The world had changed. It was subtle, as always, but each year had brought with it new developments. New machines, new medicines, new leaders and ideas. New hopes and dreams.
He spent his years exploring to the ends of the world, always hoping to find something that compared even briefly to her - that made him feel half as alive as she did. Of course, even with all of the amazing new things that he saw, nothing ever did. He felt as empty and as hollow as the day he had left her.
Still, there was comfort to be found in the few things that never changed. The sun still set each night and painted the sky crimson. He knew that it would rise again in the morning, regardless of how dark and cold his night was. The seasons still changed and every autumn he tried to be in a place where he could watch the leaves change. She always said it was her favorite time of the year.
People still hoped for the best. They put their faith in the things that they couldn't see, and believed wholeheartedly, despite any evidence to the contrary. Even as the years passed, people found reasons to laugh, to smile, and to cry. He saw horror in the form of war and terrorism, and saw beauty in the innocence of children and simple acts of kindness.
Babies were still born and the elderly still died. Science had made incredible advances but death still chased at the heels of every human. He had seen babies born, and watched them grow. Each day they were closer to that moment of eternal rest. Death.
And that was what brought him home to Forks. He had lived in many places, in many different worlds, but home is where the heart is, and he had left his in Forks nearly seventy years ago.
The town itself hadn't changed much. Most of the original buildings were still there. The cemetery had grown larger and he knew that if he walked the green lawn and read the headstones, he would see the names of people he once called friends. It pained him to know that the graveyard would be home to another headstone, and this one would bear the name of the one woman he had ever loved.
He parked his car near the hospital and the memories suddenly overwhelmed him. He closed his eyes and let them wash over him, burning him alive as they did.
Bella smiling, the sun glinting off of her hair as she playfully ran from him. Bella laughing at him from the passenger seat of his car. Bella stumbling and then looking up at him, her brown eyes warm with gratitude, as he caught her. Those same eyes, flooded with tears, clutching at him for comfort. Bella's lips, her desperate kisses, the little noises she made when he kissed her back just as passionately.
Edward opened his eyes and swallowed the lump in his throat. His hands were still on the steering wheel and he clenched them tightly. He owed this to her. He had to see her one last time, to say goodbye. To thank her for giving him so much, enough memories and love to last him through eternity. It would rip his heart out, but he knew it would give her some small measure of comfort. And for Bella, to make her happy, he would do anything.
The scent of antiseptic still clung to the hospital. Edward walked through it slowly and for a moment let himself believe that he was here to visit Carlisle. It was easy to fool himself into thinking that he still lived in Forks, Bella young and vibrant at his side.
Edward knew that in the reception room there was a photo and a plaque in honor of the late Dr. Carlisle Cullen, in appreciation for the lives he had saved in his time at Forks. Since their time in Forks, Carlisle and Esme had relocated dozens of times, but still left their mark on each community they touched.
He didn't need to ask for directions to her room. The sound of her heartbeat had haunted his memories; its gentle cadence now was like a beacon to her. Edward took the stairs to the third floor. He walked slowly and tried to prepare himself.
He had had decades to prepare himself for this moment, of course. Still, he could not process the surreal idea that he was going to see Bella for the last time. Over the years he had stopped in Forks to check on her. Each visit was just as painful as the last. Time did not heal this wound; each glimpse of Bella twisted the knife in his heart deeper.
Edward made sure she never saw him. He watched from a distance as she graduated from college with her masters degree. He saw her on her wedding day and hoped, selfishly, that the shadow in her eyes was the memory of their love. He saw Bella bring home her first child from the hospital. He watched as Charlie met his grandson, born from Bella's third child.
As the years passed Bella grew up. She became even more beautiful as she matured into a woman. Edward was there for Charlie's funeral, hidden as always but still close. Threads of gray wove into Bella's hair and her skin wore years of laughter and happiness in the form of wrinkles and lines around her lips.
He saw her comfort her own children at her husband's funeral. His Bella was still there, still inside of that strong woman, but now there was more of her. She touched so many people. He watched her gather her family close at Christmas, her face so full of love and happiness. It was at that moment that he finally believed he had done the right thing by giving her up.
Edward pushed open the door that led from the stairwell into the hospital corridor. He followed the sound of her heart, willing him closer with each beat. He paused at the waiting room and looked at the huddle of crying women, her daughters. Sitting in the corner were two younger girls and one of them was a teenager. She looked startlingly like the Bella he had first fallen in love with. She was Bella's first granddaughter.
Edward watched them for a moment longer, grateful that she had so many people who loved her. He continued on his way and stopped outside of her door. His hand grazed the smooth surface of the door. He closed his eyes and fought against the pain welling up inside of him.
"I'm sorry, Bella isn't accepting any more visitors," a voice said sympathetically.
Edward turned to face the nurse and she gasped.
"You must be him!" she whispered. At Edward's look of confusion the elderly nurse walked around the station and touched his arm. "She's finished saying her goodbyes. She said she wants to be alone now, with her memories, unless the most beautiful man I've ever seen stops by."
Edward couldn't help but laugh. How well Bella knew him. She expected him.
"Edward?" the nurse confirmed. He nodded and she smiled, a bit sadly. "You mean so much to her. I'm glad you're here."
He nodded again, his voice lost, and let her go ahead of him to the door of Bella's hospital room. She knocked once and opened the door.
"Bella? You have a visitor," she said softly, and then she gave him a gentle shove inside. Bella.
Edward felt his heart shatter. She was so tiny, so frail. He had seen her just last year and she didn't look this breakable. He should have changed her. He should have changed her and never let go of her. The despair choked him.
"Oh, Bella," he said thickly.
The old woman gasped weakly at the sight of him. Her eyes watered with tears but she smiled brightly and brought a hand to her throat.
"Edward," she whispered. He heard the door shut as the nurse gave them privacy, and he was by her side in an instant.
He delicately picked up one of her small hands, the skin papery and spotted with age marks. He brought it to his lips and pressed a kiss onto it, closing his eyes as he breathed her in.
"I've missed you so much," Bella whispered tearfully. "Thank you… This, well it's what I wanted more than anything."
Edward took her hand and threaded his fingers through hers, amazed still at how fragile she was. He looked down at her in awe. He didn't see her white hair. The deep wrinkles she wore were invisible to him.
He saw his Bella. Her chestnut hair fanned out on the pillow. Her brown eyes glinted mischievously and her full lips smiled teasingly. She was vibrant and full of life. Her eyes shone with love for Edward, and Edward alone.
"I'm sorry, Bella," he whispered, appalled at his weakness. He was crying. Without tears, but crying nonetheless. "I wish…I wish I could just go back."
She raised one trembling arm and he bent down to her, resting his head on her chest. Her fingers tangled in his hair and it felt so right - so familiar, so heartbreakingly comforting.
"I had a wonderful life, Edward. You gave me an amazing gift," she said gently. "But I never stopped loving you. Not even for a moment."
He closed his eyes tightly and she held him just like she used to. How could he have given this up? His noble plan to let her go and lead a normal life suddenly seemed like a horrible mistake. It was all leading up to this moment - this panicked, terrible moment, and now there was no time.
"I love you, Bella," he said brokenly, raising his head to look at her. "You know that, don't you?"
"Of course," she laughed and smoothed his hair back. Her expression sobered and she studied him seriously. "I had forgotten how beautiful you are. I knew, but remembering isn't the same as seeing. And me... what you must think of me, an old woman now."
"No," he smiled, shaking his head. "My Bella. Always, my beautiful, beautiful, Bella." He watched with bittersweet emotions as a hint of color rose to her nearly translucent cheeks. "And I can still make you blush."
Bella's lips turned up in a smile and she squeezed his hand tighter.
"Stay with me," she whispered.
Edward nodded, fighting back his sobs. He slid one hand underneath her neck and the other under her knees, and gently moved her over on the bed. He climbed in next to her and Bella cuddled into him.
"It feels like always," she said into his chest. "Like you never left."
He couldn't answer and instead held her a little tighter. He could hear her heart straining to pump her sweet blood throughout her body. Her lungs whistled with each breath she took. His instincts told him now that it wouldn't be long. There was so much to say, so much that she needed to know, but he couldn't even speak.
"Do you regret it?" Bella asked. She lifted her head to look at his face and he could see the effort it cost her.
"Were you happy?"
"Yes," Bella whispered.
"Then I don't regret it," Edward responded strongly. "I just wish that I could have given you it all."
She didn't respond and they fell into silence. He breathed in her scent, trying to memorize it, and the sound of her breathing, and the way she felt in his arms again after so long. The pain in his chest increased with each second as her body grew weaker. There wasn't enough time. This was a mistake. Panic clawed at his throat.
"I felt you," Bella said suddenly. "Every time. Whenever you were here, I could tell. I could feel you."
"I had to make sure you were okay," he said hoarsely.
"I know," Bella smiled. "I love you, Edward."
"I love you, too, Bella," he said fiercely. There weren't words strong enough to tell her how much. There wasn't enough time left to tell her how much. "More than anything, ever."
"Kiss me once more?" she requested softly.
Silly Bella, as if he had ever been able to deny her a kiss.
"Anything you want," Edward replied, brokenly.
He tilted her face to his and pressed his cool lips to hers, remembering their first kiss and every kiss in between, from then until now. He felt her smile and savored the warmth. She was right, it was just like it always had been.
Bella tucked her head down into his neck and rested her palm on his chest, right above where his heart was. He covered her hand with one of his. He held her like that, until her heart began faltering and her breathing grew raspy.
She whispered her love once more and he whispered his back, fervently pressing kisses to the side of her head.
Edward cradled Bella against him, sobs escaping his throat as her lungs rattled once more and her body grew still. The room suddenly felt empty, and he knew Bella, his first and only love, was gone.
- x -
Take a breath, I'll pull myself together
Just another step until I reach the door
You'll never know the way,
it tears me up inside to see you
- x -
I wish that I could tell you something to take it all away
Sometimes I wish I could save you
And there's so many things that I want you know
I won't give up till it's over
If it takes you forever, I want you to know
- x -
When I hear your voice,
it's drowning in the whispers
You're just skin and bones
There's nothing left to take
And no matter what I do,
I can't make you feel better
If only I could find the answer
to help me understand
- x -
I want you to know that
If you fall, stumble down,
I'll pick you up off the you lose faith in you,
I'll give you strength to pull through
Tell me you won't give up,
Cause I'll be waiting here if you fall
You know I'll be there for you
If only I could find the answer,
To take it all away
- x -
I wish I could save you...
I want you to know...
I wish I could save you...
- x -
"Save You" by Simple Plan
did you cry?
i did :(
EDIT: On my profile, there is a link to a Twilight fan video set to "Save You" by Simple Plan. It's definitely worth a watch, especially if you just read this story. LOVE YA!