|On These Icy Waters
Author: kyla713 PM
April, 1912. This journey home could change Bella's entire future. She no longer wished to be the decoration on her husband's arm. One fateful voyage could lead to the happiness she always wanted, or be the end of everything.Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance - Bella & Edward - Words: 14,723 - Reviews: 115 - Favs: 260 - Follows: 66 - Published: 04-14-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8024955
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: From the time I was a little girl, I have always had a fascination with Titanic, her passengers, and the disaster itself. I'm dating myself again, but I can remember clearly when it was found by Dr. Ballard in 1985, and my fascination only grew. Many reports and research papers in school followed, and yes, I was one of those silly women who repeatedly returned to see Kate and Leo on the screen, and that was actually my first ever movie preorder, as well as the first DVD I ever owned a few years later.
So with the 100th anniversary of the sinking approaching, I was watching some specials on TV and popped my movie in, and while doing so, this entire oneshot formed in my head, and I have spent quite a few days writing feverishly in my notebook to get it done for today. It is not a different classes type of love story, or a Jack and Rose retelling, it just happened to be what was stirring in my brain as I watched the movie.
Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight or the characters, SM still does that. And I certainly do not own the Titanic. I can only lay claim to this story, my DVDs of movies and documentaries, and my cds of the scores from the 1997 movie that still ranks up with my absolute favorites of all time(Thank you, James Horner).
Summary: April, 1912. This journey home could change Bella's entire future. She no longer wished to be the decoration on her husband's arm. One fateful voyage could lead to the happiness she always wanted, or be the end of everything.
I never expected to marry for love. In the society in which I live, it is ridiculous to even entertain such a notion, as any woman with even a mediocre intelligence would know from nearly the time of her birth. It is a world of money, social standing, appearances, and of course, its trophy wives to decorate their husbands' arms. However, I hardly expected it to be this way.
When my mother arranged for my introduction to Edward Cullen, son of the multi-millionaire, New York business magnate Carlisle Cullen, I admit, I felt a thrill at the idea as every available young lady of my age would. He was obviously rich, handsome, and could offer any girl the security she needed in a man's world, with only the most natural of expectations in return—be seen and not heard, be polite and respectable, and eventually, bear children to carry on the family line.
Being the only product of my parents' marriage, and a miracle at that, I needed to marry to assure me that security I so very much needed. So when Edward made a second calling to me after our initial meeting, I put on my best dress and smile, determined to win him over—and so I did. Within three short months, he had asked my mother's new husband for my hand, and we were wed by the end of the summer, just prior to my nineteenth birthday.
Just do not fall in love with him, and your life will be perfect. Those were my mother's parting words to me when we were about to leave on our wedding tour of Europe. Unfortunately, they also seemed to have proven themselves correct.
I honestly do not know what I had been expecting when it came to my marriage, but I certainly did not want the cold, distant one that my parents had shared. I knew it was unlikely to have any real passion overnight, but as time passed, I had hoped that there would eventually be, at the very least, some mutual affection and desire between myself and my husband. There had to be something he liked when he looked at me to ask for my hand in marriage in such short order, did there not? I never imagined that I would spend my wedding night alone in tears after my husband left my bed, rather than remaining beside me.
As with most respectable ladies my age, I had come to my husband untouched by any other man. He was gentle and did his best not to hurt me, but there was nothing tender about our 'lovemaking' that night; it was mechanical, with no emotion. Over the two months we spent traveling from London to Paris, to Madrid and so on, the most affection we had shared was a chaste kiss on the cheek. I had not felt Edward's lips on mine since we were pronounced husband and wife, and it was something a proper young lady never requested or initiated herself. I could not appear wanton and embarrass him, but although I knew I should not, I did desire it. Each night after dinner, I would excuse myself and retreat to my room, where I would change into one of the beautiful nightgowns that he himself had bought for me. I would sit at the end of my bed, sometimes for hours, waiting for him to appear, which he rarely did. Throughout our entire honeymoon, my husband only visited my bed a total of six times. And it continued this way even after our return to New York.
Why should this matter to me, one might ask? What am I complaining about? I have a very comfortable life, with a beautiful home and a husband that makes sure I am well cared for, in most ways. Materially, I want and need for nothing.
The answer to both of those questions is sitting beside me in this motor car. We have been married for just over two and a half years now, and while you will never hear me say an ill word of my husband and I have learned well to smile and hide my pain in public, I hurt nonetheless below the surface I present.
As hard as I have tried to the contrary, I have come to desire him and his affection more and more over time. The nights he actually comes to my bed, I cannot contain my happiness. For that period of time, I feel like his wife. He is still so gentle and has even begun to kiss my neck as I lay beneath him, but never moves to my lips. Yet I still relish in that time with him, until he takes his leave again, and I fall back into the despair of loneliness, longing for the next time as I cry myself to sleep.
I have come to look forward to times like this as well, something I had once dreaded—being the ornament on his arm for these business trips. He showers me with more affection and smiles in one evening while in public than he does in months behind the closed doors of our home, to which we are now returning.
My heart sinks lower as we approach the port and I look up to the monstrosity that will change my life forever. I cannot live this way anymore, feeling the private humiliation of being the wife of a man who does not want her. If something does not change in the days we are at sea, I will walk away and live with the consequences of my actions. The large, bold letters on the side of the ship fill me with dread at the choice I must make while upon it…
As I have said, my husband only sees to the best of everything for me.
The car comes to a complete stop and the driver moves to open the door for us, and Edward rises first to step out and extend his hand to assist me. My expression is stoic as I place my gloved one in his and lower myself to the ground beside him, but he quickly turns to arrange for our luggage to be brought to our rooms.
"Isabella, is this not wonderful?" I hear my mother's voice approach from beside me and I force a smile onto my face.
"Yes, it is quite remarkable," I replied with as much enthusiasm as one can muster in such a moment, ignoring her displeased glance in my direction as I take Edward's offered arm when he returns to my side. "I am so pleased you were able to join us."
Truth be told, I could not have expected anything else from my mother. The opportunity to be seen and associate with the elite of society would have been too much for her to resist, especially with my husband's gracious offer to purchase the tickets for her and her husband, Phillip, to accompany us on this once in a lifetime voyage. However appealing it might be for her, having her in the next suite could prove to be an inconvenience and make my efforts to win my husband over an improbability.
"Shall we go, ladies?" Edward asks and I reply with a nod as he begins to lead me ahead of my mother and Phillip toward the long gangway of the ship.
Each step I make seems to take an eternity and I am so lost in my own thoughts, I cannot even take in my surroundings as everyone else around me appears to be. Titanic is said to be the most extravagant and luxurious liner afloat, but I cannot bring myself to find enjoyment in such frivolous things.
"Are you feeling all right, my love?" Edward asks softly with his hand resting over mine on the crook of his arm.
The term of endearment causes a flutter to erupt in my stomach, though not one of pleasure. It takes everything in me to keep myself from crying and compose myself quickly enough to reply. "I am well. I believe I am just a little tired. I will probably rest for a while before dinner this evening."
"Could there be a certain cause for such exhaustion, my dear?" my mother asks with an uncharacteristic smile, one she only displays with such an inquiry.
I purse my lips in restraint and tighten my hold on Edward's arm. "No, Mother, I am not with child, if that is what you are referring to. You know I am simply not overly fond of sailing."
I say nothing more as we are escorted to the cabin, though I feel my mother's eyes on me the entire way. The topic of children never fails to come up in conversation while in family's company, and I obviously cannot humiliate my husband to give them a reason why in nearly three years, there is still no Cullen heir.
I can feel the ability to breathe again return to me once we part ways and Edward and I enter our own suite, and I look longingly at the door to what will be my bedroom for the duration of the voyage. My husband steps away from me without a word and begins directing the porters as to where our luggage must go. The instant they leave, I gaze across the room to Edward, giving him a small smile, which he returns in kind with an awkward one of his own.
"I think I will head above deck while we leave port. Rest well and I will see you at dinner," he states, crossing the room to give me yet another chaste kiss on the cheek and leaving the room before I could so much as nod in response.
"Jessica, help me change, if you please," I call to my maid softly as I enter the room where she is unpacking for me.
"Of course, ma'am," she replied, halting her actions with a curtsy and hurrying over to help me out of my restrictive dress.
When I am finally alone and lying out on my bed, I find rest impossible, but I cannot force myself to rise, either. It is hopeless, I know that in my mind, but my heart is not so quick to accept defeat. How or when I had come to care for Edward in such a way, I cannot be certain, and I sincerely wish I did not. Perhaps then, I would not feel so unhappy and could simply accept my lot in life.
I am the perfect, doting wife throughout dinner, laughing at my husband's jokes and smiling at all the appropriate times. I have learned to play my role well, even while he escorts me back to the cabin before heading to the smoking room with the other gentlemen. I go through my nightly routine of getting myself ready for bed, donning myself in a long, silk robe and lounging on the chaise to read while I wait for his return.
Hours pass, and before I know it, I feel myself being lifted by a pair of strong arms and my sleeping form is carried to my bed. I am settled onto the mattress and covered over; soft warm lips pressing to my forehead.
"Will you not join me tonight?" I ask softly in my drowsy state and open my eyes to view his retreating form stall by the door.
"Not tonight, my dear. It has been a long day and we are both tired. Goodnight," he replies in a gentle voice and closes the door behind him.
Inane conversation and long walks on the deck with the men inflating each other's egos fill the next two days, and not once do I have the opportunity to even speak to Edward in private. I have finally begun to resign myself to the fact that what I want from my marriage will never come to pass, as I observe in the plastered expressions and fake smiles of the women surrounding me.
I am standing in my room, preparing for breakfast on Saturday morning when my mother enters the room. "I would have a word with my daughter in private."
Jessica quickly leaves the room and I turn to face my mother, who is donning her familiar scornful scowl as she closes the door. "What on earth do you think you are doing, Isabella?"
"I was getting dressed for breakfast," I reply in confusion.
"You know very well what I am speaking of," she barks through clenched teeth.
I lower my eyes from her and try to keep hold of any dignity I have remaining. "I am trying, Mother."
"You are not trying hard enough. It is your duty to keep your husband happy and keep up the appearance of a successful marriage. By this time, I was already well on my way toward your birth," she snarled, running her eyes over me in disgust. "You are not even putting forth the effort."
"I cannot rush God's hand any faster than you could. And I try, but I cannot force my husband to want me," I reply with shame in my voice and tears beginning to well in my eyes.
Mother pauses, gazing at me for a silent moment before shaking her head. "You stupid, reckless child. You did not listen to me. You went ahead and fell in love with him. How could you be so foolish, Isabella?"
My nerves are raw and I cannot hold back the tears anymore as I look up to her. "I am so sorry that I am not as good of an actress as you are, Mother. I do not have the benefit of a dead husband so I can marry my lover. Then maybe, I could have his money and a man who loves me. Some of us are just not that fortunate!"
My voice has risen higher than I intended and I am still glaring at my mother's startled face when the door to my room opens to reveal my husband on the other side. There is anger in his eyes that I have never seen directed at me before and I know in that moment that he has heard every word of my tirade.
"Edward," I say in barely above a whisper, swallowing against the lump in my throat as his gaze hardens more. I am terrified and cannot bring myself to speak again.
"Please excuse my wife and I for a moment, if you please," Edward says to Mother, while never taking his eyes off me, with venom lacing his tone as he utters the word "wife".
I begin to back toward the bedpost as my mother rushes from the room and Edward closes the door, but does not turn around again for a moment. "Edward, I—"
"Do not speak," he cuts me off sharply and turns his head to look at me, his green eyes blazing. "Have I wronged you in some way that I am unaware of, Isabella?"
I quickly shake my head back and forth in short, abrupt movements. "No, of course not. I do not know how much you heard, but…"
"I heard enough," he says in a blunt tone and slowly begins stalking toward me.
I start to tremble—will he strike me? In our two years of marriage, despite his distance, he has never so much as spoken a harsh word to me, let alone put his hands on me in anything but gentleness. However, I have really never seen him as angry as he is now. Had he heard me disclose to my mother, however subtly, the absence of activity in the marital bed? Or my mother's accusatory insinuation of being in love with him? Was the idea of that enough to anger him so? "Edward, please let me explain."
"There is an explanation for my wife wishing me dead? Or desiring to marry your lover instead?" he asks and I cannot stop the widening of my eyes. So that iswhat he heard, thinking I was speaking of myself? There had only been hushed rumors concerning my mother's hasty marriage following my father's passing to his cousin, with whom he had left his estate to assure that my mother and I were properly taken care of. However, I had been privy to the arguments concerning my mother's infidelity throughout the course of their marriage, and would never want to tarnish my father's memory with making that knowledge public.
Yet, standing here and looking into my husband's eyes that appeared to hold a glimmer of hurt within them, I feel I have no other alternative. "Edward, it is not like that."
"Damn it, Isabella, if you want my money so damn badly, you do not have to wait until I am dead for it. Say the word and I will give you a divorce, and I will not contest anything you wish to say. You will be amply provided for," he snarls and I stare at him speechlessly, in complete shock. "Is that what you want? Do you wish to leave me?"
"No!" I exclaim without any hesitation, surprising even myself. Had I not been thinking that very thing only days, or even moments ago? That upon our return to New York, I would leave him, even if I knew I had nowhere to go. My mother would never take me in; I was a married woman and my place was beside my husband. Yet, presented with the option, I find it is the last thing I want. Money means little to me and what else would I gain from a divorce? The exact opposite of what I desire more than anything in this world—for my husband to love me as I know now, without a doubt, that I love him.
"Are you sure? You would be free to be with your lover," Edward sneers and I cannot take the distain with which he is looking at me.
"I do not have a lover, Edward. And I have never wanted one. I wanted you!" I cry out, tears spilling down my cheeks freely as I sit at the end of the bed and bury my face in my hands. "I could never wish you dead. I would rather die myself."
Silence fills the room with the exception of my quiet sobs and his heavy breaths, but I still feel the distance between us. "I heard you, Isabella. And I highly doubt that I was the only one with that volume."
"For heaven's sake, I was talking about my mother, not myself," I reply before I can fully consider my words, my hands falling from my face to find Edwards stunned expression staring back at me. "I could never do to any man what she did to my father for as long as I can remember. Let alone one I actually care for."
"Care for?" Edward states with a trace of skepticism, but eyes me curiously. "That was not part of the arrangement, my dear."
"Do you think I do not know that? I did not intend on being in a marriage in which I desired more than could be returned. Or to have a husband who did not want me any more than his basic needs and obligations dictated," I reply and lower my head with the embarrassment my statement afforded. "Forgive me. I should not be so forward."
Edward steps closer to me and crouches at my knees, and I hesitantly meet his eyes with mine. "You believe I do not desire you?"
I avert my gaze from his and his fingers come to rest gently on my jawline, turning my face back to him. "I know you do not, and I had no right to expect it. As you said, it was not part of the arrangement. You are not required to spend a single night beside me once my marital duties are fulfilled. Or to hold me or kiss me. Or to love me."
"Bella," he whispered and I gaze at him in disbelief. No one, not even my mother, has ever called me that aside from my father, much less Edward. He cups my cheek gently and my lips tremble as he begins to pull me closer until they make contact with his ever so briefly. "Finish getting dressed for breakfast. We will discuss this further afterward."
I merely nod, still speechless from the surprise of the tender words and gesture from him. He rises slowly and leaves the room, and I hear him beckoning Jessica back to my room.
She enters with nervous eyes, lifting my dress from the chair upon which it is draped and walking toward me. "Are you all right, ma'am?"
I can see her gaze seemingly taking inventory of me and wordlessly assessing whether Edward had harmed me in any way. "I am fine, Jessica. I must hurry if I am to make it to breakfast on time."
Taking me at my word, she sets about helping me dress. My fingers trace along my lips as she finishes lacing me up, still committing to memory the feel of Edward's kiss upon them. How long I have wished for something so simple, and it continues to warm me throughout, long after it is gone.
I exit my room a short time later to find Edward standing there, waiting to escort me to breakfast. It passes much as the ones before, though I can feel the hint of tension in the air between my husband and I. We both eat silently and I pray the difference is not detected by the remainder of the table, but my mother's hard eyes upon me tell me that my hopes are at least somewhat fruitless.
Once our meals are finished, although I have barely been able to finish more than half of my plate, Edward excuses us from our company for a walk on the boat deck. I rise and take his arm as we make our way outside into the brisk, April air. I do not notice the cold, however, with my heart pounding relentlessly in my chest as I wait for him to speak.
Edward voice begins soft, keeping our conversation as private as possible. "You are not an undesirable woman. It pains me to know that you believe such a thing."
My eyes fall to the deck and our pace remains slow while I ponder my words. I do not know how to respond to him anymore, the entire dynamic of our association having quite suddenly shifted with something as simple as a kiss. Yet, I also cannot be sure of how much I can say without risking his anger again.
"Bella, you have no need to be afraid of me, whatever it is you feel you need to say," he says softly at my hesitance to speak. "I would have you be honest with me, always."
"Even if it is not proper to do so?" I ask, glancing over to him questioningly.
"Propriety has little place in the private affairs of a husband and wife. Our marriage is between the two of us alone. You may speak freely with me," Edward replies, his hand resting over mine.
I draw in a deep breath of preparation and swallow hard before I can find my voice again. "Whether I am desirable or not to the rest of the world makes little difference. I only wish to be desirable to you."
Edward has an uneasy look on his face as I finish speaking and I regret the bluntness of my statement, but I also cannot take it back. As I am about to apologize, he shakes his head and begins to speak. "You are. I would not have asked for your hand so swiftly, or possibly even made that second call upon you, if you were unappealing to me. Call me a cad, but I would not have courted a woman I had little to no physical desire for, regardless of how well she might have suited me according to society."
"Then why do you not want me? Do I displease you when you visit my bed?" I ask shyly, feeling the blush tingling on my cheeks.
Edward chuckles softly in discomfort, his eyes darting over our surroundings. The deck is nearly empty this morning due to the increasingly cold weather, the sun barely enough to take the chill from the air even briefly. He seems to notice this and relaxes somewhat, shaking his head slowly. "You do not displease me in the slightest, in any way. I want you more than I should ever admit."
I halt in my steps, causing him to do the same and look back at me. "I thought you said propriety has little place in our private life. Should that not extend to the bedroom as well?"
"That is not what I meant, Isabella," he replies firmly and I lower my eyes at his use of my given name. I have done something wrong, again. I feel his fingertips below my chin and he lifts it, and his eyes have softened again. "Do not hide from me."
At his urging, we begin walking again and his fingers return to my hand and stroke it gently. "So, what did you mean?"
"The day before our wedding, my father sat me down and detailed what my expectations should be for our marriage, as well as what was expected of me. It was to be treated as a business arrangement and a familial obligation to secure the family line. Love and passion did not factor into that and would only blur the lines, and in turn, a successful marriage would not result. 'If you want love, take a mistress,' he told me," Edward says with a slight sneer to his tone, looking over to meet my eyes, the burning question obviously clear within them. "I have not. I made vows to you that I take very seriously. It would not be 'honoring you' to commit the ultimate dishonor. Though, as you so eloquently stated earlier, I have also never had the inclination to do so, either."
The tension in my shoulders relaxes with his words and I release a breath of relief—he had not strayed. "But surely you have needs that once or twice a month in my bed cannot completely fulfill. Being married does not make you less of a man."
"I managed for twenty-four years before you came along, my dear," he answers and it is the first time I have ever seen the hint of a boyish smile on my husband's face, and his subtle admission takes me by surprise.
"You were … on our wedding night?" I asked, stammering slightly over my words.
"As much as you were, sweet Isabella," he replies, his fingers squeezing mine lightly on their perch on his arm. "I swore a long time ago that I would give myself to no one but my wife. How else would there be any true sanctity to our marriage?"
"I just had no idea. You seemed so sure of yourself that night. I was almost positive that I had not been the first," I answer nervously. "And it was never exactly an option to discuss such a thing."
"You are my wife, it is always an option to discuss whatever you wish with me. Especially something as personal as that, you are the only one truly entitled to know. But yes, you were my first, and I pray you will be my last, as well," Edward says, his eyes shifting to me and I see the pained look from earlier return to them.
I stop and turn to face him, resisting the urge to take his hand and keep mine on his arm as we gaze at each other. "I do not wish to leave you, nor do I want you to divorce me. But I also cannot help the way I feel."
"And what way is that?" he asks sincerely, looking deeply into my eyes.
"Honesty, right?" I reply nervously and he nods. My head tilts back for a moment as I inhale deeply and then look back to him. "My mother had very similar words for me after we were married. I had my duties as your wife, none of which included falling in love with you among them. 'It only leads to pain,' were her words to me. I hate to admit it, but she was right, and that was what you heard the tail end of this morning. She was calling me stupid and reckless because she could see that I had, despite her warning."
Edward appears stunned by my statement and equally as speechless, his eyes blinking slowly as he seemingly absorbs it all. "You love me?"
I release a trembling breath and nod, my eyes falling to his chest. "Yes. Wholeheartedly."
"But I have never given you any reason," he replies with astonishment heavy in his tone.
"Does a heart need a reason to love? If it did, there would never be one unrequited, would there?" I ask and chance a look up into his eyes. My logic seems to amaze him by the slight glimmer I view in their depths. "You have given me more reason than you know. I never care about how many beautiful things you buy me, or the extravagant trips to take me on. It is the thought you put behind everything you do. You only buy me things you know I will love and take me with you when you could easily leave me behind, alone in our house. And you have always been so gentle with me when … you know."
I know I do not need to say the words for him to comprehend their meaning, particularly with my blush emphasizing it, no doubt. "Then why do you cry?"
My eyes rise up to him quickly and widen. "Why would you think that?"
"I am only in the next room, Bella. Our walls are not that thick," he replied, grazing my cheek lightly with his fingertips and then tucking a wisp of loose hair behind my ear. "You cry every single time and all I can think is that I have hurt you in some way."
My head lowers again and I shake it slowly. "No. Not in the way of which you speak, at least."
"Then what?" he asks but then freezes as footsteps approach us and we pull apart slightly, realizing how close we were standing to each other and resuming our walk. We both nod to the passing gentleman, and once he is out of earshot, we both calm and feel free to speak candidly again. "You can tell me."
"You never stay," I reply softly, keeping my eyes forward, still unaccustomed to the freedom granted to me with honesty. "The moment you are finished with me, you leave."
"I had no indication that you wished me not to," Edward answers, his own eyes lowering to the deck. "You could have asked me to stay."
"I did not feel it was my right to do such," I state truthfully, attempting to keep my voice level. "The marriage bed is not meant for pleasure, after all. It is to fulfill a purpose that I have yet to accomplish, and for that, I am sorry."
"No, Bella," Edward says sharply, causing me to jump a little, while confusing me all at once. I look to him in fear that I have angered him again, despite his use of "Bella" rather than "Isabella" again. While he appears tense, I cannot discern if it is from anger, however. "I think we should take this to our cabin. This conversation is not appropriate for a public setting."
I nod and lower my head, ashamed that I have caused even the slightest humiliation for my husband and follow his lead back inside. He is silent the entire way down the hall leading to our suite, and I step inside ahead of him when he opens it and quickly dismisses Jessica to leave us to speak in private. "I apologize if I have offended you. It was not my intent."
"I am more offended by your apologies than by the reasons you feel you need to give them," he says in almost a growl, pinching the bridge of his nose between his fingers and thumb. "I have told you that I desire you. How can you possibly think that the only reason I have for coming to your bed is the obligation I should feel to conceive a child? And what do you have to be sorry for in that?"
"I am not pregnant, Edward. In nearly three years, I have never been pregnant. I should have given you a child by now. Possibly even be with child again. If nothing else, I have failed in that as your wife," I answer him, trying hard to hold back the tears reforming in my eyes and hide them from him.
"You have failed me in nothing, do you understand me?" I startle at his raised voice and tense as he advances on me quickly, but then does what I least expect and takes my face gently between his hands. "I have failed you in nearly every way I possibly could. If anyone should be apologizing, it is me, Bella. Not you. Never you."
I whimper as his lips meet mine again suddenly and I can no longer keep the tears from streaming down my face, but this time, they are not tears of sadness, shame, or heartbreak. I feel nothing but complete happiness in this moment and I wrap my arms around my husband, returning his kiss.
"I love you, Bella. And I will spend the rest of my life making up for every tear you have shed over me," he says softly as our lips part from the other's, brushing my tears away with the pads of his thumbs. "I am so sorry I ever tried to abide by my father's words. All that time we wasted."
"Shh," I hush him, bringing my hands to his face to ease the twist of pain marring his handsome features and boldly brush my lips against his again. "We never need think on it again, and we can simply enjoy the rest of our lives together."
Edwards's forehead rests against mine and I feel his arms slide around my waist to pull me closer to him. "Tell me again."
I watch his eyes open to look at me and see the plea within them, and I clearly understand the meaning of his words. "I love you with all my heart, Edward. And I always will."
His smile remains on his lips as he presses them to mine once more and I feel his fingers splaying across my back. I could stay in this perfect moment with him forever, but I know he is expected at a late morning card game with the other men. It is obvious the instant this realization strikes him as well when his hands move to glide gently along my sides, though he seems just as reluctant to part from me. "Come to me tonight?"
My breath stills with his request, one he has not made before. I have never even seen the inside of my husband's bedroom at home once in all the time we have been married. I was never invited, so I had not wanted to intrude on his space.
"Please," Edward implores with me again and I nod, causing the smile to return to his face. "Thank you. I love you."
"I will never tire of hearing those words," I whisper, my hands coming to rest on his shoulders. "I love you, too."
"Nor will I," he replied and kisses me gently. "Or of those. Until tonight then."
I reluctantly release him and watch as he leaves, trying to ease the ache in my heart with the knowledge that he will return, and when he does, it will be a new start for us that has already begun.
Throughout dinner, I attempt to keep my smile appropriate, yet my anticipation of what is to come tonight makes it exceedingly difficult. I have even received a promise from Edward to be back to the cabin by ten this evening, with nothing to disturb us until morning.
To everyone else, we appear to be the same Edward and Isabella Cullen who have been seated at this table with them for the last four evenings. For us, nothing is the same, including the brush of his lips on my cheek outside our door when he escorts me back to the cabin afterward, lingering just a little longer than usual before we part ways.
I am anxious to get inside and begin my preparations for this evening. With Jessica's assistance, I am soon undressed and changed into the nightgown I have chosen for tonight, sitting at the vanity and brushing out my hair. As I gaze into the mirror, I know I will never see the same Bella from before staring back at me again, and the only tears I will ever shed for as long as we both live will be ones of joy. I can see a future now in my reflection and I look forward to sharing it with my husband, and God willing, our many children.
As promised, just before ten, I hear Edward enter the cabin and head straight for his room. Everything is in my hands tonight, and the thought is empowering. I lightly dab the pulse points of my neck with the perfume he bought me in Paris, take one last look in the mirror as I don my long, silk robe once again, and walk from my room to his door. I knock lightly and I swear I hear him chuckle from within before the door opens, stealing my breath away. Gone is the jacket and tie he'd worn at dinner, with the first couple of buttons undone on his shirt. He holds out his hand to me and I place mine within it, and he guides me into the room before closing the door. "You never need an invitation to join your husband in any room, much less the bedroom, Mrs. Cullen."
His teasing manner, no doubt assisted by the hint of scotch I can smell on him, cause me to raise an eyebrow at him. However, when he gently palms my face and kisses me in slow, deliberate movements, I feel a flood of relief rush through me. He is not drunk, far from it; nothing will ruin our perfect evening.
"You are a vision, my beautiful Bella," he whispers, brushing my lips lightly once before gracefully sweeping me into his arms and carrying me over to the bed. He lowers me to kneel upon it and runs his fingers through my hair, and it is the most amazing feeling in the world. "Let me just look at you for a moment."
Edward's eyes never leave mine, nor does he otherwise move. I feel as if I should be nervous under his gaze, but nothing could be farther from the truth. I am completely his at long last, everything I have wanted, and I can barely contain how much I physically ache for him, for his touch.
He takes one step closer to the bed to eliminate the remaining distance between us and gently strokes my face. I feel so loved and cherished in this moment and I reach my hands down to loosen the tie of my robe, but he stops me. "Allow me, my love."
I smile and let my arms fall to my sides while he pulls at the belt gently, sliding the soft fabric from my shoulders until it falls to the bed behind me. His eyes darken to a deep jade as he takes in my apparel. It is the same nightgown I wore on our wedding night, white satin and lace with gold accents on the trim. I wonder if he has noticed or even remembers at all, and when his hands settle on my waist as he leans in to kiss me, I am given the impression that he does. "A new start, right?"
Edward rests his forehead against mine and returns my smile. "A second chance at a perfect wedding night."
I feel a thrill of excitement course through me with his softly spoken words and I lift my fingers to the front of his shirt. I hold his gaze for a moment to wait for any objection, and when there is none, I loosen the remainder of the buttons and gently guide it off his shoulders and down his arms. After I also discard the undershirt he wears, I take a moment to behold the beauty of my husband, for lack of a better word. I have waited so long for this, and I cannot resist the urge to lean forward and press my lips to his chest. I can feel his heart beating beneath them and I close my eyes, soaking in every second of this to absorb it all to my memory to remember forever. When I finally lift my gaze to his, I am met with his incredible smile beaming back at me. I run my hands over his shoulders and chest once more before allowing them to fall to my sides again. "Would you care to do the honors, darling?"
Edward's smile turns to a grin as he begins to tug at the lacings on the front of my nightgown until the garment parts, and it pools to my knees. I am completely bare to my husband's eyes and he runs them over me appreciatively, causing me to shiver under his gaze. "Are you cold, my love?"
I slowly shake my head. "No. Just anxious."
"Lie back," he instructs softly with one last brush of his lips on mine and I do as he asks while he removes my nightgown completely from my legs. He divests himself of his pants and undergarments and pulls the covers from beneath me, slowly climbing into the bed at my side.
I raise my hand to trace along his cheek and we silently gaze into each other's eyes for a few moments, with no desire to rush anything. We have all night, and though I am aching to feel him make love to me, I am also enjoying the anticipation of it as well.
"I have wanted this for so long, Bella," he whispers as his hand takes mine where it now rests on my chest. "What have I done to deserve you?"
"Everything," I reply softly, pulling him closer to bring his lips back to mine and he shifts to settle between my parted legs. "I have wanted you for so long as well. Please, let us not wait any longer."
Edward's lips claim mine again as I feel him enter me, and I want to cry out in the pleasure of it all. Instead, I wrap my arms around him and pull him against me, feeling every inch of our bodies in contact with the other. We have never been completely bare to each other before, as I was always too shy to expose myself thoroughly to him, even though we were married. So, the feel of the warm skin of his chest against mine made everything seem so new again—just as I had wanted.
Edward's body begins to move over mine and the rush of sensations it conjures within me is so intense, I bite my lip to keep from moaning like a harlot. Small sighs manage to escape me anyway and my neck arches as he presses firmly inside me. "Bella, we are married. It is okay to enjoy this."
I look up to him as his movements still with his words and the backs of his fingers run lightly over my cheek. "I am."
Edward shakes his head as his hips pull back and then surge forward slowly, causing my breath to catch in my throat. "I want to hear how I am making you feel. There is no shame in the confines of our bed. Wrap your legs around me."
Once again, I comply with his request, and this time, I cannot suppress the moan that escapes me as he presses deeper within me than before, my back arching off the bed in response. "Oh God, Edward."
His hips begin a slow rhythm and I grip him more securely in my arms. It has never been like this before and my eyes tear—not to cry, but from the overwhelming sensation of it all. A warmth fills me I have not felt in any of the times we have come together this way and I begin to tremble. My body moves against his of its own accord, and I cry out as I feel as if I might burst in the most intense surge of pleasure I have ever experienced. When I begin to relax again, I feel the blush spread across my cheeks at the wanton display I have just expressed in front of my husband, fearful that it might cause him to view me differently.
"No shame," Edward repeats in a whisper and I open my eyes again to look at him, seeing that he is indeed looking at me differently. Yet, it is not disgust I find in his gaze, but a deeper, more primal desire, and it shakes me to the core. "I want you to feel good. I want to make you feel good."
"Then do not stop," I reply softly and his lips claim mine again with a gentle passion.
Edward's body lowers to mine and his hands slide beneath my hips, taking me with him as he rolls onto his back. I part from his lips and gaze down at his face as I now straddle him, confused and nervous. This is yet another thing we have never done in all the times we have made love, and I know enough to realize that it definitely is not proper. As if sensing my discomfort, Edward opens his eyes and runs his hands along my sides gently. "Is this all right?"
I cannot deny how good it feels, the angle of my hips causing him to fill me more fully. I want to experience this with him more than I probably should and my hands curl around his shoulders. "Yes. I am just not sure what to do."
Edward's hands lower to my hips and begin guiding me over him. The tingling along my skin increases and my head rises, my lips parting with a sigh. The pleasure is indescribable and I begin to move on my own, and his hold loosens on me as his eyes close for a moment, then open again. "Sit up a little more so I can see you."
My chest leaves his as I rise and his gaze runs appreciatively over my body once again. A soft moan rumbles in his throat and the look of rapture on his face is the most amazing thing I have ever seen. I am causing this pleasure within him; it is me he is gazing upon with such desire. It is invigorating and intoxicating—and I want more.
Our fingers weave together and our palms meet as I begin to rise and lower above him. How I could have ever thought that I could live without this man is beyond my comprehension. The love I feel for him I can see clearly reflected back at me in his eyes, and I do not know how I have not seen it before. It had to have always been there despite the masks we both wore, and love such as this is not easily hidden. I cannot resist any longer; I lower my body to him again and kiss him deeply. I feel his hands slip from under mine and move into my hair, combing it back from my face as he takes my bottom lip between his. It vibrates with his moan as my hips rock over him and my palms frame his face, the knot forming again in the pit of my stomach.
"I cannot hold on much longer, my love," Edward pants breathlessly against my lips, his eyes pinching closed with restraint.
I know he is quickly approaching release as I feel his muscles tensing beneath my touch and the sheen of perspiration form across his forehead. "I want to make you feel good as well."
Edward's arms encircle me again and he rolls our bodies again to hover over me. "You are, Bella. By God, you are."
His voice is husky and his lips cover mine again, soft moans escaping us both as his body moves more insistently above me. Edward's groan deepens as I feel him pulse inside me and that pleasurable sensation rushes through me again, and my hold tightens on him until our movements go lax. He kisses down my neck to my chest and settles his face upon it, and my fingers rise to run through his damp hair. "I love you so much, Bella."
I smile at his whispered words and enjoy the lingering feel of his body atop mine, with no sign of his intent to move. I am safe and warm, lying there with my husband and the knowledge that nothing will ever part us again. "I love you, too, Edward. Forever."
The next morning, I open my eyes to see my husband's handsome face, my naked body still pressed against his side, exactly where I had fallen asleep last night. His strong arms remain around me and I trace my fingers lightly over the fine sprinkling of hair covering his chest until he begins to stir. I watch as his long lashes flutter before his eyes open and look over to me. "I am sorry. I did not mean to wake you, my love."
Edward's drowsy smile stretches across his face and I feel his embrace secure around me more as he tilts his head to kiss me. "I cannot think of a better vision to wake to. I was certain I would find that last night was all a dream."
My hand cups along his jaw and I brush his lips gently again with mine. "If that was a dream, then it was a beautiful one and I hope never to wake again."
Edward smiles and rolls me onto my back, hovering above me. "Shall we continue said dream, then?"
I release a positively girlish giggle as his lips ghost over mine and I feel him press against my abdomen. "My love, we must rise and dress for service."
Edward sighs softly in a teasing manner, burying his face into my neck and brushing a soft kiss on my skin. "If I was not such a God fearing man, I would insist he would understand."
I laugh again and push him gently onto his back again, running my fingertips along his jaw as I gaze down at his face. "Seeing as you are, we should go. Perhaps, you can come to me tonight?"
"No," Edward replies, shaking his head and my smile falls. Last night and just this morning had been so beautiful, but is this all there will ever be? And will he still want me this way once we return home, or will things simply go back to the way they were before? I feel my heart breaking at the thought and my vision blurs through tears as I gaze at him, and then his hand begins to caress my back gently. "Oh, my Bella, please do not cry. I wish for us to come together to our bed, now and always."
My eyes widen in surprise. For as long as I can remember, my parents had always kept separate bedrooms, and it remains the same now with my mother and her current husband as far as I know. I used to rush into my father's room and jump on his bed to wake him on Sunday mornings while my mother continued to sleep down the hall. With the knowledge I have now in the rumpled state of the bed on which I lay, it was obvious that he had spent the night alone. I had never given it much thought back then, just happy to be able to spend one morning a week talking with my father in the peace and quiet of his room for a while, without my mother looming and accusing him of pampering me. However, now, I feel sadness for him, having never known the love I am experiencing now, though he never complained. He always told me that the unconditional love of his little girl was everything he ever needed. Because of this, as much as I had always wanted to fall asleep in Edward's arms, I never expected for us to remain in the same bed until morning at any time.
"I have spent far too many nights without you beside me. I never wish to do so again," he whispers and pulls me down to settle my face on his chest.
Those memories of those Sundays with my father combined with our current state of undress bring me to tilt my head up to look at him. "And when we have children?"
"We will bolt the door at night," Edward replies with a smile, pressing his lips to my forehead. "But I cannot wait to watch my child grow inside of you."
"Soon, my love. Soon," I murmur and kiss his chest, enjoying a few more minutes in his arms until we absolutely must rise.
The day passes far too slowly for my liking, though I do admit, I enjoy the long, casual stroll along the deck we take together before lunch. I cannot restrain my smile, and it seems, nor can he, and it is such a freeing feeling to be able to be even this open in our affection for each other. Gentle touches of his hand on mine where it rests on his arm and the subtle crinkling at the corners of his eyes when he looks at me, shows me everything I need to know—he is just as happy and in love with me as I am with him.
Despite the objections of my mother, we decide to forego getting ready for dinner this evening, opting instead to stand at the starboard rail to watch the sun settle into the sea. Normally, even the splendor of the amazing colors canvasing the sky could not ease my discomfort with the knowledge of having the ocean beneath us. However, with Edward standing behind me and his arms wrapped around my waist, I can finally enjoy the beauty of such a view and feel completely safe. We remain there until the air becomes too cool for even Edward's body to keep me warm, and he escorts me back inside with his jacket wrapped around my shoulders.
We return to our room and make love twice before we simply lay side by side, encased in each other's arms and talking.
"I can hardly wait to be back home now and truly begin our life together," I say with a smile, my head resting upon his chest as his fingers play with mine and my mind reveling over what it will be like. No more silent meals filled with awkward glances or parting ways at the end of the day. And finally, returning to our bed each evening to relish in each other's company and make love whenever we wish. That thought makes me smile even more as I prop my chin on my arm to look at him. "Once we get there, we can even enjoy the beautiful expanse of our yard with long, quiet walks together."
"Maybe even a picnic or two, if we feel the desire," Edward adds with a contented smile of his own and then kisses me firmly before I lower my head back to his chest and close my eyes.
My light sleep tonight is disturbed by a subtle tremor, but I quickly fall back into an easy slumber with Edward's fingers tracing soothingly along my arm.
I do not wake again until there is a sharp knocking on the door of the suite and I lift my head, noticing the unusual stillness and silence otherwise filling the room. I bring my hand to Edward's shoulder to shake it lightly in an effort to wake him and he opens his eyes as another knock sounds outside. "Edward, someone is at the door, and it feels as if the engines have stopped. We are not moving."
He must hear the nervous tremble in my voice and he kisses my cheek. "I am sure it is nothing, love. Go back to sleep and I will go see who it is."
I settle my head onto the pillow again as he rises and pulls on his robe, watching his retreating form walk out the door.
"Yes?" I hear Edward's voice from the next room when he opens the door.
"Sir, the captain has requested all passengers to report to the boat deck immediately. May I suggest that you and your wife please dress warmly and retrieve your lifebelts," the steward outside says, his calm almost eerie.
I rise and don my robe as well, making my way out to the main room and both men look to me. "What is happening?"
"It is merely a precaution, madam. I assure you, there is no need to worry," the steward replies in a polite tone as I come to stand at Edward's side. He appears calm and relaxed as he makes his way into the cabin, hardly what I would expect for a call at this hour to instruct us on where to find our lifebelts and to get to the boat deck.
Edward's arm wraps around my shoulders as the steward leaves, but my eyes do not leave the door until I hear him say my name and finally look up to him. "Everything will be fine. We will be back in our bed before you know it. You heard him, it is only a precaution."
"A precaution for what?" I ask doubtingly, dread filling me and startling Jessica as she enters the room just then after being roused herself. "We need to put on lifebelts and head to the boat deck. That is where the lifeboats are, Edward."
"Bella, listen to me," Edward says with more urgency in his tone, taking my face between his hands. He knows very well how much I do not like the water, even from as far up as we are now. The idea of sitting in a lifeboat and being lowered to the ocean in the middle of the night strikes deep fear within me. Yet somehow, his face remains calm as he gently kisses my lips. "Just go get dressed and we will go up to the boat deck. Who knows, they might even have this whole situation figured out by then, whatever it may be. Jessica, please help Mrs. Cullen to change and be sure that she is dressed warmly."
"Of course, sir," Jessica replies quickly and places her hand on my arm, but I am hesitant to leave Edward's side.
"Please go, love. The sooner we do, the sooner we can come back," Edward says gently with a soft kiss to my forehead.
My mind is numb as Jessica helps me to change, even ignoring her brief gasp when she took notice that, beneath my robe, I wore nothing else. If not for the tone of the moment, I am sure she would have giggled a little with some remark on how things seemed to my looking up between Mr. Cullen and myself. After all, apart from being my maid, she is also one of my only friends, and I have never heeded to my mother's reprimands of being "too friendly with the help".
Once I have dressed, I return to Edward, where he is waiting to help me into my lifebelt. I am stiff as he secures it around me and then pulls me into his arms, whispering that everything is going to be all right. When my cheek rests on his chest, I notice it only touches the fabric of his top coat, and I look up to him. "Where is your lifebelt?"
Edward's hand caresses my face and he smiles, but it does not reach his eyes. "I will not need one. They are only having women and children board the lifeboats, and it will only be for a little while."
Before I can protest any more, he keeps his arm around my shoulders to lead me out of the room until we reach the staircase, where there is still a crowd of passengers gathered below. Edward guides me through them and beyond the doors, leading me up to the boat deck where I bring my hands to my ears to shield them from the noise that greets them harshly. The hiss of the funnels above, the cranks being worked by the crew in a hurried but meticulous manner in preparation of the davits for the lifeboats. I watch in horror at the fear I see in their faces and I begin to tremble in Edward's hold. Slowly, the area around us begins to fill with more passengers and we are urged forward, closer to the rail.
As I shift closer to Edward's side, I look down toward the front of the ship and then to the rail again, noticing the minimal dipping of one end more than the other. "Edward, we are listing."
I feel Edward's hand running along my arm and look up to find his eyes taking in the sight as well. "Do not worry, my love. We will be fine."
"Women and children to the front, please," the order is called out and I feel the pressure of Edward's touch at the back of my lifebelt.
My feet deaden beneath me and I shake my head. "No, I will not leave you."
"Bella, you must. Come," he says gently, but there is an urgency to his voice as we watch several women being assisted into the boat in before us.
I grab the front of his jacket and turn to face him, holding on tightly. "If there is nothing to be afraid of, there is no need for me to board this boat."
The lines on his forehead deepen and he brings his hands to cup my face. They are trembling slightly in contrast to the mask of calm he is attempting to keep on the remainder of his features. "Please, just do this. For me. I will be right here waiting for you when you return."
"What if there is no returning?" I ask and feel my tears spilling down my face.
"Then I will find you," he replies, his voice soft but enough to hear over the noise surrounding us. His lips gently brush mine and our foreheads touch again. "I will not leave you, Bella. My heart will never allow it."
My lips tremble at his words and my hands rise to grasp his face, kissing him firmly. I do not care what anyone thinks or says; I am terrified that this will be the last time I see or touch him. "I love you."
"This is not goodbye, my love," Edward says firmly and I open my tear-filled eyes to look at him. "And this is not the last time I will tell you that I love you, too."
I need to feel his lips on mine again and I throw my arms around his neck, pulling him close and kissing him soundly. His arms grip around me and he returns it, until we are interrupted by my mother's admonishing voice, but I still will not release my husband.
"Isabella, enough with this display. Let us go so we can be done with this mess before we freeze to death."
Her disparaging tone infuriates me, but not enough to follow her to the boat just yet. I look up to Edward and he kisses me once more before reaching into his coat pocket, retrieving his gloves. "Here. Put these on once you get into the boat. I would hate to find you have gotten frostbite on your beautiful hands when I see you next."
I retract my arms from around his neck to take them from him before I feel another arm come around my waist.
"Come on, darlin'. We need to go," a heavyset woman, I only know as "Mrs. Brown", says from beside me, her voice kind but hurried as she pulls me from Edward.
"I love you, Bella," I hear him say softly before I am led too far away and I meet his eyes once more.
"I love you. Forever," I reply just before I am lifted onto the boat, never breaking my gaze from his as I sit down.
Edward's hand gestures to the gloves still clutched tightly in mine and makes a sliding motion over his fingers and mouths, "Put them on."
I nod and do as he asks before the boat jerks violently beneath us with the loud exclamation of "Lower away!" from the crewmember still on the deck. I try to take comfort in Edward's smile as his gaze continues to hold mine while I am lowered further and further away from him until I can barely make out the details of his face anymore.
"It's gonna be all right, honey," the same voice says from her seat beside me and I feel her hand rest on my knee.
Yet, I cannot take comfort I her words, either. As we begin to row away from the ship, a streak of white light shoots up through the sky from the deck, bursting into several thinner streams falling back down toward the water.
When we are far enough away to see the full view of the massive ship, the list I had noticed while still upon it is more pronounced and noticeable, with the bow tilting more toward the ocean. It was sinking, and my Edward was still up there. "No. Oh my God, no."
We have only just truly found one another. God cannot be so cruel as to take him away from me now. My life and future was disappearing before my eyes, along with every beautiful word and promise we have shared in the last two days. There will be no walking on the lawn together or kisses shared as we make love in our bed, no children or growing old together. There are not enough lifeboats—that much is obvious just by sight alone. And they are only allowing women and children aboard them—my husband is likely to die.
Please, let another ship find us. Titanic cannot possibly be alone in these waters tonight, I pray in my mind, clutching my hands to my chest and lowering my face to inhale his scent still upon them. Please, God, do not take him away from me.
Yet, no one comes. The ocean is eerily still beneath us, despite the immense structure that is the RMS Titanic lowering more, deeper into its depths. Another hour has passed and the bow of the ship has disappeared, the stern standing frighteningly close to perpendicular to the surface.
"Edward," I whisper in a raspy voice, my throat raw from the bitter air I have been inhaling into my lungs all this time.
The other occupants on the boat are silent in horror at the sight before us, terrifying even at this distance and the absence of light from the ship, which has already flickered out. Distant crackling fills the air, followed by the sharp gasps of the women surrounding me as the stern disconnects and the front half of the ship has completely disappeared.
I am numb, my eyes unable to focus on anything more. Where Edward had once stood is now gone. The only glimmer of hope remaining is that he had found his way onto another boat, as I see a scattering of men on the ones close enough to ours to give a clear view, but none of those faces are the handsome one of my husband.
The contents of my stomach feel as if they wish to expel over the side of the boat as we watch every last inch if the Unsinkable Titanic disappear into the ocean, as if it never existed at all.
I cannot believe this. Only hours ago, my life was nothing less than perfect. I was in the arms of my husband, warm and safe in our bed, and full of hope for the future. That embrace has now been exchanged for the one of the woman beside me, holding me through my silent tears while my own mother continues to sit feet away from me. I am certain she is as much shock as I am, knowing that she has likely become a widow again as well.
I encase my head in my arms, not wishing to see or hear any more, and still praying that this is just a terrible nightmare. That soon, I will wake up to Edward lying beside me and kissing away my tears. Yet, I never do and I feel the cold air strike my skin again as the woman previously holding me stands, arguing in a resolute tone with the crewmember manning our boat that we need to go back. There are still people out there and we have to try to save whomever we can from the icy water. She then turns to the rest of us, urging us to grab an oar and row, reminding each woman aboard that it could be our husbands out there. I tearfully stand up beside her, ready to do whatever it took for even the slightest possibility of finding Edward.
My mother reaches out to grab my arm, pulling me back down beside her roughly. "Sit down, Isabella."
I gaze at her angrily and wrench my arm away, desperately trying to ignore the pain that soars through me from her movement and my own. I have never been so cold in my entire life, but the physical agony I am in is nothing in comparison with that of my heart. "Perhaps you do not love your husband enough to wish to find him, but I do. I have already lost one man in my life because of you, I will not lose another by simply giving up without doing everything I can to bring him back to me."
My throat burns from my effort to speak and I stand again, stepping back on shaky legs toward Mrs. Brown. Unfortunately, our efforts are in vain, as we are both ordered to sit down, that our boat will capsize with the scrabbling panic of the people still in the water, fighting for survival.
All traces of hope begin to diminish the longer we wait, even once the boats are organized and one begins to return to the now nearly silent site where the Titanic once stood before us, in an effort to find more survivors. I cannot bear to watch for its return, knowing that after all this time in the icy water, chances are slim that any are still alive. Even as dawn begins to break, I cannot look up. Another ship has been spotted, but it is too late.
All those people. Those poor souls in the hands of God now, yet because I was a woman, I am not among them, but my Edward more than likely is. I should not be here; I belong with him.
Once we have boarded the Carpathia, I walk stiffly along the deck, hopelessly gazing around through the gathering of other passengers, crying or searching for their loved ones, or both. I cannot breathe, I cannot swallow, and I can barely even walk from the stiffness in my limbs that the cold has left me with.
I am asked my name as a blanket is wrapped around me, and my lips tremble as I give it. "Isabella Cullen."
"Thank you," the man replies as he writes it down and I move to stop him with my hand on his arm.
"Have you happened to come across a Mr. Edward Cullen? He is my husband," I asked in quiet desperation.
His eyes sadden more, looking down to his list for a moment and then back to me regretfully. "I am very sorry, madam. I have not."
I want to cry as he walks away, but I feel as if I have no tears left. He is gone. My Edward is really gone.
"Phillip?" my mother's voice rasps from beside me and I look over to her, having not noticed her there before. "Oh my God, Phillip!"
I watch as she rushes forward, discarding the blanket from around her shoulders as she throws herself into the embrace of her very much alive husband.
"Oh, Renee. My darling Renee," he whispers, holding her tightly against him.
"How did you …" she trails off through her tears, her face pressed to his chest.
"They allowed a few men onto the boats, not long after you departed," he replies, running a hand over her back until his eyes gaze meets mine. "Oh, Isabella."
"Edward?" I ask more with my eyes than my word and feel my heart plummet more as his lower.
"He would not get on the boat with women and children still on the deck. He remained on the ship, as did your maid, Jessica. I am so sorry, my dear," he says, his voice filled with the shame of a man who had been unable to be as selfless himself.
I raise my hands to my face, still covered in my husband's gloves and inhale deeply again. Is this really all I have left of him? The last thing he ever touched? A pair of gloves? And once his scent fades from them, I will be left with only my memories—the ones we had barely begun to make together.
I should not be bitter that my mother has found her husband; that she does not feel as I do now, but I cannot seem to help myself. She has taken for granted everything in her life—my father, Phillip, the money, the house, even me. She has never appreciated anything, but she still has her husband. Her heart has not been shattered irreparably, leaving her empty and alone. Her life is not over before it has even had the chance to really begin.
I step away from them silently, unable to bear it a second longer. I am once again praying for the numbness to consume me as I walk to the rail, closing my eyes and remembering the feel of Edward's arms around me last night, standing in a similar place, in one absolutely perfect moment. If I live to be a hundred years old, I will never feel anything like that again. Those two completely carefree, blissful days will be the last I will ever have. This experience has changed me forever and I will never love another man the way I loved, and will always love, Edward. I do not wish to live out the life and dreams I was just beginning to plan with him, with anyone else by my side.
I crumple to the deck, still holding onto the rail as tears find me again and a heavy sob leaves my chest. I know I am not the only widow on this ship or the only one to feel a loss, but few know exactly how this feels. I do not care about the money or things I have lost, or the lifestyle that would now change. I knew that Edward's family would never leave me destitute, even if I did care about such meaningless things. The memory of the horror of last night will live within us until the day we die, but it will not consume us completely this way as time passes.
This void inside me will never fade.
"Bella," a hoarse voice rasps and I pinch my eyes closed. My mind and body are so exhausted, I am hearing voices in my head, since I know that both of the ones who would call out that name are now gone.
I wrap my arms around my legs when it repeats and I begin to sob harder. "Stop. Please stop."
My face rests against my knees and I shake my head, willing sleep or any form of unconsciousness to claim me.
"Bella," the voice croaks a little louder and I finally lift my eyes, my mind frozen with what they find.
Hands shaking beneath a clasped blanket, lips tinted blue, pale, ashen skin, green eyes looking back at me. The voice is unrecognizable…but that face…
"E-Edward?" I stammer as my vision blurs with more tears, terrified my eyes are deceiving me.
He tries to speak again and fails, but he does not need to.
I know those eyes—I have gazed into them.
I know those lips—I have kissed them and felt them on my skin.
I have run my fingers through that hair, held that body in my arms, touched that hand sneaking out of the blanket right now.
"Oh my God, Edward," I barely exclaim through my sob, looking up at him sitting on the bench beside my legs. I pull myself up to stand to move to him and fall to my knees again in front of him, taking his face in my hands. Even through the gloves, I can feel his skin, cold as ice. He can barely move, frozen straight through to the bone. "Oh my darling, what are you doing out here? You will freeze to death."
"You…had…to find…you," he replies and a sob catches in my throat. It is so difficult for him to speak, his words stiff and strained, trembling just as his hand is now as it rises from the blanket more to grasp mine on his cheek. He grips it like a vice, squeezing my palm against his as he presses his icy lips to my knuckles. "Promised…"
"Oh, my love," I cry as I lift my lips to his and his blanket parted more for his arm to slowly wrap around me. I rise from the deck to sit upon his legs, and his embrace closes around me as mine does the same to him.
Edward swore he would never leave me, that he would find me, and somehow in the enormity of everything that has happened, he has kept his word. I do not know how, but I cannot think about it, either. Both of my husband's arms, albeit it stiff and cold and a little tight, are holding me again. I am kissing his angled jaw and nuzzling my body against him.
Edward is alive. He has not left me.
"Please, let me take you inside. You are frozen through," I whisper, as I can barely speak louder than that anyway, but his body stiffens and his head slowly shakes.
"No. Please." His once velvety smooth voice is so rough and gravelly, straining over each word while his arms tighten more around me. "You. Just you."
"I am here. I will always be here," I cry and his quaking fingers rise to press to my lips, silencing my sobs with a pained look on his face. That is why he took notice of me from here on this bench—he knows my cries as well as I know this face. I press my lips to his fingertips and then rest my head on his shoulder. "No more. I promise."
I rub my hand along his arm with us both encased in the blanket, trying to warm him as best I can, but I do not leave his hold. We sit there on this bench for the remainder of the voyage to New York, time and space meaning nothing to us anymore.
We have each other, and I know we will cherish this more than ever.
One year later
The anniversary is only a few days away, and Edward and I share a silent walk, trying to lose ourselves in the peace of the day, but it is difficult to hide from a past you cannot forget. Following our arrival in New York, Edward had suffered from a high fever that had lasted a week, and I refused to leave his side once. I was there each moment for everything he needed, and fell asleep next to him each night in our bed, since he insisted on remaining home rather than going to the hospital.
Gradually, Edward became his old self again, though his demeanor was completely different. He was the same man from those last days on Titanic and we both know we will never go back to the way we were before.
We take nothing for granted—we know all too well that everything that is perfect and sweet can be stripped away from you at a moment's notice. So, a month after the sinking, when we discovered that I was with child, words cannot describe the joy and pure elation we felt.
And now, as I walk along the lawn with Edward, I gaze down at our three month old little Molly in my arms and smile. She has the same boisterous and fiery personality of her namesake, even for her young age. When I found out I was pregnant, I had told Edward that, if we had a girl, I wanted to name her after the strongest woman I had ever met, however briefly. Who would hold a complete stranger in her time of greatest need, and stand up for those who could not do so for themselves, and in my mind, was the very reason that Edward is still standing beside me today. It was through her strength and tenacity that stirred the pot and gave her the infamous reputation she has now. And while they were too late for the more than fifteen hundred innocent people who lost their lives that night, including my maid and friend that I still miss tremendously to this day, there were a lucky few saved, Edward included.
A large yawn from our little girl causes us both to chuckle and Edward gently kisses my temple. "I think it is time for someone's afternoon nap."
I smile at my husband's words and look up to him. "Yes, I supposed I am quite tired."
"I did mean our daughter, my love," Edward whispers, his hand lowering from my shoulder to slip around my waist and his lips ghosting against my ear. "I was hoping for a little time alone with her mother."
"Edward, it is the middle of the afternoon," I chuckle and turn my head toward him, finding an odd look in his eyes and my features grow somber. "What is it?"
"It is nothing," he replies softly and I pause in my steps, causing him to stop as well. "Bella, I swear."
I eye him curiously and then walk over to the bassinette we have sitting outside, setting Molly inside and draping a blanket over the top to shield her from the sun as she sleeps. Turning to my husband, I take his hand and pull him closer to the bench beside us, urging him to sit and settling onto his lap once he has. This has become our way to talk when the need arises—close, face to face, always touching. "We promised each other, no more secrets. Tell me."
Edward's arms slide around my waist and he holds me silently for a moment, pressing his lips to my shoulder. He has become increasingly comfortable with displays of affection with me, despite the eyes of the staff upon us at any given time. While I am glad for this, I do not like the worry lines that are creasing his forehead right now and I brush a kiss against his skin. His eyes close for a moment at the contact and open to look up at me again. "I simply wanted some time alone with you. I feel as if I have been neglecting you lately with all the time I have spent working, and I miss you, as well."
I smile and place my hand on his face, kissing his lips softly and then shake my head. "I have missed you, too, Edward, but you have never left me feeling neglected. You know I would tell you if I was feeling that way. You still come to bed with me every single night and hold me, even if I am already asleep by the time you make it there. And this handsome face is still the first thing I see every single morning. I have nothing to complain about."
"We have not made love since before Molly was born," Edward replies softly, his eyes rising to mine.
"That can easily change, my love," I tell him as I gently trace my fingers through his hair. "After all, we still have a brother to give our little girl."
Edward's eyes widen as my arms wrap around him again. "Already?"
"No more wasted time, remember?" I reply and rise from his lap, taking his hand in mine. "I think I will take Molly to the nursery and tell the cook to hold dinner for us for a little while, if you are agreeable?"
Edward's beautiful smile returns to his face and he nods. "I will be there waiting for you, Mrs. Cullen."