A/N: Here it is folks - the epilogue. I hope you enjoy it. Yesterday was my birthday, and I wished really hard that I could own Twilight, or at the very least, just Carlisle. But alas, it seems that it didn't work. :-(
"If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal..."
My eyes met Carlisle's as I stood at the altar, a bouquet of bright yellow sunflowers and tiny daisies clutched tightly in my hands. He gave me a wink and a small nod, and I quickly focused my attention back to Angela's father. Certain looks from Carlisle could still elicit a wicked blush from me, and now was neither the time nor the place for blushing.
"Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up..."
I could feel the lump rising in my throat as Pastor Webber continued reading from I Corinthians, one of my favorite Bible verses. I did not consider myself to be a very religious person, but I knew good poetry when I heard it.
"Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things..."
I was sure Carlisle was feeling the same way as I did at this moment. The troubles our relationship had gone through during its early stages were well behind us now. Though we'd had a few other hurdles along the way - like Carlisle spending an entire semester teaching a class at the Royal College of Music in London which nearly drove us both insane, or when we ran into a not-so-sober Felix at a bar who decided he wanted to take what I wouldn't give him before. Carlisle needed a few stitches in his own hand after that encounter.
I stole another glance at Carlisle as I remembered how he had proposed. He had even gotten my boss, Nancy, in on it. She had given me some books to shelve right in the very aisle where we had said our first "I love you's." While my back was turned to place the books in their respective slots, Carlisle had snuck up behind me and silently dropped to one knee. When I turned around to grab the next books and saw him sweating and nervously holding that little black box, I immediately burst into tears.
I would have been lying if I said I hadn't expected him to propose at some point, and he would have been lying if he said that he didn't know I'd say "yes" - we had talked about marriage several times after I'd moved in with him, and we were both definitely ready. But still, that didn't stop the emotion from completely enveloping us when the big moment came.
"Bella, oh my beautiful Bella," he'd choked. "I've loved you since the moment I met you. You have already made me the happiest man in the world; it seems almost greedy of me to ask you for more. Will you marry me?"
"Yes. Yes. A million times yes!" I'd sobbed as he'd slid the ring onto my shaking finger.
He had stood up, tears brimming in his own eyes as I leaned back against the shelves, worried that my legs would give out. He'd braced one arm above me and leaned in to seal the proposal with a kiss. His free hand had cupped my cheek gently, tipping my head up until our lips met. I'd closed my eyes and placed my hand over Carlisle's, feeling more connected to him than ever. Everything had been absolutely perfect.
"Say cheese!" had come the sound of Nancy's voice, interrupting our romantic bliss.
We both had turned to see Nancy standing at the opening of the aisle, camera in hand, and a large, goofy grin plastered across her face. Before we could react, we had both been blinded by the flash of her camera. Rubbing my eyes, I'd turned to look at Carlisle, who gave me a helpless shrug of his shoulders, and I knew then that she must have been in on it. She'd taken a few more photos, but in the end, we both loved the candid photo the best - and even used it in our engagement announcement.
Our engagement had been long - almost a year and half - partially due to Carlisle's semester of teaching in London, but we were a patient couple and had wanted to wait until the timing was right. I'd wanted to earn my Bachelor's degree first - which I did - graduating Summa Cum Laude, thanks in part to the help of a certain relentless Professor. I was now in my second year of grad school, working on a Master's degree in Dramaturgy.
Finding that flyer for "The Tamer Tamed" had been life changing for me. After Carlisle had explained that a dramaturg helps with the historical research and development of plays, I decided to volunteer for the job. It was only a small production, but it had been amazing nonetheless. The director had told me I had a real knack for the gig even though I was so inexperienced. He'd let me consult with everyone, from the actors to the costume and sound designers, who'd all seemed grateful for my insight and input. For once, I felt like I had found something I could do well and enjoy doing for the rest of my life. And so Carlisle had encouraged me to apply to grad school, telling me he was willing to follow me wherever I chose to attend. Fortunately for the both of us, I had gotten into the program right at the University.
"But now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love."
I cast another look at Carlisle who beamed back at me, before Angela turned to me and handed me the bouquet of flowers she had been holding so she could join hands with her soon-to-be husband.
Pastor Webber cleared his throat, and took a moment to wipe his eyes with a handkerchief. "Please repeat after me: I, Edward, take thee, Angela, to be my bride."
"I, Edward, take thee, Angela to be my bride."
"I will be faithful to you and honest with you," he continued, with Edward echoing each meaningful line.
"I will respect, trust, help, and care for you;
I will share my life with you;
I will forgive you as we have been forgiven;
and I will try with you to better to understand ourselves, the world, and God,
through the best and the worst of what is to come, as long as we live.
Angela, please repeat after me: I, Angela, take thee, Edward, to be my husband."
Her voice barely above a whisper, Angela tried her best not to break down crying over every line. I knew exactly how she felt; I had been through it myself almost two years ago, with her standing right by my side.
"And now, the rings," her father smiled.
I reached into the small silk pouch hidden behind my bouquet and fished out the smooth, white gold ring and handed it to him, while Edward's best man, his father, retrieved Angela's ring.
"Angela, I give you this ring as a symbol of my love. As it encircles your finger, may it remind you always that you are surrounded by my enduring love."
"Edward, I give you this ring as a symbol of my love. As it encircles your finger, may it remind you always that you are surrounded by my enduring love."
I couldn't help but stare at my own wedding band that had never left my finger from the moment Carlisle had slipped it on. Knowing that flashy had never been my style; he had picked out a simple Marquis-cut solitary diamond on a platinum band that had suited me perfectly. Our matching wedding bands, also platinum, each contained the same inscription of "My Cup Runneth Over" - the name of the song sung at our ceremony by none other than Carlisle's Best Man - Alistair, of course.
Angela's father continued. "Wedding rings are made precious by our wearing them. Your rings say that even in your uniqueness you have chosen to be bound together. Let these rings also be a sign that love has substance as well as soul, a present as well as a past, and that, despite its occasional sorrows, love is a circle of happiness, wonder, and delight. May these rings remind you always of the vows you have taken here today."
I bit my lip, and willed myself not to cry. Angela and Edward's path to each other had been a surprising one - one that I had not seen coming.
After Angela had started her treatment and confessed to Ben about her miscarriage, he'd forgiven her completely and asked her to get back together. But sobriety had been a struggle for Angela. She had a couple breakdowns when times got rough, and all of us banded together to help her through them. And somewhere in the middle of it all, Edward had begun to develop feelings for her, but never acted upon them. But those breakdowns eventually took their toll on Ben. It was Edward's shoulder that she had cried on when Ben finally told Angela that it was over. I had been out of town on a weekend trip with Carlisle, or else it would have been my shoulder there for her. But if I had been there, perhaps Angela and Edward's story would have ended very differently.
Soon, he'd become the one she called first whenever she felt herself slipping. He'd stay with her in those long, sleepless nights as she'd fought against her demons. Of course, I had always been there for her whenever she needed me, but it wasn't until the two of them had come to me to ask for my blessing on their relationship that I realized they had become more than friends. I had been speechless at the time, shocked that I hadn't seen what was right in front of me, but I hadn't felt betrayed like I did when they had first slept together. Instead, I'd seen the connection the two of them had developed and known it was the real thing, so I had told them that I was happy for them.
And nearly two years later, here we were.
"By the power vested in me, by the state of Washington, I now pronounce you husband and wife. Edward, you may now kiss your bride."
I whooped and hollered along with the rest of the guests as Edward took Angela into his arms, dipped her low, and sealed the deal with what looked like an earth-shattering kiss. Her face was bright red when she finally righted herself, but the grin on her lips was undeniable.
"Ladies and gentlemen, family and friends, I present to you for the first time: Dr. and Mrs. Edward Masen!" Angela's father announced proudly.
Doctor. Yes, Edward was a doctor now, having just received his medical license. Getting on the fast track so early on in college had paid off, and he was now set to start his internship at the Forks Hospital as soon as he and Angela returned from their honeymoon. I couldn't have been happier to see his dream come true. Clearly, his father was too, as I observed him clap Edward on the back and pull him into a giant hug. It was still up in the air whether or not Edward would accept his father's offer of a full-time position in Forks after his internship, but I knew he and Angela would decide what was best for them together.
Angela turned to me, and I handed her a Kleenex to dab away the wetness under her eyes. She looked absolutely stunning in her strapless cream-colored column dress, her hair a cascade of curls flowing over one shoulder. She was so tall and slim, and now that she was healthy, any dress would have suited her figure perfectly. But when she'd come out of the dressing room wearing this ruched goddess gown, I'd known it was the one. Her tear-filled eyes had met mine, and it had been obvious that she felt the same way.
I dabbed at my own eyes and thought back to my own wedding dress - a heavily-discounted Alice Whitlock Original. I loved that dress, and I couldn't thank Alice enough for offering it to me at cost. I wouldn't have even bothered trying one of her creations; they were so out of my price range, but as soon as Jasper had received his save-the-date card, he had insisted that Alice send some dresses to the bridal shoppe with a note that "she could work something out." The Grecian inspired, chiffon gown had immediately caught my eye and from the moment I'd slipped it on, I'd known I had to have it. I'd never forget how Carlisle had looked at me when I walked down the aisle. He'd said it had looked as I though were floating, which was fitting, because I'd certainly felt like my feet weren't even touching the ground.
Angela and I smiled at each other, and then hugged as she took the bouquet of flowers back from me. "I love you," she whispered, kissing my cheek gently before slipping her arm through Edward's.
"Congratulations," I replied as the recessional music began to play. The guests clapped loudly as the happy couple made their journey toward the back of the church. And as Edward's father and I followed behind them, I saw Carlisle nod approvingly at me from his seat in the pews. I winked at him, knowing he would be joining me at the reception soon. I also acknowledged my father, as well as Jake, who were sitting next to each other. I wished my mom would have been able to make it, but she promised to be here in spirit, and truth be told, I really could feel her presence.
Angela and Edward had decided to have their reception at the Masens' home on the outskirts of Forks. It felt a little strange to be coming back here, but to be honest, I'd always loved the house Edward grew up in - it was so beautiful, so open and airy, and also rather modern compared to the rest of the community.
They had practically cleared out the entire downstairs, setting up round tables with sunflower centerpieces and chairs covered in white linen and yellow bows - Angela's favorite color. Buffet tables lined one wall, and my mouth watered at the thought of all that delicious food just waiting to be eaten. A three-tiered white cake with lemon curd filling was calling to me, as it sat majestically on a silver table in the corner. Wasn't it time to eat yet?
I felt two warm hands cover my shoulders and a pair of soft lips press against my neck. "Hello, handsome," I breathed as I turned around.
"Eyeing that cake, are we?" Carlisle smiled at me.
He looked so handsome in his black suit and yellow tie, that I licked my lips at him. "Yes, but now I'm hungry for something else."
"Naughty girl. Later," he whispered. "But here's some sugar to tide you over." He took my face in his hands as he kissed me chastely - after all, we weren't the only guests milling about the food area.
"Yummy," I replied, giving him my best doe-eyes. "So, what did you think of the ceremony?"
"It was nice. Good musicians, not too long, no sobbing brides - everything I like in a wedding. So where are the bride and groom?"
"Upstairs. Angela is changing - she can barely breathe in her wedding dress, let alone sit down and eat!" I giggled.
"Shouldn't you be helping her? Isn't that the matron of honor's job?"
"She wanted a little 'alone time' with Edward, so I guess I'm not needed," I mused.
"Can't wait until the wedding night?" Carlisle smirked.
I elbowed him gently in his side. "Oh hush, you could barely keep your hands off me at our reception. Let them get it out of their system now."
"I guess. Man, if you would have told me four years ago that I would be attending Edward's wedding, I never would have believed you."
"I can hardly believe it myself," I nodded. "He's come a long way. Angela, too. They're kind of perfect for each other."
"Indeed," Carlisle agreed before wrapping his arm around my shoulders. "It looks like everyone's starting to gather in the foyer. Perhaps we should join them."
I kissed his cheek as we strolled toward the foyer, waiting for the grand entrance of Dr. and Mrs. Masen.
The food was just as delicious as it had smelled, and I cleaned my plate, despite it being covered with nearly ten pounds of Steak Diane, asparagus de mornay, and the like.
"Any room in there for cake?" Carlisle teased, but I assured him that I always had room for dessert.
I heard the sound of tapping on a microphone, and my heart started pounding. Edward's father was standing up on the opposite side of the table, holding a microphone and grinning wickedly.
This was the part of the evening I had been dreading: the toasts.
Sensing my nervousness, Carlisle rubbed my thigh reassuringly while Edward, Sr. began his speech. "You'll be fine. Just stick to what you wrote, and it'll be great," he whispered.
"Easy for you to say," I hissed. "You speak in front of room full of people every day!"
"Just relax. Imagine all the guests in their underwear, if you have to."
"I can't do that! My father is out there!"
"Okay, then just imagine me in my underwear."
"And run the risk of dry-humping you in public? I don't think so!"
"Then like everything else, you just have to suck it up and do it. I have faith in you."
Before I knew it, it was my turn. I stood up as Edward's father passed me the microphone and gave me an encouraging smile. He remembered me and my fear of public speaking all too well.
"Ummm, hi every - " I started before a loud screeching noise from the speakers cut me off. The guests covered their ears and grimaced. Great start. As the reverb died out, I felt Carlisle place his hand on my lower back and give it a gentle rub. I took a deep breath. I could do this.
"Hi everyone," I began again. "I'm Bella, and I can't tell you how happy I am to be here today to celebrate Angela and Edward's wedding. I've known the two of them since high school, which was what - a hundred years ago? But it wasn't until college that Angela became one of my best friends. She has always been there for me whenever I needed her, and she has the biggest heart of anyone I know - she truly is the sister I never had, but always wanted. I love her so much, and I am so happy that she found someone who loves her just as much as I do: Edward. Edward, what can I say? I can't believe you're the same man I knew in high school - you've amazed me with the person you have become. Angela needs a strong, dedicated man, and I know you'll take good care of my girl. You two were meant for each other. You understand each other in ways no one else can. And I am honored to be standing here, wishing the both of you every happiness the world has to offer. Congratulations." I raised my glass and everyone followed suit. "To Angela and Edward."
"To Angela and Edward," they echoed before taking a drink and applauding.
I passed the microphone back to Edward's father and took my seat. "That was beautiful." Angela smiled at me, wrapping her arms around me. "Thank you."
"You're welcome. I meant every word," I replied, hugging her back.
"Oh my God, you're shaking!"
"I was...a bit nervous, that's all."
"Hey, you did great, little girl," Carlisle said, his eyes sparking brightly at me as I composed myself.
"Piece of cake."
"Can I get you some more water?" he asked, glancing at my near empty champagne flute.
"No, I was asking for a piece of cake," I grinned at him, rubbing my tummy. "She's hungry."
"Tell her to be patient, cake is coming up soon."
"Okay," I sighed and looked at the small, but noticeable bulge under my dress. "Daddy says we have to wait, sweetheart. Can you hold on a little longer?"
My eyes opened wide and shot up to meet Carlisle's.
"What? What it is?" he asked, sounding alarmed.
"She - she kicked! Oh my God, she just kicked!" I gasped.
"She's kicking?" he cried in disbelief, an excited smile spreading across his lips.
Angela spun around to face me. "She kicked? Is that the first time?"
I nodded, hardly able to believe it myself. "Here, feel it!" I placed both Carlisle's and Angela's hands on either side of my stomach. "We have to wait for cake, darling," I cooed, trying to coax her into kicking again.
I felt another tiny nudge, and from the looks on their faces, Carlisle and Angela had felt it, too.
"Oh my God, that's amazing!" Angela nearly shouted, grabbing her husband's hand. "Edward, you gotta feel this!" She placed his hand next to Carlisle's.
I looked up at Carlisle, gauging his reaction to Edward touching me, but to my relief, he looked too happy to care. Carlisle had never quite warmed up to Edward, even after all these years, but at least the tension between the two of them had recently dissipated. I guess the wedding must have finally convinced him that Edward was no longer "using Angela to get to me."
"Whoa...that's - that's something else!" Edward removed his hand and extended it to Carlisle. "Congratulations, man. When is she due again?"
Carlisle took his hand and shook it, and my eyes nearly bugged out of my head. "Thanks. She's due to arrive in about three-and-a-half months."
"Have you given any more thought to names?" Angela asked, still palming my stomach.
"A little. Carlisle wants to name her Jane. But I refuse to let my baby be named after a dog - as special as that dog is!" I laughed.
"Hey! I'm not the one who suggested some weird hybrid of our mothers' names! What was it again? Ren- "
"Oh, hush. I wasn't serious about that!" I mock-glared at him, and playfully swatted his arm. "So no, we have no idea yet. But we've got plenty of time to figure it out."
"Yes, we do," Carlisle agreed. "I'm sure it'll come to us."
At that moment, the guests began tapping their champagne glasses loudly with their silverware. Knowing exactly what they wanted, Angela and Edward stood up for a mandatory kiss.
The rest of the dinner went swimmingly, and my little girl was certainly happy after she'd had two slices of that delicious cake. As Angela and Edward took to the patio, which had been transformed into a dance floor, I snuggled into Carlisle's side and kissed his cheek.
"Remember our first dance?" I asked him.
"How could I forget?" he replied, nuzzling my neck. "You were so worried about stepping on my toes, you barely paid attention to the music."
"That's not true - I barely paid attention, but not because I was worried about stepping on your feet! It was because I was too busy staring at the man of my dreams, wondering how on earth I was so lucky to have all my dreams coming true."
"Ahhh, I see." Carlisle began rubbing my stomach. "Mine are still coming true."
I had always known that Carlisle had wanted a child. I was hesitant at first, but we had talked about it several times, always coming to the same conclusion: it just wasn't the right time. But about six months ago, I had decided to hell with timing - I was going to leave it up to the fates to decide. I'd stopped taking the pill, but purposefully hadn't told Carlisle, and just continued with our normal, healthy sexual appetite. One month later - BOOM - I was pregnant.
To say that Carlisle was surprised was an understatement. He had very nearly fainted when he came home and saw me sitting in his easy chair with a big pink and blue bow draped over my stomach, holding the positive pregnancy test in my hand.
From the moment I'd seen our tiny bean on the sonogram, I wondered how I could have been so hesitant before - this baby was the best gift I could have ever given Carlisle. Oh, who was I kidding? She was the best gift I could have given us.
"Mine, too." I leaned over and kissed his soft lips before curling up to watch Angela finish her dance with Edward.
When they were done, Kevin cut in for the requisite father/daughter dance. Again, I felt a lump form in my throat as I remembered my own dance with my father. He had never been one for dancing or getting emotional, but he picked out the song "I Loved Her First" by Heartland, and I don't think there had been a dry eye in the room.
I loved her first, I held her first
And a place in my heart will always be hers
From the first breath she breathed
When she first smiled at me
I knew the love of a father runs deep
And I prayed that she'd find you someday
But it's still hard to give her away
I loved her first
I hadn't been able to look at him during that dance. Instead, I'd buried my face into his neck so our guests wouldn't see the tears streaming down my cheeks. I wasn't going to be his little girl anymore - though, I guess I hadn't been for a long time. But still, the way my father had choked back his own tears as he smiled proudly at me, had made me never want to let go of his hand.
I was lost in my own thoughts, when I felt Carlisle nudging me. "What?" I asked, turning in his arms.
I turned my attention to the song playing through the speakers and laughed - Michael Bolton, singing "When a Man Loves a Woman." The same song we had danced to at our wedding, only we had danced to the original Percy Sledge version. But only he and a select few others knew that Michael Bolton was my guilty pleasure. "Did you request this?"
He gave me a little smirk and nodded his head toward the dance floor. "Indeed, I did. Would you care to dance, Mrs. Cullen?"
"I would, thank you." He offered me his hand, which I took, and he led me to the dance floor where other couples had begun dancing. He wrapped his other hand around my waist, drawing my body close to his.
Angela caught my eye and gave me a wink. She hated Michael Bolton, so this must have been some sacrifice for her to have him played at her wedding! I mouthed the words "thank you" to her as she wrinkled her nose and pretended to gag, and we giggled at each other from across the patio.
"So, how did you convince Angela to let you request a song by this 'no-talent, ass-clown'?"
"Oh, just that we'd name our first born daughter after her."
"You did not." I studied his face and saw the twinkling in his eyes.
"Okay, I didn't. But she did make me promise to be nice to Edward for the rest of my life."
"And you agreed? Carlisle, I'm impressed!"
"Well, I figured it was time to let bygones be bygones. And it's worth it if it makes you happy."
"Oh, it makes me very happy. Thank you for being the most wonderful husband in the world." I laid my head against his shoulder as we continued to sway in time to the music. I inhaled deeply, breathing in the scent of the light cologne he was wearing, when I felt another small nudge from our little bean, and I knew she was happy as well.
I couldn't wait to get Carlisle home and show him just how happy we were.
A/N: So that's it, kiddos. What did you think? Do you still hate Angela and Edward? Or are you, too, willing to let bygones be bygones?
Thank you so, so much to uhyesplease - the saucy little minx who introduced me to this whole fandom. If it wasn't for her, Clementines wouldn't exist. She's not just a beta - she's my sister, my friend, and my biggest cheerleader. She is one of the sweetest, most supportive people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. That she has stuck with me for over TWO years on this fic, speaks volumes about her loyalty. I couldn't imagine taking this journey without her.
A million thank yous to StormDragonfly. Who would have known that a few reviews and pm's between her and I would turn into the friendship it is today? She pushed me to write outside my comfort zone and challenged me when I absolutely needed to be challenged. She went above and beyond the call of duty to answer any questions I had - I mean, what more could you ask for in a beta?
And of course, thank you to all the friends I've made and to everyone who read and reviewed Clementines. You welcomed me with open arms and really made me feel like I belonged in this community. You've given me more than I can possibly ever give back. I'm tempted to say I'm done with writing, but who knows? Maybe someday I'll have the urge to write an outtake or a one-shot. But until that day, all I can say is thank you again for all of your love and support, oh, and BELLA AND CARLISLE FOREVER!