A/N: The final chapter of The Color of Your Eyes is upon us. I would like to thank everyone who has been reading and reviewing – you have all made writing and sharing this story an adventure. The alerts, the comments and the amazing number of hits have made me smile so many times. I hope you have all enjoyed reading the story as I have enjoyed writing it.
For the reviews after the last chapter, thank you to Writing For Whitlock, teolm9484, CullenGrl255, lotusblomsten, FatalAttractions, Mysterious Angel-05, Sadie1787, hidinginyoureyes, Hayleey, sweetness4683, aerobee82, jadesabre75, marisa holguin and Twilighterheart!
I dedicate this chapter especially to omichiri6183 who inspired the first half of it. Thank you for the idea about the crest and the painting – it fit right in. :)
Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight.
High School Never Ends
Breezing through the living room on my way outside, I glanced up at the painting above the mantel. I stopped abruptly and felt incredibly stupid.
"Any way to remedy that?" Carlisle asked behind me. "Every time I look at your painting I am reminded how lucky I am."
I managed a crooked smile. "Yeah. And I should have done it a long time ago. I wonder what Rose and Em have been thinking all this time."
"You are not the only one who has been too preoccupied to notice, honey," he assured me and put his arm around my shoulder. "I think pocket watches and cameos are a little outdated, so I should be looking into that too."
"Well then, Fellow Founder of This Family – we should get on that as soon as possible," I smiled. "But no telling the others. It needs to be a surprise."
Carlisle looked at me like I was crazy. "Have you forgotten about Alice and Edward? I'm sure Alice has already seen it and Edward will pick it up from either her or my mind."
"I'll shield Alice," I said, determined to make the new painting a surprise. "Jasper and I were experimenting the other day and I think I figured out how to put a shield on someone instead of extending my own. In theory anyway. You just keep your thoughts away from Edward. You know, think about Esme a lot. That should keep him out of your head."
Carlisle laughed. "Should be easy enough, then."
"Right. And this is where our conversation ends," I decided.
As it turned out Carlisle was not able to keep Edward out of his mind. I had escaped to the forest one day to work on the new painting of my family thinking I had covered my tracks well, but before I had finished with the details on the first beloved face on the canvas, my darling husband came strolling into the clearing I had claimed as my atelier.
"Guess what I picked up from Carlisle's mind between disturbing images of Esme and recitals of ten year old medical journals?" He said casually.
"No one likes a smartass," I told him, never looking up from my painting. "Besides, a real gentleman would have let him – and me – keep our little secret."
"You should have married a real gentleman, then," Edward shrugged and sat down on my ground and leaned back on his arms, settling his gaze on me. "Because you know I am much too selfish a creature not to seize the opportunity to ogle my beautiful wife while she creates another masterpiece."
I finally looked at him, beaming at me while out-sparkling the sun. I couldn't stop the smile spreading on my face. "Maybe it is a good thing you're here," I admitted.
"Of course it is, love" he nodded modestly.
I giggled. "Well, not that you need your ego inflated any more than it already is, but it was a little difficult to paint you the last time, so having you here to model for me might be a help."
"Why would knowing that I am difficult to paint inflate my ego?" he asked. "It seems to have just the opposite effect actually."
I sighed. "I'll never hear the end of this," I muttered, knowing full well that he could hear me. "It's a little difficult to capture perfection on a canvas."
He looked at me for a long time, face void of expressions. Then he threw his head back and laughed. "I love you, Isabella, but you are delusional. Or maybe you are the first vampire in history to require glasses."
"There's noting wrong with my eyes and I am certainly not delusional," I huffed, "Some doctor you are."
I returned to my painting while he continued to chuckle. After a while it started to annoy me, so to shut him up I lifted my shield from my mind and recalled the moment where our eyes met the first time and the shock that had coursed through my body, leaving me shaken and dizzy. I leafed through my memory to the next time I had seen him, pale, sweaty and resting uneasy in a haze of fever and pain on a narrow hospital cot. The rush I had felt then I now recognized as love, but then I had been confused at what was happening, but I had been aware that I was looking at perfection.
"I wish I remembered what I felt the first time I saw you," he said softly as I continued to add stroke after stroke to the canvas in front of me. "I do however remember loving you from the moment I first opened my eyes as a vampire. Only then I thought I was dead because my heart had stopped beating and I was convinced that you were an angel."
Alice came dancing into the clearing. "There you are," she sang. "I've been looking everywhere for you. Ooh, is that the painting? Can I see?"
"How did you know?" I gasped. "I shielded you!"
"I know you did. I saw you do it – I just didn't know why," she said. "And it worked, too. Except, I had a vision of Emmett and Jasper wrestling in the living room, knocking over Esme's favorite vase by the way, and that's when I saw the new painting on the wall. It's going to be really beautiful. Thank you for painting me in my favorite dress."
I threw my paint brush on the ground and sat down. I looked at a beaming Alice and sighed. "Edward, I know what I want for Christmas," I said.
"What?" he asked curiously, knowing that I usually hated receiving gifts.
"A secret!" I snapped.
Alice giggled. "I know what Edward is getting you for Christmas!"
I growled at her and she danced off, giggling.
Edward came over to sit next to me. He kissed my temple and pulled me into his side. "The pixie's annoying. I don't even know what I'm getting you for Christmas yet."
"We should have popcorn," Emmett said.
We all looked at him and Edward asked the question we all wanted to ask. "Why?"
He shrugged. "It just seems appropriate."
Alice tilted her head and looked at Emmett like she had never seen him before. "Emmett, we're not watching a movie. And more importantly, we don't eat."
"I know," Emmett said. "Still… it just feels like we should have popcorn."
Rosalie sighed. "Shut up, Em – or I'll force feed you popcorn until you choke."
Carlisle cleared his throat, no doubt from an inappropriate laugh. "Right, so as you all know by now – thank you for that by the way, Alice – Bella has been working on a new family painting. The one she made in Rochester before Rosalie joined us meant a lot to all of us and it was a very special day when she revealed it."
"Just remove the cloth," I begged, uncomfortable with his speech making tendencies as I was worried about what my family would think of the painting. "You can give a speech to go with your own surprise."
He chuckled, removing the cloth that I had covered the painting with in a sad attempt to make it at least somewhat of a surprise. Alice was apparently unable to keep secrets because I had begged her not to tell anyone about the painting and yet everyone knew. And it wasn't even as if I could stay mad at the beaming little ball of giggling energy.
A wave of oohs and aahs removed the tension in my body and made me laugh. Emmett and Alice started arguing about who looked best in the picture and Rosalie even went out to find a mirror to check if I had captured her beauty correctly. Edward kissed the top of my head while I took in the scene before me, realizing that I loved them all exactly the way they were.
Carlisle then repeated the success from Rochester and handed out wrapped boxes while smiling widely. I wondered if Alice had told everyone about this surprise too.
He had confided in me from the start that he wanted to replace the outdated pocket watch and the cameos. Instead he had had gold wristwatches made, delicate paintings of the Cullen crest on the dials, encased by the numbers. Those were for himself and the boys. Esme, Alice, Rosalie and I received delicate bracelets with gold links linking small, intricate crests and jewels together. Once again there were amethysts for Esme and emeralds for me. The jewels in Rosalie's bracelet were rubies and the ones in Alice's sapphires.
Carlisle seemed pleased that the sparkles in our eyes outshone the jewels. As everyone inspected their gifts, he caught my gaze and smiled. We didn't need words to communicate how much the moment meant to both of us.
"I'm nervous," Emmett stated. "Should I be nervous?"
Edward laughed and padded him on the shoulder. "Depends on whether you're nervous about making new friends, getting good grades or creating a massacre if someone in class gets a paper cut."
"Thanks," Emmett grumbled but brightened up when Rosalie joined us on the porch where we were still waiting for Alice who was probably getting lost in her closet trying to find the perfect outfit for her first day at school. Rosalie shimmied right into Emmett's waiting embrace and giggled when he lowered his mouth to her neck. Jasper was rolling his eyes and I couldn't help but laugh.
Edward smiled at me, lacing his fingers with mine. I got a little lost in his eyes before something pink and bouncy zoomed out from the house and launched itself on Edward's back. Alice had finally joined us.
"Oh dearest of all Edwards, will you tell us what the kids at school think about us? Please?" she asked him.
"No," he chuckled, attempting to throw her off, but she held on surprisingly well.
She became unfocused for the briefest of moments and then she ruffled his hair rather violently. "Yes, you will. I just saw it. And everybody will love my dress."
Edward laughed, fighting off her attack on his hair. "And you do look very lovely."
"Aaww, you're my favorite brother, Edward. Just don't tell Emmett," she giggled.
"Emmett heard that," Emmett boomed behind them and threw an arm around my shoulders at the same time. "Bella, have you noticed that your husband seem to have some kind of pink, pesky bug attached to his back?"
I rolled my eyes but Alice just laughed. "Oops. Sorry, Emmie. You're my favorite too. I have the best brothers in the world."
"And sisters," Rosalie reminded her.
"And sisters," Alice nodded, still fighting to hang onto Edward's back. "They're the best actually."
"I thought your husband was the best," Jasper mock pouted.
"Aw, Jazzy – you are! Am I lucky or what? The best brothers, the best sisters, the best parents and the best husband – I am spoiled. I love you, guys."
"Aaww," we all chorused earning ourselves yet another giggle from Alice.
"I hate to interrupt your little love fest, darlings," Esme called out to us form the door. "But you should probably get going if you don't want to be late on your first day of school."
I sent her a smile. Once again she was overjoyed at the prospect of making cover lunches for us every day now that we were all enrolling in high school. She loved that task so much that I was almost sorry that we wouldn't ever eat them.
Carlisle came out to stand next to her as we were taking off. "I know my own baby boy died a long time ago, but I couldn't have been prouder today than if I had given birth to every single one of our darlings," she said softly to Carlisle. "I feel like a mom."
I caught Jasper's gaze and we shared a smile. I instantly knew he was ready to push that final boundary it was to fully accept that he was now part of a family, not a coven or an army.
He turned back to look at Esme. "That's because you are," he said, adding after a second: "Mom."
A/N: Thank you for sharing this journey with me. I have a new story coming out soon – all human this time – so keep an eye out. Until then, come find on Twitter where I am d_inspiration.