The Heart Knows
For two days, I stayed in my room. Alice and Rose would come visit me and bring me food, but I had no appetite. They held me as I cried out all my tears. They never asked any questions and I never offered any explanations. They just knew. Either they had seen it or heard enough rumors to piece it all together themselves, but they never pushed me. And I was extremely grateful for that.
I had replayed every word and look and nuance of that fateful night with Edward. I still didn't know what I was doing. I didn't know if I made the right choice, or if I ever had a choice at all. I thought I was in love with Ed, the carefree, mysterious, talented, intelligent, beautiful man from the courtyard. Who was this new man, this Prince Edward? Looking back, I was incredibly naïve not to wonder why I kept running into him at the King's Courtyard. And how could I not have wondered who Elizabeth was, seeing as she was at the Royal Quarters when Rose was injured? She'd all but told me their family tree and I had been too distracted to piece it together.
Edward, no 'Prince Edward' I reminded myself fiercely, was cousins with Jasper and Emmett. He had never hid those relationships. Why hadn't I put this all together before seeing him walk down that aisle at the ball? If I had figured it out before receiving the shock of my life would things have turned out differently? Was it the humiliation of not knowing that made me react that way? I had so many questions and so few answers.
Finally on day three, Alice dragged me out of my bed and forced me to bathe and change into fresh clothes. I still had no appetite, but she made me eat as she brushed my hair. I finally put my foot down when she started pulling out her makeup brushes.
"Alice! What are you doing all this for? It doesn't matter. No one cares what I look like!"
"Trust me, you'll care." With that cryptic response she skipped out of the room in a surprisingly good mood. I stared after her in confusion. She was so odd sometimes.
Deciding I needed a distraction from my brooding, I occupied a few hours with re-reading the same page of my book. I just couldn't focus. I finally tossed it down in frustration. I didn't have to wait long for something to distract me.
The particular someone I had been trying to avoid thinking about walked right into my room. I gawked at him until I came to my senses. I closed my mouth with an audible click and blinked at the sight of him, leaning casually against my doorframe. He stood there looking at me with those beautiful, green eyes. He was back in the more casual clothes I was familiar with – no crown this time- but I could see it easily now. The intensity that made Ed too casual of a name for him, the way he held himself, the pull I felt toward him. He was Royalty, no doubt about it. I would never be in his world, and it made me angry that he couldn't see that.
"What are you doing here?" I hissed. I strode past him angrily looking for any witnesses that might be lingering in the hallway. Assured that no one was around, I turned back on Edward, now sitting on my couch holding the book I had rejected. I clenched my fists in frustration when he didn't answer. He didn't even look at me as he continued manhandling my book. When it became clear he wasn't going to answer me, I rephrased my question. "How did you find me?"
"I had to pummel, threaten and otherwise torture Jasper and Emmett into telling me the whole truth." He sort of half smiled at the book in his hands as if the memory of it amused him. It was still sort of a heartbroken look and I knew that he had come to tell me what I knew was the inevitable end to this story. I didn't want to hear it. He didn't need to come here to break my heart further. The anger started to build.
"Do you know how much trouble I'll be in if they find a man in the Queen's House- in my room!" I grabbed the book out of his hands forcing his attention away from it. I felt a tiny twinge of guilt at being so rude, but decided I didn't care. This was beyond ridiculous.
He raised an eyebrow at me. I raised one right back. He wasn't going to charm his way out of this.
"No one is going to tell me to leave." He spoke softly, but I still wanted to hit something. My palms actually itched to do it. He was making me so angry. How could he be standing here so casually telling me what to do? He didn't belong in this world as much as I didn't belong in his.
"Have you always been this arrogant or is this something I just missed before? Maybe no one can tell you to leave, even if I want you to, but they'll certainly take it out on me when you finally decide to leave!" He finally realized his error and the appropriate look of chagrin crossed his face. Apparently he hadn't thought of that.
I restrained the urge to stick out my tongue at him. Take that, Mr. Royal pants. My emotions were so out of control right now. Instead, I crossed my arms over my chest doing my best intimidating-Alice pose. Maybe the risk of being caught with a man was worth seeing him flustered. It felt nice to be in control for once where Edward was concerned.
"I didn't mean you can't ask me to leave-" he took a deep breath, running his hand through his tousled hair in frustration. He continued in a quite voice, "I don't want to get you in trouble. I just need to talk to you. Come for a walk with me?" He looked completely irresistible looking up at me with big, green eyes through his lashes. No doubt he knew what that expression did to women. I considered my options. Being in his presence again had this weird effect on my stomach. I felt flustered and drawn to him and angry all wrapped up in a big ball of nerves. I didn't like the way I was acting, but I didn't know how to change that. And I didn't know what he wanted from me either.
I nodded and turn on my heal leading the way outside. If I looked at him for much longer I was going to lose any sense at all.
"Just say what you came to say." We had been walking in painstaking silence, neither of us sure what to say. With each step my heart felt like it was falling into my stomach. The pain of it was excruciating. I stopped our walk and turned to face him. It would be best to get this over with.
"I wanted to let you know that I've thought a lot about what you said at the ball. At the time, I didn't think I was deceiving you, but I can see now that you were right. I was keeping a huge secret from you. I liked not being treated differently. But I can see that was selfish. And you're right, it's a part of who I am and the woman I love should know who I am – all of it." I opened my mouth not really sure what I was going to say.
He allowed me time to gather my stunned thoughts. "You obviously know who I am. You know this won't work."
"I don't care where you live or what you've been trained for. I love who you are. I love your brave spirit and your kind heart. I love you."
I shook my head. "You don't even know me. I don't even know you. Not really. There's too many secrets between us."
He frowned at that. "But, I do. And you do know me." His eyes were intense as he slowly raised a hand to rest just over my heart. "Here. You know me here, as I know you. I love you. The rest is just details. We have forever to find out the details." With his free hand, he lifted my hand to his lips and then rested it against his own beating heart. I was surprised to feel it beating wildly under my palm. Although his face didn't betray it, he was just as emotional as I was. As our hearts beat together in a frantic rhythm, I knew he was right. I was in love with him and he with me. Despite our differences, we could make this work.
I looked up into his summer green eyes and really and truly saw myself in them. For the first time in years, I didn't see Isabella the initiate. I didn't see Bella the unsophisticated farm girl either. I saw the Bella I had become and I knew in that moment that I was beautiful. And I saw him reflected in my own eyes too. Not the prince with the golden crown. I saw the boy with the forever tussled hair, with the beautiful smile and the intensity of a king. I saw a girl and a boy in love.
"Okay." I said simply.
His answering smile lit up the night. "Okay?" He repeated with a smile.
He leaned in suddenly and kissed me hard on my lips. This kiss was so unrestrained, so joyful and passionate. My knees became weak from the intensity behind it and I leaned on his arms for support.
"Now, you just need to meet my parents. Officially." I gulped at the idea of meeting his imposing father and he laughed gently as he gathered me into his arms and spun us around in a circle, still laughing. "They'll love you too."
I smoothed down my skirt for the tenth time in same amount of minutes. Alice grabbed my hand.
"You'll crease it. Relax. And breathe." She smiled at me knowingly. I smiled back, nervous and giddy and scared to death.
"You look perfect," Rose assured from my other side.
"What if I trip? What if I make a fool of myself?"
I thought back to the first official introduction I had to Edward's parents. I decided at the last moment I should curtsey, but was still holding on to Edward's hand. I stopped suddenly to curtsey while he was still moving and ended up with a sort of traveling, certainly not graceful, curtsey. What happened to all the training and grace that was beat into me in the last four years? Where was it when I really needed it? I was horrified and beet red, but Elizabeth just laughed and told me not to be so formal.
"Mother, Father. I'd like to introduce you to the woman I'm going to marry. This is Bella. Isabella Swan."
Elizabeth rose to kiss me on the cheek and whispered in my ear that she knew it would be me from the moment she first heard Edward talk of me.
"Doesn't she have a father someone should be asking permission of?" The king's boisterous but kind voice brought all our attention to him and then to Edward.
He was running his hand through his hair again. "Um, yes. I haven't, uh…well, I didn't quite, yet…" He looked at me in embarrassment and confusion, pleading for help with his eyes.
I laughed and decided to rescue him. "I do. I've not been allowed contact with him for several years and I wanted to see him before springing any big news on him." I added as an embarrassed afterthought "Your Majesty".
King Edward laughed. "I thought Elizabeth asked you not to be so formal? That goes for me as well. Welcome to the family. I'm glad Little Edward here finally found someone suitable. I'm not getting any younger!"
I smiled at the memory of that first meeting. I had been so nervous. Many subsequent visits with them had given me a great deal of comfort. They may be royalty, but they were a real family too. They laughed together and played together. Bring Jasper and Emmett into the picture and things were quickly hilarious and physical between the cousins. I loved every moment. I had it on good authority that as soon as Edward was married off, his cousins would be making things official with my two best friends. Apparently there was an order to these things, but they'd already been moved out of the Queen's House and into quarters in the castle with me. As a present to me, Edward and his father had seen to it that Jane's business was shut down for good. No more Queen's House, no more little girls being stolen from home. No more purchased brides and favors given in the form of flesh. Apparently, it was an institution that had been set up in a time before Edward's father was king. Both men found it distasteful but had not been given a sufficient excuse to shut it down. The three of us, Rose, Alice and I watched as the doors were boarded up and the window's shuttered forever. We made it our personal mission to make sure the initiates were reunited with their families and taken care of. I took great personal pleasure in watching Lady Jane load up her belongings into that carriage and leave town. She looked smaller somehow.
"You look beautiful, Bella. Like a princess," my father said walking up to me and taking my arm in his. "It's time. They're ready for us"
With my arm linked with my fathers, the double doors in front of us opened into the grand ballroom. It was packed with people. Everyone from important dignitaries and royals to Jacob and his friends from the stables was there. My eyes followed Alice and Rose as they walked down the long isle. Standing at the end was my little brother Seth.
He absolutely adored Edward and I was happy to see that the feeling was mutual. Edward had asked Seth to stand beside him which helped resolve that particular dispute between Jasper and Emmett. All three stood behind the man I was about to marry. My eyes stayed on him.
I took a deep breath as the crowd rose and the violins began their march. Just don't trip, I thought.