Title: Bella Vita

Penname(s): born2dance94

Rating: T

Disclaimer: I'm not SM. She's busy fappin' in the corner to thoughts of Edward.

Summary: ExB Too young for him, they told her. Waiting for the love of a travelin' soldier. Edward and Bella swap letters as he serves in Vietnam. For the To Kill a Cullen Contest

Submitted for the 'To Kill a Cullen' Contest

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http://www(dot)fanfiction(dot)net/community/To_Kill_a_Cullen_Contest_Community/76759/

AN: Thanks so much to my wonderful beta UofMAnne! She's super amazing!

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~Imagine them with slight southern accents to get the full effect ;) ~


"Bella, table four is waitin' for you, hon."

"I'm heading over there now, Esme. Don't you worry." Bella ran her fingers through her hair quickly, pulling apart the snarls and tiny knots, then smoothed the little red bow back against her mahogany curls. She patted down her checkered apron before running out to table number four.

Of course, in her haste, she tripped just before she made it to the booth. She closed her eyes tight, bracing herself for a fall that never came. Instead, she found herself upright again, staring into the most gorgeous green eyes she'd ever seen.

"Woah, there, sweetheart. Be careful," Green Eyes chuckled. "We don't want you smacking that pretty little head of yours."

"Um, y-yes. Th-thank you," she stuttered, feeling the heat of the blood pooling beneath her cheeks. She tried to get a good look at this green-eyed beautiful stranger as surreptitiously as she could. He was wearing dark green army garb, a little worn in at the knees. His fingers ran through his bronze locks nervously as he smiled sheepishly, one corner of his mouth pulling up in a crooked little grin. She noticed he was still standing and gestured wildly at the booth.

"Oh! Please, sit down. I'm Bella, and I have the server of being your pleasure today." Her faced turned the color of the ripe cherry tomatoes her mama used to grow out back in the summer time. "I-I mean, I have the pleasure of being your server today."

He grinned cheekily at her, trying not to show how mesmerized he was by the sweet sound of her slight drawl, or the way her chocolate eyes twinkled as she blushed.

"Relax, Beautiful. I know exactly what you mean." But of course, that did nothing to help her relax. If anything, she was even more flustered by this striking man.

"So would you like anything?" she asked, unable to keep the tiny smile off her lips.

"There's many things I'd like." He laughed, but upon seeing the red tint start up again on her face, he sobered himself up. "I'll just have a coffee for now, though."

She nodded and tucked a wayward strand of hair behind her ear before turning and heading behind the counter to get his drink.

When she made her way back with the steaming cup clutched tightly in her hand (just in case her legs decided to trip again in front of the attractive customer), he had his eyes closed, a peaceful smile playing on his lips despite the worry etched into his brow. For some strange reason, she had a feeling that worry was always there. She cleared her throat to get his attention, and his eyes immediately snapped open as he turned to look at her.

"Thanks." He reached for the coffee as soon as she set it down in front of him and brought it up to his lips, inhaling deeply before taking a sip. Before Bella could turn to leave again, he raised his hand towards her, almost as if in question.

"Say, Beautiful. Any chance you might want to join me for a bit? I'm all alone, and these cold Alabama nights can get mighty lonely."

She didn't know what compelled her to do it. Years later, she would still never quite be able to figure out what exactly made her answer him the way she did. "Well, I'm off in an hour. If you stick around, I have an idea of someplace we can go. Get away from all the hustle and bustle of town."

"I'd really like that." He rubbed the back of his neck for a moment before reaching out to offer her his hand. "I'm Cullen, by the way. Edward Cullen."

She grasped his palm tight with her own, and tried to ignore the electric spark that seemed to jump between them. "Bella Swan."

***

They let their legs dangle into the murky water below them as they sat on the pier that Bella had brought them to after her shift had ended. The night was dark and starless, but the moon hit the bay just right, shining down to act as their own personal spotlight.

Sometime in the hour that they had been there, Bella's head had managed to make its way onto Edward's shoulder, and their hands had managed to intertwine in his lap. They didn't talk for that first hour; words were unnecessary. They liked the simplicity of the silence.

"So, Bella," he began, stroking his thumb over the back of her hand. "A pretty lil' thing like you has got to have a boyfriend. Heck, you probably have gentleman callers knockin' on your door every day."

Bella sighed and burrowed further into the warmth of his side. She kept telling herself it was because she was cold; it had nothing to do with the softness of his neck, or the feeling of his strong shoulder beneath her head.

"No, Edward, I don't have a boyfriend. All of the guys in town think I'm too shy, or too quiet, or too not-like those loose girls, like Jessica Stanley or Lauren Mallory."

"That's nonsense, Bella. They're probably just afraid to approach you, because they're scared of you saying no to them. I know I'd be real sad if you ever said no to me. Metaphorically speakin', of course."

Edward couldn't see the wistful look in her face, or the shine of the tears that threatened to fall from her eyes. He had said that bit with such finality, and it had crushed the few hopes Bella had drawn up in their short time together.

"So, beautiful Bella, tell me about yourself."

She was always a little embarrassed when it came to talking about herself, but she put her insecurities aside for the green-eyed angel.

"Well, I just graduated last month from high school. I turn eighteen in September, and for now, I'm just helping my mama and Daddy to pay the bills by working in the diner. The owners, Esme and Carlisle, they're real nice and they let me keep all my tips. At my old job they didn't do that, so I like this one much better. I've lived in this town my whole life; I'm not in any hurry to leave it behind."

She flushed pink when she realized how much she'd just rambled. Edward seemed to understand her discomfort, and peered over at her.

"What do you want to do in life?" he asked.

She was confused. What did he mean, exactly? Had she not just told him that she was content working at the diner?

He continued when he realized she wouldn't. "You know, Bella. What do you like to do? Me? I'm gonna be in the army, and I'm gonna protect America and I'm gonna protect you and your mama and your daddy and Esme and Carlisle and everyone else in this town and in my own town back home. That's what I want to do. So what do you want?"

"Gee, Edward, I guess I never really thought about that. Because really, what's the point? It's not like it's gonna happen anyway. Dreams are just for sleeping. And then you have to wake up and get back to the real world and your real life and responsibilities."

"But if you had to pick just one thing to do in life," he argued. "What would it be?"

She thought long and hard to figure out an answer to his question. It was so foreign to her to put aside the needs of her family and everyone else who counted on her, to put her own desires first. Bella wasn't really a selfish person— or at least she didn't think she was. She wasn't used to this— no one had ever asked her what she wanted.

"I guess if I had to choose, I'd want to open a book store. One where people could buy new books or old books, or could bring in books they were done reading in exchange for others." She paused and stiffened, looking down in shame. "But I suppose that's just the same as any old library. I'm so sorry. I'm such an idiot."

He was quick to come to her defense… against herself. "No, Bella, you're no idiot. Back in my town, we have a store like that. Where you can swap books and buy new ones and such. It's no library. We have one of those too, though. But it wasn't a library, I'm telling you. I used to go there all the time."

The hope that shone in her eyes was bright enough to illuminate the entire world.

"Really?!"

"Yes, really, Bella. I wouldn't lie to you. I swear to you that we have one back in my town."

"What's your town like?" she asked him, and if she kept looking at him like that, he'd never be able to deny her anything.

"I'm from Eutaw. Lived there every single day of my life since the day I was born. I'm just passing through Fayette on my way to California. There's gonna be a Greyhound here bright and early tomorrow morning to take me there.

"There's not really that much to tell you about Eutaw. It's not too far from here, but it's even smaller than Fayette. There's less than two thousand people in our town. Everyone knows everyone. That's why I had to get away.

"You see, Bella, my mama died when she was giving birth to me, so growing up it was just me and Daddy. My daddy's parents were dead, but Mama's parents helped out a lot. Poppy used to tell me all these great stories of when he was in the army and how proud he was to serve his country. And I swore up and down that one day I'd be in the army, and I'd be real proud of it, too.

"After Gran and Poppy died, me and Daddy were on our own. A few months ago, Daddy died in an car accident. After awhile, I was just sick of getting looks of pity from the people I'd known every single day of my life, so I enrolled in the army. My eighteenth birthday was two days ago, and now I'm old enough to serve. Boot camp training starts in a few days, just as soon as I make it over to California."

"I'm so sorry, Edward," Bella whispered.

Edward clucked his tongue and leaned in closer to her. "Don't feel sorry, Beautiful. I don't need pity. I need support. Because I'm gonna be in the army soon, and there's no place for pity in the army."

Bella thought long and hard in silence, not wanting to speak and compromise their fragile relationship at the moment. What Edward had told her was deep and soul-baring. She felt like they were balancing on the very tippy-top point of a needle, and with one wrong word or action, they could go falling off any which way.

Finally, she looked up at him. "I support you, Edward. Really, I do."

He grinned widely. "Good."

They sat in silence for what could have been an hour. Or maybe just a few minutes. Or maybe even an eternity. Neither could really distinguish time at the moment.

Edward spoke after a while, breaking the silence.

"Bella, I've been thinking. I know I haven't really known you all that long and all, but I thought of a plan. If you're okay with it, of course…." He trailed off with a question in his expression, looking hesitant.

Bella nodded in encouragement, squeezing his hand tighter still.

"Well, Bella, since I got no one to write to back home, I though maybe I could write letters to you. And you could write back, if you'd like."

"Why, Edward, I think that's an amazing idea. I'd be honored to be your…" What was she exactly? "Your… letter friend." They laughed together at the absurdity of the word.

Suddenly, Edward was jumping up from ground of the pier, pulling Bella up with him. He swept her up into a hug and held her like he never wanted to let her go.

"Bella," he whispered in her ear, stroking her hair. "Do you think I could maybe kiss you now?"

She leaned back so she could see his bright green eyes and nodded once. Edward leaned forward and pressed his lips to hers once, twice— slowly— before deepening the kiss. He captured her bottom lip between his own and sucked lightly, mindful that even if there was no one around, they were still in public. After a few long moments he pulled back and placed a tender kiss on her forehead.

"It's gonna be real tough saying goodbye to you tomorrow," Bella murmured, laying her head against his chest.

"I know, Bella," he said, hugging her and squeezing her like his life depended on it. "But just think, Beautiful, the faster I get on that bus and go to California, the faster I can get started on that first letter."

***

July 15, 1967

Dear Bella,

I just got to California yesterday. I would've written you sooner, but the trip here was just so exhausting.

I had to shave my head as soon as I got here. Now if you saw me, you wouldn't be able to tell me from any other guy in this camp.

Let me tell you, California is nothing like Alabama. There are people everywhere, and they're all so busy and move around so quick. I wonder if I'll get any time to go walk around California. Who knows, maybe I'll run into a famous movie star or something.

I'm so glad you agreed to be my 'letter friend.' I love that one. It's so different. Just like us, I guess. If I didn't have you, right now I'd be sitting here doin' nothing while every other guy in the barrack writes a letter home. Actually, I'd have to sit here every single day and watch them write to their mamas and daddies and brothers and sisters and wives and girlfriends and friends. I don't have any of those things. I only have you. But I think having you is better than having a mama or daddy or brother or sister or wife or girlfriend or friend. Because you're just so special, Bella. I can't even explain it, but I could tell the night before last that you're not like most people. I like that about you.

Anyway, I start training tomorrow, and I just cannot wait. It's gonna be intense, but getting the chance to eventually fight for freedom will make every minute of ache and exhaustion worth it. I just hope to make you proud.

Always,

Edward Cullen

***

July 27, 1967

Dear Edward,

I just got your letter today, and squealed when I saw the delivery. I don't know what I was expecting, because you told me you'd write to me… but still, that moment just proved that this was actually happening.

I'm excited and happy for you; I've never even been out of Fayette, and you get to travel to California and Vietnam, and all. I know the circumstances may not be the best, but at least you get to see the world. That's something I'll likely never get a chance to do.

As for being able to recognize you, I assure you, I'd be able to tell you from a room full of men. Plus, those bright green eyes are a dead give away.

How are the other guys in your barrack? I've heard that your fellow soldiers can become some of the best friends you'll ever have.

I can't wait for you to see my letter and know that I meant business, too; trust me, you won't be getting rid of me too easy now. I'm in this letter friend relationship for the long haul.

Always,

Bella Swan

***

September 24, 1967

Dear Bella,

These letters between us just keep getting better and better. They're the very best part of my day.

I ship out to Vietnam tomorrow, and I have to tell you something I haven't told anyone else— not even my buddies over here. I'm scared. Terrified, actually. We keep hearing stories about just how bad it's getting over there, and some of the stories are downright horrifying. Mind you, I'm not afraid of dying. The possibility of it doesn't faze me. But having to see the faces of all the soldiers who have been faced with the bombs and raids and battles will be… shocking. It's hard to think that one day, another new soldier will fly out there and see me and think the very same thing.

I promise I'll write to you as soon as I get in, even though I know you won't even have gotten this letter yet. But I know you'll want to hear about how it is there. I promised you last month that I'd tell you all about it.

There is one I'm looking forward to in Vietnam, though. It's the chance to make you proud.

Always,

Edward Cullen

***

December 19, 1967

Dear Edward,

Christmas is next week, and all I can think about is that I hope you'll be safe until then, and that you'll make it to the New Year after that. I don't know what I'd do if I lost you now. It's like all I ever think about anymore is your safety.

I'm curious, what do you guys do over there on the holidays? I had this weird dream last night, where both sides just put down their guns and had Christmas dinner together all peaceful… even though it was just for one night. I know nothing like that will ever happen, though.

Do you guys have a Christmas tree in the camp? Because if you don't, that's just not right. Everyone deserves a decorated Christmas tree on Christmas.

When Mama came by today, I told her about us and the letters we send to each other. I hope you don't mind. At one point, I started crying, because I was telling her about how I want you to be safe. I also told her that I pray for you every night.

Merry Christmas, Edward. And happy New Year, too.

Always,

Bella Swan

***

February 26, 1968

Dear Bella,

This just keeps getting harder. Everyday, I see more and more of my friends go out and never come back. The deaths seem to just keep piling up. These are honorable men— brothers, sons, husbands, friends— and I just keep thinking about how their families will react when they get that letter saying that they're not coming home. Their families must be as strong as they are, for letting them go off to war.

Just in case I end up going out and never coming back— whether it's today or tomorrow or next week or next year— I've got something to tell you, Bella. Whenever it's a really bad day here, I just think of your beautiful face, and the memory of that perfect night out on the pier. It never fails to cheer me up. I miss you so much. And I think… I think I just might love you. I think I've loved you since that very first night. I know you probably don't feel the same way, but I just had to get that out there. It feels like a weight's been lifted off my shoulders.

I'll understand if you don't write me back this time because I've scared you off. All I want is to make you proud, and I'm sorry if I ruined that.

Even if you don't love me back:

Love forever and always,

Edward

***

March 11, 1968

Dear Edward,

I love you, too. I've loved you since the first time I met you. I'll never stop loving you. I love being in love with you. I love writing the word love. Love, love, love.

I love you, Edward Cullen. You and your letters are the most important part of my life.

Love forever and always,

Bella

***

July 15, 1968

Dear Bella,

Can you believe it's been a year since we started writing these letters to each other? I only just now looked at the date and realized it. I must say, Bella, this past year has been the best one of my life, and it's entirely thanks to you.

Your letters keep me laughing when I wanna cry, and smiling when I just wanna come home to get away from all of this violence. You're like my angel in disguise, come down from Heaven just to watch over me and save me.

I've gotta hit the showers, but I wish I could write longer. And I don't mean to scare you, and I don't want you to worry about me, Beautiful, but I don't think I'll be able to write for a little while.

I hope I'm still making you proud. I do this all for you, to keep you safe. I love you, Beautiful.

Love forever and always,

Edward

***

When Bella woke up that morning, the feeling of panic and dread was bubbling in the pit of her stomach. She knew that Edward had said not to worry about him, but she couldn't help it. Now that they had finally admitted their love to each other, she knew it would always be impossible for her not to worry about him. Even the fact that it was a Saturday and she was off from work couldn't help her to relax or cheer her up.

Bella was distracted all day as she moved around the house, cleaning up almost mechanically. With every sweep of the broom, she thought of his face. With every swish of the duster, she remembered his glowing emerald eyes. With each dish she washed, each couch cushion she arranged, he was foremost in her mind.

In the evening, as Bella was cleaning up her dinner and placing her fork and knife in the sink, there was a knock on her door.

She froze; she wasn't expecting anyone. The first idea that came to mind was that something had happened to Edward, and someone had come to inform her. She had finally just won him— she didn't think she'd be able to handle it if she lost him now.

But as the knocking grew louder and more incessant, she could no longer ignore it. Bella walked on numb, unfeeling legs to the door, closing her eyes as she turned the knob to open it.

When she was met with only silence, she opened her eyes. She was faced with the shock of her life.

Edward stood before her, in all his green-eyed, shaven bronze-haired glory. He was alive! And he was here!

In less than a second, Bella had launched herself into his arms, throwing her own arms around his neck and wrapping her legs around his waist.

He spoke around her sobs.

"Surprise, sweetheart," he whispered in her ear, pressing a kiss to the hollow beneath it. "I'm on leave for a month before I have to go back. I wanted to keep it a secret."

She tried to calm her weeping, but hiccupped with the residual force of her crying.

"I'm so" –hiccup, "happy" –hiccup, "that you're" –hiccup, "okay."

"Silly, beautiful Bella," he crooned to her, rocking them back and forth. "Of course I'm okay. I told you not to worry about me. I can handle myself over there."

"Not worry?!" She laughed at the absurdity of the idea. "Edward, how could I not worry? I love you."

And there it was. The words had finally been spoken aloud between them, face-to-face. She had said the word 'love' like it was the reasoning behind any explanation and the answer to any question in the universe.

"I love you, too, Beautiful."

She stepped down from him and walked into the house, tugging him along with her. He dropped himself onto the couch as they passed by, pulling her back to settle on his lap.

"I missed you, Bella. Your letters were the only thing keeping me sane back in Nam. If it weren't for you, I don't even know how I would've gotten along back there. I would have gone crazy real soon if I didn't have your words to read and the memory of your pretty little face to recall."

"I know how you feel," she murmured, kissing the side of his jaw with adoration. "If I had to hear one more person tell me I was too young, or too naïve to be in love with a soldier away at war, I don't even know what I would've done. I don't think I could've been held accountable for what I'd have done. I need your writing; it's my savior.

"And plus," Bella continued. "Those letters were the only thing tying me to you."

"I think there's a few more ways I'd like to be tied to you."

Bella turned to look at him, confused at these words. "What do you mean?"

He patted her side as a sign for her to climb out of his lap, and she did just that, standing before him. Then, right before her eyes, he slid to the floor on one knee, smiling up at her wildly. Her eyes went as wide as the saucers she served to customers every day, and her lips formed a perfect 'O' of astonishment.

"Bella," he began, grabbing a hold of one of her hands as the other slipped into the pocket of his uniform. He pulled out a small box covered in black velvet. "Every day while I was in California, and then in Vietnam, I'd hope and pray that I'd get a letter with your handwriting scrawled on the front. I swear to you, every single day I'd hold my breath during mail call, waiting to see if another of your letters had arrived. I fell in love with you that first night on the pier, and fell even deeper in love with each 'Dear Edward.' I couldn't go back now, in good consciousness, without having you as my wife. So, Beautiful, will you marry me?"

She couldn't find any words. She just nodded her head frantically until he stood up and spun her around and around, kissing her in any place he could reach.

***

The wedding was simple, just the way she wanted it. They were married exactly three weeks after he'd proposed. Her parents attended, as did Esme and Carlisle. Bella's best friend Alice served as her Maid of Honor, and Edward's fellow soldier and best friend Jasper— also on temporary leave— was his Best Man. Edward and Bella couldn't help but notice just how well Alice and Jasper hit it off at the dinner afterward at her parents' house. She whispered to him how there might just be another couple of letter friends soon. He smiled at the memory of the words she had spoken to him so very long ago, and leaned over to kiss his new bride.

Later that night, as they made love in their marriage bed, they whispered memories of piers and letters and hopes for their future.

Weeks later, after he'd left again and she'd cried herself out once more, she realized just what kind of future they'd created together. Alone in bed, she laid her hands over her stomach, over the life she had discovered that morning that they had made together, and dreamed of a sweet baby boy cradled in the arms of her lover.

The next morning she woke up smiling, and rolled over to tell him all about her wonderful dream. Of course, he wasn't there; of course, she resumed her weeping and the silent vigil for the father of her unborn child.

***

Edward flew backward with the force of the bullet. Everything was going out of focus as the battle raged around him, stealing hundreds of lives on each side.

Jasper heard the shot ring out beside him, and turned too late to push his friend out of the way. He watched as Edward hit the ground, his helmet smacking against the hard earth. Jasper dropped his gun at once, rushing to Edward's side and cradling his body in his arms.

"Jasper, is that you?" Edward whispered, squinting and trying to settle his wheeling eyes on his friend.

"Edward, buddy, stay with me," Jasper pleaded. "Don't you be leavin' me. I need you. Bella needs you. Didn't you just tell me that your girl is pregnant? Huh? Stay with, Edward!"

Edward nodded weakly, managing a tiny smile. "Yeah, Jas. I'm gonna be a daddy."

"Then ya gotta hold on. You need to see your baby and hold him. You need to be there when he takes his first steps, and when he starts talkin'."

"What if— " Edward paused, trying to catch his breath. It was getting harder to get air into his lungs. He coughed, and closed his eyes when he saw the resulting trail of blood. "What if it's a girl, Jas?"

Jasper forced a laugh, trying to appear strong for his friend's sake. "Then ya gotta be there to scare off her first boyfriend, and to walk her down the aisle. Come on, Edward. Stay with me now."

"It's hard," Edward rasped out. "It hurts."

"I know, buddy. I know it hurts. I'm so sorry." Jasper's tears dripped down, soaking into Edward's uniform and mixing with the blood already there.

"Jasper, I need you to tell Bella I love her. And tell her I love our baby."

Jasper knew there was little else he could do but listen to Edward's requests. Bombs exploded nearby, bullets whooshed overhead, and he could hear the screams coming from all directions as one by one, men were killed. All he could do now for his best friend was hold him in his final moments.

"And Jas, you gotta make sure she moves on. I want her to fall in love again. I want my son or daughter to have someone to call Daddy." He stopped for a moment, wheezing with the effort and strain of talking. "Just…" He took a deep breath. "Just look after her. I just want her… to be… happy."

Edward closed his eyes for the last time and took his final breath, whispering Bella's name as his heart stopped beating.

***

Bella curled up on the couch, trying to rest her eyes despite her fears.

She had had a weird feeling deep in her stomach all day long. Somehow, she felt that whatever had happened in Vietnam that day would affect her.

When the doorbell rang, she didn't want to get up. It was such a moment of déjà vu, bringing her back to that night three months ago— except this time, she knew it wasn't possible that he was on leave.

Bella willed herself to calm down. It could have been anyone at the door, really. Maybe it was just Mama and Daddy coming by for a visit— which was rare, she admitted, but always a possibility. Or maybe it was Alice, stopping by to gush about Jasper yet again. Or the postman. Or the milkman. Or any number of people.

Just like three months ago, the knocking continued until it was impossible for her to pretend like it wasn't happening.

She breathed out a sigh of relief as the door opened to show the mailman, after all. She was expecting a letter back from Edward in response to the last one she'd sent him, in which she had revealed that she was expecting their child.

She smiled gently at the man on her porch. However, he didn't return the sentiment; in fact, his expression was downright grave.

With wavering fingers, he held out a small black book with the word 'Registered' scrawled across the cover, trying to avoid looking into Bella's eyes.

"Ma'am, I'm gonna need you to sign off on this letter. I'm terribly sorry." What was he sorry about? He handed her a pen and she signed the book, thoroughly confused. She took a step back and took in the entire scene. She realized she'd been mistaken, and her heart sank to the floor. The man wasn't wearing a normal postman uniform; he was dressed in Western Union attire. The confusion from earlier quickly turned to horror as she looked at the return address written on the blue envelope.

It wasn't Edward's name that adorned this army envelope. Instead, where his name should have been, was the name of his captain.

Bella felt herself getting lightheaded; her vision became spotty. She couldn't breathe, and finally succumbed to the grief as she collapsed to the ground. The last thought to cross her mind before everything went black was that her life— her entire reason for existence— was gone.

***

The funeral was small, just the way he would have wanted it. He was buried exactly two months and one week after their wedding. Her parents were there, and Esme and Carlisle came to support her. Alice and Jasper stood side by side the entire time, gaining silent consolation just from being in one another's presence.

Bella wept as they handed her the folded up flag and the body of her love was lowered in the cold, unforgiving earth. She contemplated throwing herself into the grave after him, but she knew that someone would just drag her back out, and she didn't have the energy to deal with that.

She hugged the flag to her breast as tight as she could as the shots rang out, holding on for dear life to the last remaining tie to him she had left. Her next idea was to grab one of the guns from an officer and end her own misery, but just then, she remembered another tie she had to her dead husband; she couldn't kill the child growing inside of her, as well. That was Edward's baby— their baby— and she couldn't harm anything that came from Edward.

So she continued sobbing through the military band trumpets, and again when it was time to leave. No one was able to calm her down. No one even wanted to calm her down. They knew she had to let her feelings out, and they weren't about to stop her.

***

After the funeral, Alice insisted on driving Bella home. She, along with Bella's mother, would be staying there for a few nights. Bella requested an hour or two for herself, just some time to be alone. When she was dropped off back at her house, there was a letter waiting for her in the mailbox. This time, it was from Edward. It was postmarked the day before his death.

October 27, 1968

Dear Bella,

I got your letter just a few minutes ago, and I can hardly believe it! It's funny to think that you and me created a living thing, and that it's living inside of your belly. Can you feel it kicking you yet?

I'm so excited to be a daddy, and I just know we'll make the best parents. This child is gonna be the luckiest, most loved child to ever have the fortune to enter this world. I wonder if it's a boy or a girl? My buddy over here, Garrett, said that when his wife Kate was pregnant, she could just feel that it was gonna be a girl. And guess what? She was right! Maybe you'll be able to tell, too. It's a mama's instinct, I'll bet.

One day, when I get home and get to stay there for good— just as soon as this war's over— I'm gonna buy us a great big white house, with a porch swing for us to swing on when we're eighty-five and old and watching after our great-grandchildren. And I'm gonna build a big tree house with a slide and all in the backyard so that our kids won't be wanting for nothing. What kid doesn't wish for a big tree house in back of their house?

Maybe we'll have a dog. I've never had a pet before, but I think you, our baby, and I would do well with a little puppy running around the house. Maybe a cat, too. And birds are always nice.

I can't wait for all of these dreams to come true! I just can't stop thinking about the amazing future that me and you have ahead of us. I think we'll live forever, actually, because a love like ours will never die.

I've got to get going now, but just know that I love you and our baby with every little part of my being. I'll always be here for you both, and I hope to make you guys proud.

Love forever and always,

Edward

***

A few weeks after Edward's death, on a Friday night, Bella went to the local high school football game. She hadn't meant to go, really; she had just wanted to look around town and visit all the places she used to go before, back when her life was simple. As she'd passed by the school, she was bombarded my memories of a simpler life, so she'd gone exploring around the grounds, remembering high school and how all she'd wanted back then was to get out into the real world. Well, now she was in the real world, and she wanted out of it.

When she'd gone around the back of the school, she saw all of the fans standing up, holding their right hands over their hearts as they sang the national anthem. She stood and watched for a moment from underneath the bleachers, peeking her head out the side to scan the crowd for familiar faces. She recognized a few people, but no one that she knew particularly well. She was just about to leave when the announcer spoke.

"Folks, if you would please bow your heads, we'd like to recite the names and then have a moment of silence and a prayer for the local men who died in Vietnam these past few months.

"Private Michael Newton from Fayette." Groups of students and parents stood up sporadically along the bleachers, obviously friends and family of the dead man.

"Corporal Tyler Crowley from Selma." Bella watched as other people in the crowd stood to commemorate the corporal.

"Private First Class Edward Cullen from Eutaw." Bella didn't know what she had expected. She knew that Edward didn't have any family left, and that he'd basically alienated himself from his friends and everyone else in his town before he'd left. Still, it came as a shock to her when not a single person in the bleachers stood in response to his name being called. Sure, the people mumbled their prayers for the soldier, but no one there stood up to show that they knew him. She was still dealing with that realization when the next name was called, effectively letting everyone in the town move on from the unknown Edward Cullen.

All Bella could do was cry. She cried for Edward, for the loss of the love of her life. She cried for his parents, who had never gotten the chance to see what a strong, wonderful young man their son had grown up to be. She cried for each and every soldier who had died in the war in Vietnam so far, and those who would have to die before it would end. She cried for the widows and children and family and friends of those men. But most of all, she cried for her unborn child, who would never meet his or her own father, the most incredible human being to have ever lived.

Edward Cullen had protected her life and the life of their future baby, as well as the lives of countless Americans. He had faced war and violence and death head on, and hadn't backed down. He had always said to Bella that all he'd ever wanted was for her to be proud of him. And proud of him she was.


AN: This is dedicated to all the men and women who are serving our country, and to all of those who have died to preserve our freedom.

Thanks for reading! I love constructive criticism, so I'd love it if you could please review, even if you only have a few words to say.

***You'll notice aspects of a few different war-themed songs in this story. The most obvious is Travelin' Soldier, upon which I based the plot. The others are:

Just a Dream by Carrie Underwood

Letters From War by Mark Schultz

Robe of White by the Louvin Brothers

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