End of Chapter 21
"You are right. I have a choice. I don't have to give up my life." She said looking into my eyes. "Edward...you are my life. I choose to be a part of this family, if you will have me. I love you all." She said resting her hand on my cheek and looking around the table. "These past months while you were away, I have been an empty shell. My heart left with you. I was the living dead, because there is no life without you." She turned to me now. "I love you."
"Bella, I love you so much! I will love you for eternity!" I pulled her close to me and kissed her. As we pulled away, she had silent tears of happiness running down her face, and I clutched her to me and began to sob into her shoulder. As we held each other, I felt the arms of my family slowly wrapping themselves around us. Everything felt complete now. Our odd family was now even, and I would have Bella forever.
The days and months that passed after that evening at the Cullens were carefully planned maneuvers to ease Charlie and Renee towards my eventual departure from their human world. At first, all of the Cullens came by to visit upon their return. Charlie and Renee had not forgotten the Cullen's kindness to me during the terrible times leading up to and through the situation with Peter, and they were happy for me to have my friends back. Soon after their return, we officially introduced Edward as my boyfriend. I expected Charlie to give us a hard time about that, but Edward's classic mannerisms kept Charlie at ease with his intensions. No doubt that anyone who saw us would question how utterly in love we were with each other.
Soon the summer came to a close, and it was time to head back to school. I had filled Edward in on everything that went on during our time apart, and he felt it was an imperative to pay Ben and Angela back for their kindness to me. I wasn't sure what that meant, but Edward suddenly became very interested in their plans for after high school. I knew his gratitude was being displayed in a very Cullen version of a thank-you, when both Ben and Angela ran up to me at lunch telling me about the full scholarships they had both received from the Pacific Northwest Trust. One look into Edward's eyes told me that his debt was repaid.
The Cullens had my dad and I over for my birthday, and they even sent Renee a webcam, so she could be a part of the party from Jacksonville. Esme and Carlisle had bought Edward and I two round trip tickets to Jacksonville for my birthday, and it was decided that we would go down over Christmas break to visit. This was going to be the last time I ever spent time with my mom. I was sure she would be up for my graduation, but these would be five days of quality time with her. I needed her to see that I was happy. I needed her to see how complete Edward and I were in each other.
Edward and I both received acceptance letters from Dartmouth in January. Dartmouth was our plan before Aro stepped into our lives. Now we needed a decoy that would keep me away from Charlie and Renee for at least a year. Some place where it would be nearly impossible for them to visit me. We had several family discussions about what to do. Family discussions...I loved even the thought of that. My family...the Cullen family. We decided that in February, Carlisle was going to receive an opportunity to work with Doctors Without Borders in Romania. The Peace Corp in that area was in need of English teachers and infrastructure assistance. This would be the cover for the rest of us. Charlie was a bit disappointed that I was delaying college, but Renee was thrilled that I was stepping out to experience something unique and trying to make a positive difference in the world. Charlie was only on board knowing that Carlisle and Esme would be close.
Winter turned into Spring. Spring brought us closer to graduation. I was excited and scared and sad. I was no longer worried about Aro showing up unexpectedly. Edward had sent him a letter with Carlisle's help back in March. He had told him of my choice. I was willing to give my life over to eternity, but as a member of the Cullen coven. The term at the time seemed so crude and couldn't encompass at all what we were. Carlisle thought it was best to keep it in terms that Aro understood. He didn't understand love. He didn't understand absolutely devotion other than that of obedience and desire for power. It is why our family always intrigued him...worried him. It was something he could not, nor would ever, understand. So much was about to change, but I was ready to face my future. I was prepared to say good-bye to my parents. I was excited for my life with my new family. I was ready to walk into eternity with Edward at my side.
I hope you are all OK with the ending. I really just ran out of gas with this story. It is a sad excuse...I know. I would like to take the opportunity in this Author's Note to thank everyone who has so faithfully read and reviewed my story.
To my absolutely wonderful reviewers (and this is in order of the number of times you reviewed...yes, I am sad and did count), you guys have absolutely rocked my world with all of your kind words and encouragement. I thank-you for each constructive criticism, and kind word sent my way. This story started as a short little something that I was playing around with, but with your encouragement, it manifested into this 22 chapter trip that has been fantastic. So, here is my thanks..in order:
margaritama, shortnsweet724, CMGeek, Hannah-clocks, gasaway alley, prim-proper, bab1067, roxymar, luna starz, katmom, yankeerose, liv6999, elphabacy35, Babette12, SexySadie88, rmcrms5, mamato, Madaya58, RomperStomper, renren010883, NubianGoddess, MISSY7, ieatsourgrapes, Viola Darcy Cullen, twilightmom67, twilightaddict26, sarahroseserna, M3owMuffinz, Karre823, Jemily1991, Ansleyrocks5, and the almost 20 other reviewers who popped in once to send me love.