Edythe was losing her shit, Emmett decided as he watched her stare at the Swan girl from across the parking lot, and it was completely unexpected. Ever since he’d known Edythe—some eighty-odd years now—she’d been completely in control, had turned her nose up at the idea of hurting humans, had kept a perfect distance from all of them.
And it only took one fragile brunette to ruin all of that.
Because she was just that—fragile.
Rose was very unhappy about all of it. The night before, when Carlisle and Edythe had gone hunting, she’d told Emmett all of her concerns about the exposure and the danger of Edythe’s new obsession. For the most part, he agreed with her. In fact, the only way they differed was that he found the whole thing…kind of hilarious.
Careful and precise Edythe, absolutely wrecked with emotions about a really good-smelling human.
Not that he told Rose any of that—not yet, anyway. He would, once things calmed down.
Emmett was so caught up in staring at Edythe that he nearly missed Alice’s small gasp of “No!” and the screech of Tyler Crowley’s van. Of course, his hearing was supernatural, so he caught all of it, but still—Edythe tearing across the parking lot too fast for human eyes to follow was pretty distracting.
“Fuck,” he muttered when Edythe crushed the van. The argument that would follow this was going to be a real drag. He ambled over to Rose and slung an arm around her shoulder, watching as Tyler struggled to climb out of the car. He was shouting at Bella, asking if she was okay—it was all a bit much.
Rose had already pulled out her phone to make a phone call. “Esme, can you let Carlisle know we’re headed to the hospital? …Just me and Edythe, I think. No. We’re fine. Mostly. I’ll give you a call from the hospital, just…let Carlisle know. Bye.”
“I’m not invited?” Emmett asked Rose, a touch amused.
She shook her head. “No, I don’t want Edythe to feel attacked or ganged up on. But I do need to chew her out.”
He laughed, half nervous and half besotted. “Keep me updated.”
Emmett drummed his fingers on his desk in Trig, deep in thought. He kept a small amount of attention on the teacher in case he decided to call on him for a question, but for the most part, his mind was about half a mile away, at the hospital.
What would Bella Swan do?
He was certain he’d seen her make eye contact with Edythe—would she confront Edythe, insist that she knew the truth, or at least some version of it? Or would she dismiss it as crazy, impossible?
Hard to say.
One thing was sure. There would be a big argument tonight, and Emmett would have to pick a side. In most matters, he sided with Rose, and he could even say that he probably agreed with her on this front: Bella was a problem, and they needed to solve it. He couldn’t even say that her probable solution was a bad one.
He just hated to imagine how it would impact Edythe if they did kill Bella. For all that he’d teased her for being obsessed with the girl, she was full of more life and enthusiasm in the past two days than she’d been in at least thirty years.
All for a teenaged girl.
It occurred to him, quite suddenly, that Edythe was gay. Or at least crushing on one girl. As much as Rose—and he was sure, Jasper—might disagree, that changed things. The question was whether or not to tell either of them. He didn’t like keeping things from his wife, but this was Edythe’s secret—if she even realized the truth of it yet.
He drummed his fingers some more, drawing a sharp glance from the teacher. “Mr. Cullen, would you come solve this problem?”
He sighed. Humans caused more problems than they were worth.
In life, Emmett had had three younger sisters. He didn’t remember specifics about them, of course. He had a vague idea about the oldest of them being extremely close to him, and there were many days when he cursed his inability to remember. He knew their names—Dorothy, Louise, Marjorie—and had a vague idea that they all had the same hair. Brown, with tight curls.
He didn’t remember his parents at all, though he was pretty sure that his mother was black. He had some soft, faded images of his parents, almost completely lost.
Thanks to modern technology, he’d been able to trace the lineage of his siblings. He had three grand-niblings (a word he learned thirty-four years ago and had not stopped using since) and two nieces. Marjorie never had children, having died shortly after he did, and Dorothy had several miscarriages before finally carrying one daughter to term.
(One thing he was grateful for was the advent of modern childbirth care. Rose had briefly studied obstetrics in the nineties, and still read constantly about new practices and discoveries in medical journals. It had never been a strong interest of Carlisle’s—he tended to work as an ER doctor and surgeon, saving the largest amount of lives that he could.)
Emmett kept up with his nieces and their children. He set up a scholarship for his oldest grand-nephew two years ago, when he’d been set to start college. It was all very above board—a foundation that picked a single student to support until they finished their higher education, even for multiple PhDs, if he wanted. He would do the same for his other grand-niblings, when the time came for them. What was the point of having money if he couldn’t take care of his family, after all?
And Edythe…was just another baby sister. Even if Emmett was the youngest in the family. It didn’t matter. He didn’t remember his siblings, not really—but he remembered who he was.
Lunch was usually a bore. Today was different.
There was lots of chatter in the cafeteria about the car accident—Jessica Stanley and Mike Newton had both gone to the hospital and were regaling their friends with what they’d found out, talking over each other eagerly. Bella was doing okay, and had gone home after only a few hours of being there, though she was apparently under strict instruction to come back immediately if she didn’t feel better by the next morning. Edythe was unscathed—everyone had seen that, and no one was particularly interested in her side of things. Tyler wasn’t so lucky.
“Dr. Cullen was there, looking beautiful as ever—“ Jessica was saying, when Jasper slammed into the room, looking absolutely furious.
For a moment, the cafeteria quieted, many people stopping to stare at him. Whispers picked up as Alice flitted in after him, catching his arm and whispering in his ear. In response to whatever she said—it had been quiet enough that Emmett couldn’t follow it—he close his eyes, exhaled sharply, and walked more calmly across the room. He was exuding calm now, strong enough even for Emmett to feel it at their table in the back corner of the cafeteria.
It wasn’t your average calm, though. It was…calculating.
Jasper had come to the same conclusion he’d predicted he would. Bella was a problem that needed solving, and he would have no problem arguing for it.
Emmett still wasn’t sure. He kept thinking about Edythe, quiet, miserable Edythe, genuinely laughing at Alice’s jokes, having fake-angry arguments with Rose, composing new music for the first time in years. Was losing this new Edythe worth their safety? Maybe. Maybe not.
“Bella kissed Edythe and Edythe LET HER!”
The text from Rose came in the middle of Emmett’s fifth period gym class. He didn’t see it until he was changing in the locker room, and seeing it made him frown. It gave weight to his theory that Edythe was crushing on this girl. It didn’t mean that Bella knew anything, but…it would be hard to keep the two of them apart.
Unless Jasper got his way.
“Edythe knows what she’s doing,” he texted back.
“I doubt it,” Rose responded immediately. She must have been waiting for his reply. “You know how she is. Always thinks she knows best just because she knows what everyone is thinking.”
“She can’t hear Bella,” he pointed out.
“Still. You know how she is.”
It was true, even if it wasn’t the nicest way to say it. Edythe could be a little bratty.
“I guess you’re right. Jasper thinks we should solve the problem.” Over text, he could hide his own discomfort. Rose might sense it, but it wouldn’t be obvious to anyone else.
“He’s right—why shouldn’t we?”
That was what Emmett was afraid of. He was never going to side with anyone but Rose, even if he didn’t always agree. She deserved to have someone on her team.
He sighed and tucked his phone away. He didn’t have a good answer for her, anyway.
“Bella Swan y Tyler Crowley—están bien?” Señora Goff asked.
“No se,” Edythe said flatly. She had paused at the front of the room, studiously staring at her feet. She seemed…troubled, more than anything.
Emmett was a bit surprised to see her so unresponsive. Now would have been a good time to suggest that any strange thing Bella might say would be dismissed as something from an injury…
Although, if Emmett’s suspicions about Edythe were correct, she did have feelings, and…she didn’t want to “besmirch Bella’s good name” or something pretentious like that.
He did understand, though. It was why he was always on Rose’s team, although—well, was it fair to compare whatever was building between Edythe and Bella with their almost 82 year marriage? Whatever. The point was…he was pretty sure Edythe didn’t want to make Bella look bad.
She wasn’t totally stupid though. She must trust Bella not to reveal anything she shouldn’t.
Still…’I hope you have a good explanation for what happened today. Rose is on the warpath.’
Edythe just rolled her eyes in response as she walked to her desk, right next to his. She didn’t speak, apparently very distracted.
He decided not to press her for an answer just yet. With her distraction…he hated to add on to her load, but, she would need to know…’Look out for Jasper. He’s not as angry as Rose, but he’s more resolved.’
Emmett was no empath, but he could recognize the absolute rage that washed over Edythe. He grabbed her shoulder, firm, not quite his full strength. Edythe wouldn’t respond well to a threat, but she needed to be grounded right now. ‘Jesus Christ, kid, calm down!’
She seemed more present at least, but still furious, not quite calm.
More grounding was obviously necessary. ‘Jasper’s not going to do anything until we all talk. I just thought you should know the direction he’s headed.’
That seemed to soothe her, so he let his grip go slack.
“Don’t call me that,” she muttered.
‘What, “kid?” Suck it up, Edy.’
“Don’t call me that, either.” She seemed lost in her thoughts.
Emmett had never wished for Edythe’s “gift,” and he didn’t want it now, either. Still, it would have been nice to know where her head was at. Was she going to stick with Bella so strongly that an actual fight would break out?
She didn’t give any sort of indication as she drove the five of them home. Rose was seething, and Jasper was quiet, projecting a strong sense of surety. It didn’t make Emmett feel any better.
It also didn’t make him feel any better when Alice caught Edythe’s arm and quietly said, “You have three paths ahead. They mostly end well.” Because it sounded like at least one of those paths involved Edythe taking a stand, probably against Jasper…and Rose.
Carlisle was already home when they arrived. He’d taken an early shift at the hospital. It was convenient—Emmett hated the anticipation before a fight. He’d rather be through with it and working toward reconciliation.
Everyone stayed quiet as they walked through the house and into the dining room. As always, Emmett was amused by the room. Every once in a while, he liked to imagine actually bringing one of his bears home to eat on the table. It wouldn’t exactly match the image they were trying to cultivate by having a dining room table, but still—funny.
Edythe broke the silence once everyone aside from Jasper was seated. (He’d elected to remain standing, but it didn’t surprise anyone. He never liked pretending.) “I’m sorry,” she said, making careful eye contact with everyone. “I was reckless, and rash, and…I take full responsibility for my hasty action.”
Rose wasn’t impressed. “So you’re taking responsibility. Great. Are you going to fix it?”
“I…I think I should leave town. Most of you know that…Bella kissed me. I think if I leave, it’s not too early for her to move on and forget about all of this.”
“No,” Esme said immediately. “I don’t want this family to be broken up. Not now.”
Edythe patted her hand. “It’s just a few years. And I’ll keep in touch. I…could reasonably live in Seattle, and visit every weekend or so.”
It wasn’t really enough though, even if they didn’t often spend their days together. And in any case… “Esme’s right, though,” Emmett said. “You can’t go anywhere now. That would be the opposite of helpful. We have to know what people are thinking, now more than ever.” He didn’t say aloud that he thought it strange that Edythe hadn’t tried to discredit Bella before she could speak, but he didn’t stop himself from thinking it, either.
She winced, but pressed on. “Alice will catch anything major.”
“Maybe, but wouldn’t Bella be more suspicious if only you disappear?” Esme wondered. She had taken Edythe’s hand in her own.
“It’s all of us leave, or none of us,” Carlisle agreed.
“She won’t say anything,” Edythe burst out quickly. She anxiously looked around the table, eyes noticeably skipping over Rose. “I’m sure of it—I pointed out how crazy she would seem if she did. Alice, back me up.”
Everyone looked at Alice, who still hadn’t spoken since her brief comment to Edythe. “I can’t see what will happen if we just ignore this.”
Rose couldn’t hold it in for any longer. “We can’t allow the human a chance to say anything! Even if we did disappear—which is stupid, by the way—it’s not safe to leave stories behind us. Aro would not hesitate—“
“We’ve left rumors behind us before,” Edythe interrupted.
Rose shook her head, still fuming. “Never something so bold as this. People saw, Edythe. And phones, now, I mean—there might be evidence.”
“Evidence!” Edythe scoffed. “You and I both know that humans don’t want to believe anything. They joke about Keanu Reeves living forever but no one believes it. We’re about as realistic as Homey the Clown!”
“Rose—“ Carlisle began.
“It doesn’t have to be showy, or suspicious,” Rose stopped him. “She could have had a concussion today. Maybe you missed something and she dies in her sleep. Aro would expect us to take care of it—he’d expect Edythe to take care of it, but this is obviously beyond her. You know I’m capable of control. I would leave no evidence behind me.”
“Yes, Rosalie, we all know how proficient an assassin you are,” Edythe snarled.
“Watch your goddamn mouth, Edythe,” Emmett snapped. He might not agree with Rose right now, but he wasn’t going to let Edythe throw Rose’s trauma in her face. “You know you were as much a part of that as she was, anyway, not to mention your own personal body count.”
Edythe looked appropriately reprimanded, though still angry. “I’m sorry,” she muttered.
Carlisle nodded at her, and then looked over at Rose. “You know my stance on Rochester, Rose. This is not the same situation. The Swan girl is innocent.”
“Obviously it’s not the same situation,” she gritted out. “It’s not personal. It’s to protect us all.”
Rose would always do what she could to protect those she loved. It was something Emmett had always adored about her. Jasper thought it odd that he still looked after his family, but Rose understood it, encouraged it, even. She’d briefly looked into her own family and had been disappointed to find out that she didn’t have any surviving family. She visited their graves on occasion, but he knew she wished she had something similar. She’d made do with their makeshift group, but it was never quite the same.
Carlisle sighed. “I know you mean well, Rosalie, but…I’d like very much for our family to be worth protecting. The occasional…accident or lapse in control is a regrettable part of who we are. But this wouldn’t be a lapse, it would be…murder. And I just can’t justify that, despite whatever risk she might present. Not to mention it would break our treaty with the Quileutes.”
Edythe looked like she was straining a muscle trying not to smirk.
Emmett couldn’t help but roll his eyes. Still… Carlisle was right about the Quileutes.
“If we make exceptions to protect ourselves, we risk something much more important,” Carlisle continued, frowning. “We risk losing the essence of who we are.” It was incredibly pretentious, but it was exactly the kind of rhetoric that would sway Rose.
Emmett moved to wrap an arm around her shoulders as she slumped forward.
“It’s just being responsible,” she said.
“It’s being callous,” Carlisle corrected gently. “Every life is precious.”
Rose sighed heavily and her lower lip pouted out. Emmett patted her shoulder, overcome, as ever, with how cute she was. “It’ll be fine, Rose,” he encouraged in a low voice.
“So, should we leave?” Esme spoke up.
“No,” Rose moaned. “We just got settled. I don’t want to start on my sophomore year in high school again!”
“You could keep your present age, of course,” Carlisle said.
“And have to move again that much sooner?” she countered. “I like it here! There’s so little sun, we get to be almost normal.”
“We could wait and see what Bella does,” Esme pointed out gently. “Edythe seems certain of her silence.”
Rose snorted, but Emmett couldn’t help but relax. He no longer had to compromise on anything he was uncertain about.
He would still be strongly for fixing things.
“I won’t let you hurt her,” Edythe said firmly. She didn’t bother to address her comment—they all knew who she was talking to.
“I won’t let Alice live in danger, even a slight danger. You don’t feel about anyone the way I feel about her, Edythe, and you haven’t lived through what I’ve lived through, whether you’ve seen my memories or not. You don’t understand.”
Emmett didn’t like to be around Jasper when he got this way. It was unsettling, how dangerous he was like this. Rose cared about them as a family unit, but even on his best days, Jasper’s family was Alice. The rest of them were friends, or…cousins, at most.
Edythe didn’t balk, though. “I know. But the point stands. I won’t allow you to hurt Isabella Swan.”
The two of them stared each other down, obviously sizing each other up. None of them had ever fought in earnest before, but the energy in the room was heavy. If the two of them fought, it wouldn’t be something he’d like to witness.
Alice interrupted, though, apparently uninterested in letting the showdown go on. “Jazz. That’s not what I’m going to say.”
It never takes much for Alice to talk Jasper down, and the revelation that Bella is going to be Alice’s best friend really isn’t a surprise, not if anyone has been paying attention. Emmett very carefully doesn’t think about his realization—it’s Edythe’s secret, and he’s not going to give any sign that he knows. And Edythe is too distracted by Alice and Jasper to notice Emmett’s quiet thoughts.
“This is weird, right?” Rose murmured quietly. “She never loses control like this.”
“You mean you never lose control like this,” Emmett corrected her. “But it is unusual for Edythe.”
She doesn’t quite preen at his praise, but it’s a near thing. She carefully plaits her hair, obviously thoughtful. “I caught a whiff of her at the hospital today. She does smell good, but...I can’t imagine losing control over something so...simple. Not Edythe...”
He just shrugged in response. He can remember two times when he smelled people as delicious as Edythe claimed Bella smelled. Neither of them had survived. “Maybe you’ll smell someone new soon and change your tune,” he teased.
Her eyes flashed mischievously. “Maybe.” She tossed her hair over her shoulder and then curled up into his embrace.
He didn’t tell her what he suspected, not yet.
But he would keep an eye on his little sister and her new...friend. They couldn’t be allowed to put the rest of them at risk. He was no advocate for violence, but if things kept on the same path they had been...well, there was still a problem that needed solving.
Ever mindful of Alice and Edythe, Emmett didn’t make a plan of what exactly he would do—not yet. The best chance of success would be to come up with something on the fly, early enough to nip things in the bud, and not to share anything too risky—not for Bella. But most importantly, nothing too risky for the family.
After all, family was everything.