Hello and welcome to the final installment of this story – the epilogue. I can't believe it's really over now! I'm proud and sad at the same time.
I wanted to say a HUGE thank you to everyone who sent me reviews and PMs of support when the plagiarism issue came about. You have no idea how appreciated it was. I replied to all the PMs and I still need to reply to the reviews. There's really no excuse as to why I haven't done that yet. Apologies!
Thank you so much for coming along for this ride, I had a fantastic time writing this fic! I'm happy if you've enjoyed it even a little.
Thanks to katmom, u2shay, kejce, can't-get-enough-twilight and Thats-So-Alex for beta'ing and/or talking me through my little crisis. You gals helped so much.
If you're interested in some EPOVs for this story, I've finished two chapters of them so far. I'll be posting them separately as Elevators, Strangers and Surprises - A Different Perspective. Put me on author alert if you'd like to read them.
Elevators, Strangers and Surprises – Epilogue
5 years later
Bella groaned as the alarm rang insistently. Groggily, she blindly felt for it and managed to turn it off.
She rolled onto her back, willing herself to wake up. A heavy arm draped over her, keeping her down when she tried to rise up.
"We forgot to turn the damned thing off again." Edward's voice was rusty with sleep. Bella blinked a few times before she realized it was Saturday.
"Thank goodness!" she exclaimed, promptly snuggling into the crook of Edward's shoulder. "Edward…"
"Are you up?"
"More or less, why?"
Instead of answering, Bella rolled on top of him, pressing her lips to his throat. Edward's response was immediate, his hands finding their way beneath the t-shirt she was wearing.
"Why Mrs. Cullen, what are you trying to do?" he teased.
"Shh," Bella admonished, flicking the tip of her tongue out to lick Edward's lips. In one fluid movement, Edward flipped them over so that Bella was on her back. His mouth captured hers in a heated kiss.
"It's been too long since we've done this," he murmured, his hand finding her bare breast, brushing over her nipple.
At that moment, an insistent knock interrupted them. "Momma! Daddy!" Came a small voice from behind the door.
"And it looks like it'll be even longer," Bella said with a rueful smile. Edward sighed, removed himself from his wife and went to open the door.
A miniature version of himself stood looking up at him with large, deep brown eyes. She smiled, extending her arms, indicating she wanted to be held. "Daddy! I want up."
Bella saw Edward's expression turn almost worshipful, as it always did when he looked at his daughter. He bent down to lift the 3-year-old into his arms.
Sophie, as they had named her, took after Edward in her facial features and hair. She also possessed a good measure of his charm, but her eyes were all Bella's in their shape and colour.
Their daughter was undeniably beautiful, and much doted on by her parents and grandparents. With her curly crop of bronze hair, deep brown eyes and a smile that she inherited from both Bella and Edward, Sophie was hard for anyone to resist.
"How is my Sophie this morning?" he asked, kissing the little girl's cheek.
She giggled when he nuzzled her cheek. "I'm good, Daddy," she said, wrapping her small arms around her father's neck as he carried her into the room. When Edward set her down on the bed, she made a beeline for her mother.
Bella grabbed Sophie, promptly peppering her face with kisses as was her habit. The girl giggled again, then climbed into the bed so that she was sandwiched between her parents.
Though Bella would have liked the private time with Edward, mornings like this with the three of them were dear to her heart.
"What are we doing today?" Sophie asked, looking from Edward to Bella.
"Well, darling, we're going to go visit Grandma and Grandpa," Edward answered. "They want you to stay over with them tonight. Would you like that?"
"Yes!" Sophie said excitedly, bouncing in the bed. "Gan-ma always gives me a cookie, and Gan-pa lets me be his doctor."
"Don't miss us or anything," Bella laughed.
"Are you and Momma staying over too?" Sophie asked, focusing her large eyes on Edward.
"Well…" Edward hesitated and Bella knew the reason why.
She rolled her eyes. Edward Cullen, a man with strong business sense and the head of an established PR firm that was flourishing, was a virtual puddle when it came to his daughter. Bella knew he hated saying 'no' to her and only hoped it didn't lead to them raising the most spoiled child in the history of the world.
"Sophie, honey, Momma and Daddy are going to have some grown-up time while you get Grandma and Grandpa all to yourself," Bella said, stroking the auburn curls from Sophie's face.
"Okay," Sophie said, evidently unruffled by the news. "I'm hungry, can we have cereal…please?" Both Edward and Bella had been trying to impress the importance of saying 'please' to Sophie – with some degree of success.
"I'll take her down," Edward said, giving Bella a kiss before swinging the small girl up onto his shoulders. Bella watched him duck under the doorway, so as not to bump Sophie's head.
A sliver of sunlight peeked through a gap in the curtains. It glinted off of the rings that encircled her left ring finger, catching her eye.
As childish laughter floated up the stairs to her ears, Bella reflected on the changes that had taken place in the last six years.
5 years earlier
"So, how does it feel to be a full-fledged teacher?" Edward asked, smiling at the brown-haired beauty in front of him.
"Wonderful!" Bella declared, trying to balance the multiple bouquets of flowers she'd been given in her arms.
After a year of studying, it was graduation day and Bella was wearing her black robes with pride. She had missed her earlier convocation and so was happy to be present at this one.
Her friends and family had turned out in full force. Everyone from her parents, Edward's parents, Rosalie and Alice along with their counterparts, had showed up for the occasion.
"Bella! Congratulations!" Alice shrieked, coming up to give her a hug.
Rosalie followed suit, but without the ear-splitting vocals. "You look beautiful," she said, smiling warmly.
"Congrats, Bells!" Emmett boomed, lifting her up into a firm bear hug. Jasper repeated the felicitations, giving her a much gentler embrace.
Charlie was next, looking at his daughter with pride. "Good job, kid. You're going to make a great teacher."
Bella accepted similar congratulations from her mother then Esme and Carlisle.
"You're going to do so well, Bella," Esme said, as she hugged her.
"Congratulations, Bella," Carlisle said. "You've chosen someone far above you, Edward," he added to his son.
"Don't I know it," Edward replied, his eyes on Bella as she spoke with some classmates who had graduated with her. Bella caught him looking at her, privately satisfied. She had observed the numerous female eyes that gravitated towards the tall, green-eyed man. It still amused and amazed her that Edward didn't seem to notice the attention, only seeing her.
After many more 'congratulations' had been exchanged, Alice spoke up.
"Well, I guess we'll see you two later on at Edward's parents."
"What? Aren't we all going out for dinner?" Bella asked, surprised. It had been arranged that they would all celebrate Bella's graduation together by having dinner at her favourite restaurant.
"Oh, there was a change in plans," Esme said, lamely, as Carlisle nodded. Bella looked over at her father who was gazing studiously at the ground, rubbing the back of his neck distractedly.
Rosalie looked as if she wanted to say something, badly, while Emmett stood smiling at Bella with the biggest dopey grin. Alice and Jasper were both staring at Edward who gave an exasperated sigh.
"What's going on?" Bella asked, suspiciously. "Why did the plans change?"
"Look at the time!" Alice said, ignoring Bella's questions. "We gotta go." She shot an apologetic glance at Edward, mouthing 'Sorry' as she corralled Jasper and dragged him away with her.
The rest of the group quickly dissipated, with Charlie leaving last. He came up to Edward, looking him squarely in the eye.
"Do it right," he said. "See ya later, Bells." With a quick kiss to her cheek, Charlie departed, leaving Edward and Bella alone.
"Okay, what's going on?" Bella asked. "Why'd everyone leave so quickly?"
"I'd thought it would be obvious," Edward said, wryly. "Those idiots…"
"Well it isn't so, seriously, what's up?"
"Let's go home and get ready for dinner."
"You're not going to tell me are you?"
"Nope. You'll have to be patient." He grabbed her hand, leading a very confused Bella in the direction of the car.
Later that evening, they had dinner at a favourite restaurant. Edward had seemed distracted and fidgeted a good deal, leaving Bella more mystified than ever.
Edward had paid the bill, citing it was Bella's graduation and she wasn't to pay for anything this day. Once they had exited the restaurant, they had driven out to Hermosa Beach. Edward had wanted to take a walk on the beach.
"Aren't your parents and the rest waiting for us?" Bella asked as they walked onto the sand.
"They can wait a little," Edward replied.
The sun was just beginning to set, lighting the sky in a blend of soft orange and pink. Bella stopped to admire the effect of it against the water.
"Look, Edward. Isn't the sun beautiful?"
"I can think of something even more beautiful," Edward remarked, bending down to kiss her gently. "Bella…there's something I wanted to say…"
By this time they were close to the water's edge, the sound of the waves washing in and out the only thing that could be heard.
"What is it?" Bella saw that Edward seemed nervous.
"Bella, I love you. You don't know how much." As he spoke, he had taken her left hand into his own.
Bella's breath caught in her throat. She hoped that the moment she had been imagining for the past year had arrived.
Still holding her hand, Edward looked deep into her eyes. "I can't imagine my life without you in it. I want to spend my life with you, raising our children and growing old together. I'll pledge myself to making you as happy as you've made me." He paused then, to take out a small, black velvet box from his jacket pocket. Bella's eyes widened at the sight of it, her mouth dropping open.
Edward opened the box to reveal an exquisite diamond solitaire. "Bella, will you do me the honour and give me your hand in marriage?"
Tears of happiness welled up in Bella's eyes. The moment was everything Bella could have imagined. She wanted to hold onto it as long as she could.
Gazing into Edward's eyes, Bella's face broke into a wide, dazzling smile. She threw her arms around him.
"Yes, yes I'll marry you!" she cried. Pulling back, she saw Edward wearing a look of pure joy. He wrapped his arms around her, kissing her passionately.
"Give me your hand," he said, when they finally broke apart. Placing her left hand into his, Bella watched as he took the ring from its nest and slid it gently over the knuckle and onto her ring finger.
The metal felt cool on her skin and they both admired the sparkle of the diamond in the last rays of the sun.
"Isabella Swan, you've just made me the happiest man on Earth."
Bella smiled at the memory. The gathering at Esme and Carlisle's following Edward's proposal had turned out to be an impromptu engagement party – pending her answer. She remembered how excited everyone had been and how the women had squealed over the ring Edward had given her.
Their wedding had been small but elegant, just the way Bella had wanted it. The way Edward's face had lit up upon seeing her on her father's arm, in her bridal gown, was one of her favourite memories.
After their honeymoon, the newlyweds had settled down with Edward returning to work and Bella continuing her job as a Grade 2 teacher. She had definitely found her calling. Bella loved her work and adored her class.
Just when Bella had thought life couldn't get any better, Sophie had come along to dispel that notion, making their family complete.
"Hey, what are you doing?" Edward asked, as he came back into the room, carrying Sophie and a small box of cereal.
"Just thinking…about how happy I am," Bella replied, raising her face and puckering her lips, indicating that she wanted a kiss. Edward smiled and obliged.
Deciding it was high time she got out of bed, Bella swung her legs over the side and stood up…only to abruptly sit down again.
"Oops, maybe not such a good idea," she murmured as she struggled against a sudden wave of nausea.
"Everything okay?" Edward asked, concerned. Bella took a deep breath and the feeling passed.
"Yes, I'm fine now." Her second attempt at standing was much more successful and she made her way over to Sophie who had her arms out towards her. Edward transferred the small girl into Bella's arms.
"Are you sure you're all right?" He placed a hand on the small bump on her stomach.
"Just a little nausea. It's gone now. You know how I was with Sophie." Bella smiled reassuringly. "Where did we put Alice and Jazz's shower gift?"
"By the front door," Edward answered. "All ready to go."
The past few years had brought about changes not only for Bella and Edward but for their friends as well.
Rosalie and Emmett had married and were parents to adorable, four-year old twins, Seth and Leah.
Alice and Jasper had also married, a year after Edward and Bella, and were expecting their first child. The baby shower was to be that afternoon. True to form, Alice had almost burst out of her skin when Bella had told her she was pregnant again.
With difficulty, Bella had managed to convince Alice that she didn't want a dual baby shower. It was Alice's first and there was no way Bella was taking that away from her.
"All these babies! Our own little population explosion," Bella commented, as she tried to catch the cereal that Sophie was spilling onto the carpet. "Okay, back down to the kitchen with you."
Edward followed them down to the kitchen, where he prepared a sippy cup for Sophie, while Bella deposited her into the high chair, sprinkling some cereal onto the tray for her.
With their daughter temporarily preoccupied with her breakfast, Edward took the opportunity to come up behind his wife, wrapping her in his arms.
"Have I told you I love you today?" he asked, nuzzling her neck.
"No, how dare you." She laughed. "I love you too." Turning, Bella lifted herself up onto her tip toes to kiss her husband.
Pulling back she looked up into Edward's face. It amazed her that, after five years of marriage, he still looked at her as if she were some sort of lost treasure he had found. Contented, Bella nestled her head against his chest.
One beautiful child and another on the way, a loving husband and great friends. There wasn't anything more Bella could ask for out of life.
Thanks for reading. Leave some love! The first EPOV will be out shortly!