**Sorry for the length, a catch-up chapter**
"Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear, Renesmee…happy birthday to you," we all sang to her in high and low bell-like tones.
After Renesmee blew out her first year's candles and everyone clapped, I bent down and gave my beautiful daughter a hug and kiss on her cheek. Had it really been a whole year?
Edward had told me once a year to a vampire felt like that of just a day to a human. And it had felt like a day; one big, gloriously happy day.
All the Cullens were there as well as Jacob, Charlie and Sue.
Rosalie and Emmett had enjoyed traveling, but stayed home more often once Renesmee was born. She was fascinating to them, to all of us really, with one exception, Edward. As if a child of his would be nothing but fascinating and brilliant. He was right. And he always knew what she'd be surprising us with before we did. He had a proud, unfair advantage. And I enjoyed watching him with her every day. Edward made sure we knew we meant everything to him, as did I, while each moment with each other still kept our senses, and desires, very much alive.
Alice, as normal, had outdone herself with a plethora of birthday decorations. Draped over the arms of Esme's chandelier hung separate strips of pink and yellow sheer fabric, clasped in the middle with white lace bows and purple flowers. Yellow balloons filled with helium floated all the way up the staircase, while pink and purple ones danced erratically throughout the dining room. One hundred candles-I counted-were placed throughout the lower level, scenting the rooms with the smell of roses in spring. A few were placed in cut crystal hurricane lamps that conveyed a reflection of colors all around the room as if partying in a rainbow. Under Ren's cake, a beautiful hand-crocheted white snowflake covered most of Esme's dining room table.
Renesmee loved snowflakes. She had since that first snowfall last winter; the same snowfall that marked the wrathful event that had come for us. To kill us.
I shuddered at the memory.
"Everything alright, Bella?" Edward asked, seeing my slight shudder, no doubt.
"Yes," I whispered. "Just a silly thought crossed my mind. I can't believe it's been a year." I casually changed the subject.
My husband still could not read my mind less I let him, but I'm sure he knew there was something more, yet he replied with a smile, "I know." He'd be asking me later.
Pretty pink curled ribbons hung in harmony with Renesmee's natural ringlets that reached to the middle of her back. Alice finally let me cut my daughter's hair when it reached her hips. I had, in turn, promised I wouldn't ever cut it any shorter than her shoulders before she considered handing me the scissors.
We all picked a chair around the dining room table to sit for presents and a toast; everyone except Edward, who continued to stand. We weren't out of chairs, but we didn't sit much since the Volturi had been here. Our keen senses naturally kept us on guard all the time, though Alice would let us know if anything 'further' was coming.
Fortunately, we or any other vampires who'd stood witness for us last winter, hadn't heard anything more from the Volturi. Not a peep, not a threat, not even a whisper. Everything was quiet in Volterra. And something about that made me nervous. Coming to 'check' on Renesmee again was something I wouldn't put past Aro at any point in her life. It was something I felt was almost unavoidable, considering Aro's fascination with her. Would they come soon, would they wait until she was an adult. And…what would happen when they did?
I shuddered again.
Edward glanced at me warily, along with the rest of the Cullens then. I played it off though, faking my best smile in response. I would have to be careful of my reactions to my thoughts. The Volturi was a subject none of us took lightly. And the last thing I wanted to do was bring them up in a conversation of my own fears.
Edward's gentle touch and light squeeze to my shoulder was a comforting gesture against my psychological self-torment. And luckily for me, his touch had always won out over those types of mental inflictions. Aka: vampire destractions.
Alice had made a cake she saw on the cooking network. She, Carlisle and Esme have enjoyed making meals for Jacob and Renesmee this past year, and are all very good at it. Renesmee still preferred the hunt, even though she'd taken more of a liking to solid foods than we'd expected. Her body still craved blood, hunting nearly every three days just to keep up with her rapid growth rate. Which would stop completely when she reached her full adult size.
The incredible cake was three layers, stacked and covered from top to bottom in pink frosting. Yellow and purple flowers danced around the outside edges and across the top in a beautifully decorated medley. Alice had placed one large white candle at the top for her, causing Renesmee to have to stand on her chair to be tall enough to blow it out. Jacob and Sam's packs would help her finish off the yummy treat when they arrived a little later. They wanted to give us family time before bombarding the house.
The decades old treaty between the vampires and wolves was still in place, but only as a precaution now from blood temptations. It was nothing personal, we knew, but probably in the best interest for Jasper, who still struggled with incredible bloodlust at times and vampires who might be passing through. The border between our land and theirs had been eliminated though. Not because we didn't need it, but because we trusted each other enough to know it was no longer necessary to keep ourselves separated. Our new goal, was working together, protecting Forks and the Reservation as a team. But our current interactions with the packs made it seem as if no treaty existed. We were friends now.
Leah, to this day, though, kept her distance, it was understandable. We weren't the enemy anymore, but some people needed a little—or a lot—longer to get used to the idea. She was one of them.
Jacob and Sam had also found a way to allow two separate packs to exist in peace on the reservation. By having one of Sam's boys run with a member of Jake's, like partners on a police force. The patrols ran in fours; two paced the east, north and west, while the other two covered the west, south and east perimeter, completing a circle and keeping in constant, mental contact with each other. They didn't want other vampires here any more than we did. Any uninvited vampires, that is.
Sam and Emily married six months ago, Quileute style, and as promised, Leah held her place as one of the bridesmaids. Although we were invited to the wedding, we decided it was best not to scare the guests who were unfamiliar, or unacceptable, to a random sparkle or two, and sent a nice gift in our absence. Sam understood and respected the decline, all the while saying our family's wedding gift to pay to have Emily's face and arm surgical fixed was too much. But we'd insisted. She'll be undergoing her third surgery next month. It was already hard to tell, to a human, that Sam had once taken his claws to her accidentally.
Jared and Kim were married a month after them, and were also taken aback at our gift of two college tuitions, fully paid. Another wedding we'd graciously declined, and wished we could have been there for. They promised to keep a 3.0 or higher grade average for Carlisle, who'd smiled happily.
Over the last year, we'd spent our Saturdays down at the reservation with Billy, the boys, and their ladies. It gave Renesmee time with other children, and Jacob time with his father.
On overcast days, which were plenty in Forks, we would head down to First Beach to watch Renesmee and Claire play in the waves and help build sand castles. Edward, Emmett and Jasper had taken up the extreme sport of cliff diving with Jacob and the Quileute boys as often as possible. I stayed behind because I'd had enough with my one time cliff diving—and when they'd returned, it was always an all-out wrestling match in the water.
I had grown used to the blood scents of the imprint girls after only a short time, which allowed me to easily ignore the pain in my throat. Venturing outside was always the best option, though, along with making sure to sit upwind from them. They'd never felt threatened, and I'd never made any sudden moves, but even so, Sam liked to make sure there was always one wolf around. It was a cautious decision. One I took no offense at, because I knew I would never take the chance at hurting any of them.
Self-control was my middle name.
Sundays, once-a-month, were reserved for visits with Charlie, when he wasn't out fishing. While he and Edward would tune into the latest seasonal sports game, Jacob, Renesmee and I would head out into the forest, where we could play and act like the shape shifter and vampires we were. Climbing trees and having rock throwing contests were our favorites. The rest of his time, when Charlie wasn't working, he spent with Sue, Billy or some of the guys from work, doing odds and ends hobbies. It was nice to see my father happy.
"Happy birthday, sweetie," I said as I handed her the gift Edward and I had specially ordered. She joyfully put the gift box on the table and opened it. Renesmee was such a wonderfully quick learner, that Edward thought a laptop computer of her own at home would be a perfect gift. Then she could gather all the information she wanted about the world she was so fascinated with.
"Thank you, mommy," she said as she kissed and hugged me.
"You're welcome, sweetheart," I replied with a smile in my eyes.
Then she leaned around me to Edward and hugged him lovingly. "Thank you, daddy, it's perfect," she beamed.
"Anything for you, darling," he said with complete adoration, as he stroked his hand down the back of her hair.
Carlisle and Esme had ordered her a custom made, one-of-a-kind violin, so she could accompany her father when he played the piano. Our 'adoptive' parents loved music so much and hearing Edward play, that the thought of another instrument in the house was a heavenly idea to them. It was beautiful. A perfect gift for a child who could do just about anything she set her mind to.
One might wonder about such extravagant gifts for a child. But Renesmee was not extravagant. She valued and appreciated every gift that has ever been given to her.
Alice and Rosalie had hand-selected and partially designed a whole new beautiful parade of clothes for her. Considering how quickly she still grew, the stack contained many various sizes. Probably enough to get her through the next year even. Fashion shows are still a must every morning for Renesmee, Alice and Rosalie. It always makes her feel like the little lady she is.
Alice was sweet enough to humor me with a pair of jeans and white cotton t-shirt in there for her too. I smiled when Renesmee held them up and said, "Mommy, I have an outfit just like you now."
Alice tried to hold a straight face as if she couldn't believe she'd stooped to my level of fashion. But Renesmee's excitement had won her over and she grinned in defeat.
Jasper and Emmett thought it would be cool to build her one of those wooden play sets with a swirly slide, rope ladders to climb up, a big bridge running across the top, swings and a trapeze bar to flip from. They had given it to her earlier this morning, building the entire monstrosity overnight. It was hard not to laugh at the fact that it was just a little shorter than Jacob, and that he must have bumped his head at least ten times in the first hour.
Rosalie found it the funniest.
Renesmee gave Carlisle, Esme, Alice, Jasper, Rosalie and Emmett each a hug, with an "I love you" spoken after each one.
"Love you more," they each said back to her.
Charlie and Sue had given her an old-fashioned wooden wagon with three wide horizontal wood slats on each side. Renesmee loved to pick flowers with Esme.
"We wanted her to be able to pull as many flowers as she wanted," Charlie told us. "The house can never have enough." He smiled playfully at her.
"Thank you, grandpa, I'll think of you and Sue every time I use it," she said as she reached her arms up for him to lift her by. "I love you."
"I sure hope so," he said with a kiss to her cheek. "Love you too, Nessie."
I gave up on hating the nickname. It was nine to one; I had been outnumbered, and wasn't going to win on banning it. And I'll admit, it was growing on me. I didn't picture a hideous lake monster anymore when I heard it.
"Thank you, too, Sue," she said, looking over her shoulder from Charlie's arms.
"You're welcome, precious," Sue cooed as she touched Renesmee's nose, wrinkling hers back in fun.
Charlie set her back down then so she could make her way over to her someone special.
Jacob had hand-made her a promise bracelet to go with the promise ring he had given her a little under a year ago, after getting Edward's permission, of course. She was only one year old, even if her appearance was that of a five year old now.
It resembled the one Jacob made for me, but included a heart shape on both sides of the carved wolf that hung from the middle. After he put the bracelet on her, he said, "A lifetime of happiness I wish for you."
She reached up and put her hand to his face and he smiled.
Edward rolled his eyes then looked at me, knowing what she was showing him. It was always innocent pictures of them playing, laughing. She was a child. A half-vampire child—who, ironically—had been imprinted to a very large wolf. And knowing what we knew how imprinting worked, I'd decided long ago, I would let Edward handle that situation. She was 'daddy's little girl', after all.
We all visited Zafrina in the summer, like we promised, who sent a three-foot sized rain stick from the Amazon forest. Every time Renesmee tilted the hollow stick, little pebbles ran along the inside, sounding like an ambush of rain. After about the fifteenth tilt, we had to ask her to set it down. To give the rain some rest.
While we were there, Kachiri had taken us out on a hunt for jaguars. They were tasty, and quite the battle, too. I think I impressed Emmett when I drained mine before he did. I loved beating him whenever possible. I was still stronger than him, and knew I'd better take advantage while I could.
Edward and I preferred the mountain lions back home though. We knew it was because of the diet make-up we were more used to; although, I'd take a meat eater any day over a vegetarian animal.
Emmett wrestled a Green Anaconda. That was fun to watch. Apparently, if you tie an Anaconda up in itself, it will make four huge knots.
Renesmee had a wonderful time with Zafrina and all her pretty pictures. She had promised me nothing too scary. Although, for a child who hunts and has vampires for parents, I'm not sure what would be considered 'too' scary?
Edward and I once thought about kindergarten for Renesmee. But how do you explain the quick growth spurts, the high school level of education and a big protective wolf who'd secretly be watching her every move, ready to take out any kid that got too close. No, school would not do her, or them any justice. So we each took turns teaching Renesmee academics, and our passions.
Carlisle taught her all the sciences, from biology to chemistry to medicine. Esme taught her all about art and architecture. Alice and Rosalie kept her apprised of all the latest fashions and designs, of course, while Jasper and Emmett taught her basic fighting and hunting skills they referred to as...P.E. Edward chose music, foreign language and film. And Jacob and Rosalie, when the two were getting along, taught her basic mechanics. It was rather comical to see an adorable five-year-old crawl under an oil greased Volkswagen with a wrench in hand. But she didn't care. As long as Jacob was with her, she'd learn anything he had to teach her, and Rosalie, too.
Mine was tough. What did I have to offer her that I was passionate about? I excelled in nothing in high school, just your basic average student. And I hadn't been around for the last three hundred, or even one-hundred years to learn a lot to pass on.So, as of now, I was happy being Renesmee's mother, playmate, story teller, grammar-corrector, audience, dress-up doll and manners coach.
She was my passion.
After Charlie, Sue and the Quileute boys headed home, we knew Renesmee would be growing tired, and decided we should head home for the night.
"Wait, Bella!" Esme said as we were getting ready to leave. "I have something for you."
"Something for me?" I raised an eyebrow. Considering it was Renesmee's birthday, what she could possibly have?
"Yes, hold on now, don't leave," she said with excitement as she held her hands in front of me to stay. Then she headed upstairs.
"Why does she have something for me?" I asked Edward tersely as I placed my hand on my hip.
"You'll see," he replied with a hint of arrogance.
"Hmmm." I crossed my arms in front of me, narrowing my eyes back at him. I still wasn't good at receiving gifts.
Esme was back downstairs in the blink of an eye, carrying a small gift bag. She held it out in front of her for me to take. "Here, Bella, this is from all of us, to you."
"From everyone?" I looked surprisingly around the room. "What's the occasion, Esme?"
"Open it." She held her hands in front of her chest, waiting expectantly.
I pulled the tissue paper out and looked in the bag. There was a small wrapped item at the bottom. I picked the item out and pulled the tissue paper off from around it.
"We had one made for you." She grinned wider, her hands still held tightly in front of her.
Wrapped in the middle of the tissue, was the family crest that each of them wore with pride. Mine was a gorgeous broach that was in the same oval shape as Alice, Rosalie and Esme's. Emmett's, Jasper's and Edward's were more circular, and worn on black, leather wrist bands. Carlisle's was in a ring.
"Thank you Esme, everyone." I looked around, and then hugged them all. Edward received a kiss for his part in this. This made me feel even more like part of the family, even though they had always made me feel that way. This gift, though, was mine, all mine to treasure. My own Cullen family crest. Where I belonged, forever.
"Wear it however you like Bella," Esme said as she came over and put her hands on my shoulders, "my daughter," then gave me a kiss on my cheek.
I adored her.
"I'll find something for you to pin it on," Alice said as she took it from my hand, smiling. She could be pretty interfering at times when it came to how I should dress, but she was usually right. So I let her take my crest to find the perfect item for me to wear it on.
I adored my fanatic sister as well.
No…I adored all of them.
We said good night then and headed for our cottage just over the river, located not too far away from the main house.
After we arrived home and put Renesmee to bed, I met Edward back in the front room.
He had a gentle fire going in the beehive corner fireplace, and had arranged out in front of it, a large, brown, comfy fleece blanket with eight pillows placed all about.
I went over and placed my hand tenderly on his shoulder and sat down beside him. He put his arm around me, leaned his head against mine and sighed lightly.
"Is everything okay?" I asked curiously.
"Everything is perfect, Bella. In fact, sometimes I find myself catching my breath just to keep up with it all."
Edward's eyes and perfect face were captured so magnificently by the fire's glow. I couldn't help but lean in and kiss him eagerly.
Once I caught my breath, which I didn't need, but did out of habit of enjoying the taste of his breath mixed with mine; I managed to sputter out, "I agree. It's all quite breathtaking. A human might consider all this happiness a little surreal, but I am fortunate to know how real it all truly is."
He kissed me back, fervently this time. I was still glad that these feelings would never get old with him, that we would never get old with each other, and that this yearning we had for each other would never go away. At least not anytime within the next three thousand years, give or take.
Edward pulled away after a few minutes, which wasn't like him, looked at me and smiled my favorite crooked smile.
I knew something was up.
"What?" I questioned him, narrowing my eyes a bit.
"Don't be upset, alright?" He took in my expression, adding a warning look of his own.
"Edward, how is anyone supposed to think any different when you say things like that?"
"You're right." He grinned, then turned to grab something off the floor behind him. He brought it up and handed the item to me. It was an antique, square wooden box with a lighter wood carved heart on the top for decoration.
"Another gift?" I eyed him curiously.
"Yes," he said, holding back his obvious excitement.
I opened the beautiful box and inside laid a gorgeous sapphire necklace atop a protective light blue fabric.
"Edward, it's stunning! Why on earth would I be upset?"
"Well, your would-be twentieth birthday is in a few days, and I didn't want you to presume that this was a gift for that. I remember how much grief you gave us for the mention of your would-be nineteenth birthday, and I didn't want to go through that again." He chuckled lightly.
"Wise decision," I said with a leer. "Then what is this for?"
Edward's face was serious when he looked into my eyes, then down at the necklace, touching it.
"My father gave this to my mother on their one-year wedding anniversary and I wanted to give it to you on your one-year immortal anniversary." His golden eyes pierced right through to my heart, sending butterflies fluttering in my stomach. "I love you, Bella."
Edward adored his parents. This was a very special gift he had thought of and put aside, just for me, just for this occasion. And I was honored to accept it as a reminder of the perfect love that exists between two people.
Edward and I spent our first year wedding anniversary a couple months ago hunting mountain lions further up in the northern woods along the border of Canada for the weekend. It was exhilarating, not your normal wedding adventure, of course, but perfect for us.
Emmett suggested I try getting myself a bear, but I didn't have it in me yet to take down an animal three times my size. I liked the smaller meat eaters better. Maybe some day though, I was still very strong.
"I love it," I managed to choke out. "And I love you, too."
Edward took the necklace out to place it around my neck.
As I lifted my hair for him to reach around and clasp it, he paused.
"What is it?"
"Bella, do you mind if I put this on you in the morning? I would, hate for anything to happen to it tonight." He raised an eyebrow at me, allowing me to see the intention in his stare.
I nodded my head, and desire quickly welled up inside me, as Edward set the necklace down. My neck being his weak point almost anytime he saw it.
His kisses started slowly at the back of my jaw and headed slowly down to the nape of my neck, one of his hands placed gently under my hair, the other wrapped around my waist pulling me closer. I tilted my head back as our hunger for each other grew and his kisses grazed passed my collar bone. I tried desperately not to lose all consciousness as we wrapped ourselves up in the large blanket, enveloped in love…with no hurry for morning.