A/N - Five months. That is a hella long time. But in that time, I have literally moved mountains...cleaning out 6.2 metric tonnes of crap (that's just the stuff that went in the dumpster) from my mother's house as we finally sold it this summer. This of course induced whittling the summer away house-mining so I could make room for the stuff we wanted to keep. I apologize once again for my hiatus, but I am here to finish this story. I really appreciate the continued support of my loyal readers and welcome with open arms our new ones. ~waves to Nic~ Thank you so much!
My never ending gratitude also needs to be extended to TwiliteAddict for editing this chapter and "re-arranging the furniture". Much more Feng Shui! Xo
Let's jump right in shall we? Next update in two weeks. Maybe less. I'm on a writing roll. We pick up the story in Denali, a few short hours before Bella and Edward's wedding.
"Edward, nooooooo! Get out!" Alice's scream reverberated throughout the house, eventually escaping out the chimney, undoubtedly frightening all of the wildlife within a fifty-mile radius. Weddings were serious business to Alice Cullen, and she most definitely came to play. In fact, the whole house was hopping to her orders, thankful her two-week reign of unholy matrimonial terror would come to an end today – our wedding day.
I instinctively hid behind one of the mirrors Alice had set up in our bedroom for the final fitting of my wedding dress. The day had been a blur of activity administering to the last minute details, and I was admittedly a little shell-shocked, so when she screeched, I scampered for cover.
For someone who could see the future, you would think Alice would have seen him coming, but that just went to prove how distracted she was now that it was coming down to zero hour.
Not in a place of understanding or compromise with his sister right now, however, was Edward. His facial expression left no doubt he was most definitely done being patient with his obsessive compulsive and according to him, "absurdly superstitious" sister.
"Alice, it's just a wedding dress..."
"JUST A WEDDING DRESS?!" We all screeched in highly offended unison, after all, the masterpiece of a dress was the result of stunning design collaboration by Esme, Rose and Alice.
Edward's face blanked in fear at the fuming, indignant women staring across the room at him. I tried hard not to snicker as he backed slowly out of the doorway and closed the door. About two beats later, Jasper slipped in the room quietly, a polite nod our way accompanied by his old fashioned greeting, "Ladies." He floated to the closet and freed Edward's tux from its confines before disappearing behind the door like he had never been here. Smart man.
Really, Edward should have expected nothing less. After we delivered our news to the family, my soon to be sister in law plopped down a twenty-pound scrapbook full of swatches, magazine clippings and storyboards, yes, storyboards of what the ceremony was to look like. Her concept was everything I could have wanted in a wedding, but would never have the guts to imagine, let alone pull off, so she got full green light go-ahead on Wedding Planner rights.
Though a tad frightening at times, she had managed to herd us all into action to get it all done, including my quickie divorce – sending Jake and Leah happily back to La Push to make their own wedding plans. As much as they wanted to stay for my wedding, they wanted to leave and begin their own lives even more. I completely understood.
Finally daring to inch out from behind the mirror, I smoothed my hands over the gorgeous silk material that made up my gown and took stock of my reflection in the mirror. Just a wedding dress. "Just" was not a qualifier for this dress. Rose, Esme and Alice smiled and sighed simultaneously behind me as they admired their work.
"He'll eat those words when he sees you, Bella." Rose placated. "You are stunning."
I had to agree, which did not bode well for my Modesty, who was raising an appraising, judgmental eyebrow in assessment of the daring design. The dress was backless to show off my wings. While I was proud to show them off, the dip of the backless design dove deep enough for me to question my pride and prejudice.
Around the edges of the dress, Esme had hand-painted the silk material in complementary incendiary colors to my wings, as if they had dusted the edges of my dress like a butterfly shedding delicate scales. Carnelian and citrine beads of varying shades were sewn in such a way to indicate licks of fire winding around my body before cooling into white Quartz crystal beading which made up the bodice. The weight of the bodice alone would have been ridiculous for my human self—this was not a gown for a mortal woman.
Esme was positively radiating maternal pride, looking as if she could cry as she whispered reverently,
"Oh, honey, when the candles are burning and the light reflects off the dress, everyone will think you are an angel."
"Esme...," I protested, "I'm certainly no angel."
"But you are, my darling. Angels are avengers. You have saved my son... no, my entire family more times than I can count and in more ways than you realize. You have avenged the cruelty perpetuated towards your race and mine at the cost of your own human life. You have a divine purpose. Some of the most powerful angels are the deadliest of warriors, Isabella."
Now it was my turn to look as if I could cry. Standing there in a gown which weighed a couple hundred pounds due to the crystals she had sewn on by hand for me was hardly weight to bear in comparison to her love for me and her family. And I would carry the weight of the world itself for her.
Since there were no words to convey as the surging emotion had forced me mute, I gathered my mother in my arms and hugged her, being careful not to crush her too hard against the gemstones of my dress. Alice and Rose joined in. I gained so much energy from the love of these three women, I could actually feel the frequency of their emotion pour into the receptive crystals of my wedding dress as if empowering it. In fact, I had no doubt it was. Crystals had been used since the beginning of time by shamans and healers to heal and uplift the physical and spiritual self.
Alice broke up the group hug with a proclamation that everyone had to clear out so I could finish getting ready.
"You mean I'm not ready?" I snarked, giving a coquettish turn in front of the mirrors.
Alice smiled warmly, "You look amazing, but I thought maybe you would like some meditation time." Her voice sounded small and hesitant, probing to make sure she wasn't being presumptuous or inappropriate. I was genuinely touched at her thoughtfulness.
"I could very much use some meditation time. It's hard getting used to not sleeping, let alone not dreaming. I knew you would understand that." My assurance made her beam with happiness.
"In one hour, you are officially going to be a Cullen," she chirped.
"Pfffft," Rose snorted and hitched her thumb towards her sister, "I have one better,. In one hour, Commandant Wedding Coordinator here is officially not in charge anymore. I'm outtie, Dollies. I have to help Em get into his tux. And maybe out of it a few times." With a saucy waggle of her eyebrows, Rose sashayed towards the door. "See you at the altar, Bells."
Alice rolled her eyes and quipped with a huff, "She's forgetting about the reception. Does she think these things just run themselves? Honestly!" Blowing me a kiss, she and Esme ushered out to leave me to my own devices.
I decided to leave the dress on, not being the easiest thing to get in and out of. I was plenty comfortable and the fainting couch was as nice a spot as any to meditate. Laying a blanket over the leather, for fear of scratching it, I focused on the sounds of the water feature in the room, pictured the rivulets running along the stone responding to the pull of gravity. The delicate slapping sounds as the drops plummeted into the pool below sang a hypnotic hymn.
My thoughts drifted to Edward...there was no fighting it. Though the purpose of meditation was to empty one's mind, he was completely ingrained into my thought processes today. I imagined it was because I had to go most of the day without seeing him – which was incredibly odd since this was the most binding day of our lives. I knew our separation would make it all the more sweeter when I saw him at the altar, but I felt anxious when he wasn't by my side. In the end, I decided to simply go with the direction my subconscious was pointing me in, and visualized my lover.
Blending the water sounds into my vision gave it depth, not to mention a common anchor between this world and the next. Still, I floated weightlessly in a space not quite here and not quite there…
We walked hand in hand by a shining lake. The sunlight reflected in crystalline winks on the lake's surface and my lover's skin. We looked over towards the center of the lake to see a small island in the distance. Ruins of stone pillars beckoned from among the island's trees, inciting Edward's curiousity even more.
"Let's go for a swim and check it out!" his eyes were playful as he pulled me towards the water.
"But it's going to rain!" I protested as I took in the ever-blackening sky. The strange thing was, there were no clouds present. The sun was waning like someone using a dimmer switch to lessen its light.
Edward didn't seem concerned at all. I think perhaps this alarmed me more than our ever-darkening surroundings.
"You're going to get wet anyway, come on...those ruins have to be ancient." He craned his neck to see them better as he continued to pull on me. "Aren't you the least bit curious?"
I pulled him back towards me. "We should go back, Edward. I have a horrible feeling about all this." Panic ping-ponged around in my guts. Our dreamworld's sun had suddenly vanished. The lake lost her diamond luster and began to churn whitecaps across her surface instead.
"Where's your sense of adventure?" he teased. He looked past me and his expression became emotionless. Haunting.
"Besides, there's nothing to go back to..."
My head jerked to look back from where we had walked from to see desolation was devouring the scenery behind us! The grass was dried up; flowers were turning into husked remnants of their former glory. A sickness had taken over the land and was running like a snag in a nylon stocking streaking towards us. Shocked our peaceful jaunt was clearly not going to the happy place I intended it to, I could not move even though Edward was pulling me forward with all his strength.
My hesitation proved devastating. That was all it took for the spreading sickness to reach him.
Touching the edge of his feet, I could see the sickness eating like an acid at the outside of his shoes.
His screams sounded in my ears as the evil licked its way up my lover's legs. He crumbled and we both went down on the ground. The fall jarred me free of the frozen state of shock, and I picked Edward up off the ground and ran towards the lake. My legs felt like lead, like I was running under water and getting nowhere. You always hear of this happening to people in their dreams, yet nothing can prepare you for the terror when you have no control over yourself or your reality…
But wait, I could…should be able to control this. It was my vision! Yet, I couldn't shake it free, change its course, or rise above it. In dread, I came to realize if I was unable to take control of this vision, it had to be some sort of veiled message sent to me from the gods. But why was I now being beaten over the head with my biggest fear – losing Edward - on the most important day of our lives?
I looked down at my diseased lover. The most important thing I could ever lose, wasting away with sickness and fever, mouthing my name with dry, cracked lips.
I finally made it to the water's edge and jumped in, praying this was the solution to our escape, to allow me save him.
Of course, it wasn't.
The "water" was definitely not of the H2O variety, but a pool of memories. Beneath the illusion of the surface was a mist full writhing, wraith-like forms weaving around our bodies and absorbing into our skin! The hurt and despair vibrating through these ghostly visions, washing through Edward and I was excruciatingly painful. So much tragedy, loss, and heartbreak. I could not fathom how he could handle the emotional rape of it all in his already vulnerable state. Though his lips didn't move, I heard him call my name…
Strong hands gripped my shoulders yanking me out of the roiling mist. Edward was no longer in my arms. I whipped around ready to clock whoever took him from me – only to see Alice, standing in front of me with the most pissed off expression I hoped never to see on my sweetheart of a sister again. In fact, I would have backed off, but she reached out lightning quick to grab me.
"Don't you dare back up or you will end up in the damn pool again. What in fresh hell would possess you to jump in and wade around in the pool with your wedding dress on?" she spat.
I looked down at to see my gorgeous dress sopping wet up to the knees as I stood in a very real pool of water.
Alice, meanwhile, went straight to work, fussing and fretting around the bottom of my dress. Directing me over towards the fireplace, she zipped around like an angry hummingbird fetching towels to blot out most of the moisture before dragging me to a bathroom to begin drying it with a hairdryer.
In those few moments of furious activity, I tried to explain to my sister what had come over me without sounding like the whack-a-do I'm sure I looked like.
Yeah. That's not going to happen. I sighed and took the most direct route to damnation.
"I'm sorry. I had a vision. Edward was dying."
She stopped everything that she was doing and looked up at me with such guilt and horror in her eyes I had to look away.
"Oh, Bella, honey. I'm so sorry. I can't imagine how much that...no, I don't need to imagine, I've seen it myself. Dear God." She folded me into her arms and rocked me back and forth while I tried to process everything that had just happened.
Of course that wasn't going to happen either. So I began to sob. There was no other release that would have sufficed.
Once I got myself together, and broke from Alice's much needed hug, I fluttered my hands in front of me in an effort to disperse the negativity messing with my emotional balance.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Alice asked hesitantly.
"Not right now. It's too fresh. I'm pretty sure the message intended more layers of meaning beyond the experience itself. Visions are kinda like onions in that way."
"I guess the only experience I have with visions is what actually takes place – or could take place. What you experience though … They have all sorts of hidden meanings you have to decipher." Alice shook her head in commiseration. "I don't envy you in that. Though some visions I've seen are not pretty, at least nothing is hidden from me." She finished up the last of her efforts on my poor dress and stepped back.
"There. All dry." Looking down at her watch she frowned slightly. "And not a minute to spare!"
I hated to ask, but I was, if anything, a sucker for punishment. Visions can be rather disorienting time frame wise and I had no idea how long I had been wading around in the bedroom's water treatment.
"What do you mean? What time is it?"
"Time to go marry Edward Cullen, my darling dear."
Hustling me towards the door, I broke free and backtracked to the mirror for one last peek and primp, which was completely unnecessary because, let's face it, the dress was fabulous and since my new birth, I've never looked better without make up. I turned slowly and knew with absolute certainty Edward would be pleased. Alice smiled indulgently. She remembered well the days of tyranny and oppression my modesty and insecurity wreaked upon my sexuality by robbing me of my confidence.
I felt the electric charges of excitement build in my body, warming me all over.
I was getting married!
A wedding has long been an important right of passage and though I already had a wedding when I married Jacob, my feelings regarding my marriage to Edward were obviously very different and much more intense. I would describe them as Sacred. For one, I never dreamed I would be able to share this important ritual with Edward and declare our love and completion to each other in front of all who would listen. I was not the least bit nervous about getting up in front of others to do this either. Professing my love for Edward in front of our friends and family was simple compared to the risks I would take to protect him from my enemies.
I thought idly of the old Christian vow we had decided not to use: "What God has put together, let no man put asunder." I now wondered if we had made a right choice in removing it. That horrible vision confirmed my enemies knew harming Edward could immobilize me with pain and suffering, giving them an advantage. I needed to prove them wrong. Make it clear if anyone dared take him from me, they would suffer the full extent of my wrath.
Sulpicia can wield her worst. My dedication to protect Edward and the Source will never waiver.
Somehow, I knew this would be the most important vow I made today.
"Are you ready, Isabella?"
"More than you could ever know, Alice."
Next chapter is the wedding, which is half written and to be posted within the next two weeks.
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