A/N: Several readers asked if Edward ever mentioned owning his grandmother’s property in the original story, and the answer is no, but Bella’s about to learn about it now. Many thanks to Midnight Cougar for her help in tweaking my words. xx
Song inspiration for this chapter: “Time In A Bottle,” Jim Croce
(Playlist for this story can be found on my YouTube channel, if you search for “ghostreader24”)
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.
“So, what is this place?” Bella asks as we exit my car.
“It was where my grandmother lived. It’s-It’s mine now.”
“Your grandmother? I didn’t know you had family here in Forks.”
“Yeah, I’ll drive you past my grandparents’ old farm sometime, but this is where my grandmother lived after my grandfather died. I have a lot of great memories here, spending summers with her.”
“Does it look the same as then?”
“Mostly. The house burned down years ago, so only the footprint is left, but… she…” I swallow around the lump in my throat. “…she didn’t…”
Her arms wrap around me in a tight hug. “Oh, Edward. I’m sorry. I didn’t know. Is this the grandmother who made your favorite cookies?”
“Yes.” I sigh at the comfort of her embrace and bury my nose in her hair.
“Silly me. I was hoping to meet her.”
I pull back, sniffing away the bittersweet emotions. “She would have loved you.”
Always one to know when I need some levity mixed with her comfort, Bella asks, “Do you think that tire swing still works?”
I chuckle. “There’s only one way to find out.”
Bella slips her hand in mine and tugs me along behind her. After climbing on the top of the tire, she hangs onto the rope while I push her back and forth. Between her squeals and laughter, I share my memories of drinking lemonade and eating cookies on the porch swing, chasing fireflies while barefoot, and wearing a bike path around the yard. It feels good to share this piece of my past with her; I only wish Bella could have met my grandmother.
“Okay, I think I’m ready to hop off.”
“So soon?” I tease, bringing the swing to a halt.
Hand-in-hand, we walk around the yard, and I show her where the home used to be, but we also check out the overgrown fruit trees and bushes.
“I should trim them back on one of my trips to mow the yard then maybe they would start fruiting again or consider planting new ones.”
“Is that something you do shirtless?” She giggles. “Because I’m willing to tag along and help direct the extra traffic your lawn mowing probably draws on this otherwise quiet street.”
She points toward the other homes. “You have no idea how many of your neighbors are probably perched at their front windows with their binoculars, enjoying the view when you’re here. I know I would be.”
“Not shirtless,” I correct.
“At least sleeveless? Come on, it adds to my fantasies of you all sweaty and dirty.”
“Sweetheart, you don’t need fantasies when you have the reality.”
“True, which is another pro since deciding to live together.” Bella glances around the yard before pointing toward a sunny location. “Was that a garden spot?”
“It was. I used to help my grandmother with planting and weeding. She had such a green thumb that we would share her abundance with the neighbors.”
“Sounds like the two of you had a special relationship.”
“We did. I miss her.”
“So, what are you going to do with this place?”
“I don’t know—building a home someday seems like a possibility, but it wouldn’t be the same. I don’t have the heart to sell it, because it’s one of the last things I have of hers. Do you know what I mean?”
It’s easy for me to get lost in my memories when I’m here. I’m taking in the surroundings when Bella squeezes my hand, getting my attention again. Her eyes twinkle as they meet mine.
“I think… I think I have an idea of what you should do with this place.”
“Oh, really? What?”
“You should turn it into a neighborhood park for the homes in this area. Add some playground equipment—swings and a slide. You have great memories of playing here as a child. Why not give that back to the kids of this neighborhood? The garden spot could also be reworked into a community garden.” She looks over the green space, offering additional ideas. “You could add benches for parents and grandparents and birdhouses or plant flowers to attract butterflies. This could be a phase two idea, but you could keep half of the garage for storage and maintenance, but rework the other half to include a bathroom and drinking fountain. Lighting would be nice, but not required. I would guess that the electric, sewer, and water lines are all still here just waiting for use. The park could be dedicated in memory of your grandmother. What was her name?”
“The Elizabeth Cullen Memorial Park, or something like that. Have a sign and plant low maintenance flowers around it.”
I look around the yard easily picturing Bella’s ideas, but I know I don’t have the money for a project of that scale. “I doubt I could afford the playground equipment or remodeling the garage.”
“You could work with the city, and they could possibly match funds. But if not, you could have a fundraiser and get your fellow firefighters to help. I know I would personally love and pay good money for a shirtless car wash. I’m just tossing that one out there, as it tops my list of ideas.”
“Do all of your ideas include me shirtless?”
“No, in most of them you aren’t wearing anything, but a smile… or a watch.” She wiggles her eyebrows suggestively. “Maybe a carefully draped sheet while you’re still in bed or bubbles in a bath.”
“You have quite the imagin—”
“Morning, kids,” a voice calls out from the sidewalk, interrupting our conversation. A man with a cane, I recall seeing with Bella long ago, reaches up tipping his hat in our direction.
“Hello, Mr. Banner,” Bella says from beside me, clarifying his identity.
The elderly man studies her smiling face as we approach, and I can tell he’s trying to figure out who she is, but Bella takes any uncertainty away, putting him at ease instantly.
“I’m Bella Swan. Charlie’s daughter.”
“That’s right. I remember now.” He smiles at her sweetly.
“How are you?” she asks.
“I’m out for my daily walk.” He pauses, looking toward the property behind us. “It’s a shame what happened to Liz and her home. The first responders did everything they could. She had a grandson who would stay with her during the summers, and oh, how she loved that boy. Liz and Barb would be in stitches over some of the stories Liz would share about his visits. He lives in Chicago, I think.”
Bella can’t resist and grins at me before refocusing on the elderly gentleman. “Mr. Banner, I want to introduce you to Edward Cullen.”
“Cullen?” His eyes sparkle with recognition of my grandmother’s last name.
“I’m the grandson from Chicago,” I confirm, shaking his hand.
“Well, I’ll be. You’re a lot bigger than I remember.” He chuckles. “You probably don’t remember, but you used to come by offering to mow the lawn when you were here. You were barely as big as the push mower you pulled behind you. Are you visiting?”
“No, I live in Forks now. I’m a firefighter for Station-2.”
He thumbs behind him. “We still live down the street.”
“I remember my grandmother having the best neighbors.”
“This is a great area. Good people. I better get going or Barb’s going to wonder why my walk is taking longer than it should.” He tips his hat to both of us and calls over his shoulder, “Have a good day.”
“Thanks, you too,” Bella says, as we watch him shuffle along the sidewalk.
I lean against the side of my car. “He’s right. This is a nice area, and I like your idea about turning the lot into a neighborhood park.”
She moves between my legs. “I think it would be great. It makes me wish we lived on this street.”
I nod, already fast forwarding to a time when Bella and I are homeowners. I plan to keep an eye on houses in this area because, maybe in a year or two, we could save enough money for a down payment and buy one nearby.
“Ready to move already?” I tease.
“No, my muscles are still screaming from yesterday, but we may get to a point where the apartment is too small.”
“I agree. You never know.” I wave my hand toward the surrounding homes. “Maybe one of these will come available and we can make something happen. Then we could have a dog.”
My imagination takes over, easily picturing Bella and me out walking a dog along this street or even me pushing a stroller too.
“Did you have one growing up?”
“Yeah.” I snort when I remember his name. “You’ll like this. His name was Charlie, a golden retriever and one of my best friends.”
“That’s too funny. Why, Charlie?”
“Well, his full name was Charles Bark-ley, because I was a big basketball fan when I was younger. I had this little basketball the size of a tennis ball, and he loved playing fetch with it. We would play for hours.”
She wraps me in a hug, leaning her head against my chest, and I return her comfortable embrace.
“Thanks for sharing this with me,” she says with a sigh.
I leave a kiss on the top of her head. “You’re welcome.”
We’re both quiet, taking in the peaceful street while I’m considering her idea for what to do with my grandmother’s home site, when a thought suddenly occurs to me for how I could make it happen.
“I’ve got it.”
“I think I have an idea on how to secure some of the funding, but we may still need to raise a portion of the money too, if we push forward with turning it into a park.”
“Okay, what’s your idea?”
“I think it’s time for us to figure out an available weekend and fly to Chicago for you to meet my parents in person. If we share what we’re thinking with my father, there’s a high probability he will make a donation on his mother’s behalf.”
“Another mama’s boy, huh?” She grins, unable to resist teasing me.
I don’t acknowledge what she already knows is true about the close relationship I have with my mother, but give her further insight into a visit with my parents. “I better warn you. My mother is a day drinker with zero verbal limits. Over sharing is her specialty.”
“She sounds like a party. I can’t wait.”
If you give a postal worker a love note, she’ll wonder about the identity of the author when it’s delivered by an unintended mail carrier.
After a visit from a sexy firefighter, the mystery surrounding the note will add to her curiosity, but it won’t be solved any time soon, when she has no choice and accepts another job far from home.
Her secret admirer will hold on to hope for their paths to cross again, and when they do, he will find that being near her again is better than he ever anticipated.
Visiting her during his breaks and getting to know each other will be the best parts of their days, until one day she unknowingly makes his favorite childhood cookies, giving him the sign he needs to move forward.
She’ll hold back nothing as she tempts and teases him when they’re alone, testing his resolve, until a few adorable photos of him with a friend’s new baby causes an unexpected shift in her world.
As they grow closer, they’ll understand that the intimacy between lovers isn’t only about a physical connection, but the everyday interactions through the simplest moments and sharing of new experiences.
Through private conversations, their relationship deepens with the reveal of a variety of secrets, and with a new confidence, the truth of their adoration for one another is undeniable.
After another wonderful evening together filled with fun and flirting, she’ll realize that she’s never been loved like this before, and for as much as he wants to be everything she needs, she wants to be that for him too.
With constant reminders that every day together is precious, she’ll consider their future options, and after the first step of moving in together, everything will start falling into place.
When he opens his heart and shares treasured memories of a time long past…