First, so many of you are like family; you have been with me through so much via author's notes, PM's, Twitter...hell some of you are on my Facebook and Instagram…you know my life, you are a part of it, and so with that in mind I'm sharing that the reason this is posting late. The family challenges we were facing for the last five days have come to an end. My grandmother, who I was damn near convinced was indestructible –and recognize, the woman was spunky and witty, and incredible with no signs of stopping until a week ago –is no longer with us. This isn't the platform for a eulogy, it just is what it is and I felt like sharing. Her and I were very close…
Secondly, HAPPILY, more thanks. I can't even wrap my head around the fact that I am done with this story now…DONE. All gone. Off you go into the wild little one to take care of yourself now, *pats bums* You have been there from the beginning, and even if you weren't, your reviews along the path of catching up allowed me to relive the love, the fun, the brief moments of angst, and then the thrill of success all over again through your reviews and for that, and for all of you and your blogs, and pimping, and Tweets, and FB pages and goodness…you overwhelm and bless me with your incredible generosity, I will be forever grateful.
This little tale somehow manages to tie everything off both with a tidy bow and AND with a few lingering left-to-your-imaginationisms but hey, that's just the way I roll. If you think you are (slash have been for a few chapters now if you paid attention) picking up on some subtleties that suggest certain things…you probably are. Creative interpretation trumps cheesy epilogue so…go with it.
Now to answer a few of the reoccurring questions I seem to get:
1) No, I don't have any desire to write any outtakes at this time. Everything that happened in the past for these two feels VERY past tense to me and I don't think it would be right to drag it up…right now.
2) Yes, I think that perhaps if the mood strikes me say, in six months or so, I will right a future-take just for fun. Be nice to me and we shall see. :P
3) Please don't copy, translate, repost, or otherwise re-publish this little ditty. I'm trying to recompose it just to have and to hold for my very own, a story that is all mine from start to finish just to say "I did this", but who knows what bits and pieces may make their way into a real life original novel some day…be kind to my words and my desires, please.
4) I don't plan on pulling it. Years from now when my children learn how to turn off the safe search and enter things into the Google devil…definitely, but not yet.
5) Longest AN in history just seeing if you're still reading…I'm emotional and wordsy LOVE ME THROUGH IT.
This chapter is a little different, it is a third person narrative without focus. The day is too big to miss any details, IMHO.
Grab some rice. Let's do this.
Bella awoke slowly, creeping from the blissful throes of a deep sleep. Her toes pointed and her legs flexed, elongating her body with a content groan, eyes still gently closed. Sweet visions of creamy whites, pale peaches, and grays with soft edges danced around behind her eyelids–the final traces of a delicious, comfortable dream that warmed her entire body.
She couldn't recall the details of the dream, but as she lay there, feeling the stretch and pull through her calves and the silken comfort of the sheet lying against her skin in the warm summer morning, the residual feeling throughout her body was that of a simple and complete happiness. Weightlessness, even. The light, exuberant kind of happy that made your limbs feel as if they were floating, that made your insides furl and unfurl like the soft, downy edges of angel wings, that pricked at the outer corners of your eyes, crinkling them as you smiled for no reason other than the pure sense of delight that hummed through your body. And then she remembered…
"Oh, shit! I'm getting married today!" She sat bolt upright in her bed, the softness and peacefulness of her dream abruptly forgotten as adrenaline replaced the angel feathers and spiked sharply through her veins. Her smile remained intact.
"Uhh…Yeah, you are. So maybe you could do us all a favour and get up now, Sleeping Beauty? I mean, Jesus, my fucking brother…I'm going to murder him!"
Bella's wide eyes scanned the room, their room, where she sat in bed. Alice stood over the vanity table at the far end of the room tinkering around with containers of hairpins and make-up brushes as she laid everything out in preparation. When her eyes met Bella's in the glass of the mirror, despite the harshness of her words, her eyes twinkled with delight.
"Oh, come on. I think it's kind of sweet," Rosalie cooed, startling Bella. She hadn't noticed her standing beside the bed just an arms length away, carefully draping garment bags over the back of the overstuffed baby blue arm chair in the corner of the room. The chair was Bella's favourite place to curl up with a cup of hot tea and a good book. No time for reading today.
"Please. Since when are you team Edward?" Alice teased with an obnoxious tone directed toward Rosalie, smiling.
Bella had no idea what either of them was talking about. The last thing she remembered was kissing her husband-to-be goodnight at the threshold of their own front door after dinner the night before. Emmett left Rosalie behind to stay the night and brought his brother to his house–a romantic separation of the couple before the nuptials. The next time Bella would see Edward would be as he waited for her at the end of the alter.
"Are either of you going to clue me in here, or…?" Her head shook softly and a light-hearted giggle bubbled from somewhere deep inside her. The others girls giggled as well because it was going to be that kind of day.
Rosalie's long fingers wrapped delicately around Bella's wrist as she lifted it to her face for inspection. Soft gray marker was scrawled along the inside of her wrist, wrapping around to the front, coming to a full circle. Bella twisted her head and wrist around awkwardly so she could follow the words.
Edward's artful handwriting read, "The way you blush when I kiss you here". Something molten and full of love bubbled on her skin around the winding letters as she read them, and then poured through Bella's entire body, filling her toes and her fingertips to capacity.
"It's everywhere," Rosalie whispered conspiratorially, leaning in to Bella's ear.
Bella's eyes, impossibly wide though no longer from shock but from something much more intoxicating, met the tall blondes as she smiled softly down at her. She had on her warm maternal smile. Rosalie, the one who was always so sharp-tongued, feisty, and obnoxious, warring with her husband's little brother at every pass, her smile read nothing but unconditional love on this morning.
"Yeah, like every-freaking-where," Alice groaned. "Clearly, the man has zero appreciation for the fact that we showered you last night so your skin wouldn't be all tacky today and your hair had a solid twelve hours to dry naturally."
Bella's smile widened. She couldn't care less about any of that.
"Come on, up you go. Back into the shower because my brother is a romantic idiot," Alice urged, reaching around Rosalie and dragging Bella from the mattress. The tee shirt, Edward's first Columbia tee shirt, a tattered grey cotton as soft as a cloud which she slept in, road up past her hips as she was dragged from the bed. On her thigh Bella was exhilarated to notice more handwriting.
Alice ushered her toward the en suite where she could already hear the shower running for her. Bella moved eagerly, anxious to strip naked in front of the mirror and see what other secret treasures her husband-to-be had hidden on her body. Sometimes it was a fun little blessing to be such a heavy sleeper.
As she padded barefoot across the wooden floors, Bella noticed in the same gentle gray marker that encircled her wrist and decorated her thigh the words "I love you", plain, simple, and familiar, along the inside of her forearm.
"Well, at least it isn't permanent marker this time," she mumbled more to herself than anyone as she bounced into the bathroom.
Back in the bedroom, the other girls exchanged bewildered looks.
Edward didn't know exactly what he was expecting, or even if he was expecting anything at all. Rosalie had been the pillar of fashionista perfection at his brother's wedding. Her hair had been pulled and pinned into precision–no curl out of place–her make-up was flawless–her lips bright and lashes dark–her nails were painted to match the bridesmaids teal dresses, and her heels were gleaming and high. Somehow he couldn't quite fit Bella into that mould.
Other than that, he had visions in his head of course, but they had been there long before he even had a ring in his possession. They had been there since the first time he watched her descend a flight of stairs in a different pair of heels and a dress, lips shining in gloss and a nervous blush across her cheeks sending his entire world into a tailspin. Of course, that night she had not been walking toward him. But this time, and every time afterward, she would be.
The rear, west facing wall of the house had been remodelled with floor-to-ceiling glass walls on an accordion track framed by stained cedar, able to be slid open stretching the entire width of the house. The deck was redone in stone with a curled staircase leading to the main grounds. A gravel and stone pathway snaked whimsically through the vibrant green grass on either side until it met a stone and cedar small bridge that leapt elegantly over the small creek that dissected the backyard, eventually trickling into the Sound.
On the other side of the bridge, the gravel path continued to a set of stone stairs, three in all, embedded against the grass as if they were naturally occurring. This led to the lower portion of the yard, where the grass disappeared over the horizon into midair with the water directly below. There had been a thick hedge along the perimeter when Edward and Bella purchased the property; it had been removed with nothing but sky to replace it. Eventually, a cedar fence would be built to preserve the safety, but for today, as Bella began to descend the staircase from the house, the backdrop behind her groom was nothing but blue sky, wispy white clouds, and waves with a Seattle skyline visible above it all.
The music changed after his sisters came to stand beside their husbands and while it wasn't Pachelbel's Canon, Edward recognised the dramatic instrumental as the indication that that the bride, his bride, was about to make her entrance.
His brother warned him not to eat lunch so he didn't throw up from nerves in front of everyone in this moment. Jasper poured him a shot of whiskey, calling it "liquid courage" as they laced up their shoes earlier. Even his own father advised him not to lock his knees as he stood at the end of the one hundred and twenty foot alter waiting so that his circulation wasn't impaired causing him to potentially faint.
His family meant well, and they had no way of knowing… The moment the music shifted and the crowd stood and everyone's eyes were on the rear of the house…everything inside Edward was at peace. He was in no danger of getting sick, falling down, or running away. His blood sang but it was a slow, sweet song and his pulse was a gentle, steady accompaniment. His entire life had been a slow progression toward this moment. He couldn't have been more ready or had more faith that he was exactly where he was meant to be.
He saw the top of Charlie's head over the short stonewall that ran the perimeter of the upper deck first as they approached the stairs. And then Bella slowly beside him, from that distance appearing to be nothing more than a radiant white dress with dark hair. She leaned into her father and it looked like she whispered something to him, but Edward couldn't be sure. His smile almost made his cheeks ache if he had been paying any attention to himself, which he absolutely was not.
The pair grew closer, many in the crowd of on-lookers "awe'd" as they caught their first glimpses of the bride and her gown. There were no puffy sleeves or taffeta to be found. Instead, a thin layer of unlined lace with a large vintage pattern hugged her body from top to bottom. It capped her shoulders delicately and buttoned behind her neck with a small pearl while the front dipped into a deep V. The skirt fluttered out in a delicate combination of pearl satin and white lace at her ankles. Edward immediately recognized the thin shimmer along her neck as the silver locket he gave her a long time ago, with pictures of them as children and their families as it rested perfectly against her breastbone just above the point of the V.
Her hair was entirely loose, curled in its own natural way, as if she had slept on it wet and combed it out with her fingers and nothing more. It shined a ruby-brown in the sparkling sunlight and blew about her neck and shoulders as she walked. Her skin was radiant and her smile mirrored the groom's. Edward had never before seen anything more beautiful that Isabella in this moment. His heart swelled with something akin to pride but so much deeper. Knowledge. Familiarity. Understanding. Intimacy. Every detail of their lives, the insignificant and the not so insignificant, were bound together so tightly that it was impossible to know where one ended and the other began. They all added up to the whole that encompassed Edward and Isabella in all that they were…together. The past, the present, and the future.
Their eyes met naturally, just as they always did, as Bella slowly made her way with grace over the small bridge. Her chest relaxed as if she had sighed and released a lifetime's worth of accumulated anxiety the minute she focused on Edward. This moment was real and it was finally here.
The groom's face had drifted from a broad smile to a much more serious expression. His lips a thin line and his brows narrowed as his eyes absorbed every detail of the woman he would happily be vowing his life and heart and soul to. She left the bridge and padded down the path slowly toward him. When Edward noticed her bare feet the wide smile returned and he chuckled under his breath. Perfect.
He shook his head softly once as his eyes crinkled against his laughter and he arched an eyebrow at his beautiful bride as she neared. Bella shrugged in reply and his gentle laughter continued to shake his shoulders lightly until she reached him.
"And who gives this woman to this man?" the reverend asked in his deep, sturdy voice, looking to Charlie.
"Her mother and I do," was the Chiefs reply as he gently laid Bella's small hand atop Edward's open palm. The groom's fingers curled around her while his eyes closed briefly, fighting to remain in control of his own emotions. Charlie's hand lay with Bella's for a few moments longer than perhaps it was meant to, causing her to turn to him and smile softly, blinking away her own tears.
"It's okay, Dad. We're okay," she whispered.
Her father blinked and one fat tear fell to the grass just as Edward's eyes reopened and focused on Bella's directly in front of him.
Charlie leaned in, still holding his daughter's hand which was placed inside her groom's, and with his mouth close to Edward's ear he whispered, "Continue to do everything you have always done for her now, please…Son." He swallowed thickly and removed his hand from theirs after giving them both a squeeze. He stood upright and cleared his throat uncomfortably against the ball that had developed in it.
Edward's eyes never left Bella's, but he smiled as he murmured, "Always," in response to her father.
And the reverend began.
The bride gently pinched her lip between her teeth as tears streamed down her face. Her words came beautifully, gracefully, fluidly…the way everyone expected them to. She was a gifted writer, but more than that, her heart overflowed for the man in the soft grey suit in front of her. Thus, her heart poured naturally into words that held elegance and eloquence, words that floated like silk to those listening raptly from the seats in front of her.
Bella swallowed and tried to remember to breathe as the man before her began to speak. Several sentences into his proclamation of love and dedication she recognised his beautiful, raw words for what they were…words he had promised her years before under very different circumstances. Upon reconnecting, when the future was long and unsure before them. When their foundation had been tried. When they acted with impetuousness beneath the frozen sky on Christmas Eve, rebuilding out of the ashes what was to be their new foundation, based on history, yes, but also appreciation, perspective, and promises. Now, as they stood together on their own property with everyone they loved in attendance to witness their declarations, no longer a secret, Edward's words held passion and ardour, a devoted reverence obvious to even the simplest bystander sang from his unbridled love and respect for her as he spoke.
Their tears blended against their cheeks as they met, embraced, and kissed for the first time as husband and wife while the audience applauded, and whooped and hollered, Emmett obviously being the loudest right beside his brother. Bella's cheeks coloured against her pale skin and glowing dress as she regrettably drew her lips away from her husband's but refused to move her body from his side.
As the early evening sun began to colour the sky with dusk and shades of creamy pink, guests gathered atop the upper deck for drinks and appetizers while the grounds were transformed from ceremony to reception. Twinkle lights lit up as the air grew grey, encircling a willow tree at the back of the yard, shrubs along the sides, and weaving around the trestles of the bridge. The ceremony aisle had been removed and replaced by three long rows of elegantly draped tables with rustic wooden chairs at the front portion of the yard. They sat unobstructed beneath the sky as the first stars began to poke through. Candles lined the tables, floated in the creek, and lined the stone perimeter of the upper deck where guests happily mingled.
There was no grand white tent or gleaming ballroom. Instead, there were simple cream tulle and silk runners stretched in canopy from trees and discreet wrought iron lanterns at the corners of the yard. They zigged and zagged without pattern across the sky with carved grey beachwood candelabras hanging from each intersection. Among them were lines of twine decorated with clothespins spiralling down, candid black and white photographs of the bride and groom and their family over the years pinched between their teeth.
A dance floor made of interlocking wooden tiles covered the lower portion of the yard beneath the silk ceiling where the ceremony chairs had been. A podium was perched at the back with creamy white couches and chairs in a variety of styles and fabrics hugging the perimeter invitingly, beachwood tables beside them anxiously awaiting their opportunity to hold a champagne flute or two.
Once the speeches began, guests gathered comfortably under the awnings–drinks in hand, smiles on lips, and romance in their hearts. The standard thanks were given with sincerity to everyone in attendance. Women were complimented on their grace, beauty, and extraordinary planning capabilities. Jokes were told with smiles and earnest hearts to the men, and then it was time to refocus the groom's attention.
Edward held the mic in his right hand and stared at his left as his thumb spun the new gold band that felt as if it had always been a part of him around and around while he gathered his thoughts. He felt no pressure to fill the silence. The eyes on him didn't make him anxious. A smile hinted at his lips. When he finally lifted his eyes they found his bride's magnetically and shined, from the glow of the flames, the shimmer of the twinkle lights, and the emotion in his heart. His lips curled as he addressed the crowd with his eyes never leaving his wife.
"If you know me, and since you're here I suppose you do…" Gentle laughter rose before him. "You know I have a tendency to always be waiting for the other shoe to drop. I try not to, but everything seems too perfect that it scares me sometimes. Bella, I think I have wanted to marry you since I was ten. If I had to do it all to do over again, I probably would marry you at ten because waiting for the stars to align and this day to come has been a slow, sweet torture. It's all I've ever wanted. The word 'wife' doesn't seem all-encompassing enough to describe everything that you are, that you have always been to me, but I've waited a long time to use it so I suppose it will work. And I don't know…maybe there isn't another shoe because you are perfect, right now, and always. So many people have told me that I have it good–the perfect family, opportunity, education, career, home…and while I won't argue with them that I had a lot, I haven't had everything until today when I stood before everyone we know and told them how incredibly much I adore you. That you have made my life a beautiful thing. Now, now, I have everything. There isn't a man in the world luckier than I am. So thank you…for being you, for being my best friend…my wife. Because…it should be you, Bella. I love you."
He took his seat at the most natural place in the world, beside Bella, and Edward tenderly brushed her cheek with the backs of his fingers, smiling softly at her. "It's okay," he whispered and the eyes on them wondered what he said, coveting their connection for it ran deeper than the average love story.
"I know," was Bella's quiet reply, and she meant it with every fibre inside her.
With gently closed eyes, the bride took a deep breath through her nose…blew it out slowly through parted lips…opened her eyes with a resolve that only the man beside her could warrant. His words had been beautiful, just as with his vows, funny, encouraging, and more than anything, she could feel every strand of his heart come through and settle somewhere inside of her as he spoke. She could do this, for him, she could do anything.
Bella stood, refusing to acknowledge the tremor in her knees or the fact that she was pretty sure her feet were numb with nerves. One hundred and thirty two people including the wedding party plus catering and event staff–that was how many people would be staring at her. One hundred and thirty one of them may as well leave, because she was only interested in speaking to one person while she stood at that platform. There were things she wanted to say that were inappropriate to be included in her vows but that should to be heard, and she could think of no better time and place than this. She bent to softly kiss her new husband and turned toward the podium. He smiled encouragingly at her with a twinkle in his narrowed eyes and squeezed her hand silently for luck.
"Bella," he called softly as she stepped away.
"For the toasts." He carefully wrapped his fingers around the long stem of her champagne flute and passed it to her with a wry smile that only she understood.
Bella cleared her throat quietly as she unfolded a worn piece of paper she brought with her. The microphone amplified the sound and it startled her.
"Awesome," she grumbled and then laughed awkwardly at herself. Everyone else, including her husband, laughed with her. "Well, you all know how much I've been looking forward to this, so…" More supportive laughter. "If you could all just do me a favour and look at your laps now that would be great. Thanks."
Despite her nerves, the bride proceeded with toasts to the groomsmen and her bridesmaids, thanking everyone that made the best day of her life a possibility. She made her father tear up in front of everyone for the second time that day, which she found a slight vindication in, joking that if she had to suffer in the lime light she was going to bring a few casualties down with her. She bestowed her heart upon the Cullen's, particularly Esme and Carlisle, who in turn, wept with the pride and love one is only capable of feeling toward a child. Once everyone was in tears, Bella looked down to the moist paper in her hands.
"Well, there was no way to memorise all of this but it seemed fitting so… As you all know, I began writing in journals when I was sixteen, just as my mother had always done. Many of my most private and heartfelt thoughts became spattered against the lines of that paper and now most of them are available for purchase in your local bookstore. It's kind of like my worst nightmare come true…except…it isn't because they're words of love and family and hope and healing and that's okay, people can read that. People should to read that. To remember where we came from, the family that's always been there, but that might not always be there. On that note, I'd like to share something more.
"I didn't just begin writing after I received my mother's journals. That was when I wrote with consistency but as a kid I always saw her writing in her notebooks and I would ask what she was doing. 'Just writing about my day,' she would always say. 'Why?' I would ask because at five years old the answer wasn't obvious. "Oh, because you never know when the reminder of what today held could be important," was always her answer. At the time, I can't say that necessarily cleared up my confusion but…I get it now."
Bella had to pause as the last word broke out of her heart and clawed at her throat and she choked on the single syllable into the microphone, amplified so no one had the chance of missing it. Eyes were on her but the air was silent. Crickets were out, it as summer after all, and they seemed fitting. The tide lapped at the dock below the property from the Sound and somewhere, someone cleared their throat to fill the space.
Bella's eyes were on the piece of paper. As she blinked, tears splashed against the sheet and she gave herself a pep talk as she pictured her mother's smiling face for the thousandth time that day, encouraging her to follow her heart. Fifteen feet away, her groom looked as if his own heart had been ripped from his chest as he watched helplessly while it was tested before him, knowing the layers of bittersweet emotions this day carried for so many people, not the least of which was his bride. He began to stand but Bella stopped him. Her head was turned, her words aimed for him but the microphone directed them across the lawn.
"It's okay. I'm okay. If I can just get through this I swear there's some humour coming…" Everyone laughed lightly because there was nothing else to do. They loved the woman before them, they were not uncomfortable, they just loved her. The groom's mother wiped tears from her cheeks with a handkerchief and her husband squeezed the top of her knee.
"So," Bella began again. "I would often sit beside my mother on the couch, or at the kitchen table, and I would write about my own day. I think the first few times I couldn't actually write words, but eventually I could. Most of the time I think the papers were converted into rainbows and houses, or horses that looked like one-legged dogs because as Edward always pointed out I kind of suck at drawing." Laughter. Catharsis. "Sometimes my mother would ask if she could save what I wrote, and sometimes, even after she was gone, I would sit at the kitchen table and pretend she was with me writing in her book while I wrote in mine. I couldn't always find what I wrote later if I went back and looked for it. I never thought twice about that until I was given her journals in a box years later. At the bottom of the box were several scraps of paper, some written with blue crayon and some with a pencil. They were ripped and had really awesome margin drawings," her eyes sliced across the room and narrowed on her husband with a grin, "and they were mine. They were old. They were what gave me the idea to follow in my mom's footsteps and journal properly from that day forward. Because you never know when the reminder of today could be important…"
The paper rustled into the mic and one hundred and thirty one people were enraptured with the blushing bride's every breath. "She would get a kick out of me reading these. I think she would be proud…
"May 12th, 1991, seven years old. 'Today a boy at school tried to kiss me on the playground. It was really gross. He pulled my hair and I lost my favourite white hair bow the one with the blue dots on it because of running away from him. Kissing is gross. I will never let a boy kiss me, not ever. Then after lunch I couldn't find Edward. I looked everywhere. I even lied to Mrs. Leung later and asked if I could go to the bathroom so I could sneak a look in his classroom but he wasn't in his chair. After school he met me in the hallway so we could walk home together like always, but he came from down the hall, not his classroom. He had my hair bow and a detention slip and he wouldn't tell me how he got either.'
October 27th 1995, eleven years old. 'Today I did a bad thing. I lied. But I don't really feel bad about it. Does that make me a bad person? After school, Edward accidently bumped into Alice's pumpkin, the one that her and her mom spent so long carving the other night. It fell off the banister and broke in half. He tried to balance it together and said it was perfect and no one would notice. Except that his mom and dad did notice when it fell apart later that night when dad came to get me and he bumped into the railing while we were leaving. Alice cried and I told them I broke it. I told them it was an accident but I don't think they believed me. I heard dad on the phone after dinner when I was supposed to be brushing my teeth. He was talking to Edwards's dad and he asked if I was "acting out" because of mom. I don't know what that means and I hope I'm not in too big of trouble. But even if I am, I guess that's okay, because at least Edward isn't.'
October 1st 1997, thirteen years old. 'Today was stupid. Everything about it was stupid. I tripped getting into dad's car and ripped a hole in the knee of my favourite jeans. I had to go inside and change them and I guess I will have to throw them out now because I doubt dad knows how to sew. I was late to school and I got detention for it and then I took a math test which I am pretty sure I failed because math is stupid. I don't care how much Mrs. Reid tells us it is important I am pretty sure knowing the square root of pi will never be relevant to my real life no matter what I choose to do with it. School is not real life. School and everyone in it is stupid. Then when I went to go to bed there was a stupid giant spider in my bedroom and dad was already asleep on the couch and I didn't want to wake him up but I was too scared to get into bed and sleep with a spider crawling around over my face. Knowing my luck it would fall on me and I would probably swallow it but only after it bit me. I called Edward because I know he doesn't go to bed as early as me and he isn't afraid of spiders. I don't know if he is afraid of anything because he never says he is. He came over and killed it for me and then stayed and talked for a long time because I wasn't tired anymore after that. So I guess not everything about the day was stupid. But spiders and math still are.'
November 25th 1999, fifteen years old. 'Today is Thanksgiving. Mom always sucked at cooking Thanksgiving dinner but I wish she was still here to burn the top of the sweet potato pie and set off the smoke alarm again. Sometimes, I miss her so much I don't think I can even cry any more. The skin on my cheeks hurts even when I am not doing anything but sitting here. Air hurts. We ate dinner with the Cullen's like we usually do. It was nice except when Emmett was being obnoxious with a Nerf ball gun at the dinner table until dad told him to put it away or he would get out his gun and Emmett would lose. Emmett behaved much better after that. At dinner everyone went around the table to say what they were thankful for and when it got to my turn I burst into tears. Everyone was looking at me and I felt stupid for it. They skipped my turn. Edward held my hand under the table the rest of the night after that, even though it meant he had to eat left-handed. It made me feel better. He always makes me better. I wish I would have said I am the most thankful for Edward.'
"And from the final chapter in the book I co-wrote with my mother. 'Mom, so much has changed between then and now, would you even recognise me if you were still here? Am I the same little girl you always knew? Sometimes, I feel lost without you, like my guiding light burned out too early and I'm left grappling in the dark searching for you, or the exit, or unknown things in between… But I think you would know me. I think my heart beats the same way and my breath falls in a familiar pattern you spent so many hours studying. I'm grown but that's because, if there's one thing I've learned over the last twenty seven years it's that I can't stop time, or slow it, or change it…it just goes, and if I don't watch my every step, I may not like where I find myself. But be at peace, Mom, I learned to guide myself, trust myself, follow my heart the way you always told me to, and be happy. Oh, Mom, I'm so happy. Somewhere, I know that pleases you–that you look down on me, probably with a smug smile, and know how absolutely and wholly my heart has been cared for. I have everything I have ever wanted, everything you begged me to find. I didn't have to look far for it but I will cherish it for the rest of my life as if I had to walk the lengths of the Earth for it because I would without hesitation. I'm thankful that, although you taught me through written words, you blessed me with appreciation for this life and everything in it. I'm thankful for the family I still have, extended, blood, and otherwise, because the people I am surrounded with daily are miraculous and their love overflows me. But, without any uncertainty, and for the rest of my life, I will always be the most thankful for Edward."
The key to a great wedding speech is first and foremost, not to run so long that the crowd tires of your voice, secondly, to involve a bit a humour when appropriate, and finally, to make your words count so that everyone listening truly feels them. Bella was successful on all accounts. The eyes that looked upon her now as she folded up her paper as quietly as she could, her own eyes downcast, were no longer dry. Many wept openly, smiling and holding their hands over their hearts, while other sniffed discreetly and dodged eye contact with everyone near them. The look on her groom's face was a mixture of love, pride and duty. It wasn't a fluke, or even fate that he had always been there when she needed him; it was his choice. It was precisely where he always wanted to be. The same could be said in reverse, and he was proud of her, of her battles and victories, her strength, perseverance and independence. Still, he would never stop being the one to hold her hand under the table even when she didn't need it. He adored her, perhaps never more than in that moment.
Bella finished folding the paper, tucked it into her palm and looked up into the eyes of her friends and family, settling on Edward. "Some things never change," she whispered. "I love you."
Edward's lips repeated the sentiment quietly. He stood from his seat as she approached the head table once more. Others may have been clapping. Jasper, who was the event emcee, may have been clearing his throat into the microphone announcing something else with humour as an emotional counterbalance tactic. The bride and groom were unaware of anything outside of themselves.
Edward's hands reached up slowly, his eyes never leaving hers. Bella blinked but didn't look away. Eye contact with Edward was different than with anyone else–it was comfortable, vital even. His chest rose and fell and his lips were a straight line, he often got this look about him when he was dead serious about something, Bella noted as she took in every small detail about the man before her. His palm slid against her jaw and beneath her hair, twirling his fingertips gently into it. His forehead was almost connected to hers as he stood and breathed her in, words weren't always necessary between the two of them and besides, words for how he felt in that moment had yet to be invented. His eyes drifted down her body and when they came back up to meet hers again there was a smile on his lips. It broadened by the second until it reached his eyes and their corners crinkled and they shone. Bella leaned in and kissed him; slow and steadily while somewhere behind them howls and the obnoxious clinking of silverware against crystal could be heard. When they separated they were both a little out of breath. Remembering where she was, Bella's cheeks pinkened and she hid her face behind Edward's shoulder, giggling. Her groom took her full champagne glass from her hand and returned it to the table for her.
They didn't have anywhere to go. Esme worried it would feel anticlimactic if the couple stayed in their own home following the ceremony and Alice pouted over the lost opportunity to be shuttled via limousine to a glitzy hotel across the Sound, but the pair wasn't worried about either of those things, nor anything else for that matter. They hugged guests as the slowly trickled off the dance floor, out of dining chairs, or peeled themselves from the lavish furnishings under the stars, and clicked in heels and dress shoes over the cobblestones against the side of the house to the front where cars filled the driveway and lined the streets. Yellow permits fluttered in the midnight breeze against their staples attached to wooden telephone poles along the road and hired men in vests and white shirtsleeves carefully returned vehicles to awaiting guests. People basked in the lamplight and the starlight, alcohol and good food content within their bodies, murmuring happily to one another about the beautiful simplicity of the event while they waited. Women's arms snaked languidly underneath dress jackets and men stood with shiny, strappy heels dangling from their fingers.
Inside the house, seated at the bar and circling the kitchen busily, the wedding party sipped from their drinks and conversed cheerfully. Weddings had a way of funnelling infectious love into the air. Kisses and sighs of contentment came in abundance as rental dishes were stacked back into crates and linens were folded and set on the dining table in plastic bags waiting to be picked up the following day.
"Leave them. It can all be done tomorrow," Esme whispered, desperately afraid one of two, or possibly even endless, things would happen should her voice elevate. Firstly, she would disrupt the peaceful fairy-tale feel the evening had taken on, or perhaps she would disrupt the man and women, curled together on one of the many creamy white couches on the lower portion of the yard beneath the moon.
Her husband silently set down the stack of glasses he was collecting and smiled in the direction of the bride and groom. Their gentle laughter floated around with the breeze. Esme blinked and tears slid against her cheeks. Hands freed from duties, Carlisle cupped her face, smiling into his wife's watery eyes, and brushed them aside with his thumbs.
"Esme?" It sounded questioning but really…it wasn't. "We did good. And those two…well…" The sentence lingered in the air with limitless possibilities.
"It's been an honour to witness," his wife finished for him.
"That's an understatement."
They smiled together, and under the blanket of the warm air and the stars, they shared a simple, comfortable kiss. They felt weightless. There was a small amount of giddy freedom that came along with knowing your children had found love, companionship, and safety in their adult lives.
Edward gently used the thumb and middle finger of his right hand to loosen his tie and pop open the top three buttons of his dress shirt. He wasn't sure if he was exhausted or just utterly relaxed. His left arm was draped against the side of his bride as she lay curled against him, wedding gown hiked up to the middle of her thighs, still barefoot. His head rested against the top of the sofa and he stared absently into the night sky. The stars twinkled brilliantly down at them.
"Today was perfect," Bella whispered, thinking that word didn't even begin to describe it. Her head was tucked against his chest while her fingers combed back and forth lazily against Edward's thigh. Her eyes were fixated on the rings adorning her left hand. As she spoke, Edward's weight shifted slightly and she could feel the gentle, reassuring weight of his chin against the top of her head. His fingers stroked her bare arm.
Bella knew him. She knew every inch of muscle and sinew that created his body, every freckle, the angle of his nose, the texture of his lips. She knew his breathing–when it was content, when it was excited, when it was fearful, when it was sorrowful. She knew his mind–how it dominated him, had a tendency to spiral in both good and bad times, how it had a direct line to his heart and that every thought reverberated back and forth between the two, amplifying with each passage. She knew his voice–the way it floated across her skin when he whispered words of adoration and passion, the way it wavered when his emotions were pulled tight, the way it cracked in anger, and the way it tightened under the gravity of his thoughts.
She easily read every emotion, every thought, and every nuance behind the two simple words Edward whispered back in reply as if she had been handed a script to his heart and his mind. She lifted her head from his chest, her lower lip caught between her teeth as her eyes sought out his. She blinked against the wetness collecting in her eyes. It wasn't sadness, it was…where were the proper words for all of this, for everything that had ever happened to her, to him, to them? The words that meant love, honour, commitment, but that meant more….always so much more. More in their hearts. More in every finger that ever caressed skin.
She lifted herself from the couch and resettled atop his lap, facing him. The soft smile on Edward's parted lips was her whole world in that moment as he welcomed her new position. It said everything that his two small words did not. He was happy. Truly happy. He felt it at the centre of his bones, it flooded his heart, it warmed the tips of his toes, and flushed his cheeks, the tops of his ears, and his lips. He had everything he had ever wanted cradled atop his legs in that moment.
His palms began at her neck, his thumbs with the slightest pressure, pressing into the flesh of her shoulder before sliding against her bare arms, to her sides, burying his fists into the dress gathered at her hips as she sat astride him. Perhaps their family and close friends were still somewhere on the property tidying up, or perhaps they had made a quiet exit hours before. Neither of them could be sure. They couldn't have told you if it was midnight or four thirty in the morning. There was nothing and everything all at once but time really wasn't a part of the equation.
Edward's chest rose and fell with increasing vigour, as their eyes remained locked, and Bella knew… She wasn't at all surprised when his eyelids lowered slowly down her body and upon lifting, seeing hers and getting lost in them, moisture slipped over his lower lids and decorated his cheeks the moment he blinked. His fingers twisted deeper into the soft fabric and he used it to pull her tighter against him. Never close enough.
"I'm right here." Bella bent to him, her lips brushed his with her words. "I'm never going anywhere, Edward. Not ever." His chest stuttered against hers, and though she was too close to see it, she felt it. It was all she needed to fall over the edge with him. Because where he went she followed.
Soon it wasn't obvious whose tears were smearing against whose cheeks as their lips worked together slowly, lovingly, salt on their tongues. Edward's fingers slid over her back, desperate for warm skin, forcing his way beneath the delicate fabric, holding her closer so that when he inhaled, her body rose against his chest. His tongue ran along her lower lip and his other hand pushed under the bunched hem of her gown. He took a breath and Bella's lips found the soft spot where his neck met his collar bone and she kissed him gently, her heart pouring from her body into his, more with every second that seamlessly clicked by. Edward's head rolled dreamily against the back of the sofa.
"Your dress is getting wrinkled," he murmured, eyes closed, enjoying the feather light feel of his wife's lips against his skin as she worked open more buttons down his front.
"I don't plan on wearing it to the grocery store tomorrow," she joked, smirking up at him even if he wasn't looking back at her. His quiet laughter shook her against him and she giggled before pushing against his knees to raise herself to the ground in front of him. Without a word, she freed the pearl from its clasp behind her neck and pushed the shoulders of her dress off, letting it cascade to the ground around her feet. The wind blew her hair around her shoulders.
Edward let out a slow, steady breath. She was radiant. She was everything good in his entire life right from the beginning. She was his home and his happiness. His heart and everything that filled it.
His eyes narrowed on her and she knew that look. She didn't flush under the weight of his gaze; it was comfortable as his eyes moved across her skin. His tongue wet his lips and she braced herself for either action or words, either were sure to move in a direction she was very familiar with. A smile spread across her lips.
Edward stood, gently wrapped his hands around her hips and lifted her squealing little form over his shoulder.
"What are you doing?" she giggled, folding over him. Her fingers toyed with the hair at the base of his neck.
"Taking you home."
The house was empty–bright and littered with the remnants of a really good party, but fortunately, there were no people to be found. Edward took the stairs carefully, still balancing his wife over his shoulder, his hands holding excessively firm in places that were not necessarily appropriate but Bella would not be complaining. She laughed and untucked his shirt from his pants, drumming her hands against his back playfully until they reached their bedroom.
At the foot of their bed Edward slowed down. His fingers, where they had been digging into muscle keeping his wife safely balanced, became softer, his breathing changed, and Bella knew…everything that was in his heart, always.
His right knee sank into the mattress as he steadied himself against it, slowly lowering his bride to the bed. She unfolded before him, bare except the lavishly white lace undergarments against her porcelain skin. The lights from downstairs filtered up and cast unfamiliar angles in the dimly illuminated bedroom. Slowly, with a purpose, Edward crawled onto the bed, hovering over Bella.
"…a long time in the making, Isabella," he murmured, finishing an unspoken thought aloud.
"I love you," was her simple response. Nothing more was necessary.
He took his time, slowly kissing his way down her body. Her fingers twisted into his hair as he lowered himself down her frame. His hands felt warm against her sides and her head sank heavily into the softness of the pillow, letting it absorb her while she handed her self over to her husbands will.
Edward hadn't noticed until his eyes were directly above it. His heart and eyes flooded in an instant, his wife's soft fingertips danced over his skin. In the dim lighting his lips kissed softly over the words written in his own gray scrawl across his wife's lower abdomen.
I love you.
For every word you have ever blessed me with.