AN: As much as I might wish I was clever enough to create these characters.... they don't belong to me... I just like to explore what they do when they're not with Stephanie!
Meadow Anniversary March 12
I wonder whatever possessed me to try and surprise Edward.
I knew it would be difficult to plan something without him finding out, but as I realised I would have to involve more people it rapidly approached impossible. Of course, Alice was the first person I had to confide in. She would have probably seen the outcome of my plans anyway and I couldn't have her thinking of them or accidently mentioning them to him. That meant Jasper was also in on it, which turned out to be very useful, he could sense if Edward was becoming suspicious and run interference.
Carlisle was instrumental. It was he who would be the "diversion" the morning of the surprise. Only he would have enough pull to distract and delay Edward (particularly if as I suspected, Edward was making plans of his own).
Jacob wasn't too difficult to persuade, his end of the arrangements was to have Renesmee with him for the day. That was more than enough reward in itself. We decided Renesmee should visit Billy and have a sleepover in La Push. She would like that, she could hang out with Claire and the other wolf-people. They even planned a bonfire like the one I had attended last year, so she would get to hear all the legends of Jacob's tribe. We had already explained to her the difference between our family and the others in Quileute history, so she should not be frightened by the stories.
No-one was allowed to even think about the plans unless they were with me. I had been practicing shielding others without the imminent threat of doom. I was getting better, still we kept the conversation and strategic meetings to an absolute minimum.
The morning of the 12th arrived, lightly overcast, Alice had forseen another sunny day ahead. Fantastic, even the weather was co-operating.
We were just dressing and about to take Renesmee up to the house when Edward got a call from Carlisle on his cell. I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing at his exasperated expression when he told me Carlisle needed his help urgently to run an errand in Port Angeles. (Fortunately, he usually attributed me biting my lip to anxiety, not this time!) He kissed me with a sigh, saying he would be back soon as he was able and then with a peck on the forehead for his daughter he raced out the door.
"Jake will be here in a few minutes Nessie," I said to her, "you all packed and ready to go?" She squealed excitedly, she had never been away from us for a sleepover before. I knew I had no need to worry about her, Jake would literally guard her with his life, and his pack would be there as back up. I hurried to change from what I had been wearing, into a light white blouse, tan sweater, jeans and tennis shoes. Jake had already come in and had Nessie twirling above his head by the time I made it back out of the cavernous closet that Alice built. "Have fun Jake, Bye Nessie, love you both!" I waved as they sped out the door.
I wasn't sure how much time Carlisle would be able to provide me. I had been careful not to give all the details to him, just in case Edward got really suspicious. I didn't want him to feel guilty if he accidently slipped under direct questioning. I raced up to the house, left my note for Edward on the Newell post, sang a cheery greeting to the remaining family and went to leave out the back. Alice caught me, "It'll all work fine," she assured, "He'll be with you in under an hour! Have a nice day!" she giggled and went back inside.
It was amazing how much easier it was to find my way around now that I was a vampire. I would never dared to go anywhere without map, compass and usually an experienced guide when I was human. Now it was simply a matter of following scent trails or memory. Fortunately Edward and I had been to this place together since my conversion, so getting there by myself today was no problem. I arrived at our meadow with plenty of time to spare. There wasn't much to set up, it wasn't like we needed a picnic lunch or anything. I just had to place my gift and myself in the middle of the clearing and wait.
An hour really wasn't that long. I lay back amongst the wild flowers and became still. I was sifting through my memories of all the wonderful moments we had shared since we first came here exactly two years ago. I had wanted to celebrate this anniversary of our first day together as a couple, the day that Edward knew that he loved me enough to resist the temptation the scent of my blood had for him. It was the day my new life had really begun. I wanted him to know how much that day meant to me, how special it was in my memory. Somehow I needed for him to understand that I would not change one moment, I would go through all the pain again if it meant I could be with him.
I heard his approach, something I would not have been able to do if I was human, but my senses were much better and I was so attuned to him now. I determined to stay motionless. His scent, honey, lilac-sun, grew like a warm soft cloud around me.
I heard him sit quietly near me, he reached over to stroke my hand lightly with his fingers, "Do you mind?" his velvet voice purred.
He remembered, I thought gleefully and he's playing along.
"No," I replied sighing, "You can't imagine how that feels."
He lightly trailed his hand up my arm, "I remember!" he disagreed in a tender silky tone.
I allowed my eyes to open, his breathtakingly beautiful face was hovering just above mine, his breath caressed my face. I still sometimes had trouble believing that this angel was mine, mine alone and mine forever.
"I was counting on that." I replied, closing the gap between our lips. He did not need any more invitation than that. Thankfully I didn't get dizzy from forgetting to breathe anymore. The way he touched me was so tender and gentle, almost like I was human again. My heart was bursting with love for him, I removed his shirt and ran my hands over his chest, he was unbearably beautiful. "I wanted to tell you how much I love you," I murmured in his ear, "but there are no right words."
"Oh, I think you've done a reasonable job of showing me," he replied between kisses along my collar bone, "arranging this, you have no idea how much it means to me!"
"You have no idea how hard it is to keep a secret from you!" I laughed quietly before reclaiming his lips.
"I do, that's why I appreciate this so much. Bella, you are such a gift to me!" He answered, kissing me much more urgently now. I wanted to tell him he had that the wrong way around, that he was my reward, my gift, my lottery prize and I'm not even sure what I'd done to win.
We spent the rest of the day just revelling in each other. We had no fear of interruption this was our special place, unknown to humans and the family knew to stay away.
The afternoon light was starting to fade. "Twilight again." He sighed. "I guess we'd better go home to Nessie." He turned to look in my eyes, surprised by the broad smile on my face. "Nessie is having a sleepover in La Push, we have the whole evening and night to ourselves!" I beamed.
"Thorough!" he replied with a laugh, moving in to kiss me again.
I held my hand to his lips to stop him, his golden eyes filled with questions. "I have something for you, I haven't had a chance to give it to you yet, you keep distracting me!" I scolded. "Ok!" he replied, curious but wary, "please, don't let me distract you any further." His bare chest was enough for that, but I fought to regain focus. I retrieved a small gift box from the pocket of my jeans and presented it to him. "You know how I like home-made stuff best and you like to give me expensive things?" I asked, watching his eyebrows raise, "Well, this is a sort of compromise."
"I'm intrigued!" he replied, holding out his hand for the box.
I watched as he opened the lid to reveal an ornate gold pocket watch, it had been made in 1901 and was inlaid with mother-of-pearl face and ebony numerals and hands. Inside the cover I had placed a miniature portrait of us on our wedding day. His eyes widened and his mouth dropped open as he examined it, he was too stunned to speak.
"I didn't know whether you'd prefer the human face or the new one, so I have another portrait at home to change it if you want..." I trailed off as his eyes moved to mine.
"You did this?" he gasped in surprise.
"I used to paint a bit before I came to Forks... I was never very good at it... but it's improved a little with the new coordination." I shrugged, glad I didn't blush anymore.
"Bella, this is amazing, I had no idea you could paint! When, how, where did you get to do this?" he was struggling to speak coherently, it was very gratifying that he was so pleased by this small token.
"Remember how I said you have no idea how hard it is to keep a secret from you? Well, I'm not going to clue you in now!" I laughed, "Then it would just be so much harder next time! Besides, it is nothing close to how much you have given me in the last two years. Thank you for everything, thank you for you."
He pulled me back into the circle of his arms, his bare skin against mine, his lips whispering earnestly in my ear, "Bella, I thank my lucky stars, my guardian angel, fate and every deity I can think of for bringing you into my life, without you my whole existence is meaningless, please understand you don't need to repay me anything! I love you, I love loving you! You are everything to me! Thank you. Thank you for the gift, it's indescribable, thank you mostly for you!" I melted into his arms, my body moulded against his, my lips hunted up his throat, he pressed me gently back down into the soft meadow grass again and we continued to demonstrate our love for each other the best way we knew how.
We spent the rest of the night in our meadow. There was no real reason to return to our cottage, neither of us felt the cold night air, the grass in the meadow was just as comfortable as the bed at home. It was a rarely clear night and we did take some time to appreciate the stars, but not much.
As the sun peeked over the horizon, it found us still contentedly locked in each other's arms, just enjoying the closeness. His nose nuzzled in the hollow under my ear, "When do you suppose Nessie will be coming home?" he asked.
"Around lunchtime I guess, we still have time here... unless..." I replied.
"Unless?" He murmured, running his nose up and down my jaw line.
"Oh, never mind," I purred turning my face back to kiss him.
"Oh no you don't!" he pulled away laughing, "You can't leave me hanging like that!"
"If you wanted to see the other portrait and a few others in my 'portfolio', they're waiting at the cottage. I'm happy to wait til later though." I informed him, still trying to capture his lips against mine.
"Always tempting!" he replied allowing our lips to briefly touch, "but I'm eager to see more of this newly revealed talent of yours. Besides, we can also pick up where we left off when we get home."
"Ok," I sighed letting my eyes wander down his body, "I'll hold you to that!" We dressed quickly and ran home hand in hand.
We entered the cottage, I walked over to the bookcase and pulled out a thick volume, supposedly of Shakespeare's collected works, but it was actually an empty shell, which now contained several small canvas paintings. They were mainly portraits of my family. There were the pale alabaster images of my vampires, the rich russet tones of the wolves, Charlie's sun darkened pale and finally the creamy porcelain of our unique daughter. Edward marvelled through each of them seeming genuinely impressed. I thought he was just being kind. "These are incredible love, have you shown the others?" he finally asked.
"I was sort of thinking of giving these to them today, as a thank you for helping me with your surprise. I wasn't sure if you would think they were good enough to share." I muttered, again deeply grateful I could no longer blush.
"Are you kidding? They'll love them! Especially Esme and Carlisle!" he exclaimed earnestly, his golden eyes intense.
"I hope so, there's not much else I can do to thank them for accepting me into the family." I mumbled quite embarrassed now.
"Bella, when will you ever see yourself clearly?" he sighed, "you have completed this family in a way none of us dreamed possible! And then you brought us Renesmee into the bargain! You have given us all purpose, beyond what any of us ever imagined and you've cemented us together with bonds, I doubt a thousand "Chelsea"s could break! I might try for a thousand years, but I will never be able to explain to you how precious and amazing and irreplaceable you are to me and I think every one of the others would agree... Even Emmett!" he added with a wry chuckle.
I hid my face against his chest. I could not take in what he was saying. Surely he had to realise that without him and his family I would never have found my true place in this world, I would have been a clumsy misfit all my life. I was only somebody now because I was somebody to him!
"So?" I asked, my voice slightly shaky, "Do you want to take these up to the house now?"
"And you're worried, not because you're headed to meet a houseful of vampires, but you think those vampires won't approve of you, correct?" he teased, using the question he had asked the morning after the meadow exactly two years ago, successfully lightening the mood.
"That's right," I answered immediately.
He shook his head, "You're incredible!" and bent down to kiss me softly.
Gathering the paintings a short time later, (we did have to change clothes anyway) we made our way to the house.
As we approached we could see the decorations extending from where we usually crossed the river up to the back door.
"Alice!" we exclaimed together. (No-one on earth could stage a celebration like Alice, and she didn't need much of an excuse!)
Inside we were welcomed with a chorus of "Surprise!" Six vampires, one giant wolf-man and one small half-human girl were gathered in the living room which had been decorated with flowers and candles on every surface. A huge banner announcing "Happy Anniversary" stretched across the staircase. I guess I should be glad that there wasn't a cake! Alice bounded over to hug me, she was beaming! "Happy Anniversary Bella! You didn't think I would let you have all the fun planning a surprise did you?"
"Yes, but Alice, yesterday was the anniversary of Edward and me getting together, you're a day late!" I protested.
"Yes, but today is the anniversary of you visiting us and becoming part of our family!" she countered. Again I was glad I couldn't blush anymore, I turned to Edward for help but his face had a smug look of "I told you so!"
I wasn't sure where to look, Rosalie came and hugged me first, reassuring me with a "we are really glad you came to join us, even if I was a pain in the neck to start with!" Emmett just guffawed deeply and punched my shoulder.
Jasper smiled warmly and I felt a wave of ease washing away my discomfort. "Thanks Jasper," I whispered.
Carlisle was radiant, "I can't pretend you haven't drawn the odd challenge our way, but it has always been a pleasure having you with us."
Esme chimed in, hugging me tightly, "Bella, you have been a joy to me since the first moment you stepped through that front door, I am so happy to call you my daughter!"
I took a smiling Renesmee in my arms and faced the group, "Thank you everyone." I replied sincerely, Edward came up behind me and put his arm around my waist for support, "But I'm seriously having one of my 'hate-being-centre-of –attention' moments, so please can we move on now!"
Edward moved in to save me by presenting me with a small gift box of his own. "I have something for you too, but you didn't give me a chance yesterday, you kept distracting me!" he smiled wickedly and winked.
Emmett nearly burst a gasket trying to suppress his usual snide reply. (An early bet had put the brakes on that habit!)
Inside the box was a charm, it was a small girl made from a combination of porcelain and crystal. "I thought you could add it to your charm bracelet, its half clay, half stone, I thought it was a good representation." He explained looking down at our child.
"It's absolutely beautiful." I exclaimed as he attached it to the bracelet on my wrist, it joined a small carved wolf and a diamond heart.
"I have something for all of you too. I'm sorry they're not framed but I could only do so much and still keep it secret!" I said, looking meaningfully at Edward, there were a few understanding chuckles. I passed around the portraits. There was a moment of silent reflection and then everyone was trying to thank me at once and tell me how wonderful they thought they were. As Edward had predicted, Carlisle and Esme were particularly touched by their joint portrait. Somehow, I had managed to capture the look of devotion in their eyes as they gazed at each other in the painting, I was particularly proud of that one. Jake was totally jazzed with his, I had depicted him eyes twinkling, laughing in his human form transposed in front of the head of a huge russet-brown wolf. He promised to pass on the others I had done of Leah, Seth, Quil and Embry as soon as he could.
Carlisle was clearing his throat. "Well it seems as though we are trying to make up for the very low key Christmas we had last year with all this gift giving today, but Esme and I have one more to bestow." I looked at Edward, he seemed as clueless as I was. That was very unusual. "Bella is not the only one who has been working hard on keeping a secret, Esme and I have had a devil of a time planning this without discovery!" he continued handing Edward an envelope.
Edward drew in a sharp breath and opened it handing the contents to me with wide eyes and a look of shock on his face. I scanned the page quickly. "We're going to South America to visit the Amazons!" I gasped trying to take it all in.
"We're all going," Esme explained coming to rest her hand on my shoulder, "and while we're down there, we thought you and Edward might like to go back to my island for a while to continue your honeymoon," she smiled softly looking toward Nessie, "seeing as the last one ended so abruptly! I'm sure Nessie and Jake will be fine with us and Zafrina will be sure to keep us entertained!" I was really lost for words this time.
Edward was also having a hard time articulating. "I don't know what to say except thank you!" he finally managed. The others all started excitedly discussing plans and what to pack and so forth. Jake was whooping, he had never been out of state (except in wolf form). Nessie was thrilled to be going to visit her Amazon friend who could make mental pictures. The buzz in the room escalated, there would be no other topic today. I leaned into Edward, content to hear the voices of the family that I loved so deeply swell around me.
I looked up and was surprised to see he was looking at me the same way. We were together, we had each other and we had the love of our family surrounding us. My arms encircled his waist and his tightened around me.
Life was good.