A/N: Thank you to Honeymoon Edward and LizziePaige for pre-reading, and Midnight Cougar for working your magic.
A bit of accounting and review in case you forgot, Edward and Bella have five kids: Charlie, Peter, Wil, and twin girls, Tori and Madi. Alice and Jasper have three kids: Sophia, Marco, and Izzy.
Age tracker for this chapter: Emmett (42), Lily (11), Edward (40), Bella (38), Charlie (13), Peter (12), Wil (11), Tori & Madi (8), Jasper (53), Alice (45), Sophia (14), Marco (11), Izzy (9), Esme (68)
Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. I’m just here having fun.
C10 – Happy 11th Birthday, Lily
“How are your ears doing?”
“They’re great, Daddy. See?” Lily pulls back her hair from her ears, showing me her day-old pierced ears filled with pink gemstones.
I see no redness, which helps to ease my worries. “Good. You need to keep them clean like the lady said.”
“Here.” I push a white box with a pink ribbon across the table, and Lily’s eyes light up.
“What is it?”
Lily pauses eating her breakfast to open the package. The kids are out from school today as there are teachers’ meetings. After letting her sleep in, we are having brunch together at a café nearby. Mom, the aunts, and cousins will descend on our home today for a girls-only birthday party and sleepover. I’m a little miffed to be pushed aside, but Lily is through the roof excited about having everyone at the house.
“Daddy!” she squeals. “I can’t believe it. I can’t believe it. Oh my gosh!”
“Do you like it?”
“It’s the best!” She sets her new pink metallic phone on the table, jumping up to come around to my side, and gives me a huge hug. “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”
“I added numbers in there—mine, Grandma’s, your aunts’, and uncles’.”
She returns to her seat. “I can’t believe this. You said I had to wait for sixth grade—”
“Well, the school year will be over in a few months, and I figured you would like it now. You can take pictures at your party tonight and get all of your friends’ numbers before summer. You know, that kind of stuff.”
We’re not going to address any ideas that I’m a pushover here, as Irina would accuse, but I love seeing her so excited.
Lily has completely forgotten about her breakfast, as she takes pictures of herself, her new earrings, and me. “I can’t wait to get Sophia’s number, then we can text. Izzy will be so jealous. Tori and Madi too. They are the only ones without a phone now. All of my friends have phones. And I can’t wait to take a ton of pictures of Daisy.”
My smile widens at her plans. “You need to be careful—”
“Daddy, I know. I’ll try not to drop it. I’m always careful.”
“No, I mean. You need to set a passcode for security. That way if you lose it, everything on it will be protected.”
“Oh, I’ll do that now.”
“Are we about finished and ready to head home?” I ask, looking over my empty plate and Lily’s partially eaten croissant and fruit salad.
When she doesn’t respond at once, I realize I may have jumped the gun on this gift. Now I will be always competing for her attention.
“Lily?” I prompt.
“Sure Daddy, what?”
“Whatever you said.” She glances up, but then her eyes return to her new phone.
“Let’s get going.”
“Okay.” Lily takes one more bite of melon and a last nibble on her croissant, then we head home with her head buried in her phone the entire way.
It isn’t long before our doorbell rings and our home fills with all female Cullen family members, trickling in for the sleepover.
“Hey, Mom. Can I help you carry that?” I point to her full hands.
“Hello, sweetheart.” She gives me a kiss on the cheek. “I’ve got this, but there is more food in the car. Can you get what’s left for me?”
Mom has been busy. While she carries a box full of pink cupcakes and a tray of sandwich wraps, I grab a cooler, a box full of ingredients, and two heavy bags.
Once I’m inside, I ask, “What is all of this stuff?”
“The cooler is full of flavored milks and juices. There are also fresh fruit kebabs that look like rainbows and we’re making a surprise. You’ll find out when Bella gets here.”
“What’s in the wraps?”
“I made an assortment of sandwich wraps: chicken Caesar, club, and veggie. Sophia has given up eating meat—for now. Plus, I brought chips and snack mixes.”
I open another larger bag. “Ice cream too?”
“Yes, we can’t have a sleepover without Ben & Jerry’s.”
“Did you get my favorite? Half Baked®?” I dig through the bag.
“There are a few, but they aren’t for you. Can you go put those in your freezer for me?”
“Sure, but do you think there will be leftovers?” There’s no way they can eat all this food.
Mom follows me into the kitchen with the other items. “Yes, but where’s our Birthday Girl?”
“Lily! Grandma’s here!” I stack the containers of ice cream in the freezer, putting the Half Baked® ones in the back, hoping they won’t find them if they can’t see them. “I gave her the new phone at brunch and she’s been busy on it ever since then.”
Lily finally walks into the kitchen smiling. “Grandma!”
“There’s my sweet girl. Happy birthday, darling. I made all of your favorites and we’re having a surprise too.”
“Thank you. I can’t wait.”
“Knock, knock.” The front door opens and Alice’s voice carries to the kitchen.
“Aunt Alice! Where are Sophia and Izzy?”
“They’re bringing things from the car. Can you hold the door open for them?”
Alice moves to the dining room where she drops off boxes and bags.
“Hey, Alice. What’s all this?”
“We’re doing our nails, learning about skin care, and how to put on makeup.”
“Yeah, Emmett. It’s what girls do. Plus, there will be plenty of gossiping about boys.” Alice cackles, as if she knows what this is doing to me.
I groan. “I don’t want Lily wearing makeup. She’s naturally beautiful and doesn’t need that stuff. Plus she’s eleven.”
“Emmett, don’t be such a downer. All of her friends are wearing makeup. You don’t want her to feel left out not knowing how to apply it or properly take care of her skin, do you?”
“Her skin is fine.”
“Sure, now. But she’s on the verge of becoming a woman. Things will change and she won’t be your little girl for much longer.”
I moan. “Don’t remind me.”
“Isn’t it better coming from her favorite aunt than elsewhere? I’ll show her how to do it right, even just lightly. Nothing heavy-handed, I promise.”
I spy another bag. “What’s with all the crowns?”
“Didn’t Bella tell you? It’s a princess party—princesses, pajamas, and pancakes. Every princess needs a crown, and I made pajamas for everyone too. Lily’s are covered in cupcakes. I can’t wait for her to see them.” Alice giggles with delight.
“Hi, Uncle Em.” Izzy adds more bags to the table.
“Hey, Izzy.” I give her a quick hug.
“Mom, Lily showed me her new phone. Now, I’m the only one without a phone,” she whines.
Alice rolls her eyes. “The twins don’t have phones either. Next year, sweetheart. Where’s Sophia?”
“In the living room with Lily. She’s still texting Bil-ly.” Izzy singsongs his name. “I’m going to see what Grandma brought.”
“Is this hair stuff too?” I peek in the bags finding rollers, curling irons, bows, and ribbons.
“Yes, we’re trying out new styles and stuff.”
“Maybe I should stick around because I’m good at French braiding,” I offer.
“Nope. You’re with the guys tonight and sleeping at Edward’s until noon tomorrow. No boys allowed.”
I hear the front door open and Lily’s voice.
“Aunt Bella! Look at my new phone!”
I head in their direction to see if I can help bring anything else inside.
“Look at my earrings too.”
“Those are beautiful and your phone is the perfect color.”
“Uncle Em!” Tori shouts when she sees me and flies into my open arms.
I lift her off the floor as she continues to chatter. “I brought my sleeping bag. We’re staying the night.”
I chuckle at her enthusiasm. “That’s what I heard.”
Tori scrambles out of my arms and drags her bag into the living room.
“Hi, Em.” Bella smiles, holding a large pink wrapped box.
“Hey, Bella. Do you need help with anything else?”
“No, we got everything—sleeping bags, overnight bags, and all our princess movies.”
“Mama, can we watch Cinderella first?” Tori asks from her position standing on the couch.
“Or Snow White?” Madi grins up at me. “She’s one of my favorites. Hi, Uncle Em.”
“Hey, Madi.” I lean down and give her a hug.
“Lily gets to decide what we watch first. She’s the birthday girl,” Bella clarifies.
“Did you bring Beauty and the Beast?” Lily takes the bag and spreads out all the movies on the floor, looking through the choices.
“We did, but open this first.” Bella holds out the box for Lily to take.
“Oh my gosh. It’s so heavy.” Lily carries the package to the middle of the living room floor and tears into the wrapping paper. “A crêpe maker?”
“Yes, we’re making a version of pancakes or French crêpes tonight, then you get to keep the crêpe maker.”
“Daddy, did you see?” Lily holds up the box.
“Holy crêpes!” Tori shouts, and everyone laughs.
Bella looks up at me. “I’m sorry. She’s been saying versions of that all morning—a few have gotten her in trouble. I knew we needed to have Lily unwrap her gift as soon as we got here or Tori would spill the beans.”
“It looks like this will be quite the sleepover.”
“Daddy, this will be amazing.” Lily grins. “Grandma can sleep in my bed. Aunt Alice and Aunt Bella can sleep in your bed.”
I poke Alice’s side and wink. “Don’t worry. I laundered the sheets.”
She puts her hands together in prayer. “Thank goodness for small blessings.”
“Then we can all sleep in here by the television with our sleeping bags.”
Mom brought Lily’s brand new princess sleeping bag by earlier this week. Ever since then, Lily has been planning the sleeping strategy for tonight, but I suspect there will be little sleeping involved while I’m gone.
“Do you need my help with anything else?” I look around the room at the excited faces.
“We’re all good, Emmett. You should grab your stuff and head to Edward’s,” Alice suggests.
“Are you sure? I can stick around longer if you need me or come back tonight after the game.”
“Nope. We’ve got this. They’re all in good hands,” Bella reassures.
I’m reluctant to go, but know Lily needs this girl time without my presence. “I’m just a phone call away.”
Even Daisy sits at my feet giving me the time-to-go eyes. “Meow.”
“Don’t forget to take care of—”
“Emmett. We’ll feed the cat.” Mom points toward the front door.
“Okay. I’m going. I’m going.”
“Wait.” Lily runs into my arms, hugging me tightly. “Thanks, Daddy.”
“Happy birthday.” I kiss the top of her head before she gently pushes me out the door.
“You have fun too, Daddy. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
The front door slams shut before I can get out another word as squeals and screams of delight are muffled from the other side.
I let out a heavy sigh, climb in the Range Rover, and head over to Edward’s.
“Hey, man. Come on in. How was it over at princess central?” He grins.
“Pink and girly.”
“Then it sounds like they’re in full force.”
“Are we about ready to head out for the game?” I glance around, wondering where everyone is.
“We’re waiting for Jasper and Alistair. Charlie and Peter are downstairs. Wil and Marco are up in his room playing video games. You want a beer?”
“That sounds good. I didn’t know Alistair was coming along.”
Edward takes out two beers, popping the caps, and handing me one.
“Yeah, he and Jasper have been working on a large job together and Jasper asked if there was room for one more.”
I have a hard time swallowing, thinking how our “one more” was normally Dad. It’s been over a year, but I still miss him. I’ve only met Alistair a few times. He’s Jasper’s business partner and seems like an okay guy.
“He likes soccer?” I tilt back my bottle, taking a long drink, trying to get my emotions under control.
Edward chuckles. “Does it matter? It’s a chance to hang out and have a few beers.”
I shrug. “The more the merrier, I guess.”
It isn’t long before my beer bottle is empty when Jasper and Alistair show up. We decide Wil and Marco will ride with them while Charlie, Peter, Edward, and I ride together.
There’s a fairly large crowd for the Seattle Sounders opener, so we wait in the long lines, grabbing plenty of food and drinks from the concession stand, then make our way to our seats. Our seats are together with the four boys sitting in front of us.
We’re all busy eating hot dogs, nachos, and scoping out the players when Charlie twists in his seat.
“This is great, Dad. Did you play soccer, Uncle Em?” he asks.
“No, football.” The whistle blows as I watch the kickoff then focus back on Charlie.
“What position did you play?”
Peter snickers but doesn’t make a comment. I’m sure his twelve-year-old brain is full of jokes. Trust me; I’ve heard them all.
Charlie doesn’t miss a beat. “You’ll like this one then, Uncle Em. What do you call two brunettes and a blonde in the NFL?”
“Charlie,” Edward warns, already knowing where he’s headed.
Alistair leans over and chuckles. “I’ve heard this one. Two tight ends and a wide receiver.” He and Charlie exchange high-fives.
Old Emmett would find this funny. New Emmett internally cringes with a new understanding of how these jokes are disrespectful not to just my daughter but to all women. It’s a good check of my progress in working with Irina.
Edward lets out a heavy exhale and Jasper shakes his head as we settle in to watch the game. A quick goal by the Sounders has everyone cheering and on their feet with high-fives all around our group.
“How are things going with Gianna? She’s the nurse, right?” Edward asks as we sit down in our seats.
“Good. Yeah, the nurse. She’s leaving the hospital to work in a private practice in two weeks. Better hours and benefits.”
“Has she met Lily?”
There it is—the will-I-ever-have-sex-again qualifier.
“Yeah. We did a dinner out one night about a month ago. I don’t want Lily getting her hopes up and calling her ‘Mom’ or anything crazy like that.”
“I think it’s good for her to see you dating. Don’t let her get too attached, if you aren’t prepared to make a commitment.”
I shrug. “Gianna’s been great.”
“But…” Edward knows there’s more and can sense I have reservations. I always do.
“We’re at that point where I know she will drop hints for more and I’m not ready. I don’t think I will ever be. Aren’t I leading her on?” I lower my voice. “I mean the sex is great, but it’s difficult to pull the plug when I’m finally getting it regularly again.”
“Well, what are your concerns about Gianna?”
“Other than getting married and having kids?”
Edward chuckles. “Those are deal breakers if you aren’t on the same page.”
“Yeah. I don’t want to get married nor have any more kids. But now she’s seen me with Lily, it’s given her the wrong idea. I need to talk with Irina. Shit. Maybe I need to get snipped then kids would be off the table with anyone.”
“Do you love her?”
“No. Not even close. I care, but that’s it. I should end it and try again with someone new.” I shake my head, knowing I’ve been putting off the inevitable.
My phone vibrates in my pocket. I take it out and find it’s from the Birthday Girl. I have to admit I’m excited to be on the receiving end of her texting. Maybe the phone isn’t such a bad idea.
I unlock my phone to find it’s a picture of all the princess partiers. They are smiling in their crowns, pajamas, and pink feather boas wrapped around their necks.
Party time! Daddy, we’re having so much fun. X
I can’t help the silly grin that spreads across my face as I text her back.
I’m glad. Save me a cupcake.
I will. We watched Cinderella and Tangled is next.
I love you. Have fun.
Love you too, Daddy. See you tomorrow. X
Another photo arrives of Lily sporting bright pink, puckered lips.
I groan and show it to Edward. “Look at this. It’s starting already.”
“I’m losing my little girl.”