Give me a kiss to build a dream on
And my imagination will thrive upon that kiss
Sweetheart, I ask no more than this
A kiss to build a dream on.
A Kiss to Build a Dream On, Kalmer, Ruby, and Hammerstein II
Disclaimer: I do not own the Twilight elements of this story; they belong to SM. All original aspects of this story belong to me.
Many thanks to my beta team, Belle Dean, ikss, swimom7, and bookjunkie1975. Also, more thanks than I can express to you who have stuck with me during this difficult time. I hope this chapter is worth the wait.
October 12, 1921
"I can't believe you're leaving in two day's time, Bella," Alice whined as we walked down the Champs-Elysées. "It seems like just yesterday when you arrived!"
"It does, doesn't it?" We came to a stop in front of an upscale baby boutique.
I looked over at Alice who gave my arm a gentle pinch and nodded.
"Anything you need to tell me, Bella?" Alice waggled her eyes as we opened the shop door.
I shook my head in response.
"No," I whispered. "I'm only three weeks married, Alice!"
"Only takes once, from what I hear, Sissy." Her tone was syrupy and dripping with innuendo, but I simply rolled my eyes at her and tried to hide my blush.
"I want to bring something back for Molly. Rose will die to dress her little one in Paris chic, don't you think?"
Alice giggled and nodded.
"I do miss her so," she said wistfully. "Aunt Esme, too. It's just been so long."
"Not much longer, Alice." I rubbed her arm as we looked through miniature versions of the day's most fashionable clothes. "You'll be home before you know it."
My eyes dropped as I spoke the last word, knowing as well as Alice did that she might come home for a week, maybe even a month, but she wouldn't be staying. She'd want to be by Jasper's side sooner rather than later, and I couldn't blame her for that. Still, it remained unspoken between us, as though this more permanent separation was too much to contemplate in the two short days before I left.
"What about this?" I asked, holding up a pretty pink taffeta dress with a white pinafore edged in eyelet. "For Easter, maybe?"
"I bet she'll look darling in it." Her eyes misted over. "I can't wait to meet her."
"She's a cherub and the apple of her parent's eye. But I suspect she isn't long to be an only child."
"Ooh! Gossip you haven't divulged yet, sister. Tell me!"
"It isn't gossip, just a hunch," I chided as we walked toward the cash register. "Rose looked more piqued than usual the day after the wedding. And thinking back, she hadn't been eating like usual. I'm guessing that she's in the early days of her second pregnancy, but there was no word before Edward and I left."
"That's exciting!" Alice clapped her hands.
I paid for the dress and we took our packages back out onto the avenue. After nearly three weeks of roaming Europe with Edward, I'd become accustomed to the avant-garde customs of Parisians and the other Europeans we'd seen on our honeymoon. They were quite different from the reserved Chicago crowd that I was used to, but their ways weren't so foreign when I really looked at them. I found that I quite liked their demonstrative ways after I got used to people kissing passionately on the street or having violent arguments that ended with both parties going to the bar. It was fun and exciting, so much livelier than the restrained life I was accustomed to.
"So . . . I need to know what's going to happen with you and Jasper," I said with a sigh. "We've been putting off this discussion for too long, Ali."
"What do you want to know?" Alice pulled out a cigarette and lit it with shaking fingers.
I reached over and took her hand as she inhaled deeply. We stopped in the middle of the street and people began to walk around us, barely taking note of the two women looking solemnly at each other.
"Honey, what life have you planned for yourselves?" I squeezed her hand as I spoke, trying to convey both acceptance and worry, for surely I felt both in equal measure.
"I owe it to Aunt Esme and Uncle Carlisle to come home after I'm done with university. Besides, I miss our family too much not to go home. But I can't be away from Jas for too long . . ."
"I know." I pulled on her hand and we walked toward one of the cafés along the avenue. After we were seated, I continued. "I can't imagine what it's been like for you. You're very selfless to come home before returning to his side."
Alice snorted and leaned back in her chair more comfortably. We paused in our conversation as we placed our orders with the waiter.
"Marriage has softened you Isabella Marie," she teased, blowing smoke in the air. "Selflessness has very little to do with it. I'm desperate for my family, desperate enough that I'll make myself uncomfortable in order to have some more time with them. It's only knowing that I'll have the rest of my life with Jas that makes it possible."
The server was back with our order and I took a bite of my croissant before continuing.
"New York isn't so very far away," I said after a pause. "We can take turns visiting once Jasper feels safe enough to come back."
"I hate the thought of being away from you," she admitted. "I'd beg you and Edward to move to New York if you didn't already have the house paid for."
I chuckled and reached across the table, touching the tips of her fingers.
"It's tempting even knowing we have the house, but if this separation has taught me nothing else, Alice, it's taught me that even an ocean can't truly keep us apart. A few states don't stand a chance."
"It's just a few more flights, love. Can you make it?" Edward held my hand tightly as we maneuvered up the steel steps of the Tower.
"Not really an appropriate question, Edward," I said crossly. "If I can't, I'll be sitting on the steps of the Eiffel Tower for the rest of my days."
"I'm sorry." His brow drew down in worry. "We should have taken the lifts as you suggested."
"I'm fine," I replied, trying to focus on the thrill of making it to the top and not on the dizzying distance between me and the ground. "I'd be better if these steps weren't see-through."
"That is a rather unfortunate design flaw," Edward mumbled.
The walk up the steps was far more exhausting than I had anticipated, but Edward had had such a gleam in his eye when he asked that I simply couldn't deny him. Still, the steps were a problem for me. In general, I didn't have any issue with heights, but the Tower was something different all together. It felt like we were climbing up to the sky. The ground below seemed miles away and teeming with tiny ants. It was disorienting and I closed my eyes against the sight.
"Here we are," Edward said as the wind picked up, whipping around my face. "The very top!"
I stepped forward and was pleasantly surprised to find a flat surface in front of me. Still, I couldn't find it within myself to open my eyes. Edward wound his arm around my waist and led me forward until I felt a metal bar at my stomach. He moved behind me and I rested my hands on the bar. Edward's hands moved over my shoulders and down my arms until they covered my hands; I could feel his breath at my ear.
"Open your eyes, Bella. It's so beautiful."
The sun had turned orange-red and hung low in the sky, as though it was fighting against the impending night. It cast a golden gleam on the city and made the Seine glow like molten fire. Everywhere my eyes turned, I saw the city in new, glorious colors. It took my breath away.
"Was it worth the climb?" Edward whispered in my ear, brushing his lips against my skin as he spoke.
"Most definitely." I turned abruptly and looked at him desperately. "I don't want to go home tomorrow! Everything has been so perfect . . . I can't imagine having to slip back into reality after this."
He threw his head back and laughed, his shoulders rocking with the sound.
"I know, love, but reality isn't so terrible." Edward turned me back around, wrapping his arms around my waist and leaning his chin on my shoulder. "Think of it: we're going home to our own house. You begin school in just a few weeks' time and I'll be working at Father's office. We'll settle into a routine in no time at all."
"That's just it. Routine, school, work . . . no more fairy tale honeymoon."
"No," he agreed, shaking his head. "Just day upon day spent with you as my wife. Seems like a happily ever after to me."
I sighed and leaned back into his arms.
"I'm just sorry to see this end. The endless hours spent walking around, doing as we please, never answering to anyone or anything. It's a lovely way to live."
He smiled against my cheek, and turned to kiss my neck lightly sending a ripple of excitement down my back.
"I'll miss that too." His voice sounded husky and low in my ear. "Life won't be all rules and obligations once we're back in Chicago, you know. I'll complete my internship with Father and then my schedule will be much less rigid. With your correspondence school, you can set your own hours. The days and nights will still be ours, my love."
I shivered as a gust of wind blew my hair back and Edward's fingers played at my stomach, teasing me almost as much as his words had. I was being whimsical, asking to remain in Paris away from our duties, but this trip had been a welcome reminder of how glorious freedom could be. I didn't want to let it go; I wanted to spend forever hidden away from reality with Edward by my side. Since that was impossible, I would happily take a reality filled with him.
"That does sound rather enticing," I murmured.
"Any future that includes you entices me, Mrs. Masen."
"Edward, you do say the loveliest things."
I turned slightly, just enough that I could capture his lips with mine. A bubble of need rose in my chest as his lips moved with mine, our mouths parting and tongues entwining in a mellow, practiced rhythm. Edward turned me as we kissed, pressing my back into the railing of the tower and winding his fingers through my hair. I always felt wanted when he held me to him in that manner, so very desired and loved. His ministrations made me forget the crowd of people surging around us at the top of the tower until I heard the tell tale flash of a camera.
Edward pulled away from me. A young man in short pants and a beret was smiling at us behind a camera. I felt Edward's hand tighten on my waist as he turned to fully face the photographer.
"Can I help you, sir?" Edward's voice, though smooth and pleasant on the surface, was cool – too tight. I knew him well enough to understand that he was wary of the young man who had clearly photographed our intimate moment.
"Such a lovely couple," the man said in a thick French accent. "I could not but see the love in your kiss. Forgive me for capturing . . . I did not want to see it end."
Edward did not release me, but I felt his fingers loosen around my waist.
"For what purpose, may I ask, did you take the picture?"
"For love, of course." He chuckled and extended his hand. "Sebastian Gautrand. I am fascinated by what Paris does to lovers. I will destroy the exposed film if it is your wish . . . though I would much prefer to develop it and give it to you as a memory of your time here in Paris."
Edward was thoughtful for a moment, looking back and forth between Mr. Gautrand and me. I understood that he was nervous about my reaction, wondering how I would feel about having something so personal captured on film for all time. I stepped forward, extending my hand to the young photographer.
"Mrs. Masen." I introduced myself. "We are leaving for home tomorrow. Would it be possible to leave money with you so that you might send it to us? I think it would be a lovely reminder of our honeymoon."
Edward's fingers played at my side, tightening and releasing as he watched me take control of the situation. I hoped that I had done the right thing. The old-fashioned part of me frowned upon taking control of a situation in front of my husband, but the part of me that was becoming more and more independent couldn't let the opportunity to own such a photograph fade away.
"Madame, it would be my honor to send it to you. Simply leave your address with me and consider it a wedding gift from the City of Light."
He lifted my hand to his lips and placed a chaste kiss upon it. Edward's fingers tightened immediately upon my waist and pulled me back toward him. He smiled sheepishly at Mr. Gautrand who nodded knowingly.
"It is a wise man who keeps his lovely wife close by his side," the young photographer said with a wink. He pulled a slip of paper and a pen from his shirt pocket and handed it to Edward. "If you please?"
"With pleasure." Edward took the slip of paper and quickly wrote our new address on it and handed it back to Mr. Gautrand. "Thank you, my friend."
"Truly it was my pleasure. I will leave you to enjoy your last day in my city."
We stayed for nearly a half hour at the top of the Tower, looking out in every direction and pointing out places we'd been and remembering snippets of the honeymoon. It was a lovely way to end our time in the city. Instead of walking down the steps, Edward conceded to my need for the lift. It was a far more pleasant trip down because of it.
Alice held my hand throughout the train ride back to Le Havre. Her small fingers gripped my hand with a fierceness that would have been painful had I not been so desperate for the contact. I hated leaving her.
As we stood on the dock, her arms locked around my neck, she stroked my hair and whispered a promise of how soon she would see me again. Alice pulled away from me and held my shoulders as she looked me up and down.
"I need you to do something for me in New York," she whispered, her eyes flicking over to Edward.
I drew in a deep breath and closed my eyes. I'd expected her to ask us to find Jasper as soon as we got off the boat, but the topic had never come up. I was slightly surprised to find her asking us just as we were about to leave.
"Is it safe to seek him out?" Edward asked, stepping closer.
Alice nodded and wiped her nose with a handkerchief. "He's certain that no one is looking for him. Either Aro never moved the container or he doesn't care any longer. Anyway, the people he works for, the Blacks, have a finger on the pulse of Aro's crowd. Jas's name never comes up."
"What do you need, Ali?" I was proud of myself; my voice didn't betray my nervousness. Jasper's new life puzzled me even more than my sister's life in Paris. I wondered what he would be like now that he had lived for a year in New York.
Alice pressed a thick envelope into my hand with a smile. It was far thicker than a letter ought to have been. Edward reached over and took the envelope from me, tucking it into his jacket pocket.
"Money?" he asked in a voice barely above a whisper.
She nodded and shrugged her shoulder. "You can understand why I don't want to send it. I've made a fair living selling my designs. What I'm not saving to repay Aunt Esme and Uncle Carlisle or using here in Paris, I want to give to Jas. It's for our house."
There was a tremor of anticipation in her voice. We didn't hear much from Jasper, only what Rose told us in her letters and what Alice revealed in her letters to me. He must have been doing very well for himself if they were already saving for a house of their own. Only a small part of me found it odd that she was earning enough money on her own to both repay our aunt and uncle and help pay for a house. Earning an income would be something that Alice would cherish; I couldn't let my prejudices dampen her excitement.
"How will we find him?" I asked.
She beamed at me, and pulled a slip of paper out of her purse. "He works at this bar, The Black Ball. He's there every night. If you go, you'll probably have to stay the night in New York or catch a late train back to Chicago." She looked worriedly between Edward and me.
"It won't be a problem," Edward replied, taking the slip of paper. "I don't think either Bella or myself are eager for this honeymoon to end; one more day will be welcome to both of us."
"Thank you," Alice said, taking my hand as well as Edward's. "Seeing how happy you two are was a wonderful gift. And this . . . well, it means a great deal to me."
The ship's horn sounded, a low note that I felt in my belly. Alice hugged us both and shooed us toward the gangplank. I allowed Edward to lead me up the narrow walkway so that I could keep my eyes glued to Alice's form in the crowd. As we approached the entryway of the great ship, I lost sight of her and my tears began to fall.
October 19, 1921
New York at night boggled my mind. Where Paris had been full of romance and life, New York simply never went to bed. People came and went as though the sun hadn't set, bustling around to night jobs and visiting restaurants and bars that never seemed to close. The cab we'd hired from the dock had dropped us off at a hotel near The Black Ball. After we'd secured a room for the evening and left our belongings there safely, we went down to the street to find the bar.
"Are you okay?" Edward asked as I clung to his arm.
I nodded and moved closer to him.
"It is a bit overwhelming," I admitted.
He smiled. "Different than both Paris and Chicago, isn't it?"
"Yes. I'm not sure I like these differences as much as the differences we found in Paris."
He chuckled and covered my hand with his. "I can see what people like, but it isn't for me."
We walked further down the street, past mundane looking storefronts from which we heard the faint strains of jazz music reaching the street. My heart raced as we passed a police officer strolling among the crowd, his hand resting easily on the knob of his night stick. Would he follow us to the speakeasy? Would we be caught, arrested? Edward's fingers tightened over mine and he smiled at me as we walked past the officer.
"Do you think –" Edward's shook his head sharply, stopping my words in my throat.
When we were a safe distance from the officer, he looked over at me. "He knows as well as we do what goes on behind the storefronts; he won't do anything unless someone acts . . . untoward."
I nodded and tried to smile more naturally. I had to admit there was a certain measure of excitement in knowing that everyone on the street was involved in an elaborate ruse. We were all players in keeping the fun well-hidden and safe from the hands of the law.
"I think it's just up here," Edward said, pointing at a building whose façade looked no different than any of the others on the street.
The red brick was just as worn down on this building as all the others and the windows appeared soaped over and papered. A single flyer with the words The Black Ball was the only clue that we had chosen the correct building.
"We won't know if Jas is working until we get in," Edward explained as we approached the door. "If you become uncomfortable, just squeeze my hand. I'll get you out of there in no time at all."
"I'll be fine," I insisted, smiling up at him. "Let's just find Jasper. I know you've missed him so."
When we first opened the door, the room we entered was small and nondescript, barely lit up by the dim light bulb hanging from the ceiling. Flickering light and the sound of tinkling glasses mingled with a jazzy beat drew our attention over to a wooden door. We opened it and I was almost knocked over with the thrumming beat that carried up the stairs.
The main part of the speakeasy was underground. A small room packed tightly with moving bodies met our eyes as we descended the stairs. I could smell the alcohol, heavy and sweet in the air. I also saw Jasper almost immediately. He was hard to miss, holding the large bass fiddle and pounding out a rhythm on strings.
"Over there!" I cried above the racket, pointing toward Jasper.
Edward's face lit up and he pulled me faster down the steps, into the undulating crowd. We were jostled and pushed together from the moment we stepped onto the dance floor. I clung to Edward, fearful that I would lose him in the press of people around us. He held my hand tightly and wrapped his free arm around my waist, pulling me through the crowd with ease until we were flush in front of the raised bandstand.
Jasper's eyes were closed as he played his instrument, a round, brimmed hat on his head set low on his forehead. He was sweating and a cigarette hung from his lips. He looked at home on the stage, making music though I hadn't known he played until that very moment. The song came to an end and Jasper opened his eyes. They fell on Edward at once and he hopped immediately off of the stage and pulled the two of us into a fierce embrace, his face lit with surprise.
"Hot damn, I've missed you, brother," he said when he released us. "C'mon. There's a room in the back. I want you to meet Emily and Jake. They've been so good to me."
The band started up again, another man taking Jasper's place playing the bass. He motioned to a large, dark-skinned man behind the bar who nodded without expression. A small woman whose complexion matched the tall man's waved brightly at Jasper. I assumed this was Emily and Jacob.
Jasper led us into a small room, just big enough for a round table and some chairs. It looked like it might be a game table, though no one was playing anything when we walked in. When Jasper closed the door behind us, the music muted enough that I could think clearer.
"Edward and Bella," he said, shaking his head. "Or . . . I should say, Mr. and Mrs. Masen. Congratulations are in order."
We both smiled and Edward put his arm around me. "Yep. We're on our way home from our honeymoon."
Jasper's brown eyes searched Edward's and my faces, as though he were searching for news. He must have known from either Alice or Rose that we had visited Paris on our honeymoon. I could see the worry and the sadness etched in his face; it was the same look I saw in Alice's eyes before we left her. He was desperate for some connection to her, something greater than letters.
"Alice looks wonderful." I stepped forward and took his hand in mine. "She misses you so, Jasper. I think she would have stowed away with our luggage just to get to you if she could have."
He gave a short burst of laughter and the tension seemed to melt from his face, but he shook his head.
"She wouldn't," he said firmly. "She's so close to finishing."
He squeezed my hand and released it, pulling out a chair for me to sit in. I could see how proud he was of Alice and what she was accomplishing in Paris in the quiet smile he wore. He knew her so well, the confidence he had in her accomplishments shining through all of his words.
"Alice gave us something for you," Edward reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out the envelope Alice had given us.
Jasper opened it just enough to see the bills inside before closing it back up and tucking it into his own jacket.
"I'll ask Jake if I can keep it in the safe until I need it," he explained. "It's probably the best place for it right now."
"How is work?" Edward asked, coming around to the other side of the table and sitting down. "Are you happy here?"
"It's better than I could have imagined," Jasper replied, sinking into a chair. "The people who own this joint, Jacob and Emily, are like family to me. They run this place clean-like, no funny business or anything. Well, except for the illegal liquor . . . but you know what I mean. They aren't like some of the other barrel houses around here, selling women along with their liquor. Sorry, Bella."
I swallowed hard, my face flushing as I thought about the implication of his words. I was glad to hear that Jasper wasn't involved in the more dangerous sides of this business, but I was still slightly shocked at the ease with which he discussed what went on. Edward cleared his throat, leveling Jasper with a warning glance that I felt was completely unnecessary, and then gestured for him to continue telling us about his work. Before Jasper could continue however, the pretty woman from behind the bar opened the door carrying a tray full of glasses and plates of food. It wasn't until she turned slightly that I realized only half of her face was pretty; the other half had been severely disfigured.
Several things happened at once. Jasper stood up quickly with a smile on his face to help the woman to the table. I gasped and covered my mouth with my hand and Edward sat, looking helplessly between me and the woman entering the room.
"Emily!" Jasper cried, seemingly oblivious to my rude gasp. "You didn't have to feed us!"
"Hush, Jas," she said in a mellow voice. "We always feed family here and from the looks of things, these are two of your closest kin. Are you going to introduce me?"
Emily set the heavy tray on the table and gave me a radiant smile, completely ignoring my hands traveling from my mouth back to my lap. I tried hard to hide the combination of surprise and fear that must have been written on my face, but I didn't think Emily was fooled. I thought, instead, she was used to these types of reactions and chose to ignore them.
"Emily, this is my oldest friend, Edward Masen, and his new wife, Bella."
"It is a pleasure to meet Jasper's friends," she said, walking toward me with her hand out.
I rose, plastering a smile on my face and extended my hand. Instead of taking my hand in a cool handshake, she pulled me toward her and enveloped me in a hug, wrapping her small arms around my neck and squeezing tightly. It was so unexpected that I let out a loud laugh.
"It's good to meet you as well, Emily," I said as she released me. "Jasper has had nothing but wonderful things to say about his time in New York. It makes us so happy to hear that he's found a good place for himself."
"I've heard all about you and Edward, you know," Emily said with a wink. "Jasper's favorite thing to do when he's not playing his bass is to talk about his family back home. It's so good to finally have a face to put with all the stories."
I was remarkably pleased to hear that I counted among Jasper's 'family back home.' I thought of him as my brother-in-law already, but it was a pleasant surprise to know that he returned that feeling. I sat back down as Emily greeted Edward, offering him the same exuberant hug that she offered me. I had to smile at her natural grace and charm. She carried herself differently than many other women I'd seen, with a regal quality that seemed to set her apart. But all the while, her demeanor was completely laid back. It was a refreshing combination, one that made me think I would like Emily a great deal if given the opportunity to get to know her.
"Jake wants to come back too, but he'll be a few minutes. Some of the boys out front needed to be schooled a bit." Emily began arranging the food on the table. "When do you go back to Chicago?"
"Tomorrow, I'm afraid," Edward said with a look of regret. "I need to get back to my internship and Bella is beginning correspondence school in a few week's time."
"I know you're in training to become a lawyer like your father, Edward," Emily said, gesturing with one of the serving spoons she was using. "But you, Bella . . . what will you be studying?"
"Literature," I replied. "I'd like to write."
Emily smiled at me again, nodding her head. "Yes, I can see you being very creative indeed."
I wondered what she saw in me that made her say that. I didn't define myself as a particularly creative person, but Emily seemed so sure that I fit the bill. I was flattered, but more than a little confused by her surety.
We ate even though we had eaten on the ship not three hours previously; it seemed rude not to and the food was simply too tempting. To everyone's great surprise, I even sipped on some wine through dinner. Though it made my head feel strangely light, it wasn't as terrible as had thought it might be. Edward beamed at me as I toasted him. I knew he wouldn't have cared whether I drank wine or water, I thought perhaps he was proud of me for trying something out of my normal routine. We left that night after hugging Jasper, Emily and Jake, and promising to write more frequently now that everyone was certain Jasper was no longer in danger. I knew that it was a great weight off of Edward's mind to know that his friend was both happy and safe.
October 21, 1921
It was surreal arriving back in Chicago and not going 'home' to Aunt Esme and Uncle Carlisle's house; Edward and I had a new home waiting for us and I was a bundle of excitement and nerves on the car ride home. Uncle Carlisle and Mr. Masen picked us up in Uncle Carlisle's Studebaker and had endless questions about the trip and our short stay in New York. They were anxious for a first hand report about both Alice and Jasper.
As we pulled up to the brownstone, my belly leapt with anticipation. I knew that Aunt Esme and Mrs. Masen were putting the final touches on the house while we were away. I couldn't wait to see what they had done with it, how they had turned it from house into home.
I stood in the foyer where only a few months ago Edward and I had swept and mopped and cleaned an empty shell of a house. All around me, the house was filled with fine things – our things. It was a wonderful feeling of completion.
"We'll let you two kids settle in on your own then," Uncle Carlisle said with a smile as he set down the last of our luggage. "You'll ring if you need anything at all?"
"Yes, of course," I said, walking over and hugging him. "Please tell Aunt Esme that I'll drop by for tea tomorrow?"
"She'll love that. She has so many things to ask you."
Mr. Masen nodded his head to both us and then both of them were gone, leaving Edward and I alone. I felt the butterflies of anticipation leap to attention in my stomach again. We were finally home.
"Look over there," I said, taking his hand. "They've purchased a new hutch for us."
Sitting in corner of the room that Edward had designated "Bella's Library" was a fine, roll-top desk. It was made of amber colored wood with filigree over the sides and down each of the legs. It looked as though it cost a small fortune and my fingers itched to open it, to see what treasure lay inside.
Edward cleared his throat before pulling me gently toward the room. "Actually, they didn't purchase it . . ."
"Oh . . . please don't say that you did," I whispered warily. "Edward, it looks as though it belongs in a palace!"
"I didn't," he said, a blush creeping up neck. "It was my great grandfather's writing desk. My Granny Hare, my mother's mother, kept it in her house until she passed away several years ago. When she died, it came to our house where mother kept it in the attic. I remember sitting at it when I was a boy in my Granny's house, admiring the way the wood gleamed. After we bought the house . . . well, I thought the old desk deserved to be used by someone who would appreciate it. Do you like it, Bella?"
As he finished speaking, we reached the side of the desk. As he had said, the wood seemed to glow in the early afternoon sunlight. I ran my fingers lightly elegant curve of the roll-top. It was almost as though I could feel the history surging below the strange, amber surface. I could see myself sitting at the desk, pen in hand as I wrote page after page of letters, journals, and even stories.
"Sorry," I whispered, turning toward him. "I was just . . . imagining. I love it, Edward. I love that this desk made you think of me."
"Open it," he said, gesturing toward the handle on the roll-top.
I looked at him with a curious expression on my face, but he simply smiled at me and continued to gesture at the desk. I walked over, gently touching the handle of the roll-top. I expected resistance; it was an old desk and I didn't know how well taken care of it had been in the Masen attic. To my surprise, the lid lifted without a sound at only the gentlest touch.
My eyes were drawn first to the crisp, cream colored paper laid out in the center of the blotter. Written in navy blue script at the top of the page were the words: From the desk of Mrs. Isabella Masen. I had to wipe the tears away before I could continue to explore the desk. There were at least two fountain pens along with various colors of ink. I saw bound books that I knew instinctively were just waiting for me to fill them with words.
"You made me my very own writing desk," I whispered.
"Technically, my mother did," Edward replied with a shake of the head, and then added, "but I purchased the components before the wedding and left them with Mother."
"When I was a little girl, the only thing I ever did that Mother didn't like was stay up past bedtime to write in my journal. I'd wait till she'd blow out the candle or turn off the light and then I'd creep out of bed to sit in the moonlight and write. When she'd catch me, she'd take my books and burn them. I used to dream about a desk that would be all mine, one where no one could touch my books and papers and that was filled with all of the best inks and pens."
Edward's face moved from anger to sadness so quickly as I spoke I almost missed the transition. I rarely spoke of my childhood. It wasn't because I was embarrassed by it or saddened by the memories; rather, I didn't want people, especially Edward, to judge me by my past. I saw no judgment in his eyes, however . . . only gratitude for having shared that part of my life with him.
He took me into his arms, wrapping me up in the warmth of his embrace, and I let the tears flow. There was sadness in them for the girl I used to be and the dreams I never thought would get answered. But mostly, there was pure happiness at the life that Edward and I were beginning and all of the dreams we would create together.
A/N: Ok ... in all fairness, I have a little bit of explaining to do here. One, I know that it took me an embarrassingly long time to update this story. My only excuse is that real life needs to suck it. I lost two family members in the space of two weeks. Also, I've had some not so minor health issues myself that needed dealing with. Things are looking up now and I'm hoping that life will get back to normal. Also, I had promised before that there would be a few more chapters in this story as Edward and Bella grew into a married couple. As I wrote this chapter and grappled with real life, I began to realize that I could probably drag this story on forever. I'm sure there are a few people out there who'd be happy to read Jazzward's day to day life for the next sixty some years. The thing is, I've accomplished what I set out to do when I started writing this story: Bella has completed her journey. As much as I hate to see ATJ come to an end, I believe that I've successfully told this story. To extend it would be to elongate it unnecessarily. There will be a short epilogue where we will see Bella and Edward a few years down the road along with the rest of the characters, but this will be the last regular chapter of this story. The epilogue will be donated to the Fandom for Sexual Assault Awareness Charity and then I will post it here when the appropriate time has passed.
Truly, I thank all of you for joining me on this journey. When I started writing this, I feared that no one would like such an old-fashioned Bella; and yet, so many of you have taken to her with gusto. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your love and support along this road. Much love and I hope you will enjoy the rest of the stories I have to tell. :) ~Jen