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"Crap!" I heard my oldest daughter holler out from her room down the hall.
Deciding that wasn't an ordinary crap because Callie had been in her room or because Eli had taken something he wasn't supposed to touch, I figured I should go check on her.
When I looked in the room, I found Maddie with her headphones in her ears, eyes scrunched closed, and her head thrown back against the wall beside her bed. If I didn't have a pretty good idea already what was causing her so much distress I would have laughed at her, but considering I knew, I didn't.
I knocked on the door frame to let her know I was there and when she looked up at me, I swore in an instant I was transported back in time, not seeing the daughter that was about to embark on a new adventure...without me...but instead my little girl who still thought I was all that and a slice of cake. The little girl who jumped on my bed every Sunday morning before Mass to tell me it was time for pancakes, the little girl who squealed in delight every time we went to the park and I pushed her on the swings, the little girl who had the kindest heart and the sweetest smile I had ever seen.
My Maddie, my princess...my pride and joy.
"Daddy," she sighed when she looked up and saw me and I walked in her room, shaking my head as I went.
Her room...was a disaster area. Worse than any boys I'd ever seen; even Emmett and Demetri's from way back when. Of course it was understandable, but still.
"I know, I know," she said with a sigh again when she saw me shake my head. "I'll get everything packed and then the rest put away, I promise. I just have to get this done first," she told me as she waved a notebook around in the air.
I sat down on the bed and scooted back to sit next to her, both of us with our backs against the wall. I threw my arm around her shoulder and I couldn't help but sigh myself when she snuggled right up next to me, in the spot that had been hers for almost eighteen years now. Bella had hers on the other side of course, the spot right above my heart on my chest. Callie had hers, too, on my left shoulder, but that right side, right in the crook of my shoulder and chest...that was Maddie's and it always would be.
"Now, what's up, Peanut Butter Cup?" I asked and smiled when she giggled at me.
"You can't call me that; that's Mama's name for me," she told me.
"Well, we just won't tell her I used it. What's going on?" I asked.
I waited while she got her thoughts together. Maddie was never one to say anything without thinking it through first. Callie could certainly use a few lessons in that department from her older sister that was for sure. I loved my Ladybug, but damn, there were times she said things that made me shake my head.
"I don't...I mean...it's just everything, Daddy," she finally said quietly.
Well, that was...vague.
"Mad, you have to give me more than that. Come on, you know you can tell me. Do you want me to go get your mother?" I asked, thinking if it was something she couldn't or wouldn't tell me, she'd at least tell Bella.
She immediately shook her head, and said, "No, I'd rather talk to you, if that's okay?"
I smiled and squeezed her shoulder. It wasn't as if she didn't know I wouldn't tell Bella anyway, and vice versa. Our family didn't work that way. Never had, never would. Even when Mase went to Jasper first, he always told Bella and I whatever it was. Sometimes whoever the kids talked to first was based on who was home at the time; sometimes it had to do with the subject matter. If Mase was having problems with Becca, and when wasn't he, he went to Bella. If Callie had trouble with her homework, she went to Masen. If Eli had gotten at trouble at school...and again, when wasn't he, he told Maddie first. When Maddie had a big decision to make, she came to me.
I turned and kissed the side of her head, and told her, "Of course it's okay, Princess. Now, talk to me, what's got you so frazzled?"
She took a deep breath and picked her head up off my shoulder, looked at me, and then in a rush said, "I can't figure out what I want to say in my speech; I'm scared about leaving, and Nolan is mad at me about something and I have no idea what it is." Once she'd spit all that out, she let out a big gust of breath and blew her hair out of her face and then stared anxiously at me hoping I had all the answers.
I couldn't say I was at all surprised by what she'd said...well except the Nolan thing and figuring that was the easiest topic to address, decided to tackle that one first. The leaving one...yeah, I'd definitely save that one for last.
Didn't want to think about that...at all.
"Why do you think Nolan is mad at you?" I asked.
She rolled her eyes and looked so much like Bella I couldn't help but smile. When I heard the tell tale sniffle and saw the end of her nose get red, I knew the tears wouldn't be far behind and I couldn't have that. If there was anything that was my absolute downfall, it was when any of my girls cried. Bella, Maddie, Callie, didn't matter; the first tear that fell and I was done for.
She shrugged her shoulders and hung her head. I sat up and reached for her hands and took them in mine and noticed, not for the first time, how damn small they were. "Baby, talk to me, what's going on?" I asked quietly.
She blew out a frustrated breath and then looked up at me and I was struck, yet again, that my baby girl...wasn't a baby any longer.
It really sucked, too.
"I don't know. Every time we talk on the phone or get on Skype, he acts all weird and stuff. He'll be nice one minute and then the next he's acting like a jerk. I asked him earlier if he was coming up next weekend for graduation and he told me he'd check and see what he had going on and then let me know," she huffed. "I mean, I know he has other friends besides me, but still. I'm leaving soon, I just thought he'd want to see me before I left. If he doesn't come up next weekend, I'm not going to see him all summer."
Okay, yeah, I was seriously reconsidering my thought that this conversation would be easier than any of the others...sometimes I really was a fucking idiot.
"Mad, I'm sure he's not upset at you. Maybe he had a bad day today or maybe Travis was being a butthead," I said with a snicker.
The dude still got under my skin, not gonna lie.
"Whatever it is," I told her seriously, "I'm sure you two will work it out. You guys have been friends for half your life, baby, you'll work it out. You always do," I reminded her.
I had a feeling I knew what was going on with Nolan; it wasn't really too hard to figure out. The kid had eyes, and though I might be a bit...well a lot partial...Maddie was beautiful. If I was to guess, I'd say Nolan's feelings had begun to change, if they hadn't already, toward his best friend. Bella and I had talked about this before, many times in fact, and I wasn't sure how I felt about it to be honest. Nolan was a great kid, a hell of a lot better than that Wesley guy that was for damn sure, but she was still my baby girl. Not to mention if things ever got serious...Travis and I would be semi-related. Ugh!
But, we weren't worrying about me right now, Maddie was still upset so I focused back on her.
"What's the problem with the speech?" I asked, changing the topic. It wasn't closed yet, I was sure, but I needed to see what else was bothering her.
She picked up her notebook and then flung it back on the bed with a disgusted look on her face. "I can't get what I want to say to come out right. I wanted my speech to be different and I for sure didn't want to do the 'you can be whatever you want to be' speech that everyone else does. I just..." She sighed dramatically, "I wanted to say something else."
"Your mom and I are so damn proud of you, baby, you know that, right?" I asked and she giggled and rolled her eyes...again.
"Daddy, ever since final GPA's were posted and I found out I was Valedictorian, you and Mama haven't stopped smiling, or bragging about it," she told me and bumped my knee with hers.
I laughed because there was no way in hell I could even argue with her. I was so fucking proud of her, if I didn't think she would get so mad at me she wouldn't talk to me for a month, I would take out a billboard and post it for everyone in Lake George to see. As it was, everyone from Emmett, to Rose, to Demetri, to Tanya had called her daily to tell her how proud they were of her and offered to help her with her speech if she needed it. Emmett and Demetri had already started making plans for what they were going do when she was done giving her speech. With those two there was no telling, but at this point, it was useless for any of us to threaten them with anything. Secretly, I had no intentions of trying to stop them, only because Maddie deserved all the recognition she could get for being Valedictorian.
It wasn't as if we weren't proud of Masen, because Lord knew we were, incredibly so, but Maddie had worked so damn hard to get to where she was. Between her schoolwork, soccer, and her art, she was always busy doing something. She spent a lot of time in the city volunteering at the shelter when she had spare time, though admittedly as she'd gotten older, there hadn't been a lot of that to go around.
Soccer took up so much of her time; so much so I had a tendency to worry about her overdoing it, but Bella was adamant about the fact that if it ever got to be too much for Maddie, she'd tell us. We never pushed her, only encouraged her. It was hard sometimes...hell a lot of times, to put her on a plane to this or that camp, but she'd been doing it for years now. Jasper and Bella had always said Maddie was going to be better than Bella was, and damned if they weren't right. I had a hard time admitting that, but that was only because I thought Bella was perfect in everything she did, but even I couldn't deny the level of Maddie's skill. Thankfully with Bella's experiences, it was a bit easier to navigate through all the camps and the showcases, and even the identification pools she had to go to. Once she hit her senior year, the offers for scholarships poured in, which surprised us all, though it probably shouldn't have.
She was going to be spending the summer with People to People, playing soccer all over Europe. It was going to be an experience she wouldn't ever forget and when her club coach had come to me and Bella and asked if Maddie could go, we knew we couldn't say no. The only stipulation I made, because I had to, was that we would meet her in Ireland for her birthday. Me, Bella, Masen, Cal, and Eli along with my mom and dad were going to spend two weeks in Ireland so we would all be together for hers and Masen's birthday. I wasn't missing it for anything. Besides, I'd always wanted to take Bella to Ireland and this was the perfect opportunity.
"Sue me, Princess. I'm proud of you; I can't help it," I told her. "Now about your speech, Mad, don't put so much pressure on yourself. I know you want it to be perfect, because you wouldn't be you if you didn't, but it'll be fine. Just start writing and see what comes out. You'd be surprised, I bet, to find that if you write what comes from your heart instead of worrying so much how it will sound, it will just flow. Just promise me not to ask your Uncle Em or Seth for suggestions. There's no telling what kind of answer you'd get."
"Don't worry, I won't. I talked to Aunt Rose a little bit and she helped some. I know I'll get it; I just really wanted it to be something special," she huffed.
I couldn't help but smile. My sister-in-law had the softest of soft spots for my oldest daughter. It was so strange how both Maddie and Masen had found their go-to people in Jasper and Rose, I guessed it had something to do with the twin bond thing they all had going on. I couldn't count the number of times I'd come home from work and smile when I'd see Rose's car in the driveway. It happened even more the older Maddie got. Rose might have lived an hour and a half away but I would swear her car could drive itself from her house to our house because she'd driven it so many times. She didn't stay long either, but if Maddie needed her, she'd drop everything, get Lucy, Lila, and the twins Luke and Landon in the car and head to our house.
Our family might have been spread out all over the place, but we were closer than most could believe. The cousins all got along and couldn't wait to spend time together and each of us grownups had our own little shadow it seemed like...Lord knew there were plenty of kids to go around. Just like Masen and Maddie had a special bond with Jasper and Rose, Callie and Eli had their own, too, with Emmett for Cal and Seth for Eli. Seth and Eli could be found way more often than not planning some sort of elaborate...something or other. Whether it was the biggest living room tent you'd ever seen or a fort made of boxes in the backyard, those two were something else. Emmett and Callie, I thought with a shake of my head. No wonder some of the things that came out of her mouth stopped me dead in my tracks...definitely two peas in a pod those two. Em's daughter Lucy was my little tag along whenever we were all together and had me as wrapped around her finger as my own daughter's did. She was as funny as Emmett, as beautiful and no nonsense as Rosalie, but as sweet and gentle as her Nana.
Dem and Heidi got married and started their family in short order once Callie was born. As a matter-of-fact, there was still a bet as to whether or not Heidi had been pregnant when they got married or not...not that it mattered at all. They were so ready to be married and loved each other so much, neither cared. Their son, Aidan, thought the sun rose and set on Bella's head and besides his mother, there wasn't anyone in the family he adored more than her. Their daughter, Mia, loved Jasper something fierce and was a little spitfire when he didn't pay enough attention to her. Ali and Jasper's twins, Owen and Olivia, split their time between Tanya and Heidi, and Rose and Em's other daughter, Lila, and Alice were as thick as thieves. The other kids were still too little, but there were bets on who would be who's favorite; Demetri had already laid claim to Luke and Landon.
Tanya and Seth had, finally, welcomed their own bundle of joy not too long ago. My best friend's pregnancy was not an easy one, but with Travis's expertise and a lot of praying on the part of all of us, we welcomed little Harrison Clearwater to the world a little over a year ago. There really wasn't a medical reason why it had been so hard for Tanya to get pregnant so there was hope they'd be able to have another one, though with Tanya's age, the chances were slim. All I knew was that mine and Bella's best friends were beyond ecstatic and it really seemed like once little Harry arrived, our entire family was complete. Throw Ben, Angela, and their kids along with Jake, Anna, and theirs into the mix and we could populate a small town...or fill out a complete football roster at the very least.
I knew Maddie would figure it out and I didn't want to put even more pressure on her. "Maddie, if you need any help, you have a ton of people that can help you, but you'll make it great. Write the speech you want to give, not what you think people want to hear. You've earned the right, so keep that in mind, Princess. It's your moment to shine and to be rewarded for all your hard work. Make it what you want," I told her and didn't even try to hide the fact that my voice shook.
"Thank you, Daddy," she said quietly and then leaned forward to hug me.
My throat constricted and I tried like hell to keep from crying because...well, I didn't want her to see how badly her leaving was affecting me. There would be plenty of tears to go around when the time came to put her on the plane and send her across the ocean so for now, I was going to try to keep things as unemotional as I could. I didn't have much hope in succeeding to be honest, but hell, it was worth a shot at least.
I ran my hands up and down her back and squeezed her to me, my mind instantly flooding with memories of little girl scents of shampoo, soap, and freshly washed clothes. Over time the smells had changed and the scents of fresh air and sweat mixed with charcoal and paint were added to make a smell that was as unique as my little girl. I patted her once more and then shifted to lean back against the wall again.
I had a feeling addressing this next topic was going to cause me to need all the support I could get and since Bella wasn't in here with me, the wall was going to have to do it...at least until I could go to Bella. If I made it that long, that was.
Wrapping my arm around her again, I pulled her next to me and ran my hand up and down her arm for a bit before I said, "Now, what about leaving has you so worried? You know you don't have to go, in fact, since you've barely started packing, we can just scoop all that mess up and throw it in your closet and pretend you weren't leaving at all." I was only half-joking.
She swatted my stomach, which I was proud to admit was almost as flat as it was when Bella and I had gotten married. Hey, at this stage, I'd take 'almost' any day. My girl still knew her way around a kitchen, even more so than before and I had to work fucking hard to stay in shape. Of course, I reaped the benefits because more often than not Bella worked out with me, so it was well worth it.
"I'm not afraid to go, well not really. I know I've never been away from home as long as I'll be this time, but I'll be with most of my friends so it'll be fun. I'm excited to get to play in all those great places...I just wish you guys were all going to be with me. It's not the same when you all aren't there to support and watch me," she said quietly after a few moments of silence.
"Oh, baby, you know if we could all go with you, we would, but we just can't be gone that long. I have patients and Callie and Eli have camp and your mom needs to be here to help get Masen ready to go to school," I told her, feeling like shit.
She surprised me when she giggled. "I know that, and to be really honest with you, I don't really want you guys following me anyway. I'm nervous about being by myself but I'm excited, too. You know what I mean?" she asked and picked her head up.
Fuck, I did know, but it didn't make it any easier to hear either. My little girl didn't need me as much any more and as much as that was the way life worked, it broke my heart just the same. But, she needed to know it was okay to feel that way and that I understood, so I plastered a smile on my face even though on the inside I felt like curling up into a ball and crying. "Of course I do, Mad. It just means you're growing up, as much as I hate the thought of that. You don't need me or your mother as much anymore; it's what becoming an adult is all about," I told her over the lump in my throat and the pain in my gut.
"I'll always need you and Mama, but I'm ready to start getting out on my own and doing my own thing," my little girl told me sounding more grown up than her old man that was for sure.
I leaned forward and kissed her forehead again, and didn't move my lips for a few seconds and then finally had to pull back. "We'll always be here if you need us, baby. This summer is going to be an experience you won't ever forget. Enjoy it. Have fun, play well, and show them what Madeline Grace Cullen is made of. We'll be cheering for you, even if we can't see you." I reached down and held her locket in between my fingers and whispered, "We're always with you, Mad, even if we're thousands of miles away. I love you, so much, my little Princess."
She threw her arms around my neck and squeezed and it took all I had not to lose it right then and there. It wasn't like I didn't want her to see me cry, but she had enough to worry about without worrying about her father having a nervous break down, so I held it together, but just barely.
After making sure she was okay and kissing her one more time because I just couldn't help myself, I left her to work on her speech.
I laid my hand on the door of Maddie's room, feeling my heart break into tiny pieces in one instant and then swell with pride, adoration, and love in the next. I walked toward my room, thinking about our talk. She'd grown into an amazing, self-confident, loving young woman...all thanks to the woman that was laying in my bed.
"Hey, Angel," I said softly as I shut the door behind me and leaned against it, too taken in by the way she looked to move.
Bella laid down the notebook she was furiously writing in, plans and menus for next weekend if I was to guess, and smiled at me. Her hair was down and she was wearing one of my t-shirts. Her glasses were perched on her nose, she'd scrubbed her face...and she took my breath away.
The same as she'd done every day for eleven years.
"I was getting lonely waiting for you," she said. "Is Mad okay?"
I nodded, still not moving from the door. "Just nervous about a bunch of stuff...the speech, Nolan...leaving," I told her, and I pouted at the last one.
I was really going to fucking miss my little girl.
"Baby," she sighed and then held her arms open for me.
I didn't need to be asked twice.
I shed my shirt and my shorts, leaving them in the middle of the floor, crawled into bed, and laid my head in her lap. Her fingers immediately went into my hair and I closed my eyes. She didn't say anything, just hummed along with the iPod in the docking station and alternated between scratching my scalp and then massaging it. Every now and then she'd let my hair slide through her fingers and of course because she was as ornery now as she'd always been, pulled my hair just to keep me on my toes. I smiled against her leg, her skin silky smooth beneath my cheek.
"She's going to be okay, Edward," she told me softly but thankfully didn't stop her movements.
I'd draped one of my arms across her legs and I squeezed, shrugging my shoulders but not answering her. Deep down I knew she'd be fine; she'd been going away to camps and tournaments for years now, but it didn't make it any fucking easier to be honest with you. This was different though, because once she got back to the States, she'd be heading for North Carolina almost right away.
I was losing my little girl, and it sucked...big time.
"Talk to me, baby," she said after a few more minutes.
"I'm losing her," I said softly and tried like hell to keep my voice from quivering.
This had been building; I knew it had. I tried not to think about it. I tried to tell myself that I was acting ridiculous. I tried telling myself that at least Masen was staying close to home and that Cal and Eli still needed me. None of that helped one damn bit honestly and it still fucking hurt.
"You know, I can still remember the very first time I saw her," Bella went on in her gentle voice. "She was this prim and proper little girl, practically afraid of her own shadow. She loved her brother and her daddy, her Nana and Papa, her crazy uncle and hyper aunt, the rest of her family, and that was about it. She was shy, sensitive, but man could that little girl light up a room with her smile and her laugh sounded like bells it was so sweet," she said with a light laugh.
I closed my eyes, picturing in vivid detail the way Maddie had looked that day in the park all those years ago. The day all our lives were changed forever. One of the best damn days of my life, without question.
Bella's hand ran through my hair and then she caressed the side of my cheek with her fingers. I reached up and pulled her wrist to my mouth and kissed the sensitive skin there, and felt her pulse beneath my lips. I still hadn't said anything, too many thoughts flying through my brain.
She pulled her hand back and resumed running her fingers through my hair. I had no idea where she was going with this or what she was going to say but what she was doing felt too damn good to even think about telling her stop.
"It didn't take long at all for that little girl to come out of her shell, to become the person she wanted to be. She laughed more, she talked more...she argued more," she said with a snort.
God, wasn't that the truth? Girl should really consider going to law school, she'd give Ali a run for her money, no doubt about it.
"She became an athlete, an artist, and a straight-A student. She had boyfriends," she giggled when I growled, "she got her heart broke and broke a few of her own along the way. She's the best sister anyone could ask for, the best friend, not to mention the best daughter. Edward, Maddie will always need you. She'll always need me, Mase, Callie, and Eli, too. We have raised an incredible young woman, baby, and as much as you want to keep her locked away from the big, bad world, you can't. You're her daddy, you always will be. No one will ever take your place, Edward," she trailed off.
Funny thing was, we'd had almost this exact conversation not too long ago when it was her feeling like Masen didn't need her anymore. He'd gotten his acceptance letter to Dartmouth and instead of telling her first, he told Becca. Talk about a reality bites moment. To say she didn't take it well would be a fucking understatement if there ever was one. She'd been devastated and it took a hell of a lot of reassuring her that there was no one in the world Masen loved more than his mama. And now, here we were...we were definitely quite the pair.
"Pot, meet kettle," I murmured and I knew she could feel my smile against her leg.
I rolled over and looked up into the eyes that were always so full of love and happiness and really just downright joy. The ones that could stop me cold in my tracks when she was mad at me...which happened way more fucking often than I liked to admit and the ones that made my cock hard when they were looking at me like I was a piece of the world's most delicious piece of chocolate...I REALLY liked that look. The ones that were right now looking at me with the understanding and wisdom that came from being my other half, of being the person that knew me better than anyone.
She lowered her hands and ran her thumbs across my forehead, my cheeks, and then my lips. I puckered my lips and and gave them a kiss which caused a sweet giggle to escape from her mouth.
God, I loved her.
"You've been an amazing father to our daughter, Edward," she told me and then got that little hitch in her voice she always got when she was getting sentimental.
I raised my hand and cupped the side of her cheek and smiled at her. "Thank you, baby, but we're kind of a team, you know. You've been pretty damn incredible yourself," I told her honestly.
I'd seen plenty during my career as a doctor. Being a pediatrician gave me an insight few others were ever privy to. I'd seen over-indulgent parents, mostly absent parent, clueless parents, and even unfortunately parents who had no idea what the word meant, but in all my time as a doctor, I'd never, ever seen a man or woman that could rival my Bella's natural ability to be a parent.
She was effortless in everything she did, it didn't matter if it was rushing in the morning to get everyone ready to go, cheering at a soccer or baseball game, being the classroom mom, staying up all night sitting in the bathroom with a sick kid, or laying in bed talking quietly with any one of them; she was absolute perfection. She had her moments, she was only human after all, when she lost her temper or snapped, or blew one of them off when she was having a bad day, but she more than made up for it with hugs, kisses, and laughs.
God we laughed.
There wasn't a day that went by in our house when it wasn't full of laughter. Whether it was because Eli had done something silly, or Callie said something outrageous, or because Maddie and Masen were bickering back and forth and then dissolved into hysterics, it didn't matter. There was always the sound of laughing, every damn day. Things were going to be so different when Mad and Mase left and I wasn't anywhere close to being ready to let them go...either of them.
She placed her hands on both sides of my face and I could tell there were a few tears in her eyes because the tip of her nose was pink. Eleven years with my love had definitely taught me a thing or two. I waited for her to speak knowing she was going to miss our kids every bit as much as me.
"It's going to be an adjustment for all of us when they both leave, but, it's just the way things are supposed to go, Edward. As much as I want to keep them both here with us forever, it doesn't work that way. Besides, maybe we'll finally get to spend some time with Callie once Masen isn't here to monopolize her every waking moment," she teased...sort of.
My poor Ladybug...she wasn't handling Masen leaving well...at all. She wasn't her mother's daughter for nothing.
"Ah, hell, Angel." I sighed and turned so I was facing her extremely flat and toned stomach. "I know we're all acting like a bunch of babies, but I don't give a shit. I love my kids damn it, and I know I did the same thing and went off to college. I know they're going to do amazing things with their lives and I know they're going to have experiences that will stay with them forever...but I'm going to miss them, so fucking much," I said in an uneven voice.
"Babies, hmph," she teased and her eyes sparkled at me.
I lifted her shirt, well my shirt, and pressed a soft kiss against her tummy. I wrapped my arms around her waist and then pushed her back onto the bed.
I kissed her because I couldn't go another moment without doing so. I lifted her shirt over her head and touched her...everywhere. I needed to feel her, connect with her because although our family was changing, my absolute and total need for my wife never changed. If anything it only grew stronger the longer we were together. As long as I had her by my side, I could endure anything.
"I love you, Bella," I whispered when I found her lips again. "So fucking much," I hissed as I rocked against her.
Before I knew it, we were both naked and as I moved in and out of her, staring into the eyes that glowed with love for me, our family, and our life, I knew no matter what, we'd be just fine.
"Mad, can I come in?" Masen asked when he knocked on my door a few days after my talk with Daddy.
I dropped another stack of clothes on the floor...to add to the already huge piles and stepped through the maze of books, bags, and soccer gear to open the door.
I opened it and he snorted. "Damn, sis, you're never going to be able to find what you're taking with you in the middle of all this shit. Mama will have your ass if it's not cleaned up before Saturday," he said with a shake of his head and then flopped down on my bed.
"I know, I know," I told him and my stomach turned when I thought about Saturday.
Just like it did every time I thought about Saturday. Graduation was only a few days away and I still had yet to finish my speech. I just couldn't get the words to come out right, even after talking to Daddy the other night. It was stressing me the hell out and I felt like I could burst into tears anytime anyone asked about it.
"You done writing it yet?" Mase asked me.
I shook my head, not surprised at all that he knew exactly what I was thinking and then crawled onto the bed beside him. If anyone could help me figure out how to finish it up, it was my brother. He smiled at me and then reached over and pulled the blanket over our heads, just like we'd always done whenever we had one of our talks.
I was going to miss him so very, very much.
"Okay," he began once we were settled. "What's going on? What is stressing you out so damn bad? I know you can't be worried about being in front of people because you've been playing in front of crowds all your life. It's just a speech, Mad," he said softly.
I'd folded my hands beneath my cheek and stared at him for a minute. We were twins, but he looked exactly like Daddy where as I was a cross between Daddy and Nana. It went without saying how much both of us were relieved we looked nothing like our egg warmer, not that I ever gave that poor excuse of a woman any thought at all. Up until that fiasco last year, I supposed I'd always harbored some sort of childlike imagining where she was concerned, but after finding out what she said to Masen, I never wanted to think about her again. Mama was our mother, we'd chosen her a long time ago, and nothing would ever change that.
As I looked at my brother, my very best friend, I realized how much our lives were going to change. We'd always be close, I wasn't afraid of that changing, but there wouldn't be anymore late night talks beneath blankets, or camp outs in the living room with Callie and Eli. There wouldn't be any laying on the trampoline, under the stars, talking to Mase, Becca, Wyatt, and Emily. There wouldn't be any more Sunday morning pancake breakfasts before Mass, there wouldn't be any impromptu soccer games in the backyard.
Once Saturday came and went, everything would change.
"As excited as I am about going to Europe and then starting school at North Carolina, I don't want to leave. I want everything to stay the same, but at the same time I don't. I'm so confused," I told him and didn't even try to stop the sniffles that came afterward.
I meant what I told Daddy the other night, I was really excited to go to Europe and I was looking forward to being on my own a bit, but it didn't mean I wasn't going to miss my family either. Growing up sucked sometimes, that was for sure.
"Awww, sis," Masen said softly and then leaned forward and kissed my forehead. "We're all going to miss you, too, you know, but it's not like you won't ever come home again," he told me.
I wiped my eyes and my nose and nodded my head. "I know, Mase, but it's going to be different, you know it will. Even with you, you're staying close to home, but you and Becca are going to be doing your thing, too, and making new friends...and things won't be the same."
"I suppose you're right. I'm scared, too, but excited just like you," he told me.
In the end, Masen decided to accept a baseball scholarship to Dartmouth. He talked a lot with Mama, Dad, and Uncle Jasper, but in the end it was Becca that convinced him to keep playing if that was what he wanted to do. Medical school came after college anyway, so there was no point in stopping playing if he didn't want to. If he didn't want to play after college, he could make that decision when the time came, but until then, she encouraged him to do what he loved. We'd all told him the same thing, but of course it was her he listened to more than the rest of us.
I knew I was extremely lucky when it came to Becca. We got along great and she was one of my best friends, besides Nolan, Wyatt, and Emily. It would have sucked big time if we didn't like each other and I understood immediately how Masen felt when he didn't like Wesley. He hadn't had to worry about too many guys after Wesley; I didn't have that many boyfriends. Actually, besides Wesley, there had only been two others that I had dated for any length of time. Most of the guys were intimidated by my brains or how athletic I was...and if that didn't scare them off, Masen and Wyatt did anyway. I didn't mind so much, really. I didn't have time and I didn't want to mess with the drama of having a boyfriend. I got asked out on plenty of dates and hung out with Masen and the others so I didn't feel like I was missing out on too much.
Masen and I talked for a bit, just catching up and chatting about which graduation parties we were going to and what not before I asked, "Did you need anything or were you just feeling the need to tease me about the disaster my room is in?"
"Nah, I didn't really need anything. I just wanted to talk to you...like we used to," he said quietly. "I knew you hadn't finished your speech, I just wanted to make sure you were okay is all."
"Thanks, brother. I'll figure it out, I still have 2 days before I have to get it approved," I told him. "I just want to make sure I say everything right, you know?"
He nodded because I knew he did know, he always did.
"You'll figure it out, sis, I have faith in you. Just remember, you're gonna make Mama and Dad...and more than likely Uncle Em cry, so be prepared for that," he said with a crooked grin.
I laughed, because he was right. There was no way Uncle Emmett wouldn't cry and well, Mama and Daddy would cry because that was what they did.
The rest of the week passed, I didn't sleep much, but I did finally get my speech turned in on Friday. We had a half day and then graduation practice and by the time I made it home, the house was full of all my family...and Nolan.
"I just wanted to surprise you, Mad. You didn't think I'd miss this did you?" he asked and gave me a hug. It was a slightly different hug than usual, a little longer and tighter, and definitely involved more touching and I had to admit, I was pretty okay with it.
The night was full of lots of food and lots of laughing and even though I knew things were changing for me and Masen, I knew we'd always have our family and a place we could always go home to.
"There you are," came the gentle voice of Edward. I knew it wouldn't take him long to realize I was gone and I knew he'd know exactly where to find me.
I'd escaped to the garage as soon as Maddie, Masen, and the other older kids left to head to the next graduation party. Callie and Eli were going to spend the night at Carlisle and Esme's with Lucy, Owen and Olivia, Aidan, and all the rest of the younger kids and though I loved my family beyond measure, I needed a few minutes of quiet, alone time to think about the day.
Maddie's speech of course was perfection and made me cry, laugh, and swell with so much pride I was surprised I didn't explode. I was a hell of a mother, I knew that and wasn't ashamed to admit it, but to hear what she said, well, it was more than I ever expected. I wasn't perfect, but I knew there wasn't a day that went by that my kids didn't know how much I loved and supported them, even when they made mistakes.
Edward and I had an amazing family and we worked hard, every single day, to make our house a home. We loved each other with abundance, we hugged and kissed each other and the kids without reservation. We were loud and boisterous, and at times probably even obnoxious, but I didn't care. I was proud of our family, proud to be Maddie, Masen, Callie, and Eli's mom, and just as much if not more, proud to be Mrs. Edward Cullen. Not because he was the best-looking man in Lake George, or the sexiest...or the most aggravating, but because he loved me and our family with everything he had.
I looked up at him and sighed. He really was the most incredible man, ever. I knew today had been just as bittersweet for him as it had been for me, maybe even more so. It wasn't a contest though, we were both going to miss both of our kids so damn much.
He pushed off the doorway and wordlessly made his way to the couch. He immediately picked me up and then set me on his lap. He kissed my forehead and then pushed my hair back over my shoulder. He didn't say anything for a few moments, just stared at me with the green eyes that brightened every one of my days. "You okay, Mama?" he asked after another moment.
I nodded because, really I was. I was heartbroken about Maddie and Masen leaving, but was so excited for them, too. "Yep, I just needed a few minutes of quiet," I told him softly. I picked up his hand, just like I did every time, and played with his fingers and his wedding ring.
He chuckled. "You would think Em, Dem, and Seth would outgrow their need to act like idiots whenever we all get together."
"Not a chance, baby," I said with a giggle when I pictured the three of them having a hot dog eating contest earlier. Emmett won of course, and paid the price since he'd spent a good portion of the rest of the afternoon in the bathroom. It didn't help any that Rose stood outside telling him 'I told you so' every time a noise would come from the room.
I really didn't want to know the particulars of what kind of noise it was either, and the guy was scrubbing my bathroom with bleach, too. I loved my brother-in-law dearly, but not that much.
"Did everyone leave already? I didn't mean to be antisocial and not say goodbye," I told him quickly when he nodded at me.
"It's okay, Angel. Pop and Mama took all the kids and Uncle M and Aunt Di back to their house and all the rest of them went to Ali and Jasper's," he answered me.
Yes, not only did Carlisle and Esme have a house up here, so did Alice and Jasper. Ours was still the one we always wound up at, but it was nice that everyone didn't always have to be here.
"So, we're all alone?" I asked, and immediately any unhappy thoughts I had left and were replaced by the fact that there was no one around to bother us.
"Mmmm hmmm, it would appear so. Whatever shall we do with our free time?" he asked in that sinful voice that still made my skin break out in goosebumps.
I pretended to yawn and covered my mouth. "I'm kind of tired, baby. I think I'll just go to bed," I said in a mock serious voice and moved to get off his lap.
"Not on your fucking life, Bella," he growled and gripped my hips. He pulled me back onto his lap and before I even had time to take a breath, his mouth was on mine. He hungrily kissed me and pushed his tongue deep into my mouth. I melted in his arms, giving him complete control of my body.
He pushed a hand into my hair and held the back of my head. Before long, we had to breathe and his lips slid from my mouth to my neck. I tipped my head back, giving him full access to do whatever he wanted.
Knowing we were completely alone had flipped a switch in me and I was on fire. Edward and I still had plenty of sex, thank God that hadn't changed over the years, but there were few times we actually got to completely let go. Too many little...and big...ears around and too many interruptions. We always made an effort to spend plenty of time alone, just the two of us, whether that was taking a walk around the lake, or snuggling in bed watching a movie, or even a night out at the Inn at Erlowest when Callie and Eli were with their grandparents.
However, there was something incredibly exciting about being home alone with my husband.
Apparently, he felt the same way, considering I could feel how hard he was against the side of my thigh. I felt his hands slide up my leg, his fingers strong and powerful, though never too rough. Edward always knew how to touch me just right; he always had. I'd worn a short dress to the graduation ceremony and I hadn't changed, even though I exchanged flip-flops for the heels I'd worn earlier. Everywhere he touched my skin tingled and I could feel my panties dampen with each passing second.
I reached up and wrapped my arms around his neck, scratching at the base of his scalp exactly how he liked. I heard the deep rumble of pleasure in his chest and that sound did things to me that should be illegal.
"Fuck, Bella," he rasped and then nipped at my neck.
"I do believe, Edward, that is the plan," I told him as I licked up the side of his jaw. I didn't stop until I got to his earlobe and I flicked it with my tongue before I bit down on it, kind of gently, but not really.
His fingers inched closer to between my legs, to where I needed him to touch me and he said a harsh, "Shit," when I bit him again.
He picked me up and set me on his feet in front of him between his legs. "Turn around," he ordered and I felt my body ignite from the rough, needy way he sounded. I felt his fingers grab the zipper and pull it down. He leaned forward and kissed the center of the small of my back right above my panties. He gripped the sides of my dress and pulled so that it fell from my shoulders. He rested his hands on my hips and then turned me around so I was facing him. I looked down and his eyes were almost black, his nostrils flared and I went weak in the knees when I saw him lick his lips.
"So fucking beautiful," he whispered, and it almost sounded as if he was talking to himself.
His hands slid from my waist to my ass and he pulled me toward him. My eyes rolled back in my head when I felt his nose rub against my clit and felt his warm breath against my damp panties.
"You're not particularly fond of these are you?" he asked when he looked up and I shook my head. I let out a shriek of surprise when he ripped the panties off me. That quickly changed to a groan because as soon as the ruined material was gone, his mouth was on me. I threw my head back and grabbed his shoulders.
"Edward, ah...oh hell...feels so good," I said between breaths.
His tongue was wicked, flicking and licking...sucking and nipping...over and over again. "Mmmm, my Bella...you taste so damn good," he whispered against my wet pussy. The sound of his voice mixed with the vibrations of him talking about sent me over the edge, but apparently he wasn't quite done sweetly torturing me yet. He flattened his tongue and licked from bottom to top and I swore I almost saw stars I squeezed my eyes shut so tightly. "Are you ready to come, baby?" he asked.
I looked down at him and nodded my head because I couldn't speak.
The evil man just smirked at me and raised his eyebrows...and did it again. "Fuck," I panted, so close to coming it hurt.
"I asked if you were ready, baby," he said. He teased my entrance with his thumbs and I arched against him, trying to grind against his fingers but he held me back. "If you answer me, Bella, I'll let you come," he teased again.
"Edward, damn it, yes. I want to come," I growled, though I was sure it came out more as begging, but I didn't care.
"Good girl," he purred and then went to work again. His tongue and his fingers worked in perfect concert with each other, in and out in and in circles until I came so hard my legs shook. "That's it, baby, come for me," he told me.
"Oh...God..." I yelled, not caring how loud it was because no one would hear it.
"No, just me, Angel," my devil incarnate husband said in a gravelly voice.
He stood up and pulled me to him, kissing me deeply. Without any reservation whatsoever I ground my dripping, hypersensitive center against his extremely hard cock and kissed him, tasting myself on his tongue. I grabbed his shirt and didn't bother to waste time with buttons and instead ripped it open. As soon as I pushed it off his shoulders, I licked his chest, taking time to flick at each nipple. I lowered my hands and undid his jeans, plunging my hand inside his boxers the moment I had enough room to do so.
"Bella, damn, baby," he hissed when I wrapped my fingers around him. He reached down and pushed his jeans over his hips and then stepped out of them when they fell to the floor.
His hands were in the middle of my back, holding me tightly against him. Somehow he managed to get my bra undone and it fell off my body and then, thankfully, we were both naked.
"Edward." I sighed when I wrapped my arms around him and felt his body against all of mine.
"I know, Bella. I feel it, too," he whispered. He bent his head down and took a hardened nipple in his mouth and sucked. He moved from one the other and my stomach tightened with each teasing moment that passed.
I pressed my thumb against the tip of his cock and pulled his hair, hard, when he bit down on the hardened nub. "Edward, fuck me...please," I begged when I couldn't stand it any more.
Actually, I'd passed that point minutes ago, but everything he was doing felt so good I was greedy and didn't want him to stop.
He lifted his head and chuckled. "I wondered how long it would take you to ask me that, my naughty little girl," he told me in a smooth, velvety voice. The one that made my hair stand on end and flooded between my legs with heat.
He picked his head up and removed his lips from my collarbones which earned him a pout.
"Patience, baby," he said slowly. "We have all night, you know. I'll fuck you and then make love to you over and over again until you can't see straight," he said and I actually shook when I heard his words.
"Mmmm, yes, my love. All night, over and over again," he told me and reached out and trailed his finger across my collarbones, down my chest, around each breast, never touching my sensitive peaks. Across my stomach and then farther down between my slick folds. Our eyes never left each others and the blacker his turned, the more turned on I became.
I loved when Edward was gentle and tender, because Lord in Heaven knew the man knew how to love me until I was a boneless heap, but when he looked at me like he was a vampire and I was his next meal, I couldn't help but wish he would throw me down and suck me dry.
I whimpered, pitifully, I knew but damn it all, I wanted him.
Right fucking now.
He must have heard me, and even though his eyes stayed just as intense, I could tell he wanted me as badly as I wanted him. Thankfully, he couldn't wait any longer either and pulled me toward him again. "Do you have any idea all the things I want to do to you?" he rasped in my ear before he sucked on my neck. "I can't decide whether to make you come with my fingers, my tongue, or my...cock," he teased and ground himself against me.
"Edward, be inside me, please," I begged. I'd already felt his tongue and his fingers, I wanted him inside of me, buried deep and fucking me hard.
"With pleasure, baby," he whispered in a sultry voice.
He turned me around so I faced the back of the sofa and pressed on my back so that I would kneel on the edge. He stepped behind me and nudged my knees apart. His hands ghosted down my back, followed by his tongue and lips. He reached down and grabbed my hands and then lifted them to the back of the sofa, curling my fingers over the edge. He kissed my shoulder again and then held onto my hips. I felt him, hard and ready, rub against my ass and I wantonly pushed back against him.
"Edward," I moaned again. The teasing had been delicious, but I wanted...needed him inside of me.
His fingers pressed down on my hip bones and in one simultaneous movement, he pulled me back, hard, against him and he entered me.
"Oh...God," I panted, when he was buried as deep as he could get.
He grunted, and I heard him hiss. "Ah...shit, Bella...baby," he groaned as he moved in and out. "So fucking good," he said.
He was so deep and he hit that most sensitive spot over and over again. Our bodies were in perfect sync, I would push back as he pushed forward and it never...ever felt so good. His talented fingers didn't want to be left out and he reached around my body and slid them through the slick heat of my pussy and found my clit. The circles he made corresponded perfectly with each thrust and I could feel the coil in my stomach wind as tight as it had ever gotten.
"You're close, Bella. I can tell," he whispered in my ear when he bent over. "I want you to come, baby. Come and let me feel you on my cock," he demanded.
I heard that little whimper, growl sound I always made whenever I was so turned on I couldn't see straight and I straightened my arms out so he went even deeper inside of me.
"Ah...fuck," he said through clenched teeth. "Yesssss," he breathed out, not stopping his fingers or his movements in and out.
I felt the coarse hair of his thighs rub against the back of my legs, I could see the muscles of his forearm flex when I looked down at the hand that was between my legs. I knew if I could see into his eyes they would be almost black and the corded muscles of his neck would be tight while he ground his teeth together.
This was the Edward no one ever got to see but me...the one that fucked me hard and took control of my body. The one that was fierce and demanding and could make me come undone over and over again, and it still never felt like it was enough.
I really, really missed this Edward.
He took my clit between his fingers and pinched. I hung my head and tried to keep my eyes open, but I couldn't. Everything felt so fucking good...and I was so close.
"So close, Edward," I managed to say.
"Then come damn it. I want to feel it, Bella. Come for me...do it," he ordered.
He pressed down hard on my clit and thrust forward, bending his knees and practically lifting me off the edge of the sofa with his cock. "Now...fucking now, Bella."
"Yes...oh God...yes!" I screamed and came in a blinding fury.
He didn't stop, didn't let up, just kept pumping over and over again as I came in wave after wave after wave. His cock and his fingers in and out, around and around, until my legs shook and I slumped forward.
"Oh, I'm not done with you yet, baby," he hissed and then pulled out of me.
I didn't even have time to miss him being inside of me before he was sitting on the sofa and I was straddling his thighs. "When I come, I want to see you," he whispered fiercely.
He lowered me on him and we both groaned when he was inside of me once more. I rocked back and forth on him, staring into his eyes.
"I love you," I whispered. I felt so overcome with everything all of a sudden. My love for him, my absolute need for him, to feel connected to him.
He reached up and held my face and wiped his thumbs across my flushed, heated cheeks. His fingers pushed back the damp hair that stuck to the side of my face and though his eyes were still burning brightly, they had changed back to the bottle green I loved so much. "I love you, Bella," he said back gently.
This was what we were all about. The fucking was all great and good, and God knew we both needed that from time to time, but the slow, all-consuming coming together was what we both craved.
I reached around him and gripped the edge of the sofa again. Edward leaned his head back and rested it on the back of the sofa. I bent forward and kissed along his shoulders and his neck as I slid up and down him. "I love you, Edward...so fucking much," I whispered against his skin. "I love being with you like this, feeling you fill me," I told him. The electric current that always seemed to surround us was buzzing and crackling, I could feel it. "Do you feel that, Edward?" I asked when I picked my head up and stared into his eyes. "That's us, baby, coming together again," I whispered.
"Oh...Bella," he hissed when I clenched my pussy around him.
"You're my whole life, everything I need and want," I told him and I felt my eyes burn with tears.
"I'm always here, Angel. Together, forever, remember?" he asked and then grinned.
"Not long enough," I told him instantly.
"I know," he answered back.
"Come with me, my beautiful girl," he commanded.
Our bodies got in perfect sync once more. I leaned forward and kissed him, hoping he could feel everything I couldn't find the words to say. I knew he could judging from the fact that he grew even harder inside of me and his hands had slipped from my waist to my ass. He dug his fingers into the flesh and helped guide me up and down him.
"Close, Bella, I'm so close. Come with me, please?" he panted.
I nodded and leaned backward a bit, arching my back and settled on his strong thighs.
"Fuck, yes, Bella...just like that."
I moved my hands from the back of the couch to his shoulders and hung on. I tightened my pussy again and I knew I was going to come any moment.
"Again, Bella. Do that again," he ordered.
I clenched again and he let out a breath between his clenched teeth. "Look at me, baby," he told me.
Our eyes met once more and I knew he was as close as I was to letting go.
"Together, my love. Come with me," he said softly.
The change in tone of his voice about did me in just then. I increased my speed just enough to feel his fingers press harder on my ass and knew it was just a matter of moments before he let go.
"Edward," I breathed out, feeling my walls begin to flutter.
"Baby, yes...now..." he said between breaths.
"Oh...God..." I yelled out as I came in a powerful burst. It felt like I could come forever... and when I thought I was at the end, Edward threw his head back and let out a feral groan and came, pulsing and shooting inside of me shouting, "Bella!" and I came...again.
I shivered above him from the aftershocks of my extremely intense orgasm and rested my forehead against his. I heard him chuckle and opened my eyes to look at him.
"Yeah, the kids most definitely need to spend more time with their Nana and Papa. That was fucking unbelievable," he said with a smirk. He pushed my hair back over my shoulder and rubbed his hands up and down my arms. "You okay?" he asked sweetly.
"Hmmmm, let me think about that for a second." I giggled when he narrowed his eyes at me. "Of course I'm okay, baby. That was...yeah, I needed that." I sighed. I ran my hands over his chest and marveled yet again how sexy he still was. Not that I ever thought that would change, mind you.
No chance of that happening...at all.
We sat that way for a few minutes until my legs got too sore and then he laid us down on the couch, pulling the blanket off the back and covered us up. My back was against his chest and every few seconds he'd kiss my shoulder, the top of my head, or he'd nuzzle my neck. We didn't say anything for the longest time, though in all reality it was only a short while until he finally said, "I know it's going to be a big change when the twins leave, Bella, but I have to tell you, I'm really looking forward to having more of you to myself."
I had let my fingers dance over his forearms and I didn't stop while I listened to him talk. As soon as he was finished, I felt my body mold against his even further. "I can't either, baby. As much as I'm going to miss them, it will be nice to have a bit more quiet time for just the two of us. I know Cal and Eli have their own things going on, but I'm looking forward to things slowing down some. I miss you when we don't get to spend enough time together," I said softly.
"Angel." He sighed and then rolled us so that he was above me. He dipped his head down and kissed the end of my nose and then each of my cheeks before giving me the sweetest of kisses on my lips. Not too hard and not too soft, but just the perfect blend of love and tenderness. He brushed his lips against mine and then nibbled on my bottom lip before sucking my tongue into his mouth. He massaged my tongue with his and kissed me until I was dizzy. "I love our kids and our family, Bella, but you are my everything. My wife, my lover, my very best friend...my heart and soul. Everything, baby, everything we have together is amazing, but it's the times when I get to have you all to myself that I feel the most connected to you. I need that, so fucking much," he whispered against my mouth and then kissed me again.
"I do, too, Edward. I love you and I always need you," I told him as I pushed his hair back off his forehead.
"Mmmmm, that's good to know, baby...because I need you...right fucking now," he breathed out and filled me again.
We spent the rest of the night trying to quench our need for each other, but knew we never would.
"Morning, little man," Papa said to me as he sat down beside me on the bench in their backyard. "Whatcha doing out here so early in the morning?"
I yawned and then pointed at Rufus who was chasing a leaf that blew around the backyard. "Rufus needed to go outside," I told him and smiled when he finally caught it.
He sat beside me for a few minutes without saying a word and then finally said, "You doing okay?"
I nodded at him because I was doing more than okay, I was great. Mommy and Daddy had finally gotten married and we could be a family forever. It seemed like it had taken a really long time for that to happen, but I was smart enough to know it really hadn't been that long. I mean, I was eight, and got all A's in school; I wasn't a dummy.
I pulled Grandpa Charlie's badge out of my pocket and held it in my hands and thought about what Uncle Jasper and Uncle Seth had told me about him. I even remembered what Grandpa Charlie's friend, Billy, told me, too. I was kinda bummed that I wouldn't ever get to meet him, though. I mean, he was a policeman…and the one that was in charge of everyone else! How cool was that? All of my friends would be so jealous! Not that I really cared about that, but I kinda did. It would have been really cool to have been able to have him around.
I couldn't wait to go to school and show everyone the badge. Besides the stuff Mommy had Derek Jeter sign for me, this was the coolest thing I owned. I knew it was really special to her, and the fact that she wanted me to have it made my tummy feel funny. I tried not to cry when Uncle Jasper gave it to me, but I didn't do a very good job and I cried a little bit. Hopefully none of my friends would find out about that. I mean I didn't even cry when I broke my arm!
My friends already thought I had the best Mommy ever anyway. 'Course they thought Daddy was really nice, too. I had been around enough of my friends and their moms and dads to know that I was really lucky. My friend Bobby at school had to live with his Grandma and Grandpa after his parents were mean to him so I knew not everyone's parents were like mine.
I got sad sometimes when I thought about Mommy and her mom and dad. Her mom sounded like a she wasn't very nice lady. I didn't understand anything about that. Mommy was my best friend and everyone loved her so much, it was dumb that anyone would want to be mean to her. Grandpa Charlie sounded better, but I wasn't real sure about him either.
Mommy didn't talk about him very much, but ever since her and Daddy went on that trip back to where she grew up and where she met Uncle Jasper, Uncle Seth, and Aunt Rose, she's talked about him more. It used to make her really sad whenever anyone said his name. That made me sad. Mommy shouldn't ever be sad; she was way too nice to ever be sad.
"Whatcha thinking about?" Papa asked me as he looked at the badge in my hand.
I shrugged my shoulders and said, "Mommy and Grandpa Charlie. Mommy told me you tried to help him when he was really sick. It's sad he died."
Papa put his arm around me and nodded his head and said, "It is. Your Mommy tried as hard as she could to do everything she could to try help make him better. I really wish I would have been able to help him, Masen."
I nodded at him. My Papa always tried to help everyone and I knew he got real upset when he couldn't always make them better. I didn't really understand everything he did, but I knew he was really good at his job and that people from far away wanted his help all the time.
"Was he really nice?" I asked.
Papa smiled and nodded his head. "He really was, and he was pretty funny, too. When I met him he was really sick, but he always told me and Nana funny stories about Mommy and the others."
"Do you think Uncle Jasper will be my real uncle someday?" I asked.
I knew that Jasper and Seth weren't really my uncles, just like Tanya and Demetri weren't really my aunt and uncle either. But, Uncle Jasper kissed Aunt Alice as much as Daddy kissed Mommy and even I knew you didn't kiss a girl that much or look at her with that silly look on your face unless you wanted to get married.
Papa coughed and got a strange look on his face but then he smiled and nodded his head. "I do. Uncle Jasper loves your Aunt Alice a whole lot. You know we all have a lot to thank your Mommy for because without her, we wouldn't have Seth, Jasper, or Rose, and think how bad that would be. I mean, who would keep Uncle Emmett in line if it wasn't for Aunt Rose?"
I nodded my head and thought about that. Saturday when we were at that nice place with the big rooms, there were so many people in the room with us. I really did love Uncle Jasper and Uncle Seth. Seth was silly like Uncle Emmett, but he loved Mommy a whole lot. I had heard lots of stories from him and Mommy from when they were little. They were almost like me and Maddie, even though they had different moms and dads.
Uncle Jasper was so cool. He took me and Mad by ourselves at least once a week to the Museum of Natural History and told us stories about all the displays there. He was one of the smartest grownups I knew, besides Daddy and Papa.
My best friend Adam and I talked about the wedding before I left on vacation before Thanksgiving. He thought it was really weird that Maddie and I got to watch Daddy and Mommy get married since most kids' parents were already married a long time before them. I knew it was different than most of mine and Maddie's friends, but I didn't really care. We wanted Mommy and now she would always be with us.
I also thought it was really cool that Daddy had asked that I stand up front with him and Uncle Emmett. He told me it was to make sure Uncle Emmett gave Father O'C the ring at the right time, but I knew he really just wanted me to stand up front with him cause I loved Mommy as much as he did. After all, I found her first.
Rufus barked and we laughed at him when he decided to change from chasing a leaf to rolling around on the ground. I couldn't wait to move to the lake with him so he could run and play outside more. He was gonna love playing in the snow! Thinking about that made me think about being up at the lake, and then the wedding. I couldn't help but smile again.
Mommy was soooo pretty on Saturday. I knew she would be though. I also knew my mommy was prettier than any other mom, ever. My friends all said so and anytime we went anyplace, people always stared at her. I knew that lots of people knew who she was and stuff, but still. I didn't talk to anyone about this but Maddie, but I hated when we would be out places and people would stare at her. It creeped me out big time.
I remembered the first time I saw her at the park that very first day. I never told anyone, but it was really her I wanted to talk to, not Rufus. I mean he's a puppy and all, but when I saw her for the first time, I thought she was like an angel or something. Mad knew, 'cause we told each other everything, but no one else did. It was our secret.
Mad told me all the time that it was 'cause of me that we have Mommy now, but I wasn't so sure about that. I wouldn't lie, it made me feel good to think that, but who knew if it was the truth or not? I guessed it didn't really matter now that Daddy finally got smart enough, and they got married.
I was so excited when Daddy told us they were getting married. 'Course Mommy was still in the hospital when he told us so I tried not to think about that too much. It made me scared sometimes to think about it though and me and Mad talked about that, too.
Flashback from the Lake House~
"Mase, you need to get up," Uncle Marcus told me.
I yawned and tried to pull the pillow over my head and he shook me again. "Masen, come on, little man. You and Maddie have to get up and get dressed. We have to go."
There was something about his voice that made me nervous so I opened my eyes and looked at him. His hair was a mess and his shirt was buttoned weird and I could tell something was wrong.
"Where are we going?" I asked as I sat up on the edge of the bed.
He was pulling clothes out of my dresser without even looking at me and I got goosebumps 'cause I knew something had happened.
Uncle Marcus stood up and ran his fingers through his hair. When he opened his mouth to say something, Aunt Diane walked in my room with Maddie who ran and sat next to me on the bed. She pulled my arm around her like she always did when she was scared.
When I saw Aunt Diane had tears in her eyes and I could hear Uncle Demetri moving downstairs, I couldn't help but get scared, though I tried not to show it. Maddie needed me to be strong for her. The only thing I could think of that would make everyone so sad was that something happened with Mommy and Daddy.
Aunt Diane came and sat on the bed next to Maddie and Uncle Marcus knelt in front of us, and after he took a few deep breaths, he said, "We have to take you two back to the city right away."
"Something happened to Mommy, didn't it?" I asked. I knew it did. I could feel it. My stomach had a yucky feeling in it and my chest hurt, like where my heart was.
They each looked at each other and Maddie reached for my hand and squeezed it, hard. Uncle Marcus nodded and I felt like I was going to throw up; like it did when me and Uncle Emmett rode the roller coaster over and over at Disney.
"It did, Masen. Papa called and said we needed to hurry and get there as fast as we could. The car is ready downstairs and Rufus is already in his kennel. Come on," he said as he stood up.
I felt weird and I didn't want to move. I guessed Mad didn't want to either because she still held onto me.
We followed them to the car and climbed in the backseat and got buckled up. The two guys that that man, Mr. Macelli, sent to help Uncle Marcus and Uncle Demetri watch the house were in the front seat. We took off and even I could tell that once we got going, we were going way faster than we were supposed to be. Something really bad had to have happened to Mommy and Daddy to make him drive so fast and it really scared me.
I tried to not let it show because Maddie would already be scared enough as it was. It was really weird sometimes because I could almost feel her when she got scared or was worried about something. There were lots of times when she would look at me, without telling me anything, and I would know what was wrong. I knew when I played ball and I got nervous when it was my turn to bat, I could feel Maddie sending me good thoughts and I could always tell when she smiled at me.
Uncle Marcus and Aunt Diane kept talking real quiet to each other and I couldn't tell what they were saying. But sometimes you could tell just by the way someone said something, like Daddy did to Mommy sometimes, that there was something really bad going on. I didn't know why people didn't just tell us what was wrong. Me and Mad weren't babies, and we knew a lot more than they thought we did anyhow. Like I had said, we were smart kids, we figured out way more than they knew.
It seemed like we made it to the hospital where Papa worked in no time, and as soon as I knew that was where we were, I got even more scared. Maddie grabbed my hand and we followed Uncle Marcus inside and when we got to where the rest of the family was and saw Daddy for the first time, and he was crying, I knew it was bad.
When we saw Mommy for the first time, I didn't even believe it was her at first. I mean it looked like her, and Daddy told us she was sleeping, but she wasn't like she always was. She was so still, she didn't even move at all. And she was cold, and Mommy wasn't ever cold.
I didn't mean to get so mad at Daddy when I yelled at him, but I was just scared that she wouldn't ever wake up. I mean, what would have happened to us if she would have stayed asleep. She was the only Mommy we wanted and I didn't want her to die. I knew all the grownups were scared that would happen. You could tell by the way everyone was so sad and the part of the hospital she was in. Daddy probably forgot, but he told me one time when we came here to find Papa, that where we were now was where the people who were the sickest and hurt the most stayed so I knew it was bad she was here.
It was so scary when she was sleeping and it took that long time to wake up. Daddy was always so sad, even though he tried not to show it when he was with us. He always took us to the cafeteria so we could eat together and he tried to ask us about school and stuff, but you could tell he just wanted Mommy to get better.
I hated that lady that hurt Mommy. Nana and Papa always told us it was bad to hate anyone. I usually tried not to, but I couldn't help it this time. I mean, why would she want to hurt Mommy that way? And when I saw how sad Daddy and Maddie were, I really, REALLY hated her, lots.
When she woke up, it was the best day ever. Well, the day she said she would be our mommy was pretty great and then when she and Daddy told us they were finally getting married, that was awesome, too. Everyone felt so much better once she woke up. It took awhile for her to not hurt and I was happy it didn't take very long for her pretty hair to grow back.
End of Flashback~
"Come on, buddy, time for breakfast. Nana made chocolate chip pancakes for you guys," Papa said.
"Rufus, come on," I called for him. "Papa, what time are Mommy and Daddy going to get home. I want to see them."
"You miss them already?" he asked with a smile and I nodded.
I did. Maybe it made me a big baby, but I didn't care.
My mommy and daddy were the best, ever.
"Mase, what's the matter?" I asked my brother as I sat down next to him on the sofa. I knew there was something bothering him 'cause I got that feeling I got sometimes when he was worried or wanted to talk to me about something.
It felt funny to be at the loft without Mommy and Daddy. They were supposed to be coming home from Lake George right now and Nana said they'd be here pretty soon. We'd been home from school for just a little while and Mommy had told us they would be home before dinner.
I sighed and laid my head on Masen's shoulder and watched him play Super Mario Wii. I missed Mommy and Daddy, even though it had only been two days, well one really, since we'd seen them. Mase knew that ever since Mommy had been hurt, sometimes I got scared about something happening to her again, like it did before. He kept telling me that it wouldn't and that the mean lady wouldn't hurt her anymore, but I still worried. It was so bad when it happened the first time.
Talking to Dr. Benedict about it all helped, but nothing really helped as good as talking to Masen. He was my best friend, even more than Nolan was. I knew he tried to make everything better for me and sometimes it made me sad that I wasn't as strong as he was. I mean, he didn't even cry when he broke his arm and got scared when all those people were chasing him and Mommy! I guess Uncle Emmett kept all those people from getting to him, but Masen was still really brave!
Masen made a funny sound and I picked my head up and looked at him. His forehead was wrinkled like Daddy's gets when he's mad at Uncle Emmett or when Aunt Alice is bugging him. He didn't say anything, but I could tell he was thinking about stuff.
When he got to a place he could pause his game, he threw the controller down and sat back. He ran his hands through his hair, and he looked just like Daddy did, when he did the same thing.
"Don't you think it feels weird being here?" he asked me and I nodded my head since I just thought the same thing.
"How much longer do you think it will be before they get here?" I asked as I looked at the clock again.
He shrugged his shoulders and said, "Not sure, but probably not much longer. Mommy said they'd be here before dinner and she always does what she says."
"I'm so happy we're all married now," I told him.
"Yep, me, too. I mean, Mad, you know Daddy is the only one really married to Mommy right?" he asked and I rolled my eyes at him.
I punched him in the shoulder and said, "'Course I know that, silly, but Mommy and Daddy both said we were all married now, so I'm saying we are."
"'Kay, just making sure you knew for real. Hey, Mad," he asked as he looked back at Nana in the kitchen to make sure she didn't hear him. "Are you ready to move? I mean I'm gonna miss Papa and Nana and stuff, but I want to go to the lake, don't you?"
I looked at Nana just like he did and then whispered, "I do. I'm sad about leaving everybody and I like my room here cause Mommy did it, but yeah, I'm ready."
I reached up and ran my fingers over my new locket and smiled. Everyone at school today asked me about it and I told all my friends about how it had belonged to my Grandpa Charlie's mom and that Mommy wanted me to have it now. I didn't tell anyone about the letter she gave me before we got dressed on Saturday though.
Yesterday when I woke up, I curled up into my special chair and read her letter to me. It said:
My Precious Maddie,
Today, is a really special day. I'm marrying Daddy and after today, we'll always be a family. Forever. Someday when you're older, I will tell you why that means so much to me, but for now, just know that you and Masen are the most important people, besides Daddy, to me.
I am giving you a very special necklace today so that you will always remember that from today on, you will have me, Daddy, and Masen with you.
Things get scary sometimes, Maddie, and I know there will be times that we can't all always be with you. When that happens, you can just look inside your locket and remind yourself that your family will always love you and will always be here whenever you need us.
I'm so happy you and Masen chose me to be your Mommy. I've loved you both since the first moment we met, and I always will. Even many, many years from now when it is hopefully your turn to give this locket to your daughter, I will still be your Mommy and I will always want what is best for you and for you to be happy.
I knew that Mommy's mom wasn't a very nice lady. I remember the story she told us about Cinderella. I couldn't help but kind of hate her for being so mean to Mommy. I mean Mommy was so nice to everyone, I just didn't understand how anyone could be mean to her.
'Course I didn't understand why that mean lady tried to hurt her either. I knew Mommy and Daddy, Dr. Benedict, too, had all tried to explain that she was sick and her brain told her things that weren't true, but it was still wrong and really bad what she did.
"Do you think Mommy and Daddy will have a baby? Don't you think it would be neat if we had a baby brother or sister?" I asked him. I knew lots of my friends had baby brothers or sisters. I thought it would be so great for Mommy to have a baby. I wanted a baby sister. I could help Mommy with her and when she got bigger, I could play with her and then help her and protect her like Masen did me.
Masen smiled at me and nodded his head. "Oh, Sissy, that would be so awesome! Can you just imagine if we had a baby brother! It would be so cool!"
I nudged him with my knee and gave him my look. "No, Mase, I want a sister," I said as I shook my head.
"Well I want a brother," he told me and crossed his arms at me.
I didn't know why he wouldn't want a sister. Baby boys, just ugh.
I got a sad thought and I must have made a sound because Masen poked me until I looked at him. "What?"
My eyes got tears in them and I tried to bend my head down so Nana wouldn't see. "What if Mommy and Daddy like the new baby more than us? I mean the baby would really be Mommy's and we aren't," I whispered. "I changed my mind. I don't want Mommy to have a baby…ever!" I told him as I closed my eyes and shook my head.
"Mad, cut it out," Masen told me. "You know Mommy loves us lots, I mean look at the presents she gave us. We got to get married with her and Daddy."
"But, Mase, when she has a new baby, she could love it more than us. What if she wanted to give us back, like our real mom did?" I asked.
I didn't like to think about her…ever.
"Sissy, don't say that!" Masen yelled at me and Nana looked over at us. We both turned back to the TV and waited until she stopped looking at us before he started talking again. "You know Mommy wouldn't ever do that!"
I felt tears in my eyes again and felt bad for saying what I did. "I know, but it scares me sometimes," I whispered really soft. "What if that lady that went to my soccer game that one time is our real mom? What if she tries to take us away from Mommy and Daddy?"
He scooted closer to me on the couch and bent his head by mine. "I won't let anyone hurt you, I promise," he told me and I nodded my head at him cause I knew he wouldn't.
"You think that lady is our real mom, don't you?" I asked him.
He had told me what happened that day and how upset Mommy, Daddy, and Aunt Alice all were. When he told me about that lady grabbing him and then asking who I was, I got goosebumps and then I got mad. Nobody grabs my brother like that. Daddy may have gotten mad at us sometimes, but only when we'd been bad and he'd never grabbed us like she did him.
"I do. She really wanted to know who you were and she knew Mommy." He giggled and I looked at him. "You should have seen that lady's face when she saw Aunt Ali, it was funny. She looked like Uncle Seth when he saw that spider that one time."
I laughed at that. Uncle Seth might have been one of Mommy's bodyguards but how someone as big as he was could be that scared of spiders was just silly.
I opened my locket and looked at the picture of Mommy and Daddy inside of it and asked Masen, "You don't think she could ever take us away from here do you?"
We watched the news sometimes and I knew that there were lots of bad things that happened, even to kids. Daddy and Nana had taken us to the shelter where they helped a few times and it made me sad to see kids like me and Mase there. I knew we were really lucky to have Daddy and now Mommy.
He shook his head hard and grabbed my hand. "No way. Daddy would never let that happen…and neither would Mommy. It doesn't matter who our real mom is, Mad, Mommy is with us now. We love her and she loves us. It'll be fine, promise."
"'Kay," I told him, cause I knew if he said it would fine, it would be.
"Hey, you two, why don't you go get started on your homework and get done before Mom and Dad get home. Daddy just sent a text and said they'd be home in about an hour, which gives you plenty of time to get finished. You don't want to have to mess with it later, do you?" Nana said and we both shook our head.
When they got home, I didn't want to have to do anything except see them so we hurried to our rooms to get done. I had Math, which I hated, but only because it was hard for me sometimes. Mommy always laughed at me because she said I was just like her. She didn't like Math either, but she loved to read just like me. It made me feel good to do something like her.
I got my Math and my Spelling done really fast and then helped Masen get his Spelling done. He was really good in Math, like Daddy, but he didn't spell so good.
Once I put away my homework in my folder and put my backpack away, I heard Rufus barking and knew Mommy and Daddy were home. I tried to beat Masen to the door, but I didn't. He was really fast. As soon as the door opened, Mommy and Daddy walked in and Daddy picked me up and gave me a big kiss on the cheek.
"I missed you, Princess," he said as I hugged him real tight around his neck. I loved the way he smelled. I didn't know exactly what he smelled like; I only knew it always made me feel better.
"I missed you, too!" I told him and kissed him again. He rubbed his nose against my cheek and his face was scruffy.
I wiggled so he would put me down so I could see Mommy, too.
"Peanut Butter Cup, how was school today?" she asked me when she bent down to give me a hug.
"It was fine. I got my homework done already and so did Mase," I told her as she gave me a kiss.
She smiled at both of us and said, "Good job! That means we can watch a movie tonight instead of having to do homework!"
We clapped and then they talked to Nana for a minute before she left, too.
Nana had made spaghetti for dinner and we got the plates and stuff out to put on the table.
"So, did you guys have fun at the party after the wedding?" Daddy asked while we were eating and both of us nodded our heads.
I laughed and said, "I did. My favorite part was doing the chicken dance with Uncle Emmett. He's so silly!"
"No kidding! I've had to live with him for a long time," Daddy said, shaking his head.
"My favorite part was eating the cake!" Masen said and I had to nod my head at that. Both cakes were really good, but I liked the white cake better than the chocolate one.
"I can't wait until Paul gives us the pictures he took. You both looked so nice," Mommy said with a smile.
"Not as pretty as you, Mommy," I told her. She was the prettiest mommy, ever.
Daddy kissed her on the cheek and got that silly look on his face he got all the time whenever he looked at her and said, "I have to agree, baby. You were something else."
"Edward, stop it." Mommy giggled but smiled at him.
After we ate we had to help clean up the dishes and after we put on our pajamas we picked out Night at the Museum to watch. I loved that movie, especially the statue that always wanted the gum.
I kept thinking about what Mase and I talked about and when the movie was over I stood up and faced Mommy and Daddy on the couch.
"Mase and I want a baby brother or sister," I told them with my hands on my hips.