"Don't freak out. Don't freak out," I muttered to myself while staring out the window of mine and Edward's apartment. "Think I'm going to puke."
"Then don't go."
Sighing, I shifted my eyes to the man sprawled out on the sofa. A black brace was strapped to his right leg. More than six months had passed since I found Edward unconscious on the floor of Murphy's Law, yet his knee still wasn't completely healed. Carlisle said it probably never would be, not with the damage that had been done. But, we'd gotten used to it. Most days Edward could go without the brace, but there were times, after an extra busy night at the bar, that Edward had to pull it out of the closet. We didn't talk about it, though.
"I can't let her down," I murmured, shifting my attention back to the window. "She's so excited."
"That's an understatement." I heard Edward stand and moments later, felt his arms wrap around my torso. I tensed for a moment before allowing myself to relax. "Don't let her push you into something you're not comfortable with, though."
"I won't," I lied, knowing there was a good chance my defenses would be worn down.
From the moment Edward and I told Charlie and Renee about our engagement, my mother had been full of excitement over our upcoming nuptials. The dress, the flowers, the food. It was overwhelming, yet I found myself unable to beg her to stop. I didn't want all that hoopla, I just wanted to marry Edward, to have a normal life. If such a thing existed for people like us.
As the dark Mercedes pulled up in front of the building, I turned and faced Edward. "Wish me luck."
"Luck wished." Edward brushed his lips against mine before releasing his hold on me and stepping backward with a limp. "I love you."
"I love you more."
As I fled our apartment with my purse tucked under my arm, I heard Edward yell that wasn't possible. Except, there was no way he loved me more than I loved him. He was my everything, my only, my forever.
Renee was leaning against the side of the car when I walked out of the building. The smile that spread across her face was beautiful. She'd changed a lot over the last few months. Dialed it down, one would say. Sure she still drove a fancy car and had more diamonds that I could understand, but she wore jeans and tees instead of slacks and blouses. She never said so, but I suspected she wanted to fit in better with me and my crowd.
"Good morning," she cheered, opening her arms for a hug, just as she did every time she saw me.
Biting the inside of my lip, I walked over to her, letting her embrace me. It still scared me, allowing her to be so close, but I wanted my family back more. "Morning."
"Well," she said, bringing her hands to my face before letting them fall onto the sides of my arms. "Are you ready?"
"Um, I guess," I murmured, unsure how I felt. "Tell me again why I need to do this."
"Because finding the prefect dress is key to planning the prefect wedding."
I nodded, still gnawing on the inside of my lip.
Renee laughed softly. "Everything is going to be okay, Bella. I promise."
"I believe you," I said, lying for the second time that morning. I believed that she would do her best, but there were no promises when it came to life. A lesson I'd learned the hard way, I'm afraid.
"You don't, and that's okay. I'll just have to prove it to you."
Renee drove us through Las Vegas to the Broadacres Flea Market in the northern part of the city. I raised an eyebrow as we climbed out of the car, but didn't question her choice as we walked through the busy parking lot to the front doors. I was surprised to find Alice, Esme, and a very pregnant Rose waiting for us just inside.
"Sorry we're late," Renee said, placing her hand on my back. "I had trouble finding this place."
"We haven't been here too long," Alice said, smiling, though I could tell she wasn't completely comfortable being here, or being around my mother. Can't blame her seeing as her mother was a bitch, who let men rape her over and over.
"I'm confused," I grumbled. "What are we doing here? I thought you wanted to take me shopping for the prefect wedding dress?"
"I do, and I am," Renee said cheerfully. "Alice told me that there was a booth that had the most incredible vintage dresses, and well, I thought that might suit your tastes more than a fancy dress. They have a small changing room, and Alice said if you find something you like that needs some alterations, she can do it."
"Yeah?" I asked, shifting my attention to Alice, who shrugged and nodded.
"I might tinker with a needle and thread here and there. Keeps me busy, you know?"
Nodding, I understand. That was just one reason why I painted as much as I did. Busy work helped keep the darkness away. In theory, at least.
"So, should we go take a look?" Renee asked, tilting her head toward the inside of the massive flea market.
Yeah, okay," I mumbled, unsure I wanted to fight my way through the hundreds of people who were packed inside, but knew it was important to my mother. She was making an effort, and I needed to make one, as well.
Renee looped her arm in with mine and led the way inside, around the outside of the market to the very back corner. Inside the good sized booth, were hundreds of dresses hanging on metal racks. They were separated by colors, and patterns, but there were a dozen racks with white dresses alone.
"Oh, wow, that's a lot of dresses," I whispered under my breath.
"I'm sure we'll be able to eliminate a lot of them from the start," Renee said. "I'm guessing you don't want anything with lace or ruffles."
"Um, yeah," I scoffed. "I just want something simple."
"Well, let's get to looking," Renee said, smiling and gesturing toward the racks.
As we shifted through the dresses, I bit back several laughs. Some of the dresses were too ugly to describe. Puffy sleeves, ruffles and lace covering every inch. One even had feathers all over it. I didn't understand how anyone could have seen these dresses and thought, 'Oh, my God, I just have to have it.'
Feeling frustrated, I slipped between two of the racks, surprised to find Rose. She and Emmett hadn't been able to get married yet. Her 'husband' had contested the divorce, even though he was rotting away in a prison cell. Royce King had been sentenced to death in the murder of Bree Tanner, the sixteen year old girl he and his friends raped and murdered. He was never going to see the light of day again, yet he still had his hold on Rose. For now, at least. Renee and Charlie had hired the best divorce attorney for Rose, who promised that by law there was no way a judge would deny her petition. And since Royce's family had turned their backs to him, and in extension Rose, nobody cared that she possibly was carrying his baby. Emmett was prepared to adopt the baby as soon as he, or she, was born.
"You hiding, too?" I asked.
"No," she scoffed and when I raised an eyebrow, she grinned. "Okay, yes, but just because this is all a bit surreal, don't you think?"
I nodded as I shifted through more ghastly dresses. "Do you think she'd just let me and Edward be married by Elvis?"
"No," Rose murmured, pulling out a silky white dress. It was strapless and had a wide bow in the back, "What do you think?"
"For me," she laughed. "For after the baby, when Emmett and I can officially get married."
"Oh," I said, smiling weakly. "I think it'd look great on you."
"Maybe," she whispered, holding it against her. Her belly had popped weeks ago, yet she carried all her weight in front.
"Bella! Bella, come quick. I think I found it."
At the sound of Renee calling her name, I sighed, gave Rose a look, and hurried out from between the two racks. Renee was standing with Esme on one side and Alice on the other. A dress was being held up in front of her, a dress that reminded me of the kinds I'd seen in paintings as a young girl.
Soft beige, the dress was made out of satin, and there was a sheer layer of lace over it. Around the waist was a wide ribbon just a shade darker than the dress. In the middle of the ribbon were a cluster of different colored jewels, some red, gold, blues, and greens. The straps were made of a delicate lace that would cup each of my shoulders. My fingers trembled as I reached out and grazed the front of the dress.
"What do you think? Worth trying on?" Renee asked.
I could only nod as I took hold of the hanger and rushed into the small, canopy dressing room. I shed my jeans and T-shirt, laying them on a small wooden chair before carefully slipping the dress over my body. I held the front up with one hand while reaching the other out of the dressing room. The moment Renee's hand touched mine, I pulled her inside with me. My eyes filling with tears as I whispered, "Zip me up."
Renee smiled as she followed my request.
The dress was a little lose in the bust, but I knew it was the right dress. "What do you think?"
"I think you look beautiful, but I always think you look beautiful," she said softly. "Why don't we ask the others?"
I nodded and waited until Renee had stepped out before I followed. Rose gasped, one hand covering her mouth while the other caressed her belly. Alice brought both hands up in front of her as she smiled and nodded.
"Wow!" Esme murmured. "It's perfect."
"Yeah?" I asked, smoothing down the front a bit. "You really think so?"
"Oh yeah," Alice agreed. "Might need to take in the top a little, make it fit more snuggly, but it's really perfect for you, Bella."
"And you think Edward will like it?" I asked.
"Oh, honey," Renee laughed and wrapped her arm around my shoulder. "That boy would love you in a potato sack."
While I knew she was right, I found myself turning to face the mirror and imagining what it will be like to wear that dress while vowing to spend the rest of my life with the only man who has ever made me feel truly, madly, passionately loved.