A/N: Thank you to Honeymoon Edward and LizziePaige for pre-reading, and Midnight Cougar for working your magic.
Age tracker for this chapter: Emmett (43), Lily (12), Edward (41), Bella (39), Jasper (54), Alice (46), Sophia (15), Esme (69)
Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. I’m just here having fun.
C11 – Happy 12th Birthday, Lily
“Lily, open up. I can’t help if you don’t open the door.”
“Are you having a problem with your braces? I can call your orthodontist and see if I can get you in for an emergency visit.”
“Let me in.” I jiggle the doorknob, but it won’t budge.
“You won’t understand.”
Lily has been locked in the bathroom for over an hour and I can hear her crying. I’m at a total loss for what to do, but I’m positive using the key to unlock the door will be some sort of invasion of her privacy, which will send her over the edge. So, I’m saving the key as a last resort.
There’s a knock on the front door, and I sigh in relief—my reinforcements have arrived.
“Bella, thank God you’re here.”
“Hey, Em.” She holds out a handwritten piece of paper. “Go to the drugstore and get everything on this list then stop by your mom’s. You still haven’t picked up Lily’s birthday cupcakes. I’ll try to get her out of the bathroom.”
“Shit. I forgot them. I should grab dinner too.” I glance back at the locked bathroom door. “You’re okay with me leaving?”
“It’s only for a little while.”
“Okay.” I walk back to the closed door. “Lily—” There’s no response. “I’m going out to grab a few things. Aunt Bella is here. I’ll be right back.”
It’s soft, but I hear it. “Okay.”
I lower my voice. “Is it a boy?”
“No. She texted me before you did.”
“Oh. Is she going to be okay?”
“Do you think it’s a stomach bug? Should I call her pediatrician? They may still be in the office.”
“No, Em. No pediatrician is necessary.”
“Okay, I’ll be back soon,” I tell Bella, grabbing my keys and heading out the front door.
The drive is short, and I stroll up and down the aisles looking for the items on Bella’s list.
First, a heating pad. There aren’t many choices, so I grab one of the two boxes on the shelf.
Next, a hot water bottle. I take a little longer to locate it on a different aisle, but I move on feeling confident about how quickly I’m powering through this list.
Chamomile tea. I scan the store for the small area with food and drinks, then grab a box tossing it in my basket.
Ibuprofen. I think we have some at the house, but I’ll grab another bottle just to be sure.
Pads. Pads? Notepads? That can’t be right. I glance at the last item on the list, which confirms my worst fears.
I drag my feet and find the women’s aisle. It isn’t as if I haven’t been here before, passing through on the way to buy condoms, but still—it’s my little girl.
I stare at the wall of choices, scanning the variety of options and colors: long or short; ultra, maxi, regular, or light; wings or no wings. I wonder which brand is best. Is this one of those deals where the store brand is the same as the name brand?
Shit. I need help and Bella already has her hands full with Lily.
I take out my phone, find the number, and wait for her to answer.
“Hey, Em.” A male voice answers the call.
“Jasper? Where’s Alice? Isn’t this her phone?” I double-check the screen.
“It is but rather than not answering, she yelled for me to get it when I told her it was you calling. She’s fitting a prom dress and can’t stop.”
“So, what’s up?”
I glance up and down the aisles then lower my voice. “Lily’s at home with Bella and I’m standing here in the middle of the drugstore, staring at all the feminine stuff.”
Jasper chuckles. “Too many choices.”
“That’s an understatement. What the hell am I supposed to choose? Are the colors some kind of traffic light deal? I can’t figure it out. There’s yellow and green, but orange? One kind is blue then another purple.”
“Don’t worry about the colors. As for pads, go with a package of light and one of regular. Pick the long ones with no wings. Get the brand name. Alice would say it doesn’t matter, but it’s a starting point for you and Lily. If she doesn’t like what you choose, don’t worry. She will tell you. They hold nothing back during this week. It’s like truth serum.”
I grab two packages and toss them in my basket. “Okay. What about tampons?”
“For now, go with an easy glide and get one of the boxes that have three different options in it. Sophia is specific in what she likes, but she’s swimming all the time. Lily won’t use tampons at the beginning, but she may need them later. It’s good to have a box on hand.”
“Okay. I’ve got it. Anything else?” I scan the aisles then head for the cashier.
“Keep them in stock under your bathroom sink. There’s nothing worse than to run out and you find yourself in a panic again while Lily is miserable.”
“Bella gave me a list. I’ve got a heating pad, hot water bottle, tea, and pain relievers in my basket. Does that sound about right?”
“Yes, you should be good, but it never hurts to keep ice cream on hand too.”
“All right. I’ve got ice cream at home and need to get going. I still have to pick up her cupcakes from Mom and some dinner. What a birthday, right? Welcome to womanhood.”
“She’ll be fine. Remember, Lily will appreciate any other comforts you know work specifically for her. Also, remind her she’s not alone. Women deal with this every month.”
“I’m not sure that will be well-received coming from me. Right now, I’m only getting one word answers as if I’m the enemy or something.”
Jasper laughs. “Good luck and call if you need us. Talk to you later.”
I pay for everything on Bella’s list then head to Mom’s house, noticing all the lights are on in the main areas.
“Hello, sweetheart. Come in. Is it raining again?”
“Hey, Mom. Just some drizzle. Man it smells great in here. What’s cooking?”
“I’m making a small Southern feast.” She reaches over to a table near the door. “I have Lily’s cupcakes for you and her present.” She hands me a stack of new, but old movies with a pink bow around them. “Lily is probably ready to branch out from her princesses and this is a good start.”
I glance at the titles—My Girl, Clueless, Legally Blonde, Sense and Sensibility, and The Princess Diaries.
“Mom,” I whine, knowing I can’t stop her growing up and this seems to be another push in that direction. “Are these necessary? She loves her Disney movies.”
“Emmett, those are geared toward a younger audience, and whether you like it or not, she’s changing. Legally Blonde is a hoot. Plus, Elle loves pink almost as much as Lily. It isn’t as if I bought Mean Girls, but she would probably like that one too. It’s one of Sophia’s favorites.”
“Okay.” I look around the living room and notice extra chairs in a circle. “So, who’s coming over?”
“My book club. We’re having dinner then cake and coffee while we discuss our latest selection. This month is a classic: Gone with the Wind. I thought it would be great to fix some traditional Southern foods, but we’ll try to stay out of the bourbon this time.” She winks. “What are you and Lily doing for her birthday dinner?”
“We’re staying in for the night. Bella is with her now. I’m on my way back from the drugstore.”
“Oh? Is Lily sick?”
“No. Girl problems.” I sigh. “I can’t believe she’s old enough.”
“She’s twelve. That’s about the right age, maybe a little late. Young girls are maturing earlier these days. How are you doing?”
“Not good. She’s almost a teenager. I was hanging on to twelve with everything I have in me, and now this. It’s like being kicked in the gut.”
“How about I pack you up dinner? I have plenty.” She waves me toward the kitchen.
“Wasn’t that book set during the Civil War with everyone starving? What are you serving, hardtack and Johnny cakes?”
“You’re funny. I’m glad to hear you retained something from your high school history class. No, we’re having fried chicken, yams, deviled eggs, and cornbread. I thought about trying my hand at making black-eyed peas or shrimp and grits, but I doubt I could create something so authentic. I better leave it to the experts.” Mom grabs a food storage container, filling it with some of everything for Lily and me. “A few of us have been talking about making a trip to Atlanta for a girls’ weekend—seeing the sights and eating the local food.”
“A girls’ weekend?”
“Yes, I may be old at almost seventy, but I can still get around. It would be nice—fun to travel again. It won’t be the same without your dad, but I’m ready to see something new. Something different.”
“I miss him.”
“We all do. It’s an adjustment. We were married for over forty-two years, and every day he made me feel like the luckiest woman alive. I keep expecting him to come around the corner and ask, ‘What’s for dinner?'”
I feel a pang of jealousy over my parents’ marriage and the love they shared. Something I know I will never experience. Before this gets too deep, I change the subject when I spy a cake sitting on a plate.
“No banana pudding? Isn’t that a Southern favorite? I know it’s mine.”
Mom closes up the full container, handing it to me. “It is, and I’ll make it for your birthday in a week. But tonight, we’re having red velvet cake in honor of Miss ‘Scarlett’ O’Hara.”
“Well, as long as everyone stays out of the moonshine, I won’t have to bail you out of jail when your neighbors call the cops on your rowdy book club,” I tease.
“What makes you think you would be my one phone call?”
“I can cover your bail money and I’m good at keeping secrets.”
She laughs. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
We walk back toward the front door where I stack everything together.
“We’ll try not to cause too much trouble. You know how book clubs can be.” Mom winks and opens the front door. “Wish Lily a happy birthday for me. I hope she gets to feeling better. If not, then tell her to call Grandma and I’ll get her back to her normal self in no time. She needs some TLC.”
“I will. Thanks for the food and cupcakes.” I step off the front porch, heading toward the driveway.
“Sure thing. Stay dry.” Mom waves as I get to the vehicle and store everything in the passenger seat.
When I make it back to the house, Lily is on the couch, curled up with Daisy, watching some teen television show.
Bella stands from her spot next to Lily, rushing to grab one of the bags before I drop everything. “Did you have any trouble finding the stuff on the list?”
“No, it was fairly easy with only a few exceptions.” I look over in Lily’s direction. “How are you feeling, Lily?”
“Well, I picked up some things that will help you feel better. Plus Grandma made dinner and cupcakes.”
“I don’t think I can eat.” She sighs.
“Maybe a little later then.”
“I doubt it.”
I walk in the kitchen with Bella following closely behind.
She sets the bag on the counter. “I’m going to take off, Em. Use the heating pad for her back then the hot water bottle on her abdomen. It will help to ease the cramps and discomfort. I got her to take some pain meds, and we had a brief talk. She said Alice had already talked with her about what to expect. So, it wasn’t a complete shock. She’s just sad that it’s finally happened. I think she was hoping it wouldn’t so she could stay a little girl.”
“That makes two of us. Thanks for coming by, Bella.”
“No problem. See you later.” Bella walks back to the couch, bends over, and kisses the top of Lily’s head. “Take care and remember I’m a phone call or text away if you need me.”
“Thanks, Aunt Bella.”
I take a seat on the other end of the couch, wondering about my next move.
Maybe if I suggest my shopping trip was her aunt’s idea, Lily will give them a chance. “Bella had me pick up some things. Would you like to try out the heating pad for your back?”
She shrugs, staring at the television. “Maybe.”
We sit in comfortable silence until I hear Lily sniff and look over to find her eyes glassy.
“What is it? Are you hurting?”
“Why did this have to happen? Why couldn’t I be a boy?” she wails. “Everything was going good and now this. Do I have to go to school tomorrow? Everyone will know. Can I stay home, please?”
“Lily, school is important. You can’t miss just because—” Fuck. I hate being the bad guy.
“Of course you would think that. You’re a guy. Aunt Bella said it was a special gift, but I don’t want it. It’s stupid and I don’t want to pretend everything’s perfect tomorrow when it isn’t. Can’t one thing go right for me? I hate this. I’m going to my room.”
“Don’t you want a cupcake? I can grab a candle real quick and you can have your birthday wish. I’ll even sing for you,” I ask, hoping to salvage some part of her birthday and not end this one on a miserable note.
“No, Daddy. I’ve given up on birthday wishes. They don’t come true.”