2nd Annual "For My Valentine"

A Twilight Love Story Contest

Title: Fate Steps In

Rating: T

Pairing: Bella and Edward

Summary: Coming upon her first Valentine's Day since the death of her husband, Bella remembers her first love...the one who got away.

For more information please see contest details at http://www(dot)fanfiction(dot)net/~formyvalentinetwilight

I slid my 2049 MitsuFord Eclipse into the end spot at the Shop-Mart just the way Jake had taught me. He was always so concerned with someone dinging his paint. How he loved his cars! Of course, with the new poly-ure-paint there was no such thing as a door ding anymore. But Jacob Black had always been a man reluctant to change his ways and it made me feel good doing what would have made him happy. He sure was a stubborn old coot; no changing his mind about anything once he dug his heels in. But, he was a good man and we'd had a wonderful life together--- just cut too short. And he gave me two beautiful children, Paul and Katie. I couldn't have asked for anything more. Even if I'd known how soon I was to become a widow, I wouldn't have done anything differently.

I stepped out of my car and looked at the pink and red hearts adorning the windows of the Shop-Mart. It was inevitable. Three more days until I had to face my first Valentine's Day alone.

I lost my Jake last March to heart disease. Even though he knew he needed to take better care of himself and slow down a bit, he refused to change his life just to accommodate illness. He often said "If I can't live the way I'm happy, I'd rather be dead." I couldn't blame him. Jacob Black had always been a thrill seeker, especially as a young man. I think that's one of the things that attracted me to him most. Well, and the fact that he came into my life like a ray of sunshine, teaching me to live and to laugh again, after Edward had left me.

Wow, that was a name I hadn't thought of in years. Edward Cullen. My first love. He and I dated my first two years of high school. We were inseparable back then; riding together to school, sitting together at lunch, holding hands on the way to every class and spending every weekend just hanging out together in good ol' Forks. I was devastated when his family decided to relocate to a town several counties away. Oh, we stayed in touch for a while. But we were young and precocious. It was inevitable that we'd drift apart.

I heard he'd befriended a girl in his new town and stuck with her through a pregnancy he wasn't responsible for. I was told they married a few months after the baby was born and that he raised the child as his own. That's just how Edward was...putting everyone else's needs before his own and just taking charge. There was a time I'd have given anything to have been Mrs. Edward Cullen...before I married Jake, of course. I thought the sun rose and set in those emerald green eyes of his. All he had to do was look at me with them, and smile one of his crooked smiles, and I'd completely lose control of all reason.

I tugged at the next available shopping cart in the line of carts out in front of the Shop-Mart. It wouldn't budge. I jerked at it with all I had. Stuck! Those were the kinds of moments that made me realize exactly how lost I was without my Jake. I tried lifting the top up and pulling it out...no use.

I felt a hand on my shoulder. "Here, ma'am. Let me help you with that."

I turned to see who had come to my rescue, only to find myself looking straight into the sun. His face shadowed by glare, I could only make out waves of hair blowing wildly in the breeze. With the sun shining through the strands, it appeared almost bronze. For a split second, a surge of something familiar and wonderful danced through my insides. Then, as I looked down at the handle of the cart, noticing the purple veins that stretched across the transparent skin on my hands, I realized the excitement I felt was from another time. As the young man moved into the store, turning around to smile in response to my thanks, I noticed he did resemble someone I'd once known...a long, long time ago.

I set my handbag in the section of the wagon where children often sat. My thoughts turned for a moment to when my kids were tiny. Paul was my little helper. He loved going food shopping with Mommy, helping to choose which tasty treats to buy. I smiled, remembering what a good little eater he was. Now Katie, she was a picky little thing. Praise the person who first invented chicken nuggets. Without that staple, the poor girl would have starved to death.

Shaking my head, I checked my list. Still finding it difficult to shop and cook for one, I was excited to be planning a larger meal. I'd invited both kids over for dinner on Saturday as a sort of celebration. Being Valentine's Day, of course Paul already had plans, but he promised to stop by Sunday for left-overs. If I knew my son, he probably had dates lined up that entire day. But not Katie. She was too busy for romance. I worried about that girl; afraid one day she'd wake up and realize all she'd missed while at school or at work.

Katie had worked as a dental hygienist for about 10 years, while on her way to a medical degree in dentistry. That was before the creation of Resin Implants. Inexpensive and durable, the darn things basically made her job and her dreams obsolete. So she went back to school, this time for a degree in technology; something she figured society would always need. And, just last week, she landed a job as a computer tech with Nintendo. Way back when, that company was known solely for video games, but after the Computer War of 2025, they had somehow landed on top. I am so very proud of Katie's perseverance, especially after having to start all over. I've learned just how hard that can be. But my girl's always been a champ. She got her daddy's determination and positive attitude. Now I just wished she'd find a nice man to settle down with. I'd love to have some grandchildren someday.

Paul didn't seem to have any interest in settling down, although I wouldn't be surprised if he already had a whole litter of little ones running around someplace. Quite the ladies man, he'd always been more than happy to bounce from one woman to another. But, not my Kate. She'd never say anything, but I was sure she dreamt of finding Mr. Right and having a family someday.

Mr. Right. That's how my mom used to refer to Edward. I was pretty crazy about him back then. All the girls thought the tall handsome guy with the wild hair and beautiful eyes was a god. I just thought of him as my Edward. I felt so special when he'd pick me up for school in his silver Volvo. He drove like a maniac and I'd squeeze his hand tightly as we flew down the winding roads that led to Forks High. Oh, and when I got out of that car...with him...the looks I'd get from all the girls! There were two in particular. Their names slip my mind. They moved away right after high school. But they were a couple of real tramps---if you know what I mean. Edward would have nothing to do with them. He may have looked like the typical teenage hotshot, but he really was something special. He had scruples and class. Yep, Mr. Right.

I moved my cart past the floral section of the grocery. The colors of nature in the spring were always so beautiful in Washington: the phloxes and the larkspurs, the violets and the lupines; the sunflowers and even the thistle. It was like an artist's pallet. Nature's rainbow. I leaned in to smell the purple cushioned daisies and couldn't help myself . I had to place a pot into my cart. Immediately that aroma took me back to a day in a meadow.

It was the time I skipped school with Edward. We had planned to have a picnic in a meadow not far from our school. I'd packed us a special lunch and snuck it out of the house while my parents were asleep. When Edward picked me up that morning, I slid the basket into his backseat and we headed straight to the meadow. He had brought two thick flannel blankets and a few pillows. We spent our entire day just being together on those blankets. We talked about everything from school projects, to football games, to the homecoming dance. We shared our favorite books, and movies and television shows. We were having such a wonderful time simply enjoying one another's company. Then, of course, one thing led to another. I found myself staring into his eyes for a bit too long. He seemed equally as mesmerized with mine. The breeze blowing my hair, his thumb gently brushing a strand from my face, his lips touching mine; unbridled need and want building inside me the likes of nothing I'd ever known. His breath on my cheek, my fingers tracing his shoulders. I made love to Edward right there in that meadow. It was my first time. I believe it was his, too.

I never told Jake about that day. I didn't think he needed to know. It's the only thing I'd ever kept from him.

I walked beyond the produce section , past all the shiny heart shaped balloons rising from above every display, and moved to the meat department. I planned to make roast duckey for Saturday's meal. Butterball had perfected the hybrid and it got the approval for sale around 2020. It had all the rich flavor of duck , but was better for you, like turkey. It had been Jake's favorite...well, after the ban of red meat, of course. Everyone was amazed to discover that the hormones fed to cattle were proven to cause early maturation of children...although it did explain a lot. With the release of the studies, the number of teen pregnancies below the age of 15 worldwide reduced by 35% that first year. The surgeon general banned the sale of beef altogether in 2018. There were many imitations, but none that could fool Jake. He always loved a good steak.

I moved my cart toward the produce section. I planned to make a nice big salad on Saturday. I tossed a head of Romaine and a bag of potatoes into the cart. I inspected the tomatoes and put the finest ones into a bag. I grabbed a few yellow and red peppers and moved to the bin of cucumbers. Having become quite pricey at $6 each, I grasped the largest one I could find.

My thoughts drifted back to the meadow and the sight of Edward's beautiful body lying naked in the grass. We were surrounded by wildflowers; the aroma almost intoxicating. It was no surprise I couldn't control my desire. His captivating emerald eyes, the way the sun sparkled through his bronze wayward locks, how a simple smirk could brighten his entire face; Edward was an amazing young man. And there used to be a myth that the size of a fellow's hands had a direct correlation to the size of his...well...manly parts. I don't know if that was really true or not, as I'd only had two points of reference. But, I surely found it to correlate where he was concerned. Edward had the longest most perfect fingers I'd ever seen! And he knew how to use them, too!

Realizing I was standing there by my cart fanning myself with the romaine, I decided it was time to venture over to frozen foods. I thought I could get all the makings for hot fudge sundaes. My kids always loved sundaes when they were little.

I moved my cart to the ice cream section, when something caught my eye. It was only a pint-sized container, but the flavor was what had won my attention: Ben and Jerry's Cinnamon Buns. I read the label to discover it was made of caramel ice cream with cinnamon bun dough and a cinnamon streusel swirl. Edward always stopped at Fork's Bakery and got cinnamon bun for breakfast on our way to school. I always teased him when he'd offer me a bite, telling him that if I ate like he did I'd be 300 pounds. And every time he swore he'd love me anyway. Wow, Cinnamon Buns ice cream. I found myself reaching into the case for a pint just as someone else was doing the same, brushing his hand against mine.

"We meet again." The same polite young man who had helped me with my cart was smiling at me. Ever since I'd become a widow, I'd found myself uneasy and suspicious of strangers. But this young man was different. There was something very comforting...almost familiar...about him.

Flustered, I spoke. "I don't eat much ice cream. I don't een know why I'm getting this." I chuckled.

"Oh, my dad loves it. I'll be lucky to get even a bite." he laughed.

I smiled back. "Well, your father is a lucky man to have such a kind and helpful son."

"Thank you, ma'am."

I got the rest of the items I needed, before heading toward the registers. It appeared that was where my new friend was heading, too. Watching his gait from behind, it really was uncanny how he reminded me so much of a part of my life I'd long forgotten.

Edward always moved with such poise and agility through the halls of Forks High. It was no wonder he'd been chosen as the starting quarterback for our football team his freshman year. That had been an unheard of feat until Edward had graced their halls. He was truly the envy of all. The boys wanted to be him, and the girls wanted to date him. How I ended up on his arm had always been a mystery to me. I could only assume he was able to see some sort of beauty I held that was never reflected into any mirror I'd ever known. My frame a bit boyish, with mousy brown hair and matching eyes, I'd never considered myself anything more than plain.

Just as I approached the checkout lanes, a new lane opened. A gentleman in an electric scooter wheeled in before me. He was impeccably dressed and had an air of refinement about him. As I began unloading my cart, I felt a hand on my shoulder.

"Excuse me, again." The familiar young man chuckled. "I need to give this to my dad." He nodded toward the man before me in line.

I watched as he reached across me to hand the pints of ice cream to the gentleman in the scooter.

"Ah, they did have it. Thanks, Garrett."

I could feel every ounce of color leave my face. A lump formed in my throat and my mouth got dry. I knew that voice! I hadn't heard it in ions, but when he spoke I recognized it immediately. When the gentleman turned to retrieve the pints of ice cream I caught a glimpse of the most beautiful green eyes . They were now framed by laugh lines that only seemed to make them even more expressive than I'd remembered. Edward Cullen.

My stomach filled with butterflies and my palms actually began to sweat. Without even thinking, I found myself straightening my clothes and hair. Calm down, Bella. You're not sixteen anymore. You're an old lady…

My eyes drifted to his hands. They were more weathered than I'd recalled. Of course they were. They were the hands of a man who's done well for his family; worked hard, held his children. Then I noticed the gold band on his left hand.

and he's a married man.

My stomach lurched and I felt almost nauseated.

I turned my face away, terrified that I'd be recognized. I had no idea what I'd say to him. It had been so long. And being a widow, I didn't want to see that look of sadness and pity I'd grown to know so well. Not from him.

"It seems I'm not the only person with a weak spot for Cinnamon Bun ice cream." I heard from a voice that, after all these years, still managed to make my knees weak

I heard the younger man laugh. "The way we kept meeting today, I feel like I should know your name."

Crap! Well, Bella. No point in being rude, especially after how polite the young man had been. Just get it over with.

"My name is Bella…Bella Black."

I noticed Edward's long, perfect fingers grasp the counter. Slowly he lifted himself from the scooter and stood, which left me with a feeling of relief. Turning to me, he said "Bella Swan …Black? I should've known those eyes anywhere. It's me, Edward…Cullen."

He was interrupted by the younger version of himself. "Wait…Dad, is this the Bella?"

Edward looked a bit embarrassed, but nodded.

I furrowed my brow. "The Bella?" I asked.

I laughed as Edward softly socked his son in the arm before trying to talk his way out of it. "He means the Bella I knew in High School."

I felt my cheeks become warm. "So you spoke of me? Good things I hope."

"Oh, yes ma'am" the young man said before his father could stop him. "Only good things. And lots of them." Those words earned him another wallop in the arm.

"Bella, this is my youngest son---with the biggest mouth—Garrett." The way he smiled at his son, I could tell that the two of them shared a wonderful relationship---much like mine with Kate.

"It's very nice to meet you---formally, Garrett." I said extending him my hand.

Edward eyes dropped to the wedding ring Jake had given me so many years ago. "I heard you married Jacob Black."

"I did. Shortly after high school."

"Have you had a good life?" he asked, his eyes focusing hard on the black check-out counter.

"Yes. And you?" I asked.

"Tanya and I had a wonderful marriage…she gave me three terrific boys. But, then I lost her almost five years ago."

"Oh, Edward. I am so sorry"

"It was a car accident. A dark night and icy roads. It left me dependent on this contraption whenever the weather turns bad."

Although I felt horrible that Edward should also know the kind of loss one experiences when losing their spouse, part of me was relieved. Hell, part of me was down-right giddy.

"I lost my husband, too!" I said--perhaps a bit too easily.

"Jake? Oh Bella, I am sorry."

Suddenly, a wave of emotion swept over me and I felt my chin begin to quiver. "Heart attack. It'll be a year next month."

Edward wrapped his arm around my shoulder and pulled me to him. And with that gesture, I finally really cried. I'd spent so much time since Jake's death trying to be strong, making all the right decisions, doing what he'd have wanted me to do---that I'd forgotten to really grieve. And standing there, crying on Edward's shoulder was so unbelievably cleansing.

Edward and I ended up speaking for what turned out to be over an hour, standing in front of the Shop-Mart. Garrett left us to load their groceries into the car; then he loaded mine for me, as well. It was wonderful to feel like a young girl again; desirable and pretty. I hated watching Edward climb into his car and drive away. For that brief moment, as I was talking and laughing and being held in his arms, for the first time in a long time I felt like I was home.

And I couldn't wait for Saturday night, as I'd invited Edward and Garrett to join Kate and I for dinner. Luckily neither of them had any prior plans. And of all nights, Valentine's Day. It looked like I wouldn't have to spend my first one since Jake's passing alone, after all!