"It caught my eye from the window of an antique store while I was driving by."

I shook the little golden locket into his palm. It was round with a slender vine border carved around the outside edge of the circle. Edward popped the tiny catch and looked inside. There was space for a small picture and, on the opposite side, an inscription in French.

"Do you know what this says?" he asked in a different tone, more subdued than before.

"The shopkeeper told me it said something along the lines of 'more than my own life.' Is that right?"

"Yes, he had it right."

He looked up at me, his topaz eyes probing. I met his gaze for a moment, then pretended to be distracted by the television.

"I hope she likes it," I muttered.

"Of course she will," he said lightly, casually, and I was sure in that second that he knew I was keeping something from him. I was also sure that he had no idea of the specifics.

"Let's take her home," he suggested, standing and putting his arm around my shoulders.

I hesitated.

"What?" he demanded.

"I wanted to practice with Emmett a little___" I'd lost the whole day to my vital errand; it made me feel behind.

Emmett - on the sofa with Rose and holding the remote, of course - looked up and grinned in anticipation. "Excellent. The forest needs thinning."

Edward frowned at Emmett and then at me.

"There's plenty of time for that tomorrow," he said.

"Don't be ridiculous," I complained. "There's no such thing as plenty of time anymore. That concept does not exist. I have a lot to learn and - "

He cut me off. "Tomorrow."

And his expression was such that not even Emmett argued.

I was surprised at how hard it was to go back to a routine that was, after all, brand new. But stripping away even that little bit of hope I'd been fostering made everything seem impossible.

I tried to focus on the positives. There was a good chance that my daughter was going to survive what was

coming, and Jacob, too. If they had a future, then that was a kind of victory, wasn't it? Our little band must be going to hold their own if Jacob and Renesmee were going to have the opportunity to run in the first place. Yes, Alice's strategy only made sense if we were going to put up a really good fight. So, a kind of victory there, too, considering that the Volturi had never been seriously challenged in millennia.

It was not going to be the end of the world. Just the end of the Cullens. The end of Edward, the end of me.

I preferred it that way - the last part anyway. I would not live without Edward again; if he was leaving this world, then I would be right behind him.

I wondered idly now and then if there would be anything for us on the other side. I knew Edward didn't really believe so, but Carlisle did. I couldn't imagine it myself. On the other hand, I couldn't imagine Edward not existing somehow, somewhere. If we could be together in any place, then that was a happy ending.

And so the pattern of my days continued, just that much harder than before.

We went to see Charlie on Christmas Day, Edward, Renesmee, Jacob, and I. All of Jacob's pack were there, plus Sam, Emily, and Sue. It was a big help to have them there in Charlie's little rooms, their huge, warm bodies wedged into corners around his sparsely decorated tree - you could see exactly where he'd gotten bored and quit - and overflowing his furniture. You could always count on werewolves to be buzzed about a coming fight, no matter how suicidal. The electricity of their excitement provided a nice current that disguised my utter lack of spirit. Edward was, as always, a better actor than I was.

Renesmee wore the locket I'd given her at dawn, and in her jacket pocket was the MP3 player Edward had given her - a tiny thing that held five thousand songs, already filled with Edward's favorites. On her wrist was an intricately braided Quileute version of a promise ring. Edward had gritted his teeth over that one, but it didn't bother me.

Soon, so soon, I would be giving her to Jacob for safekeeping. How could I be bothered by any symbol of the commitment I was so relying on?

Edward had saved the day by ordering a gift for Charlie, too. It had shown up yesterday - priority overnight shipping - and Charlie spent all morning reading the thick instruction manual to his new fishing sonar system.

From the way the werewolves ate, Sue's lunch spread must have been good. I wondered how the gathering would have looked to an outsider. Did we play our parts well enough? Would a stranger have thought us a happy circle of friends, enjoying the holiday with casual cheer?

I think Edward and Jacob both were as relieved as I was when it was time to go. It felt odd to spend energy on the human fagade when there were so many more important things to be doing. I had a hard time concentrating. At the same time, this was perhaps the last time I would see Charlie. Maybe it was a good thing that I was too numb to really register that.

I hadn't seen my mother since the wedding, but I found I could only be glad for the gradual distancing that had begun two years ago. She was too fragile for my world. I didn't want her to have any part of this. Charlie was stronger.

Maybe even strong enough for a goodbye now, but I wasn't.

It was very quiet in the car; outside, the rain was just a mist, hovering on the edge between liquid and ice. Renesmee sat on my lap, playing with her locket, opening and closing it. I watched her and imagined the things I would say to Jacob right now if I didn't have to keep my words out of Edward's head.

If its ever safe again, take her to Charlie. Tell him the whole story someday. Tell him how much I loved him, how I couldn't bear to leave him even when my human life was over. Tell him he was the best father. Tell him to pass my love on to Renee, all my hopes that she will be happy and well....

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