"Are you sure this was a good idea?" Izzy asks me. We're standing on Kate's doorstep, clutching a birthday gift for her as we wait for someone to answer the door and let us in.
I wrap my arm protectively around her shoulders as Jimmy holds her hand. It's the first time I've been out with the two of them together since we were in Phoenix. Our first 'next step'.
"It's going to be fine," I say. "Safety in numbers."
Izzy's main concern, understandably, is my mom's presence.
"Hi!" Kate opens the door and lets us in. She smiles widely at Izzy and compliments the way she looks. Izzy thanks her and returns the compliment.
"Happy Birthday," I tell her, leaning in to kiss her cheek as I hand over her gift.
"Thank you! Come on through!" She beams as she turns to re-join the party and Izzy raises her eyebrows at me.
"You said Sasha would be here," Jimmy says. I smile.
"She's here somewhere," I tell him. "Let's go find her." I move forward, intending to follow Kate into the kitchen, but Jimmy spots Sasha amongst the people in the living room and veers that way. We watch him for a moment, but he's gone straight for my little girl and the pile of toys around her. He doesn't look back.
"Come on, let's get a drink," I say, placing my hand gently on Izzy's back and guiding her forward as we take a last glance back at Jimmy.
Rosalie is coming out of the kitchen as we approach the doorway. She hugs me, looking happier than she has in a long while.
"How are you doing?" I ask.
"I'm good. The court date is through for Royce's case. The cops are confident he'll do time, so I'm celebrating the beginning of the end." She raises her glass and grins. "I'll catch up with you later and give you the details," she says, moving past us.
Kate's busy in the kitchen, putting food from baking trays onto serving plates, while a tall guy with longish sandy-coloured hair, orbits around her, whispering things that make her laugh.
"Hey." I announce our presence in the room.
"Oh! Come on in here, I have introductions to make." She waves us in with a sweeping motion and the guy beside her stands up straight. "Edward, Izzy, this is Garrett. Garrett, this is Sasha's dad, Edward and his girlfriend Izzy."
Garrett steps forward and shakes my hand and then Izzy's. He smiles as he does, and has the gift of making you feel instantly comfortable. I see now where Kate's change in demeanour has come from since she's been seeing him.
"It's good to meet you at last," I tell him. And it is, because I've had a feeling he could be around for a long time, which means at some point he's going to be living under the same roof as my daughter. I'd be lying if I said the thought of another man taking on that role didn't bother me, but I'll be able to at least get some peace, if I'm convinced whoever it is, is a good guy.
Garrett launches into an easy conversation with me while he gets us all a drink, and Izzy steps forward and offers to help Kate with the food.
And then my mother comes through the door, speaking before she even gets to us, as usual.
"Have you seen that sweet little guy playing with Sasha through there?" She stops short as she sees us.
"Hi, Mom," I say, stepping forward and giving her a hug and a kiss.
"Hi, honey, how are you?" she asks.
"I'm good." I step back. "You remember Izzy?"
Of course she does, she's all I've talked about with my mom for the last few weeks, breaking everything down for her until she feels she can cope with the knowledge she's back in my life in a big way.
Izzy turns from the food and wipes her hands on a cloth, before extending one out to my mother.
"Hi, Mrs Cullen. That shade of blue really suits you."
My mom smiles. It's wavering and unsure, but it's a smile, and as she takes Izzy's hand she thanks her. I let the breath I was holding go, and my shoulders relax a little. Putting my arm around Izzy, I hug her into my side. My mom looks away, but the smile remains on her lips.
Maybe this can be alright after all.