Chapter 41- Epilogue: Forever Young
May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
And may your song always be sung
And may you stay forever young
Forever Young- Bob Dylan
June 30, 2019 (Today)- Chicago, Illinois
Rain is pouring down from the ominous storm clouds while a booming clap of thunder shakes the windows of the hotel suite. On the busy street far below me, the people of the city are frantically scurrying for cover. Most use their briefcases or newspapers to protect their heads from the rain as they jog down the sidewalk. A few better prepared individuals, armed with umbrellas, stroll seemingly untroubled through the downpour.
A quick check of my pocket watch shows that it is precisely 3:25. Alice swore to us that the rain would end by four o'clock and that the greater Chicago area would remain under heavy cloud cover for the rest of the day. Though right now, gazing out of the window at the rainy mess, her prediction seems unlikely. A wall of rain stretches out as far as the eye can see. And I'm sure if I were to check the weather app on my phone, it would forecast uninterrupted precipitation until well past nightfall.
But I learned long ago to never doubt Alice. Nine times out of ten, she is right.
Today marks the first time in over one hundred years that I set foot back in my old hometown. Merely saying that "things had changed" greatly undermined the truth. The skyscrapers of my youth now hide in the shadows of enormous monsters made from glass and steel. Gone are the mix of Model Ts and horse drawn carriages that once crowded the city streets. Today, behind the steering wheels of sleek, aerodynamic vehicles, are drivers that are more concerned about checking their Twitter feeds on their smartphones than actually driving without hitting a pedestrian.
It was surely a different place a hundred years ago when I once called this place home. It had changed. Just as I had.
I turn away from the deluge going on outside and stride over to the mirror to finish getting dressed. I'm in a pair of cream colored chinos and currently buttoning up a white dress shirt. Bella is in the bathroom changing into something "more appropriate for the occasion". I tried to assure her that dressing up was unnecessary. No one would care how we looked today. But, in an unusual move, she insisted that she wanted to make a good first impression regardless of the circumstances. You never know who may be watching, she claimed.
As I slip on my pigeon blue dinner jacket, Bella exits the bathroom looking as radiant as the morning sun. She's in a white summer dress with pale pink peonies, which showcases her statuesque shoulders and luminous skin. On her feet are white high heels that perfectly match her dress. I don't need to ask how she came to possess an ensemble that flatters both her curvy figure and coloring. The clothes are Alice's doings, as usual. Bella has never really cared for high fashion or wondered what was on the runways of Paris or New York. She prefers casual clothes as opposed to wearing designer labels. Except for today, of course.
Along with the dress, she's wearing a beguiling smile as she walks towards me- a sight I will never tire of. Reaching up with her tiny pale hands, she works to straighten and smooth my jacket. Once she makes me look more presentable, she steps back a few feet and examines me from head to toe.
After the thorough examination, she reveals her opinion. "You look nice... I guess I'll need to hold on to you extra tight today so no one assumes you're single," she teases as she admires my suit.
"Thank you," I deeply murmur. I close the distance between us and take her hand in mine, lifting it up to lavish a kiss on its top. Then, gazing into the warm honey of her golden eyes, I voice my opposition to her claim. "But why in heavens would you think anyone would be looking at me when someone as ravishing as you are beside me? They will surely be too blinded by your beauty to see anything else."
Despite the fact that we no longer need to breathe, her chest heaves for a few moments. I know that if she were still human that her cheeks would be flushed a healthy pink. But, of course, that is impossible now. Instead, her skin remains unchanged from moments before, smooth and flawless as stone. Other than her heavy breathing, only the dazed look in her eyes tells me that she is affected by what I said.
With her eyes blinking rapidly to reawaken from her temporary spell, she huffs out a sigh. "One day, Edward," she threatens with false bravado. "One day, I'll say something that wilI leave you speechless, too. Just wait and see."
"You've left me speechless countless times, love," I admit with a wink. "Every time you enter a room, my mind struggles to find the words to describe how wonderful you are."
"But, somehow, you always seem to do it," she smirks back with arched brow. She steps away before I can pull her close (as I had planned), and she glides over to her large leather purse laying on the table. She checks the contents and adds her wallet before zipping it closed. After slinging it over her shoulder, she asks, "Ready?"
"As I'll ever be," I reply back.
The elevator ride takes no more than fifteen seconds before the door opens up to the ornate lobby of the hotel. Bella takes my hand and we exit together. Our walk across the lobby is met with much interest among the humans. This is not a surprise. It's normal for them to stop and stare at us. Even so, Bella's grip on my hand tightens as we stroll by the gaping throng of onlookers. Knowing the reason, I stroke her knuckles with my thumb, hoping to relieve some of her tension.
Despite her jaw-dropping beauty and years of being openly stared at, she still does not like being the center of attention anymore than she had back when she was mortal. And today, with the way her hair streams down her back in subtle curls while her womanly figure is hinted at by the snug fit of her dress, we are watched with even more curiosity than usual.
I wonder who she is? wonders a middle-aged lady sitting on one of the lobby's chairs. She's wearing a Dolce & Gabbana, so she must be rolling in dough...
Look at him... the bald man waiting to be checked in bitterly tsks. Thinks he's so great just because he's with the most beautiful woman in this joint...
Eek! There he is! mentally shrieks the young, raven-haired woman at the front desk. She begins to spastically wave her hand in my direction, not caring how unprofessional she may appear to everyone in the room. "Hope you have a fun evening, Mr. Cullen!" she shouts out with a simpering smile.
I politely tip my head to acknowledge her as Bella and I walk by. I hope by giving the girl a tepid reception instead of the enthusiasm she had hoped for, she will realize that I have no romantic interest in anyone other than the woman I'm currently holding hands with.
Sigh... He seemed to appreciate how I nice I was, the girl thinks as she settles herself back on her desk chair. Maybe once he's away from that woman he's with, I can finally get somewhere with him...
Then again, maybe hinting at my lack of interest isn't enough for a girl of her obliviousness. Flat out rejection might be the only way to go.
Bella and I otherwise ignore our audience as much as possible as we walk, keeping our golden eyes aimed towards the revolving door. We push through it and stand under the covered roof of the hotel to wait for a taxi. I flag one down and it stops almost immediately.
The rain is still pouring down as we walk up to the awaiting taxi. I open the car's back door and Bella gracefully slides onto the backseat, dropping her purse by her side. Our driver turns around to ask where we're going, but the man nearly spews out the coffee he had been sipping once he gets a good look at the unearthly beautiful creature that just entered the confines of his dreary taxi. His voice briefly disappears. Instead of asking his question, only his inner thoughts are still functional.
Whoa, he mentally gasps. On a scale from one to ten, she's gotta be a fifteen at least...
"4001 North Clark Street, please," Bella sweetly orders.
The melodic sound of her voice further stuns the driver. His mouth gapes open for a few beats until I climb inside and slam the door shut. He flinches from the unexpected noise and finally wakes from his daze, but never does he break his attention away from her face.
Nervously clearing his throat, he says, "Sorry, but can you say that again, miss? I didn't hear you."
"She said 4001 North Clark Street," I remind him in an even tone.
The driver's eyes reluctantly flick away from Bella and land on me. His wiry eyebrows knit together as he tries to remember why the address sounds vaguely familiar. It takes him a few seconds for him to recall the place. Inside of his head, he pictures it. Acres of grass. A scattering of trees...
"Isn't that-" he begins to say.
"Yes, it is," I interrupt, anxious to be on our way.
He eyes our clothing for a bit, wondering why we are so dressed up if we were just going there, but he doesn't say or do anything other than shrug his shoulders before turning himself around to drive. As he navigates the taxi through the traffic, we lapse into silence. His mind, on the other hand, remains active.
Thanks to my mind reading, all of the mundane thoughts, sexual fantasies, bizarre daydreams, and offensive insults from every man, woman, and child in the area are being sent to me. I can see and hear every conversation, fight, and flirtatious rendezvous no matter if I want to or not. It's as if I am tuned in to a reality TV show that can never be shut off. Which, to tell the truth, is a punishment that should be reserved for only truly hardened criminals.
This is one reason why we choose to avoid living in large cities. Hearing thousands of strange voices inside of your mind is a burden that I can bear for only so long before I go mad.
After our transformation from human to vampire, Bella and I lived in the wilds of Alaska for over a year. Our time there was beneficial for us as we adapted to our new lives. Far from any human dwelling, we could go about the countryside largely without fear of an accident. And, with the help of the Cullens and Denali coven, we soon learned everything we would need to know in order to exist as vegetarians.
We were like children being taught how to behave around people again- except instead of being told not to slouch your back or slurp the soup at the dinner table, we were told to blink every so often and reminded not to partake of anyone's blood if we wished to fit in among polite society. And, although we were grateful of the fact that no human lived anywhere near us in regards to their own safety, we greatly missed the ordinariness we had once enjoyed in the early years of our marriage. Gone was the ability to hop into our car and do simple errands. Hunting for warm blooded mammals in the forests of Denali did not feel the same as scouring the grocery store shelves for your favorite brand of peanut butter.
It was months before we were acclimated to living among humans again. Our first introduction was short and risk-free. After Jasper scouted an area that humans often used for hunting, Bella and I exposed ourselves to the delicious scent of the person who had recently travelled through that section of the forest. Their scent was at least several days old, yet still extremely tempting to a newborn all the same.
The tantalizing aroma that first time I inhaled it could only be described as mind altering. The scent overpowered me, scorching my throat and driving me nearly insane with thirst. Only the mental warnings from our family and Bella's firm grip on my hand kept me from tracking the scent down to whatever man had the unfortunate luck of passing through that part of the forest days earlier.
While I had a rough go that first time, Bella learned to control her urges quicker and easier than I had. The scent tempted her the same as me, but she could block out the desire to feed in a way that I could not. For me, it took much more practice before I felt confident of my control.
Six months into our training, the family felt sure that we could begin interacting with humans. We were soon testing our control by being briefly driven through populated areas. Next came supervised shopping expeditions in small mom and pop stores. Finally, after months of practice, we graduated to independent traveling without a babysitter- something that both Bella and I appreciated.
Although my mind reading ability was something that often irritated me (especially in the beginning), I soon discovered that it had it's benefits. Hearing the thoughts of a person greatly helps me control my monstrous craving for their blood. It reminds me of their humanity, something I am loathe to take away.
Damn. Her legs go on for days and days, our distracted taxi driver observes. Believing himself unnoticed, he adjusts his rearview mirror in order to get a better view of my wife's lower body in hopes of seeing more "intimate" areas of her anatomy.
As I said before, mind reading usually assists me in controlling my desire to feed from humans.
However, it does not help me when said human is a disgusting, lecherous scoundrel.
Immediately after I pick up on his immoral thoughts, my hand drops onto Bella's knee with a possessive grasp, reminding him that she is not alone. In his mind's eye, my hand's abrupt appearance on his target's leg awakens him from his lustful scheme. His attention darts over to my furious face. My topaz eyes have turned steely. My mouth is clenched in outrage. Even I have to admit that I look intimidating.
What the-!? he mentally sputters in fear. That guy must be certifiable... He could give that dude from those Halloween movies a run for his money, I bet. Good thing I went to the bathroom earlier or I'd be scrubbing the car out tonight...
To escape my frightening glare, he moves the mirror back where it should be and tries to concentrate on driving once again. I relax my position and resume a normal expression on my face now that his thoughts are elsewhere. But, Bella was always perceptive. She may not have any mind reading skills, but she certainly seems well aware when I'm up to something.
"What was that about?" she whispers in a voice so low that only a vampire could hear.
"Nothing much," I whisper back. "I was only reminding him that he should keep his eyes on the road instead of the gawking at his female passengers. It's very dangerous."
Heaving a sigh, she rolls her eyes while shaking her head at me. "Overacting again, hmm? The poor man can't help but look at us, Edward. Are you planning on scaring every human we come across that happens to take interest in how we look?"
I level a unbelieving stare at how uninformed she is concerning our driver. "That wasn't what happened," I retort. "That man was trying to peek up your dress. He's on par with a peeping tom that hides cameras in the ladies restroom. So, it was either I remind him of his manners the way that I did, or I gouge out his eyeballs to keep him from doing that ever again. Which would you prefer?"
"I highly doubt he was doing that," she scoffs. "He's trying to drive- not watching a peep show. Stop being so paranoid and jealous when you have no reason to be."
"Me jealous?" I incredulously whisper. "Aren't you the same woman who, just last night, pulled me into a deep kiss in front of the hotel's receptionist just because the girl was staring at me?"
Bella's honey eyes hardened at the memory of our encounter the night before when we checked into the hotel. "That was completely different," she shoots back, crossing her arms defensively across her chest. "She was undressing you with her eyes AND licking her lips at you like she thought you were a popsicle. And she was totally ignoring the fact that I was with you. That kiss was the only thing that got her to stop panting over you."
In spite of my annoyance at the driver, I couldn't help but smile at my wife's attitude. Her indignation at the behavior of the clueless receptionist was endearing to me. "Well, just so you know, I didn't mind that kiss at all. It was an eye opening reminder of how much you still want me after all this time. I felt honored."
She fervently tried to remain irritated yet failed miserably. A satisfied grin spreads across her face, replacing the frown that was there a moment before.
"OK, folks," the driver nervously cuts in. "Here we are. Do you want me to drive you closer or...?"
I had been so engrossed in my conversation with Bella that I did not notice that we had arrived at our destination. The driver was idling the taxi at the front gate of Graceland Cemetery, its tan stone columns standing like guards at the entrance. The rain had vanished during our drive, just as Alice had predicted. The summer heat and humidity is beginning to creep back now that the cooling rain is gone.
"No thank you," I tell him as Bella exits the car. "We'll walk." I dig out my wallet and hand him the fare plus a sizable tip. I may not like the man, but he does have a family to support. I saw that in his thoughts, too.
His eyebrows nearly hit his hairline once he counts the money. "Oh, well, thanks," he says in utter shock. I throw open my door and place one foot outside before he calls for my attention. "Hey! I can stay and wait for you two if ya want. This neighborhood isn't as safe as it used to be, ya know."
A smirk appears on my face at his sudden concern. Judging by his thoughts, he is more interested in running the meter while Bella and I tour the grounds than he is worried about our well-being.
"That's not necessary," I tell him. "We'll be fine. If we run into any miscreants, my wife will send them running, I'm sure."
The driver's brows scrunch down in profound confusion. "Your wife?" he puzzledly repeats. He glances out of the windshield and notices her waiting patiently on the nearby sidewalk.
"Yes, my wife," I nod back. I lower my voice as if I'm trying to keep our conversation private, however I know that Bella is hearing every word. "She's a master at self-defense. She can take down 250 pound men in under five seconds. So don't worry about me. I'll be perfectly safe as long as I'm with her."
The driver takes another fleeting look at Bella, noting how she looks as fragile and delicately beautiful as the peonies on her dress. Peering back at me, he slaps on a condescending smile- one that you would give to a person you believe is either mentally deficient or completely insane.
"Sure," he sarcastically says with a nod. "She looks downright terrifying." I keep my lips locked closed to keep from smiling as I step out of the taxi and close the door. He wishes us a quick farewell and drives off.
That guy is crazy, he says to himself. Thank god that fare's over with. That chick may have been gorgeous, but I don't think it's worth risking my neck driving her freak of a husband around...
"Did you have fun?" Bella taunts as we walk through the cemetery gates.
"Heaps," I smile back. "Telling people the honest to god truth and hearing their disbelief is better than watching a sitcom."
The earlier storm drove away most of the visitors in the cemetery. Only a few people are scattered about on the 119 acres of property. Bella and I know where we need to go. It's far off the beaten path, well away from most of the other monuments and gravestones. Before we left home yesterday, Carlisle took the time to draw a map of the cemetery for me. Even after several decades of time, he could recall every road and path here. With just a glance at the paper, I memorized the map instantly.
After Bella and proved ourselves trustworthy enough to control our thirst, we and the Cullens moved to a rural area outside of Burlington, Vermont. The house we chose was a rundown mansion built sometime around the War Of 1812. Made from local stone and timber, it sat empty for decades before Esme found it and breathed life back into its decaying frame.
Burlington was a perfect fit for us all. Carlisle soon found work as a doctor at one of the hospitals. Jasper, Alice, Emmett, and Rosalie resumed their roles as mere high school students in order to extend our stay. Esme found a few charitable organizations to contribute to, giving her something to do other than making her family's lives run easier.
Bella and I agreed that our high school days were over. We had no desire to go through the petty dramas of that again. Regardless of that, due to our appearance, we could not pass as teenagers anyway. Instead, Bella opted to go back to college to get the degree in English Literature she had been denied due to her accident and subsequent transformation into a vampire.
Back when we were humans, I often wondered what she planned to do with her degree once she graduated. Whenever I asked, she would shrug her shoulders and tell me that she wasn't sure yet. It wasn't until we had been banished to Alaska did she decide on what she wanted to do. And that decision was to follow in her mother's footsteps.
According to Charlie, Bella's mother did not take her death well in the beginning. She cried off and on for weeks, inconsolable and devastated. Eventually, however, she and Phil moved on from the tragedy and resumed their lives in Florida. Bella and I travel there at least once a year and watch her from a distance- always in public places. Renée is nearly always smiling when we see her. Her husband holds her hand and gazes lovingly into her eyes. Based on her appearance she looks happy. Even her thoughts say so. And, based on what Charlie tells Bella when she visits him, Renée still greatly enjoys teaching at the local elementary school.
When Bella decided that she would like to teach, I supported her choice. She never voiced out loud her reasonings why she went with that career, but I knew just the same.
Her ultimate goal is to become a professor. Jasper tried to convince her to let him doctor up an identity for her that would include a master's degree so she could assume her career choice sooner. But, Bella refused, saying that she wanted to earn the right to be called a professor the correct way for now. She is only a few months away from her goal. Now, the next time that we move, we will be locating to a university or college town.
Bella and I are almost at the back of the cemetery when we abruptly turn to our right and follow a little used path hidden by shrubbery. A couple of minutes later, we find what we are looking for.
Sitting in a grove of lush, leafy trees is a white granite tomb covered with clinging green vines. Its larger than most of the other tombs here since there are four grave spots inside. The doorway is blocked with wrought iron gate and a thick slab of stone to prevent anyone from entering. And, emblazed across the top of the structure, is just one word:
I take a breath even though I don't need oxygen. Seeming to sense my mounting distress, Bella pauses to stroke my jaw. I lean in for a moment as we quietly view the tomb of my parents and Martha.
After taking comfort from her touch, I gather the courage to resume my task. Bella follows a step behind me as we walk to the building. I extract a key from my pocket and unlock the black iron gate, flinging it open wide. Then, before I do anything further, I scan the area for any bystanders. Even though I am keeping tabs on every person on the property, I want to ensure that no one is watching.
Satisfied that we are the only beings around, I dig my fingers into the stone slab that blocks the doorway. It weighs five hundred pounds at least, yet feels like nothing to me as I drag it out of our way. Knowing my habit of opening doors for her, Bella strolls by and enters the darkened chamber first. I follow right behind her.
Thanks to a few strategically placed holes in the upper sections of the tomb, daylight filters inside of the room. The room is not spacious, just a few feet of open space is available. On the right wall of the tomb are the vaults holding my mother and father. The inscription lists their names, dates of birth, and day of death. It is simple and to the point. Nothing flashy or overly sentimental. In my heart, I know that this would have pleased them both.
On the left wall are two more resting places. In one is Martha, listing everything except her middle name. Carlisle did not know it at the time he had this vault erected. For a moment, I contemplate if I should hire someone to add it to her inscription. But I soon decide it is best to leave it alone. She never really liked Prudence as her middle name anyway.
The second slot is empty. No coffin will ever lie in its spot. The inscription beside it reads, "Edward Anthony Masen II". My date of birth is there as well. However, the death date is left empty.
"Did you know that Carlisle had a place for you, too?" Bella asks, her eyes frozen on the name I no longer use.
"Yes. He told me soon after I came to live with him," I answer her.
I stare at the name on the wall in morbid fascination. Edward Masen died in 2009 in Forks. Today, Edward Cullen, half-brother of Carlisle Cullen, lives with his wife Bella Cullen in a small dwelling a few hundred feet away from the Cullen mansion.
A bleak smile creeps across my face as a thought hits me. "I suppose I should have someone add 2009 as my year of death now," I weakly joke.
I feel Bella cuddle at my side, wrapping her arm around my waist and leaning her head on my shoulder. She knows I'm hiding my feelings behind humor. "No," she murmurs gently. "Leave it alone. You'll always be Edward Masen. He'll never die. I think that's what she would have wanted, too."
Of course, she would have. Mother always did want to keep me safe no matter the consequences. Bella knew this of my mother's personality without even meeting her.
I peck a kiss on her forehead and embrace her in my arms. "You're right," I say into her hair. After a minute or so of rumination, I step back and glance at the purse hanging from her shoulder. "I think it's time to give it to them now."
Bella unzips her large leather purse but soon pauses. Her golden eyes flick down into the handbag's dark depths as she contemplatively chews her bottom lip. Her face soon tilts up to look me directly in the eye. "Are you sure you want to leave this here?" she asks.
"Yes, they'll take care of it for me," I smile.
Bella amusedly cocks up a brow but still pulls out the small gramophone statue from her purse and hands it to me. The muted daylight hits the gold metal of the statue, causing it to brightly gleam. I notice a smudge on its side and I carefully polish it with the handkerchief from my coat pocket. Once I'm satisfied that its clean, I take a moment to decide where to put my Grammy award.
Music had always been apart of my life when I was human. I had lived it. Breathed it. Dreamed it. Even after I met and fell in love with Bella, it remained important to me. I took college courses in music composition and its history. I had hoped to find a way to incorporate it into a career someday.
But then Bella's accident destroyed the passion I once had with music. The guilt I felt from playing on my piano instead of being there to prevent her tragic accident caused me to reject anything to do with music for months afterwards. My piano and vast CD collection were relegated to storage. I no longer wished to listen to the radio or find out what was the newest album on the market. I rejected and ignored any tune that popped into my mind.
Everyone noticed my sudden aversion, but no one quite understood the reason except for my wife. Whenever someone would hint to me that they would love to hear me play again, I would shut down and retreat inside of myself. And there I would wallow in my guilt, reliving my grave mistake and the consequences it had inflicted upon her.
Only Bella was able to rescue me from my gloom, showing me through her loving attention that she did not harbor any grudge towards me. She became my psychiatrist in a way, listening to my persistent guilt and phobias of failing her yet again. She stayed unfailingly patient, telling me that I was not to blame for what happened. It took weeks before I allowed myself to believe her. And months more before I felt ready to forgive myself.
When I did accept it, I tentatively reintroduced myself to the field I had once loved. My piano soon appeared in the living area of the house in Alaska. I watched it cautiously for days, as if it were a dangerous adversary trying to lull me with false promises of innocence.
Eventually, I lowered my guard. My old feelings of elation and satisfaction when I played soon resurfaced. And, before I knew it, composition books full of my songs began to stock the shelves at the house.
Never needing to sleep or rest had its advantages when it came to music composition. When the mood to compose struck, I often stayed with it until the very end. Some piano pieces I created only took an hour to complete. A couple of more complex pieces took days before I was happy with them.
One evening while I was sorting through my songbooks, I found a notebook that cut me down to my core. I flipped through the dusty pages with something akin to shock. I had not set eyes on it since Bella's accident. It was the song that I had been working on the afternoon she had been struck by the SUV.
I fought against the stark reminder of my past pain and read the musical notes on the paper. I soon found the song to be soothing to both the body and spirit. The melody that played in my head calmed me in a way that I had not expected. It was lovely. A lullaby to sedate a being that could never sleep. Yet, despite its peaceful quality, I found that it lacked a proper ending.
I spent hours working on it after that, determined to finish what I had begun months before. My human memories are sometimes hazy, but I could easily recall what my inspiration had been. A woman's dark fluttering lashes and pouting pink lips while she dreamed. Half innocent, half teasing. I would never forget the way Bella slept.
Once I felt it had been satisfactorily complete, I went through my other early compositions, adding to or altering the notes when I believed I could improve it. Soon, I had a dozen original works that were born from a man and completed by a supernatural being.
My family encouraged me to do something with them- storing them away in my desk was voted as a "dumb and boring" idea. After much debate, the songbook was released to a record label. The lullaby fell into the hands of a talented pianist who added it to his album.
Almost a year after that, Edward Masen was posthumously awarded a Grammy for Classical Contemporary Composition.
Of course, I was not there to accept it. Instead, my father-in-law, blushing a beet-red and shaking in his tuxedo, received it in my place. Charlie's acceptance speech is recorded as being one of the shortest in history. A stuttered "Thanks" was all he could say before he jetted off stage.
We see him and his wife from time to time. Sue has always known of the secret that the Cullens keep. She knows what Bella and I really are now, but she never discusses it. If she has informed her husband that his daughter is a vampire, they are both excellent at keeping their thoughts under control. I've listened, but never have I heard him think of us as anything other than his family.
Charlie and Sue still live in Forks in the house that he bought back in the 1980s. He's older now, of course. His hair is peppered with more gray. His forehead sports a few wrinkles. And despite what he claims to his wife and daughter, the arthritis in his hands bothers him at times (this is one thing I do hear in his mind). But he's still the same man that I knew back when I was just a kid sitting at his kitchen table trying not to stare at the shy girl beside me. He never mentions how Bella and I never seem to age or that we each look as if we just stepped out of an airbrushed photograph. He prefers to ignore our outward appearance. He treats us the same as he did when we were human. And, for that, I will be forever grateful.
I look around my parents tomb and try to decide where I would like to place the Grammy in my hand. After a thorough scan, I find a notch in the stone that was intended for a vase. It's in between my mother and father's vaults. The space is just the right size for the statute.
My feet walk over to it and I quickly set the Grammy inside the stone shelf. I step a few paces back to judge its appearance. It looks perfect to my eyes. Like it belongs there.
A smile tugs at the corners of my lips. "That's far better than a bouquet of flowers," I say. "At least a Grammy doesn't wilt."
Bella crosses the room to stand beside me, her eyes alternately studying the resting places of my parents and the statue that is nestled in between them.
"It does look good there," she slowly says. "But won't you miss having it with you?"
"In a way, I will," I admit. "But I wanted to leave a piece of me here today, love. And, since it was their idea for me to learn to play the piano in the first place, I believe that they deserve it. Besides... I could always win another one day. You never know."
"Yes... I'm sure you will," she winks. "You'll probably have a room full of them after a hundred years have gone by."
I roll my eyes at her teasing. "One more would suffice. Or perhaps two. Then, we will have book ends to decorate our book shelf at home."
We stay in the tomb a few minutes more before I decide that it's time to go. I whisper a somber goodbye to the spirits of my human family, promising that I will visit again sooner than I had before. I step back outside to the humid heat of the city as Bella places the stone slab back at the door. After I shut the gate and turn the key into the lock, we stroll away from the granite structure and head towards the main road through the cemetery. After we exit through the gates, we stand there for a few beats looking at the surrounding cars, buildings, and general chaos of the city.
"So... Where to now?" I ask her.
She purses her mouth as she ponders my question. Moments later, her eyes sparkle with a thought as she gazes up at me. "How about you show me around town?" she suggests. "Show me what your life was like when you lived here."
"What would you like to see?"
"Everything," she smiles.
"Everything?" I repeat as I grin back. "That's quite ambitious. Do you want me to call a taxi?"
"No. Let's walk."
Before I can say anything else, she swipes my hand and pulls me onto the sidewalk. I'm not sure yet what I want I show her first. My childhood home. My old high school. The hospital where my family passed away. The city park where I found the gateway to my future. There is so much to choose from...
But I'm not really worried about schedules. Bella and I have the whole summer to enjoy ourselves however we want before she returns to college. We can explore this entire city if we want to.
After all, we have all the time in the world.
A/N- Holy guacamole... This baby is complete!
Thank you for sticking with this story til the end. I've had such a great time playing with Ms. Meyer's characters for these past seven months. I haven't really written anything since my high school days a thousand years ago (give or take a year), so this was a definite challenge for me. And having you guys with me, giving your opinions and making me laugh, made it even better.
A couple of you have asked if I will be writing anything new. The answer is yes. I have a few ideas fighting for domination, and I'm sure I'll be throwing something new on FF soon. Of course, I will also be working on my BPOV of this story now that I'm done with this. So, long story short, I'll still be around here somewhere.
Well, I guess there's really just one thing left to say now. OK. Here it goes... For the last time... Thanks for reading! :-)
Edit January 16, 2020- Hello, again. Just wanted to say that a sort of sequel to this story is haunting my thoughts. I haven't decided yet if it will be a separate story or if I will just add it to the BPOV Forwarded To My Future (it will be from her point of view). If and when I do make a decision, I will let you know so don't forget to put this story on alert! Here is a little summary of what it will be like. Let me know if it sounds interesting. :-)
He fell through time, saved my life, and made sacrifices in order to protect me. Now it's time for me to return the favor.