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The Ripple Effect

Summary:
What if Bella’s parents never divorced & she was a normal girl. Best friends with Jacob Black for all her life & suddenly the Cullen’s moved to Forks. Everything is Alternate Universe, Romance, drama and friendships galore.


Notes:


15. Chapter 15, A not so Merry Christmas

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Chapter 15, A not so Merry Christmas

Christmas for me has always been synonymous with family and friends. Even though I am amidst all my family and friends, I can’t help but notice the elephant in the proverbial room. With my safety and those around me at risk, this holiday season has been more Brothers’ Grimm than Clement Clarke Moore. This is the first Christmas that I could remember where I was afraid. Alice’s vision put so much fear in everyone. Vampires coming to get us, the Volturi, this time the monsters were real and they weren’t limited to under my bed.

It seemed humans were getting too close to the renegade vampires. But life around the Cullens had to remain normal, the cool and calm exteriors of the vampires as us humans buzzed around them seemed like a well rehearsed play.

My parents had gotten used to Edward always being around me, he had become such an integral part of the house. I even think Renee liked when he was there with Charlie being away so often. I sat at the kitchen table while, Edward kept busy writing out my Christmas cards. Renee smiled unaware while baking cookies. Charlie was busy at the station trying to track down the killers.

’The Volturi coming here.’ I shook my head. “If we don’t nip this in the bud we’re in trouble.” Emmett had said. I knew he meant me, I was the reason everyone was afraid of the Volturi coming. Edward had no intention of turning me or killing me. If the Volturi came to Forks and somehow got wind of me knowing the Cullens' secret it would put everything at risk. It also caused some tension between the two of us. I had decided the only way to get insure of his family's safety; was to give them the assurance they needed when it came to my mortality. Unfortunately Edward wouldn't even let me broach the subject, it seemed whenever I tried to start the conversation he would have to go or shook his head annoyed.

We went through school like those wind up Christmas displays walking to and fro with the same fake expressions. I finally understood how the Cullen’s made it through the day, they focused on the mask, the pretense, everything that was going on around us became blurred and unreal. All my homework was ready; I studying for tests mechanically with Edward’s help. The anxiety from waiting and planning was driving me crazy. Since we were on Christmas break, it got worse. The mundane things like lunch and classes, that kept our hands busy were actually keeping us sane.

I said goodbye to Renee as Edward and I headed outside to talk in private.

“You should just change me Edward.” I said, “If the Volturi come at least tell them...”

“No.” He seethed.

“No? You just want me to die old and gray, or be with someone else?” I shook my head panic stricken. “I can’t do that Edward, I love you. This is it. And if it means saving you and your family’s lives I’d gladly give my own.”

“Your friends and family don’t they mean something to you?”

“Yes.” I answered pouting.

“You won’t be able to see them, for fear you’ll kill them. Could you give that up?”

He moved forward to hold me but his hands stopped just short of my shoulders, it was as if the heat emanating from my body would have burned him and he kept away.

I shrugged.

“They’ll think I’m in college anyways, what’s a couple of extra summer classes until I can control my thirst. Charlie and Renee have each other.” I argued.

“You always said you were the glue that kept them together.” He added, solemnly looking over into my neighbor’s yard as children screamed in the snow.

“Maybe” I sighed.

“I can’t do this to you. I had no choice, it was death or this. But you do have a choice.”

“Yeah, watch as the Volturi tear your family apart knowing it’s all my fault.”

“I don’t want you to make this choice for those reasons.”

“I haven’t, I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. You can’t love someone, as much as I love you and not want a future with them.”

He shook his head. “This isn’t a future Bella this is a sentence.” He winced looking down.

“How can you say that?”

“Because I have no soul, and I can’t do that to you.”

“You think you have no soul?” I replied incredulous.

“Yes, and yours is so beautiful.” He answered so delicately.

I sighed angered, shaking my head.

“Do you love me?” I asked as he locked his jaw, the pained look turning to confidence.

“More than anything.” Edward answered.

I nodded. “Than how can you love someone without a soul?” I countered. “Do you think that’s possible? That I could love you if you didn’t have a soul. A soul is a conscience Edward. It’s what stops you from killing humans what makes you feel guilty about your past. How could you even question that?”

He sighed looking away.

“I’ve made my decision; if you don’t to turn me when the time comes I’ll ask Alice or Carlisle.”

“No.” He answered his fist coming up to his mouth, as he was lost in thought.

“I don’t want to discuss this anymore right now. But I have made up my mind, and no matter how much you love me it is my choice to make.” I finally finished determined.

He looked passed me, towards the Volvo before sighing. “I know this may seem like the answer to you but it is not our only option.”

“Edward, I know how you feel about this but...”

"I have to get home, it's my turn tonight." He commented watching the children in the distance.

I wondered if he was imagining a life of carefree bliss, or frolicking in the snow just like my neighbors. I shook the thought away as he sighed.

I knew I was giving him unneeded stress. It was torture not to be able to touch him, to hold him let alone kiss him. The past few weeks were dreadful and I couldn't wait for it to be over. I watched Edward drive away with a sad look in his eyes. When I turned to head back inside, a small voice caught my attention.

"Took him long enough didn't it." Alice sighed, meeting me outside the bushes.

She took my arm right away.

“Where did you come from?” I asked, shocked at my friend’s appearance. She pointed towards the woods matter of factly, shaking her head as if she had told a joke.

“Bella are you okay?” Alice asked, looking back towards where the Volvo was moments ago.

“Yeah why?” I asked confused, 'did Alice see our conversation, was my decision already cemented?'

“Nothing, I just thought you could come over, Edward will be gone and I want you to myself. Plus Esme has a new recipe to try.”

"Won't that break one of Edward's rules about your scent lingering and all that?"

Alice threw her head back laughing as she followed me into the house. She didn’t pull away from embracing me instead locked our arms purposefully, the rules obviously meant nothing to Alice. Renee greeted my friend with a warm smile and a dozen Christmas cookies. Alice was polite as she followed me upstairs to my room.

"My brother tends to be self loathing if you haven't noticed; he's punishing himself over you, because he can't think of a single reason that you should love him."

"I don't understand how he can think that way, if anything it's me who can't..."

Alice fingered through my closet hoping there was something new, but she should know better by now. "I know you both feel like you don't deserve the other, it's tragic." With a sigh, she turned back towards me.

“Of course if you want I will change you. I think I could, even though I’ve never tried, I believe I would have the strength.” She watched me tense for a minute before beaming a bright smile. “I just wanted to put that out there, Edward is my brother, and you are my friend. When the time comes it is ultimately your decision, not his.”

I gave a quick nod swallowing hard. “Thanks, I needed to hear that Alice.”

My friend gave a quick nod. "How about you meet me at the house in ten minutes?" She beamed as I shook my head.

"But Edward..."

"Will be gone, you're my guest and as long as you drive yourself I don't see why you can't come to the house, I want to show you something." Alice interjected.

It was the first time I had driven myself to the Cullen’s; I hadn't been to the house in a while not since Edward was taking every precaution to keep me safe. When I walked into their home Alice had to hold herself back from hugging me, she wrapped her arms around herself before looking up the stairs as I followed. It seemed Alice wasn't exactly a complete rebel after all.

Esme greeted us in the kitchen a look of surprise on her face as Alice shrugged.

“I invited her, Edward can deal with me.” Her mother gave a slight nod before smiling my way.

“Well this gives me the perfect opportunity to test out a new recipe I’ve been dying to try. Bella how do you feel about carrot cookies?”

I gave a quick shrug as Alice rushed to the fridge. I expected the white box to be empty but it was filled to the brim looking very realistic.

“Thanks Mrs. Cullen.” Esme smiled nodding slightly.

“Well you girls have fun the cookies will be ready in a bit.” Esme tied a pink ruffled apron around her small waist, the pansies danced on the fabric as she prepared her cookie batter. I opened my lemonade slowly while Alice sighed impatient.

“Come see my room.” Alice chimed as she led me up the stairs, I half smiled following my friend up to her room.

As long as we had been friends, I had never seen the inside of Alice and Jasper’s room. I knew they were private, Jasper especially so as I stepped into the lush room I couldn’t help but be excited.

“This is beautiful.” I gasped smiling at the four-post bed in the middle of the room. It was a canopy with light pink curtains protecting the frame. The wallpaper was beautiful with small roses and a light Victorian pattern. I smiled sitting on the fainting couch in the corner as Alice bounced around before grabbing a music box.

She handed it to me beaming.

“This was my first gift from Jasper.”

She whispered. “He said it was to keep my new memories.” She looked down bashful, when I opened the box a light Chopin piece began to waft in the air.

Alice grabbed something else out of the closet as she sat down on the floor at my feet.

“I have no memories of when I was human. Has Edward told you that?” I shook my head biting my lip; I had wanted to ask this question a hundred times.

“No.” She gave a quick nod before handing me a black dress, it was tattered in need of mending or the trash, at the collar the name ‘Alice’ was hand stitched.

“I spent all of last year looking for anything on who I was, if I had family left or where I was from...”

“So what did you find out?” My friend gave a sigh as she sat next to me a look in her eyes told me she was far away.

“I know what hospital I was staying at, but all those records are sealed.” Alice smirked as I picked up a pair of pearl earrings.

“First marriage.” She answered my unasked question.

I smiled fingering the lovely jewelry.

“How many times have you and Jasper?”

“Five times.” She beamed, thinking of each memory before sighing.

“How did you two meet?” I inquired, genuinely curious.

“I just knew.” She smiled, “I saw him and I knew where he was going to be.” She grinned enjoying the memory.

“And I remember thinking he was much more lovely in real life. He stared at me and I held out my hand. We’ve been together ever since. He’s my soul mate, my perfect other half.” She sighed, looking to a pair of Jasper’s shoes.

“It’s sounds so romantic.” I laughed fingering a diamond necklace.

“It always is, but out of everyone I could have seen, it was him and when we met we just knew. Despite not knowing who I was, or how I got to be what I am today I had without a doubt; found the love of my life.” She beamed as I gave a quick nod.

“So you met a stale mate? Is that it, no where to go?” I asked, as she sighed holding the black dress to her lap.

“There’s other ways I can go, dig a little deeper some people who can help.”

I smiled thinking.

“So then it’s like you were born a vampire.” I mused trying to lighten the mood.

Alice smirked shrugging as she lightly flew to the closet to put the dress away.

“It’s not like one of your stories Bella, there’s no pure blooded vampires. We were all born human before this life.”

I pouted shrugging. Had everyone read my stories, I shook my head embarrassed before pushing the thought away.

“How do you know? There could be many things that you still don’t know about vampire lure.”

Alice sighed, sitting next to me as she took a pair of earrings and fitted them to my ears.

“You are right, I'm sorry. I don’t really know, that’s why we had to make a stop the other day in Seattle.” She eyed me carefully as the memory of meeting that odd man a few weeks ago played in my head.

“He’s...?” I asked as Alice gave a quick nod before looking down towards the carpet, changing the subject.

“Helping, but our bodies stop aging, female vampires cannot conceive.” I nodded accepting that Alice needed to veer back to a safe subject.

“Female turned vampires cannot conceive.” I corrected her, she sighed laughing lightly to herself.

“Sometimes I wish I was in your fantasy world Bella. Where things like that were possible.” I laughed shaking my head, Alice had a secret and I was her keeper, it felt we had become closer.

“To most people Alice, the very idea of vampires is impossible; if I’ve learned anything this year it’s that any is possible.” She grinned looking up as Jasper knocked on the door a moment later.

“We’re coming down Jazz.” She mused jumping up before holding out her hand. “Come play Bella.”

I hesitated before taking her hand; Alice met my gaze and shrugged before dancing lightly by my side.

“Edward’s downstairs.” She whispered as I gave a quick nod.

When we reached the bottom of the stairs, Alice flitted towards Jasper. I stood there motionless as the sounds of Beethoven lured me into the Observatory.

Edward was sitting patiently his fingers dancing across the ivory keys, I wondered when he had returned from his turn of tracking. Had he listened in on Alice and I, it was obvious he could have with ease. I wasn’t sure if he was angry that I was in his home, breaking one of his rules. The melody floated through the air and my eyes were glued to him. He smiled as Moonlight Sonata turned into another tune. It reminded me of the Chopin I had heard upstairs, but the chordal progressions were distinctly Romantic period.

“It’s beautiful.” I exclaimed, as Edward modulated to a more somber part.

“Of course it is, it’s called Bella.” He admitted smiling. I wanted nothing more than to lean closer to him, to breathe in deeply as his playing slowed to nothing.

“I just want to protect you.” He said, sighing as he smiled brightly staring at my lips intently, before turning away.

“I know.” I replied.

“All I ever wanted to do is keep you safe.” He motioned to caress my cheek but his hand stopped before it made contact.

“And that’s all you’ve ever done.” I answered. “Now let me keep you safe, just this once.” He winced pulling his hand back, his eyes flickered in annoyance.

”It is not that easy Bella, I just wish you could trust me on this please.”

"I do trust you Edward, but trust goes both ways. I know that I'm frail compared to all of you, but that doesn't make me the damsel in distress. Even when I was breaking bones and falling all the time I never thought of myself as the victim. And I'm not about to become one now."

"Bella please." He pleaded, closing his eyes as he took in a deep and completely unnecessary breath.

“We will talk about this again, but not right now.” He smiled waving me to follow him from the piano bench as we joined Alice and Jasper in the living room.

“I’ve challenged Alice to a game of chess.” Edward chuckled, sitting down across from his siblings. I had defied him along with Alice but Edward wasn’t upset, it seemed as he had given up. I took the love seat in the corner, just to make sure.

Jasper nodded a hello to me, and I smiled. He was always so nervous that he would become the vampire he had fought to keep at bay. I wondered if my presence was helping his transition or torturing him. Alice had assured me weeks ago that it was helping.

“You’re about to experience one of the greatest mind games Bella I hope you’re prepared.” His southern drawl was very soothing I could see the similarities with Edward the voice could draw you in.

“Should I look for anything specific or...?” I inquired, Alice laughed as they positioned their chess pieces.

“Nope, just watch me wipe the floor with your emo boyfriend over here.” Edward smirked at his sister before turning towards me.

“She’s always this way.”

“So who usually wins?” I asked as Jasper shook his head indicating it wasn’t the right question to ask.

“Edward’s going to say he does but it’s really fifty/ fifty.” Alice answered to the annoyance of her brother.

I watched them in silence for a while, before Alice looked up smiling at me as I was lost in thought.

“You ready to go Bella.” She stated, no need to hide the fact that it wasn’t a question when she was at home.

“I’ll walk her out Alice.” Edward demanded standing up just as Alice was about to beat him to the punch.

“She is here as my guest today Edward so I think I should walk her out.” She was locking her jaw in anger as Jasper interlaced his fingers with hers making the lithe girl sit at his side.

“Let Edward see her out Alice.” He cooed as my friend gave a stubborn nod waving me away.

I wondered what Alice foresaw Edward saying, she was acting very territorial and protective over me. I knew whatever was on Edward's mind it couldn’t be good.

I followed Edward to the front door as he kept his distance, before opening his door and motioning me to the driveway.

“You shouldn’t have come Bella.” He finally admitted. “It’s not safe for you to be here, if they’re tracking us as we are them...”

“I don’t believe that would make much sense Edward. You said it yourself there are three of them and seven of you.” He smiled his eyes softening in the moonlight before shaking his head at me, looking away.

“No risk not even a small one is worth it. We are curious creatures I have no doubt that if they were to find our scent on you and follow it they would use you and your family to lure us out. It’s not that uncommon.”

I opened my mouth to protest, but Edward opened my truck for me motioning towards the seat, as if it was the finality of the discussion.

“Just give us a little more time, I promise you we will handle this and then...” He paused sighing, before turning away from me.

“And then we can go back to the way it was?” I finally asked as Edward gave a slight smile nodding.

“If you still want me Bella.” I laughed, shaking my head as he closed the door for me.

“Of course Edward.” I said, knowing he could hear me, as he lowered his head releasing me from his gaze.

I drove home annoyed and bewildered, romantic love that feeling that was once so foreign to me was now burrowing a hole in my heart. The very constraint of not being able to feel Edward’s arms around me or to feel his lips on mine was causing this pain. A lingering throbbing in my heart for a boy, a vampire whom I had no knowledge of three months ago. I couldn’t help but wonder about my parents and if they felt the same way.

My mind was racing when I closed my front door and the sent of cinnamon buns mixed with ginger snaps greeted me.

“Hey Baby, your father is late for dinner so we’re waiting on him, and how was your day?”

I looked at my mother, my thoughts finally bubbling to the surface.

“So why did you stay with Dad?” I finally asked, as Renee reddened placing the hot tray on top of the stove.

“Hello to you too.” She whispered shaking her head, I took off my jacket meeting her in the kitchen.

“I mean, for a while there it was hard wasn’t it?”

“It’s still hard Bella, marriage is supposed to be a work in progress always.”

“But there were times when you wanted to leave, to give up?” Renee laughed softly as she sat down on the kitchen table an herbal tea in hand.

“I love your Father, I have always loved him.”

“But is it enough?” I couldn’t help but ask this question, wanting to know the answer and the current anxiety seemed like a perfect opening.

“Love is a complicated emotion, but when you’re with the same person for so long you don’t know where the love comes from anymore. It’s like how you remember to breathe or eat, it’s all automatic.” She smiled now as if it was a secret joke and I was finally being let in on it.

“There was one time I almost left with you when you were young.” I sat at the edge of my chair, I remembered this day; it was after a fight, Renee had woke me up and started packing.

“What stopped you?” My mother heaved a heavy sigh shaking off some bad memory before smiling at me.

“I’m not complete without your father, at first I felt stuck here. But as I began to think of my life without him I knew it would never be the same. He was the one for me and I for him. And a life without your father would have changed all of us; I couldn’t do it not to you not to him.”

“So you stayed for me?” Renee took my hand giving it a squeeze.

“I was ready, I had you at my hip and a suitcase in hand but as I made a step for the door I couldn’t breathe. I realized in that moment that being in love, truly loving someone means you give them a piece of you. And no matter how much your father and I argue he will always complete that part of me.”

“So that’s it? You stay and you’re miserable?” Renee tucked a piece of hair behind my ear, her eyes looked concerned but also troubled.

“How am I ever to know the wonderful moments with your father if we don’t have a few arguments here and there? No Bella, I’m not miserable. I realized that day that I was being selfish and scared. I married your father knowing this was his dream, and it was wrong of me to want him to change because I was afraid. In the end, even if I had left that day I would have been miserable. Maybe not right away, but eventually I would have regretted walking out that door.”

She gave my hand a gentle squeeze before standing up and refilling her teacup. I watched her amazed, I had always thought the perfect relationship was one without fighting and tears. That she regretted that day not leaving Charlie so many years ago. But at the thought of Charlie being alone I could imagine the anxiety in my Mother because I felt it too.

“Is this about Edward?” Renee asked, sitting back down next to me as I shot up out of my seat annoyed.

“What? No, why would you say that?”

Renee shrugged, I couldn’t believe I had never really saw how intuitive my mother was.

“Because you two seem distant lately, you’re in the same room but there’s this line he doesn’t cross.”

I turned towards Renee leaning on the counter, she smiled at me waiting for confirmation on her theory. When my lips stayed sealed, she continued.

“The way he stares at you, I know the boy is in love.” She laughed as the corner of my lips perked up as well.

“And I see you too Bells, you have that same look but there’s something else, am I right?”

I took a deep breath, trying to stall the lie I was about to tell my mother.

“We’re taking it slow, trying to keep the relationship on a different level.”

I smiled in triumph; I had stuck as close to the truth as possible, maybe even believable.

“Alright, see that wasn’t too painful was it?” Renee asked smiling as she rinsed out her teacup.

“Mom.” I shook my head laughing as my mother nodded, excited. “I’m going to head upstairs; I still have presents to wrap...” I shook my head basking in the normalcy as Renee waved me away.

“Oh don’t forget we’re with the Black’s tomorrow so make sure you’re up early in the morning.” I rolled my eyes while slowly climbing the stairs.

“How could I forget it’s a tradition Mom, goodnight.”

I felt the burden of the last few weeks creep up as I sat on my bed pulling all the hidden presents from underneath the blankets.

“Anything there for me?” I heard Edward ask, as I looked up shocked, I was sure he wasn’t in the room a minute ago.

“How did you get in here?” Edward perked an eyebrow playfully; he was different from the Edward an hour ago when I left him.

“I have been thinking and maybe it is time we do something normal for a change. Forget about all this drama that is around us. Maybe I could meet Jacob finally, have lunch with him just the three of us?”

”Sitting watching you and Alice play mind chess was pretty much as normal as it’s going to get Edward.” He bobbed his head from side to side, giving me a giant grin.

“Humor me Bella Swan.”

“What’s gotten into you?” I inquired, shaking my head as Edward leaned towards my window, opening the glass pane slowly.

“Nothing, I have just been thinking and listening.” He pointed to his head, signaling that the voices from those around him had been getting to him. “And I have been a little too protective, I also forgot how important Christmas was on the mainland. There are a lot of worried parents and children out there”

“You think?” I smirked as Edward flashed his crooked grin; I hadn’t seen him smile whole heartedly for so long. “So when are you going to stop sneaking in like this?” I added.

“You don’t want me to come anymore?” He asked, his head tilted slightly it had also been a while since I’d seen him so lighthearted.

“Are we flirting?” He laughed shaking his head.

”We have to take whatever we can get right?”

He was being playful it made my heart sink

“Just call Jacob I’ll be back later tonight.”

With that he was gone, the fresh air blowing through my window filling the room. I rushed to the sill watching as Edward disappeared through the woods.

I couldn't help but question the tightness in my heart as Edward left my side. The story of that day Renee almost left, haunted me. I had thought all along of my mother as a prisoner of her own making. And yet, that very thought couldn't have been further from the truth. I loved my parents whole-heartedly, but in my mind, I was still that confused little girl thinking they were a mismatch. What my mother had said to me today struck a chord as I laid all the gifts out on my bed. Renee chose something much more difficult than leaving, she chose to make it work.

It was quite apparent that falling in love, growing up means seeing your parents as human beings, as equals. I smiled finishing the first present; it was a gift for my father, a hunting knife that I had been eyeing at work for months now perfect for gutting and filleting fish. My mother's gift was next, essential oils and her own Yogalates business cards. Jacob's present was so much easier, all he wanted was something for his car, so I had found seat covers that fit his personality to a T. This was the part of Christmas I loved the most, wrapping presents and the aroma of delicious scents wafting from whatever Renee baked.

I wasn't sure when or if Edward had come, but I had just hidden all the presents before falling asleep. I knew better not to decide which gift would be Alice's until I handed it to her on Christmas day. The Cullens had made a promise to Renee to come over when they could on the holiday. Of course Edward and Alice couldn't say no. I knew Alice would keep everyone's gift a secret but the challenge to surprise one of my best friends who was a psychic was proving trickier than I imagined. Tomorrow I would ask Jacob to join Edward and I for lunch this weekend. I couldn't fathom the look on my friend's face when I proposed the meeting, I was sure he would laugh hysterically. But Jacob's recent moods were anything but humorous lately. Needless to say, it wasn’t sugar plums dancing in my head, as the day melted away.