A/N: So, this is it. The epilogue. I told you in the beginning that it would be short and even though we all know I can be a wordy bitch, I followed through on my promise. You never know, there may be future takes or outtakes from this story eventually. I guess it all depends on the lovely ladies who bought my services in the FGB auction and if they want more.
As per usual, a big thanks to my beta MaggieMay14 for beta'd this during the middle of an allergic reaction! I love my pre-readers Risbee, flightlessbird11 and forgethesong. You girls rock.
I don't own the stuff SM owns. I just own these words.
Oh I need you to know today I'll wait for you always
Oh I need you to know today I'll wait for you always
Oh I need you to know today I'll wait for you always
When I find you...
When I find you...
...I'll find me
-When You Find Me by Joshua Radin
Jared narrowed his eyes in my direction and I could tell he was frustrated with me. This was nothing new though. I was trying to pull my weight, helping out as best as I could. Things were hectic most days, but I wouldn't have changed anything for the world. I was with Bella and that was what mattered most to me.
"Dude, just leave it. I'll get someone else to get it into the truck," Jared sighed in exasperation as I stood up and groaned loudly in response. This is how things had gone all summer and it was beginning to test my patience. I would do my best to pitch in and help Bella's crew, even though I didn't need to, but Jared would act like I was completely fucking useless. I usually took his abuse with a grain of salt, remembering that Bella was with me after her set each night and Jared was just jealous, but I was beginning to reach my breaking point.
"Listen Jared, I know you don't like me…"
"Understatement of the century," he mumbled. Unfortunately, it wasn't quiet enough that I didn't hear him.
"You don't have to like me, but you need to come to grips with the fact that I'm not going anywhere unless Bella tells me to leave," I said emphatically as Jared rolled his eyes and one of the other crew members walked by and took the amp I had been trying to roll into the truck and finished the job for me. Jared looked smug that I never got to finish my task; though it was his fault I was sidetracked to begin with. I knew I could have got it done without his interruption. However, I did have one thing I could feel smug about, my Bella. I raised my mouth into a sly grin before speaking. "And don't expect Bella to tell me to leave… ever."
"She'll tire of your antics soon enough and see you for the douche you are, Edward," Jared replied with a wide smile on his face. "Bella isn't an idiot and I have no idea why she took you back based on your history together, which Jacob told me all about by the way. She'll smarten up and realize you are more of a liability and that you aren't worthy of her. Bella needs someone who is a little more supportive of her career."
"How the fuck am I hindering her career, Jared? Last time I checked, I've been nothing but encouraging of everything," I said bitterly. Jared was clearly trying to unload all of his baggage regarding our current situation onto me, but I wasn't having any of it. I knew he wanted Bella and wasn't shy about stating his intentions, but I was here because Bella asked me to be, and I wasn't leaving. Not for anything.
"She's lost her focus, Edward."
"Fuck you, Jared," Bella commented as she walked up from behind, catching both of us off guard. She had been in her dressing room being interviewed for a local radio station in Buffalo, where we currently were. We were sleeping in the city tonight and then heading to Rochester for the next two days of shows. She looked tired and pissed off, so I was glad Jared was facing angry Bella and not me. "If I wanted your opinion of how things were going on the tour with Edward and me, I would have asked for it. I want him here. Right now, I'm not sure I can say the same of you."
Jared groaned in frustration and lamely apologized to Bella for speaking out of turn, but he never apologized to me. Not that I expected it. Bella brushed him off and stared him down for a moment. "Last time I checked, you should be getting the gear into the truck so we can leave. Since you are clearly behind because you were chastising my boyfriend, he and I are going to grab a cab back to the hotel. We'll see you at 10 in the morning in the lobby to head to Rochester."
Bella was becoming quite the ball buster with Jared lately. Ever since I had joined her on tour, which was currently scheduled for the remainder of the summer and part of the early fall, she had been watching him like a hawk. I was trying not to rock the boat with my presence on the tour, choosing to stay in the background as much as possible, but Jared clearly thought I was some sort of Yoko Ono type who was trying to weasel my way into their good graces by helping out the crew. Truth was that I was just helping so we would leave the venue sooner and I had more time at the end of each night with my girl. Bella knew this too, which is why she was keeping her eye on Jared.
"So, what did he say to you?" Bella questioned as we walked to the front of the club, where she had the manager call us a cab to take us back to our hotel. "Was he even more of an asshole than usual?"
"Same ol' shit, babe. He clearly thought he had a chance with you before I came back into the picture and he's more than a little jealous about it. It's nothing I can't handle," I said with a tired sigh. I was beginning to wish Jared would just go away, but he was important to Bella and her tour, and there was no way I was going to do anything to jeopardize it.
The day I officially came back into the picture was a joyous one for me, but one fraught with anxiety for Bella. After we made love for the first time in four years, after her final concert in Chicago during March, we decided to give us a go again and I for one was more than excited. I may have even jumped off my bed in happiness. However, we had a few things to contend with first, like our jobs.
Bella and I managed a few hours sleep and when we woke the next morning, we agreed that I would stay in Chicago and finish out the semester. Once school was done, she invited me to spend my summer on tour with her. From early June to September she was playing almost 70 shows in various cities across the country, and wasn't going to have much downtime that didn't include traveling, but I jumped at the chance to be with her. I needed to demonstrate to her how much I had changed and show her just how much I loved her. Every second counted in my mission to get back into her good graces.
Being apart was difficult for the first few months, so I found myself dipping into my savings and flying out to places like Tacoma and Salt Lake City to see her perform during her spring tour when I couldn't be away from her any longer. We had hours of phone calls, online chats, emails and Skype to tide us over in the periods we were apart, but it was unbearable. The more time I spent with Bella, the more I realized how instrumental she was in my happiness. Sure, I enjoyed being a teacher, but I loved being in her presence more.
Our calls and emails were very laid back, but I continued to make my intentions known to her. I always ended my emails with 'I love you' even if Bella didn't say it back to me. I knew she did, based on her actions and the fact that she wanted us to try and be together. I knew I had to win back her trust, so I did as much as I could to assure her that I was serious about everything.
It was now mid-July and I had to make a decision soon – stay with Bella on our tour till it ended in late September or go back to Chicago by the end of August to prepare for the semester ahead. I wasn't ready to decide yet, and I didn't know how Bella felt about the situation either. Was I willing to give up everything I had built professionally for her? Where did she see herself a few years from now and was I included in her dreams?
"Jared has been told what his job is repeatedly. If he thinks interfering in my life is part of his job description, then I'll find someone else to do the job that isn't so nosy," Bella declared as we stepped outside into the humid Buffalo night just as a cab pulled to the curb. I helped her inside, pulling her warm body to my side, as I gave the driver the name of our hotel.
"Bella, you know you don't want to fire him. He's your friend."
"Friend or not, this is business. Ben keeps reminding me that if I want to succeed I need to be able to differentiate between the two and this is a prime example." Ben was Bella's new manager that she had signed with a month earlier and he was actually a pretty decent guy. He was in the midst of negotiating a record deal for her with Atlantic Records, which would be a great jump for her from her indie label. Her contract with the indie company was due to end in October, after the tour had ended, so she was eager to solidify her plans for the future and so was I.
"I just don't want you to do something you will regret in the long term, babe."
"I know," she finished with a sigh as she laid her head on my shoulders and I stroked her hair softly. She looked exhausted following her set and adding the interview afterwards wasn't exactly the brightest idea. I had even mentioned it to Ben after he informed us it had been booked and he promised to try and schedule everything prior to her shows, so that she could relax a bit. It seemed like Bella's life never allowed her a few moments to herself, and I was actually thankful we had a few days off following Rochester, because she desperately needed it.
Bella was almost on the verge of falling asleep when we reached the hotel and I quickly paid our driver and helped her out of the cab and up to our room. Rather than do what we usually did after her shows, which was make love until we fell asleep wrapped around each other, I helped Bella undress and lifted her into our bed to sleep. She needed her rest a hell of a lot more than I did.
"You take really good care of me," Bella said sleepily as I kissed her forehead and pulled away.
"You deserve it and so much more."
As she turned onto her side, a small smile crept across her face as she saw me bend down beside her and smooth her hair away from her face. "I love you," she said, catching me by surprise, as my heart burst with happiness. I had never pressured Bella to say anything in return to me when I confessed my love repeatedly, but it was nice to know she felt the same as me.
"I know you do baby. I love you too, so fucking much."
"I know," she replied with a yawn as she fell asleep and I undressed, crawling into bed behind her to spoon her body against mine.
The next few days flew by quickly and I found myself excited at the prospect of four days in New York City with Bella. She had a week of shows at the Bowery Ballroom following her four days of rest, but I thought being in the city would energize her somewhat, so I was looking forward to it. On the morning we arrived at our hotel, the W at Union Square, Bella had a meeting with Ben and then she was free for the rest of the day. While Bella and Ben talked specifics on the possible switch to Atlantic, I logged onto my computer and checked on things back in Chicago.
Kate & Marcus had finally had their baby, a little boy they called Riley, who was literally the center of their universe. When I opened my first email, I was bombarded by images of him with his chubby cheeks and bright green eyes, he was simply adorable. I wrote Kate back a quick message letting her know how I was doing and telling her I was unsure when I was coming back. I didn't think she would be surprised that I was so happy. Kate and Bella had yet to meet, but I figured it was just a matter of time. When I knew we would be back near Chicago, I would definitely schedule a dinner between all of us.
Jasper's latest email was next and he didn't have too much to say. He wanted me to send his love to Bella and he hoped that I had found what I was looking for. He had also attached a photo, one of him and Maria at Wrigley Field before a Cubs game. He had a smile on his face that was unmistakable and I was happy he found someone to make him smile so brightly. I was sure Bella made me smile in the exact same way, and hoped he found the same love with Maria that I had found with Bella. I replied quickly that he looked happy and promised him some photos from the next few days of Bella and me in New York. Jasper was hoping to drive out to see us at one of Bella's mid-west shows and planned to bring Maria with him, so we had that to look forward to.
My final important email, minus all the ones trying to sell me Viagra or cheap Canadian meds, was from Emmett and all it said was: 'I finally did it, my swimmers are champs!' I was so fucking confused that I decided to give him a quick call, only to find out that he and Rosalie were finally pregnant.
"Dude, that's awesome," I replied excitedly as Rosalie shouted something in the background I couldn't quite make out. "What's going on there?"
"Oh, Rosie is all pissed I told you. She said she didn't want to let anyone know until her first triad was over or something like that."
"I think you mean trimester."
"How do you know that?"
"Kate told me way too much about baby stuff, more than I ever wanted to know to be honest. I guess it's the downfall of having your best friend be female and your cousin," I said with a laugh as Emmett joined in. "So, how far along is Rosalie?"
"Two months. She's due late January and is already worrying about what the weather will be like when it comes time to go to the hospital." Emmett and I continued talking for the next thirty minutes, throwing out my plan for a quick phone call. Luckily, Bella and Ben's meeting ran a little bit later than expected, so I didn't feel like I was losing out on any time with her. However, talking to Emmett about his future moving forward made me feel like I was standing still. Here was all my friends having children, finding love again and just living their lives and I was following my girl on tour. I wasn't doing much of anything really, if I was being brutally honest.
As soon as Bella's meeting was through, it was lunch time and we decided to take a cab uptown to Central Park, grab some lunch and just lounge around since it was such a nice day. I snagged Bella's guitar and took it with us since we weren't planning to do much in the park anyways, just relax. We bought some sandwiches, salads and drinks from a small café near the park and settled on a bench near the Alice in Wonderland statue on the east side of the park.
As we ate in comfortable silence, the mid afternoon sun peeking through the trees, I decided it was time to broach the topic of our future. After all, it had been almost four months that we had been back together, even though most of it was long distance. I was shocked when Bella brought up the topic before me.
"So, how have you enjoyed being on tour with me? Do you miss Chicago?" she asked as she took a bite of her turkey sandwich and stared out at the water in front of us. She was nervous in asking, I could tell and I was curious to know where her thoughts were coming from. I wondered briefly if Ben had said anything detrimental, but then decided against it since he was in favor of us being together. He thought I calmed her during the stressful times and I hoped that was the case. "I mean… I know this is a big change, but do you like it?"
"I like parts of being on tour with you," I admitted honestly as I draped one arm over the back of the bench and she nestled into my side. "I love seeing you perform each night, your smile bright as you take the stage and are completely in your element. You were meant to do this, Bella."
"But… I don't know what you want from me. When we decided back in Chicago to give us another try, we never discussed anything long term, and I wasn't looking for anything then. In fact, I wasn't sure what I was looking for other than you. I can see now that you won't be moving back to Chicago, not for any length of time anyways, so I just wonder what you see… in your future?"
"Why can't it be our future?"
"I don't know if you want a future with me, Bella. We haven't exactly talked specifically about our relationship since Chicago. We've just been sort of going with the flow and letting things happen, and I know it sounds weird coming from me of all people, but I want to know where we are going. Where you see us going and where you want us to go?" I let out a small sigh and then finished the last bite of my sandwich as I felt Bella's hand rest on my leg.
"You've been really great about all this uncertainty in my life, Edward," Bella said slowly and I was suddenly struck with an irrational sense of fear. What if she was breaking up with me? What if I wasn't what she wanted, even though she was everything I wanted? "And you're right, my life is crazy and we have sorta just let things happen for us, but I know you have changed from the person you were before."
"Yeah, but does that…" I began to ask as Bella interrupted me.
"Let me just say this okay?" I nodded my head and Bella took a deep breath beside me. "I want us, in whatever way I can get it. But at the same time, I don't think you are 100% happy following me around on tour all summer long. I don't know what the fall will hold for me, but I know I will not be touring between late September and January. If this thing with Atlantic happens, I will be in the studio prepping a new album."
"That would be awesome for you," I stated excitedly, not even caring about the repercussions of how this would work for us.
"Yeah, it would be great for my career, but not necessarily for us… as a couple." I nodded my head in understanding as Bella's hand stroked my leg softly and I tried not to worry about her dumping me, because I could sense it was about to happen. "Can I ask you something bluntly? Where do you see us in a few years? If you could have everything you ever wanted, what would it be?"
I was quiet for a moment as I contemplated my answer as best as I could. "I could simply say that I would just want you in my life, but that wouldn't be enough to describe it. I don't see a future without you in it. You and I living together in Chicago, raising our kids together and tackling all challenges head on with nothing but honesty. You would still write, sing and play music and I would teach. However, my grand plans don't exactly seem so feasible these days."
"You want kids with me?" Bella asked incredulously as I nodded my head slowly.
"I want everything with you. The big wedding, the white picket fence and the little musically inclined babies who are just as beautiful as you… everything. I know, I'm asking for a lot."
"What if I said I wanted that too, I just wasn't sure how to get it?" My mouth literally dropped open at her remark. She didn't want to break up with me; she wanted me as much as I did her. "When the tour is finished in September, I'm heading back to Chicago and if Ben can make it happen, I will record the new album there. Lots of great musicians have recorded in Chicago and Ben knows a great little studio I could record in that was used in the past by Frank Black, Smashing Pumpkins and even Wilco. I may have gotten a little excited when he told me."
"What about touring?"
"I don't have to tour every single day, Edward."
"Yeah, but you will be gone for long periods of time, right?"
"So? You can take a year off and come with me or we can just be apart for a little bit. I know you love molding young minds and teaching them about English, but I think we can manage to make something work… don't you?"
"The fact that you are willing to try and make a future with me literally makes me giddy with happiness."
"Giddy with happiness? Who says that shit?" Bella laughed as I leaned in and kissed her soundly on the lips to shut her up. I wrapped my arms around her and pulled her closer to me, our lips opening to explore each other excitedly. However, the sound of a throat clearing from beside us made me reluctantly pull away from her. When we both looked up, we found ourselves staring into the excited brown eyes of a girl who couldn't be more than nineteen years old. She looked nervous as hell.
"Um… I'm really sorry to interrupt, but are you Bella Swan?"
"Yes," Bella declared sweetly, clearly not fazed by the fact that she was just noticed by a fan. In fact, said fan was now holding out a small notebook with a pen, shaking slightly as she asked for Bella's signature.
"I am a huge fan, and I'm sure you get this a lot, but your music is really inspiring to me," the girl gushed as Bella requested her name and personalized the message to her. "I've got tickets to one of the shows at the Bowery next week. I'm sure it will be epic."
"Thanks so much, I'm so glad that you are enjoying my music. I hope you like the show."
"Oh I'm sure I will," the girl replied happily before leaning in to Bella and whispering something in her ear. Bella just laughed and nodded her head, thanking the girl for her support before she ran off, excitedly telling her group of friends who were waiting that she had just met Bella Swan. It was very surreal to watch the entire scene go down because I had never once thought about Bella's fame until that moment.
"What did she whisper to you?" I questioned curiously as Bella grabbed my hand tightly in hers and pulled me to stand up with her. She reached for her guitar and I let her guide me along a pathway to a secluded area where she urged me to sit down against a tree. I did as she wanted, because I simply couldn't deny her anything, and she sat between my legs, her guitar perched on her lap as she strummed the strings aimlessly for a moment. "So, are you going to tell me what the fan girl said to you?" I questioned again as Bella turned around to face me and she kissed my chin sweetly.
"She told me that my boyfriend was hot," laughed Bella as she began playing her guitar and I reached up, stilling her fingers against the frets.
"Seriously?" I asked incredulously as Bella kissed my lips tenderly as her body relaxed against mine and I wrapped my free hand around her waist, holding her tight against my body. I even let out a small sigh of pure happiness as Bella leaned her head back against my shoulder and we fit perfectly together.
"Yeah, seriously. I told her you were much more than my boyfriend… you were my life."
Yup. That's it. Thanks for reading! I've loved reading all your reviews and thoughts on this story, so don't stop now!
Expect to see a new story, the expansion of Room 15, before you know it. The first chapter is already with my beta. Thanks to all the lovely ladies who purchased chapters as part of FGB. You guys own me!