The big house is resplendent.

Her father taught her that word not very long ago, and Renesmee loves the way it sounds—grand, and fancy, and like exactly what it means.

The cottage is pretty, too—evergreen boughs hanging from the eaves and a big tree in the main living room all lit up with white twinkle lights. She and Grandmother spent most of last Sunday afternoon painting little ornaments to go on it, and she’s caught her parents just staring at the tree, looking pleased.

But the big house is where the real decorations are. A tree so tall it took her father and her uncles to maneuver it, that reaches all the way to the second story in the open living room. Fresh greenery up the railing of the staircase to the second story. Nine shimmering satin stockings hanging from the mantel. And the candles—her grandmother puts them in every window. They don’t have to worry about fire because vampires will never forget they are burning, and so they have real candles, not the electric ones Renesmee sees in town.

So she’s very happy to spend the night in the big house, near the tree. She’s already made a giant nest of blankets in front of the fireplace, and her grandfather lit a fire two hours ago, which now crackles and glows and sends warm, yellow light crawling across the high ceiling.

There’s a pile of gifts beneath the tree, but her mother has assured her there will be even more when she awakes. They told her about Santa Claus, but when she cocked her eyebrow and asked them about the physics of it all (because even if Santa Claus were a vampire, there’s no way he could move that fast) they caved at once and told her it was just a tradition. They would be the ones who made gifts appear in the middle of the night, but wouldn’t it still be fun to do?

She agreed it would be.

So she’s sleeping in the big house tonight, with its warmth and safety and resplendence. And her father and mother have gone on a Christmas Eve hunt with her aunts and uncles because if there’s anyone they trust with their daughter, it’s Granddad and Grandmother.

She hates being the only one in the family who sleeps, and wonders what it must be like to not have your whole body get slow and heavy when night begins to fall. But she likes the fact that sleeping means a little ritual: Dickens or Bronte or Hardy, the books that her mother loves to read to her and which her father obliges, too. She’s never cared for the picture books except when they are art: a few nights ago her father read a beautiful one called The Polar Express and that was fun.

So when her grandfather catches her around the waist and pulls her into the giant chair with him, she only squeals with delight.

Neither of them get cold; she because of her heat and he because of his utter lack of it, but he pulls a thick quilt from the pile next to the chair anyway, because reading under a blanket is just how it is done and they all like to do it right.

But tonight, other than the blanket, his hands are empty.

“Where is the book?”

He shakes his head, smiling. Her grandfather isn’t like other grandfathers—he was twenty-three when he was Changed, and he looks like a young man, not like seasoned and older like Grandpa Charlie. But he was just old enough, Renesmee thinks, to have eyes that crinkle, just a little, when he smiles.

“I’m not going to read to you,” he says. “There is a book that has this story and it’s upstairs, but it’s a story I memorized a long time ago. It’s a story your parents probably won’t ever read to you.”

This is odd. Her parents read everything to her, even when the book is too “old” for her, or other people think it’s not appropriate.


“Because it’s a different, special story,” her grandfather says, and his voice rumbles through her back as he speaks. “It’s a story they don’t believe.”

She gives him a puzzled look, but nods and pulls the blanket to her chin.

The story starts in what seems like the middle, a sentence that is finishing off another sentence that he doesn’t say. “And so it came to pass,” her grandfather begins, “that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed…”

And she listens. To a story about a man and a woman who couldn’t find a place to stay, who had a baby—a newborn baby!—in the stable with the animals. About shepherds and one angel, who came to the shepherds in the night.

“Fear not,” her grandfather’s deep voice says. “For behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly, there was with the Angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth, peace, goodwill towards men.'”

He is almost whispering when he says this last part, and then he falls silent. For a minute, or maybe it’s only a second, she’s not sure, they both just stare silently into the fire.

“That is a true story?” she asks at last.

Her grandfather smiles. “From a long, long time ago.”

“Before you were born?”

“A long time before I was born. So long ago, that we can’t be certain it really happened.” His voice is wistful, maybe a little bit sad.

“But you believe that it did.”

His eyes crinkle again, and he nuzzles his nose against hers which makes her giggle.

“Yes, my sweet. I have never, ever believed it more.”

As the fire crackles, sending its warm light glowing across the ceiling, her eyelids slowly grow heavy. Her grandfather’s arms still encircle her, his chin resting on her head as he breathes slowly. In her mind she hears again, “I have never, ever believed it more.” And then, a whisper, and she’s not sure if it’s a dream or a memory or real, just a soft voice:

“Merry Christmas, Ness.”

And as Renesmee’s eyelids grow heavy, and she leans against the strong chest that has been warmed by her heat, she thinks that yes, she believes that story too.


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