It wasn't enough that I was getting married in fifteen hours and twenty-seven minutes. It wasn't enough that I was a vampire marrying a human, the love of my very long life. No, my brothers returned to Forks just in time to add to my list of items to obsess and worry over. My mind was reeling with each revelation that had been laid at my feet, enough that I felt the need to sit. Vampires never need to sit. So, I was grateful when Emmett reminded me that he and Jasper still needed to feed. I was more than eager to put these thoughts temporarily behind me and savor a run through the forest in search of prey.
Thanks to Alice's directions, Emmett found his grizzly in less than four minutes. There was no play, no mock battle this time. Emmett was all animal as he tore into the bear and locked his jaws around its neck, drinking before the creature's heart could stop. The bloody carcass was still twitching as Emmett threw it to the ground.
The site of it was infectious. The need to relieve my growing tension was all consuming. There were too many human feelings to worry about, to think through, and to be overwhelmed by. The hunt was right. My brothers and I were together again, a band of predators. We were off. Jasper, Emmett and I tore through the trees and soon found a herd of elk grazing next to a mountain lake. I sensed my brothers' thoughts change from human words to images and sensations. I let my mind follow.
Wordlessly, we surrounded the herd. Jasper took the lead, as his need to feed was paramount. The elk were trapped against the water's edge. They leapt for the lake, but Emmett and I were faster and pushed them back to shore. We brought seven down. Jasper's prize was the stag. He pinned the animal beneath him, his teeth fixed on its long neck, and his body shuddered with pleasure. Emmett and I each took our share, leaving three large does for Jasper.
Emmett began moving eastward, tracking another herd. But then our heads snapped up in unison at the sound of a small tinny ringing. We were still as stone, our eyes and ears searching for a sign of other predators, or more prey. The sound came again; it came from Jasper's direction. Emmett circled in, looking for the enemy among us. I held my ground, crouching and ready to spring.
Finally, the civilized world came crashing in, I snapped out of it first.
"Jasper, it's your cell phone."
Jasper's head snapped in my direction, then he stood. "Huh? Oh, right." The phone was at his ear.
"Jasper? What are you doing? I said to be there at dawn. I knew you'd be late, but it's almost eight. Get over there now."
Emmett and I each stood up and hung our heads somewhat sheepishly.
"But Alice, what are we going to do at a bed and breakfast? Let us play, we'll get to the wedding on time. I think we all need this."
"I would think you'd trust that I know what's best by now. But if you want to play, Jasper, fine. Play with your brothers. But then you won't get any playtime with me tonight."
Alice hung up the phone.
Jasper looked at us plaintively. "I haven't been with her in a month. Edward, you're going back to town if I have to knock you down and drag you there."
"That won't be necessary, Jasper. I'll go willingly. I wouldn't want to pit anyone against Alice, especially someone that shares her bed.
I wasn't eager to return to hide out at the bed and breakfast as Alice had planned. I couldn't imagine why she thought that the best place for me was to be cooped up in an upscale boardinghouse. I knew she wanted to keep the preparations at home a surprise for Bella and I. It was her gift to us. And while it felt strange not to be more involved in the most significant day of my life, I knew it wasn't the flowers or the linens or the seating arrangements that were important to me. All I wanted was Bella. I wanted the world to know that she was mine.
And beyond the surprise, I knew that I couldn't stay apart from Bella if we were in the same house. I would have fought off my whole family in front of the arriving guests just to see her. Ten miles and two brothers was a more secure barrier, although not an impenetrable one. So I understood why I needed to stay away, but as the ornate Victorian house came into view, I had my doubts about Alice's choice of venue.
We saw Emmett's jeep parked along side the road so that we could drive back to the house. It wouldn't do to have the groom and his brothers running up the drive to the wedding. The bed and breakfast was just as I imagined it would be. There was floral wallpaper and pastoral pictures decorating the walls, lace curtains hung on every window, and the house was permeated by the smell of baked human foods.
A soft woman with rounded edges and gray hair met us at the door. I noticed the tremor in her voice as she spoke, and she carefully to keep her distance and avoided our eyes. "You must be the three gentlemen that reserved my house for the day. Here are the keys. I'll be back this evening, like I arranged with Alice." She placed the keys on her desk instead of handing them to us. "Oh, and which one of you is Edward?" I looked up at her and nodded. Her eyes darted back down to the desk. "Yes, well I have a letter for you from your sister." She placed the letter next to the keys.
"There's a tailor waiting for you two in the second floor bedroom. Edward, your room is the second on the right, just down this hall." With that she grabbed her bag and her glasses and walked quickly out the front door, not bothering to look back.
Emmett smiled, "We've still got it, huh?"
"Yes, we can make old women run for their car. Quite the vampire accomplishment, Emmett," Jasper joked, rolling his eyes.
"I'm just saying-" Emmett continued as they walked toward the stairs.
"Edward, come up to our room when you're done with Alice's letter, or whatever it is she has for you to do."
I nodded absently as I opened the envelope in my hand. I was already reading as I opened the door to my room.
1. Bathe. There's some blood under your thumbnails.
2. Don't do anything to your hair. Bella likes it a little messy.
3. Don't put your tux on until later. I don't want to see any creases. I brought you something to hang around in. It's in the closet
4. After your bath, I have something to help pass your time. When you're done washing, check the drawer in the nightstand.
I checked the closet, and my bathrobe was hanging there. I pulled it to my nose and inhaled. It still smelled like Bella. "Thank you, Alice." I drew a bath and settled into the deep whirlpool tub. Since there was no one else in the house besides my brothers and a tailor, there was no buzz of thoughts to distract me from myself. I took a deep breath and tried to relax. Impossible. Thoughts ran through my head of their own volition.
"Bella has until the end of the year?"
"You and Bella have forever."
"But, then it's you, and Rose? How could you promise that?"
In my wildest dreams, I couldn't have imagined that this was what my family had been keeping from me. I thought back to the night this all began. My mind had been completely consumed by the idea of having sex with Bella. I knew Alice was off the wall with angst, and I let her convince me that she was trying to keep me out of her thoughts about the wedding, and that she was trying to avoid intimate thoughts about Bella and I. How naive and self-centered could I be?
There had been no real peace, no real reprieve this past month. My siblings had engineered it. I had been blissfully ignorant of all of the pain that they had endured for Bella and I. And now Emmett and Rose had given their own freedom so that I could keep Bella. The question I'd asked Emmett had gone unanswered.
"So we just wait and see what happens?"
No, that was unacceptable. The one person I desperately wanted to discuss this with was the person that would be most in danger if she were told. And she certainly didn't need any more incentive to change.
Bella has until the end of the year…
Bella wanted to change before her birthday, well before the year's end. But what if she decided she wanted that freshman year at Northwestern, like I'd encouraged? I could never stand in her way. But I couldn't let Emmett and Rose make that sacrifice for her.
I thought back to my old impulses when it came to Bella. I always made decisions for us, for her. I thought I knew what was best. I did it without telling her and forced it upon her. How had that changed? When did it change? Now, I couldn't make a decision without her. I had no idea what I should do now, and I felt like I never would until I could consult with her.
I tried to again to relax, but it wouldn't come. I submerged myself completely in the tub and attempted to let the water's weightlessness take over. It didn't work. I was up and out of there as soon as I could get the blood out from under my fingernails.
I wrapped myself in my bathrobe, enveloping myself in Bella's scent. My mind wandered back to the night that she wore this. That night had been life changing. Bella and I had learned so much about one another; we'd bared our bodies and our souls to each other. And Jasper's words came at me to shatter my most precious memories.
And when you've found your mate, there's nothing else like it. There's a force, like an energy that's generated. It just blows you away. Then afterwards you're changed.
I suddenly felt stupid and naïve. Sex with Bella would be more intense than anything I'd experienced so far. Where just ten hours ago I had felt so sure that I could do this, now I felt like I was back to square one. I was being selfish by simply considering the act. No one knew if I could really keep Bella safe. Not Jasper, not Carlisle, not Tanya.
Tanya's just in love with him, that's all.
I never let myself believe that Tanya was in love with me, and suddenly I felt like I'd lied to Bella about the whole affair. 'Affair' was the wrong word; there was no affair.
Alice was clearly insane, isolating me here with just my thoughts for company. I turned to go find my brothers, and on my way to the door I kicked the nightstand in aggravation. But I was a ball of nerves and used far too much force. The small table smacked against the far wall and shattered, collapsing in on itself.
Inside the mass of splintered wood I spotted a long white box tied in a red ribbon. It must have been Alice's suggestion to pass the time. As I pulled the box out from the debris, I spotted an envelope taped to the top with my name written there in Bella's writing. I brought the envelope to my nose and took a deep breath. This was written recently. I inhaled again before carefully unfolding the delicate stationary.
When I started this project, it wasn't for our wedding; it wasn't even for you. I started this for myself. I began when I decided that in order to be with you forever, I would become a vampire. I didn't tell you about this, because I knew that it would only make you angry.
I began right after the prom. You mentioned one day that your human memories had faded over time. I knew that what we had was too important for me to ever forget.
So I started writing my own story from the time my life really started, when I moved to Forks. I wrote down everything I could remember; the first time I saw you and your brothers and sisters, that first day in biology when you wanted to kill me, that first afternoon in the meadow, our first kiss. I wanted to remember exactly how I felt. And I just kept writing.
There's some missing stuff. There were three months where I didn't write a thing, and looking back I really couldn't remember what I'd done. But those months didn't matter to me because you weren't there.
Anyway, at some point I realized that I was writing this to you. I know that never being able to read my thoughts has been really hard for you. I think it's also made you doubt some of the things I say, and the feeling I have for you. So, this became a project for us. I know you'll always remember this human time in my life, but you would never know what was going through my head during it.
So, here it is, for you. It's just me Edward, and everything I've thought about you from the beginning. As a wedding gift I'm giving you myself. It's what I've given from the beginning. I've always been yours.
I love you. I can't wait to see you today. I'll be the one at the altar saying, "Yes, I do, I take this man forever."
With all my heart,
I opened the box to find four large binders. I opened the first and began reading. Bella's voice leapt off the page. I read quickly, devouring every word. The first time my name was mentioned, my heart leapt into my throat. I had to read that part over twice before quickly continuing. My breathing came faster as our story continued and I was awash in nervous energy. I paced the room reading. The binder ended with the prom, with Bella determined to become one of us.
What she had given me was priceless. It was our story, so intimately told. She held nothing back, all the love, the pain, her determination, fearlessness and bravery. It had been hard to read. She loved me from the beginning, when I was too caught up in myself, in my own insecurities. She tolerated me when I condescendingly thought I knew better. I had been distant and cold; I imposed rules, restrictions. But Bella loved me nonetheless.
I went to open the next binder, but paused. Suddenly I realized that all of the noise in my head had stopped. I couldn't hear anyone else's thoughts, and I'd regained some of my mind's former clarity. One thought rang true: Bella's love for me had never wavered. Her one constant, her one guide had been her love. I couldn't falter now either. I would do the same for her, and let my love for her guide me.
The next binder was darker, and I suffered through our separation all over again. I read every word, but rushed through those months apart out of guilt and self-loathing. My breath hitched in my throat as Bella wrote about saving me. That she would want me alive after all I had done to her, that she would still want me in her life, it was astounding. I would never doubt the human heart again.
The last binder was my favorite. I read through it twice, I read through my proposal four times. For in this volume I began to see how Bella's love had changed me. I got up and looked in the mirror, really looked. I had spent so much time in the past month wishing that my constant vampire body could change, but I'd been ignoring the truth before myself. I had changed. I would never be the same. It was Bella that had been the constant in our story.
The unyielding force of Bella's love had toppled my convictions and found a way to my heart. The shared power of our love for one another would surely do much more. It would provide me with the grace to deal with both Tanya and Jacob at the wedding. It would bestow on me the calm and the peace of mind to work with Bella toward my part of our bargain. And somehow, I had to believe that it would save Emmett and Rose's life. I didn't know how, but faith was also one of the gifts that Bella's love had bequeathed to me. That would have to do for now.
My mind snapped back to the present, and I realized I was still in front of the mirror, with a big, silly smile on my face. Today was the culmination of my life, my love. Today my life would begin anew, with Bella by my side.
I sat back down on the bed and opened the last binder with an intense anticipation. The first page was blank except for the phrase, "To be continued…" I leafed through it desperately, unable to believe that it had ended. I was about to close the binder and start over from the beginning, when a small note card fell to the floor.
I know you're a fast reader. If you've already finished, I thought you might like to write down your version of our story. There was so much you kept from me at first. I'd love to know what was going through your mind. I know you remember perfectly,
I wanted desperately to reciprocate. I found a pen and started writing, pouring out my heart on the page. I was as brutally honest as she had been. I wrote about how I hated her at first, and how I was drawn back in. I wrote about the night I snuck into her room like a criminal, and how I fell in love with her. I wrote it all. I was just getting to my favorite part of that first spring we spent together, our afternoon in the meadow, when there was a knock at the door.
"Edward." It was Jasper.
I glanced at the clock; it was time. The day had evaporated, and now it was time to marry Bella, with a clear head and an overflowing heart. I put the pen down. I would have to finish this later. It would wait. Bella and I had forever.
-To Be Continued –
By popular demand, you can find the sequel to Prelude at: http://www(dot)fanfiction(dot)net/s/5467729/1/ (Just replace the (dot)'s with .'s)