Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

ONCE UPON A TWILIGHT CONTEST

Title: The Wishing Tree

Author: poppyandpeony

Rating: T

POV: Third Person Limited: Bella

Word Count: 7758

Summary: Even the purest of wishes don't often come true. This is the story of one that did.

This story is being submitted as an entry for the Once Upon a Twilight Contest, hosted by wishimight andstaceygirl aka jackbauer. For complete contest details, to read the rest of the contest submissions, or if you are interested in entering, please visit the contest community at:

http://www(dot)fanfiction(dot)net/community/Once_Upon_A_Twilight/

or contest profile at

http://www (dot) fanfiction (dot) net/~onceuponatwilightcontest

Entries accepted until 8/20/09

Voting begins 8/22/09 Please share this info with others who may be interested!

…………………………………………………………………………………..........………..

Wishes are made a million times a day. A child wishes for the same toy his friend just got for Christmas, a young man wishes the girl sitting next to him would smile the way she used to, and that same girl wishes that same boy will never find out what she did.

More often than not, these wishes do not come true. They float in the air, tiny flotsam that people often mistake for dust or particles of light—because these wishes are not pure. They are made in moments of selfishness, of desperation, of regret, and will therefore go nowhere.

But wishes made in the last moments of death, the final moment before the soul is released from the body, these wishes are the purest things on Earth. These wishes spin into gold leaves, fly to a special place, and are tended to, nurtured, protected, until they can come true.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Bella Swan was ten years old when she watched her mother lay dying in a hospital bed near a window that looked out onto the Puget Sound. The little girl could feel her father's strong hands on her shoulders, but all she wanted to do was climb into the bed with her mother, and hold onto her so she would stay.

"It's okay, Charlie. Let her go." Renee Swan's voice was barely a whisper, a side effect of the oxygen tube that had been removed so she could say goodbye.

Charlie Swan cleared away the tubes and trappings that bound his wife to her bed, and lifted his daughter onto the crinkly paper-covered mattress. Bella lay on her mother's chest, holding Renee's shoulders in her tiny hands. The bad medicine had taken her mother's hair and strength but Renee held onto Bella as tightly as she could, and combed jaundiced fingers through her daughter's long, brown hair.

"I love you, sweet girl."

"Mommy, don't leave."

Bella had tried very hard to keep her tears at bay because her father had once said he hated to see her cry. But when her mother only sighed instead of saying "I'm not leaving. I would never leave you," Bella could hold them off no longer, and six months worth of tears flooded her face and her mother's hospital gown.

Charlie tried to grab Bella again, but Renee brushed his hands away and held on tighter.

"Shh, baby."

Bella felt vibrations beneath her, and heard a familiar melody sung in her mother's hoarse, tired voice.

Her lullaby.

Bella felt her sobs become whimpers. The song always calmed her, helped her to fall asleep.

Renee bent her head toward her daughter's ear, and whispered.

"Did you know that no one else in the world knows this song except you and me?"

Bella shook her head, and wiped her drying tears on the scratchy blanket.

"Whenever you sing this song, I'll be able to hear it. And whenever you hear this song, you'll know that I'm with you."

Bella waited to hear more words that she could hold onto, take with her, but Renee could feel the familiar tightening in her lungs and began to cough. Bella leapt up, terrified that she had done something wrong, and even though Renee wanted nothing more than to hold her daughter closer, she knew that the time had come to let go.

Her coughing had alerted the doctors and nurses who rushed into the room.

"Mr. Swan, please remove your daughter."

Charlie's hands circled Bella's waist and she cried.

"Mommy! No!"

He cradled her in his arms and pressed her face to his chest but still she sobbed.

"Mommy! Please!"

"Mr. Swan. Maybe you should take your daughter outside."

Bella screamed as Charlie carried her into the hallway, kept her face away from the window so she wouldn't see what was happening, obeying his wife's last request of him.

He saw the doctors press buttons on his wife's heart monitor and stab her IV with syringes. He saw them shock her over and over again as the green line continued to lie flat. Then he saw them remove the mask from her face and pull the blanket over her chest.

Charlie Swan held Bella close, turned, and walked down the hallway.

Had looked behind him, he may have seen it. The tiny gold thread that left with his wife's spirit, coiling into a shiny gold leaf and floating out of the window and across the water to a place where it would be protected until it was time.

But Charlie Swan did not turn around. He only held his daughter a little closer.

Bella had fallen asleep in the car on the way home, so Charlie picked her up and carried her upstairs to her bed. He pulled the blankets over his daughter's chest, and tried very hard not to think of a very different blanket being pulled over his wife.

He brushed her hair with his hands and was about to turn out the light when he saw it. A small wooden music box on his daughter's nightstand. Charlie was not the most observant of men, but he could have sworn he had never seen it before. He picked it up and turned it over in his hand until he found the tiny gold key.

He turned it three times, and listened as the first few notes of Bella's lullaby began to play.

Charlie Swan wished his beautiful girl sweet dreams, kissed her on the cheek, and left the room so she wouldn't hear him crying.

When Bella opened her eyes she knew something was very wrong. She was wearing her nightgown, but the sky was much too bright and the ground beneath her felt nothing like her bed. She moved her hands around beneath her and felt cool, soft blades. She sat up quickly and rubbed her eyes.

She was sitting in a large meadow covered in green grass and white flowers.

"Daddy!"

She jumped up and started running blindly, arms in front and around her, screaming for her father. Then she screamed "Mommy" and she stopped.

Remembered.

Bella put her arms around herself and sat against something hard and scratchy. She tried very hard not to cry. If her father did find her, he'd be upset if she was crying. She looked up to make the tears go backward and had to blink her eyes to make sure what she was seeing was real.

Above her were hundreds, thousands of leaves, sparkling like jewels in the sun.

She looked behind her, and realized that what she was sitting against was a very large tree trunk. Bigger than any tree she had ever seen at home. Taller than her house and much larger than her classroom at school.

The leaves on this tree were golden, like a canopy made of her mother's favorite earrings.

Bella Swan had never seen anything so beautiful.

One of the branches hung low to the ground and Bella felt the soft grass beneath her feet as she stood up and walked toward it.

The leaves were small, no bigger than the palm of her ten-year-old hand, and identical to one another, smooth and hard and golden: nothing like the leaves she pressed between waxed paper at home.

It looked as if something was written on them, and Bella reached out to see if she could read it. She had always been a good reader, and she was sure she could figure it out if she could just see a little closer—

"Don't touch them."

Bella pulled her hand back sharply and turned to see where the voice had come from.

Standing just outside the shade of the tree was a boy.

But he was different than any other boy she had ever seen.

He was tall and pale white, the color of Grandma Swan's sugar cookies. He was dressed strangely, in a robe and pants that seemed to sparkle just like the leaves.

His hair was red and gold mixed together, like someone had mixed the two colors in a jar. She looked closer to see the color of his eyes but couldn't, because his glare made her turn her head.

He was angry.

"I'm sorry, sir." Her dad always told her that apologizing when you do something wrong makes people feel better.

"How did you get here?"

And with those words everything that had happened before she became enchanted by the beautiful tree came crashing back to her: waking up alone in a strange place, not knowing where her father was, and her mother's arms letting her go—

She tried very hard not to cry again.

"Did you hear me? How did you get here?"

"I don't know, sir." She said this to her feet, afraid that when she looked up again his eyes would still be angry.

"What do you mean you don't know?"

He was talking to her like she was stupid. Bella hated that.

Now Bella was angry.

Now she felt like she could look at him, even if he was sparkly and beautiful and mad at her.

"I mean that I don't know. I woke up here and I don't know where my dad is and I just want to go home!"

She went back to sit against the trunk of the tree. It felt nice there.

He looked surprised. Then curious, and then he stepped closer to her.

"Where is home?"

"Washington."

'What's that?"

"It's a state, duh."

"Oh," he said. But Bella was pretty sure he didn't really understand.

She must be a long way from home, she thought, and she sat closer to the tree trunk. It was warm and comforting, and it made her feel that however far away she was, she could get back home soon.

"Where am I, sir?"

He spent a very long time thinking about it.

"Not Washington."

She stared up at him. He was so very tall.

"Can you please sit down, sir? You're making me uncomfortable."

He looked confused again, but he slowly sank to the ground below, crossing his legs in a mirror reflection of her own.

"What's your name, sir?"

"I don't know."

"But everyone has a name."

"I don't."

"Didn't your parents give you one?"

"Parents?"

"Your mom and dad?"

"No."

She thought about it, and then she had a very good idea.

'I'll give you a name."

"You will?"

"Of course. I can't meet you if you don't have a name."

She thought for a long time. She wanted it to be perfect.

"I'm going to name you Edward."

"Edward?"

"Yes. Edward."

"Why?"

"My mother read me a book once that had an Edward in it. You look like the man in the picture on the cover."

"Oh."

"I'm Bella."

Her father always told her to shake hands with people when you first meet them, so she held out her hand.

He recoiled, jumped back like her hand held a knife or a gun.

She didn't understand.

"What's wrong?"

"I'm not allowed to touch you."

"Why?"

He paused, the way people do when they are going to tell a very big secret.

"If I touch you, you can't ever go home."

He hung his head, and Bella wanted to comfort him, but she also wanted to go home very badly—even if the tree made her feel warm and happy, and even if the boy across from her was more interesting than the puzzles she loved putting together at school.

"Oh."

He looked up at her then, and he seemed so scared and sad that she felt she must to something to make him better.

"I'm Bella."

She waved her hand, and then sat on it.

He smiled, but it was crooked and it made her smile, too.

He waved back.

"I'm Edward."

She picked a good name, she thought. It suited him.

"Edward?"

"Yes, Bella?'

"Why were you so angry with me?"

He looked down again.

"You're not allowed to touch them."

"But they're so beautiful."

"Beautiful?"

Bella realized he didn't know what "beautiful" meant. So she told him.

"Beautiful things make you feel good on the inside when you look at them. You want to look at them for a very long time."

He looked at her, and his crooked smile told her that he understood.

"What are they, Edward?"

"Wishes."

"Like the kind I make when I throw quarters in the fountain or blow out the candles on my birthday cake?"

"I'm not sure what you mean. I just know that I'm supposed to protect them."

"That's like what my dad does. He keeps things safe. You're like a police officer for people's wishes."

"Yes." That seemed to make him feel proud, and he sat up straighter.

Bella leaned her head against the tree trunk and gasped when one of the leaves began to fall from the branch above her head.

'Edward! One of them is falling!" And she was glad she was still sitting on her hand so he would know it wasn't her fault.

Edward smiled as he watched the leaf fall, and then he held out his hand to catch it."

"Don't be scared, Bella."

"What happened to it?" She sat on both her hands just to be safe.

"This one just came true."

She leaned forward.

"Can I see it?"

"You can hold it now."

She bounced up and down and clapped her hands, then slowly stretched one of them toward his.

"Be careful, Bella."

She pulled her hand back.

"Here."

He blew on the leaf and she gasped as it floated toward her fingers.

It felt like nothing, like air. But it was there, in her hand, small and golden and perfect.

"It's so pretty."

"Read it."

And now that she was so close, Bella could see that she was right. Where there should have been veins there were tiny letters, like someone had engraved them. Bella sounded out the words, whispered them under her breath.

Esther Rosenberg

November 22nd, 1988

Please make my sons realize how much they love each other. I am so tired of the fighting.

"This wish was made a long time ago."

"Sometimes they take a while to come true."

Bella felt a strange tingling in her hand, and watched as the tiny leaf began to disappear, melting away until it was gone. Like it had never been there at all.

Her eyes grew wide.

"I didn't do anything Edward! I swear! It just disappeared."

"It's okay Bella. It came true. It doesn't need to be here anymore."

She was relieved and she fell back against the ground, taking comfort in the shade and shelter of so many wishes.

And then she thought of something.

"Edward?"

"Yes, Bella?" His voice was close and she was surprised to see that he was lying next to her now, thought at a safe distance, with his arms across his chest just like her own.

"Can you wish for people to come back?"

"Come back from where?"

"From Heaven?"

Bella knew what she wanted him to say, but she had read enough books to know what his answer would be.

He said nothing.

"You know what Heaven is, right?"

"Yes."

"So can I make a wish for someone to come back from there?"

He sighed, low and deep.

"No, Bella."

She sighed too. She thought as much.

"But how do you know?"

"Because I've never seen those kinds of wishes come true."

And though she tried very hard, and though she was lying on her back and staring up at the sky, she couldn't stop a single tear from rolling down the side of her face and into the grass below.

"Bella, what are you doing?"

He looked scared.

"I'm crying, Edward."

"Why?"

"Because I'm sad."

"Why?"

"Because it's sad when people are gone."

"Oh."

Edward thought for a moment, and crossed his arms a little more tightly.

"Then I'm sad, too."

"Why?"

"Because no one is ever here. People are always gone."

She looked at him.

He looked so lonely.

"I'll be here, Edward. I'll come back and visit you."

"You will?"

"That's what friends do."

"I've never had a friend before."

She smiled.

"Now you do."

And he smiled, too.

The grass was so comfortable and the shade was so nice, that Bella couldn't help but yawn and stretch her arms above her head.

"I'm sleepy, Edward, and I think I want to go home."

He nodded his head.

And she wanted to say good-bye and that she would see him soon, but the tree and the meadow and strange, beautiful boy were already fading away.

The next morning, Charlie Swan went into Bella's room to wake her up, but first he had to stop and look at her.

Because this morning, of all mornings, his daughter was smiling in her sleep.

……..…………………………………………………………………………………….

And so for many nights afterward, Charlie would read Bella a book (until she laughed and told him she could just read it herself), tuck her into bed, and turn on her music box as she fell asleep. And Bella would wake up in her beautiful meadow, and sit against the big tree with the golden leaves and talk with Edward.

Well, Bella would do most of the talking. She didn't mean to of course, but there were so many words he didn't know and books he hadn't read and places he hadn't heard of and things he hadn't seen and Bella wanted to tell him about all of it.

One night, Charlie worked very late and Bella's babysitter had to tuck her in. She read her a story, pulled the blanket over her, and wished her sweet dreams.

But she did not play the music box on the nightstand.

That night, Bella had her first nightmare.

She was running after her mother and father, screaming their names, but they just kept walking. They never turned back to look at her and her legs wouldn't move fast enough to catch up to them.

Then Edward was walking with them, and she screamed his name, too. He turned around and she was so happy, but then his beautiful face turned into a monster and he started laughing at her, a horrible, bitter laugh that knocked her to the ground and kept her from going any further.

When she awoke screaming, her father was already running through the door. He sat and held her and then took her downstairs to make cinnamon toast even though it was 4:00 in the morning.

She did not want to go back to bed, and he didn't make her.

So they stayed awake watching I Love Lucy reruns on television and Charlie called her school and the station to say they were both sick for the day.

That night, when he tucked her into bed he asked her,

"Bella, who is Edward?"

She wasn't sure if she should tell him.

She kind of liked having a secret friend, and Edward might not want anyone else to know about the meadow with the magic tree.

But she also didn't want to lie to her father.

So she told him the truth. Part of it, anyway.

"He's from a book that mommy used to read to me."

Charlie Swan smiled, but Bella saw his eyes getting wet.

"It's okay, daddy. It doesn't make me sad to remember her."

He hugged her for a very long time.

"Do you want me to play your lullaby?"

"Yes, please."

By the time her father was asleep, Bella was in the meadow again reciting Little Women to Edward as best she could remember it.

And the next time her father worked late, she wound the music box herself.

………………………………………………………………………………………………

When Bella was eleven, she learned about space and all the planets in the Solar System, and she couldn't wait to tell Edward about it. They sat in the same spot they always sat in, she leaning against the trunk of the tree, and he a safe distance away, sitting cross-legged just like her.

Their conversation began as it always did.

"Did any wishes come true today?"

"Yes."

She held out her hand, he blew on the little gold leaf, and they both watched it fly to her waiting fingers.

Richard McGinness

October 5, 2000

Please make sure my wife knows that I love her.

"Hey, that was just yesterday!"

"It was?"

She nodded and smiled as she read the words again, before they disappeared.

"She must have known already."

And because she was smiling, Edward was, too. And he couldn't help laughing a little as she clapped her hands and bounced up and down and told him about the moon and the men that walked on it, and the orange and red rings that circled around Saturn, and the storm that raged in the eye of Jupiter. But when she talked about stars, her whole face lit up like one of them.

"Stars are my favorite."

"Why?"

"Because they're beautiful."

"Oh." He understood what that meant now.

"Haven't you ever seen a star, Edward?"

"No. You said they come out at night."

"Can't you see them at night?"

"It's never night here, Bella. It's always like this."

And when Bella really thought about it she realized that he was right. She had never seen the meadow at night. It was always day here, bright blue, never too hot, and never a cloud in the sky.

She wasn't sure if she should ask this question, so she whispered it.

"Is this a different planet?"

He shook his head.

"Where are we, Edward?"

"Not Washington."

"You always say that."

"It's always true."

"Are we on Earth?"

"Earth?"

She told him about the oceans and the mountains and the deserts and the trees that only had green leaves, not gold.

He listened with rapt attention, asking questions when he got confused and needed her to explain something again.

By the end of their time together, Bella was certain that wherever they were, it certainly wasn't Earth.

She waved to Edward and said the words that always took her back to the soft sheets in her bed and her father making toast in the kitchen.

"I want to go home now."

………..……………………………………………………………………………………..

When Bella was twelve, she realized she had never asked him a very important question,

They were lying in the grass, and she had just told him the story of Aladdin and the Magic Lamp because she thought he'd find it funny.

She was right. Edward hadn't stopped laughing since the part where the genie granted Aladdin three wishes.

"Three? That's ridiculous!"

She laughed, too, and then rolled on her side because a question this important should be asked to his face.

"Edward?"

"Yes?"

"What would you wish for?"

He stopped laughing.

She watched him close his eyes and breathe, and she was scared she had upset him.

"I'm sorry, Edward. You don't have to tell me."

"No. I want to."

His eyes opened and she marveled at the way the green matched the blades of grass that tickled his cheek.

"If I tell you, you have to promise me something."

"Anything." And she meant it.

"You have to promise me that you won't try to make it come true."

She bit her lip, and said "okay." She had promised him anything, after all.

She waited.

"I would wish to be able to go back with you."

She gasped and sat up straight, far too excited about the prospect of taking him home to remember the promise she had just made.

"Oh, why can't you? It would be so much fun! You can finally read all the books I've tried to tell you about and see other trees and the stars. It's so much better—"

She stopped when she saw his eyes turn cold. Sad.

"I can't Bella." His voice was tired, defeated. And she felt badly for making it sound that way.

"I'm sorry, Edward."

"I have to stay here. I'm the only protector."

"I know." He had said it many times before, but this was the first time it held no sense of pride.

"You should go home now, Bella."

"But—"

"Please."

And because she had promised, she waved goodbye, and left him there in the meadow, his head in his hands.

………..……………………………………………………………………………………..

The day after Bella's thirteenth birthday, she arrived at the meadow, but she looked different. Her arms hung by her sides and her eyes wouldn't leave the ground. When Edward said "hello," she waved, but she didn't say it back. She sat against the tree trunk like she always did, but she wouldn't look him in the eye.

"What's wrong, Bella?"

She shook her head.

"It's stupid."

"Tell me."

She muttered "stupid" one more time, then exhaled sharply and looked up at him.

"Edward, do you think I'm pretty?"

He looked confused.

"You mean how Mr. Rochester thinks Jane Eyre is pretty?"

"Yes. Well, no. I mean, yeah. Do you think I'm pretty?"

"Why?"

Bella was frustrated for two reasons. One: she realized the idiocy of this question and felt more and more ridiculous with every passing second—and she hated feeling ridiculous.

Two: he hadn't answered the question.

"Jessica Stanley called me ugly today."

"Who is Jessica Stanley?"

"She's just this dumb girl in my class, and—oh god, this is so lame."

"She called you ugly?"

"Yeah. You know, how all the people in the town feel about the beast? Like that."

Edward looked shocked.

Then he looked angry.

He reached out his hand to touch her, but stopped himself before he got too close.

"You're not pretty, Bella."

Her eyes grew wide, her lip began to tremble, and she started to get up. She knew she should never have asked such a stupid question, especially when she already new the answer.

"No. Stay."

But she wouldn't. She couldn't stay here and listen to him tell her how ugly she was. And she really, really didn't want to cry in front of him.

"No, Edward. I just—I want to go—"

"You're beautiful."

She stopped.

"What?"

"You're beautiful."

"I—"

"Wait here."

She wasn't planning on going anywhere, though, because Edward was running across the meadow like a lunatic, bending down every few seconds, then muttering under his breath before changing direction.

He had always been beautiful to her, but seeing him so happy, so alive—well, she was pretty sure she would fall over if she didn't sit down.

Then he looked at her and smiled, and she was positive she'd fall over, so she crossed her legs beneath her.

He returned, his green eyes dancing, and got on his knee.

"Edward—"

One of his hands lay on his heart; the other was held out to her, and there between his fingers was a small white flower.

She went to take it from his hand, but he was quicker, and he placed it on the grass between them.

She held the flower in her hand, wondering if she had ever seen petals this perfect before.

"She doth teach the torches to burn bright."

She looked at him, and he was beaming, more glowing and radiant than the golden canopy that hung above them.

"Edward?"

"Yes?"

"I kind of want to hug you right now."

Edward looked alarmed and began to move away from her.

She rolled her eyes.

"Relax, I'm not going to. I just wanted you to know."

"Oh. Thank you."

And he smiled again as she lay back on the grass, twirling the flower in her hand.

"So what wishes came true today?"

He lay back as well and told her about them, happy when he could teach her something, too.

And when she awoke in her bed the next morning, she smiled at the perfect white flower still held tight in her hand.

………..……………………………………………………………………………………..

When she was fourteen, she told him

"Sometimes I don't want to go back."

"Bella, don't ever say that."

"But why? It's true."

"You belong there. You need to do all of the things you said you wanted: live in Paris, ride the subway in New York, go to college far away from home…

And he didn't stop until he had listed every single thing she had ever told she dreamt of doing one day.

She was still trying to figure out how he could possibly have remembered all of those things when she heard him ask,

"Why don't you like it there?"

"I don't have any friends at school. My best friend lives far away."

His eyes got wide.

"Who is that?"

His genuineness made her snort.

"You, Edward."

If she could touch him, she would have slapped him in the arm.

He smiled.

"That's why you have to go and do all of those things. How else am I going to learn about them?"

He unleashed his eyes on her then. She watched them sparkle and she had a hard time remembering what they had been talking about in the first place.

"Cheater."

And he laughed until she was laughing with him.

……………………………………………………………………………………………

When she was fifteen years old she arrived at the meadow with angry eyes and clenched fists. She stormed to her place next to the tree trunk, her arms crossed angrily around her stomach.

Edward had never seen her so angry.

"Bella, what happened?"

"Tyler Crowley asked me to the dance."

"What dance?"

She rolled her eyes.

"This stupid dance they have at school."

"Why are you mad? In all the stories you've told me, ladies are always happy when gentlemen ask them to dance."

"It's not that kind of a dance, Edward."

"What kind is it?"

"Essentially, it is an excuse for girls to wear dresses they can't afford, and allow hormonal teenage boys to rub up against them while listening to awful music."

"That sounds awful."

"Yeah."

"You would wear a dress?"

He was smirking, and she looked down at the old sweats and ratty t-shirt she always wore to bed.

"Shut up, Edward."

He laughed, but then his eyes became serious.

"You shouldn't go if you don't want to."

"It's not that, it's just—"

"What?"

"It's nothing. Never mind."

"Don't hide things from me, Bella."

"I just wish I was going with someone else."

"Who? Do you like someone else?"

And then she saw something in his face she had never seen before. A different kind of anger.

It looked like jealousy, but she couldn't allow herself to think that.

Even if it did feel pretty amazing.

"I wish I was going with you, Edward."

She watched a million different expressions cross his beautiful face: sadness, resignation, finally settling on something like determination.

He stood up.

"What are you doing?"

He stepped back, and held out his hand.

"Dance with me."

She laughed.

"You're crazy."

"I am not."

"I'm not a very good dancer."

"Believe me, Bella, I have no one else to compare it too."

"I'm not really dressed for dancing."

"You're beautiful."

He looked so serious, and her heart beat a little faster with the thought that this might be the moment she had waited for for a very long time. She hadn't said good-bye to Charlie, but none of that seemed to matter when he was looking at her like she was the only person in the world.

"Please, Bella."

But she needed to be sure.

"You can't touch me, Edward." It sounded more like a question. And she knew what she wanted his answer to be.

He looked a little sad again, but he didn't move.

"No. I can't touch you, but that doesn't mean we can't dance."

She let go of breath she didn't realize she'd been holding onto. She was disappointed, yes, but she had waited so very long for him. She could wait a little longer.

So she smiled and he placed his hands in front of her, one near (but not too near) her shoulder and the other by her waist. And she responded placing her hands inches apart from his own.

She wanted to look at his face, but he was concentrating so hard and he looked so beautiful that it made her feel dizzy, and she stumbled.

"Be careful, Bella."

She sighed, determined not to allow her own clumsiness and foolish dreams to ruin this for him.

"I always am."

And they danced, hands apart, moving in slow circles while golden leaves played music above their heads.

Yes, she thought. She could wait a little longer.

……………………………………………………………………………………………

When Bella was sixteen, she took more time getting ready for bed than she ever had before. She brushed her teeth and put on lip-gloss, but decided to forgo the mascara so her eyelashes wouldn't stick together. She brushed her hair and curled the ends that hung near her waist. And then she dressed herself in the new silk nightgown she had bought that afternoon. It was short and blue and it showed off the figure she had just recently discovered belonged to her. She looked in the mirror.

She looked…sexy.

She read her note to Charlie one last time and carefully returned it to its envelope and placed it on her nightstand. She had left him enough food in the freezer to last two weeks, and even though she felt terrible leaving like this, she knew what she wanted.

She was tired of waiting.

She was tired of being careful.

And she was tired of being alone.

She climbed beneath her covers and felt the satin, cool and new against her skin. She hoped she wasn't too nervous to fall asleep.

She took a deep breath, turned the music box three times, and let her lullaby take her to her future.

When she arrived in the meadow, Edward was already laying beneath the tree, waiting for her.

"Hello, Bella." He was smiling and staring at the canopy, aware of her presence before he even saw her.

Bella had been counting on that. She brushed her fingers through her hair one last time and walked toward him.

"Hello, Edward." Her voice was soft, low, and—she hoped—seductive.

He looked up. His eyebrows furrowed.

"What are you wearing?"

"It's new."

"Oh."

She couldn't help smiling. His confusion only made him more endearing to her.

"Do you like it?"

"It's umm…nice."

She knelt beside him and he scrambled away from her.

"Bella, what are you doing?"

She took a deep breath and looked up at him from beneath her lashes. He looked so helpless, standing there just feet away from her with no idea of where his friend had gone.

She felt a little sorry for him.

But she couldn't wait any longer.

She held out her hand. He took another step back.

"Touch me, Edward."

He shook his head.

'You know I can't do that. You know if I do—"

"I know what will happen."

"Then why—"

"Touch me."

His face fell and his legs followed suit. He understood what she wanted now.

She wished he looked a little happier about it.

"Please, Edward."

She was still on her knees across from him, and she realized that meant she was petty close to begging, if not already there. But she didn't care. He danced with her and told her she was beautiful she knew he wanted her, too.

"Please."

When he looked up, his eyes were not pained or sad or even angry.

They were blank.

She didn't like it.

"No."

"What?"

"I said 'no,' Bella."

He stood up and began walking away from her and she realized then that he needed to know, needed to understand why she wanted to stay here in this meadow with him forever.

She wanted to say it to his face but he was walking too fast.

"I love you!"

She yelled so loud the leaves shook above her. But she didn't care. She would yell it a thousand more times, as loud as she could, until he finally understood.

He stopped.

She smiled.

Now he would turn back to her, take her in his arms and whisper that he loved her, too.

He did turn back, but when she saw his face she wasn't sure she wanted him to come any closer.

So she whispered it this time.

"I love you."

And then he was there before her and he still looked so different and her eyes searched his for the Edward she knew better than anyone else.

"Bella—"

She smiled at him, still waiting, still hopeful.

"You need to stop living in your dreams."

Her smile faltered.

"What?"

"This is just a dream, Bella. Did you think all of this was really happening?"

She couldn't speak, just shook her head and looked around her. She felt the grass beneath her legs and felt the scratchy bark of the tree trunk.

"Bullshit. Of course this is real."

He smirked, but it was mean. Ugly.

"It's all very convenient, isn't it? You have dreams of a man from one of your mother's books and you get to visit him and talk to him and tell him your problems, and he makes you feel better in the morning."

"Stop it—"

She was shaking her head harder now, holding onto the grass blades in her hand so tightly she ripped them out of the soil.

But he only got closer.

"Haven't you ever noticed? I never get older, Bella. I never eat or sleep. I never do anything unless you're here.

I'm not real."

She felt tears hot against her cheek, but she didn't wipe them away, only kept searching his eyes for something, anything familiar.

"You're real to me."

His eyes were fire now, golden and furious like his hair, and he moved his face closer to hers, so close that if she just reached her head up a little higher, her lips would brush against his.

He was gone before she could even try.

"Go Bella."

"Where are you?"

There was no answer. She jumped up and started running blindly, arms in front and around her, screaming his name. Finally she stopped.

Realized.

He wasn't coming back.

But she had to say it one more time. One more time to give her something to hold onto, to take back with her.

"I love you, Edward."

"I don't know what that is, Bella."

She couldn't help smiling at the confusion in his voice.

But this was not something she could explain to him: like stars or books or planets.

"I'm not coming back, Edward."

There was silence, only the sound of a soft breeze making the golden leaves rustle.

She looked up and let the warmth from the sky dry her tears, and brushed her hand along the bark of the tree trunk one last time.

"I want to go home."

She could have sworn she heard his voice as the meadow disappeared around her.

Bella awoke.

She took off her tear stained nightgown and threw it in the trash,

She walked to her nightstand and ripped Charlie's letter into pieces.

Then she picked up the music box, threw it against the wall, and watched it shatter.

……………………………………………………………………………………………

When Bella was 17, she started taking sleeping pills. Charlie was concerned about the dark grey bags that lived permanently beneath her eyes. He thought she wasn't getting enough sleep.

Bella didn't have the heart to tell him that she wasn't sleeping at all.

……………………………………………………………………………………………

When Bella was 18, she took too many classes and worked a full time job. She found that the more exhausted she was, the less likely she was to dream about anything. And when she lost her virginity to some guy at a party, she cried because the man above her was not the one she wanted. He told her it would stop hurting soon.

She hoped so.

……………………………………………………………………………………………

When Bella was 19, she began running, feet pounding the pavement for miles until her lungs screamed and her muscles told her they would be exhausted enough to keep her from dreaming.

……………………………………………………………………………………………

When Bella was twenty, she was running on a new trail. She had just transferred to Dartmouth after a semester studying abroad in Paris. She liked this trail, liked the way the cold air kept her focused on forgetting, and the way the trees were sparse and didn't make a canopy above her head.

Had she run here before, she might have seen the fallen branch just ahead of her, but she didn't.

Her hands caught her fall, but not soon enough.

The throb in her ankle told her she had definitely sprained something.

Bella cried out, but knew already that no one was close enough to hear her. So she picked herself up and limped to the nearest thing could find to lean against. Her ankle was already turning blue, and she cursed herself for not bringing her cell phone.

It was then that a soft breeze made the leaves above her rustle.

Bella looked up.

And gasped.

She was in a meadow. A huge green meadow with white flowers and a tree in the middle.

She tried very hard not to cry, but seeing it there in front of her, so much like the very thing that she had convinced herself was a lie…

It broke her completely.

She sobbed and pounded her fists against the grass. It was a mourning cry: for the loss of her mother, the loss of herself, and the loss of her love.

Her Edward.

She could feel tears drying against her cheeks, and she knew she should go home.

But she didn't want to.

So Bella lay down, closed her eyes and tried to imagine the leaves above her gold instead of green, and that the boy she had tried so hard to forget was laying right next to her.

And she began to hum a melody she hadn't heard in four years.

Sleep came quickly, and she dreamed of him.

When Bella opened her eyes she knew something was very right. The sky was much too bright and the ground beneath her was warm and dry. She moved her hands around and felt cool, soft blades that could only be grass. She sat up quickly and rubbed her eyes.

There above her was a canopy of golden leaves.

"Hello, Bella."

She didn't want to turn around, didn't want to see his eyes telling her again that she shouldn't be here.

But she had to see his beautiful face one more time.

She looked.

He was standing a few feet away from her, very near to the place where she had last seen him

He didn't look angry.

He didn't look sad.

He looked petrified.

And she refused to wait another second to kiss him.

She got up slowly, winced at the pain in her ankle, and walked—albeit awkwardly—toward him.

He began to back away.

But she grabbed his shirt at the same time she crashed her lips to his.

There was a whir of sound and light like they were stuck in a kaleidoscope, but all she could feel, all she could care about, was his lips, then his tongue, then his arms as they wrapped around her body.

And then they hit something. Hard.

They broke away from each other gasping, desperate for breath. And for more.

She leaned in to find his lips again, but stopped short when she saw him staring ahead.

"Where are we?" he said.

She looked, too and saw the tree and the trail and the beautiful branch in the road that had brought him back to her.

And she smiled.

"New Hampshire."

"But, I don't understand. How did this happen?"

He looked at her, and she brushed the hair out of his confused eyes, almost crying out again because she had wanted to do that for so long.

She wanted to tell him to shut up and kiss her, that they had wasted far too much time already. But she knew however accurate that idea was, it was also just a stalling tactic.

The truth was, she had no fucking idea how they got there.

She held his face in his hands, and was about to explain just how little she knew about the world when something sparkled above his head.

A golden leaf was floating down toward them, and Bella held out her hand to catch it.

When she read what was written there, new tears flooded her cheeks and his ridiculous shimmering robe.

"What's wrong, Bella? What is it?"

"A wish," she whispered.

She held the leaf up so they could both read it, together.

Renee Swan

1968-1999

"Please give my daughter that which she wants most in the world."

"I'm what you wanted most?"

She looked at him.

"I told you."

"Bella, I'm so sorry. I never meant to—"

She touched her fingers to his mouth, and he could do nothing but breathe them in.

"Shh, Edward. There's no time for that. I have so much to show you."

She ran her fingers under his eyes, trying to erase the doubt and fear that still lived there.

He pressed his hand against hers, and their fingers intertwined as the leaf disappeared between them.

"I love you, Bella."

She smiled.

"I thought you didn't know what that was."

He smiled, too.

"You taught me."

She watched his face come closer, watched his hands tremble as they felt her cheeks, watched his lips draw slowly nearer to her own.

But what she did not see, what neither of them saw, were the hundreds of golden leaves that continued to fall around them, disappearing before they hit the ground.

Wishes that pleaded for proof that true love is possible.

That magic is real.

That faith will be rewarded.

Bella and Edward were together at last, and in their union, they had made all of them come true.

.........