*takes a deep breathe*
This is it, the end. I would like to thank everyone who believed in this story from the beginning, and stuck with me until the end. A special shout out to Shabbyapple and Courtney, for betaing the crap out of it and validating my chapters. Thanks for the support, all of you.
That said, this story wouldn't be here without SM's dream, a few years ago. She gave us Edward and Bella, I just played around with them. Enjoy the epilogue ladies!
Epilogue: Perfect Family Picture
Adoption is not about finding children for families,
it's about finding families for children.
It wasn't that Edward's family was incomplete. In many ways it was a perfect family. However, when Bella brought up the subject of adoption a few weeks after they returned from their second trip to Africa, he wasn't completely surprised by the idea. It was like she had put words to the unspoken desire possessed by each of them; a desire to be the change they wanted to see in the world.
They had contributed greatly to the African community; the support of the local hospital and medical center was increasing every year with the donations and financial support the Music for Africa concerts had provided. The incredible success of last year's concert even raised enough money to build an orphanage in the village.
It wasn't that they hadn't already contributed enough, but Bella had the feeling that they still could do more; not as doctor or musician, but as warm, loving parents. She wanted to adopt a baby, providing a welcoming family for an abandoned or lonely child. She wanted to craft change, instigate change; be change.
So for the past two years, they had spent long nights discussing the idea of adopting an orphan, and when they both had agreed that they were ready give the baby a stable family, they had contacted several organizations until they were finally able to sign the necessary papers. It was with those papers in hand that Edward and Bella were walking through the administrative wing of the orphanage.
The rest of their family had stayed behind in the village because both Edward and Bella wanted to give their new family member their uninterrupted attention.
Annabelle, who would turn five in a few weeks, was playing with the other kids in the schoolyard. Though school was closed for the summer holiday, the playground remained open to provide the local children a safe place to congregate, run around, sing, and laugh.
Lilly, two-and-a-half years old, was still too young to play alone, and had pitched a fit upon her parents leading her away from the playground. She had wanted to keep playing with the big kids! But when Bella had informed her daughter that she could stay with Auntie Leah and Uncle Quil, Lilly had replaced the thick tears that were running down her little cheeks with a bright smile instead. The idea that she could spend some time with "Baby", the infant girl Leah and Quil had had four months ago, turned out to be a better prospect. Lilly treated Leah's daughter like her own baby doll, cooing over her and planting endless soft kisses on her tiny cheeks.
Waiting for the future adoptive parents at the end of the badly illuminated hall was the orphanage's Headmistress, a friendly woman who greeted them warmly.
"Just sit down for a minute, so we can take a look at the papers first," Sister Marianne spoke in a soft yet firm voice and gestured to the seats in front of an old metallic desk, waiting for the couple to enter her musty office before she closed the door and walked behind the desk.
Edward sensed that Bella was nervous; the tight grip of her damp palm around his own was physical proof. Those nerves also fashioned some droplets of sweat on the back of her neck, making her skin glisten where the sun had touched it.
He felt as nervous as she did, hearing the monotonous, steady drumming sound of his own heartbeat ringing in his ears. He knew that everything would be okay -- their lawyer had checked and double checked their papers before they left -- but that reassurance couldn't ease the lingering worry gnawing at him.
Bella was anxiously biting her lip; a habit Edward had seen only a few times in the past when insecurity violated her otherwise strong, confident demeanor. His eyes lingered a few seconds on the plump lip that was currently held hostage by her teeth, and he wanted nothing more than to kiss away her worries and fears about being a good mother. She was an excellent mother to Annabelle and Lilly, in her heart and behavior, so there was no room for questioning or doubt. He knew that she would be a good mother for this baby too; just like he would do everything he could to be the best dad on earth.
It was as if her lips were calling to him, begging him to capture them with his own. Unconsciously, he licked his lips but shook his head to clear the images of steamy kisses captivating his brain at the moment. Bella must have caught him staring because she mumbled something inaudible, and it was only when he saw her moving lips that his eyes were drawn up and away from them. Her eyes smiled, a warm spark obvious in the luminous brown, and automatically he matched that spark in his own shining emerald green.
It was only when Sister Marianne smiled at them, scribbling her signature on the papers that both Edward and Bella felt as if they could finally breathe again.
"Lou will be here any moment, Edward and Bella. Do you have any questions?"
"Lou?" Both Edward and Bella asked at exactly the same time, astonished. Until now, they hadn't known if their new family member would be a girl or a boy. Their smiles widened simultaneously, hearing the mention of their first son's name, and the previous fluttering of their pulses was back again, representing excitement rather than nervousness.
"Lou is a three-month old baby boy, who has been with us since his mother died during childbirth. The father has not been identified." Sister Marianne went on to inform the new parents about what was known about Lou's medical history.
A soft knock on the door announced the arrival of Lou, and when the door opened, both parents' drumming hearts stopped for a second. There, in the arms of a young nurse, lay their baby boy, safely and warmly wrapped in a white-and-blue striped blanket. Instinctively, Bella opened her arms and within seconds, she enveloped the little creature, drawing him to her heart. She kissed her baby boy's head in a motherly fashion.
"Welcome to our family, Lou Cullen." A single tear rolled down Bella's cheek as she was overcome by a sensation of pure joy. Edward stood behind her, his arms finding their way to her waist, his neck cradled in the crook of her collarbone, as his eyes drank in the delicate features of his son so that her image would be burned on his retinas for the rest of his days.
"Mommy and Daddy love you," Edward whispered and kissed his son's forehead, mimicking Bella's gesture.
They soon said their goodbyes to Sister Marianne, the bundle of love cradled on Edward's chest now, contently sucking his finger while he was unaware of the new parents that had taken him into their family and into their hearts.
They all sat on the master bed in their condo, Annabelle in her father's lap, eyeing Lou curiously, and Lilly bouncing on the bed next to her mother, who was cradling Lou in her arms.
Annabelle had known that he would get a new brother or a sister when they came to Africa, and although she had been enthusiastic when her parents had told her the news, she was now more hesitant about accepting this little creature competing for her parents' affection.
Her reaction reminded Bella of her own fears -- there had been a time when she had been afraid that people would always leave; she too had worried about abandonment of affection. However, Bella had since learned that she was worthy of love, and she had one adult and three children present to remind her of that every day.
She looked fondly at her daughter, who was a miniature of her daddy with her green eyes and full lips. The only physical resemblance with her mother was her warm brown hair. Lilly on the contrary possessed many of her mother's physical characteristics but had seemed to inherit her father's musical talent. She was currently bouncing up and down the bed to an unknown rhythm; a ball of energy and excitement since she had met her baby brother.
"Calm down Lilly girl, you're waking up Lou," Edward chided his youngest daughter, and remarkably, it worked. She crawled next to her mother, on the other side, and caressed Lou's silky cheeks with her chubby fingers.
"Can I play with him when he is awake, Mommy?" she asked, while images of dress-up sessions with her new life-like baby doll crossed her mind. She looked hopefully into her mother's eyes, trying to persuade her with a breathtaking smile.
"Lou is still a little bit too young to play with, sweetie, but you and your sister can give him a bottle if you want."
Bella and Edward's eyes met briefly and nodded in understanding, knowing what the other had in mind. Their moment was broken abruptly when Lilly started pulling her mother's sleeve enthusiastically, excited by the prospect of feeding the infant.
"Would you like to hold your baby brother, Annabelle, while Lilly gives him the bottle?" Edward looked his oldest daughter's in the eyes and ruffled her hair, hoping to ease some of the hesitant tension lingering in the five year-olds body. Annabelle's silence was deafening but after she had given the idea some thought, she nodded, a small smile pulling the corners of her mouth upwards.
"You're a big girl; I'm proud of you." Edward maneuvered his daughter's hands in a small O-shape, so Lou would lie safely in his little arms. Bella placed her son in the safe haven of their daughter's hold and crawled next to Edward's side, her head resting on his shoulder. He draped one arm around her shoulder while the other one was tucked under his daughter's arm to support the weight of the awakening baby.
Lilly took the warm bottle off the bedside table, scooted down to position herself in between her mother and father, and tentatively drew the bottle close to Lou's open mouth. Bella helped her a little bit, until the squirming Lou had located the nipple to begin sucking hungrily.
Lou made content sucking noises that sounded like music to his parents' ears, Annabelle had a proud smile on her little face, and Lilly's eyes sparkled with sisterly love. Both parents' chests swelled with overwhelming love and pride, sharing this connecting family moment.
It was real, not a dream. They were real and they had the perfect family, one that had formerly only seemed possible in their dreams. If an outsider had snapped their photo right now, he or she would have captured the most perfect family picture.
Life is one of those precious fleeting gifts, and everything can change in a heartbeat.*
Bella's naughty morning habit of pressing the snooze button one time too many had made her late for work six years ago, and as she had crossed the street, without looking, Edward had done all he could to avoid crashing into her with his bicycle. But the collision that followed had changed their lives for good, and they both wouldn't have wanted it any other way.
* Anonymous quote
Chapter End Notes:
*offers you one of my Clean-Ex while blowing my nose loudly*
*is sad it is over*
A few final words of feedback would be appreciated. And if someone is still eager to know more about 'Sexaul Healings', I'm focussing on the last two chapters from now on before I post the first chapter of a new story I've been writing. Thank and be good!