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What If?

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Epilogue – Running Away

“Hey, Jake?”

“Yeah?”

“Can we pull over?”

“We’re almost there.”

“It’s an emergency.”

“Can you wait five minutes?”

“Maybe, if your spawn didn’t kick my bladder so much.” Bella ran a hand over her distended stomach and glanced at me with a teasing smile.

She had to pee once an hour. I didn’t mind pulling over so much – the Rabbit, despite her classiness, did not get the greatest gas mileage – but Bella worried it was annoying. I had started pulling over at every rest stop I saw, just in case.

I promised Bella we wouldn’t come back to Washington for at least a year, but eleven months after we packed up the Rabbit and set out on our life together we were driving down the familiar highway that connected Forks and La Push.

I smiled, remembering our time away.

 

 

We bounced around Yellowstone for a couple weeks, exploring the different types of worlds that sprung up on top of two tectonic plates smashing together and releasing heat from the earth’s very core. I wouldn’t be allowed to share most of the stories I collected during those fond, indulgent times; like when we skinny-dipped in the river under the full moon – and even if Bella’d let me, I wouldn’t dare share it. A gentleman doesn’t kiss and tell.

I had plenty of room to phase if I needed to, and the huge forests gave me room to process all the extra voices inside my head.

Paul and Rachel were keeping Billy company. She’d taken a few masters classes while she was at school and she already had half a degree – the nerd – so she was finishing up some things online while student-teaching at the little school on the reservation. She seemed pretty happy with Paul, and actually mentioned to him – in confidence, of course – that she was grateful to me for taking care of Billy while she was away at school. She realized how hard it was considering the werewolf thing.

I’m just glad she wasn’t here then, Paul noted with relief. She probably would’ve turned into a wolf, too, just like Leah. Both of you’ve got the gene on both sides.

Cram it about my sister, Lahote.

Paul and I were at war. He never quit thinking about Rachel. Sure, I tolerated my sister to an extent, hell, I even loved her sometimes. But the never-ending stream of Rachel looked so pretty in that dress, Rachel looked so pretty without that dress, would’ve grated on stronger nerves than mine. It had begun with breaking his nose; but now it was a long-distance pissing contest. He had to prove himself to me as Rachel’s whatever before I would stop antagonizing him. He thought my expectations were ridiculous and impossible, but I didn’t think it was such a stretch to not think about sex all the time.

Finally, Leah snickered. One of you feels my pain

But ours was not a feud that dulled with time nor distance. For example; the following exchange took place in early Fall, when the leaves were just starting to burst into deep burgundy and sharp yellows.

Do you really have to think about boning my sister while I can hear it?

Whoops, Paul chuckled. Sorry, man, but you got a hot sister. That is a SILF

A what? I asked, needlessly. 

A sister I’d like to –

Do not finish that sentence, I growled.

When I wasn’t wishing I could kill Paul, I enrolled in a “community enrichment” program at the local community college and got my GED in six weeks. Meanwhile, Bella and I roughed it out in the woods. After my graduation present – where Bella finally showed me the surprise she’d had in store for me; I almost laughed when she tried to demonstrate the “swirly thing,” with her hands – Bella started helping me look into auto body repair schools. We found a certification program near the Grand Canyon. It was only a few hours or so away from where Bella’s mom was living in Phoenix after Phil broke his leg and they had to move back to Arizona.

So we packed up the Rabbit and went to the Grand Canyon.

By then, we were starting to miss the wonders of indoor plumbing, Bella especially. I had to agree. Camping is fun for a little while, but then the thrill wears off, and you realize that you’re washing your clothes the hard way by beating them against a rock. I had always avoiding anything to do with the washer and dryer tucked into Billy’s hall closet; but if I had caught a glimpse of them then I would’ve gotten on my knees and thanked God.

So we decided to look for a more permanent place to stay. Bella was able to get online and shop around at the Coconino County Public Library, the town adjacent from the Grand Canyon that made up the North Rim. The North Rim was one of the less visited places of the park, and a lot less crowded. We couldn’t afford any of the rental cabins, and for a while it looked like we would have to keep wiping with banana leaves, until we stumbled upon a flyer hanging on the town notice board.

The cabin owner’s name was John, and the first thing he ever said to me was; “Hi, I’m John, the Libertarian.” The more I got to know him, the more I realized it was the perfect introduction.

He could have been thirty or eighty; he had shockingly white hair and eyebrows, but his brown skin was smooth and ageless as leather. He was all elbows and knees, wore cargo shorts year-round, and had a forehead light strapped on at all times. Not to mention the shotgun he had slung across his back and the collection of hunting knives on his belt. But his talk was very straightforward and he wasn’t asking for a lot of rent. When Bella voiced her concerns, I reminded her that I wasn’t afraid of a few bullets.

To call it a cabin was an exaggeration at best and tax fraud at worst. It was a dingy old shed, with peeling white-wash paint and a sagging eave. But it had a bed, a stove, electricity, and running water – which, in the end, was all we really cared about.

The dilapidated old shed came to life under Bella’s supervision; in two days, there were already sheets on the bed and a tablecloth on the table with wildflowers tumbling out of a glass jar in the middle. She found a rug on the side of the road and beat it on a clothing wire until all the dust had been scared off. Then she put it on the floor across from the kitchen, positioned the two ancient wicker chairs that had come with the cabin across from each other, and suddenly we had a living room.

My classes kept me busy during the day. I found remembering the technical names of all the wires and bolts confusing, but the teacher was a seasoned mechanic who could tell I had built cars before. By the end of the program I was helping him teach some of the slower kids.

After class, I always found Bella waiting on the front porch for me, sitting on the railing beside the great mass of honeysuckle climbing up the railing, doodling the landscape or furiously writing on a notepad. The sun slanted through the green leaves and set aglow the white rocking chair where she put her feet, next to one of the wild cats she kept feeding. 

Bella had invested in a computer and was taking online English courses. From what she told me, she spent most of her free time walking the ancient trails with a pen and a notebook, stopping every now and then to sit on a sparsely vegetated outcropping of amber rock and write. When she let me read what she’d been working on, I insisted she send it into the local magazine – including the sketches in the margins. She was reluctant, so I sent them in for her. She was mad at me for about three weeks, until I came home with eight copies of Canyon Monthly, my grin larger than my face.

Her eyes practically bugged out of their sockets when she saw her poems – and the illustrations, which I had insisted were essential – printed on the page. Then her face became wet with tears and she launched herself at me.

That was a good night.

There were a lot of good nights. When we called home to check in – using the outdated rotary phone on the wall – Bella gushed about how much she loved it there to Charlie.

“I’m proud of you, kiddo,” Charlie’s voice buzzed from the speaker.

“What are you up to, Jake?” Billy’s voice cut in.

I could picture the two of them sitting at Charlie’s kitchen table as if I were there. They had started asking us to call when the two of them were together – Billy’s fixed income couldn’t handle anymore long-distance calls.

“Yep, kids just need to go their own way in life,” Charlie grunted. “Spread their wings and fly, all that bull.” 

Billy snorted. “Like you coulda stopped ‘em, old man.”

We called home about once a week. Charlie was always over at Billy’s house once him and Sue officially started dating. Seth was not pleased, but he tolerated it because he wasn’t old enough yet not to fear his mother’s wooden spoon. Billy was occupied with keeping Paul away from Rachel; he didn’t like it much, but he also tolerated it, because Paul was too old to fear his wooden spoon. Seth and Billy formed an unlikely bond over their shared toleration of relationships they did not particularly approve of based on the wielding of cutlery. 

Renée was thrilled when we visited Phoenix. Bella cried when she saw her mom, stumbling forward until Renée wrapped her up in her arms. Her mother sobbed into Bella’s hair as if she’d come home from war. In a way, she had. But I tried not to linger on that thought.

Phil noticed me right away. Renée’s husband had been trying to make it into the big leagues since he was twelve, but after breaking his leg, he had retired to Coach of a minor league team in Phoenix. He took one look at me and asked me to come to practice with him.

Bella shot me a look that told me to say no.

“Sure, I’ll come,” I said instead.

When I got there the other players seemed to know who I was. They leaned up against the wire fence and tried to psych me out, but I just smiled and waved at the white boys who didn’t know what was coming for them.

Bella thought it was a bit extreme of me to knock the ball halfway to Flagstaff; but the look on those grown men’s faces was priceless as they watched the baseball zip over the sky and cross the horizon, never to be seen again.

Phil didn’t ask me to come to any more baseball practice.

We settled in our cabin for a couple months. Once I’d gotten my engine repair technician certification, we started thinking about moving on. We were a little more than eight-thousand feet up there, which meant snow in the winter, and Autumn was just around the corner. Bella insisted it was too nice to leave; she wanted to stay.

“Did you hear the part about the snow?” I asked, wondering if I had heard her correctly.

“Yes,” she replied, rolling her eyes. “But this place is magic, Jake. Don’t you feel it? Come watch the sunrise with me tomorrow – it will be romantic,” she added suggestively, wiggling her eyebrows and intertwining her fingers with mine.

How could I have said no?

The next morning as the dawn broke free of the horizon and burned bright as fire, I realized that Fall was no longer coming; it had arrived. The tall grasses grew golden glowing tales that waved at the sun as it set, illuminating the yellow leaves and elongating the shadows of the birch trees. Sultry, orange, waxy light melted the canyon in a reverent silence, as if mourning the loss of summer in the mountains. The sun seemed to paint the Canyon on an empty canvas as it poured into the gorge below.

I realized I couldn’t talk her out of leaving at the precise moment she wretched and leaned out the window of the Rabbit.

“Bells?” I asked anxiously, watching her roll out of the car.

She had her head more screwed on than I did; she insisted on driving us to the nearest drug store, where she emerged with a plastic bag containing a pink cardboard box inside.

I blacked out for thirty seconds when the pregnancy test came back positive. Those two little pink lines seemed to mock me from where they laid on the sink. The first thing Bella did was call her mother. While the two of them chirped at each other over the phone, I felt like I should be doing something other than staring at my feet with eyes as wide as dinner plates.

I slipped outside and only got a few feet down the path – not yet out of sight of the front porch – when John the Libertarian came strolling up. He didn’t usually appreciate conversation. We maintained a stiff nod-and-handshake sort of relationship, but he seemed to recognize the primal fear in my eyes.

“Ah,” he hummed knowingly. “Lady troubles?”

“Sort of,” I hedged, not wanting to say it out loud.

“A walk will clear your mind,” he said, continuing down the path.

He didn’t look back. I walked along a couple feet behind him until the words sprung to my mouth.

“She’s pregnant,” I choked.

“Ah,” he sighed, clapping me on the back. “Congratulations, son.”

“No – I mean, sure, thanks – but no,” I repeated, as if that would make it not real. “I mean, she can’t be. It’s impossible.”

“Have you always used protection?” He asked, raising an eyebrow in my direction.

“Well – no – I guess not.”

“Is she on the witches’ pill?”

“Birth control?”

“Whatever you want to call it.”

“No,” I said. “I don’t think so.”

“Then how is it impossible?”

That one stumped me.

Bella had health insurance from her mom, so we went to a doctor’s office and got the full work-up. The doctor walked in radiating smiles and sunshine. She put the gel on Bella’s belly and a fuzzy image appeared on the monitor next to us. Something like a drumbeat, as fast as a hummingbird’s wings, started thrumming through the speakers.

“It’s a baby, alright. You must be the father,” the doctor beamed at me.

I was speechless. My face must have been comical, because Bella giggled.

The doctor looked down at her clipboard. “You two are pretty young – was this planned?”

“No,” Bella replied, her cheeks flushing red.

The doctor hesitated. She was a small woman with light red hair and a spattering of freckles on her cheeks covered by large, red-rimmed eyeglasses. She adjusted them as she looked back down at her clipboard.

“I should mention your options, in case you should want to –”

“I’m not getting rid of my baby,” Bella growled fiercely, gripping her stomach protectively.

I was still mesmerized by the monitor and the humming little heartbeat.

 

 

I talked Bella into going back to Forks the week before her due date. She was ridiculously pregnant; she had to put the seat all the way back just to fit in the passenger’s side. Her swollen belly was bigger than the rest of her body put together, throwing off her center of gravity and making her even clumsier than usual.

We pulled over once we got off the highway, stopping at a gas station. She insisted she didn’t need help getting out, but I’d seen the way she did it – she rocked back and forth on the edge of her seat to gain momentum, then launched herself out of the car. If I hadn’t been there the first time she pulled that stunt, she would’ve landed face-first on the asphalt.

So I gave her a hand.

She waddled inside while I filled the tank. I’d never had a debit card before, or enough money to open up my own bank account, so I let Bella handle the finances. She was frugal, and thrifty, so we still had more than half of our savings left. It would come in handy soon.

Bella came back with a bag of chips for us to share. I put the nozzle back in the pump and grabbed her waist, pulling her in to kiss her cheek. She blushed beet red and smacked my arm.

“You realize you’re kissing a whale, right?”

“A very pretty whale,” I joked.

We made it to Billy’s house a few minutes later. We’d called ahead to let him know we were coming back and asked him to keep our visit a secret from the pack. He didn’t ask why we had decided to return, but he did tell Charlie, so when we pulled up on the lawn both of them were peeking through the white lace curtains, their bushy eyebrows raised expectantly.

No matter how many times she denied it, I knew Bella missed her dad. In her excitement, she threw open the car door as soon as I applied the brake, and proceeded to try and get out on her own. I had to run to make sure she didn’t plop into the mud.

Charlie’s mouth hung open in shock for a total of three heartbeats; then the age-defying smile he passed onto his daughter stretched across his face, nearly reaching his ears.

“Bells!” He cried, throwing open the front door and running to meet us halfway.

“Hey, Dad!” She exclaimed, throwing her hands around his neck.

“Jake!” Billy yelled from the doorway.

I left Bella alone to reunite with her father while I went to greet my own.

His smile was quivering as tears sprung from his eyes. Instead of a hug, he stretched out his palm to grasp mine, gripping my arm with his other hand.

“It’s good to see you, son,” he choked.

“Aw, Dad, don’t get all sappy on me now,” I teased, though my eyes were just as wet.

“’Course not,” he replied gruffly, still smiling. “This is sweat, from working out.”

I laughed. “Have you and Charlie been doing pull-ups?”

“Jacob!” Charlie cried, fixing me with a playful glare. “When were you two gonna tell me about the baby?”

I grinned sheepishly as Bella returned to my side. “I was leaving it up to her.”

“Bella?”

“I didn’t want to ruin the surprise,” she replied. “Don’t blame Jake; he’s the one who talked me into coming back.”

“Come in, you’re getting all wet,” Billy rumbled, turning around and wheeling into the kitchen.

I made grilled cheese sandwiches while Bella sat at the kitchen table catching up. I joined them with four plates, one with a tower of sandwiches for me, and three with just one for the others. Billy and Charlie were flabbergasted; they kept looking at Bella’s stomach and asking questions.

“When did you two find out?” Billy wondered.

I couldn’t help laughing. Bella shot me a look, cheeks turning crimson.

“We drove out to the highest point on the North Rim of the Canyon and stayed the night. Bella wanted to see the sunrise – she thought it would be romantic,” I snickered. “Just as the sky starts getting lighter, she jumps out of the car and starts puking her guts out. Very romantic.”

Bella rolled her eyes. “Jake freaked out and almost called nine-one-one,” she added. “He was hyperventilating the whole drive into town.”

“I was worried you would ruin the seats in the Rabbit,” I joked, lazily resting my arm on the back of her chair.

“Ha!” She laughed, leaning into my side. “You guys should’ve seen his face when I came out of CVS with a pregnancy test. He had no idea.”

“Is it a boy or a girl?” Charlie asked.

“I don’t care,” Bella replied, resting a hand on her distended abdomen. “We’ll love it just the same, right, Jake?”

“Sure, sure,” I answered. “I hope it’s a girl, though.”

Charlie laughed. “Trust me – you don’t.”

A knock on the door interrupted our reunion. Sue came in looking tired, but her face lit up when she saw us sitting across from the door.

“Bella!” Sue squealed, running forward and throwing her arms around Bella’s neck. “Look at you!” She exclaimed, leaning back to get an eye full.

“Hi, Sue,” I drawled sarcastically. “I’m good, how are you?”

“Oh, Jake,” she replied exasperatedly. “I’m happy to see you, too.”

She turned back to Bella, who was glowing bright red with all the attention. I grabbed her hand and squeezed it comfortingly.

“How are you feeling, honey?” Sue asked.

“Like an overfilled water balloon,” Bella replied.

Sue launched into an account comparing her two pregnancies. Apparently, Sue and Harry had been convinced Leah was going to be an Olympic track star after she nearly ran a marathon on Sue’s bladder. The two of them commiserated together for a few minutes while I played with a strand of Bella’s hair that had freed itself from her ponytail.

Charlie stood up to take the plates to the sink, then grabbed my arm and pulled me out on the back porch. Billy followed, his wheels squeaking against the linoleum.

Before the door was fully closed, Charlie began the interrogation.

“What are your plans, Jacob?” He asked, eyeing me warily.

I gulped, glancing down at Billy. If I had been expecting him to help me in this situation, I would have been sorely disappointed. He looked back at me with the same hard stare Charlie was fixing me with.

“Well, we still have some money left over from selling the Chevy,” I hedged, leaving the motorcycles out of the equation. “I was gonna talk to the Council about fixing that boarded up house across from the River’s Edge. Maybe they’d be willing to give us a deal?” I asked, my eyes darting over to Billy.

“What happens when the money runs out?” Billy questioned, eyebrows furrowed over his dark, interrogating eyes.

“Old Quil said I could have a job at his store,” I replied, though he had given me the offer two years ago. “And I could fix up some cars, or maybe work on the fishermen’s boat engines.”

“Did you two get married while you were in Arizona?” Charlie asked, eyebrows raised.

I shook my head. Charlie’s mouth opened to protest, but I cut him off before he could begin.

“I asked every day for a week, but she just won’t do it,” I explained. “She doesn’t want a shotgun wedding.”

Charlie hummed thoughtfully, rubbing his chin. He and Billy shared a look, then glanced back at me. I must have looked nervous, or maybe they saw me sweating through my shirt, because they both broke into laughter.

“Don’t worry, kid,” Charlie said, resting his hand on my shoulder. “She’s stubborn, but she’ll come around. You managed to convince her to come back, which is more than I could do.” He scowled for a second, then his smile returned. “I’m here for you guys – anything you need, just ask Grandpa.”

“You can call him Grandpa,” Billy joked. “I’m still trying to think of a cool name. What do you guys think about Big Paw?”

I laughed nervously along with them, my heart still beating loudly in my ears.

“I’m here for you guys, too,” Billy added. “Cool name or not. I’ll talk to the council and see what I can do about that place on River Drive. That thing has been an eyesore for far too long.”

I sighed. “Thanks, Dad. And you too, Charlie. I know Bella will appreciate it.”

Sue and Bella had barely noticed our absence, except Sue had taken my seat. When we walked in, their heads snapped up at the sound of the door creaking.

“Where’d you guys go?” Bella asked, eyes wide.

“Had to talk to Jacob about a couple things,” Charlie replied.

Bella groaned. “Dad –”

“If you’re gonna make me a Grandpa so young, I’m well within my rights to make sure you’re being taken care of.” He clapped me on the shoulder gruffly while I winced.

We went over to Emily’s house next to see Sam and let him know we would be coming back.

The pack was pumped to see us again. When we pulled up to Emily’s house they all poured out like miners coming out of the shaft at closing time. For a minute there was too much shouting to understand what they were saying, but then it became a swarm of, “congratulations,” and “welcome back!”

Embry and Quil started taking bets on when Bella would pop. Seth was jumping up and down, with Brady and Collin vibrating with excitement next to him. Emily marched right up to Bella with her brand new baby son in her arms and proclaimed that their children would be best friends growing up, and Bella cried, as she had been doing so often lately.

It felt good to be home.

 

We fixed up the place on River, on the edge of the reservation, just down the street from Old Quil’s corner store and the Council building. It was a tiny shack across from the docks that smelled like saltwater and wildflowers, due to the massive overgrowth of chocolate vine which had been allowed to crawl and climb uninhibited. It took me half an hour to cut out an opening in the massive bush to get to the door, and by then I was ready to just set the whole thing on fire and try to put it out before the house burned down completely.

Bella saved me the trouble by going absolutely wild for the flowers. She came by the house while the boys and I were working on it. Sam was willing to help, and he’d roped Paul and Jared into getting the plumbing fixed. I’d promised Embry and Quil if they helped me rebuild the overgrown shack I’d help them put together a ’79 Ford Pinto they’d gotten for the price of hauling it off of an old man’s lawn. It was sitting in the muddy driveway when Emily drove Bella over to see us.

I ran up to the door immediately. Bella’s balance problems had only gotten worse. She didn’t protest anymore – she’d taken a dive getting off of Billy’s couch and landed herself smack into Charlie’s shoulder. When I helped her out, she gaped in awe at the shaggy-looking shed.

“What do you think?” I asked, rubbing my neck. Why was I suddenly nervous?

“I love it,” she breathed, grabbing my hand, her eyes brimming with tears.

Bella had always been an easy crier, but now it was like flipping a light switch. She refused let me to cut the vines anymore, instead insisting on doing it herself so as to salvage as much of the rampant plant as she could.

Once we could get inside – all of us ducking under the thick eave of ivy – it wasn’t much better than the outside. Weeds were growing up through the floorboards, a startled rat scurried across the floor, and a no-longer-white tarp hung heavily in place of the back wall in the bedroom.

But I was excited. I loved having a project. I shared a look with Embry and Quil, and even though we weren’t wolves and couldn’t hear each other’s thoughts, I knew we were all thinking the same thing. Quil was the only one who felt the need to say it.

“Let’s do this!” He yelled, throwing a hammer at the wall.

“Dude!” I exclaimed, yanking it out of the wood. “Why did you do that?”

“Sorry, man,” Quil apologized, but his eyes were still bright with anticipation. “I just got excited, is all. We’re gonna have to demo that wall, anyway.”

We did end up having to demo that wall. Most of the other ones, too. Sam accused us of getting “carried away,” but I insisted that I just wanted the house to have a good foundation. In the end, the walls weren’t the hard part; the roof was my trial. Eventually, I was reduced to starting from scratch, but it gave me the opportunity to add a room in the attic.

Bella had tamed the chocolate vine until the outside of the house looked like it had grown up out of the earth. I was astonishingly glad she had stopped me from setting them on fire.

The house wasn’t finished, but it was warm, and the roof no longer leaked, so we put a mattress in the back bedroom and started sleeping there. I’d had it on Charlie’s couch. We’d been staying together at his house, but Bella slept up in her room, which was completely off-limits to me, to both our surprise. It wasn’t like we were having sex, anyway, since Bella was near bursting. But he was resolute in his assertion that we were not married and I was still only seventeen. We cheated most nights, until he caught us in the same bed together one too many times. By the time we left, he had started curling up in the hall outside of Bella’s room in a sleeping bag to prevent me from sneaking in.

Needless to say, he was happy to see us gone, too.

It was on the first night we spent in the house that it happened. I was fast asleep when Bella punched me in the gut.

“Hey!” I exclaimed. “What was that for?”

Bella grunted, sitting up and pressing her back against the wall.

“Are you okay?”

“No,” she moaned, throwing her head back. Her teeth were clenched, face twisted in pain.

“Bells?” I asked, jumping forward onto my knees in front of her, my hands flailing around uselessly to find the problem.

“It’s a contraction,” she explained. “They just started a minute ago.”

The rest of the night turned into a blur. I drove to the hospital in Forks at breakneck speed, grateful for the cruiser in front of us with its sirens on. Bella had enough wits to give her dad a call while I was busy running around the house like a chicken with its head cut off. Charlie had the foresight to use his radio and tell them we were coming, so when we arrived there was a wheelchair waiting.

Somehow, despite everything else going on, I was still relieved when Bella’s water broke outside of the Rabbit. It felt like divine intervention; the moment she stood up from the seat, the fluid went falling onto the cement, and I almost sighed. My shoulders relaxed. The upholstery was untouched, so I could worry about the more pressing matter at hand.

Things went fast after that. I didn’t know how quickly twelve hours could fly by until we were staring at our son at two in the morning, marveling at the miracle in our hands.

“I’m sorry about what I said,” Bella sighed, smiling up at me.

I smiled, remembering how brutal she had gotten towards the end.

“I swear to God, Jacob,” she panted while I wiped her forehead. “You’re getting your fucking tubes tied after this –” she broke off in a yowl of pain.

I shrugged, then leaned down to kiss her forehead.

“’S not important.”

There was a soft yellow glow coming from the overhead light, illuminating the new little face neither of us could stop looking at. Bella had scooched over to make room for me on the bed. I was sitting half-way behind her, one arm wrapped around her shoulders and my other hand brushing the little tuft of hair on our son’s head. It felt too soft to be real, like a downy patch of black feathers.

“I think he looks like you,” Bella hummed, resting her head in the crook of my neck.

“He has your nose,” I murmured, pressing my cheek against her hair.

“Do you still have the list?” She asked suddenly, craning her neck to look at me.

“Yup,” I answered, pulling out a crinkled piece of motel stationary from my pocket. “You wanna see if any of them fit?”

She nodded, relaxing back into her previous position, stroking our son’s cheek with the back of her pointer finger.

“Harry?” I began, looking down at the newborn expectantly.

No reaction.

“I guess we can’t expect him to pick his own name,” Bella sighed.

I chuckled softly, the sound rumbling in my throat. “He can always change it later.”

“That’s true,” she conceded. “What’s the next one?”

“Billy?”

The newborn continued sleeping soundly.

“What about Charlie?” Bella wondered.

Still nothing.

“Sam?”

Zilch.

We went down the list, trying to find a name that felt right. Nothing stuck; eventually we had to start improvising.

“Simon?”

“Hector?”

“Kyle?”

“What about Jacob?” She suggested. “We can call him Junior.”

I smiled. “I like that.”

“Hi, Junior,” she cooed, and the baby stirred. His little head turned towards the sound of his mother’s voice, and a tiny fist appeared above the blanket, flexing and then splaying his fingers out from the tightly wrapped bundle, only to curl around the cotton seam a moment later.

“I think we have a name,” she breathed, picking up a little blue hat – was it supposed to be that small? – and pulling it over his head.

“Jacob Black Junior,” she murmured, letting out a deep breath.

“You must be exhausted,” I commented.

“Mm-hmm,” she hummed, her eyes falling shut.

“I’m gonna take the baby now,” I said, gently easing him into my arms.

“Don’t leave,” Bella pleaded, leaning into my side.

“No, of course not, honey,” I replied, tightening my arm around her shoulder. “We’ll be right here when you wake up.”

“’Kay,” she sighed, her fingers resting on where our son’s feet were swaddled up in the blanket.

Her breathing slowed, and after a few moments I checked to make sure she was sleeping before looking back down at our son, who now shared my name.

“You’ve got the best mom,” I told him. “Really. And your grandpas are looking out for you, no matter what. Plus, you’ve got a whole pack of werewolves circling the hospital right now.” I glanced out the window, trying to spot my extended family in the black night.

“You won’t have to turn into a wolf,” I promised him. “We won’t stick around if the Cullens come back. We’ll go South, to Phoenix. That’s where your Mom is from, though you wouldn’t know it by looking at her – we think she might be part albino. Which means you are, too, but you don’t look pale enough.”

I stroked his russet skin – only a shade lighter than my own. “But the Cullens won’t come back. And you’ll be safe, I promise. I won’t let anything happen to you.” I leaned down to kiss his forehead.

“You’ve got such a bright future ahead of you, kid. I’m gonna fix up that house on River – the one with all the wildflowers outside. You’re gonna love it. I think Charlie – I mean, Grandpa – still has your mom’s old crib in his attic. We can use that. And Grandma Sue is really good at knitting. She’s got a bunch of blankets sitting in her closet that we can use.”

The baby continued sleeping, and after murmuring a few more plans in his ears, I thought he might have the right idea. My eyes fluttered closed, and we slept together as a family for the first time.

The End.