Looking back, life in the BZ, Before Zeds, was easy. Sure, I thought I was tortured and had a really hard life, but it wasn't. I was safe, clean, surrounded by people who loved me, getting an education and not in constant fear for my life. Sure, there was the annoyance of younger siblings and parents who didn't understand and teachers who hated me and boys who were punks and girls who were bitches but still…it was easier.
Ok, so maybe not easier, but somewhat better. Dealing with zeds was pretty simple: they wanted to eat me and I didn't want to be eaten. It was, literally, eat or be eaten. And I learned to adapt quickly to that mindset. Swans were fighters, Dad had told me that many times. I knew it was true because the night I'd gone home and found them, the house had been trashed, showing that everyone had put up a serious effort, even the dog.
We spent a couple more weeks on the island getting everything ready while we waited for the Brits to show up. We released the remaining animals onto the mainland, hoping they'd survive. I was a little doubtful. I mean, how often do you hear of wild chickens and cows?
We loaded onto the small cruise ship that arrived, first all making our way back to the docks where it would be easier to board the ship. I was nervous the entire time we were on the docks, insisting that someone be on lookout. There weren't any zeds, so that was a relief, but I was still anxious until Edward and I were safely ensconced in a cabin with the twins. I stood on our little balcony, watching the island fade into the horizon as the boat rumbled towards Europe and safety. Edward stood behind me, his arms around my waist and his chin on my head.
"Think we'll ever come back?" I asked softly.
"Maybe someday. I'd still like to spend the night in the White House."
I laughed and looked up at him. "It's always sex with you isn't it?"
He laughed and shrugged. "Can you blame me?"
"Nah. I'd enjoy it just as much as you would, I'll bet."
"We could actually go up those stairs, too, instead of lying and telling people we did."
I grinned. "But the lie is half the fun."
"Sure it is." He kissed my nose and we turned to catch the last glimpse of the island sinking below the horizon, the apex of the hill where I'd spent so many hours watching and waiting dipping into the ocean. Edward pulled me back into the cabin then, closing the doors behind us.
It wasn't a long trip and we were soon in England and, apparently, media darlings. No one else had a story like we did and I was made out to be some kind of hero by the group, the telling of the twins' birth and my saving Emmett on the raid repeated fairly often. It got so I was just know as Zombie Killer Bella. Great.
We were all asked onto several different talk shows continent wide, traveling even into Russia to tell our stories. There weren't many Americans left, mostly those who'd been overseas when the infection hit. Canada had remained fairly infection free, the horrors of the US being enough of a warning for them to effectively quarantine and destroy the infected quickly. Even so, nearly half the country was wiped out. Mexico, Central and South America were just about as lucky. The closer a country was to America, the more likely it was severely decimated.
We were never able to settle completely into anonymity, but we were able to lead somewhat regular lives after a while. Well, as normal as could be. We were given assistance from the British government with housing and we all found jobs as quickly as we could. I went back to school and got an education, something I knew pleased Esme and Carlisle, even though they'd never dare voice that around me or Edward.
Edward decided to continue with his job as a newspaper reporter and found a job at a paper in Wales, so we settled happily there with the twins. I got a teaching certificate and had schools in our small town clambering to hire me, hoping for some prestige that I would bring. I only taught for a few years before quitting to raise the large family Edward and I decided to have.
After the twins, we had three more, two boys and another girl. Every one of them had a soft spot for animals and the five were constantly bringing home wounded birds and squirrels. Occasionally, we'd get a dog or a cat and NONE of them ever left. Well, a couple of squirrels might and the possum ran off as soon as its foot was healed, but mostly, they stayed. We finally bought a small estate outside of town and moved there with our menagerie.
Everyone settled in various parts of the world, though we all managed to get together about once a year for a reunion. We typically gathered in London, since most of us were still in the UK, but a few times we went to other places: Australia, Egypt, Italy, Spain. I loved everywhere we went, recognizing the fact that if we hadn't had the infection, I'd likely be back home in Texas, working some dead end job and with a couple of kids and no dad. It was the track my life had been on before, anyway.
When Sue died, we all went back to the island to bury her beside Harry. The younger kids vaguely remembered the island and we spent a few days there, walking around and looking at the buildings and cultivation we'd done that had gone to seed.
We ventured out into the mainland, exploring our homeland. There was no evidence of people anywhere, a sad fact we all had to face. Edward and I finally got our night in the White House and we did go up the steps. There was photographic evidence. Aron and Abra were embarrassed beyond words and no one else really got why we were laughing so hard, but we didn't care.
Once the country had been deemed safe and infection free, people from all over poured into the country, eager to repair and replace the burnt out buildings and restore the wild land. Once again, America was the great adventure the world wanted. Edward and I visited occasionally, taking the kids and showing them the places we'd lived and traveled, showing them the artifacts and monuments that had survived. It wasn't too terribly interesting to them then to see overgrown areas and dusty items, but I knew when they got older, they'd appreciate it more. I certainly did.
The one thing that slightly bugged Edward about our life was my refusal to marry him. We were committed, we loved each other, we had five kids and a zoo at home. He'd broken his promise not to go to England so I felt it was fair that I not marry him. No one else really seemed to mind since, in the Islanders' eyes, we were married. Really, he was the only one who cared.
We never heard of any more zombies anywhere, and no one really knew where they came from or how the infection started. Probably some idiot doctor somewhere messing with shit he shouldn't have. We heard a rumor the year after we were rescued about zombies being sighted by a low-flying plane in the Amazonian jungle, but the report said they were fighting off the piranhas. Zombies getting eaten: seemed fair to me. At least they never came back anywhere with any real strength and eventually, the small outbreaks in the Americas were fully squelched.
It had been 20 years since our rescue. Edward's hair had gone gracefully gray, making him look distinguished and more gorgeous than before, if possible. I passed him a beer and settled onto the arm of his chair, studying the words on the screen of his computer.
"What are you writing?" I asked, running my fingers through his still thick hair.
"I'm writing our story, the road trip and the years on the island, all of it."
I nodded and leaned forward, skimming a couple of lines. "Do you have a book deal?"
He laughed. "Are you kidding me? Of course I do. Movie rights even."
I pushed his head lightly and he laughed. "You know when we finally get our story written, people will be dying for it. You could write yours."
"I could," I mused, scanning the screen still.
He nuzzled his nose into my neck, breathing in deeply. "You smell good."
I laughed. "It's my own personal scent. I call it Eau du Farm."
He laughed and pulled me down into his lap, kissing me. "You know, all the kids are out."
"Yeah, I know."
"We could…you know."
I grinned and smoothed his hair. "I was actually hoping we could talk about a couple things."
"Well, for one thing, Abra and Damon."
I nodded. "I think they're getting pretty serious."
His body stiffened under mine. "How serious?"
I studied his face. "How does that make you feel?"
"She's only 20."
"So? I was 20 when she was born."
He scowled. "You had a shit load of life experience, babe."
"True, but she has us."
"Yeah." He was quiet for a moment. "So do we hate Damon or what?"
I laughed. "No, he's actually a pretty sweet guy. I think they'll be good together."
"So what's to talk about then?"
I smiled at him. "I think we should set a good example for them."
"As in…Edward, will you marry me?"
His jaw dropped. "I already asked that question years ago and you said yes. We're already engaged."
"Ok fine. Edward, will you marry me this summer?"
He grinned. "Fuck yes." He pulled me closer and kissed me hard. "On one condition."
I groaned. "That didn't work out so well last time."
He chuckled. "No, it didn't, but I think you'll like this one."
"Ok, what is it?"
He studied me for a long moment. "Write your story. People want to read it."
I smiled and kissed him lightly. "Deal."
So, here I sit, writing my story so that the love of my life will marry me. He's waiting outside the door, insistent that he see the last chapter, the epilogue, before we walk down the aisle with our family and friends waiting and watching. I'm sad that my parents and siblings and everyone I grew up with are gone but, in a way, they're always with me. My dad taught me how to swing a bat, a fact that saved my life and the lives of my children. My mother taught me how to garden and tend to children. My friends taught me that real friends will always be with you and never desert you and that it is worth getting to know people.
I hope you've enjoyed this story and reading about our struggles and triumphs. For now, I've got to go. My husband is waiting for me, and he's already waited long enough.