The Verities We Knew

Ten Years after Eclipse, AU

There are ten stockings.

Carlisle hangs them all. He has a split-second of hesitation—Maybe it will be easier on Edward if I just put up eight?—but then he realizes I’m sitting right there and boom, ten hangers, ten stockings, ten names.

I sit there staring at them, the way the fire sends weird shadows over the hearth. The thing is completely over-stoked and burning too quickly and too hot; that’s Emmett’s contribution. He’s outside with Jasper splitting logs like they’re opening a mill.

They’re out there because neither one of them can stand being inside with me.

I get it.

It’s been a while since I’ve been a pleasant guy to be around.

Before they started splitting logs, my brothers cut a tree, which is now up in the stand in the corner next to the fire. Two years without it, Esme said, was enough. Two gloomy Christmases. That was supposed to be enough time for me to heal.

Of everyone in the family, Esme should be the one who knows better. She should be the only one who understands.

But ninty-six years can make even a mother forget, apparently.

So there’s a  tree, and a hearth, and my sister and my wife and my mother in cahoots.

Bella’s still blank, the way she’s been since the accident. Oh, she’s here, all right, laughing and hanging ornaments with Esme, talking about how she’s the only one who can keep her Christmas presents a secret. I don’t even know when she bought them; like every year since, I bought her presents on Amazon. So mine are there, next to hers, wrapped in the red paper with reindeer, reflecting the little white lights from the lowest boughs. And Bella stands over them, hanging little red glass balls like she’s happy to have a tree, too.

She’s here. But she’s not here, here.

I talked to Charlie about it, when it had been two months with nothing. Just this “We’ll get through,” “It’ll be okay,” “We have each other” bullshit. And instead of saying one of those stupid human platitudes like, “She’ll snap out of it,” he just fixed his eyes on me and said, “This is what she did when you left.”

Because I needed that reminder.

A giggle erupts from the corner and all our heads turn to see Alice, sitting on Bella’s shoulders like they’re going to chicken fight with the tree. But no, she’s just trying to put the star on top—reaching upward with the little hand-blown glass thing that Carlisle brought home from some artisan show for Esme sixty-seven years ago.

It would work, except that Carlisle calls them to snap a photo and Bella makes a split-second decision to spin, sending Alice off-balance and sending the little star careening to the floor. Eight people with prefect reflexes and no one gets there in time; little pieces go skittering everywhere, twinkling in the firelight.

Esme bursts into tears. Well, not tears, of course, but she’s crying.

Carlisle’s at his wife’s side in a split second, his arm around her, his hand running up her back. Alice mouths, I didn’t see it, and Carlisle shakes his head. It’s not a problem, he says back. That’s easy for him to say, the doctor with one foot so solidly in his human world. In his world, mistakes get made. Things break. Reflexes fail.

People die.

I almost ordered gifts for her that first Christmas, out of habit. She was always so organized about Christmas, with a list ranked by priority and price, and I’d had all her wants in hand since April. One day in October when no one was home, I sat with my father’s laptop in the living room and made it all the way to the checkout page before I realized what I was doing.

Explaining to Carlisle why I turned his Macbook into a Moebius strip was…interesting.

There’s movement on the living room floor, and I see that Bella’s gone and gotten the broom. She still does stuff like that. We both do. Cleaning as though there are people who could cut themselves on the broken glass. Worrying that the fire is so hot it will make them all sweat. We don’t have to think those things any more, but we do.

The back door slides open and it’s my brothers, with Rose behind them, arms full of wood. They see Bella sweeping, and Esme crying, and me still sitting here in a living room hot enough to be a sauna with the blanket pulled up to my chin. The way I have been for three days.

Three, really?

It hasn’t seemed that long.

The blanket is blue, wool, and it blocks out most of the light. I pull it up over my head, like I’m about to play monster.

I used to do that, once.

Christmas was her holiday. She would race into “The Big House” on Christmas morning to see packages, red and green and gold and silver, spilling out from under the branches. She never believed in Santa, but she did believe in us.

And we came through. With gifts, and clothes, and toys, and jewelry. We came through every time.

Until the day we couldn’t.

Bella and I, we live in the main house now. Locked the door on the cottage and everything in it. And we don’t talk, not really, except when she gives me my daily nicety. We made love once, after, trying for normalcy, in some way. It felt the same, and sounded the same, but halfway through I looked down and even though she was making all the same sighs, her eyes were blank and unfocused. I guessed mine, were, too.

I climbed off mid-thrust, and we never tried it again.

Really, I’ve gotten used to it. It’s not as if celibacy is something new.

There were things we knew. We loved each other. We were blessed with a miracle, just like the Christmas story. We would all live forever. We would be happy.

But as it turns out, werewolves can get drunk, hybrids need to breathe, and VW Rabbits sink like rocks if you smash through the guardrail at Crescent Lake.

And so it’s Christmas. And Esme is crying, and Alice is apologizing, and Rose is pacing, and Emmett is putting more goddamned logs on the fire.

And there are ten stockings, and that’s the only part I can fix.

Maybe Alice sees the decision and doesn’t stop me, I don’t know. But no one moves as the blue blanket flies off and the last two stockings are ripped from their hangers.

They give off a sick smell, polyester and glue, and they don’t burn so much as shrivel, bit by bit, and I stand watching them a moment, hearing the shock and sadness rolling from my family’s minds.

I turn to my mother, who’s been stunned into stopping crying, and the piteous look on my father’s face. And I just shake my head.

“Two years,” I say, “is not nearly enough.”

The stockings glow red, the letters melted together, the letters chewed down by the fire from the outside in. I make out only a few left on each—NES, ACO—before I shove the log over with the poker and bury them in ash.

 

 

§ 11 Responses to The Verities We Knew"

  • musicdaydreams says:

    I could just sit and read your stuff all day long. I’ve never minded Renesmee; in fact, I think I actually like her. I can completely see Edward being like this in this situation – and he’s not only lost his daughter, but for all intents and purposes, he’s lost his wife, too. It’s heartbreaking, sad, and very, very canon.

    • giselle says:

      aww thanks. I wound up having a lot of fun with this one–how to write a fic without Ren and yet still keep it a firmly canon-based AU.

      I never truly minded her, either, and after I wrote “Form 1040,” I really opened to her potential as a character. If only SM could’ve exploited her a little more skillfully…

  • fuzzyltlwingedthing says:

    Wow, it seems I need to subscribe to your website as well. Thank you for staying true to canon. It was heart breaking and fabulous all at the same time.

    • giselle says:

      Hah! Thank you very much. This one was a strange, late-night run.

      And yes, I have a handful of things I post only here. Mostly because I don’t take them through full beta and edits or because I can’t commit to updating them with any kind of regularity (One Day, for instance, is currently being posted at a rate of a chapter about every five months). But I like to put them *somewhere,* so here is where that is.

  • miaokuancha says:

    Amazing. No surprise there.

    Thank you for gracing us with your talent.

  • Eeyorefan12 says:

    I just read this one last night and, as is all of your stuff, it’s wonderfully written. As someone who thought the Twilight Saga “jumped the shark” with Stephenie’s introduction of Renesmee, I still can’t deny the possibilities that were introduced when she arrived (i.e. Edward, in particular, having daddy moments.) This slice of life moment is so true to all of the characters and my heart goes out to them. I am, as always, in awe of your writing talent. At the same time, maybe someday I can talk you into writing its sequel: the one where Edward and Bella DO finally find their way back to each other. (I can imagine it in the meantime but hey, a girl can dream! LOL)

    Thanks so much for ALL of your stories…even the ones I can’t read more than once because I’ll have to go eat a quart of ice cream to make myself feel better if I do. ;)

  • lovepath says:

    Love the talent in the story even if it bummed me out. Thanks, as always!

  • Sandra says:

    I don’t know what to say to this. Your words are exquisite as always, but the subject matter is killing me. So sad. And you state it so matter of fact, I almost missed it.

    Gah.

    Thank you.

  • foufymaus says:

    Wow… just wow… i’m so far behind in my reviews. *sniffle* and now i’m all teary. I don’t know how to even start to process this story. It hurts, emotionally it’s is devastating for a parent to lose a child. But to lose their miracle child and to have perfect recollection of who you’re missing. *sniffle* wow… now i’m going to find a tub of Ben and Jerry’s.

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