"Bella, do you know where my brown shoes are?" Edward's muffled voice came from the bedroom.
"I think that box ended up in the hall closet, but I'm not sure," I called back.
Edward and I had just moved into a townhouse closer to the outskirts of the city. It was a huge step, but after a year and a half together we decided to take it. So after the school year ended, we packed up our perspective apartments and moved into a place of our own. It was scary, but I was excited to wake up every day with him, and to know that at the end of the day I would come home to him.
We had talked about marriage, but I wasn't quite ready yet. There was no doubt in my mind I wanted to be with Edward, but I needed more time to adjust to the idea of marriage again. He pushed at first, but I was learning to be firm about what I wanted and what I needed. It was hard, but I knew that the only way to avoid going down the same road I had with Jake was to be honest with myself and with Edward. Surprisingly, once I explained that all I needed was more time, he agreed. I compromised, suggesting that we move in together first.
Things got easier between us when Edward started the second year of his residency this year, but they were still complicated. Tanya and I had established a relative truce at family gatherings, holidays and the like, but as a general rule we avoided each other, and Edward didn't push it. Edward and I also agreed never to talk to people outside our relationship about things that were better left private. Jake was seeing a new girl, and he seemed really happy. We ran into each other now and then, and he and Billy still joined Charlie and me for holidays, but that was the extent of our relationship.
Gone were the days when I would bottle things up for weeks only to have them explode later. I made it a point to tell Edward when I was angry or upset, or when I just needed him to be there. For his part, Edward learned how to take me into account when arranging his work schedule, and he was loads better at calling me just to talk when we couldn't see each other because of work.
In the fall I would be starting a master's program for creative writing, and I knew that between that and my full time job, things with Edward would get difficult again. I was ready for it though, and so was he. In fact, he had been nothing but excited for me from the minute I received my acceptance letter.
"Are you almost ready, love? It'll take us a while to get there, and if we don't leave soon we're going to be late. You know how my mom gets." Edward stood in the bathroom doorway, smiling fondly at me while I tried to do something with my hair. I loved Edward's family, especially his mother Esme, but he was right: she had a weird thing about punctuality. I sighed gave up, twisting my hair into a simple bun.
"Ta-da!" I did a little curtsy and a pirouette before Edward caught me. He kissed me slowly, holding my face in his hands before breaking away and whispering in my ear. "Beautiful. You look perfect."
We drove to the restaurant where we were meeting his family in comfortable silence, our hands linked causally together over the center console. When we pulled into the parking lot, kissed my hand and walked over to open my door.
"Did Emmett say what this was about?" I asked curiously. I hadn't seen Rosalie since school let out a week and a half ago, and I was dying to know if my suspicions of an engagement were true. Edward just smiled knowingly and shrugged, chuckling when I huffed in annoyance.
Edward gave his name to the hostess and she led us to a big circular table near the back of the restaurant. Edward's parents, Dr. and Mrs. Cullen (or as they insisted I call them, Carlisle and Esme), were already seated next to Rosalie and Emmett. Even Jasper and Alice were there, which wasn't terribly odd considering how close the six of us had become. Carlisle and Esme often joked that Alice and Jasper were unofficial Cullens, and they were invited to a lot of family get-togethers.
Alice jumped up to hug me with her usual energy, not slowed at all by the visible baby bump swelling under her stylish maternity top.
"How's my god daughter doing?" I asked eagerly.
"Baby Girl Whitlock is healthy, happy, and causing near permanent hamstrings in my right leg," she replied, settling back into her seat. Jasper laughed and rubbed her back, beaming down at his wife.
"So, now that you're all here," Emmett started. A waitress walked up and interrupted.
"How are you all doing this morning? Can I get you some coffee? Waters?" After she left, Emmett cleared his throat and started again.
"Rosalie and I asked you to be here—"
"Oooooh they have rhubarb jelly in the little packets!" Alice squealed suddenly. "You never see that!"
Emmett glared at her while everyone else laughed. She turned a little pink and muttered an apology before scooping up some of the jelly packets and starting to stack them in front of her.
"Any more interruptions? Anyone else have anything they want to say?" Emmett asked impatiently. He was bouncing a little in his seat.
"Actually, I was wondering Bella, have you heard from Irina lately?" Esme asked, shooting me a humorous look and a wink.
"That was a rhetorical question!" Emmett sighed. Esme grinned at him and opened her mouth to reply, but Rosalie stepped in.
"I got this, baby," she laughed. "Emmett asked me to marry him last night, and I said yes!" She pulled out her left hand and showed off a sparkling diamond, at least a carat and a half, in an intricate golden band.
"Oh, Rosalie, think of all the disappointed teenage boys," I sighed, ducking as she aimed a swat in my direction. We talked about the proposal for some time, but Rosalie and Alice soon fell into a wedding planning discussion that made my head hurt a little. When separate conversations sprung up, I turned back to Esme.
"I heard from Irina on Monday," I answered her earlier question. "She said she's gotten a really positive reaction from the artist we chose, and I think the project is going to go ahead just as quickly as we can get him signed on."
"I can't believe I'm going to be a comic book character," Edward laughed, throwing an arm around my shoulder.
"Graphic novel character, putz," I corrected.
When my book was published last year, it became a bit of an underground sensation. It didn't garner a whole lot of critical acclaim, but I had a dedicated fan base that was rapidly growing, especially centered around Alex, my mind reading superhero.
Irina approached me with the idea of expanding the story into a graphic novel, pitching several possible local artists for the job. Over the last several months I met with eight different artists to discuss my story, and finally made my decision in May. Now it sounded like he was onboard. We were hoping that pushing into the world of graphic novels would open up my audience even further and create more buzz for my first full length novel, which was still in the planning stages.
"You should make sure that he captures my rugged good looks." Edward struck what I'm sure was intended to be a dashing pose, but he ended up just looking goofy. I giggled, and Esme rolled her eyes. He had come a long way from the unsure and awkward man I met last year, and he was much more comfortable with the idea of his story being published. Despite that, he refused to come with me to book signings, on the off chance that someone put two and two together.
Later, driving through the city with Edward at my side, I stared out at the changing landscape and thought about how different my life was from how I always thought it would be. No Jake, no wedding, no baby on the way. But I did have Edward, a book deal, and a growing number of fans worldwide. I was going back to school. I was shacking up! I giggled a little at that. It wasn't easy. It would probably never be easy. But life was good, and in the end, I suppose that's what matters.
Author's Note: Group awwwwww. Happy happily ever after! Leave me one last review and let me know what you think. Thanks for sticking with me, it's been fun! Check out my new story "Kissed the Girls and Made Them Cry."