Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Author's Note: So, here it is. The bittersweet closure. The forever part.
Gratitude: Thank you to meliz875 for editing the epilogue wonderfully. To those who offered their opinions, stuck with this story through the breaks, and who trusted me when I promised a happy ending, thank you so much. I cherish each and every single one of you.
To luvinj: What do I say? You were the heart behind this story – always pushing for me to finish and allowing me those long needed breaks without so much as a question. Thank you for loving this story so much. Thank you for your unwavering support. Thank you for countless Skype sessions where I did nothing but ramble about Divine Intervention and all of its drama. Thank you for spending sleepless hours of your time brainstorming ideas that never saw the light of day. Thank you for reeling me in when I got a little lost. And thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for being the most amazing friend a girl could have. This is for you – every last word.
Suggested Listening: Nick Lachey – This I Swear; The Fray – Hundred.
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Six Months Later
"Please don't do this!" Bella pleaded. Her cheeks blushed. "You can't. I'll do anything. I can change your mind."
"I'm sorry, Bells. I have to. It's just not practical anymore." Ignoring her pleas, I pushed open the door and allowed it to close behind me.
"Practical? Why does it have to be practical?" Bella's concern was taken from me to Sarah as she let out a loud, unhappy cry. "See?"
I glanced over my shoulder only to watch Bella make an exaggerated motion toward Sarah as though her crying had anything to do with the situation at hand. My eyes rolled on their own recognizance while Bella's lip quivered. When I didn't respond to her, she huffed and turned her back just as I took a seat in the barber's chair.
"If you're going to cut your hair off, then I can't watch!"
"Don't you think you're being a little dramatic?" I chuckled, knowing that what I had said would land me in the doghouse any other time. But today was different. In a few hours, I would be flying to Pittsburgh for the season. There was no way Bella would let me leave with anger in her heart. So, I'd chosen today purposely to cut my hair.
I never really understood Bella's attachment to my long hair, but in all honesty, it wasn't practical for me to have it any longer. Having a six-month-old baby was hard enough without having to worry about what she'd put in your hair or if you'd remembered to brush it at all. Plus, Sarah's tiny fingers always seemed to tie the tiniest of knots into the most inconvenient spots. Football season was closing in and as much as I enjoyed expressing my native roots, long hair didn't really seem to be, well, practical for that either.
"Okay. Maybe I am, but I just… I love you with the long hair."
"And you won't love me with short hair?" I smiled that wide grin that weakened Bella's knees.
With a soothing deep breath, Bella groaned. "I'll love you either way."
I was still growing used to expressing my love for Bella. And at times, I was a little shy about it, but Bella was patient. Her patience only made me love her even more.
Sarah let out another ear-busting cry and squirmed impatiently in Bella's arms. "I guess I should take her out to the car and feed her while you're being completely irrational!" A small grin worked its way onto her lips. "You do this while I'm feeding her. At least I won't have to watch."
Bella leaned down just far enough for me to stretch my spine out and kiss her. "Thank you for trying to understand."
"You're welcome." She spoke against my lips and then kissed them again. "See you in a few."
As Bella headed out of the door, the barber slipped a smock over me and asked, "How much do you want to take off."
"All of it."
Thirty minutes later I was on my way to the airport. Bella drove quietly , eyeing me every few seconds. Her response to the shortness of my hair was a quiet squeak and groan. Other than that, Bella didn't really speak up about it. The only sign of her opinion was the way her cheeks would flush and the way her neck turned splotchy every time she stared at me for longer than a second.
I chuckled in my chest and squeezed onto her hand. "I love you, Bella."
That brought a bright smile onto her face. "I love you too."
When we reached the airport, Bella's speed slowed. Her movements were drawn out and exaggerated. She took her time unbuckling Sarah from her car seat and made me wait until Sarah was out to even start unloading the trunk.
Bella handed Sarah to me, and I welcomed my daughter in my arms. Quietly, Bella watched me kiss Sarah's forehead and cheeks until they were almost chapped. After I was done, I turned my attention to Bella, who was leaning against the car taking in the moment with her arms crossed over her chest.
"Dad's going to watch her for the rest of the week while you're at the aquarium."
Bella nodded. "Marybelle and Dad might take her a day or two, but I'll let Billy know the night before."
"That's fine." I reached out my arm and looped it around her shoulders. Pulling Bella into my chest, I squeezed her tightly. "Five more days and you'll be living on the east coast."
"Who would have ever thought I'd leave Forks?"
"I always hoped you would."
The oak door to the condo opened quietly. A dark solitude moved through the newly remodeled but rarely used rooms as I wheeled my bags inside. I hadn't been back here since January, which seemed to be a lifetime ago. So much had changed between then and now. I was a different man.
The walls of the condominium seemed bare compared to the memory-covered walls of the beach house. Bella and Sarah were woven into the foundation there, but, here, it was just me. Modern leather furniture was sporadically placed by an unknown decorator hired on a whim to keep my mind off of Bella and her pregnancy.
The beach house, however, encased something that I could never replicate no matter how hard I tried. Love was woven into every last inch of that place while the condo had sheltered my fear. That fear was gone now, and I suppose that's why it seemed so lonesome.
Bella and Sarah were my definition of life. They were my family, my dreams, and my hopes. Living without them – even for just five days – would prove challenging. I hoped the time without them would pass quickly.
I busied myself the following day with unpacking and straitening up. The condominium smelled musky, sheltered, and new. The scent burned my nose because I was used to smelling home cooked meals, baby powder, and Bella's favorite vanilla candles. I sighed and pushed open the window in the bedroom. Returning to my suitcases, I pulled out a freshly-washed t-shirt. I held it to my nose and inhaled the soft, clean aroma of our laundry detergent with just a hint of the ocean mixed in.
I took my time unpacking, making sure all my clothes were neatly folded and put away. The less time I had alone and to myself, the less I missed my family and our home. Once my duffle bag was empty, I tossed it off the side of the bed. It rattled loudly on its way down, and so I pushed my hand through the small opening between the zippers in search for the rattler. With a lonely sigh, my hand returned with a purple and orange baby rattle. I shook it back and forth, my mind focused solely on the daughter who was probably sleeping peacefully in her crib.
I fell back onto the not-as-comfortable-or-big bed. With the rattle still in my hand, I held it to my chest as I stared up at the vaulted ceiling. Even it seemed dull and less remarkable than it had before.
A million thoughts bounced in my head as I tried relaxing. I worried about practice in the coming weeks. I worried if I had trained enough, if I had memorized the plays correctly, and exactly how having a new daughter would reflect on my game. I worried about Sarah. Useless worries like did she know I was gone? Would it affect her? Would she remember me when her and Bells finally came?
Then there was Bella.
Had I told her I loved her enough? Did she believe me now? Could she feel how much I truly loved her? How much I needed her? And if not… was there a way that I could make her feel the love I always carried for her?
My concentration peaked on that last question. Regrets flooded my heart and thus the anxiety roaring through my veins. And suddenly, I wished I could go back in time, back to the moment I felt my heart skip a beat, back when she jumped in my arms on her surprise visit to Florida, back when I knew I loved her but tried to deny it.
I loved Bella, but there were moments when I was blinded by whatever obstacle – Jessica, Embry, dreams, growing up, college – was in our way, yet we overcame each of them. Somehow, Bella and I surpassed our regrets, mistakes, and fears together as one. Each fear, each regret, each obstacle tying the knot on the string that secured me to her.
From the corner of my eye, I spied a package of sticky notes lying on my night stand. I clutched them in my grip and trekked off to the den to find an ink pen, marker, pencil… anything that would leave a readable mark on the yellow pieces of paper in my hand.
With a pen in hand, I scribbled out the first moment I knew I loved Bella. Like the domino effect, memories of moments when I should have, when I could have told her exactly how I felt, rippled through my head, overloading my heart until I had no other option than to get them out.
Four Days Later
Walking through the airport seemed to take forever. Seconds counted down like hours. Minutes passed like days. The time on my cell phone never seemed to change, and with every step toward security, I relinquished my sanity to the army of butterflies flapping their wings in my stomach.
Swaddled in my arms was a tired Sarah. Her first plane ride was long and fussy, but considering that we were flying across the continental U.S., I was proud of her. I pressed a kiss to the top of her head. Just after my lips parted her black locks, I glanced up to the gathering of travelers bottle-necking through the security gate just ahead.
Following the hoard of people, I waited for my turn to exit. Sarah squirmed at the tightly packed quarters and the random conversation was almost too much for me to stand. Bouncing her in my arm, I lifted her until her cheek met mine and hummed softly into her ear a gentle lullaby. When that didn't seem to help, I kindly whispered, "It's okay, Sarah. Daddy's here somewhere. He's going to be so happy to see you."
Just in that moment a small puff of warm wind blew the strands of my hair across my left shoulder. Remembering the dream I had once had, I lifted my eyes in the direction of the breeze. A gasp of breath left me as Jacob weaved in and out of awaiting family members and friends of other passengers.
Just as I had done, I watched him follow an invisible gust of wind with his eyes until they locked on me.
A wide, handsome grin melted onto his face, mirroring my own. With a casual wave of his hand, Jacob patiently waited the last five seconds of our separation. The moment I stepped in front of him, with Sarah in my arms, Jacob securely wrapped his arms around Sarah and me.
"I missed you so much," he whispered into my ear.
"Missed you too, Jake." I responded with the beat of my heart.
And as he pulled back, Jacob lovingly pressed a gentle, cherishing kiss upon my lips. His nose swiped across mine twice while his onyx eyes burned torturously loving holes through me. "I love you, Bells."
"I love you too, Jacob." I answered proudly.
"There's my little girl." Jacob swooped Sarah out of my arms and lifted her into the air, causing an ample amount of giggles and awe's from random people. "Daddy missed you so much."
I watched Jacob with Sarah and how he beamed with every bat of her lashes and giggling laugh. As if I thought I couldn't love him anymore than I already did, my heart catapulted toward his proud, fatherly smile and intoxicating laugh.
We had been through so much since I realized I was in love with him the summer before our senior year. My last trip to see my mother sealed my heart, and no matter how many times he broke me, the love I held for him grew every day. Without Jacob, without his mistakes, without his fears, without everything he was, I would not be everything I was.
Left lingering in me were questions only Jacob could answer. I only hoped someday I would be able to ask those questions and tolerate those answers.
However, it wasn't the moment to ask those questions. Jacob and I deserved to be happy. We deserved years of love and happiness.
After picking up our baggage and loading it, we climbed into the car and headed toward the condo that would become our home. Jacob's smile never left his face as he chatted away about nothing. His eyes diverted to the rear-view mirror every few minutes to check on our daughter tucked away in her carseat just behind me.
We talked about nothing. It was the perfect kind of conversation, the kind that takes your mind off of your worries and to a happier place. But I noticed the closer we came to the condo the more sparse the conversation became. And as we pulled into the driveway, you could almost hear a pin drop.
The summer air was thick with silence as Jacob and I exited the car. I opened the back door and began to unbuckle Sarah when Jacob interrupted just as he lifted the trunk.
"Yeah?" I pulled myself out of the backseat and peered around the rear of the car.
"Could you run and open the door for me? I'll watch Sarah."
"What about the bags?" I asked.
"I'll get them. Just go unlock the door." Jacob reached the keys out to me and dangled them from his finger.
With a cock of my eyebrow and a curious look, I snatched the keys from Jacob's pointed finger and walked the few steps toward the front door. I flipped through the keys as I took the steps of the porch two at a time. Opening the storm door, I glanced over my shoulder toward Jacob who stood with his arm leaned against the open trunk watching my every move. As soon as he noticed I was watching him, Jacob ducked into the backseat, lifting Sarah out of the car.
Perplexed by his need to watch me, I pushed the key into the door and twisted the knob. Reaching through the door, I flipped on the light switch and stepped inside. The keys clanked on the table when I set them down.
Catching my attention from the corner of my eye was a wall of yellow. And as I turned to face the wall, which ran the entire length of the condo, my mouth fell ajar.
Focusing my eyes, I realized the wall of yellow was actually a white wall with what looked to be a million sticky notes stuck to it. Flustered as to why Jake would do such a thing, I stepped closer, squinting as scribbles on the sticky notes caught my attention. I reached out, my fingers grappling one and plucking it from the wall.
The creaking of the storm door opening and closing pulled my attention from the sticky note in my hand and to Jacob and Sarah. A sheepish smile crept onto his face and he glanced toward the floor.
"What's this?" I asked quietly.
"Those are," he sat Sarah down in the playpen just adjacent to the area we were standing in, "all of the times I should have told you how much I loved you."
I gasped as the air left my lungs. My hand flew to my mouth and my heart stammered in my chest. My glazed-over eyes read the sticky note between my fingers.
When you surprised me in Florida.
Tears trickled from my eyes. My hand drifted to my chest and rested just over my heart. Its flutters, I was sure, could be felt for miles.
In the bubble bath where we made love.
Jacob stepped next to me, his shoulder bumping mine just slightly. He tucked his hands into his pockets. "It started off as just a way for me to repent, but ended up being something bigger." His voice ventured lower as he spoke and I read. "I wanted to tell you, show you, how much you meant to me even when I…was being a jackass."
On the fifty-yard line at the stadium.
At Christmas while stringing popcorn garland.
"I didn't realize how many, how much…" A soft crack of his voice turned my attention toward him. "How many times I should have." Jacob's eyes fell back to the wall of sticky notes containing every moment he could think of and remember in which he didn't speak his true feelings to me.
So my attention floated back.
New Years Eve.
On your birthday.
On my birthday.
After every apology.
At the end of every conversation.
"Jacob… you didn't have to…" I tried to mumble, but the words came out merely as whispers.
"I know." He answered with a shrug of his shoulder. "I wanted to."
As I read every sticky note, my love for Jacob doubled. The ones that were the most specific, the ones where I could almost feel his words – where I could see the moments – I plucked them from the wall to hold them close to me.
When you told me you were pregnant.
In the aquarium tunnel when you reached out for me.
I continued my journey down the wall of sticky notes. The beat of my heart was erratic at best as I realized just how much Jacob truly loved me. It wasn't simply because I gave birth to his child. His feelings stemmed further back, back to when I questioned his every movement, his every word.
"This is just the beginning, Bells. There are so many other times I wanted to put on here, but that was before I actually knew I was in love with you. These..." he pointed to the yellow wall, "are all times when I knew…even before Sarah."
"Are y-y-you saying that.."
"I was scared back then, Bells. I…"He rolled his eyes at his selfish reasons. "It doesn't matter now. All that matters is now, tomorrow, a day from now, a week from now, a month from now, years from now. Bella, I'm going to love you then just as much as I love you now, if not more."
When I got drafted.
Buying the beach house.
The day I found out we were having a girl.
The night I almost lost you.
"And these?" Jacob eyed the wall again, "They're promises, Bells. We'll have plenty more times like them. I won't take another one for granted."
When you stopped breathing.
When you said you loved me.
"I know you can't read them all right now." Jacob turned as I gawked at every moment written on the wall. "But there's one more that I didn't put up there, because I don't think it really counts."
"What is it?" Turning from the wall, I faced Jacob.
Jacob fished in his right pocket while his left stayed steady in the other. Finally, his hand retracted bringing with it a bright pink sticky note. He watched his hand as I reached out, sliding the pink sticky note from between Jacob's fingers. Carefully I read the words scrawled out in his scribbled hand writing.
The second I decided to propose.
Another round of warm, salty tears littered my cheeks and a sob parted my lips. My eyes floated to where Jake previously was standing only to find him kneeling on his knee. A black velvet box rimmed with polished silver was clutched in his hand.
"I may have not said it as much as I should, but I love you." Warm glistening tears fogged Jacob's onyx eyes until a single tear dripped from one. "I will love you until forever."
With a slip of his hand, Jacob opened the velvet box revealing a delicately extravagant circular diamond surrounded by what looked to be hundreds of smaller diamonds.
"You're my everything, Bells. Will you marry me?"
My head nodded wildly, a smile warming the tears falling haphazardly from my eyes.
Taking the ring from the box, Jacob slipped it onto my left ring finger. His thick fingers held it in place as a wildly adorning smile spread over his face. "YES!" I yelled as my arms wrapped around his neck. "A million times… yes."
The rapid pace of my heart melded with Jacobs in our embrace. His warm, inviting lips sealed his proposal with a kiss, and his nose rubbed gently across my own, entangling the intricate web of love we wove with the friendship we both cherished. By the time I could part my lips from his, Sarah was in my arms. Jacob weaved his arms around my waist, cradling his hand under Sarah, our fingers entangling completing the perfectly imperfect circle of our hearts.
A gentle but warm breeze capsulated the three of us. The simple abnormality may have been overlooked by some, but Jacob and I gazed toward one another, understanding reflecting in our eyes. With a gentle smile, I spoke.
"I think your mom would be proud."
"Yeah. " Jacob watched the invisible wind dance around the three of us. A bright, loving smile graduated across his lips as his eyes danced between the moving wind, myself, and Sarah. "Me too.