Always

November 1st, 2020 § Comments Off on Always § permalink

They called New York the city that never sleeps, and this, Renesmee thought, was true. At three twenty-seven in the morning, or so glowed the blue light of her clock, she could hear car horns honking in the distance, and people yelling at each other in the alleyway twenty-five floors down. It was nothing like her bedroom in the old, small house in Wisconsin, where cicadas had lulled her to sleep and the only thing likely to be making noise at three AM was a stray loon. But after three years in the city, she’d learned to find the cacophony soothing, and so, being the only person in the expansive apartment who cared what the temperature was anyway, she always slept with her window open a crack.

She was cursing her lot in life before her feet had even hit the floor. Her gut felt like it was on fire. Half of her was pristine, imperturbable, and half suffered the gross indignities of things like indigestion. As she made her way to her bathroom—because her fathers, desperately guarding what little privacy they could offer her, had been careful to buy an apartment that had two en-suites—she went back through her perfect memory over all the things she’d eaten in the last week. Her digestion, such as it was, was slow, and sometimes these things took a long time to materialize. The pad Thai, Saturday…that had been questionable. Also spicy. But when she reached the toilet, she realized at once this hurt had nothing to do with food.

Breathe, she commanded herself at once. A speeding heart was bound to result in two concerned men practically breaking down her door. They overreacted about different things, her father and her grandfather, but it was a foregone certainty that if she was having a problem, one or the other of them would slightly lose his cool. The two teased each other often about how sanguinely their late wives would have handled a given parenting situation, and Renesmee, whose memories of her mother and grandmother were crystal clear but achingly few, would cling to these moments, adding each detail to what little she knew. That Grandmother thought Granddad was a worrywart. That Mama thought Dad was far behind the times. She imagined them, laughing at their husbands and teasing them, and her fathers smiling sheepishly in response. Every image gave her a fuller picture of the women who had once been here, whose absence still hung, weightily, even in the happiest moments in this unorthodox family of three.

She had never wished for her mother so hard.

They hadn’t even been sure this would happen. When she had asked, her father had explained how everything worked, and bought her a copy of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Granddad, in his excruciatingly thorough approach to her science education, had worked through an entire gynecology textbook with her. But when she probed them about the worry that seemed to underpin both her father’s reverence about the miracle of it all and her grandfather’s academic fascination with organ systems, they had reluctantly explained about chromosomes, and speciation, and mules, for goddsake, which had to be one of the most embarrassing comparisons anyone had ever made. They didn’t know, they had told her. They would all have to wait and see.

Well, they had waited, and now she could see—splotchy rust, as big as a quarter, right in the crotch of a pair of cotton underwear which suddenly seemed way more little-girl than it had six hours ago.

She thought quickly. Toilet paper would do the trick. At least to get her overnight, and then tomorrow, she thought, she could say she was going to the NYPL. If it was sunny, they’d let her go by herself. She could go buy…supplies, and no one would be the wiser. And so she was franticly tugging on the roll when she saw it. A light blue plastic package, sitting on the counter—how had she missed it, it was right there—and the brand she knew from countless Teen Vogue ads splashed across the front.

It was impossibly mortifying and a huge relief, at the same time. Of course they knew. It wasn’t as though they would somehow not notice her bleeding, of all things. Of course they had said nothing, careful of her privacy. How long had they known? Hours? Days? The noise that escaped her lips as she opened the package was one part giggle, one part tiny sob.

She was finished in the bathroom a few minutes later, the package tucked safely into a drawer and the three ibuprofen which had been placed on the counter next to it—Granddad’s way of communicating to her that the higher dosage was safe—downed with a chaser of warm tap water. But instead of crawling back into bed, she slunk down the hall.

They were in bed, clothed but barefoot, pretending that they were reading instead of waiting for her. Neither looked up until she cleared her throat. As though they didn’t notice her scent, hadn’t heard every rustle of paper and plastic, and the touch of her own bare feet on the hardwood.

Her fathers always tried to give her space. Sometimes, though, she didn’t want it.

She didn’t say anything either, only crossing the room, flopping down on the bed. Her grandfather shifted over a bit so that she could wriggle her way between them, and in a moment, she felt the embrace of two cool bodies against her own. Her heartbeat thudded and echoed against her father’s chest, and if she closed her eyes and didn’t think too hard about where the sound was coming from, she could almost imagine it was his heart beating back. She didn’t say thanks for his discretion, but thought about how, like always, her father had known exactly what to do.

He chuckled. “That was all Carlisle,” he said. “I’m afraid I lost my head a little.”

She raised an eyebrow.

“I may have asked aloud if we needed to call a doctor.”

There was a moment of silence, and then they all burst out laughing.

“Because he was in no way lying on top of a multiple board-certified OB/GYN at the time,” her grandfather added. “Also, Edward, menarche is not a gynecological emergency. Even when it’s our daughter.”

“It’s the miracle of life,” she commented sarcastically, and her grandfather chuckled.

“I believe in miracles, Monster, but this is pure physiology.” He kissed her forehead. She winced, forgetting she was touching him, and he let out a bark of laughter at the fleeting thought that ran through her mind.

“‘Dad-slimed’? Is that really the term you just used?” Her grandfather raised his hands upward. “How did I sin, Lord, to spend eternity raising teenagers? In what way did I displease you to be thus punished?”

“Oh stop,” came her father’s voice along with hers. It was Dad who hit Granddad over the head with the pillow, and then they were all three laughing, tangled in the huge bed. Her chest was heaving, and she could hear them breathing, hard, and then, so suddenly, in the way that happened often, her cheeks suddenly became wet. She was touching them both, and so she knew that they were seeing with her the chestnut hair and floral scent, the slender arms around her, pulling her to a soft bosom instead of these two solid chests she lay between.

Her father forcefully pressed his lips to her forehead. “I know,” he murmured. “I never imagined we’d have to do this without her, Rene. I miss her so, so much.”

The images in her head shifted as she ran through a different set of perfect memories; nights in this bed and the much smaller one in Wisconsin. Being carried on strong shoulders. The way the two of them often held hands over her body when she climbed into their bed after a nightmare. The peaceful expression her father got when he looked at her; the way Granddad got the same expression looking at them both.

“That’s an interesting observation,” her father said suddenly, and she started to ask what was, she realized it wasn’t her thoughts he was plundering, but Granddad’s.

“Carlisle was commenting on something we all three have in common.”

She raised her eyebrows, and she felt her grandfather’s arms encircle her more tightly.

“Our mothers died for us,” he said quietly. “It’s a terrible thing to have in common, but…”

“No,” Dad said quietly. “It means that we can all understand.” He ran a hand through her hair. “Your mother would be so proud of who you’ve grown to be, Rene.”

Granddad smiled. “So would yours, Edward.”

Her father swallowed and nodded, his voice obviously catching. So she added, “And yours three, Granddad.”

Her grandfather’s expression was first shocked, then, as he drew a long breath, settled into peacefulness.

She stretched a little. “Can I stay here?” It had been something she’d done a lot, when she’d been smaller. During thunderstorms, and after scary movies, and at times when her dreams had gotten the better of her. Padded in her socks across the house to their bed, flopped down between them, and slept in the security of being flanked by two nearly-invincible men.

Her father poked her in the ribs, making her giggle. “Aren’t you getting old for that?”

“Yeah,” she replied, yawning. “But I think I’ve gotten enough older for one night.”

Granddad smiled as he reached down to pull a blanket they kept at the foot of the bed over her. She didn’t need it, of course, but it was the tucking part that mattered more than the blanket itself. And then she was back where she had been, what, twenty minutes ago? With heavy eyelids, warm in a bed. Before long, she was half asleep, lulled by their steady breathing.

“We’re not doing too terribly bad at this daughter thing, are we,” she heard her father mutter. “I think they’d be proud of us.”

“I think they are proud of us,” Granddad muttered back. Rene felt his weight shift and heard them kiss. And then, she was well and truly drifting off, as somewhere, in the distance, a car horn honked.

Author’s Notes

Notes on “Always”

November 1st, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

So, hi. I can’t get this AU to leave me alone. I wrote this vignette for myself because I’m fascinated by the mundane. Forget the complications of immortality; sometimes conflict is just about two men trying to feel their way through raising a daughter. So once my brain asked about this moment, I found I couldn’t shake my curiosity until I wrote it down. I actually pounded out the bulk of this almost a year ago in about an hour, but then it took me another year to get the 250 words or so which were needed to end it well. I’m sharing it because, well, why not. Consider this me thinking out loud. Realizing that I gave both the first two works in this AU world titles which have to do with the passage of time, I’ve decided to call the series Kairos, drawing on the Christian theological definition — a time period that is simultaneously “now” and “forever.” The title of this particular piece came to me as a delightful double-entendre. And yeah, I might think more out loud in this world in the future, and in fact, I fully intend to add a chapter to Ordinary Time this week, no matter what happens on Tuesday. Enjoy the (short) read.

Always