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Afterglow

Summary:
The in canon tale of the daughter Rose never thought she could have. When my mother found me, fate seemed to link us together. Not only was I the daughter she never dreamed she'd have, I was unusually unappetizing for a human. However, being raised by vampires does not come without conflict. This is my tale about growing up Cullen and finding love in the most unexpected place. The world's largest coven is about to get a whole lot larger!


Notes:
Sorrowfully, I do not own the Twilight saga or any of its characters. They belong to the glorious Stephenie Meyer. But Emmalie is MINE, as is the plot. :)


5. Bambi's Mommy

Rating 4.3/5   Word Count 5751   Review this Chapter

Popeye lugged me with him most anywhere and everywhere. Off-roading was my most beloved pastime, but I was only allowed to come on scout's honor that I would not inform Mia. Popeye would strap me in and then go in whatever direction I pointed with my tiny finger. I always tried to take his jeep through the most muck and mud so we could partake in my second favorite pastime when I got home, washing the car. He did not mind; he just chortled at me and my fearless sprit. It was not like he didn't know who I acquired it from.

On Monday nights I was allotted a late bedtime. This was the night I would curl up on Popeye's stone cold lap while he glued his golden eyes to the football game. The room was packed; you practically had to commit murder for a seat and even then there were no guarantees. The rowdy crowd included my Popeye and uncles, sometimes Papa Car, Nessie's Grandpa Charlie, the ever-present Jake, and on occasion Seth, Jake's tag-along ‘brother.' Leah always declined the invitations with a sour face.

Nana did not care for the game, but she appeared to enjoy having guests over. It provided an excuse for her to give into her borderline O.C.D. cleaning habits and exercise her culinary skills for the company. Mia professed it was a waste of food and refused to lend a hand. Instead, she fled to the car house for her me time, the time she so unselfishly used to pamper her car with unnecessary attention and brood out of audible range. Aunt Alice claimed games were boring to watch; she always winked and said "she would check the score later." As an alternative activity, she set out on her mission to beautify the world, starting with our uncooperative, already beautiful family.

My Aunt Bella watched just to stay with my Uncle Edward and to avoid becoming a candidate for Aunt Alice's play time. Thanks to the lack of seats, Aunt Bella too, was forced to sitting on a lap, but she and my uncle made do, not fussing at all. Usually by halftime, Aunt Alice would try to recruit Aunt Bella for some girly task. Nessie would watch as well, Jake and she sitting innocently adjacent to one another on the floor. She explained the rules of the game, since my uncles and Popeye were often too distracted to translate play by play. I learned fast. Eventually the tradition was consistent, formed in stone.

"Popeye, which team is yours?" I would question, after I watched my father and uncles enthralled in the game for a few minutes. I did not see what was that wonderful about it, but if they liked it, so did I!

"The blue one," he mumbled, glimpsing down at me, masking his annoyance. Apparently, six-year-olds were not the 'in thing' to bring to football night; but he never asked me to leave. His attention was drawn back to the mammoth flat screen as if pulled by some polar force. I waited until he felt guilty and asked me.

"Your team?" He always was trying not to smile his big, boyish grin. Predictable as I was, it was not as if he needed to ask, I always told him the opposing team whoever, whatever, they were. He asked just to make me feel significant.

"The yellow and black team," I would mumble, confidently turning my eyes back to the game, ignoring him in a mirrored manner. He would just chuckle. The competition was on.

"You're laughing now, Popeye, but wait until my team whoops your team's sorry butt." Then after a while I celebrated any small victory. "Too bad your punter just fumbled." Or... "My linebacker just socked your guy." I was a natural born trash talker. Eventually, after he got fed up with my bashing, he would bet against me.

"Alright, little missy, if my team wins the playoffs, you have to wash out your trash talking mouth out with soap," he said in his jocular voice, tickling me into the agreement. At first I think it was a casual proposition, not a full out wager. But my eyes gleamed with mischief. He knew then that I would do it; if the bet involved eating worms, I would not have disappointed. His smile grew bigger than the Cheshire cat's.

"...And if my team wins you have to come to my tea party tomorrow dressed as Little Miss Muffin," I said with an equally devious smile. He looked at me with his eager sorrel eyes, and then shook on it.

"Deal! But it's Muffet, Emm, not Muffin," he corrected, flicking my nose lightheartedly. I rolled my green eyes, as if I were ten years older than I really was. Didn't he know? I didn't care who came to my tea parties. As long as I had someone slightly livelier than my stuff bear Joey or my Susie doll, with the eyes that never stayed open, I was content.

Occasionally, I sucked on soap, but I was unruffled. To prove that it did not bother me, I went as far as to blow sudsy spit bubbles in his face. Future wagers involved me completing pranks, thought up by none other than the king of shenanigans. That was just when I lost; other times I got what I wanted: Lion King On Ice; Pretty, Pretty Princess play time; or an off-roading trip to the place of my choice - within reason. We did not always bet the same thing, but both off us always followed through. Pride was a family trait, gambling a learned behavior.

Uncle Jazz and Uncle Edward nicknamed it the Post Game Show. Seth and Jake would stick around, but I think they would have stayed anyways, at least until they had cleaned out our kitchen. They were weird grown-ups but always a captive audience, laughing hysterically. Had my Mia been aware of our little bets, she would have broken it up. Soap was not on the list of organic things that were allowed to cross the threshold of my mouth.

The list was a twisted and evil thing. Most everyone in my house hated it. At six years old I had it memorized: no anti-biotics, no pesticides, nothing with excessive food dyes or unnatural amounts of salt, no artificial sweateners or bleached starches, no trans-fats or MSG. In Mia's opinion, "Happy-meal" was a curse word. The woman even censured health store products when she shopped in Seattle. For someone who did not eat, she sure was picky. It mattered not that the boxed claimed it was for kids, once she had passed her divine judgment, she would not be persuaded. Aunt Bella argued it was an awfully extreme. So not to deprive me, she kept my secret stash well supplied with Coco Puffs, a cereal my Mia claimed was tiny toxic balls coated in deadly artificial chocolate. Mia would have had a seizure if she realized that most everyone defied her and her silly list.

Each meal, I ate at the granite bar in the giant, under-used kitchen. All and sundry felt as if they had to watch me eat, like I might die of loneliness without them. It was an unconventional family dinner time, but it took me a while to catch on to this. Since I was pretty sheltered, I just thought that the reason that I ate was because I was a child. Children ate, while adults didn't. Often times when Jake was over, he would eat with me. I would sit there and giggle. To me it was the most amusing thing in the world that he ate and he was a grown-up. In my mind, he was like a middle-aged man stealing baby bottles.

Ness would cackle too. She would sit next to me and dotingly across from him.

"Jake, you're not a baby or a kid," I would try to tell him, laughing while he inhaled three entire boxes of whole wheat mac and cheese.

"Can't you eat back at the pound, mutt, and stop making her laugh! She has barely touched her food," my Mia would snap in her alkaline manner. Nessie would devotedly serve him more, sending me into more fits of giggles. Since my mother rarely cooked, Uncle Edward, Aunt Bella, and Nana Esme were my chefs of preference. Nessie as well was becoming a decent cook, although she almost burnt down the house on several occasions. My Uncle alleged that her arson talents proved that Ness had inherited her mother's trouble magnet qualities.

Even though she looked more than twice my age, Ness was only a few years older than me. Because of her maturity and her rapid growth, she looked far from her true age. She was a grown-up in every sense of the word, yet she still played with me just like an older sister or cousin should. It was an unbecoming task for her, yet she did it for my enjoyment alone.

My perspective of her was not very accurate. Nessie was different, but I did not see it that way. It was not that Nessie grew fast; it was me who grew slow. It was not that she was inhumanly intelligent; it was that I was stupid. My little mind could not comprehend the gaps I saw between her and me. She was perfect. I was like a fake Prada purse on Fifth-Avenue; I was so convinced that I was inferior. Jealousy turned me tart. When I could take no more, I confided my notions to my Mia.

"Mia," I asked one day, setting down my crayon and giving my cramped hand a break from scribbling my family portrait. "Why is Nessie so much bigger than me?"

"Because she is older, sweetling. You know that," she replied in a monotone voice. She was preoccupied by the flickering pages of the Auto magazine, Car Mechanics. All the while, her nimble fingers circled her Christmas selections for ‘Santa.' She was halfway paying attention to me, so I pressed on.

"Am I like Wilbur?" I asked in my peppy voice. She stopped, so still, it looked like I froze her.

"Wilbur who, honey?" she asked, furrowing her porcelain brow in perplexity. The corner of her magazine page was folded over to hold her place. She tossed her hair over her shoulder, golden tresses that made the sun in all its brilliance green-eyed. She pulled up a stool and dutifully assumed her attentive mother role.

"You know, Mia, the one who is friends with the spider," I reminded in my motherly imitating voice.

"Oh, from Charlotte's Web," she recalled aloud, referring to one of the many books my Aunt Bella had given to me. I nodded and smiled at her. She cocked her head at me, waiting to see where this was going.

"Yes. Am I...a.... a... rut..." I said searching for the proper word.

"A runt?" she asked, half horrified by my question. Her regal posture slumped for an instant before she regained her composure.

"That is the word," I confirmed, praising her. She still did not seem excessively celebratory.

"Oh, no, Emmalie! Why would you think such a thing?" she scolded. She was really offended, but I did not understand why. I let my eyes plunge back to my drawing, in shame. Even in my scribbled depiction, one could see my flawed perception.

"'Cause I am too small and you make me eat a whole lot, three times every day," I explained, my glossy eyes huge and my miniature hands waving dramatically. The corners of her mouth threatened to pull into a smirk.

"You are just the perfect size, Emmalie. I was the exact same size I was when I was six," she said looking at me, giving in and smiling with her whole pretty face. I was very happy to hear this, so I reflected her smile, picked up my pink crayon, and diligently scribbled on. But then it occurred to me.

"Mia, were you ugly then too," I asked, hoping she would answer yes. But she did not. Instead she had me wrapped up in her cold, cradling arms before I could blink. She shook me slightly.

"Emmy, you are not a runt, you are not too small, and you are not ugly!" she corrected in one breath before sighing a chilly breath on my shoulder. "Do I need to send you to bed early?"

"Would that make me..." but the callous look in her shimmering eyes told me not to finish.

"Oh, my baby, you are perfect. Please do not think that way! It makes my heart sad," she said in her depressing song-like voice, the pleading voice of an angel. She had adapted to using some of my phrases.

"I'm sorry, Mia. I'll stop and read the 'Aunt Alice in the Mirror' story," I proposed, knowing how proud she was of my reading. She nodded stiffly and sat me down, then went to pick up her phone to call my Popeye. She's probably going to tell him how I hurt her heart and how he has to come home and kiss it better, I rationalized. He did do that a lot.

My sad little perception of myself was far from the reality. In truth, I was a very lovely girl, with thick, sandy locks and big emerald green eyes, bordered in ebony lashes. I was dainty but not overly thin, high cheekbones and a small nose. My olive skin bronzed easily in the patchy Washington sunlight, rarely burning. In addition to my appearance, I was incredibly bright. I tried my best to remember everything that Papa Car would tell me. Yet sometimes in one day, I think my little brain went into overload.

I concluded early on in my life that I would never be as smart as any of them. Furthermore, no matter what I would do, dress up in Mia's clothing and powder my face white, I did not look like her, I never would. It was like that segregating song on Sesame Street, "One of these things is not like the others. One of these things is not quite the same." I really hated that song!

I think, I was six-ish when realized that my family was...well, a little atypical. The tendency I naturally leaned towards was not purposely willful, but curious. My female family members abandoned me at night sometimes so I would not know and feel left out. But I did know.

On a particular November night, I planned to follow them. Popeye was supposed to be watching me, but he just thought I was asleep. I waited until I heard his stomp-like steps plod up the stairs to the forbidden study, Uncle Edward's quick steps trailing behind him. I heard Uncle Edward mumble something about last time he was helping Jasper hack and Alice's credit report, but I didn't pay attention.

To my relief, my slippers muffled my footsteps and I went unnoticed. Out the kitchen door I strayed, into the shadows of the misty forest. I followed them but right away my little legs could not keep up. I ventured forth for about an hour, deep into the maze of pines they vanished behind.

They were making a ton of noise in the forest; I think that was why they could not hear me. I went past the little bubbling brook that weaved its way through the forest and on into obscurity. Hopelessly disoriented, I softly cried in the dark. I was trembling in the night as I trudged on. My pink cotton-candy slippers were muddy and soaked. The air remained so cold, it hurt to breathe.

Sneaking out was one of those things that I knew was bad as soon as I did it. The forest was a big out of bonds area. Not to mention, I was not to depart from my bed at night, and I was never allowed to leave the house without permission.

I was about to resort to screaming for help, when I saw my Mia's pale hair flash in front of my eyes, fast as always. Happily, I ran in that direction and peered down a gorge where I had seen her run.

And then I saw it, motionless, save for an occasional twitch. Dead in her hands, the blood gashed from a small crescent shaped wound. On her perfect lips dripped the crimson truth. The shriek that came from my mouth startled even me.

Mia saw me, but there was nothing she could do, no explanation. I'm sure she could see my trembling from deep in the gorge. She knelt, helplessly trapped, while tears trailed down my frozen cheeks. I could tell she wanted to hold me, to wipe them away, but she refused to force herself on me. With poise she slowly rose to her feet, her slaughter in front of her. She started to come towards me, worry glowing in her saffron eyes, but I fell backwards at her approach. To the left Aunt Bella approached like a lioness, Aunt Alice prowling at her side. They moved without noise. I knew when I saw them together that my Mia was not alone in her sin. My Aunts were half whispering, half yelling at each other.

"Told you I heard a human," scoffed my Aunt Bella in her know-it-all voice. Aunt Alice was quick to find an excuse.

"She sounded like a raccoon," maintained my Aunt Alice, her perky voice too defensive. My Mia shot her an accusing glare.

"Oh, come on, Alice! I know I'm newer to this than you, but I'm no amateur. A child and a raccoon sound nothing alike," Bella whispered huffily. Bella's eyes narrowed at her sister, analyzing her. Alice shifted under the scrutiny of her best friend, mumbling.

"Both of you shut up!" screamed my Mia, her tenor low and menacing. Then she narrowed in her vengeance on Aunt Alice. "I suppose you have some lame, half-ass excuse for not seeing this one, Alice? I would really love to hear it sometime, because I know you would not have just let this happen without warning me." Alice crossed her arms and pouted, maintaining her right to be silent. "...Because if you did that, you know I what I would do to a certain loved one." Alice's eyes widened to a saucer-like size and her pout sparked into a blazing glower.

"Are you threatening my Jasper?" Screamed my aunt in an infrequent fit of rage. She relocated to a looming distance from my Mia.

"Don't be dense, Alice! I'm talking about the Porsche," my Mia spat, dropping the scary-older-sister act for a moment. Alice and Mia began to exchange whispered threats and death glares. Aunt Bella settled down on a log, kicked up her feet, and sighed. Apparently, she was aware that fights like this could go on for infinity. Behind me Nessie's sweet voice pulled my eyes from the upheaval.

"Oh, Emmalie, why did you have to follow us?" she asked as she knelt. I whimpered and crawled toward a tree, curling up, not taking my eyes off of the crime scene below. The two deer-murders in the gorge stopped fighting, reminded of my presence. They did not come any closer; the one time my Mia moved toward me, I let out a sob. She gave up with a sigh, her shoulders sinking from their rigid state.

"Emmmmmeeeeettttt," she called with clear crystal intonation. She said it with arid emotion, the way you called to someone upstairs when you wanted them to come down. It was a one word request.

I listened to her perfect voice echo, standing up waiting for my Popeye's rescue. He would make me feel better.

In an instant he was there, his eyes locking on me and then looking toward my mother. Her sad eyes must have told all because he never said a word. He simply stalked over to me and gave my pajama seat a few hearty smacks before he wrapped me in his bear hug. And then he rubbed my back as I cried on the high-speed hike home. My only words were, "BAMBI'S MOMMY!" to which I cried over and over again. He was livid, but not at me - at my Mia, the deer, Aunt Alice and himself, but not me.

He grumbled a great deal, practically throwing me to Jasper as soon as he walked in the door. He did not even give his brother an explanation. As Popeye calmed himself down, Jasper tried to wipe my tears with tissues. He did not do a very good job. He treated the tears as if they were some type of hazardous matter, throwing away a tissue as soon as it touched my face. After he used two dozen tissues, he let out tremor of disgust, like some big sissy. He had a thing against bodily fluids.

Luckily, Nana Esme and Papa Car were arriving home from a charity banquet at the hospital. In the same time frame, my Uncle Edward decided to come down stairs to see why I was screeching so loud. I am sure he was confused by my internal mourning of the Disney deer. I rejected artificial waves of comfort, allowing my shoulders to shake with little sobs.

"What in heaven's name is wrong?" Nana Esme asked, an array of worry on her heart shaped face. As soon as Papa Car took off her coat to hang it up for her, she dashed to Jasper's side and cupped my already frozen face in her equally frozen hands.

"Baaaammmmbiiiiii'ssssss Mommmmmmmy," I cried in turmoil. Esme looked to Jasper for an explanation. At the same time, she notice the pacing, grumbling Emmett.

"She saw Rose in the forest," stated my all knowing Uncle Edward. Nana looked alarmed but Papa Car just nodded. He did not look worried in the least; telling the truth was what he did best. I happened to be the kind of kid that wanted to know the truth. He dispensed his briefcase on Nana's Pembroke tea table and motioned toward the couch. He sat down and explained, while uncomfortable Jasper continued to hold me.

Papa Car said that for a young child, I took it all very well. I seemed to understand. Popeye seemed glad that his dad was telling me this and not him. After I calmed down, so did he. When Papa Car finished, he asked me if I understood. I paraphrased what I learned for him.

"So you're all like mosquitoes?" I asked waiting for verification. "You suck on the juices but not the rest." My newly muted family all dissected me for a moment with their eyes. I took a fact that most people considered monstrous and summed it up in the most composed and simplistic way: oversized parasites. Only Papa Car acknowledged me, encouraging more questions.

"Just animal juices, right?" I asked meekly, glancing about. Even my Nana wore a blank look on her alabaster face.

"Right my love, blood," affirmed my grandfather. Everyone else was still speechless. My Popeye was now seated; my questions making me shift in unease. He was waiting for me to call him a monster.

"If you are, umm, vamp-pires," I started stumbling on the new word. "What am I?"

"You're human, Emma," thundered my Popeye impatiently, before Papa Car could choke out a more gentle response. Papa Car sent him one of his looks. Nana smacked him in the back of the head. I kept going.

"Do you really never sleep or eat good stuff, like cookies?" I asked again. I got a nod from the room. "And you stay the same? No birthdays or nothing?"

Nana smiled and gave me a little shrug. I thought for a while and went back to one of the first things Papa Car told me.

"Are Bambi and his mommy really fake?" I still was in disbelief over that small reality. Of all the things they were telling me, this one was truly disturbing.

"Yes, he is a fictional character, like most, if not all of your cartoons." Papa Car gave his text book retort without falter. My Popeye laughed at the unexpected turn in conversation. His laugh seemed to douse out some of the scorching tension. I asked several more questions, but in truth I did not know everything Vampire in that one night.

By the time I had finished, everyone was back in one our large open family room. My Mia and aunts and my sweet Nessie all sat at a distance on the sofa, as if they were on trial. Papa Car looked at me with his muddy warm eyes and smiled. This night made the list of top ten most awkward family meetings.

"Are there any more questions? Things that you unsure of, my little Thumbelina," he asked me. I thought for a moment then looked around the room.

"Ummmmmm... Am I going to have to stand in the corner?" I asked in an anxious whisper. My Popeye stared, his eyes piercing. He looked for a long time like he might have been mad at my question, like I should not have even asked.

"Is that all you are worried about?" he asked, shaking his head at me. But I just looked at him my eyes questioning him.

"No, Emmalie, you're not," he promised with an outtake of breath. I nodded, then looked around again and asked my Mia. I was still a little uncomfortable with being able to ask everything and anything.

"Ummmmmm, does blood make you pretty?"

"No, Emmalie," my Mia spit back sharply hoping to deter any notions. She was still kind of grumpy.

"Does blood taste good?" I asked with my eyes slightly narrowed.

"Emma," said my mother in a tone that meant stop now. I knew her different tones. Right now she looked like she wanted to escape. I ignored the cue and recalled the deer, who got more than just an itchy bite mark.

"When the deer is dead, do you put it in a shoe box, bury it, and sing songs?" I asked quietly. Everyone looked like a mixture between confused and guilty. My Popeye coughed, or maybe it was a laugh made to sound like a cough. No one answered me for a minute and I started to give them my judgmental glare, folding my arms and clicking my tongue like Nana often did. Jasper caved.

"Yes, of course we do," he said convincingly, the rest of family quickly played along.

"Every time?"

"Yep!"

"Yeah, we even have an open casket viewing before the service. We invite their deer relatives and neighbors to sing Amazing Grace with us," relished my sarcastic father. Mia rolled her eyes. It was not as if I was ever going to be able to call them on their bluff. I had a feeling they were lying so I asked more questions.

"Where do you find big enough shoe boxes?" I asked, doing the reasoning in my head. Everyone looked to my Mia, who kicked Jasper in the shin then smiled sweetly to me. I looked back and forth between them suspiciously.

"Jasper makes them, sweetheart. I'm sure he will show you sometime," she said giving him a wicked smile. He bared his teeth at her snide offer but nodded to me. Uncle Edward seemed to think it was funny but my Aunt Bella lightly smacked away any remaining amusement.

"Is there anything else you would like to ask, comment upon and-or request before you go back to bed, sweetness?" she asked in a condescending tone, pushing my hair out of my face, kneeling in front of me. She was sick of all of this, but I was not. I pondered for a moment before I shared.

"I'm done with vegetables," I declared. This seemed like an ideal time to bring this up. It was not fair that I had to eat things like celery, while they only ate what they wanted. "If you don't follow the food pyramid rules, Mia. I am not going to either!" I was about to demand my rights to sugary cereal when she interrupted.

"Let me rephrase my prior statement. Are there any reasonable requests?" she growled in agony.

"I'm serious, Mia. No more green stuff. You don't eat variety and I'm not going to either," I said, looking to my Popeye for support. But the plan backfired when he thought of some ludicrous excuse. His eyes got big and his voice overly animated. He took it to the point where most anyone could tell he was lying or at least exaggerating.

"Emma, we eat variety. We hunt several species of elk, moose, bears, lions..."

"Wolves?" I asked hopefully. Everyone was quite, save for Aunt Bella and Ness, who seemed sickened and appalled by even the suggestion. They let out identical gasps.

"No, Emma, most unfortunately in this house we do not eat wolves," my Mia admitted, looking at Papa Car as if he were the enemy. He raised his eyebrows, daring her to expand.

"Too bad," I said with a sigh, "we have a festation of those."

"You mean infestation?" asked Aunt Alice in her sweet lilting voice. Everyone else looked at me sheepishly.

"Yeah, same difference. The point is there are a lot of them. They are very big and they run around our house every single night, around and around and around. I can see them from my window!" I shared this distressing news, yet none of them seemed too stunned. It was like they already knew. Perhaps they did not understand. I rallied on, giving them the sad but alarming truth. I even stood up on the couch to petition. Jasper scooted over allowing me to my makeshift platform. "If we don't call the terminator, they may start trying to blow down our house or eat our Nana. This is big, Mia! Why can't you just eat them instead of the deer?" Mia seemed proud of my little petition but she still did not answer me.

"Ask Papa Car. I keep saying the same thing about the blasted fleabags but no one listens to me," she directed with a roll of her golden eyes.

Nana made that click of her tongue and gave my Mia a nudge. She ignored her, however. Popeye nudged her harder until she turned her eyes to the window, where Nessie stood like an outcast, hurt and rejected. She leaned against the wall tracing doodles on the foggy windowpane.

"When are you going to learn, Rose? Are you going to wait until you've hurt everyone before you shut your fat mouth?" Uncle Edward growled aggressively. My Mia seemed to shrink half a foot at the reprimand. Often times she just blew off anything my uncle said, but this was different.

"Edward!" yelled my Aunt Bella in disbelief, holding him back. She tried to calm him down but he refused. My Aunt Alice rushed over to comfort her sniffling niece, followed by my Aunt Bella, who reluctantly released her irate husband. I jumped to my Mia, hugging her while my father continued the reproof.

"Smooth, Rose. Real smooth," he groused. She gasped, he rarely told her off. I made a mean face at him, not understanding what was going on.

"I'll love you even if you do eat the wolves, Mia," I whispered in her ear. She smiled weakly, but turned her attention back to Nessie.

My Uncle Jasper sat on the couch tapping his foot, very distracted with everything going on. Uncle Edward looked as though he was going to add even more variety to his diet, Rose-juices. Hurt covered my Nana's beautiful face. She really hated fighting and could only take it so long. Instead of remaining, she simply stomped upstairs and slammed the door when she reached her room.

"ENOUGH! It stops here," declared Papa Car, looking at Rose and Edward. "Edward, you are right and she knows it. There is no need to press your point. Rose, you can make whatever genuine apologies you feel led to make. I would suggest you start with your niece. After that, there is a six-year-old who needs sleep." He looked at my Popeye. "Wolves and what not can wait for another discussion, at another time." Most everyone nodded in agreement.

"But I still have questions!" I protested in a whine as Popeye scooped me up to take me to bed for the second time that night. My Popeye was losing patience as I thrashed about. Smiling, Papa Car kissed my forehead, trying to get me to stop struggling.

"I'm sure you do. But tonight, I have no more answers. It is time for bed," he said pinching my cheek playfully. Popeye propelled my Mia gently towards Nessie, before we turned to face my impending doom, the ever-dreaded bedtime. We only got half way up the stairs.

"But how can I be a vampire? I want to be like you!" I yelled so everyone could hear. My words must have freaked him out enough that he loosened his grip, permitting me to squirm free and scurry back down the steps. My Mia released Nessie from the hug she was giving her and looked at me petrified. I stood on the bottom step taking in the scared faces. The general reaction was identical to what I had received a week prior when I had added a curse word to my ever blooming vocabulary. A staggered panic besieged the room as if I had just opened a forbidden box, one they had taped up and hidden away a long time ago. My Mia broke the silence her voice still harsh.

"Emmalie, we can finish this conversation when you are older," she said with sternness, her tone was still melodious. She was still petting Nessie, who now looked like she had new reservations. Aunt Alice looked dazed for a brief moment then she shook it off.

"Or we could just finish it now," I suggested sourly with a shrug.

"EMMALIE ALICE MARIE, do you really wish to keep this up?" warned my Popeye from behind me. I had no intention of irking him further so I stopped, but not before silently vowing to ask again in the morning.

"No, sir, I'll stop," I pledged in a quiet voice, for now anyways, I silently added. At the time I was not sure why, but all of a sudden my Uncle Edward's attitude shifted like a change in the frigid, Pacific tides. He tossed his head back in laughter and looked at my Mia roguishly, his eyes warm with victory.

"Finally, Rose you have someone who will give you some of the strife you deserve," he mumbled as he walked passed her and hugged his Nessie, nuzzling her head to her chest.

He may have not said it if he only knew the truth he spoke. I glanced over my shoulder as I trudged up the stairs. For once my Mia did not fight him. Maybe, she knew he was right.