Oneshot Cullen Challenge: 1st Place Winner - From Esme's Point of View - Esme Cullen was the last of the family to meet Bella Swan. Follow her thoughts and reactions as Edward, the youngest (and oldest) of her sons, brings Bella to the Cullen house for the first time.
1. Chapter 1
Rating 5/5 Word Count 3384 Review this Chapter
I held tight to Carlisle’s hand as we waited for Edward to return home. He wouldn’t be alone when he arrived; we were awaiting the introduction of his new companion, Bella Swan.
As we stood in the foyer, waiting to greet our guest, the sound of a rumbling, roaring truck approaching the house could be heard. I didn’t even need my sensitive auditory senses to make out the noise; it was so loud that I had to hide a wince. I didn’t want to make Edward’s friend uncomfortable, and it would be prudent to downplay any aversions I may have to her. I needed to start immediately.
After all, we were all human once.
Not that I would have any aversions. Bella could have webbed feet and a third eye and I’m sure I would adore her if for the sole reason that she made my son happy. When so many others had failed to capture his attention, this human girl had riveted it. I was already so thankful for her and we had not even met yet.
I took a deep breath. Edward’s scent was as familiar as Carlisle’s to me and I smiled to know that he was home. After the way he ran off to Denali, I secretly feared that one day the temptation he felt towards Bella’s blood would be too much for him and he would vanish again. I didn’t want to lose him.
Carlisle gave my hand a squeeze and, out of the corner of my eye, I saw him grin hopefully over at me. The sight was welcome and I felt my heart swell with affection for him. Even after all these years, I still couldn’t believe that he was mine.
“Are you ready?” he asked quietly. I could see nothing but assurance in his eyes. He was positive that I would be able to resist the overwhelming proximity of a human girl in our house just like he will be able to.
I would, if only for Edward’s sake.
“Yes,” I murmured, returning his smile. I was ready.
I was the last to meet Bella and I wasn’t sure what really to expect. All of my children—and Carlisle, of course—had tried to explain this girl to me. There had to be something, I was certain, that made her so appealing to Edward. And, whatever it was, it had to be stronger than the call of her blood to him.
Jasper and Emmett were confused by Edward’s attachment. To them, Bella was a strong temptation to Edward and they weren’t all that sure that it was worth it to deny that temptation. Alice, she was glad of Edward’s choice; like me, she was bothered by his solitary existence. Carlisle regarded anyone that Edward approved of as one of the family already.
And then there was Rosalie… ever since Bella Swan became the topic of conversation around the household, there’d been no less than three arguments a day stemming from Rosalie and her idea that no mortal, despite their attraction to a vampire, was worth disclosing our secrets.
It was no surprise that my blonde daughter and her burly husband refused to meet with Bella this afternoon. Emmett had been willing to greet the human girl but his loyalty to Rosalie was stronger. At least, while he wasn’t waiting with Carlisle, Alice, Jasper and I to welcome Bella into our home, he was attempting to talk some sense into his wife.
I took another breath, a tentative sniff in order to stay my inhuman desires. There was a fragrant scent on the air, an almost floral taste, mingling with Edward’s familiarity. It was definitely pleasant and, though I wasn’t the least bit thirsty, I could vaguely see why being around this human girl would be so tempting. The girl smelled delicious. I had to admire Edward for his strength—I could only wonder how hard it must be for him to abstain.
There was not much time to linger on Bella’s scent; it grew closer as Edward brought her to the house. Carlisle squeezed my hand again and we took our places on the raised part of the floor by the piano. The place was chosen specifically for this, our first true meeting of Edward’s chosen—near enough the entrance to be welcoming, but not so close as to frighten her. To cause her fear because of what we were was Edward’s biggest fear and I wouldn’t let myself hurt him like that.
The girl entered first. Edward, as always, was absolutely charming; he’d held the door open for her, following her once she’d entered the front room.
I got my first look at Bella Swan then and I was instantly pleased with Edward’s choice. She was a pretty girl in her way, shorter than Edward, with a face as heart-shaped as my own. Her light brown hair was long, though she had pulled it back into a ponytail, revealing a slender, pale neck.
She was nervous, I could tell, but also very glad to be here. Her eyes, darker than her hair but not by much, gazed in wonder at the openness of the front room before sliding over so that she could spy Edward at her side. His presence gave her strength, I’m sure, and a loving expression crossed her face in that instant. I felt any doubts—lingering doubts that I’d never found the voice to express to my son—that this union was wrong fade away.
They say that first impressions are everything. In the moment that I met Bella I had a very distinct idea that this human girl was as smitten by Edward as Edward was with her. This was no schoolgirl crush; the emotion this child was capable of conjuring up was nearly equivalent to the deep affection I held for Carlisle.
Neither of us, Carlisle nor I, moved from our place on the platform. When Bella turned to look at us again—I could see her appraising me as I had done to her—I could see a mixture of uncertainty and apprehension settle on her features. I had no desire to frighten her; I did not approach her first.
Carlisle, I felt, had decided on the same thing. His experience with humans was so much vaster than mine; if it was his decision to stay still, then it was the right one.
It was quiet as soon as she appeared but the silence did not last. Edward, looking apprehensive in his own way, gestured towards the girl. “Carlisle, Esme,” he said, making the obligatory introduction, “this is Bella.”
“You’re very welcome, Bella.” Carlisle made the first move, stepping down off the platform and walking towards Bella. When he stood a few feet away from her, he held his hand out tentatively, silently questioning her boundaries.
Both Edward and Bella seemed to share relief at the same moment. Already, I noticed, they were beginning to act in a similar manner. I wondered if they realized it and decided that it was something they’d discover in time. Most soul mates did.
Edward’s relief, I understood, but Bella’s confused me. As she stepped forward and accepted Carlisle’s outstretched hand, only then did I understand. She wasn’t frightened to be meeting vampires—she was intimidated by the fact that we were Edward’s parents.
Taking that as a good sign, I waited until Carlisle had finished his greeting before walking towards Bella myself. Smiling, I approached her and cautiously reached for her hand; though I didn’t wait for her to come towards me, she did not seem to be taken aback by my contact.
“It’s very nice to know you,” I told her, meaning every word I said. There was more I could tell her but I didn’t. If my intuition was right, there would plenty of time for that later.
“Thank you,” she replied, the warmth in her voice matching the warmth of her flesh as she embraced my cold grasp. “I’m glad to meet you, too.”
I was surprised at her sincerity, and also pleased. I smiled wider, my motherly smile, as I took that moment to send a message to Edward. Though I didn’t take my eyes off of Bella as she shook my hand, I told him what I’m sure he expected from me:
I like her, Edward. I like her a lot.
He glanced over at me and, with a minute nod of his head, I knew he received my message. There was a thankful grin on his handsome face that he struggled to hide as he found a way to sway my attention from his pleasure.
Looking around, he asked, “Where are Alice and Jasper?”
As if on cue, both Alice and Jasper appeared at the foot of the curving staircase on the west side of the front room. I was grateful that they had appeared, though there had been no reason for them not to. Carlisle and I stepped aside so that they could make their way carefully towards Bella.
Alice, however, was nothing if not enthusiastic and she ran down the stairs before I could warn her to be careful. I was not worried about her but Bella’s instincts. Even if the girl herself believed that she was brave enough to be around vampires—as Edward had told us—the alienness that surrounded us could not be denied if a human was caught unaware.
But Bella surprised me. As Alice gracefully came to a stop in front of the girl, greeting her excitedly before leaning in to kiss her on her cheek, Bella seemed pleased at Alice’s actions. Her facial features were arranged into a look of intense surprise but there was no hiding the gratitude she obviously felt at Alice’s approval.
I shared a glance with Carlisle. He looked as concerned as I felt but there was nothing we could do. Turning my attention to Edward, I saw that he had tensed considerably. He had warned us all how delicate Bella was, being human and, as he called her, a danger magnet; he must be furious that Alice would act so casually around her.
Then again, I watched as his eyes looked past Alice so that they were boring holes into Jasper’s. Jasper had taken great care to keep his distance, walking while Alice ran and stopping just behind where Carlisle and I stood. It was a warning look and I felt a twinge of hurt at Edward’s hard expression—surely he knew that Jasper could be trusted?
Suddenly my attention was drawn back by Alice. After she had taken a step back from Bella, she said, “You do smell nice, I never noticed before.”
Though I’d had the same thought myself, I couldn’t believe that Alice had said it out loud. I felt the embarrassment coming off of Bella in waves—but it didn’t last. Almost as soon as the awkwardness entered into the room, I felt comfort seep in.
And Edward had been concerned about Jasper coming down to meet Bella…
In that quiet, Southern way he had, Jasper bowed his head as he addressed her. “Hello, Bella.” He stayed right where he was. Obviously, Edward’s warning earlier that morning had been heeded.
“Hello, Jasper,” Bella returned, and I noticed how suddenly shy she’d become. It was endearing and I thought as much. She seemed a very good match for Edward; I’m sure he would be glad to know that he was not the only one who thought so. “It’s nice to meet you all—you have a very beautiful home.”
I took pride in her compliment. Smiling at her, I spoke again. “Thank you. We’re so glad that you came.” Like before, I really meant it when I told her so. I’d been worried that the idea of meeting a family of vampires might be too much for the human girl but she’d proven to be far braver than I’d ever imagined. I had no doubts as to what about her Edward found so irresistible—and I knew it was not only her blood that was tempting him.
There was an unsaid conversation going on between Edward and Carlisle while I was talking to Bella. I could tell by the expression on Carlisle’s exquisite face that there was something important he was telling Edward and I thought I knew what it was. Alice had warned us earlier about a nomadic troupe of vampires journeying toward Washington; Carlisle must be filling Edward in on our imminent visitors.
Bella, too, had seen the silent exchange. I could tell by the way her eyes—that, I noticed, barely strayed from my son for more than a few minutes at most—took in Edward’s expression that she understood what was transpiring. She was not nosy, though, and, instead, politely turned her attention towards the grand piano on the platform.
Her eyes seemed to cloud over as she stared at the piano and I was curious why. There was almost a small pout on her lips. She seemed preoccupied.
I tilted my head in the direction of the piano, pulling her attention back to me. “Do you play?” I asked, starting a conversation with her while Carlisle and Edward finished theirs.
She shook her head, a surprised looking crossing her face at my question. “Not at all. But it’s so beautiful. Is it yours?”
A laugh bubbled in my throat and I wasn’t sure whether I should suppress it or not. I’d thought that, after Edward returned from his trip with Bella yesterday, that he’d told her everything about himself. At least, that’s how he made it sound—he’d surely revealed the truth about our existence. If he could tell her all about his life as a vampire, how could he forget to mention one of his most precious talents?
In the end, I decided to laugh in an attempt to make Bella feel more at ease. “No. Edward didn’t tell you he was musical?”
I knew I’d gotten Edward into trouble immediately. His features—that had been concerned only seconds before—rearranged themselves into the most angelic expression I’d ever seen. He was hiding the truth from Bella and I couldn’t imagine why.
“No,” Bella said, turning to glare accusingly at Edward. It was amusing to see Edward and Bella interact in such a manner; it did me good to see them so playful with one another. “I should have known, I guess.”
I didn’t quite understand what she meant. I felt my eyebrows rise, confusion written on my face.
She read my expression and elaborated for me. “Edward can do everything, right?”
I heard someone snicker behind me and knew that Jasper was still paying attention to the exchange between Bella and me. I fought the urge to click my tongue; I settled with shooting a reproving look in Edward’s direction. “I hope you haven’t been showing off—it’s rude.”
Edward tried to charm his way out of a scolding but what amazed me more was the way that Bella hurriedly came to his aid. Modest, she called him and any annoyance I felt at Edward for showing off his abilities melted away straight away. If Bella could forgive him for being rude, I had no business scolding him.
Instead, I wanted Edward to show her what I meant by his being musical. “Well, play for her,” I said encouragingly.
“You just said showing off was rude.”
Not surprisingly, Edward tried to refuse. If he hadn’t revealed his talent to Bella prior to this meeting, I could understand why he would refuse to play now. What I didn’t understand was why—and I doubted I ever would. Despite living with Edward for nearly eighty years, there was still much I had to learn about the teenager.
I stood up straight and pointed at the piano. “There are exceptions to every rule.”
“I’d like to hear you play,” Bella added.
If I hadn’t already decided that I liked Bella, the way that she sided with me endeared her to me forever. It didn’t matter that she only said so because she wanted to hear Edward play the piano; what did matter was that she was willing to argue against Edward, if only for trivial matters.
If there was anything that I learned from my experiences, a loving relationship was made up of compromise. It was good to see that already Bella and Edward understood that.
“It’s settled then,” I said, making the final decision. Using my own considerable strength, I pushed Edward toward the piano. It (figuratively, of course) warmed my heart to see that, as I gently pushed Edward, he’d grabbed Bella and, even more gently, was pulling her along with him to the piano, making sure that she sat right beside him.
The look he gave her was one of feigned exasperation. I knew him well enough to know that he didn’t mind having to play; he just wanted everyone to think he did.
And that’s when the music started. I couldn’t hide the grin that sprang up on my face at the opening chords. Edward was playing my favorite, and I loved it.
This music was Edward to me, the very epitome of the goodness deep within him. Whenever I heard it, I thought of his crooked smile, his untidy bronze hair and the solitariness I’d always seen his eyes—a solitary look that had disappeared when Bella Swan came into his life.
I sighed in time with the music.
He was my first son and he’d been alone for so long. I’ve always worried about him, despite his constant reminders that he was content whenever he caught my thoughts, and—up until recently—I imagined I might always worry.
But I could see now, as Alice and Jasper disappeared up the stairs, and Carlisle led me away to give Edward and Bella their privacy, that I needn’t worry any longer.
The music changed, and the melody of the lullaby sang out through the room, haunting and beautiful. Edward was happy, and that made me ecstatic. Despite all of the complications a companionship between a vampire and a human may cause, they would rise above it and, together, they would be gratified and content.
A mother knows these things.
* * *
When Carlisle told me that he was going into the hospital to cover Dr. Snow’s mid-morning shift, I retired to my room while he got ready to go.
I wanted to let Edward have enough time to give Bella a tour of the house, while giving them their privacy, before I made my appearance downstairs again. Perhaps I would even try to sit down with Rosalie and see if Emmett’s words had made any headway with my stubborn daughter.
I did not have the opportunity, though, after I found a book on my desk that Carlisle had left for me. It was an interesting tome about London in the 1650’s—he’d delivered it to me after I’d recently expressed interest in reading up on the world of his youth—and it captivated me.
There was a chapter on the role of women during that time period that I was reading when I heard the soft knock at my door. It couldn’t be Carlisle, who knocked every time though I told him countless times that he needn’t, as he must have left for the hospital already.
I did not need my enhanced senses to tell me who was at the door; as soon as the knock sounded, the door flung open. Alice bounced in, while Jasper waited in the doorway.
“There’s going to be a storm tonight,” she told me excitedly, perching on the edge of my desk. “I told Emmett and he wants to get a baseball game going. I called Carlisle and he says he’s up to it. How about you, Esme?”
Placing my bookmark into the book, I closed it gently before smiling up at my pixie-haired daughter. “Of course, Alice. Someone has to come along and keep you all honest.” I offered a quiet laugh before voicing a thought that just ran across my mind. “Is Edward coming?”
Alice stood up from her seat and the smile she gave me in return could have powered a light bulb. “Oh, yes,” she answered before giggling. “He’s invited Bella to come along. And she’s coming.”
I placed my hand comfortingly in my lap, pleased at this turn of events. I guess the first impression the Cullens had made on Bella Swan was as pleasant as the one the girl had made on us.
Not to mention the fact that Edward felt confident of his abilities—his, and ours—to invite his human companion to witness the spectacle that was vampires playing baseball…
I sighed contentedly, sharing a conspiratorial grin with Alice.
Mother’s intuition, I knew it.