A/N: And so we have come full circle. Here it is—the final chapter of Olympic Rain. Say goodbye to Southern Bella & Novocainward (heaven help me, I'm such a dork).
Epilogue: September in Seattle
"Happy birthday, Love." Silken words caress her ear and a gentle hand shakes her shoulder, rousing her from sweet dreams. Two perfect lips press a kiss to her forehead. She smiles before she opens her eyes.
Sleepy brown eyes meet vibrant green in the yellow light of an early, September morning. Last night had been their first in their new downtown Seattle apartment. It is nice but not over the top—a perfect place for a young couple beginning a new life together.
"Thank you," she says before a yawn. "Why did you wake me up so early? I could have slept till noon."
She pretends to be upset, but she doesn't mind. What twenty-year-old girl would mind dreaming of her love and then waking up to find that he is real? He is kneeling beside the bed, wearing only his boxers and a crooked grin. Her cell phone is in his hand.
"Your dad wanted to talk to you before he left for work," he says. She takes the phone from him; she'd been sleeping too deeply to hear it ring.
"Hey, Dad," she answers, pleasantly surprised and relieved that he remembered this time.
"Happy birthday, Bells!" Charlie's gravelly morning voice sounds cheerful, and she is happy to hear it. A card from Forks is in the mail along with a check she doesn't know about yet. It is just a little something for a daughter starting college life in the big city.
She laughs. "Thank you."
After a short series of questions—about Edward, the new apartment, and such—he says the most important thing. "I love you."
"Love you, too, Dad." She flips the phone shut and rolls onto her back. She has not been awake for more than ten minutes, and already this birthday is infinitely better than the one last year.
"Get up," Edward commands, nudging her gently. "I've got something for you."
She shakes her head, incredulous. He is much too chipper and alert at this hour, especially considering that they had stayed up so late breaking in their new bed last night. Her pale cheeks flush crimson at the thought.
Stretching and yawning, she rises. "Aren't you the least bit exhausted?" she asks with a quirked brow and teasing tone.
"I should be considering you kept me up till almost three a.m. But no, I'm wide awake. We still have a lot of unpacking to do before school starts."
Her stomach swims with nervous energy. Her first real college classes begin in less than a week. The English major will have to stay on her toes; she has a full academic scholarship to keep. Edward has a full schedule of courses as well. A business degree will come in handy when it comes time to run a business of his own in the future—a place that he can be proud of. It probably won't involve bartending…something to do with music, perhaps.
"Let me get a shower first," she says in the midst of another yawn.
She walks into the bathroom, brushes her teeth quickly, and steps beneath the hot water. Admiring her naked silhouette behind foggy glass, Edward cannot resist. He sheds his boxers and joins her in the steam.
When they are finished, dried and dressed, they try out their new kitchen. They share breakfast and conversation before Edward disappears for a minute or two. He returns with a small jar in one hand and a smaller box in the other. Bella giggles when he gives her the jar first. She unties the ribbon, twists the lid, and eats two Maraschino cherries with a smile.
"Now for the real gift," he says as he gives her the wrapped box.
With wide eyes, she eagerly unwraps the shiny paper and nearly cries when she sees what waits inside. A beautiful white-gold, sapphire ring sparkles in the black velvet case. He slides it onto her left ring finger, feeling her pulse quicken as he holds her wrist. It's just a birthstone for now, but he thinks maybe—just maybe—she may trust him to put a diamond there one day. That is years away; he knows they'll have to work up to that. A wily smirk sweeps across his lips. She figures he must be quite proud of himself, but there is a little more to it than that.
"I love you so much," she declares. She wraps herself around him and kisses him as if her lips have never before met his mouth. His long, string-strumming fingers entwine in her hair as he kisses her back, hard and sincere.
"No, Bella Swan," he whispers, "I think I love you more."
A/N: And they graduated, got married, had hundreds more hot lemons, made beautiful babies, and lived happily ever after…The End! ;-)
Now for my Oscar-winning speech:
Discovering the world of fan fiction has been a great experience, and I have learned so much about myself, the fandom, & the power of written words. THANK YOU to everyone who has read, reviewed, and recommended this story. Your love, kindness, and encouragement have touched my heart, truly. Every compliment, suggestion, constructive criticism, and honest comment has been very much appreciated. A very special thank you to those readers who have followed this story since the very beginning way back in August, as well as a huge thanks to my Twilighted beta Megsly/angelicwish. Hugs & kisses to the lovely ladies who follow me on Twitter & show me so much love. Thank you to Sandy at SFFR, the ladies of 7 Stories Podcast, & AngstGoddess (and whomever else that I may be forgetting or do not know about) for their much-appreciated pimpage. Last, but certainly not least, thank you to my real-life Alice (Kimmie) for taking the time to humor me by reading this and for keeping my obsessive hobby a secret!
Now the blinking light is telling me to get my wordy ass off the damn stage already.
Love, Addi :o)