Well, here it is. After OVER A YEAR, it's finished (: Here's a short, baby epilogue to round it off for ya in BPOV. Thanks for sticking through. I love you guys.
"Who wants to say something?" Esme asked quietly, her voice shimmering in the still air.
We all looked at each other, our eyes wide as we waited for the first taker. Emmett jammed his hands in his pockets and brought his shoulders to his ears, sighing loudly. "I guess I'll go," he said.
Rosalie wrapped her hand around the crook of his arm, grinning at him with assurance.
Emmett took a deep breath. "It's been four years," he began. "A long four years. Dad brought us all together. We, uh, wouldn't be here together if it wasn't for the last couple months of his life. We were lucky to have him as our dad. Um. We miss you."
Esme leaned over from where she stood by Dr. Gerandy, rubbing Emmett's arm and smiling sadly to herself.
"I'll go next," Alice volunteered, leaning her head into Jasper's chest. "We miss you, Dad. You were the best father that you could be. I'm sorry that we didn't always appreciate you. But I know that you already know how you touched our lives; how you still touch them. So thanks for being here for us for all those years."
"We love you, Dad," Edward said suddenly. I felt his voice through the vibrations of his chest on my cheek, and I couldn't help the stray tear that slipped from my left eye.
Esme looked at the headstone from where it rose from the rolling grass, letting go of Greg Gerandy's hand for just a second to place five red roses on the ground above where Carlisle was buried. "One for you and I, and one for our children," she whispered, a tear falling down her pale cheek. She reached back for Greg's hand again like it was a life line.
We all looked down at Carlisle's grave for what seemed like hours. The only sounds were the wind beating against the limbs of the nearby trees and the occasional sniffle. I reached up on my toes to kiss Edward's cheek as he stared hollowly at the slab of stone, my wedding ring pressed against his jaw as I touched his face.
We all walked together down the path through the deep woods back to the main house-Alice, Jasper, Emmett, Rosalie, Edward, Esme, Greg, and I. No one spoke as thunder rolled through the gray sky, the light showers of the beginning of a storm dropping to our heads, our shoulders.
This was the day we always remembered. The day that, four years ago, Carlisle Cullen passed away in his home as his family slept. It was always a sad day, but we all found a strange kind of dark happiness. It was a sad day, yes, but also a day that we all felt good. We were able to remember him properly, to love him, and to talk about him freely together.
The spirits lifted as we all sat down at the round table off the kitchen, Esme taking the seat where Carlisle always sat. We all ate together, sharing our favorite memory of Carlisle. Charlie joined us for dessert.
After we were finished came Esme's favorite part. Every year on the anniversary of Carlisle's death, one of us would go get the giant photo album that Esme had constructed and we'd look through them all. Sometimes we'd laugh, sometimes we'd cry, sometimes we'd cringe if it was a particularly unflattering picture of one of us. Esme's favorites were the ones of she and Carlisle in the eighties. And the baby pictures, of course.
She always flipped through pictures of Carlisle without hair quickly. I think it hurt her to look at them. You could feel the mood in the room fall as she flipped quickly through the few of those that were included. But just after those were pictures of all of us moving off to school together, and, soon enough, pictures of Edward and I at our wedding.
The summer that we married brought change for everyone.
Alice and Jasper celebrated four years together, Edward and I celebrated our wedding, and Esme celebrated something on her own. She started dating again that year. Dr. Gerandy, Carlisle's closest friend in his lifetime, started taking her out once or twice a week, just as he did even now.
"That should probably irritate me," Edward said one night, after the doctor left from one of our weekly family dinners. "But it doesn't."
"She's finally happy again," I'd muttered, squeezing his hand.
"I know," he whispered back. "Which is why I can't hate him."
Carlisle's death wasn't something easily forgotten. I think that was part of the reason why Greg Gerandy fit in so well-he knew Carlisle in life and the unbelievable growth we'd all experienced together, and he knew how we were all affected by his death. He loved Carlisle, too, and he respected him. It made him easy to like, easy for Esme to love. His presence made nothing awkward. He even came with us on the four year mark of Carlisle's death. He stood among us, paying respect, and it felt natural.
I was just happy that Esme could potentially have someone else to live in that giant house with her. Carlisle had designed it and had it constructed from the ground up, and I knew it was hard on her to stay there on her own while all of her children grew up. Jasper and Alice lived near Edward and I during the larger part of the year in Pullman by WSU, and Emmett and Rosalie stayed together in Seattle. So Esme was in Forks, alone, and we all worried. Although Edward and Emmett had a natural aversion to him at first, Dr. Gerandy's presence soothed all of our minds.
We were all much the same people as we were those months that Carlisle was sick.
Emmett was still a moron, Rosalie slightly cold. Alice was neurotic and controlling, Jasper calm and quiet, Edward moody and impulsive. I was still spacey and clumsy and sometimes, a little foolish. But we were...I don't know, kinder. We all thought with our hearts a little more. Within the few years I spent with Edward before ultimately getting engaged, I saw a kindness and a tenderheartedness in him that I'd never seen before. Emmett grew in his responsibility through caring for his father, and he surprised us all by landing a job as an agent at a well-known insurance company in Seattle fresh out of college. Rosalie, though still very much the same, became one of my very best friends. She griped and complained about Emmett to me over the phone almost daily, but I could hear the fondness tucked into the folds of her voice. I could tell even through her whining and grouching that she loved Emmett more than she could ever love even herself.
Sometimes I think that Alice and Jasper were the strongest of us all. Alice, though often impossible, reacted toward Jasper in an unexplainable way. One minute, she'd be screaming or worrying or something else Alice-like, but the second he walked into the room, her shoulders and jaw visibly relaxed. They made each other very happy.
So I wasn't surprised at all when Jasper dropped down on one knee after a family dinner, all of us there to see. Even Dr. Gerandy.
And I know this all sounds like a happily ever after. Everyone winds up together, everyone is happy. But I feel like we kind of deserved it. I'd seen the whole family cry countless times, suffering and pulling through for one another. They'd survived something I never could have. They all made it through to the other side after tragedy struck, emerging as stronger people. Better people.
So don't we deserve this ending? I think that maybe we do. Every morning that I wake up in the big, white house, next to my husband, I feel like I have to hit myself in the head to feel like it's all real. I have to close my mind off to the small part that wonders how we all got so lucky this way.
Life gives us things. And we have to take it, Carlisle once said to Edward. I can't agree more.
Maybe I don't deserve anything. But I know that Edward does.
So as we fall asleep together in our big, white house, the rain falling lightly against the windows, I know this is what Carlisle would have wanted. I can almost see his face perfectly in my mind, smiling and rocking in the swing on our front porch.