"Edward, are you asleep?" Bella's voice whispers into the semi-lit room, and I can feel her stretch beside me and the sheets loosen around us. With my eyes still closed, I reach around to pull her body back into mine.
She giggles and manages to sit up so she's leaning across my chest. She nudges me and I unwillingly open one eye and I see her staring at me, her chin on my chest and her hair flowing between us. She's whispering again, this time planting small kisses until they land on my mouth.
"Stay up. Watch the sunrise with me." Her voice is low and dripping with exhaustion but it's still a sound that leaves me hooked.
I groan and roll us over so she's on her back and I'm draped halfway across her, my arm encircling her waist. "We went to sleep an hour ago."
"Just a few minutes. Then we can go back to sleep."
I sigh loudly, acting as if I wouldn't have agreed to her wishes anyway, and she joyously slides us out of bed entangled in the sheets and blankets. Luckily our balcony has been cleaned of the snow and ice of the last few days because of course that is where she wants to sit, the cold air stinging my eyes and making me wish I tried a little harder to convince Bella to stay within the warm confines of our bed.
Not that Bella and I have been together long, but I already know and am well aware that she is quite possibly the most stubborn person I have ever met and that my protests would have fallen on deaf ears. We do a good job of shielding the chill, positioning ourselves on the patio chair so that she is on my lap and we are both snuggled under the blankets, our skin providing the most essential and necessary warmth. After the night we had last night, this is a position that we are not strangers to.
If I wasn't running on one hour of sleep, I could totally be that Joseph Gordon Levitt guy, you know that movie when after he spends the night with his girlfriend for the first time, he and a bunch of strangers break out in song and dance because all is great in the world?
That's the guy I am this morning, as I wait for the sun to rise with Bella in my arms, shivering softly and I don't know if it's from the temperature or from the electricity between us. I've gotten used to her over the last few hours, learning all of her secrets that only I get to hear from now until the end of time, if it were up to me. We're quiet as we sit wrapped up together, my fingers ghosting up her body in an effort to keep her as warm as I can, even though it's her crazy idea to be out here in the first place. We're quiet and reflective, both of us the best kind of tired there is, our eyes and bodies catching up to each other, in sync. I can feel myself start to drift off again but I hear her voice and it brings me back.
"Have you ever been to the Florida Keys?" Bella asks, her voice muffled from beneath the blankets.
I shake my head, "No."
"The sunsets and sunrises there are pretty amazing." She moves, positioning herself so she can see the sun in front of us, just beginning its daily performance on its earthly stage. I wrap my arms around her tightly, kissing the top of her head as the world around us slowly turns hues of pinks and oranges.
"This one isn't too bad, if you ask me."
"No, it's beautiful." She agrees and settles against my chest again.
I sigh and breathe her and the morning air in deeply in my lungs. "We'll have to go there one time. To the Keys."
"I'll go anywhere with you," Bella tells me, and the look in her eyes makes me believe her. We lean in to seal the deal, our lips meeting together slowly and languidly, swollen from hours of use. Her voice is heavy with sleep as she snuggles against me again. "Tell me about Chicago."
Her eyes are closed again so I dip deeper into our chair and close my eyes as well. I sigh, "I'm sure the sunrise there is just as nice, even though I've never stayed up all night to see it. Especially under circumstances such as these." She laughs softly somewhere beneath the blankets and wraps her arms around me. "There's this little restaurant down the street from my office that makes the best tiramisu. I'm sure your tiramisu would put them to shame, of course."
This gets her up but she's still sitting in my lap when she points a finger at me, "You haven't even tasted some of my best desserts."
I laugh loudly, "Pretty sure I did last night. Few times, actually."
Fuck yeah, I did. Best dessert ever. Hands down.
"Anyway. Go on." Bella replies, smirking but elbowing me in my side at the same time. I pull her back down to me and run my fingers through her hair.
"Okay, let's see. It's a city; there's always something to find that matches your mood, and if you want to get away from the hustle for a bit you can always get away. Oh, there's this bar I go to after work sometimes, in between my office and my apartment."
I shrug, "Just your typical sports bar. They have really good bar pies, though."
"Everything you've mentioned has involved food in some way."
"I'm not exactly the best in the kitchen so I don't really cook for myself a lot. I mean, you saw my Christmas Cookies."
"Yeah, they were severely lacking."
We laugh at my expense for a few minutes, both of us remembering my attempt to make a snowman with a green scarf around its' neck but instead of putting it on his neck, I accidently put it on his head making it look like a bandana. My Willie Nelson cookie, as everyone so wonderfully had named it, had made it to the Hall of Fame of cookie disasters and was never allowed to be eaten.
It remains frozen in time inside of my parent's freezer. Guarantee that fucker will make an appearance for all the remaining Christmases of my life.
"Is that a deal breaker for you? My baking skills?" I tease, both of us laughing as the sun rises in front of us and warms the air around us.
She's still laughing about my Willie Nelson cookie but she slows it down out of the kindness of her heart and wipes the corner of her eye. "I think some of your other skills will help balance that area out."
A comment like that distracts us both for a few minutes, the sun's heat not even coming close to what is brewing beneath our blankets. Again.
"So you're keeping me around for a while?" My lips are trailing across her cheek, down her jaw and to my favorite little place I found under her ear before her neck. I found out it's also one of her favorite places, too, and the sound she makes to greet my ears confirms my theories.
"I'm thinking so."
I stop and make her look at me, holding her face between my hands.
"You have no choice. I honestly don't think I would know how to live without you." I say this with all seriousness, the last two weeks we spent together and the three weeks before that flashing through my
"Chicago sounds really nice, Edward."
I run my fingers up and down her back, rhythmically creating a pattern that slowly lulls us back to the brink of sleep.
"It's almost perfect." I cut my words off there, knowing that Bella holds the one missing piece to make Chicago my own heaven on earth. I don't say it because right now, this is our heaven and I fear that if I don't hear the response I want to hear then this little dream world that we have created overnight will shatter and I know I'm not equipped to handle the aftermath.
We're about to drift off again when she speaks again. "Do you want to hear a story?"
We close our eyes again and settle into each other.
"It wasn't too long ago, just this past September. It was early and I was soaking my feet in the canal behind our little cottage in Islamorada. I had just gotten back from my run -" Bella begins.
"You have to go early to beat the heat. Anyway, so I was cooling down in the canal, not really thinking about anything, really, and then the sun starts to rise. My friends were all inside still sleeping, our neighbors across the canal had probably just gone to bed, so it was just me."
"That sounds peaceful."
"It was. Lonely, too. There I was, watching what was easily the most beautiful sunrise I've ever seen, and no one was there to enjoy it with me. Sure, I could have ran inside and told them all to wake up but it would have taken away from the moment."
"Is that why you decided to come home?"
She nods against me. "Part of it. I loved being away from home, away from the shadows of Forks. I loved my freedom and being able to do things on my own terms but I guess on some other level I knew it was time."
"I'm actually envious of you." I chuckle softly and she turns in my arms to face me.
"Envious? Of what?"
I sit up in the chair and bring the blanket up around her shoulders to her neck. "I left here when I was eighteen years old and I've been busting my ass ever since. Four years of undergrad, two years for my Master's, another two years of building up a clientele, and this was before I even thought about starting my own business. If I thought I worked hard before that, I had no idea what was in store for me."
"But look at you now."
"Yeah, look at me now. All those years and never once did I stop to enjoy a sunset or a sunrise. Before yesterday, I honestly would not have been able to tell you the last time I went ice skating or baked Christmas cookies or helped my parents and sister wrap presents for other people. But you have, Bella. You were able to slow the world down for a little while, and God knows we all could use a little bit of that in the world we live in today."
She's thoughtful for a second. "Yes, I'll never regret my experiences and I'll always be grateful for having such supportive people in my life but don't make it seem like what you've done over the past few years isn't admirable, either. You're thirty years old and you've managed to create a successful business from scratch without the help of anyone but yourself."
"Not necessarily myself. I think I'd be drowning in it if it weren't for Shelly."
"Yeah, but she's more than that. Shelly took on a role that I didn't even know I was missing. She's my number one cheerleader over there. She was the one who told me to take a chance with you."
She smiles widely before nodding her head slowly in appreciation. "I owe her. Big time."
"That makes both of us. I don't know how she put up with me in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I was unbearable to be around. It's all your fault."
"But look at us now. The world traveler and the workaholic. I wouldn't change a thing."
"I would. Only one thing, though." She's looking at me curiously.
"Let's go back to bed before we freeze out here."
As much as we tried to delay the inevitable, we ended up leaving our perfect and blissful sanctuary a little after noon, stopping to grab lunch in town before we headed back home. Everyone would probably give us shit for not coming back last night, but as we pull into my driveway, we cannot care less about anyone or anything outside of our little bubble.
I hate leaving her, even for a second, but I guess a change of clothes is a necessity, considering we hadn't planned an overnight stay and we had no choice but to put our clothes back on from the night before. We say our goodbyes, knowing that we will be together again as soon as the real world allows.
The house is empty when I step inside, both my parents at work and Alice back home. It isn't long before I'm dressed into a pair of sweats and sliding into my bed and into a dead sleep.
"You still flying back on Tuesday?" I have my phone cradled against my ear as I fold the last of my laundry and place it into my suitcase. I nod as if Shelly can see me.
"Yep. I'll be back in the office bright and early on Wednesday morning."
"That makes me really happy." I can hear her excitement dripping through the phone.
I laugh and reach for another pile of clothes. "Aw, come on. You've had two weeks off of work. I'm sure you're bored by now."
"Bored? You call lounging on a beach chair in eighty degree weather boring?"
I shake my head. "I guess not. I wouldn't know though; we've been covered in snow here for over a week now."
I hear her whistle on her end of the line. "Better you than me, Darlin'. I'm sure there's a ton of snow waiting for us back home, too." As if packing my suitcase isn't depressing enough, the reality of it hits me deeper with each ticking second as I picture the streets of the city covered in gray slush.
"Most likely. It was a pretty big storm that was making its' way across the country."
Shelly laughs, "I bet I know how you occupied your time."
And as always, Shelly Cope would be correct. Bella and I found many ways to occupy our time over the past week since our first date and there were none that I would be willing to share with Shelly. I think even she would blush at the way we shared our time together.
At one point over the last few days Bella had wondered if it would always be this way, always so consuming and at times overwhelming. All I could say, as she lay beneath me in the dark with only the moonlight guiding our way, was that I sure as hell hoped so.
"All thanks to you, Shelly." I chuckle and look around my room, making sure I hadn't forgotten anything. Tomorrow is my last day here in Forks before leaving early the following morning to catch my flight back home. I already decided how I want to spend my last day here and not one second of it is devoted to packing so I am doing it now so I can soak up everything Forks tomorrow.
"Me? What did I do?" Shelly asks surprisingly.
"You pushed me when I doubted myself. There was never a time in my life when I couldn't go to my parents or my sister or Emmett for advice until a few weeks ago and you saw what it was doing to me." I turn at the sound of my door opening, and Bella gives me a small smile when she sees me on the phone. A wave of emotion floods through me and I pause before closing my eyes and finishing my speech to Shelly. "I appreciate it more than you know," I say and watch Bella turn my covers down and rummage for the remote. I bet she's already deciding what we're watching on Netflix for the evening.
"Oh, dear Lord. This girl has turned you into such a mush! I need to meet her."
I laugh, "She'd love to meet you, too."
"Bella would have to come here, though. I am not leaving one cold place to go to another cold place."
"I think we can make that happen." I know we can.
"I like this new Edward. And it being New Year's Eve, the timing could not be more perfect."
"Yeah, Yeah. Happy New Year, Shelly. And thank you."
"You're welcome, Edward. Happy New Year."
We hang up and I toss my phone onto my nightstand, zipping my suitcase before joining Bella under the covers. Our parents didn't blink an eye, or maybe they did but we were too oblivious to notice, when Bella started staying over with me a few nights ago. I guess having a twenty five year old familial foundation really goes a long way.
"Was that Shelly?" Bella asks once I eventually pull my lips away from hers.
I nod, "Yeah, just getting things in order for work. I can't believe it's almost time to start working again."
"These two weeks have gone so fast." She whimpers.
"And the weeks before I came home dragged along so slowly that I thought we were going backwards."
"We have to get used to it, I guess. With me being here and you being there."
"I know. But let's not talk about it now, okay? We only have a few hours until Emmett starts lighting off his fireworks and I want to make every moment count."
The night is young, and everyone is getting ready to head outside in my backyard around the bonfire. It's another tradition that started long before I can remember, but every year Emmett blows off his arsenal of fireworks as soon as the ball drops to the New Year. All I can think about as I hold Bella in my arms is how this coming year is shaping up to be the best year yet.
And at this given moment, I don't have details. Or answers. I don't know if she'll be with me in Chicago or if I'll be here with her in Forks, but one thing is for certain, and that nothing, not even distance, will keep me away from her.
There's a knock on the door an hour before midnight and I know by the obnoxiousness of the knock itself that it can only be Emmett.
"Are you two decent? I'm coming in."
To Emmett's luck, we are, and a few seconds later he's moonwalking into my room with a pair of gold 2017 glasses on his face and a hat that's about two sizes too big on his head.
"Here," he says, and tosses a pair of noisemakers and firecrackers at us on the bed. "It's almost time."
"Be right down," Bella laughs and stretches one more time before sliding out of my covers. Even though the fire is raging below us, it is still cold so we dress ourselves in layers and grab a blanket from the downstairs hallway before we head outside. The drinks are flowing and the atmosphere is hopeful and well spirited. I glance at everyone around me: my parents and The Swan's laughing from their patio chairs in front of the fire, Emmett busy setting up his firework display with Rose behind him yelling at his stupidity, Alice in a chair on the other side of the fire talking to some guy with short, curly blonde hair, I think she said his name is Jasper? I'm not sure but I smile because I recognize the look on their faces, a look that I never would have known if it wasn't for Pie Night. Now the look never leaves my face, or her face; it's a face that shows comfort. Trust. Loyalty.
We pull up some chairs and join everyone by the fire, all of us joining together in a toast for the year ahead. Emmett and Rose have set a wedding date for July, and Renee and my mother are already discussing things like invitations and etiquette and dresses and at some point, I black it all out and focus on the best gift that Christmas magic, hell 2016, could have ever brought me.
As if she can read my thoughts, she turns to me, the reflection from the flames dancing across her face. She found a pair of those glasses too, and she looks so ridiculous and happy and real so maybe that's the reason why I say it.
"You know I love you, right?"
It's not the way I thought I would ever tell her this but beneath the 2017 glasses, and Emmett and Rose arguing again about Emmett shooting his eye out like that dude from our pool league, and Alice and Jasper talking over there on that lawn chair like it's going out of style, I see my whole life and I see all of these crazy, stupid people I call family, too.
She nods and laughs, shaking her head slowly. "Only because I love you just as much, if not more."
I don't give her a chance to say anything else because I'm too busy kissing her lips and face, and I don't even care that our whole family is here to see it. She squeals and giggles loudly and I stop to catch my breath, pressing my forehead against hers. "I really don't think that's possible."
"Dick Clarke just started the countdown!" Emmett yells, all of us stopping our conversations to stand up and join him around his display.
"Dick Clarke's been dead for years, man." The guy I think is Jasper says, and he shoots me a look that automatically makes him my new best friend.
"Okay, Ryan Seacrest, whatever. 10! 9! 8…!"
I don't remember when Bella and I stop counting down with the rest of them, but I do know that she's the one I kiss at midnight. Forever she'll be my midnight kiss, my glass of cold milk in the middle of the night, my sunrise.
"You know they say that who you ring in the New Year with is who you'll spend it with," Bella says once we pull apart. Her arms are still draped around my neck and my arms are wrapped loosely around her waist. "That's why I've decided to come to Chicago with you."
"Oh, is that so?" I can barely contain my happiness, my voice threatening to give way to pure excitement. I'm about to shoot off into the sky higher and louder than Emmett's fucking fireworks.
Bella is nodding, "Afraid so. When I told you that you were stuck with me, I was serious."
"Well, there are some things to consider first." I reply.
"And what is that?" I can hear the smile in her voice.
"First. I snore, I've been told." I start to tick the reasons off on my fingers. She shakes her head and scoffs loudly, dismissing me with a wave of her hand.
"I played soccer for years when I was a kid. So when I kick you when your snoring keeps me up, it'll be a fierce kick. What's your second?"
"Second. You're going to have to fill a monthly quota of baking me some Pumpkin Cheesecakes. And it may or may not but definitely will involve you wearing one of those sexy aprons and nothing else."
After a small pause, Bella exhales loudly and looks at me.
"Okay, I've considered them." She says.
I look at her questioningly, one eyebrow raised high on my forehead. "And? Final consensus?"
"I bought one of those aprons for us the morning after Pie Night."
And with Emmett's fireworks high in the sky and loud in the night, I pull her to me and twirl her around in the air, our kisses light and full of air and most likely, a little bit of magic.
A/N: Thank you, thank you, and thank you to all of my readers. My goal was to create a story that fills everyone with some Christmas Magic. It's such a special time of year and always brings such joy to me and my family. Pie Night has been around in my family since before I was born, (and I'm barely over thirty) and I love it even more than Thanksgiving myself. So many wonderful memories associated with Pie Night, and now that my family is all scattered around the US, we all share our pictures throughout the night of what we are all doing at each of our houses. My husband proposed at Pie Night in 2010, and now our two boys help make the pies and I can only hope this tradition carries on into their families. Most of the little memories throughout the story belong to me, as well. My aunt made the Willie Nelson cookie and it is the funniest thing I've ever seen, we do wear Christmas pajamas on Christmas Eve and we do try to help with each other's gift wrapping over some wonderfully tasting wine. I know I'm forgetting some but this is what writing is all about. It invokes feelings in readers that no movie can ever rival. As sad as I am to see this story end, I think their story was told well and even though right now there are no plot bunnies brewing in my head, I can always wake up from a dream about a sparkling boy in a meadow.
Thank you all.