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The Hales

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I
And in the morning the light had shifted to warmer hues, though to her eyes it revealed no more than the previous night, which had been thick with cool blues and purples, and heavy in the spruce trees. In the woman beside her this gradual illumination of the stream and its surrounding shrubbery, its low-hanging branches dipping vaguely into the water, elicited an almost imperceptible fluttering of the eyelids, though through the surface of the stream her face was quite broken into rounded, gleaming fragments. Bella felt at her own through the ripples with cool fingers, considering. The stones at her back were flat, and less than painful, and in fact offered her an unyielding niche, less substantial by far than Rosalie, who lay with one arm loosely at her side, pulled gently by the stream, and the other pressed against Bella’s own. As she watched, a small clear fish began to struggle against the current, roused instinctively by the presence of two predators, and jackknifed frantically in a feeble attempt to escape. In the next second, taking pity on the prey upstream, Bella had surged upwards and sloughed off the water in what seemed to be sheets of yellow light, colored by the pale morning sun, and begun to wonder if she would be able to make it back to the house before Renesmee woke. To Rosalie her sudden movement denoted a very large amount of sorrow at the passing of the night, which had rendered them both helpfully inconspicuous, and aided them in the capture of several tufted wolves, who had whined and run with soft steps at the first scent of them. Yes, she thought impassively. There would be less chances for an easy kill tonight -- it would be a gibbous moon, the last of the season.

II
The news they received, some days later, was not enough to sour the rapidly approaching summer, bringing with it great scores of bleating deer and newly sprouted wildflowers, as well as a chorus of green-backed cicadas on the western wind.

III
“Well, there’s nothing can be changed about the past,” Bella said, leaning down to gather Renesmee into her breast. “Only remembered.”
“Shall I leave the books on the porch for your mother?” Rosalie asked, darting past from the nearby copse, littered with pine needles.
“Yes, I think she’ll come by later tonight,” Bella said, and smelled the air for her mother’s perfume. Renesmee’s clean scent overwhelmed the yard.

IV
“No, not in the usual ways,” replied Renesmee to her mother. “I only meant if you could. If you wanted to.” It troubled her a great deal to broach the subject of her father, particularly when the night was so young, but she had grown, that afternoon, more worried with each interminably long second. She had discovered only a few hours earlier the news Alice had brought several weeks before, and gone quiet until they reached home, not in grief or childish shock, but in thought, for she had seen the damage he had wrought on her mothers, and had unquestioningly stood with them both. She was quite sure of his guilt, and was thinking, now, only of the scars he had left behind, just as clear to her young eyes as they were to the others. But indeed she was fearful, not of her bygone father, but rather for herself, because she was, after all, not yet a decade old, and as such clutched instinctively closer to Bella’s breast. The air was brisk and the croaks of the frogs were slow and she felt only the unyielding stillness of the arms around her.
And in that manner summer slunk up on the little stone house. What the new-blossoming trees encountered in the soil outside was a predatory chill, perfectly agreeable to the family inside, but quite offensive to their delicately woven root systems, young enough to gradually draw away, toward less wintry paths. Fortunately the summer roses already climbing the window frames regarded the Hales’ temperatures in a much more tolerable light, and all through the summer Renesmee woke to the blossoms just peering inside her rooms, winding around the frame to stretch toward the warmth of sunrise. Softening breezes crept through the house in curious formations, inspecting every crevice of the pitted stone, each discarded umbrella or knitted hat, lying alone but not forgotten on tables carved with furred satyrs and their great warm feasts, horns of wine in every hand. In the paintings on the walls there emerged a startling and obvious shift: what had once been gloomy, white-robed saints and picnickers, mocking their winter viewers with wide views of impossibly bright meadows, now became cheerful oils of freshly baked bread and smiling, pink-cheeked maidens, inviting their viewers to endless afternoons of goldenrod bouquets and carefully hidden nests of white goose eggs.
Though the ice of winter was kind to their diamond-hard skin, the Hales welcomed these temporary treasures with open arms and open windows, ushering the winds in to stay. What was most inviting, however, was the darkening soil, thin shoots of grass pushing upwards from deeply buried seeds. Renesmee in particular was drawn to the sound of the plants’ growth, though she had a more difficult time hearing it than her mothers, who possessed their full amount of strength. When she was indeed able to find the steady, rustling beat of the seeds surrounding the cottage, she would press her ear to the soil and remain there for hours, listening for the unfurling of tiny, underground seedlings. To Renesmee the earth was full of possibility, and with the approach of summer, she was able to discover a hundred buried mysteries: a ragged, smiling doll, lost years before; a clutch of eggs half buried in sand; a long overgrown meadow, rippling in the wind like water, hemmed in by a dozen spruces; several severely rusted iron tools left by previous inhabitants, over a century earlier. What she found was inevitably relayed back to her mothers, from whom she kept few secrets, and to whom she asked many series of questions, one after the other, about her every discovery. Rosalie, who tended toward impatience, would often send Renesmee, after several strands of inquiry, to her other mother, who was on the whole much more willing to put away her current activity, and focus entirely on Renesmee, who because of this gained a slightly narcissistic ego, and who, as time passed, became more and more easily frustrated, prone to quick outbursts of anger over resentment -- though never to cruelty. But that summer she was singularly zealous, devoting long hours to the kind of intent observation that bordered on worship, and came away with a vast well of knowledge about not only the creatures of the forest, but its plants, its inorganic matter, its hidden riches.

V
But what else could bring knowledge like that? wondered Renesmee, nestled up to her mother under a gibbous moon. She was absentmindedly considering the question Alice’s news had raised, which was a resounding Why, but was distracted often and by many of the scents in the room. Fortunately, there was no longer an urgency about the question, which had rankled in her thoughts for over a year, and was now resting quietly -- not answered, but rather pushed aside, in the way of things that have gone unused and unnecessary for too long, and that have grown dusty and yellowed with age.