Chapter 24


I groaned and stretched as I slowly awakened. I felt around with my arm, my eyes still closed, but my hand didn't come in contact with anything cold or hard. I slowly peeled up my eyelids, expecting to see Edward sitting in the rocking chair, smirking at how silly I looked reaching around blindly for him. The chair was empty, and so was the rest of my room. I then quickly checked my bedside table, where my Edward frequently left me notes. Sure enough, there was a piece of paper there.

I reached over and grabbed it, reading it in the comfort of my bed.

My Dear Bella,

I'm sorry I could not be there when you awoke, my darling, but you are a bit of a sleepyhead today. You'll see Esme and Alice shortly, after they talk with Charlie. Now, remember love, no tantrums. You don't want to hurt Esme's feelings do you? Or make Charlie look bad in front of my family? So just smile and be gracious and trust everything to work out in the end.


Your Edward

My Edward, what a sweet way to end the letter. Now what exactly did he want me to not throw a tantrum about? Hmmm, it clearly involved both Esme and Alice double teaming Charlie and pouring on the charm together. That couldn't be good. They could probably sweet talk Charlie into turning over his gun, locking himself in the holding cell, and giving them the keys. Not good at all. Not that they'd do that, of course. But what were they going to do?

As a matter of fact, I could hear two tinkling voices floating up the stairs right now. I recognized those voices. Then I heard the lower pitched, harder one. Charlie. Great. Esme and Alice were already with Charlie, spinning who knows what kind of story. Hadn't they told Charlie enough lies yet? The poor man must be practically swimming in all the bullshit around here. I was pretty sure Charlie wasn't anywhere near as oblivious as he pretended to be. He was a good cop after all. I figured it was all about choosing your battles. He didn't want to fight about me spending the night with Edward, so he pretended to believe me when I said I was sleeping in Alice's room. That way when he really needed or wanted to put his foot down, I was more likely to respect his authority. That was my theory anyway. Or maybe he was just passing the responsibility on to Carlisle and Esme, expecting them to enforce proper behavior. If anything happened, he could then blame them since it happened on their watch. He had no idea that they were so eager to have Edward happy and settled that they were practically pushing me into his bed. Well, Alice was anyway. After all, she was the one who ordered the bed in the first place.

I'd better drag myself out of bed and hurry downstairs to do some damage control. With my luck, Alice is getting him to agree to a fortnight long shopping trip around Europe this summer. I shuddered at the idea of letting Alice loose in Paris with an unlimited credit card. Not to mention the number of outfits she'd force me to try. They'd have to rent a plane just to carry all her shopping bags back to the States. Then Esme would need to build an extension onto the house, just for Alice's closet.

I hopped out of bed, nearly falling into my nightstand, but catching myself just in time. "Ha!" I thought. "Take that, clumsy klutz gene."

I had taken my shower last night before bed, so I just threw on some fresh clothes after a quick trip to the bathroom to relieve myself, wash my face and hands, and to brush my teeth. I stumbled downstairs barefoot, in a hurry to find out what whoppers were slipping through Alice's not so innocent lips. Unfortunately, my klutz gene kicked in just as it usually does when I'm in a hurry or distracted. My heel slipped on the second to last step, propelling me forward sooner than expected and off balance. Thankfully, the sweet pixie I had been maligning in my thoughts had foreseen this problem and had righted me before Charlie could even register my slip. Gotta love that girl.

"Hey, Alice, good morning! To what do I owe the pleasure of your company this fine morning?" I declared enthusiastically, subtly teasing her. She stuck her tongue out at me when Charlie wasn't looking.

"It's not morning anymore, slugabed. It's officially after noon," she protested. I looked at the clock. It was two minutes after twelve. I rolled my eyes.

"How come nobody woke me up before now?" I pondered. Usually, somebody would shake me awake in the morning, even on weekends, demanding my immediate attention. If it wasn't Edward, it would be Charlie, Emmett, or Alice. I hadn't slept this late since I left Phoenix.

"We felt you could use your rest, Bells," my father responded with a small smile. "We have some bad news for you, kiddo."

I could feel panic hitting. Oh, no! What was wrong to have my father so distressed? "What? What is it?" I demanded, going a little off the deep end. Charlie looked despairingly over at Alice, his eyes pleading for her to be the one to break the news. I looked at her and waited.

She put on the most guilty, distraught face I'd ever seen. If I didn't have first-hand knowledge of her acting skills, I would have completely bought into it. "Bella, I'm so, so sorry." I waited patiently. I knew there was more coming. "It was so sweet of you to let me borrow your truck. I'm so sorry about the crash, it was purely an accident. This deer just jumped out in front of me, and when I swerved to miss it, I ended up taking out a tree instead. I'm afraid your poor little truck just didn't survive the impact. We can have a memorial service for it if you want. After all, it was a brave little truck, and it gave you all it had to give for the last few months of its life."

I stared at her incredulously, letting her words sink in slowly. I didn't let her borrow my truck. Accident, my tail feathers. Like her vampire reflexes couldn't swerve in time. Like her visions would have failed to inform her of the deer's location in the first place. A memorial service?

"Alice Cullen, you wrapped my truck around a freaking tree?" I shouted, causing her to flinch. "How dare you? You better hope and pray that Rosalie can fix it, because if she can't…"

Esme put her hands on my shoulders, effectively stopping my rant mid-beat, before I could threaten Alice's undead existence with a propane torch.

"Now, dear, we all know how much you loved your truck," Esme remarked smoothly. "We also know how much you love Alice, and I'm sure you don't care more about the truck than you do about Alice. Though one might be forgiven for wondering when you haven't even asked Alice how she is faring after being in an accident bad enough to total the vehicle she was driving." She squeezed my shoulders, reminding me how strange my behavior would seem to Charlie. I grimaced.

"It's not like it's the first time she's done it," I muttered. Loud enough for Charlie to hear, I asked, "So how are you doing, Alice? Were you injured in your accident?" I glared at her.

Alice put on a pained face. "Mostly just bruises, Bella, though I did twist my knee. Thank you for your concern."

I snorted, but quickly responded when Charlie gave me a funny look. "I'm so sorry you got hurt, Alice.

I'm sure you'll be feeling better in no time."

Her lips twitched, and her eyes gleamed with amusement, though her face still reflected pain.

Charlie decided it was time for him to intervene. "Bella, there's no need to be melodramatic. It was just a truck. Besides, it was covered under insurance. I'm just really glad nobody got seriously injured."

"Of course, Dad," I agreed. "I'm happy nobody got seriously injured also. Good thing I wasn't in the truck with you, Alice. Yep, the only casualty here was my TRUCK. But I'm sure the insurance check for $500 will find me a suitable replacement." I rolled my eyes. For the amount of money the insurance company would give me, I could get a really nice bicycle, and an umbrella, but that's about it. Goodbye freedom. Now I was going to be one of those free-loading teenagers always bumming rides off their friends.

"Well, since it was Alice's fault, I do believe it is her insurance company that will pay," Esme mentioned casually. "Of course, with an accident on her record, her insurance will be astronomical. And it will stay that way until she's 25."

Esme sighed pitifully, glancing at Charlie through her lashes. Charlie squirmed uncomfortably, never liking to see a woman in distress. He always felt the need to come to her rescue. It was one of the main reasons he became a police officer in the first place. He cleared his throat and blushed.

"Well, no real harm done, Esme. Maybe we could just not mention it to the insurance companies."

Her face lit up like she'd just won the lottery. "Really, Charlie, do you think that would be okay? I do really hate the idea of this accident hanging over Alice's head all those years."

He grinned like a schoolboy and bashfully replied, "Sure, Esme. I'd feel the same way if our positions were reversed."

I raised an eyebrow. What game was Esme playing? I had no doubt in my mind that the Cullens had deliberately trashed my beloved truck for their own intents and purposes. I just wasn't quite sure where this was going yet, especially since Esme was involved.

She beamed at Charlie but, suddenly, her face fell again. His fell just afterward, mirroring hers exactly.

"What's wrong?" he asked in concern.

Her sad eyes met his gaze, and I could tell he would do just about anything to get her to smile again. "Well, it wouldn't be fair to Bella just to drop it and leave her stranded without transportation."

He sadly nodded his head. "Yeah, that's true." He looked like somebody had just run over his dog.

Esme was better at playing men than both Rose and Alice. Who would've thought?

"Does Carlisle know how talented you are at dazzling human men?" I whispered under my breath. She turned her head to me, smirked and winked, before turning back to Charlie. Heaven help mankind if this woman ever decides to take over the world. I don't think the world's great leaders would stand a chance against her.

Esme's face lit up again. "Oh, I have an idea! We have so many cars, more than we have drivers, actually, and there's no need for them to simply take up space. Why don't we just give Bella one of those? They're all paid for, of course, and we wouldn't even miss it."

Charlie looked hesitant. "Yeah, but your cars are worth a lot more than Bella's truck was."

Esme shook her head. "Not really. That truck was an antique, a classic. It probably would have been worth quite a lot to a collector. Besides, we really should consider the sentimental value as well. We want Bella to be as happy with her new vehicle as she was with her truck, so there are no hard feelings putting a damper on her friendship with Alice."

Charlie looked like he was actually considering her argument.

Alice started bouncing up and down. "You're right, Esme. I really want Bella to be happy, and I don't want her to be upset with me anymore. How about we give her the Corvette? It is her favourite, and it's just going to be collecting dust if somebody doesn't drive it."

"I think that's a wonderful idea, Alice," Esme responded quickly before anyone else could say anything. Both she and Alice started giving Charlie the cute puppy eyes, trying to get him to agree. He melted instantly, no match for their charm. I couldn't blame him. After all, he's only human.

"Well, I suppose if Carlisle agrees, then that would be acceptable," Charlie hedged, believing Carlisle would veto the idea, thus painting himself the villain and Charlie the hero.

Next, the shameless vampires turned their eyes to me.

"Aaargh!" I groaned, covering my face with my hands. Well, my truck is dead. Long live the Corvette. Let's face it. I really wanted the 'Vette. Well, if the Cullens could afford South America, then giving me a Corvette wasn't much different from giving me a box of chocolates, in their eyes. "What about Edward?"

Alice grinned at me. "Well, he got tired of the Corvette and was going to retire it to gather dust. He's actually car shopping right now for something that better suits his interests."

So my darling Edward was in on this. I should have known.

I sighed. "Fine, I'll take the 'Vette on two conditions."

"What conditions, Bella dear?" Esme wondered.

"The first is that the whole Cullen family attends the memorial service for my truck, with Jasper playing Taps on the trumpet."

Alice laughed. "Done." Esme grimaced and seemed a bit more uncertain about that idea.

"The second, Alice, is that you and I come to a compromise about my birthday that is acceptable to both of us." I kept my eyes on hers, letting her know I was completely serious.

She seemed to have a short internal battle before finally shook my hand. "It's a deal, Bella Swan."

Esme and Alice waited while I ate a quick breakfast, and then we all rode over to the Cullen house. I worked on my memorial speech while we waited for Emmett and Edward to return. Just after lunch, the alert response of my family, along with Rosalie's sudden appearance in the room, let me know the boys were back. We all went out onto the front porch, but were surprised to see Edward riding in Emmett's Jeep. When he got out, I jumped eagerly into his arms.

"Where's your new car?" I asked.

He smiled. "I special ordered it, so I have to wait for it to be delivered."

"So what did you get?"

"Would you even know what it meant if I told you?"

I shrugged. "Nope!"

He laughed. "Then you can wait until it gets here."

"You know I hate surprises," I muttered grumpily.

"Apparently not as much as you love that Corvette, seeing as how it's going home with you today," he teased. I grinned.

As soon as Carlisle came home, Alice forced everyone to attend my truck's memorial service down by the river. She had taken a picture of my truck while it was still intact, and I brought it along to represent my old metal friend. I had Edward dig a small hole, just big enough for a ring box. As everyone gathered around, I made my speech.

"My Beloved Truck, I wish to honour your memory as you have finally wheezed your last and your engine shall turn over no more."

"Finally!" Rose muttered. "I thought I'd go deaf every time you pulled up near the house."

"And it was slower than molasses," Edward complained.

I chose to ignore them. "You lived a long and happy life, well cared for by your owners, and in return, you gave many decades of faithful service. Never once did you let me down when I had some place to go. Never once did you leave me stranded on the side of the road. Though you were frequently mocked toward the end of your life, you held your antenna up high. You kept your bumpers on straight and refused to back down from the challenges you faced. You kept your traction in snow and ice, with the help of snow chains, and you never steered me wrong. Though I am a danger magnet, I was safe in the embrace of your cab, as I never once had an accident with you. You granted me the freedom of mobility. I am sure you are now in pick-up truck heaven, and I'll never forget you, my first vehicle. May you rest in pieces."

So saying, I folded up the picture, stuffing it into the ring box and placed the ring box into the hole. I used the small garden trowel to fill in the space on top of it.

Alice handed me a small bouquet of roses. I sprinkled the petals on the river as Jasper played Taps with an old-fashioned bugle, instead of a modern trumpet. It was beautifully haunting, just as it was supposed to be.

After the final note, I sadly murmured, "Farewell, old friend."

"Is it over?" Emmett asked hesitantly. I nodded. In the blink of an eye, all the family members were gone, except for Edward, who calmly escorted me back to the house. Though the family was out of sight, I could still hear them.

There were multiple cheers, followed by a rousing rendition of, "Ding Dong! The truck is dead. Which old truck? Our Bella's truck! Ding Dong! Our Bella's truck is dead!"

I rolled my eyes and pretended not to hear. Unfortunately, it's such a catchy tune that I found mys9elf humming it periodically for the rest of the day, much to my family's amusement.

The End

A/N Hope you guys enjoyed it.