Thank you to Isa for the inspiration, Jen for the beta work, and you for reading.
Midnight - because you asked - and you so rarely do - this is for you.
** The Beginning - Age six**
"I don't wanna do this."
She knelt down in front of me, smiling. Wrapping her arms around me, she let me bury my face into her hair. I smelled it. I liked how my momma's hair smelled. It was pretty—like her.
"Tell me why."
"'Cause is not a reason, Edward Anthony Cullen. It's just a word."
"People will be looking. I don't like people looking."
"But I need you to do this."
"Because Bella is scared to walk down the aisle alone. I need you to be big and strong, hold her hand and walk with her. It would make Auntie Renee so happy."
I frowned. I liked Auntie Renee. She made good cookies. She wasn't my real auntie—she was my momma's best friend, but my momma said it was the same thing. And Bella was pretty nice—for a girl. She wore jeans and shirts and let me play in her treehouse, which was really cool. She never cried if she got dirty, and she had great comics. I didn't like the idea of her being scared. So maybe if it made Auntie Renee happy and Bella not be scared, I could do this.
But the looking…it always made me nervous. People pointed and whispered, and I didn't like that.
I looked up at my momma.
"Today is a special day for Renee. She found her hero, and today Bella gets a new daddy. Everyone is going to be looking at them, not you. I promise."
My eyes widened.
Uncle Charlie was a hero? Did he have a cape?
I must have said that out loud, because Momma laughed and tweaked my nose. "You can ask him after the ceremony."
She held out her hand. "You look so handsome, Edward. Just like your daddy. Can you do this for me?"
"Will Daddy be proud?"
"He'll burst his buttons!"
I grinned. I wanted to see that.
"Okay, Momma. I'll walk with Bella."
"That's my boy."
I gaped at the little girl across the room.
That wasn't Bella.
This girl was wearing a frilly dress, and her shoes had bows of them. Her hair was long and hung down her back. I didn't know Bella had that much hair. Her face was clean too. I bet her momma made her scrub behind her ears like mine did. It tickled.
Bella grinned at me, and my eyes widened. "Bella—your teeth are gone!"
She giggled. "I fell off a sthwing and knocked 'em out. But look!" She leaned close, poking at her gums. "New ones are comin'!"
I squinted my eyes and saw the little white lines on her gums. I nodded—they looked just like mine when my teeth came out. But mine came out 'cause cause they were loose, not because I fell off a swing. Bella was always falling. That's probably why they wanted me to walk with her today. I could hold her up.
Auntie Renee came over, clapping her hands. "Look how cute you are, Edward!"
I puffed out my chest, shaking my head at her. "Boys aren't cute," I clarified. "My momma said I was handsome."
She and Momma looked at each other and laughed. "Handsome, then. Isn't Bella pretty? You two will be the perfect couple!"
I had no idea what a couple was, but I looked at Bella again. She looked different than how she usually looked, but Auntie Renee was right. "Yes," I said seriously. "Bella is very pretty today."
They started talking, and I moved closer to Bella. "I'll hold your hand, Bella. You not have to be scared."
Her eyes were wide. "I have to toss petals. I need both hands."
I looked down in disgust at the pillow Aunt Renee had given me—it had frilly stuff on it. "I have to hold this 'cause cause it has the rings on it." I frowned, not sure what to do. Then I smiled. "We can both hold the basket, and I'll put my hand on top of your, like this," I explained, showing her.
She smiled widely, showing the big gap in her mouth. It made me smile back. "Thanks, Edward."
There was something I wanted to ask, and I knew if I asked Bella, she wouldn't laugh. Looking around, I leaned down so I could whisper. "Bella, does Uncle Charlie have a cape?"
Despite what Momma said, people looked. But I remembered my promise, and instead of looking back, I looked at the basket between us and concentrated on my hand covering Bella's, and making sure she didn't trip. The petals she kept throwing were very slippery.
It was boring standing to the side with Daddy, but his hand felt nice on my shoulder. Twice I saw Bella wobble a little. The second time she did it, I rolled my eyes. She'd told me her shoes hurt her feet. She should just take them off—why wear them if they hurt? When all the grown-ups moved and went to a table to do something important, she squirmed again. I shook my head and called over to her. "Take your shoes off, Bella."
I heard people chuckle, but I ignored them. Bella shook her head, and I sighed. She was so stubborn. I went over and stood beside her. "Take them off so your feet don't hurt."
"I can't—I don't think you're allowed to at church."
I groaned. She was so silly. "Of course you can," I assured her. "Look, I will, too."
I kicked mine off and wiggled my toes. "That feels better."
Bella hesitated, then stepped out of her shoes, wiggling her toes too. "Yeah," she agreed with a nod.
People were laughing, and I glared at them. Grabbing her hand, I pulled her down the aisle, ignoring my momma's voice telling me to stay.
Nobody was laughing at me and Bella.
Later, after supper, I sat in the corner, feeling grumpy. Momma had scolded me for dragging Bella down the aisle and taking off my shoes, even when I told her it was for Bella. Daddy laughed and told Momma to calm down 'cause cause I was only looking after my girl. I had no idea what that meant, but Momma stopped shaking her finger at me and Auntie Renee said it was the "sweetest thing ever."
I shook my head. It was just shoes.
I was tired and I wanted to go home, but all the grown-ups were dancing. Supper was weird, with lots of foods I'd never seen before, and I didn't like it. Momma said there'd be cake, but I hadn't seen it yet. That just made me grumpier.
Bella slid into the seat next to me and smiled. "Hi."
I turned away. "Nothing."
Her voice sounded funny when she spoke again. "Are you mad at me, Edward?"
"I have a surprise."
"I don't want no surprises."
"You'll like it."
I hesitated. I was grumpy, but I really did like surprises. "What is it?"
"You have to come to another table to get it."
"I like it here." Nobody could see me here. Nobody was laughing.
"It's a good surprise."
"Fine," I huffed. I knew Bella wouldn't stop until she showed me.
She tugged my hand, and I followed her across the room, ignoring the people looking at us. We got to another table, where Uncle Charlie was waiting, a big grin on his face.
"There's my favorite guy!"
I rolled my eyes at him, but he shook his head and lowered down so he was my height. "You are my favorite guy, Edward. And what you did today? You deserve a reward."
"What did I do?"
"You helped Bella. You saw she was hurting, and you put her first and took care of her."
"I got in trouble and people laughed."
He ruffled my hair. "Nah, kiddo. You're not in trouble. Sometimes people laugh because you make them happy—not because they're making fun of you."
"Yup. You added a great memory to this special day—one I'll never forget. And that deserves a treat." He stood up and indicated the table. My eyes widened at what was there.
A cheese pizza, two chocolate milks, and two pieces of cake.
I looked up at him. "For us?"
"Yep. I ordered it in special for you and my Bells, here. Dinner was too grown-up for you. Now you two sit and eat, and when you're done, I'm gonna dance with my new daughter."
He walked away, and I grinned at Bella. "I know you've never seen it, but I think he does have a cape."
"Hmmm?" I asked, concentrating on making sure I got every last crumb of cake off my plate. It was good cake with lots of thick, chocolate frosting. I glanced over at Bella's plate, wondering if she was going to finish hers. There was lots left on there.
"Will you dance with me?"
I gaped at her. "I don't dance, Bella. I'm six."
I shook my head. "Not me."
"People will look," I mumbled.
"I'll hold your hand and it won't matter—like at the church." Then, as added incentive, she slid her plate my way. "You can have the rest of my cake."
"And your chocolate milk?"
She jumped up and held out her hand. Nervously, I looked around. Everyone seemed to be busy dancing or talking, so maybe they wouldn't notice us.
I took her hand, and we walked over to the dance floor.
My momma and daddy were there and he grinned down at me. "Taking a turn, Edward?"
"Bella wants to," I grumbled. "I don't really wanna. And I don't know how."
He hunched down. "Trust me, son. You're going to do a lot of things in life you don't want to do because of a pair of pretty, dark eyes." He looked at my momma. "Isn't that right, Esme, my love?"
She swatted his head. "Carlisle! Stop teasing him."
Laughing, he stood up and shook his head. "Just watch me, Edward."
He put his hands on Momma's waist, and she wrapped her arms around his neck. He waited until Bella and I mimicked them, and then he started moving his feet. I did the same thing, wondering how long I had to do this for—after all, there was cake waiting for me.
Bella put her head on my shoulder, and I was about to pull away until I saw Momma had done the same thing to Daddy. He had his cheek pressed to her head, and with a sigh I did the same thing, just like he told me. I shuffled my feet, trying not to step on Bella's toes. I didn't think she'd like that.
Dancing seemed kinda boring to me.
Although I had to admit, I did like how nice it felt to have Bella's head on my shoulder. Her hair smelt like bubble gum. I liked it.
Not that I would ever tell anyone that.
**The Middle - Age 16**
My hands tightened into fists so hard, they ached.
"Say it again, asshole." I straightened my stance. "I dare you."
Mike Newton glared up at from the ground, blood dripping down from his nose, pooling in the dirt in front of him.
"You broke my fucking nose," he whined.
"Touch her or disrespect her again, and a broken nose will be the least of your worries," I sneered at him.
I glanced over at Bella, who was sitting on the grass, Angela beside her with her arm wrapped around her shoulder. Tears ran down her face as she cradled her arm close to her chest. My own chest ached the way it always did when something was wrong with Bella. I needed to make it better.
Newton stumbled to his feet, wiping at his face. "Pussy-whipped," he muttered.
I grabbed his arm, wrenching him close. "At least I'm getting some," I hissed into his ear. "My dick knows what something other than my hand feels like." Then I pushed him away. "You've been warned, Newton."
He lurched away, and with a sigh I turned toward Bella. I needed to take her to the nurse, and then I would walk myself to the principal's office. It would be better than waiting for the inevitable announcement to come over the intercom.
"Edward Cullen—report to the principal's office immediately."
I'd been through this enough times, I knew the drill. This wasn't the first altercation I'd had with Mike Newton—it wouldn't be the last.
Sitting down, I gently tugged at her arm. "Let me see, Petals."
As always, my pet name for her made her smile. I started calling her that after Renee and Charlie's wedding in reference to the petals she had scattered as we walked up the aisle. She claimed to hate it at first, but that quickly changed. I rarely used it unless we were alone, but I knew it made her smile. I liked her smiling. I hated it when she cried.
"Tell me what happened."
She shrugged. "I tripped."
"Bella," I growled.
Angela spoke up. "Newton was in her face, Edward. Being a pig—as usual. She tried to get around him, and he grabbed at her."
Anger started bubbling in my chest again. "What did he say this time?"
She gazed up at me, worry shining from the dark pools of warmth. "He was just being Mike."
"You have to stop this, Edward. You can't protect me every minute of every day. You're going to be in trouble again because of me!"
"Best reason to be in trouble." I felt along her arm, frowning when she winced. The skin was grazed, her hand bloody, and bruises were forming on her forearm. "Okay. To the nurse's office."
I helped her up, wrapping my arm around her. I like her tucked into my side. Slowly, we walked toward the nurse's office. "You okay?" I asked quietly.
She nodded but stayed quiet.
Mrs. Cope saw us walk in, and pointed to the back room. "You know where to go, Bella."
I helped her onto the table, the paper covering cracking as she sat down. I hunched down so I could see her face. "Hey, don't be mad at me, Petals."
She looked up, her face sad. "You must get so tired of having me around, Edward. I only cause you trouble."
I stared at her in disbelief. "Bella, you don't cause anything. Newton is a typical bully—you're the smallest one around, so he picks on you. That's on him—not you." I slipped my fingers under her chin and dropped a quick kiss on her mouth. "I'm never tired of having you around—ever."
I couldn't remember my life without Bella. She was always there—first as a little kid, growing up with me. Summers of shared popsicles and giggles, sandy beaches, fires and marshmallows.
Our first day of school together when her small hand slipped in mine and I held it tight, feeling better because she was beside me.
The first class outing, sitting beside each other on the bus as we visited a local farmer and I held her hand again when she slipped in the mud. She cried because her jeans got dirty, so I purposely fell too, so mine matched. I hated to see her cry.
The first vacation our families took together. Both of us with wide eyes of wonder as we walked into Disneyland, once again our hands clasped tight as we tried to take it all in.
I had shared all of my firsts with her.
Every first day of school. School dances and outings. Every Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. First snows, first dreams…first kiss.
It happened so naturally—walking home from a dance. We went as a group—we always did, but tonight had been different. Bella looked different—she felt different when we danced. When I heard Ben say how hot Bella was, I looked at her—really looked at her—and I knew.
She was more than my best friend. She was my other half.
I paused at the entrance to the park. "Let's go for a swing." Bella loved it when I pushed her on the swing.
Her smile was warm and happy as she let me tug her into the dark, deserted area. She settled on the wide leather seat, and I leaned down, hands on her hips, my mouth near her ear. "You ready, Petals?"
Her reply was in a breathy voice I'd never heard before. "Yes, Edward. I'm ready."
I pushed her, smiling at her delighted giggles. I stood back, leaning against the cold metal and watching her soar, secretly admiring how the actions caused her skirt to lift and bunch, showing me her shapely legs. As she slowed, I stood in front of her, my legs spread wide, her between them. We stared at each other, both still. Her breathing picked up, and I lowered my face down to her level. Our gazes held, mine begging her with a silent question. Her head nodded almost imperceptibly, and then our lips touched. Pressed together softly and parted. Again. Then again. Each time a little harder, holding a little longer. When she sighed, her breath hot against my mouth, I bravely touched my tongue to her bottom lip, and then I was inside. It was brief, fumbling, wet and awkward.
It was perfect.
Ten minutes later, we were both pros, our tongues sliding and gliding together, our breath mingling, and I knew no matter what else happened in my life, it would be with her by my side.
I dropped my head to her shoulder, panting. "Be my girlfriend, Bella. I want everyone to know you're mine."
She giggled softly, her breath a warm puff of air against my neck. "I think most of them think so already."
I lifted my head. "What about you? Is that what you think?"
"It's what I hoped," she whispered, her eyes glimmering in the dim light.
I kissed her again. No fumbling, no awkwardness. As with everything else in my life, when Bella was part of it, it became easier…better. School, crowds, dances…kissing.
Leaning over her, I worked the snaps on my leather cuff and wrapped it around her wrist. My dad had given it to me when I was twelve. It was too big then and rather small now—I had a new one at home, but for some reason I kept wearing this one, waiting for the right time to take it off. The time was perfect. I had to use the last snap, and although it was still loose, but it looked right sitting on her wrist. I lifted her arm and kissed the thin skin of her inside wrist, the tiny blue veins pulsating with life under the pale covering. The cuff would protect that life—just like I protected her.
"It's official for everyone, then. Now they can see we're together. My girl."
"Edward Cullen's girl," she murmured. "I like that."
"I like it too."
"What did you say to Mike?"
I pursed my lips. "Nothing."
I huffed a sigh. She always knew. Quietly, I repeated what I said to him, feeling my ears turn red. Bella looked at me, shocked. Using her good hand, she slapped my chest. "But we're not…we've never…"
"I know. I just wanted to piss him off."
She rolled her eyes. Pressing my lips to her ear, I chuckled. "It's not like we have done…a few things, Bella." I grinned against her warm skin. "Lots of things."
She blushed and looked away. "You're a jackass."
Her lips twitched.
"Now tell me what he said to you."
I lifted her chin. "Why not?"
"You'll go find him and beat him senseless."
"Well, it won't take much to make that idiot senseless. One more good punch should do it."
Now I had to know. "Tell me, Bella. Right now."
She whispered his words, and my hands grasped the paper on the exam table, tearing it into shreds. "I'll kill him."
She cupped my face, wincing as she held my cheeks in her hands. "No. You won't do anything. Promise me."
Her dark eyes were wide with fear. "I need you with me, Edward. Please."
I could deny her nothing. I never could. "Distract me," I pleaded.
Her warm mouth covered mine, and I felt my entire body relax into her. She always did that for me—calmed and centered my focus. I pulled her tight, kissing her back, needing her taste in my mouth and her scent in my lungs.
Remembering where we were, I drew back, keeping my arms around her. I held her close, burying my nose into her long hair and breathing her in.
"Am I forgiven?"
I kissed her again—soft and sweet the way she liked—and stepped back as I heard the door opening. "Good."
Mrs. Cope bustled in, her tongue clicking away. "What have you done this time, dear?"
"She was pushed, Mrs. Cope. I don't think it's broken, but it's badly sprained. There's some contusions as well as cuts that need to be cleaned and dressed. Some Tylenol would help for the pain as well. I think she needs to go home and rest, too."
Bella rolled her eyes, and Mrs. Cope snorted. "Thank you Dr. Cullen," she said with a smirk. "I'll take it from here."
I opened my mouth to protest, when the intercom crackled to life.
"Edward Cullen—report to the principal's office immediately."
I groaned, and Mrs. Cope shook her head. "They need that on a continual recording."
"I'm not that bad," I protested.
"He was defending me," Bella spoke up.
"Newton again?" she asked.
We both nodded.
"That boy. He needs to be taught some manners—although not necessarily with your fists, Edward. Go take your punishment. I'll look after your girl, and you can pick her up."
"I don't know if they'll let me go home."
She picked up my hand, holding it high. "Bella isn't the only one needing some mending. I think you cracked a knuckle. I'll bandage it up when you get back."
Given how much it was aching, that news didn't surprise me. Bella's injuries were far more important, though. My dad could fix me up later.
I dropped a kiss on Bella's head. "Back soon."
"Let's hope so. Banner might throw you in detention and throw away the key."
I winked at her. "You can spring me later."
She shoved me. "Go."
She smiled. "I already do."
I swallowed heavily when I walked in Banner's office. It was pretty full. My parents, Mike's parents, the douche bag himself—his nose a flaming red, bordering on purple—and Bella's mother were all in attendance.
This was new.
The joys of living in a small town. They were all so…close. I hadn't expected to see them all together…all here.
At least they hadn't called in the big guns, I thought. At least Charlie…
The door opened, and Chief Swan walked in. There was none of his usual friendly greeting, asking how his favorite guy was… There was only a stony glare, his arms folded across his chest.
They were all staring at me, and I felt the shiver run up my neck. I still hated being looked at, and Bella was across campus, so I couldn't hold her hand and be calm.
I sucked in a deep breath, trying to act nonchalant. "Hey. What's the occasion?"
"I had to call your parents here, Edward. What happened today has gone beyond a playground scuffle."
I held back my laughter. Playground scuffle?
We hadn't had a playground scuffle since we were nine. I looked over at Mike, glaring. I beat his ass then too.
"You broke Mr. Newton's nose, son."
I shrugged. "I sorta figured that when I felt his bones give."
"Edward!" my mother admonished while my father glared at me and Charlie groaned.
Mr. Newton started shouting. "We're going to sue! I want him suspended! In fact, I want him expelled! I don't want him any here near my son—he's a bully with a temper!"
I gaped at him. Did he know his son at all? He was the biggest loud-mouth ass around and loved to pick on everyone smaller than him.
"I'm a bully? I'm a bully?" I yelled.
Charlie stepped forward, his hand on my chest. "Calm, Edward."
I grabbed my phone, shoving it toward Charlie. "He pushed her, Charlie! Look at her arm! I was only defending her!"
His finger stroked over the screen of my phone, looking at the pictures I'd taken of Bella's arm. His frown deepened, and I could hear a low growl building in his chest.
"I'm not a bully! He was talking smack to her and making her uncomfortable, and when she tried to ignore him and move past, he shoved her! I saw it!"
Now everyone was looking at Mike.
"Is this true, Michael?" Principal Banner asked.
His face turned almost as red as his nose. "She tripped." His voice dropped. "Bitch is always tripping."
It was only Charlie holding me back that stopped him from having a black eye to match his bloody nose. Renee gasped, and even his parents looked shocked.
"Don't you dare refer to my daughter as a bitch," Charlie ordered, his voice filled with fury.
"That's nothing compared to what else he says," I muttered.
"Like what?" Charlie demanded.
I saw Mike's eyes widen and his head shake frantically. I crossed my arms and leaned back.
"What did he say to Bella this morning, Edward?"
I drew in a deep breath and repeated what I'd finally gotten Bella to tell me. "He told her he wanted her to ride his dick like a pogo stick."
Chaos broke out. Parents were yelling, Dad was now holding Charlie—hollering the whole time about tossing him in jail and throwing away the key—back from a cowering Mike Newton—who was hiding behind his mother—and the principal was looking rather pale. I stepped toward the door. Obviously my work was done.
I looked at Principal Banner. "I'm gonna go get Bella from the nurse's office and take her home now."
He waved me off.
I flipped Newton off before I slipped out the door.
The room was dark, the only light from the street lamp outside. Bella's mouth was hot and wet as she kissed up and down my neck.
"Petals, baby…we need to stop."
"No, Edward. Not this time."
I drew back, panting, desperately trying not to thrust my aching cock against her leg. "We said we'd wait."
"We have waited, Edward. We've waited over a year—we're both eighteen. I want to give you this for your birthday. I want to give you me."
I groaned as her fingers stroked my stomach, slipping under the waistband of my sweats, running from side to side slowly.
"I don't have…"
"I'm on the pill."
She leaned up, running her tongue along my jaw. "Since the first time you used your fingers to make me come." Her teeth nipped my skin. "I knew I wanted you inside me instead," she murmured, her voice sounding shy.
What she was doing to my cock didn't feel shy, and I hissed as her fingers wrapped around my shaft. She was so good with her hands. And her mouth. We'd basically done everything except the final act—trusting and learning as our touches grew bolder and our boundaries stretched.
All firsts for both of us, and all done together.
Our lips fused together again, tongues sliding and caressing. Her hand continued to work me, sliding up and down in long, slow strokes, sending ripples of pleasure down my spine.
I wanted this. I wanted her.
"Your parents…" I protested feebly, already knowing the answer.
"Won't be back until tomorrow. We have all night and morning. Please, Edward, make me yours—totally yours."
I couldn't deny her or myself anymore.
Piece by piece, the thin fabric that separated us was discarded. For the first time, we were completely bare with each other. I marveled at her skin—how soft and smooth it was under my fingers. How sweet it tasted under my tongue. My muscles clenched and my spine shuddered as she explored my chest, running her hands over my legs and thighs, once again holding me in her hands.
When we were both ready, when every doubt that lingered had been erased, I hovered over her, our gazes locked, the intensity of the moment thick in the air.
"This is just the start, baby. You know that, right?"
"I know," she whispered.
"I'm going to marry you one day, Bella."
Her smile was wide. "I know."
The church was quiet this time of day. I knew the pastor was in the back somewhere, and soon the sanctuary would be filled with voices and busy hands as they decorated the alter and pews. Memories washed over me as I looked up the aisle.
Holding Bella's hand, the basket clasped beneath our fingers, making sure she didn't trip—something that hadn't changed to this day.
Watching her squirm in discomfort and hating the fact she might be in pain—being too young to understand how I was feeling.
I remembered the look of embarrassment on my mother's face as I kicked off my shoes and helped Bella tug hers off before pulling her back down the aisle to escape the muffled laughter.
A smile pulled at my face.
So many things had changed over the years—and yet so little was different.
Bella usually wore dresses now instead of jeans, although her shoes were usually flats—and often ended up kicked off under the table or discarded by the sofa. Mine usually followed suit.
She remained clumsy, and I still held her hand, scanning the area we were walking for hidden obstacles only her feet could find. I held her up physically—she held me up in every other way.
She made me want to look after her that day, and the feeling had never changed.
We had been together through everything. No matter the obstacle, we'd overcome it. Even when I left to go to medical school, we had persevered and loved each other through the lonely months using every means at our disposal. We used air miles for flights, Facebook, Skype—anything and everything to stay close and in touch. I flew so often I knew most of the airline staff by name.
Goodbyes were hell—hellos were sweeter than nectar. We pushed through it—together.
We'd grown up together, fell in love, and learned together, ignoring the whispers that said we'd grow apart—that people don't fall in love at the age of six and stay that way.
Today we'd prove them wrong—today I'd marry my Petals, my Bella.
And nothing would keep us apart again.
A voice broke thought my musings. "Edward."
I smiled as I turned to our wedding planner. "Isa. How are you?"
"I'm great. Is everything okay?"
I nodded. "Just having a few moments of peace before the day. It all started here, you know."
She grinned widely. "Bella told me—friends from childhood. It's an amazing story." She chuckled. "She mentioned the shoes as well."
"I've never lived that down."
"In all my years as a wedding planner, I haven't run into that one yet."
"Well, we have no kids in the wedding party—chronologically, anyway. I can't vouch for the maturity level of Jasper and Emmett at times. Rose and Alice are pretty safe bets."
"No alter shenanigans, then?"
I winked at her. "I can't guarantee what's gonna happen when I get to kiss Bella."
Laying her hand on my arm, she laughed. "Keep it PG, Edward. You have an audience."
"Don't remind me." I still hated people looking at me. It was better when Bella was beside me, but I hated being the center of attention.
She patted my arm and winked. "Your girl will be there. Just focus on her."
I was actually feeling quite relaxed. Neither Bella nor I were big on the huge, lavish wedding thing. We'd opted instead for an intimate ceremony and dinner afterwards, followed, of course, by dancing. I was much more amenable to holding my girl and swaying her on the dance floor these days.
Bella was, as with everything else in her life, calm, warm and gracious. I had heard horror stories of bridezillas, but my girl was the exact opposite, and the whole process had been easy. Isa had commented more than once she wished all her clients were like us. We wanted everything low-key and she had done it to perfection.
I reached into my pocket and pulled out a small box. "Can you, ah, give that to Bella for me?"
"It's her something blue."
"I'm sure she'll love it."
I looked down the empty aisle and drew in a deep breath. "See you soon."
She nodded. "Soon."
Candles flickered all around, the glow casting soft light around the church. I shifted nervously, meeting my father's eyes. He winked and straightened his shoulders, silently telling me it was okay and to be strong. I stood a little taller so he knew I'd gotten the message. Beside him, my mother was already crying, dabbing at her eyes with a lace hanky. Time had been kind to them both, and they still projected love—for each other, and for those around them. They adored Bella, and from the day I came home and told them she was now my girlfriend, they had been nothing but supportive, helping us in any way they could.
Across the aisle were Renee and Charlie. He still referred to me as his favorite guy, and Renee's cookies were as tasty as ever.
Sitting with Charlie and asking him if it was okay to be more than friends with Bella had been the most nerve-wracking moment of my life. No matter how much he liked me, Bells was his daughter—he'd adopted her right away and she became Bella Swan—and he took his role as her father very seriously.
"You gonna treat her right?"
"I don't want her pressured, Edward." He looked at me knowingly.
My eyes widened when his meaning sunk in. "Never, sir." The words burst out of me before I could stop them. "I think I love her, Uncle Charlie. I know I'm young, but I've loved her since the day you married Auntie Renee. I can't imagine my life without her."
He leaned back, stroking his moustache, and then grinned. "Took you long enough."
"Be good to her."
"Good. I've retired my cape, but I'll bring it out if I have to."
Because, yes, as it turned out, Charlie did have a cape—a red one. He let me try it on once, swearing me to secret. A true sign I was, indeed, his favorite guy.
Renee smiled at me, and I returned her affectionate gesture easily. She was still my mother's best friend, one of my strongest allies and a constant source of needed input when it came to her daughter. She had dealt with our good times, our rare but ferocious arguments, and she'd been the one I'd gone to when I was worried about leaving Bella behind when I went to medical school. She had sat me down and told me how integral I was to Bella's life. By the time she'd listed all our shared experiences and the love she knew her daughter had for me, I'd realized how silly I was being.
I blinked as Jasper nudged me in the ribs, and I realized the music was playing. I smiled at my best friend who had been part of my life almost as long as Bella. Emmett had joined our little circle when we were in high school, after moving to Forks. We'd all remained close and I was thrilled to have them standup with me.
Rose drifted down the aisle, resplendent in her red dress. She winked at Emmett as she slipped by, patting my arm as she smiled. Alice followed her, again the red of her dress showing off her dark coloring well. Jasper beamed at his wife, and she giggled as she did a quick step to the right and dropped a kiss on his smiling mouth. I winked at her, loving her free spirit. She was Bella's best friend, but she was a loyal, fierce comrade to us all.
The music changed, swelled, and Bella appeared in the door. Her delicate beauty made my breath catch in my throat. Her gown floated around her, her dark hair swept off her face, showing her long neck. The earrings I had left for her earlier glittered in her ears, the sapphires matching the combs I knew Renee and Charlie had given her in her hair. A small bouquet of roses and lilies were in her hand, matching the ones in my lapel.
She walked the aisle alone, explaining she wanted this final journey to me just to be hers. Charlie met her at the front, kissing her cheek and clasping our hands together.
Our gazes locked and never wavered. Tears glistened in both our eyes as sweet words of love and vows we would both cherish were exchanged. I spoke of my life with her and how she filled my every thought. Her voice quivered as she spoke of marrying her best friend—her hero—and I couldn't resist leaning closer to wipe away the lone tear that slipped down her cheek as she spoke and nuzzling the soft skin until the pastor cleared his throat.
When I was able to take her in my arms and seal our union with a kiss, it was one of love, passion, and promises. Promises for a future together.
Because that was how we were meant to be—together.
With her tucked into my side, the pastor introduced us as Mr. and Mrs. Cullen. I grinned down at her, lifting her hand and bringing it to my lips for a lingering kiss.
Then it happened. Emmett, Jasper, Rose, and Alice, in one synchronized move, kicked off their shoes and paired off, walking down the aisle as they laughed. My mother gasped into her hanky and then began to giggle as my father shook his head and grinned. Renee burst into laughter, and Charlie let out one of his deep guffaws.
Looking down at the pile of heels and dress shoes I started to chuckle. With a cheeky wink, Bella's shoes flew past me, her height shrinking a good four inches. She quirked her eyebrow in challenge, and with a grin, I toed off my dress shoes, then bent over, lifting Bella into my arms and striding down the aisle, amid much applause. Even Isa was laughing in the corner. As with everything with Bella, it was perfect.
I kissed my wife.
"I love you, Petals. I love my life with you."
Her head snuggled into my chest.
I hope you enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed writing. Thank you again.