Gaining a Daughter
What goes through Esme's head when she first meets Bella? Hear directly from Esme as she welcomes her newest daughter into the Cullen mansion. Entry for the Cullen Challenge.
1. Chapter 1
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She was beautiful. Maybe not to the untrained human eye, but her beauty was more than skin deep. She was lovely because of the happiness she gave to Edward. My son was standing there, holding her hand to sooth her. Outwardly they looked like an ordinary pair of lovers, but I knew there was more to that. This was destiny.
“Carlisle, Esme,” Edward’s voice broke the short silence, “this is Bella.”
I wanted to spring forth and envelope her in a hug to erase the fears I could see clearly on her face, but I doubted that doing so would improve the situation. If we discomforted her, as was expected, it would be best to keep my distance. Edward seemed to believe we wouldn’t frighten her – after all, he had brought her here – but I didn’t want to take a chance and startle my future daughter. Instead of testing her limits, I stayed where I was, standing beside Carlisle.
“You’re very welcome, Bella,” Carlisle was as soothing as a vampire could be as he stepped toward Bella. He raised his hand tentatively so as not to frighten the girl; however, she seemed more at ease as she stepped forward to shake hands with him.
“It’s nice to meet you again, Dr. Cullen,” said Bella with a voice infused with sincerity and charm.
“Please, call me Carlisle,” replied my husband. It was only natural for him to correct her; all our children referred to us using our first names. Since Bella would possibly be joining our family soon – if Alice’s visions could be trusted – then it was necessary for her to be treated like family.
Some wall of shyness seemed to break down as Bella simply said, “Carlisle.” Her mouth curved into a grin, making her seem perfectly at ease.
Since she didn’t appear to be frightened of us, I took my chance to introduce myself. I wanted to make a good first impression, since I so dearly wished for her to feel comfortable here. I wanted her to accept our family and be accepted. And, most importantly, I wanted another daughter and a lover for Edward. With the way things were going, I might get all my wants.
I stepped forward and reached for her hand. Her warm, soft grasp was just as I expected. “It’s very nice to know you,” I stated sincerely. Of course, it was more than nice to finally meet a soulmate for Edward, but I wasn’t sure yet if she would accept that title.
Bella replied, “Thank you. I’m glad to meet you, too.” Oh! She really did want to meet us! The more time I spent with Bella, and currently that time was sadly close to zero, the more attached I grew. I only hoped I wouldn’t lose this new bond like I had lost my own son…
“Where are Alice and Jasper?” Edward cut in. I knew him too well; he was distracting me. This was especially obvious since the aforementioned pair had already appeared at the top of the stairs.
“Hey, Edward!” Alice called enthusiastically. She ran down the stairs, not stopping until she was directly in front of our guest. Living with Alice for so long, I should have expected such ridiculous behavior from my youngest daughter, but nonetheless I was still a little taken aback. I glanced at her meaningfully, but Bella thankfully did not seem frightened at all. I was amazed at how calmly Bella was taking everything in.
However, I was sure that Alice had crossed a line when she squealed, “Hi, Bella!” and kissed her on the cheek. Bella’s eyes widened with shock, but I could detect no fear. No scent of adrenaline wafted through the house; her fragrance was untainted.
“You do smell nice, I never noticed before,” commented Alice, which brought a lovely blush to our guest’s cheeks.
Jasper, wanting to ease Bella’s embarrassment, calmed the room. Greeting Bella was indubitably difficult enough for my newest son, even without our guest blushing madly. She must have noticed the change in feeling, and she shifted her gaze to Jasper and greeted him. Then she looked at us all, and affirmed, “It’s nice to meet you all – you have a very beautiful home.” It seemed so stiff and formal, and I yearned to make her feel at ease in our – and her future – home.
I jumped at the opportunity to sooth her. “Thank you. We’re so glad that you came.” And we were. I had wanted so desperately to meet her, and now that I had, I found that she surpassed all expectations I had previously held. She was so brave to come into the home of a vampire coven, but she didn’t seem fearful of us. No, she was merely shy and uncertain of what to do; she probably wanted to make a good first impression, but didn’t know how to act in front of the family of her newfound love.
Then, I caught Edward and Carlisle having a secret conversation. Of course, it was most likely about the vampire visitors, and how to best protect what they would see as a ‘snack’. This exchange did not go unnoticed by our guest, and she took the awkward silence as an opportunity to further examine our house. I imagine it was something of a shock to her, since we had none of the typical vampire objects that humans seem to believe we should own. No, instead, she saw an old but still stereotypical human house, complete with a grand piano. She gazed at it for a while, which sparked my curiosity. “Do you play?” I tilted my head toward Edward’s piano.
She bowed her head and blushed once more. “Not at all. But it’s so beautiful. Is it yours?”
“No.” I had to laugh. No, I’d taken up painting since I’d never been as skillful as Edward was with those ebony and ivory keys. Had Edward not told her of his impressive musical ability? Certainly, if he’d told her all about himself, his family and such, as he most likely had, then he must have told her about his love of music. Why hadn’t he? “Edward didn’t tell you he was musical?” I looked at my youngest son for some explanation.
“No.” Bella shot an inexplicably hard glance at Edward. “I should have known, I guess.”
I raised an eyebrow. So had he told her of his love for music, but maybe not that he played any instruments.
Bella took the opportunity to elaborate. “Edward can do everything, right?”
I looked at my youngest son reproachfully. “I hope you haven’t been showing off – it’s rude.”
Edward replied, “Just a bit,” and laughed freely. I hadn’t heard him laugh like this in… I couldn’t remember how long, actually. He was this happy, this joyful because Bella was here. She is your soulmate, Edward. I projected my thoughts at him, and I knew he heard, because his eyes instantly flicked to mine. She goes through all this for you, this meeting of a vampire coven, and you have doubts about her devotion to you? It was laughable that he’d ever had any doubts about her. No, this is what true love looks like, Edward. Believe me, I know. I couldn’t help it; I felt just the slightest bit smug. I had finally proved the infamously single Edward wrong; he did indeed have someone to complete him.
Bella then surprised me by saying, “He’s too modest, actually.” I supposed that was a possibility, but instead of questioning Edward’s motives further, I decided it was time for him to showcase his talents.
“Well, play for her.” I tried to usher them towards Edward’s piano, but Edward stood his ground. Again, he seemed to be avoiding playing for Bella. How very strange.
Edward looked slightly baffled and reminded me what I’d just told him. “You just said showing off was rude.”
“There are exceptions to every rule,” I told him. At this point, Edward seemed to be breaking every rule ever imagined. He’d broken the Volturi’s rule by letting Bella in on our secret, he’d broken nature’s rule by avoiding his “natural” eating habits, and he’d broken another rule of nature by falling in love with his singer.
Bella declared, “I’d like to hear you play.”
“It’s settled then.” I successfully ushered Edward to the piano, and Bella willingly followed.
I left the room after the first few stanzas of my favorite. I’ll never get tired of hearing it, but this recital was just for Bella. I went up the stairs to give them some privacy. Of course, I could still hear them clearly, but I tried my best not to eavesdrop. My mothering instincts cut in, though, and my good intentions quickly lost out in the battle between curiosity and goodwill.
I was upstairs and into my study when I heard Edward ask Bella, “Do you like it?”
“You wrote this?” Bella audibly gasped.
Edward replied, “It’s Esme’s favorite.” He hesitated before asking, “What’s wrong?” Instantly I was more alert. What could possibly be wrong?
“I’m feeling extremely insignificant.” No! Some may have seen this as a good thing; she wasn’t physically hurt, but her feelings could be dangerous. I, too, once felt insignificant, and it ended with a jump off a cliff. But I should not be focusing on myself now, I thought. She needed reassurance that she was indeed extremely significant. Bella was the only one to have touched Edward’s heart.
Then the music faded to Bella’s lullaby; I recognized the melody from when he composed it on Valentine’s Day. If this wasn’t enough to prove to her that she was very important, I didn’t know what would. “You inspired this one.” He briefly paused. “They like you, you know.” I then projected my thoughts to him. I love her, Edward. I know you do, too. And, because of this, and because she makes you this happy, I love her all the more. She is already my third daughter. “Esme especially.”
Bella must have noticed that the room had emptied, because she asked, “Where did they go?”
“Very subtly giving us some privacy, I suppose.” My youngest son was never subtle at giving hints, I supposed. I knew he wanted me to leave them alone, so I reluctantly agreed. I’ll quit eavesdropping, Edward. I’m sorry. It’s just my mothering instincts kicking in again. Forgive me? I knew he would; his heart was in the right place. With Bella. With my newest daughter.
I was working on my newest painting when I heard Bella speak my name. “Esme and Carlisle…?” What was she talking about? I couldn’t help myself; I broke my promise to Edward and listened in.
“Are happy to see me happy,” replied Edward. “Actually, Esme wouldn’t care if you had a third eye and webbed feet.” I wouldn’t even care if she were a sworn enemy, fur and all. Love conquers all, Edward. I was just worried that maybe you couldn’t love passionately. “All this time she’s been worried about me, afraid that there was something missing from my essential makeup, that I was too young when Carlisle changed me. … She’s ecstatic. Every time I touch you, she just about chokes with satisfaction.”
Eventually the conversation turned its focus to Alice. Feeling guilty about eavesdropping once again, I returned to my painting. It portrayed Bella and Edward as they stepped into our house for the first time. Of course, this image would forever be ingrained in my memory, and Edward’s too, due to his ability, but it wasn’t really for either of us. No, this would be my wedding present to my youngest daughter. A reminder of the day she became a Cullen, in my mind, at least. Now all I had to do was wait to officially gain a daughter.