I didn't fall in love with you,
I walked into love with you
with my eyes wide open,
choosing to take
every step along the way.
I do believe in fate and destiny,
but I also believe
we are only fated
to do the things
that we’d choose anyway.
And I’d choose you
in a hundred lifetimes
in a hundred worlds
in any version of reality.
I’d find you
and I’d choose you.
~ Kiersten White, The Chaos of Stars
“Come on, I promised!”
I set off at a full run, the hot sun reflecting off my skin as I sparkle before shifting. The feel of taut muscles bunching and releasing feels amazing as I let my wolf run. I look over my shoulder, and my little cub is following at my heels. She is the cutest pup, fluffy and white like me. She's fast, but I still need to throttle my speed to let her run in sync.
I hear him before I see him, and then the massive grey wolf is at my flank and I rejoice at the relationship Charlie has with Mara. He's come alive again with a family and consistent shifting. He spends a great deal of time at the reservation with Jacob and Harry; he's not on the council, but I've convinced him to run for the next open seat. There's just something deep and abiding about the pack. As they say, the strength of the wolf is in the pack, and the strength of the pack is in the wolf.
We reach the river and dive in, frolicking like we're all children. Mara brings it out in us, without a doubt, and it's carefree and invigorating. We paddle around and occasionally splash each other with our tails. My cub’s bright blue eyes look up at me, shining in happiness.
It isn't long before she's tired and we get out.
I'll see you for dinner, right, baby girl? Charlie asks my daughter through the thoughts in his head.
Course, Grandpa Charlie! I can't wait. She opens her mouth in a wolfy grin, and he returns it.
Great. He turns to me. I'll see you later, Bella.
Yes, we'll see you later. I love you.
I love you, too. He turns back to Mara. Love you, squirt!
He disappears into the forest, giving us the chance to shift and get dressed. The life we’ve been able to lead these past few years has been nothing short of fantastic. I finally told Jess and Angela the truth about us, wanting to have friends in my life without any lies between us. I’m still taking classes online, with thoughts of going back in person eventually. My love of the universe is not going to go away, but honestly, the likelihood of taking a job in my field of study is low. I won’t age past twenty-five, and I’ll have to pretend I just have good genes. There are telecommuting options, like writing textbooks and other nonfiction, that I’ve considered.
Right now, I want to focus on my little girl and my husband, who greets us as we arrive back at the cottage.
“Did you have fun running and swimming with Grandpa Charlie?” he asks. Mara runs and jumps at him, and he catches her easily.
“We had so much fun! We ran, and I know Momma was letting me win, but I was faster than her! I got to the river before her and Grandpa, and I jumped in and made a big splash!” She giggles before taking a breath to continue, and I just laugh.
I leave the two of them chattering at each other so I can shower. I know Edward will give Mara her bath, because he enjoys playing games with her, like submarine. My parents are hosting a dinner this evening for the five of us, something that we’re making a tradition. I sometimes still can't believe the change in Charlie, but Renée credits it to having me and Mara in his life. I don't question it, I just enjoy it.
By the time I come back to the living room, Edward is running a comb through Mara’s damp hair. It’s things like this that make me fall in love with him every single day. He is such a good father, such a good husband, that I’m positive I would have picked him for my partner if we’d met under more usual circumstances.
I roll my eyes when I see a cup floating by in my peripheral vision. “Sweetie, you could have just asked,” I point out as I come and sit on the couch with them.
“I didn't know you were there, Momma, and Daddy is busy.” She gives me her biggest eyes and sweetest smile, and I watch Edward try his best not to laugh or smile as the cup arrives in Mara’s hands. She drinks greedily, and I realize she didn't get a drink when we came back inside.
“It doesn't honestly bother me, but it is odd and sometimes startling to see things floating mid-air.”
Edward finally laughs, unable to hold it in. “It always entertains me,” he tells Mara. He's such a softie.
“Uncle Emmett says my tricks are cool.” She grins widely.
“Uncle Emmett is right,” I agree with her.
“There is a first time for everything,” Edward adds in an undertone.
Mara has gifts beyond comprehension. She shifts, though her favorite is a wolf like mine and Grandpa Charlie’s. She shields Edward’s telepathy, but she can show him her mind if she chooses; he compares it to a curtain being raised and lowered. She can redirect any of us if we come at her, something I’m not fond of practicing. It's heart-stopping to watch Emmett barreling after my baby girl, even knowing she can simply raise her hands and stop him in his tracks. He freezes in place, which has proven to be quite comical.
She can set things on fire in the same manner as I can, and her pyrokinesis comes in a multitude of colors. And then there is the telekinesis.
I try to encourage her not to fool around with her abilities, instead being what could pass for a normal girl, but I can't deny her talents. She has more magic in her pinky than I have in my whole body. I have no doubt she’ll grow in to a strong young woman, until the day she reaches her optimal size and stops progressing forward. She’ll remain frozen in time, soon resembling my sister instead of my daughter. We’ll have each other forever, the three of us and our extended family.
“Are we ready for dinner with Grandma and Grandpa?” I ask.
“Yes! I can’t wait.”
My heart is overflowing.