This is my official goodbye to this story. As Breaking Dawn is now out, there is little need to continue this tale much beyond this point. I hope it is wrapped up nicely and gives you all a bit of closure.
P.S. If you haven't read Breaking Dawn yet, there are some (pretty major) spoilers here. Be warned.
We ran home in silence, Edward's mind seemingly an impenetrable wall. I tried asking him what was going on a thousand different ways, but none of my attempts even dented Edward's mental armor. Only his eyes betrayed that he even heard me talking. Every time I asked, a small flash of what appeared to be anxiety flared in his eyes. With each flicker of worry another dozen questions forced themselves into my head. Were the Volturi coming to check up on me? Were the wolves here to murder me, or worse, my family? Had Renee found out my secret? Was Jacob hurt? What about Charlie? Was he ok?
In the cavernous space that was my new mind, it seemed that I had plenty of room for all my fears, and more than enough ability to contemplate them all simultaneously. I wasn't sure if that new skill was one I appreciated yet. The swirling doubts, amplified by my newfound mental muscles, demanded my attention, insisted upon it, stripping away all the elation I felt only moments before. I abruptly pulled Edward to a halt. "Stop."
Forgetting my superior strength, I nearly threw Edward to the ground with my sudden freeze. Regaining his composure rapidly, Edward disentangled himself from me. At that moment, I wanted nothing more than to be the mind reader. I wanted to delve into the depths of his closed off psyche and unearth whatever it was that was causing him to look at me as if I might disappear at any moment. I wanted to shake all the answers out of his mute mouth. And as quickly as it came, his eyes shuttered once again as Edward attempted to tug me back toward the house. "Come on Bella. I'm not having this conversation now."
Rooting my feet to the ground stronger than any tree around us, feeling slightly like a petulant three year old I refused to move. With a calmness that I did not feel, I simply gazed back at my husband, waiting until he aborted his attempts to move me further. I sucked in a breath that I really no longer needed, stalling for half a beat, and then softly asked, "Please?"
Edward slowly shook his head, appearing to all the world as someone who had the biggest secret but was unable to share it. Raising his eyes from the forest floor to my face, he implored with his intense stare. "Do you trust me love?"
Unable to control my reaction, I felt the confusion flit across my features. "Of course, but…"
Silencing me with a gentle caress on my neck, he continued, "Do you trust Carlisle?"
"Absolutely. But I still don't…"
Another feathery touch grazed across my cheek. "What about Esme, Alice, Jasper, Rosalie, and Emmett?" Edward paused, looking as if he was trying to suppress the small smile that was tugging at the corners of his lips. "Ok, well maybe not Alice. But the others?"
I no longer attempted to mask my puzzlement. "I trust you all with my life. Now tell me what is going on Edward." Reflected in Edward's bottomless eyes, I could see my forehead furrowing so deeply I would be surprised if the creases ever disappeared completely.
Giving no reply, Edward's satiny touch roved up the side of my face to the lines etched into my marble skin, running over them in an attempt to smooth them away. He leaned in and gently kissed the tip of my nose, his sweet breath escaping over my face in a bouquet of honey, lilac, and glorious sunshine. If there ever was a Xanax for vampires, Edward's touch must have been it. With the feel of his fingers tracing patterns on one cheek, his lips meandering over the other, all my fears were summarily erased.
I felt the breath I didn't know I was holding whoosh out of my lungs along with the anxiety to which I'd been clinging. How could I stay irritated at my beautiful husband when his simple touch soothed every frayed nerve? Raw sensuality and soothing calm all rolled into one package. If I could bottle essence of Edward and sell him, I would be a rich woman. What woman, human or vampire alike, wouldn't want to feel like I was feeling right at that moment?
Knowing that he had thoroughly distracted me from my previous line of questioning, Edward's face broke into a slightly smug smile, which irrationally irritated me all over again. Did he always have to win everything? Maybe I should challenge him rather than Emmett to that arm wrestling contest just to prove that I could beat him at something.
As Edward noted my poorly concealed annoyance his grin spread wider. Running his soothingly soft hands up and down my arms, he softly chuckled. "Ok. I'll give you this. I'm overreacting, as always." Pausing as if he had just revealed the secret to eternal world peace, he appeared appropriately contrite. "Just trust me that I wouldn't take you anywhere that I thought would hurt you." His smile slipped from his face quickly replaced by a look of gentle pleading. "Come home with me and you will find out what this is all about. Please." With one last tender caress of my neck, Edward plucked my temporarily paralyzed hand from my side, turned back toward the direction of the house and, began running again. To bewildered to protest, I followed. As we ran back home I began to realize that even in immortality, Edward still had the capability to thoroughly dazzle me. I absently wondered if I had the capacity to do the same to him.
By the time we leapt over the river and our feet touched the bank of the opposite side, I was so completely wrapped up in my own dazzling plans that Edward took his turn to tug me to a stop. Looking up at his face, I noted that his worried expression was back. I could feel the tension rolling off his shoulders like a mist that was threatening to envelop my already fragile state of mind. Edward pulled me into a gentle embrace, still keeping his eyes locked on mine. "I want you to know, whatever happens in there, this was not my idea and I did everything to prevent it from ever happening."
With those words, I had the strangest sensation that my silenced heart would be beating like a hummingbird right now if it were still able. As we walked the last few paces toward the house I strained my ears, listening for any sign that something horrible was about to happen. I was met with absolute silence. Eerie, out of place silence. For a house that currently held numerous vampires, something was definitely wrong. Bounding up the last few steps, I flung open the door and was met with one of the most unwelcome sights I had ever seen.
No Aro, demanding I join him. No angry wolf pack, standing over the bodies of my family. No Renee, insisting I immediately tell her what was going on. But it was nearly as painful as any of those scenarios. It was a surprise party. I swiveled back around to my husband, who despite his rueful expression, had excitement gleaming from somewhere deep in his core. Shooting him a look of pure, undiluted distrust I made a move to brush by him, back to the safety of the outdoors.
Edward grabbed my arm before I was able to get past. "Bella, wait." His voice was a gentle whisper, not loud enough for anyone else to hear. "They wanted to do this for you. Especially Alice and Jasper. We all know how your last birthday party went and nobody feels worse that Jasper does. We also know that you aren't fond of parties but Alice assures us that you'll like this one. Please, give it a chance, for us." One look at his pleading face and I knew I had no argument. I would stay, of course.
I slowly turned around, letting a smile that I hope didn't look like a grimace slowly pull at my lips, and took in the sight before me. A giant banner stretched over the stairs that read "Happy (2nd) 18th Birthday Bella!" Ok, I had to admit that I appreciated that. Forever 18. I could feel my smile stretching wider now. The rest of the decorations were minimal but appropriately tasteful. Small vases overflowing with freesia dotted the tables while ropes of white lights twisted around stair railings and tables twinkling like fireflies whose motion had been suspended.
And in the corner of the room was my family, all wearing various expressions of anxiety, love, excitement, and cheerfulness. Alice was the most exuberant, vibrating in place with nearly uncontrollable enthusiasm. Breaking free of Jasper's calming grip, she flitted to my side, where I stood stunned and leaning into Edward for support. In the time it took Alice to reach me, I realized that I didn't even notice that Emmett and Jasper had left Edward and me during our run home. They must have taken the opportunity that my stubborn stopping provided to beat us here.
Returning my focus to Alice, I couldn't help but laugh at her contagious animated expression. She threw her arms around my neck. "You aren't mad at me, are you?" Shaking my head I disentangled myself from her and pressed myself harder into Edward.
Undeterred, Alice continued. "We couldn't let your birthday slip by unnoticed Bella! Besides, you're part of our family now and that gives us the right to buy you the appropriate presents. No complaints."
My gaze followed to where Alice was currently pointing. I felt the smile fall off my face like a boulder sinking in the ocean, replaced by a look of horror, as I took in the enormous mound of presents partially obscured by my enormous big brother. My glare snapped to Edward's face as I felt his body shake with poorly concealed laughter. "Traitor," I hissed under my breath at my disloyal husband.
Edward wrapped his arm around my shoulders, trying to loosen my bunching muscles. "Relax darling. It's a party, not an execution." Briefly pressing his newly soft and yielding lips to my earlobe, he continued whispering in my ear. "Besides, perhaps we can have a fashion show with some of your presents later." I was immediately thankful that I could no longer blush as all the racy thoughts of Edward and I in the bedroom began racing through my head. Unable to control my reaction, I twisted my hands into his hair and pulled his face toward mine.
However, before I was able to finish the seduction of my husband, I heard a few coughs, and one "Get a room!" coming behind us. Edward gently pulled my arms away with a longing smile. "Maybe we should open the presents first."
I huffed out an impatient sigh, but knew the faster I opened, the faster I could be alone with Edward for the first time since my change. I tore through the presents at record pace, suitably oohing and aahing over all but one of them. The little black negligee from Alice quickly got tossed back into the box before Emmett could make another inappropriate comment about my sex life. The pile was quickly sorted through until all but one small box was left.
Edward, at my side through the whole ordeal, looked at the box like he wasn't sure if he wanted to hug it or crush it. Rosalie's expression wasn't so ambiguous; whatever the present was, she was not happy about it.
Esme moved to sit next to me on the arm of the couch, running a loving hand over my hair. Carlisle picked up the lone box and brought it to me. "This one isn't from us, but was passed to us from a friend." Placing it in my lap, he joined Esme at the end of the sofa.
Nervously, I glanced at Alice and Jasper, who were sitting across from me with their backs against an end table. Jasper simply nodded, appearing as though he was not upset by this particular gift but not especially enthused either. Alice smiled brightly but seemed like she wasn't quite sure if I would like what was inside.
Alice's uncertainty was what unnerved me the most. Without speaking, I looked questioningly at Edward again. Edward plucked the box off my lap and placed it in my hand. With a resigned smile he murmured, "Open it."
I gently tore open the simple wrapping, discarding it into the giant pile that had accumulated across the room. Opening the box hesitantly, I wasn't sure I wanted to see what was nestled between the layers of batting. When I finally rustled up the courage to lift the cottony protection, what I did find made my breath catch in my throat. It was a note from Jacob, along with a beautiful garnet pendant, precisely the same shade as his wolfy coat. With shaking hands I opened the letter.
I'm not ready to come home yet. I need some time to work around the fact that you're not going to be the same. But on the other hand, I'm not the same either. Maybe between the two of us changing so much we really can just be friends. I also wanted to tell you that you were right. Her name is Renesmee and you'll meet her some day. She reminds me a lot of you actually. So, that's about it.
I hope you have a happy birthday and give Edward a sharp bite on the shoulder from me.
I was too stunned to say anything. I was vaguely aware of everybody's concerned stares. Edward was quietly running his hand over my back, waiting for me to recover from my shock. I pulled the pendant out of the box, turning it in my hands. It was a simple oval stone, but the dozens of facets threw rainbows of light arcing across the room.
I twisted in my seat to face Edward. "Did you know about this?"
His face pulled into a slight grimace. "Yes. Embry and Quil dropped it off during your change with explicit instructions to give it to you on your birthday. I didn't know what the note said though." His free hand reached up and tucked a stray piece of hair behind my ear. "Are you mad?"
Mad? How could he think I would be mad? I glanced around the room, concentrating on each face, offering what I hoped was a reassuring expression. I finished my sweep with Edward. Placing my hand on his cheek, I tried to bore my thoughts directly into his eyes. "Of course I'm not mad. How could I be mad at the most forgiving, most generous husband that ever existed?" I ignored Alice's whispered "I beg to differ." Continuing on, barely loud enough for the others to hear, I murmured, "You have given me everything and asked nothing in return. I am completely the opposite of mad." As an afterthought, though I didn't speak it out loud, I also tacked on, "and you are also the most outrageously gorgeous husband. How could I be mad at that?"
A look of shock suddenly ran across Edward's features. "What was that last part you said Bella?
"That I'm the opposite of mad?"
Edward shook his head. "No. After that."
Emmett chimed in. "She didn't say anything after that bro. Maybe you need a hearing check."
Looking more perplexed, Edward appeared as if he was trying to figure out a particularly complex problem. Leaving Esme's side Carlisle took a step closer to Edward. "Do you think…?"Glancing at Carlisle Edward merely, frustratingly nodded.
Abruptly grabbing my hand that had dropped back to my side, he placed it on his cheek again, covering it with his own hands. Edward stared at me intently. "Bella. I need you to concentrate. Think whatever you thought after you finished talking to me with the same intensity as before. Will me to hear what you are thinking."
I paused a moment. Where was he going with this? Sensing my hesitation, Edward murmured, "Just humor me."
Sucking a deep breath of concentration, I repeated my previous thoughts over and over in my head, willing with all my might that Edward hear them. After a few brief seconds, Edward's sharp intake of breath cut across my focus. Abandoning the exercise, I took in Edward's bewildered expression. He started mumbling, almost under his breath. "I can't be sure but I think you said I'm gorgeous." His gaze sharpened, focused in on my eyes. Grasping my wrists in excitement he whispered, "I heard you." (BD 753).
"What?!" shouted seven voices simultaneously.
Edward's expression faded to dazed again as he contemplated this new development. "Bella, I actually heard you. Wow."
I shook my head to clear it, unable to comprehend how Edward could now hear my thoughts. I looked back to my baffled husband with shock. "Can you hear me now?" I asked in my best imitation of those annoying commercials, and lightly focused on images from the forest. Concentration screwed up Edward's angel face for a brief moment. He looked back to me, disappointment etched in every feature. "No," he said flatly.
Partially glad that some of my thoughts were still my own, I stroked Edward's hair back away from his forehead in what I hoped was a consoling gesture while curling my other hand around his neck. The close proximity of his body next to mine reminded me yet again that I badly wanted to spend some time alone with my new husband. Leaning over to whisper in his ear I murmured, "Perhaps we can practice mind reading later. I have some better plans for now."
A blinding, dazzling smile lighting up his face, Edward leapt to his feet and pulled me off the couch. Scooping up a few choice boxes, Edward turned to his family, pointedly stated, "Goodnight everyone," and tugged me toward our room.
Stopping our progress, I turned to our family. "Thank you everyone, from the bottom of my heart. Your love means everything to me." I took turns to hug everyone, and returned to Edward at the bottom of the stairs. As I drifted behind Edward I had a lot to think about. Edward could occasionally hear my thoughts, if I tried hard enough. My friendship with Jacob seemed like it was repairable. And most importantly I had eternity to spend with the most perfect creature ever in existence. A small, blissful sigh escaped as I contemplated exactly how lucky I was.
I barely registered my family discreetly leaving the house, Alice's trilling voice floating up the stairs toward us, "Told you she'd be happy," reaffirming again why no one should ever bet against Alice.
Sorry if this felt rushed! It was a lot to pack in and I really didn't want to split it up in two chapters. I hoped you liked it. A huge thanks to all the loyal reviewers and readers.
Also, I do have a little epilogue if there is enough interest. Also I'm working on a AU story which will posted in a few weeks. If you like that kind of thing, put me on author alert :)
Thanks again to all!