A/N: This is it, folks! The last chapter for the story that was almost three years in the making. To say it is surreal … that would be an understatement.
I honestly feel like crying. In fact, I think I'm gonna! PAIGE, HOLD MEEEEEEEE!
Thanks, as always, to SqueakyZorro and TRDancer for their mad beta skills. Without you guys, this would look like poop (hey, I can say that! I'm TERRIBLE with grammar. JS).
And now, because I feel like I have to, I'm gonna write a pseudo love-letter to my co-author, PaigeParkker. Paige, the phrase "thank you" doesn't even come close to covering the gratefulness I feel because you let me go into this endeavor with you. The day you came up with this concept was one of the most creative and fun days ever. Thank you SO SO SO SO SO much for allowing me to write your Edward. I heart you big time. For serious. You're the best co-author a girl could ask for!
And now, for the last time, on with the show.
I felt like a sneaky asshole as I stole Bella's phone without her knowledge.
Hey, you needed her dad's phone number and Jasper's phone number … if you came right out and asked for it, she'd suspect something. You gotta do what you gotta do.
I was over at Bella's place, helping her pack up some of her stuff. A month had passed since I'd asked her to move in with me, and the process was slow - she had a lease to break and her belongings to pack up.
And this woman had a lot of belongings. Thank God my house was pretty empty.
I must've known when I was building it that I was just waiting for Bella's stuff to fill the place up and make the house into a home. I wasn't lying when I told her that I was ready for her clutter. I was anticipating it.
Bella was talking with Irina and packing up another box when I excused myself. I'd decided to try my luck with arranging a meeting with Charlie first.
The phone rang a few times before Charlie picked up.
"Hello?" a gruff sounding Charlie answered.
"Mr. Swan? It's Edward Cullen. I was wondering if you had a moment to speak with me?"
"Edward." There was a long pause. "What can I do ya for, Edward?"
"I was hoping that you'd be able to meet me within the next week or so. I'd come to you, of course. You'd just have to decide where you'd want to meet."
"What's this about, Edward? Is my Bells okay?"
"She's fine, Mr. Swan. There's just something that I wanted to talk to you about, and I figured it would be best to do it in person."
"All right. Well, other than fishin' I got plenty of time. How about Friday?"
Friday … I'd be back in Washington by then. I'd be able to cancel the one meeting I had for that morning and drive up to Forks, no problem.
"Friday works just fine, Mr. Swan."
"I'll be 'round all day," he said before hanging up.
I had one person down and one to go.
As comforting as that was, I felt a quick bout of panic spread through my veins.
Shoulda gotten Jasper done with first since he's obviously going to be the hardest one to talk to.
I peeked inside the door and noticed that Bella was still tied up with Irina. Thank you, Irina, for unknowingly keeping Bella busy for me. I pulled the piece of paper that had the other phone number written down on it and dialed the number before shoving the paper back into my pocket.
"Jasper. Hi. It's Edward Cullen. Do you, uh, have a moment to talk?"
"Edward Cullen. That's a blast from the past. What's up?"
"I was wondering if I could come visit you?" I took a deep breath. "I know that it's seemingly random for me to ask that, but I promise you that I have a reason for it."
"Visit? Sorry if this seems a bit, well, rude, but what possible reason would you want to visit me for? If I remember correctly, we weren't exactly friends in high school. I mean, time passes, what could you possibly wanna see me about?"
"Bella. I want to talk to you about Bella."
"Bella? Is she okay?"
"Of course she's okay. I just … I wanted to talk to you about something, and I'd rather do it in person. But if you truly aren't okay with that, I get it, and if we need to, we can have this conversation over the phone."
"Uhm, okay, sure, I guess we could meet up. I'm in Vancouver these days with Alice and the kids. Maybe we could meet up at a coffee shop or something."
"When would work best for you?"
"Sometime this weekend. Alice is taking the kids to her parents'. Say, Saturday? There is a cafe not far from me. Gimme a call and I'll give you directions."
A trip to Forks on Friday and a trip to Vancouver on Saturday? Well, looks like I'll be getting this all done in one straight shot, won't I?
"That sounds great. I'll fly out either late Friday or early Saturday then."
"Okay, Edward. I guess I'll see you then."
"Thank you, Jasper. I know you don't owe me anything, so seriously, this means a lot to me."
I nervously tapped on my steering wheel as I approached the town of Forks. It had been so long since I'd been there - since before the "Rosalie and Carlisle" fiasco, for sure. I knew that those two assholes still lived here, so I'd stayed away completely.
In my sheer nervousness, I'd forgotten to ask Chief Swan where exactly he'd wanted to meet me, so I figured that I may as well just drive up to the place that I'd last known him to live.
Judging by the old fishing boat parked in the front yard, I was most likely looking at the residence of Charlie Swan, retired police chief.
I parked in the driveway that I hadn't parked in for about fifteen years, and I couldn't help the memories that flooded back to me.
For the first time in my life, those memories didn't haunt me or cause me heartbreak. They gave me hope.
I walked up to the door, knocked and waited… and waited… until I eventually heard heavy footsteps coming closer to the door. The door opened.
"Is it Edward?"
His frame filled the doorway. Charlie had aged since the last time I'd seen him - his hair was greying more than just around the temples, giving him a much more distinguished look.
As if the town's former police chief needed to be any more intimidating.
"Chief Swan, sir?"
"That's me." He paused, giving me the once over. "Guess the polite thing to do would be to invite you in." He stepped aside to let me in.
"Thank you for having me over today. I, uh, have something important that I'd like to talk to you about."
"I was thinking about why you would want to come visit, especially having some to do with my Bells." He eyed me. "You want to marry my daughter."
"Oh," I said, genuinely surprised at how he cut right to the point. "Yes sir, that's what I'm, uh, here to talk to you about."
"Well, spit it out."
Well shit. Maybe I should've drank a little less coffee this morning, because I suddenly have the fucking shakes right now.
I took a few deep breaths to center myself.
"I'm in love, so in love, with your daughter. And I know that I haven't done anything to prove my worthiness to you, Mr. Swan, but I promise that I will work each and every day to make her happy. It would mean the world to me if I could have your permission to ask Isabella to marry me."
"My permission?" He laughed long and hard. "That girl always was her own person. I don't think it would matter if I gave my permission or not. You think she wants to marry you?"
I smiled thinking about Bella, how she was different than anyone I'd ever met. "Sir, I know that Bella will do what she wants, no matter what anyone says. But I want to do right by this woman, and I'm asking your permission to ask because I'd want you to approve."
I ran a hand through my hair. "And yeah, I hope that she'll say yes. Someday, at least."
"You'll make her happy?"
"I'll spend every day trying."
"Well, go on ahead. Not that my permission really matters."
I smiled. "Charlie, given our past, your permission means the world to me."
I was exhausted. Once I was done talking to Charlie, I had to race to the airport so I could catch a flight to Vancouver to talk to Jasper.
I'd caught my flight, but only narrowly. As I was sitting in my seat on the airplane, I felt my heart start to race.
The last time I had contact with Jasper face to face, he kicked my ass. And rightfully so.
This should be fun.
As soon as I arrived in Vancouver, I pulled out my cell phone and called Jasper, anxious to find out where to meet him.
I wasn't able to finish calling him when I realized that I had another call coming in. It was Bella.
"Hello?" Shit shit shit shit - I hope that she can't hear anything that gives away that I'm at the airport. In Canada. And obviously not on a business trip.
"Heya, sexy. Just wondering how the business trip is going. Do you miss me?"
"Always. I always miss you."
"I miss you, too. Everything went with the movers. The place looks different empty. Soulless."
"No, not soulless. In transition." My brow furrowed. "You … you're okay with moving, right?"
"I'm excited to be with you, Edward. I'm just... I just never thought this is where I would be. The universe speaks."
"What's the universe saying?" The way that Bella was hinting at the move being wrong for her … it was killing me. But I would do anything for her, I would move away if that's what she wanted …
"Take a snapshot. I'm moving thousands of miles to be with the boy I gave my heart to as a teenager, a boy who is now a man... a man who is the other half of my soul. I never thought this is where I would be. And I'm happy it is where I am."
"I'm happy that it's where you are, too. I'm so in love with you, it's ridiculous. But I don't want you to feel like you're pressured to do anything that you don't want to."
"I don't feel pressured, Edward. I want this."
I smiled. "I want you. Forever. I'll always want you. You moving? This is forever for me. You get that, right?"
"I get it, Edward. My flight is soon, so I need to get to the airport. When will you be back at our house?"
"Soon." I hope.
"Okay, well, I better jet. I love you and I'll see you soon."
"I love you, too. Travel safe."
"You too, Edward."
I hung up the phone and re-dialed Jasper before I could lose my nerve.
She loves you. Don't forget how much she loves you, even if Jasper doesn't approve of your relationship.
Jasper answered the phone and gave me directions where to meet him. I was able to successfully hail myself a cab and head to our meeting place.
As the cab pulled up to where I was to meet Jasper, I had myself do a double take. He wanted to meet at this cafe? I must be at the wrong place.Surely Jasper didn't want to meet at this yuppie hangout, right?
Nonetheless, I walked inside and scanned the room for the Jasper that I'd remembered: fit, dreadlocks, unique clothing.
Instead, I found a Jasper that I'd barely recognized, one that had put on a little weight, had a short and neat haircut, and was wearing khakis and a tee shirt.
Khakis and a fucking tee shirt? Did I step into the Twilight Zone?
I'd greeted him with an unsure, "Jasper?"
"Edward." He stood and offered his hand in greeting. "It's been a long time."
"Yeah." I looked at his head, unable to grasp that he wasn't anything like I'd remembered him. "It really has."
"So, how've you been? Bella mentioned that you were a bigwig in construction," he said, settling back in his chair.
I sat down across from him. "Yeah, looking at getting out of that. I've been working in a film studio for the last year or so. I'm thinking about maybe devoting my time there a little more. What about you? What have you been up to? I know that you and Alice got married and had some kids."
And you changed completely. Wonder when that happened … if it was your doing, Alice's doing, or just growing up in general?
"Yeah, Alice and I. We have two kids and a bun in the oven. I do some graphic design work and Alice is a teacher. We have a great life here. We're very happy." He paused to take a sip of coffee. "What about you? Been married? Kids?"
I shook my head. "Not married, no kids. But, uhm, that's kind of what I wanted to talk to you about."
"Talk to me about marriage? Kids? Sorry if I find this all a little strange."
"I understand that this may come out of left field for you, but I wanted to talk about marriage with you as it pertains to Bella."
"Marriage and Bella. I don't follow..." His voice trailed off. "Wait, you want to marry Bella?"
"I do. And, since you are the same soul, I figured that I should get permission to ask from you before I do anything."
"My permission? Whew..." He took a sip of his coffee. "That's quite the gesture."
"I find it to be more of a necessity." I cleared my throat. "Listen, I know that Bella is gonna do whatever she wants to do, but it would mean so much to me if, given our past, you at least … approved of our relationship."
"I don't know what to say, Edward. The last time I remember the two of you together, you broke her heart and crushed her spirit. I know we all grow up, and our goals and priorities change." He was quiet for a several long minutes. "She talked about you many months ago, and she seemed excited. I just worry for her heart and spirit."
"I understand your concerns, but I promise you that I only have her best wishes in mind. I've lived so long without her, lived so long knowing the huge mistake that I'd made; and knowing that, I can promise you that I'd never intentionally hurt her, ever again. She is the most important thing in the world to me, and I love her with everything I have." I straightened up in my chair. "I know you don't know me anymore, and I'd really like to rectify that, but I promise you that I've learned from my past, and I know that Bella is too important to me to not do right by her."
"She always did love you, thought you were her soul mate. We're not teenagers anymore, and I know it's not a teenage romance. I just hope that you really see how special Bella is. That you protect her and give her space to thrive. She's a truly wonderful spirit. And if you make her happy, and she makes you happy … you have my permission."
"I want to make her happy more than anything. And she is my soul mate, she always has been. Time, distance, and stupid decisions haven't changed that."
"Then I hope she says 'yes'."
Jasper reached forward to shake my hand. I grabbed his hand and shook it.
"I've been dating Bella again for a year now, and I'm just now seeing you? Isn't there something wrong with this picture?"
"I haven't seen Bella for over a year. It's been months since we've chatted by phone. Life gets busy."
"Two peas in a pod means something though, right? It's always easy to pick up a phone and make a call."
"You're right," he smiled. "I should make more of an effort." He paused briefly. "Maybe when you're all good and engaged, or married, maybe the two of you could come and visit me and the family. I'd love for Bella to see the kids."
"How long has it been since she's seen them? We don't have to be engaged to see you. As long as we can find a time that works for all of us, I can book flights out to see you guys."
"She's never really met the kids. I always came to meet her, or we chatted by phone. Alice never really got over the kind of - well, that doesn't matter. I'd like to not be strangers anymore. I miss Bella and it seems you and I need to get to know each other again."
"Alice never got over what?"
"The kind of relationship Bella and I had. It doesn't matter, though. It was a long time ago."
"It was a long time ago. But that relationship? It meant the world to Bella. So if there's anything that I can do to help repair what happened to your friendship, let me know, and I'll do it."
"I think that's something for Alice and me to work out," he said with a small smile. "She can be a little jealous, but I love her for it." He finished his coffee and checked his watch. "I'd like to have more of a friendship with Bella. I do miss her. It's something to be built."
"Jealous? Of a girl who, time and time again, had proven that nothing between the two of you went any farther that a few orgasms?" I cleared my throat, remembering how pissed I was at first, but I got over the fact that Bella was different and her relationship with Jasper was different. "Then I can see why it would make a difference to Alice if Bella and I were engaged to be married. But even if Bella doesn't say yes, we would still be together. A piece of paper wouldn't change what we mean to each other."
"We both know that, but it would make Alice a little more comfortable. Hell, after all this time, she might not even care, but I'm just thinking worst case - and with all the pregnancy hormones." He laughed.
I wanted to beat the shit out of Jasper. I didn't care what kind of situation they'd found themselves in, a good partner would never ask their significant other to give up their friends. There was a reason why the issue of trust was considered one of the most important elements in a successful relationship.
"Pregnant again?" These two bastards must be really fertile.The idea of me knowing that Jasper was having another kid before Bella did struck me as odd, so I held my hand up before Jasper was able to respond. "Don't answer that. I wouldn't want to know before Bella does."
"No worries. It's our last. I'll tell Bella about him soon enough or send a picture of him when he's born - whatever comes first."
Seriously? He'd wait until the baby was born to tell Bella about him? How could Jasper care so little about keeping Bella updated with his life? She was fucking family for chrissakes.
I studied him once more - the haircut, the preppy fucking shirt - and realized yet again that the Jasper that Bella had known was gone. They might be able to repair their relationship, but it would never be the same.
From what I could tell, Jasper didn't want it to be the same. He had Alice, a brood of children, and, most likely, a boring job.
Thank God Bella never let anyone change her. She's perfect the way she is.
I smiled half-heartedly at Jasper, still unable to grasp that he willingly let his relationship with Bella deteriorate. Although I'd done the same thing years before, I'd done it for other reasons.
I felt my fists clench at my sides.
Jasper's reasons were most likely all selfish. Had he known that his decisions were going to effectively cut Bella out of his life? I hoped not.
"I hope that you get to call her before." I gave him another half-hearted smile. Can he see how much he's making me want to punch him? I hope not. I don't want to fuck this up before he's even able to get in touch with Bella again.
"When are you planning on proposing? I'll give her a call after that."
"She's in the process of moving to Seattle right now. I was going to do it as soon as I can find the right moment."
"I'll give her a call in a few weeks then. I won't mention our meeting just in case."
Just in case … she says no? I don't get the chance to ask? I don't get the balls to ask? I didn't want to know what scenario Jasper was referring to.
"That sounds good, Jasper."
"It was good to see you, man. I better shove off and get home. I have a crib to build."
I said my goodbyes and headed out the door in search of a cab. I had an airport to get to and a woman to ask to be my wife.
Esme couldn't contain her excitement when I asked her for her mother's ring.
"Good God, am I glad that I didn't give this to Emmett!" She placed the old ring box in my hand.
"Emmett asked for Grandma's ring?"
"Hell no." My mom laughed. "Rosalie wanted bigger. But still, I was always worried that one of my boys would ask for this ring, and I wouldn't want to give it up. But for Bella? I want Bella to wear this."
I leaned forward and gave my mom a hug. "That means a lot to me."
She pulled back and cupped my face with her hands. "Good luck, baby. Make her my daughter, okay?"
I was so fucking nervous that I actually looked down to the ground to see if I'd paced a hole in the floor. Bella was busy unpacking her last box of necessities, so I don't think she'd noticed that I was so fidgety.
I'd been waiting for the best moment to pop the question for the last few weeks. At first, I decided to take her out to dinner and ask her to marry me "the old fashioned way." But that didn't feel right; Bella wasn't the kind of girl who'd want to pull a ring out of her dessert.
Bella deserved something special, something unique. Something completely … Bella.
So I sat around for weeks, trying to come up with a better idea. I finally decided on taking Bella out on a walk so we could "commune with nature," and the day that I'd decided that kicked off a two-week rain bout.
So here I was, pacing the floor, looking at Bella as she finalized integrating our lives. I'd had the permission of her same soul, her father, the ring was in my pocket, and thank fucking God it wasn't raining out.
It was a good day to propose.
"Bella? Do you have a second?"
"Yeah, just let me break down this box and I'm all yours."
"Sounds good." Fuck fuck fuck, my heart is going to explode out of my chest right about now. I'm so freaking nervous about this … what if I do it wrong? What if she says no? What if she decides that she doesn't want what I want in our relationship and she wants to move out?
Bella broke down the box and placed it in the pile with the others. "What's up?" she asked, wiping her hands on her jeans.
"I, uh, would you like to take a walk with me?"
"Yeah, sure, something wrong? Is it the wooden elephant? I could always get rid of it if you don't like it."
I couldn't help but nervously laugh. "No, everything is fine. Even the wooden elephant. He stays for as long as you want him to stay."
"Okay. Well, lead the way."
I stopped to grab a jacket for both of us in case it was cold outside and ushered Bella out the door. "I thought that we could walk to a little stream that I found on the property line."
"I'd like that." She was silent for several minutes while we walked. "Are you happy, Edward?"
"Of course I'm happy, Bella. Happier than I've ever been in my entire life."
She slipped her hand in mine, intertwining our fingers. "I'm happy, too. I should have moved out here sooner to be with you."
"You're happy with the move then?"
"Other than the packing and unpacking, I'm very happy."
"Good. Good." I ran my free hand through my hair before putting it in my pocket. I felt for my grandmother's ring, and when I found it, I squeezed my eyes tightly. I hoped that before the end of the day, the ring would find its place for the rest of our lives - on Bella's left hand.
But nothing was guaranteed. My past with Bella was anything but easy, that was for sure.
What if she doesn't want to marry you? What if you lost the window of opportunity? Or she decides that she doesn't trust you enough to be married to you? Your father was a cheating asshole, after all …
… But you aren't your father. And Bella loves you. Stop over-thinking this and just ask Bella to be your wife.
We'd reached the stream, and I found a rock for us to sit on. I freed my hand from Bella's and reached into my pocket one last time before sitting down next to her.
"I remember back in high school when we'd go outside to commune with nature. I felt like I was able to see you, really see you, for the first time when it was just us."
"I remember smoking a lot of pot back then. I'm surprised you understood anything I said."
I smiled. "I knew you better than I knew myself."
"Back then, did you ever think you'd be here?"
"No, never. Back then … back then, my head was so far up my fucking ass that I couldn't have ever dreamed of one day deserving you. And I still don't deserve you, but I'm trying. Every day, I try to be the person that you need, the person you should be with. In high school, when I met you? My biggest worry was football practice and where I was gonna get my next blow job." I laughed nervously. "I was a piece of shit back then, Bella. I hate to be cliche, but you've honestly made me a better man."
"You had your endearing qualities, Shags," she said with a laugh. "Despite the douchebags in high school. You were never a piece of shit, just misguided at times. You made me fall in love with you … couldn't be all bad. I just need you to be you."
"You're the best thing that's ever happened to me. The best thing that ever possibly could happen to me." I pressed my hand against my pocket again, using the ring pressing against my palm to give me courage to finish what I'd started.
"I'm glad the universe gave me to you," she smiled looking at me.
"Bella." I took a deep, shaky breath. "I want you forever. You're it for me."
"I am yours."
I finally took the ring out of my pocket and dropped to one knee. "Be my wife."
"Edward!" she gasped, looking deeply into my eyes. She bit her bottom lip, and I could see tears welling.
"I love you so much, Bella. I always have. I can't believe that I met my soul mate in high school, but I did. And I can't wait another minute without everyone knowing that you're mine. Say you'll be mine."
"I'm yours; I've always been and always will be yours. Yes, Edward, I'll marry you." She slid down the rock so that we were level and leaned forward to kiss me while her arms wrapped around my body.
I pulled away from her and slipped the ring on her finger. "I can't wait to start the next part of our lives together."
Bella laughed. "Let's see how the universe unfolds."
So, what did you guys think? Did the story end the way you wanted it to? Paige and I were thinking about maybe writing some futuretakes, but right now, this seems right.
But who knows? The universe might have more for these two.
Thank you SO MUCH to all of you who have been here from the start and stuck around (especially Detochkina and KitKat681). Your words mean so much to Paige and I, and knowing that someone is still around reading this? It's a fucking good feeling.
So thank you all. From the bottom of my heart.
If for some reason you're wondering, I'm still writing, I have a story here on ff that I'm posting every Wednesday called "At Last". I'm gonna try to rope Paige into writing something with me again – I can't give up my "Paige connection"! If you're curious, keep me on author alert. Or don't, and creep on my profile every once and a while. It's all good.
I'm gonna go click "complete" now. And cry my eyes out.