Thank you so much to addicttwilight2, without whom this story wouldn't have been written.
To say that this prologue is misleading is a huge understatement. Things are about to get angsty, fast, but have a little faith and within time we'll be back to happy, happy times.
Standard disclaimers apply.
In my sky at twilight you are like a cloud
And your form and colour are the way I love them.
You are mine, mine, woman with sweet lips
And in your life my infinite dreams live.
"In My Sky at Twilight", Pablo Neruda
The room was spinning around him in slow, graceful circles. His breathing came in gasps, his chest rising agonisingly slowly with each inhale.
He couldn't quite wrap his head around it. In a few short moments he would become Bella Swan's husband. The entire world would know that she'd chosen him - that she belonged to him, and he to her.
He'd waited for this day for so long, and yet somehow, despite all his months of preparation, he couldn't remember how to perform the simple task of breathing. There was something weighing heavily on his chest, above his heart. Its feathers beat within him, tying his stomach into knots, causing a lump in his throat.
He heard the first low hums of music, and he turned. Dimly he was aware that his sister was walking elegantly down the aisle to the achingly sweet strains of Pachelbel's Canon that floated their way around his family's living room. However, he could only pay attention to the beauty of the atmosphere in small increments. A much larger part of his mind was wholly unconcerned with setting or the presence of other people - the presence of the rest of the world, in fact.
And then Bella entered his plane of sight, and something within him - the hope that had previously been choking him - clenched tightly and relaxed. The soft candlelight illuminating the room only served to pay homage to her utter perfection as she stepped timidly down the aisle, clutching her father's arm.
Somewhere in the back of his mind, he was aware that her body was sheathed in a simple silk wedding gown. That her hair, though caught in a long silver pin, still escaped to curl rebelliously around her face. That her breathing was almost as rapid as his and that her knuckles, as she clenched Charlie's arm, were white.
The rest of him had no words. Her dark eyes caught his and held them fiercely. She looked for all the world as if she were about to break into a sprint - as if she wanted nothing more in the world, at that moment, than to be his wife.
Then she was beside him, and her hand grasped his, and the heat of her body inundated him with awe.
This was really happening. She was really here.
The sheer flawlessness of her face and the depth of emotion in her eyes overwhelmed him, filling him up with clogging joy.
Hazily he was aware that his legs were trembling. But that was nothing new, he reflected wryly. He'd always reacted physically to this woman. Always been struck dumb by her vulnerable beauty and unconscious grace. Whether she was wearing a wedding dress or a pair of frayed pyjamas and a towelling robe.
His lips somehow opened, stuttered their vows, and somehow his shaky fingers were smoothing the ring onto hers. He was mesmerised by the simple band of gold. How could such a little thing have so much meaning?
He tore his eyes from her ring to look her full in the face. She smiled tremulously at him, and his heart nearly burst with happiness.
Seconds later he felt a frisson of pure joy as she slid a cool clasp of gold onto his finger. He savoured this moment, the happiest of his long life - his wedding band sliding into position, his wife - wife! - gently squeezing his fingers, and the promise of a whole new life.
She held his eyes, her own shining, as they each waited breathlessly to hear the final confirmation.
"I now pronounce you husband and wife."
It was official. She was his. They were each others.
His mouth opened, the shape of his lips forming a tacit "oh"...
A joyful sob escaped from her throat and suddenly she was in his arms, and kissing him as though they were the only two people in the universe. Her lips pressed against his, again and again, and he couldn't quite make sense of the headiness of this moment. His wife was in his arms, kissing him for the first time.
His arms wrapped around her tightly, his feet nearly leaving the ground, his head squeezing with disbelief. It was over. The uphill struggle, the ever-present fear, the constant effort - it was finished, done. They were husband and wife. Finally, nothing could separate them.
In that second, with their loved ones clapping and cheering around him, proclaiming their marriage to the heavens, he knew that he would never stop loving his wife, that he would never leave her, and that he would never let her go.