Paved With Good Intentions
Disclaimer: These characters belong to Stephanie Meyer; I'm merely expressing my admiration for her work.
Summary: If you loved someone, how much would you be willing to sacrifice?
A/N: This story takes place just prior to the opening of Breaking Dawn.
"I'm not sure about this." Tilting my head back to what seemed an impossibly steep angle, I stared uncertainly at the Ferris wheel towering above me.
The crooked smile that I loved so much flashed briefly across his face. "Ferris wheel accidents are rare, but I'm sure you could find a way to accomplish it."
"Ha, ha," I replied, giving him a not so subtle jab with my elbow. I might as well have pushed against a brick wall.
He sighed. "I'm disappointed, Bella. Do you really think I would let anything happen to you?"
"No," I muttered sourly.
He lifted one perfect brow. "Then what's the problem?"
I wasn't about to tell him that the sheer height of the ride intimidated me. Wasn't I the girl who had once jumped off a cliff? Realizing quickly that my thoughts were headed in a direction I definitely didn't want them to go, I countered his question with one of my own. "Why does it matter so much to you?"
"Who says it matters to me?" he replied, a suspiciously innocent look on his face.
I shook my head, laughing. "Edward, it's all you've talked about since we found out the carnival was coming to town, and you haven't taken your eyes off it since we walked through the gate."
"I resent that accusation," he protested, his voice wounded. "How could I be looking at the Ferris wheel when my beautiful fiancée is standing right beside me?"
As usual, his choice of words made me wince. It was ridiculous to call me beautiful in a world where the Cullens existed, and as for fiancée… "If you're trying to convince me to ride that thing, there are certain topics you might want to avoid."
His lips flattened into a harsh line, and he looked away.
I was instantly ashamed of myself. He had been so excited about the carnival, and we'd been having a good time before I reminded him once again that I was less than thrilled about our upcoming wedding. "Sorry," I mumbled.
He took a deep breath before turning back to face me. "It doesn't matter."
It did matter, but this wasn't the time or place. Tugging gently on the hand that was holding mine, I started walking toward the line for the Ferris wheel. "Come on, then."
He followed slowly, his eyes still a bit troubled as he said, "We don't have to do this."
"Yes we do," I replied firmly, letting the cool strength of his hand push away my fears. "We're going to do this, and you're going to tell me why it matters so much." The line started to move, and I walked forward determinedly, knowing all along that he could have stopped me if he really wanted to. He didn't; Edward was even better than I was at playing normal.
We reached the front of the line and made our way to our seats as directed by the attendant. The Ferris wheel started with a jolt and stopped every few moments as more seats were filled. We rose into the night sky, a gentle summer breeze blowing through my hair and clearing my mind of the tension left far below on the ground. Edward put his arm around me, and I tucked myself against the marble perfection of his chest. The ride stopped again, leaving us at the very top of the circle with the lights of the town glowing softly around us.
"Bella?" Edward whispered. His long, white hand cupped my cheek and gently turned me to face him. Eyes sparkling, he murmured, "This is why it matters." Then his lips were on mine, pressing tenderly. It was a romantic kiss, the kind an old-fashioned gentleman would give the love of his life. Although I would have sworn it wasn't possible, I fell just a little bit more in love with him in that moment.
The ride passed in a blur of soft touches and gentle sighs. By the time we reached the ground, I had to cling to Edward's arm to keep from sliding into a puddle at his feet. Chuckling, he tightened his grip on me. "No fainting. It's time for the next thing on my list, and I want you awake so that I can impress you."
He did that without even trying. Wait a minute. "What do you mean, the next thing on your list?" I asked nervously.
Grinning, he pulled me into a run. "Come on."
Of course my feet got tangled up when we reached the pretzel cart and again when we passed the mini-rollercoaster, but he kept me from falling. Laughing, I tried in vain to pull him to a stop. "Edward! Where are we going?"
"Right…here." He gestured with his free hand as he turned to look at me, his eyes filled with excitement. "What do you think?"
I stared at the carny game in front of us. "Um…balloons and darts?"
That grin of his really was wicked. "Exactly."
I gave him a considering look, trying to decide if I should argue about the money he was surely about to spend on me. Then another thought struck me. "Is it fair for you to play this game? Wouldn't that be cheating?"
He scowled. "And you think the callers never cheat?"
I shrugged; he had a point.
He pulled me to the counter, money already in hand. "Start picking out your prize." I looked at the first row of small trinkets, only to hear him sigh. "A little faith would be nice, Bella." He nodded his head toward the row of grand prizes.
Five minutes later, we were strolling through the dusty rows of booths, my arms wrapped around a giant stuffed lion. Edward smiled down at me. "Are you sure you don't want me to carry it?"
I shook my head, absurdly pleased with my prize. "No, thank you. This," I buried my face in the lion's fur, "is this softest, cuddliest, sweetest gift I've ever been given." I pulled back to rub the lion's nose with my own.
Edward mumbled something I didn't catch.
I managed to tear my gaze away from the adorable lion in front of me and focus on the sculpted lion instead. "I'm sorry; did you say something?"
He growled. "I can't believe I'm jealous of a stuffed animal."
My delighted laughter pealed into the night. When I finally regained control of myself, I gasped, "So what's next?"
"I thought we could try the carousel…"
Edward's voice faded into the background as a sign over one of the tents caught my attention. I stared at the faded letters, pale purple on midnight black, as a shiver worked its way across my soul. The fear was quick, unreasonable. Every instinct screamed for me to run, even as a quiet voice deep inside my heart whispered that I had to stay.
"Bella? What's wrong?" I could hear Edward's voice now, but it sounded wrong, as if it had traveled a very long distance. He was shaking me. "Bella!"
I shook my head, startled. "Nothing. I…nothing." I pointed at the sign. "I know you have a list, but could we go there?"
"Madame Fontaine's Fortunes?" His voice was filled with amused derision as he read. "You might not have noticed, but we have a perfectly good fortune teller at home."
"Not right now we don't," I countered, thinking with a great deal of trepidation about the Paris shopping trip that Alice, Rosalie, and Esme were currently enjoying. Why did I have a feeling that wedding shops were part of the itinerary? Pushing the thought away, I concentrated on the sloped awning in front of me. I didn't understand why, but somehow I knew that it was imperative that I enter that tent. "Think of it as an experiment. We'll see what she has to say, and then Alice can prove it all wrong later." Looking up at him, I forced a teasing smile. "Maybe she'll see a tall, dark, and handsome man in my future."
He wrapped his arm around my waist, pulling me close. "She'd be mostly right." The slightest hint of sorrow crept into his eyes before he blinked it away. "Shall we?" With the perfect manners that were as much a part of him as his inner darkness, he escorted me across the path.
We entered the tent and were greeted with a quiet, "Good evening." As my eyes adjusted to the dim lighting, a diminutive figure came to stand before us. "I'm so glad you've chosen to visit me." Her voice was a smoky alto, perfect for her chosen profession and yet edged with a steely practicality that made it easy to trust her. "It is my honor to read your future."
Edward snorted, too quietly for human ears to hear. The only reason I knew that he did it was because I recognized the sarcastic twist of his lips. "Be nice," I whispered.
The woman studied first my face, then Edward's. Finally her eyes returned to me. "Forgive me, but I only see one client at a time."
Edward's stance grew protective. "That's not an option," he said brusquely.
Again I was overcome with the feeling, the absolute certainty, that this was something I had to do. Slipping away from his arm, I said, "It's fine, Edward." By some miracle of effort, my voice was steady.
His worried gaze swept my face. "Bella."
"I'll be fine. Here," I said, handing him the stuffed lion. "Take Eddie and wait for me outside, please?"
He stared at me, horrified. "Eddie? You are not naming him Eddie."
"Go outside, and I'll think about it." I grinned at him, hoping he would take the bait.
For whatever reason, it worked. With a threatening glare in the woman's direction, he stalked out of the tent.
Her husky laughter washed over me. "My goodness, he certainly is protective of you, isn't he?" Seeing my irritation, she continued, "Please don't be offended; I think it's sweet." Holding out her hand to me, she said, "I'm Fontaine."
I shook her hand. "Bella Swan."
She smiled. "Welcome, Bella. Why don't we have a seat?"
I followed her across the room, taking the opportunity to look at her as she led the way. She wasn't at all what I thought a carnival fortune teller would look like. Besides the rather obvious tent and dramatic name, the only concession she seemed to make was that she was dressed completely in black. Even that didn't quite fit the preconceived mold; her slim pants and expensive looking turtleneck could have come from an Ann Taylor catalog. Short, smooth black hair framed an intense, logical face and intelligent blue eyes. The overall package only reinforced my instinctive reaction that she was the real thing.
We sat down at a small table, and she leaned her cheek against her hand as she studied me. Finally she sighed. "If I were telling your future, I would say that a very big decision lies ahead of you. It will not be easy, and you will have to hope that love guides you, and those around you, every step of the way. But I'm not going to tell you your future."
"You're not?" I asked, even as I knew that what she was about to say was the real reason that I had stepped inside her tent.
"No," she answered in her no-nonsense voice. "I'm not. Instead, I'm offering you something that I rarely give to anyone, because it's much costlier."
"I don't have much money," I replied nervously.
"That's not what I meant, although I think you will find my fee quite reasonable." She mentioned a price that was steep but manageable, if I dipped into my savings. She looked at me for another long moment before continuing. "Bella, what would you say if I told you that I could grant you a wish?"
Almost before my mind had processed her words, I found myself replying. "Any wish?"
She smiled faintly and a little bit sadly. "No. Granting a wish is a very difficult thing, you understand. There are laws at work, universal facts and truths that can only be stretched so far. The wish I can grant you will have plenty of power, but it will not be absolute. You will have to make some choices, and it will not be without…"
"…cost," I finished for her.
She nodded. "Yes."
She didn't say anything after that, and so we sat across from each other, thinking about facts and truths. What kinds of wishes were important enough that they would challenge the laws of the universe? I could only think of one, and I shied away from it in sorrow, in longing…in pain.
Abruptly I stood to my feet. "I have to go. Thank you for your offer, but I don't think it's the right thing for me, for us."
"Of course," she replied smoothly. "If you change your mind, I'll be here until the carnival is over."
I nodded, although I had no intention of returning. "Thank you," I said again. I left the tent, almost running in my haste, only to find Edward standing right at the entrance, his hand raised to push the flap aside. He took my arm and pulled me from the room, his face a mixture of worry and anger. "You heard," I said quietly.
"Yes." His voice was grim, unyielding. "Absurd, of course."
I nodded. "You're right. It was a stupid idea."
His anguished eyes searched mine, trying as he always did to read the mystery of my thoughts. "What would you wish for?" he asked.
"Nothing," I replied firmly, trying to convince us both. "Why would I wish for anything, when I already have the only thing in the universe worth wishing for?" I reached up to press my lips against his, and he couldn't help but soften ever so slightly in response.
I took his hand in mine and smiled determinedly. "Let's get back to your list, Edward. You promised me adventures, you know." When he remained unconvinced, I continued, "I'm sure Eddie would be glad to ride the carousel with me."
After a long moment, he chuckled and handed me the lion. "Eddie needs to learn his place. We will ride the carousel together, and he can watch from the rail." We walked away, his arm looped around my shoulders and an uneasy truce between us.