Disclaimer- Stephenie still owns the usual suspects.
I own my original characters and original story.
Thanks again to Cared Cullen for all her help!
(Very long author's note at the end)
The next few weeks were the happiest I could ever remember, despite the fact that Ed and I had our second falling out during that time.
It all began as an offhand remark made by Elise while Rose, Alice, and I were visiting her one Saturday afternoon.
We all sat around the kitchen table while the men were down in the basement helping Joe install wood paneling, in preparation for the New Year's Eve party Joe and Elise were hosting.
"Really looking forward to Christmas this year," Rose remarked as we nodded in agreement, "Think about it, it's the first Christmas since Ed went away where all the family will be together."
"Yeah, and Vicky don't act like a bitch anymore." Elise added with a giggle.
We all laughed.
"I just hope this new leaf she's turned over, lasts."
"I think maybe the rest of us will kill her if she reverts back to her old self."
I couldn't argue with that.
"You know, I was thinking about what Jimmy put himself through, just to please her," Elise sighed wistfully, "Not just Jimmy though, all the brothers are the same. They are good men; they'll do anything for us."
"My Jasper's not a Colonna, but I can't imagine a better husband." Alice added with a sigh as she rubbed her belly. Even after more than a year of marriage, Alice still got starry-eyed when speaking about her Jasper.
Elise smiled and patted Alice's arm. "Our men were raised right. In the case of the Colonnas, the credit goes to their mother, but of course their father played his part."
Elise gave me a meaningful look, "You know that while they were in Korea together, Joe and Ed had a lot of time to talk. My husband has changed." Her voice dropped to a whisper, "He don't hate his Pops so much anymore."
Her words touched my heart. I was happy for Joe, knowing that even if he hadn't done so yet, there was hope that someday he'd forgive his father.
And it was because of Ed.
He never ceased to amaze me.
Elise continued to smile. "Just think; if Ed hadn't volunteered to go to Korea, him and Joe wouldn't have had that time together. My husband maybe would never have had that change of heart."
I stared at Elise, my expression blank. I vaguely registered Rose beside me nervously clearing her throat.
I swallowed thickly, "He… he what?"
"Uh…" Elise looked confused. "He volunteered for Korea but, of course at the time, he had no idea Joe would be there too."
"I…" I struggled to speak, my mind a complete blank, "he volunteered? I don't understand."
There was dead silence until Elise spoke again, "Oh, Bella, I thought he told you. I'm sorry." She sounded upset, "I'm always puttin' my foot in my mouth…"
I held up my hand to stop her, "No, no, it's just a shock that's all."
As I thought back over the hell I'd lived through during those fifteen months that Ed was in a war zone, I could feel my temper start to rise. At least when he was in Japan, I knew he was safe, but Korea…
He wasn't forced to go to war; he chose to put himself in harm's way.
How could he?
The more I thought about what he'd done, the angrier I became. "Elise, would you mind giving me a lift home?"
"Bella," Rose placed her hand on my arm, "Don't leave like this. Talk to Ed."
I shook my head. "Why should I talk to him? He decided all by himself to go to Korea. He never asked my opinion, so obviously I'm not as important to him as I thought." I couldn't hold back the angry tears that filled my eyes.
"Bella," Elise's tone was pleading, "Please talk to him. He had his reasons…"
"Please excuse me for a moment," the room was suddenly stifling. I stood and made my escape to the bathroom.
After having my cry and washing my face, I took a shuddering breath, knowing that I did need to talk to Ed; to clear the air as it were.
To my surprise, I found him waiting just outside the door when I opened it.
His face was etched with sadness as he held his hands out in a pleading gesture, "Bella, can you please let me explain?"
I nodded. "Yes, but not here. I don't want an audience."
He surprised me by pulling me by the arm into Elise's sewing room and then shutting the door.
I stood with my arms crossed over my chest as he leaned against the door, eyeing me warily.
He didn't seem eager to start talking, so I did. "I just want to know why, Ed. Knowing how much I love you, how much I missed you. Did it ever cross your mind what it would do to me when you went to war? The second year you were gone was so much harder than the first. Knowing that at any time, you could be shot, I would wake every morning feeling sick, wondering if that would be the day I'd receive bad news." My entire body was shaking with the force of my sobs by this time, "I pretended, in front of our families, let on that I was coping, but inside," I pointed to my chest, "inside, I was dying a little every day."
"Oh, Bella," his voice broke as he took a step closer.
I held my hand up to stop him. "Every time a stranger came to the office, I braced myself, fearful that they were coming to tell me you'd been hurt…. or worse…" I dropped my face into my hands as I continued to cry. "And now, to find out that you chose to go there. I can't … I can't…"
His arms were around me then, and I allowed him to hold me close. "I can't tell you how sorry I am, Bella," he murmured as he kissed my hair. "Please, please, believe me; nothing I did was ever intended to hurt you. I'd rather die than hurt you…" he looked down at me and cupped my cheek with his hand, "I didn't even think. When I found out that I could have my tour reduced from three years by volunteering, I jumped at the chance." He kissed my forehead. "Sweetheart, maybe it was a purely selfish move on my part, but just the possibility that I'd return to you sooner… I had to do it." He drew in a deep breath, "I can't lie though, I'd do it again if it meant I could be here right now, holding you in my arms."
He kissed my cheek, my nose, "Please don't hate me."
I wrapped my arms around his waist, feeling my anger melt away, "I could never hate you," I stuttered out between sobs. "You… you did this… so you could come back to me sooner?"
"Yeah, like I said," he pointed at his chest with his thumb, "selfish."
I shook my head, "Never. You are the most unselfish man I've ever known. I love you so much, Sarge."
"I love you too, with all my heart." He whispered just before his lips met mine.
****Christmas Eve, 1952*******
This was the moment I looked forward to most at every Christmas Midnight Mass. Baby Jesus, having been gently placed on his bed of hay, the overhead lights in the church were dimmed while the candles on the altar burned brightly.
Then we waited for the sound of Father Kucinski's beautiful baritone to fill the space around us…
Goodnight, Sweet Jesus, Guard us in sleep,
Our souls and bodies, In thy love keep . . .
Waking or sleeping, Keep us in sight,
Dear gentle Savior,
Goodnight, goodnight . . .
I discreetly placed my hand in Ed's, hoping my mother wouldn't notice. I'd hear about it later if she did.
Goodnight, Dear Jesus,
Goodnight, goodnight . . .
Goodnight Sweet Jesus, Grant that each day,
Of our lives mortal, Thus pass away. . .
Thy love o'er watching, Guiding a' right,
Dear gentle Savior,
Goodnight, goodnight . . .
Goodnight Dear Jesus,
Goodnight, goodnight . . .
"I want you to open your present before I leave," Ed whispered into my ear as we sat together on my parents' sofa.
As soon as we'd returned from Mass, everyone else had gone to bed, while Ed and I lingered downstairs.
"Before morning?" I asked as I turned to face him.
He shrugged, "It's already Christmas."
I smiled, "I suppose that's true."
He knelt down on the rug and pulled a silver package from under the tree, "I won't lie, I kind of hoped for a moment alone, so's I could give you this."
I moved to the floor, accepting the gift. I noted with confusion that his hands shook as he handed it to me.
Alice had sworn that Ed was going to give me a ring for Christmas, but this package was too large to be a piece of jewelry. I yearned to be his wife; however, just having him home was enough for now.
I tore away the wrapping and opened the lid to the box that was revealed. Inside, I found a sweet little music box, a painted rose adorning the lid.
I smiled at him, "It's lovely, thank you."
"Open it," his voice was barely a whisper.
I did as he requested, and nestled inside; I found a beautiful solitaire diamond ring; simple and understated, just like my man. Just like us.
I gasped as my hand flew to my throat.
He picked up the ring and held my hand in his.
"Bella, the day I met you began the happiest chapter in my life so far, and when you agreed to wait for me, my God," he whispered, "I couldn't understand how I got to be so lucky. Even while I was away from you, and miserable, I never gave up hope. I knew deep down that we'd be together again. So, even though I'll never deserve you, I'm not about to allow some other no good so-and-so out there have you," he chuckled as I giggled through my tears.
Yes, I was crying again
"I don't want to waste another minute, sweetheart." He drew in a deep breath, "I love you so much. Will you make me the happiest man in the world? Will you marry me?"
My heart filled to bursting at his words. Without a moment's hesitation, I answered, "Yes, of course, yes!" I exclaimed as I reached up to stroke the side of his face with my hand, "I love you, Sarge." And then I said the words that I'd often used to close my letters to him. "You are mine, and I am yours, always and forever."
He beamed down at me and whispered, "Forever."
Edward slipped the ring on my ringer before pulling me close and pressing his lips to mine in a passionate kiss.
A kiss to begin our forever...
A/N Song Rec: "Goodnight, Sweet Jesus" –Perry Como recorded a lovely version of this.
~As promised, a ridiculously long author's note~
This story was inspired by my parents' own meeting and courtship, and that alone explains the fact that I stopped the story before the wedding. If I were to carry on and write a wedding night 'sex' scene, I'd probably traumatize myself and need therapy for years. LOL
******** Inspiration for the story ***************
My father was Italian (and German), and grew up in the 'Little Italy' section of the city where he was born. He was the youngest of 7 (five boys and 2 girls). My mother is all Irish, and grew up only a few blocks away, but it might as well have been the far side of the moon. In those days, the Irish did NOT go into Little Italy. Mom is the oldest of eleven (9 girls, 2 boys)(originally thirteen but one sister died of cancer at age nine and a brother died during birth).
Most members of the Colonna and Swan families are based on real people. Alice is a combination of two of my mom's sisters. Aunt Julie is a combination of a couple of Dad's aunts. Vicky is also a combination of a couple of people as well. Thank God neither one of those women alone were really as awful as Vicky.
-My grandfather (the Italian one) was actually more abusive than I indicated. I didn't want that storyline to take over, so I toned it down. He was a real piece of work…didn't just beat his wife, he also beat his kids with the belt. Smh.
-My dad wouldn't speak ill of his father. When I wanted the dirt I went to his brother (Joe's counterpart), who was also my Godfather.
-Dad's brother (Em's counterpart) was outgoing, full of fun, teased relentlessly, and was absolutely adored by my Mom's family.
-My dad, all quiet and serious had a couple of my mom's sisters convinced he was grouchy and mean simply because he wasn't like his brother. It took them a while to warm up to him. My grandmother always liked him, and he loved that woman like she was his own mother.
*****Real life incidents included in the fic:
-Four of my mother's sisters married before her
-My grandmother DID tell my uncle that his cologne made him smell like a French whore.
-My dad's brother (who was married to my mom's sister) told Mom that he had his 'kid brother' all picked out for her.
-The first time my parents met was in the railway station upon his arrival home from Germany.
-They both stood as godparents to my uncle and aunt's little girl.
-My dad wanted to ask Mom out, but was skittish and ended up being a stalker instead; showing up at his brothers' homes any time she was there. (silly man)
-Their first date was dinner at Katie's Spaghetti House in Little Italy.
-All the deaths Ed experienced were ones experienced by my own father as well. He joined the army when his mom died, saying there was nothing at home for him anymore. While away, he lost his grandmother, a grandfather, his father and his uncle (the one who had changed his name from the Italian in order to join the Navy).
-Franny's antics (bagging school, drinking wine, smoking)…all credited to a couple of Mom's sisters.
-Mom's little brother did not grow up to become a priest. However, after having to tolerate so many sisters, the good Lord blessed him with all sons.
-Frank & Bing….f.y.i. Mom still prefers Bing.
-My dad and his friends lying in wait for the Catholic school kids (my mother being one of them) in order to pummel them with snowballs.
-The fight my parents had over the photo of the old girlfriend, AND him showing up on her doorstep at the seashore to beg forgiveness.
-Dad's orders: Japan for one year, then changing to 3 years once he boarded ship.
-Mom collapsing in tears on her bed upon receiving the news and being consoled by her mother.
-Dad volunteering for Korea in order to knock a few months off of the 3 years.
-Dad sharing a tent with his brother while in Korea.
-My Aunt (real life counterpart to Elise) made all the gowns for Mom's and five of her sisters' weddings.
-Taking the priest to task for his behavior. I can think of at least 3 incidences where a priest was handed his own ass by my mom or one of her sisters. Don't ever cross them. It's not worth it. Lol
-The bus accident and the beloved family doctor who got two of his nephews (the specialist and the attorney) involved to help. And yes, he always called my mom 'Sis'.
-My mother is quite entertaining (bat shit crazy) when under the influence of any kind of painkillers or anesthesia. After giving birth to one of my brothers, she was convinced she'd had twins and accused the nuns of stealing one. (I inherited my insanity honestly).
-Mom's sister (the one who lost her baby) went on to have six more children and now has fifteen grandchildren and a few great-grandchildren as well. Her first baby's casket was placed on top of a favorite uncle's, not their grandfather's)
-My grandparents loved to bet at the track or place bets with Leo the bookie.
-My grandfather loved to rock babies and sing to them. With 11 children, he'd had lots of practice.
-The words my grandmother spoke to Alice after the loss of her baby were actually spoken to my mom when she lost her first little girl.
-"Goodnight Sweet Jesus" sung at midnight Mass.
-My dad proposed by placing a diamond ring inside a music box as a Christmas gift.
***** Real life incidents NOT included (but I did consider it)
-Squabbling amongst the sisters. You can imagine the epic squabbling that occurred in a household containing nine sisters. For example: one of my aunts had a habit of hogging the bathroom (the only one shared by 13 people). A couple of the sisters got fed up, grabbed some tools, and successfully removed the door from the hinges while she was inside. Then the fight was on…
-My grandfather had a unique way of driving away his daughters' dates when the hour grew late. While his daughters sat in the parlor, entertaining their fellows, Grandpop would stand at the top of the stairs and pass gas. Loudly. (maybe he's related to Emmett in V&V?)
-Two of my mom's sisters and their husbands purchased homes next door to each other, my parents purchased one across the street from them. Imagine if Alice and Jasper moved in next to Rose and Em...then when B & E marry, they move in across the street. Yep..that was the reality.
There are a million more moments like these that I could have included but then I'd probably still be writing a year from now.
In closing, I'll leave you with my thoughts about this story as told to the ladies at The International House of Fanfic:
"You Belong to Me" takes place just as the Korean War is beginning. It was born from the idea of using a couple of elements from my parents' own courtship as the basis for a story. I've always thought that the way they met, and their later separation would make a great movie; all the elements are there: romance, drama, humor and even some angst. As I got into writing the story for the Christmas Wishes Compilation, and especially now with the expanded edition that I'm posting on Fanfic, I have been compelled to share more and more of actual events than was ever my intention at the start. As I've realized, this story could not be told any other way. It's been a real treat to share this bit of family history, and characters whose real life counterparts are so very near and dear to my heart."
There you have it my friends. Check out the "You Belong to Me" photo album in our Facebook group 'Emmamamas Stories' (a lot of the photos were taken by Dad while overseas). I am so happy you chose to take this journey with me. I thank Cared Cullen for all her assistance in helping me share this with you. Take care, until we meet again, perhaps in another story? xoxo