A/N: Hello my lovely readers! Sorry for the wait on this, but I hope it's worth it. Get your tissues ready and grab a snack. This is my longest chapter. So, strap yourself in and get ready for the finale to this wild ride. There's a little bit of everything in here. Enjoy!
Sappy A/N to follow :)
Disclaimer: SM owns Twilight. With a heavy, but happy heart, I get to press the complete button on this story. ©2010-2011 twicrack83
Ten years later…
"Are you ready, sweetie?" Edward called to me from downstairs. "We really have to go."
"Almost… I think," I responded, finishing up my mascara and straightening my dress. "You know I hate these things. Remind me why I agreed to do this… again."
"Because you secretly enjoy the torture of everyone singing your praises," Edward cooed into my neck as he snuck up behind me, and wrapped his arms around my waist. "You look amazing, by the way. Maybe I won't make you go tonight. I'll keep you home in my torture chamber instead."
I melted into him, closing my eyes, reveling in the feel of his strong arms holding me close. "As much as I'd love to stay home and suffer the wrath of you instead, I think Doctor Whitlock would skin me alive if I missed the banquet." Turning to face him, I planted a chaste kiss on his lips. "Now, let me finish getting ready before I change my mind."
Heading down the stairs with Edward in tow, I heard the doorbell ring. "Can you get that, babe?" I asked Edward. "I think it's Em and Rose."
He smiled his best crooked grin and gave my ass a small squeeze before walking to the front door. I continued to the kitchen as I heard Emmett and Rosalie make an entrance.
"What's up, bro?" Emmett boomed. "Where's Bella? Freaking out again, or did she finally realize this is good for her?"
"Hey guys," Edward greeted as he shut the door. "No freaking out this time. She's just in the kitchen getting 'the list' ready."
"Ah, yes," Rose chimed in, rounding the corner into the kitchen, giving me a hug. "The infamous 'list.' I can't imagine getting by without it."
"Har-har, Rose," I snickered, returning her hug. "You know I'm just anal about this stuff. Besides, it makes me feel more comfortable with leaving them, so shove it. You know the drill. Breast milk is in the fridge, sterilized bottles are on the counter, diapers and wipes are on the changing table, bedtime routine is outlined on 'the list,' and…"
"I think we can handle ourselves, Bells," Emmett interrupted, hugging me and squishing me in the process. "It's not like we haven't done this before. The girls are almost fifteen months old now. We've gotten enough practice to handle our own crew," he finished with a wink and a dimpled grin lit up his face.
"Wait… What? Is this some kind of announcement?" I questioned, glancing back and forth between him and Rose. "Are you really…?"
"Yes!" Rose exclaimed, glowing. "We're pregnant! I couldn't believe it when I took the test, either. But we went to the doctor and the ultrasound confirmed it."
She whipped out the ultrasound picture and passed it to me practically bouncing in place. I grabbed the pictured and pulled Rose in for a tight hug.
"Way to go, big guy," Edward congratulated Emmett, patting him on the back. "Finally got one past the goalie, huh?"
"Actually," Emmett smiled and took the picture out of my hands, showing Edward. "My sperm are so spectacular, we're having twins!"
Squeals erupted from me and Rose as we hugged again. "That's fantastic, you guys!" I shouted. "We'll just have to make you watch the girls more often… for practice, you know."
"Deal… as long as you promise to help us out when our little ones get here," assured Emmett.
"Of course, man," guaranteed Edward. "We'd love to return the favor." Looking down at his watch, Edward explained, "Well, as much as I'd love to stay and chat, we really do have get going. Come on, Bella. Let's go and say good-bye to Lily and Emma before we're late."
After saying our good-byes and congratulating Rose and Emmett again, we were finally on our way to the banquet. Doctor Whitlock was sponsoring this year's charity banquet to raise money for children with psychiatric illnesses. He'd invited me every year since I could remember, but this year I finally got up the nerve to actually attend. This year's focus happened to be post traumatic stress disorder, and he asked me to speak about how I overcame my fears. It should be interesting to see how I handle the fear of speaking in front of a crowd of hoity-toity rich people, too.
As we made the hour long drive, I reminisced about all of the events leading to my full recovery. It all started at Jake's funeral…
"Thanks for coming," Leah greets us, wiping tears from her cheeks and giving us all hugs. She leads us to some chairs off to the side of the closed casket. Apparently, the embalmer wasn't able to cover up Jake's neck wounds enough to be suitable for viewing, so Sam and Leah opted for minimal exposure. I secretly wished they hadn't. It would have been nice to see at least one peaceful, tear-free face that day.
Carlisle and Esme walk in front of Alice and I, as I push Edward in his wheelchair. We were able to convince Tanya and Irina to allow Edward a day pass, but Emmett was still in quite a bit of pain at the hospital, and his surgeons weren't willing to risk further injury. Emmett was really upset at first because he wanted to pay his respects in person, but he relented after a particularly painful physical therapy session and admitted he wasn't quite ready to go anywhere. I was glad he wasn't there to watch me crumble.
"I really appreciate you all being here," Leah says while we walk. "It's been such a difficult time the last few days. Sam's going crazy trying to keep me from going over the deep end… especially since I need to be calm for the baby." She places a hand on a small bump I never noticed before on her stomach. "Sam said he's taking me off cases indefinitely. He doesn't want anything to happen to me since we've already lost Jake." She stops abruptly, and looks down at her hands, twirling a ring around her left ring finger. Taking a deep breath, she continues, "He was so excited. He would have been the best father ever."
I look at Alice and Edward, trying to see if they know what's happening, but they seem just as confused as me.
"Forgive me, Leah," starts Carlisle. "But we haven't told any of the kids because we weren't sure if you wanted them to know. I think I should explain."
Carlisle and Esme proceed to tell us how Jake and Leah have been married for two years and recently found out they were expecting their first child. They always worked cases together, but never felt the need to tell clients about their personal life and never wore rings on the job. However, during this case, it became necessary for them to divulge that information to Carlisle and Esme in the event Leah would need to take leave. Jake insisted Leah started taking light duty, and when Sam caught wind of the pregnancy, he forced her to resign her post on the case.
Alice and I start sobbing. Already overwhelmed from the previous week's events, we break down. Leah tries to comfort us, assuring us that she would be okay, but I can't stand the thought of the baby growing up without his or her father. I know what that was like, and no child should have to experience that.
As we take our seats, I stare at the casket. A monstrous wooden tomb, holding a lifeless body; a body that will never hold his child, never hear its voice, never feel its kiss on his cheek. My thoughts quickly turn to my parents' funeral, and I feel myself begin to tremble. All the feelings of sadness, regret, fear, and uncertainty come rushing back to me, and I lose it. I was back in that moment, staring at my father's and mother's closed caskets. No one could console me, back then or now. A helpless little girl, lost to the world, a victim of tragedy, a slave to her fears.
Curling into a ball on the floor and covering my ears, I scream at the top of my lungs. I rock my body back and forth, keeping my eyes tightly closed, willing it all to disappear. But every time I open my eyes, the terror takes over and I spiral further into panic mode. Every time someone touches me, the screaming gets louder. Eventually, I can't tell if it's really me screaming or not. I turn into myself, a slave to my fears once again.
I still didn't remember the rest of that night, or the next few weeks, for that matter. Everything blurred into one big, horrendous clusterfuck, and I didn't particularly care to feel that way again. I was a zombie, literally walking around feeling dead inside. There was even a time when I wished everyone felt like me so they would quit treating me like a poor, little scared girl and leave me the fuck alone.
Over the next few months, I went to therapy with Doctor Whitlock… a lot. I vaguely remembered him talking with Esme and telling her he was truly worried that I'd never recover. He didn't see a drive in me, couldn't get me to care enough to start turning things around on my own. So, he started suggesting meds and I flipped my shit.
No way would I take those nasty things again. They made me feel numb, even number than I felt already, and I hated it. So, I bucked up and started trying. I tried to be happy. I tried to move past my insecurities. But it took longer than I wanted, and I ended up pushing people away in the process.
My behavior did a complete one-eighty. I screamed at everyone on a daily basis, including all the Cullen's… even Edward. Our relationship was basically nonexistent other than him saying "good morning" or "good night," and I'd start to cry just because I couldn't see any "good" in anything anymore.
Alice and Emmett seemed to be fairing much better than me in the recovery department. Sure, they had their moments, but nothing like me. I was known to get physical and beat up anyone who stood in my way. Unfortunately, Emmett and Rose witnessed a meltdown where I started throwing things and broke her parent's china cabinet. Not a good day.
Carlisle and Esme were distraught. They didn't have a clue of what to do with me, and Emmett was at a loss as how to help me, either. He came to some of my therapy sessions with hopes of getting some insight into what was making me insane, but all it did was make him scared of me. No one wanted to be around me anymore, and those that tried either got yelled at or got things thrown at them.
Eventually, I moved past the angry stage and went straight into the "be careful around Bella because if you breathe wrong she'll cry" stage. I actually think this stage was worse since my crying jags would last for days and no one could avoid it. At least when I was angry, people could just walk away and not deal with me, but when I was crying, you could hear me wailing within a five mile radius, and no amount of industrial strength ear plugs could shut me out. I was a mess, but thankfully, that only lasted about three weeks.
After I cried myself out, I began my slow recovery. I'd go to therapy sessions and actually participate, and I started smiling more and going out with friends. Edward and I even started saying more than four words to each other, and he managed to get me out of the house on a date or two.
On a lighter note, Emmett and Rose made full recoveries during my absentmindedness. They were both brace free by high school graduation, but Emmett was never able to play sports again. They helped each other cope with their losses, and we all watched them get closer with time.
I continued to make "great progress" according to Doctor Whitlock. He was happy to see my attitude towards therapy had improved, and had confidence I'd keep getting better. The only things he could foresee as potential setbacks were the upcoming trials of Riley, Demitri, and Aro. But Doctor Whitlock planned to keep a close eye on me during that time and offered to make house calls if necessary.
Thankfully, the trials were over and done with in record time. The evidence brought forth against them was irrefutable, and the juries had an easy time with convictions. Throughout the trials, Emmett, Alice, and I were called to talk on the bench. Those were the worst days. Physically exhausting and mentally draining, you never knew what questions the Defense would come up with. One of the attorneys would inevitably throw us for a loop with a ridiculous question, we'd end up crying, and the judge would call a recess. At least we had a strong family to pick us up and brush us off. We were always ready for the next round.
Sentencing took even less time, and they each got to look forward to maximum security prison for the next 80 years without the possibility of parole. We didn't want the death penalty. It seemed like too easy of a way out. Solitary confinement seemed like a good substitute. Hopefully they'd waste away into nothingness while going mad and ripping off their own limbs in the process. Then maybe, just maybe, they'd know a millionth of our pain and suffering.
After that, my life started falling into place. I noticed I was smiling daily and fear wasn't a constant emotion anymore. Not having to always worry about someone chasing me, or someone trying to kill me, was a huge relief. I'd often find myself happy, actually happy and content with how my life turned out. Eventually, I stopped seeing Doctor Whitlock on a regular doctor-patient basis, and only saw him when Alice would drag me and Edward along to pick up Jasper for a double date. It was a wonderful feeling to let go and not care about anything.
Carlisle and Esme were a huge help during my recovery. Even though they felt lost at times, I was grateful they never gave up on me. They pushed me to do better, they cradled me when I fell, and they loved me no matter what. It was all I could hope for and I'd never be able to repay them for it.
When high school was winding down and graduation was looming over our heads, Carlisle asked Emmett and me to have a talk with him and Esme. It didn't turn out the way I thought it would.
"Please have a seat," Carlisle starts and motions to the two chairs opposite him and Esme at the dinner table. "We need to talk to you about where you're going from here."
This was it. We knew it was coming to an end, our blissful life with this amazing family. We couldn't have asked for more, and now they were getting ready to send us out on our own.
"Have either of you thought about what you're going to do after graduation?"
"Umm, no," Emmett mumbles.
"Not really," I stutter, looking down at my lap.
"What about college?" Esme asks.
"Well," I begin, still staring at my lap, "it never seemed like a possibility. We don't have any money to our names and no one willing to fork over tens of thousands of dollars at the moment, so I think we both just figured we'd find apartments, get jobs, and sail off into the proverbial sunset."
Emmett kicks me under the table and gives me a dirty look. He hates how I've returned to snarky-ville, but what can I say? I'm feeling feisty today. Carlisle and Esme exchange smiles, and Esme speaks.
"Okay, that sounds… wonderful. But what about this?"
Reaching down under the table, she pulls out two rather large packets and slides them across the table, giving one to each of us. As we flip them over we notice they're blank. I'm thoroughly confused at this point, so I open my package and find several applications to colleges around the U.S. Even more baffled now, I peek over at Emmett and realize he's received the exact same thing, and looks even more perplexed than me.
"We are asking," Carlisle says, looking utterly pleased with himself, "that you will fill out whichever applications appeal to you and send them in. We're not saying we'll pay for it all, but we'll help you out as much as we can. In other words, we want you to go to college!"
"Oh no," I whisper, peering between Esme and Carlisle. "I don't… I can't… There's no way we…"
"Please don't worry about it, Bella," Esme interrupts, grabbing my shaking hand. "With Edward getting almost a full-ride, and Alice following the same route, we looked into their college funds and noticed they have more than enough saved up to get them through their educations. We have no need for the money ourselves, and we want you two to have it and get going on careers of your own." She pauses and squeezes my hand, "There's just one stipulation."
Dun, dun, dun…
"You both have to promise you'll always call this home and come visit us on breaks and during the summers."
Our jaws drop and I see a tear fall down Emmett's cheek. We're both shaking now, and I feel all the blood drain from my face. This is definitely not where I thought this conversation was going. I figured they were planning on maybe giving us a little cash to get us out of their hair. Instead, they were sending us to college, and it was pretty much going to be paid for in full.
As I pick through the documents in my hands, I notice these were all the same colleges Edward applied to. Dartmouth, Harvard, Yale, Princeton. I can't help but think, "there's no way this is really happening," but then I take a deep breath and look at Emmett's astonished expression and know it's not a dream.
Looking up at Esme who's still holding my hand, I open and close my mouth several times to speak, but nothing comes out. My usual word vomit has turned into silence, and for once, I can't think of a smart-ass remark. Emmett, as usual, saves the day.
"Are you sure? This is really too much. You have no obligation to us whatsoever."
"Obligation?" Carlisle questions. "No one said anything about obligations. We're doing this because we love you two like our own children, and we want you to have the same opportunities as them. Just because you've had some unfortunate things happen in your past, doesn't mean it should ruin your future. So, say 'thank you' and accept it, or we'll fill out the applications for you and send them in ourselves."
He ended with a crooked smile and Esme joined him. Emmett and I chewed on our thoughts for a few more minutes as we perused our piles of paperwork. Then we excitedly thanked Carlisle and Esme, and agreed to their stipulation of always calling their house our home. We were really going to college, and never had to worry about being without a home… or a family to share it with.
"Whatcha dwelling on over there?" Edward asked, pulling me from my thoughts. "You seem really distant. Are you okay?"
"What?" I startled slightly and shook my head to clear it. "Uh, yeah. I'm great. Just thinking about how lucky I am. I never would have thought I could claim to be anything but a magnet for danger, but here I am." I turned to look out the window of the car, and mumbled, "It's a little overwhelming, I guess."
I heard him shift in his seat and I felt his hand on mine. "Bella, you know you don't ever have to be overwhelmed. You deserve every bit of happiness you can get your hands on, and I for one, don't regret anything that's happened to get us where we are right now. I love you, Bella and wouldn't have you any other way."
His words are calming and I grip his hand, signaling I agree. I definitely did deserve happiness, and love, and the comfort of a family. There was no shortage of wonderful memories I could think about instead.
"Are you kidding me?" I whine, as I slip on the cocktail dress Alice has so meticulously picked out for me. "This seriously has to be a joke."
"Quit complaining, Bella," Alice yells from the living room of our college apartment. "You'll wear what I have laid out for you, and you'll like it. I don't want to hear anymore complaining. He'll love it and you'll thank me later."
We all ended up going to Cornell, and Alice insisted she room with Rose and me when she arrived. Emmett roomed with Edward and Jasper across campus, and we barely managed to keep ourselves out of trouble. It was the craziest four years of my life. We partied like animals, ate cold pizza for breakfast more times than I care to remember, and woke up hammered more often than not. You know, I take that back… it was the best four years of my life!
"But you can see my entire back in this thing!" I whine some more, just to see what she does. "It cuts off dangerously close to my ass, and I'm worried my underwear will show."
"Then don't wear any, silly," Alice retorts, walking into my room. "Why complicate things?"
She comes up behind me and adjusts a few straps, allowing the dress to naturally flow on my curves. The dress barely grazes the floor and has an elegant neckline that shows just enough cleavage to be acceptable. Alice then snatches the underwear from my hands and tosses them unceremoniously on the floor.
"There. Come on," she says and pushes me toward the bathroom. "He's gonna pick you up in like twenty minutes, and I still have to do your hair and make-up."
The "he" she's referring to is Edward, and he's taking me out for a very expensive, very extravagant, very unnecessary dinner to celebrate our upcoming college graduation. We'd spent the last four years studying our assess off so we could go to medical school. He eventually wanted to be a brain surgeon, and I wanted to be a psychiatrist. Aside from us, Alice was taking the artistic route, while Jasper studied American history. Emmett was going after sports medicine and Rose wanted to be an obstetrician. However, things don't always end up the way they're supposed to… but that's another story all together.
Finally, Edward arrives just as Alice finishes my make-up.
"How do I look?" I ask, and giggle as I spin around to show off.
"I'd fuck you," Alice replies with a smack on my ass. "You kids behave tonight."
We laugh and hug before I make my way to the door. As I open it, I see Edward standing there with a lovely bouquet of flowers in his hands, wearing his dark grey Helmut Lang suit, with the top couple of buttons undone on his shirt. The suit jacket lays open and his shirt is un-tucked. His hair is the perfect mixture of bed-head and his desperate attempt at taming the mess. Sex-in-a-suit. Yummy.
"Good evening, ma'lady," Edward starts, bowing forward and handing me the flowers with his best crooked grin spreading across his face. "Your chariot awaits."
"Hey there, stud," I counter, taking the flowers and smelling them. "You want some wine with that cheese?"
"Yes, I think I would. Better get used to it, sweetie. There's plenty more where that came from."
He follows me, grabbing me around the waist as I walk to the kitchen and place the flowers in a vase. I feel a soft kiss at the base of my neck and lean into him.
"Thank you for these, by the way. They're beautiful."
"No biggie," he says as I turn to face him, still wrapped in his arms. "But they don't compare to how beautiful you look tonight."
"Ugh… again with the cheese."
"I only speak the truth, my dear."
I smile and blush, getting up on my tiptoes to give him a much needed kiss. We linger in the kitchen, lips and tongues doing the only talking we want at the moment. I feel his hands roaming my exposed back and shiver from his touch. Then Alice interrupts us when she walks into the kitchen.
"Ahem… gross! I eat in here. Don't you guys have to be somewhere anyway? If you plan on making your reservations, you better get going instead of ruining my appetite."
I break away from Edward and comment, "I wouldn't be talking, short stuff. I walked in on you and Jasper using the counter as a prop during one of your 'sessions,' and I couldn't eat in here for a week."
Edward and I shiver at the memory, but Alice smiles fondly as her cheeks redden.
"Yeah… that was a great night," she remembers.
"Okay, eww," intercedes Edward. "I think that's our cue, Bella. Let's go before anyone gets even more grossed out."
"Sounds great," I reply, and we make our way to the door, while I call back to Alice. "Don't wait up for me, sweet cheeks."
We arrive at dinner, and Edward has the car parked by valet. Snazzy place. We're escorted by the maître d' to a secluded room near the back of the restaurant, and as we take our seats, I recognize Edward's all of sudden gotten very fidgety. He even gives me his "I'm hiding something" smile and can't seem to stop playing with his fork.
I leave well enough alone and focus on the waiters as they bring us our courses. The meal is beyond amazing; almost as good as when Edward made dinner for our first date. We chat between plates, but I still feel like Edward's not really in the present. He's getting progressively antsy, and by the time dessert arrives, he's practically causing the table to vibrate from his leg bouncing.
Just as I'm getting ready to ask him what's up, my cell begins to ring.
"Come on," I pout as I search through my purse, trying to locate that damned piece of modern technology. "It has to be in here somewhere."
I look up from my bag, seconds away from just dumping the contents on the table, and see Edward kneeling on the floor. He's holding my phone… and a little blue box.
"Oh shit!" I blurt out and stare down at him, my hands still lost in my purse.
He silences my phone and sets it shakily on the table. Peering up at me, Edward removes my now trembling hands from my bag and holds them in his.
"Bella, ever since you came into my life, I haven't been able to think of anyone else. You're the most amazing woman I've ever met, and I can't imagine a life without you. I kneel before you here tonight and ask you to spend every moment of forever with me." He pauses to open the box in his hand. The ring is blinding as he slips it on my finger. "Will you marry me?"
Instead of answering, I maul him, jumping from my chair and landing on Edward. The force of my attack causes us both to fall to the floor, and I attach my face to his in an intense kiss that I feel straight down to my toes.
Edward breaks away, laughing, and looks up at me. "I take it that's a…"
"Hell yes!" I scream, and continue molesting his lips. "You're so getting lucky tonight, cheese boy."
"That's what I was counting on, soon to be Mrs. Cheese boy."
I playfully slap his shoulder and we practically run out of the restaurant, not able to get home fast enough.
That night was amazing. A perfect mixture of raw, carnal need and slow, sensual love. Thank goodness Alice wasn't at our apartment when we got back, either. I later found out she knew about Edward proposing for a month before that, and was the one who called my phone at the perfect moment. She also deliberately made herself scarce as to not ruin our evening. She was always great at planning ahead.
At that thought, another memory dances around in my mind; our wedding. Alice helped me organize every single detail. Of course, there wasn't much to do since we opted for a beach wedding with just our family and close friends, but she made sure the day was beautiful and went off without a hitch.
Then there was the honeymoon. Oh my! Two weeks in Aruba and no one to bother us but the birds frequenting our secluded hut near the ocean's edge. But even they were quiet when we were anything but.
"How do you do that?" I pant as Edward leans over me, placing soft, teasing kisses from my breasts to my belly button.
"Do what?" he asks, smiling, knowing exactly what he's done.
"I see you smirking down there. I know you're feeling pretty confident in your skills right now. It never fails… death by boobiegasm. How will I ever go on?"
"Don't give up on me now. There's plenty more where that came from, and the sun hasn't even set." He continues tracing his path of kisses up and down my torso, making me shiver with want. "I haven't even used my best stuff, yet."
"Well, then I'm gonna need to get prepared, because that was some pretty good stuff already. And… mmm… yeah… do that again."
I'm already beginning to see stars as his hands get involved in the debauchery. He's barely touching the skin on my thighs and runs his fingers closer and closer to where I need him most. Finally, he slides them through my folds, gently caressing my clit as he pumps agonizingly slowly in and out. He takes one of my swollen nipples in his mouth, and my eyes roll back in my head. I feel myself getting close again, but I want him to finish with me this time.
"Edward… please… I need you."
"As you wish," he whispers against my skin, and glides himself to my core.
Both sighing in relief as he enters me, we lose ourselves in each other. Nothing else matters in this moment, and we move as one, getting closer to release. He pushes up to a kneeling position, holding my hips in place as he moves, and angles himself in a different way. He's hitting just the right spot, and the new sensation sends me careening over the edge.
"Oh, fuck yes!" I moan, clenching around him and giving myself over to the ecstasy.
"Shit! Mmm… Bella. Fuck!" Edward grunts, dropping his head to my chest.
And just as quickly, he's lost with me and neither of us cares if we ever find our way back.
"You sure you're okay, Bella?" Edward asked, looking at me with concern as he makes a turn at a stop light. "Now, your cheeks are all red and you're breathing fast."
I giggled, knowing he's caught me at an inopportune moment. "Yes, I assure you I'm better than most. Just daydreaming about you, is all."
He smiled. "Well, from the expression on your face and the way you're basically breathless over there, I'm guessing I was pretty good."
"You never disappoint," I replied with a wink. "Are we almost at the banquet?"
"Actually, yes. I think we have about ten more minutes. Are you nervous anymore or still hanging in there?"
"Surprisingly, I'm holding it all together pretty well. I thought I would've flipped out by now, but I'm feeling rather calm about it all."
Being the center of attention was never my strong suit, but this banquet was one instance where I knew I could do a lot of good. I had to reach out and let others know they weren't alone in their struggles. Maybe then they'd learn how to pull through their grief and be a happier person, too. I struggled for years fighting my pain and fear, allowing it to take over and ruin my life. But with the help of family and friends, I was able to move past my self-loathing and embrace the world around me.
This was actually why I changed my career path from psychiatrist to child life specialist. I wanted to make a difference in children's lives every day, and that path helped me realize my dream. Working with children on a daily basis gave me the opportunity to guide them through tough times. Even if it was something as simple as getting an IV placed, I knew I could impact their day and make that experience less stressful. And knowing I made a difference gave me an extra boost in my recovery.
Seeing me change my career path for the better, Edward also jumped off the medical school wagon and boarded the culinary train. He admitted that although being a brain surgeon would be rewarding, he really wasn't into guts and glory. Preferring pots and pans to scalpels and scrubs, he opened his own bakery. We both took flying leaps away from our comfort zones and never regretted a minute. Now, we were back in Washington, living about thirty minutes away from all our friends and family, and Edward got to bake his infamous cinnamon buns, while I helped children smile.
The others pretty much stayed their course. All moving back to Washington after graduating college, they began their careers. Alice opened a trendy, little boutique in the shopping center next to Edward's bakery, and Jasper taught history at the high school. Emmett was also at the high school teaching physical education and coaching the football teams. Rose never made it to med school, either. She decided nursing was more her thing, and was working at the hospital with me. All in all, we were extremely happy with where our careers were taking us, and we loved working and living so closely to each other.
Shortly after making the decision to move back to Washington, we found out we were expecting our first child. We were ecstatic and told everyone we knew. Unfortunately, around twelve weeks, we lost the baby. The doctor said moving and starting new careers placed an inordinate amount of stress on my body, resulting in the loss of the pregnancy. No matter what way you put it, I lost a baby, and I was devastated for weeks.
Forcing all of my energy into the move, I let myself relax and ended up getting pregnant again in about three months. This time, the pregnancy thrived, and we welcomed two beautiful girls into our lives thirty-seven weeks later.
"Edward," I groan, trying to hoist my enormous, twin-toting body off of the couch. "I think I'm going to bed."
"But it's seven o'clock," he retorts. "We still have Tosh.O to watch tonight."
"I know. Just DVR it for me, okay? I've been exhausted all day, and the four hour nap I took this afternoon hasn't seemed to put a dent in it. If I feel better in a couple of hours, I'll come watch it with you. But right now, all I want is my body pillow and for 'baby A' to quit dancing on my bladder."
He gives me his best sad puppy dog eyes, but I'm too wiped out to argue. As I make my way up the stairs, I feel like I'm peeing on myself.
"You have got to be shitting me!" I shout. "I can't even walk up the stairs without pee-… Oh crap! Edward! It's time!"
"Time for what?" he asks and rounds the corner from the living room to the stairs. "I thought you were going to… Oh! Baby time! Oh my god… baby time! Okay… think!"
"Just get the freaking suitcase and meet me in the car."
"Right… suitcase… car."
He rushes past me up the stairs, giving me a quick kiss in the process, and grabs the suitcase. He's down the stairs and to the car before I am, and opens the door, helping me in. He's bouncing in place, tugging on his hair, and to be honest, it's really cute.
Eighteen hours of labor and one epidural later, Emma Carley and Lily Marie were finally here. Carlisle and Esme were the first to make it to the hospital, but the rest of the clan wasn't far behind. I felt sorry for the hospital staff that had to deal with all of our shenanigans, but we were all together, and those were my favorite times.
"How's Alice doing, by the way?" I questioned, as we turned into the banquet center parking lot. "I meant to call her today, but completely forgot."
"She's doing great, and she called earlier to say that she knew you would forget and not to worry about it. Jasper is staying with her at the hospital, and the doctors think they can get at least three more weeks out of her as long as she listens to them and stays on complete bedrest."
"Stubborn little shit, isn't she? She needs to keep those three in there as long as she can. She doesn't want them to end up in the NICU."
Alice and Jasper were married the year after us, but they went at it like bunnies trying to start a family. After two years of no success on their own, they turned to fertility meds, and wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am, they were having triplets. Around thirty weeks, the doctors ordered her on bedrest because the babies weren't gaining weight and her blood pressure was skyrocketing. Now, at thirty-four weeks, they were happy with the progress, but Alice was losing her mind being confined to a hospital bed all day. I visited her as much as I could, but she was getting hard to be around. I had a difficult time telling her no, and I'd end up getting us both in trouble for helping her get out of bed or taking her foods she wasn't allowed to eat.
"We're here, sweetie. You ready for this?" Edward asked, bringing me back to the present.
"I guess I have to be, right?" I faked a smile and took a deep breath.
"You know you are. I know you are, too. You'll do fantastic, and if you don't," he winked and leaned closer, "you'll have my wrath to deal with later."
"Well, then I'm gonna bomb just for you."
He smiled and gave me a searing kiss, thoroughly removing any tension left in my body. Separating from his lips, I said, "Let's do this thing!"
Doctor Whitlock, Carlisle, and Esme greeted us at the door. We exchanged hugs and they all gave me words of encouragement before taking our seats. The banquet was wonderful, watching several moving shorts about success stories and hearing from various speakers. Finally, it was my turn to take the stage. Edward squeezed my hand reassuringly as I rose from my chair and kissed me on the cheek.
When I got up on to the microphone, my heart was pounding erratically. I took a few steadying breaths and looked out over the audience. As I scanned the crowd, I focused on the brightest smiles staring up at me; Carlisle, Esme, and Edward. They'd helped me more than they knew, and this was my time to thank them. I smiled down at them and started my speech.
"Good evening everyone, and thank you Doctor Whitlock for inviting me to speak for such a great cause."
I paused to breathe again and found my inspiration staring brightly at me. I'd finally found my family, the place where I belonged, and I grinned with happiness.
"Tonight I'll share my story with you. The story of how I lost one family and gained another. A story of hate, anger, compassion, and love. But most of all, the story of how I learned to smile again."
A/N: So, there you have it. Hopefully, all of your questions have been answered, and if I missed something, ask me in a pm or review and I'll be glad to answer you. Writing this story has been such a wonderful journey, and I'm so glad you have all come along with me. I can't tell you how awesome it was to read all of your amazing reviews and get all of the favorites and alerts. The only thing I ask of you, is that you send this story to someone who you think will enjoy it as much as you did. Share it with your FF friends and watch them embrace the characters, too. Thank you all so much for your awesomeness!
I also have to say a huge thank you to all my helpers along the way: Jen's WordSong, twifan82, Sovereignvision, sunflowerfields, xlavendermoonx, and Jenny Cullen. You've all given me advice, answered my insane questions, and put up with my annoying nature. Thank you for rec'ing me out and sending me to teaser sites so I could pimp my story. And thank you all so much for your support and words of encouragement! This story is for you!
Well, if you feel so inclined, leave me a review and let me know what you thought. I'd love to hear anything and everything you have to say. Also, don't forget to put me on alert for my next story! It will be a humorous romance, and I'm very excited to start it! I'll even send out a TEASER for a review!
Love to all! ;) M