For a week, I lived in confinement. Sam was easily convinced that I had the flu, and between Jake and Claire, I was never alone. Despite my conviction that I was okay, Jake insisted I go to the clinic in Forks and get checked out. They did an ultrasound and a blood test, and everything was fine. I was no longer pregnant and was given a prescription for the pill. Jacob never left my side, no matter how uncomfortable or intimate the exam; he just held my hand and wiped my silent tears away.
The human body was amazingly capable of handling its own disasters. What was happening to me had been happening since the beginning of time, before doctors, before hospitals; I was not the first, and I wouldn't be the last. I was lucky that there was nothing more serious going on-that's what the doctor told me, but no part of me felt lucky. I felt robbed, cheated, and more than anything, I felt betrayed.
My body had betrayed me; it had given me something I hadn't asked for, pushed its will upon me, and then as my heart melted, letting in the bright little soul I had been asked to care for, my body stole her from me. I had been given no choice; the destruction of my heart was slammed down on me suddenly, leaving me stunned.
For something neither of us had been prepared for, our loss hit us hard. Only in our togetherness were we able to grieve. As I began to feel better, I walked on the beach for hours, sitting, looking out, and wishing the women from my dream would come and tell me how to recover from this. Sometimes Jake would come with me, his love a salve to my heart as I stroked his hand or he rubbed my back. I didn't say much, finding that there was little I cared enough about to discuss.
Sitting on the beach and digging in my garden were my comforts. Sometimes I would sit on the porch and write, my voice changing as I processed the pain I felt, forcing me to grow up. Claire would come by almost every day, her kindness and understanding making me feel less alone. I still wished my mother could be here, but the child with the ancient eyes tended to my broken heart with so much love I couldn't help but heal.
I spent most of my time alone, soaking in the sun and feeling its warmth on my skin, but always desperate to return to my men at the end of the day. After a week, I was ready to go back to work, and secretly, I think Billy was ready for me to be out of the house, although he'd never say anything. My silence was heavy in the air.
Alice had been calling and leaving messages, understandably worried about my lack of communication, but I didn't call back. What could I possibly say? The idea of telling her, anyone, about what had happened made my lips slam closed and my jaw tighten. No, those words weren't ready to be spoken. I would call her soon…
Jacob's birthday came and went without much notice, and mine was around the corner. I would be 24 in the middle of August, and I would be older than any 24 year old was meant to be. The weeks passed, and life resumed to normal. I spent my time at the school or at Angela's store when I wasn't with Jake and Billy. The pain in my heart had become my constant companion, but now I was learning to live with it, learning to laugh around it.
We resumed our Sunday dinners with Rose and Emmett without discussing our absence. They kindly welcomed us back into their lives, letting me know even without words that I had a home in Forks. I was surrounded by love, understanding and acceptance. My happiness leaked back into my heart, allowing it to mend as much as it could.
It was the last week in July when Jacob stayed out in his garage all night for the first time. That week, he only slept in our room twice. I was cold without him, inside and out.
His summer was much like mine. Without classes to give him structure, he floated between Paul's, the fire station, and home. Whatever he had been working on in the garage was consuming him. He was changing, becoming harder as he concentrated, almost obsessed with his art. I breathed in this new Jacob, loving him as best I knew how, trusting that would be enough.
We were still sleeping in his small room on the floor, and I was still technically living at Rose's. I hadn't been there except for once or twice, though, in the last three weeks. When I did, she watched me with knowing eyes that made me turn away. I cringed from bringing up my moving in; we hadn't discussed it, or the future at all since… well, since everything that happened.
One night, when I had again gone to bed alone, I was awoken by a frantic Jacob, his eyes wild.
"Bells. Bells, wake up."
"What? What is it?"
"I finished her."
"It's two in the morning, Jake!"
"I know, I know. I'm sorry, but… come on, I want you to see her…"
He pulled me up out of bed, rushing me as I pulled on my yoga pants and flip flops. He took my hand, pulling me outside into the cool night air. I stopped for a moment to feel the soft rain on my face, the smell overwhelming me; it hadn't rained in so long.
"Come on, Bella!" he called from the garage door, holding it open while the light inside streaked out into the night.
I smiled down at where he was standing, knowing I would love him until I died. No matter what happened or would come next, all I wanted was to have him with me. Walking down to him, he saw my smile and blinked back for a moment before smiling back at me.
"Well, that's nice to see."
"Your smile. What's got you so happy?"
"You, Jake. I love you."
"Good," he said matter-of-factly before taking my hand again and pulling me inside.
Standing before me was… a miracle… the wood woman shone life from within. Her fingers were so delicately carved you could see the nails and cuticles and the texture on the skin of her knuckles. The cloth on her body appeared to sway with the light breeze in the air. It was the most miraculous thing I'd ever seen. In her arms, she held an iron bouquet of lilies in full bloom, making me smile at Jacob's silent tribute to the one who would not be.
And then I looked at her face. I gasped at what I saw before me-life in the eyes that shone looking at me.
"Jake, how... how did you do this?"
"Do you like it?"
"I... oh, my god... she's perfect."
He smiled, sighing behind me.
"How... how did you know what she looked like?"
"That's… that woman… she's been in my dreams."
"Bella," he said, taking my arm to turn me towards him, my eyes resisting looking away from her face. "Babe, what are you talking about?"
"That woman, she's... she's been in my dreams… with Lily… she's my angel."
"Bells." His voice caught with the tears falling from his eyes, surprising me. "Bells, that's my mother."
"That's my mother," he said, stepping to his workbench and grabbing a stack of pictures. "Here, here look. This is... this is when I was little, and she would walk me to school. And this one, this is one my Dad took of her and I sleeping in the hammock we used to have. And this is her at the beach."
I watched silently as his young life passed before me; he was so happy, so safe in her arms and that smile… it was the one she looked at me with. It was so full of love and understanding. The last picture he showed me was of her laughing with her arms around Billy's neck.
"They were so happy," I whispered, my tears building.
"They were… She's been in your dreams?"
"She has. She's been with me for… well, since we got back together, I guess, after the reading."
He sat on the couch in his garage, looking up at the image of his mother he'd created with love.
"That's when I decided to make this her…"
I walked up to her, her eyes dark and knowing as I touched her face. "Thank you…" I whispered before leaning my head on her shoulder, wishing she could wrap her arms around me. "Thank you," I said again, my tears rolling onto her skin.
Jacob came to me and pulled me into his arms, kissing me softly and wiping my tears away with his lips. "Has she been taking care of you?"
"Yeah… and teaching me."
"Teaching you? What?"
"That I was wrong. I've... I've been wrong for so long about so many things, but you… you're the best thing I've ever done."
"Bells." He leaned his forehead against mine, smiling sadly.
"I do want to get married… I was wrong about that too."
"You… what?" he said, pulling away slightly and looking in my eyes to search me for truth.
"Yeah… I mean… if you want to…"
"Bella, God, are you asking me to marry you?"
"I guess… you aren't going to make me get down on one knee, are you?" I looked up at him and saw my Jacob, my sweet love, who had grown into the most amazing man.
"I probably should, but no, I'm not."
"Oh, you want me to answer you now? Ummm, I don't know. That's a pretty big decision, and you didn't even get me a ring," he laughed as I swatted him in the arm before bringing his warm lips down to mine.
"Yes," he said between kisses, "Yes, tomorrow, next year. Whenever you want, I'll be there."
"Soon," I said, pulling back to look at him. "Let's do it soon. Just something small, maybe here at the house."
"Okay, whatever you want." He smiled his broad, toothy smile. "I love you so much."
"I love you too, Jacob, with every breath, with every beat of my heart."
That night, we made love on the floor of his garage, coming full circle with the vision I'd had the first time I'd been here. I was Jacob's inside and out, and no matter what we faced, that would never change. Love... love was our constant. This was love, real, true love, and if we held on to it, the way we held onto each others bodies as we kissed, we would survive anything.
We were married on October 11th, outside in the yard, next to my garden. I held lilies as we vowed to be together until the end of time. It began to rain as he kissed me, baptizing our union with the blessing of the heavens.
With Jacob, I find I almost always feel like lovers do and that nothing, so far, has managed to taint that feeling. We circle each other like birds of prey. I have found an equal, a better, a partner, a master, a slave. All in one breath, he fills me and destroys me; the passion that takes should be unsustainable.
What is it that he gives me that carries us through? What is it about this love, as opposed to others, that makes it survive the tests of time? Why is it that in my deepest hate, I know it will pass? I know this is forever. How is it that I know at the highest crest, that this is heaven? This love, it's the very fountain of life.
As I think back on loves past and days spent in languid togetherness, what differentiates this love? Is it me? Is it the knowledge that what overrides each moment is the look in his eyes as he kisses my tears?
Time encircles us with its width, and I find it difficult to differentiate between passages. But this love, this love has stayed; this love hasn't strayed, and I feel in my soul that it won't. We have found something in each other that eludes so many, and at times, eludes us all: freedom.
As the years passed, every Mother's Day, without fail, Jacob has bought me a new kind of lily for our yard. Now, in spring, the colors explode in celebration. His hair has grown so long he wears it pulled back in a simple ponytail, as his father had done for so many years. We have clung together through joy and sorrow, grieving our parents passing, reveling in the love of our children. A day doesn't go by when I do not reach out to touch him, or tell him I love him; life's too precious to waste.
Let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
And stand together, yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.
You shall be together when white wings of death scatter your days.
Aye, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.