Epilogue - I Do
I pace the floor in my tuxedo, which is beginning to feel smaller and smaller by the second. This is ridiculous. I was fitted for this suit not three days ago. It fits perfectly and I know that it is impossible for clothing to spontaneously shrink on a person's body. Yet, my mind is telling me that my clothes are the reason that I can't breathe. They're too tight and, therefore, I can't breathe.
I pull at the collar of my shirt as I try to stretch the unyielding fabric. I'm so hot. It's like a furnace in this room. I walk over to the vent by the window and stand over it; willing the air conditioning to turn on and blow up my pants leg. It doesn't oblige.
I walk to the other end of the room and crack my knuckles. I twist my head back and forth to pop my neck. I squat several times in an effort to make my knees pop. I alternate kicking my legs out in front of me. I shake my arms at my sides. I hop up and down a couple of times. I blow out a breath.
Breathe, Edward, breathe, I tell myself.
"Are you going to make it?" Emmett asks from his perch in the far corner of the room. I look around the room at my groomsmen. They're all laughing at me.
Carlisle, my best man, looks perfect in his tuxedo; like a blond James Bond. All he needs is the gun and the martini; shaken, not stirred.
Emmett, my "best friend", looks relaxed as he lounges back in the armchair that was probably supposed to be for me. He's smirking like he knows a secret that he'll never tell. I could hit him right now.
Jacob, my brother, looks just as uncomfortable as I do for completely different reasons. He pulls at his shirt too and frowns. He hates the "monkey suit" more than any of us. Only I know that this is the first time that he's ever worn one.
"Why are you so nervous?" Emmett asks with barely contained laughter in his voice.
"She's late," I whisper.
Bella was supposed to have been here an hour ago. This spectacle was supposed to have started thirty minutes ago. I know that Charlie and my mother are in the chapel trying to ease the guests' minds.
"She'll be here," Emmett says and smiles again. I want to punch his teeth in.
"What if she's changed her mind," I mutter as I stare out the window.
"Never happen," Emmett says as he stands and walks to my side. He slaps my back. "She loves you; you love her. She'll be here."
"Edward, son, you know how women are," Carlisle says as I turn to face him. "They're never on time. A man spends over half of his life waiting on a woman. Emmett's right... she'll be here."
"I'm sure someone would have called if there had been an accident," Jacob says.
I turn my head slowly in his direction. That thought hadn't occurred to me... until now!
"An accident!" I scream. I grab Emmett by the lapels. "What if there's been an accident? What if she's hurt? Dead? Oh, God, Emmett, call someone!" I run to the door and jerk it open. "I need a phone... and a phone book... someone call 9-1-1. I have to call the hospitals!"
I'm halfway down the hall and about to round the corner when I run into the only person who can ever make me see reason... Cynthia.
"Where the hell do you think you're going?" she asks.
"Bella," I gasp out.
"What about Bella?" she asks.
"Hurt... accident... hospital..." I'm out of breath and nearly out of my mind.
Cynthia takes my arm and starts to lead me back to the room. I can see Carlisle staring at me from the doorway.
"Who told you that there had been an accident?" she asks calmly.
I try to think back. "Well, no one I guess," I mutter.
She walks past Carlisle and pushes me into the room. She turns me to face her. Then she smacks me on the forehead with the palm of her hand.
"Shit!" I exclaim as I grab at my face. I flinch when she raises her hand again. "What the fuck?"
"Think about it, dumbass. Would I be here if Bella wasn't here as well? We were all in the same car, remember?" I ponder what she says and it makes sense. She shakes her head. "Which one of you idiots put that ridiculous idea in his head?"
Carlisle and Emmett each take a step back and point at Jacob, who is trying unsuccessfully to blend into the wallpaper. Cynthia walks toward him as I collapse into the nearest chair; relieved to know that Bella's here and that she's safe.
Jacob is almost a foot taller than Cynthia, but as she stares him down I can almost see him begin to shrink.
"Please don't hit me," he whimpers.
Cynthia shakes her head at him and sighs. "Alright, morons, it's time. Get your asses out there and please, try to act like grown men for the next thirty minutes."
Carlisle, Emmett, and Jacob file obediently out of the room. I start to follow when Cynthia grabs my arm. I turn to look at her. She straightens my tie and tries to fix my hair. That's a lost cause.
"You look very handsome," she says.
"For a skinny, white boy?" I tease.
I see tears in her eyes for only the second time since I've known her. "No, for any man; white or black. You look handsome and happy. I'm proud for you, Edward. You and Bella are very lucky people. She's special... never forget that... but remember that you're special too.
"Ted and I have been together for a long time. I'm not going to lie and tell you that it's always easy. It hasn't. I left him once. I was gone a year. Always remember that even in the worst of times; the grass is never greener on any side. It's just different grass. No one is perfect. Don't put her on a pedestal and don't try to perch on one yourself.
"There will be arguments. There will be times when you don't feel like loving each other, but you will. Always remember the one thing that brought you to this day; a love so all encompassing that you can't even begin to think about living your life without her.
"There's no secret to a successful marriage, Edward. All couples are different. There is no magic formula that you can follow. All you can do is love each other; support each other; be friends as well as lovers. You must always be on her side and she must always be on yours.
"Hold her when she cries. Always, always hold her hand. Hold it in the car; hold it when you sit on the couch; hold it when you're old and gray and sitting in rocking chairs on the porch at the nursing home. Never lie to her, even if you're trying to protect her. Tell her how you feel; it's not 'unmasculine' to have feelings. And never forget how you feel or what you think when you see her walking down that aisle today."
I look down at my best friend. "I'm going to hug you now," I tell her. She rolls her eyes and nods her head just as the first tear trails down her face.
I hug her to me and whisper, "Thank you... for saving me."
She pushes on my chest. "Yeah, yeah, you owe me, Masen." She wipes the tears from under her eyes. "I swear if you make me mess up all of Alice's work, I'll hit you again and she'll kill you."
She takes my arm and pulls me to the door. "Get out there and marry Bella. We're over an hour behind schedule."
I stop in the doorway. "Why were you guys late?"
She shakes her head like I'm a bigger idiot than she thought. "Edward, we're women. We're never on time. You need to get used to it now."
We walk out the door and turn in opposite directions. I get to the door at the end of the hall that leads to altar where I'll wait for my bride. I take a deep breath and push it open.
The first strains of "Crash Into Me" are playing as I take my place next to Carlisle. I glance down the line and see Emmett giving me a thumbs up with a huge shit eating grin on his face. Jacob is fidgeting. I suppress the urge to tell him to quit it; we're videotaping this after all.
Finally, I look at Carlisle; the man who's been more of a father to me than my real father ever was. He squeezes my shoulder and says, "I'm proud of you, son." I almost cry. I nod my head instead and take another deep breath.
The song ends and there is a pause before the processional music starts. Bella spent months agonizing over this one song. She knew that she didn't want the traditional wedding march. She finally found an instrumental album on-line by The O'Neill Brothers. My bride and her wedding party will be walking down the aisle to "The Wedding Song (There is Love)".
As the song begins to play, the doors at the back of the chapel open. Everyone turns to see. Cynthia is the first to walk down the aisle. I can tell by her expression that she is fighting the tears in typical Cynt fashion. I wink at her as she takes her place opposite Jacob.
Rosalie is next. She looks stunning, as usual. She smirks at me and rolls her eyes before taking her place across from Emmett.
Suddenly, Alice steps into view and pulls the doors closed. People start looking around at each other. I lean over to Rosalie and ask, "What's wrong?"
"I have no idea," she replies.
"Is Bella okay?" I ask.
Before she can reply, the doors open again. Alice stands there looking slightly flustered, but determined. She takes a breath and squares her shoulders before she starts down the aisle.
She gets to her place and whispers to me, "She's fine. We're just having some shoe issues. I told her practice in them, but no..."
She stops mid-sentence when everyone stands. I look up and see the most beautiful sight I have ever seen. Bella is standing in the doorway on Charlie's arm. I gasp.
"My God," I whisper. "She's perfect."
My tux is no longer too small. It's no longer too warm in the room. I no longer have trouble getting a decent breath. Nothing is wrong or amiss in my world, because my world is walking toward me and she's perfect.
I couldn't look away if I wanted to. As I watch her walk toward me, holding tightly to Charlie's arm, our eyes meet. She's smiling, so I smile. She blushes, so I blush. I wish the aisle was shorter. I wish I could rush to her and sweep her off of her feet. I wish I could hold her and whisper how lucky I am that she said yes. But that isn't how it's done. So I wait, impatiently, as she makes her way to me.
Charlie kisses her cheek and shakes my hand before placing Bella's delicate hand in mine. She gives her bouquet to Alice and I take her other hand.
"You look lovely," I whisper to her. She nods and bites her lip. "Please don't cry."
"I'm just so happy," she says. I know the feeling.
I hear the priest say the words. I repeat what I'm supposed to repeat. I say "I do" when I should, but all I can really focus on is Bella and how I almost lost her; how I almost never found her. As much as I hate James Cavanaugh for everything that he has done, I can't deny that without him, Bella and I probably wouldn't be here today.
A single tear trails down her smiling face. I reach up and brush it away with my thumb. "So beautiful," I whisper. I'm so lost in how perfect a moment this is that I don't hear the priest tell me that I can kiss my bride.
Bella giggles softly and asks, "Are you going to kiss me or not?"
I take her face in my hands and kiss her. Her ruby lips taste like heaven. I don't want to break the kiss. I push and deepen it. I get lost in the moment again as I start to plunge over the edge. I feel Bella's arms wrap around my waist. I pull her closer. The world drops away and we become the only people in the room.
The spell is broken when Carlisle clears his throat and touches my shoulder. I reluctantly break our perfect kiss and lean my forehead against Bella's. She's blushing and I would bet that I am too. I cut my eyes to the side and see that a few people are shifting uncomfortably in their seats. I catch a glimpse of Cynt. She's shaking her head and smiling.
I smile down at Bella. "A little much?" I ask.
"No," she sighs. "It was wonderful."
"I love you," I whisper.
"Forever," she replies.
Yes, she's mine – I'm hers – forever.
Seriously, this really is it.
Read Stone Cold, the sequel to Turn to Stone.
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