After almost an hour - the others were still deeply absorbed in their discussion, Seth and Jacob snoring in harmony on the couch - Renesmee's memory stories began to slow. They got slightly blurry around the edges and drifted out of focus before they came to their conclusions. I was about to interrupt Edward in a panic - was there something wrong with her? - when her eyelids fluttered and closed. She yawned, her plump pink lips stretching into a

round O, and her eyes never reopened.

Her hand fell away from my face as she drifted to sleep - the backs of her eyelids were the pale lavender color of thin clouds before the sunrise. Careful not to disturb her, I lifted that hand back to my skin and held it there curiously. At first there was nothing, and then, after a few minutes, a flickering of colors like a handful of butterflies were scattering from her thoughts.

Mesmerized, I watched her dreams. There was no sense to it. Just colors and shapes and faces. I was

pleased by how often my face - both of my faces, hideous human and glorious immortal - cropped up in her unconscious thoughts. More than Edward or Rosalie. I was neck and neck with Jacob; I tried not to let that get to me.

For the first time, I understood how Edward had been able to watch me sleep night after boring night, just to hear me talk in my sleep. I could watch Renesmee dream forever.

The change in Edward's tone caught my attention when he said, "Finally," and turned to gaze out the window. It was deep, purply night outside, but I could see just as far as before. Nothing was hidden in the darkness; everything had just changed colors.

Leah, still glowering, got up and slunk into the brush just as Alice came into view on the other side of the river. Alice swung back and forth from a branch like a trapeze artist, toes touching hands, before throwing her body into a graceful flat spin over the river. Esme made a more traditional leap, while Emmett charged right through the water, splashing water so far that splatters hit the back windows. To my surprise, Jasper followed after, his own efficient leap seeming understated, even subtle, after the others. k

The huge grin stretching Alice's face was familiar in a dim, odd way. Everyone was suddenly smiting at me - Esme sweet, Emmett excited, Rosalie a little superior, Carlisle indulgent, and Edward expectant.

Alice skipped into the room ahead of everyone else, her hand stretched out in front of her and impatience making a nearly visible aura around her. In her palm was an everyday brass key with an oversized pink satin bow tied around it.

She held the key out for me, and I automatically gripped Renesmee more securely in my right arm so that I could open my left. Alice dropped the key into it.

"Happy birthday!" she squealed.

I rolled my eyes. "No one starts counting on the actual day of birth," I reminded her. "Your first birthday is at the year mark, Alice."

Her grin turned smug. "We're not celebrating your vampire birthday. Yet. It's September thirteenth, Bella. Happy nineteenth birthday!"

24. SURPRISE

"No. No way!" I shook my head fiercely and then shot a glance at the smug smile on my seventeen-year-old husband's face. "No, this doesn't count. I stopped aging three days ago. I am eighteen forever."

"Whatever," Alice said, dismissing my protest with a quick shrug. "We're celebrating anyway, so suck it up."

I sighed. There was rarely a point to arguing with Alice.

Her grin got impossibly wider as she read the acquiescence in my eyes.

"Are you ready to open your present?" Alice sang.

"Presents," Edward corrected, and he pulled another key - this one longer and silver with a less gaudy blue bow - from his pocket.

I struggled to keep from rolling my eyes. I knew immediately what this key was to - the "after car." I wondered if I should feel excited. It seemed the vampire conversion hadn't given me any sudden interest in sports cars.

"Mine first," Alice said, and then stuck her tongue out, foreseeing his answer.

"Mine is closer."

"But look at how she's dressed" Alice's words were almost a moan. "It's been killing me all day. That is clearly the priority."

My eyebrows pulled together as I wondered how a key could get me into new clothes. Had she gotten me a whole trunkful?

"I know - I'll play you for it," Alice suggested. "Rock, paper, scissors."

Jasper chuckled and Edward sighed.

"Why you don't you just tell me who wins?" Edward said wryly.

Alice beamed. "I do. Excellent."

"It's probably better that I wait for morning, anyway." Edward smiled crookedly at me and then nodded toward

Jacob and Seth, who looked like they were crashed for the night; I wonder how long they'd stayed up this time. "I think it might be more fun if Jacob was awake for the big reveal, don't you agree? So that someone there is able to express the right level of enthusiasm?"

I grinned back. He knew me well.

"Yay," Alice sang. "Bella, give Ness - Renesmee to Rosalie."

"Where does she usually sleep?"

Alice shrugged. "In Rose's arms. Or Jacob's. Or Esme's. You get the picture. She has never been set down in her entire life. She's going to be the most spoiled half-vampire in existence."

Edward laughed while Rosalie took Renesmee expertly in her arms. "She is also the most unspoiled half-vampire in existence," Rosalie said. "The beauty of being one of a kind."

Rosalie grinned at me, and I was glad to see that the new comradeship between us was still there in her smile. I hadn't been entirely sure it would last after Renesmee's life was no longer tied to mine. But maybe we had fought together on the same side long enough that we would always be friends now. I'd finally made the same choice she would have if she'd been in my shoes. That seemed to have washed away her resentment for all my other choices.

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