A/N: And here we are, the end. This chapter really was an emotional rollercoaster for me, and definitely turned out longer than I ever expected. Hope that makes up for the long wait. I simply could not put this part of story to rest with even one thing that I was not satisfied with.
I truly need to thank my 'multiple eyes' on this chapter, for keeping me focused and not allowing me to give up. Christina, Lindsey, Karla: I would be so lost without you and I appreciate you more than I could ever say. Rachel(americnxidiot): you truly are the best beta in the world and thank you so much for everything you have done for this story and for me as a writer. I can't thank you enough. Chri: Love ya bb, and thank you for always being there for me.
And all my readers, whether you've been there from the beginning or just joining the ride, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support and love for this story.
There were a few songs that I was listening to during the process of writing this chapter, and they really helped set the mood for me.
Through most of the chapter (particularly the last night) -
"Good Enough" by Evanescence
"Halo" by Beyonce
"To Make You Feel My Love" by Garth Brooks
For the very last scene of the chapter -
"Catch Me When I Fall" by Daniel Cage (thanks a LOT Army Wives lol)
Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight and its characters, I own everything else.
Epilogue: Building Up A Future
"Alice, what's wrong?" I asked in alarm, hurrying to crouch in front of her and taking her hands.
"Bella," she rasped out in response before another sob wracked her body. "I think I'm pregnant."
With those four words, I felt my stomach drop as well as my jaw and I was stunned silent. Her tiny form hunched over, pulling her hands from mine to cover her face as the sobs now consumed her. I rose to sit down beside her, wrapping my arms around her shoulders and instantly felt hers cling around me tightly. In all the time I had known Alice, I had never seen her so much as frown and this left me at a complete loss for words.
"I'm so scared, Bella," Alice cried, her trembling voice and her shuddering body in my hold breaking through the shock.
"Are you sure? Does Jasper know?" I asked, only to be answered by the tightening of her arms around my waist and her sobs increasing. I felt the cold skin of her cheek radiating through my shirt from the unseasonably cool April breeze hitting her damp skin, and I squeezed her gently.
"God Alice, how long have you been out here," I asked and only received a small shrug in response. "Come on, let's go inside and talk."
She nodded and we stood, walking up the remaining steps and into the house where we were met by Charlie in the hallway, who blanched at the sight of Alice in tears.
"What's going on?" he asked in a cautious voice, his unease in the same room with a sobbing girl still far beyond his comfort zone.
"Fight with Jasper, girl stuff. Would it be okay if Alice stayed tonight?" I inquired quickly as I began guiding her up the stairs, earning a shrug of indifference from Charlie as he continued onto the living room.
I followed Alice up the stairs and closed my door behind us as she fell onto my bed face down. I sat down beside her and gently rubbed her back, just waiting for her to say something.
Her tears never sated, so I drew in a deep breath. "Do you know for sure, Alice?"
She shook her head and finally sat up and looked at me. "No. I'm too scared to take the test, but I'm late, Bella. I am never late. I thought maybe it was just stress but..."
"How late?" I asked abruptly when her eyes cast down to her lap and she bit her lip. Alice was never one to be evasive, so when she suddenly became particularly occupied with the hem of her shirt and refused to meet my eyes, I began to worry. "How late, Alice?"
"Three weeks," she replied almost meekly, her eyes shifting to the side. "But I mean I could be over reacting, right? Could be just one of those fluke things?"
I opened my mouth to attempt to console her, wanting desperately to ease her fears, but found myself unable. "There's only one way to know for sure."
I moved to stand and Alice grasped at my hand, shaking her violently. "No please. Not right now."
Hugging her again, I rubbed soothing circles on her back and leaned my cheek on her hair. "It's only delaying the inevitable, Alice. Better to know than to worry all night over potentially nothing. It'll take me ten minutes at most to get to the store and back. And then whatever the outcome, I'll be here for you."
Alice pulled away slowly, nodding her head and I stood to make my way over to my dresser. I pulled out a pair of pajamas for our impromptu slumber party, setting them on the bed for her and grabbing my purse from the back of the door.
Making the excuse to my dad that this called for "comfort food", I hurried out to my car and to the only place that was open at this time of night; the small gas station a few miles away. Shielding my face with my hair as I walked in and recognized the clerk behind the counter, I realized the flaw in my plan. I rushed to the back of the store, grabbing two pints of Ben & Jerry's and the two pack of tests on the way back up the aisle to the register.
"No way, Bella," the astonished voice sounded from in front of me as I was grabbing my wallet from my purse, and I sighed.
"They're not for me, Eric. It's for a friend," I replied flatly; the last thing I needed right now after finally attaining my freedom was for a rumor to reach my father that I was pregnant.
"Hey, no worries. No one will hear a peep from me," he said and I glanced up to see his friendly smile reflecting at me. He reached down for a small brown paper bag and slid the box inside before placing it in with the ice cream. "Plastic is pretty see-through."
I returned his smile appreciatively as he took the money from me.
"Tell your friend I said good luck," he said as he handed me my change and with a soft thank you, I hurried out of the store and back to Alice.
My mind raced on the drive home and my stomach turned with nervousness as I walked up the stairs to my room where Alice sat motionless on my bed. She silently took the box from my outstretched hand and with a deep breath, stood to disappear into the bathroom.
Three minutes seemed an eternity, and it wasn't even my life that would be turned completely upside down if those lines appeared. I could not even imagine being in Alice's shoes right now; facing an even more life altering experience than anything I had ever been through with Edward. To be so terrified. I could hear the distant sniffling from the room across the hall, and I began pacing the floor anxiously thinking of both possible outcomes. If it was negative, there was nothing to worry about and we could just hang out tonight, eating our ice cream in relief. But if it wasn't...
I hurried down the stairs toward the kitchen to grab spoons and napkins, anything to distract my mind from that thought; but it didn't stay away for long.
What if Alice was pregnant? One of my closest friends was going to be a mom at sixteen, something you think you only see in cheesy after school specials, never imagining that it could ever happen in your own life. For the last two years, Alice and Jasper had been the exciting, carefree couple; never paying much mind to the future. Always living for the moment, and having fun with each and every one and this would change everything.
As I reached the top of the stairs, I heard a small shriek from behind the closed door of the bathroom. I rushed over to open it, finding Alice curled in a ball on the floor with her head resting on her knees. I stood in silence as I waited anxiously for the answer it was obvious she already had.
Her swollen eyes rose to mine, bloodshot from the tears and she hugged her knees tighter. "What am I going to do?"
Oh God, no. It was positive, I thought to myself, closing my eyes briefly as her sobs resumed. I rushed over to her, helping her up off the floor and bringing her back to the bedroom.
"I think I need that ice cream," she whispered in a voice hoarse from her tears and I quickly handed her one of the pints. She began to eat in silence, but I could see her thoughts racing behind her flickering eyes. I opened my own and took a few bites, contemplating what I could possibly say to her at this moment. It was something I had never thought about or even considered the possibility, so I was at a loss. Finally, her eyes rose back up to me and she shook her head. "I can't do this, Bella. My parents are going to kill me, and Jasper... oh god, how can I do this to Jasper? He has such huge plans, and this will ruin everything. God, how did this even happen? We were always so careful. Always."
I set my carton aside, allowing her words and fears to fill me, trying to imagine everything she was feeling. What would I want or need her to say to me if the roles were reversed?
"You need to listen to your heart, Alice," I said softly, reaching over to rest my hand on her knee. "What does your heart tell you to do?"
Alice shook her head slowly, staring down at her melting ice cream. "I don't know. I've been thinking about this all day, running every possible scenario through my mind. I'm really not cut out for this. What the hell do I know about being a mom? When my own spends ninety percent of the year in Paris or Rome, and her idea of parenting is showering me with clothes and a Porsche to assuage her own guilt. And my father's no better, having a better relationship with his scotch than his daughter," she quipped with a venomous tone I had never thought possible from someone as seemingly happy and delightful as Alice. It was also the first time she had ever really mentioned her parents at all. I had to admit that I had always wondered in the back of my mind what teenage girl had the freedoms and free reign that Alice did; the constant absence of any parental figure in her home. Her eyes suddenly returned to the distressed gaze from before and her head shook slowly. "I can't do this to another child. But at the same time, I can't even begin to imagine getting rid of this baby. God, I'm so confused."
"You have your answer right there," I replied softly as her head lowered, shaking it slightly and I gave her knee a gentle squeeze. "
Alice, you don't have to be your parents. You are so much better than that. You are capable of being a fantastic mother and loving this child unconditionally, just as you do everyone else around you. I have watched you take care of everyone, even me. I would have been lost without you when I first moved here, and I never would have met Edward. I will always be here for you and support you in any decision you make, but this isn't one you can make on your own. You need to tell Jasper, and soon."
Alice tensed slightly and I took the ice cream from her and set it aside, and grasping her chilled hands in mine.
"He loves you, Alice. And while I admit that there is a slight chance that he may not want this, and in that case you would have to prepare yourself to raise this child without its father," I began, her eyes widening and she moved to speak, but I held up my hand cutting her off. "But I really don't think he is anymore capable of being without you than you are without him. And you might be underestimating how much Jasper truly loves you."
More tears welled in her eyes as she crumbled against me and I leaned back against the headboard, enveloping her in my arms. We sat in silence for several minutes as I gently rubbed comforting circles on her back while she cried softly against my chest. Her breathing began to even out and her gentle sobs quieted, and for a moment, I thought she had fallen asleep until she hugged me around the waist.
"How do you do it, Bella? As much as I love Jasper, I wish I could be as confident about him as you are about Edward. This probably wouldn't even scare you at all, would it?" she said softly, her voice beginning to trail off at the end.
I glanced down at her to see that her eyes had closed. "Alice?" I whispered softly, but she didn't stir at all. Stroking her hair gently with my hand, I rested my head back against the headboard and stared up at the ceiling. Her last words hung in the air around me, and for a moment, my mind wandered to what something like this would be like even years in the future. Edward's impending departure had consumed my thoughts for so long that I had never given much contemplation to anything beyond that, and in the long run, that held nothing on this. Would something like this scare me if it happened to me? If I had suddenly found myself pregnant? How would I feel? What would be going through my mind? No matter how many ways I thought about it, I could not find it in myself to be afraid in the slightest, even of Edward's reaction. Or my dad's.
Now for the first time, I was thinking beyond the immediate future and I surprisingly felt myself oddly at peace.
The next several weeks flew by in a rush.
The one thing that had terrified Alice the most about unexpectedly becoming pregnant turned out to be the easiest thing that she had encountered so far. Jasper had not disappointed me at all and stood beside her, and despite the circumstances and the uncertainty that lay before them, remained very level headed about it all.
Even after assuring her that telling his parents would be the easiest of anything they would still need to face, her unease only increased throughout the entire day before that family dinner.
While they were obviously less that ecstatic about their son becoming a father at such a young age, his parents were respectful of Alice and Jasper's decision concerning the pregnancy. Only insisting that Jasper "step up and take responsibility, get a job immediately and set up a suitable home". Being of old Southern roots, his family believed in the strong bonds of the family unit but stood firm on him standing on his own to support his new family.
Telling my dad, on the other hand, was not nearly as easy. The silence that followed Alice's timid announcement was nerve-wracking for her, having always adored and respected Charlie as if he were her own father and valuing his opinion of her. When he stood and walked out of the living room, I thought for sure she was going to collapse into hysterics.
Returning with a beer in his hand five minutes later, he sat down beside her and truly amazed me. He remained remarkably calm, stating that while disappointed, it was not the worst thing that could ever happen. And for the first time ever, talked about what it was like when he and my mom found out they were having me, almost as young and just as unprepared as Alice and Jasper. She gazed at him with an almost reverent look, soaking in every word from a voice of experience. By the end of their conversation, Alice was enclosed in my dad's arms and the sight was heartwarming, though short-lived. The game was coming on and to his - and my own - surprise; she asked if she could join him. And from that night on, she became a permanent fixture in front of our television for every game and even giving my dad a run for his money in enthusiasm.
Yet not all worked out so well.
Alice had decided it best to wait until she could not hide her pregnancy any longer to tell her parents. This had been her greatest fear since finding out she was pregnant, and at least wanted to give Jasper a chance to save some money and graduate. However, because of her small frame, the swell of her stomach began to show near the beginning of June, and she decided it was best to tell her parents when her mother returned from her business trip the following week.
An hour after hanging up with Alice, my phone rang again with Jasper on the other end. Alice's sobs could be heard clearly in the background and he explained to me that her parent's had thrown her out after she had refused to have an abortion.
There was only one thing I could do.
I immediately told Jasper to bring her over and I ran down the stairs to talk to my dad. I knew he would have too big of a heart to turn Alice away, even with as tough as he tried to appear. After promising him that it was only temporary until Jasper could acquire them a place for their own, he agreed to allow Alice to stay with us as long as they were settled into their own apartment by the time the baby was born.
When a broken Alice arrived not five minutes later still wrapped in Jasper's arms, my heart froze at the sight of her. Her tiny body was trembling, her face buried into his chest as her audible sobs tore through her. And as we sat and listened to her choke out everything that had happened in that short time she was at her parent's house, I watched the two men in the room visibly restraining their anger due to their mutual adoration for this girl. She had been called everything from a disgrace to a whore, and accused of 'slumming' with someone unworthy of their social status.
"Fucking snobs," she growled uncharacteristically before her eyes shot up to my father in horror. "Oh my god, I'm sorry, Chief Swan!"
My father merely chuckled and hugged around her shoulders gently, before requesting a word with Jasper in private. Alice's wide eyes shot to me and I reached over for her hand, giving it a gentle squeeze.
"If Edward survived, I'm sure Jasper will be just fine," I smiled reassuringly and guided her upstairs to clean up and change.
Once Jasper had come upstairs briefly to say goodnight to Alice before going home for the night, my dad sat in my room with us, discussing the living arrangement. Alice would stay in my room while I would sleep on the sofa, despite her initial protests. We would both have a curfew, and finish out the school year; though Alice was undecided as to whether she would return in the fall.
We fell into a comfortable routine of living together very easily; both abiding be my dad's rules concerning 'the boys' and of course focusing on passing our finals.
The finals themselves were something that I had been avoiding thinking about for a while now, having only one meaning for me. Edward's graduation. Just one more step toward that next fateful day that I was now counting down to in weeks rather than months, anything to make it appear farther away than it actually was. I could not believe how quickly the school year had passed and as I walked out of the school on that last day of finals, I nearly knocked Edward over as my body collided with his.
"We've got all summer, baby," was all he said as he wrapped his arms around me and kissed my hair before taking me home.
Surprisingly, even the thoughts of our impending separation could not overshadow the pride I felt on the day of Edward's graduation. The 'hot shot junior' I had met nearly two years ago was now standing before us accepting his diploma and graduating Summa Cum Laude. And the moment he spotted us waiting for him outside after the ceremony, he accepted the hugs and congratulations from his parents and brother and took a few pictures before whipping off his cap and gown, and engulfing me in his arms.
And so began our summer.
Eight weeks later...
I sat on my bed, both looking forward to and dreading what I was about to face. This was my last night with Edward for three long months, and while we were both determined to enjoy it and not think about tomorrow, I could already feel myself failing miserably in my attempts. And hearing his voice downstairs only reinforced my discouraging mindset; thinking of how much I would miss that voice arriving to pick me up for our Friday night dates. The summer had flown by so fast, and while I had enjoyed every moment of the time I had with him during this time, reality was now setting in once again and weighing down on me more than ever.
"Bella?" Alice's soft voice echoed through the door, following her gentle knock. When my voice failed me to respond, she cracked the door open and I could not raise my eyes from my folded hands in my lap. It clicked softly and I felt the bed shift beside me, Alice's arm coming around my shoulders. "He's waiting."
I let out a shuddering breath with a nod, smoothing my skirt with my hands. "I know, I'm coming," I replied in a barely audible voice.
"Bella listen," she started, lowering herself onto the floor in front of me with a soft grunt and her hand resting on the small swell of her stomach from the movement. "I am not going to pretend that I know what you are going through, or that I would be handling this much better if it were Jasper. But I can't allow you to torture yourself either. This isn't forever, he will be back. And do you really want to waste even one minute with him right now that you will regret every day for the next nine weeks?"
I raised my tear-filled eyes to meet hers and held her gaze for a moment, then shook my head solemnly. "No, I don't. I just needed a moment to collect myself before I walked down there and burst into tears," I replied and allowed a small smile to break through. "I know how much trouble I'd be in if I smudged my mascara or left streaks on my face."
"You best believe it. Just remember who asked who to get her all prettied up for her boyfriend tonight," Alice shot back teasingly with a wink and pushed herself up off the floor again, using my knees for leverage.
I laughed lightly as I remembered the minor anxiety attack I had experienced earlier when I realized I had no idea what I was going to wear tonight, and actually begged for Alice to help me. I wanted to look absolutely perfect for him tonight; everything about this last night with Edward needed to be memorable with no mishaps. To not only remind him of what he had waiting at home for him, but also to see the look in his eyes when he saw me, that smile that was reserved only for me; to remind myself of what was coming home to me.
I took Alice's outstretched hand and stood, leaving my room with her and began heading down the stairs. I felt a smile stretch across my lips as my eyes fell on Edward talking casually with my father, catching sight of me in his peripheral vision and doing a double take. And there was that look; like I was the most beautiful woman in the world and even in my simple white dress, I felt more radiant in his eyes than a goddess. My heels clicked as I reached the hardwood floor in front of him and a tiny smirk appeared on his lips as he leaned toward me to kiss my cheek.
"You look amazing, baby," he breathed softly in my ear before pulling away, his hand falling to take hold of mine. "She won't be out too late, Chief Swan."
My dad turned his eyes to me, offering me a small smile. His eyes showed his understanding of how much tonight would come to mean to me for a long time to come, and his attention returned to Edward. "She can have an extra hour tonight. Just drive carefully, there's a big storm brewing."
I bit my lip and released Edward's hand, stepping toward my dad and wrapping my arms around his neck as I fought back tears. "Thank you, Daddy," I whispered faintly as I hugged him, and his arms tightened around me at the term of endearment. He patted my back gently but it was not the uneasy gesture that I was used to. It was comforting and I pulled back slowly to look at him, and his smile remained.
"Have fun," he said softly, motioning his head toward Edward and the door, encouraging me.
I nodded and turned back to Edward, reclaiming his hand and waving to Alice on the way by as she settled onto the couch to watch the game tonight with Charlie. Stepping out onto the porch, I paused before we hit the steps causing Edward's eyes to return to me. I stood silently and squeezed his hand, but stared down.
He stepped in front of me, raising my chin gently with his finger to bring my gaze to meet his. "We promised we weren't going to do this, Bella," he said in a soft voice, stroking my cheek gently as I leaned into his touch. "It's just another Friday night, nothing more. No other thoughts than that. Okay?"
I opened my mouth to protest, silenced hastily by his fingertips. I desperately wanted to argue that it was easier said than done; but in the end, I knew he was right. Dreading tomorrow would only ruin tonight and I didn't want that. So I nodded slowly instead.
"You look pretty good tonight yourself," I said with a soft smile, running the fingers of my free hand down the lapel of his black sports jacket. "A little formal though, don't you think? You know, for just another Friday night."
He chuckled and kissed my forehead gently as my eyes ran over him. It was nothing more than a white shirt and black tie under the jacket, and black dress slacks; but still a far cry from the casual jeans and t-shirt, or even occasionally a button-down, that I was accustomed to. "Well, it is a special occasion, you know."
I narrowed my eyes at him as he gave me a small smirk and a gentle tug on my hand, guiding me down the steps and to his car. "Edward," I started with a warning tone to my voice.
He opened my door for me and held his hands up. "I never said what occasion, now did I?" he replied with a wink and let out a laugh as my lips pursed in irritation. "Come on, get in."
I rolled my eyes and settling into the car, waiting until he got in beside me and leaning over to rest my head on his shoulder. He kissed my hair gently as he started the car and then began backing out. When he began heading in the opposite direction we usually went, I raised my gaze to his face. "Where are we going?"
I watched his smile grow and he glanced over at me briefly, winking before turning his attention back to the road. "Surprise."
I sighed heavily but my smile stayed in place as my cheek rested back on his arm. I had learned that Edward never acquiesced regardless of what tactics I used to wheedle surprises out of him; and found that I very rarely minded any surprises from him. He always planned things out so meticulously, with so much thought behind everything he did; I'd be selfish not to appreciate it. However, I did find my curiosity peaked by this, as I could only think of one place outside of school that was in this direction; our meadow. I closed my eyes, content with that thought as I just enjoyed the feel and scent of him.
When the car finally stopped, I opened my eyes again and furrowed my brow at what stared back at me. "The motel, Edward? Really?" I asked dubiously and shook my head.
He brought my hand up to his lips briefly and smiled. "Don't be so quick to judge. Not everyone's mind is in the gutter, young lady," he replied with a slight eye roll, but never losing the playful smirk on his face. We both stepped out and he grabbed a cooler from the backseat, meeting me at the front of the car.
Reaching into his pocket, he retrieved a small key ring and guided me over to room number four.
"Close your eyes," he said softly and after casting him a questioning glance, allowed my eyes to flutter closed.
I heard the door click open and felt his hand rest on the small of my back, urging me forward where my feet met soft carpet just as the first rumble of thunder sounded in the sky. His movement around the room was barely noticeable until I heard a familiar flicking sound.
"Edward, please don't tell me you're smoking again. I thought you..."
I froze as a delicate, yet discernible scent of vanilla began to permeate the air around us after a moment. Everything was nearly silent in the room for what seemed like several minutes, until I once again felt his hands resting on my waist. I leaned my head back against his chest, enjoying the closeness of his body and his arms slid around my waist. My hands ran along his arms, feeling his warm skin and the bunched fabric of his sleeves by his elbows. I smiled. He had taken off his jacket already. Can't keep him dressed up for long.
"Open your eyes, baby," his low voice rumbled in my ear and I slowly opened them and looked around the room.
Sparsely situated candles, creating a romantic, flickering glow, dimly lit the space and spread on the floor was our blanket for our visits to the meadow with pillows on either side of it and the cooler set in middle. I turned my head to gaze up at him.
"This is amazing, Edward," I said, my hand coming to his face and raising my lips to brush against his, our foreheads resting together after the soft kiss.
"It's drier than the meadow will be tonight, and more private than a restaurant. I wanted it to be us tonight," he replied softly and I opened my eyes to find his still closed, until he gazed down at me again. "Just us."
The intensity of his words nearly brought tears to my eyes and I turned in his hold, pressing my cheek to his chest and hugging him around the waist. His arms enclosed around me and I felt him rest his head atop mine, enveloping me in warmth and safety.
"Thank you," I whispered against him, running my hands over his back as he swayed me back and forth.
With a gentle kiss to my forehead, he pulled back slowly and guided me over to the blanket. I knelt down on the pillow beside him as he unzipped the cooler and the distinct scent of Chinese food wafted toward me and I hummed contentedly. He pulled out one of the Styrofoam containers and handed it to me with an actual metal fork, knowing I hated the plastic take out silverware.
"Shit," he muttered under his breath and stood up, walking across the room. Just as I was about to question the sudden outburst, he bent over into the small fridge in the corner and retrieved two cans of Coke. "Knew I was forgetting something."
I smiled as he settled back down in front of me and opened my can, unable to suppress the chuckle as he slid a bendy straw into the opening before retrieving his own container of food with a pair of chopsticks. I shifted slightly and tucked my feet beside me, taking my first bite of the sweet and sour chicken. Glancing over at him, I wrinkled my nose and shook my head at him. "Lo Mien? You mean people actually eat that?"
He smirked and rolled his eyes. "Have you ever even tried it, Bella?" he asked challengingly and I shrugged, shaking my head in response. He grasped a few noodles between the chopsticks and held them out to me. "Don't knock it until you have."
I warily leaned toward him and parted my lips as he guided the food into my mouth. I chewed slowly, trying to concentrate on the taste as I stared into his eyes. I swallowed and licked my lips, tilting my head in contemplation. "It's not bad. But not this either," I said and speared a piece of chicken with my fork, and held it out to him.
He laughed and shook his head, humoring me by taking the bite off my fork with his teeth. Even the knowledge that he had definitely had this before did not take away from this for me. There was something so intimate and personal about this moment, sharing everything together.
"It's not bad," he replied with a wink, imitating my earlier statement. "Bit more sweet than sour for my tastes."
"This coming from a man who is now taking a sip of soda that probably has more sugar in that one mouthful than in my entire meal," I retorted sassily as I popped another piece of chicken in my mouth, and restrained a chuckle as he snorted softly and covered his mouth with his hand. The remainder of the meal continued this way; playful banter about our meal choices, trying to convince the other of why ours was the 'obvious' choice.
When we were done, he lifted a small paper bag and retrieved our fortune cookies. Holding one in each palm, he held them out to me. "Ladies first."
I took a deep breath and delicately took the one from his right hand. I had never held much stock in fortunes, but tonight I actually felt a gripping around my heart as if what resided in my palm held my entire future inside. Removing the plastic from our cookies, I lifted my eyes to meet his again. "One, two..."
On three, the cracking filled the air as we both simultaneously opened our cookies and pulled the slip of paper from the inside. I inhaled slowly again with my eyes closed and finally looked down to the words.
"Love is for the lucky and the brave," I said softly, reading my fortune aloud and then glanced at him.
He licked his lips and began reading his. "A single kind word will keep one warm for years."
They were such simple and random words but a prime example of how you can associate just about anything with your own life as well. I always felt so lucky to have Edward in my life, but I had never been happier than I had in the last eleven months. Nothing had faded between us and it had actually grown more than I'd ever imagined possible. I was lucky. Even with all that we had been through together and all that was still to come, I knew that what we shared should never be taken for granted.
"You think that's true?" Edward asked suddenly, pulling me from my reverie and my eyes met his again. He was resting on his elbow with his long legs now stretching across the floor, having cleared the remnants of our dinner from the space between us. He looked down briefly at his fortune as he slipped it inside his wallet over his driver's license, before returning his attention to me.
"Absolutely. I've learned firsthand," I smiled, tracing my fingertip gently over the back of his hand. "Both of them actually. But yours... just one thing you said the day we met still gives me the goosebumps it did almost two years ago."
Edward's lips twitched slightly in an amused yet uncertain chuckle. "What?"
I bit my lip to suppress a smile, leaning toward him to brush a gentle kiss against his cheekbone. "Firecracker," I whispered against his skin, and allowed a giggle to emit from me as he reached for my sides and tugged me gently to him. He lowered me onto my back, hovering over me and placed a long lingering kiss against my lips.
"That's a nickname, not a word," he chuckled softly but I could sense the lack of humor behind it.
As his forehead rested against mine, I opened my eyes again to take in his expression. His remained closed as his hand gently stroked my side.
"It still counts," I replied, nudging his nose with mine and coaxing an all too brief smile to grace his features.
He finally gazed down at me, bringing his hand up and gently caressing my cheek with his fingertips. "No," he said, his voice soft but serious. "It barely grazes the surface. And beautiful doesn't do you justice. Amazing. Perfect..."
"Yours," I whispered, saying aloud the one word that warmed me above all others. My finger traced his lower lip slowly, thinking of just one singular word that could accurately describe all that Edward meant to me; all he was. Only one word repeatedly came to mind.
He drew in a slow breath before his lips returned to mine once more in a gentle but firm kiss. My arms slid around his shoulders and pulled him flush against my body. Suddenly the overwhelming feeling of not being able to get close enough seem to engulf us both as our embraces tightened, pouring every ounce of passion we felt for each other into the kiss.
When he finally pulled away again, his eyes began flickering over my face as his fingers lightly ran along my arm. He rolled onto his side and pulled me with him, my head resting on his arm and our free hands linked together between us. I hummed softly as I felt his other hand gently playing with my hair and I snuggled closer to him, brushing soft kisses against his chin.
"I love you," I whispered softly and his eyes locked with mine as his head tilted down slightly to kiss me gently.
"I love you too, Bella. So damn much," he replied with emotion heavy in his voice and his fingers laced further into my hair, taking my lower lip between his. Our hands simultaneously squeezed the other's as my leg slid in-between his, unable to get close enough to him and our kiss deepened.
Finally, our hands unlinked and I slid my arm around his back, and he pulled me more firmly against him in a tight embrace. We became a tangle of arms and legs, almost desperately clinging to each other.
"Edward," I whispered breathlessly between kisses, looking up at him. I wanted... needed to be closer to him.
While we certainly hadn't been abstinent over the past several months, stealing moments whenever we could in our need to make every moment count with each other; this was different, more intimate. And as he gazed into my eyes when I bought my palm to rest against his jaw, our wordless exchange seemingly assured him of this. I needed the connection with him above the pleasure, and his tender responding kiss spoke volumes to me as well.
He needed me just as much.
His body shifted to kneel beside me, never breaking the contact of our kiss as his arms slid underneath my knees and shoulders. My hold tightened around him as he lifted me up, feeling the muscles in his arms contract beneath me as he stood and carried me over to the bed.
Lightning illuminated the room brightly as he set me down, skewing my vision for a moment until my eyes adjusted back to the darkened room and Edward's face above me. He gave me a brief chaste kiss before slowly moving down my neck while his hand slid to my thigh, bending my leg at the knee as he continued down to unhook the buckle of my shoe. My hands wove through his hair as he made his way down my body, enjoying the silky sensation between my fingers until he left my reach. He kissed just above my anklebone softly as he lifted my foot to remove my shoe, and repeated the motion with the other.
He was taking his time and enjoying every moment of this as much as I was.
I smiled as he set my foot back down on the bed, raising myself up to kneel in front of him and taking his face between my hands. We gazed silently at each other, the only sound being the crack of thunder and the rain beating against the windows. Normally, these violent storms would unnerve me, but as we sat in front of each other; touching, memorizing every inch of the other's features as if we wouldn't know each other if we were struck blind that very minute, I hardly noticed. Everything I needed to feel safe and protected at this moment was in front of me now, caressing my face and stroking my hair reverently.
My hands slowly lowered to his chest, tugging gently on his tie. Loosening the knot for me, he breathed a soft laugh as I continued pulling the two ends free of each other and finally lifted it over his head, tossing it aside. His lips came to press gently against the skin just below my ear as he brushed my hair back over my shoulder, clearing the path for his lips to pepper soft kisses down my neck and across my collarbone. His fingers gently pulled at the ties of one of the straps on my dress, loosening them and allowing them to fall to either side.
As he placed soft open-mouthed kisses in their wake, I tilted my head back, taking in every touch and sound as my trembling fingers traced lightly down his throat. His lips raised to meet mine again with a tenderness that took my breath away as I came to the collar of his shirt. Fumbling with the first few buttons, I felt his hands gently cover mine and pull them aside, moving them back between us and slowly working the buttons loose. As I gently pushed aside the fabric over his shoulders, my thumbs grazed a cool metal chain contrasting with the heat of his skin.
I pulled away from his lips slowly as his shirt fell behind him and my eyes fell to his chest, where the chain disappeared beneath the undershirt he wore. I bit my lip and slid my finger beneath it, lifting it free and the tears began to pool in my eyes as the dog tags I had gotten him for Christmas appeared above the neckline of his shirt. A shaky breath shuddered through my body as I closed my fingers around them, feeling him kiss my forehead with his hands resting on my waist.
"I never take them off," he whispered softly against my skin and my eyes rose to meet his intense gaze. "You're always with me this way."
I bit my lip gently as my palm flattened on his chest, running it along the tiny balls of the chain and my gaze met my own Christmas present from him. The silver band and the stones of the ring gracing my finger glistened in the soft lighting. "Same reason I haven't taken this off since you put it there."
His hand came to his chest to cover mine, raising it to his lips to kiss it gently. Pressing my palm to his cheek, he leaned his face against it and brushed his lips against the inside of my wrist with his eyes closed tightly and an expression of longing and sadness on his face. His gaze finally held mine again and the depth of emotion in his eyes was breathtaking.
Edward slowly backed away from me and stood beside the bed, his fingers lacing with mine as he pulled me gently to kneel at the edge of the mattress in front of him. Our lips met again, moving slowly together as I felt the tug on the ties on my other shoulder and my dress finally flowed down my body to pool at my knees. My fingers unlinked with his, trailing up his arms and back down his chest to his belt. A contented sigh left his lips as his hands held my face gently while we kissed, while I began shedding the remainder of his clothing until we were left in only our underwear. My breasts pressed against his bare chest and I felt the warmth of his embrace engulf me, sending a shiver through my body.
"Come here, baby," he said softly against my lips and pulled me closer until my feet hit the floor. His kisses trailed down my neck and chest as he leaned over to pull back the covers on the bed, and then motioned for me to lie down again.
In my movement, I hooked my fingers in the chain of his dog tags and held his gaze as I gently pulled him back down to me, our lips meeting again as his body settled against mine. My arms slid around his shoulders and covered us over with the blanket in one motion, pulling him closer and deepening the kiss as much as possible. I started to push his boxers downs his thighs; even skin to skin, I still didn't feel close enough to him and they were in the way. Once I couldn't reach with my hands, I ran my feet up along his legs and used them to remove them, unwilling to relinquish my hold on him or his lips on mine.
"God, I love you, baby," he whispered softly against my skin, kissing along my jaw as I ran my hands over his back and his lips began moving down my neck and chest until he disappeared under the blanket. I felt his fingers tracing along my abdomen and gentle kisses brushing on my hip as he slowly removed the last barrier between us.
When finally he made his way back up my body, I wove my hands into his hair again as he began placing soft kisses over my skin and gently cupped my breast with his palm. As his hands and lips tenderly caressed me and my fingers tangled in the soft strands, nothing else in the world mattered. Not the rain pounding against the windows, the world outside this room or even tomorrow. Everything was about right here, right now... with each other. With a final brush of his lips, his face rested against my chest and his arms slid around me. I could feel his heart pounding against me as I watched my hand running through his hair, my other arm holding him just as tightly as he was holding me.
After a long silent moment, his lips brushed the inside of my breast before coming eye level with me again and kissing me gently. My hands slid under the blanket covering us to trace my fingertips over his back, the soft sheets rubbing against the backs of my knuckles as I stared into his eyes.
His kiss deepened and I pulled him closer, letting out a contented sigh. The feeling of his body pressed so firmly against me, his mouth moving enticingly with mine, the look in his eyes as he never took them off me; it truly was the most perfect moment and it all overwhelmed and consumed me. I brought my hand to his cheek, tracing the contours of his face with my fingertips as he continued peppering kisses on my lips; committing every one of his features to memory.
Our gazes locked as he slowly slid inside of me and I gently pulled his shoulders toward me to join our lips as he entered me fully, our hips flush with each other. Everything about this moment was amplified; the feelings, the sounds and even the scents surrounding us. Something so amazing and pure between us, it left no doubt in my mind the depth of this connection we shared. He was mine and I was his, and no one or nothing was ever going to change that. No one could ever bring me to life this way; make me feel this beautiful and adored. With every kiss and movement of our bodies, I could only feel our connection growing stronger in the tenderness of this moment. It brought tears to my eyes with the intensity and they escaped, trailing down over my temples.
My lips tightened against his with the emotion rushing through me, and I tried to pull him closer but he gently retracted from the kiss and stilled his movements. He gazed down at me, running the backs of his fingers along my cheek.
"Baby, what's the matter?" he asked in a voice heavy with concern, gently brushing away the fallen tears. I shook my head slowly and lifted my lips to meet his, pulling gently on his shoulders and pressing our bodies against each other again.
"Don't stop," I whispered softly against his lips, trailing my fingers down his arms and sliding them beneath his hands. I felt the gentle tracing of his fingertips over the palms of my hands, before sliding between mine and lacing them together.
My lips parted as his body moved against mine again, his hands raising mine above my head on the pillow as he kissed along the exposed skin of my neck. I could feel the flush begin to spread over every inch of my body, far above than anything I had ever felt with him before. This moment, this experience, his touch, his kisses, everything about him was like nothing we had ever shared.
His body continued to rock into mine, our movements becoming more frantic, both searching for that one moment of completeness. His thrusts were more urgent, my hips lifting to meet him as I tightened my grip on his hands.
"Bella," he breathed out heavily, brushing my lips with his once before resting his forehead against mine. His eyes closed and his face was tense in concentration.
"Hey," I whispered as I gently nudged his nose with mine, coaxing him to open his eyes. His chest heaved more drastically as our lips met again and I released one hand from his hold, lacing it in his hair. "Look at me, Edward."
Without stalling his movements, he slowly raised his lids to reveal his own slightly misted eyes and gazed into mine. The emotion evident in their depths reflected every single emotion passing through me and I pulled him gently down to press his lips to mine. I moaned softly against him as he released my other hand, moving his to slide around my hip to the back of my thigh while the other moved underneath me, pressing us impossibly closer.
Suddenly I felt my body being lifted up, my arms holding tightly around him as he sat up and pulled me back against him, straddling his legs. We held each other's gazes as I settled back down on him, wrapping my legs around him. I felt his hold on me strengthen as he kissed down my neck, our bodies beginning to move fluidly together again, meeting each other and molding into one. In this position I could feel him hit deeper into me than before and the feeling was indescribable. It was exactly what I needed in this moment, to be closer to him. I needed to feel that he loved me and cared for me just as much as I did for him; and now I did. And in that moment I knew that I would never feel this way for anyone else, that I could never have enough of him. I knew without a doubt that I want to spend the rest of my life with the beautiful, caring man beneath me.
As those thoughts passed through my mind, I felt my body tensing as my head fell back while he continued to move along my neck to my ear. Our torsos pressed together, the cold from the dog tags radiating straight into my heart, creating a painful but beautiful reminder of the moment I was sharing with this man; the love of my life. Having the strong urge to voice out my love for him, I opened my mouth. No words could escape as heavy pants were being released against him.
"I love you, Bella," he softly whispered in my ear as if reading my mind. All the emotions, our situation, him leaving, the tangled sheets around us and our hearts pounding together; unraveled me completely in his arms. My hand gently gripped his hair to hold him close to me as the first wave of my undoing started crashing into me, clinging to it and him for as long as possible. My legs tightened around him, my lips parting as the shuddering breaths escaped me. I was rendered silent by the sensations he was invoking in me, causing me to tremble in his embrace, holding onto my only grasp of hope, his love for me.
I was so lost in him, in us, as wave after wave of the overwhelming feelings went through us. When he followed me a moment later, his lips sealed to the spot below my ear and a shiver ran through my entire body, intensifying the sensation.
"I love you too," I murmured against his hair, our movements gradually slowing and finally settling into each other's embrace. We stayed like that for several minutes until he pulled back slightly, staring into my eyes as he laced his fingers in my hair to pull me closer into a passionate kiss. He slowly lowered us down against the pillows and pulled the covers back over us, gathering me into his arms and holding my head against his chest. Our breathing eventually slowed and we resumed our tender touches and explorations of each other. We still had a few more hours before I had to be home and I wanted to enjoy every moment of it. My mind began to wander as I lost myself in the feel of his hand playing lightly with my hair.
"Edward?" I said softly as my finger traced in slow circles on his chest, tilting my head up to look at him. When he hummed softly in response, he turned his eyes toward me and I shifted slightly beside him, folding my hands on his chest and resting my chin atop them.
"What did you mean? When you said 'it is a special occasion'? I mean, if it wasn't the obvious," I continued, still avoiding the looming reality of tomorrow. "What was it?"
Edward tilted his head slightly on the pillow, running his fingers down along my cheek and then over my lips. "You really want to know?"
I nodded slowly and pressed a kiss to his fingertips as they came to a stop. He took a slow intake of breath that made me feel slightly nervous until his face relaxed, his hand now cupping my cheek.
"I know we've never talked much about Alaska, and I understand why. But I don't regret going," he began and it was my turn for discomfort, stiffening slightly until I felt his hand gently stroking my back. I relaxed slightly under his touch and nodded for him to continue. "Everything happens for a reason, Bella. Even the things that seem like stupid mistakes at the time, and we all know that I've made plenty of them. But I really think that if I hadn't gone there last summer, we wouldn't be here right now. Because it was a year ago this week that I realized just how in love with you I was, and made my decision to find a way to tell you someday. I never would have known what it was like to live without you if I hadn't done it, or that I never want to do it again."
"But you will be," I replied sadly, my gaze falling to his chest again.
"No, I won't," he whispered in a hushed tone, hooking his finger under my chin and raising his lips to meet mine briefly and then rolling me gently onto my back. He gently brushed a few stray hairs from my forehead before placing a soft kiss on the skin there. "We weren't going to do this, remember?"
I sighed heavily and shook my head. "I can't just forget it, Edward. Whether it's for twelve weeks or twelve years, you won't be here. You're leaving tomorrow and I can't just pretend otherwise like it doesn't exist if I don't think about it. I can't forget that when I wake up tomorrow, it will be the last time I wake up to the prospect of seeing you. For the first time in a year, I'll have to relive what that was like for three more months."
He silenced me with his lips, kissing me deeply as tears continued to stream down my face and my arms slid around his neck, pulling him closer. I arched my neck toward him when he began to pull back, unwilling to separate from him so soon. His thumb traced over my lips and I hesitantly opened my eyes to look at him.
"It's different this time, baby. This isn't all about me anymore, it's about us. I'm building up something for our future," he replied seriously and I ran my hand up along his arm to his hand, grasping it gently and pressing a kiss to his palm. "You're everything to me, Bella. I want you, always. I swear, I'm gonna make you proud of me."
More tears welled in my eyes as I gazed up into the pure devotion showing in his eyes and I placed my hand on his neck, gently guiding him to my lips again. "I am proud, Edward. So damn proud. Never doubt that," I whispered, shaking my head and sliding my arms around him again with my cheek resting on his chest. "I'm just going to miss you so much."
"I'll miss you too, baby," he replied softly and kissed my forehead, rolling back onto his side and pulling me against him. I snuggled against him until every part of our bodies were in contact. Breathing him in, touching him, taking in every little detail of this moment.
What seemed like minutes later, I felt Edward shaking my shoulder gently and saying my name. When I tried to open my eyes to look at him, they were far too heavy and I realized that I must have fallen asleep.
"We have to get up, Bella. I have to get you home," he said, placing a soft kiss on my lips.
"What? No," I protested, shaking my head and looking around the room to find it dark without a single candle still lit, and then raised my wrist to glance at my watch. I closed my eyes in defeat to find that it was indeed 11:30, and I had to be home at midnight. "How could you let me sleep away our last night?"
"Enjoying the view," he replied shamelessly and I raised my eyes in annoyance to find him smirking, quickly kissing my lips. "It's not the end of the world, baby. I like holding you while you sleep and it's given me time to realize one more thing I'm adding to my list of things to come home for."
I furrowed my brow in confusion and he kissed me gently again.
"The chance to do it again," he answered my unspoken question and I couldn't help smiling against his lips, kissing him more firmly for a moment before he reluctantly pulled away. "But we really do have to go."
I stole one last kiss before nodding, wrapping the sheet around me as I gathered my clothes. By the time I was finally pulling on my dress, Edward stood behind me fully clothed and helping me re-tie the straps. Once the task was completed, his arms encircled my waist and his lips rested on my shoulder; enjoying one last moment of silence together. I gently brushed a kiss against his temple, hugging his arms tighter around me until we both loosened our hold, and he took my hand.
"What about the room?" I asked curiously, as I bent down to pick up my shoes and he squeezed my hand gently.
"Don't worry, I'll take care of it. Come on," he replied and began walking toward the door, with me in tow.
As we drove back to my house, Edward never let go of my hand but he also never said a word; but then neither did I. Keeping my head resting on his shoulder, I hugged against his arm as close as I could until we pulled into my driveway.
"Stay there," he said quietly and got out of the car, walking around to my side to open the door and reaching out for my hand. I placed it into his, stepping out of the car and into his arms.
He held me there for a moment until the rain shifted from a drizzle to a steady fall and then hurried me to the cover of the porch, his arm remaining around me.
As we stood in front of the door, I could hear my father's television just inside and knew he was in there waiting for me; but we still had a few more minutes. Edward gently took my face in his hands, gazing at me for a moment before lowering his lips softly against mine. Pressing his forehead against mine, his thumbs gently grazed my cheeks until he finally opened his eyes again.
"I'll see you in the morning, Bella. Love you," he said barely above a whisper while my hands gently moved along his sides.
"Love you too," I replied and kissed him gently one more time before he backed away, taking my hand and giving it a gentle squeeze as he turned to walk back down the steps. He quickly made his way to his car and I waved one last time before he stepped in and then I walked back into the house. Knowing that if I stayed out there a second longer, he would witness the breakdown I could feel emerging from deep inside of me; and that was the last thing either of us needed.
I hurriedly closed the door behind me and leaned back against it, barely making it before the sobs consumed me and my chest felt as if it might explode.
"Bella?" I heard my dad call from the next room and I pushed myself off the door, stepping into the doorway and spotting him on the recliner.
Running my hand through my damp hair, I walked in and sat down on the arm of his chair. I sat quietly for a moment as he watched me calmly, and I leaned down to rest my head on his shoulder. When his arm came around me to hold me against his side, the final barrier was breached and I completely succumbed to the tears and the pain. With everything that Charlie and I had been through this past year, this was the first time I was selfishly grateful for it. I didn't need Alice or Jake, or even the Cullens. Right now, I needed my dad; to hold me through my tears and tell me that everything was going to be okay.
"I love him so much, Dad," I cried uncontrollably into his chest, his hand stroking my hair.
"I know you do, honey," he replied gently and I hugged him tighter around the waist as he pulled me down completely into his lap, cradling me as he did when I was little. Nothing else was said as I continued to cry, but nothing else was needed.
And for the first time in over ten years, I cried myself to sleep on my dad's arms.
Sitting in the back seat of the car beside Edward the following morning, I hadn't even bothered to buckle up. I held onto him tightly, resting my head in his chest and keeping it down to prevent him seeing the tears as he kept his arm wrapped tightly around me shoulder. I could feel his breath in my hair, smell the clean scent of his t-shirt, hear his heart pounding against my ear.
And soon it would be gone. All of it.
I tried to wipe my face with my sleeve as the car came to a stop in front of the bus depot, attempting to assemble my brave face for him. The clearing of his throat caught my attention but as I glanced over at him, I noticed that this had probably not been his intent. His eyes were focused above him, rolling back slightly as he took a deep breath and let it out slowly before bringing his gaze back to mine.
"Ready?" he said softly in a deep voice filled with emotion.
My lips pressed together tightly as I attempted to keep the tears at bay, shaking my head slowly and placing a kiss on his shoulder. "Not in the slightest," I whispered against the fabric, feeling the soft pressure of his lips on my temple.
I sat up and collected myself, knowing that I was not making this any easier for either of us but especially him. I promised myself that I wasn't going to give him any reason to regret his decision, so I offered him as much of a smile as I could manage and kissed his cheek.
"Come on, you'll miss your bus."
I took his hand and opened the door to step out of the car, where his parents were waiting. We all took our time walking toward the bus despite the pouring rain, all of us obviously in no hurry to say goodbye. If life without Edward was unimaginable for me, I could only imagine how this would be for them. Especially Esme, who never wanted this for her son in the first place; but I had to give her credit for being the most collected of us all today. Even Carlisle had been slightly teary this morning, as much as he attempted to hide it. And Emmett had said his goodbye in private this morning before Edward left the house.
And of course, I was a mess.
Standing under the cover of the depot, I hung back to allow Edward a moment with his parents, even trying to avert my eyes to give them privacy; but the sight was difficult to ignore.
Esme placed her hand on his cheek briefly, giving him a small smile before pulling him into her embrace and only then did the tears make their appearance. He buried his face into her shoulder and tightened his hold around her waist.
"I love you, honey. Call us when you get there," she said softly, pressing her lips against his hair as he nodded against her and returned the sentiment in a mumble into her shoulder. They parted and he kissed her cheek, and then turned to his father.
I had to bring my hand to cover my lips to keep the sob from escaping as I watched them both stand at attention before each other, and Carlisle raised his hand to salute his son. Edward's jaw tightened slightly with emotion, but then raised his chin slightly and returned the gesture. When his father finally lowered his hand, he pulled him into his arms and hugged him tightly.
"I'm proud of you, son," he choked out and then gave Edward a pat on the shoulder as he pulled away.
"Thank you sir," Edward replied, but allowed a small smile to break through, showing how much his father's statement meant to him.
When he finally turned toward me, he took another deep breath as we continued to stand with several feet between us, our eyes locked.
"We'll give you two a moment," Esme said softly, taking her husband's arm and leading him inside the depot.
The tears would not remain at bay as I began taking slow steps toward him until I collided gently with his chest, wrapping my arms tightly around his waist. He hugged me against him, slowly rocking me back and forth until I pulled back enough to look up at him. His hand came to my cheek, wiping my tears away with his thumb and kissing me gently.
"I love you," I said tearily against his lips, my hands splaying over his back and pulling him closer.
"I love you too, baby," he whispered softly, continuing to stroke my cheek. His movement suddenly stopped and I opened my eyes to look up at him, praying that our moment wasn't quite over yet. "I have something for you."
I reluctantly loosened my hold on him, allowing him to bend over to the bag at his feet and watching as he pulled out a small leather bound book. A journal of some sort. I furrowed my brow slightly, but took it gently from his hand as he held it out to me. I ran my fingers over the cover and brought my eyes back up to meet his.
He shrugged slightly and nodded toward it before speaking. "I started it a while back. Just little thoughts and such," he said softly, placing his hands on my hips as I resumed taking in the book in my hand. "So you never forget how much you mean to me, no matter what. And I'm counting the days, too."
I brought my hand up to his neck, pulling him down to meet my lips again and kissing him firmly. I felt his grip tighten slightly on my hips, returning my passion but eventually pulling away and resting his forehead on mine.
"I have to go, Bella," he whispered regretfully and I nodded, pinching my eyes closed as he pulled away from me with a final kiss to my hair.
As I heard him lifting his bag over his shoulder and begin to walk away, my throat tightened emotionally and teary eyes raised up abruptly to find him already standing outside the bus in the line to board.
"Edward!" I called out to him and he turned in time to catch me in his arms as I ran out to him, capturing his lips passionately with mine. One hand drove into his hair while the other held the journal tightly against my chest, the rain pouring down around us but neither of us seemed to care. "Thank you."
With a few more brief kisses, he pulled away and and began backing toward the bus again, holding onto me as long as possible until I was out of reach.
I brought my hand up to wave as he looked back at me once before boarding the bus and mouthed 'love you'. He waved back and blew me a kiss as he mouthed it back, and then stepped onto the bus.
Hugging the book tightly against me as it began to pull away, I could not keep tears welling in my eyes from falling, mixing with the rain on my face. I watched until it turned the corner at the end of the road and only then, allowed my eyes to fall to the journal in my hands. I walked back into the depot, before I opened the front cover to find his beautiful handwriting was scrawled across the page.
This isn't goodbye, Bella. It's see you soon.
I love you,
Who am I but one person?
Who am I but one half?
Who am I but one piece of a puzzle?
Who am I without you?
Without you I am strong
But with you I am stronger
Without you I am alone
But with you I am loved
Without you I am incomplete
But with you I am whole
Who am I?
A friend, a brother and a son
But only you can make me
A companion, a lover and a man
Who am I? A half of our soul.
Despite my tears, a smile came to my lips as I closed it, hugging it back to my chest. I would miss him every moment that he was away; there was no doubt about that. But he also left no shred of doubt in my mind that I was the one who held his heart, was the one that made him smile; that made him happy.
And I would be here waiting for him when he returned.
Special thanks to ericastwilight for the beautiful poem at the end of this chapter. Very beautiful and fitting.
Hope it was worth the wait, and again I want to thank you all for your support. The next part of this journey, "Don't Ever Forget", will hopefully begin by mid to end October at the latest. So if you don't have me on Author Alert already and would like to continue to follow this story, please be sure to add me to be notified when the sequel begins it's posting.