Disclaimer: Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond own the adorable little mouse whose needs inspired this very adult version of their story. Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. I’m here having fun.
I think stolen kisses may be my favorite, but any kiss I share with Edward is something to be cherished, especially along the neck or jaw. So, when we’re interrupted at the prompting of the station’s emergency alarm, I smile through my assurances.
“You should hurry,” I encourage.
“I’m sorry, Bella.” He listens to the loudspeaker then pecks my lips sweetly one more time. “I promise, I’ll see you later.”
At my nod, I watch him dart for their turnout area where his boots are waiting for him to step into while he puts on his hood. I move to the side and out of the way as the other firefighters follow his lead while the doors automatically lift as they prepare for departure. Edward pulls up his pants, positions his suspenders, and throws on his coat. He grabs his helmet, mask, and gloves, then climbs behind the wheel in less than a minute.
Both engines roar to life with Jasper behind the wheel of the other while Garrett joins Edward and Emmett takes his spot next to Jasper. Lauren and Eric are the first to leave in their ambulance while Ty and Jacob follow closely behind them. Edward gives me a last smile and a wink before pulling out of the station. The wail of their sirens fade, as I watch Edward trail Jasper until all the vehicles are out of sight.
There are other sirens I hear in the distance as volunteer firefighters race to the scene. I know the Clallam County Sheriff’s officers will probably be included on the call depending on the emergency’s location. So, I could be hearing them too.
With a heavy sigh, I return to the kitchen area, and I’m met with an array of somber faces.
Alice is the first to speak as we look over our huge spread of food. “They’ll be back. Let’s close the doors and keep the cold out.”
“Maybe we should eat,” Sue suggests.
“I think we should wait.” I’m reluctant to agree as my appetite dwindles at the disappointment of Edward’s departure. “I thought we were all going to eat Christmas dinner together.”
“Bella, it could be hours. Everything will be cold by then. Trust me. They would want us to go ahead without them,” Alice reassures.
I don’t like the sound of that, but eventually concede, adding small spoonfuls of everything to my plate. Once we’re seated at one end of the table, we join hands, and Alice leads us in prayer.
“Lord, help those who are running toward the danger, help the victims and offer them comfort, be with those families who will be impacted by this emergency. Lord, be with all of those who are involved. We offer our prayers of safety, protection, hope, and comfort in your name. Amen.”
“Amen.” I whisper the prayer, feeling the impact of her words more heavily than I have ever considered them in my life, and I fight back the tears threatening to fall.
Everyone is making small talk and enjoying our meal together, while I can’t focus on anything other than who’s missing from this table as I push forkfuls around my plate.
I’ve always known there are risks associated with my father’s job, even in the tiny town of Forks, but this is really what he was talking about the other night—the wear and tear of the unexpected at all hours, being called away and rushing to someone’s rescue. Life can change in an instant over a domestic dispute, petty theft, or routine traffic stop. While I’ve always prayed for his safety, I don’t think I’ve ever thought the possibility was high that I would lose him while on the job. Maybe I’ve been too naïve about the real dangers he faces every day.
But now, I feel like there’s a shift inside of me—a real awareness, because Edward is one of those leading the charge, rushing into a burning building or some other hazardous situation. He’s putting his life on the line with every call to save those at risk, balancing on the razor-thin edge between life and death. Everything feels more fragile than I ever remember.
I’m jarred from my thoughts when Alice’s arms envelope me in a much-needed hug as I let out the sob I’ve been trying to contain.
“I’m sorry.” My voice trembles as I squeeze my eyes closed, taking a deep breath. “I’m normally much stronger than this. Your prayer set off something I wasn’t expecting.”
“Hey, I understand.” Alice pulls way, brushing the hair away from my face. “Everything’s changed hasn’t it?”
“I thought we were just having fun. I tease, flirt, and bake cookies. It’s so easy being with him.”
“Love makes us vulnerable in ways we never dreamed.”
“Oh, God. I love him.” I lower my voice, shaking my head. “It-it’s too fast. We just met.”
“Bella, you didn’t just meet. The two of you have been dancing around one another for the past couple of months. And who says that love comes with a timeline? When you know, you know.” She rubs soothing circles on my back. “More importantly, he needs you. Don’t underestimate his readiness for more either.”
“How in the world do you do this? What if… How do you keep your sanity when Jasper rushes off to face the unknown, on every dispatch?”
“I love him with my whole heart and hold nothing back, even on the days I want to throttle his ass for being an ass.” She chuckles. “I’m not going to tell you it will be easy, because I think you already know the challenges that lie ahead of you. Remember, you can always talk with any of us.”
“Thank you.” I glance around the table filled with understanding smiles.
After we finish eating, or nibbling on my part, I help create individual meals for everyone who’s missing, using the special compartment style containers Alice found in a storage cabinet. We fill their two refrigerators full, and I tuck some meals away in the Police Department’s break room refrigerator too. But despite our collective hopeful wishes, no one returns from the earlier call.
We leave the fire station’s kitchen in pristine condition, and I bid everyone farewell with hugs all around. I grab my coat, return to my desk, and complete some odds and ends to pass the time before my shift tomorrow afternoon. No matter how long I attempt to drag out the tasks, I finish them before Edward returns.
With a heavy sigh and nothing else left to do, I drive home, deciding to return the borrowed slow cookers to Mrs. Cope and Angela tomorrow. The house is quiet when I arrive, but I turn on the Christmas tree lights and locate one of my favorite Christmas movies, The Holiday, before running upstairs to shower, change into my pajamas, and slip on some fluffy soft socks.
After returning downstairs with my wet hair twisted into a bun on top of my head, I’m ready to warm up the room with a cozy fire and use a quick start firelighter to get it going. As I wait for the fire to take off, I retrieve extra wood from our pile off the back porch and bring it inside, going back to the kitchen to find something to drink.
Out of wine and not a fan of Dad’s beer, I fix myself a hot chocolate, settle on the couch under my new blanket, and start the movie. It doesn’t take long before I wish I were besties with Amanda or Iris and spending the holidays in a glamorous Los Angeles home with the sweetest neighbor or a quaint English cottage outside of London.
I contemplate Iris’s observations about love and its power to alter or define our lives. I’m a bit emotional as my day started with full-blown lust while making out with Edward in my truck. But Alice’s words about love—that I love Edward and the possibility he could be on the road of love with me—has me rattled. Is it really that easy?
Nothing else about my life is easy. I have no steady job, but loads of student debt. While I have a roof over my head, currently, my living situation is tentative. I can always move in with my mother in Florida and find a job there, but it isn’t Forks, which is where Edward calls home.
As the movie wraps, I’m back in the kitchen going through the pantry, hoping to find fettuccine because the movie has me craving it. But the closest thing we have is a can of chicken noodle soup, and that’s not really that close. I look for the can opener because warm and comforting seems like the best option.
When I return to the living room, I add more wood to the dying fire, bringing it back to a full blaze. I hear sirens faintly throughout the evening, but not a word from Edward. It doesn’t help that I’m checking my phone every fifteen minutes or less. I finish my soup and break off the front door to the gingerbread house, enjoying its sweet, crunchy goodness while watching Bridget Jones’s Diary. I doze throughout the movie, but startle awake after midnight, when my phone vibrates with a text.
I’ll be by for some clothes later
in case you hear me.
Then I’ll stay at Sue’s.
It’s been about five minutes since Dad sent the text, but I type out a reply quickly.
Thanks for letting me know.
Good night, Dad.
I love you.
I don’t have to wait long for his response.
Love you too.
With no other texts, I shut off the television and all the lights downstairs except for the Christmas tree lights, so Dad can see when he gets here. I grab my phone and go upstairs, ready to crawl into bed, calling it a night after plugging it into my charger and checking it one last time to find no new texts.
Sleep evades me as I toss and turn, alternating between too hot or too cold. I try moving into a comfortable position on my right side first. When that doesn’t work, I move to my stomach before eventually ending up on my left side. When I’ve made a complete corkscrew, I remove my socks, tossing them toward the end of my bed.
Blankets on. Blankets off. Maybe only the sheet is enough. I re-fluff my pillow, then trade it for the other, which feels cooler on my neck. My hair is everywhere and driving me crazy. I redo my messy bun, locating it back to the top of my head rather than its current location where it has migrated, tugging random strands painfully at the roots.
I check the clock on my phone as another hour ticks by and consider my options from the bathroom medicine cabinet that would help me fall asleep. At some point, I must have fallen asleep because my body suddenly jerks me wide awake.
I check my phone for the time and find it’s nearly three in the morning when I see headlights flash across my bedroom walls. I listen closely for the closing of a car door, but hear a soft knock on the front door. I can’t move downstairs fast enough, and a quick check of the driveway out the front window has me unlocking the door as fast as my fingers will allow.
If you give a firefighter a Christmas cookie, he will want the perfect cup of coffee to go with it.
The cookies and coffee will remind him of his favorite Christmas songs, and while hanging Christmas lights, he’ll agree to a date decorating a tree.
The decorated Christmas tree will fill him with Christmas spirit, which will give him the courage to kiss the naughty new friend who he’s had his eyes on for a while.
Sharing kisses with her won’t be enough. So, he’ll find other ways for them to spend more time together, like building a gingerbread house and playing in the snow.
He’ll wish for his favorite Christmas dinner foods but arrive late to the meal, because he’s sharing steamy kisses in the parking lot.
After arriving, he’ll learn unexpectedly the details of a secret family recipe, but before he can share his new information, he’ll be called away for a day full of emergencies and rescues.