22. Epilogue II – 20 Years After the Wedding
It was nearly noon by the time we got home from hunting. Edward and I were vacationing away from the family this year, at our 'little' house in Juneau for a change. It was like another honeymoon for us. The years had only strengthened our relationship, and though Edward still couldn't read my thoughts directly, he knew me so well that it almost didn't matter any more.
We settled in for the sunny afternoon, me with my laptop, and Edward with a book today. My screen quickly filled with information, and I turned first to email. It had been a few days since I'd checked it, and was surprised to see several messages from my mother waiting for me. I started with the most recent one, hoping to see what was bothering her. The email window opened and I froze. Edward's head turned toward me immediately, feeling my reaction.
Your father passed away last night, Bella. He wanted you to know how much he loved you.
"Bella, what is it?" Edward's voice was quiet.
"Charlie's dead." I closed my eyes as my mind started replaying all the memories I had of my father. Edward wrapped his arm around me.
"I'm so sorry, Bella." He didn't say anything else, just held me. Eventually I could breathe again and I put my head on his shoulder.
"I knew this would happen; I didn't think it would affect me so much." My mind was numb.
Edward just stroked my hair. "You loved him very much."
I turned back to my computer now, quickly reviewing the emails that my mother had sent. Apparently Charlie had suffered a stroke five days ago and had fallen down the stairs in his tiny house. Renée had gone to be with him during the last days, and he had died while we were out hunting last night. I knew that there was nothing I could have done, but I still felt the sting of guilt for being so unaware of his pain.
I read the last message completely now, and saw that the funeral was to be held in two days. I sighed.
"Are you alright?" Edward felt the small shift in my mood.
"The funeral is two days from now. I wish…" My words faded out. It wasn't fair to even think that I could attend – that was part of what I'd given up to sit here now with my husband. The Quileutes had been more than accommodating in letting me become a vampire, and now I had to live by the treaty that allowed that.
"Why don't I call Sam and just ask? He might allow us to go for just a little while…" Edward's voice was soothing.
I took a breath. "No, I should call, he was my father."
Edward's phone rang. He looked at me and we both knew it would be Alice, probably seeing our futures disappear when I decided to talk to a werewolf. He rose. "I'll talk to her, then make our travel arrangements." He went into the bedroom to make his calls, and I went to retrieve my cell phone from my purse. I stared at the phone in my hand as I worked out what to say to the werewolf chief.
I closed my eyes briefly, then opened the phone, dialing information. A short minute later I could hear the phone ringing at Sam Uley's house.
"Hello." A woman's voice answered. I recognized Emily Uley immediately.
"Hello. Is Sam there?" I waited.
"No, he is out right now. May I ask who is calling?" Emily's voice was as warm as I remembered it. I could hear noises in the background – probably her children. Charlie had written me a year ago telling me about the Uley's and their three kids, all of whom were in high school now.
"Emily, this is Bella… Bella Cullen." There was a long silence.
Emily's voice became serious, but not angry. "Hello Bella. I'm so sorry about your father." Her sympathy was genuine. I tried to swallow the lump in my throat.
"Thank you Emily." I took a breath. "That is actually why I was calling today. I wanted to ask Sam for a favor. Do you know when he will be back?" The guilty feeling was returning.
"He'll be back in an hour or so, Bella, but I don't think that Sam can help you." Her tone was not dismissive, it was hesitant. "You see, Sam is not chief anymore."
I caught my breath in surprise. "He's not…" I doubted that whoever was chief now would want to have anything to do with me. "Oh well, I'm sorry to bother you." I waited for her response before hanging up.
"Wait, Bella. Sam stepped down as chief when Jacob came back. Jacob Black is who you need to talk to. And I think he'll listen to you…" Her words were kind, but they didn't register at first. Jacob… There was no way I could go back now.
"No, I can't call Jacob. I'm the last person he'd want to talk to, especially now." I wondered where Jacob had been…
Emily spoke quickly. "Bella, you should ask him. I'm sure he's expecting you to call. He is married now and has two children. His wife is from Alaska – they married about ten years ago. They are very happy. Please call him, just once, Bella, and hear for yourself. I can't believe that he wouldn't let you attend the funeral." Emily's voice was so comforting, like I was her best friend.
"Emily, why are you being so kind to me? I don't deserve it." As her husband's mortal enemy she had no reason to be nice to me.
"I knew you before, remember? And I understand why you made the choice you did. Although there are some who see your kind as soulless, unfeeling beings, I can tell that that is not the case, at least for your family. You sound the same as I remember, and Jacob will hear that, too. Just ask him Bella. It won't hurt anyone to just ask."
I imagined her in the little house on the reservation, filled with her family, her scarred face staring out the window as she talked.
"Alright Emily, I will. How is your family doing?" We conversed for a few more minutes about her family and the goings on in La Push. It was nice to hear that everything was calm and that most of the pack had managed to control themselves and had normal lives. When our conversation ended I felt better. I then opened the phone again.
I tensed up as the phone rang this time.
"Hello, Black residence." A child's voice answered, surprising me. The girl must have been about eight or nine years old.
"Hello, may I speak to your dad?" I imagined the dark hair and russet skin the little girl must have. Her voice was soft and sweet.
"Sure, sure, I'll go get him. Who is this?" I could tell she was walking with the phone.
"My name is Bella."
"Okay Bella, hold on, he's in the garage." Of course, Jacob loved his cars. I could hear her calling her dad now. "Dad, Bella is on the phone."
I cringed as she shouted, straining to hear his reaction, but there was no sound.
"Hello, Bella." Jacob's voice was low and even. I could see his face clearly in my mind, fixed and solemn.
"Hello Jacob." My words had left me. I struggled to get them back. "H-How are you?" This was a mistake.
"I'm doing very well. You are calling about the funeral, I assume." My heart sank as I heard Jacob's business voice. My friend Jacob was probably long since gone.
"Yes. But I see now that it was a mistake. I'm sorry that I bothered you." He didn't deserve trouble from me. I started to put the phone down.
"Wait, Bella," he called. "Aren't you at least going to ask?" His voice softened slightly.
I pulled the phone close again. "Jacob, I don't want to interfere. It sounds like everything is going good for you, and it isn't that important that I attend. I'll hold to the treaty." I hoped he didn't hear the pain in my voice.
"Bella, what did you call for?" His voice was aggravated now, but sounded more like the Jacob I remembered – the Jacob who could irritate me as well as make me laugh.
"Fine." My voice was annoyed now, and the words came quickly. "I called to ask your permission for Edward and I to attend Charlie's funeral. No humans will know we are there. I also wanted to stop by Charlie's house for a few minutes. We'd spend all of a few hours in Forks, then leave. That's all."
I was still grumbling and barely heard his response. "Okay." He whispered. I was stunned.
"I said okay. You can come, for a few hours." His voice was still quiet.
"I don't know what to say Jacob… thank you." There was a long pause.
"Are you… well?" He asked carefully.
"Yes Jacob, I am doing fine. I've never broken the treaty." I hoped he understood that I'd never attacked a human.
"And Edward?" I was amazed – he didn't choke on the name like he used to.
"He's fine, we all are. Your daughter sounds lovely, by the way." Could we actually converse like 'normal' people?
"Well, thanks. Maybe I'll see you at the funeral." Apparently not.
"Thanks again Jacob. Goodbye."
"Goodbye Bella." He hung up.
I sighed, and stared out the window. Edward joined me. I knew he'd heard enough to know what had transpired. He wrapped his hands around mine. Are you ok? He thought.
"Yes. We can go for a few hours. Jacob is chief now. He is married and has a family. I'm glad." I turned to Edward and smiled weakly.
That's good. I'm glad he's happy. I could tell that Edward meant it.
We arrived at the cemetery just before the service was to start. Appropriately it was a dark day; the clouds were pressing down, ready to open up at any minute. The crowd was very large, so we stood quite a ways away under a large oak tree. No one noticed us, and if they did, it would appear that we were attending a different grave.
I surveyed the crowd, noting that most if not all of the town was here. In the time since I'd left, Forks hadn't changed much, and the families were older but the same. Several of my friends from high school were here, including Mike Newton who was accompanying his elderly mother. The hearse arrived then, and I stiffened when I saw my mother step out of the front seat.
Edward wrapped his arms tightly around me. "How are you doing?" he whispered.
"Alright so far." I leaned into his chest and he kissed my hair, not touching my skin. He knew that I didn't want to share his gift of reading minds now – especially when I saw my mother. Hearing the sad thoughts of so many compounded with my own would have been too much to bear.
As I watched, Renée walked to her seat at the front of the crowd and dabbed her eyes with a tissue. I turned away, looking down.
"You know that she cared for him too." Edward whispered. "She wishes you were here."
"Please… don't," I breathed.
"I'm sorry." He kissed my hair again and didn't say anything else. I looked up now, watching the pall bearers bringing the casket to the grave. I caught my breath as I saw them. Quil, Embry, Paul, Jared, Seth, and Sam – all werewolves. Leading the casket, dressed in traditional Quileute chieftain headgear was Jacob. He hadn't aged a day since I'd seen him last, yet it was obvious he was older, wiser.
The sight was breathtaking, and I could feel Edward stand a little taller in respect. Jacob could only be described as magnificent, regally leading the group in a rhythmic chant as they slowly paraded through the crowd. They all moved as one, with a military precision that would put the most practiced soldier to shame.
As they set the casket down the breeze swirled toward us and my nose crinkled at their scent. Even though it disgusted me, it couldn't keep me from staring at them in awe. As each werewolf turned away to join the crowd I could tell which had found control, and which hadn't. Embry looked older while Quil looked exactly the same as the day I left. Of course, I thought to myself, as he joined a young woman I knew was his mate, Claire. She would be what, 22 now?
I watched as an older Sam joined Emily in the crowd with two of their children. I couldn't see Leah anywhere; I wondered if she was still here or not.
Jacob hadn't moved from his place at the head of the casket. His head turned slightly, and the whole crowd followed his gaze to watch a tall, beautiful girl push Billy Black toward the front in his wheelchair. I was surprised again as I looked at her – she was a young Emily. She must be their oldest daughter.
It was Billy that gave the eulogy, commenting on Charlie's kindness of spirit and loyalty to the community. My heart ached as he spoke of Charlie being his brother; how he had blessed the Quileute family. He did manage a smile as he remembered the times fishing with Charlie, and the crowd laughed quietly at one funny anecdote. The service ended with a beautiful prayer by Jacob in the Quileute language.
The service was short; Charlie wouldn't have wanted anything long and drawn out. The crowd started filing past the casket now, some leaving flowers or other mementos as the rain began. My mother bent over and whispered in Billy's ear, then gave Jacob a hug before leaving. We avoided her gaze as she peered at the crowd one more time, probably hoping to glimpse me.
Billy and Jacob were the last to leave. I watched as they approached their car, and felt the wind shift in their direction. Jacob's head snapped up and turned toward us. He froze for a moment, his expression unreadable. Then he turned to put Billy in the car and they were gone.
We now moved closer and stood silently over the open grave. Edward held me tight still saying nothing. "Are you okay?" he finally murmured.
"Yes. That was so beautiful." I wrapped my arm around Edward's waist. "I'll miss him." He squeezed me gently. Eventually I placed the bouquet of roses I'd brought at the base of Charlie's headstone, and we turned to go. This phase of my life was nearly over.
We pulled up in front of Charlie's house, parking in the same spot we had so many times before, back when I was human. From the outside it was impossible to tell that anything had changed since the last time I'd been here. I reached up under the eve and unlocked the door with the same rusty key. The family room showed a little wear – Charlie's chair was much more tattered, and the TV was new. The photos on the mantle now included my Dartmouth graduation photo, but little else had changed.
"It is still the same." I whispered. Edward held me as we walked to the kitchen, then up the stairs. I turned into my room first. It too was the same as I'd left it, the bed neatly made. I walked to the window and opened it. It stuck now, not having been open in so long. Memories flooded my mind of my human life so long ago.
"What are you thinking about?" Edward rubbed my shoulders.
"Just remembering…" I took a breath. My human memories hadn't faded a bit. I closed the window, turned and held my husband tightly. "Did you ever go back to your home, after?"
"Yes, once. It was very hard for me." He was somber.
I released him and we left my empty room and went into Charlie's room. The piles had changed slightly here, but there was not enough difference to merit notice. I sat on the edge of his bed and picked up his pillow, inhaling his scent and committing it to memory forever. I looked around, still hugging the pillow. "I should decide what I want to take."
"We have time; there is no reason to rush."
I got up and went to the dresser. I found Charlie's tiny jewelry box; it held the watch he received when he retired from the police force and his wedding ring. I kept the box and its contents. Nearby was my parent's wedding photo; I picked that up as well.
We continued looking around, but I saw little else that I wanted to keep. Edward then opened the drawer of the bedside table and beckoned me.
Inside were two stacks of letters. One stack contained the letters I'd sent him since leaving, the other was a stack of letters from my mother, dated before I was born. I picked up the second stack, glancing through it before adding it to my collection.
We went back downstairs and I picked a couple of the pictures off of the mantle. Just then we heard soft steps on the porch, and a bitter odor crept in under the door. I looked at Edward.
"Come in Jacob." He said evenly, his eyes still on me. Edward gently took my hand, and I could hear concern in his thoughts over Jacob's presence. As the door opened, I could hear Jacob's mind preparing to see me up close. As he looked at me I was amazed at what I saw through his eyes. To him I looked like a glowing crystal – sparkling, even though we weren't in the sunshine. I gasped quietly and dropped Edward's hand.
Jacob looked briefly at Edward, nodded, then stared at me. "Hello, Bella." His voice was tight.
"Hi Jake." I couldn't help but be familiar with my friend. "Edward, can you take these to the car, please." Edward looked warily at me, unwilling to leave me alone with Jacob. "I'll be there in a minute." I assured him.
"Jacob." He said as he left slowly. I watched him get into the car, keeping his eyes on me through the windows of the house.
"We're almost done, Jacob, then we'll go. Thanks again." I wasn't sure why he was here, but I didn't want to upset him. I was still reeling from how he perceived vampires.
Jacob shifted. "It's okay Bella. I just wanted to see you. You look good, for a …" He couldn't finish, and a tiny grin appeared.
I relaxed, and smiled back. "It is good to see you Jacob. Emily said that you are doing well." Jacob also relaxed a little.
"Yes, I am. You were right, you know. There was someone out there for me." He smiled a little wider now. "And in a way, I have to thank you for helping me to find her."
I was confused. "How did I help?"
He frowned for a moment. "Well, when I got your wedding invitation, I kind of… left." My eyes widened at this news – he wasn't supposed to have ever seen one. I glared at Edward out the window. He quickly turned away from my gaze. "Don't be mad at him, Bella, I would have done the same thing. Anyway, I couldn't be around the pack any more so I ran away. I was a wolf for months, travelling farther and farther north. I had no intention of becoming human ever again." My heart ached as he spoke of the pain I'd put him through.
"I'm so sorry Jacob." I whispered. He moved closer to me, and with his nose crinkled he touched my shoulder.
"It's okay Bella, it was really meant to be this way, I know that now. I ran all the way to the Aleutian peninsula and found another tribe. When a single… vampire… came near them, I protected them like they were my own family. It was familiar to me, but without all the baggage of the tribe here, so I decided to try and be human with them for a while. That was when I saw Lila, and I knew what it felt like to imprint.
"She was only twelve at the time, so I stayed, protecting and loving her. When she was of age we married, and she talked me into coming back. I'm happier than I'd ever thought I could be." He smiled at me again, and I could hear the sincerity in his words.
"I'm so glad you're happy, Jacob. I've worried about you, you know." I smiled back. He was still my Jacob – my friend Jacob. "I don't understand how I helped you, though."
"Bella, if you had chosen me over him I never would have left, never would have found Lila. We'd have been happy, I'm sure, but having found her, I understand what it means to find your true soul mate. I also think I understand how Edward feels about you, soul or no." I frowned at him, at his description of Edward, but then smiled again. He smiled back, then carefully touched my cheek briefly and shivered.
"You are so cold, Bella. It is hard for me to understand that it is really you." His voice wavered a bit and his touch stung my skin.
"But it is me, Jacob, no matter how I look or feel." Irritation crept into my voice for a moment, but then I softened my tone. "My body is different, but I'm still here. I've had challenges myself, but I've fought hard to keep that piece of humanity that is Bella. Without it I am just a monster."
"And you've never…" Jacob whispered and looked down.
I reached out and carefully touched his chin with the tip of my finger, pulling it up to look in his eyes. His skin burned like fire. "No. I've never injured a human nor tasted human blood. I intend to keep it that way."
He stared in my eyes for a long moment. "I believe you. Can I ask one other thing?"
"Sure, what is it?"
"Do you have any, well, special abilities?" He looked at me carefully, his eyes narrowing slightly.
"Still the werewolf, eh, Chief Jacob?" He flinched at the title, and then shrugged. I smirked. "Yes. I can share another vampire's talent if I touch him or her." I waited to see if he could understand what I meant.
"So, if you touch him you can read minds, too?" I was happy that he got it so quickly.
"Yes. Oh, and he still can't read my mind…" I knew that would please Jacob, and he grinned at me again.
"That's not so bad." He reached out and held my hand, both of us flinching from the sensation. We stood looking at each other for another moment, but then I broke the connection.
"I should be going, I don't want to get you into trouble." I smiled again. "Please tell Billy thank you for the wonderful service. You were all so beautiful." Jacob looked down, embarrassed. "And thanks for being my friend, Jacob."
When he looked up again, I could see the Jacob of old in his eyes. "Thank you Bells. It was really good to see you. Take care."
"Take care, Jacob." My emotions were all confused. I was happy that he was happy, but sad that this was the last time I'd ever see him. He waved once more as he stepped out the front door.
I looked out the window at my husband, and he was smiling to himself. Jacob walked toward the car, and for a moment I panicked. The fear subsided quickly as I heard Edward's voice say "Thank you Jacob. I wish you well." Jacob then turned toward the forest, pulling off his t-shirt as he went.
I took one more look around, picked up a framed set of lures that had been by my father's chair as long as I could remember, and then stepped out the door, locking it. I would arrange to have his estate taken care of once we'd returned home. I took one look back at the house, feeling sad.
As I walked to the car, I realized that I wouldn't ever do this again. My mother had Phil and their daughter to take care of her things; it wouldn't be the same. Their life was totally separate from mine now, and there was nothing left of me in it. This was truly the end of my human life.