The carriage jostled and jingled as it rolled along the country side. It really was breathtaking. The sky was a brilliant blue and unmarred by the dark clouds that so often resided in Washington. Rather, the few clouds that could be seen were few and far between and fleecy white; they danced though the air as the wind blew them toward new destinations.
Isabella leaned backward in her seat and covered a yawn with her hand. It had been two days since she'd left the palace and she would soon reach the castle at Volterra. That would give her only a day to settle herself before Jane and Alec arrived. There would be much to do and little time to do it in.
Leaving the palace had been a difficult decision to make and she'd wondered more than once if she had taken the coward's way out. She'd run away from the difficulties that had reared their ugly heads rather than stay and fight to find a solution. Still though, even after these two days of travel she could not imagine having stayed in the thick of the situation. She would have been plagued with worry and might never have made a decision about anything.
Becoming a governess had never been high on her list of things to do, but there was nothing she could do to change what she had done and she refused to run from this challenge as she had the last. It was more than a matter of healing her wounded pride however, it was also of vital importance that she find a way to answer Edward and that would have never happened if she'd stayed at the palace.
She felt badly about having left him without saying anything in regard to what he'd said to her, but what could she have told him after what Jacob had done? She had been far too emotionally unstable and nothing she said would have come out right. Bella was sure that she would have made things worse than they already were.
She had only told Esme of her departure and had been forced to explain all that had happened. There were many tears shed on her part. The queen had been shocked at hearing of her son's declaration and immediately granted Isabella leave on a temporary basis and she was to report her final decision within a month. The queen had also promised to keep Isabella's departure from Edward for a day or two to give the girl time to get on her way.
Bella wondered what his reaction would be when he learned of what she'd done. She supposed that he would be hurt, and possibly angry. She hoped he wouldn't be to upset about it, he would have to understand why she had gone. It had all been too much for her to deal with at once and he had to have seen that.
She glanced out the window as she felt a change in the ground beneath the carriage. They were rolling along more smoothly than they had been previously. She could hear the clip-clopping of the horses' steps as they went along cobblestones, it was a marked difference from the dull thuds of their hoofs on the dirt road that they had been traveling since the night before.
The previously open landscape, filled only with lush green grass and brightly colored flowers, seemed to close inward in as the coach rolled along into a forest. The trees were quite close and their leaf filled branches formed a canopy overhead allowing little sunlight to penetrate. It became very dark and Bella felt an odd sense of foreboding that she quickly dismissed as nerves.
Sooner than she would have guessed the buggy slowed and the trees began to thin. As discretely as possible she put her head out the window closest to her. They were insight of the castle and it's dark beauty took her breath away.
The Washington palace of the Cullen's was large and lovely. It was light and bright and welcoming. The castle at Volterra was its opposite. Though the sky above was blue and full of sun, the gray stone and high, pointed turrets of this residence were imposing and left Isabella with an impression of fear.
No doubt that was what the creator had intended and if so then he had done a wondrous job of it. The very sight of her new domicile left her with a feeling of foreboding. King Aro's palace certainly did not reflect his personality, he was consistently in a state of an eccentric sort of happiness and this home of his was dark, gloomy. The only thing the homeowner and the actual building had in common was a chilling, disconcerting presence.
Isabella had begun to severely regret her decision to leave her former post.
Edward was in a rage. His anger was such that his parents had been forced to ask him to leave the room and take time to cool his temper. He had just been informed by his mother that Isabella had been granted permission to leave her post as maid to pursue a new job opportunity. She refused to say more than that for fear that he would take leave in pursuit of her. Esme believed that Isabella needed a chance to find out her feelings and Edward would not be reasonable enough to listen to her rational.
She was correct in that assumption. Presently, Edward was stomping around his bedchamber and sitting room. His breathing was harsh and his heart was pounding in his ears. He was very nearly seeing red.
Had Jacob not also left his position he would have gone to find him just so he could have an argument and release some of his frustration.
He knew Isabella had not left to be with the Black boy, she had made it clear the night before that she had no romantic interest in him, but she had left himself with no reassurances. Nothing, not even a note of explanation. He wasn't exactly upset with her, but he was hurt by her apparent lack of consideration.
Edward knew what he had to do, but in order to do that he would have to find out where Isabella was. He had no one to ask, he'd already questioned the staff and she hadn't spoken to anyone about her departure. His mother wouldn't speak of it and his father knew less than he did. He had no clues as to where she might have gone.
It was vital that he find out where she'd left to. Guests, or more appropriately contestants, were set to begin arriving the following afternoon and he wanted to be away from the palace before then.
His thoughtful pacing was interrupted by a knock on his door. It was a servant, come with a letter for him. He sent the boy away and tore into the note, hoping that it might be from Isabella.
He was momentarily disappointed as it had not been sent by the one he was looking for, but his dissatisfaction was raised to hope in the moment. It from Alice, and she told him that she had reliable information concerning where Isabella had gone. Edward supposed that Isabella must have written to her friend about the incident.
... I happen to know that she was recently offered a new situation by King Aro. His niece and nephew were orphaned, he's to be their guardian, and in need of a governess. Bella agreed to take the position. Edward, she was afraid of her feelings and needed time to think. She's already regretting her decision. I cannot tell you what you should do, but I do believe that you must do whatever feels right. She does care for you Edward, and I'm sure you guessed that, so with the knowledge that your feelings are returned make a determination on what needs to be done. I wish I could be of more help to you, but I am sure that whatever you do will lead to the happiness of you both.
Jacob had left. He had run. He'd done the most cowardly thing he could possibly do and yet he couldn't find any bit remorse inside his either his heart or mind for the things he'd said and done.
He 'd told Bella how he felt and he was not ashamed of the way he had gone about it. Perhaps it had been a bit unfair, he'd known that she didn't feel exactly the same way he did, and it hadn't turned out as he'd hoped it would, but if he had the chance he would do it all again. He'd given his all and she would have expected nothing less of him.
He'd returned home. It was a little difficult being there alone, but he was feeling more at peace then he had in a long time. He had cleaned everything up, gotten rid of all the dust and laundered the bed sheets. Wood chopping had kept him occupied for quite a while and it felt good to be busy.
He would have to find new work, but that could wait a bit, he had some money saved and he felt that a bit of time off would be conducive to his peace of mind.
It wasn't as bad as he'd feared it would be, not being with Bella. He could almost believe that he would get beyond her rejection someday.
Edward was on his way, his mother hadn't been able to stop him and his father had already admitted defeat. He'd left on horseback, unwilling to wait for a carriage to be made ready, and he was prepared to push both himself and his horse to the brink.
By his calculations the normally two day trip would take about a day and a third if he kept pace. That was still too long as far as he was concerned, but it was the best he could do. He didn't so much have a plan as a vague idea of what he was going to do once he got to her, but overall that wasn't a worry of his.
Alice's letter had been a huge boost to his feelings of hope regarding Isabella's emotions toward himself and he was not going to waste any time in finding out for sure. He had a ring with him, one that had belonged to his grandmother. If she felt as he hoped she did he would be on one knee in less than a moment asking for her hand.
Two days. She had been there for two days and she could not believe the difficulties she was having with Jane and Alec. The twins were highly self-centered and unyielding when it came to doing what they wanted. She had quickly come to realize that they were going to need a stronger, better trained governess than she, but she was unwilling to leave. She had nowhere to go except back to Washington and she was not yet ready to face what she had left there.
She hoped that things would get better as the two grew to trust her, she understood how difficult it was to lose both parents, and how much harder it must be for these two! True, they did have each other to lean on, but they'd led a specific kind of lifestyle. They'd had all the attention they could ever need or want from their mother and father, and now they were to live with an uncle who was rarely home. Isabella was sure that King Aro loved, or at least greatly cared for them, but the nature of his position would send him away often. Currently he was still in Washington and had yet to see the children.
They didn't have what they were used to having and she could emphasize with that.
It was late, after ten o'clock, and the children had fallen asleep over an hour ago. She was awake only because she couldn't settle her mind. She was sitting at her writing desk and using it for its intended purpose, she was writing a letter to Edward. It was difficult though, what could she say to him? She wanted to explain why she'd left, and she wanted to tell him how she felt about him, but that was easier said than done. For twenty minutes she'd been staring at a blank piece of parchment trying to write what she was feeling and, as yet, she had no idea how to do so.
"Argh!" She let her head hit the table. It was extremely frustrating to want to do something, to need to do something, but not be able to.
Isabella stood from her seat and went to sit on her bed, pulling a letter out of the pocket of her apron as she did so. It had arrived that morning from Jacob, but she hadn't opened it yet because she was afraid of what it might contain. He was probably angry with her and hurt by what she'd said to him.
With a sigh she decided that she would have to read it sooner or later and that it was better to just do it. The quicker she read it the quicker she could burn it. It had been forwarded to her from the palace at Washington.
I'm sure you've been carrying this letter around with you for some time, afraid of what I would write. I want to assure you now that there isn't anything terribly bad in here. I'm only writing to tell you that I am sorry for the way I pushed my feelings on you, I knew you didn't feel the same for me, but I had to at least try.
I've gone home Bella, I was neglecting the place and it was time to make a change anyway. I hope you are not too angry with me for seemingly running away, but there was no real reason for me to stay.
I know how he feels about you Bells, Edward I mean. I feel the same, but he beat me out here. In a sense he won the game, and I just needed you to know that if I had to lose you to someone, at least it was to a person who loves you at least as much as I do.
Her eyes were watering by this time. She had never known Jacob to be one who would apologize for something he'd done. He didn't often do anything bad enough to warrant it, but even when he did, it wasn't common for him to directly offer an apology.
What was even less like him was the fact that he'd conceded to defeat, not only that, but to an opponent he apparently considered worthy!
Shaking her head and wiping her eyes, she continued reading the letter.
I know how hard it is for you to believe that he, that anyone, could really want to be with you in the romantic sense of the word, but he does. It's a little bit disgusting for me to think of it, and to be honest it makes me feel like losing my lunch, but don't leave him without an answer. I know you, and I know your first instinct will be "flight" and maybe you've already done that. If so then you must go back. Then again, if you have left, he may be on his way to get you.
So, I suppose what I'm trying to say is that I still love you. I really do, and I love you enough to want you to be happy, even if that means I'm not the one you're happy with.
Send me a letter when you stop being upset with me.
"Oh, Jacob," Isabella sighed. How was it that he was always able to quell her anger? Even when it was completely deserved, he always seemed to be able to get straight to her heart and force her to forgive him.
She straightened suddenly, whipping her head around toward a window. "What was that?" she murmured to herself as she stood from the bed. She'd thought she had heard a horse, but she hadn't gotten any notice of visitors, and even if she had it was very late for someone to be arriving.
It was far too dark for her to see who it was exactly, but the person looked to be fairly tall. Whoever it was had come on horseback and was wearing a black cape that seemed to have a crest on the back, but because of the strong winds it was constantly whipped around and she was unable to make it out.
She quickly turned from the window and slipped shoes onto her feet. Someone would be coming up to get her soon to receive the guest.
Less than five minutes later a knock on her door sounded and she was being led to the drawing room where the visitor was waiting.
She knew immediately who it was. His bronze hair stood in disarray and his green eyes shone with some unknown emotion. Edward had come to see her.
In an instant her thoughts flew from her mind and before she knew what she was doing she had sprinted across the room into his surprised, yet open, arms.
Edward had stood to greet Isabella and she nearly knocked him over when she collided with him. He caught, steadied, and set her in front of him so he could get a good look at her.
Seemed well enough, tired perhaps, but then it was fairly late. He supposed that he must have woken her. Her hair was its usual wavy brown and her eyes like melted chocolate. They were watering just then. Tears pooled and began to fall, splashing onto her cheeks.
He pulled her close again, so that her head was pressed against his shoulder, and so he could put his face in her hair.
"Umsery," he heard her say.
"What was that?"
She shifted slightly in his arms and repeated herself. "I said, I'm sorry. I left without any notice, I didn't even leave you a note!"
He sighed loudly. "Do you think that I came here for an apology?" he pushed her backward slightly and reached into a pocket.
She knew what he was going to do before he'd even gotten the ring out of its box and she knew what she would say to him. So, she waited quietly while he fumbled with the ring before dropping to one knee in front of her and taking her hand in his.
Edward took a deep breath. "I'm sure you've realized what I'm doing, and you know how I feel about you. I love you, Bella, so much and I'm sorry that it took me such a long time to realize it, and then even longer to do anything about it," he pressed his lips to her hand. "I'm asking you to marry me, to stay with me."
Bella was quiet for a moment, trying to compose herself. She didn't want to cry.
Once she felt that she would be able to answer him without making a scene she opened her mouth. Of course she promptly choked on her words and could only nod her affirmation while tears streamed down her face.
That was quite enough for Edward, more than enough, and he placed the diamond ring on her finger. It was a long oval, with slanted rows of diamonds, surrounded with a gold netting. Beautiful. She didn't really see it though, she couldn't pay attention to her new ring, or even to her happiness because Edward had kissed her.
Within a week Edward and Isabella had returned to Washington. Aro had been notified of the situation by way of letter from Alice; he seemed unsurprised, and strangely happy, with the way things had turned out. In fact, it almost seemed as though he'd been expecting the turn of events.
The search for Edward's bride had been canceled, the announcement publicly made, and quite a few people were upset by it. More than one country had decided to take the proclamation as a personal offense. Neither Carlisle or Esme were worried by this, they were confident that as soon as invitations had been sent out the anger would dissipate as excitement took over. Edward's wedding was sure to be a grand affair as they he and Bella had handed all creative power to Alice.
She and Jasper had been at the palace when they returned. Naturally Alice had seen the outcome and was all excitement and joy. She had immediately begun asking Bella to allow her to plan the wedding and after much discussion and many limits her pleas had been answered. She had been given a nearly unlimited budget, but all her decisions would have to be approved by Esme. Bella wanted no part in planning the wedding and Edward agreed.
With Alice in control planning ran smoothly, as did set up, and the sending of the requests of attendance. Everyone was there to witness the union between Prince Edward Cullen and his bride Isabella Marie Swan.
Bella looked more than lovely in her dress, also designed by Alice. It was made of fine ivory silk, with wide laced cuffed sleeves, and a draped skirt with two-tone silk and a gold colored, corded fabric fringe. Originally the bodice had been extremely low-cut and even Alice had had to concede that it needed to be brought higher up. Her hair was left down, a wreath of roses and orange blossoms crowning her head, and once she and Edward were married she would receive the tiara that Esme had been given when she married Carlisle.
At the moment Bella was in her room being poked and prodded by Alice. There were only minutes before Carlisle would knock the door. The marriage is would be performed at 12 o'clock in the afternoon, in the east garden of the palace. She would enter first, resting on the arm of her soon to be father-in-law. Next would be Edward with his mother. Then the groomsmen and bridesmaids, Alice with Jasper and Rosalie with Emmett, would enter. Bella would have loved to have Jacob in the wedding as well, but he had declined his invitation.
She and Edward would proceed to say their vows and exchange rings. After that would be the reception and then the two would leave for a two week vacation before returning home to prepare for Edward's coronation ceremony.
"Alright now," Alice said. "It's nearly time. I have been over this with you time and time again. Nothing, as far as I can see," she winked. "will go wrong."
Isabella's breathing was uneven. "Right."
The shorter girl rolled her eyes. "If you can make it through this there will be an immense surprise waiting for you during the reception."
The knock came and Alice opened the door to Carlisle who looked quite dashing in his navy blue waistcoat and black trousers. On his head was his crown.
He didn't say anything as he took Bella's hand and began leading her through the hallways of the palace.
"Breath Bella," he told her when they were about to exit the castle into the garden. "Everything will be fine," he patted her hand. "I will be with you all the way to end of the aisle."
"Yes," she choked. "Fine. Everything will be fine."
Once they were outside she concentrated wholly on her walking. Alice had been surprisingly conservative when it came to choosing which shoes she would wear, they were satin and the heels were only a few inches high, but she still worried about losing her footing. Consequently she saw almost nothing of the set up or decorations. She saw that Alice had arranged flowers of all colors, and that every seat was filled, but that was all.
She and Carlisle reached the end of the aisle and then Edward and Esme entered.
Immediately Edward could see was Isabella and vice versa. Neither of them noticed anything else throughout out the ceremony and before they knew it they'd exchanged rings and kissed in front of everyone. This was something Alice had insisted on, though it was greatly frowned upon in high society, and Edward thought the idea of showing off his bride agreeable, so Bella had been outnumbered. She found that she did not mind it as much as she'd thought she would.
The reception passed uneventfully until the very end. It was little more than a fashionable supper. Alice would have loved to make it more exciting, but Esme had forbid it. She insisted that though neither herself, Carlisle, her son, or daughter-in-law cared much for the opinions of others, it was important to keep the reception muted lest rumors began to spread. Edward and Isabella's kiss would be all that most of the nobles could manage.
As soon as everyone had settled Bella had been taken away by Alice to the other side of the palace where her surprise was waiting. Jacob had come. He didn't have much to say, but he did give Bella a wooden carving of a wolf that he'd made. It was an emotional meeting with many tears shed by Bella and a few by Jacob once he was on his way back home.
Soon Edward and Bella were on their way to spend time alone before the coronation preparations began. It was a time of quiet, intimate moments that neither of them would have traded for the world. During the days away Bella wrote a letter to Jacob, telling him of the wedding and wishing to see him again when he was ready. He replied saying that he would be happy to visit with her someday soon.
Upon their return to the palace they found that Alice and Jasper had left once again. Alice had been asked to help plan the wedding of another royal family, apparently she had started a trend with her designing of Edward and Bella's. Many families were looking to her for advice on large events and it seemed that Alice would break yet another long standing tradition: She was, for all intents and purposes, a career woman. Jasper was simply happy that Alice was happy and had no qualms with allowing her to do as she wished, provided that she include him in decisions that involved their traveling from home.
The newlyweds were not able to spend much time alone however, as soon as they returned they were thrust into preparations for the coronation. This brought quite a lot of anxiety to Isabella as she would also participate, though in a very small way. She was very worried that she would somehow make a mistake. Her husband continually assured her that she would not.
In the end everything went as well as could be expected. Bella made none of the mistakes that she was frightened she would and nothing embarrassing came of the exhibition. Edward became king of Washington, Isabella queen, and Carlisle and Esme retired to live on a small, poor island community were Carlisle practiced medicine.
A few months into their reign Bella became pregnant with their first child, a girl. She was born healthy and beautiful, with her mother's chocolate colored eyes and her father's reddish-brown hair. They called her Renesmee, after both sets of grandmothers. A pair of twins came after her, two boys, whom they named Peter and George, and after the twins came one more girl by the name of Carlie, who like her older sister had been named for her grandparents, this time the males.
Life continued on in the fashion that it usually did, with glad moments and sad moments, but in the very end everyone could say with conviction that they lived happily ever after.
And that, dear readers, is...
A/N: Thank you so much for reading this story though to the end! I'm sorry it took me such a long time to finish it, but please forgive me and leave your thoughts and comments in a review for this final chapter!