Oh, hi… Remember me? Remember this story?


I have no idea what prompted this. Well, okay, that's not entirely true. I suppose two things inspired me to write this.

The first is that my high school daughter has recently discovered the Twilight movies on Netflix (yeah, if you were with me from the very beginning then you may remember from my authors notes/Twitter the toddler in a puffy snowsuit that I got hilariously stuck in a baby swing while massively pregnant unable to lift her out…) well Little Miss Snowsuit is turning sixteen soon so if one of you could please tell me how the hell that happened that would be great, thanks! (Don't worry, mercifully she has no idea what fanfiction is…yet.) But after watching the first couple of movies with her I was inspired to unearth this fic and re-read it and I forgot how much I love these characters and their love story.

The second thing is that I would do literally anything to procrastinate and I am currently stalling on my own work deadlines. (Hello, original fic? Yep!)

So here I am, writing this future take out of nowhere like ten years later, because after finishing the story, having been through a huge chunk of life myself in the meantime, I couldn't help but wonder what these kids would have been up to. So I thought maybe you all *gestures* might also want crave insight.

Now…this all being said…I really wanted more to happen in this future take. I wanted to check in on some people and see them and laugh at their antics, but I as soon as I started typing I was quickly reminded how much this story wrote itself and that I was merely the humble vessel. Nothing else I've ever worked on has ever written itself the way this story always did. I nearly forgot about that and how incredible it was and how genuine and powerful it always made the chapters. Well, it happened again with this future take. I had a whole list of ideas I wanted to incorporate and people I wanted to make an entrance but then the story flowed and it let me know when it was done even though it wasn't where I thought it was going to be. What can I do?

Maybe I'll write some future take-outtakes… Never underestimate how thoroughly capable I can be at stalling my own deadlines haha!

If you're still out there, and you're still reading this long AN, thank you, I hope you have been well, I have wholeheartedly missed the instant gratification of your reviews and seeing the names I recognized and hearing your kind words. Nothing else in the industry quite delivers the same love as writing on this platform.


Time was a funny thing. A thing I never felt was on my side until I gained the perspective to appreciate the life I was living and the people I was lucky enough to be surrounded by. Time might not heal all wounds the way the saying goes but it certainly provided a better vantage point. With age came patience, even for me, along with certain wisdom and true appreciation. The kind of appreciation that smacked me in the face at times I least expected it, the kind that milked my bones and warmed my fingertips, it pricked at my tear ducts and made me sniff and have to awkwardly clear my throat in an attempt to control the emotion hiding there.

A moment like that one that hit as I rounded the corner from the kitchen toward the front door, wiping my greasy hands on a kitchen towel I then tossed over my shoulder, smiling broadly at my family as they trickled in.

Bella beat me to the door after the bell rang throughout the house over the smart speakers alerting everyone people were arriving. Kids came barreling into the foyer at rocket speed, sliding in their socks on the tiled floor. They crashed into my mother as she balanced a casserole dish in one hand and half stopped, half hugged her overly excited grandchildren with her other as they screeched stories about Easter egg hunts and prizes at speeds no adult could ever fully comprehend.

My mother smiled and gently nodded along as I stood back taking them all in.

"Let me take your jacket," Bella said loudly over the instant chaos children hyped up on too many chocolate bunnies and Cadbury eggs were really good at creating. She reached over our youngest daughter's head trying to grab my mother's coat from her.

"Stop it, I know where the closet is," my mother gently smacked Bella's hand effectively shooing it away with a warm smile. Wrinkles that were less visible otherwise lined her face more prominently when she smiled like that, reminding me that time, while a beautiful thing when gifted much of it, was never truly on anyone's side in the end.

The little girls laughed at their mother being scolded and swat at even if it was done in jest.

"Well, then at least let me take this," Bella replied, removing the precariously balanced casserole dish from my mothers right hand raised high above my bouncing daughter's head. That offer my mother didn't refuse.

"…and then even though I totally had my full hands on the big golden egg Hudson came out of nowhere and pushed me and took it from me and I tried to take it back but he kept running faster than me and then I was chasing him and I forgot to get more eggs and then the whistle blew and it was all over and I only had like three eggs and Hudson had like a million and that's not fair is it, Nana, he should give me the golden egg, right?"

Mila was whining a mile a minute at my poor mother who hadn't even managed to take her coat off yet or properly say hello to anyone where she stood frozen in place in the foyer smiling adoringly at the five year old who was practically vibrating and out of breath.

"Oh my god, shut up about that already," a booming voice flew through the air from the landing upstairs. The annoyed and somewhat guilty face of my eleven-year-old son Hudson hung over the railing overlooking the front foyer to where we stood. "Seriously, I gave you like all of my other eggs and you're still whining about that stupid golden egg!" The egg in question sat casually yet very intentionally in his hands purely to taunt his sister.

I swear we were trying really hard with that one to teach him the same level of respect and humility the woman in front of me had raised me with. He was just a whole different beast. Though to be fair, he did willingly share his Easter egg haul with his youngest sister after beating her to the giant golden one everyone knew was filled with special candies – fair and square might I add as I had seen the whole thing play out in front of me while Bella and I stood with neighbors on the sidelines huddled together under an umbrella at the annual neighborhood Easter egg hunt. So we must be doing something right with him. Either that or, like the rest of us, he was just a little bit afraid of the wrath of his feisty, high-spirited little sister, Mila. Regardless, I spun around and shot an admonishing look upstairs reminding him of his manners.

There was a break in Mila's monologue as she gulped back air so I seized my opportunity to get a word in.

"Where's dad?"

"He dropped me off and was parking the car down the block when Alice and Jasper pulled up. He's probably waiting for them."

Sure enough, the front door opened and in walked my father, looking ever the distinguished grandfather that he was, probably having worked at the hospital in the offices all morning before making their way to us for dinner. Mila wasted no time and began retelling the stolen golden egg story without a single greeting until she spotted my sister coming up the porch stairs holding a pie.

"ALICE!" Mila yelled, pushing past my father like he was old news. Our eyes met and I rolled mine in silent response. No one could compete with Alice. "Ooh, is that cake?" she asked trying to pull the edges down to sneak a peak.

"Close, it's pie," Alice replied, expertly dodging her greedy hands, beaming at Mila who looked instantly disappointed. "But it will be just as good as cake, I promise."

"Oh! Did you bake it?" Mila asked innocently. Before Alice could reply laughter arose from everyone in the foyer. Alice shot everyone dirty looks before answering.

"No, but it is from A La Mode, so you know it will be good."

"She's five, Alice, that means nothing to her," I muttered, taking the admittedly delicious looking pie from her while ducking away from her attempts at shoving me, reaching out to shove her back.

"Play nice you two," Jasper muttered as he entered the house, closing the door behind him. It was unclear if he meant Alice and myself or Alice and my daughter but really he probably meant all of us.

Alice and Jasper never married officially and they never had children of their own by design. They lived part time in a gorgeous bungalow, if one could call something as modern and posh as their home a 'bungalow', in the Broadmoor district of Seattle, just off the 520 Bridge near Madison Park. It was fantastic because when they were in town they were a 15 mile straight shot across the water from us, though visits had to be timed around the frequent, always running ferries but that was just part of life on the island. We spent a lot of time together. Game nights with the kids, movie nights, and date nights in the city. Alice and I couldn't be any further opposite in life and personality if we tried but somehow, even as kids, it just always worked. We were just as close as adults as we ever were as children, possibly closer as real, messy, adult life had a tendency to deepen bonds the way nothing else could.

When they weren't in town Alice and Jazz were rarely in one place for very long, but they had several cities they frequented regularly for her work, most of which were either in Europe or on the east coast. Sometimes Bella and I would join her in New York for a visit and a trip down memory lane. We even brought the kids a few times just for fun. We showed them my old apartment building which was somehow still standing, told them tales of how many late nights their parents spent commuting back and forth on the train between Boston and the city desperate to spend time together. We took them for hotdogs and slushies and reminisced while the kids listened without fully understanding what our life had been like back then the way children are incapable of envisioning their parents ever being anything but their boring, old parents.

"Charlie not come with you?" I asked my father as we made our way toward the kitchen to join the rest of the family that had already drifted in the direction of the typical communal hang out place in our house. The kitchen was large and opened into the dining and sitting area with floor to ceiling accordion glass doors we had installed along the entire back stretch of the house just before the wedding that first summer we lived there. The large covered patio on the other side of the open wall was later upgraded with a fireplace, overhead patio heaters, a big screen, couches, and an outdoor kitchen so it became an extension of the indoor area making that half of the house the natural gathering place whenever we had people over. Or whenever my father and brother and Charlie wanted to watch a big game, usually with Jasper and I sitting on the periphery pretending we cared about the outcome happily enjoying a few drinks and the company.

I saw Bella's eyes rise to scan the room after hearing my question for my father, but it was my mother, standing beside her at the kitchen counter who accidentally answered with a mischievous smirk and poorly suppressed laughter.

"Oh my god, did my father ditch family dinner to go out with that woman again?" Bella asked, eyes wide but also excited. We were all hoping the answer was yes.

My mother confirmed with a small nod but immediately put her palms in the air and followed with, "I honestly don't know anything more."

All eyes turned to my father. His hair had significantly greyed over time so slowly that I didn't realize it until I looked back at old photos and was shocked to see the color there. The skin around his eyes crinkled as he smiled widely shaking his head, pushing his sleeves up.

"Ask him yourself, he says he'll be there tomorrow for the girls' dance recital."

"It's not a recital. Those are boring. It's a competition, actually, Papa," Mila immediately corrected in a scathing tone from high atop Jasper's shoulders while Alice attempted to apply a bright lipstick to her nieces perpetually moving lips. "It's like a dance game where we play other dancers."

Everyone in the kitchen had a good laugh at Mila's attempt at explaining a dance competition to my father who, to be fair, was very well versed in the dance world considering he had five nieces all of whom were in dance.

Mila was very excited for her first dance competition. As the youngest in our extended family she had spent ages watching her cousins, Olivia and Amelia dance on the big stage, and then later her older sisters, and now finally it was her turn. She wanted to immediately jump in and do every genre of dance there was. Tap, ballet, acro, jazz, there wasn't anything my youngest, fiercest daughter didn't do at the studio. She had spent her whole life there watching her sisters and was desperate for her turn. Once she was old enough she demanded to join everything, but where she really shined, no surprise, was musical theatre. Little faux Broadway numbers where the dancers sang and danced their hearts out to condensed three-minute compilations of notable musicals. Mila was given many lead roles and solos as she often stole the show. As the youngest member of her group she always had the audience eating out of the palm of her tiny hand as she belted her heart out thoroughly demonstrating her lack of inhibition, natural ability, and comedic timing, earning her a spot in the more advanced classes filled with kids twice her age. Much to her nine year old sister Chloe's perpetual annoyance they became placed in the same musical theatre group. Mila's unruly auburn curls and deep-set dimples and unabashed personality commanded attention and everywhere she went, she got it. Mila, our feisty little bonus baby.

Bella and I had very much thought we were done with three children. We were content – girl, boy, girl – but the universe had other plans. Knowing Mila the way we do, she demanded to exist everyone else's plans be damned. But she brought a fire into my family's life we hadn't realized we were missing until she came. The smallest of all our children both at birth and as she aged. She was petite but she was mighty. A force to be reckoned with. A baby that had refused to roll over, sit up, pull herself up, crawl, walk or hit virtually any of her physical milestones to the point that I brought her to a physiologist friend of mine at the hospital one day just to have a look at her. His diagnosis was that she was stubborn and possibly overly catered to by her older siblings and she would hit her physical milestones at her own pace. Sure enough, at eighteen months old while I was playing Frisbee with the older kids in the backyard one summer morning and Mila lay on a blanket nearby with Bella, she sat up, pulled herself up on the nearby picnic table, and walked a dozen steps across the grass to where the other kids and I were. Because she wanted to. And that perfectly summed up my youngest daughter's personality.

Where Mila was like a wildfire without a containment perimeter, her older sisters, Chloe and Sophie were calm and quiet. They were easy to teach, easy to get to sleep at night even as babies, and happy to sit for hours on the grass in the backyard with Bella reading books and coloring. What all three girls had in common was their love of dance. And I loved to watch them.

At fourteen, Sophie was becoming something nearly unrecognizable on stage, something that moved expertly and gracefully. Where Mila could have an audience laughing until their sides hurt at her loud, tinny voice and dimples during a musical theatre number, Sophie could awe an entire crowd, covering them in goose bumps as she took the stage for an emotional lyrical solo. I wasn't too proud to admit that every time my girls' took the stage and I sat there in the dark collective amongst the other family and friends of every other kid on stage they brought tears to my eyes. My girls were all vastly different in personality but watching them shine on stage made me so goddamn proud.

"Oh, yes, my apologies, Darling," my father cooed at Mila, pinching her still toddler-chubby cheeks causing her to squirm atop Jasper's shoulders. "Competition."

Mila nodded almost aggressively, happy her grandfather had corrected himself.

"I thought the word 'competition' might sound a bit too big and scary for her, I didn't want to give her any nerves the night before the big day," my father explained, looking at the rest of us.

"Ha, please, this little ham," Jasper joked as he bounced her around causing my sister to swipe at him as she was still applying makeup to Mila's face showing her what she'll have to look like for the big day coming up.

Had that been my oldest daughter, Sophie, I probably would have stopped Alice, told her to leave my baby girl's perfect little face alone, spewed off some over-protective first time parent garbage about chemicals on her face, but three daughters later I had long given up that fight and let Auntie Alice do whatever the hell she wanted knowing that was the entire purpose of having a super fun auntie like her. My kids always came home covered in makeup, glitter, nail polish, body sprays, and with some sort of confiscated fluffy accessory like an old scarf or purse or tank top turned dress. Including Hudson. They loved her fiercely.

Dinner went well. I genuinely loved being surrounded by family. Emmett, Rose, and their girls were spending the holiday with Rosalie's side of the family but we were all going to be together the following day for the dance competition with plans to have a late celebratory dinner at a local restaurant afterward.

Reservations for fifteen, no small feat. It would be bittersweet as this would be Olivia's final year dancing before she graduated high school and took off for university. It never failed to shock me that she was so grown up already. Similar to my own children, every time I looked at her I saw a pudgy little toddler face, her corn silk pig tails, and her dramatic overreactions whenever she thought she had done something wrong like the time she got a brush stuck in Bella's hair right before our wedding and it had to be cut out. Time.

"God I'm exhausted," I groaned later that evening as I placed the final hand dried dish into the cupboard before making my way to the nearby couch in the adjoining sitting room. I flopped gracelessly onto the cushions and let my tired head dump back against the pillows, eyes shut. Bella was just starting the dishwasher as I left the room.

"I bet you are, Coach," Bella murmured lowly from somewhere behind me, close by. I felt her fingertips glide over the tops of my shoulders bringing an instant smile to my weary face. Her thumbs found the base of my stiff neck and she very softly kissed just below my ear.

Our oldest three children all played soccer at varying competitive levels. Sophie and Chloe played at the recreation level. It was easy, fun, and competitive without being overly aggressive. It was a social outlet for them. They loved their soccer friends and all the time they spent on and off the field together. Dance was easily their favorite activity, it was the place they spent the majority of their time and effort, but Bella and I both felt it was important for them to join a team sport as well. There was a ton of research on the benefits of raising multi-sport kids, plus we watched my nieces' progress through the highly competitive world of dance and knew that it had the potential to become very individualist and sometimes even a little cutthroat. We wanted the girls to understand what it meant to be a part of a team, have a group that was depending on you and you on them, to feel truly supported by a your peers.

Hudson loved soccer as much as his sisters, but he took it far mores seriously. He played at school during recess and in the backyard and at the local fields after school and during the summer for fun. He begged to sign up for every camp, clinic, academy, and program offered locally and eventually a few not so locally. He followed all the European leagues closely, talked non-stop about his favorite players, and owned all of their jerseys. He elevated himself to a top competitive level that was incredible to watch, the games were fast-paced and felt nearly professional, but his team required qualified, capable coaching staff, usually paid former players, whereas the girls teams were ran by parent volunteer coaches and team managers alongside a league coordinator.

I had coached all three kids' teams from the beginning until Hudson moved up the ranks. I continued to coach the girls' teams. I required any assistant coach volunteers to join me annually in an on-line seminar at the beginning of each season on the psychology of coaching children's sports with a focus on girls' sports as it often, though of course not always, differed greatly from the outdated and damaging coaching strategies that were unfortunately still widely used. I was committed to making the team experience the best it could be for every girl on my team. Winning was great, but feeling secure and supported while being encouraged to excel was even better. That's not to say that I didn't brag often about the fact that both of my BIFC teams consistently ranked in the top five of their division out of the hundred plus teams in the region. Another point for psychology.

Both of my teams were entered in an Easter long weekend tournament in Seattle. Eleven games between the two of them over the previous three days meant many early morning ferry rides, combined team lunches at restaurants or catered sitting along the back end of a field that wasn't in use going over plays while they ate, portable speakers constantly blasting a 'pump-up' playlist, long warm-ups waiting for our field, letting some of the girls convince me to learn Tik Tok dances on the sidelines whiles we watched our competitors play one another, and game after game of our own. It was coaching as well as parenting both teams, filled with kids and families my own family had known for over a decade, and then over-tired kids on the evening ferry home each night crashed against one another as we slowly made our way home, only to wake up and do it all over again the next day. All of which, in typical Pacific Northwest fashion, took place amidst torrential rain that came in wild and cold sideways soaking the girls to their cores as they battled on the field every day. The girls off the field stayed huddled together under a pop up tent with our division logo on the sides I had set up for them, blowing desperately into their cupped red hands jumping around trying to stay warm waiting for their turn to sub in. West Coast weather. Games were rarely cancelled unless the fields were covered in snow or flooded, the latter happening a lot more than the former.

Bella, Hudson, and Mila, as well as the rest of our families made it to as many of the games as they could considering everyone else had other commitments to fulfill themselves and the weather was less than appealing. I had to bring all four of my long black soccer jackets that read "coach" in bold white letters across the back to keep in the car and keep swapping as standing at the bench and running up and down the field line got me soaked within minutes of each game. Every night our household washer and dryer ran until the wee morning hours making sure gear and uniforms were ready again for the following day.

Sunday's cup games took place in the afternoon, allowing for plenty of egg hunting in the morning, and ended earlier than the previous days given the holiday. We caught a ferry home and immediately jumped into family dinner hosting mode, cleaning and cooking, pretending we didn't hear the kids bickering upstairs when inevitably someone yelled down to where they knew their parents were in the kitchen, "Mo-ooooooommmm, Da-aaaaaaaaad!" as Bella and I met eyes with one another from across the room and silently shook our heads in unison agreeing we were going to ignore them and let them work out their own disagreements because we were at capacity.

It had been a long weekend. Fun, amazing actually, memories in the bank for sure, but tiring, reminding me I wasn't as young as I sometimes thought I was.

Our extended family left hours ago, the children had long since been put to bed, it was a school night after all, and the kitchen was finally cleaned. Bella's fingers felt heavenly against my stiff neck and I groaned under my breath allowing my head to fall to the side closer to her. I couldn't see her, she was crouched behind me at the back of the couch and my eyes were still gently closed, but I saw her soft smile in my mind and knew exactly what she looked like whether I had my eyes on her or not. Every memory I had throughout my entire lifetime contained versions of Bella. I had every inch of her, her mannerisms, and her smile memorized.

Her fingers disappeared causing me to open my eyes, pouting, looking behind me and to my right where I knew she had just been, only to find emptiness. I smiled. Before I could face forward again I felt her crawl onto my lap exactly as I knew she would. Her hands cupped my face and she looked down at me with the most genuine, beautiful smile.

"You okay? It was a crazy weekend," she asked quietly, holding my head in her palms. Something about the way her hair fell around her face and the twinkle in the depths of her eyes I still found myself lost in warmed my soul.

"I'm fine. Are you okay, you basically ran Mila and Hudson without me all weekend?" Our two highest energy children by far who had also recently developed a bitter rivalry that often played out in shoving and excessive squabbling. Someday we wouldn't react fast enough and someone was going to get the better of the other, my money was definitely on Mila.

Bella laughed. "I'm fine. I left Mila in charge," she joked, shrugging.

"Fair," I laughed through a tired smile, my hands finding her hips, fingers digging in gently but firmly.

She bent to kiss me and when our lips connected it didn't matter how tired I was or how long the weekend had been, it didn't matter that we were forty years old instead of in our twenties, Bella's lips on mine melted every fiber of my being every single time. It was liquid warmth and electric and emotional and comforting and home and my entire purpose for living all rolled all into one. We had just celebrated fifteen years of marriage and a lifetime of friendship and still I never tired of kissing Isabella. I never questioned the solidity of our relationship. She was my best friend and partner in every capacity. We could still talk endlessly for hours together, truly enjoyed one another's company, laughed at each other's jokes and memories when they were brought up in conversation, supported one another wholeheartedly, and grew our love every day, with every passing moment spent together.

My hands rose to slide under hers so I could cup her face, pulling her closer. I was tired, sure, but I wasn't too tired to appreciate how much she meant to me and how incredibly lucky I was to have her in my life. And I would never turn down the opportunity to kiss her.

Our kiss deepened. Her fingers spun into the hair at the back of my head and a quiet squeak of pleasure escaped through her lips as my tongue swept over hers. Her hips shifted against my lap. My hands dropped to the bottom of her shirt and lifted, pushing it up over her head.

The sitting room was tucked against the back corner of the house away from the upstairs landing and stairwell so we felt pretty safely situated. My lips found hers again, much less aware of how tired I had been only moments before, just as headlights swept across the darkened room and our dog, Arlo, began barking wildly. No amount of training had been able to break the usually quiet and lovely fifty-pound sheepdog from howling at anyone who dared drive past our house or use the cul de sac to turn around in. We ignored him for a few minutes, lost in our own moment, but the dog was relentless. A car door shut loudly from somewhere on the street out front keeping Arlo going, ricocheting through the house. Regrettably and with a growl of my own, I twisted away from Bella's kiss to holler at the dog.

"Arlo, quiet." A command I knew from experience was a lost cause. "Arlo!" I whisper-shouted again, trying in vain to silence him before he woke up any kids.

Bella willfully ignored both of us, kissing her way down my neck with her hands on my belt buckle when a tiny but commanding voice rang out from the pale purple bedroom upstairs. "Be quiet, Arlo!"

That got Bella's attention. She froze and sat up, looking at me with wide eyes.

"Maybe we should move this upstairs," I laughed, stating the obvious, before finding her kiss once more. But I could tell Bella was too distracted listening for tiny footfalls on the floorboards upstairs. We would both me more comfortable behind a locked door.

Giggling as if we were teenagers again I shoved my wife off my lap and casually pushed her toward the stairs.

Holding her shirt in her hands she shoved me in front and whispered loudly, "You go up first and make sure no ones in the hallways," as she hid behind me. She could have just thrown her shirt back on but where was the fun in that.

Diligently, I scouted the route up the stairs, down the hall, and around the corner to our bedroom. Bella shoved me to the bed the minute the door shut and I compressed the lock button on the handle as quietly as I could, not wanting to traumatize any children although if I did I supposed I was more than qualified to fix them at least.

She climbed on top of me already finishing the task of unbuckling my belt and tugging at my pants. I was happy to shed as much clothing as quickly as possible. I craved skin-to-skin contact with Bella, it was never enough. Our lovemaking never needed to be adventurous or fancy, the connection was the goal. The moments where we were out of breath and stuck to one another, where we locked eyes and felt every inch of our lives so rigidly intertwined with one another that the strands wove us together irrevocably knotting us closer every time.

I flipped places with her, still sprawled sideways across the width of our bed, ridding her of her clothing and crawling back up her legs against her body smiling to myself, kissing as I went. I saw out of the corner of my eye as her head relaxed against the bed and a soft smile spread across her face. She was so fucking beautiful it made everything inside of me flood with emotion.

Our life together and our marriage hadn't been without its highs and lows and challenges. That was life after all. We had grown together, cried together, laughed together, worked hard as a family and as individuals always knowing we had the utmost support from our partner. Together Bella and I were confident we could weather any storm. Together we were unshakable. Though that togetherness had been compromised once and I was forced to play out all of my deepest youthful fears imagining a life without Bella beside me.

My open palm slid easily up her ribcage and along her side as I hovered over her. Her head back, eyes still closed she reached for me, twisting her fingers into my hair, pulling me higher up her body. Calmly and quietly, yet assuredly, ready to connect. My hand ghosted along the underside of her left breast as I continued my path up her body, the pad of my thumb skating lightly over the thick ribbon of vertical skin. Scarred. Memories neither of us could never forget.

The thing I feared most in my life came at a time when Bella and I shouldn't have been anything but happy. Eight weeks after the birth of our second child, two weeks after her postpartum check up, less than a day after her annual MRI, the phone rang giving us the news we always feared would come at some point.

Renee's cancer was considered hereditary. To attack so young meant there were genetic mutations predisposing Bella to a high likelihood of the same disease. What we had on our side that Renee had not was advanced knowledge and pre-screening tools, not to mention medicine and treatment advancements over the decades. Renee's doctors, Isabella's doctors, and my own father had promised Charlie they would see to it that Bella got the very best in prescreening for life. As a result, her cancer was discovered remarkably early. Far earlier than it would have been otherwise. Still, the treatment approach was aggressive.

Genetic cancers have the potential to be more dangerous with a far higher mortality rate. None of us were willing to risk her survival. Bella was prescribed twelve weeks of the most aggressive combination of chemo and radiation available to us, which would ultimately be followed up with surgery assuming her body responded positively to the treatments. "Positively" being a medical term, of course. There had been nothing positive about the sheer hell our family and Bella's body went through that year.

The first few weeks she was okay, a tad unsteady on her feet and queasy but also chasing a two and a half year old and caring for a new baby so it was almost impossible to force her to slow down and truly take stock of how she was feeling. Regardless of how stubborn she was, it quickly became obvious she was going to be in for a hellish ride that even she could not deny. She became too sick to get out of bed most days with very few 'good' days following treatment.

I was up every night with a tiny Hudson, bottle-feeding him every few hours. I would bring him in to snuggle with Bella in the early morning hours sometime after a feeding while the grey light hovered outside the bedroom curtains and our toddler hadn't yet stirred. When the house was quiet and when the three of us could lay there in peace with our emotions and our thoughts. Nestled amongst the silence, in the comfort of our bedroom, Bella typically didn't have the energy to say much. She didn't have to. I didn't have to either. We had always been like that. In those dusty early morning hours with our newborn son situated between us and our daughter soundly sleeping in the next room, our eyes said all there was to say. We exchanged fears and prayers and promises and hopes and passions. I willed every ounce of fight and rage and resolve I had running through me to transfer to her. It was a battle I couldn't actually help her with. Not where it counted. Sure, I could get up several times a night to care for our children, I could drive Soph to preschool, be there to pick her up afterward, put my own patients on pause, and keep everyone fed and clothed and relatively happy. I could play board games with Sophie in the evenings and change the baby's diapers all day long. I could be there for support with all of our family when Bella shaved her head, help her move around the house when she needed to, and dole out her medication keeping track of everything on a detailed spreadsheet. I could hold a bowl for her when she was sick and sit with her for hours in the treatment rooms with her ice filled mittens and blankets and cold caps while my parents stayed with our small children.

And I could call an ambulance and help to calm my crying children leaving them with my sister and Jasper in the middle of the night to sit beside Bella holding her fragile hand on our way to the hospital the time her white blood cells dropped dangerously low and she developed a secondary infection becoming violently ill overnight. That was the night I was the most scared I had ever been in my entire life. While Jasper sat with Bella in the front room waiting on the ambulance I handed our children off to Alice in the other room. When she pulled me in for a what was meant to be a quick hug everything I had been keeping locked up escaped and howled in her arms repeating in broken hitched words, "I can't, I can't…" never finishing the sentences but never needing to. Alice held me up and pet my head and cried quietly with me for what felt like forever but was probably only a few minutes, until she eventually pushed me back and held my face in her hands, her own tears streaming down her cheeks, and told me that I had every right to fucking break but not in that moment, that Bella needed me.

When Jasper came up behind me to announce the ambulance was pulling up one look at me and his entire demeanor sunk, unmasking the emotions he had been hiding as well as he mouthed a string of profanity in solidarity with me before pulling me in for a tight hug. I remember feeling guilty that Bella was in the other room fighting for her life and I was the one being comforted. I wiped my face off and tried my best to compose myself and went to follow Bella into the ambulance. Once inside on our way to the hospital, as weak as she was her eyes slid over to my face and she knew, she knew how fucking scared I was and how much every molecule in my body was begging for her to keep fighting, selfishly, because I needed her in my life, our children needed her. Her head moved ever so slightly to the side and I knew she was calling me closer.

I was trying so hard to keep my shit together, to say the right things to her, to be strong for the both of us. But I should have known better. That wasn't actually what Bella needed. What she needed was to see my genuine emotions. To know she wasn't alone in her fears. She reached for my head to come down to her chest and I lay against her and absolutely fucking shattered, months of late nights and lifelong fears pouring out of me. I could barely see her eyes through the tears. I don't remember exactly what I said to her during that ambulance ride in between sobs, but many years later Bella told me how that moment was the moment she knew she had to dig deep. Bella and I never got anywhere good in our lives by masking our true feelings from one another. Seeing me break, knowing how scared I was, seeing the fear and pleading in my eyes was what she needed to fully realize how serious her condition was. As a doctor, logically I'm aware the treatments and surgery saved her life, but the power of a determined outlook is something no medical professional will ever discount. The power of fighting. That night at the hospital after Bella was hooked up to many machines and IV's she held my hand in hers and told me not to confuse treatment symptoms with sickness. She told me that as crappy as she felt and looked and as weak as she was, that was her fighting. It might not look like it but that was her refusing to leave me, our children, and our life.

"I'm right here," she whispered to me that night. "I'm not going anywhere, Edward. Not ever." They were words she said to me the night of our wedding when I got emotional looking at her, seeing how gorgeous she was, knowing as only Bella and I knew that night that she was carrying our daughter Sophie. They were words she had repeated many times over the years knowing how desperately I was tied to her and needed to hear them.

So, for the both of us and for our children, I could and I did try with all my wavering might to keep a grip on the slippery tethered ends of the fabric of our life together, holding it with everything I had, driving my energies and my emotions into the ground that year, weeping silently in the shower, and screaming, beating my hands against the steering wheel in an empty car until my throat bled and I had nothing left but still never letting those pieces fully slide through my fingertips. I held on with all my might. I could do that. And just as she promised me that night in the emergency room, Bella fought hard, even when the fighting looked a lot like giving up, when it looked like crying in the middle of the night or being too weak to hold her own head up. She battled and she succeeded.

With over a decade of distance from the days that scared me the most I could now openly admit that there were days when I looked down at her and didn't honestly believe she would win the fight. There were nights when I rocked in my son's nursery with him against my chest patting his back with my tears soaking the back of his sleeper because I was being forced to picture a life without Isabella in it. I looked at our son, so tiny, so unaware, and my bouncing happy daughter and I knew the life they'd live without their mother. I lived through it with a different child. I knew the pain, the vacant mother's days, the loss, the tears, and the emptiness. And I'm not proud of it, but I resented my children a little bit in those darkest of my days. They complicated my life. They took my time and energy away from Isabella when she needed me the most but more than anything, they kept me tethered to a world that had the potential to no longer have Bella in it. And because of them I would have to stay through the pain. Because of them I would have to get up in the morning and exist even if I lost her. They would need me more than ever then and I would have wanted nothing more than to disappear. So, no, our lives hadn't been all smiles and sunshine but life was messy. The messy made everything else so fucking beautiful. Together we overcame everything as a strong, united team. Neither of us would ever give up on our life together.

Every high and every low of our lives existed in the silent whispers of each touch with one another, swirling invisibly around us, cocooning us in our bonds. As my thumb coasted over the thick scar Bella took a deep breath in and released it slowly, as I knew she would. As she did every time. Her eyes remained gently closed with a content smile on her lips, her fingers tugging at the back of my head felt reassuring and incredible. I knew she knew I did it on purpose, ran my thumb over her scar, not that either of us needed the reminder of the darkest days of our lives, but it was a promise of sorts. "For better, for worse, in sickness and in health…" The words were so overused and expected they lost their meaning for most people. Unless you've experienced them. It was a silent promise to her that I would never forget what it felt like to be that scared, to feel that helpless, to know with everything I had that I needed her in my life always, that I loved her unconditionally and fiercely and that was something that would never change. That I would be there for her, for our children, and for our life forever, showing up with everything I had every day no matter what, she could trust me, she could depend on me, and that I absolutely fucking adored her.

I adored the way she sang along terribly to the radio in the passenger seat of the car as we drove our kids to their soccer games. Vibrantly, passionately, smiling as the wind from the rolled down windows whipped her hair around her face lighting the red on fire and she smiled broadly at me belting out lyrics to nineties songs and our kids laughed and laughed from the back seat and my soul wept for how sincerely happy it was. I adored her when I was downstairs in the kitchen washing the dinner dishes and I could hear her upstairs helping get kids into pajamas and coercing Mila to brush her teeth "again" as our daughter adamantly fought that she already had but everyone in the whole house knew she hadn't. And I adored her when I had a long emotionally grueling day at work, was exhausted to my core, had to run straight from work to the soccer field to meet her with the girls for back to back practices all while knowing I had approximately ten thousand case files to update remotely later that night but then practice ran late and the girls weren't focused the way I wanted them to be and there was traffic and I hadn't had time for dinner and was starving and it was already eight thirty at night and when the girls and I finally came home the house looked like a tornado hit it and there wasn't anything left from dinner and laundry was piled high on our bed forcing someone to attend to it before anyone could tuck away to sleep for the night as I found Bella curled up on a chair in the upstairs loft writing, working on her latest project. I adored her the most then. Because life was truly tiring. But it was life. It was living. It was the exact life Bella and I had always dreamed of all those years before lying in bed in her Boston townhouse planning our future. And I never took a single day of our lives together for granted. I hadn't as a kid, and I definitely didn't as an adult with all the pain and laughter and perspective living granted.

Bella's fingers wrapping around my face forcing me to look at her pulled me from my thoughts. Her eyes were soft and insightful, clearly visible to me despite the dark room. They would be clearly visible to me had my own eyes been closed. I knew she knew everything in my head and in my heart. Our long history together was unparalleled in its depths and profoundness. I smiled back and lifted myself to kiss her. Slowly at first and then with more passion as her legs wrapped around mine and her arms laced over my back, locking me in place against her, as if there were anywhere in the world I would ever rather be.

Well, that took me a hot minute to try and remember how to even post here.


Again, I genuinely had other plans but this just kind of took on a life of its own. I'm upset to have not caught up with Emmett and Charlie, so, idk, future take outtakes…is that a thing?

I genuinely hope all of you have been well.

Love me,