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 (47), Lily (16), Rachel (27), Edward (45), Bella (43), Charlie (18), Peter (17), Jasper and Alice’s daughter – Sophia (19)
Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. I’m just here having fun.
C15 – Happy 16th Birthday, Lily
“Congratulations, Lily.” I safely tuck away all Lily’s required documentation back into my briefcase. I’m positive she saw the information on her birth certificate while we were handling the paperwork for her new driver’s license, and if I know Lily, she won’t let it go.
I push open the door to the Washington State Department of Licensing, then Lily walks through.
“I need to go back to work, but I’ve got a surprise waiting for you at the shop.”
“A surprise? Is it a car?”
I grin because she’s too smart. “You’ll see.”
Lily lets out a squeal. “I bet it is.”
Her phone vibrates with an incoming text.
“Aunt Bella’s waiting for me at the shop.”
“Did the two of you have plans?”
“I texted her about getting my license today and she said we should celebrate.”
“Should I call ahead and warn Cupcake Royale?” I tease.
Lily chuckles. “That’s a good guess, but we may go to Golden Wheat Bakery… too.”
She shrugs. “Maybe I’ll have a surprise of my own for you later today.”
“Okay. We’re still on for dinner?”
“Absolutely. I can drive too.”
We ride in comfortable silence, and we’re almost back at the shop when Lily clears her throat.
“Um, my mother’s name isn’t ‘Honey,’ is it?”
Here we go. I knew this was coming.
“No. It’s not, but people go by other names for work or other reasons.”
Lily nods then stares out the window. “Elizabeth. Her name is the same as my middle name.”
“It is. I’m sure she wanted you to have a piece of her to keep always.”
“I can’t believe I’ve known all along. Lillian Elizabeth. Maybe Lillian is a family name too?”
“It could be.”
“Elizabeth Ann Delveaux,” Lily repeats her mother’s name, letting me know she didn’t miss a thing. “Do you think she’s alive?”
“I have no idea, Lily.”
“Would it be okay if I try to find her?”
I let out a huge breath I’ve been holding for over sixteen years. “Lily—”
“Dad, don’t worry. I’ll be okay, no matter what I find out. I don’t want to hurt you by searching, but I wish I had at least some answers. I feel so—incomplete. As if there’s this huge puzzle that I’m trying to solve and I’m missing pieces. You told me once you met her in Nevada. Was it Las Vegas?”
“Was she working there?”
“Like in a casino or dance club? Maybe I get my love of dance from her?”
“Was she a showgirl?”
“Do you think she’s still there?”
“I don’t know.”
“My birth certificate says she was born in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.”
“If she’s not still living in Las Vegas, do you think she moved back there?”
“It’s a possibility, but she could be anywhere.”
“Do you know if she had brothers or sisters?”
“I don’t know.”
“I could have more aunts or uncles. Delveaux is an unusual name. They could still be living there. I wonder if her parents are alive? I could have another set of grandparents or more family out there who don’t know about me.”
“Do you ever worry we don’t know about my mother’s medical history? You know the hereditary stuff? Because we’ve been doing genetics in Biology and it makes me wonder.”
“It is a concern of mine, but you’re healthy and strong, like a Cullen.”
“That’s true now, but what about in the future? Shouldn’t we try to find some answers?”
I pull into a parking spot and shut off the engine. “Lily, if you want answers, then I will do my best to help you find them.”
“Thank you, that’s all I’m asking.”
“Now, look to your right.” I look past Lily at the black vehicle with a huge pink bow on the hood.
“You got me a Jeep Wrangler! Oh my gosh! Daddy, this is incredible!” She hops out and circles her new ride.
I follow her and explain. “It’s a classic and I’ve always loved them. My first car was a silver, four-door Jeep Wrangler with all the extras. While the two-doors are a little easier to drive, I thought you would like the extra space with a four-door.”
“Like it? I love it! I can drive off-road too.”
“Maybe hold off on that until you’ve been driving for a while, and I should ride along to show you the best ways for handling different terrain and conditions.”
“Okay, whatever you say.”
“Are you okay with the color? Black probably isn’t your first choice. I looked at white and pink ones, but I thought the black looks badass—I mean, killer with the pink accents. The keys are in it.”
“There’s my favorite new driver!” Bella walks out of the shop.
“Aunt Bella, can you believe this? Dad got me a Jeep! And there’s pink everywhere. Come sit on the seats.”
“I told you she would love it.”
Bella climbs into the passenger seat as Edward walks outside.
“It’s a hit?”
“It seems so.”
“There’s a phone call for you inside. It’s Rachel. She says she’s been trying your phone, but you haven’t picked up.”
I feel for my pocket and come up empty. “I don’t have it on me. Maybe I left it in my office.”
“Daddy, we’re going for cupcakes!”
“Okay, be safe.”
Bella and Lily give me thumbs-up, then she backs out of the parking spot slowly, and I head inside to my office.
“She’s holding on line three.”
“Okay.” I close my office door and take the call. “Hey, Rachel, what’s up?”
“Emmett! I finally got a hold of you.”
I see my phone sitting on my desk. “Yeah, sorry. I forgot to grab my phone when I took Lily to get her driver’s license.” I press the button to find ten missed calls, seven text messages, and three voicemails all from Rachel. “What’s going on?”
“Oh, God, Emmett.” She sounds frantic and on the verge of tears.
“Calm down. Tell me where you’re at?”
“I’m at home. I was getting ready for work and I got a call from a hospital in Jacksonville. My parents have been in an automobile accident and it’s bad. My dad may not make it and my mom’s in surgery. Fuck. What should I do?”
“Take a deep breath. Call work and tell them you have a family emergency and will be out of town for a few days. I’ll call and get us plane tickets. Then we’ll fly out tonight or first thing in the morning.”
“Emmett, you can’t leave. What about Lily? It’s her birthday, and she has the dance competition tomorrow. You have work next week and who knows how long I’ll be there.”
“Work can wait. Lily—”
“Can’t wait. I can go by myself. I’m packing a bag now.”
“I know. I can call a ride for the airport. It’s Friday and traffic will be bad if I wait much longer.”
“No, I’ll take you myself. There will be plenty of time for me to still have dinner with Lily this evening.” I pull up flights for Delta on my phone. “There’s a flight leaving later tonight and it will put you in Jacksonville first thing in the morning, but you’ll connect through Atlanta.”
“I’m on my way home now. Lily is with Bella. I’ll text them and grab a few things here I can finish later.”
“Don’t tell Lily. I don’t want her to be upset or worried about me on her birthday.”
“We can tell her tomorrow when you have more information.”
“Thank you, Em. I love you.”
“Love you too. I’ll see you soon.”
I grab a few folders and look for my briefcase, remembering it’s still out in my vehicle.
Edward knocks on my door and pokes his head inside. “Is everything okay?”
“No. Rachel’s parents have been in an accident, and she’s flying to Florida tonight. A hospital in Jacksonville called.”
“Are you going with her?”
“No. I’m staying here, but taking her to the airport.”
“If you need anything, let us know. We can take care of Lily.”
“We’ll see what Rachel finds out when she gets there. I promised Lily I would be at her dance competition tomorrow. I may fly out after that and at least be there on Sunday for Rachel.”
“Keep us in the loop. We will do whatever you need.”
I send texts to Bella and Lily, letting them know I have an errand to run, but I’ll be back for dinner, and race home to Rachel.
Her bag is packed when I arrive, and I find her sitting on the couch, crying with Daisy snuggling on her chest.
I leave my briefcase by the door and join her on the couch. Rachel sets Daisy to the side, and I pull her to straddle my lap.
“It will be okay,” I reassure.
“What if it isn’t? They tried to call my sister, but weren’t able to reach her.”
“Did you try calling?”
“I don’t have her number. We had a falling out years ago. She’s been estranged for a while, but maybe she made up with Mom and Dad. Or she needed money and was using them again.”
“You’ll get your answers once you’re there.”
Rachel nods. “I hate leaving you and Lily like this. I don’t know how long I’ll be gone.”
“We’ll figure it out. Maybe I can fly to Jacksonville after Lily’s competition.”
“You’re too good to me.”
“I think it’s the other way around. Are you ready to get going?”
“No, but we should go anyway.” Rachel catches sight of her reflection in the mirror by the front door. “God, I’m a mess. I forgot to ask, did Lily like the Jeep?”
Lily is practically vibrating out of the passenger seat with excitement while we drive to Palace Kitchen.
I’ve had to work a little harder than I should at being happy about this meal, but I’m torn as Rachel gets ready to board a plane headed to the other side of the country. A part of me feels I should be with her, but I know I need to be here for Lily too.
“Wait until you try the cupcakes we picked up from Cupcake Royale. They were so delicious. Aunt Bella and I tried the Roasted Cherry Goat Cheese.”
“Lily, that doesn’t sound good.”
“But it was, and my favorite was the Fig and Honey. It has a brown butter vanilla cake that melts in your mouth.”
“I’ll take your word for it.”
“Dad, this has been such a good day—an incredible day.”
“Let’s get a table, then you can tell me your good news.” I have a hunch I should be sitting down for whatever she plans to tell me.
“Okay. You will love it.”
We’re seated at a table for two, and after our server leaves with our drink orders, Lily can no longer contain herself.
“Are you ready?” She bubbles with excitement.
“I hope so.”
“I’ve got a job. My first job! Can you believe it, Dad?”
“Yes, at Golden Wheat Bakery. I’ll learn to make everything, from croissants and challah to empanadas—the works. Everything they sell. Isn’t that great?”
“What about school and dance?”
“You know my grades aren’t an issue. The bakery closes at three every day, but there’s still plenty of preparation to do for the next day. So, I will help two days during the week and one day on the weekend. I have to be there at 5:00 a.m. on weekends to help finish everything before the store opens for customers at 7:30 a.m., but I get to help manage the counter and fill orders too once they’re open. Doesn’t that sound great?”
“Well, yeah, Dad. A lot of my friends have jobs. I thought you would be happy for me being responsible and making my own money. Aunt Bella and I checked with Cupcake Royale, but they weren’t hiring. Then we went to Golden Wheat, and I filled out an application then did the interview on the spot. I hit it off with the owner and another girl who was managing the counter. And thanks to you, I can drive myself now. You don’t have to worry about me.”
Yeah. Thanks to me.
She has no clue how much I worry.
“Rachel has a job and goes to school. Don’t you think I can handle it too?”
Shit. I wonder what Rachel will do about her classes come Monday. I’m sure her professors will understand, but it’s probably the farthest thing on her mind right now.
“I know I’m just starting out, but, Dad, I’m ready. This is my first job. I can do this. I hope you’ll believe in me too. Aunt Bella thinks—”
“Lily,” I stop her. “I’m not upset. You caught me off guard and I wasn’t expecting you to want a job so soon. You should have asked about working in the shop with Edward or the office with me. There’s plenty you can learn there on both sides.”
“But, Dad, I don’t want to create art out of glass or manage a business. I love baking with Grandma and on my own. I want to learn how to make other things. Things I never considered making with products I’ve never used. I’m excited for the challenge, and I can’t believe they’re going to pay me too because I’d work there for free.”
“Never tell them that or they’ll take advantage of you,” I warn.
“Fine. I won’t, but I’m hoping this works out and I can work full-time this summer too.”
“You’re not going to dance camp?”
Lily shrugs. “If they let me take the week off, then I’ll go.”
“If you don’t go to camp, then you won’t be on the pom squad next year.”
“You know, the world won’t end if Lily Cullen isn’t on the pom squad, Dad.”
“That’s true, but I thought you loved dancing. Why didn’t you see about teaching at your studio? I’m sure they would love to have you working there.”
“I love dance, but am I going to be a dancer when I graduate from high school?”
“It’s up to you what you do.”
“Dad, we had a meeting with our counselors the other day, and they reviewed the results from the skills tests they had us take last month.”
“I know those. We took them in school too.”
“Well, my results were all over the map. It suggested I consider careers as a crossing guard or hairdresser.”
“A crossing guard? I didn’t know that was a career. I thought those were neighborhood volunteers.”
“They are. Then there was also social worker, businessman, or lawyer.”
“Those are at least paying jobs.”
“But I didn’t like any of the suggestions, and my counselor suggested that it meant I would be good at whatever I do no matter what the pay range. She said it was time to think about my next steps, as college is right around the corner.”
“You can go to U-Dub and major in business, like me, even though I focused on finance. Regardless, a business degree would help you no matter what you do later on, and since when do you need to have it all figured out at sixteen?”
“But, Dad, I’m not like you. I’m me. I have to go my way and do my thing. If this doesn’t work out at the bakery, I’ll try something else. But I’m excited for a new challenge and you know I love baking. Would you rather I move to Los Angeles when I graduate from high school to pursue a dance career or as a choreographer? I would have to work as a waitress or other odd jobs for years waiting to get a break.”
“You can dance anywhere. It doesn’t mean you have to move away.”
“But what if I’m tired of dancing? I’ve been dancing for twelve years—most of my life—and I feel like I’m approaching burnout. What if I want to do something else? I don’t even know what that is, but I feel like it’s out there waiting for me to figure it out.”
“I didn’t realize you felt this way about dancing.”
“Dad, Charlie’s still playing soccer in college and he loves it. But even though Peter played just as much soccer, he’s going to college for art. Have you seen his work?”
“Peter’s a lot like Edward. He has a knack for drawing and creating. He’s been working at the shop for two years and he has a real talent. I’ve seen it. Sophia—”
“Wants to be a nurse, but she didn’t know it until she volunteered at the hospital. Daddy, I need to take these first steps on my own.”
On her own.
Without me watching over and protecting her.
“Okay, Lily, but you need to understand it won’t be easy for me. We’ve been a team for a long time. I’m not ready to let go.”
Lily smiles. “Trust me. We’ll be okay. I promise.”