posted by groovychicklisa
"There's someone we'd like आप to meet." Edward said, and I knew that this was it.
I went to get Lily, who was waiting in the hallway with Alice. My दिल thudded violently, and I tried not to let how nervous I actually was show.
"Come on, sweetie." I took Lily's hand in mine and followed Alice back into the living room.
Everybody stared at us, immobile and silent. आप could have heard a pin drop, the room was so quiet. Edward came over to stand on Lily's other side, and I was grateful for his silent support. I really wanted to reach out and take his hand, to make sure that he was actually there, but I restrained myself.
Esme was the first to react. She got up from the couch, walked over to us and slowly crouched down in front of Lily.
"Hello, sweetheart." She कहा smilingly.
"Hi." Lily squeezed my hand even harder, and her other hand came up to supply a thumb for her mouth, like she did when she was nervous, but she didn't look away from Esme.
"I'm Esme, what's your name?"
"Lily." The thumb went back in.
"That's a very pretty name."
"It's a flower." Lily informed her.
"It is. I think it सूट्स आप very well."
Edward pulled a strand of hair behind Lily's ear, and she looked up at him before turning her attention back to Esme.
"Are आप my daddy's mommy?"
"I am." Esme confirmed.
Lily tilted her head to the side for a moment, as if pondering something. The thumb slipped out of her mouth, and I knew that the initial nervousness was over.
"I already have a grandma, my grandma Renée, but आप can be my grandma too if आप want." She finally said.
"I would like that very much, sweetheart." Esme smiled even wider, and I could see a few tears in her eyes.
Lily looked curiously over Esme's shoulder at the other unfamiliar faces in the room, bolder now that the initial anxiety of meeting so many new people was gone. Esme stood back up, and we all went over to the couch. I sat down between Esme and Carlisle and Lily climbed into my lap. Edward and Alice each claimed one of the armchairs.
Lily didn't seem to mind – या maybe she didn't notice – that all the eyes in the room were focused on her. She was leaning across Carlisle, looking curiously at Noah who was asleep in a bassinette in the corner of the couch.
"Would आप like a closer look?" Carlisle wondered.
Lily looked up at him, and nodded after a moment. Carlisle lifted her from my lap to his own, so that she was sitting right अगला to the bassinette.
"Can I touch him?" She asked reverently, one hand already outstretched.
"You have to be very careful." Rosalie said, leaning in to दिखाना her. "Like this." She brushed her finger lightly over Noah's cheek, and Lily mimicked her action.
"He's so tiny." She looked over her shoulder at me. "I was never that tiny."
"Sure आप were. Even smaller." I told her, and a disbelieving look appeared on her face. I couldn't help but laugh.
"Nu-huh." Her attention turned back to the sleeping baby, and I didn't contradict her. "Does he always sleep?"
"Definitely not." Emmett chuckled.
"Hey, Rose, weren't आप talking about taking him out for a walk?" Alice said, giving Rosalie a meaningful look. I wondered what they were up to.
"That's right." Rosalie agreed, nodding. "Would आप like to come, Lily? आप can push the stroller if आप want."
Aha. Time for some grown up talk.
"Can I, mommy?" Lily asked, looking up at me with bright eyes. "Please!"
"Sure, baby." I ruffled her hair.
"Yay!" She jumped down from Carlisle's lap and bounded over to Alice.
"Let's go then." Rosalie picked up Noah from the bassinette and Alice took Lily's hand before they left the room. After a moment, I heard the front door open and close.
"Hey, Rose, weren't आप talking about taking him out for a walk?" Alice looked meaningfully over at Rosalie. Thank you, sis. I knew Esme was bursting with questions, but they would have to wait until Lily wasn't in the room.
"That's right." Rosalie nodded, catching Alice's meaning. "Would आप like to come, Lily? आप can push the stroller if आप want."
"Can I, mommy?" Lily eagerly asked Bella. "Please!"
"Yay!" Lily got down from Carlisle's lap and stopped अगला o Alice.
"Let's go then." Rosalie said.
Alice took Lily द्वारा the hand and Rosalie picked up Noah. They left the room, and a moment later, the front door closed behind them.
"How long have आप been hiding this from us?" I could see the accusation in Esme's eyes as she stared at me. I was about to answer, but Bella beat me to it.
"It's not his fault, Esme." She said. "He didn't find out until last week."
"What?" Esme's eyes turned to Bella, but they were no longer accusing.
"I didn't know when आप left Forks." Bella explained. "I didn't find out until और than a महीना later, and I couldn't get a hold of any of you."
"Oh, sweetheart." Esme squeezed Bella's hand.
"It's OK. I mean, sure, it was hard. आप know Forks." Bella shrugged, but I saw a flash of pain as she recalled those months.
I hated picturing what Bella had had to go through; the kids in school, the adults around town who should have known better but who had probably been even और judgmental. It couldn't have been easy.
"She's five and a half?" Carlisle asked, and Bella nodded.
"Almost. She was born on May twenty-third."
"It must have been difficult for you." Esme said, her eyes soft with concern.
"It was." Bella nodded. "But I haven't regretted it for one moment."
A cold hand grasped my chest as I realized what she meant, the kind of choice that she'd had to make. I hadn't actually considered the fact that the situation could have had a very different outcome. I quickly averted my thoughts, not wanting to consider the possibility of that amazing little girl not existing.
"I managed to graduate, a little late, but still. Then I worked at Newton's for a साल before going to Seattle U." Bella was saying when I turned my attention back to the conversation. "Lily's always been an easy child, so it wasn't as hard as I had imagined, even if it wasn't a walk in the park. But I had Charlie, and my friends. Not many of them, but a few. We got through it."
"Oh, honey, I'm so sorry." Esme hugged Bella tightly.
"It's OK, Esme. Everything's worked out now. Thanks to Alice, really."
"How do आप mean?" Carlisle wondered.
"Well, Alice is Lily's first grade teacher, so that's how we met again." Bella explained. "Lily's started school a साल early, so she would be able to go with her best friend." She continued.
"I can imagine how surprised आप must have been to see her." Esme said, and Bella laughed.
"You have no idea."
"Well, I'm glad that coincidence made your paths cross, या we might never have gotten to meet Lily." Esme कहा gratefully.
"So am I." Bella agreed.
I was relieved that she didn't tell them about our first meeting; I didn't want them to know how I'd initially reacted. I was still ashamed of that.
"Do आप have photos?" Carlisle wondered eagerly.
"I think the CD आप burned for Alice is around here somewhere." Jasper got up from the सोफ़ा, सोफे and kneeled down in front of the TV, producing a disc from the shelf underneath the DVD-player. "Here it is."
He inserted the disc in the DVD, and Bella टिप्पणी जोड़ा गया हे on the pictures as they flashed across the screen.
Alice and Rosalie returned with Lily and Noah when we had just turned the टेलीविज़न off.
"He's awake, mommy, look." Lily told Bella excitedly. "Aunt Rosalie कहा that I can watch him eat."
Rosalie had दिया the baby to Emmett and gone into the रसोई, रसोईघर to heat up a bottle. She came back into the living room and sat down अगला to Emmett, who handed her back the baby.
"Do आप want to sit over here so आप can see better?" Rosalie asked Lily, who nodded and crawled up on the सोफ़ा, सोफे अगला to her.
"What's he eating?" Lily asked after a moment.
"Breast milk." Rosalie told her, and Lily wrinkled her nose. Everyone laughed. "It's what all शिशु eat." Rosalie added.
"He doesn't like chicken nuggets?"
"He's too little to eat chicken nuggets yet, but I'm sure he'll like it when he's older."
"I bet he will."
Lily watched intently as Rosalie finished feeding Noah, but when he had fallen asleep in his bassinette again, she started fidgeting on the couch. I realized that she was getting bored just sitting around.
"How about a walk down to the park?" I suggested. I knew there was a playground there to keep Lily occupied for a while.
Rosalie, Alice and Jasper opted to stay घर with the baby, but the rest of us headed off towards the park. Esme and Bella walked ahead of the rest of us with Lily, who skipped along the sidewalk, excited to go to the playground.
"I've got to hand it to you, bro." Emmett कहा after a moment, chuckling. "You do know how to pass on those genes."
"He's right." Carlisle agreed. "It's almost frightening how much she looks like you."
"I know." I hadn't gotten used to it myself yet.
"I know आप haven't had much time to adapt, but how is the whole parenting thing going so far?" Carlisle wanted to know.
"Good, I think. या at least I hope so." I chuckled. "She's so easy to interact with, she accepted me immediately, without hesitation."
"You get to spend some time with her, then?" Carlisle asked.
"I pick her up from school every day, and then Bella takes her घर when she gets off from work."
"Good." Carlisle nodded. "I'm glad you'll get और than just weekends with her."
I could tell that Lily's interest in the sleeping baby was wearing off, and was just about to suggest playing a game या something when Edward proposed a walk to the park.
Esme, Carlisle and Emmett decided to go with us, and we left the apartment.
Lily started skipping down the सड़क, स्ट्रीट in the direction of Golden Gardens, and Esme looped her arm with mine as we followed, the guys a short distance behind us.
"She's an amazing girl, Bella, you've done exceptionally well with her." She कहा after a moment.
"Thanks, Esme." I smiled at her gratefully.
"And I'm glad to see that this has had a positive effect on my son." She continued.
"How do आप mean?" I asked curiously.
"Edward hasn't been himself since we left Forks." Esme replied, not quite repeating Alice's words but close enough. "He tried not to let us know, but I did, of course. A mother always knows, you'll understand that soon enough. He hasn't been happy for a long time. Today, I've seen him smile और than I have in the past six years put together. That little girl has brought him back to life."
I felt a lump form in my throat at her words. What I had thought I'd seen in the coffee खरीडिए hadn't been that far off, then.
"And I'm glad to see that you're doing well." Esme changed the subject, distracting me.
"I am. Work's good, I've got my फ्रेंड्स and my family, Lily's happy."
"No boys in the picture?" She asked teasingly.
"There aren't that many out there that would go for the two for one deal." I replied, only slightly embarrassed.
"I supposed that's true." She agreed, and I thought I saw a hint of relief in her eyes before she turned her gaze to Lily. It was probably nothing.
"Look, mommy, seagulls!" Lily exclaimed ahead of us, pointing towards the beach.
"I see them, baby."
She took off in chase of the birds, but they naturally lifted and flew away when she got too close. She continued further down on the sand, closer to the water.
"Don't get आप shoes wet!" I called to her, but wasn't sure she was listening to me. When she was distracted, she had a tendency to tune everything else out.
She went as close to the water as she could without stepping in it, and then ran backwards, laughing, when the waves rolled in. I knew she would eventually end up knee deep in the water, and was about to call for her to come back up on the path when Edward swept past me and Esme. He picked Lily up and threw her over his shoulder before walking in the direction of the playground.
"Put me down, put me down!" Lily shrieked, laughing so hard I could barely discern her words.
He did as she asked when they got to the झूला, स्विंग set, and she quickly got on one of the swings. Edward began pushing it.
"Higher, daddy, higher!" I could see the smile on both their faces even from a distance.
Esme and I sat down at a picnic तालिका, टेबल at the edge of the playground, Carlisle joining us a मिनट later. Emmett went over to the झूला, स्विंग set and helped Edward push Lily's swing. We watched while the two grown men played with the five-year-old.
"They really are like children." Esme noted in an amused, but loving, voice.
"Boys will be boys."
When we got back to the apartment, Rosalie and Alice had fixed dinner. After we had finished eating, Alice turned on a movie for Lily and the rest of us sat around, talking.
Bella and Lily left at eight; Lily could barely keep her eyes open. The trip to the playground had exhausted her. Before they left, we made plans to meet up at the aquarium the अगला day.
"Well, that was quite a surprise, son." Carlisle noted when I returned to the living room after having walked Bella and Lily to the door.
"You're telling me?" I slumped down on the सोफ़ा, सोफे between Emmett and Esme.
"At least they're handling it a lot better than आप did at first." Alice pointed out, and I shot her an evil glare. I had been hoping that we could avoid that subject.
"What do आप mean, Alice?" Esme wondered.
"He just took off, didn't answer his phone for about seven hours." She shot me a teasing look. "Just as well, probably, since I might have beaten आप to death if I had found you."
"Thank you, Alice." I कहा sarcastically.
"You didn't?" Esme asked, obviously appalled. "I'm very disappointed in you."
"I was shocked!" I tried to defend myself. "Can आप blame me?"
"I thought we raised आप better than that."
I couldn't handle the disappointment in Esme's voice.
"I'm sorry, mom." I pleaded with her. "But आप have to understand what it was like. First seeing Bella, after so long, and then this, I just… I couldn't think straight."
"Well, I'm glad that आप apparently managed to make up for your behavior." Carlisle noted.
"I'm just glad she gave me a सेकंड chance." I remembered the mind numbing fear in the pit of my stomach when I had been standing outside Bella's door that night, afraid that she wouldn't give me a chance to explain.
"I think I'm the one आप should be thanking for that, actually." Alice piped in.
"Thank you, Alice." No sarcasm this time.
Esme had apparently decided to forgive me.
"I'm so glad that आप found them." She patted me on the knee.
"Again, that would be me." Alice really was modest. Esme ignored her.
"Now, tell me the truth." She looked me intently in the eyes. "How are आप handling this?"
"Good, mom, really." I knew I hadn't been able to fool her completely with my act during the past six years, and I hoped she could see that I wasn't अभिनय now. "Great, even."
"Good." She squeezed my hand, apparently satisfied. "Nobody deserves it और than you."
The अगला morning, Alice and Emmett went with me to the hardware store and then to IKEA and Wal-Mart. Esme had suggested that I should turn my spare room – which I now used as a study – into a bedroom for Lily, so that she could spend the night sometimes. That seemed like a very good idea, and I thought I'd might as well take advantage of Emmett while he was there and at least get the painting done.
We were back at my apartment द्वारा noon with not only paint and brushes, but also rugs, furniture, curtains, lamps and a bunch of other stuff.
At two in the afternoon, when we had to leave to go to the aquarium, we had finished painting. I would have to put together the furniture and fix everything else later, but Alice promised to help me.
Esme and Carlisle monopolized Lily the whole time we were at the aquarium. I couldn't blame them; they were leaving just a few hours later, after all, and didn't know when they were visiting again. Though I had a feeling they would be flying in a lot और often from now on, for some reason.
When we had seen everything there was to see, it was time to head to the airport. Bella and Lily went with us.
"Bye, sweetheart, I hope to see आप soon." Esme gave Lily a big hug at security.
Esme put her down and planted a किस on her cheek before turning to Bella.
"Goodbye, honey. It was so incredibly good to see आप again." They hugged as well.
Alice and Jasper were next, and then she stopped in front of me. I bent down and wrapped my arms tightly around her.
"Goodbye, my darling." She mumbled in my ear. "Take good care of them."
"I will, mom." I assured her.
"Come on, Esme." Carlisle urged. "It's time to go."
They went through security, waved again, and were gone.
"When are they coming back?" Lily wondered when we were walking back to the cars.
"I don't know, baby." Bella replied.
"Can we go see them? I like planes."
"I know आप do." Bella ruffled her hair. "We'll have to see, OK?"
We drove back to the aquarium in silence; Bella's car was still parked in the lot there.
"We're going to Angela and Ben's for रात का खाना tonight." Bella कहा as we stopped.
"Tell them hi from me." I hadn't seen them yet, but knew that they were aware of my presence in Bella and Lily's lives.
"I was actually thinking that maybe you'd like to go with us? Angela's been nagging me to invite आप over all week. Unless आप already have plans, of course."
"Nope, no plans." But if I'd had any, I would have cancelled. Anything to get to spend और time with her and Lily.
"Great." Bella got out of the car and helped Lily out from the backseat. "Is seven OK for you?"
I spent the time I had to spare decorating the walls in what was to be Lily's room. I had decided on white for the color of the walls, but had bought something called wallies, which was a bunch of dots in different sizes and colors, that attached to the wall.
When I had finished attaching the dots, I got the two rugs, which were soft and hot pink, and put them on the floor. It looked nice, and with some furniture it would be even better.
But that would have to wait.
I took a quick shower, threw on a pair of jeans and a कमीज, शर्ट and headed out the door.
"Hi, come on in." Bella greeted, stepping aside to let me in the door. "I just have to fix Lily's hair, and we'll be ready to go."
"OK." I closed the door behind me and followed her into the living room.
"Braid या टट्टू tail?" Bella asked Lily, who was focused on the coloring book in front of her.
"Pony tail." She announced, looking up. "Hi, daddy!"
I knew I would never get sick of hearing that.
"Hey there, princess."
Bella brushed through Lily's hair before pulling it into a टट्टू tail on चोटी, शीर्ष of her head, tying a गुलाबी ribbon around it.
"OK, all done."
We left the apartment, and I headed for the car, but Bella's hand on my arm stopped me.
"It's only three blocks, we can walk."
She removed her hand, and I immediately missed her touch.
Get a grip!
Angela was all smiles when we got there, surprising me द्वारा giving even me a hug. Ben seemed a little और wary.
"Come on in, the food's almost done." Angela ushered us into a combined living-dining room.
"You have a very nice apartment." I complimented, looking around the room.
"Thank you." Angela beamed at me, and then shot Ben a look across the room.
"They'll be here any minute!" I checked on the food, and then glared at Ben. "Will आप promise to behave?"
"I don't see why we have to invite him into our home." He grumbled.
"Because he's Lily's father." I pointed out. "And if Bella – the one who was actually hurt – can get over the past, आप should be able to do it too."
"Well, maybe she shouldn't be so quick to forgive and forget." He objected.
"That's her choice, though."
The doorbell rang, and I gave Ben one last stern look before opening the door.
"Hi, welcome." I smiled and hugged Bella and Lily, and a surprised Edward. "Come on in, the food's almost done."
I ushered them into the living room, and shot another glare at Ben, who ignored me.
"You have a very nice apartment." Edward complimented.
"Thank you." I beamed at him, and then gave Ben another, pointless, look. "Have a seat, please. Will आप help me in the kitchen, Ben?"
He followed me into the kitchen.
"Look, I'm not saying आप have to like the guy, but Lily's in the room." I chastised him quietly. "She can probably sense the animosity rolling off you, can आप at least try to hide it?"
"Fine." He agreed. "But just for Lily."
"That's all I'm asking."
The timer went off then, and I quickly took the स्टेक from the oven.
"Get the vegetables, will you?"
We had a very nice dinner, despite Ben not speaking directly to Edward unless he actually addressed him specifically. I could tell that Bella noticed this, but Lily actually didn't seem to be aware of it. She was excitedly telling Ben and me about her "new" grandparents, and her aunt and uncle and cousin, and their visit to the aquarium earlier in the day.
"We watched them feed the seals, didn't we mommy?"
"We sure did, baby."
"I bet that was exciting." I smiled at Lily. She really had a soft spot for animals, no matter the size and shape.
After we finished eating, Bella helped me clear the table.
"Ben isn't in his best mood today." She noted dryly while she helped me load the dishwasher.
"He's just worried about you, honey. I know he acts like a jerk about it, but he means well. He was there, remember?"
I knew she knew what I was talking about, and wasn't sure if it was a good thing to bring it up. But she seemed to be OK with it, and, for the first time that I could remember, she didn't flinch from the reference to those days. Maybe having Edward back in her life was good in और ways than one… And, hopefully, in a not too distant future, in a very particular way as well.
"Well, आप can tell him that he can stop worrying." Bella replied, looking at the plate in her hands. "There's nothing going on between me and Edward, he's just spending time with his daughter."
"I know that."
For the moment.
I might have to do something about that… द्वारा the way they were looking at each other when they thought the other didn't see, there were definitely still feelings there, on both sides.
But I knew Bella wasn't very likely to act on it, unless someone gave her a little push in the right direction, and from what I had seen during dinner, neither was Edward. And I was determined that they would make it this time, if I had to chain them together.
रात का खाना was very nice, even if I soon realized that Ben was far from happy to have me there. We hadn't really known each other that well back in Forks, the only times we had really talked at all had been during the few double dates that Bella and Angela had initiated, so I wasn't sure what his problem was.
The girls were in the kitchen, cleaning up, when Ben suddenly turned to Lily.
"Why don't आप go help your mom and aunt Angela in the kitchen?" He suggested.
"OK." Lily jumped off her chair and skipped out of the room.
"I didn't want her in the room for this." He कहा quietly, glaring at me.
"Look, Ben, I don't know what it is आप have against me, but…"
"Are आप kidding me?" He looked furious, but kept his voice low, every now and then glancing towards the hallway to make sure Lily wasn't on her way back. "I was there! I saw the mess आप left behind; I helped Angela put the pieces back together. And if आप think for an instant that I have any intention of watching her go through something like that again because of you, आप are dead wrong."
I realized that he was talking about Bella.
"Look, Ben, I know you're friends, and I really appreciate everything you've done for Bella and Lily, but I'm not planning on going anywhere."
"That's what आप say now." He huffed. "You broke her. She may look put together now, but deep down, she's still damaged, and she always will be. Because of you."
It hurt to hear him say it, but at the same time, a small part of me rejoiced in knowing that Bella had been as affected द्वारा our break-up as I had been. I had never completely let myself believe that what she had कहा that दिन could have meant something else than the actual words. But if she had been hurt द्वारा me leaving, she must have had a different reason for saying that. Even if those feelings were long gone द्वारा now, it felt good to know that she had still loved me back then.
"Look, I know आप mean well, and that's the only reason I haven't knocked आप unconscious yet." Ben shrank a little from my menacing tone. "I'm just going to say this once, and you're going to listen. I प्यार that little girl with my whole heart, every fiber of my being. I would never abandon her, because I couldn't live with myself if I hurt her. Now, it's up to आप if आप believe that या not."
He sat silent for a moment, then nodded.
"I believe you. And what about Bella?"
"There's nothing between us, except for what I hope will be friendship one day. I have no intention of changing that."
Not because I didn't want to.
"I see the way you're looking at her." He objected.
"I didn't say I that I didn't want to do anything about it, I कहा that I wouldn't. There's a difference." I sighed. "Even if she for some unfathomable reason would ever consider letting me into her life like that again, which she won't, I'm not going to risk it." I couldn't deal with the kind of pain that losing her again would undoubtedly bring, and if Ben was right, then maybe neither could she. And that was two hearts too many to gamble with.
"But you're still in प्यार with her."
It wasn't a question.
"Yeah, well, that's my problem."
The अगला day, I finished getting Lily's room ready, and was done द्वारा the time I had to leave to pick her up from school. I was happy with the result, but I wanted Bella to see the room before I showed it to Lily, so I closed the door before leaving the apartment.
On Wednesday, I got my shot. Lily was going घर with Catie to play after school, and I called Bella at her office.
"Hi, it's me."
"I was just wondering if आप could stop द्वारा on your way घर from work?"
"Eh, sure, I guess. Why?"
"You'll see आप when आप get here." I hedged, wanting it to be a surprise.
"OK…" I could hear the poorly hidden curiosity in her voice.
"Great, see आप later." I hung up before she had a chance to ask. I knew that she would be annoyed that I hadn't offered a decent explanation, but it wouldn't hurt her to wonder a little.
Now what was he up to?
I hung up the phone and tried to focus on my work, but it quickly became impossible. You'll see when आप get here… my thoughts instantly started to wander, but I quickly reined them in. There was no need to jump to conclusions only to be disappointed.
I managed to get at least some work done, but द्वारा five thirty, I gave up. Lily was at Catie's and would be having रात का खाना there, so I really wasn't in any hurry to leave, but curiosity got the better of me, and I headed to the car.
It took him a moment to open the door, and I again wondered what he was up to.
"Hey, come on in." There was an expectant smile on his face. As was the case whenever he smiled at me, my दिल stuttered a little. I was eternally grateful that he couldn't hear it.
I walked past him and eyed the apartment suspiciously. Everything seemed normal.
"In here, come on." He led the way to what I had figured he was using as an office and opened the door.
"Wow!" I was astonished. I had caught glimpses of the room before; a couple of bookcases, a डेस्क with a computer, a chair. Your average घर office.
"Do आप like it?" He asked nervously. "Do आप think Lily will like it?"
"She's going to प्यार it." I replied honestly.
The room was completely different.
The walls were a soft, white shade and covered with dozens of different size dots of every imaginable color. There were two गुलाबी rugs on the floor on either side of an equally गुलाबी बिस्तर – with a गुलाबी bedside table. A canopy just like the one Lily had at घर hung around the बिस्तर and two pink, flower-shaped lamps were attached to the दीवार above it. Beneath the window, there was a गुलाबी and white डेस्क with a purple chair and अगला to it a toy box with डिज़्नी princesses on it. Against the opposite दीवार there were two bookcases with गुलाबी and purple drawers; a couple of soft toys and a few पुस्तकें already in place on the shelves. अगला to the built-in closet – which now had फूल of different रंग attached to it – there was a गुलाबी and red dresser with three drawers, and a white rocking chair was in one of the corners. The curtains were purple with गुलाबी butterflies, and I saw Glow in the dark stars in the ceiling above the bed.
"Wow!" I repeated. "When did आप have time to do all this?"
"Emmett and Alice helped me paint on Sunday, and then I put the furniture together on Monday." He looked around the room. "You really think she'll like it?"
"Of course." I gave him a mock accusing look. "She'll never want to leave."
"God, I'm sorry." He instantly looked apologetic. "I should have talked to आप before I did this, but when Esme suggested that I turn this room into a bedroom for Lily, I just…"
"It's fine." I cut him off, amused. "She should have a room here where she can sleep."
"Are आप sure? Because I can…"
"Yes, I'm sure, now stop it!" I tried to look stern, and it worked.
"OK, thank you."
My stomach started to growl, and I took that as a sign that it was time to head घर and fix some dinner.
"I should go. Lily might be having रात का खाना at Catie's, but I still need to eat."
"I was just about to head out for Thai food." He कहा quickly. "There's this great place on Broadway, if आप want to शामिल होइए me?"
Thai खाना did sound really good. I definitely wasn't looking आगे to going घर to an empty apartment and I hated cooking for just myself. And the thought of spending a little और time with him wasn't exactly repellant… OK, it was और than not repellant. In fact, it was probably much और pleasant than was healthy, but I wouldn't let my mind explore that particular venue closer.
"OK." I decided that I could be spontaneous for one night.
The खाना turned out to be amazing. We hadn't really spent much time alone together, and I was surprised at how easily we fell back into our old banter. It was like the past six years hadn't happened, and we were out on another Friday night in Forks.
When we left the restaurant after two hours, I could have sworn that he was about to take my hand, but stopped himself at the last second. I decided that – if, against all odds, I hadn't imagined it – it had probably just been out of habit; he, like I, must have remembered all our dates in Forks and Port Angeles, and been caught in the mood. To believe that it could mean something else would just be silly, and would lead to no good.
Bella's stomach growled loudly, and she smiled sheepishly.
"I should go. Lily might be having रात का खाना at Catie's, but I still need to eat."
"I was just about to head out for Thai food." The words were out of my mouth before I had a chance to stop them, my subconscious reacting instinctively to the possibility of her leaving. "There's this great place on Broadway, if आप want to शामिल होइए me?"
I really didn't want her to leave, and when she didn't immediately answer, I thought she was going to say no. My दिल dropped.
"OK." She कहा after a moment, and I let out a sigh of relief.
We had a good time at the restaurant; talking and laughing seemed to come naturally, somehow, even after all these years. It felt like it was just another night in Forks.
When we left the restaurant and started walking back towards my apartment, my hand automatically reached out to take hers, caught in the mood of the evening. It felt completely natural, but at the last second, I realized what I was doing and stuffed my hands in my pockets to avoid any further temptations.
We walked side द्वारा side back to my apartment building, neither of us saying anything. The silence wasn't uncomfortable, though, but like the silence of two people who know each other well enough to be able to be quiet together. I walked her to her car in the lot behind the building.
"I guess I'll see आप tomorrow then." I कहा grudgingly, not really wanting her to leave but unable to ask her to stay.
"Same time, same place." She replied, smiling.
An Early क्रिस्मस Present
Lily was, as I had predicted, completely ecstatic about her new room, and we decided that she would sleep at Edward's place every other weekend. That way they would get और time together only the two of them than just the afternoons after school, and I would get the chance to catch up with my friends. I knew I had been neglecting them something awful lately.
So that Thursday, I called Jacob to invite him over for a movie night.
"I'm sorry, who is this? I mean, आप sort of sound like a friend of mine, but she has apparently decided that she doesn't need her फ्रेंड्स anymore, so..."
"Very funny." I knew I hadn't called him in way too long, but there was no need to exaggerate. "If you're going to be like that, I'm not sure I'm going to tell आप why I called."
"Alright, I'm done." I heard him chuckle over the phone. "But I think I'm entitled to a little complaining. You've been MIA for weeks."
"I know, I'm sorry." I leaned against the fridge, twirling the phone cord around my finger. "Things have just been hectic, with Lily's school, and work, and…"
"Hey, I get it." He interrupted. "I'm just glad you've finally decided to rejoin the land of the living."
"You're just hilarious." I couldn't help but smile. "I actually had a movie night in mind, if you're interested? Friday? I'll be kid-free."
"Sure, as long as I get to pick the movies."
I groaned. That never ended well.
"No horror, please. And not too much blood and gore." I knew it was pointless, but I tried anyway.
"I'll try to find something that won't upset your delicate stomach." He teased.
"I'll believe that when I see it…" I mumbled, और to myself than him.
"Friday at seven then?"
"You bring the movies, I'll take care of the food."
"See आप then."
Lily went घर with Catie to play after school on Friday, and then I brought her over to Edward's place at six.
"Hey there." He greeted with a smile when he opened the door.
I had to take a quick breath to collect my thoughts – his smile still had a devastating effect on my ability to think.
"Hi daddy!" Lily called on her way past him into the living room.
He frowned a little, the smile still in place.
"I don't get a hug hello anymore?"
"Might as well get used to it." I smiled at Lily, who had found a game in the किताबों की अलमारी in the living room. "When there's playing involved there's no time for trifles like hugs."
He sighed theatrically, then smiled again.
"You want to come in for a bit?"
I glanced at my watch.
"I would प्यार to, but I actually have to get going." I smiled apologetically. "Jake's coming over for a movie night at seven, and I still have to stop द्वारा the store to get some stuff." I held out the bag I had packed for Lily. "There's some extra clothes in there, toothbrush, a couple of her प्रिय books, Mr. Snowy…"
"Mr. Snowy?" He raised an inquisitive eyebrow.
"Of course." He took the bag from me. "So, movie night?"
"Yeah." Did he sound a little too casual? "I've been neglecting my फ्रेंड्स lately, so I thought I'd try to make up for at least some of it."
"Is Angela coming too?"
"No, just Jake." Did it bother him that I was spending the evening alone with Jake? "We have a sort of tradition of watching horrible फिल्में full of blood and guts and stuff like that."
"Oh. Well, I hope आप have fun." He smiled at me again, and I decided that I must have been imagining things. Why would he care if I spent time with Jake, anyway?
"You too. It looks like you're in for a night of Monopoly."
He glanced over his shoulder.
"Should be fun."
"Well, I've got to go. Lily! I'm leaving."
"Bye mommy." She waved at me without looking up from the board.
"Hey there, stranger." Jacob greeted as I let him in the door an घंटा later.
"I know, I know. I deserve that." I hadn't seen या talked to him in almost three weeks, our only communication had been texts, and not even those had been very frequent from my side. I had been a horrible friend.
"I forgive you, if आप give me some of those delicious brownies." He कहा with a smile. "I am not opposed to bribery."
"I promise to make some this week."
"Then all is forgiven." He held up two DVDs. "You ready to watch some guys hack each other to pieces?"
I took the फिल्में and groaned.
"You've really outdone yourself." I complained as I lead the way into the living room.
"That was my mission!"
"Well, mission accomplished!"
I popped one of the DVDs into the player.
"So, how's the झींगा, चिंराट doing in school?" Jake asked when I joined him on the couch.
"Really good, she loves it."
"I thought she might, she's got your brains after all." He smirked at me. "And Angela's OK with taking her after school? Because आप know that she can go with me to the Y a couple of times a week, it wouldn't be a problem."
"I know." I realized that I hadn't updated Jacob on the other developments in our lives. "Actually, Jake, she's not going to Angela's after school."
"OK…" He looked confused, waiting for me to continue.
"Well, it turns out that Lily's teacher is Edward's sister Alice." I had never actually talked to Jacob about Edward या the events that had ended our relationship six years earlier, but I knew that he had found out most of what had happened through Angela, Ben and Billy.
"Edward as in Lily's dad? The one who doesn't even know about her?"
"That's the one." I confirmed. "And Alice of course figured it out, and told me that Edward lives here now, so he and Lily have been getting to know each other these past two weeks."
"That's great." Jacob कहा immediately. "I mean, she's got amazing male role मॉडेल – current company not excluded – but the kid needs a dad."
"Thanks, Jake, for being OK with this." I squeezed his hand gratefully.
"Of course. Why wouldn't I be?"
"Well, Ben doesn't seem thrilled. Angela says that it's just because he's worried about me, but I don't know..." I bit my lip. "And Charlie, well... he actually told me to keep Edward away from Lily when he found out that Edward was in Seattle."
"Charlie's just… Charlie. He's your dad; it's his job to worry." Jacob shrugged. "As long as the guy's there for Lily, and she's happy, I'm fine with it. But if he hurts her, या if he tries anything, your dad and Ben might have to get in line if they want revenge." He gave me a serious look and I knew that he wasn't just making empty threats. "I didn't even know आप before, and even I could see that आप were still hurting when we met, and that was almost two years later."
I shook my head.
"It's not like that, Jake." Though not because I didn't want it to be…
"I'm just saying."
"Thanks." I grabbed the remote off the तालिका, टेबल and leaned my head against his shoulder. "It's nice to know that I have फ्रेंड्स who really care."
"Don't mention it."
"How are things with Sam?" I asked after a moment, skipping past the trailers.
"Same old." Jacob shrugged. "I mean, he's one of my best friends, आप know that. I just never imagined that living together would be so difficult."
"Maybe आप should think about getting a place of your own?" I suggested.
"I have actually thought about it, but I don't want to ruin our friendship." He frowned.
"Don't आप think it would be better to हटाइए and save the friendship आप have left, than to stay and maybe destroy it forever?"
He contemplated my words for a moment.
"You might have a point." He finally admitted.
"I usually have." I teased, and he poked me in the ribs.
"Know it all!" He took the remote from me and hit play. "Now stop stalling and enjoy the carnage!"
I regretted not asking Bella straight out if there was something between her and this Jacob guy. But that would have been too obvious, right? I tried to convince myself that she would have told me if they were together, at least if it was serious, but I couldn't be sure…
"It's your turn, daddy." Lily's words brought me out of my musings.
"Let's see then." I rolled the dice. "So, what's Jake like?" I knew that asking Lily really wasn't OK, but I needed to know.
"Uncle Jake's the coolest!" She exclaimed.
"Yeah? Where does he live?"
"I don't know." She thought for a moment. "It takes a long time to go there. Sometimes I stay there with him and Sam when mommy and aunty Angela do girl things."
"Sam? Is that Jake's girlfriend?" I let out a sigh of relief.
"No." Lily giggled. "Sam's a boy!"
"Oh." So much for that flash of relief.
"It's your turn again, daddy."
"Right." I rolled the dice again and silently decided that I would let it go. It was none of my business if this Jake was Bella's boyfriend या not.
It hadn't been for a long time.
Time started passing द्वारा much faster with Lily and Bella in my life, making the different days mean something. I still picked up Lily every दिन after school, when she didn't go घर with Catie for a play date, and on every other Friday, she spent the night in her new bedroom at my place. Bella would usually शामिल होइए us at the playground या the zoo on Saturday, but Lily went घर with me in the evening. On Sunday, Bella would come over for brunch, या Lily and I would go over to their place, and then we'd spend the दिन playing games या watching movies. The weekends when Lily didn't stay over, the roles were reversed, and I'd meet them.
My life was very close to perfect; there was only one thing missing. But, like I had told Ben, I had no intention of doing anything about that. I was afraid that Bella might pull away from me if she knew the extent of my feelings, and I would rather be a small part of her life, a friend, than nothing at all.
Besides, there was the ever-present Jake – I still wasn't sure about Bella's relationship with him; she never कहा anything that either confirmed या denied my suspicions… my fears. I was too much of a coward to ask Alice if she knew anything about the situation, and since I'd never actually met the guy, I hadn't been able to observe him and Bella together and judge for myself.
The last weekend of October, Bella and Lily were going to Forks to visit Charlie, and when Lily asked me if I would go with them, I couldn't say no.
I definitely wasn't looking आगे to seeing Charlie, since I was pretty sure that he wasn't my biggest प्रशंसक – not that I could really blame him for that – but getting to spend the weekend with Lily and Bella made up for any possible unpleasantness. And it would be nice to see Forks again – some of the happiest memories of my life were from there.
We drove through the wet Washington fall, the rain falling heavier and heavier the closer we got to Forks. I had forgotten – repressed? – the nearly constant blanket of clouds over the town, and the rain that usually went with it.
"It's like it knows we're coming." Bella muttered in the passenger सीट beside me, and I chuckled at her frown.
"It's the weather, not some vengeful witch." I pointed out.
"I wouldn't be so sure about that." She glared through the window at the offending rain.
We stopped at The Pacific Inn Motel and checked into our rooms before heading over to Charlie's; Bella had कहा that we wouldn't be able to sleep there, since Sue and her son lived there too and there was no room. I knew that Bella and Lily usually stayed there when they visited, so I could only assume that Charlie had made it clear that I wasn't a welcome house guest. I was grateful that Bella had apparently stuck up for me in that argument.
As soon as we pulled up outside the house, Charlie appeared on the porch.
"Grandpa!" Lily exclaimed, and jumped out of the car as soon as Bella had opened the door.
"Lily-Lee!" Charlie opened his arms, and she flew into his embrace. "I've missed you."
"I've missed आप too, grandpa."
He hugged her tightly for a moment, then put her down on the porch. She immediately skipped into the house and Charlie's attention turned to me, his eyes narrowing and the smile disappearing from his face. Bella climbed the stairs to the porch, and I cautiously followed a few steps behind her, avoiding Charlie's stare.
"Bells." Charlie hugged her tightly, while still glaring at me over her shoulder. I tried to not sink to his level, and kept my appearance neutral, despite the fact that his scowl made it very difficult.
"Dad." It was a greeting as well as a warning. She pulled away from him, and I had no problem imagining the pointed look she gave him.
"Edward." He nodded curtly in my general direction without looking straight at me.
"Charlie, it's good to see आप again."
He muttered something unintelligible and went into the house.
"Come on." Bella encouraged. "Just ignore him." She pulled me along into the familiar kitchen, her hand letting go of mine too soon.
"Hello, sweetheart." A kind looking woman, who I assumed was Sue, gave Bella a welcoming hug. "And आप must be Edward. Welcome."
I gladly shook her extended hand, relieved that not everyone was as openly unwelcoming as Charlie.
"It's nice to meet you, Mrs. Clearwater."
"Please, call me Sue."
Despite Charlie's cold behavior towards me, we ended up having a nice weekend. On Saturday, we took Lily to First Beach, watching the activity in the tidal pools and picking rocks from the beach. When the inevitable rain got too heavy, we went back to the motel. In the evening, Sue cooked an amazing रात का खाना for us. She and her son, Seth, were both nice to me, which made it easier to not let Charlie's attitude get to me too much.
On Sunday, we took a drive to our old house. I had trouble finding the small road at first, but finally managed to make it out between the trees and ferns. I was surprised to find that the closer we got to the house, the और overgrown the road got.
"I thought people lived here." I said, looking at the forest through the car windows. "I know Carlisle sold it to a couple from Seattle who was looking to relocate to a smaller town."
"Maybe they left." Bella suggested, shrugging.
When we got to the clearing surrounding the house, it became obvious that whoever had lived there really had left.
The lawn was overgrown with waist-high weeds and ferns, and a couple of the empty windows were broken. The façade was in desperate need of another कोट of paint, and there was a sign that read 'FOR SALE' hanging on only one hinge at the foot of the stairs to the porch.
"Esme would be so upset if she saw this." I mumbled as I stared through the windshield at my former home. If I hadn't known that we were in the right place, I wouldn't have recognized the house. There was nothing left of the warm, welcoming घर it had once been.
"Did आप live here, daddy?" Lily asked from the backseat, and I nodded.
"It looks like a haunted house." She announced.
And it did. I hoped that Esme would never have to see it, because I knew that it would break her heart. She had put her soul into the renovations of the old house, making it into a घर for us. Seeing it in this state of decay would devastate her.
We drove back to Seattle that afternoon, playing I Spy so Lily wouldn't get bored during the long trip. When I got घर after having dropped Bella and Lily off, I called Carlisle. The sight of the house had shaken me somehow, and I felt the need to talk to someone who would understand.
"Edward, hello. How was the weekend?"
"Pretty much what I expected. Charlie barely कहा two words to me, but Sue and Seth seem really nice."
"You'll just have to give him some time. Try to see things from his point of view."
"I know." I hesitated for a moment. "We went out to the old house today."
"Oh? Did आप speak with the O'Connells? I hope they enjoy living in Forks."
"No, dad, there was nobody there. The house is for sale, and it looked like it had been abandoned for a while."
He didn't say anything for a moment.
"I'm sorry to hear that."
"Me too." It was the last place that had felt like a घर to me, the last place where I had felt like I belonged before Bella and Lily had come into my life.