This is the last chapter. I said I wanted to get it done before the end of January, and well, here it is at the beginning of February instead. Close enough, right?
It's always hard to say goodbye to a story and this one is certainly not an exception. Although I hit some rough patches, I have always looked forward to writing each chapter for this story and your support has been incredible. Thank you for that.
The biggest thank yous belong to beegurl13 and twilight44…thanks so much for all that you have both done for me and this story.
This chapter (epilogue) skips far ahead into the future but still covers the things I felt needed to be addressed still. I apologize if I missed anything…I tried my hardest not to. There will be one or maybe two outtakes, which will be published later. No ETA for those yet.
Thanks again to Wendy for pre-reading! I'm glad you're pre-reading two other stories for me so that I don't really have to say goodbye…
It took a lot of time for things to get back to normal. Even after Bella moved back into the apartment, it still felt different. But eventually, I realized that wasn't such a bad thing. Because things really were different now, whether Bella and I accepted it or not.
The most noticeable change, at first, was our physical relationship. Before Bella left, when we were more casual and not very committed to each other, we would still share kisses and touches and we had sex. But now, things were definitely not the same.
She was not as receptive and a lot more timid when it came to simple things like kissing or even holding hands. But really, it was to be expected. Bella had been through a lot, and her beautiful body had been violated against her will in the worst of ways. She shirked away from any form of intimacy, and it took me a little while to learn what was acceptable and what was not.
I continued to make sacrifices, but I was more than willing to do so. There were days when Bella was completely frazzled and felt overwhelmed. Those days were pretty scary at first, but soon I knew how to handle them and they didn't seem so terrifying.
Our physical relationship continued to develop after that, and within a year, it seemed that things were back to the way they used to be, but even better. Bella was still hesitant and unsure in some areas, but overtime she continued to gain confidence. Avery could never have a better mother and I could never wish for a better partner.
She was beautiful in even her uncertainty, and I loved her even more for it. I loved how I could make her feel better about herself by telling her things that were simply the truth.
It was also hard to trust her at times, and I knew it was also hard for her to accept that. Eventually, we both realized it was a lot easier to just lay all our problems out on the table and talk it out. Of course there were still fights and problems, but we took them in stride and accepted what came our way.
BPOV, Five Years Later:
"That's the last box," I said, wiping my hands on the front of my shorts. "So…do you want to start unpacking, or take a break?"
"Take a break." Edward wiped his sweaty brow with the back of his hand and then collapsed onto the sofa with a sigh. "I've been unloading boxes from the truck all morning," he added, closing his eyes wearily. I sat down next to him on the couch, crossing my legs and rubbing his shoulder. The ring on the fourth finger of my left hand glimmered in the sun coming through the front windows of our new house, making me smile.
Edward peeked his eyes open and smiled back at me, reaching out and capturing my hand in his. "Are you happy, Bella?"
I nodded, squeezing his hand tightly. "Without a doubt."
"Good." His eyes lingered on my face for a moment, and then he spoke again. "That's all I want…is for you and Avery to be happy."
"I know that, baby. You've been incredible to both of us. And Avery is going to be so excited when she sees that you finished painting her bedroom. And after lunch, I'm going to try and unpack all of her things so that it will be ready when she comes home from school."
Edward leaned over and kissed the top of my head. "Sounds good," he said, and then sprawled out across the couch again. "I'm just going to take a little nap," he added, mumbling quietly.
"Okay." I stood up from the sofa and kissed Edward's cheek before heading into the kitchen to try and sort out some of the boxes.
Over the past five years, thing have definitely changed. There have been fights and talks and kisses, but there was not one moment that I could bring myself to regret. All of those moments led to what we had now.
The three of us packed up and moved from Forks to Tacoma so that Edward could attend the University of Washington there for Business Administration. Edward and I both knew that the move would be hard, especially since I would be alone with Avery while Edward went to school and worked some weekends. On the days when Edward didn't have class or work, I would also put in a few hours at a little coffee shop down the street. The load sometimes seemed too heavy for both of us, but I wanted to make sure Edward wasn't working too hard. It was also my responsibility to watch Avery and to earn a little money for us, and I loved the time I got to spend with my daughter.
It was extremely stressful at times, for both of us, but we managed just fine. Since we were closer to Edward's parents and my mom now, they helped out with Avery once in a while if I needed a break.
With Avery growing bigger and more independent with every passing day, I couldn't help but miss my little baby. She was six years old now and so full of life and love. She was a complete Daddy's Girl but still my sweetheart, too.
Edward and I took our relationship slow this time around, taking time to enjoy each other and enjoy the life we had together with our daughter before getting too serious and moving too fast.
Like I said, things weren't always perfect. I still felt unbelievably overwhelmed at times, but Edward was always there for me. And as Avery grew up, I realized that she was easily the best thing that had ever happened to me.
Edward and I still had stupid, pointless fights, but I knew that it would be okay. Every couple fights and every couple has struggles, but Edward and I…we'll be okay. Because I love him and I know that he truly does love me. It's a beautiful thing, being in love. Edward's flaws seem so much less important and so do my own faults. It's like the little bits of bad that we both have cancel each other out.
We had been dating for over four years before Edward proposed to me. My friends teased me about having to wait, but I didn't bother telling them that it had been Edward waiting for me, not the other way around. He waited until he was sure that I was perfectly secure and comfortable in our life. His unwavering patience was just another way Edward proved that while he may not have been the perfect man, he was my perfect man and he would always take care of me.
I continued to mindlessly unpack the kitchen, lost in my own thoughts of the past, until I heard Edward's voice from the doorway.
"Ready for lunch?" he asked, and I felt his arm wrap around my waist. "I'll make sandwiches."
I smiled and looked over my shoulder at Edward, nodding. "That sounds great." Edward kissed the back of my head and then released me to find the ingredients he would need to make the sandwiches.
"I talked to my mom earlier," he called, his voice muffled as he looked through the cabinets I had just filled up.
"Yeah? What'd she say?" I asked, getting out paper plates and cups, which would have to suffice until I located the box that held our actual dishes and cutlery.
"She wants to know if we're ever going to set a date for the wedding," Edward said, sounding a little hesitant. "I told her that we hadn't really thought about the date…and that we'd let her know."
I sighed and tucked a stray piece of hair back behind my ear. "I'll talk to her tomorrow. Honestly, I think she might be more concerned with wedding plans than we are. Is that bad?"
"Not necessarily." Edward started making our sandwiches, not looking at me as he spoke. "You and I are more concerned about what happens after the wedding; our life together. My mom just lives to plan parties."
I laughed, thinking about my eccentric mother in law to be. "That's true. I think we would be better off just letting your mother and Avery plan the whole thing."
Edward kissed me firmly on the lips, and then handed me my sandwich. "Enjoy, my beautiful fiancée."
"Mom, can I still be your flower girl?" Avery asked, glancing up at me from her dinner plate.
"Of course," I said easily, looking at Edward and then focusing on her. "Why do you ask, sweetie?"
"Melissa said that I couldn't be the flower girl in your wedding because you're my parents. She said that people aren't supposed to have kids before they're married, and that means I can't be in your wedding."
I dropped my fork, looking over at Edward with worry written all over my face. "Honey, Melissa doesn't know what she's talking about. Her parents might have been married before she was born, but that's not always how it works. Just because Daddy and I aren't married doesn't make you any less important, and it certainly doesn't mean you can't be in our wedding."
Edward nodded, reaching across the table and taking my hand. "You're our favorite person in the world, Avery, and we love you very much. That's why we want you to be in our wedding. Because it's not just your dad and I's wedding; it's our wedding. All of us are going to be a part of it. We're lucky, sweetie, because all of us get to share a very happy event together."
Avery seemed to be appeased by our answers, but she still looked a little trouble. "Well, why didn't you get married before I was born?" She questioned, and Edward and I exchanged a glance.
We've known this question would be coming for years, but somehow we still aren't prepared for it.
"Everyone is different, Avery" I began, "your father and I just…we weren't ready to get married when you were born, but that doesn't make us love you any less. No matter when you were born, you're still the best thing that ever happened to us." Edward nodded, his eyes glued to my face. "Don't listen to what other people say about stuff like that, okay? They don't understand the full story, and they probably never will."
"Okay," Avery said simply, easily accepting my answer and then digging into her dinner again. "So, I still get to pick out my dress too, right?"
Edward laughed loudly, shaking his head at our daughter's carefree simplicity.
"Yes, you get to pick out the dress. But don't forget, Daddy and I have a lot of planning to do before we get to that point."
Exactly five months, one week, and four days later, our wedding was completely planned. Dresses had been purchased and tailored, tuxedoes had been rented, and the million little of the details had all been handled…mostly by Esme and Alice, who was going to be my one and only bridesmaid.
The wedding was going to be small, just like Edward and I had always planned. 50 of our family members and closest friends would gather around us and watch Edward and I, not to mention Avery, start the rest of our life together.
When the day finally came, everything seemed like just a blur.
Alice, Esme, my mom, and Avery were helping me get ready, fawning over me and making me feel like the stereotypical blushing bride. They soothed my nerves, even though I had no idea what I was so nervous about. How different could life be after this? It was just a wedding…our lives were already bound together, and had been since Avery's birth.
"Can I have some alone time with Avery?" I asked, only a few minutes before I was due to walk down the aisle.
The rest of them left us, kissing me and hugging me and wishing me well. And then three of them were gone; the door closed quietly behind them.
"Are you still nervous, Mom?" Avery asked, gently touching the delicate material of my long veil.
"No, baby," I assured her. "I'm excited. I love your daddy very much."
She nodded, smiling up at me. She looked so young and innocent with a missing tooth and her crooked smile. "I know. I love you guys, too."
"That's good to know." I ran my hands through her soft curls. "We should probably get out there before Grandpa Charlie comes looking for us."
"Okay!" Avery grasped my hand and we walked out of the room together, running into Charlie in the hallway.
"Hey, girls. I was just coming to get you. Are you all ready?" Charlie asked, and I saw the way his eyes misted over as he took in my appearance.
"Yep! We're all ready and we're both very excited," Avery said eagerly, grabbing her grandfather's hand too.
Charlie smiled at me, and wiped his eyes dramatically. "Alright. Let's go, ladies."
Of course, my wedding flashed by so quickly, I could barely take it all in. Edward was there with me, and so was Avery, so that was all I really needed. Edward's face was beautiful as I walked down the aisle towards him, and our first kiss as husband in wife was fantastically soft and tender. We were finally celebrating our love and our relationship with the people we loved most, and it couldn't have been more perfect.
"Are you happy?" Edward asked, a question that had become common over the years.
"Happier than I've ever been," I replied without even having to think.
Just like our wedding, the months following passed quickly. Edward easily settled into his new job and Avery loved first grade and I was taking art classes; everything was falling perfectly into place. Of course there were still plenty of problems- marriage created more problems than I had ever expected, but through everything, we were still a family and that was the most important thing.
Within a year and a half, Edward and I welcomed another precious baby into our family. Tegan Elise Cullen was brought into the world and into a happy family. Avery loved being a big sister, and Edward and I both adored our second daughter.
At times, I was still irresponsible. There were frustrating moments when I wanted to just throw in the towel and give up again, but I never did. Things were different, and easier, now and I could easily say that I had never happier with my life.
There was a time in my life when I thought I would never be able to make Bella Swan happy.
But now here we were, happily married with two unbelievably beautiful daughters. Sometimes I worried about Bella and her happiness, but then I would look over at her and…she would just have then fantastic smile on her face that made me forget all of my worries.
When I knew I wanted to ask her to marry me, I waited until I was sure she was completely ready for marriage. We had talked about it before, but it wasn't until we were over three years into our relationship that I realized we were both ready for the commitment.
I had been nervous up until the very second she said yes to my proposal, even though I really knew the answer all along.
There was nothing I wouldn't do for her, and nothing that I would sacrifice for the family she had given me. Tegan and Avery brought Bella and I more joy than I could ever fully express, and we tried to show them that every single day.
Nothing was ever going to be perfect, and we both knew that. There were still times that I felt that awful urge to relapse back into drugs, but one look at my family could suppress that. Bella and I still had our fights, but something else was different.
There was no longer any uncertainty in our feelings for each other, and there was no longer such a difference between us.
Xoxo- Melodyella aka Mellie