I pulled my tongue between my lips, biting on it in concentration and narrowed my eyes against the glare and set to my task.
Sweat sprung upon my brow, and I briefly wondered why I had decided to do this again.
"Bella! Are you done yet?"
I smiled. Right. That's why.
Because I had Edward Masen waiting for me just a few feet away.
He sat broodingly on one of the low, campus benches, his arms crossed over his chest. He was tapping out a rhythm against one of the iron, bench legs with one aluminum crutch.
He needed crutches to get around, because his equilibrium was still a little off. His dizzy spells had lessened, but he was still in physical therapy for his coordination.
He was improving by leaps and bounds.
"Bella!" He whined again.
I laughed and turned to look at him, my hands akimbo. "Keep your shirt on!" I called back, "I'm almost done."
He chuckled musically, "Do I really need to keep it on? It's kind of hot out here."
"Yes!" I screeched, my face burning.
He laughed again and lifted one of his crutches, twirling it around like he was on a drill team. He braced his against his shoulder and pretended like it was a machinegun—complete with war noises and everything.
I giggled and mopped my forehead with the back of my hand, "You're like a little boy trapped in a grown man's body."
"No, my love, I assure you, I am a man," he replied cheekily.
My face heated again and I threw a handful of mulch at him.
He laughed, "I can hear you blushing from all the way over here."
I scowled at him and went back to my work.
"Do you want to go to Mario's once you're done over there?"
"Sure," I replied, biting my lip, "he'd be happy to see you out and about."
Edward smirked, "You think he'd give me my job back once I don't have to use these wretched things anymore?"
"Maybe," I shrugged, "I'll put in a good word for you."
"Thanks, Honey," he cooed.
I rolled my eyes and turned to blow him a kiss over my shoulder. He caught it and stowed it in his pocket. I shook my head at his silliness. What a pair of cornballs we were.
I went back to sitting cross-legged near the oak.
The hot mulch bit into the backs of my thighs not covered by the denim of my shorts.
My fingers traced over the silkily rough bark of the oak. The smell of the sap reminded me of my childhood. Countless hours spent playing cops and robbers with my brothers.
I smiled to myself and felt the rough patterns coupled with the lows dips of graffiti.
A wide arc of some rambling Thoreau quote that some literature major had burned into the side of the tree with what looked to be a lighter. And the abundance of initials and hearts, most notably JW & AB.
I smiled, still hacking way at the bark, my fingers coated in copious amounts of sap.
Edward sighed dramatically, "Bella, you've been at it for twenty minutes!"
"Leave me alone, this has to be perfect; we're going to bring our children here and show them this spot."
Edward smiled, "So you plan on having kids with me?"
I pursed my lips, hoping he couldn't see my blush, "Yes," I mumbled.
Edward pumped one fist into the air and gave me a wining smile, "Thank you, Bella, for giving me my family back."
"It's just you and me for right now, Mister," I said, jabbing my pocket knife in his direction for emphasis.
"I know," he replied happily, "but we have all the time in the world to start a family."
I couldn't help but smile back. With Edward so exuberant, so alive, I was in a constant state of continuous joy.
What a turn around from a year ago, when I had wanted to curl up and die.
Being romanced by Edward had brought such light to me. I had had no idea that life could be so fulfilling.
Every moment of every day in the beginning was consumed by his rehabilitation. There were days when he wanted to give up, but I wouldn't let him. He was in me thicker than blood and deeper than my soul. He was me and I was him.
It was so strange to think that I was whole through that duality.
"Bella," he called again.
"Yes?" I asked.
"I love you."
I smiled and my stomach felt like a flock of birds had been released into it.
I never tired of hearing that.
"As I love you."
Nor tired of saying it.
"Bella," he said sweetly.
I groaned, "Yes?"
I wondered if he realized that constantly badgering me hindered my progress.
"We just had breakfast an hour ago," I retorted.
"I want pizza," he said.
"I was right; you're just a little boy trapped in a man's body."
"Just because I have a healthy appetite doesn't mean I'm juvenile," he quipped.
And just like that, we settled into a round of playful banter.
Edward smiled and started tapping his hand against the iron armrest to the tune of and old, Elvis song. He began to croon the melody in his rich tenor, keeping time with the hard taps of his ring against the metal arm.
"You'd suck at being an Elvis impersonator," I teased.
He smiled crookedly at me. "I don't have that good of control over my hips just yet."
"I don't think you'll ever have that good of control, Sweetheart."
He fake pouted, "You've just ruined my dreams, love."
"I thought you dreamed of being with me forever," I retorted.
"Oh, I do," he assured. "Are you done yet?"
I chuckled softly at his boyish impatience. "Almost."
He smiled breathtakingly.
"Do you remember what the first thing I asked you was?" He asked suddenly.
I thought about it for a moment. "I…I don't remember."
Edward laughed, "I asked if you were going to leave her mark on that tree."
"Oh!" I exclaimed, getting a head-rush from the onslaught of memories. It had rained that day, I remembered. And I think I had just come from Professor Cullen's class. Edward had climbed the tree that day.
Fate started stalking me that day.
"Hey, Edward, why did you talk to me that day?" I asked, quite curious. He could have remained quiet and kept to himself. I would never have noticed his presence.
He leaned forward to pick up his crutches and settled them lazily under his shoulders. His face went slack as he thought.
After a while, he said, "There was something about your gait that made you seem so insufferably sad, and it startled me; but, when you got closer there was a certain set to your mouth and an openness to yours eyes that reminded me of my brother. You captivated me, Bella, and I think I fell in love with you that day, and have fallen a little more every day since."
It never ceased to amaze me, the eloquence with which he expressed himself very much like a turn-of-the-century gentleman.
I smiled, "I think I loved you from the beginning, too. It just took me a while to figure it out."
He hobbled over to me and prodded me in the back with a crutch, "It sure did."
I frowned sheepishly, "I think I made up for it."
"Oh, you did," he replied, lowering himself at my side and kissing my cheek. "So what did you carve?"
I smiled and laced my fingers with his. I raised our entwined hands so that we could press our fingers against the newly carved bark together.
I, Isabella Swan, had fallen in love. And it was so bizarre. I had once likened the electricity to something like licking a battery. It was better than that, a deeper zing straight to the heart.
I could feel the blood rushing to my fingertips, tingling in places were Edward's skin brushed haphazardly against mine. The cold metal of his platinum ring was a stark contrast to the sweaty, sticky mess of our fingers.
Edward smiled, and kissed my cheek. "I'm glad you didn't make it corny."
I scrunched my nose up and turned to face him, "I couldn't make it corny."
"Well, I'm very glad that we're not clichéd and don't have our initials carved in a heart with an arrow through it."
"Would you have liked that better?" I asked, leaning my head on his shoulder.
"Nope, this fits us better," Edward sighed happily, resting his head against mine.
I jumped up and dusted my shorts off, and offered him a hand. He pulled himself up and settled his crutches under his arms.
"To Mario's?" He asked, staring at me with those insufferable, green eyes.
I nodded and settled in next to him as he made graceful sweeping motions with his crutches, jetting forward in long strides. I moved in closer. I twisted my rings around my finger, loving feeling them as much as I could.
We had our rough patches, because it wasn't some children's story about love. We had something real, because we were human. We still fought, I still had problems with who I was and heck, sometimes I still had the urge to punch him. But we did love each other.
And the greatest of these is love.
We left the tree behind that day, with our little carved missive stark and bright against the dark, richness of the bark.
Our initials carved in the loops of the infinity symbol. That sideways eight with BSM and EAM carved within. Our future right where we had our beginning.
So that's it. For people who didn't figure this out--it's a year after Edward's accident almost two after they first met. THEY ARE MARRIED NOW. If the whole really obnoxious mention of rings didn't click, they are married. Hence why Bella carved BSM on the tree. Her initials now stand for Bella Swan-Masen. Not Bella Marie Swan. So that's not a type-o. ;)
I've said it once and I'll say it again, THERE WILL NOT BE A SEQUEL. Quite frankly, I don't think this story needs it. They've already had enough drama to deal with, methinks.
Thank you so much to everyone who reviewed this story/added it to their story alerts/added it to their favourites lists. What have you. I'm so excited about that!! I really appreciate all the support. It really means a lot to me!
If you guys want to read more from me add me to your Author Alerts! I have a couple of one-shots out and I also have another full-length completed story called Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. And if you'v read my one-shot Red Eyes I'm going to continue that pretty soon!
So, thanks again guys!