“Honey, could you hand me that pie plate over there, please?” Mom asked as she finished rolling out the dough for what would be her pecan pie. Putting down the knife and the apple I’d been peeling, I reached for the dish I knew she wanted and handed it to her. Mom had a system for this, after all – one I knew quite well.
“Thanks, sweetie,” she said with a smile.
We worked in silence for a while as she put the pie together and popped it in the oven, and I continued to peel the apples. It was both familiar and odd to be standing in my mother’s kitchen the evening before Thanksgiving. Familiar, because I’d done it every year for as long as I could remember, and odd because it was just the two of us. Dad was at the store doing some last minute shopping for dinner tomorrow, and Jasper was having dinner with his mom and Rosalie.
Emmett and I had both been invited, but we’d mutually decided that they needed time to be together, just the three of them. Carolyn had been staying at my parents’ house ever since that disastrous attempt at reconciliation with Jasper’s father. It had taken her a week to come to the decision to file for divorce, though it had killed her to do it. Walter hadn’t given her much of an alternative, however. He’d tried to bully her into coming back, even going so far as to threaten her – I had no idea how, exactly, as she’d refused to say any more on the matter to anyone.
It’d been a hard few weeks for everyone, though. I knew Jasper was relieved to know that his mom was safe, but I was also aware that he still carried a lot of guilt about the whole affair. Something that Carmen and I – and everyone, really – had been trying to work on with him. Rosalie and Emmett had offered to put Carolyn up, as had Jasper and I, but she’d refused, choosing instead to stay here. She’d said she didn’t want to impose on her children now that they were building lives of their own. According to Mom, she and Carolyn got along great, and it was clear to see that Carolyn was getting a lot of support.
Jasper, Rosalie, and Carolyn had been spending more time together, which was good. I was pleased to see how much of a difference it made in Jasper to have his mother back again – without having to hide the fact. Still, I could tell he was struggling at times, and I wished I knew how to help him. I had to have faith that the sessions with Carmen would be enough for him – for us. And that was something Carmen was working on with me. The fear I’d carried with me that history was doomed to repeat itself was waning, thankfully.
“Sweetheart?” Mom asked quietly, putting her hand on the crook of my arm, startling me out of my thoughts. “Are you alright?”
I blushed, nodding. “Yeah, sorry. Just… thinking about everything, I guess.”
Mom smiled, patting my arm before taking the bowl of chopped apples from me. She didn’t look at me but spoke with confidence. “Everything’ll be alright, Edward. You just wait and see. Carolyn served Walter his papers yesterday. She’s safe, she’s looking forward, and Jasper and Rosalie are both doing well, too. You’re happy, everyone is healthy, the kids and the team are doing great, and work’s also going well. And that’s just for starters. We have a lot to be thankful for, sweetheart.”
I grabbed the cheddar and started to grate the cheese for one of the apple pies, a grin pulling at my lips as I nodded. “You’re right, Mom. I just can’t help worrying, I guess. There’s been so much going on, and…” I shrugged, letting the sentence trail off.
Mom paused, looking up. “I know, honey. Things have been a little crazy, and I get that you’re worried, but try to just let it be. For now, at least?”
Taking a steadying breath, I nodded. “You’re right. We do have a lot to be thankful for, not the least of which is you and Dad, for being amazing throughout it all. Thanks, Mom,” I said, kissing her cheek.
Esme smiled. “You’re welcome, sweetheart. Now, lets see if we can finish these before your father gets home, shall we? He’s bringing Thai, and I’m hungry!”
Laughing, I set back to work. We were almost done with the pies, thankfully, when Carlisle walked through the door with a, “Can someone please help? The bag’s ripping and—” There was a ripping sound followed by a couple of thuds and then, “Well, damn.”
Grabbing a towel, I hurried over to see if I could help, but when I got to the door it was clear that no damage was done. The paper bag lay on the floor, surrounded by bags of cranberries, fresh herbs, frozen string beans, yams, and various nuts. “Sorry, Dad,” I said as I started picking everything up.
Carlisle sighed, shrugging. “It’s all right. I’m just glad it wasn’t this one,” he said, indicating the bag he was holding.
A glance inside explained why as I noted the bottle of wine and cartons of whipping cream. Chuckling, I agreed. That would’ve been a hell of a lot messier. Between the two of us, we managed to get all the groceries inside after only one trip back to the car, even as Mom put the last pie in the oven. The rest were all on cooling racks in various places around the kitchen. It smelled heavenly, familiar, and full of love. At least, in my book it did.
After putting everything away, I kissed Mom on the cheek again, earning me a quirked brow and a smile. I just shrugged before stepping over to Dad and hugging him. “I love you both,” I said, feeling just a little silly, but needing to let them know all the same.
Carlisle grinned and said, “We love you, too, son. Now, who’s up for some Thai food? I’m starving.”
We all laughed as we made a grab for our favorites – pad thai and chicken satay for me – and sat down at the table. This part was one of my favorite traditions of the holiday season. The evening before Thanksgiving and Christmas, we always ate Thai. Mom didn’t have take-out often, but those were the exceptions, and all the more precious to me because of it.
As we ate, something occurred to me. “This is kind of nice. It’s been a while since it’s been just us. I mean,” I hurried to add, blushing as I realized how it might sound, “don’t get me wrong, I love Jasper and I love how you guys have taken him in and all. It’s just…”
Mom patted my arm, smiling softly at me as she offered, “It’s just that it’s always been just the three of us. I know, sweetheart. We understand what you’re trying to say. And we love Jasper, too. He’s family. But you’re right, it is nice to just be us every once in a while, too. It doesn’t mean we love him any less.”
I sighed in relief, grateful that she seemed to get what I was trying to say. “Thanks, Mom.”
We spent the rest of dinner reminiscing about past Thanksgivings, sharing some of our favorite moments. As I was laughing at the story Dad always told about the year our power was out and we were reduced to eating cranberry sauce straight from the can, I couldn’t help but wonder about Jasper. What were his favorite memories? Did he have any? Surely he did, even with his father being the way he was.
As if summoned by my thoughts, I could hear Jasper laughing as he, Rose, and Carolyn walked in. Carolyn called out, “Hello?”
Gathering the empty cartons as she got to her feet, Mom answered, “We’re in the kitchen.”
Jasper grinned when he saw me, and before I could get up to greet him, he was hugging me from behind, kissing my neck. “Hey, you,” he murmured. “Missed you.”
Warmth flooded me at his words. “I missed you, too. Did you guys have a good time?”
I noticed that both Carolyn and Rose had gone over to help Mom put away the pies now that they’d all cooled down. When I looked at Jasper, he was watching them with a slight frown. “Why do you have so many pies, anyway?” he asked, glancing at me.
“Because,” I said, getting to my feet so I could be closer to him, “There’ll be quite a few people here tomorrow, and Mom likes to cater to people’s tastes. Whatever’s leftover usually gets shipped home with them.”
Jasper quirked a brow. “Seriously?” he asked quietly.
I chuckled, nodding. “Just go with it,” I whispered, pecking his lips. “You never answered, by the way. Did you guys have a good time?”
“Yeah, actually, we did,” said Jasper as he put his arm around my shoulder. “Think we all needed it, to be honest,” he added quietly. “Momma especially. She’s having a harder time of it than she’ll admit, I think.”
We both watched Carolyn as she, Rose, and Mom talked about what still needed to be done for tomorrow. Running my fingers through my hair, I sighed. “I believe it.” I glanced at Jasper. “Did you and Rose manage to talk her into going to counseling?”
Jasper chewed on his lip for a moment, then nodded. “Yeah, I think so. I gave her the card Carmen gave us for her anyway, and she promised she’d call. Guess we’ll have to see if she actually follows through, but I hope so. If there’s one thing I’ve discovered these past few months, it’s that there’s been a lot going on in my family that’s left scars in all of us to some degree.”
I nodded, then kissed his cheek as I found myself echoing Mom. “Things’ll turn out okay.”
“Edward, why don’t you and Jasper go on home. Carolyn and I can take care of the rest,” Mom said, smiling.
I quirked a brow at her, wondering what was going on. The look in Esme’s eyes made me think that she wanted to talk to Carolyn, something that was confirmed when she added, “You and Jasper can come a little earlier tomorrow so we can take care of the last minute things, all right? Rose, that goes for you and Emmett, too.”
Rose and Jasper exchanged glances, but merely nodded in response. “You sure, Mom?” I asked.
“Yes, dear, I’m sure. You two go and enjoy your evening. We’ll be fine,” said Esme as she came over to give first me, then Jasper a hug. Taking both our hands in hers, she squeezed them as she added, “Tomorrow morning. Say around nine? I’ll have breakfast ready for everyone.”
“Alright, Mom. We’ll see you in the morning, then.”
After a round of goodnights, we headed home. Neither of us spoke until we got home, both having been lost in thought. At Jasper’s, “Wonder what Esme and Mom are talking about,” I knew that his thoughts had run along the same course as mine. I had no answers for him and I knew we weren’t likely to get any, either.
We spent the rest of the night watching Remember the Titans while cuddled up on the sofa before going to bed. As we snuggled up after making love, Jasper tilted his head up to look at me and murmured, “Hey, Ed?”
I ran my fingers through his hair. “Yeah, baby?”
He kissed my chest, right above my heart, then said, “Nothing. I just wanted to… to let you know how thankful I am for you, is all. I love you.”
“Oh Jazz, I love you, too. So much. And I’m thankful for you, too,” I said quietly as I hugged him tight.
We lay in silence for a while, content to simply be. I trailed my fingers along his side, causing him to hum drowsily until eventually he fell asleep. I followed not long after.
The following morning when we arrived at my parents’ house, Emmett’s Jeep was already there, much to my surprise. Jasper chuckled as he unbuckled and said, “Wow, Rosalie really seems to have Emmett under her thumb, huh?”
Shaking my head, I laughed breathily. “Yeah, I guess so. I’ve never known him to be here this early. C’mon, lets get inside and see if we can give Mom a hand.”
Jasper grinned, rolling his eyes. “Doubt it. I have a feeling my mom’ll have everything going right on schedule. She usually does, anyway.”
“We shall see,” I murmured as I slipped my arm around his waist and pecked his cheek. Without bothering to knock, I opened the door and yelled out, “Mom? Dad? We’re here.”
“Hey! We’re in the kitchen, sweetheart. Why don’t you see if you can help your dad? Us girls have things covered in here,” called out Esme, followed by Rose and Carolyn’s laughter.
Jasper shrugged, and with a kiss on my temple, he walked ahead of me. Carlisle greeted him with a warm hug even as Emmett said, “Hey, man. Good to see you.”
I hugged Emmett, who seemed a little distracted. I’d even go so far as to say he looked… excited? Before I could get a chance to ask him if everything was alright, however, Carlisle asked after giving me a hug of my own, if I’d mind grabbing the table-leaves from the garage.
“Sure, Dad, no problem,” I said, smiling. “Just the two?”
Carlisle tilted his head for a moment as if mentally tallying how many people there’d be, then said, “Better get all three, son. Bella and Felix are going to be here as well. Wouldn’t want everyone to be too crowded.”
“Here, I’ll give you a hand,” said Emmett.
Jasper’s eyebrow twitched in surprise, his eyes cutting to mine in silent question. I shrugged, having no idea what was going on, either. Carlisle clapped his hands with a grin, then turned to Jasper. “Son, if you wouldn’t mind helping me gather the chairs?”
Jasper and I shared a smile at Dad’s term of affection for him. I knew it meant the world to Jasper to have Carlisle’s acceptance, and it did to me, too. Emmett had already gone to the garage, so I hurried after him. He stood just inside it, one hand at the back of his neck, the other on his hip as he surveyed the space. Tapping his shoulder, I pointed to where I knew the leaves would be found and stepped over to them.
“So,” said Emmett as we moved a couple of boxes out of the way. “I, err… ah, hell. Ed, man… I need your help.”
He stopped what he was doing and gave me the strangest look. Straightening, I frowned at him as I wiped my hands on the back of my jeans. “With what, Em?”
Emmett’s eyes were looking everywhere but at me for a while before he heaved a sigh and finally answered, “I love Rose.”
He paused. “O-kay,” I said, gesturing for him to continue.
Emmett sighed again, scuffing his shoe against a box as he explained, “I want to ask her… you know, to marry me.”
My eyes nearly popped out of their sockets at this little bit of news, even as I felt a wide smile spread over my face. “Are you serious? You’re really ready for that, big guy?”
He scowled. “Oh shut up, Copper Top. Yes, I am. Thing is… with all the shit that’s been going on and all, I wanna do it right, you know, but… I dunno. Their dad’s out of their life and, well… do you think Jasper’d be okay with it?”
Clasping his shoulder, I grinned. “Why don’t you ask him?”
Emmett blushed, shrugging lightly. “Like I said, with everything going on, I just… I wasn’t sure, you know?”
Shaking him lightly, I rolled my eyes. “C’mon, Em, don’t be an idiot. Ask Jasper. It’ll mean a lot to him if you do, and I’m sure it’ll mean a hell of a lot to Rose, too, knowing that you did. What about Carolyn, though? You asked her yet?”
He bit his lip. “No, not yet. Was going to do that after I talked to you.”
“Well lets get this sorted out, then, so you can get your ass in gear and ask them. When were you planning to pop the question to Rose?”
“Not sure. I got the ring already, though. Been carrying it around for the past week. Wanna see?” His grin was wide when I nodded. He dug into his pocket and pulled out a simple, white gold band, slightly wider than most rings I’d seen for girls. The diamond was round and flat. All in all, I thought that it suited Rosalie well. Yes, she was a girl who loved to look good, but she was also sensible and had her own style.
“Very nice,” I said, clapping his shoulder.
“Think she’ll like it?” he asked, sounding both hopeful and a little concerned.
“Of course she will. You picked it out for her, after all. Now, come on, before they wonder what the hell we’re up to in here.”
Emmett quickly put the ring back in his pocket before grabbing a leaf and placing it on top of the boxes we’d moved. We got the other two stacked on top of the first and then carried them out between us. Dad and Jasper had already put the chairs by the table, leaving enough room for us to insert the leafs.
I overheard Jasper ask Carlisle, “So why are Bella and Felix going to be here, anyway? Don’t they have family of their own to celebrate with?”
Slipping my arms around Jasper’s waist, I kissed the back of his neck. He leaned into me with a satisfied hum. Carlisle smiled as he watched us. “Well, Bella’s mom is in Florida with her husband, and her dad is working so that the guys with families can be with them. Bella wasn’t able to get time off work in order to be with her mom, so she’s coming over here. And since she and Felix are together — and he has no family anymore, we decided to invite them over.”
Jasper smiled. “That was nice of you.”
Carlisle shrugged. “Bella’s kind of like the daughter Esme and I never had. She’s been a part of this family for so long now. It’s not the first time we’ve had her here for the holidays, right Edward?”
“Nope. Every year at least for one of them, if not more. It’ll be nice to have them here,” I said with a smile. “I’m glad that she finally found someone special. Even if it is Felix.” I grinned.
Jasper half-turned around in my arms, giving me a skeptical look. “Not jealous, are you, darlin’?”
I laughed and pecked his lips. “No, baby, I’ve got exactly who I want right here.”
“All right,” interrupted Carlisle with a chuckle. “Edward, you know where the linens are. Would you mind?”
“Nope. Not at all. Emmett, you remember where the regular plates and stuff are, right?” I asked. When he nodded, I grinned and winked at him. “Good, why don’t you show Jasper? The quicker we can set the table, the sooner we can have something to eat. I’m starving.”
Emmett nodded again, giving me a grateful smile even as he ushered Jasper ahead of him toward the kitchen. I watched as they walked along the hallway, grinning when I saw Emmett pull Jasper into the garage, his finger to his lips. Crossing my fingers for my friend, I set about getting the table linen.
Dad helped me put the tablecloth down as well as the placemats. We were almost done when Emmett and Jasper walked back, plates and cutlery in hand. Emmett had a shit-eating grin on his face and a bounce in his step that I hadn’t seen in a while. Jasper looked amused and happy, so it seemed as if everything had gone well for Emmett. I was dying to talk to Jasper about Emmett and Rose, but didn’t get the chance with everyone around.
By the time the table was completely set, the women walked in with trays laden with pancakes, muffins, toast, coffee, sugar, maple syrup, milk, bacon, and scrambled eggs. My stomach growled as the smell of the food wafted past me, earning me a bemused chuckle from Mom. “Go on, everyone take a seat. There’s still quite a bit to do before dinner later, so don’t overdo it, okay?”
Breakfast was a merry affair with excellent food. Emmett was boisterous, as always, but there was a new edge to it that made Rose give him a few curious glances – which in turn had both Jasper and me trying to hide our smiles. Rosalie was thankfully so focused on Emmett that she didn’t catch us, since she didn’t make an issue out it. Something I was certain would be the case if she had.
After we were all done eating, Jasper and I offered to do the dishes, which Esme accepted gratefully. Emmett said he’d help Carlisle reset the table for dinner, while Rose and Carolyn helped Mom finish up the last stages of dinner. I was a little surprised to see that Rose was baking fresh rolls, but when I asked Jasper about it, he just shrugged. “She does it every year.”
It wasn’t long after Jasper and I finished the dishes that the doorbell rang. “I’ll get it,” I told Esme as I went to answer the door. Jasper was on my heels when I opened the front door to let Bella and Felix in.
“Wow, Bells, you look great,” said Jasper as he hugged her.
“Thanks, Jazz. I felt like dressing up,” she said with a wink, as she twirled a little to show off the navy blue dress with cream-colored abstract flowers she was wearing. To Felix she added, “Don’t get used to it,”
Felix laughed, kissing the crown of her head as he said, “Wouldn’t dream of it, babe. I love you just the way you are.”
Bella gave him a sly grin, but didn’t make any comment. After we’d all exchanged greetings, they followed us into the living room where the whole thing started again. Mom asked if I’d get coffee for everyone. Jasper ended helping me get everyone settled, and we finally all had a chance to sit down to talk. All the prep was done, so even Mom, Carolyn, and Rose were able to join us.
It was nice to catch up with everyone. Though we all saw each other on a regular basis, it still felt good to connect like this, especially with all the chaos we’d been going through these past few months. Bella admitted with a shy smile that Felix had moved in with her the weekend before, which earned both of them catcalls and cheers. I knew it was a major step for Bella, and I was genuinely happy for my best friend.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Carolyn get up, headed toward her bedroom. Figuring she was probably going to get freshened up, I wasn’t surprised to see Emmett follow soon after under the pretence of needing to use the bathroom, which was down the hall from where Carolyn was staying. In an effort to keep Rose’s attention away from her boyfriend, I asked, “Hey, Rose, how are your kids doing? Are any of them able to go home for the holidays at all?”
Sure enough, it proved to be effective, as Rosalie’s face alternately lit up and darkened a little as she shared about some of the kids she interacted with regularly. A few of them had been well enough to go home for a couple of days, but there were others who were stuck in the hospital, and her heart went out to them.
“Are they on any special diets?” Esme asked.
“Some, but not all of them. Why?” Rose asked, looking at Mom.
“Oh, nothing. I just thought maybe we could send some pie back for them? Have a little bit of the holidays brought to them, you know?” Esme said with a sad smile.
“I think that’d be great. I’m sure not all of the kids’ll be able to share in it, but still, thank you.”
Esme nodded, and the conversation continued along those lines for a while. Carolyn came back first, and when she passed me our eyes met. She smiled a knowing smile and I was pleased to see the shine of happiness in her eyes. Whatever else was going on, Carolyn was truly happy for her daughter.
Emmett came back a few moments later, looking like he was trying hard not to burst at the seams. Somehow, I didn’t think he’d be able to wait for very long before asking Rose to marry him now that he had her family’s blessing. I silently prayed they’d have a long and happy life together.