A/N: I'm really late with this, and I'm really sorry. I hope you all enjoy the wedding.
Never-ending thanks to TwiliteAddict for precise editing and excellent additions. Future Imperfect, TwiliteAddicts recently completed fanfiction has placed in the top ten fanfics completed for the month of October by TWILITEFANFICTIONRECSDOTCOM. Voting is up until December 1, make sure to check them out!
Today was the day. Every decision and every breath I had taken brought me to this moment of clarity. Today I was to be bound in matrimony to the one who had been created for me.
Approaching the large, open French doors to the grounds, I took my first look at the magical scene I would walk into, eventually shedding the last name of Swan to take on my new identity as a Cullen.
Fire and Ice was the theme we had all agreed upon for our wedding. Though I had seen Alice's vision of the event explicitly laid out in her scrapbook, and participated heavily in the preparation, I never dreamed the completed transformation of the Denali grounds could be so dramatic. Consumed with the effort to rush me along to the ceremony, I had to slow Alice down a bit so I could just drink in the wonder she had helped create for Edward and me.
Since fall had come late this year, the trees still gripped leaves flamed with fiery autumnal shades. Alice had not been pleased with the yellowing of the grass, so she decided to bring in some snow. Though I offered to make her some, she decided to rent snow making machines, which had run all last night and today. To be honest, I was glad she declined my offer because the surprise of seeing the snow where yesterday there was none added more magic to the moment without having to use any of my own power to do so. The juxtaposition of all the soft white on the ground with the riot of reds, yellows and oranges above was striking. The gracious timing Alice worked out with Mother Nature had her putting the sun to bed, washing the sky in pinks and gold which flooded the thin crispy leaves with the last of its light, making them glow like pulsing stars. I knew once twilight settled and the sun's light was finished, Alice would turn on the thousands of mini lights she had threaded through the trees lining the property. The effect would be much softer, but no less beautiful.
We had chosen to have the ceremony amongst a grove of sugar maples Tanya had planted years ago. They were incredibly full with bright orange leaves, crowning the clearing in an illusion of fire. For our vows, Emmett made an archway with lattice work that Tanya and her sisters filled with red roses. Alice had this lit up as well. The warmth of the lights must have provoked the roses to release their perfume; the air was so thick with their old fashioned fragrance.
"What do you think Bella?" Alice asked quietly after a minute of my overwhelmed silence.
"I think I'm extremely blessed to have you create such a beautiful setting for our vows. It's like a dream, Alice. Thank you. All of you." Standing before me in their apple-red dresses and lipstick, Esme, Alice and Rose, the three women I admired and loved most in this world closed in for a group hug before taking their places to walk down the aisle.
I looked past the backs of the guests sitting in the white, silk covered chairs Esme had finished off with large red bows at the back, searching for Edward. But just when I caught a glimpse of him, the guests saw me and all stood in unison, obscuring my view of my husband-to-be.
Centering myself with the assured knowledge he would be at the end of the aisle waiting for me, I nodded my head to Alice indicating I was ready. She gave a visual cue the conductor of the small ensemble who began to play our wedding march – "Be Thou My Vision," a traditional Irish tune Edward had chosen in memory of his deceased parents, Elizabeth and Edward Mason. Played at their own wedding in 1899, it was one of the first songs his mother ever taught him on piano.
The bittersweet strains of the song made my heart ache to see him, but I took my time walking down the aisle, following my beautiful bridesmaids, their light steps barely bruising the soft white rose petals peppered across the scarlet runner. Aware in my peripheral vision of all eyes on me, I knew from what my ancestral spirits taught me that I should welcome this well-meaning energy my way. So I did just that. Instead of feeling nervous and embarrassed like the younger version of me did walking down the aisle to Jacob so many years ago, I felt empowered with the love of friends and family as I marched down the aisle to my destiny.
Finally I could see my husband to be. The sun was setting directly behind him, and his head was encircled with its light, making the dark copper of his hair burn with brassy tones of red and gold. He looked so regal in his black tuxedo, standing amongst his brothers. His smile was brighter than any light the sun could throw, and I found myself quickening my pace to reach him. To be one with him for all time.
) () (
Isabella was a vision of mystical transcendence. I now understood the power and magic of the dress. The last of the suns rays crept down the aisle, finding their way into the crystalline beads of Isabella's gown, causing it to it shimmer then blaze with unearthly illumination. I had no doubt Alice planned the timing of the sunset for the effect as I recalled her being quite insistent on the position of the aisle and the timing of the wedding march. Alice winked at me as she passed by on her way to her seat in the front row with the rest of our wedding party her all knowing, smug smile firmly in place.
Rainbows of refracted light flickered in and out of existence as Bella moved toward me. My heart swelled with so much love for this creature I thought it would come out of my chest and begin beating at her very feet when she reached me. I had to keep myself from rushing to her, wanting to burst out of my skin just to touch hers. I did my best to block out the thoughts of our rightly stunned guests, but the reactions to my bride were almost as severe as mine. The most prevalent question on everyone's mind, but thankfully not their lips, was the same question Isabella struggled with every hour since her birth:
"What is she?"
"Mine" I wanted to shout this affirmation from the highest point of Mount McKinley, challenging anyone or anything who would say different. I began to heat up with overprotective notions, wondering how long it would be before Jasper hit me with one of his horse tranquilizer, emotion-dampening vibes when Isabella smiled at me, mouthing the words "I love you." before she came to a stop in front of me. I reached for her hand and brought it to my lips, whispering the same over her skin and feeling the warm rush of calm now that she was finally by my side.
We both turned to face our friends and family, deciding not to have our backs to them as we dedicated our lives to each other. Bella insisted upon allowing ourselves to be fully open to the happiness sent forth in smiles and silent well-wishes of everyone in attendance. Invitations had been sent out to covens all over the world, from England to the Amazon. Most who came, despite the short notice, were not so much curious to lay eyes on the woman who stole my heart, but to behold the powerful witch who defeated the Volturi army. Given the entrance Alice staged for Isabella's march down the aisle, I'd say the idea that she made an impression was a gross understatement.
Carlisle stood up from his chair at the front and moved to the front left of the aisle once the ensemble finished the wedding march dedication to my parents. Though I wished they could lived to see me marry the love of my life, I was at peace because I could fully appreciate how blessed I was to have the family before me. Esme and Carlisle had given me the guidance and love my parents would have been proud of.
"Welcome, everyone," Carlisle began, his pride and joy obvious in his face and words. "This evening we gather beneath this grove of maples to witness the joining of twin flames, Isabella and Edward. My own soul mate, and the compassionate center wheel of our coven, Esme, would like to share her thoughts on this blessed union...Esme?"
Esme beamed happily as she passed her bouquet to Rose Esme had made all of them out of the antique brooches she had collected over the many years of her afterlife and told the ladies to keep them as mementos of our family finally being whole. I had made sure that all of my own mother's brooches were placed within Isabella's bouquet. She had been thrilled with my offering of them.
She walked up and kissed Isabella and me both on the cheek before she stood beside Carlisle and addressed the guests,
"I have a confession to make. There was a time I nearly gave up hope Edward would find his true love. My heart would ache listening to the loneliness that poured from him onto the pages of his piano compositions. I will never forget the day the music changed. It was the day Isabella came into his life after endless decades of longing and waiting. The seeming eternity he spent waiting for her vanished, only to be replaced by the forever he will spend loving her. Lady Jane Fellowes said it best, '
Time is too slow for those who wait; too swift for those who fear; too long for those who grieve; too short for those who rejoice. But for those who love, time is eternity.'"
Heads in the audience nodded in agreement with the wise words. She then turned and spoke directly to Isabella and me,
"I love you both so much, and my heart is full knowing you are both blessed with an eternity to share your love and devotion for each other. I can't think of two souls who deserve it more."
She blew us a kiss and returned to her position as bridesmaid while everyone applauded..
Jasper, sidled up next to Carlisle and cleared his throat as the clapping died down Everyone's attention focused on the once infamous General of a rogue vampire army. Jasper was known not to mince words, which kept him from speaking often. When he did – people listened.
"Being able to feel emotion as I do, I remember well the dark gloom Edward's singularity stained him with. I did what I could to augment his moods, but I knew my talents were no where near the type of miracle he needed. When Bella came into our lives, it was a complete reversal of emotional polarity. In fact, for the first few days, I felt like I was drugged as the switch in my brother was so drastic. I watched with amazement as his interest in this young, but infinitely wise woman shape him into something more solid as opposed to the solitary ghost dancing for decades along the edges of our unique coven of coupled units. I also watched as Isabella's love for Edward and for our family transformed her into a badass case of comeuppance, smiting Oppression once and for all. And that is when I believed there was magic in love. If it can transform a soul, think of what it can do to a nation of souls. Why stop there? Think of what it can do to the entire planet. The old regimes are breaking down. We stand upon the precipice of deciding what kind of world we want to live in. I, for one, choose love, my friends. I found this quote from Abdul Baha, which I think encapsulates this age old wisdom concerning the power of love:
"Let us have love and more love; a love that melts all opposition, a love that conquers all foes, a love that sweeps away all barriers, a love that aboundeth in charity, a large-heartedness, tolerance, forgiveness and noble striving, a love that triumphs over all obstacles."
Jasper's days as a general inspiring his troops for battle trumpeted through his rousing delivery, motivating the audience to surge to their feet in solidarity, a standing ovation thundered throughout the small enclosure like a battle cry. Isabella leaned against my shoulder and wrapped her arm around my waist for a squeeze as she was so overcome with emotion from our brother's speech. The air was ringing with the applause and shouts of support long after the guests took their seats.
The sun had finally disappeared over the horizon behind us and the twinkling mini lights flickered amongst the trees like diamonds. Carlisle stood alone, chuckling softly to himself before he spoke,
"That's a hard act to follow." Laughter filtered through the crowd like a wave in response to Carlisle's charming self-deprecation. "But I have an ace up my sleeve. I get the distinct privilege to marry these two wonderful people. In my centuries of existence, I have witnessed many acts of unconditional love. One brought Edward into my life. I was in Chicago during the outbreak of the Spanish Influenza which claimed hundreds of souls in the fall of 1918. Edward and his entire family had been admitted. His father, God rest his soul, perished first. Elizabeth Mason was determined to her last breath to see Edward survive even though she knew their chances were bleak. Somehow, Elizabeth figured out exactly what I was, telling me that no human doctor could tend to as many sick as tirelessly and tremendously as I had. She then begged me to save her son from death. I had never considered siring another, but the depth of love and selfless devotion Edward's mother gave so freely to him, even in her weakest moments, stirred something within me- so I granted her dying wish."
Carlisle looked back at me. We had talked extensively over the years about my parents as Carlisle did not want my human memories to fade, knowing how loved and cherished I was by both of them. He thought it important that I remember I came from love. Despite his best intentions, my self-pity took control of my ego, and I forgot this important lesson during some very dark moments in my life. It was because of Carlisle's unconditional love as my Sire, that despite my darker nature bleeding through the pristine whitewashed future my mother would have wanted for me, I found my way back to him and the supportive safety of our coven. His reminder of the power of love was most appropriate in this moment.
" Edward. When I see you with Isabella, I know my prayers and your mother's prayers to know the blessing of true love have been answered." Carlisle walked over and hugged both Isabella and me. I shuddered to think of the debt I owed this man for extending my life so that I could be here now, marrying the woman of my dreams.
"Thank you, Father."
"You are welcome, Son."
Emotion coursed between us, riding on many years of mutual respect and familial devotion.
Turning back to the guests, Carlisle reached into his inside breast pocket and pulled out a scroll of white paper tied with a red bow. I knew this to be an "Alice Aesthetic" as opposed to functional because with Carlisle's memory, he certainly didn't need a cheat sheet.
"Edward and Isabella have put aside traditional vows and chose an excerpt from Kahlil Gabran's The Prophet to represent what they believed their commitment to each other meant. In this section of the Gabran's book, the Seeress Almitra was asking the Prophet his thoughts on marriage. This was his response:
'You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.
Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.'"
Emmett came forward to give us the rings. With a grin and a flash of dimples, he patted his pockets and tried to make like he didn't have them. Judging from the looks Rose and Bella zinged his way, he decided not to push the joke too far. Pulling them out of his back pocket with a grand flourishing gesture, he evoked some laughter from the guests with his cliché chicaneries. Bella rolled her eyes at him, but couldn't erase the smile off her face if she tried. Taking my hand and sliding the gold circlet onto my finger, her voice shook a little as she delivered her chosen vow, courtesy of Milton:
"Our State cannot be severed, we are one, One Flesh; to lose thee were to lose my self."
I reached for her left hand and repeated the iconic ritualistic gesture that bound one life to another, reciting C.S Lewis,
"I came alive, when I started loving you."
Golden tears pearled at the corners of her eyes as I leaned in to kiss my bride. Lips tasting of honey and promises of forever meld to mine as the world slipped away in a chorus of cheers, wolf whistles and applause from our guests.
) () (
I was finally Isabella Marie Cullen.
Carlisle's sure, strong voice rose above the crowd and declared us officially as husband and wife once we finally broke from our kiss and faced everyone. Showers of white and red rose petals feathered from above, and a joy I had never known bubbled up within me. Edward felt it, too; his face lit up with elation. Hand in hand we walked down the aisle amidst clapping, smiling, rejoicing loved ones. Most of these people I had never met, yet their support and love was sent and received regardless. I'm sure my feet barely touched the ground on the way to the reception.
The reception area was like a winter wonderland tucked to the left of the Sugar Maple grove. I was really impressed with the dance floor as it looked like a small frozen pond, but was actually just treated Lucite flooring Alice had custom made. Icicles hung from the tables and tree boughs, while cardinal flashes of colour to represent fire were incorporated in the crimson floral arrangements and scarlet table linens. Everywhere you looked were candles stacked and glowing, the perfect accompaniment to the pale wash of moonlight.
"Alice really outdid herself."
Edward nodded in agreement with me, then pointed towards the small stage set to the side of the dance floor for the band. "Wait until you hear what Rose has planned."
I looked over to see Rose taking the microphone center stage. Her red gown, bright lipstick, and Veronica Lake inspired hairdo sent her seamlessly back in time as a torch song crooner from the fifties. My mouth dropped open. I had no idea my sister could sing.
Or that Emmett could play stand up base.
Edward delighted in my surprise, grinning from ear to ear as he nodded to Rose and swept me onto the dance floor with the timed grace of a professional ballroom dancer. The band began to play "Unforgettable" and Rose sang it as if Nat King Cole wrote it specifically for her voice. Edward led me effortlessly around the dance floor as if we had practisedpracticed the steps for weeks.
"In the late forties and early fifties, Rose and Emmett broke from the family for a little while to tour with a big band orchestral outfit who got a lot of gigs in Manhattan, but eventually Rose tired of the scene and the greasy men who wanted to manage her career.
I could see how singing in nightclubs would appeal to Rose, but I could also appreciate the dangers of the sharks in the burgeoning entertainment industry salivating to sign a beauty like her. The danger, of course, was Rose, not the men. She could certainly handle herself. That was probably the problem. Hard to keep it secret you are a vampire if you leave a trail of bodies behind you - even if they were ass .
"Well, I'm impressed. I had no idea I was marrying into such a talented family."
"You haven't seen anything yet. Wait until you meet the extended cousins in the other covens. Many of them have hidden their powers from those outside our circle for fear of the Volturi. That's why it didn't surprise me when you told me about Eleazar Morales affiliation as a double agent with the OurosBouros and his role in siring Xandru. In fact, he and his wife Carmen should be here tonight..."
"Really? I would very much like to meet Xandru's sire and last surviving member of the Ourosbouros! Edward, he could probably help us find The Source, not to mention help us to learn as much as we can about Sulpicia."
We both looked around, and even though I'd never met him, I was sure I would know him, trusting so solidly in the connection he had with Xandru. Edward's lead in our waltz became more aggressive, covering more floor space with powerful long strides, pushing us around the room easily, but all we saw was the dizzying rush of happy faces as they watched us. Disappointment made his face fall when he concluded Eleazar could not be in the crowd.
"Maybe he's just late." I offered. I could tell there was something deeper bothering Edward than just not being able to find him. His body went a little stiff and his eyes held something I was not prepared for on my wedding day – fear.
"What's wrong, Edward?"
"Vampires don't do late, my love. What if Sulpicia found out Eleazar was Xandru's sire? That would make him a target for sure. Maybe Sulpicia hasn't come for us yet because she's been too busy finding out how Xandru betrayed her? Tanya did mention that Eleazar and Carmen have both been incommunicado for the past month, but assured me she express posted the invitation."
"Then maybe he just didn't get the invitation on time. Or maybe it was too short of notice..."
"Maybe..." Worry hung between us like an unspoken shame that we couldn't just relax and enjoy our first dance as husband and wife. The song came to a close and Edward drew me into a tight hug, whispering into my hair,
"It doesn't matter. I'm here with you. That's what matters. This moment."
I looked up at him and he kissed me so passionately, the moment froze, and I felt lost in the lips and tenderness of this man. I could hear the faint rumble of applause and the teasing clearing of a throat at a microphone.
Edward smiled against my lips. "Maybe we should, uh, actually acknowledge our guests..."
I sighed heavily in pure jest and peeked over his shoulder to see Jasper on stage, his tie already loosened and his eyebrow quirked skywards in mock judgement standing at the mike.
"If y'all can manage to keep your hands offa each other for a few minutes, a receiving line has been requested by said guests."
Everyone clapped and whistled in agreement, forming a neat queue, which moved along a lot quicker than I thought it would. I noticed right away those that drank human blood had difficulty making eye contact with me and would simply shake our hands, offer congenial congratulations and appreciation for the invite then move along. They seemed so surprisingly skittish and I had a hard time digesting the reason why. Edward had prepared me a few days ago for this type of behaviour. He said the news of what I did to the Volturi spread like wildfire and most of the blood drinkers who kept the Volturi code their entire lives were concerned I would kill them if they continued with their chosen lifestyle. Hopefully, these covens would learn this was not my way and spread this to the others. Others worried with the Volturi gone, the vacuum could be filled by an even greater evil. Unfortunately, that wasn't the part that bothered me – because I knew that vacuum was filled by Sulpicia, so no surprises there. However, when Edward proceeded to tell me that the blood drinking covens, who were brave enough to come see me, were doing so to plead their allegiance without actually coming right out and saying so.
Allegiance?! To me?
I tried not to think about the implications, ramifications, and subjugations of that statement, and focused on something else...like the very obvious representation of supernatural power at this party.
When a vampire with special talents stood before me, I would allow my vision to slip and their auras would reveal different shade gradients and undulations. I had been experimenting with this way of looking at the auras of vampires with special abilities versus those without in the company of my own family who ran the gambit nicely. It turned out those with extra talents displayed a vibratory field which most definitely resonated at a higher level than a regular vampire. I wondered idly if this had anything to do with how Eleazar sensed abilities and what they were within others. If it was like listening to music and picking out what tune went with which ability.
"All this power in the room, yet every single one of them would bow down to you in a heartbeat. How does that make you feel?"
A female voice with a thick Spanish accent brought me back from my wool gathering with her audaciously impertinent question. Did she really just say that to me? Standing in front of me was a tall, dark-haired woman with a self-assured smile. I could almost say cocky. There was also something in her tone that suggested something lying beneath her words – something dangerous.
Who the hell did this woman think she was?
"I beg your pardon?" I tried not to curl my lip at her. Really. I did Edward sensed my hackles going up, and with a nervous chuckle, presented his rude relation.
"Isabella, I'd like you to meet Carmen Morales. Eleazar's wife."