I remembered entering the house for the first time. I immediately saw her, that woman; the one who looked so like her. She was in tears now, a look that truly did not suit her. I hated it almost as much as I hated to see my own Bella cry. I did not stop to speak to her though. Instead, I dashed upstairs, following the maid that was ordered to take me to her.
I felt rude, pushing the young woman along the halls; begging her harshly to go faster, but when we finally did reach the room, I couldn't move. I was afraid – petrified of what I'd find on the other side. Would I find my Bella; living, waiting for me… or would I see those lifeless eyes once again, only this time they wouldn't be those of Tanya.
"Dr. Cullen…" the maid said softly, pulling me from my thoughts, "She's right through here."
I already knew that. She knew that I already knew that. She was pushing me along, as I had done to her. She could see that I needed a shove, and I was silently grateful. I gave a slow nod, reaching up for the handle as I pulled it down and pushed the door in, taking my first steps into oblivion.
I focused on my own two feet as I entered the room, forcing myself to keep walking in, until my foot came up to the side of a bed. I swallowed hard, not wanting to look up, but knowing I had to.
Please, please, don't… don't…
I no longer knew for what I was wishing. My gaze had moved up, and I felt my heart stop for two very distinct reasons. Bella… my Bella… was laying there. She was covered in bandages, bruises and dried blood that had yet to be fully cleaned away. She looked absolutely horrific, but… she was breathing!
"Bella!" I felt my own knees give way, and I dropped on the ground beside her bed. My hand came up to her tangles chocolate locks, and I ran my fingers through it ever so gently, afraid I might break her if I was too harsh.
I heard a man clear his throat behind me, "The doctor said it could go one way or the other at this point…" I immediately felt my heart beat quicken. My own desire had broken through what my studies had blatantly told me before.
Bella… might never awaken.
"She has to…" my voice was barely heard by myself, and behind me, those at the door came closer.
"She will." Another voice, this one female, and the one I recognised from the inn earlier that day. I had not learned much of these people, but I was no fool. I decided that I needed to ask however, if only to pull my thoughts from that dark place they were edging towards. Bella would be okay… I had to believe the words… of her mother.
It was such a strange experience. To be awake, but completely unconscious at the same time. All my senses seemed perfectly normal. I seemed perfectly normal. Well, apart from the one small issue that was; I could in fact see myself. I was lying flat out on a rather comfortable looking bed; my body covered in so many bandages, and yet so many bruises were still showing.
Frankly, I looked terrible.
I had also learned, that though I could see the countless maids bustling in and out of my unfamiliar room, they couldn't seem to see me. Nor could the doctor that came in just earlier to give the 'two people downstairs' the news. I had yet to find out who these two were, but I knew it was not Edward – so a part of me didn't care.
I had 'awoken' about an hour ago. When I realised I was not in Jacob's I had a thousand and one questions. That seemed like very few right now. I do not know how I came here, or who brought me. I remembered for a moment the voice of a man, telling me to 'stay with them'. Again, it hadn't been Edward… so I wasn't too bothered.
After a few minutes of just staring at my dull and seemingly broken self, I felt a wave of something crash over me. Anger.
Suddenly, I was furious. I was furious – with myself! How could I have been so stupid; how could I have thought I would be able to hurt Jacob; how could I have put myself in such a dangerous position?!
How could I have risked the life of my own child like that…?
I hated myself. I hated everything about the person lying in front of me. If I could slap myself across the lifeless face – I would. I remember sitting there; perfectly silent, wallowing in self-hatred for what felt like forever, when suddenly I felt it. I felt him. Edward had come.
I heard sobbing downstairs as the front door opened, a woman's sobs. For a moment, I wondered who that could be – it didn't sound like Alice anyway, but I pushed that thought aside when I heard the racing of footsteps up the staircase. They bounded from there down the halls, and seemed to suddenly stop when they had been at their loudest. He was standing just outside.
"She's right through here…" I did not recognise the voice, but I silently thanked her for bringing him to me. A moment later, the door pushed through, and in he stepped. I could not see his face; he was purposely looking down. I winced when I realised who I must look like.
Another wave of hatred filled my veins, and I wanted nothing more than to tell Edward to just leave. Go away from me and forget me. For his own sake…
But I couldn't. I could only watch as he finally looked up. I could only look on as his unusually empty emerald eyes widened and his skin blanched. I could only sob quietly as he fell to his knees and bit back tears. I didn't deserve any of it.
I watched him sit silently for a short while; just stroking my hair. Needless to say he was deep in thought, but a voice broke him from his mind.
"The doctor said it could go one way or the other at this point…"
I saw those words rip daggers through the man I loved. It angered me, to know that someone had hurt him so much, simply with words. I looked up, fixing a glare on the man who had just walked in, when what I saw left me motionless.
A man, a tall man, with short dark hair and deep brown eyes that I would only expect to see in my own reflection, stood against the doorframe. He wore an officer's attire, though at that moment, he looked far from one of the militia. His appearance was shaken, as if he has received a recent mental blow; his brown eyes were weak, and he seemed to have trouble taking in my appearance. I watched this man with mild surprise for a moment, before another more shocking guest appeared at my door.
Edward had gripped my hand tightly, I could see his own knuckles turn white as he held on to me for dear life, but I could not feel his touch. "She has to…" I barely heard him utter the words.
The voice was of a female. The same female I swore I heard sob earlier. Her tone was much stronger now, and I knew by it she was forcing herself to be that way. The tone sounded familiar, but I did not know how… until I looked up.
Standing at the doorway, with the man from before at her side, my mother gazed over me with warm eyes. It felt as though she was looking at the me sitting here, not the girl lying broken on the bed. In her eyes, I saw joy. Her little girl had come home. That was the way she wanted to see this, and that was how she could remain so hopeful; so optimistic. My mother rarely ever had believed in sad endings.
Edward looked up from me, and for a moment, I met his gaze. It was as though he could see me, sitting healthily on the windowsill, but he was looking right through me, to the cloudy skies in the distance.
"I have some questions to ask you." He said, turning to my mother and the man who had saved my life. I hoped he would not be too harsh on them. I could not explain it but, I found it impossible to hold and kind of rage towards my mother. Seeing her standing there, it was clear that whatever her choices regarding me had been, they were made out of necessity. She never did want to let me go.
"Go right ahead." The man spoke now, and I felt inside me, like I recognised his voice from a time gone by, though I knew I'd never actually heard him before. Edward quickly put two and two together for me.
"You're Bella's parents, correct." It wasn't a question. He was sure, and I was left dazed. Parents? That meant…
"Correct." My mother spoke, and the man looked slightly shaken.
"I'm Renée Higginbotham-Swan, and this is my husband and father to Bella; Charlie Swan."
I stared on in shock. My mother had always, for as long as I had known her, gone by the name of Renée Higginbotham. Never once did she mention having been married, or planning on getting married.
My father cleared his throat, attracting both Edward's and my own attention.
He explained the story from start to finish, and I could tell he was not comfortable for even a second while he explained himself to the young man at his daughter's bedside, but Charlie took it in his stride. I noticed how my mother clenched his hand in support.
I was always told that my mother had fallen in love with a young stable boy at her master's estate. Listening to Charlie now only proved the truth to this tale. They had fallen in love, but she was sold on to work in an estate far from him. Almost nine-months after she left, she conceived me, and she knew immediately that he was the father but upon searching for him, she discovered he had enlisted into the army. She believed then that he would never return and that she would never see him again. Thus, she gave me his surname… as sort of a final act of affection.
Seeing this man now… I smiled a little. My mother had found love, and love returned to her. Just like in all her happily-ever after stories that she would tell me when I was a little girl.
Charlie had returned nine years later. Two years after my mother had been forced to give me up as a slave, unable to afford to feed or cloth me any longer. She never wanted to let me go, her watering eyes told me that straight up, and I could see Edward knew that too. When Charlie found my mother, he freed her from working under her master and took her away. They had gotten married shortly after, and began a simple but seemingly happy life. From the moment she left her master's service, she and my father searched for me, but they found no records that led to their daughter.
"Until recently," Charlie went on.
They had found forms in only the past month that stated I was working under Mr Jacob Black. Charlie had gone to Black Estate, where I had been working before, but was told simply that Jacob no longer lived there – not that I no longer worked for him.
Following the address he had been given, they had arranged for Charlie to meet with Jacob that morning. My father had hoped to buy me from Jacob without any trouble, and reunite my family. However, when he arrived at the house, he was met by frantic maids crowding around a young woman who continued to cry frantically.
"She just kept screaming. 'He hit the other girl!' and 'I just ran!'"
Charlie bounded upstairs at her words, where he said he immediately heard my cries. Following them to Jacob's room, he found my former master, grasping the dagger with murderous intent.
"I don't quite know what came over me… but I took the nearest thing I could hold and I just hit him. He fell straight down. I didn't touch him after that, but I knew he wasn't dead. I picked Bella up and took her away." Charlie brought two fingers to his temple, heaving a sigh as he met Edward's gaze, "I did not murder Jacob Black… though now I wish I had. However, I can tell you that when I was leaving the house I saw more than one worker marching upstairs with murderous intent."
I watched my father in awe, and Edward did the same. Renée let out a quiet sob, reprimanding my father for being so reckless, but repeatedly thanking him at the same time. That was the way she had always been: never quite able to make up her mind.
A long beat of silence came down on the room. I saw Edward's solid emerald eyes glance around from my body, to the window where I sat, straight through my eyes and back to my parents before he spoke.
After another few minutes of a more comfortable silence, Renée said that she would help the maids put together some dinner for them all, and Charlie walked over to me; gave my hand a quick squeeze and told Edward to 'take good care of her', before leaving us alone in the room.
I smiled to myself at the sight, and knew that, even if I did go. Even if this was the end for me, Edward should be fine. My mother would treat him as her own now that she knows what he has done for me, and Charlie would accept him, because he could relate. Charlie had done as much for Renée, as Edward has for me.
I felt strange for a moment, as if a large weight was being lifted from my shoulders and then, suddenly, there it was. A light. A warm, inviting light that seemed to call me away. I wanted so badly to go to it. I was going to it. I realised that this would be where my story ended. I would have an eternity to apologise to Edward later… I was going to leave him now.
That was okay though, right? Because I knew, he would be –
"Bella… I know this is a ridiculous request… but please hear me out, alright?"
His voice was broken, shaky and frightened. I froze, halting my movements towards the brightness and looking back at my own bed – at Edward. His head was bowed, and I could distinctly see small droplets of water fall on my bed sheets as he visibly shook.
And then… he spoke that one word that would make all the difference.
My own eyes widened, and I saw him take hold on my hand again. The light behind me was as warm as ever, but Edward's hand seemed so much more inviting. I couldn't leave him…
And suddenly there was a blinding light, and a quick rush of pain.
I stayed silent. For how long I have no idea. I couldn't breathe most of the time. Just thinking that, at any moment, Bella… could… just quit. Quit fighting, quit breathing. Quit living.
She could just go.
"Bella…" the sound of my own voice was so foreign to me, yet it reminded me of a time gone past. However, I can't remember pleading back then.
I took a deep breath, pulling myself together as I lifted my eyes once more. Her skin was pale, and her lips had lost there full pink colour I had come to love. I never knew how much I depended on those warm chocolate eyes until just then, but they were not there.
"I know. I know this is a ridiculous request, but…" I clenched my teeth together, forcing back any more tears. I would not let Bella see me so broken, "Please just hear me out, alright?"
Then, when I thought I'd have some long winded speech; some extensive plead; some heartfelt last goodbyes, only one word would leave my lips.
I was met by silence.
A part of me wanted to laugh. Had I actually believed she would just respond? Say 'Of course, Edward. Anything for you…'?
What a fool I am.
It was with that one last thought lingering in my mind that I would coast off into the most restless sleep I ever had to go through. At least I expected to. Just as my mind drifted off into unconsciousness, I heard it.
"… Ed… ward…"
Surely I was dreaming now.
The voice was followed by a weak, dry cough, and I felt my own heart skip a beat. Wordlessly I shot up from where my head was resting, and immediately, my eyes went in search of hers.
There they were.
It was a bright, warm morning. Beams of sunlight came through stain-glassed windows, illuminating the unusually welcoming Church. I however, had yet to see the sea of countless people on the other side of the large oak doors in front of me.
Making a few last adjustments to my dress, Alice continued to tsk and she tried to fix my unruly hair up into the bun she had made this morning, constantly asking me if I was purposely trying to destroy her 'masterpiece', as she had dubbed me.
I gave a small chuckle, and suddenly the pixie-haired girl was laughing along with me, though she did give me a half-hearted glare of warning.
"Remember, Bella. If you get a stain on that dress I will – "
"Personally rip it off of me and force me to go about my wedding in my undergarments." I filled in, looking rather angelic, if I do say so myself. A poor elderly woman, passing by at that moment, gave me a look of the purest horror, to which both myself and Alice could only laugh.
I stopped immediately when I felt a gentle kick. A small oomph left my lips, and I saw Alice's eyes sparkle. Her hand went to my very small bump of a stomach. No one would have known, unless we told them. We kept in within the family. Our daughter had a way to go yet before we would welcome her to the world. That was why we decided to have the wedding so early. We wanted everything to be perfect… before we would become parents.
However, secretly, I think Edward wanted nothing more than to tie me down before I could disappear. I smiled to myself at the thought and listened to Alice tell my baby that 'mommy has an important event to get through – in one piece', and to 'behave like an angel' while I was in there. She then looked up at me and smiled that full and bright smile that I found so contagious.
Just then, I felt a gentle hand on my shoulder. Turning, I met the gaze of the man that was to give me away today. My father.
"Are you ready, Bells?" he asked a little shyly, "You don't want to leave that poor boy up there on his own for too long."
Alice smirked at my side, "He has Emmet." She pointed out with a wink in my direction.
Charlie heaved a small sigh, "That's one of the reasons I think she should get up there quickly." He then grinned at Alice, and I could only nod.
Music. The large space filled with soft music to alert everyone that I was on my way. I wished they could have just kept it a secret until I was up there, with my back to the massive crowd that was surely in there. My father linked his arm through mine, giving me a gentle squeeze as he did so, and I felt stronger. In front of me, Alice waited for the doors to open.
And when they did…
My eyes widened. There had to be thousands there. Granted, that was a huge overstatement, but when all took their stand and turned towards me, I swear my heart stopped, before beating a hundred miles an hour. I gasped, and a furious blush found my cheeks. Alice cast a quick look back in my direction and tsked again, before laughing lightly and beginning her way up the altar ahead of us.
My father gently forced me to move my feet as he guided my up the straight and ever-so-long aisle. I wanted nothing more than to just look at my feet, but I remembered Alice threaten to scream the place down if she caught me in the act. Therefore, I stood tall, and pretended to feel strong, when really my knees felt like jelly.
Countless eyes gazed at me, and it was not until long after everything was over that I realised it had been out of admiration, not amusement. I could not meet anyone's eyes, though I knew that my mother was close to the front row absolutely in tears.
Needless to say, she was almost louder than the Wedding March. I wanted to laugh, but before the sound could leave my lips, I found them.
The only pair of eyes I wanted to see.
Edward stood tall at the top of the altar. His gaze of pure pride seemed outdone only by his expression of pure joy at seeing me. His eyes beckoned me up and suddenly the aisle was half its previous size, beside me Charlie was smiling. I could tell I was moving more eagerly now, and before I knew it I was finally up there, and Edward was now holding me.
Everyone took their seats, and just before the ceremony started Edward leaned in and whispered, "I love you." Stepping back, he gazed down at the bump I was slightly showing before beaming back up at me, "Both of you."
And it all began.
The sound startled me and I all but jumped from my bed. Safe to say Rosalie had found the nightgown I personally designed for her… and Emmet. She would find me soon. Falling back down on the bed, I sighed, smiling at what I had just seen.
They had a good, long, happy future ahead of them all right.
A/N: Long wait, but I'm done! Hope you guys liked it, it was like my baby for so long that I was almost sad to finish, but I'm relieved too! I might have actually danced around the room when I was finally finished the epilogue =P
Thank you so much to everyone who has stuck through with me on this story, through the good chapters and the bad/terrible ones, and still reviewed! You know who you are, and you guys mean the world to me! =D
Please give me your views on the ending, good or bad, happy or furious! Though I hope none of you feel the latter!
Thanks again, and I hope to hear from you all again sometime soon :)