A/N: Alright guys, this is it.
I've been thinking, when I first started writing this story, I saw it as a love story between Edward and Bella. And it was. But at some point I realized it was also a story about a daughter and her father.
Here is their conclusion. I hope this makes sense. Most of us have an identity crisis at some point in our lives, even in the best of families. It has nothing to do with being grateful or ungrateful. It is part of youth, and confusion and finding ourselves while a bunch of questions and hormones run around inside us. What matters is what we find at the end of that crisis, and who is there to help us through it…
Danna0724, aka Danna, love you lots girl. Thanks so much for beta-ing yet another story for me.
Epilogue 3: Dedication
Chapter Song Recs:
Because You Loved Me by Celine Dion (I know I used this one already, but it's just fitting here).
Wind Beneath My Wings by Bette Midler
Twenty-one years after the marriage of Edward and Bella Cullen:
Madisen Cullen walks to the middle of the stage, her heels clicking against the cool tiles of the floor. The sound reverberates loudly throughout the large auditorium and in her ears, and Maddie can feel all eyes on her, but this doesn't necessarily make her nervous. After all, she's Edward and Bella Cullen's daughter; she's more or less grown up in the public eye and is used to being watched. Still, she does feel a slight reddening in her cheeks, but her caramel skin tone hides most of her blush. When she reaches the microphone, she adjusts the stand and raises it a bit. The last girl on stage was petite, and at five foot nine, Maddie is tall by most measures. In her three inch heels, she's close to six feet today.
She looks out at the audience assembled today; a mixture of families both young and old, mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, girlfriends and boyfriends, siblings and friends. Her eyes finally locate her own family, and her face breaks out in a huge grin. Everyone's come out today, even her grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins. She lets her eyes trail quickly over each and every face, until they reach the ones she's looking for. At the very end of the row, emerald eyes twinkle up at her encouragingly, they way they have for as far back as she can remember, and she smiles back tenderly.
She grins and clears her throat. She has it all written down, but she has a feeling she won't need her notes too much.
"Many people aren't fortunate enough to be able to say this, but I remember the first time I met my father."
Smiles appear across the crowd, because everyone knows who Madisen Cullen's father is. He and his family have fascinated the world for decades.
"Though the memory is admittedly a bit fuzzy, I recall looking up at a tall, bronze-haired man with the smile of an angel" – everyone chuckles because they agree, Edward Cullen's smile rivals that of any heavenly being – "and then he knelt down in front of me and the rays from the sun hit him from behind, and I was like 'whoa! He really is an angel!'"
The crowd laughs and Maddie laughs with them. The bronze-haired angel of who she speaks chuckles, glancing at his wife with one of the aforementioned signature grins. He knits his hand through hers and squeezes tightly.
"I think I believed my father to be an angel for a long time. That is, until I figured out he was much more than that. He was my dad."
Edward sighs, an emotional unsteady sigh. Only his family, seated around him, can see the glassiness in his green eyes.
Maddie remembers an early spring day, over twenty-one years ago, by the lake at Central Park. Her arms are wrapped around her father's neck, and she revels in how warm and safe she feels in his arms. It's a feeling that will stay with her forever:
Did Daddy just teuh me I'm a Tullen now? Is that what he's teuhing me?
"You mean I'm Maddie Gwace Tullen now?" she remembers breathing hopefully.
He tells her that yes, she's a Cullen now. And Maddie knows this means something special. Because Juliana's last name is the same as her daddy's. And now so is hers. He starts explaining things to her carefully, words he knows she'll understand at her tender age. He calls her his princess, the way he has since the first time she saw him. And she calls him daddy. Because she realized a few weeks ago that he took care of her; he sang to her; he read her stories; he made her feel better when she had a booboo; he took her to the park; he kissed her mommy and loved her mommy.
He was daddy.
"My mom and dad have been married for twenty-one years now," Maddie continues. Sighs go up in the audience. "In those years they've raised me and my brother and sister…"
Maddie's eyes trail to her sister Megan, and Meg beams at her proudly. The two sisters have always been very close, even though there are six years between them. At twenty, Megan is an undisputed beauty. Mouths fall open and eyes bulge out of their sockets when she walks by waving her long, reddish blonde hair, just a shade lighter than her father's. She is quite aware of her beauty, much to their father's chagrin, but seeing how her father treats her mother has allowed her to grow up with a strong sense of self-respect and worth. She is petite, like their mother, only standing at five foot four, but she makes up for her small size with her fiery temper and the unapologetic way she speaks her mind. Megan Cullen is a force to be reckoned with, and if her career plans to join her father at CCW when she graduates from Columbia Business School continue, God help every other ad agency in the country.
And God help Edward Cullen.
Sitting next to Meg is their brother, eighteen year old Jace. While Megan and Maddie are as close as sisters can get, they are, in fact, sisters, and along with this relationship comes the occasional arguments and teasing. But Jace is Maddie's pride and joy, and although she is quite aware of his occasionally…mischievous ways, he can do no wrong in her eyes. And the feeling is mutual.
For all intents and purposes, Jace Cullen is a physical clone of their father. Whereas each girl has some bits of both Edward and Bella, either physical or in mannerisms, Jace is all Edward. Tall, lean but muscular, bronze hair the same exact shade as his father's, green eyes exactly like his father's, a cocky crooked grin that – much to his mother's chagrin – makes every female within a five-mile radius swoon on command, and rumor has it that it may have magically disintegrated more than one pair of panties already. But Jace swears up and down that he will behave himself at Princeton in September. He wants to study Forensics and follow his grandfather Charlie into law enforcement, into the FBI specifically. He says he wants to help defend and protect his country.
Maddie has a strong suspicion he just knows how unstoppable he'll be with that grin and a badge.
He'll behave he says. Maddie is hopeful.
But she's not holding her breath.
But Jace has been taught the importance of respecting women; and although he may be a little on the…uhm… flirtatious side, he – as well as Meg and Maddie – knows some of the story of what their mom went through before she met their dad. None of them would ever like to be on the giving or receiving end of that type of relationship.
Maddie continues. "…and they've taught us the importance of hard work and dedication to achieve our goals, as well as the necessity to sacrifice sometimes, and to help those less fortunate than ourselves."
Maddie looks at her mom and they share a tender smile. Bella Cullen is one of the most admired and well-respected women in the city, even with as much as she tries to stay out of the public eye. Maddie knows her mom has never been completely comfortable being in the public eye, but she has sacrificed her comfort to give her children as normal a childhood as possible. And it was. There were beach vacations and ski trips, PTA meetings and parent-teacher conferences, play dates and sledding down the hills in Central Park and afternoon strolls around the city. And Bella Cullen did it all with such grace and perceived ease that the media rarely bothered them. There were no scowls, or fights or scenes in public.
As much as Bella enjoyed her work at CCW, it got to the point where she felt she needed more time with her children, and so little by little she handed over her accounts, and eventually left CCW and joined Nanny Esme on the boards of several fundraising charities, raising money for those less fortunate, especially for women who found themselves in abusive relationships, either physical or emotional.
But she made sure her children knew that her decision was just one possible road of many.
"My mom has been a most positive role model to my siblings and myself, and I know that without her encouragement I wouldn't be here today..."
Maddie and her mom lock eyes, and Maddie swallows thickly.
"…but…today I'd like to talk about my dad."
Bella nods her head once at her eldest daughter, because she already knows what the speech will consist of. Maddie has read it to her mother, for her opinion and advice, and Bella has assured her that it's just about perfect at this point.
But Edward wasn't aware until now what would be in his daughter's speech. Maddie turns her gaze to him, and he looks startled, but a small smile plays on the edges of his mouth. And he waits for his daughter to continue.
"As much as I owe both my parents – and after paying for this school, believe me I owe them a lot" - she snorts. Everyone laughs and nods – "I'm standing here today, in front of all of you, because of my father."
Maddie watches her father draw in a deep breath, his green eyes twinkle, and he exhales heavily through narrowed lips. Bella leans over and whispers something in his ear, and even from here Maddie can see her father relaxing at her mother's soft words.
"My father has always, always put family first, no matter what."
Maddie thinks back to her childhood. Christmas vacations, summer retreats, birthdays, anniversaries, scraped knees, recitals, soccer games, sibling fights, broken hearts…
One summer, almost a decade ago, back at their summer home in the Hamptons:
It was the end of the summer season, and Maddie and her family would be heading back to NYC by the end of the week.
And Jayden would be going to law school in Cambridge at the end of the month.
Maddie's seventeen year old heart was breaking.
They had lain under the stars that night, she and Jayden, on a blanket between the tall sand dunes all the way at the end of the beach, away from tourists and residents alike. The sand tickled her toes where it spilled over the blanket, and as Jayden rubbed his bare feet against hers, the sand scratched at the top of her feet. She tried to focus on how that felt, on the way it chafed her skin, because the look in Jayden's eyes was chafing her heart.
"Please Maddie, just take a look at the brochures," Jayden pleaded. "It's a great school, and…and they have a wonderful business school program." He held her face gently between his hands, his blue eyes boring into her dark ones, his blond curls falling over his forehead and the scent of the sea and of soap and of him mixing together in the night breeze and washing over her. "I know my grandparents would love to have you come and stay with us." And then he seemed to rethink what he'd said. "Or you can dorm in the halls," he said quickly, "if your dad would feel more comfortable with that."
Maddie gazed into his eyes, her heart begging her to say yes. Yes, she'd look at the brochures. Yes, she'd fall in love with Cambridge's business school, with its centuries-old reputation. Yes, of course she'd follow him to England and to Cambridge.
But she couldn't. Because if she was being honest with herself, the way her parents had taught her to be, it wouldn't be for her love of Cambridge, or of their business school she'd be going for. It would be for her love of Jayden.
She broke both their hearts that night under the stars. And even the knowledge that she was making the right decision for herself didn't ease the ache, didn't make the feel of Jayden's lips kissing away her tears burn any less. But she knew she would've regretted giving up her dreams for someone else's.
She was in a horrible mood all that fall. She fought constantly with a pre-teen Megan, who wanted nothing more than to follow and imitate her sister all the time. Jace's ten-year-old happy-go-lucky grins and teasing and energy grated on her last nerve. Her mom tried to talk to her, but even though Maddie knew she was right when she told her about her own experience, she didn't want to hear it. Her father was always trying to cheer her up, or running quietly next to her during their morning jogs. But something was missing. And Maddie wasn't sure what it was.
Looking back on it, Maddie realizes it was bound to happen one day, and her heartbreak over Jayden was probably just the catapult. She started questioning everything; her priorities, her life, her family…
One cold winter day, in the middle of her senior year of high school, Madisen Cullen called Paul Forrester.
Paul was living in a small town called Hoquiam, not far from where Maddie was born in Forks, Washington, where Uncle Jake and Aunt Leah and their family, and Grandpa Charlie and Granny Sue still lived, and where she and her family visited a couple of times a year. Paul invited her to visit, and Maddie accepted.
Bella was livid when Maddie informed her parents that night.
"What were you thinking Maddie? I know you've been upset, but this makes no sense!"
Edward sat quietly across the table from his daughter, his expression a mixture of surprise and something else Maddie couldn't quite read at that moment.
But Maddie was ready for a fight. Months of heartache had left her angry, and if her parents tried to challenge her now, she'd blow. Maybe she'd even take that trip to England after all, because if no one else, Jayden would understand her…
"Bella, Maddie isn't a little girl anymore, and we have to respect her decisions."
Maddie gave her father a startled look, because she'd expected him to be the one to react most strongly. He'd always been so protective of his children, especially of her.
"I know that Edward," Bella had responded, "but there's no need for her to go see-"
"Mom, I have to go," Maddie had pleaded, the anger suddenly distinguished.
It was her dad who'd reached across the table and taken her hand in his. Maddie looked at her hand inside her father's and it calmed her and strengthened her all at once. His green eyes had blazed with understanding.
"Maddie, your mom and I may not completely agree with this decision, but we're here for you princess, no matter what. If this is something you feel you need to do, we'll support you."
Then her dad had looked over at her mom, and slowly, her mom had nodded her agreement.
Her dad's eyes had followed her all the way through Customs a few days later. When Maddie had boarded the plane, it was her dad's eyes that stayed with her.
And when she met Paul Forrester, it was her dad she'd wanted next to her, to give her the strength and encouragement he'd always given her.
Her visit with Paul Forrester was pleasant enough. He asked her all the basic questions; how she liked school, if she had a boyfriend, what she planned to do with her life. But it only took a couple of hours for Maddie to realize she'd boarded a plane and flown to the other end of the country to find what was already in her own back yard.
Where she belonged.
Who she was.
Who loved her.
This man, who had her coloring, and the shape of her eyes, and her straight hair, was a stranger. He may have had something to do with making her, but she was Madisen Grace Cullen; daughter of Edward and Isabella Cullen.
She was a girl who loved sports and dance, who played soccer like no one's business, who grinned crookedly and smirked openly, who ran her hand through her hair when she was frustrated, and who'd run an endless number of miles with her dad for over a decade, miles during which she'd opened her heart to him, and he'd listened, giving advice when necessary, saying nothing when not, making her laugh with his own stories, and holding her up in every way all the time in between.
Maddie realized that she did know what she wanted to do with her life, and no matter how much it hurt, she knew the road to that life didn't lead to England, at least not now. She finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel, and the light at the end of the tunnel held her hand when she fell, laughed at her bad jokes, and still called her princess.
Her parents met her by the gates when she deplaned from her trip to Washington, and Maddie launched herself into her father's arms, oblivious to the stares, to the camera flashes going off.
"I'm sorry daddy," she cried into his shoulder, no longer having to stand on tip toes to reach there. "I'm so sorry daddy."
Because she'd realized on the airplane ride back what the look that mixed with surprise had been at the table. It had been fear. It had been hurt. But he'd hidden it from her, because as always, her dad wanted her to make her decisions for herself.
"Shh," he cooed, wrapping her in one of the hugs that had always made her feel so safe. "There's nothing for you to apologize for Maddie. You didn't do anything wrong," he assured her.
Her mom and dad had led her quietly back to their waiting car.
Bella drove, while Maddie sat in the back with her father.
"I hurt you daddy," Maddie cried.
Edward chuckled quietly. "I'm fine princess."
Maddie looked into his eyes and saw that it was true. She'd come home to him, and that's all her father cared about.
"You'll always be my daddy," she told him then.
He'd grinned widely at her, his eyes sparkling. "I know that princess. I know that."
"I wasn't sure who I was."
"And do you know now?"
"I think so."
He chuckled. "Figuring that out is a life long process." He looked at her intently. "You be who you want to be, what you want to be, and I will always support you."
And then he'd held her against his shoulder and she'd fallen asleep in his strong arms, just as she'd had since she was four.
She'd eventually gotten over her broken heart, and one day she'd woken up and realized she could breathe again.
The fights with Meg stopped. For the most part.
Jace's antics became amusing to her again. For the most part.
She and her mom saw eye to eye again. For the most part.
And she and her dad…their morning jogs were no longer silent. And they kicked everyone else's ass during family soccer games.
For the most part. Uncle Jasper and Aunt Alice were no joke.
Maddie continued her speech…
"And even when I wasn't sure who I was, or what I wanted, I knew no matter what that turned out to be, my dad would be there to support me, even if it was hard for him to do so."
Maddie met her father's gaze, and he smirked knowingly. She held in a chuckle, carefully running her thumb over the fourth finger on her left hand.
Two years ago…
Maddie was on a short break that evening; half a night still ahead of her. The evening was cool, one of those late summer nights that reminded you that Fall was just around the corner. She was crossing over to the small deli across the street from where she was interning, and as she waited for the red light to change to green, she wrapped her lab coat around herself tighter, cursing the thinness of the green scrubs she wore.
"Maddie," she heard from right next to her, and she didn't even have to look to know who the voice belonged to. That voice was etched deep in her heart, the way it had been since the first time he'd kissed her in between the sand dunes when she was fifteen. And nine years and a handful of boyfriends since that first kiss, it was still his blue eyes she saw in her dreams.
She whipped her head around quickly, and even though she knew what they'd find, her dark eyes grew wide in surprise anyway when they met eyes as blue as the morning sky.
Seven years had passed since she'd last seen him. He'd been an eighteen-year old boy then, and Maddie had spent many nights wondering what kind of man he'd grown into.
His face had matured; his cleft jaw squarer than she remembered; the softness of youth gone and a smooth strength in its place. He'd grown taller, and now stood at about the same height as her father, which was a good thing because Maddie was tall herself. His shoulders were broader than she recalled, strong and confident. His blonde curls no longer fell over his forehead; his hair was short except for the front where he'd spiked it. But it was his eyes that made her gasp. The same soft, sweet, open blue eyes she saw in her dreams.
He took her for a cup of coffee and made no secret of the fact that he'd come looking for her. He told her he'd never forgotten her, sighed in relief when she told him she wasn't currently in a relationship, and gazed into her big brown eyes with the same love and awe that had been there since they were kids. He was a junior partner in a prestigious law firm in London, but something was missing. And by the time her coffee break was over, he'd made it clear he knew exactly what that missing piece had been.
Eighteen months later, Jayden opened his own law office in a small building in downtown Tribeca. It would take hard work and sacrifice, because both of their careers were just getting started, but they had each other.
It was two months ago when Maddie was out for her morning jog with her dad, and his silence let her know he had something on his mind. They stopped after a while under a large weeping willow by the lake, its heavy canopy shading them from the high sun; long branches reflected in the algae-green waters of the lake. They were both breathing hard from exertion, though her dad could still go a few more miles. She smirked at two twenty-something year olds that jogged by them, craning their necks around to gawk at her father for as long as possible. In his late forties, he was still in better shape than most of the men she knew in their twenties, and based on all the open stares and ogles he received, Maddie wasn't the only one who thought so.
"Jayden stopped by the office yesterday," her dad finally said, pulling her attention away from the scowl she was currently giving the ogling women. Maddie stiffened, because although she could imagine what that visit had been about, she hadn't known Jayden planned to speak to her father. She was still trying to figure out how to tell him herself.
"Are you sure Maddie?"
"Yes, daddy. I'm very sure."
"But you're so young…"
"Daddy, I'm no younger than mom was."
"Those were different times."
She raised her eyebrows at him. And laughed.
Edward sighed, a long profound sigh that came from deep within his chest. He trained his eyes on the glittering lake. "Yeah well, I don't like how arrogantly he went about it. It wasn't so much a request as much as a sharing of information," he said in an annoyed tone.
Maddie chuckled, but didn't take offense at her dad's words or tone. She knew that, though she was twenty-six years old, when Edward Cullen looked at her, he still saw his four-year old baby. She knew this because when she looked at him, though a few lines now graced his strong forehead and a couple of silver hairs mixed with his bronze ones near his temple, she still saw the beautiful bronze-haired angel with the sun's rays behind him.
"Daddy, how many guys nowadays would come to their girlfriend's father at all?"
"I did it," he answered in a clipped tone, "and believe you me, your grandfather didn't make it easy for me. Made me sweat some serious bullets."
"The way you did for Jayden?" she asked, raising one brow.
For a split-second, he looked contrite. After a while he added begrudgingly, "I suppose I should be grateful he at least shows some respect for family."
Maddie chuckled again and reached out and wrapped an arm around her dad's shoulder, placing a soft kiss on his cheek. He pursed his lips, but she could feel his shoulders relaxing.
"Daddy, Jayden has a lot of respect for family. It's one of the reasons why I love him. He reminds me of you…in many ways."
It was true. Her dad was a hard act to follow, but she was sure she'd found the one man that could do it.
Edward snorted. He turned his head to where Maddie's hand reached around his shoulder, bringing one of his own hands over hers, pursing his lips as he traced the new ring on her left hand. Maddie laughed at the petulant expression on his face.
"I knew that kid was trouble from the first moment I laid eyes on him," he grumbled, and then mumbled something about how he should've sold the summer house right away, but Maddie was laughing so hard she didn't quite hear it.
He turned serious eyes to his daughter once more. "As long as you're happy Maddie, as long as you're content with your decisions, then that's all I ask for."
"I'm very content daddy."
Edward's eyes softened, greener and clearer than the lake's waters. "Well then, I guess its time to welcome Jayden into the family."
"No more grumbling?" she smiled.
"No more grumbling," he promised.
And father and daughter gazed out at the lake, watching as the kites flew high above, and the sun glistened over the city skyline.
"My dad once told me that it's not just the destination, but the road we take that makes us who we are. I could've taken many roads and may have ended up in a place similar to where I am now, but they wouldn't have been my road to take, and the trip wouldn't have felt as personal."
Maddie smiles down at Jayden, who's sitting proudly next to her Grandpa Carlisle, and he smiles back, understanding what she means. She took her own road, and he loves and respects her all the more for it.
"I stand here before you today, because during some tough times, my dad trusted me enough to let me make my own decisions. He let me choose my own roads, so the trip has been all mine, and it's hard to regret a trip you've navigated yourself. And the day I decided I wouldn't be joining him at CCW, and told him what I really wanted to do with my life, he simply laughed and called my grandfather Carlisle and told him he'd finally found him someone to take over the legacy."
Everyone laughs, and she looks at Grandpa Carlisle, still as handsome and distinguished as ever, and he absolutely beams at her. He's more than ready to let her take over.
"So daddy," Maddie says, gazing down lovingly at her father, "I dedicate this day to you, for giving me strength, for letting me spread my wings, for being there to hold me when I fell," – her voice breaks, and Edward quickly wipes a tear off his cheek. Bella leans over and kisses one off of his other cheek – "for always being my daddy."
Cheers and clapping erupt, and everyone present stands up for an ovation. But no one claps harder than Edward Cullen when, a few minutes later, Doctor Madisen Grace Cullen receives her medical degree.
A/N: Alright guys. This is the end. I've already made all my thanks, and I won't put you guys through that again. I've appreciated all your words of love and encouragement, and your fury and complaints at times too, because it's shown how much this story has touched some of you.
I know many of you have asked what ever happened to Tanya, or Lauren, but this story wasn't about revenge, or making sure they got theirs in the end. It was about family. You can imagine any kind of ending you want for the villains in this story and I'll go along with it. As a matter of fact, I'd love to hear what they are. But I tend to believe that living well is the best form or revenge, if revenge is at all necessary.
So thanks again, and hope to hear from all of you in the future.