Well, after three and a half years, I kind of thought I'd never be saying this, but here's the last ever chapter of The Cullen Girl. I feel quite sad about it really.
I'd like to take the opportunity in the meantime though to say a massive thank you everyone who's read the story, from those who have stuck with me through thick and thin and an inconsistent posting schedule, to those who have only recently started reading. Thank you so much for reading and in some cases reviewing. I really appreciate your interest in my story.
I really hope that regardless of your feelings on the last chapter and the twist on the story's ending that you enjoy reading this epilogue and cheers for sticking with me.
For the last time for this story, I must say that unfortunately, I don't own Twilight.
I sighed heavily as I crossed the campus, rolling my neck in an effort to get rid of the cramp that had taken up residence midway through my last exam. Thank God they were over finally. Hopefully I'd never have to see another essay question again. College was definitely a much bigger step up in work than they let you know if high school, although thankfully the pain was nearly over.
Now the whole summer stretched in front of me. Well, most of it anyway.
I had three weeks free now until I left on vacation to Barbados with my roommate, Hannah. We had been originally intending to go to Mexico with a bunch of people in our class, but Jasper had begged me to reconsider the destination, and with Esme and Carlisle deciding to spring for the holiday in the Caribbean, I gave in.
Before then, I was just planning on hanging out and relaxing. This last semester had just been brutal.
As I walked, I noticed that the clouds up ahead were getting blacker. It had been scorching all week – typical for when I was trapped inside – and it looked like it was now going to thunderstorm. I picked up my pace, hoping to get back home before it started raining.
Suddenly, I was grabbed from behind and thrown in the air.
Shrieking loudly, I barely heard my brother's complaint.
"Jesus, Bells. Burst my eardrums, why don't you?"
He caught me easily and once I was safely back on the ground again, I spun and slapped his chest angrily, for all the good it did.
"Emmett! What the hell?"
He smiled down at me and shrugged. "You looked like you thinking too hard a minute ago and needed a break."
"By being tossed in the air?"
His grin got wider. "How else?"
I scowled, but I couldn't stay mad at him for long. I opened my arms and let him pull me into a hug, lifting my feet back up off the ground. When he let me go, I looped my arm through his.
"So this is an unexpected visit. Last I heard you and Rosalie were travelling."
He started leading me unerringly towards my apartment.
"We were, but the family's thinking of moving again, so we came back to help decide where to go, otherwise we'll end up living in Alaska near the sisters again and I really can't take any more arguments between Rosie and Kate. It was bad enough when she was a newborn. They'd tear each other apart for real this time now that she's got some of Jasper's fighting moves down."
"How is Jasper?" I asked. Although I hadn't seen him in person since last summer, I still talked to him most weeks on the phone, but he could hide so much with his voice that I was never really sure how truthful he was being.
"He's good. Still moping that he's not up here with you, but I think that's just so he can scare away all the horndogs wanting to defile you."
I shot him an amused glance. "He does know that I was defiled a long time ago and by him at that, right?"
Emmett scowled at that. "Yeah, and believe me I took it out on his hide when I got the chance."
His scowl melted away to be replaced by an easy grin again. "What?" He pretended innocence. "I was only ever told that I wasn't allowed to beat Edward up anymore. No-one ever mentioned that I couldn't take Jasper on."
I shook my head, but didn't bother protesting anymore. Emmett would continue to pick fights regardless of what I said, just because he could.
"He's thinking of going to college though this year coming up, instead of just repeating high school again. He says that he can do just as well integrating with the humans in college instead of school, but I think he's just realised that nothing can live up to the epicness of your final year in high school."
I cringed at the memory. In my efforts to spend more time with my human friends, rather than my vampire family, I had somehow ended up in a situation where Mike Newton became convinced that we were dating. Even though we weren't. I subsequently spent most of senior year trying to avoid him, something Emmett found hilarious.
The last laugh was on him as I forced him to be my Prom date given that no other guys dreamt of messing with 'Newton's girl'. Rosalie had very graciously agreed to loan me her partner for the night, although my efforts to embarrass him throughout the course of the evening didn't work. Emmett was just not capable of shame in any way.
"Anyway, he's thinking of enrolling and we'll probably all join him if we're going to be living together again. Can you imagine it? Me at college? We've only ever done high school before, or at least I have. I could never be bothered to stick around for more academic crap in the past, but Rosie likes the idea since she hasn't had the opportunity before, so I think I'll sign up."
I reached up on my tip toes to ruffle his hair. "Yeah, I can just imagine you as a rowdy frat boy."
"Damn straight." He grinned again.
We walked along quietly for the next couple of minutes, until I eventually broke down and asked.
"So how come you've come for a visit today? Has something happened?"
Emmett stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, forcing people to quickly change paths to move around us.
"No, nothing's happened," he reassured me. "Just Esme told me that today was the last day of finals for you and you've probably got plans, but I wanted to come and say congratulations on making it through college." He scratched the back of his neck awkwardly. "And I missed you," he said it in a rush so I nearly didn't hear it, but once I deciphered the tangle of words, I smiled.
"I missed you too." I pulled him into a hug and we just stood there for a minute holding each other.
"It's not the same without you in the house," he told me. "Carlisle, Esme and Jasper are just moping around, waiting for you to come home in the summer, and Eddie's miserable and whiny as ever."
"Don't be mean, Emmett." I frowned up at him.
Edward was a bit of a sore subject for me. After our massive fight, we had both agreed that maybe it would be better for us to not be together. I felt bad about pushing him beyond his comfort zone and he felt bad about nearly attacking me. All in all, it made for a very awkward year and a half after the break up. I could understand now why everyone was so concerned about us dating in the first place. Living with your ex is not something I'd recommend.
Emmett stuck his tongue out at me, but wisely chose not to mention Edward again.
"Anyway, I know you've got some time between now and your vacation so I thought what could be better than coming all the way to New York to see my favourite sister."
"You're here for the whole three weeks?" I asked, excitement beginning to build within me.
"Yep. Well, not just me. Rosie's here as well, and Jasper was thinking of coming up at the weekend. Carlisle and Esme say that they expect to see you after you get back from Barbados."
My smile was so wide that my face was starting to ache. Emmett grinned easily back at me.
"So you're not mad then?"
"Mad?" I didn't have a clue what he was talking about. "Why would I be mad?"
He shrugged and took my hand. We started walking again.
"I dunno. You've just got this new life now away from us all, and it's one that I know you've worked really hard to build. I know you love us all, me especially since I'm so awesome, but that doesn't mean that you necessarily want us here getting in the way of your new life."
"Emmett," I chided him. I knew he wouldn't be satisfied with me just saying that I was happy to see him so I thought carefully about what to say. "I know things were uncomfortable in the house after I spoke to Carlisle that time." There was no point in clarifying what 'that time' was; everyone in the family was well aware of the implications of that time. "And what with trying to be more human and all, I didn't spend as much time with you in my last year at home as I would have otherwise. I do regret that even if it was necessary."
I squeezed his hand.
"There were some things that I needed to get used to again before coming to college and living with other people, like not talking about your gifts or your hunting habits so casually, or getting used to not being the only one at the dining table who's actually eating. Small stuff like that, stuff I wouldn't even think about at home. But I would never want you to think that I wouldn't want to see you or any of the rest of the family because of it. I love you guys and that's never going to change. Besides, I'm your sister remember? You're stuck with me."
I willed him to understand. I needed to be able to grow up, to stand on my own two feet without one of the family constantly standing by ready to catch me if I fell. Yet, in spite of all that, or maybe because of it, I also needed to be able to still be a part of the family, despite all the differences between us that the last four years apart had emphasized.
Luckily, Emmett picked up on all the unspoken things I wanted to say.
"I know. You're still a Cullen girl, huh? Whatever did we do to deserve such hardship?"
I gave a fake affronted gasp and slapped his arm. He just smiled down at me.
As we turned the corner, I could see Rosalie's statuesque blond figure leaning against a red convertible outside my apartment block. She was receiving a large number of admiring glances from passers-by, but clearly hearing our approach, she had turned her head in our direction and didn't appear to notice the stares.
Straightening up, she raised a hand in greeting. I waved back, but Emmett went a step further, disentangling his arm from mine, he bounded over to her and threw her around in the air while she shrieked and batted at him.
I laughed at the outraged look on her face and Emmett's attempts to placate her.
No matter what happened in the future - with me, my family, or my new mostly-human lifestyle - it was nice to know that some things never changed.
And never would.