Chapter 24

The Family Again

BELLA

I'm packing some extra things for Levi when I see Edward in the mirror. He leans against the doorframe, watching me. Pretending not to notice, I finish putting things into Levi's backpack. There is no such thing as over packing when it comes to having a toddler. I'm ready for everything, from a bad fall to a mud-wrestling contest.

"Your mad at me." Edward states aloud.

"No I'm not." I reply, staring at the bag for a moment.

"Isabella."

"Edward."

He sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose; "You have to talk to me Isabella, I can't read your mind!"

Putting the bag down, I give him my full attention; "Edward, what do you want me to say?"

"Anything, why are you all of a sudden willing to go to my family's barbecue when you told me just weeks ago that you weren't ready?"

"Because I wasn't. Even now, I'm not ready."

"Then why are we going?" He takes a step forward.

I shake my head and laugh sadly; "It's not about me Edward, it's about Levi. No, I'm not ready. No, I do not want to go. But Levi deserves this. He likes to talk and make friends. The reason why he can't see his best friend is because of me. The least I can do is suck up my pride and allow him to meet his cousins. I don't know any other children here and we can't go to a park because of the press."

"I said I would handle Toby." He frowns and I walk towards him, placing my hand on his cheek.

"I know and I believe you. But he needs to get out of the house. He is so excited right now Edward, how can I not go?"

"So for the past day you've been worrying only about Levi?" He asks, placing his hands on my waist.

Pulling away, I walk to Levi's bed and fall back on it. I felt so tired… very tired. The bed squeaks as Edward lays beside me. I take his hand into my own.

"I'm angry at Tanya, Edward. I am and was as hurt as you were when you found out. Part of me wants to go out there and wring her neck. But I'm also tired of being angry. I forgave and put Tanya away years ago. I tell myself that I deserved her abuse—"

"Isabella—"

"Don't you 'Isabella' me, Edward. I'm not trying to be a martyr or even trying to put myself down. I didn't make her a villain in my book because I didn't think she was. She really cared about you… or at least I thought she did. It's easy for me to say she was the villain in my story. But what about me? What we did was not okay, we both hurt her, contract or not. We are the bad guys in her story. If you want to destroy her or make her pay, okay, but I'm tired of all this fighting and drama. I just want move on and live. I want to watch Levi be silly one minute and play Mozart the next. I want to be normal with you, go to the movies, take frequent trips to the dark side—"

"The dark side?" he snickers and I laugh.

"I'll explain when we are not in on our innocent son's Yoda sheets."

"I look forward to it, go on." He whispers, gripping my hand.

I have to think for a moment; "I want to sit down and talk to you about stupid things, like what color we should paint the walls. I love this house, but it's so bland. It's beautifully but I hate how isolated we are. I like having neighbors. I feel as if I'm still your mistress sometimes. I want Levi to be able to be part of a community, even though he's being home schooled. I want to be a better person Edward."

He sits up, his back hunched: "You want me to leave Tanya alone?"

"She's dangerous and I know you can't just walk away." I sit up as well, kissing his cheek. "Just be careful please, you need to remember this isn't just your life anymore Edward. You aren't alone. You have a family you can't go off trying to be batman."

"Batman! Can we please watch it?" Levi appears at the door holding on to Roger's fingers with one hand and Mr. Einstein with the other.

"Little bear, you're back, I missed you!" I laugh, getting off the bed and running to him. I pull him into my arms kissing his cheek loudly.

"You would think I took him out for days and not just a few hours." Roger mutters shaking his head at me.

I stick my tongue out at him and Levi giggles copying me.

Oh no.

However before I say anything, Roger give him the eyebrow and both of our tongues disappear.

"I remember that look." Edward comes up beside us, placing his hand on Levi's head.

"Yes, I invited it because of you." Roger replies.

"Was daddy very bad?" Levi giggles, looking between them both.

"He was. But, good thing you're like your mother, or else my hair would be gray."

"That's not fair. Your hair is already grey." Levi frowns. Edward and I laugh while Roger leaves us.

"We love you Roger."

"Yeah. Yeah." He waves.

"Can we watch batman now?" Levi asks quickly. He never dwells on anything longer than he needs to.

"We're going to see my family remember?" Edward asks him and Levi's eyes bugs out.

"Oh Yeah!" He screams in my ear.

"Sweetheart, do not yell."

He doesn't even bother to listen, he wiggles free of my arms and run for his backpack.

"Is there a juice box in here?" Levi asks, looking through the stuff I packed for him.

"You don't need one little bear, there is going to be food there." I say to him. "I just packed some clothes."

He thinks about it for a moment, then puts the backpack on.

"Can we go now?"

Edward snickers offering him a hand; "Sure. Do you want to help me give mommy her surprise?"

"What surprise?"

"If we told you mommy it won't be a surprise, of course." Levi says with the same smile as Edward.

"Yea mommy, of course." Edward reiterates.

I eye him as Levi takes my hand and leads me from his room, I try to guess: "Is it a book?"

"No." They both say.

"Chocolate?"

"No, but can I have some?" Levi asks.

"Not until after you eat real food." Edward tells him. It's amazing how natural it is for him now. He's learning just as fast as Levi does.

"Chocolate is real food daddy."

I snicker, leaning towards him; "Levi, mommy will give you chocolate if you tell her what the surprise is."

"Daddy said if you try to mail-block me I should say 'double no'."

"Blackmail son, but good job." Edward laughs from behind me and I want to kick him in the shin.

"Oh right! Double no blackmailing." Levi says seriously before turning around and walking down the hall.

Edward crosses his arms walking forward as well, he looks back at me; "Really?"

"That was not blackmail, that was parenting—ish"

He makes a face but says nothing else until we reach the garage and Levi pushes the door open.

"Surprise!" They say together and there sitting in the driveway is my car. My precious mini-cooper.

"Oh my gosh! Thank you!" I laugh, giving them both hugs before running to my car. "I've missed driving her."

"She really loves that car. Should we be jealous?" Edward asks Levi. I turn back to see Levi shrug.

"Can we return it?" He questions and Edward laughs giving him a high-five.

"What have you done to my son?" They are so… cute.

"Made him funnier." Edward says.

"Yep, can we go now!" Levi wiggles back and forth.

"Can I drive?"

Edward throws me the keys, which I drop, before lifting Levi and placing him in his car seat.

"Will they like me?" Levi asks, holding onto Mr. Einstein as I pull out of the driveway.

"How could they not bud? You're awesome." Edward replies.

"That is true." Levi nods with a straight face.

"He is going to have the biggest ego in the world." I whisper over to Edward.

Edward snickers; "I thought I had the biggest ego in the world, turn left here."

He does have a point. Levi's so excited he is all but shaking in his seat, luckily the drive to Edward's parent's house isn't too far away. I notice though that their home isn't as secluded as Edward's. They live in the cleanest gated community I have ever seen in my life. It's called the Emerald Estates

"Their house is in the back." Edward says and I nod trying not to gape at some of these houses.

Jeez. Who has a gated home in a gated community?

Finally when we reach the gate, it's already open as though they have been waiting for us. I find myself looking to Edward who places his hand on my thigh.

"It's going to be fine."

I nod driving in. I have to circle the fountain before parking in front of the house. Luckily, none of them come out to greet us.

"They're all waiting out back, you ready Levi?" Edward asks him

"Yep!" He cheers in reply.

When we all step out, I makes sure to hold onto Levi. I feel him dragging me forward even though he doesn't notice. Edward says nothing, leading the way through the marble halls and the French doors. I can see them standing around the grill, laughing as their kids play on the grass that was probably imported from the hills of rich blah blah blah. I don't want to destroy the picture perfect scene.

This isn't for me.

When Edward opens the door, Levi steps out proudly with his hands on the straps of his backpack. He left Mr. Einstein in the car.

"If it isn't Mr. Levi!" Emmett laughs from the grill. Jasper and Carlisle pause mid bite turning to us.

"Hi Uncle Emmett!" Levi waves. Esme stands up from her chair and steps forward as do Alice and Rose. They stop speaking and smile at my son as if they want to pull him into their web. I stand right behind Levi, looking them all over before kneeling next him.

"Levi, this is Esme, Edward's mother, Rosalie, Emmett's wife and Alice is Jasper's wife."

"Hi everybody!" Levi grins, waving again.

"Levi, we are so happy to meet you. You look so much like your dad." Esme smiles at him.

Levi nods looking around her at the kids playing; "I know."

"Levi, why don't you go play, I'll be right here okay."

"Okay." He takes of his backpack and runs pass all the adults. One of the boys look to be Jasper's son, while the younger girl around Levi's age, if not a bit younger, looks just like Alice. I didn't know they had another child… but then again, how would I?

"Mom, can I go to Nikki's?" A teenager with purple streaks littering her light brown hair appears behind Edward and I. She has punk clothing on and bracelets that go up her arm.

"It's family time Lizzy." Rosalie sighs crossing her arms.

"Lizzy?" I gasp out loud, the little girl I had met before is long gone. She now has boobs; she's a woman. How long was I gone again?

Lizzy's blue eyes fall on me; "Do I know you?"

Someone has an attitude.

"Lizzy, don't be rude."

"Why? You are." She snaps.

"Hey young lady, watch it or your next text will be in college." Emmett waves a pitch for at her. It's odd seeing him serious.

"Urgh! You're always on her side. I need Nikki's help to change my color, seeing as how you all hate it so much." She grumbles.

"Use cold water, lime and vinegar. The color will come right out without damaging your hair. But do it outside or you'll stain your shower." I tell her. She looks at me oddly.

"Seriously?"

"My father was pissed to, I went with hot pink."

"How do you make them unpissed?" She mutters, glaring at Emmett behind me.

I lean in and whisper; "Clip ons."

"That is out of the question also." Rose snaps and Lizzy rolls her eyes.

"I do know you!" Lizzy exclaims, looking at me carefully; "You're the chick that wrote the kinky book about Uncle Eddy—"

"My niece just said kinky, Emmett." Edward states with a small frown though he did give her a tight hug before letting her go.

"Oh calm down uncle Eddy—"

"Weren't you about to stomp away somewhere?" Emmett asks her.

"I see how it is. I can't be part of the grown up conversation." Lizzy pouts before looking to me; "We'll talk later."

With that, she's gone.

"I'm never letting Sarah out of the house." Jasper mumbled.

"Yes, because that's definitely going to work. Remember, you're the one wrapped around her finger." Alice giggles.

"Bella, please sit down, you look like you're ready to run." Esme smiles kindly.

I smile as well, taking a seat closest to the grass in order to keep an eye on Levi. He has already taken over planning a brand new game. He did this every time we were on a playground, somehow he would invent a game and all of sudden kids are all around him. The little girl, I can only guess is Sarah, is having a ball chasing them. The boy Levi plays with has messy sandy brown hair and large glasses. He's kind of awkward but so cute.

"His name is Chris. We call him Chrisy sometimes." Alice whispers, taking a seat next to me. I look to her and then back at our sons.

"He's a cutie."

"Thank you. I always take the credit, after all we pushed them out." She laughs awkwardly, she's trying so hard it's sad.

I don't say anything.

"So, how have you been Bella? You look nice." Rosalie asks, coming closer and it feels as if the walls are closing in on me. There was a forced fakeness in her voiced that annoyed me.

"You mean since we last met and you were insult me? Or the when I looked at you in the hospital and you watched as I got kicked out?" All of their mouths drop open with the expectation of Edward who pulls a beer from the cooler. "Look, I'm here because of my son. You are his family and I will try to let you into his life because he deserves it. But I'm done with all of you, just as you were all done with me."

Shit Bella. What happened to being a good person?

Turning around, I walk over to where Levi and the kids are playing.

"Hi mommy" Levi laughs as they run.

"Hi!" I wave before sitting at a tree.

EDWARD

"Well she's still angry." Esme sighs, smoothing out her shirt.

"It's been years…"

"Honestly, what did you expect?" I snap, cutting off Rosalie, popping open a beer and sitting in Bella's seat.

"She was civil when we stopped you from making an ass of yourself." Jasper says taking a bite out of his food.

"Do you understand how much that took out of her? For her to actual bring herself to call you? If she didn't believe it was an emergency, she wouldn't have tried. You hurt her, you hurt me—"

"Oh my god, will we ever hear the end of it?" Rosalie groans, "Tanya was in control of that hospital room, if she wanted, she could have told us all to leave as well. We picked the side that kept us with you."

"I can't believe you picked Tanya's side." Lizzy frowns, pulling an orange soda from the cooler.

One moment she was using crayons and the next she's wearing makeup and rebelling. She scares the shit out of me.

"Elizabeth Ann Cullen, I've had it up to here with your crap today!" Rose yells at her and I almost want to laugh, it's as if God is punishing her by giving her a mini version of herself… though I still love Lizzy.

"You used my entire name, oh God I'm trouble." She says rolling her eyes before skipping over to me to kiss my cheek. "Uncle Eddy, I read the book and I'm so on your side. I've always liked Bella, even when I was younger."

"You read the book?" Rose snaps.

"Mom, everyone's read that book. I read it before I even knew it was about us." She says laughing before walking on the lawn.

"Have kids, they said. There is no greater joy, they said. Bullshit. That girl is out to kill me. Someone should have told me that they stop being cute when they're teenagers." Emmett grumbles, taking a seat next to me.

"We did." Esme muttered and he sighed.

"Have you tried talking to her?" Carlisle asks, taking a seat around the table as well.

Emmett and I look at each other, then back to him; "Which 'her' are you talking about?" I ask him.

"Isabella. Elizabeth is just going through a faze, she's a good kid. I'm worried we we'll never really get to know Levi if she hates us so much she can't even bear to be hold a conversation with us. What can we do?"

"Start by admitting you were wrong for backing the woman who tried to kill me."

"Kill you? Edward, you can't be serious. We're talking about Tanya." Esme whispers and I'm not sure why she's so shocked.

"I remember stomping on my breaks but they weren't working. I hadn't even planned on using that car, but I was forced to since Tanya blocked me in. I called the investigator already and have asked for digression as they look into it." If this gets out, the media will have a field day. Yes it would get the topic off Bella and I directly. I'm not sure what to do. I just want Tanya gone; I want to kill her with my bare hands. She's in the wind right now, but between Tennyson and the police, I will find her and when I do, she will pay.

"I can believe it, the chick is crazy. I've been saying it since that sham of a wedding." Emmett lifts his beer to me.

Jasper nods; "At this point, they're just suspicions, you're going to need proof."

"I doubt Tanya just left that laying around. What will happen to her?" Alice eyebrows scrunch together as she tries to figure it out.

"The evil witch will be going to jail. No wonder she only cares about the press. Bella was too kind to her in her book." Esme looks angry, she's ready to kill. "I still can't believe everything that has happened."

"Yeah, I just wish Bella hadn't written the book. Now we're all dealing with the press." Rosalie frowns, looking over to where Lizzy is climbing a tree while Bella watches her. They seem to be having some sort of conversation. "I can't believe Lizzy read it."

"Well it was either that or she would have been destitute." I snap. It's still a sour spot for me. Every time I think about it, my blood boils. She has gone into details about how she lived day to day—

I can't. I can't think about it.

"Daddy!" Levi runs to me. I put my beer on the table before standing up to catch. He's my saving grace.

"You guys done playing?"

He nods; "I'm hungry, can I have food please?"

"Yes, of course sweetheart, what do you want?" Esme asks, coming closer to us.

"Meat and a juice box please!"

"My kind of kid." Emmett nods to him. Levi looks at him confused but wiggles out of my arms before walking over to Esme.

"You hungry Chris?" I ask, the quiet boy in front of me, he shakes his head. I swear he barely speaks. It's kind of creepy.

Levi doesn't seem bothered, he comes back and hands Chris a plate before turning back to Esme.

"I need one more grandma."

Her face breaks out in a grin as she fixes another plate for him before placing it in his little hands. Sarah's sitting on Jasper's lap, curled up and resting. Emmett let's out one more sigh and I want to roll my eyes at them.

"Are you guys sitting with us?" I ask Levi and Chris.

"What are you talking about?" Levi questions, thinking it over.

"We were talking about going to the moon." Emmett jokes but Levi gives him a look of utter confusion.

"Uncle Emmett you're not an astronaut and NASA doesn't send people up anymore. So you can't go to the moon." Just when I was forgetting he isn't a typical kid.

"NASA?" Chris asks him.

"National Aero…nau..tics," He stumbles over the word, "and Space Ad..min..is..tration. I had to do homework on the planets for mommy. We look at all the stars too. Some of them have names. Oh, did you know Pluto was a planet, but it's not anymore?"

"No. Why?" Chris asks and Levi shrugs his shoulders lifting his plate as well.

"I don't know, I guess we don't like Pluto. I wanted to look it up, but mommy told me to focus." He tells him and they take a seat around the table.

"Uncle Emmett, why do you want to go the moon?" Levi adds and Emmett looks to me.

"I was joking, bud." Emmett answers causing Levi to frown. This is why Bella says to always be straight with him. It just isn't worth the joke.

"That's not very funny." He says taking a bite out of his corn.

"Uncle Em makes unfunny jokes all the time." Chris says copying him and biting into his corn.

"Hey guys, I'm right here!"

"We know, we can see you." Levi once again gives him a look and this time Jasper laughs as does Carlisle and Esme. He's just too funny.

"So, you're home-schooled Levi?" Alice kisses Chris' head and take a seat next to him.

"Yes, mommy teaches me lots."

"Mommy teaches me a lot." Bella comes over correcting him and Levi nods. She says nothing to them and I pull her into my lap.

"Mom, did you know Levi can play the piano?" Chris asks Alice.

"Wow, Levi that's amazing."

"Thank you, but I'm not that good. My friend Toby can play really good."

Bella opens her mouth to correct him, but closes it without saying a word and watches as he eat.

"Levi, how would you like it if Toby stays with us for a weekend?" I ask him, causing Bella to turn to me.

"Really? Like a sleepover? But how will he find me?"

"I called his dad, he's coming into town and said you can hang out."

"This is so cool! When?"

"Next week."

He turns to Chris who looks kind of sad; "You are going to like Toby, Chris. He is so funny and we can watch Batman, have you seen Batman? Can we mommy?"

"Levi, breath before you choke. Yes, you sure can watch the cartoon versions, okay."

"What if Toby doesn't like me?" Chris whispers, he's so shy. Levi is going to pull him out of his shell within days.

"Toby likes everyone. He's Toby." Levi laughs before drinking his juice box.

"Mommy can I go?" Chris asks Alice who nods and smile.

"Bella, can I speak to you?" Rosalie asks.

Bella looks to me before turning to her.

"Godspeed." Lizzy mutters, gaining another glare from her mother. Bella sighs but nods.

This isn't good.