Edward stood talking to Jessica, James, and one of the other helpers, explaining what today’s lesson was going to be as I walked up with the basket of colored bags. James and Jessica knew very well what the exercise entailed, given the near-disastrous way their own lesson in diving had ended nearly a decade earlier. It still amazed me how much she’d changed since then, though that was only natural, of course.
James, too, had changed a lot. Dramatically, even, since that day. Jessica was graduating high school this summer and James had started college last year at U—dub. They’d both decided to become helpers at the club around the same time and had been on friendly enough terms since he’d nearly drowned Jessica. It was somewhat surprising to me, but I thought it showed more about Jessica’s heart and ability to forgive and forget than anything.
All in all, both Edward and I were very proud of them and had happily taken them on to help in our classes. I grinned as I spotted Rose and Bella — both very pregnant — taking seats in the stands and waved at them. They waved back and I set about throwing the colored bags randomly in the pool for the kids to retrieve once class started.
My mind wandered as I worked, contemplating whether Rose and Emmett would have a boy or a girl this time. Bella and Felix, now married and expecting their first child, were having a girl, I knew, but Rosalie wanted it to be a surprise.
James’ voice calling out, “No running!” snapped my attention back and I looked up to find the kids trooping in, little Vera at the forefront as she visibly reined herself in to do as she was told. Excitement shone clear on her face, her little body practically vibrating with it as she reached me and hugged me tight around the waist. “Are we really gonna dive today, Uncle J? Are we? Are we?”
Laughing, I extricated myself from my niece’s arms so I could kneel and give her a proper hug back. “You sure are, pumpkin.”
“Yay!” she cried, turning to face her mother who was watching us with bemusement. “Mommy, watch me, ‘kay?!”
Rosalie nodded, smiling. “Of course, baby.”
Behind me, I heard Edward laughing and his hand was ruffling Vera’s hair affectionately when I turned and I got to my feet again. “Alright, Vera, go stand with the others, it’s time to start, okay?”
Vera nodded vehemently, bestowing a quick hug around Edward’s middle before doing as asked. James and Jessica and the other helper were already in the water while Edward explained the lesson to the kids. Just like every other time, Edward and I stood on opposing ends of the pool to make sure everything went okay. Thankfully, we’d had no incidents like the one ten years ago and this time it all went without a hitch, too.
After class was over and Vera and the other kids were on their way to the locker rooms, Edward and I walked up to Bella and Rose. We kissed their cheeks and Edward asked, “So where’s Billy? Still sick?”
Rosalie sighed, nodding, her hand caressing her belly. “Yeah, poor kid. Momma’s watching him for me so I could take Vera to class. She was adamant about not missing out, as you can imagine.”
I chuckled. “Sorry, Rosie, but you’ve got yourself a water rat.”
She narrowed her eyes at us. “Your fault, you know. Both of you.”
Edward and I exchanged a glance, then shrugged in acknowledgement and turned to my sister with a grin. “No argument there.”
The second we’d heard the news of Rosalie’s pregnancy, Edward and I had both decided to become teachers in baby swimming and had taken it upon ourselves to teach first Vera, and later Billy to swim and had every intention of doing the same for our family’s newest babies. Vera loved being in the water, but Billy was a little more reserved about things. As if Edward had read my thoughts, he muttered, “Wonder if they’ll take after Vera or Billy?”
Bella laughed, “Hopefully, this one’ll take after her father more than me,” even as Rose huffed, “Knowing my luck, this one’ll be a water rat, too.”
Bella held out her hands to me, wiggling her fingers. “Help a girl up?”
Carefully helping her to her feet, I grinned as she groaned, “God, I can’t wait for this baby to be born already. I’m so done with feeling like I swallowed a beachball!” She glared at me, poking me in the chest as she threatened, “Don’t even. Or I’m gonna tell Momma on you.”
Edward stifled a laugh. Holding my hands up, I tried to keep a straight face. “Yeah, that’s still weird, you know that?”
“What is?” Bella asked, and Rosalie answered, “Hearing you call our Momma, ‘Momma’.”
Bella rolled her eyes, but the smile on her lips betrayed her. “Hey, not my fault Charlie finally got her to say ‘yes’ after all these years.”
“True,” I noted. “I’m glad, though. It’s good to see her happy.”
Edward put his arm around my waist and I leaned into him. Charlie and Momma had started out as good friends – according to her, that’s all they’d been at the time Rose and Emmett had gotten married – and it had taken her a long time before she’d admitted to them dating. Longer still before she’d agreed to move in with him. And only a couple of months ago, she’d finally accepted his proposal, though he’d been angling for getting married for years.
Rosalie patted my arm to get my attention, which had drifted again. “Hmm?”
She grinned, her eyes flickering between Edward and me. “What are your guys’ plans for tonight?”
I turned to look at Edward. His smile was infectious. “Dinner, maybe a movie,” he said nonchalantly.
Both Bella and Rosalie looked at us incredulously. Bella sputtered, “Edward Cullen, is that the best you can come up with for your seventh anniversary? Really?”
I bit my lip to keep from grinning. We’d gotten married weeks after it was finally legal to do so in Washington. We’d talked about it, but had agreed to not bother, since it wouldn’t be legal here anyway, and we didn’t want to travel for it. When the right to marry was up to vote, I found I really wanted to and I’d asked Edward the day after the measure passed. The actual ceremony had been a small affair, with just our immediate family and closest friends. Though my father had loosened his stance just enough to tolerate me – and Edward – in order to remain in his daughter’s life, he’d never gotten close to me, and so he’d been the one person missing. It was for the best, but still…
Edward grinned mischievously. “No, but it is all the information you’ll be getting,” he teased, drawing my attention back to the conversation.
The indignant blustering from both girls had me chuckling, and I was glad when Vera showed up because it meant they couldn’t say any more on the subject.
Vera tugged on her mother’s shirtsleeve, pleading, “Mommy, can we go get a ice cream? Please?”
Rose shook her head, cupping the girl’s cheek. “Sorry, pumpkin, it’s way too cold for ice cream yet. Besides, we have to get home to your brother. Another time, okay?”
Vera pouted, whining. Edward kneeled down to whisper something in her ear. None of us heard, but I could guess what he said when she responded with a squeal and flung her arms around his neck. “You’re the bestest, Uncle Eddie.”
When he got to his feet, three pairs of eyes were on him, only two of which looked at him with accusation. “What?” he asked innocently.
Nudging Edward’s shoulder with mine, I grinned. “You know perfectly well, ‘what’.
Edward shrugged. “That’s what uncles are for.”
“Just you wait,” Rose muttered darkly under her breath.
Reaching for my sister, I hugged her. “Ohh, no, Rosie. We’ll leave the having of children to you and Emmett.”
She huffed, patting my back. “We shall see.”
It was by now an old discussion between Rose and me, but neither Edward nor I was in any hurry to become parents. We were both perfectly happy to deal with kids on a part-time basis, but we liked life as it was. It suited us to do what we wanted, when we wanted it, be it traveling or devoting time to volunteer. Not to mention my work at the Museum of History and Industry. I’d worked a long time to get my degree and I enjoyed my work too much to want to give it up any time soon.
When Vera whined about wanting to go, we all hugged and they went on their way with reassurances to pass our love to the rest of the family. Edward and I went to get dressed, then headed out to dinner, which turned out to be at The Georgian, much to my surprise – the same place I’d taken him when I popped the question.
My eyes widened at the champagne that was waiting at our table, but Edward just shrugged, grinning. Our waiter poured us each a glass, then disappeared, not even taking our order. Somewhat puzzled, I looked around for a menu but found none. When I glanced up at Edward, he simply smiled and admitted, “I took the liberty of ordering when I booked the table.” At my raised eyebrow, he added sheepishly, “I wanted everything to be the same… well, almost.”
He raised his glass and waited to speak until I had done the same with mine, then said, “Thank you, for loving me, Jasper. For the past ten years and all the years to come. I can’t wait to see what our future brings.”
At that, I smiled, echoing the sentiment. Clinking our glasses lightly together, we spoke in unison. “To us.”