Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight or the lovely characters. Thank you to Meyer for creating this wonderful world in which we all take such delight. This chapter title was taken from the epilogue in her initial work. The words are mine. Rated M.
a/n: This story is dedicated to all my readers. I have lived by your praise, been inspired by your comments, and leaned on your support. I never imagined that this story would take me where it has, but I have very much enjoyed the ride. Thanks and love always. Please enjoy.
Epilogue: An Occasion
Bella found herself staring at her ring quite often. She liked the way it caught the light only to shatter it into a multitude of glittering colors. She liked the weight of it on her finger. She liked the way she often noticed Edward's eyes focused on it when they sat together at lunch or when he held her in his arms at night. And she liked what it stood for. Her future. Her love. Her eternity.
They hadn't told anyone.
The Cullens, of course, knew. And Bella couldn't help but blush at Esme's warm, effusive expressions and Carlisle's proud smiles whenever Edward brought her over, arm always wrapped securely around her waist. She'd never been so happy in her entire life.
Jessica Stanley was the first to notice. Of course it was Stanley.
Edward and Bella had decided to wait until winter holiday to share the news with her family. Renee would be visiting for a few days, and it seemed only fitting to tell Charlie and her mother of their engagement at the same time.
They knew then, after this announcement, that word would spread, and they were prepared to deal with it. After all, high school gossip seemed overwhelmingly trivial at this point.
Still, they had not discussed what they would do should the news leak out before they'd told Renee and Charlie.
In retrospect, Bella decided that they probably should have considered the possibility. The ring, though tasteful and elegant, was not exactly inconspicuous.
Regardless, she'd been sitting in English one afternoon, drumming her fingers on the desk, not really paying attention to much of anything when Stanley's shrill voice cut into her reverie.
"Oh my God! Oh...my...God! Is that a-- You and Edward! Really? Oh my..."
Bella flushed crimson and shrugged. Jessica couldn't seem to formulate a complete sentence, and she certainly wasn't about to help her along.
Bella smiled and wondered what Edward might be picking up from the exchange, but she said nothing, feigning interest in whatever Mr. Berty was currently lecturing about.
At the end of the period, Jessica caught Bella's arm as they were collecting their things.
"Geez, Bells, it's gorgeous. He's really serious about this, huh?
"We love each other," Bella responded simply, not bothering to clarify exactly what 'this' was.
Rumors spread like wildfire, but what more could be expected in a small town high school? The Cullens, of course, were very much used to rumors. And, in this case, the truth was so much stranger than fiction that they hardly paid them much mind at all.
At times however, the stories were downright hilarious. Edward and Bella were in Edward's room one afternoon working on an Biology assignment when Emmett bounded in, a delicious glint in his golden eyes.
"You have to hear the one I heard this afternoon!" He paused dramatically, continuing only after he had their undivided attention. "Bella's pregnant of course..."
Eye roll. They'd certainly heard that one before.
"With twins," he continued, then paused for dramatic effect.
"Yep. Heard that one too," Edward interjected.
"But evidently, Jazz is the father."
At this, they all broke into laughter.
"Sorry Eddie," Bella teased, "I didn't want you to find out this way."
He smirked and kissed her hard. "Well, I heard," he began once he pulled away, "that you're really in love with Alice, and our parents are marrying us off before anything too serious develops with that relationship."
"Your both wrong," Em followed, leaning in conspiratorially. "It's because of the notorious Cullen orgies. It's only right that Bella be officially part of the family before she joins in.
Within a few months though, it would be clear that Bella was neither pregnant nor leaving Edward for Alice. And the rumors would surely die down again.
Over the holidays, Esme and Carlisle invited Charlie, Renee and Phil to a dinner party in honor of Edward and Bella's announcement.
Bella had offered to cook, but she desperately wanted the Cullens to be present for the day of reckoning, as she'd taken to calling the looming event.
Esme, however, insisted on hosting because she refused to allow Bella prepare a meal in her and her new fiance's honor. "Besides," she added, Charlie's dining room isn't quite big enough for everyone, and it will be much easier to conceal the fact that many of us aren't eating if I'm serving."
Bella smiled thankfully and couldn't help but acquiesce, but she still held several qualms about the evening.
"Renee is going to kill me," she'd half-joked to Edward one afternoon. "Teenage marriage is not high on her list of favorite things."
Edward had silenced her with a kiss. "It could be worse you know," he added with a smirk.
"Yea, yea. I could be pregnant, or hooking up with Alice, or, I dunno, a vampire or something."
"You're rather incorrigible at times."
"Well, my maturity level is lagging a few decades behind yours."
"True," he'd agreed. "I am marrying a child."
"But you love me."
"Beyond a doubt."
Renee was thrilled to meet Esme and Carlisle "officially." While she'd had the opportunity to speak with both of them during Bella's hospital stay after the accident, the circumstances hadn't exactly been suitable for thorough introductions.
Charlie, of course, had spent ample time with Dr. Cullen over the years, as it were only natural that the Chief of Police and the hospital's Chief of Medical Staff would be thrown together regularly for work related obligations. He regarded the dinner as a necessary and rather unavoidable inconvenience that he would have to face sooner than later if his daughter insisted on continuing her romantic liaison with the youngest Cullen son.
Bella was equally reluctant about the whole affair. Edward, on the other hand was positively thrilled to finally share the news of their engagement with everyone.
When it came down to it, the announcement went better than expected
Cocktails were served, and Renee prattled amicably with Esme about her interior design pursuits. Renee had always been artistically inclined, and the two shared quite a few passions. Although Renee was flighty and mercurial, while Esme was grounded and driven, their differences only led to interesting conversation, and the two enjoyed the company of the other immensely.
Charlie, Carlisle, and Phil spoke business and sports and, while the conversation did not flow as freely as the women, there was no animosity or uncomfortable lulls in their socialization.
Soon dinner was served, and Bella had to take several deep breaths to steady herself.
This was it.
Edward clasp her hand firmly in his and placed his free palm on the small of her back as he led her to the table, bending down to briefly brush cold lips against her temple. "Calm down, love" he murmured. "I can fell your pulse, you know. Anxious, slippery, and hot... It makes me want you."
"I'm yours," she managed through clenched teeth. "But we need to get through our dinner first."
"It will be fine," he assured her quietly.
"Easy for you to say," Bella responded under her breath. "Your parents and siblings were quite ready to throw us a celebratory party the first time we had sex."
"True," he smirked, all crooked and sexy. "And it was certainly an event worth celebrating. But they are here now to support us. They love us. Your parents love us. And most importantly, we love each other. This announcement, Bella, is only a formality. Our future is already in place, and everything, love, is perfect."
Bella couldn't help but relax a bit at that. Edward leaned in to kiss her once more, and they took their seats at the table.
After the first course was cleared, Edward raised his glass for a toast. Bella focused on not hyperventilating.
He looked at her briefly, topaz eyes mesmerizing, and took her hand under the table. Then he spoke.
"We are so pleased to have everyone here tonight to celebrate the holidays together. I am reminded on a daily basis as to how lucky I am to have such a wonderful, loving family. And Bella, that you have become such an integral part of my life over these past months has been nothing short of extraordinary."
Esme looked like she was already about to cry had she been able to do so. She held her husband's hand tightly and looked at her son with pure love and pride.
Alice giggled knowingly and gripped Jasper's forearm so hard he grimaced. Emmett clapped Edward's back in support, and Rosalie looked as though she was being forced to endure a Biology lesson on the reproductive cycle of fruit flies.
Charlie, poor thing, had no clue what was about to happen, and Bella took a sip of water, knowing full well what was.
Edward continued. "We are here to celebrate the holidays, and I am grateful to have our families together during this time. We do, however, have something else to celebrate tonight. As you all know, Bella and I have applied to several summer academic programs. And, now it seems quite certain that we will both be accepted into one of the programs of our choosing."
"Oh that's great honey!" Renee interjected, but Edward was clearly not finished speaking so she let him continue.
"And, as we've been planning for our upcoming summer together, we've also spent a great deal of time considering our future. Our future together." He pulled Bella's hand up on top of the table with his.
Renee gasped in realization, and Esme beamed at her son.
"We know now that we are meant to spend our futures together." He paused then, squeezing Bella's hand gently. "So, I've asked Bella to marry me, and she's accepted."
Bella couldn't help but smile then. She felt as though a dozen caffeinated butterflies were fluttering madly through her stomach, but it didn't matter. They'd done it.
They were getting married, and now everyone knew.
Edward kissed her soundly while the room erupted around them.
Esme was sobbing in earnest now, a napkin pressed strategically to her cheek to disguise the lack of tears. Charlie was beat red and looked as though he might pass out at any moment. Carlisle patted him encouragingly on the back and handed him his glass of wine. He accepted without hesitation and downed the contents of his goblet in one swig. Alice immediately refilled it. God bless her.
And Renee. Renee looked quite a bit paler than usual, but she was looking between Edward and Bella with a mixture of awe, love, and...understanding on her face. Phil kept his arm tightly around her shoulders while she absorbed the information.
Finally, she spoke softly. "I knew from the first time I saw you two together that there was something unique, something special about your relationship Bells. Yours is clearly not a traditional high school relationship." She closed her eyes and shook her head softly. "But then again honey, you were never a traditional teenager." She continued looking at Edward for a few long moments. "And I'm certain you, Edward, are mature beyond your years as well."
Edward smiled a soft smile at Renee and then glanced at his fiancee, his expression full of private understanding and love.
"You love him Bella?"
"With all my heart mom."
"And he makes you happy?"
"More so than I ever dreamed I could be."
"Then I am happy for you both and so very excited that you've found one another." Renee stood then and hugged them both.
"Thanks mom," Bella whispered. "I love you."
By dessert, Charlie still hadn't said much of anything and, while his taciturnity was disheartening, he'd managed not to express any outright disapproval. Bella figured it could be worse.
"So, have you two given any thought to a date?" Carlisle asked conversationally over coffee, although, he knew exactly what their plans were, of course. He'd played an intricate role, after all, in arranging them.
"We were actually thinking about right after school lets out. First week of June, perhaps." Edward responded casually, as if he were discussing the weather.
Charlie choked on his coffee and then spoke for the first time since the main course. "Bells, sweetie, I know you're suddenly so eager to be an adult and all, but surely you two can wait until you've at least graduated. No use rushing into things now."
Edward, thankfully, responded with grace, as it was all Bella could do not to respond like the petulant child she was trying very much not to be.
"We do realize, of course, that it is a bit nontraditional. But we'll be spending the entire summer together anyways and, frankly, I believe both Bella and I would feel better about the situation if we did things the right way."
Charlie sputtered again, but honestly, how was he supposed to respond to that line of reasoning? No Edward. Actually, I'd much prefer that you and my daughter go off and live together in sin for a while before this whole marriage thing takes place.
"Quite mature thinking, son, if I do say so myself," Carlisle commented. "I'm sure that Renee, Phil, and Chief Swan will certainly agree with your responsible line of thinking."
Bella's parents, however, seemed at a loss for comments for the time being and could only watch the proceedings with detached amusement and disbelief.
Edward continued, nonplussed as always. "Yes, we intend to be married. There's no doubt in our minds about that, and we'd simply like to do it as soon as possible."
Three weeks before graduation Edward and Bella both received their full acceptances with scholarship provisions to Rice University's summer program.
"Oh, yes, Houston in June. I hear there's not much sun there at all," Bella teased. "You'll fit in swimmingly."
Edward arched an eyebrow and looked at her as though it was simply the most natural thing in the world for vampires to spend their summer holidays in Texas. "Well, Rice is one of the most distinguished private, liberal arts schools in the country. Surely our parents will be very proud."
Bella smacked him playfully on the shoulder. The resulting pain was well worth it.
"The program begins on the fifteenth of June," he continued seriously. "That gives us two weeks once school lets out."
And Bella fully understood, of course, what that entailed.
Bella's parents, if not thrilled with the idea of their daughter being married at seventeen, had at least begun to warm to the idea. Neither of them could deny how much Edward and Bella loved each other, and while they wished, perhaps, that they would wait until after graduation, all they ultimately wanted was for Bella to be happy. And Edward made her happy.
And time passed. Sultry day, sultry dusk, sultry night. Each moment moving them closer to a final precipice, this time willingly embraced. There were no apprehensions, no doubts. The path was very clear and, regardless of how long it took either of them to realize it, this course was their only future.
Spring arrived, the weather warmed, and graduation was fast approaching. Bella was not fearful or apprehensive, but rather anxious to face the unknown and begin a new phase in her life.
Each day, each moment with Edward drew stark contrast between the frail beauty of her world, and the beauty enduring and eternal that existed in his. She had never more clearly understood everything he was that she was not. And she saw her value as a shadowy copy of his bright, timeless, original. But rather than be saddened by this reality as she once was, she was thrilled by the knowledge of what she would soon become. What she would soon share with Edward.
The weekend before their wedding, Bella attended Emmett, Rosalie, and Jasper's graduation with Edward and the rest of the Cullens.
Before the graduation ceremony began, however, Edward pulled Bella away. Alice snorted and rolled her eyes as Edward led Bella down the aisle, but she said nothing when Bella looked back imploringly. She followed breathlessly, as Edward led her out of the auditorium.
"I don't suppose you'll tell me why we're leaving your siblings' graduation before it's even began?" she asked, as he wove his way through empty school hallways.
"Don't worry love, we'll have plenty of opportunities to witness graduations over the next several decades."
Bella couldn't argue with that.
They rounded a corner, and she realized at once where he was taking her. The Biology Lab.
The door was locked, but Edward opened it easily, securing it again behind them. He turned to her then, and she was completely undone by his expression. Unguarded and heated, his eyes were dark with wild energy and excitement. It made her heart race and her breath catch in her throat.
He stalked toward her, moving her back against a table. Edward pinned her there, cold, strong hands pressed gently to her hips. Then she was lifted up on the edge of that very lab table where they'd both been thrown together so many months before.
He pressed his mouth to hers desperately, crushing her lips in a possessive kiss that left no doubts to his intentions. When he pulled back, he traced his thumb along her prettily bruised mouth, lovely-to-see lust flashing in her eyes.
Bella leaned back on her elbows and watched, eyes dark, lips slightly parted, as he undid his pants and pushed them down over his hips.
He moaned into her mouth as her warm hand wrapped around his cock and began to stroke.
"Want you, love. Want you." His voice was pitched low and velvety smooth. The dark timbre made desire pool in her belly and sent sparks shivering across her flushed skin.
Edward's hands were at her thighs, pushing her skirt up around her waist, hooking cold fingers in the elastic of her boyshorts to push them aside. She spread her legs invitingly, as he pressed his thumb up high, swirling her wetness around, making her squirm and rock her hips into his touch.
He leaned over her then, lacing their fingers together and pressing his body flush against hers. She hissed as the cool surface of the table top slid against the exposed skin of her back, and he reached down to brush his lips against hers again.
He pushed into her smoothly, and she groaned soft against his neck.
His honeyed eyes pierced hers, as he cupped her cheek with a trembling hand. "I've want to do this since the first day I met you Bella Swan," he murmured, his voice syrup and seduction.
She arched up into him, meeting his hips, as he drew back and pushed into her again. He sighed, muscles flexing above her as he moved, and kissed her again, sucking her tongue into his mouth, swallowing the delicious, soft, gaspy sounds she made with each thrust.
She lifted her hips, matching his movements, and he leaned over to rest his forehead against her shoulder. Bella slid her hand from his hip, tracing taut muscles on his back with warm fingertips. He shuddered slightly under her touch, as her heels dug into his thighs.
His hand found its way under her shirt, and she groaned loudly when long fingers splayed across her smooth, heated skin then slid down over the lines of her ribcage, down to her stomach, down again to circle her hipbone. Bella shut her eyes, her breathing needy and ragged.
"Oh...fuck...please more, Edward."
Her words knotted in his brain and pounded in his cock.
He thrust once, twice, then once more, and she was cuming, the exquisite warmth of her body clenching around him, as he pulsed inside of her.
"So fucking good," he hissed, mouth in her hair.
"Kiss me," she whispered, drowning in the ecstasy of release.
He kissed her again and again, until that kiss deepened into something more. Something slow and needy, something mutual and tender, something full of love.
After a moment that seemed to stretch on for hours, he pulled away again. Bella leaned forward, her cheek against his shoulder. She inhaled deeply, taking several steadying breaths. "Shit Edward..."
He brushed a strand of damp hair off her forehead, smiling crookedly, his black eyes never straying from the rise and fall of her lovely chest, as she struggled to catch her breath.
Edward stood, pressing his lips to the crown of her head and pulling her close to him. Carefully, he adjusted her clothes, straightening her skirt before tucking his shirt back in and refastening his trousers.
"Come on, love. Let's go see if Em, Rose, and Jazz look any different for their twelfth high school diploma."
"Well, I'm not exactly sure, really, I stopped counting years ago."
Bella laughed and followed him from the Bio Lab, smiling at the last human memory she would likely have at Forks High School.
The wedding would be a small affair at the local courthouse. Bella requested simple orange and pink flowers to mark the occasion. Alice, of course, had never learned the meaning of 'simple,' and the flowers were gorgeous, over-the-top, and positively stunning.
Bella asked Alice and Angela Webber to serve as her maids of honor, and they were both thrilled to participate. Emmett and Jasper would stand up for Edward, and Charlie would walk his daughter down the aisle.
Bella wore a lovely, albeit understated dress. The lace, corseted bodice cinched her figure perfectly, and yards of ivory silk flowed from the sash at her waist to gather in a modest train. Edward wore his gray suit. It was as summertime wedding, after all, and it fitted him exquisitely.
His angelic beauty was literally breathtaking, and Bella wondered yet again what she'd done to deserve such a husband.
The service itself was simple. Edward insisted on traditional vows. His eyes held hers the entire time, and they both understood that they were pledging themselves to the other far beyond the bonds of marriage.
For as long as we both shall live.
The words thrummed in Bella's veins and resonated deep within her very being.
The officiant pronounced them husband and wife, and when Edward kissed his new bride, she recognized quite clearly that she stood on the verge of a new mutuality which would forever bind them together and stun her to the core.
They celebrated afterward with a small reception. Bella had insisted that she didn't want much of a fuss made, but Edward understood it was much more than that. This evening would be the last time Bella would see her parents for a very long time; there was only so much she could take.
But she smiled and laughed and danced and even had a glass of champagne to mark the occasion. Edward never strayed far from her side, and she was grateful for that. She needed his closeness more than ever that night.
And then the party was over, and the guests were leaving.
Charlie hugged his daughter and new son-in-law, expressing his genuine happiness at their marriage.
Renee cried and pulled Bella into a tearful embrace. Edward gave them some time alone.
"I love you sweetie," she cooed. "Have a lovely time on your honeymoon. You'll call me, won't you?"
Bella wiped away a single tear a nodded. "You know Edward hasn't even told me where we're going. And we won't be there that long. We're expected in Houston next Wednesday for the start of our summer term."
Her mother nodded and hugged her again.
"But I'll call you when we're settled. You know I love you, right?"
"Of course sweetie, of course." Renee kissed her daughter once more, and Edward was at his bride's side, ushering her to the car that would whisk them off to their undisclosed honeymoon location.
Of course, the couple knew that the car would only bring them right back to the Cullen mansion, as soon as the remainder of the wedding guests were gone.
No one spoke, when the young couple returned to the Cullen home later that evening. There was nothing left to be said. Every precaution had been taken, every reservation had been expressed, and every decision had been made.
Edward led Bella to his room silently. He'd promised to make love to her once more.
And it was only fitting, really that her last human experience should be one of passion and great love. The same passion and great love that would be required for Edward to turn her.
He closed the door behind them. In the pale, wet light of the moon, his radiant skin was incandescent. He really was beautiful.
His lovely eyes flickered to her face, and his expression – pure love and unbridled desire – made her heart sputter and her legs weak.
Edward swallowed and wet his lips. He looked at her as though he were about to say something but didn't.
But Bella said enough for both of them: "I love you. We want this."
Her white fingers moved to her corset and began undoing the tiny hooks, one by one. Edward took a step toward her, not touching, but standing close, watching.
She could feel his icy breath on her skin. He could feel her accelerated pulse beat sweet and hot on his tongue.
He raised his hands to brush along her bare arms. Her skin was smooth and soft and warm, so warm under his touch.
They stood there for a long moment, not moving, not talking, simply memorizing the other as they were right then and now.
Then she felt his breath, icy sugary sweet, in her hair, against her cheek, and she shivered. He brushed his lips against hers gently.
"I love you forever."
They didn't speak for a while after that. Not while they kissed or undressed each other with trembling hands. Not when Edward eased her on the bed and lay down beside her, holding her close. Not when fingers and lips traced paths on the other's skin, committing every curve, every freckle, every inch to memory.
She shuddered under his icy touch, knowing that everything was about to change.
When Edward slid between her legs and ran his hands along her sides, he murmured her name. And that one word was all either one needed to hear.
She breathed in, and he breathed out and took her then, thrusting into the warm wetness of her body. They both froze when he entered her, and that one moment seemed to stretch and stretch and stretch.
She wrapped her legs around his waist, as they began to move together. Pale skin sliding against pale skin. Soft curves, smooth lines, strong limbs, and taut muscles. He held her flushed face in trembling hands and brought their mouths together, moaning against warm lips.
He pulled away then to stare into chocolate eyes, darker now, flashing with want and pleasure and love. Edward ran his cool tongue along her lust-pinked lips, breathing her in, tasting her pulse, feeling her beneath him as he moved inside of her. Slow deliberate thrusts. Deep and longing and real.
She arched up to meet him, hips matching his strokes, forcing him deeper, as she gripped his forearms, pulling her body closer to his.
"Bella," he breathed again, tasting her skin on his tongue, in his veins, as he moved deep inside of her. The moved together perfectly, holding on to one another, feeling the other completely, falling together.
And Edward knew that he could look into her eyes and see beyond tonight, beyond the decision that had already been made, beyond any hesitation that he had ever felt.
Bella's gaze held only certainty and love. Deep, penetrating love.
His hips moved achingly slow, as he savored every touch, every stroke, every sense, every taste. He could feel every emotion keenly, intensely, deeply. And Edward knew that, for the first time in his life, he was complete.
She let out a gasp as she came, her warmth pulsing around him. And he kept his eyes locked on hers as he thrust once, twice more and came too, knowing that he'd be lost without her.
They lay together afterward, bodies pressed close against the other. They didn't talk; everything had long been said.
He pressed his mouth to her cheek, her jawbone, her neck, gently trailing his tongue along the curve of her throat. The sensation of his icy lips on her skin was only heightened by the understanding his teeth would soon replace that sensuous, teasing touch.
And she was ready.
Ready for her change.
Ready for her future.
Ready for their eternity.