A/N: I don't own this, we all know who does. What I do own is four children who are home for Spring Break and driving me crazy!
Sorry this took so long. It had to be perfect, right? :) Thanks so much for sticking with me through this.
Thanks go to my girlies, my Northern Stars who love me even when I don't deserve it - MeowVemulapalli, Risbee, missveritys, and coldplaywhore. My LaV, missveritys, had a little baby girl yesterday. Welcome to the world Tabitha!
Much thanks to wickedcicada for making this pretty. Also, thank you for thinking I'm brave. You have no idea what that means to me.
Thanks to Twilight44 and Unchanged Affections – two of the best little prereaders I ever did meet. Your help is something I crave.
Here you go, it's the end. I hope you like it. :)
I am raising up the stakes of this round, I am playing for keeps
Oh, would you like to leave this human race, tonight?
Eternity will never be enough for me
And eternally we'll live our infallible love
Follow me into the sea
We'll drown together and immortalize you and me
Leave behind this lonely town
We're both better than this, it's not worth being down
"This Is For Keeps" by The Spill Canvas
Time moved on. I had no idea how much passed, or how quickly or slowly it went—it was all a blur to me. The only moments of clarity were the few minutes I spent each day with Izzy, talking to the black stone that marked her resting place. The woman at the corner flower shop knew my order, and had it ready and waiting for me each day. I should have paid enough attention to at least find out her name or what she looked like, but I didn't care.
My mother fussed over me every morning and evening when I refused to eat the meals she prepared for me. She just didn't get it; I had no need for food. I wasn't hungry; I didn't want to be alive, so why make the effort? A few of my friends stopped by after my mother begged them to come talk to me, which led to uncomfortable visits that none of us enjoyed. It didn't matter; they weren't the person I wanted to see. I called Alice a few times, and even went to dinner with her and Jasper once. He was nice; we seemed to have a lot in common and I thought we could have been friends if things had been different. If only Izzy and I had been able to work things out, if we had been stronger, they could have been our couple friends. It was stupid for me to think that way; it only made me dream of things that could never be.
Every night, Izzy took over my dreams. They were always different; sometimes good—her laughing and smiling, running through fields of flowers. Other times they were horrible and terrorizing—her lifeless body washing out to sea as I screamed and desperately tried to swim to her. The worst dreams of all were memories. I remembered so many things from our life together, and on those nights I woke shaking and sweating, only to dissolve into sobs at the realization that she was really gone. My father set up a psych evaluation for me, but I wasn't stupid; I knew what they wanted to hear and gave the lies to them. Everyone around me tried to help, not realizing that the one thing I truly needed was the thing they were trying to keep me away from. I wanted to be with my Izzy.
I woke one morning, not really sure what day it was, not really caring, either. It was close to noon and the house was quiet; I assumed my parents were both gone and that I was alone. I didn't bother dressing; I was thirsty and just wanted a drink. After walking into my mother's bright kitchen wearing only a pair of baggy sleep pants that hung low on my hips, I stood next to the fridge, taking out the bottle of juice. I heard a gasp from behind me and froze, not wanting to see who was there. I turned slowly and saw my mother with her hands pressed over her mouth and nose, her eyes wide with shock or fear. She stared at me, scanning my body. I sighed, having known it would be only a matter of time before she realized how much weight I'd lost. I had always been thin, but after going without food for such a long time, I looked sick. I didn't care.
I stepped over to the counter to pour my juice, and then returned the bottle to the fridge.
"Edward, what have you done?" she asked quietly, tears sliding down her cheeks.
I swallowed the glass of juice before licking my lips and setting the glass in the sink. "Nothing, Mom. I haven't done anything. I thought you were gone; I didn't mean to upset you." I quickly rushed past her and back to my room. I pulled down the covers of my bed and climbed in, a sudden wave of exhaustion sweeping over me. I couldn't explain it, but I felt myself tiring more with each passing day. I slept longer at night, and often napped in the afternoon. As I lay in my bed, my eyes focused on the calendar hanging on the wall across the room from me. It was December twenty-fourth, Christmas Eve—my mind wandered back to a cold and snowy day as Izzy and I sat on a wooden swing set, confessing our love to one another. In that moment, I couldn't wait any longer to see her.
I jumped out of my bed, moving faster than I had in weeks. I quickly dressed in jeans and a button-down shirt Iz had bought for one of my birthdays. I thought she would like seeing it. Tying my shoes, I grabbed my wallet and keys. As I tried to hurry out of the house, I passed my mother and father in the kitchen. My first instinct was to keep going and not turn back, but then I heard Izzy's voice as clear as day in my mind, "Go talk to them and give them a hug." Turning around, I backtracked to enter the kitchen. My parents both stopped what they were doing and turned to stare at me.
"Mom, Dad, I just wanted to say thank you for all you've done for me. You're really the best parents I could ever have hoped for, and I love you." With that, I moved to hug my mother, kissing her on the cheek. When I looked to my father, he thrust out his hand for me to shake, but instead I threw my arms around his shoulders, giving them a squeeze. I didn't feel as if I could leave the house without thanking them and telling them how I felt. When I pulled away from my father, the tears in his eyes shocked me.
"Edward," he softly said, "we're so worried about you. What can we do to help you, son? We just don't know what to do." I smiled at him and then looked to my mother, watching the way the sunlight was caught by the tears trickling down her face.
"Don't worry about me; that's all I can say. I know you want something more for me, but maybe that's not what I want. Maybe that's not what's meant for me." My mother let out a sob and I wanted to comfort her, but I couldn't lie to her. "All I've wanted for the last five years is to be with Izzy. Please don't be sad about any of this; I'm not."
I placed my hand on my mother's arm, rubbing gently, "It's gonna be okay; I know everything is gonna be fine, Mom. Trust me, all right?" She nodded slowly, accepting what I was telling her. "I have to go; just don't forget that I love you, okay?" The words caught in my throat, but I fought back the sadness building in my chest. Above all, I had to make them see that I was fine with whatever was meant to be. Giving them one last smile, I turned and headed out the door.
I pulled up to the flower shop, hoping they would be open on Christmas Eve. I was relieved to see the open sign on the door. Pushing through the door to the little shop, I was overwhelmed by the scent. I had never noticed it before, but as I lingered in the doorway my mind flashed back to the day Izzy and I chose flowers for her father's funeral. She was numb, unable to talk or even look at me. When I took her to the funeral home to make arrangements, she simply sat, staring off into space. I had no idea what to do and no one to ask for advice since my parents were in the Bahamas. As I chose the suit her father would wear, the casket, and the flowers to dress it with, Izzy started to cry. She was upset that she couldn't make those decisions, afraid that she was letting her father down. No matter what I said, she wouldn't stop. She was so sad, so depressed; I worried that she would never snap out of it. I prayed for something to help her, never imagining what that thing would end up being. If only I had known it would drive us apart, I would have done things differently.
I walked to the counter and rang the bell. After a few moments, the woman who normally helped me came through the doorway leading to the back room of the shop. "Oh, you're here! I wondered if you would be coming today." She smiled brightly and I made an effort to smile back.
"Yeah, I–I'm glad you're open today; I wasn't sure if you would be," I stuttered. Her smile widened and she let out a laugh.
"Oh honey, I'm always here. With all my kids grown and out on their own, this shop is my life. Plus, why would I want to be anywhere other than surrounded by all of these beautiful blooms?"
"I can understand that."
"So, you want your usual?"
She looked at me sheepishly. "I went ahead and made up two bouquets for you, since we'll be closed tomorrow, I thought that might help."
Stunned by her thoughtfulness, I grinned at her. "Thank you so much; it's very kind of you to think of me."
As she scurried to the flower cooler, I noticed her hair; the gray-flecked auburn strands were twisted into a bun, the light hitting those highlights and making them sparkle. When she returned to the counter with the bouquets in hand, I looked to see if she was wearing a name tag, but didn't find one.
"Those are so pretty," I said, then thanked her.
"So tell me, is there a lady as pretty as these flowers who has been receiving all of them?" she asked with a mischievous grin.
I found myself wondering what Izzy would think of me bringing this same type of bouquet day after day. "Yeah, there's a girl. Her name was Isabella, but I called her Izzy. She's my one true love."
She looked at me, puzzled. "Her name was Isabella?"
I nodded, "She passed away a few weeks ago—or months, I can't really remember. The days have kind of melted together."
"Oh my dear, I'm so sorry. I had no idea. Do you mind me asking dear, what is your name?"
I looked into her light brown eyes, missing the chocolate color I had always seen in Izzy's, "My name is Edward."
"Well, Edward, I can see how much you loved her. She was a lucky girl to have found someone as caring as you seem to be. I can only imagine how much you must miss her."
I picked up the bouquets and asked, "I hope you don't mind my asking, but what is your name? I've been in so many times and I've never even asked you."
Her smile brightened. "My name is Verity, I can't believe I never told you that."
I smiled, shaking my head. "What do I owe you for these, Verity?"
"You know what? This is on me. Go see your Isabella and enjoy your time with her. Just tell her I said hello and we'll call it even, all right?"
Humbled by her generosity, I nodded in thanks. "I appreciate it, and just so you know, I'm sure she would have loved these."
Verity smiled, reaching out to wrap her hand around mine. "Go be with her."
"Thanks," I mumbled, looking up to meet her eyes once again. She flashed me one last smile, her own pain and loss shining through to me, as I backed away from her. Turning around, I let myself out of the shop and into the cold, crisp air. The sun was shining and there wasn't a cloud in the sky; I was happy that for once it was not raining.
I pulled up to the cemetery, parking in the row closest to Izzy's grave. It was the same place I parked every day, but today I took extra time to notice things. The grounds were beautiful, lush and so vibrant; I couldn't get over how peaceful it was. The cold breeze made the trees sway a bit, a quiet rustling sound filling the emptiness of the space, but I didn't feel it on my skin. I walked over to Izzy, marveling in the beauty of the spot we had chosen. It really was one of the loveliest places in the cemetery, surrounded by trees. I had looked at the gravestones that laid around Izzy, wondering about the people who were buried underneath them, and felt happy that my Iz was in such good company.
Standing near her headstone, my fingers absently traced its edge as I looked off toward the trees in the distance. I wondered if I would see the same brown and cream blur I had seen so any times before. In my heart I knew she was there, making sure that I was okay. Humming, I closed my eyes and called her face into my mind. I was so thankful that her beauty was etched in my memory, not easily forgotten.
After sitting on the ground next to her, I laid the bouquet at the base of the grave marker and sighed. "I'm here, Iz. You know what today is, right? It's the anniversary of the first time I told you I loved you." My voice shook as my fingers moved in the grass, touching the dark-green blades. Given that it was winter, I thought the grass would have died, but in this spot it was still green.
"I miss you, Iz—more and more every day. I can't function without you, which is crazy because I wasn't even with you over the past year and I was okay. Well, I wasn't really okay, but I was breathing and moving. But now, knowing that you're gone and won't be coming back to me, it's finally sinking in. I'm not handling it all that well," I admitted aloud for the first time. I knew I could tell Izzy; she always understood me. "I just want to see you, to feel you. I don't care how; I just need you near me, Iz. If you're here somewhere, anywhere really, can you do that for me? Please. I need to know that you were real; that we were real. I think I'm starting to forget things, and I can't live with that."
I lay down on the grass, stretching out next to where I knew her body lay a few feet below me. I placed my hand on the ground over the spot, wishing that she was next to me. "Please, Iz, please…" I whispered over and over again, the agony of being alone completely overwhelming me. Tears slid down my face and my breath hitched as I felt the sobs begin. "I miss you, Izzy. Please…"
My eyes closed, lashes heavy from tears, and I cried for her. If my heart had been with me, it would have been broken, but it was with her, just as it had always been. I lay still on the grass for quite some time, letting the bitter cold soak into my bones. The sun still shone brightly in the sky, but soon the shadows in my soul overtook me. I heard whispers somewhere nearby and sat up, looking around for the source, but saw nothing.
As I moved to lie back down, I felt something. It wasn't shocking and it didn't cause me to tremble. Instead, it was like a prick to my soul, a warmth settling into my skin. It was comforting and made me feel happy. Turning my head to the side, I was relieved at the sight of my Izzy standing next to me, in all of her brown and cream-colored splendor.
I smiled slowly as relief swept through me. She had come back to me; she was here to comfort me. As I continued to look at her, the shape of her became clearer, less fuzzy around the edges. She smiled, yet I could see pain in her eyes. It made me wonder what could be upsetting her.
"Edward," she said softly, her voice clear in the cold air, "I'm here."
"Iz, I miss you. I've missed you for so long. I want to stay with you, Iz. Please, don't leave me again."
"Edward, are you sure? You don't have to do this; I'll wait. I'll wait forever, if that's what it takes." Her voice hitched and I could feel the sadness and longing in her words.
"I'm sure. There's nothing I've ever wanted more than to be with you, Izzy."
Slowly, I stood, a strange feeling coming over me. I stepped toward her, afraid to try to touch her—afraid that she would vanish—but she looked so real, so tangible. I reached out hesitantly, and grazed my fingertips along her cheekbone. She was so warm—I could feel the energy pulsing through her. She hummed and leaned into my hand, closing her eyes as her lips curled up at the corners.
"Hmmm, Edward. I never thought I'd get to feel you like this again. All the things I did, all the mistakes I made; I have so many regrets. The only thing I ever did right was loving you. I'm so sorry, baby. Please, can you forgive me? Please?" she whispered.
I cleared my throat before answering, fighting back the emotions that were trying to overcome me. "Iz, I don't care about any of that. I just want you. I was so lost without you that I wasn't even me anymore. I don't care, Iz—it doesn't matter. Can we just be together now and forget all of that?"
She giggled and her smile grew, "Yeah, we can, but are you sure? You have to be sure Edward, without a doubt. This is for keeps, baby. There's no going back."
I gently brought my other hand to her cheek, cupping her face. I stared into her eyes, overwhelmed by the depth there. She was staring into my soul, and I into hers. "You are the only thing I want. Ever. There is no backing out for me. I'm yours, and wherever you go, I will follow, no questions asked. Please, just promise me you will never leave me again."
Her face set with a look of resolve. "I will never leave you again. It broke my heart to do it once, and it destroyed me to do it twice. I'm yours; I always have been and I always will be." She leaned toward me, pushing up onto her toes as her hands reached up to curl around my neck, threading though my hair.
I pulled her to me, surprised by how substantial she felt in my arms. Lowering my lips to hers, Carefully, I sucked in her bottom lip, tugging on it as she moaned ever so quietly. So much passion had built up in me that I wrapped my arms around her waist, drawing her in as close as I could. This kiss was different; it was heated and raw, yet sweet and tender. I could have kissed her this way forever, and part of me intended to.
We stood together, melting into one another until I finally pulled away, to rest my forehead against hers. "Is this for real, Iz? Are you really here? Can I really stay with you? This doesn't feel like a dream; please tell me it isn't."
She traced my jawbone, sighing before she opened her eyes to look into mine. "Yes, it's real, Edward. I'm really here and you can stay with me. If you're sure, if there's no chance you'll change your mind, we can go. We can leave and just be together."
"That's all I want. That's all I've ever wanted." I closed my eyes, breathing her in, all the smells I had missed were there again. I moved to hug her to me, every line of her body pressing against mine. Burying my nose in her hair, I was comforted by its scent. It wasn't like when I hugged Tori—that had been familiar, but something was missing. As I stood with Izzy, I realized what it was—it was the scent of her. No one else could ever be her, and I was overcome with joy to finally have her in my grasp again.
Logic told me this wasn't possible, that Izzy was gone and there was no way I could be holding her, feeling her in my arms. I pushed away to search her face. She looked so real…how could that be? The confusion must have flickered through my eyes because Izzy soon reached down and took my hand, cautiously turning me around.
I looked to the ground and was surprised by what I saw—it was me, my body, lying on the grass next to Izzy's headstone. I stumbled backwards, afraid of the vision before me.
"This is the only way, Edward. Are you sure you're okay with this? I'll wait for you; it's not too late. You can go back, see your parents, and live your life. You don't have to do this, Edward."
Gazing into her tear-filled eyes, I knew there was no choice to make. Choice involved want or desire. What I felt was need, raw and basic. I needed to be with Izzy and nothing could ever be worth losing her again.
"I already said goodbye to everyone. I'm ready for this," I assured her. Nodding slightly, I looked back to my body. It was so still, so lifeless—just as Izzy's body had been when I saw it at the hospital.
Turning toward Izzy, I faced my destiny head on, with no regret. "I'm ready to be with you. I want you, and only you, always. Anything I have to do to get that is worth it to me. I will never regret choosing you—do you hear me?" She nodded as tears streamed down her cheeks. "I love you, Isabella Marie Swan; it's only ever been you."
She gasped before wrapping her arms around me, clinging to me as if I were her life raft. I held her as she sobbed, softly repeating words of love and affection for her. After a few moments she stilled, and looked up at me. "I love you, Edward Anthony Cullen; it's only ever been you."
I leaned down to press my lips to hers, feeling the sweetness of our reunion blossom between us. Deepening the kiss, my tongue darted out to skim across her bottom lip, asking for entrance. Her lips parted and I lovingly tasted her, our tongues twisting together gracefully. I felt the stirrings of my arousal and knew that Izzy must have felt the growing hardness pressing against her soft belly because she laughed, pushing herself more firmly against me.
I asked, "Izzy, is this even possible? I don't really know what goes on here."
She giggled softly. "Edward, do you really think Heaven could exist without lovemaking? I think we'd get pretty bored after a while, don't you?"
I laughed, nodding in response. Her smile vanished and she looked at me with a hunger in her eyes that I hadn't seen in years. "I know I got bored without you here, Edward."
I gulped, surprised at the brazen lust pouring out of her. She reached down and took my hand, pulling me toward the tree line. "Come on love. Let me show you exactly how much I've missed you."
As we walked toward the tree line, I glanced back to see my body, the life I was leaving behind. There was no regret in my decision. I smiled at the thought of being with Izzy again and of spending forever with her.
As we neared the trees, snowflakes began to fall from the sky, covering everything with a thin, glistening white sheet. I tightened my grip on her hand, letting her lead me to our eternity.
A/N: There you go. I kind of see it as the Ultimate Happily Ever After. I hope you liked it.
Keep in mind, there's a thread for this on Twilighted where you can yell at me.
I'm also on Twitter, so if you wanna yell there, feel free. :)
Alright, now that this is done, on to the HEA that everyone wanted. I'll start posting hopefully in the next few weeks on the original thread of What I Really Meant to Say. I also have another thing or two coming up, so if you want to know, put me on alerts or something and then you'll know when things get posted.
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