This is it... the last chapter. I hope it lives up to what you're expecting... :)
All names and Twilight references belong to the lovely Stephenie Meyer. All original material and plotlines belong to this author.
Outside the gym, I lingered. My parents—against their better judgment, I think—had left in their SUV so I could wait alone in the courtyard for Edward. I was desperate to see him, to talk to him, to speak the words I was so ready to speak. He came strolling out of the double doors, handsome in khaki pants and polo shirt, his copper hair in its usual disarray. His red robe was flung over his arm. I hurried to catch him. When I was close enough, I slipped my hand into his. He whirled around, startled.
I smiled sheepishly. "I didn't mean to scare you."
"It's okay," he said, flustered. I couldn't help but like that I could still throw him off his ever-so-confident pedestal.
I gazed up at him, not sure how to begin. He stared back, pinning me in place, turning my head inside out. "Thank you for the flowers," I managed. "That was sweet… they're beautiful."
"You're welcome. Thank you for last night, for… everything."
My smile grew, but I was still cautious. I was taking a big risk that could very easily blow up in my face. "I guess I should say congratulations. You're officially a graduate."
"Yeah, you too." His eyes traveled over me—my deep blue dress, my hair, my mouth, our linked hands. I was very glad I'd changed out of my repulsive robe. He reached out and touched my hair ever so gently. "You look pretty," he said.
"Thank you." I was quiet for a few moments, thoughtful, considering all the possible outcomes of what I wanted so desperately to do. "I have something for you. Will you come to the parking lot with me?"
He didn't drop my hand as we walked. Could it be so easy? Might we be able to slip so effortlessly back into us?
"I've been working on something for you," I said when we neared my car.
He didn't seem to have any idea what I was talking about, but he was definitely curious. He followed me to my trunk and watched as I hit a button on my keychain remote, popping it open. I pulled the canvas out and hugged it to my chest.
"You don't have to display it," I said, feeling like I needed some sort of disclaimer to prepare him for what he was about to see. Slowly, I turned the canvas around, revealing inch by inch the painting I'd spent all morning and most of the afternoon working on. Bright blue flowers with tiny starbursts of yellow in their centers, the colors splashed onto a background of vibrant green.
He smiled and reached for the canvas. "Are these—?"
"Forget-me-nots," I said. "Remember, you asked me to paint you something?"
"Yeah… I remember." He was distracted, studying the painting, his eyes wide. I racked my brain for what he could possibly be thinking. Apprehension set in as the seconds drew out. Surely he wasn't disappointed.
I glanced away, my eyes zipping around the parking lot, taking in the small groups of people getting into cars. No one was paying any attention to our little exchange. I couldn't resist my need to fill the silence. "I haven't painted much since… well, you know. I'm a little rusty."
Finally he gave me his full attention, looking adorable and really pleased. Flattered, even. "I love it," he said. "It'll definitely be on display."
I relaxed the tiniest bit. "I'm glad."
An awkward silence fell between us as I worked up the courage to do what I'd come to do, what I so badly needed to do. My life hadn't been right since I left Edward. There was no joy, no hope, no real will to go on. I missed everything about him: his laugh, his stories, and his support. His kisses. The gentle way he touched me. I had to set things right. I wanted him back.
His gaze found mine again, pulling me in deep. Without another thought, I pushed up onto my toes and hugged him.
For a second, he was stunned into stillness. He quickly recovered though, and bent to wrap his arms around my waist as I tightened my hold. He breathed deeply and so did I because, finally, I could. His strong arms around me, his warm body against mine, his indiscernible whispers tickling my ear; this was where I belonged—where I always wanted to be.
"I know this probably isn't the time or place," I said softly, "but… can we try again?"
He pulled back. His eyes were big and hopeful, just like mine probably, although mine were also brimming with tears. "You're sure?" he asked. "I understand now. I get that you need time. I'll wait as long as you need."
"I'm sure, but you should know—" this was the most important part, the part he had to understand if it would work "—I'm still struggling. I'm not perfect."
He lifted his shoulders, all his confidence right back where it belonged. "Who cares? Neither am I."
Yes, you are, was my immediate thought, but I squashed it. More important words sat at the tip of my tongue. "I love you, Edward. Always. No matter what."
He smiled, but I was certain I saw longing etched across his face. I prayed he'd give in to it.
He did, leaning in, a small smile playing at his lips before they met mine. He kissed me softly, slowly, and I was glad because I didn't want it to end.
When it did, he took my hands in his. "I have to get to Alice's for the barbeque. What are you doing tonight?"
"Nothing much." Ask me to come with you. I'll follow you anywhere.
He grinned and nodded toward his Volvo. "Well, let's go then."
So… that's it. I'm so sad I'm done posting this story. I sincerely hope you enjoyed it. If you did, tell someone about it! I'm always hoping more readers will find it. I'm toying with the idea of posting an epilogue at some point, so if that's something you'd be interested in reading, let me know. Also, I sometimes post outtakes and alternative POVs of this story on another thread that you can find on my profile. If you want be notified of those updates, please do sign up.
Thanks to all of you who've followed this story, and especially those who've taken the time to review and recommend it elsewhere. You're awesome!