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Jun. 12th, 2010

ATLANTA I LOVE YOU!

So last week at this time, I was pretty much convinced that I was going to have a pretty boring summer as a reserve teacher in St. Louis.

THANK GOD I WAS WRONG! I'm sitting on the couch in the NICEST freaking apartment ever in Alpharetta, GA right now, with my kitty curled up next to me, after a long (but good) day of teaching. I feel like the luckiest person in the world right now to have randomly applied for this job last year...I never thought I would get to spend the summer somewhere so NICE! (This is where I'm staying: http://www.amli.com/apartments/atlanta/milton-park/)

Just some observations about Atlanta...
1. Traffic is INSANE here. I don't know WHAT the heck is up with it, but it is really bad.
2. PEOPLE ARE SO NICE. It must just be the South.
3. The diversity is great - in St. Louis, you're either white or black. There's really not a huge Hispanic population or any other ethnicity...but here in Atlanta, there are white, black, Hispanic, Asian, Indian, EVERY kind of ethnicity in my classes. It's really nice to have such diversity around! There are also a TON of people from the Caribbean Islands, which I didn't expect at all.
4. The landscape is beautiful. I'm used to looking out my window and seeing flat land with a bunch of freaking corn. NOT HERE IN GEORGIA! Everything is green, everywhere. It's beautiful.
5. Strangely, I haven't come across very many thick Southern accents. Interesting!

Before I got on the road on Tuesday morning, I stopped by my uncle's store to cash a check. My grandpa, who is 86 years old, still goes up there to work every day because he's a workaholic. He's a really interesting man - not quick to praise once you're past the age of 12 or so, but the most loving and wonderful grandpa when you're a kid. I spent almost every day of the first ten years of my life with my grandparents, and when my grandma got alzheimer's, I watched my grandpa take care of my grandma for five years and knew that I would never settle for a man that didn't remind me of him. He doesn't talk much about my grandma because he misses her, but also because he's not the type to live in the past and dwell. I know he thinks about her, probably every moment of every day, because they had the most beautiful and classic love story that I've ever heard. I'm just lucky enough that they're MY grandparents. He's still my favorite person in the world.

Anyway, like I said, he's not very quick to praise...so when I stopped Tuesday morning, I didn't really expect him to say much to me or even know that I was going away for the summer. I guess my mom had called and told him because WOW - he was my old grandpa again and I felt like I was five years old, showing him an A on my first test and listening to him tell me how smart I was. He was so ridiculously proud of me, and couldn't tell me enough how excited he was that I had this opportunity. I don't know exactly why, but I could live without praise or encouragement from everyone else in the world as long as I get it from my grandpa...maybe because it is so hard to come by, and when he gives it, I know he really means it.

When  I was leaving, he walked me to my car, shoved a $100 bill into my hand, gave me a hug, and said the most beautiful words that have ever come out of his mouth - "Your grandma would be really proud of you." It was so unexpected, so sincere, and so perfect. He hasn't mentioned her to me in years...and the fact that he KNOWS, he REMEMBERS all of the time we spent together, and he understands how much she still means to me even though she's been gone 9 years, makes me feel so special. I don't think I'm explaining it right...but it just makes me feel WHOLE to know that out of all the people in the world, the one I love and respect the most really understands the deepest, most sincere and most REAL part of me, which is everything that my grandma gave me and instilled in me. And it's because she gave it to him, too...even though he's my grandpa and we're connected because of that, we're also connected because we both loved her more than anyone in the world. So...yeah. That was really cheesy...but I needed to get it down before this initial feeling faded away. I would be nowhere without my grandma and grandpa. :)

Aug. 14th, 2009

The Guardian, Chapter Nine

Hi everyone! I want to apologize for how long it took me to get this chapter out. For the longest time, I didn't know what to do with it. Then I just stopped thinking about it and figured when the urge to write it hit me, I'd do it. Well, it never came...and I actually came THIS close to deleting the story altogether about a week ago. Quite strangely, this morning on my day off I got up early, sat down to check my e-mail, and without even knowing what I was doing opened a Word document and started typing. I wrote this in two hours and it's exactly what I've wanted it to be all along. I'm really proud of how it's turned out, as cheesy as it is, so I hope you all enjoy it, too. Please review!!!!


The Guardian

Chapter Nine: A Promise

"I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge - myth is more potent than history - dreams are more powerful than facts - hope always triumphs over experience - laughter is the cure for grief - love is stronger than death." - Robert Fulghum

As he entered the room, Edward was hit with a smell that he knew all too well – death. Bella’s death was fast approaching according to all of his senses, but he still didn’t want to believe it. Edward didn’t raise his eyes until he was standing at the foot of her bed. If he had a heart, he was sure it would be breaking.

Her skin was as white as the sheets on the bed, thin and papery. Edward was acutely aware of the blood coursing through her veins. She no longer smelled the same, but sickly and decayed. She was hooked up to so many monitors, with so much incessant beeping going on that Edward was surprised she could sleep through the racket. Her eyes, however, stayed firmly shut as Edward gazed at her. He didn’t mind – he could stand here all day waiting and savoring the last moments he would ever see her alive. She was still beautiful to him, still the same Bella.

After minutes, or maybe even hours, her eyes slowly fluttered open. They went straight to him, almost as if she expected to see him standing there when she awoke. A tiny smile graced her lips as they stared at each other.

“I was dreaming about you,” Bella whispered.

Edward smiled and slowly walked around the bed, perching lightly on a chair beside her where Jacob and Ellie must have kept their constant vigil. He still didn’t speak.

“I’m going to die soon.” Bella spoke firmly, with just a hint of fear in her voice. If Edward wasn’t looking for it, he wouldn’t have even noticed. He nodded.

“Are you afraid?”

Bella contemplated him for a while and then said honestly, “Not of dying. I’m afraid of what I’m leaving behind.”

“Elinor?” Edward asked. Now that he knew her full name, he couldn’t stop using it. It was a name he would have chosen for his own daughter, old fashioned but still elegant and charming.

Bella nodded. “She’s very young to lose her mother. And she’s getting married next year. And then she’ll have babies…” she trailed off and closed her eyes. Edward knew she was trying to compose herself.

For once, Edward was at a loss for words. He wanted to comfort her, tell her that it was going to be alright, that she would always be with Ellie even though her physical body was gone…but he didn’t know those things for sure. He had always been too afraid of death himself to find out. With Bella gone, though, he would have no more reason to live. When he had made the promise to himself to look after Ellie as a baby, he never imagined doing so without her mother in the picture. Now those stubborn feelings he’d had when Bella was a teenager were rising to the surface again and he needed comfort himself.

“You won’t be alone when you die, Bella,” he said through clenched teeth, “I’ll be with you.”

Bella’s eyes snapped open and she looked at him more fiercely than he thought possible, as if she were about to fly of the bed and throttle him.

“Don’t you dare do anything stupid, Edward Cullen. I forbid it. I’ll never speak to you again in this life or the next if you kill yourself over me.” The words were spoken softly but with a venom so strong Edward had no doubt that they were true.

He didn’t respond, refusing to make a promise he wasn’t sure he could keep. This life may not be worth living if he knew she wasn’t out there somewhere with a beating heart.

After a moment, Bella choked out, “Besides…I have a favor to ask of you.”

Edward nodded and said automatically, “Anything, Bella.”

Bella held his gaze. “Please look after Ellie and any family she has after Jacob is gone. She’ll be all alone. I want her to know that there is someone else in this world that loves her and is caring for her, even if she can’t see it. Send her cards on her birthday and for Christmas. If she gets into trouble, help her out. Look after her children. I want them to know there is magic here, that life is magic.” Bella’s eyes filled with tears. “You helped teach me that, even if it took me away from you.”

Edward knew he would be crying, too, if he could. He also knew he would make good on his promise. There would be no sudden demise of Edward Cullen anytime soon, if ever. He wasn’t sure he could ever give up the last bond he’d made with Bella, and he could see himself in a thousand years still watching from afar as her family expanded. It was her and Jacob’s legacy, but it was also his. His fate had always been interwoven with her own.

“Do you still hate Jake?” Bella asked. She smiled a little, trying to lighten the mood.

Edward sighed and shook his head. “No. I can’t hate him. He’s made you happy, he’s been a good father to your daughter…and he’s a good man,” Edward said grudgingly. “He understands the value of human life,” he added. “So few people really do.”

Bella nodded. “Thank you.” She reached over to touch his hand, and for once, their skin was practically the same temperature.

No, it wouldn’t be long now at all. Edward was extra careful, aware that with the slightest amount of force, he could break her. She looked tired again, as if this conversation had taken everything out of her. He still didn’t move from his position in the chair, though.

She was fighting to keep her eyes open. “Will you…stay with me until I fall asleep, Edward?”

Edward bent down and lightly kissed her forehead. “Of course, love.”

Bella’s eyes finally closed and she repeated quietly before drifting into sleep, “Love…”

Edward sat and stared at her for a long time before a nurse came in to check her over. He was aware that the heart monitor had begun to beat more slowly and her breath had become shallower, but he couldn’t make himself move. He knew he should probably call Jacob.

The nurse did it for him, though, and in a few minutes, Jacob Black calmly entered Bella’s room.

Edward stood and carefully removed Bella’s hand from his own. The two men faced each other with rather blank expressions for a minute before Edward slowly walked toward Jacob and extended his hand. The rest of his life would be lived by carrying out Bella’s wishes and he had a feeling that Jacob somehow understood that.

Jake nodded and took Edward’s hand with a firm grip. He nodded in understanding as he gazed into Edward’s eyes and said quietly, “When Ellie gets here, will you please prepare her? Bella’s doctor told me he doesn’t think she’ll make it past another few hours.”

Edward nodded and wondered if Jacob was aware of what Bella had made him promise. If he was, he was obviously okay with it. Not for the first time, Edward thought that Jake was probably a better man than he was.

Jacob turned his attention to Bella and Edward quietly slipped out the door, taking one last glance at the only woman he would ever passionately love. Instead of a dying fifty-three year old woman, though, he saw the beautiful and vivacious seventeen year old girl he’d first known. Her passion had never changed, only shifted, and even though she was dying, Edward couldn’t help but be happy she had chosen to stay alive all those years ago.

It wasn’t until he was downstairs in the lobby waiting for Ellie that he realized he had never even thought about asking her if she wanted him to turn her. Somehow he’d known that she no longer considered it an option.


Ten minutes later, Ellie flew through the hospital doors, obviously frantic. She caught sight of Edward almost right away and skidded to a stop in front of him. Her words weren’t what Edward was expecting.

“You said she was waiting for you and now she’s dying. What the hell, Edward?”

He couldn’t quite decipher her tone, unable to tell whether she was angry or just upset. He didn’t know how to answer.

“I…I didn’t mean to…”

Ellie shook her head and interrupted him. “I’m not accusing you. I’m just saying it’s weird. And that you’re weird. But I kind of like you anyway.” Ellie gave him an awkward grin and then unexpectedly burst into tears.

“I’m sorry,” she choked out. “I’m just freaking out right now. I’m really freaking out.”

Edward frowned, wanting to take her in his arms and comfort her, but aware that would probably make her even more confused. Before he knew it, however, she had already laid her head on his chest and was crying into his shirt. He hoped she was too upset to notice how strange and hard his skin.

“Shh, it’s alright,” he said quietly. He lightly rubbed her back, careful to try and make his touch seem normal. After a few minutes, Ellie calmed down, still sniffling but in control of herself.

“You should probably get up to her room,” Edward said comfortingly. “She’ll know you’re there, even if she’s not awake. Now she’s waiting for you.”

Ellie nodded and took a step back. “Thank you,” she said sincerely, then turned and headed quickly up the stairs.

Edward watched her go and then walked slowly out of the hospital into the rain. He crossed the parking lot and stood at the edge of the trees, looking up at the window he knew to be Bella’s. He had counted windows from inside the building so he could keep his own silent vigil outside. He hadn’t expected it to be so short.

He waited.


Ellie steeled herself outside her mother’s door. She knew she had to face this, but she didn’t know where to begin. Instead of thinking about it, Ellie opened the door and entered the room. Her father was holding her mother’s hand and a few nurses stood by, obviously waiting for something to happen.

Ellie gazed at her father, amazed by his composure. She felt an odd sense of peace in the room, and though she didn’t quite understand it, the feeling made her calmer. Jake tore his gaze away from Bella’s and smiled at Ellie, even though it seemed a little forced.

“Hi, Elle. Are you okay?”

Ellie nodded and walked slowly to her mother’s other side. She looked at her for the first time and was surprised to see her eyes open, looking at her with concern. Bella was the one dying, but she was worried about Ellie. There was an oxygen mask over her nose and mouth to help her breathe and it looked like she was way past being able to say anything. Ellie worked hard to keep herself from bursting into tears again and begging her mother not to die, but nevertheless, a few slipped down her cheeks anyway.

Bella’s eyebrows furrowed and she shook her head ever so slightly, obviously telling Ellie not to cry. With one last show of strength, she moved her arm to try and take the oxygen mask off, but her father quickly and gently pulled it back onto the bed.

“Shh, don’t, Bells. I’ll do it.” He glanced at the nurses once, but Ellie knew he probably didn’t care whether or not they tried to stop him. These were Bella’s last moments and she was going to get them no matter what. Jacob gently took the oxygen mask from her face, and it was obvious right away that Bella began to struggle to get a breath. He made a move as if to put it back in place, but she glared at him and he stayed still.

Bella composed herself for a minute and then looked at Ellie. Ellie held her hand and managed to give her a weak smile. Bella’s thumb moved slowly back and forth over the back of Ellie’s hand, and even though Ellie knew even the tiniest movement was too much for her, she wanted it. She wanted her mother’s comfort until the last possible moment, though she couldn’t help feeling it should have been the other way around.

Bella opened her mouth to speak, but at first no sound came out. After a minute, she finally said in a firm, but quiet whisper, “I…have loved you my whole life, Ellie. Since before…I even knew you existed. You’re the best thing we’ve ever done.” Ellie nodded as more tears fell. She couldn’t speak.

Bella’s eyes were moist. She gave Ellie’s hand one last squeeze and then turned her head to look at Jacob.

He smiled at Bella, a brilliant smile that lit up the whole room, the whole world. Ellie didn’t expect to see that smile at a moment like this, but she was grateful that she did. She knew her dad’s smile was her mom’s favorite thing in the whole world, that he could make her do anything just by smiling at her.

Bella’s strength was obviously fading, but Ellie thought she heard her say quietly, with lips barely moving, “The sun,” as she gazed at Jacob. She smiled back at him and then closed her eyes.

Bella’s breathing grew more labored as the minutes dragged on and the heart monitor finally slowed to barely a crawl. Ellie didn’t know how long it took, minutes or hours or years, an interminable amount of time, before her mom drew her last ragged breath. Ellie sat perfectly still, staring at her lifeless and peaceful face, waiting for the next breath, willing her to take just one more…but it never came. She was aware of the nurses speaking quietly and the voice of Bella’s doctor announcing her time of death, bit still Ellie didn’t move.

When she finally looked at her father, his smile was gone, replaced by a look of utter agony. It almost hurt worse than knowing her mother was dead. She didn’t know what to say, so she didn’t say anything at all.

The nurses and doctors gave them more time, but finally, Ellie felt a gentle hand on her shoulder. She still couldn’t understand what people were saying and she felt an insane urge to laugh as she realized she felt like one of the kids in a Peanuts cartoon, hearing the incessant “blahblahblah” drone of their teacher. She saw her dad nod, though, and figured he knew what was happening. She would just follow his lead.

Ellie looked back at her mom’s face, wondering where she was now that her body was no longer occupied. The strangest memories were coming back to her, flipping through her mind like images in a photo album. Being sick in bed with the flu and her mom reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe out loud to make her feel better, baking batches and batches of brownies for a Christmas party with all of her dad’s friends who had humongous appetites, hearing her mom cheer as she rode her bike without training wheels for the first time, waving goodbye on the first day of school, trying on dresses for her senior prom…

Suddenly, Ellie was aware that she was gasping for air, crying loud and wrenching sobs. She couldn’t stop shaking and the room was spinning and she wanted to go with her mom, just lay down next to her in the narrow bed and never move. She soon felt a pair of strong arms around her, though, and a soft, deep voice was talking into her hair. She turned and clung to her dad, not caring that it made her feel five years old again. She wanted to be five years old again, to be able to live her life over and just have more time.

She felt him pick her up effortlessly and carry her into the hallway, where he sat down in a chair with her in his lap. He didn’t speak, just rubbed comforting circles into her back and held her tightly. She cried until she felt like she couldn’t cry anymore.

She slowly drew in deep breaths after her tears had ceased and laid her head against her dad’s shoulder. “I love you, daddy,” she said quietly, aware that she hadn’t called him “daddy” since she was a teenager.

He kissed her forehead. “I love you, too, Ellie.” She was amazed at his composure, at his dry eyes, at his resolute strength. She had thought it was going to be the other way around, that she would have to comfort him, but unexpectedly the tables had turned. Her heart felt more full at that moment than she ever thought possible, with despair and sorrow and love and a strange sort of joy she couldn’t even place.

Slowly, she got off her father’s lap and sighed, rubbing her eyes and running her fingers through her tangled hair. She knew she looked like a mess. She realized quite suddenly that she was absolutely exhausted and all she wanted to do was sleep.

Jacob stood and took her hand, leading her downstairs and out of the hospital. They didn’t speak as they walked to the truck and climbed inside. Ellie leaned her head against the window and closed her eyes. Unexpectedly, she felt a strange warmth on her face and her closed eyelids glowed a faint reddish orange. She opened her eyes to see the sunshine peeking out from behind a cloud for the first time in what felt like, and probably was, days. She smiled as she felt the truck’s engine rumble into life underneath them and her dad pulled out of the parking space his truck had occupied almost constantly for the last week. They passed by the edge of the trees and a flash of movement caught Ellie’s eye.

Edward stepped out into the sunlight and stared at her as they passed. Ellie could have sworn she saw his skin glitter like a million tiny diamonds in the sunlight, but when she rubbed her eyes and looked back, he was gone.


Well, how was it? Please let me know what you think...I've been absent from this story so long I don't remember what it feels like to get reviews for it! There's not much more of this left at ALL. I'm going to feel so accomplished to actually get an entire multi-chapter story finished!

BTW, if you're a fan of Narnia, check out the podcast I cohost all about Narnia fanfiction and Narnia itself: www.ascastpodcast.com

Feb. 22nd, 2009

The Guardian, Chapter Eight

So this chapter actually came a little unexpectedly. I didn't plan on devoting a whole chapter to this meeting, but when I started writing I found I really liked Edward and Ellie's dynamic. So, now the story is one chapter longer than originally planned, but I think it's okay because I actually...well, am happy with the way this turned out. So, without further ado, here's chapter eight...

 

Chapter Eight, Deja-vuCollapse )

Feb. 2nd, 2009

The Guardian, Chapter Seven

Chapter Seven, Twilight

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I'm aware this chapter might not have been what you expected and am prepared to get some negative reviews. It won't make me rewrite, but if it makes you feel better to be mad at me, go for it! (Although this really applies more to ff.net reviews than LJ ones.)


Jan. 14th, 2009

The Guardian, Chapter Six

The Guardian
Chapter Six: No Words

Bella tried to hide her surprise.  She never expected Jacob to be the one to initiate contact with Edward, or any other vampire in the world, for that matter.  When she finally stopped staring at Jacob in shock, Bella once again focused her attention on the trees. 

In a few moments, Edward stepped out into the moonlight, closely followed by Alice.  Edward looked wary, apparently as surprised as Bella that it had been Jacob who called his name.  Alice was back to her normal self, bouncing on the balls of her feet, smiling happily, ecstatic to see Bella again.

 

the rest under the cut...Collapse )



So, there is now a companion piece to this story written from Jacob's POV; the link can be found in my profile on ff.net HERE.

Jan. 7th, 2009

The Guardian, Chapter Five

Chapter Five is done already! Whoohoo!

Okay, a few things first...

Those few of you that read this on my LJ, I have a HUGE favor to ask.

I also write Chronicles of Narnia fanfic, and luckily, have been nominated for some Narnia FanFiction Awards! My story, Awake, is nominated for Best New Story of 2008 and I am also in the running for Best New Author of 2008. I would appreciate your vote more than you know, and it will only take SECONDS out of your day! Please vote for me HERE! And read my story if you also love Narnia!

Onto the story...

Chapter Five: Averted Disaster

 


Jan. 5th, 2009

The Guardian, Chapter Four

The Guardian
Chapter Four: A Vision

            He waited patiently for days to receive a letter and never even really considered the thought that it might not happen. It would be full of stories about Ellie – how she smiled, when she laughed, when she cried, how much she slept – and it would also be full of unspoken affection that Bella somehow found essential to try and hide from him.  Edward would know it was there, though, because otherwise, she wouldn’t have written the letter in the first place.

text under the cutCollapse )

 

Jan. 3rd, 2009

The Guardian, Chapter Three

Title: The Guardian
Summary: After the events of Eclipse, Edward can't bring himself to take away Bella's humanity.  Ten years later, when Bella gives birth to her first child with Jacob Black, Edward simply can't stay away.  To his surprise, he doesn't even want to.

Chapter Three: Pieces

            Bella lay silently in bed watching the clock slowly tick from one minute to the next.  The house was silent, Ellie had been asleep for a few hours already, and Jacob was still conspicuously absent from her side.

He was supposed to be home hours earlier, but a phone call around eight o’clock told Bella that Embry’s truck unexpectedly broke down just outside of camp.  Jacob apologized a million times, but there wasn’t much he could do except wait for a tow truck.  Considering they were in the middle of nowhere, there was no telling how long it would take.  Bella had almost cried on the phone.  She just wanted him home.

            Since speaking to Edward the day before, Bella had longed for her husband.  Part of her felt guilty, though in her heart she knew she hadn’t done anything wrong.  She really just wanted the comfort that Jake always brought her.

Before the phone call, Bella planned to tell him everything that happened between her and Edward as soon as he got home.  She had rehearsed her speech, along with her million apologies and reassurances, but now, four hours later, her courage was waning.  Jacob would be exhausted by the time he climbed into bed, and Bella didn’t want to give him another sleepless night.  She would just wait until the morning.

Only a few minutes later, Bella heard the garage door slowly creaking upwards and Jacob trying to silently make his way through the house.  Bella expected him to appear in their bedroom doorway, but instead, his soft footsteps turned into Ellie’s room.

Though she wasn’t sure why she was pretending, Bella closed her eyes and concentrated on making her breathing soft and even.  She didn’t have the strength to deal with this at the moment, to look him in the eye and lie.  After only a minute in Ellie’s room, Jacob came into their bedroom.  Bella heard him stop at the edge of the bed, probably checking to see if she was asleep.  Apparently, her little act fooled him, because he went straight into the bathroom.  The shower turned on after only a few seconds and Bella released a sigh of relief.  One confrontation averted.

Bella tried as hard as she could to actually fall asleep before Jacob climbed into bed, thinking that somehow that would make her feel less guilty about tricking him before, but she didn’t succeed.  Instead, she figured there was no use pretending anymore, and rolled onto her other side, facing the bathroom door.

It opened five minutes later and her eyes immediately met Jacob’s, then trailed down his very naked frame.  Clothes had never been one of Jake’s main priorities.

“Hey,” she said quietly.  “How was camping?”

Jake frowned.  “I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to wake you up.”  He quickly snapped the bathroom light off and pulled back the covers on his side of the bed.  “Camping was good.  Except, you know, for the last part…breaking down, tow truck, that sort of thing.”

Jake pulled Bella into his body and kissed the top of her head.  “How was your weekend?  You didn’t miss me too much, did you?”  He chuckled and Bella could feel his chest vibrate underneath her cheek. 

“Haha, so funny.  I did miss you, though,” she said.  Bella kissed his shoulder and sighed.  “It was…um…”

Bella trailed off as Jake began trailing feather light kisses along her neck, sucking just below her ear.

“You were saying?” he said cheekily.

Bella smiled and tilted her head back, but immediately started to feel those annoying pangs of guilt she had conveniently pushed aside only minutes earlier.  She bit her lip as her breathing began to get shorter, not from Jacob’s attentions, but from a sort of panic at having to confess her whereabouts the day before.

“Jacob, wait.  Stop.”  Bella pulled away and put her hand firmly in the middle of his chest, keeping him away from her.  “I have to tell you something.”

Jake stayed very still and stared at her, surprise written on his face.  She could tell something about her tone alarmed him and could already read the questions in his eyes.

“Okay, just…listen.  I have to tell you this now because it would be horrible of me to wait and…I don’t want to.  And I wish it wouldn’t have happened, but…”

Bella took a deep breath and stared at the wall beyond Jacob’s head.

“I saw him yesterday,” she said very quietly.

Jacob immediately jerked away at her words and sat up in bed.  “What are you talking about, Bella?”  Obvious rage bubbled just beneath his surface.

“Calm down, Jake, please,” Bella begged.  “It’s not like you think.  Just wait until you hear the whole thing…”  She sat up and placed a tiny hand on his broad back.

“Do I even need to?” he hissed.  The accusation was unspoken, but Jake’s meaning was clear.

Yes, you do need to, Jake.  I didn’t do anything wrong,” Bella said firmly.  It hurt to remember the times in the past that she definitely had wronged both Jacob and Edward because of her own selfishness, but she had learned from her mistakes.  This time she was loyal to her husband.  Mostly.

Bella started speaking rapidly about waking up to find the flowers in Ellie’s crib and how much it alarmed her, looking up what they meant on the computer, and deciding to confront Edward directly before he could sneak up on her again.

“Jake, I told him to stop and that he couldn’t see me or Ellie anymore.  I did, I swear.  I mean, I appreciate the gesture, that he wants to protect my daughter, but that’s our job.  We’re her parents and I don’t want him interfering in her life or our life because we worked so hard…”  Bella stopped and choked back tears as Jacob slowly turned to face her, an incredulous look on his face.

            “Do you really mean that?  You honestly told him you didn’t want to see him again?”

            Bella nodded and bit her lip.  “Yes.  I said it and I mean it.  I love you, Jake.  I chose you.  I chose to be happy and build a life with you.  I love our life.”

            Jacob stared at her for a moment longer and then abruptly pulled her into his arms.  “You know, I think I love you, Bells.”

            Bella laughed quietly and tucked her head under his chin.  “So you’re not mad at me?  Or…you know, disappointed?”  Bella internally rolled her eyes at herself.  Sometimes it felt like she was still a child, more from her own insecurities and shortcomings than anything else.  She could only imagine Ellie coming to her with the same words in a few years after stealing a cookie from the cookie jar or something.  She hated her constant need to be reassured, but it was something she couldn’t seem to shake.

            Jacob rubbed her back and said softly, “I am so far from mad at you.  I don’t even know what to think.  It’s kind of…shocking, I guess.”

            Bella frowned and pulled far enough away to see his face.  “Why?’

            Jacob smiled and kissed her quickly.  “I guess we just need to have more faith in each other.  I always wanted you to say no to him, but a part of me just…thought it might never happen.  I almost can’t believe it.”  He grinned and pulled her closer again.  “I feel like we should celebrate or something.  Throw a party.  I feel like running around screaming ‘She chose me!’ all over again.” 

            Bella laughed and climbed onto his lap, pushing him back down on the bed.  “Oh, we can celebrate.  It’s just going to be a private party,” she teased.  Bella pulled her nightgown over her head and tossed it to the side.

            Jacob raised his eyebrows and said very seriously.  “Well…okay.  If you insist.”

***

            Later, after they made love (twice), Bella lay comfortably in Jacob’s arms.  She felt a sense of peace that had been noticeably absent all weekend and was relieved to find herself once again enshrouded by it.  She wasn’t stupid, and she knew exactly where it came from – it was Jacob.  It had always been Jacob.  Even after all of her bad choices, unforgiveable hurt, and beyond ordinary circumstances, he still loved her.  It was a sensual and easy love, built on friendship and, somehow, mutual respect.  Bella had never really seen a successful marriage in her life, considering the only people she had as an example were her own mother and father, but she felt that somehow, she had done alright anyway.

            “I love you, Bells,” Jake whispered into her hair.

            Bella smiled and snuggled closer to him, finally drifting off to sleep.  “I love you, too, Jake.”  This time when she spoke those words there were no tears or pain, only perfect, blissful contentment.

***

            The next Saturday, Bella walked quickly out to the mailbox to retrieve the mail.  She left Ellie inside unattended since it was so bitterly cold, even for an early April afternoon, and hurried back inside.  Ellie was still bouncing happily in her little seat, reaching up for the toys on the mobile positioned above her and looking at her reflection in the mirror.

            Bella threw the mail down on the kitchen table and sat down to go through it.  It was mostly bills for both the house and the garage Jacob owned in town, and, of course, tons of junk mail.  When she got to the bottom of the pile, a plain white envelope caught her attention.

            There was no stamp, just her name written in a curving, graceful hand, on the front.  Obviously, he had not mailed the letter, but put it there himself after the mail came and Jacob was at work, confident that Bella would be the one to find it.  Bella had conveniently left this part of her conversation with Edward, the part about her possibly writing to him, out of her explanation of events to Jacob. 

            Bella carefully picked up the envelope and then put it back down again quickly.  She stared at it for a full five minutes, unmoving, thinking about the best course of action. 

            After a bit, Ellie started fussing and Bella came back to reality, looking over at her daughter.  All at once, her mind was firmly made.  She stood and grabbed the envelope, then began to slowly tear it in two.  All at once she stopped, almost against her will, it seemed.  She sighed and shook her head, then quickly ran back into her and Jacob’s bedroom before she could change her mind again.

            She wouldn’t use it, she rationalized.  She wouldn’t write to him.

            She just wanted to have it.

            Bella opened her jewelry box on the dresser and pulled out a small key from underneath one of the tiny drawers.  Though Jacob had made the trunk the key belonged to for her, he didn’t know where she kept it anymore.  As Ellie began to fuss a bit louder, her whimpers turning into a full fledged cry, Bella opened the closet and began digging through the junk piled on the floor until she got to the very back.  The small trunk still stood there, dutifully guarding the secrets of her past, the evidence of the time spent in company of mythical creatures like vampires and werewolves.

            The lock turned easily even though it hadn’t been opened in years, and Bella carefully laid the still sealed, but half torn envelope inside next to trunk’s other treasures – a beat up old CD, a picture album that was only half full, a charm bracelet with only two measly charms attached, and an unbelievably valuable engagement ring.  She barely spared the other items a glance before closing and locking the trunk once more.  It was one thing to not think about them, but another to completely throw the only things that physically linked her to Edward out of her life.  If they weren’t there, it was like everything between them was just a dream.  Maybe it would be better that way, but for now, Bella couldn’t imagine parting with a piece of her heart.

            As Ellie’s cries increased, Bella stood up and put the closet back to the way it was, putting the envelope out of her mind for good.  She then hurried back out to the living room and scooped Ellie up into her arms, making comforting noises. 

Bella had a feeling, deep inside, that after having Ellie, she had found the final piece of her heart.

The Guardian, Chapter Two

Title: The Guardian
Summary: After the events of Eclipse, Edward couldn't bring himself to take away Bella's humanity. Ten years later, when Bella gives birth to her first child with Jacob Black, Edward simply can't stay away. To his surprise, he doesn't even want to.

Chapter Two: Memories to Life

Bella didn’t know what to think. She was convinced that Edward had said his final goodbye, that he wasn’t going to try and contact her anymore and that he wouldn’t be a part of her daughter’s life in any way; however, there was tangible evidence, once again, that he had snuck into her house, into her daughter’s room, for the second time. Who’s to say he hadn’t done it more than that, as well? It was frustrating beyond belief knowing no matter what she did, she couldn’t keep him out.

Honestly, what was he playing at? Bella didn’t get it, and instead of feeling touched by his simple gesture like she was last time, she was beyond irritated – fuming mad, really.

She stalked around the house all morning with Ellie in her arms, crying up a storm. The baby seemed to pick up on her mother’s feelings, but try as she might, Bella couldn’t control herself. Angry tears streamed down her face for hours, and only after she passed by a mirror in the hallway and caught a glimpse of her crazed mien out of the corner of her eye did Bella pull herself together. It wasn’t fair to Ellie to act so selfish.

Finally, after another hour, both Bella and Ellie seemed to be back to a functioning, if not completely normal, state of mind. Ellie was asleep in her swing, and Bella sat staring at the now slightly withered little bouquet of violets that she had carefully laid on the kitchen table. Her mind, for some reason, was almost completely blank, until one thought suddenly intruded.

Why blue violets? She and Edward had never discussed blue violets, Bella was sure. They were not even her favorite flower. What did they mean?

Bella sighed and rested her chin in her hand, narrowing her eyes at the little buds. Her mind wandered back to her first days in Forks, looking for clues – the first day in biology, the bonfire on First Beach and her shameless flirtation with Jacob, the Quileute stories about the cold ones, Googling the…

Wait. Google. Of course.

Bella almost laughed at the irony. ‘When in doubt, Google it!’ was apparently still her motto when it came to Edward’s mysteries. She hurried over to the old computer in the corner and turned it on, tapping her fingers impatiently. Though this computer wasn’t nearly as slow as the old monster from her father’s house, it would still be completely impractical for people that actually frequently used the internet.

As soon as Firefox popped up, Bella typed “blue violets” into the search engine, but didn’t see anything that looked remotely helpful. She then tried, “what do blue violets mean?” and still didn’t have any luck. She sighed and thought for a moment, then rolled her eyes at how hard she was making this. “Meanings of flowers” had to work, right?

“Here we go,” Bella mumbled. The first two links weren’t useful at all, but the third was exactly what she was looking for.

Blue violets, according to Phillips’s Florals, signified, “Watchfulness, faithfulness,” or were supposed to convey to the receiver that the sender “will always be true.” Bella stared at the computer screen and slowly shook her head, beginning to giggle wildly. It was a completely inappropriate response and she certainly didn’t find any of it funny, but she was out of ideas as to what to do.

It was just so Edward, and it certainly explained his particular choice of blue violets.

**

An hour later, Bella pulled into her father’s driveway, and before she could even get out of the car, Charlie was out of the house and unbuckling Ellie from her carseat. Bella grinned and shook her head as she shut her door, grabbing Ellie’s diaper bag and bouncer from the trunk.

“Hey Bella,” Charlie called over his shoulder as he began walking up the sidewalk to the front door.

“Hey dad, nice to see you, too!” Bella teased as she followed him through the front door.

Bella put all of Ellie’s gear down in the living room and briefly sat on the couch.

“Her diapers, formula, the works – it’s all in the diaper bag,” she informed her father, who was much too busy making faces at the baby to really pay attention to her. Charlie was constantly teased these days, in a good natured manner, of course, about what a sap he turned into when his grand daughter was around. Baby talk, funny faces and silly noises seemed to be his specialty. Bella never ceased to be amazed by the changes that a baby could bring to people, herself included; certainly anything that could get that sort of response from her usually stoic father was pretty impressive.

“Alright, dad, I’m gonna go run some errands. I’ll be back in a few hours or so. I might go home and try to clean before Jake comes home tomorrow night, so if I’m not back by the time you want to get rid of her, just call my cell, okay?”

“Bells, take as long as you want. Ellie and I will have a great time. Sue said she might stop by later, too.” Charlie rose from the couch with Ellie in his arms and kissed Bella’s forehead. “See you later, honey.”

Bella smiled and gave her father a one armed hug, then leaned down blew a tiny raspberry on Ellie’s tummy. “Bye bye, baby. Have fun with grandpa.”

Bella waved as she made her way out the door, but Charlie was already bouncing around the living room singing some sort of silly song to Ellie.

Bella sighed as she got into the car and pulled out of the driveway, remembering for a moment the shiny silver Volvo that had so often been parked there waiting for her in the mornings before high school. Those memories soon turned to thoughts of her old, beat up red truck, however, which led to thoughts of Jacob. He had always been and always would be her own personal sun.

For selfish reasons, she wished she could bring Ellie with her on this particular “errand,” but she was positive this was one thing the baby would be better left out of, even though much like her father, Ellie was turning out to be a source of constant joy and strength Bella could definitely use at the moment. Bella slowly drove through town, purposely not thinking about where she was headed until she was suddenly turning onto the still immaculately kept lane leading to the Cullen house. For some reason, she expected it to be overgrown with weeds and vines, considering it had stood empty since the Cullens left town ten years ago, but it was still as perfect as the last time she’d been there.

Bella swallowed around the lump in her throat, clutching the steering wheel tightly. She knew Edward would meet her here, had probably followed her, in fact, but part of her still couldn’t believe that she was about to see him again after ten years. At first she had contemplated trying to find the meadow, sure he would be there, as well, but considering their previous history in that spot, Bella chose the next best place – and one that she wouldn’t get hopelessly lost trying to find.

As the house came into view, Bella immediately saw a tall figure standing on the porch. She looked away quickly, her breath now coming in rapid spurts, and put the car into park. Her hands were shaking and probably had been for some time, but she hadn’t realized. She somehow made it out of the car without stumbling and walked slowly to the steps, staring at the ground the whole way. Bella didn’t know what she expected to happen once she looked at him, but she was so nervous she thought she might throw up.

Finally, she raised her eyes to his, which she knew had been focused intently on her the whole time, and felt her breath catch in her throat. Of course, he was the same – still seventeen, topaz eyes, bronze hair, and perfect marble white skin. Even though she knew his physical appearance inside and out, it was still a shock to her system to see him so unchanged when Bella knew she didn’t look anything like the eighteen year old girl he had last seen.

Her hair was shorter, lines were starting to appear on her face, and after giving birth, her figure in no way resembled the svelte teen she had once been. Her hips were wider, her breasts larger, and an unwanted twenty pounds of baby weight still lingered on her frame. While she once would have been embarrassed by her physical imperfections, however, she now found them almost insignificant. They meant things had happened to her, that she had grown and changed, and that was perfectly natural.

Had Edward changed at all?

They simply stared at each other for a full three minutes, and Bella found herself starting to relax. She could breathe normally again, and though her hands had not stopped shaking, they were shoved tightly into the pockets of her coat.

Edward broke the silence and said softly, his voice awed, “You’re still beautiful.”

Bella smiled tentatively and exhaled. She didn’t know what to say now that they were face to face.

“Edward, I…I don’t know where to begin,” she mumbled.

“You’re upset with me,” Edward sighed. “I can tell.”

Bella stopped herself from rolling her eyes and shooting back a sarcastic, “You think so?” like Jacob would; honestly, he sometimes rubbed off on her too much. Instead she simply nodded and slowly sat down on one of the porch stairs. Edward sat, too, but had the good sense to stay several feet away.

“I am upset with you,” Bella began, trying to choose her words carefully. “I mean, really, Edward, what are you doing here after all this time?”

Edward looked confused for a moment, as if the answer should be obvious. “I’m looking out for you. For you, and for Ellie. She’s beautiful, Bella.”

“Thank you,” Bella automatically replied. She got that compliment about her daughter quite often.

There was an awkward silence for a moment before Bella continued. “But Edward, I don’t…want you to look out for me. Or for Ellie.” It almost pained her to say the words, because a small part of her knew it wasn’t completely true. “I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself these days. Plus, I have a…husband,” Bella finished lamely. She still felt guilty using that word in front of Edward, considering his feelings for her obviously hadn’t changed much.

Edward didn’t look at her, but continued gazing forward, his expression unreadable. If anyone else would have seen him, they would have sworn he was a statue, carved to sit and forever watch over the empty house behind them.

“I mean, Edward, I appreciate the fact that you want to do that for me, and especially for Ellie, but…that’s what I’m for. That’s what Jacob is for, to keep her safe and happy. I just don’t…”

“You just don’t want me around her. I know, Bella.” Edward turned tortured eyes upon her and this time it was Bella that looked away. “Don’t think that I haven’t regretted letting you go every day since it happened.”

Bella forced herself to hold back a sudden and unexpected sob and choked out, “I know it’s hard for you. Sometimes it’s hard for me, too. But…” she sighed and turned her face towards the sky and cold air, blinking back tears. “Edward, if I lived every day regretting it, I would be miserable.” She hadn’t expected to come to the heart of the matter quite so quickly, but Edward did have a way of getting straight to the point.

“Like you think I am,” Edward said with a bitter tinge to his voice.

Bella shook her head and said slowly, “I don’t know if you’re miserable, Edward. I hope you aren’t.”

Edward didn’t respond for a minute and then grudgingly admitted, “I’m not completely miserable. I’m not happy, but…I’m happy because I know you’re happy.” It looked like it hurt him to admit as much.

“I wouldn’t change anything, Edward, especially now that I have Ellie. You told me that I would thank you one day and I am. Every bit of me is grateful that you were strong enough to force me to go because I couldn’t have done it. I wouldn’t have. But Jacob and Ellie are just…” Bella stopped, afraid she was saying too much. The problem was that she wanted to say everything to him and watch his eyes sparkle at her joy and his lips slowly curve upwards in a smile as he gazed at her.

But those images were from the past, and the point of this meeting was to firmly leave the past in the dust behind her.

Edward was gazing at her evenly, memorizing the sight of her. He said very quietly, “I can’t leave you completely alone. You should know that.”

Bella put her head in her hands, frustrated not only with Edward, but herself, as well. She hated that those words still thrilled her.

“Okay, look. Can we make a deal here? Some kind of compromise? Because Edward, you can’t keep sneaking into my house, especially into Ellie’s room. I’m not…comfortable or anywhere near comfortable with that,” Bella said firmly.

Edward slowly nodded and said thoughtfully, “I’m sorry. I should have realized, I know, but I really didn’t understand that that would bother you so much.”

Bella forced herself, once again, to not make a sarcastic remark. Honestly, had vampires always been this dense? Were they always so oblivious to human emotions or social mores?

“I know, and I understand,” Bella said patiently. “Just don’t do it again.”

“I won’t. I’m sorry that I’ve upset you.” Edward’s voice was sorrowful.

“It’s alright. Look, maybe, if you want to know how I’m doing from now on, just…maybe I can write to you? Not all the time, not even a lot, but, just to…say hi and tell you about Ellie and everything. I just can’t see you again, Edward. And you can’t see Ellie.”

Bella abruptly stood up and brushed off her jeans, clutching the car keys in her hand.

Edward rose, as well, moving his arm as if to reach out to her, but quickly yanked it back when Bella flinched away. “I’m sorry,” he said again. Bella was sure he meant for much more than just the events of the last twenty four hours.

“I’m sorry, too,” she whispered. “Just…send me your address in the next few weeks, okay? And I’ll save it.” They stood there for a moment and looked at each other, Bella leaving most of her feelings unspoken, and then she slowly began to back away towards her car.

Walking backwards, though, was not the right decision for a clumsy individual like Bella. She suddenly felt her foot slip on a loose rock, and for a moment was sure she was going to really hurt herself when she landed. Before she could hit the ground, however, she felt icy hands gently pulling her upwards, back into a standing position. Edward’s fingers slowly grazed down her arms and she shivered, whether from the cold or from the emotion his touch evoked, she couldn’t tell. She was frozen to the spot, staring at his face, so close for the first time in so long.

Edward smiled slowly as he looked into her eyes, then carefully leaned down and kissed her forehead, his lips lingering against her skin for a few seconds. She heard him inhale deeply to fill himself with the memory of her scent.

“I love you, Bella,” he said firmly.

Bella closed her eyes, and by the time she opened them, he was gone.

She felt a lone tear roll down her cheek, which she hastily wiped away. Bella stood rooted to the spot for a while, then mechanically made her way back to the car. Before she climbed in, she said very quietly, even though he could no longer hear, “I love you, too, Edward.”

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The Guardian, Chapter One

Title: The Guardian
Summary: After the events of Eclipse, Edward couldn't bring himself to take away Bella's humanity. Ten years later, when Bella gives birth to her first child with Jacob Black, Edward simply can't stay away. To his surprise, he doesn't even want to.

Chapter One: Blue Violets

Christmas night, the first night her baby was home from the hospital, was the first time Bella had smelled his scent in ten years. It had been the strangest, most surreal moment of her life, mostly because his smell was emanating from her daughter. At first she’d been irrationally scared, though she wasn’t sure why, but that feeling turned quickly to a bittersweet contentment.

As she’d fed Ellie for only the third time at home, then rocked her back to sleep in the comfortable rocking chair that had been a gift from her father, Bella calmed down from the shock of knowing Edward was near for the first time in so long and reflected on her emotions. She had always seemed to feel things much deeper than other people. That particular character trait was revealed in every decision she had ever made, but until she met Edward when she was seventeen, she never knew she could feel so much.

Bella still loved Edward as much as she did on the day she realized he would never, ever willingly turn her into a vampire, and she still loved her husband as much as she did on the day she married him. She loved two men, almost exactly the same amount, but in completely different ways. Now she loved Jake in a new way, as well – as the father of her child.

That romantic love for both Edward and Jacob, however, almost paled in comparison to what she felt at the moment for the sleeping baby in her arms. This was a kind of love she had never experienced before, had never even really contemplated.

It was violent, primal, and achingly beautiful. She now understood the fierce protectiveness that most mothers so often exhibited and knew that if Ellie’s life was ever in danger, she would do anything to defend her. She would not hesitate to lie, cheat, steal, or kill if it meant making Ellie happy and safe.

The thought that Edward had touched Ellie, probably very gently and lovingly, brought a lump to her throat. Though Ellie was Jacob’s daughter and she would not change that fact for anything, it was hard not to imagine what could have happened if Edward was, well, not a vampire. If he was just a normal man, Ellie would have been his.

Wouldn’t she?

It was a thought Bella contemplated many times over the years. Did she love Edward like she did because he was a vampire? Would she have loved him just as fiercely if he was human? She would never know the answer, though deep in her heart she felt it was a no, she would not love him like she did if he wasn’t a vampire. It was simple really – his entire identity was wrapped up in what he was, and if he wasn’t an immortal, he wouldn’t be the same man. It had taken her a long time to come to that realization.

When Edward refused to change her so many years ago, she was furious. No matter how much she fought, screamed, cried, and pleaded, he stayed firm. With a wry smile, he had told her that one day she would understand and thank him. For the longest time, even after she married Jake, she didn’t believe him. Though she loved her husband passionately, she couldn’t stop thinking about what her life would have been like had she made Edward eventually give in.

Now, though, she finally understood. If he had bitten her, if he had turned her, she never would have had this. She never would have been a mother and experienced all of the incredible feelings, hopes, and dreams that her child brought into Bella’s world.

In one day she suddenly understood everything Rosalie had tried to tell her so long ago, and understood that no matter how much she and Edward loved each other, being human was so much more significant than forever.

All she could think at the moment on her baby’s second night in the world was thank you thank you thank you thank you.

**

The next morning, Bella woke to an empty bed and for a moment felt completely disoriented. A few seconds later, the smell of frying bacon brought her back to her senses and she grinned, falling back against the pillows. Oh Jake…

Bella soon forced herself out of bed and padded silently to the kitchen and family room. She once again found Ellie in her swing, this time facing the television, where a rousing episode of Sesame Street was playing.

Bella snorted, trying very hard not to burst into laughter.

Sesame Street, Jake? She’s barely twenty four hours old.”

Jake whirled around from the stove, a spatula in his hand, and grinned widely.

“Yeah, well, it’s never too early to start learning your ABC’s, right? And that Cookie Monster’s a pretty cool guy.” He turned back around to tend to the bacon and eggs he was frying and said over his shoulder, “I knew the smell of bacon would get you up.”

Bella leaned down and tugged Ellie’s hat snugly around her ears, then went to the kitchen and began getting plates and utensils out of the cabinets. She was already contemplating whether or not to voice her suspicions on Edward’s whereabouts when Jake said very quietly, the laughter absent from his voice, “He was here last night, wasn’t he?”

Bella jumped and immediately dropped the plate she was holding.

Considering that almost all of their dinnerware was made out of heavy plastic due to Bella’s clumsiness, it didn’t break, but the effect was the same.

She was silent, not sure whether to deny his claim or agree.

Jacob’s voice once again broke through her thoughts. “I could smell him all over Ellie’s room this morning, Bells. Did he speak to you?”

Bella could tell Jake was trying very hard to control his voice, all the while still pushing the eggs around the skillet like it was no big deal and they discussed Edward every day.

Finally, she swallowed and found her voice.

“He didn’t speak to me. I didn’t even see him. I…” she paused and sighed, walking over to Jake and leaning against the counter next to him. “I smelled him last night when I fed Ellie.”

Jake began shoveling the eggs into a bowl with a little too much ferocity. Bella could see the veins in his neck beginning to stand out, and though she knew he hadn’t phased in a couple of years, she began to worry what would happen if he lost control around Ellie.

“Jake, you need to get a hold of yourself. Don’t ever lose your temper with Ellie around. Ever,” Bella spoke calmly, but very firmly.

As soon as the words were out of her mouth, Jake froze and shook his head. He took a step back from the stove and motioned to the food, mumbling, “Will you take care of that?”

Before Bella knew it, he was out the front door and walking quickly down the sidewalk. Bella sighed, but for some reason, she was still eerily calm. She didn’t really believe he would let himself phase again. He had grown up too much to let himself be ruled by his emotions. Herself, on the other hand, she wasn’t too sure about.

After a few minutes, Bella methodically piled the eggs and bacon onto two plates and set them on the table, then walked over to the swing and unbuckled Ellie from the contraption. Honestly, for never having even held a baby before in her life, this felt strangely natural. All she had to do was look at Ellie and everything felt right with the world, Edward or no Edward.

Bella brought Ellie into the kitchen and settled the baby in her new bouncer on the chair next to her.

“Don’t worry, daddy will be right back,” she cooed, smoothing the ridiculous amount of jet black hair on the newborn’s head. “We’re not going to worry about him, are we?”

“No, you’re not.” Jacob slipped back into the room as quickly as he’d left, looking completely back to normal. “Sorry,” he mumbled.

Bella smiled, trying to prove to him how unaffected she was by Edward’s unexpected manifestation.

“It’s okay. Come and eat your breakfast. Ellie’s getting impatient,” she teased.

Jacob settled into the chair next to her and eyed her suspiciously.

“You know, Bella, you’re strangely calm about this. I feel like I’m missing something.” Jake began shoveling eggs into his mouth at a rapid speed, his appetite still strong even though the wolf hadn’t made an appearance in quite a while. “I can’t exactly put a sign in the yard that says ‘NO VAMPIRES ALLOWED,’” Jake said dramatically.

Bella sighed and pushed the food around her plate. After a while, she said quietly, “I don’t think you’ll need to…I mean, I’ve been thinking about it, and…”

She struggled to find the right words, unsure whether or not she could convey the depth of her feelings and gratitude to Edward at the moment without making Jake misunderstand. She knew part of him expected her to fall to pieces all over again at the thought of her first love as she had so many times in the past; after all, Edward’s presence was something they never expected to deal with again, but suddenly, it was a very big reality. Bella knew it would be difficult for Jacob to comprehend just how unfazed she was by the whole ordeal. It was so very unlike her.

“I think he came here, Jake, just to…prove a point to me. Sort of as a final goodbye?” Bella attempted.

“I don’t get it.” Jacob frowned and shook his head.

Bella reached over and began to gently bounce Ellie, then sighed and tried again.

“When he wouldn’t…change me, you know I was furious. He said that one day I would thank him and understand. Jake, I’ve understood for years now that things happened exactly the way they should have because I can’t imagine my life without you.” Bella leaned over and quickly kissed Jake’s lips, then sat back down and started again. “But Jacob, I can’t even describe...” she gestured to Ellie, “how she makes me feel.”

Jacob lowered his fork and chewed thoughtfully. Bella let him contemplate her words for a few moments before continuing.

“It’s like she’s put everything into perspective. Now that she’s here, it’s like I can’t remember what the world was like without her. I don’t want to. I think he just wanted to see her, kind of like an ‘I told you so,’ you know?” Bella looked at Jacob eagerly, hoping she explained everything properly. “He knows I’m happy and I think he just wanted to let me know he’s happy for me. For us.”

Jacob sat silently for a minute, but still continued to eat. Nothing ever came between him and his food, no matter what emotions he was feeling, Bella mused; it was a fact which she always found humorous.

“So you’re not, you know, freaking out over this? You’re not going to…run off after him and leave me?” Jacob said the last part jokingly, but Bella knew it was definitely not a laughing matter. It tore her apart to think he still had those kinds of doubts about her love for him.

Bella rose and wrapped her arms around him from behind, leaning her chin lightly against his shoulder.

“No, I’m not freaking out over this. I know it’s not like me, because I’ve always freaked out about him, but for some reason it’s just different now.” Bella smiled and kissed Jake’s ear, then whispered quietly, “And I will never, ever leave you. Please don’t waste your time worrying about things like that.”

She felt Jacob relax, and then before she knew it he turned around and pulled her into his lap. He grinned at her before softly kissing her forehead, nose, and finally her lips.

“Okay,” he said simply.

Bella laughed, happy that he believed her so easily and trusted her so much. She started to lean in for another kiss, but abruptly stopped as Ellie began to fuss. Jake raised his eyebrows and looked towards the baby.

“I guess we better get used to that, hm?” Bella stood and picked Ellie up, noticing that she definitely had a full diaper. She grinned as she adjusted Ellie on her shoulder. “Oh daddy…I think it’s time for someone’s first poopy diaper change…”

Jacob wrinkled his nose, but rose obediently and followed Bella down the hall and into the nursery. As Bella laid Ellie out on the changing table and began to unsnap her little onesie, Jacob mumbled, “I think I’d rather smell baby poop than that God-awful leech smell.”

Bella turned and glared at Jake for moment, then sighed and said quietly, “You won’t have to smell it much longer. I really don’t think he’ll be coming back.”

**

Three months later found Ellie a happy, thriving baby, and frankly, Bella wasn’t sure what she had ever done to deserve having such an easy to please infant. Bella learned quickly what Ellie’s different cries meant, whether she was hungry, tired, not feeling well, or needed a diaper change, and unless one of those things was happening, she rarely fussed. She even slept through the night more often than not, usually at least seven hours, and also took a nap in the afternoon. Renee constantly told Bella how lucky she was, but warned her than an easy baby meant Ellie might very well be a terrible toddler.

That stage seemed very far off at the moment, though, so Bella simply enjoyed every day. Ellie knew the sound of her voice, as well as Jacob’s, and smiled every time she saw either one of them. Jacob was wonderful at getting her to giggle and coo, and he found delight in every new thing she learned. The fact that Ellie could now hold her head up had Jake constantly moving around the room, causing her to twist and turn and follow him with her gaze. Bella humored him when he swore their baby was a genius because surely no other child was that smart or agile at only three months old.

Though Bella knew Ellie would definitely grow tired of one particular tradition Bella had instigated only her third night home from the hospital, she had already made up her mind to do it until Ellie forced her stop. Every night before bedtime, Bella laid Ellie in her crib or bouncy seat, opened a book, and read out loud to her. At the moment, she was using this time as an excuse to re-read her favorite classics, like Wuthering Heights and Pride and Prejudice, but she was already collecting more popular children’s books like The Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter, and Charlotte’s Web that she looked forward to sharing with Ellie for the first time. She was determined that her child would have a love of reading and figured the best way to guarantee it was to never slack on these sessions, though half the time, Ellie was asleep before Bella finished a chapter.

One particular Friday night, Bella found herself completely alone with the baby for the first time since she was born. Jacob, only after much prodding, poking, and assurances from Bella that she would be fine, had gone camping with Quil and Embry and would be gone until Sunday night. So far, everything had gone smoothly – no broken dishes or burnt food and only one episode of crying from Ellie after Bella hadn’t gotten her bottle ready fast enough.

Both girls went to bed early and Ellie woke up only once at two o’clock in the morning wanting a bottle. When Bella put her back down forty five minutes later, there was absolutely nothing amiss in Ellie’s room.

Bella didn’t wake again until seven when she heard Ellie start to fuss from her crib. The bed felt too lonely without Jacob’s gigantic body there anyway, so there was absolutely no reason to want to stay snuggled under the covers. Bella yawned as she crawled out of bed and made her way to the nursery.

“Good morning, Ellie-bear,” Bella called cheerfully as she pushed open the door and walked over to the crib. “How’s my baby this morn…” Bella trailed off and simply stared at the sight that greeted her.

It wasn’t gruesome, scary, or even funny, just very puzzling.

Lying next to Ellie in the crib was a beautiful, very fresh bouquet of blue violets.

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