Esme had gone all out for Thanksgiving dinner, it seemed. Yesterday when I saw all the pies, I thought it’d been a bit much. Everybody helped to set the table – they had to, there was so much food. Once everything was set, I couldn’t help but stare at the heavily laden table. There was a huge turkey, a honey-glazed ham, two different kinds of potatoes, yams, two types of green bean casseroles, gravy, corn, two kinds of cranberry sauce, both plain and flavored butter, fresh rolls, a pitcher of ice-water, and several bottles of white wine.
Edward chuckled, kissing my cheek. “You all right, Jazz?” he asked, amused.
“Right now, yeah… ask me again after we’ve eaten, though… so much food,” I said softly.
Esme, who overheard as she walked past me, grinned and patted my arm. “Trust me, Jasper, I won’t be cooking again for about a week. Carlisle’s a wiz with leftovers,” she said, causing everyone to laugh.
Once we were all seated, Carlisle raised his glass, smiling at each of us. “Since we have a few new people joining us this year, I figured it might be a good time to let you know that it’s a long-standing tradition in this household that over the course of dinner we go around the table and each share a few things we’re grateful for.”
I nodded, smiling. “We do that, too,” I said, earning me a nod of approval from Carlisle. When I glanced at Momma, I felt my smile falter a little. She looked torn between sadness and, I thought, happiness. At least, when her eyes fell on my sister. When Momma caught me staring at her, she gave a wan smile and tilted her head slightly to let me know she was okay.
Edward squeezed my thigh, alerting me to the fact that Carlisle had continued talking and I could feel a blush creep on my cheeks when I realized I’d missed what he’d said.
“Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Enjoy,” finished Carlisle as he raised his glass and took a sip.
We all followed suit and once everyone had food, I leaned over to whisper in Edward’s ear. “What did I miss?”
Edward reached for my hand and smiled. “Nothing, really,” he assured quietly. “Just that we have a while to think about what we want to say, and that Dad’ll start us off later. Then it’s Bella, Felix, me, you, Emmett, Rose, Carolyn, and Mom.”
As Edward mentioned each name, I couldn’t help but let my gaze drop on each one in turn. When I got to Emmett, though, I paused. He’d taken me by surprise when he’d pulled me into the garage earlier and asked for my permission to ask Rosalie to marry him. Surprised I might have been, but I didn’t need to think twice in answering him. I knew Rose loved him more than anything and from what I’d been able to tell since meeting the big guy, I was certain that he’d take care of my sister. Though it was still a little difficult to wrap my head around the idea of my big sister being married.
I felt the smile spread on my lips as I continued to watch Emmett. He was leaning toward Rose and talking quietly. Whatever he said made her laugh. Yeah, I was sure they’d be good for each other. Turning, I grinned at Edward. I knew he knew, since Emmett had admitted to me that he’d felt him out before coming to me. Even though I wished we could talk about it, it was also kind of nice to have this unspoken secret. As far as I was aware, only Edward, Momma, and I knew what Emmett had planned, and no one knew when he was going to actually propose. I had a feeling it wouldn’t be a very long wait, though. Glancing back at Emmett, I noted that his mood was swinging between energetic and quiet, with a subtle edge to it all.
Leaning in to Edward again, I whispered, “I give it ’til Christmas, tops.”
Edward raised an eyebrow, then looked past me to his friend for a minute before nodding in agreement and murmuring, “If he lasts even that long.”
We both chuckled and started eating and joining in the general conversation. The food was excellent, as was the company. I shouldn’t have been surprised by how comfortable I felt, how at home, but I did. Being here, surrounded by my family, it struck me that I’d never felt this at peace before. When that realization hit, I put my fork down and sat back so I could look around.
When my eyes met Carlisle’s, he smiled and nodded as if he understood where my thoughts had gone. Maybe he had, because next thing I knew, he put his utensils down, too and after taking a sip of water, said, “All right. Time to get the ball rolling, I think.” His eyes lingered on me as he continued, “This year, I’m grateful for my family, and most especially for the newest members of it. Our lives are richer for it, and I thank you.” His eyes moved from me, to Rose, and then to Momma, who smiled and nodded appreciatively.
Everyone continued to eat as we went around the table. Bella and Felix were both grateful for finally having plucked up the nerve to go from friends to more, and for being among friends during the holidays. My heart went out to Felix when he said, “Thanksgiving’s always a bit hard, since my dad passed away a couple of days after, but it helps to be here, so thanks for having me.”
I’d learned that it’d been just him and his dad for years up until three years ago when he’d lost his battle with cancer. As soon as Felix was done, Bella kissed his cheek, and rested her head on his shoulder. Felix smiled, putting his arm around her.
Then it was Edward’s turn and I smiled, wondering what he’d say. He took my hand in his, bringing it to his lips before saying, “I’m so grateful you walked back into my life, Jazz. I think I was lost for a while there, but you… you helped me find my way again, and for that I can’t thank you enough.”
I ducked my chin, blushing. Edward, who still held my hand, squeezed it, and when I looked up he smiled as he added, “I’m grateful for our first holiday together, for being with family, and for all the love and support from my family and our friends.”
Nodding, I grinned, feeling much the same. “I’m grateful to Edward for showing me what love really is.” Glancing at Carlisle and Esme, I smiled. “I’m grateful for the way you’ve taken me in, made me feel a part of your family, and for all the support you’ve given me – given us.” I wavered and turned to look at Rose and Momma. Biting my lip, I tried to decide how to say what I wanted to say without bringing the mood down too much. Finally, I added, “Rose, I can’t even begin to express how thankful I am for you. You’re the best sister a man could ask for, and I know without a doubt that without your love and support, I wouldn’t be here right now. And Momma, I’m so grateful to have you in my life again. I love you both.”
Rose nodded and gave me a knowing smile even as she reached out to hug Carolyn sideways. Carolyn discreetly wiped her eyes as she relaxed into Rosalie and for a moment I felt bad that I’d made her cry. When she looked up at me, however, she smiled and mouthed, “I’m okay.”
Edward squeezed my hand again. When I turned to look at him, he smiled and his eyes spoke of understanding and love. Most everyone was done eating by now, at times picking at their plates. Emmett stared hard at a piece of turkey that was left on his plate, as if contemplating the meaning of life. It occurred to me that in a way he might have been as he took a slow breath and sat back in his seat.
It seemed as if the whole room was suddenly quiet to the extreme, sensing something was coming. I exchanged a quick glance with Edward before turning my attention back to Emmett. He’d taken Rosalie’s hand in his while I’d looked away, and he was smiling. He cleared his throat once, then said, “I’m thankful for Jasper, for joining our team and becoming a good friend.”
Emmett’s eyes remained on Rose, whose eyebrow had risen in surprise. I could see a smile tugging at the corner of her lips, however, so I knew she was amused by his line of thinking. “I’m so grateful that he’s your brother and that you came to cheer him on. Without Jasper, I’d never have met you, Rose, so for that alone, I’ll always be in his debt.”
I chuckled and the others joined in, though we all quickly quieted again when Emmett continued. He was still holding her hand, but I noticed that he was fiddling with something in his other hand. Edward must have seen it, too, because we both inhaled sharply at the same time.
“Rosalie, baby, I can’t imagine my life without you anymore. You’ve brightened my days in ways I’d never have believed possible. You’re warm, caring, and stronger than anyone I know. You love so fiercely and so deeply that I sometimes can’t believe I’m lucky enough to have you. There’s only one thing that could make me more thankful today. Rosie, would you do me the honor of becoming my wife?”
Dead silence followed, and every eye was trained on my sister, who sat staring down at her hand. I could only just make out that Emmett was holding the ring poised, ready to slip onto her finger. Biting my lip, I was beside myself as we waited for her to answer. I could only imagine how nervous Emmett must be, but he gave no outward sign of it.
Finally, Rosalie nodded as she looked up with glistening eyes and a beaming smile on her lips as she whispered, “Yes.”
If she said anything else, it was drowned out by the eruption of cheers and whistles. Everyone chimed in with their congratulations as Emmett put the ring on Rose’s finger. With her other hand, she pulled him close by the back of the neck and kissed him hard, causing everyone to laugh.
Edward put his arm around my shoulder and I leaned into him, feeling happy and relieved. Things had changed so much for Rosalie and me ever since moving to Seattle. Knowing what I knew now, it meant all the more to me that she’d accepted Emmett’s proposal. Something that I was certain she wouldn’t have done if it hadn’t been for Edward and how things were between him and me.
Rosalie looked over at me, silent, happy tears trailing over her cheeks as she nodded – almost as if she’d read my mind and agreed with me. I smiled, nodding in acknowledgement. She wiped her face and laughed, then cleared her throat a couple of times. “Thanks. Guess it won’t be hard to guess what I’m thankful for this year, huh?” she joked.
She idly played with her ring as she spoke. “Edward, I’m so grateful that you came back into my brother’s life. That you both took a chance on love again and found your soulmate in each other.”
We both smiled at her and Edward squeezed me to him, pecking my cheek. Rose grinned, then turned to our mother. “Momma, you can’t imagine how grateful I am to have you here and to know that you’re all right. To know that you love and support Jasper no matter what. To know that you’re going to be okay. I love you so much, Momma.”
Carolyn, who’d been crying ever since Emmett’s proposal, took Rosalie’s face between her hands and kissed her cheeks and forehead, whispering to her. I couldn’t hear what she said, but Rose nodded and smiled. Finally, she turned to Emmett and with a scratchy voice, said softly, “Thank you for loving me.”
I had to swallow hard at hearing the emotion in her voice. It was a simple statement for her to make, but impactful all the same.
Next was Carolyn, who had to wipe her eyes and take several steadying breaths before she found her voice. Her eyes remained teary as she looked around the table with a tremulous smile. “I don’t have adequate words to express how thankful I am to be here. To know how much you’ve all done for my children. How you’ve loved and supported them when I failed to do so, and how much you love and support me, now, in spite of that. Thank you.”
Silence met her words. My heart ached at hearing them, and I blurted hoarsely, “Momma—” but she cut me off with a shake of her head and a smile. “Jasper, I need you to know just how proud I am of you. I did fail you, I know that and it’s something that I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to truly forgive myself for. Despite that, though, you’ve found love and went after it and I’m so happy to see you happy after so long.”
Edward rubbed my arm soothingly and I had to blink the tears out of my eyes. “I love you, Momma,” I whispered.
“I love you, too, honey.” She turned to Rose then and took her hand in hers. “Rosalie, I’m so proud of you, too. You stood up for your brother, protected him, loved him and supported him. You’ve grown into such a beautiful, strong woman, my sweet, and I’m so very happy for you. I love you, sweetheart, and I wish you and Emmett nothing but the best.”
Rosalie sniffled as she hugged our mother and I could hear her faint, “Love you, too, Momma.”
I glanced around the table and couldn’t help but smile when I noted there wasn’t a dry eye in the bunch. Not even Felix, who usually opted for humor to deal with any situation. He had Bella tucked into his side and held on tight, from the look of it, though she didn’t seem to mind.
Finally, it was Esme’s turn and she gave a shaky laugh as she wiped her eyes. “Wow, you guys. I can’t even… Thank you – all of you – for being here and sharing this special time with us. For being part of our family. And I think I’ll stop at that, because there’s no way I’m going to be able to keep it together much longer.”
We all laughed at that as Carlisle kissed the top of Esme’s head. Esme smiled up at him and patted his hand, then said, “All right. We need to get the table cleared and things put away, and then we can all sit down and talk. I’m sure everyone’ll want a few minutes with the newly engaged couple, so lets be quick, shall we?” She turned to Carlisle and said, “I think, by the way, that some champagne is in order, don’t you?”
Carlisle grinned and clapped his hands together. “Absolutely! Edward, would you get the flutes after we’ve cleared the table?”
“Sure thing, Dad,” said Edward with a grin that was so like his father’s it made me smile.
We all got to our feet and helped carry the leftovers to the kitchen where Esme and Carolyn set about putting things away, while Bella and Felix started on the dishes. After some directions from Esme, I put the coffeepot on before helping Bella and Felix.
It didn’t take us long to get done with everything and soon we were all sat in the living room, flutes in hand while Carlisle and Edward went around pouring champagne. “Did your dad know something like this was going to happen?” I asked Edward when he took his seat next to me and I handed him his glass.
He grinned and shook his head. “Nope. But Dad has one of those wine cellar fridges in the pantry and they keep a couple of bottles of champagne in it year round.” Chuckling, he whispered in my ear, “They’re good about finding excuses to celebrate.”
Pulling back, I stared at him, then burst into laughter at Carlisle’s haughty, “Hey, don’t you go making it sound like we’re a couple of drunks, son.”
It didn’t help when Edward, and soon everyone else, joined in, too. Edward gave his father a wink and grinned crookedly as he said, “Wouldn’t dream of it, Dad.”
“Uh-huh,” said Carlisle with a faint grin of his own. “Anyway! A toast to the soon-to-be bride and groom. Rosalie, Emmett, may your engagement be short enough to see you into wedded bliss, but long enough not to send your bride-to-be over the edge.”
Laughter followed, mixed with, “Hear, hear!” and “Amen!”
We all drank, then, and after a few minutes we all relaxed and started to talk. I got to my feet and moved over to sit on the armrest of the loveseat where Rose and Emmett were. Wrapping my arm around my sister’s shoulder, I leaned down to kiss the top of her head and murmured, “I’m happy for you, sis. You deserve a life filled with love.”
Rosalie beamed up at me. “Thanks, brother mine. You do, too, you know. And I think we’ve both gotten lucky there,” she said quietly.
“Damn straight,” interjected Emmett, causing us both to laugh.
Edward, who’d gotten up with me and was standing beside me ran his fingers through my hair as he said softly, “I don’t know, Em. I think we’re the lucky ones, if you ask me.”
I glanced up at Edward and smiled. He leaned down and brushed his lips against mine. Sighing softly, I closed my eyes briefly, enjoying this moment of pure happiness for what it was. Life wasn’t perfect, but it sure felt like it right in that second.
When Edward straightened up again, he asked, “So any ideas yet on when you’d like the wedding to be?”
Rose and Emmett shared a glance, smiling. They hadn’t been allowed to help after dinner, in order to give them some time alone, so they’d had a chance to talk about it, however brief. Rosalie looked up again and said, “Not a hundred percent sure yet, but late spring, early summer, probably. I don’t need anything fancy, but I’d like some time to prepare, at least.”
Taking Rosalie’s hand in mine, I squeezed it lightly. “You know I’ll help in any way I can.” With a nudge from Edward, I added, “We both will.”
“Thanks, Jazzie. You, too, Edward,” said Rose. She bit her lip, then asked in barely a whisper. “Jasper? Would you give me away?”
My throat constricted at the question. I knew Rosalie’d ask me, since we’d spoken a few times in the past about her plans and she’d always mentioned wanting Daddy to walk her down the aisle. I nodded as I hugged her. “I’d be honored, Rosalie,” I said in a scratchy voice.
Edward’s hand was rubbing between my shoulder blades in support, even as she said, “Thanks, Jazzie,” and Emmett added, “Thanks, man.”
When I let her go, Emmett was looking up at Edward with a grin. “So, Copper Top, will you be my best man?”
“It’ll be my pleasure, Emmett,” replied Edward with a matching grin.
Emmett got up and hugged him, slapping Edward hard on the back. “Great! I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Bella and Felix came over, so Edward and I moved to give them room. I heard Bella squeal in delight when Rose showed her the ring Emmett had given her and I smiled at the excited babble that followed. Glancing around the room, I noticed Momma watching Rosalie with a look of sadness in her eyes. Frowning, I turned to Edward, but before I could say anything he kissed below my ear and said quietly, “Go on, baby. I think she needs you right now.”
I smiled gratefully at him, brushed my lips briefly against his, and walked over to Momma. Esme and Carlisle were sitting by her, trying to engage her in conversation, but she appeared not to hear them. Giving them an apologetic half-shrug, I sat down next to my mother and took her hand. Esme and Carlisle both got up to give us some privacy and Carlisle patted my shoulder in support as he walked by.
“Momma, are you okay?” I asked quietly, watching her face closely.
She blinked as she shifted her focus to me and with a wavering breath, she nodded. “I’ll be fine, Jasper.”
“That’s not what I asked, Momma. Talk to me, please?” I insisted, keeping my voice low.
Carolyn put her hand over mine, her eyes shimmering with tears as she spoke in a quiet, shaky voice. “It’s nothing, Jasper. Just… it’s hard. I’m happy for your sister, truly, I am, but…” Her voice broke and she had to swallow before she continued. “It hurts to know that Walter’s missing out on this. That he won’t get to walk his little girl down the aisle like we’d always talked about. That they won’t have the father/daughter dance at her wedding. And if they have kids—”
Her voice gave out as she choked back a sob. I rose and gathered Momma up. She didn’t need an audience for this, and I wanted to spare Rosalie if I could. When I glanced at Edward, he nodded in understanding and gave me a wan smile. “Come on, Momma. Let’s go somewhere quiet, okay?” I whispered.
She allowed me to guide her, leaning into me as we walked slowly until we reached the side of her bed. Sitting her down on the edge, I settled on my knees in front of her, holding her hands in mine as her shoulders shook with quiet sobs. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, “ she kept hiccuping whenever she tried to calm down.
“Momma, please… it’s okay. Momma, shh, hush now,” I said softly as I wrapped my arms around her and rocked gently back and forth. It felt immensely strange to be in this position, since I couldn’t recall ever having this reversal of roles. Part of me ached for my mother, but as she slowly settled down, another part of me was also pleased that I could comfort her.
Finally, she seemed to quiet down enough to carry on conversation again, so I settled back and reached for her hands once more. She only let go of me to wipe her tears, but placed them back immediately after every time. With a sigh, I said, “Momma, don’t be sorry for feeling the way you do. I understand, and I’m sure Rose will, too. I know it’s strange to not have Daddy be a part of this like you’ve always dreamed of. Rosalie’s your baby girl and always will be. I know you had dreams for her, just like you did me. I get that, but Momma, dreams don’t always work out the way we think they will. Sometimes what happens is the opposite of what you’d hoped for, like with Daddy being the way he is now… and sometimes they’re even better, like me and Edward, or Rose and Emmett.”
Carolyn gave me a watery smile as she nodded, sniffling. I squeezed her hands and smiled, trying my best to not let her show how much I hurt – both for her, and for knowing my part in it all. The latter I wanted to keep from her most of all because rationally I knew none of this was my fault. I just couldn’t help feeling it all the same.
Taking a deep breath, I added, “At least you’re here, Momma. You get to share in everything, both the good and the bad, and I’m so thankful for that. I know Rosalie is, too. We’ll get through this, somehow, as long as we do it together, okay?”
She nodded, then smiled tenderly as she ran her fingers through my hair. Her voice was barely a whisper as she said, “When did you grow up to be so wise, Jasper?”
I blushed, ducking my head. “’m not. Just learning to listen to what others have been trying to tell me, is all,” I mumbled.
Momma laughed shakily as she put her finger under my chin to lift my face. She smiled at me. “I’m so proud of you, Jasper. You’ve come such a long, long way and you’ve turned into a wonderful young man.”
“Thanks, Momma,” I said, pleased beyond measure at her words. Taking her hand, I kissed the back of it and asked quietly, “Are you going to be okay?”
She tilted her head, pondering my question before finally nodding, a more sincere smile gracing her lips as she said, “I will be, sweetheart. As long as I have the two of you, I will be.”
We hugged for a long time until Momma insisted on freshening up before heading back to the others.There was still plenty to celebrate, after all.