking a year off from her lab at Tufts, which she could afford to do as she'd patented a new type of test to detect neural protein changes in Parkinson's disease. Randall, her hubby, still worked at Harvard, but spent most of his time running the neuroscience teaching programme at Harvard Medical School.
With all their guests comfortably occupied, Bella and Edward went up to their study to read the email from MJ. I hoped to God she wasn't going to subject them to the same kind of shit they went through ten years ago, being spied on, having their names dragged through the mud, being threatened. Hell, it had taken them years to return to Edward's cabin in Scotland. They finally went back two summers ago.
Bella and Edward hadn't returned nearly an hour later. I glanced at my mom, who had also noticed that they were still absent.
"Maybe one of us should see if they're all right," Esme suggested, starting to get up.
"I'll go, Mom."
I headed inside and followed the distant sound of their murmurs.
I pushed the door open to find them sitting on one of their desks, Bella in her husband's lap, kissing and giggling. PILFy's shirt was open and his flies half undone; his hands were halfway up her skirt. Bella's hair was messed up and her shimmery, rose lipstick was all over her face, and Edward's.
"Holy hell! My eyes! My poor eyes!"
"Riley, what the fuck?"
They jumped apart and then glared at me all indignantly. I gave them the look. I wasn't the one doing the nasty with a house full of guests downstairs.
"Sweeties, you've been gone an hour." They had the decency to look sheepish then. "What's up? That email … Was it MJ?"
They both grinned.
"No," replied Bella. "The email was actually from Aldo Shoes, advertising their latest line of Mary Jane- style pumps."
"Just to be sure, we checked with our detective contact in London, and he confirmed that MJ is still in hospital. She's only served two years of her twelve year prison sentence because she's been in and out of psychiatric units. She had a relapse a year ago when Alec died," added Edward.
"Was that the step-brother who helped Volturi get to you in Scotland?" I interjected. They both nodded. "How'd he die?" It was kinda sick, but I liked knowing how people perished, especially the evil ones.
"He picked up pneumonia on a visit to the Kasparov family in St Petersburg at Christmas," Bella explained. "MJ went completely off the rails, apparently, tried to stab her psychiatrist with a table knife. It will be at least another decade before she's out, maybe even two."
"That's good news, although bad for her."
Bella shrugged indifferently.
"I can't bring myself to feel any sympathy for her. She and her 'Master'," Bella said the word with real anger, "made our lives hell and she threatened to kill me and my baby. I'm sure one of the reasons Ollie's so sensitive and careful all the time is because of how protective we were in the aftermath."
"Honey, some of that is nature. He's a mini-Fox." I pointed to Edward.
"True," she acknowledged.
"Anyways, threat's over, you two have had had your smoochy-smoochy, time to get back to the party."
"We'll be down in a few minutes," replied Edward. "We just need to freshen up."
He glanced at Bella and she blushed.
I rolled my eyes at them, but I didn't mean it. Their connection was so totally intense. They couldn't help themselves.
"Are they okay?" asked my mother, when I came back downstairs.
"They're just wonderful."
And that's The Foxall wrapped up!
Special thanks must go to SunflowerFran who was my awesome beta for over half this story, and if I had been organised and less in a hurry to post, would have been my beta for the rest of it, no doubt! Thanks for all your support, Fran.
Another huge thank you goes to Elodie, who is a bona fide research neuroscientist I became friends with when I was doing my undergrad. We stayed friends even though I left research for a career in healthcare, and moved to the other side of the country. Elodie was my technical beta for this story. She had barely heard of Twilight before we started, and in order to help me, watched every movie. Then she read the books, and now she's an avid fanfiction follower too!
Thank you all for sticking with this story. Every word of support and every review means so much to me, even if I haven't replied to you individually.