Disclaimer: Twilight belongs to Stephenie Meyer.
This is the first of two Epi's-as promised. Epi #2 will be listed under "Other Side of the Door" so be sure to have that one on alert, too. If you have not read that story yet, you may wish to if you are at all interested in knowing what has been going on inside Edward's head. ( And who doesn't want to know THAT!)
Thanks to everyone who has shown their support for me and my writing. I was very much a newbie when I first wrote this as a one-shot for the Forbidden Affairs contest. Your kind words helped to renew a long forgotten passion and restored my faith in myself.
The most sincere of thanks to emilydmamaof3-our times in the G-Docs are some of my favorites! You get Emmett's cape, bb! Muah!
I watched through the window as Esme and Carlisle got out of the car. It was hard to believe that three whole years had passed since that monumentally emotional night. We had all confessed our feelings: Emmett, Edward and I. And Carlisle and Esme supported each of us for the most part. Esme simply wanted her boys happy...and me too, I think. Carlisle had a bit more trouble swallowing it all. Apparently he had certain ideas about brotherhood and loyalty that his boys didn't share. But eventually, as our lives together unfolded and smoothed, so did Carlisle's slightly ruffled feathers.
And life continued on. We did family holidays a day early at our home with Esme and Carlisle. I assumed they met with Emmett and Rosalie, as well, separately from us. They never really talked about them in the beginning, making sure the stories of our lives never crossed. They made it so things were never awkward or forced, but very natural. I knew it was mostly Esme who was responsible for the ease of our relationship and I appreciated that.
They're still together, Emmett and Rose. At first, I'd hoped she would be sensible and dump him. But, she never did. In time I accepted that they were just meant to be. I actually took it better than they all expected when Rosalie became pregnant with little Janie. Oh, it stung. But, I just had to remind myself that creating a child with Emmett would only have made things more difficult in the long run. I accepted that it wasn't Emmett I was meant to create a life with and I looked forward to the day I'd see a little boy or girl running around with Edward's eyes and my smile. Plus, Janie adored her Aunt Bella. Even though Edward and I weren't officially married yet, that's what Esme had her call me. I didn't know what Emmett thought about that. I never really saw him. There was no reason. Edward and I spent Janie's first year spoiling her rotten on Saturdays at her grandma's house while her parents took a day to themselves. I saw Rosalie occasionally. Our relationship was good. Not really even awkward. I guess you could almost call us friends. We'd never be like sisters though. It was just too strange for that.
I did have to hand it to Rose. I admired her strong will. She still refused to marry the father of her little girl, even though I'd heard he begs. They lived together, of course. Emmett had moved in around 4 months after we split. I don't think our divorce was even final yet. But I couldn't talk. Edward had never moved out of the home I had shared with his brother. Well, not until we sold it a year ago.
That's when we ended up here. Cambridge. We followed Alice and Jasper up about a year and a half after they had flown here on vacation.
"We're only looking around; checking out a few pubs. We'll see you again before you know it."
I remembered Alice at the airport in her pink sweater and floral scarf, looking back through her white framed sunglasses and shouting those words back to me. They were the last words she'd speak in the states to date...and that was two and a half years ago. They found the perfect little pub right on King Street. It was owned by a gentleman Jasper had been corresponding with on-line for several months. He was an elderly fellow who hated to give up the pub. But his wife had passed on months before and he could no longer handle the long hours and upkeep all by himself. Jasper became co-owner of Bob's Pub for a very reasonable price and my cousin extended her vacation indefinitely. About a year later the old fellow passed on, leaving Jasper full owner. Jasper took the loss of his friend very hard. Alice said he fell into a sort of depression about it. That's just how Jasper was-he didn't know a stranger and his friends were his family.
So, after six months of lengthy phone conversations between Alice and I, Edward and Jasper-and several trips to Forks National Bank, Edward and I found ourselves the new co-owners of a soon to be renamed pub in England. We sold the house quickly-as Emmett and Rosalie were looking to expand, especially with another child on the way. It seemed strange to me that they would want to raise their family in that home; but if Rosalie didn't mind, who was I to say anything. And they were kind enough to allow us to remain there until we settled all our affairs since Rosalie had a few months left on her lease. I wanted to finish out the school year, and we had to wait several weeks for my passport to come in the mail. Once it arrived, we booked our one-way tickets to Cambridge on British Airways.
The day we left Forks was full of both sorrow and excitement. We were seen off by Esme and Carlisle, of course. They drove us to the airport. And we were surprised to see an obviously pregnant Rosalie and little Janie there to see us off. Emmett was there too, though he stayed in the shadows. I met his eyes just once as I left for the boarding area. He looked shocked at first. But then he smiled and nodded, mouthing the words "Good Luck." I had always dreaded a moment like that with him, when our eyes would meet across a room filled with our family; forced and awkward. But that moment at the airport was the perfect ending to a very difficult albeit necessary chapter in my life.
Edward and I packed up everything we'd wished to take with us; shipping several boxes ahead. Alice was such a doll. She unpacked some of our boxes for us. She set us up with all the essentials; flatware and dishes, cleaning supplies and hangers. She even stocked our fridge. Jasper somehow acquired a mattress for us to use until we had the chance to shop for one, though I had to avoid thinking about the possibilities of where it came from. And they did it all so that our apartment would be fairly livable when we arrived.
We acquired the apartment next to Alice and Jasper's, above the pub. It was tiny, but convenient. Edward worked with Jasper all day, learning the "lay of the land". Alice insisted on helping me decorate. Or, rather, she told me what to do to make my new home adorable and I did it. We painted, stenciled, wallpapered and faux-finished until my little cubby-hole looked like something right out of Better Homes and Gardens. I'm not sure Edward even noticed, at first. He was so exhausted after a day at the pub. It seemed Bob had owned the place for so long that he'd begun to hoard things in the basement. So, the boys sorted, hauled, cleaned and reorganized all day. Then, they did their best to get to know the longtime patrons who were vocally missing the previous owner.
But Edward can be quite charming and Whitlost is every bit, if not more, entertaining. And anyone not won over by them, fell victim to Alice's own personal brand of appeal. I really enjoyed all the early evenings in the pub before I began teaching in a small private school. Somehow, I'd landed a US Studies elective course filled with upper-classmen. It was very new for me, having taught young children in the states, but it was a welcome change. Actually, I loved it. It was only part-time, but it more than subsidized our income. We really didn't need much.
Edward began working in the bar full-time with Jasper. The expenditures outweighed the profits for the first year. Luckily we hadn't any rent. But, once all the repairs had been made and Alice did a slight remodel, we slowly climbed out of the red. Thank goodness we were in a good location and business was always hopping. They actually became like our family, the clientele. Mrs. Laurent often brought home cooked meals to share. Mr. Black helped Edward with some electrical repairs. And the James family had insisted we close the pub and celebrate Christmas at their home.
Much to our surprise, our new extended family supported us in our decision to rename the pub since there wasn't a Bob among us. They even had suggestions to make. But Edward and Jasper ultimately agreed upon "Lost and Found" and it just seemed to fit. We each had come to England a little lost and each of us found our lives full of good friends and loyal family.
Undoubtedly, they would all be sitting downstairs waiting for me when I could finally pull myself away from this window. Edward would be there, as would Jasper. There was no telling where Alice might be at any given moment. The past 6 months had kept her very busy. What with the shopping and the decorating. I loved my cousin, but she could be completely infuriating. Edward let it slip one day that I had gone shopping without her and Alice scoured every shop in town until she caught up with me. Although on that particular day she actually agreed with my choice. Thankfully, because I was heart set.
I watched as a delivery truck arrived. It was the third one of the day. Boxes and bundles unloaded and carried in through the backdoor of the pub below. When a tiny blur in pink nearly knocked one of the workmen over as she whizzed toward the door, I knew Alice would be racing into my apartment at any moment.
I took one last deep breath, enjoying the calm quiet while it lasted. I looked at my reflection in the glass, the familiar eyes that looked back at me. Eyes so sure, eyes that had seen their fair share of mistakes. I winked at myself in the glass, giggling as my door flew open.
"Oh my Goddd!" I didn't think I'd ever make it." My cousin blurted.
"Alice, were you driving on the wrong side of the road again?" I laughed.
"No! Well, not the whole time." She rolled her eyes, smiling mischievously before scowling again. "Traffic was ridiculously slow. I was ready to get out and push the car in front of me. Hell, it would've been faster!"
I smiled at my cousin. She could be abrupt and coarse at times, sometimes even a bit cruel. But I knew she was really a softie on the inside, especially where her family was concerned, and that meant the world to me.
"Thank god I got here in time to do your make-up!"
"I already did my make-up." I said.
"Oh c'mon, humor me." She said. "This is a big night for you."
Just as she probably could have predicted, I allowed Alice to paint my face. I was certain I wouldn't even recognize myself afterward but, much to my surprise, her work was understated and pretty.
"Wow." I said, looking into the ornate gold framed mirror she held before me. "I actually like it."
"If you like that, wait til I get hold of that hair..."
"You know how I feel about my hair." I reminded her. She and I had already discussed it. "I wore my hair up last time. I want it down today.
My cousin whined until I was tempted to give in just to quiet her when we were both startled by a knock on the door. Quick as a flash, Alice was there. "Male or female?"
"Male" answered a very familiar voice I hadn't heard in a while. My stomach turned in knots.
"Nope, sorry. This is a non-male zone. No men allowed."
"Mary Alice Brandon, you have not changed since you made your first sounds in my delivery room all those years ago. Your bark has always been worse than your bite. Now open this door!"
"Okay, but let's keep that bark/ bite thing our little secret." Alice said as she embraced Carlisle.
"Your secret's safe with me." Carlisle pretended to zip and lock his lips.
Alice smiled back at him. "Well, I'm sure you didn't come up here to talk to me." Then she shot me a reassuring glance. "So I'll be right outside."
As I watched the door close behind my cousin, I could feel my heart beat faster. Carlisle and I hadn't shared many words since Emmett had moved out of our home. I suddenly felt very small, very young; like a child. I looked up at him with wide eyes, completely uncertain of what he could possibly wish to say to me without Esme here too.
"You are looking lovely, Bella." He said, looking only at my shoes.
My mouth was suddenly very dry. I licked at my lips, sure to hear it from Alice later as she reapplied my gloss. "Thanks" I squeaked.
Carlisle moved across the room to our tiny kitchen. He filled a glass with ice and poured water from the pitcher I always kept in the fridge.
He sat beside me as he held out the glass. "Bella, you know I've always been very fond of you."
Here it comes, I thought. He's finally going to tell me to leave his family alone.
Carlisle cleared his throat before continuing in the emotionless monotone I'd grown familiar with over the years. "I've always considered you like a daughter."
I closed my eyes, bracing myself for the "but".
"And I would be very honored if you'd allow me to escort you down the stairs today. I know it is not my place to give you away at your wedding, but in the absence of your father..."
"Yes." I shouted as I practically knocked him over, hugging him tightly; the tears exploding from my eyes and making tracks down my cheeks. I had waited for months for some sort of sign that he didn't hate me. My second dad, the one who taught me to change a tire; the one I'd always known I could count on even if we were stranded on the side of the road at 2 o'clock in the morning, hours and hours from home. The one to be there for me when the person who should've been...wasn't. Leave it to Carlisle to come through just when I needed him most.
Alice bounded back in the door, giggling and clapping and throwing her arms around both Carlisle and I. "Sorry." She laughed, as she immediately began dabbing at my cheeks. "I may have pressed my ear to the door just a little."
She'd no sooner dried my tears when we heard the music begin downstairs. "It's time!" Alice beamed.
All at once I wasn't sure how I'd ever manage to stand on the strands of spaghetti my legs had suddenly become, much less make it all the way down the stairs. It's not like I hadn't done it before. I wasn't even wearing an "official" wedding gown this time, just a pretty creme dress leftover from England's version of "The Prom".
Perhaps Carlisle noticed my sudden loss of color, or it could have been all the trembling limbs. He calmly linked his arm in mine and wrapped his arm around my back supporting most of my weight.
"I happen to know there's a pretty great guy very eager to see you waiting just at the bottom of those stairs." he said offering that comforting smile I'd grown to count on from the patriarch of the only family I'd known for years. "Think you can make it?" He winked.
I nodded, focusing on my feet, willing them to pleeeease do what they were supposed to. I stood with Carlisle, as Alice made easy footwork of her entrance.
My turn. All at once, the same staircase I traveled at least ten times a day seemed to have become a million miles long and I felt as if every bit of air left the room.
"Let's just take it one step at a time." My soon-to-be Father-in-law (again) smiled.
I held on tightly to Carlisle's reassuring embrace and did exactly as he said. By the time my hands stopped trembling and my heart stopped pounding he had guided me to the bottom of the staircase.
That's when I saw it. The look on Edward's face. He couldn't have smiled any wider. And his eyes full of tears. But he didn't look afraid. Not at all. He looked certain. And that made me even more certain, too.
As Carlisle placed my hand in Edward's, the love of my life leaned to my ear and said "I have loved you for as long as I can remember, but I do not recall you ever looking as lovely as you do today. I cannot wait to call you my wife."
The minister said his words, but all I could think about was the journey Edward and I had taken to get to where we were standing at that very moment. Most of it was a blur. Much of it like a fairy tale. There were also parts of our journey I would never be proud of. But I would not change one thing for fear of changing something that, to me, was absolutely perfect.
I listened as Edward repeated after the minister; promising to love honor and cherish me for as long as we both shall live. When it was my turn, I was careful to say everything just right. Not even the tears that poured down my new husband's cheeks could distract me. We exchanged the rings we had chosen together, only after Jasper pretended to have lost them. Edward leaned forward and kissed my hand after sliding the ring onto my finger. Finally, the minister pronounced us husband and wife, prompting Edward to kiss his bride. Edward wrapped his arms around me, placing gentle kisses all over my face before finding his way to my lips. We held on to one another for dear life, pressing our lips together until our salty tears combined.
"I love you so much." I told him, my breath a whisper on his cheek.
"Thank you, Bella, so much. You have made me the happiest man alive." He said in return, kissing me more deeply this time.
I looked around at all the people I loved so dearly: Alice, Jasper, Esme and Carlisle, and our new family from the pub. Then I looked back to my new husband and I felt so incredibly blessed. I knew how special it was to have gotten a second chance at my "Happily Ever After." And I couldn't wait to find out what sort of adventures our new life together would bring.
::: Tune in Next Time for "Other Side of the Door" (ODP) Epi #2 :::