This story is dedicated to my friend, Pam, who recently lost her husband to cancer. She's a wonderful friend with a beautiful soul who didn't deserve losing her best friend to such a devastating and deadly disease. I love you, girl.
An epilogue, more like a future-take, will be up next. Thank you for your patience with this one. It was incredibly hard to write it due to the subject matter. Losing my mom to lung cancer was so hard. And then, writing this with Esme, the matriarch of the Cullen clan, dying of metastatic breast cancer? Epically tough.
Chapter Twenty-Nine: Epilogue
Eight Years Later … High School Graduation
"Seriously, John. Yellow is the worst color ever for graduation gowns," Grace grumbled as she sat on my bed. Her legs were folded under her body and she looked pretty in a navy dress for my graduation. "At least, you can pull it off with the skin tone …"
"You're not going to go all Aunt Alice with the fashionista talk, Grace," I said, trying to put the mortar board on my head. Trying was the operative term. I was big. Like my dad. My biological dad … who was probably watching down from heaven. With a big body came a ginormous head. It made finding a helmet for football interesting, to be honest. "This thing is too damn small."
"Don't cuss," Grace said, standing up and pulling out my desk chair. "It'll fit, but your messy 'do will be smushed." Grace was petite like mom, with delicate features and half my size. She was also patient and loving like mom, but she'd adopted Dad's calm demeanor, with a wry sense of humor. She stood on the desk chair, thrusting the mortar board onto my head. I grumbled. I'd worked hard on my hair. Now, it was plastered to my head. "Now who's a fashionista, jackass?" she quipped. "Who are you trying to impress?"
"Don't cuss," I snorted. "And I wanted to look nice for Mom and Dad."
"You suck at lying John Jacob Black-Cullen," she snickered. "You blush. It's your tell, brother bear."
"I do not suck at lying," I argued.
"And I'm a natural blonde," Grace quipped, flipping her long, nearly black curls over her shoulder before hopping off my chair. "I also know that you're trying to impress someone. Could it be Nessie? You've been with her forever!" My blush deepened and scowled at my sister. "I knew it!"
"Get out of here, brat," I laughed. "I want to run through my speech one more time."
"Well, Mom and Dad want to take pictures as a family. Aunt Leah will be here in ten minutes," Grace said, sliding out of my bedroom. I blew out a harsh breath of air. I looked around my room, seeing memories of my previous life in Arizona, our renewed life here in Forks and glimpses of my future – a full-ride scholarship to University of Washington on a football scholarship.
When we'd moved here after Dad's death, Mom was … she was a mess. She was so sad and lonely, unable to sleep in a bed and just broken. She went through the motions of life until my second dad came into her life. Edward was her friend first, making her realize that she wasn't destined to have lonely life, subsisting for just her children. He made her smile when they began dating and found true happiness and true love for the second time when they got married, a couple of weeks before my ninth birthday.
Now, don't get me wrong … I love Edward. He accepted me and my sister as if we were his biological children, loving us from the moment he entered our lives. He adored my mom more than words could say, but our lives were filled with ups and downs. More ups than downs, thankfully. The biggest downs were the deaths of Nana Esme and Aunt Rebecca. Nana died shortly after Mom and Dad got married. Dad was understandably sad, but he focused his sadness into making his old house into a new home for us and our new baby sister, Olivia Anne. The renovations were a gift from Nana Esme, leaving money to Dad and money in a trust for both Grace and me.
Aunt Rebecca died right before I got my driver's license, in a drunk driving accident. We were never particularly close with her because she was not happy that Mom had remarried. It devastated Poppy, though. He fell into a deep depression and moved in with Aunt Rachel, Uncle Ryan and their three children, Tia, Jacob (named after my dad) and Quil (a tribal name). Aunt Rebecca's accident made my mother very nervous and she refused for me to get my license until the summer following my sixteenth birthday.
Well, that's what she believed.
Dad took me to Port Angeles and I had my license, but never drove until the summer just to give Mom peace of mind. Dad was adamant that I'd have that rite of passage when it came to the driver's license.
Probably the biggest up was when shortly after Mom had her second baby with Edward when I was twelve. They had another girl, Alison Marie, named for her godmother, Aunt Alice. I didn't like that Grace and I weren't Cullen's like our baby sisters. It bugged Grace more than me, but I could understand why. After Alison's christening, Grace and I approached Mom and Dad, asking to discuss adoption. When Mom first married Dad, I didn't want to lose my last name, but after talking with Grace, we came up with a solution of hyphenating our names. On Dad's forty-first birthday, we were legally and officially adopted as Cullen's. When I was ready, I could still give my wife my name of 'Black', but I'd also be a Cullen. I was proud to be a 'Black', born into a strong, noble family. But, I was accepted as a 'Cullen' and I'm proud of that, too.
"John! Aunt Leah's here!" Olivia bellowed up the stairs.
"Crap," I muttered, picking up my notecards and darting down the stairs. Mom was leaning against Dad, her eyes welling with tears. "Mom, don't start now. The ceremony doesn't even start for another two hours."
"But, you look so much like your father," she said, brushing her hands down shoulders. "You and Jake could be doppelgangers."
"What's that, Mommy?" Alison chirped, her chestnut curls bouncing as she skipped into the living room.
"They look like twins, but they aren't. Like your Mommy's doppelganger, but a hundred years younger," Dad replied. Mom smacked his arm, rolling her eyes as he chuckled at my littlest sister. He looked at me and his jade-colored eyes were misty. "I'm proud of you, son."
"Thank you, Dad," I said, smiling brightly at him. Edward pulled me into his arms and even though I was taller than him by a few inches and outweighed him, I felt his protection and love in that embrace. "I love you, Dad. I'm happy you're here."
He pulled back, his hands cupping my face. His bronze hair had more grey mixed in and his pale skin had fine lines around his eyes and mouth. "I love you, too, John. And your father is here, too." I smiled but felt my stomach twist. Dad reached into his jacket and pulled out an envelope. "Poppy wanted me to give this to you before the ceremony, John. It's a letter from Jake."
"Why didn't Poppy give it to me?" I asked.
"They're still fighting with the high school about his wheelchair," Mom growled. "So, Uncle Emmett, Aunt Rose and Papa Carlisle are fighting that battle. Haven't they ever heard of the American's with Disabilities Act?"
Poppy had to have his hip replaced earlier this year after a fall outside a tribal meeting. There were complications with the surgery and he still wasn't able to walk on his own, stuck in a wheelchair. He was going through physical therapy, only able to walk a few short steps and it didn't look good for him to be as mobile as he once was. We weren't sure if he was going to come to my graduation, but he bitched and made it, drugged to high heaven. He was staying with Grandma and Grandpa for the summer, working with a new physical therapist in Port Angeles, with hopes of improving his mobility.
"Read that when you're ready, son," Edward said, giving me a smile. "But, your mother is about to have a conniption if we don't get outside for pictures."
"Chief Edward Anthony Masen Cullen, do you want me to kick your ass?" Mom said, putting her hands on her hips.
"No, sweetness," he replied, moving over to her and sliding his arms around her body. "Deep breaths, Bella." He brushed his lips with hers and Mom calmed down.
"Sorry," she said. "I just can't believe my baby boy is graduating from high school and in a few months, will be moving out of the house!" She waved her hand in front of her face. I moved to her, hugging her and she clung to me. "You may be almost an adult, but you'll always be my baby boy."
"I know, Mommy," I said, kissing her hair. "Now, no tears. We've got pictures."
She nodded, wiping her face. Mom was so beautiful, with her chocolate brown hair in bouncy curls. She looked younger than forty-three years old. "I'm standing next to the graduate," she declared, looping her arm through mine. "Though, I'm going to have to talk to Alice about these gowns. Yellow?"
Aunt Alice was now the principal of the high school, with Mom the principal of Forks Elementary. Aunt Alice moved up to the high school when the principal retired just prior to my freshman year. She was also working on getting her doctorate and her superintendent endorsement. Whatever that meant … From what Mom explained, Aunt Alice is gunning to be in charge of the whole Forks School District.
We went out into the backyard where Aunt Leah had some photography screens set up on the deck, overlooking the forest and insane garden my mom and Grandma created to honor Nana Esme. We settled into our spots and Aunt Leah took picture after picture. I was getting antsy because I had to leave for the high school. "Mom, I have to go," I grumbled.
"I know. Just one more picture," she whispered, tugging Grace over to us. Her eyes were welling with tears. "A picture of the Blacks."
Grace squeaked and hugged Mom's waist while I slid my arm over her shoulders. After a few more photos, Mom kissed my cheek and pushed me toward the garage. I slid into Mom's old Honda Pilot, backing out of the driveway and making my way to the high school. I parked next to my friend, Silas', truck. I looked at the clock, seeing I had time before I had to be inside the auditorium. I pulled out the envelope from my dad. I ran my fingers over the block lettering of my name. I'd forgotten how he had written, but my handwriting was similar. Tearing open the envelope, I smoothed the letter and took a breath.
You are graduating from high school today. I wished like hell that I could be there as you walk across the stage, getting your diploma. I have no doubt that you're the smartest in the class, giving a speech. You're probably popular and athletic. Did you play football? I did. I was a defensive end. I had fun and worked hard.
I had played football but was a quarterback. I was big, but fast on my feet and had a killer arm. My junior year, we went all the way to state, but lost to our rivals in a controversial call. Coach had tried to get the call overturned, but it didn't work. This year, we were eliminated at regionals because our defense was not as strong. Shaking my head, I blinked back down to the letter.
Football was fun, but I was focused on my studies. It got me into University of Arizona, where I met your mom. I knew from the moment I met her that she was my forever, John. I hope that you find that. Maybe not in college, but at some point. I would also be remiss as a father if I didn't say … 'Be safe.' Your mother is too young to be a grandmother. I'm too young to be a grandfather and Poppy? He doesn't want to be a great grandfather for at least another five years. Graduate from college, son. Find a job, something that makes you happy. Live life.
"I did have my moment, Dad," I whispered. I looked up and saw her. Vanessa Whiteclaw was a transfer from the reservation school. She'd moved to Forks when she was a sophomore. She was super smart and gorgeous with dark hair and vividly blue eyes. Her father was doctor, working with Papa Carlisle and was Native American, Quileute. Her mother was white, with blonde hair and blue eyes. The school on the reservation didn't offer the classes she wanted to take, so her mom transferred her to Forks High School. She rode in with her dad. From the moment I saw her, my world tipped on its axis and I was gone. Vanessa, or Nessie, as she liked to be called, saw me and she waved, a bright smile spreading over her face.
She was my first everything. We had our first date at Bella Italia in Port Angeles. Dad and Mom went on their own date to Tuscany that same evening. And my parents adored Nessie. We had our first kiss at a Halloween party on the Quileute Reservation, on the shores of First Beach. We told each other we loved each other at prom and later that evening, we made love for the first time. It was awkward and clumsy, but with Nessie? It was perfect.
She was going to University of Washington, majoring in pre-med, and following in her dad's footsteps. I knew that if we could survive college, we could survive anything.
Nessie walked over to my truck and I rolled down the window. "Hey, beautiful," I said.
"I feel gorgeous in this yellow monstrosity," she quipped, rolling her eyes. "What are you doing in your car? Practicing your speech?"
"No," I answered. "You know my real dad died when I was a kid. He wrote us letters and I'm reading his letter to me."
"Oh," Nessie replied, stepping back. "I'll let you …"
"Don't, Ness," I said, taking her hand. "I'm almost done. He was just talking about meeting my mom, about how he fell in love with her from the moment he saw her."
"You say that to me all the time," she breathed.
"I say it because it's true, Ness," I murmured. I rolled the window back up and we sat down underneath our tree. She snuggled close to me while I finished my letter. "Though, he did warn me about being safe."
"We're safe," Nessie laughed. "Birth control is covered. My parents aren't ready to be grandparents."
"Nor are mine," I smirked, kissing her temple. "I love you, Ness. I want a future. I want children, but not now. We're eighteen."
"You're eighteen. I'm seventeen, for another three days," she snorted. "Now, we've got to be inside in a few minutes. Finish your letter."
"Read it with me, beautiful," I said and she looked over my shoulder.
I'm going to leave you with on kernel of advice … Be happy. I know that your life hasn't been easy. But, I know that your mom did everything in her power to make your life beautiful. I hope she found someone who made her smile like I did and you respect him. I'm grateful for the short time I had with you, John. I never knew that I could love someone so much and then I met you. I held you in my arms after you were impatient and were insistent on being born on the stairs of our first house.
Love your mother and your sister.
Respect your mom's husband (your stepdad), if you've got one, but knowing Mom and how much she … she found a good man to love her.
When you find the woman you plan on marrying, adore her and cherish her for the rest of your life.
I love you, John Jacob Black. Forever and always!
"Your dad seemed like a wonderful man," Nessie whispered.
"He was my hero," I shrugged. "He adored my mom. He was my best bud and my sister's protector. Our world just shattered when he died."
"I couldn't even imagine," Nessie said, her voice sad. "But, your mom found love again with Chief Cullen."
"Yeah, she did," I smiled. "I love him as much as my dad, but differently. He was the guy who told me about puberty and all that shit. He taught me to drive. He was the one who got me condoms."
"I bet your mom loved that," Nessie snorted.
"As far as she knows, I'm still a virgin," I deadpanned. "Her baby boy. And she's going to stay that way until we give her a grandbaby."
"I'm fairly certain your mom knows that we've had sex, John," Nessie said. "Who does your laundry?"
"Now, come on. We're going to be late and Principal Whitlock is a stickler for being on schedule." Nessie took my hand and tugged me off the bench. We made our way inside and took our seats. Aunt Alice gave me a glower, but I just smiled at her. She rolled her eyes, knowing my smile got me out of a lot shit. It also won me the Homecoming Crown and nominated to the prom court, not that either of those mattered to me. I couldn't exactly put those on my college applications.
A half hour later, we marched into the gym. Our graduating class was small, so we didn't need the football field. I saw my family, all huddled toward the bottom of the bleachers. Poppy was sitting in his wheelchair and his grin as wide as could be. Aunt Rachel and Uncle Ryan were there, along with their brood.
Aunt Rose and Uncle Em were there with AJ and a child they were fostering. Mom had noticed this little girl was coming to school dirty and starving. After a call to child protective services, a home study was completed and pulled the girl out. Aunt Rose and Uncle Em were certified foster parents. Since that day in January, the little girl, Sheridan, had blossomed. The parents had signed their rights away and they were talking about formerly adopting her.
Next to Aunt Rose and Uncle Em, I saw Papa Carlisle with his 'lady friend', Glenna. He refused to call it dating, but Glenna was someone he'd met in a grief group and they bonded over the loss of their spouses. She was nice and importantly, made my papa happy.
Grandma Renee and Grandpa Charlie were sitting next to my parents and my sisters. Mom's face was already blotchy so I knew she had been crying. Even Dad looked misty eyed.
After the pledge and the national anthem, the superintendent welcomed us to the commencement ceremony. I half-listened to what he had to say about being the future and looking forward to tomorrow. Blah, blah, blah. I wonder if he recycled the same speech every year.
Nessie, the salutatorian, spoke next. I listened to her speech with rapt attention. She was confident, poised and so engaging as a speaker. When she finished, I applauded, so proud of her. She blushed and scurried back to her seat before I was called up to the podium. I walked up to the stage, shaking hands with the superintendent and Aunt Alice. Turning to the audience, I did something I never even considered.
I threw away my speech.
"I had a speech prepared. I really did, but after reading a letter from my dad, I decided to change directions." I pulled out my dad's letter and smoothed it on the wood. "Not many people can say that they have two fathers. I am one of those people. My birth father was Jacob Black. He was born in Arizona, went to University of Arizona where he fell in love with my mom and they had me and my sister, Grace. When I was six, my dad got sick. By the time I was seven, my dad was dead. He died from pancreatic cancer. A year after he died, my mom packed us up and moved us to be closer to her parents her in Forks.
"I hated it here. It was so green and it smelled like rain and mud, all the time.
"It was also here that I saw how much my mom was suffering. Grandma and Grandpa helped, but the person that helped the most was the man my mom married. Edward Cullen. From the moment he met us, he treated us like we were his world. He adored my mom, making her smile, really smile for the first time in three years. He taught me how to play baseball, soccer and football. He was there for me when I got a baseball bat to the head. When I saw how much my injury impacted him, I knew that I loved him like a father.
"When he adopted me? I felt complete, happy and whole. But, knowing that my birth father thought enough write this letter to me? It reminded me of a man that I thought was my hero. Now, I have two heroes. I was born John Jacob Black. I was adopted as an unofficial Cullen the day my parents got married but became John Jacob Cullen-Black six years ago. Family is not strictly bound by blood, but by relationships. I love my mom, both of my dads and all of my sisters – though, I won't miss having to share a bathroom with three girls when I go off to college. I miss my dad, Nana Esme and Aunt Rebecca.
"Now, my birth dad has a few kernels of wisdom that I want to share with you. 'Be happy. Be healthy. Love your family. When you find the woman you plan on marrying, adore her and cherish her for the rest of your life. But most importantly, be happy.' Congratulations to the graduates of the Forks Class of 2025!" I said, smiling and walking back to my seat.
xx PutP xx
Four Years Later … Christmas
I was sitting in my room, trying not to cry. I'd had my heart shattered by the guy I'd been seeing at University of Arizona. I thought he was the one, but apparently not. He dumped me just before my psychology final, which I probably failed, so he could go back home to try and reconnect with his high school girlfriend.
On top of that, John was home with Nessie. He'd told Mom and Dad that he was going to propose to her. My big brother was out shopping for engagement rings with Mom. He loved Nessie and I adored her, but I was so bitter that my brother found his forever in high school while I was going through a mess of losers all through high school and now, college.
"Little sweetness?" came the smooth voice of my dad. I looked up and he poked his head into my room. One look at his concerned expression and I burst into tears. "Oh, baby girl," he said, pulling me into his arms. "Talk to me, Gracie."
"Archie was a douchebag," I wailed.
"I could have told you that," he snorted, sitting down on my bed. "With a name like Archie? Now what did Archie, the douchebag, do? Do I need to take out my gun and use his ass as target practice?"
"Not if you want to fly to Wichita," I sighed.
"Archie, the douchebag, from Wichita," Dad said, arching a brow. "You know how to pick 'em, little sweetness. Seriously, though. Talk to your old man."
"You're hardly old, Dad," I scoffed.
"Shut it. Thanks to your sisters, my gray hairs are multiplying by the dozen," he grumbled. "Olivia is going on twenty and Alison? She's on this vegan kick. Nothing with a face. She gives me this look when I have bacon like I'm personally offending her. I'm not a vegan. I like meat."
"Dad, you should lay off the bacon," I snickered. "Mom did say your cholesterol is borderline. You're still in killer shape, but, we want to keep you around for a while."
"Yeah, yeah. I just love bacon," he muttered. "Anyway, Archie?"
"Just a waste of my time," I shrugged. "I just see the love you have with Mom and how disgusting John is with Ness. I want that. Is that so bad?"
"No, Grace, but when it's your time, you'll find it," Dad explained. "Your mom was lucky with your dad and even luckier with me."
"You so don't lack in the confidence department, Dad," I teased.
"I'm awesome," he smirked, puffing up his chest. "But, I didn't find that 'forever' love until I was older. I was thirty-seven when I married your mom. I wasn't married before, but I had been in a long-term relationship. She was … she was not understanding of Nana Esme's illness, forcing me to choose between her or my family. Obviously, I chose family." He looked at me and his jade eyes soft. "I'm not saying it'll be like that for you, but when you least expect it is when it'll happen, Grace. I found love when I came home. Someone special is out there for you, little sweetness."
"Okay," I said, leaning my cheek against his shoulder. We stayed that way until Dad finagled me to help him wrap his presents. The man could shoot a wing off a fly but couldn't wrap presents. So, I did and then we made cookies. Olivia and Alison came home from school, happy to be on winter break. We spent the evening decorating the cookies until Mom and John came back from Port Angeles. From Mom's watery eyes to John's shell-shocked expression, it looked like ring shopping had been a hit.
A couple of days later, it was Christmas and we were all going over to Aunt Rose and Uncle Emmett's. Their family had grown and they had a newborn baby they'd adopted. To keep things easy for Aunt Rose, we all descended onto their house. The only person who was missing was John because he was over at Ness's, spending time with Dr. Whiteclaw and Mrs. Whiteclaw before proposing to his girlfriend. He was planning on doing it tonight and I was nervous for him, but happy. I was gaining an older and cooler sister.
As we were opening presents, John and Ness came in. Both of them were smiling. "We've got an announcement to make. Tonight, I asked Ness to marry me and she said yes!" he beamed. Mom got up and hugged John while I ran to Ness.
"Let me see!" I squealed. "He wouldn't show me."
Ness held out her hand and sitting on her finger was a gorgeous diamond solitaire with smaller diamonds going down the side. "The center stone is from your mom's old engagement ring," she whispered. "He had the rest made for me."
"It's beautiful," I breathed, hugging her tightly. "My brother actually has some taste."
Ness rolled her eyes. "There are moments when I question about his fashion choices, but I love him and have loved him since we met." She blinked to me, taking my hand. "I don't have sisters, but I've always loved you like one and now we will be sisters. I'd be honored if you'd be my maid of honor?"
"Of course," I smiled. "But, you have to give me until May. I'm still not legal to drink yet."
"We're going to wait to get married," she answered. "Not this summer, but next summer. With me starting medical school in the fall and John getting settled into his new job?"
"He's found something?" I asked. My brother graduated from college a semester early, with a bachelor's degree in architecture. He worked as an intern in some famous firm, but they didn't tell him if he was hired yet.
"He got hired by the rival firm," Ness explained. "He's starting in January. The other firm was stringing John along, but he'd sent in his resume and was hired immediately. They'll even pay for him to get his master's degree, if he decides to continue his education."
"That's wonderful news," Grandma said. "Are you moving in with John?"
"Once the semester is up," Ness answered. "I'm in a rental with three other girls. They can't afford the rent without me, so I'll move in the summer." She smirked at me. "That doesn't mean I won't be a frequent overnight guest."
Packing up the presents, John found me and tugged me into the office near the entrance of the house. "You okay, little bit?" he asked.
"Don't call me that, asshat," I grumbled. "And I'm fine. I'm happy for you and for Ness. I'm her maid of honor, which means, I get to be an extra pain in your ass."
"Oh, goody," he deadpanned. "Look, I talked to Silas and a couple of the guys when I was out, having a few beers with them the other night. They're having a New Year's Even shindig at First Beach. A bunch of us are going. You should come."
"I don't know. Not having someone to kiss at midnight? And I'm not going to make out with some random jackass, either," I grumbled.
"It's better than staying home with Mom, Dad, Olivia and Vegan Girl," John snorted. "I love Alison, but fuck. I like bacon."
"Dad said the same thing. It's like her personal mission to glower at anyone who loves meat," I snickered. "Mom hates having to cook two separate meals. Dinner for the omnivores and dinner for the herbivore. She said that if Alison keeps this up, she's cooking for herself."
"Seriously, though. Come to First Beach. I'll give you beer," John smirked, waggling his brows.
"Make it good beer and we've got a deal. And no running off with your fiancée, leaving me to fend for myself, John," I said, twisting his nipple. He scowled at me. "Now, I'm certain you want to suck face with your girl."
"We're doing more than that," he laughed. "We're celebrating our engagement."
"Ugh, I don't want to be reminded that my brother is getting some and I'm not," I groaned. "Go, copulate, celebrate … whatever ... just don't do it in the house. I do not want to hear your squeaky mattress as …"
"Love you, Gracie," he laughed, kissing my cheek. "And we're going to Port Angeles. I've already reserved a room for a couple of nights."
I groaned as he went in search of his fiancée. At least I didn't have to hear my brother having sex. That's almost as bad as knowing my parents have sex. And they do … a lot … I love that they love each other so much, but I don't need to hear them, too.
I wonder if Olivia and Alison know that when the door's locked, Mom and Dad are getting freaky? Should I scar my sisters?
"Grace, we need your help!" Mom called.
"Coming," I replied.
xx PutP xx
"Come on, Grace! The party has already started and I'm late with the beer," John said.
"It's my fault," Ness chuckled. "We were having a girly moment with your Mom."
"Do I want to know?" John asked.
"I was just reminding my girls to be safe. I'm going to tell you the same, John. Keep an eye on both of them. Not one hair on their heads is misplaced, John Jacob," Mom groused. "I don't want to send your father over there with his shotgun."
"I'll do it," Dad bellowed from the living room. He was working on a puzzle with Olivia. "I have no problems flashing my badge."
"Dad, you're reminding me more and more of Grandpa," I laughed.
"Where do you think I learned it from?" he asked, looking up over his reading glasses. "Charlie's the king of intimidation. He's the master. Plus, I've got two other daughters who need my protection. The hooligans of this town won't know what hit them if they try to mess with my girls."
"Daddy," Olivia said, poking his arm. "I'll never have a boyfriend!"
"That's the point, Livvie," he smirked, giving her a shitty grin. "Besides, you're too young for boys. Fifteen … just like Grace."
"Trust me, Olivia, it's really for the best," I shrugged. "The boys now? They're stinky and smelly and think that fart jokes are funny. They're not." I pulled on my pea coat along with a white scarf and hat set from Glenna and Carlisle. "Don't wait up."
"Be safe," Mom said, pointing her finger at me.
"Always, Mom," I smiled, kissing her cheek. Ness and John did the same. I hugged my dad, ruffling his hair. "Old man. Needs reading glasses."
"Shut it, little sweetness, or I'll tell your sisters where you hide your diary," he chuckled. I glowered at him. "Love you, baby girl."
"Love you, too, Dad," I sighed, darting out the door and into the back of John's car. I got a few texts from my roommates back in Arizona. I spent some time responding to them as John navigated his way to First Beach.
"Do you like University of Arizona?" asked Ness.
"It's a tough school and I like that I'm close to Poppy, Aunt Rachel and Uncle Ryan," I said. "But, I don't know. Maybe I'll transfer to UDub. I don't like the heat and I miss the humidity of Washington."
"Would your classes transfer?" John asked. "What is your major, anyway? You went in undecided."
"Education, but with middle schoolers, high schoolers," I answered. "Little ones are cute, but I like my students to be able to follow simple instructions. So, I'm an English major, with a minor in secondary education. I'm also taking classes so I can get an endorsement in history and science, maybe special education."
"I'm certain your classes will transfer," Ness nodded.
"Just something to think about," I shrugged.
We pulled up to the beach. There was already a bonfire going along with most of John's classmates from high school, some from the year after and a handful from mine. I found a few girls that I'd gone to school with and we sat down on some driftwood, chattering about our time in college. I was sipping my beer, listening to my friend, Violet, go on about her boyfriend had the longest dick. I wanted to bash my beer over her head. I damn near did when someone bumped into me. "Hey," I grumbled.
"I'm sorry," came a deep voice. "Grace?"
"Yeah," I replied, looking at the man attached to the voice. "Silas? Silas Morrison?"
He smiled, his teeth perfect and white as he nodded. He was not the same geeky boy I'd remembered when he was in high school. "You look great, Grace," he said. "Can I get you another beer? I'm sorry about bumping into you."
"Sure," I nodded. "You guys want any?" I gestured to my friends. They shook their heads. "I'm going to go with you, Silas. I need to stretch my legs." When we were out of earshot, I leaned against him. "Thank you."
"Whatever for?" he laughed, his voice rich and smooth.
"If I had to hear about how Moira's boyfriend had a perfect and long dick for another second, I was going to cut myself. I knew there was a reason why I didn't hang out with her in high school," I grumbled.
"Because she's a bitch," Silas snorted. "She dated my brother and dumped him right before homecoming his senior year. She went with the homecoming king while Mathieu sat at home, playing Call of Duty all by himself."
"What's Mathieu doing now?" I asked.
"Playing Call of Duty, all by himself," Silas quipped, shooting me a smile. "Mathieu is one of those guys who will live in Mom's basement until he's forty. I love my brother, but he made me look cool and I was the epitome of nerd."
Not anymore, I thought to myself. "What about you? You in college?"
"I am. I took off a year, worked at the police station in Forks as a dispatcher before I started at UDub. I'm getting my degree in information technology and computer design. I'm still a nerd, but thanks to weekly workouts with your brother, I've got muscles," he laughed. "You're at University of Arizona, right?"
"I am, but I'm thinking of transferring," I shrugged. "I miss my family. I'm close with my grandfather, my aunt and uncle, along with my cousins, but it's not my parents. I'd rather be three hours away by car, than four hours away by plane, plus a three-hour car ride. You know?"
"I do," he said, handing me another bottle and leading me to another bonfire with some people from his graduating class. It was smaller, more intimate. "The reason I took a year off was because my mom got sick. Cancer …"
"Oh, no," I breathed. I hated cancer. It sucked the life out of too many people I loved. "She's okay, now, right?"
"They caught it early. Barely stage one," he nodded. "But, she had to go through surgeries, chemo, radiation and all that crap. Mathieu was worthless. I love him, but he's so entrenched in virtual reality."
"Says the computer major," I teased.
"Ha, ha," he deadpanned. "So, I had to be there for Mom. Dad's been gone for a long time. Your mom and dad helped out a lot, too. While my mom healed, I worked at the police department and upgraded their technology, with Edward's approval, of course. It sucked leaving after that year, but Edward helped me … Your dad is fucking awesome."
"He is," I smiled. "I'm sorry about your mom. I'm glad that she's doing okay, now." He nodded, shifting on the piece of driftwood. "You okay?"
"Did John tell you that I'm his best man?" Silas asked.
"He didn't, but I'm certain that Ness didn't share the tidbit that I'm the maid of honor," I chuckled. "We get to plan the bachelor and bachelorette parties. Drunken debauchery and half-naked strippers."
"John said that if I got him a stripper, he'd disown me," Silas laughed. "I don't blame him. They're kind of gross."
"Okay, so no strippers. Can we, at least, have drunken debauchery?" I wheedled.
"Anything for you, Grace," he said, giving me a soft smile. He took a sip of his beer before turning his body to me. "Okay, John's probably going to kick my ass for this, but I can't not say anything."
"What are you talking about?" I asked.
"I've had a crush on you since forever, Grace," he said. "You're smart, loyal, funny, loving and my best friend's sister. He told me that if I did something, tell you that I liked you, he'd kill me. But, that was when we were in eighth grade and I was this massive nerd. We're not in eighth grade anymore. We're adults and I see you … you're beyond gorgeous and completely out of my league." I moved closer, wanting to stop his nervous rambling, pressing my lips to his. His arms banded around me as my fingers found his blond, curly locks. His mouth was soft, tender against mine, but grew more insistent as his tongue slid between my lips. I tasted the beer he'd drunk, along with something minty. He pulled back, his forehead pressed against mine. "Wow …"
"Silas, I had a crush on you, too. But, I always thought you didn't like me because I was John's little sister," I whispered. "You always left when I came into the room."
"Because John threatened my gonads," Silas laughed, his fingers gliding over my cold cheeks. "I love him like a brother, probably more than my own brother, but he could be a scary mother fucker. He could have eaten me for lunch back in the day." He looked at me and his grey eyes were so intense. "But, I'm not denying my feelings. Not anymore. Seeing my mom fight all by herself? I didn't want that. Not for her. Not for me. I know that you're going back to University of Arizona …"
"No, I'm not," I said. "I'm going to transfer. I was thinking about it before this semester, but now? I can't go back. I may lose a semester …" Silas cupped my face and he kissed me again, tenderly. I melted against him, feeling my heart stammer against my ribs.
"It's about damn time."
We broke apart and saw Ness and John standing a couple of feet away. John was smiling at us and he had his arm around Ness's waist. Silas' jaw fell open and I glowered at my brother. "You're teasing us? After you threatened him if he even breathed in my direction?"
"I, um, ah, well?" John stammered. I hopped up and smacked his stomach. "Lay off, little bit! I'm sorry."
"You're an asshat, John," I growled. "I could have avoided the Archie debacle all together if you hadn't been an asshat to begin with! I mean, come on!" Silas got up and slid his arm around my waist, dragging me away. "I had a few more smacks to give him, Silas."
"Just think of this, Grace. Payback …" Silas smirked. "Bachelor/bachelorette parties."
"Fuck me," John muttered. "I'm screwed, aren't I, Ness?"
"You dug this whole, baby," Ness said. "You won't pull me into this, Grace?"
"Nah, but you can help plan the payback," I said, leaning against Silas, who placed a kiss just behind my ear. I just found his hands, which were around my waist. I threaded our fingers together and I felt complete and happy. As we did that, there were fireworks going off down the beach. Silas whispered in my ear, "Happy New Year, Grace. My resolution is to make you as happy as you've made me tonight."
I turned, kissing his lips and smiling against them. "You already have, Silas."
xx PutP xx
A Year and Half Later …
It's not every day your oldest child and only son gets married. It's also not every day that your daughter will be proposed to by the man she never expected to love her. When Silas came to Edward and me, after a year and a half of dating, asking for Grace's hand, my husband got up and handed Silas a velvet box. I recognized that box. It was Esme's engagement ring, willed to Edward to give to our daughter. Silas was like another child to us and knowing that my baby girl had a wonderful man who loved her more than his own life was a dream. Both of my children were getting their happily ever after.
Olivia and Alison were still be molded, but they were becoming kind, loving and beautiful young women. Olivia was very much like her father, in looks and in demeanor. She was chill, calm but fiercely loyal. She also had his jade eyes and bronze-colored hair, taller than me at the age of thirteen. Alison, on the other hand, was a little spitfire. Her attitude came from her Uncle Emmett, with a dash of Renee. She was stubborn and willful, looking like my mini-me. Alison was sweet, but if you tried to change her mind, good luck.
"Sweetness," Edward said, coming behind me and kissing my neck. "The limo's here."
"I can't believe that John's getting married," I whispered. "Do I look alright? I don't look too matronly, do I?"
"Psssh, you're the hottest mother of the groom I've ever seen," Edward smirked. "And the one I'll be taking to bed tonight. I have plans to make you scream, sweetness."
"Horny much?" I quipped. "You'd think hitting fifty would slow you down, Chief."
"Nope. Not for you," he smiled. "And just to let you know, my parents were quite frisky until Mom got her diagnosis of cancer the second time. I also think that he's playing hide the sausage with Glenna."
"Please don't ever refer to sex as 'hide the sausage'? Especially when it's in reference to your dad," I groaned. "He looks great for a man in his mid-seventies, but that description defies all … yeah … not going there, Edward. That is so many different levels of wrong and ick in the same sentence."
"Now that you're thoroughly distracted from our son getting married, let's get into the limo," Edward said, threading our fingers together. I picked up my purse and we got into the waiting limo. John and Ness were having an intimate ceremony and reception at Canlis, similar to my wedding with Edward. Ness didn't have much family. We were fine keeping it just to family members, but a handful of friends made the list, too. Mainly people who were close to us, like family – Alice and Jasper, Shelly Cope and Roger Banner and Jane, John and Grace's long-time therapist.
I was surprised they wanted to get married in the city, but John had made his life there as a gift architect and Ness was going to start her second year of medical school in the fall. I supported his decision. He was close enough to family and able to live his own life without meddling parents, on either side.
Not that I meddled.
Once we got to the restaurant, which had been closed for the wedding, Edward and I walked in and sat down on the 'groom's side' of the aisle after a short cocktail hour. Mrs. Whiteclaw, or Kim, was being escorted down the aisle by Silas. He gave her a kiss on the cheek before turning to me and doing the same. After he did that, he stood on the dais and my son walked out, looking so much like Jacob. I started sniffling. My husband handed me his handkerchief and kissed my temple.
Olivia and Alison walked down the aisle, wearing matching eggplant dresses and holding bouquets of white roses. They were junior bridesmaids. Grace walked down next in a more adult version of the bridesmaid dress. Her bouquet had some orchids mixed inside. Finally, the music changed and Dr. Whiteclaw, Jared, walked his daughter down the aisle. Her bridal gown was white sheath dress with a lacy, beaded overlay. Her hair was pinned back with an orchid and she held a bouquet of deep purple orchids that matched the bridesmaid dresses.
Reverend Webber performed the ceremony and it was beautiful, with aspects of the Quileute heritage, honoring Jared's culture as a Native American and some Christian readings and vows. "I now pronounce you husband and wife. John, you may kiss your bride," Reverend Webber smiled. John let out a whoop before he took Ness's face in his hands. He tenderly kissed her. I sniffled, smiling brightly as my son kissed his wife. "It gives me the distinct honor to introduce, for the first time, Mr. and Mrs. John and Vanessa Cullen-Black."
I heard Edward inhale sharply. I grasped his hand, looking to him and saw his eyes wide. John and Ness walked past us as the string quartet played the recessional. "What, Edward?"
"He said that he would give Ness his last name. I thought that they'd be 'Blacks', he whispered.
"Edward, John is a Cullen as much as he is a Black," I smiled. "He loves you, baby. He respects you."
"You knew?" he asked.
"He told me when we out shopping for his wedding present for Ness," I replied, kissing my husband's lips. Pulling back, I brushed his hair back. "Are you upset, Edward?"
"I'm surprised," he said, blinking back to where John and Ness were taking photos with the bridal party. "I love all of our children, Bella. I've been so blessed. John and Grace accepted me after having Jake as a father. They loved me and I loved them so much. I still do. I always will."
"They accepted you because you treated them like they were your children from the moment you met them," I smiled. "John wanted to respect your love by giving both of his last names to Ness. He's proud to be a Black, but honored to be a Cullen, because you let him grow into that name," I said, snuggling into his arms. "Olivia and Alison are lucky to have you as their dad."
"I'm just grateful that Ali is over her vegan kick," Edward snorted.
"I think it was making her cook for herself that ended it," I laughed. "She could only eat salad so much."
"Mom, Dad, we need you for pictures," Olivia called. She walked over to us and saw her father's cheeks. "Are you okay? Daddy?"
"I'm fine, Nugget," he replied. "We'll be there in a little bit."
"Okay. Love you, Dad, Mom," she smiled, hugging me before walking back down the aisle.
"To reiterate what Olivia asked, are you okay?" I murmured.
"I am," he nodded, kissing my temple. "Come on, Mrs. Cullen. We need to take pictures with our son, who's married. Holy crap!"
"I know, right?" I breathed. "I can't believe that we're old enough to have a child who is married." Edward laughed, standing up and taking my hand. I threaded my fingers with his. We spent an hour taking photos while the ceremony was dismantled and the tables were set up for the reception. We sat down, ate dinner and danced the night away. I'd never seen my son happier. His smile was blinding and he looked at Ness like she was his world. When I wasn't watching him, I blinked to Grace and Silas. He was more subdued in his happiness, but Grace was his everything.
"Do you think Silas will propose tonight?" Mom asked.
"Silas won't want to steal John's thunder, but he said it would be soon," I smiled.
"And the ring?" she pressed.
"Esme's engagement ring that Edward gave to Silas. My husband said that Silas could use the stones, but Silas knew that Grace was into the 'vintage' look. He just had it sized since Esme had very tiny fingers," I smiled. "I mean, Grace is tiny, but the ring would barely fit her pinkie."
"How do you think Edward will handle the proposal?"
"How do you think Dad handled my proposal from Jake? From Edward?" I snorted.
"He was sad, but happy for you. You weren't his little girl anymore," Mom shrugged. She smiled at Billy, who was stiffly moving with AJ, Olivia and Alison. "Billy said he's moving up to Forks."
"He did?" I said.
"Rachel and Ryan are moving to Seattle with their brood. Ryan is coming into the same firm that John is working at as a contractor with a huge raise," Mom chuckled. "With them moving, Billy didn't want to stay in Arizona. He needs medical assistance. His hip is better, but …"
"I know," I whispered. "Where?"
"He's looking at your old house along with a ranch down the street from our house," Mom explained. "With his hips, I think Billy is leaning toward the ranch. The stairs in your old place may be too much. Now, enough heavy. They're doing the Cupid Shuffle. Let's show these young folks how it's done, baby girl."
xx PutP xx
A couple of days later, we were having a brunch prior to John and Ness leaving for their honeymoon. Silas, his brother Mathieu and his mother, Irène, were with us, enjoying the meal at the Edgewater. Grace was sitting next to Silas and she was curled to his side. He was very demonstrative with a blissed-out smile on his face.
When we were done with brunch, John looked at Silas and gave him a subtle nod. I gripped Edward's hand. He smiled at me, giving me a cheeky wink. My husband knew. "Before John and Ness fly off to Hawaii for ten days of tropical goodness, I wanted to say a few things," Silas smiled. "First off, I'm so happy for two of my best friends, who've found love and I see nothing but a wonderful future for the two of you. To John and Ness Cullen-Black." A few voices offered their congratulations and Silas turned to Grace. He picked up her left hand, sparkling on her ring finger was Esme's engagement ring. "Now, a lot of you know that Grace and I have been dating for a year and a half. We've known each other a lot longer. I've loved her in some form since John walked into my life as my best friend. Yesterday, Grace and I went out for a picnic and I finally 'manned up', proposing to her. I wanted the happiness that John and Ness have and I know that with Grace, that dream is attainable."
"Silas asked and I said yes," Grace smiled, hugging her fiancé. He beamed down at her, kissing her so sweetly. The tables erupted in congratulations. Kisses were passed around and Grace happily showed off her engagement ring. When Carlisle saw it, he hugged his granddaughter tightly. He whispered something in Grace's ear, which made her sob quietly. He took her face in his hands, wiping her tears away. She nodded, kissing his cheek before dragging Silas to Edward and me. "Mom, Dad?"
"We're so happy for you, little sweetness," Edward said, hugging her tightly. "What did Papa say?"
"He said that Nana Esme would have loved Silas and that she was smiling down at us from heaven, along with Daddy," she sniffled. "I just wish they were here. You know?"
I hugged my daughter, kissing her forehead. "They're here, munchkin," I said. "Now, you focus on the happiness and the joy of planning your wedding."
"It's not going to be for a while," Grace explained. "With me transferring to UDub, it put me behind. We're planning two years. I can finish my degree and student teach."
"Whatever you need," Edward smiled. "We're just so happy for you both of you." He blinked to Silas, holding out his hand. Silas grasped it and was shocked when Edward pulled him into a hug. "Welcome to the family, son."
xx PutP xx
Two Years Later
Sitting inside the bride's room, we were waiting in the church in Forks to walk down the aisle. Grace looked like an angel in her wedding dress. I was trying not to cry like a baby. My little sweetness was getting married. She and Silas were going to live in Forks while she worked at Forks High School as an English teacher. Silas was the head of my tech department, but also worked for the county. They'd purchased Bella's old home, making new memories there, though Grace was old-fashioned, living with us until she was married.
My fingers caressed the envelope in the pocket of my tuxedo. It was the last envelope from Jacob Black, to be given to Grace on her wedding day. Bella was apprehensive about giving Grace this envelope since our daughter was upset that Jake wasn't there. I know my daughter adores me, but Jake should be here, walking her down the aisle. Nearly fifteen years since his death and Grace missed her daddy.
"Dad? You okay?" Grace asked.
"Just … reflective," I replied. "It seems like yesterday that you were a little girl, Grace."
"I'm still technically little, Dad," she snickered. She was tiny, barely reaching the middle of my chest.
"Yes, but, you're an adult. In the fall, you're going to be a teacher at Forks High and getting married," I breathed. "I'm so proud of you, Grace. I love you so much and I'm …" My throat closed up and I closed my eyes. "Your my little girl, but not."
"No, Dad," she said, her hand finding my cheek. "I haven't been fair to you. You are my father. You've loved me from the moment you walked into our lives. Yes, I miss my dad, but you have been there for me since I was six years old. You were there when I had my first date with Elliott Demarcus, along with our subsequent breakup after he was screwing around with Moira. You were there when I went to every high school dance, smiling and taking pictures with Mom. You were at my high school graduation, supported me when I transferred from University of Arizona to UDub, never giving me any grief. You love my fiancé and didn't once threaten him with your gun."
"Well, I may have," I smirked. "When he asked for your hand, little sweetness. I told him that if he broke your heart, I could make him disappear and no one would ever know."
"I think Grandpa used that line on you," Grace laughed.
"I do have a letter from your dad," I said, pulling out the envelope.
"With all due respect to him, I don't want it. Not now," she breathed. "I love him and always will, but if I read that letter, I'll be an emotional wreck. I'll read it when we come back from our honeymoon, Dad."
"Grace, I think you should read it," I murmured. "It's Jake's way of being here, on your wedding day."
"Read it for me?" she asked. She threaded her arms through mine and put her head on my shoulder. "That way I get both of my fathers on my wedding day."
I nodded but was apprehensive about reading her letter. I felt like an interloper. This was a moment meant to be shared between Grace and Jake. I led us to the couch and opened up the envelope. "You can still read this, Grace."
"No. You," she pushed.
I kissed her forehead, unfolding the letter. "Dear Gracie Girl …"
Dear Gracie Girl,
Today is your wedding day. You probably will look beautiful, just like your mother did on our wedding day. The man who captured your heart? He's got to be a loving, gentle and amazing soul, sharing his life with you. I wish I could be there to walk you down the aisle, to give you away. I may not be there in body, but I'm in your heart, Grace.
There's not a moment that I don't miss you, baby girl. There's not a moment that I hate that cancer is stealing these moments away from us. I just know, however, that your mom found someone special and he's probably taking over my duties as father of the bride. He's a lucky man to give you away, as is your husband.
I hope that you both find happiness, love and joy, with each other and in your lives.
Now, some fatherly advice when it comes to marriage. Be patient with your new husband. He's not going to know how you do things, but don't let him get away with anything. If he drops his boxers on the ground on the way to the hamper, don't pick them up. You'll do it for the rest of your marriage.
Secondly, don't to bed mad. You will fight. No marriage is perfect, Grace. Talk things through before going to sleep.
Finally, tell your husband how much you love them. There's not a moment that I don't wish that I could tell your mother how much I love her. Especially now, since my days are numbered. I love you and John. I wish you both all the happiness in the world, along with the love of your lives.
Wipe those tears (it wasn't my intention to make you cry, but you're so much like your mom and you wear your heart on your sleeve), hold onto your stepdad's arm and walk down the aisle to your husband. Be happy. Forever, baby girl.
All my love,
"Is it true?" Grace asked, dabbing at her cheeks. "With the boxer statement?"
"Yes," I laughed. "Your mom gave me shit the first time it happened. She told me that she was not my maid. After that day, I was in charge of the laundry. It's also true about going to bed mad. The marriage I have with your mom is pretty amazing, but we've had our moments. We just talked a lot. Plus, after fighting? Making up is pretty sweet."
"I really don't want to know about you and Mom having make-up sex, Dad," Grace said, wrinkling her nose. But, her cheeks warmed. "It is fun, though."
"I really don't want to know that my baby girl is not a virgin," I grumbled.
"Oh, please. I was a prude. I waited until college with Archie, unfortunately. John lost his v-card when he was sixteen on prom night," Grace laughed. "Talk about a cliché."
"You're telling me this stuff and you're making me want to lock up Olivia and Alison in their rooms until they're thirty," I moaned. Grace giggled, kissing my cheek as there was a knock on the door. "Come in?"
"It's time, Chief," said the wedding planner, Diane. "You ready to walk down your girl down the aisle?"
I stood up, smoothing down my tuxedo and offering my hand to my oldest daughter. She placed her hand in mine. I looped it through my arm and we walked to the rear of the church, the same church where I married Bella almost sixteen years ago. "I love you, Grace. I'm proud to your dad."
"I love you more, Daddy," she whispered. "I'm honored to be your daughter." She kissed my cheek and we walked down the aisle. I placed her hand into Silas', smiling at him as he became the protector of my child.
xx PutP xx
The day following Grace's wedding, I was sitting in hotel room in Port Angeles. Edward was showering. Olivia and Alison were sleeping the adjoining room, having closing down the party with the next generation. I sipped my coffee, staring out into the misty morning and curled up in the chair in the suite we'd reserved.
"You're thinking awful hard over there, sweetness," Edward said. I turned and saw him. He was in a pair of jeans, rubbing a towel through his wet hair. He was still very sculpted for a man in his early fifties. He definitely turned me on. And he did last night. "Bella?"
"Sorry, just ogling my hubby," I chuckled.
"Yeah, because I'm so hot," he retorted, rolling his eyes. "Talk to me, Bella." He tugged on my hand, forcing me out of the chair and pulling me into his arms. I snuggled against his bare chest and leaning my cheek on his shoulder. "Are you sad about Grace?"
"Not sad," I whispered. "I'm happy she found a man who adores her as much as you adore me; as much as Jake loved me. I'm just … happy. When my husband died, I thought my world would shatter. It did shatter. I never expected to have this."
"What?" he pressed.
"Absolute joy," I breathed. "John is married to Ness, living his dream of being an architect in Seattle while she's getting her medical degree. Grace is married to Silas, following in my footsteps of becoming an educator. Though, she's probably going to stay a teacher."
"No administrative aspirations for Grace?" Edward snickered.
"She said she'd rather carve out her left eyeball than deal with the bullshit I've handled," I snorted. "More power to Alice as the superintendent. I couldn't do it. I'm perfectly happy being the principal of Forks Elementary."
"You do deal with some crazy parents," Edward laughed. "I could never do it."
"You kind of do with your job as the Chief of Police," I shrugged. "But, you're going to …"
"I can't believe I was talked into running for mayor," he sighed. "I'm not getting any younger. I don't want to retire, but this seems like a good option. With the endorsement from the retiring mayor, I may be in a good place to win. I'm not holding my breath, though. Back to your reflective mood, looking out to the rainy morning."
"Grace had a perfect day yesterday. The rain held off and my baby girl had a perfect day," I smiled. "Olivia and Alison, they're also growing up so fast. Olivia is getting her learner's permit this year and Alison is in eighth grade. It seems like yesterday they were born." I blinked to him, brushing my lips over his. "Pure joy. I never thanked you, Edward."
"You don't have thank me, sweetness," he whispered. "Every moment of our relationship has been pure joy. And we have forever to look forward to."
"Forever isn't enough," I breathed. "I love you, Mayor Cullen."
"Don't jinx me, sweetness," he laughed. "I love you for forever and a day."
"Forever and a day," I said, threading our fingers together, feeling nothing but love and joy. The shattered parts of my heart having been mended thanks to the patience of the man holding me close, the love of my children and the support of my family. The pieces of my heart were put back together and it was completely filled, healed, happy and whole.
And they would remain that way for forever and a day.