Leave it to my mother to pick the same quaint little Italian restaurant in Port Angeles Edward and I had gone to the night my last 'theory' and almost murder had come about. If my mother knew then how close I had come to ending up in the grave before I snuck away to Phoenix, and why, she would have had a stroke back then and there.
Adding to the fun to my stressful evening the hostess, who was also here last time we were, recognized Edward, of course, but me she studied a little closer. I must have resembled someone who looked like someone he'd been here with before...a human girl.
I mumbled a laugh and Edward looked at me.
Putting my hand to the side of his head, I pretended to fix his hair as I pushed my shield away and relived my recent thoughts. Edward loved that we could communicate this way now, then he shook his head.
The hostess showed us to the middle of the restaurant where she sat us at a square table for four and asked if we'd like to start off with anything to drink before the rest of our party arrived. I figured it was too much to hope my mother would request a dark, drab corner to hide in, and I was right. Though the more-public-the-better was probably Edward's idea...in the name of helping me. We declined drinks for the moment, took our seats and waited.
I'd been in a restaurant before, and like then, everyone smelled good. Blood-good, but I was controlled. Then, as unexpected as a firecracker going off under my chair, one specific person caught me completely off guard when she wafted her scent at me in a brisk walk past. I gripped the table in a swift jerk. My throat burned beyond lava hot and venom instantly welled itself inside my mouth. I swallowed, held my breath and closed my eyes, trying to chase the vicious blood-craving thoughts away. No, no, no, this was not happening! I opened my eyes seconds later, staring in horror at the table. I couldn't look up, I didn't want to see what she looked like, I didn't want Edward to see what I looked like, I didn't want to put a face to who I was mentally hunting.
"Bella. Are you alright?" Edward whispered in alarm, bending down to look at my eyes and putting his hand in a firm grip around my forearm. My sudden grab and thick swallow, I knew, was impossible to miss. Hunting...hunting and planning...
I lied as I nodded my head, not letting go of the table. It was merely a weak piece of furniture that wouldn't stand a chance of holding me back if I didn't let it. But for the time being it helped to hold to something to fight off the chase. Stay grounded, stay in your seat, get back in control Bella.
Edward put his hand on my knee and moved it slowly up my leg, then back to my knee, then up again. Another distraction. I willed myself to focus on his touch and calm as best I could with shallow breaths that kept me from letting lose the throat growl that was forming.
In her poor timing, I then caught sight of our waitress coming around the corner and smile eagerly when she noticed Edward. My further impulse was to also drain the blood from the woman who flirted with my husband all to well the last time we were here. But...he wasn't my husband at the time, nor my boyfriend yet, so, with that in consideration, she only received a promised death stare to behave. Just as she was about to speak, my turmoil was gratefully interrupted.
"Cullen," I heard a distant familiar voice say.
My body went ridged, she was here. And my all-knowing mother was going to know everything just by looking at me. Well, I hoped not everything. My instincts told me to run, get out of there, don't put her in possible danger. One quick sprint and I'd be out the door, she wouldn't even see me, no human would see me, just a blur. Which I'd end up having to explain later with another protective lie.
Edward grabbed my hand and squeezed it tightly, reminding me I knew to relax, he was here with me. Inside I hoped he was regretting agreeing to this night as much as I was.
He stood to welcome them to the table. "Renee, Phil, what a pleasant surprise!" he said with pretend shock.
And that was my cue.
I turned in my seat to see mom and Phil happily heading our way, and all pretenses faded to the back corners of my mind. My mother, who I hadn't seen since our wedding--not in vampire visions--looked wonderful. Truly beautiful. Every feature in her face was there. The glow, the slow aging wrinkles and the smile lines that lit up around her mouth when she saw us. I was over come with joy.
"Mom, Phil…what, what are you doing here?" I pretended to say in as low a bell-tone as possible. I'd gotten used to toning it down over the last year, with Sue's human ears for help.
My mother gave me a huge hug when I stood. "Happy birthday, Bella! Phil and I wanted to surprise you for your twentieth. Your father and Edward helped arrange everything. Are you surprised? I hope the four place settings didn't give anything away," she said winking at Edward.
"Uh, no, I was under the impression Angela and Ben were joining us. But this is so much better. I'm completely surprised!"
"Bella, it's good to see you again," Phil said as he gave me a big hug. "Wow, you feel so sturdy. Been working out?"
I chuckled. Little did Phil know that I could not only jump 50 yards at a time, but I could crush rocks with my bare hands and uproot trees. "No, marriage has just been good to me, I guess."
Glancing at Edward, he smiled at that one.
Renee and Phil smelled good, but like with Charlie, draining them wasn't an option I'd worry about any more. Not with--
Renee was looking at me more closely now. What was she noticing, analizing? My voice, my skin, my eyes? They had dulled to a lighter reddish gold, so Alice's brown contacts were a better match to my previous eye color.
I looked anxiously at Edward for my mother's thoughts. He would know and would come up with any interruption or warning for me if needed against Renee. He just smiled smugly back, so maybe she was having good thoughts?
"So, um, mom, how long are you in town for?" I had to know my time frame for this charade.
"Well, Phil is here for a big baseball tournament in Seattle, and we wanted we'd hop over and see you two. The timing was perfect, I was so excited! It was all I could do to keep from telling you last week when we found out. But, I'm afraid we have to be back tomorrow morning and can only visit here in Forks tonight. Would you like to come to Seattle tomorrow and watch the game?" she asked with anticipating eyes.
"I wish I could," I lied, not wanting to put myself around more humans with wet, thick, pumping blood flowing through them. "But Charlie has plans for us tomorrow. I'm sorry, mom." I really was sorry tonight was all we had, but it was safer this way, so I would take what little time I could get with her.
"That's okay, honey, I understand. It is short notice." She went to pat at my cold hands, but I quickly moved them under the table, smiling sweetly at her.
She put her hand back in front of her, not saying anything about my sudden action. Knowing her, she'd then feel my frigid forehead and order a jacket and doctor for me immediately. And an electric blanket.
Our waitress came and asked for our drink order, eyeing my husband again. He gave her no notice, and I gave her the benefit of the doubt…again. I knew how hard it was not to look at him. This was spare number two for her, though.
Edward and I each ordered water while my mom and Phil each ordered red wine. Blood colored. Nice.
"You know, Edward..." My mother looked at him as if she'd just thought of something. "I have to apologize. Did you ever tell me the date of your birthday?" she said inquisitively.
"My birthday is June 20th," he answered politely. But it was just another day to him, one he didn't principally celebrate anymore.
"Oh, you're just a few months older than Bella."
"Yes, just a few…" he said with a nod and slight grin.
It was hard not to laugh. If only she knew a few meant one thousand and sixty eight months older. She knew we were the same age, technically.
It was going to be difficult getting around my mother in years to come. We wouldn't change or grow old, and 'that' she would notice. But we had plans, and back up plans. It would be okay. The thought of outliving both my parents was sad. I was going to miss them tremendously once they were gone.
"Is everyone ready to order?" Our waitress came back extra bubbly with paper and pen in hand, eyeing Edward more feverishly now. I held back a growl. She was just begging for trouble. And how disrespectful.
"Oh, yes, I'll have the spaghetti and meatballs," Phil requested, folding his menu and handed it to her.
"Hmm, I think I'll have the mushroom ravioli," my mom said with delight and handed her menu over as well.
Did she really just order that? God bless my innocent mother, if she only knew what happened here last time after I had ordered the same meal.
"My wife and I," Edward said with pride to the waitress, "would like the steak, please, as rare as you can make it." There were food codes...for humans.
The waitress frowned, probably trying to figure out how to write that, then scribbled down our requests. That's right, "his wife", I gloatfully smiled up at her, which made me happy.
Renee and Phil looked at us oddly, blinked, and then at each other out of the corners of their eyes. That wasn't a normal dinner request. Especially for me, since I used to be into salads and much healthier menu items… before.
I smiled back at their confused looks while Edward enthusiastically rubbed his tummy.
This was crazy.
After we placed our orders, Renee folded her hands on the table in front of her and leaned in to us. "So, tell me everything you've been up to in the last year. Bella only tells me very little now." She looked at me accusingly. "Are you guys going to head off to a college? Stay here? What's new with you two?"
After going through the rundown of our past year, hitting only the basics, and skipping around a lot, our food arrived. The waitress gave Phil his first.
"This looks fantastic," Renee said when her plate was then placed in front of her. "I can't wait to dig in."
She we had two half-bloody, red steaks placed in front of Edward and I…and nothing else. My mother paused, her hand and fork mid-air, still trying to understand what we were really going to be eating. And I was right there with her.
I swallowed the sour, sickening venom that gathered at the edges of my tongue. 'Pretend it's a live cow, pretend it's a live cow,' was all I could say to myself over and over as I picked up my fork and knife and stared at it.
Edward put his hand on my arm, and gently caressed it from shoulder to elbow and back again, reminding me to get through this for Renee.
I watched as he cut off a piece of meat, put it in his mouth and began chewing. Oh, uck. But he managed to get through it, and even took a sip of water after wards. I'm sure he's been in situations of having to do this before, and I was impressed. Yep, Edward could do anything.
I took a deep, brave breath, but not too deep to encourage more of a blaze in my throat, and cut my first piece. Slowly, I raised it to my mouth. I could hear Edward chuckle through his nose as he watched me. He was almost half way done with his steak. I guess that was to be expected, considering I sat and starred at mine for so long. Show off!
The meat blob tasted like a big clump of dirt and blood mixed together. I nearly gagged. But Edward was right, it could be done. It had to be done. I hadn't chewed anything in over a year. I imagine my jaw looked funny, forgetting what type of pace humans chewed at. Getting to the bathroom in time, would be my next venture. Did I have to vomit on my own, or would my stomach instinctively do it for me at any given time?
My mouth didn't like the tasteless trickery of the water; it craved warm, pulsing, thick liquid. And I humorously wondered if they served that in a glass? Alas though, the water helped the dirt clump go down easier as I managed to take on my steak like an amateur eater.
I gave Edward a smug smile when I finished, and he returned it with a wink. Maybe tonight was going to be okay. Now, where was that bathroom?
When Renee and Phil's food was finally finished, Edward and I visited the restrooms, making sure they were empty before emptying ourselves. That, was gross.
On my way there I'd had to walk by the girl who set my throat on fire, though. And I didn't breathe after I smelled where she was, and saw her, knowing it would have set off a five-alarm fire inside me. I took a few moments to compose myself in the restroom, gripping the sink and leaving it intact before having to walk back.
Edward met me outside the ladies restroom door to make sure I was fine before we headed back to our seats. The draw towards the girl on the way back, was almost unbearable. I felt like a creepy stalker, but... Luckily, Edward was holding my hand, and he'd stop me before I tried anything foolish.
When we sat back down at the table, my mother had a probing look on her face.
Edward tensed, and I followed suit.
What did he hear?
"Bella." She looked down at the table, a little apprehensive to speak at first. "I know this is too soon to ask, but, have you two thought about ever having kids?" She glanced up at me then.
I could tell this was a difficult subject for her to bring up, but not as much as it was for me to be asked. I knew this was coming.
"They're still newlyweds, Renee," Phil jumped in on our behalf. "Give them a chance to enjoy that part of marriage before you start talking about grandchildren." He looked at us apologetically.
I smiled back for his attempted rescue.
"Uh, no, mom," I tried to appear surprised that this had come up, "we didn't think about kids…" Which was true. We hadn't even known they were possible for a human and a vampire. "Why?" I bravely continued, hoping she wouldn't ask for any 'more' anytime soon, knowing how impossible that would be now.
"Well, you mentioned college, and, well, I guess I was just hoping you'd have a chance to get a degree before…" she trailed off, not finishing her preconceived thought. But she didn't have too; I understood exactly what she was trying to say.
"Don't worry, mom. I understand. And thank you." I felt bad lying about an already existing grandchild. But she didn't have to worry. I had all the time in the world to get as many degrees as I wanted.
"Okay then." She smiled, appearing relieved. "I would love grandchildren one day, don't get me wrong, honey," she backtracked quickly. "I just want to see you continue your education first."
"I know." I placed my hand on hers for comfort, not realizing what I was doing. Edward went to grab my elbow, and missed my reach.
"Bella," she cupped both her hands around mine, "honey, you're freezing."
I pulled my hand away instantly, gasping as I regretted what I had just done, and stuck them under the backs of my legs.
"My hands get cold easily. We are in Forks," was the best I could come up with for the moment.
"True." She nodded her head in understanding. "It can get quite cold here. But it's only September."
"Who are you playing in the tournament?" Edward chimed in to Phil, detouring my mother's inquisition to their weekend here. My husband had been so quiet, I thought I was going to end up drowning in my own conversation. Another thing my mother had no idea had almost happened—my near drowning from ridiculously jumping off a mountain cliff.
"It's a tournament of all the top high schools from around the country," Phil said proudly. "This year it happens to be in Seattle. A few of the Mariners are going to come out tomorrow to watch. Should be pretty exciting," he gloated with every right.
"I'm sorry we'll be missing it," Edward replied respectfully. "Sounds like a great day."
"Phil's done a wonderful job with the team," my mother beamed. "We're so proud of our boys."
"Do you enjoy baseball?" Phil asked Edward.
"I do," he replied. "My family likes to play when we get the chance."
Only during thunderstorms with loud cracks of lightening.
"Who's your favorite team?" Phil continued eagerly.
"Well, I was quite impressed when the Diamondbacks won the World Series after only four years playing together." I'm sure he said this for Phil's benefit of his home state. "But as far as a favorite team…well, I root for Florida, too." Secretly, Edward rooted for all Chicago teams, no matter what their stats were.
I was truly happy to hear how well my mom and Phil were doing. They still seemed as happy as ever. And I was glad my move to Forks had paid off well for all of us.
As inconspicuously as possible during a few of our conversations, my eyes instinctively stalked themselves to the girl who sat in a corner booth across the room from us.
I'd noticed when she and her date stood up after paying their bill, and watched her every step, out the tops of my eyes, until she disappeared out the front door.
Burn, plan, hunt...
I could excuse myself to the front counter, exit the restaurant and take her down behind a car once I rid her of her date. How much time would I have before Edward came after me? Would he trust me to leave the table alone in the first place?
"Don't you think so, Bella?" The sound of my name caught my attention. I didn't answer at first. I hadn't heard the question.
In my peripheral I could see Edward staring quizzically at me before I even had a chance to utter the word 'huh?'. I didn't want to look directly at him. He'd notice the craving in my eyes. And when he did, would he guess my current hunting plans? I tried to hide my eyes, but he grabbed my hand and held it tight, too tight.
"I'm sorry, mom," my voice sounded ragged. I fluttered my eyes, quickly trying to return them back to normal, and cleared my throat before looking at her, "what was that?"
"Never mind," she playfully rolled her eyes, "it wasn't important."
Edward scooted closer to me.
He'd foiled my plans, and I sighed in defeat. But I hadn't stopped thinking--
Self-control, Bella, self-control.
We visited a bit longer, while I calmed down, before eventually having to say good-bye. Phil insisted on paying for dinner and Edward insisted on getting the tip…in which I know he left more than what was always necessary.
If I could cry, I would have at the thought of what could be my last hug with my mother.
"I love you, sweetie, happy birthday, and happy life," she whispered to me.
"Thank you, mom, and thanks for coming out and surprising me…you have no idea what this meant for me to see you tonight. I love you, too. Yes, happy life." I wished for her as well.
I'm really going to miss her…