Disclaimer: I do not own the Twilight Saga. No copyright infringement is intended.
Author's Note: So this is the end…it's so sad! Thank you to all of my faithful readers who have read and reviewed this story, encouraging me to keep pushing through. Thanks to all of you who have signed up to follow my blog aculMy Storieslenwannabe dot blogspot dot com, and my twitter account. You guys are so awesome…thank you all so much. I know I didn't respond to very many reviews, but I'm sure most of you understand that when there's a choice between getting another chapter and responding to reviews, I really need to get those next chapters done!
Thanks to my beta AgoodWITCH for her work betaing this story. She's a very talented writer with some great stories already up and more on the horizon. If you haven't checked out her work yet, I highly recommend you do. She's got a new story coming up that's going to knock your socks off…think Criminal Minds meets Twilight! I think you guys will enjoy it!
Also, I am already three Chapters in on my Nascar story. I'm trying to wait until I'm either done or mostly done before I start posting, but I'm getting excited to see your reactions…so keep your eyes peeled for it when I post. It's called Breakaway.
Okay, enough procrastination…on with The Wallflower and The Flyboy Epilogue. Busy day tomorrow with my son's actual birthday, so I'm posting tonight. I hope you enjoy and once again, thank you for all of your support.
Chicago, May 1966
"What I don't understand is why she has to go around protesting the war. Honestly, I'm expecting her to come home any day now referring to herself as Cherry Blossom. Doesn't she see where I might find this all upsetting?" Edward asked Bella as he fought to straighten the windsor knot in his navy blue silk necktie.
Bella sighed with a small smile as she crossed to stand in front of him, grasping the silk material to straighten it before flipping down the collar of his dress shirt and smoothing the lapels. "It's just a way of expressing herself, Edward," she soothed as she stared up into the extremely handsome face of the love of her life. The past twenty years had definitely aged him. Faint lines now stretched across his brow and the corners of his eyes and his bronze mop was now about half gray. He was still the man of her dreams though, and would always continue to be so.
Edward sighed, wrapping his arms around Bella's waist as he leaned down to kiss her lips, being careful not to smear the lipstick she had just applied in anticipation of attending Cherie's graduation from Northwestern University. Their daughter was intelligent, graduating with honors, and yet was completely enamored with this new movement.
Edward had been horrified when his daughter first came home with flowers in her hair ranting about the atrocities of the war in Vietnam. In his opinions, the people he had seen on television were nothing more than a bunch of degenerates who simply were too lazy to fight. You would never have seen a young man acting the way these social rejects were in his day. As a veteran, he felt personally affronted by their outrageous stance against the war. When his daughter came home spouting the same propaganda, Edward nearly had a heart attack right there at the dinner table.
Bella, however, saw things from a slightly different point of view. She recognized that her daughter had a good head on her shoulders and rational thoughts on all the issues she brought up. The girl's mother had a sneaking suspicion that there was more behind her new stance than her exuberant daughter let on.
"Honestly, Edward, I don't think her attitude about this reflects her feelings on you or your generation at all. I think it's partially about the way things have been handled thus far and partially about her own feelings about that time. I think deep down inside she's trying to keep some other little girl from losing their first year with their Daddy like she did hers."
Edward's eyes lowered, a flash of pain gracing his features. Bella sighed again, knowing he felt guilty when he certainly shouldn't. "She doesn't blame you, Edward. She just doesn't think that other kids should be deprived of their fathers for a war that, at least in her eyes, simply is not winnable. The cause you fought for was much more defined. In Vietnam, it's more like they are fighting the ghost of communism and not getting anywhere, as opposed to fighting a tangible aggressor."
Edward sighed, running his hands through his hair. As a lifelong patriot and veteran, he was not used to questioning the decisions of the government. His generation was taught to honor their leaders and follow them with pride. This new generation had no respect for the sanctity of their nation, but he could not deny that his wife had a point. He knew his daughter was a bright girl with a good head on her shoulders, but he couldn't help but fear that dipping her toe into that area of influence would drag her into the rest of the lifestyle. Few things horrified him more than thinking of his daughter living in a haze of illegal substances and giving herself freely to many different men. That type of behavior wasn't in his daughter's nature, but how many other parents of these kids had thought the same, only to find their children disappear, leaving a shell of their former selves behind?
Bella smiled, grasping his hands and holding them between them. "She's a good girl, Edward. She may make mistakes in life, but they are hers to make and learn from. I, personally, have faith that she won't get wrapped up in all of that drug mess. And as for the free love? She's completely faithful to Daniel. He's practically you when we met, so I don't think she's going to spiral too much."
Bella reached over to the top of the bureau next to them to grasp her pearl necklace he bought her when he returned from Europe, holding it out to Edward with a pleading expression. "Will you help me please, darling?"
He carefully took the thin strand of white pearls and draped it around her neck. He affixed the tiny clasp carefully before stroking the column of her neck lovingly. Bella was just as lovely to his eyes as she was the first day he laid eyes on her across the room at a USO dance in New York. Not a day passed that he did not thank God in heaven for letting them find one another.
He leaned in to kiss her neck gently, wrapping his arms around her waist and pulling her now slightly fuller frame to his chest. She was conscientious of the changes in her body after the birth of their children, but Edward loved her more rounded hips and fuller breasts that now gave her a more defined hour glass shape than she had when they first met. He found her slightly more voluptuous curves extremely alluring. Twenty years of taking her in their bed had not diminished his desire for her at all.
Bella sighed, tipping her head to allow him better access and bringing her hands to his thighs, rubbing them gently as both of their bodies began to respond. They didn't have time for the distraction, but their minds were having a hard time convincing their bodies of that. It wasn't until their youngest child burst through the door before yelping and covering her eyes that they managed to get a handle on their desires.
"Oh my…geez guys! You're old now, why don't you act like it," their fourteen year old daughter, Grace, cried from behind the safety of her shielding palm. It never ceased to astound Edward when he glanced at his youngest child just how much she looked like her mother from her chocolate eyes to her brown hair and heart shaped face. The only thing that she seemed to have inherited from her father was a bit of height that her mother lacked. At fourteen, she was already an inch taller than Bella, and appeared to still be growing.
Both Bella and Edward laughed loudly at their daughter's exclamation. They remembered the time when they considered people in their forties old, but now that they were there themselves, they knew exactly how incorrect that really was…at least in their case.
"Perhaps next time you'll remember your manners and knock before entering and save yourself the embarrassment, dear." Bella chuckled as she crossed the room and patted her daughter on the shoulder. "Are you ready to go?"
Grace peeked through her fingers before finally dropping her hand with a relieved sigh. "Yes, and Garrett asked me to tell you that he was going to hitch a ride with Dan and meet us there."
Edward and Bella sighed with a nod as they followed their daughter down the staircase to the main floor and out toward the garage where their 1960 black Cadillac convertible waited for them all to climb in for the ride to campus.
Once they arrived, they walked with the sea of people into the building where the commencement ceremony would take place. All three continually scanned the area around them to spy Garrett and Daniel. Soon, Bella managed to spot the unmistakable messy mop of bronze hair atop their son's head on the far side of the room about halfway up toward the stage in the family seating area. He tossed his head back and laughed in a classic Edward manner as he conversed with the man they all expected to end up as family some day in the not so distant future.
Garrett caught sight and started waving his arms just as Bella pointed him out to Edward. Seventeen year old Garrett smiled widely as they crossed the room to join them, his brown eyes sparkling at them. They had assumed since Cherie had been more or less a honeymoon baby that the second would come just as easily. They struggled for several years, on the verge of giving up, when God finally blessed them with their second child.
Garrett had one year left of high school after which, he hoped to attend Northwestern the following fall. His sister had influenced him enough to talk him out of joining up like all of his buddies planned to do, but the draft could still potentially keep him from following his ambitions immediately after graduation. The feelings in the household were very mixed on his decision. Bella and the girls were relieved that he wouldn't be running off to 'Nam immediately, worried for his life and feeling uneasy about the war as it was. Edward, however, couldn't help but feel disappointed that he had failed to instill that patriotic desire in his son to defend his country, but he also understood with all the chaos surrounding the entire situation.
As they reached the group, everyone shared hugs before situating themselves to settle in for the ceremony. Just before it began, Daniel leaned over to Bella and Edward with a smile.
"I just wanted you to know that tonight is the night. I'm asking Cherie to marry me when I take her to dinner after the reception."
Bella gasped and looked on in shock before looking at a beaming Edward who was nodding his head in agreement. It was then that she realized that he already knew, but then of course he did. Daniel was a proper young man, and he would not have made this move without formally asking Edward for his permission, which Edward must have given. It only slightly upset Bella that he hadn't shared the news with her when Daniel approached him.
Edward looked over at her with a knowing smile as he leaned in to whisper in her ear. "He asked me three months ago. I told him he was a good man and he had my blessing. The only thing I asked was that he wait until after she finished school to propose. He agreed wholeheartedly, and obviously he wasn't willing to wait a moment more." He chuckled, wrapping his arm around Bella and hugging her close, thinking that he would have been the same way if their meeting and courtship had been as Cherie and Daniel's.
The music began and all of the family members watched in joy as Gabriella Cherie Cullen walked across the stage and accepted her diploma from the dean. They sat through the long, drawn out ceremony before cheering as the graduating class of 1966 was announced.
The family all went to a reception held afterward for all the Cullen Steel graduates. The night went well as everyone ate and enjoyed the band that played. Well, the younger ones enjoyed the band while the parents did their best to bear patiently with the noise pollution that their children considered good music. Most would have given their right arm for some Glen Miller tunes, but the night was not for them.
As the night started to come to a close, everyone was surprised when six foot tall Daniel hopped on the stage and grabbed the microphone from the stand.
"Excuse me everyone. I am sorry for interrupting the evening. I had planned on waiting until after this party to do this, but I find that I can't hold myself back anymore. Cherie….where are you sweetheart?"
All eyes in the room turned to the bronze haired beauty in the middle of the room, chatting with a group of girls, which included her best friends Maggie McCarty and Candace Whitlock. She stared up to the stage with wide eyes as Bella and Edward held hands, tears pooling in both of their eyes.
"Cherie, will you come up here, baby?"
Cherie looked embarrassed as she crossed the room and took his hand to assist her in climbing the two stairs to stand beside him on the stage. She looked at him in confusion as he smiled down at her with such adoration it was almost painful to see.
Daniel reached up and pushed Cherie's silky ringlets behind her ear before cupping her cheek. "Cherie Cullen, you are the best thing that ever happened to me. You are beautiful, intelligent, caring, loving, and pretty much perfect. I love you so much…so much that I can't wait another minute to ask you this."
Tears began to streak Cherie's face as she watched him kneel in front of her, her hand still grasped in his. "Gabriella Cherie Cullen, will you please do me the honor of becoming my wife?"
Cherie's free hand flew to her mouth as a small gasp escaped her. When she finally lowered it a few seconds later, she was smiling. She nodded emphatically as she squeaked out a 'yes.'
The room erupted in cheers as Daniel shot to his feet and swept Cherie into his arms. They kissed passionately on the stage before the crowd, obviously no longer remembering that they were being watched. Bella and Edward cried, holding onto one another as they watched their daughter's joy on stage. Edward wrapped her tighter in his arms, kissing her temple lovingly.
"I love you, Mrs. Cullen. The day you said yes to me was the beginning of the rest of my life. Thank you…thank you for everything."
Bella shook her head as she looked up at him. "No, thank you. You're the one who changed my life completely and gave me all the things I never knew I would ever be lucky enough to have. You gave me three beautiful children and a wonderful life. I love you so much!"
Daniel and Cherie finally broke apart before he slipped a box out of his pocket and slid the ring onto her finger. As soon as she saw the ring, Cherie's face shot up to meet her father's, for obviously he had given Daniel his blessing if Daniel had her Grandmother's ring on her finger. With tears in her eyes, she thanked her father who nodded back with equally shimmering eyes. Cherie clasped her hand to her chest possessively as Daniel swept her into another joyful kiss.
"You gave him Esme's ring to give her, didn't you?" Bella whispered after watching Cherie's reaction. He nodded slowly down at her as a sob cracked free from her chest.
Esme had been the mother to Bella that she had never had in her own youth. Every day for the past five years, Esme's presence had been missed greatly by her daughter-in-law. Bella and Esme had grown such a bond during that nearly two year stretch that Edward had been gone; not a day passed that one did not call the other. When cancer stole her from them all, Bella and Carlisle had felt the pain most acutely. Only a year later, Carlisle had a stroke and joined his bride in heaven. Both parents were very greatly missed by all.
The newly engaged couple were greeted around the room as they left the stage, receiving congratulations from all who knew them until they finally reached Cherie's parents. No words were spoken when they arrived and Bella opened her arms as her daughter flew into them, wrapping her mother tightly within her grasp. Both women cried quiet tears of joy.
When the ladies finally broke apart, Cherie turned to fly into her father's arms, wrapping her arms around his neck extremely tightly as he wrapped his arms around her waist, kissing her temple.
"Thank you, Daddy. I'm so grateful you are letting me have Grandma Esme's ring. I know what it means to you."
Edward shook his head. "She would have wanted you to have it. She loved you so much, but not as much as I do, baby. I'm so happy for you, but no matter how old you get or how many grandchildren you give me, you are always going to be my baby."
Cherie sobbed into his neck as she savored the fragrance of his aftershave and cologne. After a long embrace, they reluctantly released one another so that Garrett and Grace could get their turns with their sister. Grace cried with her as they looked at their Grandmother's ring on her finger. Esme had a special relationship with each one of her grandchildren and they all adored her completely.
After the party was finished, Bella and Edward began cleaning up, along with Emmett, Rose, Alice, and Jasper. They excused Daniel and Cherie to go out and celebrate while they insisted the rest of their kids stay behind and help clean up. After a bit of bellyaching, the mess was quickly taken care of thanks to all of the contributing hands.
As soon as the last table was put away, all three sets of parents were accosted by their children. Garrett asked if he could go camping with Emmett and Rose's son, Hale, who was the same age as Garrett. It was a tough sell, but eventually the parents agreed once Hale's older sister's boyfriend agreed to go along and keep an eye on things.
Meanwhile, Grace, and Alice and Jasper's younger daughter, Catherine, were begging them to allow Grace to spend the night. That was a much easier sell since they would be under parental supervision and Alice adored Grace.
Fifteen minutes after the agreements were made; the kids disappeared to go get their things for their trips leaving the adults behind to chuckle. After a little more conversation, they all went their separate ways leaving Edward and Bella to return home to an empty house.
They arrived to find their children had already come and gone, leaving the house eerily quiet, which was very unusual. Both parents felt exhausted after the emotionally charged day. They were happy for their eldest daughter, but it was still sad to know she was grown and now getting married. She was officially their first child to leave the nest. The new proposal did, however, ease a few more of Edward's fears.
They undressed in the familiar comfort that comes from years of living together. Long ago, they had found a cadence that allowed them to brush their teeth side by side at their sink without bumping elbows or spitting on one another when they went to expel the froth of their toothpaste from their mouths. They easily completed their nightly ritual, sliding between he covers in their night clothes before curling up together happily.
They spoke quietly into the dark room for a while before they began to kiss. It wasn't long before the freedom of a child free house took over their actions. Nightclothes were quickly discarded as the explored one another free of inhibition. The ability to verbally express their pleasure was an even greater turn on than they had remembered as the plundered and explored one another with hands and mouths, writhing and moaning on their bed.
When Edward entered Bella, they both moaned loudly, calling out to one another in the privacy of their bedroom, memories of their honeymoon flooding their minds. They moved together in knowledgeable synchronicity until they both found their release as they yelled out in ecstasy, panting as they kissed excitedly. Their bodies melted onto the mattress as they recovered in a heap on the bed, Edward softening while still inside of Bella's warmth, neither wanting to break the connection.
Eventually, Edward rolled onto his side, still holding his bride of twenty plus years close to his side as he continued to kiss her face reverently. They fell asleep in one another's arms, happy to still be side by side and as in love with one another as ever.
Author's Note: Well guys, that's the end. I'm so glad I decided to extend this story from the oneshot. It has been a great experience and a lot of fun getting my mind to drift back to the WWII era. Thanks so much for sticking with me and reading the story. I hope you all enjoyed it. Thank you for all of the many reviews you left for these chapters. I wish I could have responded to them all, but you know how it goes. There just aren't enough hours in the day for everything. Thanks again for reading and keep your eyes peeled for updates of Sovereign Fate and a new story I will post in the not so distant future with Nascar Driver Bella!