After talking to Esme and Melinda about her painting, Melinda recommend that she should purchase her own easel and paints, and set up an area in the house for her to work on her painting.
“Maria, you have a gift, and it would be a shame if you didn’t let all that out. I can’t wait to see what you have inside of you.” Melinda said.
“Are you sure?” Esme asked, still not believing that she had painted the picture.
“Oh my God, yes. I have never seen anything like this in all my life and I have been around well-known artists for years. You owe it to yourself to continue with this gift.”
“Thank you. I think I would like to see what I can do. Do you have any recommendations?” Esme asked.
“Why don’t we go to craft store, and I will help you pick out what you will need. Then, after you pick up Tony, I will come over, and we will find the best place in your house for you to set up.” Melinda proposed.
“I think that is a great plan. I would love to help, even though I have no clue what to do, but I can be there to help carry and move things around if needed.” Renee offered.
After Melinda showed them how to clean their brushes, they took off the smocks, and went to the craft store to pick up the art supplies that Esme would need. Melinda wished they carried a better selection but she couldn’t expect much from a craft store in Forks. She would just order from an art supplier in California. She couldn’t wait to show her friend what Maria painted. There was no doubt in her mind that there were going to be people who would love to have a painting, and she would be able to set her own price for them.
The day went quickly, and soon it was time for Renee and Esme to go pick up Bella and Edward. Esme thought the day would drag by, but she was surprised by how quickly it passed. As they waited at the sidewalk beside the school, they watched for them to emerge from the school. The school bell rang, and the kids busted out the doors, and ran to either awaiting parents or the school buses lined up. Edward and Bella came out the door with smiles on their faces, but, as soon as they saw their moms, they took off running and wrapped their arms around their legs.
“Mom, I had the best time.” Bella exclaimed. “I almost got lost, but Tony kept his promise, and didn’t leave me alone.”
“Mommy, what is on your hands?” Edward asked.
Esme looked, and saw that she hadn’t gotten all the paint off her hands. “Well, while you were in school, Miss Renee and I also went to school and took a class in painting.”
“Cool. We had art today. We made a chicken out of macaroni and mine was the best in the whole class.” Edward boasted.
“Was not, mine was so much better than yours.” Bella chimed in.
“Was not.” Edward argued.
“Was too.” Bella said, then proceed to stick out her tongue at Edward. “I will go home and show my daddy, and I know he will think it is the best picture ever.”
Edward thought about what Bella had said. She was going to show it to her daddy. That was the one person he couldn’t show it to, because his daddy was dead.
“ISABELLA MARIE!!” Renee yelled. “You tell Tony you are sorry this minute.” Renee was shocked at how insensitive Bella was being. They’d had had several conversations about the fact that Tony didn’t have a father, and how important it was not to point the fact out.
“Well, it is the truth, and you always told me to tell the truth.” Bella pointed out.
“Maria, Tony, I am sorry. We are going to go home now and have a long conversation about this.” Renee said, feeling horrible when she looked upon Tony’s sad face.
“Thank you, Renee, we will be okay. I will call you later.” Esme proclaimed as she took Edward’s hand, and walked up the steps of their house. Once inside, Edward burst out in tears. Esme wrapped her arms around him, and allowed him to cry it out. Over the years he had asked about his father, and understood that he was no longer alive. The secret of the true identity of his father would be always locked away in her, because she could never allow him to know anything about the monster who was his father.
After he had cried himself out of tears, Esme pulled back, and took his little tear stained face into her hands. “Tony, I want you to know that I love you enough for both a father and a mother, and it grows every minute of every day.”
“Yes. You are so special, and I am so proud to be your mother.”
“I love you.” Tony said, wrapping his arms around her neck, and giving her a strong hug.
As they sat in the floor holding onto each other, there was a knock on the back door. Esme got up and walked over, and looked through the peephole to find a sad looking Renee.
When she opened the door, she saw Bella standing behind Renee’s legs.
“Maria, Bella would like to talk to Tony.”
“Tony, Bella is here to talk to you.”
Edward walked over, and held his head down, and shuffled his feet. He didn’t want Bella to see that he had been crying. Boys were not supposed to cry, but he couldn’t help it today.
Renee stepped to the side to reveal a sad Bella, who had also been crying. “Bella, do you have something to say to Tony?”
“Ah, hmm.” She stammered.
Edward raised his head, and looked at his friend, and, when he did, she broke out in tears. “Tony, I am so sorry. Please, please, please say you are still my friend.”
Bella ran over, and kissed him on the lips. Edward was shocked at first, then quickly wiped off his lips. “Yuck, Bella, why did you do that?”
“Because I wanted to. Hey you want to go play in the treehouse?”
Edward looked up at Esme. “Can I?”
“Yes, I will call you for dinner. I was thinking maybe pizza tonight, and Bella could stay for dinner, if it is okay with her mom.”
“Can she Miss Renee?” Edward asked.
“Yes, she can, but afterwards she has a list of chores she needs to get started on.” Renee explained. After a long conversation with Bella about her behavior toward Tony, she had told Bella that she needed to clean her room and help pickup around the house as punishment.
“Thank you, Mommy. Come on, Tony, let’s go.” Bella said, smiling brightly that she had not lost her very best friend.
After the kids had taken off across the yard and up the ladder to the treehouse, Renee and Esme sat down at the breakfast bar, and enjoyed a cup of tea, and talked about how children were always so forgiving of their misdeeds. They finally decided to make the sunroom Esme’s art room, because of all the natural light, but they would have extra lighting installed so she could work in the evening after Edward had gone to bed.
After the incident between Edward and Bella, their friendship seemed to grow stronger, and, with each year that past, they were inseparable. They would spend every evening hanging out with each other, and, on the weekends, they were always doing something together.
Esme threw herself into her painting, and was happy surprised by how good they actually were. Melinda had sent a few pieces to her friend who owned an art gallery in San Francisco; he was immediately interested in any and all work that she painted. He placed the pieces in the gallery, and, within a few days, they were sold. He wanted to do a showing of her works, and, after weeks of convincing her that her talent needed to be shared, she agreed. After starting on the collection, each piece seemed to flow out of her. Naming the collection Defiance was her own secret way of ridding herself of all her feelings she had kept bottled up over the years. The collection was complete and the show was booked.
Edward was turning fifteen in a few weeks. It was planned that Charlie, Renee, and Bella would join Esme and Edward in San Francisco for the show. This was the first time since moving to Washington that she had left the state. She was not only nervous about the show, but also nervous about leaving her protective hiding place. But, after thinking about the fact that she wouldn’t see Carlisle or any of his men at an art gallery in California, she finally relaxed. The Swans would not only be supporting Esme’s show, but they would be celebrating Edward’s birthday.
Over the last few months, Edward had been confused by the feelings he had toward Bella. Of course, she was his best friend, but, one morning as they were walking to school the sun broke through the trees and the warm glow shined upon her face. In that moment, he felt something else for her. For days after that, he tried to figure it out, but, instead of it going away, it only grew. Each time he saw her, he wanted to take her into his arms and kiss her.
Listening to the guys in the locker room as they dressed for gym, he overheard Michael Newton talk about how he had asked Jessica to become his girlfriend. Hearing how Michael talked about Jessica, Edward knew that he didn’t want to be only Bella’s best friend, he wanted her to be his girlfriend. But how did he do that? He didn’t want to mess up their friendship. Could he have both with her?