I watched Alice bustle around the dining room table holding a thick stack of papers. Her thoughts were on overload. I shook my head to try and focus. I looked around and noticed that everyone had their eyes trained on her. Most aware of the person to my right, I turned and looked into the wary face of my girlfriend. She was biting her lip with an anxious expression. I smiled softly and squeezed her hand. Her eyes turned to meet my own, panic etched across her features.
Alice had assembled all of us into the dining room for a meeting, the reason undisclosed. Of course, I already knew that this was about the wedding. I was fairly certain that Bella knew too.
My eyes shifted to Carlisle. He sat comfortably at the head of the table, engaged in a conversation with Esme. They were both smiling, looking more relaxed than I had seen them in months. Now that the threat of battle was no longer looming over our heads, they had been so much more content. Esme must have felt my gaze, because she stopped talking and gave me sad smile. I'm so glad you're happy Edward; we're both so proud of you. I returned the silent thought with a smile of my own. I looked at Carlisle; his expression was swollen with pride. He nodded his head and I did the same.
I looked to Esme's left and saw that Rosalie was sitting with her arms tightly crossed. After listening to her thoughts for the past week, I was very aware that she was against the wedding. She wasn't against Bella and me being together, but she was still very opposed to turning Bella into a vampire, and she knew that the wedding was the first step in that direction. She also felt my gaze, and glared darkly back at me. You're making a mistake, I hope you know that Edward. I frowned back at her and then instinctively squeezed Bella's hand tighter.
To her left sat Emmett, who was whistling to himself. I chuckled under my breath when I realized he was the only one who had no idea why we were here. His thoughts were careless and worry free, as usual. He had been extremely supportive of Bella and me from the beginning.
On the other side of me sat Jasper, who was staring at Alice intently. He was worried about her, but I could tell he was content in that she was doing something that made her happy. He confided in me that he planned to be involved in the planning process just as much as Alice was. He still felt immensely guilty for having slipped that day at Bella's birthday party, a couple years ago.
Finally my eyes rested back on my Bella. The warmth of her skin was radiating from every angle. Her pulse held a worried rhythm. I pulled her hand onto my knee and clasped it between both of mine and rubbed my thumbs over the cool scar on the back of her hand. Her muscles relaxed under my touch as I continued in slow dragging circles.
I looked back to Jasper and gave him a meaningful nudge with my calf. He nodded understandingly and I immediately felt a welcome peace sweep my senses. Bella melted under my touch even more, and her eyes held a tranquil stare. I looked closely and I could still see the small sense of worry that was buried deep in her brown eyes. I knew it was because I was ridiculously in tune with all spotting all her complex emotions because I couldn't use her thoughts as a resource.
"Okay great! I'm ready now, let's get started," called Alice loudly, obviously unaffected by her husband's subtle change of atmosphere. "As you all know, we have an extremely important day coming up."
Bella groaned beside me and I felt her stiffen. Rosalie scowled.
Alice continued as if she hadn't heard. "Now since we only have two weeks to prepare for this, I decided to make sure that we all pitch in and do our fair share of work." She grabbed the stack of papers and began to make her way around the table.
"Work?" said a confused Emmett. "What do you mean?"
"It means that were going to be forced into helping Edward and Bella make the biggest mistake of their lives that's what," snapped Rosalie.
"Now Rosalie," soothed Carlisle. "We have already decided that this is for the best, and I think you should be happy for your brother and Bella."
"I didn't decide, and if you ask me, I'm the only one looking out for Bella!" If it was possible, she crossed her arms even tighter over her chest. But it looked as if she was done for the moment.
Alice who had already anticipated this outburst had not lost any bit of her enthusiasm. She came up beside Bella and handed her a pink sheet labeled 'Guest List.'
Bella looked sincerely surprised. "I don't think we need a list Alice, I already know everyone I'm going to invite, and it would just be easier if-"
"Bella," whined Alice. "Of course you need a guest list. You need it for invitations, seating arrangements, everything!" She pouted with an expression fit for a five year old.
"Bella I've already made some really pretty invitations, all you have to do is choose who they go to." Alice gave her a worried smiled and then looked over to me.
I shrugged. "It's Bella's choice Alice."
Bella looked at me gratefully, but I saw her crumble under Alice's eager expression. "Okay," she sighed.
Alice grinned and clasped her hands excitedly.
"Thank you, Bella," I whispered in her ear, lingering a bit. I felt her body shiver and watched her eyelids begin to droop. I chuckled under my breath and quickly returned to my previous position. I watched as she blinked several times and quietly worked to get her breathing back under control. She caught me staring and blushed bright red. I knew it was a mix of embarrassment and frustration.
I couldn't lie and say I didn't vastly enjoy the affect I had on her physically, or for that matter the affect she constantly had on me. I never even came close to letting Bella know how much I wanted or needed her in that way. I had always thought it was too dangerous to attempt so I had always tried to push every sexual thought far from my mind.
A burning flash of worry clouded my brain as I remembered that we were going to do just that, try. However, I couldn't supress the feeling of overwhelming excitement that was growing stronger as the time drew nearer. It made me feel guilty that I was giving in to that excitement. Sometimes I thought I was being too hard on myself, I was a man after all, and Bella was, well Bella was the epitome of everything I ever wanted. Not to mention the only girl who had ever sparked these new yearnings in me. My physical ache for her body was almost on the same level as my ache for her blood, and that is something that I thought was impossible.
So lost in my own thoughts, I looked up to see that everyone was looking down at a pink paper except for me.
"Hey Alice," I said. "Aren't you forgetting someone?"
She looked down guiltily and tried to appear busy. "Um, no Edward. Pretty sure that's it." Sorry Edward ,but you have the biggest job of all, keeping Bella safe until the wedding. I didn't want to say it out loud and hurt her feelings. Her head stayed down to remain inconspicuous.
I growled in frustration because I realized she was right.
"Alice that's not fair," scolded Bella. "It's just as much his wedding as mine, I think he has a right to help out if he wants."
"No it's okay Bella, I'll help you with the guest list." I ran my fingers across her cheek. "We can keep a watch on Alice together and make sure nothing goes overboard."
Bella couldn't argue with that, and she appeared satisfied, so she dropped it.
Alice cleared her throat loudly and looked at everyone dramtically. "So let's go through the rundown. Bella, you're in charge of the guest list, I'll need that by next Friday at the latest. Jasper, since you most aware of everyone's emotions and will know which moments to capture; you are going to be in charge of photography. Carlisle, I'm counting on you to take care of the music. To be honest you are probably the only person I trust at this table with the job. Okay, Esme you are in charge of food, food for the humans of course, I was sure you would be able to find a lot of recipes from your friends around town and such. Rosalie, you are in charge of flowers and decorations, it seemed most fitting for you and I already know you're going to enjoy it. Emmett," she paused to stare at her grinning brother. "Your job is extremely important, get the license, and practice the marriage ceremony. Don't make this into a joke please; this is a big day for Edward and Bella."
"Why Alice," Emmett said in a mock offended tone. "A little faith please… no pun intended." He laughed loudly at his own joke and winked at me. "No really," he started seriously "I wouldn't mess this up don't worry." He put his arm around Rosalie's chair and kissed the top of her head.
"Great!" Alice clasped her hands loudly and stared at everyone with the air of superiority. "I of course will be doing wardrobe and everything else. I will be checking up with all of you throughout the week to monitor the final decisions."
"Alice," warned Bella.
"Bella and Edward too, of course," she added quickly. "Like I said, August thirteenth is looming and we all need to get started right away." She said it in a tone that signaled the end of the meeting and she flew out of the room, Jasper in toe. Everyone else followed in suit leaving me and Bella at the table.
Once everyone was gone, I swiftly pulled her into my lap and gently kissed her forehead. The warmth of her skin splayed across my lips, and I could feel the warm blood flowing beneath, inches from my tongue. I smiled, it was so easy now.
I rocked her gently snuggling her into my shoulder. "I really do appreciate this Bella, you have no idea how much this means for Alice, I can't say it enough."
"I'm doing it for us too, you know that. I want to do this right, and this is the right way." She paused. "Even if it is also the most embarrassing way," she added laughing.
"What did I do to deserve you, Bella," I mused into her hair. She hugged me tight and then added. "What haven't you done?" After a moments silence she lifted her head up, an exaggerated smirk on her face.
Edward you're wasting time! We only have two weeks to the wedding! Where's that guest list?!" I laughed and turned her around in my lap so she could reach over and grab the paper.
I reached over to grab a pen that Alice that left behind and I handed it to Bella. I rested my chin on her shoulder and glanced at the pink paper. She twirled the pen in her hand thoughtfully for just a moment, then touched it down to the paper.
She quickly wrote my name, Edward Cullen at the top of the list in an untidy scrawl. I had seen her handwriting before, but it was funny to see my name in such a state. I put my face into her back and chuckled, trying to muffle it beneath her hair.
"What's funny?" she asked peering at me around her shoulder. "Ohh I see. I guess it is kind of unnecessary to put you on the guest list for your own wedding." She went to go scribble it out when I swiftly grabbed her hand.
"No don't. I'm sorry Bella. I wasn't laughing at that." She looked confused and I couldn't help but tease her a bit.
"Well, what is it then?" she glanced back down at the paper then shifted on my lap to face me, looking for a clue.
I sighed and gazed into her russet eyes noting the puzzlement she felt. "Let's just say that I think I will be writing out invitations." I laughed softly, hoping she would not be offended.
She looked back down at the paper and blanched, then turned back to me. "Well all of us haven't had over a century to perfect our writing," she replied snidely.
"Bella, I was just teasing. I'm sorry." I wrapped my hands around her waist and rested my cheek against the top of her head. "You can write out the invitations you know I don't really mind."
She giggled and rested her head against mine. "No you're right. Your handwriting will be perfect for the invitations."
She wrote her name under my own, followed by Carlisle, Esme, Charlie, Renee, Phil, Alice, Jasper, Emmett, and Rosalie. She then sat pensive.
"What are you thinking," I couldn't help but ask.
"I'm trying to figure out which of our friends from school to invite."
I wanted to remind her that I didn't really have any other friends at school and never did. There was no one at Forks High School that I would care to invite to my wedding. But I knew there were people that Bella felt close to, and became friends with before she even met me. Everyone at school knew who Bella was and probably would love to come to her wedding. I sat just as pensive, trying to figure out who she would choose.
I watched as she touched her pen to the paper again and scribbled Angela Webber.
"I probably should include Ben then too," she said more to herself and she wrote his name directly under his girlfriends.
Angela Webber had always been a kind girl. She was a good friend to Bella, and when I wasn't talking to her for those agonizing six weeks, I remember being grateful that she had at least made a friend in someone genuine. My eyes scanned over Ben's name. I didn't really pay to much attention to him, but he was a nice sort. I knew he really liked Angela. I looked at Bella, who was still lost in thought.
She fumbled with the pen anxiously a bit and then quickly wrote Mike Newton.
"Mike Newton??" I questioned incredulously. "Bella, trust me, he does not want to come to our wedding."
"Edward, he was one of my first friends in Forks and has always been very sweet to me," she said a little guiltily.
"Of course he has! He really likes you, you know that. Not to mention that the kid hates me, Bella. And I feel pretty much the same way about him to be honest." I grimaced as I thought of some of the lustful things he thought of my girlfriend. "It wouldn't make him happy to see you marrying me. I know." I tapped my forehead to make my point clear.
She rolled her eyes.
"I think he finally got the hint that I don't reciprocate his feelings, he doesn't really like me anymore" she stated.
I snorted. I briefly thought of Mike's attempt's to disguise his longing. Pokerfaced McObvious suddenly came to mind. I didn't have to hear his mind to know how much he liked Bella.
She ignored me and continued. "Besides, he always went out of his way to include me; I have to at least ask. I don't want to offend him." She continued on to the next name.
I remained quiet. Mike Newton. The hormone driven little boy who intensely craved my Bella's affection. Even though the unreachable amount of love I held for Bella, was worlds more from the feelings he felt for her, he still came the closest. He liked her more than anyone else at the school, second only to me. I was positive he did not want to come to the wedding. He would not want to see the object of his long-time affection giving herself to someone else, finally proving that he had never had a chance.
I perked up, suddenly feeling light-hearted at the thought that Mike Newton would finally stop obsessing over my Bella.
"Okay. You're right. It might be a good idea if he comes." She didn't answer and I saw that she had put Jessica Stanley right under Mike.
"Are you sure?" I asked her.
She looked torn. I understood. Jessica was very jealous of Bella, and did not always hide it well. But on the other hand, she took to Bella on the first day, and kind of showed her the ropes. Jessica did like her in her own way, but it was often overshadowed by her jealousy. She couldn't help it, she was just a mundane, typical teenage girl. It didn't matter in the slightest if she attended, but I knew it was an important decision to Bella.
"Yes, I am," she finally answered. "I wouldn't feel right if I didn't. I know she'll be good about this."
She looked over his list thoughtfully, quickly adding Mrs. Newton, her boss, to the list.
We need to invite the Denali clan," I added. I took the pen from her and wrote all five of their names with practiced script. She scowled. Figuring it was about my penmanship I kept talking. "We always invite them to special events, and they extend the same courtesy. Carlisle is going to make sure we add them."
"Tanya." She said the name as if it were dirty. "Just what I need, more beautiful vampires around. Not to mention one that tried to seduce my fiancé."
The word fiancé made my heart swell, it was the first time she spoke it freely. I wish I could convince her how utterly ridiculous worrying about Tanya was. I hadn't been entirely honest with her about what happened, but there was no need to be. Tanya would never be able to make me look her way. "Bella, you are by far the most beautiful thing in my world, and everyone at the wedding will pale in comparison to you, you'll see."
"They can't help it. They're vampires. Everyone's paler than me."
"Oh silly Bella," I sighed. "When will you realize."
It was quiet for a moment and then she quickly jumped up and stated, well that's it then.
A little too quickly.
"Are you sure you've got everyone?" I asked her this just for show. I knew she would know who I meant.
I was right.
She sighed and looked at her feet. "I'm not inviting him Edward. I caused enough problems as it is and the situation needs to rest for a while. We all need space from each other." I saw the tiny ounce of sadness reflecting the pain in her heart.
"I think he deserves the choice, Bella."
I don't know why I wanted to give Jacob a choice. I should be trying to keep him as far away from her as possible. But oddly, I respected Jacob. I trusted Jacob, and I owed him for taking care of Bella when I couldn't. My heart knew that Bella and I were destined for each other, so I felt strange sadness for him, knowing how much he cared for her. I studied her face, trying to gauge her reaction.
"We've said our goodbye for the time being. It needs to stay that way right now." She said this softly, but with a tone that indicated the subject was closed.
I had no reply, but I couldn't shake the feeling that Jacob deserved to decide for himself. I realized that it's what I would have wanted, if the situation had been reversed. I doubt I would have went, the pain would have been too much to bear, unmatched by anything else, but knowing that he had enough respect to ask and be given the chance to do what I might have needed to do. I filed away my thoughts for later.
I stood and up and stretched my arms above my head. "Well Miss Swan, we finished our assignment in, fifteen minutes!" My eyes went wide in mock surprise.
Her arms circled around my waist and as she laughed her breath tickled the side of my neck. "I hope Alice doesn't mind the short guest list."
"She knows we wanted an intimate ceremony, she is mostly excited about what everyone is going to wear," I replied.
"Do you know what you're going to wear?" Her head tilted up and her lips brushed my chin.
"Yes." I didn't want to say more, she would see when the day came.
"Fine, I know you're not going to tell me. But I can wait two weeks." She kissed my jaw line lightly and I closed my eyes.
All too soon she stopped and grabbed my hand. "Let's go find Alice and get this over with."