I didn't think that I would be that woman. I always promised that I wouldn't be the bride possessed by what I called the wedding demon. When that demon got a hold on me, it got me good. I promised myself I wouldn't be the girl obsessed with her wedding, who wanted everything to be perfect, but I was.
And my tiny, pixie vampire of a sister got a kick out of it. When, sixteen years ago, I allowed Alice Cullen to plan my wedding, she assumed that she'd be doing so alone. That wedding of sixteen years ago never happened, due to circumstances beyond any of our control.
But this wedding, the one that we did get to plan – I planned it with her, and with Esme. Perhaps that was the greatest wedding present of all.
Yes, I promised I would not be one of those women, but I'm glad that was I promise I broke.
No one could have thought of a more perfect backdrop than the sweeping expanse of the Cullen mansion backyard. There were no humans in attendance today, and the sunlight that spilled over Forks, Washington was the sign of a new beginning, the start of something beautiful.
Carlisle was giving me away. I had made my peace with my pseudo-death long ago. They had been told I was dead and that was for the best, for their safety. When I chose for my life to become intertwined with the Cullens, when I chose to become a vampire, I knew where that would lead me with my family, and I made my peace with that as well. Yes, I wished that it was Charlie who could give me away today, but at the same time, the mess of the past few weeks had not been my human family's mess as well.
That made things alright; somehow, that made up for my personal loss.
My daughters made up for that loss.
The gown that my sister had picked for me all those years ago was more beautiful than I could have imagined. My hair was in curls, sweeping back from my pale skin. I was flawless.
My adoptive father's hand rested on my shoulder. While it once would have been cold in contrast to my warm skin, our skin was now the same temperature and had been for the past eight years. It never failed, though, to surprise me. After so long of being the human among vampires, being the vampire among vampires now was … not as easy to adjust to as I'd expected.
"It's time, Bella."
I turned my now golden eyes to him. My eyes had been golden for the past week, the week that we'd planned my wedding. Slowly – and careful not to attract the eyes of any humans – Edward and I began to leave the house during the second week I was back. We had been living in a town like Forks, rainy and small, and we had only returned to Forks for the wedding. It seemed right, for the beginning of a whole new segment of our lives to begin in the place where it all had begun, where so many things had taken place. No humans would know of our momentary return – and that was the way it needed to be. We would be here, and then we would be gone, no more than a snapshot return.
I let out an unnecessary breath. "Sixteen years later than we thought, but it seems that it is." I tried to offer him a smile but found that my hands were shaking.
His hand squeezed my shoulder. "Are you nervous, Bella?"
I took a deep breath, never good at lying. Even now, as a vampire, I was quite unable to lie. It just wasn't in my nature, no matter what form of creature I was. I was absolutely terrible at it, and that was never going to change. Something in my face always gave it away. Still, though, I tried – attempted to do the impossible.
"No, I'm not nervous."
The lie was made even more unreal by the fact that the person I was trying to lie to was my adopted father. Nobody was able to lie to him- whether it was because of years of experience, his career as a doctor, or simply one of his many traits, it was impossible to lie to Carlisle Cullen.
"Bella, Edward has been waiting for this day for over sixteen years. Since the day he met you – something changed in him."
I met his eyes. "Something changed for me as well, Carlisle. Thank you – for everything. For going to Volterra when I didn't deserve it. For saving my life. For allowing me into your family." I thanked the heavens that I couldn't cry: my makeup would have been ruined.
I had the feeling that he would have kissed my hair if it wasn't done up. "You have been part of this family since the day Edward brought you to our home, Bella."
My heart soared.
Ahead of us, the wedding procession was beginning. Naturally, my daughters were the youngest bridesmaids here – sixteen in the face of hundreds of years. Alice had outdone herself with the bridesmaid dresses – swirling, a deep purple, lovely. Jacob had taken the arm of Leah, several couples in front of her. They weren't imprints, but they were trying. They were the first in the line of couples – followed directly by Rosalie and Emmett. The latter had taken a break on the teasing for the day, what he called "one of the wedding presents".
Edward had several best men – Jacob one of them, Emmett and Jasper the others. The Denali clan was in attendance, sitting on the left side, second row – and most of the wolf pack were here as well, including the estranged Robinsons.
A deal had not yet been struck; the unspoken one of years ago was still in place. They would not attack, nor would we: it had been so many years ago, and their own –estranged or not – had taken care of our daughters. They would not attack, not with my daughters present: because they were half human. They protected humans.
What would happen when my daughters turned seventeen, when they became by Carlisle's calculations full blooded vampires? We didn't know. Alice couldn't see. She couldn't see a lot of things lately, about my daughters. It was something that I had my suspicions about.
One of the wolves had taken her arm. I knew him well, Seth Clearwater. He'd saved my life sixteen years ago in the clearing, and he took Cynthia's arm now as they readied themselves to walk down the aisle. She smiled at him, green eyes sparkling. Was it possible that he had imprinted?
One of the younger members – a new generation – of the werewolves was walking with Elizabeth. He hadn't imprinted; Alice could still see her future, but I could see in her eyes that she liked her.
Alice turned, in front of me as the wedding procession began. Her arm was linked with Jasper's; she smiled as if she knew what I was thinking. Had Cynthia's future mingled with Seth's? Her golden eyes twinkled and I knew in my heart that it had.
The first couple – Jacob and Leah – took the first steps. I couldn't see him yet, I couldn't see Edward, but I could feel that he was there. The vampire equivalent of adrenaline ran through my veins as Emmett and Rosalie followed Jacob and Leah.
And then, in a single instant, it was my turn, and I was walking down the aisle to Clair De Lune.
He came into view, him, Edward. I'd heard once that while everyone in attendance was watching the bride, the bride was watching the groom. This was true. He was my everything, he was my breath and my heart, Edward Anthony Cullen was my soul. He was beautiful: dark tuxedo, pale face, a God standing before my very eyes.
And, when the time came, his vow was simply one word.
His vow to me was simply, "Eternity."
The word spoke more than words of any language could. It was all that we were and all that we lived for; it was our word as Clair de Lune was our song.
When we kissed for the first time as husband and wife, it was a sunrise.
I know. I know that it's been three months, and I welcome all old readers and new ones alike, because I know that it's hard to follow a story when an author hasn't updated in more than three months.
All of this being said, I hope you can understand that life does get in the way and that this chapter was difficult for me to write. The only wedding that I've attended was when I was seven. I hope that I captured the feeling of it for everyone.
I'd really, really, truly appreciate it if you reviewed. It means the world to me.
There is only one chapter left in Animal Crackers. There will be a sequel. And I hope that you'll enjoy the sequel as much as you've enjoyed Animal Crackers. And no, Cynthia doesn't know yet that Seth has imprinted on her, and the resolution to that – and to the Robinsons – will come in the next chapter, the final chapter.
Thank you, everyone. You're amazing.