For the first time in over six months, I allowed myself to smile. I let my love show out of my eyes, and I hoped she got the message. Her heart stuttered, and she froze, taking me in.
I grinned even wider, and Bella's face went from fear, to shock, to despair, and back to shock in an instant. I slowly walked towards her, and suddenly she jumped into my waiting arms. She started sobbing, and could hardly speak. I ran my fingers through her tangled hair in an attempt to calm her down
"Edward! I don't know what to do! I'm dead, I drowned! Ch-Ch-Charlie's gonna freak, and R-R-R-Renee-"
She stopped there, and I wasn't sure what she was talking about, but I murmured, "Shh, Bella, it's okay, you're not dead." I held her for several moments, and basked in the warmth. Oh how I'd missed this.
Eventually her sobs turned into sniffles, and I thought it would be okay to speak. "Out of curiosity, what exactly did you do that you think got you killed?"
In a meek voice, she admitted, "I jumped off a cliff-" This was all I could process. I knew I'd hurt her, possibly irreparably, but for her to pursue her own death? I was appalled at myself. No wonder she was hanging out with wolves, then, if she has a death wish. Shocked, I yelled, "YOU WHAT?"
She sighed and backed up. Apparently it was a form of recreation among the Quileutes. Along with riding motorcycles. And now she's an adrenaline junkie? Just to hear my voice? What had I done?
She switched directions abruptly, and I couldn't figure out how she had jumped from one to the other. What did Carlisle's religious beliefs have to do with any of this? I narrowed my eyes and growled, "Don't change the subject. You promised me you would try to stay safe!"
Her retort stung. "Well you promised it would be like you never existed, so I guess we both lied, didn't we."
"It's not the same-" but I stopped there. She had a point. I had never meant to cause her pain after I left, in fact the point of leaving had been to remove her from possible pain and/or injury. But obviously I'd done more harm in leaving than staying here to protect her. I tried again. "What if you had died? Didn't you think of what that would do to Charlie? To Renee? To me?"
This statement seemed to confuse her, and I remembered she was under the ludicrous impression that she was dead. Clearly, her mind remained as much of a conundrum as ever. Completely missing the point, she asked, "What do you mean, what if I died? I'm already dead!"
I spoke slowly. "I already told you, love, you're not dead. What is making you so sure you are?"
She was confident. And stubborn. "Easy. You're with me."
More than ever, I wished I could get into her head and see what in the world led her to this conclusion. I rolled my eyes. "Bella, trust me. You're not dead"
She still didn't believe me, and adamantly said, "If I'm not really dead, then why are you here?"
How had she not figured out by now? She was brilliant before, what was going on now? I looked deep into her eyes as I said "Because I love you, why else?" I could see she wanted to believe, so bad, but something was holding her back...
"Oh no! I really am dead! And don't try to tell me I'm not, because I know if this was real, you wouldn't be telling me you love me. That is definitely a sign of the afterlife." She really didn't believe me. After the thousands of times I told her I loved her, I'd destroyed all that in a word. How could I be so ruthless?
I wished I could take it back, take everything back that ever hurt this innocent beauty. The pain almost overwhelmed me, but I thought of her, her smile, her loving heart, and I found the strength to try to persuade her. I didn't see how I could go on living if I didn't have this woman's acceptance.
"Isabella Marie Swan, I love you with every fibre of my being. I have loved you since I laid eyes on your beautiful sleeping form over a year ago, and no amount of time or space will ever change that. My leaving was intended to be for your own good, but I see now how wrong-" I reconsidered my wording. "When I left, I made by far the biggest mistake of my entire century." My throat was constricting, because her expression hadn't changed from the distressful one I was trying to fix. "I felt I had to - to lie to be able to - make myself go. Even if you didn't believe me, which I assumed you wouldn't, if there was the slightest chance that you might be able to move on and lead a happy life, without me, I would do what I had-" I could see this tact wasn't helping either, so I resorted to flattery, and laid my heart out for her to see. "You are the kindest, most beautiful, charming, loveable, caring, intriguing person I have ever-" I just had to spit it out and get it over with. I hadn't been this lost for words in over a hundred years. "So even - even though I - I know I don't deserve it, will you forgive me and take me back?"
Bella still hadn't moved, and I began to be concerned. Had I overwhelmed her, shocked her? Her heart sounded fine, albeit a little loud in the silence of the room.
When the phone rang, she jumped, and it seemed to bring her back to life. "Hol – Hold that thought," she stuttered, and walked shakily to the phone. I stayed on my knees and waited.
"Hello? Hello? Bella! Talk to me!" It was the dog-boy. What could he want now?
Bella sighed audibly. I didn't know who she was expecting, Victoria? "Jacob!" she exclaimed
"Oh thank god!"
"Holy cow, Jake, what did you do, run home?"
"Well, I had to let Sam know and then I needed to call you as soon as I got home to make sure you were okay. I don't trust those bloodsuckers one bit, even the doctor." The immaturity of this shocked me. My father was the most peaceful man that mutt had probably ever met, and he loved Bella like one of his own. For Black to not trust Carlisle of all people, proved how close-minded and judging the tribe had grown. I almost growled in distaste, but Bella had spoken.
"It'snotCarlisleit'sEdwardandhestilllovesme" I could hardly understand that, never mind the dimwitted mutt...
"Sorry, Bells, I didn't quite catch that?" Case and point.
"It wasn't Carlisle in the car. It was Edward. He came back to apologize and ask me to forgive him"
Black snorted. "Who does he think he is, just assuming you would forgive him? I've got half a mind to come back over there and teach him a thing or two."Ha! As if the dog could do anything to me. I welcomed the challenge. It would almost be as satisfying as showing Newton what I thought of him. But I supposed Bella would be upset if I killed her puppy...
"...Bella? Hello?" She was also lost in a daydream, apparently.
"What? Oh, hi sorry..."
"You didn't hear a word I just said, did you?" he joked.
"Ah, um, well, no, sorry, I just kind of spaced there."
"I asked if you wanted me to come and kick the leech out for you, or if you wanted to do it yourself?"
"Jake, I'm not kicking him out. He came to ask for my forgiveness, and I'm giving it to him. We're getting back together." She waited for an answer that didn't come. Wait, had she just said...
"Jake? Jacob? Are you there?"
He took a while to answer, and when he did, he sounded like he was fighting for control "You're taking him back? Just like that? Bella, he doesn't deserve you! You didn't see what the mere memory of him did to you in those first few months! You were practically catatonic! Do you want to make Charlie go through that again? It was killing him to see you so depressed. Bella, please think this through."
Catatonic? What have I done? The dog's words hit me harder than anything that had happened today. I had really screwed up. If she still had the heart to take me back, I'd be astounded. And I supposed I was right in assuming Charlie would be less than impressed with me. I'd hurt his baby girl so much, what man would forgive his daughter's boyfriend for that?
"I have, and I believe I'm doing the right thing. I still love him more than my own life, and I don't think he's lying when he says the same thing. He's not going to leave again, so I don't really have to worry about Charlie. See, he only left to protect me, but he sees now how it obviously didn't help. He never wanted to hurt me. I love him, Jacob, and nothing you can do or say is ever going to change that."
It was like a ray of sunshine had hit my heart. She still loved me! I could have danced for joy! This angel, this beautiful woman, had the biggest heart of anyone I'd ever known, ever. The knowledge that I could spend the rest of my existence with her lifted my spirits to golden proportions.
Suddenly I remembered the only real argument Bella and I had ever had. She wanted to become a Cullen. Not necessarily by marriage, but by venom. She'd just given me the happiest moment in my life so far, was it fair of me to refuse her the only thing she had ever asked of me? I owed it to her. Besides that, I couldn't really make sense of my previous arguments. Why had I assumed I'd be able to tolerate her growing older and god-forbid, dying? It only made sense to ensure she would be with me forever.
Only one little flaw. Black chose that moment to admit, "But I love you too, Bella."
Bella gulped. He'd made her uncomfortable. He'd pay for that. "I'm sorry, Jake, but we could never be. I love you too, but only as a friend. I wouldn't feel right with you. And what happens when you imprint? Would you hurt me like Edward did? Do you want that for me? And don't try to tell me you've imprinted on me. I've seen imprints, and you don't -" He didn't let her finish, and rudely hung up on her. I had a feeling he wouldn't give up just yet, but for now my heaven was walking toward me.
I couldn't take my eyes off her as she sat next to me on the floor. I had to check, one last time. "You really feel that way?"
She nodded, and I hugged her. I wasn't sure that she'd be comfortable kissing me just yet, and I didn't want to cross any boundaries. Breathing in her sweet scent, I decided to make my offer.
"I swear to you, Bella, I will spend the rest of eternity making it up to you, if that is still what you want." I felt, more than heard, her gasp, and she pulled back to look me in the eyes.
"You're willing to change me?"
I grinned, and admitted, "I've lived seven months of pure hell without you. The thought of spending forever not having you by my side causes me unimaginable pain. As wrong as it feels for me to give in and damn you, I'm just too selfish to not bite you and then have to live with myself."
I wasn't expecting her next move. She kissed me! And passionately too. I didn't hesitate to return it. Things were turning out far better than I'd allowed myself to hope. I thought, maybe she could just forgive me, and I would work my ancient ass off to earn her trust, and then love, back.
Revelling in my good fortune, I allowed the kiss to be deeper than usual. Pure ecstasy flowed through my veins, and I realized I trusted myself completely to kiss her. At this point, it would be physically impossible for me to do anything to keep us apart – especially killing her. So I didn't set the precise boundaries I used to, and Bella took advantage of that. Eventually, being mortal, she stopped to breathe, but that didn't stop me. I kissed her cheek, her lovely neck, any inch of her I could reach and still be a gentleman.
"Are the rest of your family coming back now too?" she wondered.
I laughed softly, and said, "Of course. You think I could keep Alice away for long when I'm allowed to see you again? Even Rosalie missed you, if only for Emmett's sake. Would you like to go see them now?"
She giggled, but said solemnly, "Let's go home"
It made me unspeakably happy that she considered my family to be home, and I knew then that this was the beginning of a beautiful phase in our lives. This was the first day of the rest of our lives, and I planned to cherish every second of it.
A/N Thanks for your support. Those of you who reviewed, I'm incredibly grateful. Us authors like to get some reassurance sometimes that we aren't spewing out crap, and a positive review really lifts the spirits :D Those of you who didn't, well, I hope you enjoyed it anyways. :)