Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight, but Armyward is allllllll mine.
Chapter 1 ~ Nine Weeks of Hell
As usual, I don't have as much time as I would like to write, with a 0430 wake up call in the morning. But I got your letter yesterday and I am so proud of you, as Charlie must be as well. I wish I were going to be home for that, but I will most definitely be thinking about you.
I miss you more than you could possibly know, baby. Onlytwelve more days to go until I can come home and I am counting them down. I can't wait to be able to hold you and kiss you again, and tell you how much I love you. More than just words on paper, they just never seem to be enough.
Hope to hear from you again soon and I'll see you before you know it. I love you.
I lay back on my bed, clutching the simple lined stationary to my chest and smiled.
It had been more than two months since I walked out of that bus depot that carried Edward away to Fort Leonard Wood for nine long weeks. And as the days drew closer to his return – even if only for a couple of weeks – the longer they seemed to take to pass, causing my heart to ache more for him than the day before.
Yet days like today, when I would come home from school to find a now very pregnant Alice sitting on the front step, waving a plain white envelope with Edward's script on it, made it all worth it. His messages were never very long, but he always said so much in those few words.
I'm so proud of you.
I felt a tear slide down my temple as I continued smiling at the ceiling. If he'd said nothing else in that letter, it still would have been enough.
Last month, I had submitted a piece of my artwork to a statewide competition – through much coercing by Charlie and Edward – and shortly thereafter, I was notified that it would be proceeding to the final round.
The day I sent my last letter to Edward, I had received the news that my piece had won first place and would be displayed in downtown Seattle for the ceremony on November 11, celebrating the anniversary of Washington becoming a state.
Unfortunately, Edward would already be gone again by then, but his pride in my accomplishment radiated off the paper.
I finally turned my head toward my nightstand, which now housed several small frames with different pictures of me and Edward. But the most recent addition was by far my favorite.
The very first letter I had received from him after his departure contained this picture of him, sitting on a set of stairs in his fatigues and smiling at the camera. The very first noticeable thing in the picture was the absence of his hair, buzzed short and somehow making him appear so much older. I'd thought I would hate it, but as I stared at his eyes and his smile, I couldn't find him anything but devastatingly gorgeous.
He was happy, and that was the most important aspect to me.
"Staring at the hottie again?" I heard Alice's voice from the doorway and looked up from the frame in my hand where I was tracing his face with my fingertip.
I bit my lip and shrugged slightly. "I just miss him."
With her hand bracing her back, she waddled over to her bed on the opposite side of the nightstand and lowered herself down. Somehow after numerous nights of me wanting to pass out early on the couch, preventing my dad from watching his games, he had figured out a way to fit another twin bed into my bedroom for Alice. It was a tight fit, but certainly more comfortable than the stiff back and limbs from the nights on the couch. And it was far more soothing with Alice nearby on the nights I would still cry a little from missing Edward, at which time she would hand me the journal he left behind for me.
"And how many more hours are left?" she teased and I playfully threw one of my pillows at her. "You're gonna miss me when I'm gone, you know."
I released a sad breathy laugh and nodded. I had become so accustomed to having Alice around for the last few months; it was going to feel empty around here without her. "I know. Poor Charlie is going to go through withdrawals. I'm afraid for him, really."
"I'm going to miss you, too, Bella," she replied with a soft smile and reached out her hand for mine. I took it gently and dodged the box in-between our beds to sit next to her. "But it's not like you're never going to see me again. You and Charlie have been so amazing, and I never want either of you to think I'm ungrateful for everything you have done for me. And him."
Her hand ran slowly over the swell of her stomach and I brought mine to rest of the other side. A sudden kick beneath my hand caused us both to laugh and I shook my head. "I'm afraid I am with Jasper. This little one is too feisty to be a boy, especially Jasper's kid. Too much like her mother."
She flicked my forehead with her finger and I chuckled, resting my head on her shoulder. Her hand gently rubbed my arm and we sat quietly for several minutes until I gazed down at the paper in my hand. "Besides, your Army man will be home soon. You'll barely notice I'm gone."
"He'll only be here for less than two weeks, Alice," I replied sadly. While excited about finally seeing Edward again, after what had already felt like an eternity, I knew that for quite some time to come, each 'hello' would bring with it the inevitable goodbye. And I couldn't imagine how it would ever become easier, routine.
Alice gave me a gently squeeze, hugging me against her side. "But you'll still have him here for thirteen days, and you'll make every moment count. Distance makes the heart grow fonder… or something like that."
"What if he's changed, Alice?" I whispered softly, still looking down as I voiced one of my biggest fears aloud for the first time. I'd heard so many stories of the military changing people, though not always for the worse. Would he still be my Edward? Who would be there to greet me when I went to meet him at the airport in a week?
"Bella, don't do this to yourself. He's still Edward and he still loves you," she replied, hugging me tighter. "What did he say?"
I lifted my head to look at Alice, her eyes flickering to the folded paper in my hand and back up to me. Although I never showed her the letters themselves, we always talked about them right after I read them. The actual words on the paper felt far too personal to me to share them with anyone else. Giving her a brief summary – even briefer than the letter itself – her smile grew and I couldn't help but join her.
"See? Still sounds like the Edward we all know and love. Completely wrapped around this tiny little finger right here," she chuckled, lightly pinching my right pinkie finger.
My father's voice echoed up the stairs calling for her and we glanced at each other, both of us giving a heavy sighs.
"It's time," she said softly, giving my hand another light squeeze and leaning down to grab to the box at her feet.
"Alice, what are you doing?" I exclaimed, snatching the box from her hand and earning the infamous 'I'm pregnant not porcelain' look that Jasper often fell victim to. "Don't give me that look. You remember what Dr Weber told you, right? No heavy lifting from now until the baby is born."
"It's not that heavy," she huffed before pushing herself up off the bed and walking toward the door.
"Yeah, let's just see what Jasper has to say about that," I replied knowingly as she rolled her eyes and began mumbling something under her breath about even kittens being too heavy.
Jasper had impressed me far more than I ever expected in the last few months since finding out that Alice was pregnant. He had immediately found a job and saved everything he earned while still living with his parents to secure an apartment for them. He'd been to every doctor's appointment and even came at a moments notice a few weeks back when Alice began feeling some contractions. There wasn't a doubt in my mind that he would take good care of her and be an amazing father.
"And I doubt very much if Charlie could handle a baby being born in his living room," I teased her, prompting her to look over her shoulder and stick her tongue out at me.
"Hey, how are my girls today?" Jasper beamed the moment he saw Alice coming down the stairs toward him.
When she reached the bottom, she pointed her finger at each of us, even Charlie. "You all are going to be feeling really ridiculous in a few more weeks when this baby has boy parts."
We all laughed and Charlie shook his head. "I'm telling you, sweetheart. You are carrying exactly the way Bella's mom did. That's a girl in there."
Handing the box to Jasper, I smiled at my father and took his hand. We still had our bad days when it came to talking about my mom, with his weekly visits to his counselor and drudging up years that for so long he would have rather just as soon forgotten. Yet, it definitely wasn't every time he spoke of her anymore. He actually bore a genuine smile at times when he recalled the happy memories with her, and shared more with me that I couldn't remember on my own, being so young at the time. And Alice living with us these past few months had brought forth memories from him that had never been discussed before that night in our living room. The tears in her eyes of having disappointed Charlie that morphed into a look of admiration as he told her of his experiences and they continued this way for weeks to come.
"Ready to go home, baby?" Jasper said softly and Alice nodded, moving forward to hug me as best she could and then turned to Charlie.
"Thank you, Charlie. For everything," she said emotionally with tears welling in her eyes, and then released a breathy laugh. "Stupid hormones."
Charlie chuckled and pulled her against his side, kissing her forehead. "Anytime. Don't be a stranger now."
"I won't, I promise," she whispered, resting her head against his chest. "We still have Sundays, remember?"
Jasper and I both groaned in unison, having spent so many days in my kitchen, listening to the excited rantings from Alice and Charlie in the living room. We'd both been grateful for football season finally starting, reducing it to once a week.
He leaned toward my ear and mumbled. "She's going to turn my daughter into a sports freak, with no small amount of help from your dad. Mark my words."
Both Alice and Charlie turned to glare at us, and I bit my lip to restrain the laugh. "If you want to survive the next few weeks, I would advise not angering it."
"There is nothing wrong with our child being well rounded, regardless of gender, and you shut up," Alice quipped with her hands on her hips, her eyes narrowed at both me and Jasper.
"Yes, baby," Jasper replied with a smile, kissing her cheek before turning to my dad. "Thank you, sir. I really appreciate all that you and Bella have done for me and for Alice."
"Just take good care of her, son. Both of them," Charlie replied, patting his shoulder yet still keeping the stern 'dad look' in his features.
Jasper nodded and headed toward the door as Charlie held it open for him. Alice and I followed behind them and I stifled a chuckle behind my hand, causing her to glance over at me questioningly.
"And who has who wrapped around her little finger?" I whispered and she nudged me gently with her elbow before I took it to help her down the front stairs. "I think you have both of them occupied pretty tightly with these two."
She laughed as I nodded toward the two men, who were now shaking hands outside of Jasper's truck. They both held on to Alice as they hoisted her up into the seat, and then my dad and I stepped back as she pulled the door closed.
"I'll see you soon," Alice said as she rolled down the window and then pointed to Charlie. "You and me. Sunday. One o'clock sharp."
"You got it, kiddo. Don't hesitate to call if you need anything," he replied, clearing his throat to mask his emotions as Alice nodded and Jasper began backing out of the driveway. We stood for a moment quietly after the truck disappeared until Charlie suddenly broke the silence. "It's gonna be strange to have it so quiet here again, huh?"
I turned my head to look at him to find him gazing up aimlessly at the sky. "Well, you know, if you'd like me to become a rowdy teenager to add some noise to the house, I'm sure I could accommodate."
Charlie laughed and wrapped his arm around my shoulders, hugging me against him. "No, you're perfect just the way you are, Bells," he replied affectionately, but still never made any motion to move back toward the house. "I will say one thing about you two. You chose a couple of really good boys. Both of you."
I glanced up at him and he smiled down at me, gently kissing my hair. It shouldn't have surprised me to hear him say this, with the numerous occasions he had mentioned his respect for Edward and Jasper over the past several weeks, and commenting on what 'fine young men' they were becoming. Yet it never ceased to amaze me, considering Alice and Jasper's situation being far from ideal, and the events of last December with me and Edward. I honestly believed that he would never recover from that, and Alice had quickly become like a second daughter to him.
"Thanks, Dad. Come on, I'll go start dinner so you can get to work and I can finish that essay for English," I said, tugging gently on his waist and he nodded, following me inside.
I stood in the kitchen an hour later, one hand stirring the Alfredo sauce and holding the copy of 'Memoirs of a Geisha' in the other. I was so engrossed in the book that I was startled by my dad entering the kitchen, showered and in uniform, settling down at the table with his newspaper.
"Take your time, Bells," he said distractedly when I tossed my book aside and began hurrying to get his dinner ready. I glanced up at the clock and saw that he still had an hour before his new night shift started. Taking a sip from his coffee that I had set on the table for him, he spoke again, never raising his eyes from his newspaper. "So, looking forward to Edward coming home next week?"
I nodded as I plated his food and smiled. "Yeah, I am. I've missed him and it will be good to see him. And his family is very excited that he will be home for Emmett's wedding," I replied nervously as I walked over, setting our plates on the table and sitting down across from him.
"Bella," my father started, setting the paper aside and folding his hands under his chin. "I know I've been really hard on you and Edward through the course of your relationship. I realize you're growing up and I meant what I said earlier. I know you're both good kids, but I want what's best for my daughter and to know you're making responsible choices."
"I know that, Dad," I replied, twirling my pasta with my fork.
"Just be careful, okay?" he said and I raised my eyes to meet his, seeing both reluctance and acquiescence in his gaze. "I'm certainly not condoning, and truly wish you wouldn't at all. But I am not stupid enough to not know what forbidding it would do. Just please, remember that you are both still very young and have plenty of time."
"Don't worry, Dad. I am in no rush for any of that, and neither is Edward. The closest you will come to becoming a grandfather any time soon is Alice," I smiled, reaching across the table to place my hand on his arm and giving it a reassuring squeeze.
He smiled in relief with a nod and silently resumed eating his dinner.
After cleaning up the dishes, I walked out to find my dad grabbing his gun belt and reaching for the door. "Don't forget to lock up, Bella."
"Okay, be careful," I said as he walked toward the door.
"Always am," he smirked at my daily parting ritual, never losing sight of the fact that even in a boring town such as Forks, his job was still a dangerous one. He hugged me gently and then walked down the front steps, digging his keys from his pocket as he made his way to his cruiser.
Sitting at my desk later that night and finishing up my essay, I realized completely that I was alone in the house for the first time in months. I reached for the picture of Edward that I had been staring at earlier, having since set beside my monitor. Gazing down at his face and his smile, my mind began to wander over the last eight weeks without him here.
I missed his voice and his laugh. His car parked in front of my house every morning to drive me to school. How much I despised the empty feeling of walking the halls of Forks High completely alone, since Alice had also not returned this year, opting instead for studying for her GED after the baby was born. The ceaseless harassing from everyone at school, mostly Edward's prior conquests, calling me an idiot for believing that he was really coming back while the guys simply flirted, assuming I was up for grabs. The loneliness between letters from him, but filled by the journal he left behind.
The journal that had been the only thing getting me through the never-ending days.
I set the frame down and stood to retrieve the small book from the drawer beside my bed and laid back against my pillows, reading the next entry from where I left off the night before. Once again, I could almost hear his voice as I read the words.
Dropping you off after our date tonight made me realize something that I have been
trying so hard not to think about all summer. A week from tomorrow, I am leaving for
Basic, and while I don't regret this course of my life, I do regret that I am going to be
almost 2000 miles away from you and won't be seeing your face and hearing your
voice every day. Is it strange that I already miss you, and I'm not even gone yet?
While I can't believe how lucky I am to have you home waiting for me, I have to admit
I am also selfishly grateful for it. You are the one thing that has kept me going and
grounded for so long now, I can't even begin to imagine my life without you. I can only
hope that I become a man worth waiting for. You have so much faith and belief in me,
I am going try my damnedest to do everything in my power not to disappoint you and
make you proud.
I love you so much, Bella. Never forget that. You'll always be my firecracker.
I closed the book with tears in my eyes and immediately grabbed my stationary out of the same drawer as I set the journal back inside. Staring down at the sheet in front of me, my pen began moving across it.
I read an entry in the journal tonight and I knew this just couldn't wait until next week.
You always have and will be worth waiting for, and I have never been more proud of you than I have in the past few weeks. Even missing you as much as I do, you made a decision and followed through with it, and you're flourishing. How could I ever be anything but proud? There is nothing you could do to make me feel anything but pride in being your girlfriend.
I love you, Edward. And I hope there isn't a single second that you doubt that. I can't wait to see you next Tuesday, although if I could ask one favor? I am dying to see my man in fatigues, so will you wear them? I'm counting down the days, too, baby.
Pulling an envelope out of the box, I smiled as I scrawled out PVT Edward Cullen, Fort Leonard Wood, MO, folding the letter and sliding it inside. I sealed it and placed a stamp on it, intending on throwing it in the mailbox on the way to school the next day so that it reached him before he left, and with pen still in hand, I knelt on my bed and drew added a slash across October 5.
Eight more days to go.
"Really counting the days," I murmured, sliding out of my pants and snuggling between the sheets.
Not for the first time in the weeks since Edward had been gone, I awoke in the middle of the night from an intense and extremely vivid dream of him. Reaching out and touching him, feeling his body against mine as he kissed me. This was always the worst time of the day for me. Too late to distract myself, too early to get up. And due to the lucidity of the dream, also in a state of arousal that could not be quenched for over a week... if even then.
As much as I wished I could spend every waking moment with Edward when he returned, I knew that I was not the only one who was anxiously anticipating the two relatively short weeks that he would be home. Carlisle and Esme were already preparing for their trip to Missouri for his graduation, while Emmett had made arrangements to pick me up from school to drive to the airport in Edward's car. If there was one thing I was certain of, it was that he would be dying to drive his own car again.
I would have him all to myself that night at least after dinner with his family.
But in the meantime, I could only wait.
Staring at the red blazing numbers from my alarm clock, every minute seemed to pass more slowly than the last. 3:07 AM. Still another hour before my dad would walk through the door, and he had already begun to worry once weeks ago when he would find me awake at all hours of the night. So going downstairs an alerting him to my awakened state was not an option. I could try to fall asleep, but I knew I would only be met by more dreams and that was not conducive to a productive school day ahead of me.
So instead, I just stared at the moonlit ceiling, ignoring the time and space around me...
It was now Tuesday... one more week until Edward came home.
Monday, October 12th
Mr. and Mrs. Cullen had left last night to fly to Missouri for Edward's graduation from Basic, and I was now pacing my hallway waiting for my phone to ring. They assured me that they would call as soon as they got in from the ceremony, and glancing at the clock, I saw that it was now 8:00.
It was getting late. Where were they?
My entire body jerked as the shrill ringing of the phone filled the air, and I hurriedly flipped it open and brought it to my ear. "Hello? How is he?"
"In one piece, last I checked."
Tears immediately began to fill my eyes and my lip began to tremble as the voice I had longed for filled the line.
"Baby? Are you there?" he asked softly, a tone of worry in his voice.
"Edward," I whispered in response, as the first wet trail trickled down my cheek. Leaning back against the wall and closing my eyes, my smile tugged at the corners of my mouth.
For nine long weeks, I had ached to hear his voice, his laugh... anything and everything I had missed so much since the day he had boarded the bus. We had agreed that his limited phone calls should be reserved for his family, but damn, had I missed this voice.
"Hey there, beautiful. How's my girl?"
I chuckled softly and tilted my head back to restrain more tears. "Missing you. So much. I'm just surprised, I was expecting your mom."
"Well, if you really want to talk to her, she's right in the next room," he teased and I rolled my eyes, but deep down, I was actually filled with relief. My fears that he would come back to me changed beyond recognition were sated.
He was still very much my Edward.
"Shut up," I retorted with a laugh, and slid down the wall to sit on the floor. "God, it's so good to hear your voice. I never thought I would miss it so much."
He sighed heavily and after several quiet moments, I heard the mattress groan underneath him as he moved, followed by the brush of fabric against the phone. "I've missed you so much, baby. Is it tomorrow yet?"
"I wish," I replied, pushing myself up off the floor and walked up the stairs to my room. Kicking off my shoes at the door, I made my way over to crawl under the blankets. "Then I'd be doing more than just hearing your voice."
"Really? And what would that be?" he asked in an amused tone, followed by a groan as he audibly stretched.
"Guess you'll just have to wait and see, Private Cullen," I taunted, trying to refrain a chuckle as I hugged my pillow.
"Oh, I'm gonna get you for that," he retorted in a gravelly tone and a soft giggle emitted from me. "But I'm gonna have to let you go, baby. It's been a long day, and we have to be at the airport early."
My heart sank slightly. Even though he truly did sound exhausted, I didn't want to let him go. He'll be home tomorrow, I mentally chastised myself for my selfishness. "Get some sleep. I'll be waiting for you at the gate tomorrow."
"Mmm, I look forward to it," he replied in a mumble and his breathing began to slow. "I love you, Bella."
"I love you, too, Edward," I whispered into the phone as his voice began drifting as he spoke. "Good night."
I closed my phone, disconnecting the call and pressed it firmly to my lips. Twenty more hours. After all these weeks of waiting, I only had twenty hours more before I'd have him in my arms, his lips against mine, breathing and soaking him in. And yet, it still seemed an eternity away.
Melodramatic much, Bella?
I tossed and turned all night, unable to fall into a comfortable sleep. I was far too anxious. And finally at five, I got up and showered, even taking the time to put on some make-up and stowing it in my bag to touch up before leaving school today.
Eleven hours more.
All through the school day, I ignored every stare and remark that had been nipping at me for the last nine weeks. Even at lunch, when Jessica Stanley and her cronies threw their routine cheap shots at me, I remained unfazed. He was coming home.
When the final bell rang for the day, I sprung from my seat and raced out of the building to find Emmett parked out front in Edward's Trans Am. As soon as I climbed in, I lowered the visor and gently dabbed my finger under my eyes where the slightest bit of mascara had run over the course of the day.
"You look great, Bella. I doubt Edward will care about a little smudged mascara. The last thing he'll notice, if you ask me," Emmett chuckled with a wink as he shifted the car into gear and pulled out of the parking lot.
"Doesn't mean I shouldn't at least try to look nice, Em," I groaned in mock annoyance, nudging him lightly with my elbow.
"Women," Emmett snorted with a shake of his head and chuckled when I glared at him. "Well, you have plenty of time. We really need to haul ass if we're gonna get to Sea-Tac on time."
The two hour drive seemed never ending as I watched each mile marker fly past the window, yet still only bringing me minimally closer to Edward.
Yet as we pulled into the parking garage at the airport, I felt my nerves stirring up at seeing him again. The anxiety building, my heart pounding hard against my chest, I remained frozen in the passenger seat until Emmett startled me by opening my door.
"Come on, shorty. Don't wanna keep him waiting, now do ya?" he teased, reaching his hand out for mine and I glanced in the mirror one more time, pinching at my cheeks. He laughed one more time before taking my hand away from my face and holding it in his, pulling me up from the car. "You'll be a sight for sore eyes to him, Bella. Stop worrying so much."
He kissed the top of my head affectionately as we walked into the airport, through the throngs of people until we reached the security point. I wrapped my arms around myself, bouncing lightly on my toes as I attempted to look over the heads of the crowd.
"There's Mom and Dad," Emmett said distractedly, his eyes searching almost as fervently as mine until a wide smile broke across his face. "There he is!"
My eyes widened and wildly scanned his line of vision until I felt his hands on my waist, pulling me in front of him. A small break in the group of people in front of us alotted me the vision of everything I had been waiting for.
The green gaze.
My nine weeks of hell were finally over.
Was it worth the wait? EPOV is next, so we will get into the head of our Armyward very soon. Let me know what you think :)