Well here it is, the very last chapter of this story in the form of an epilogue. Thanks to every one who has taken the time to read this story, regardless of whether or not you have reviewed. Huge kudos to those of you who did write me a review to tell me what you did or did not like. I imagine that I will have a few people not so happy about the way I have ended things but I thought it was a fitting conclusion for two people who loved each other so much.
Enjoy and thanks for your support.
Epilogue - Eternity
"Que puis-je vous obtenez?"
"Deux chocalats chauds s'il vous plait" I motioned between my granddaughter and myself to indicate to the waitress that that was our order. Ana was looking at me with awe as she took in my ability to communicate our needs so readily. My eyes focused on the face of my daughter who was scanning the menu as if she might understand it fully. "And Ness, what would you like?"
"Just a tea thanks mum," She looked at me with weary eyes and I found myself questioning my decision to adhere to her demand to come here with me. I knew it was going to be hard for her but she had been adamant that I could not do this alone. That she wanted to be with me. She was just as stubborn as her father. I sighed and redirected my attention to the waitress who was waiting for me to speak.
"The au lait s'il vous plait." I smiled at the young girl before she walked away. There had been a time when I knew the waitresses here by name, I was such a constant visitor, but that had been a long time ago and now things had changed in so many ways.
"So this was where you hung out when you lived here, nan? Has it changed much?" Ana swept her gaze over the façade of the café and then looked out into the busy alleyway where people went about their business of the day. I laughed inwardly. She was doing exactly as I used to do when I had frequented this café when I had lived in Paris years ago; people watching, it had been my favourite past time and everyone had seemed so elegant and energetic back then that I had felt like I had been thrown into a fairytale. The idleness of that activity had eventually stopped when I had finally found a job as a free lance writer in an English speaking paper but the café had still been a favourite place for me to visit and Edward and I had shared many happy evenings regaling each other with our goings on of the day while we sipped at exquisite coffees and sometimes even a brandy or two. It had seemed decadent and romantic as we sat in our place across from the Seine and watched the world pass whilst we were in our own dazed state of adoration and fulfilness.
"Well sixty years is a long time Ana so everything is much more modern but some places like this, I am happy to say, have kept their old time charm. Your grandfather and I loved this place. We were never able to find a place quite like it back at home when we returned," My fingers traced lovingly against the wooden tables and again I found myself sighing. I had been doing a lot of that lately. "I am glad I get to see it one last time."
Both Ana and Ness tensed up but they kept the bright smiles on their faces to cover their apprehension about the choices I had made. I was going to enjoy this moment in time; sharing how my life had been with Edward in Paris with two of the many people I had been lucky enough to share my life with.
"Oh come on you two. I didn't bring you all the way over here to spend the time with glum looks and an air of tragedy. Paris is beautiful; it's a place of history and…..love and romance. Don't ruin this for me. Edward would have wanted me to be happy here…he always wanted me to be happy…and that is why we are doing this. Girls, I need your support with this, not your sad eyes or your suggestions that maybe I am making the wrong choice. This is what I need and if you can't accept that then maybe we need to rethink you being here?"
My daughter's hand reached out and covered my own wrinkled one. Ana was almost immediate in adding her much younger version to the mix. They were strong women, my girls and even though they had initially done everything possible to deter me from this path I had chosen, they had also eventually given in and made the trip here so that I could make this one last choice for myself; a decision that would lead me to where I ultimately needed to be…with Edward…because for me it would always be him and already it had been far too long.
"We're with you, mum," Ness stated unhesitatingly and I knew that my threat to make them leave would have made her worried. There was no way in this world that she would want me to do this alone. "It's just hard, you know. The finality of it all."
With a sympathetic smile I took my hand away from hers and lifted it to run my withered hand over the apple of her cheek. She had been my first born and her arrival had been such a blessing to Edward and me.
"It's time," I breathed heavily as I watched Edward try and bring himself out of the deep sleep I had just so rudely awoken him from. His eyes widened in alarm as he took in my words and he was instantly up and out of the bed to wrap a supportive arm around my waist. I had been uncomfortable all night and not wanting to disturb Edward, when I knew he had a busy day the next day, I had succumbed to a soothing bath to try and alleviate the aches and pains that were currently racking my body. To a point it had worked, but as soon as I had risen from the bath tub to make my way back to bed the cramps had become almost unbearable and I knew that this was more than phantom labour. I finally submitted to waking Edward up and his immediate support was very much appreciated.
"Are you sure?" Edward asked with a note of panic and I could only imagine that the look I gave him was the reason he subtly recoiled from me. "Okay sweetheart. That was a stupid question, it's just that it is so early."
He had hardly finished voicing his reasoning then I was buckled over in the worse pain I had experienced so far. A gush of water between my legs was a very physical assertion that I was correct in my belief that this baby was on its way and Edward's face became even paler as he tried to determine what he should do first.
"Hospital Edward." I muttered through my clenched teeth. "Get me to the hospital before I have this baby here on our bedroom floor."
That spurred him into action and before I knew it I was being transported to the hospital and the next hour and a half was spent with Edward's encouraging words rattling around my head as he tried to ensure my comfort and convince me that everything would be alright. Yes the baby was coming a little too early for our liking but he knew in his heart that all would turn out in the end because…..well just because it had to.
Two hours later, after a great amount of cussing and swearing that Edward would never be allowed near me again, our beautiful Nessie was born; a little smaller than we felt completely comfortable with but her size did not stop her from voicing her dissatisfaction at the coldness of this new world as she entered and there was absolutely nothing wrong with her lungs if her cry was anything to go by. Edward appeared to be completely dazzled by the little presence that was being cleaned up and checked over with a fine tooth comb by the midwives. When she was finally placed on my chest for our first bonding session I felt instant relief and a whole lot of adoration for this tiny person who had been made from Edward's and my love. Nothing in the world could compare to that feeling of complete contentment and knowledge that our little miracle was finally here with us. Edward's glassy eyes as he sat as closely as possible to the two of us with one hand lightly resting on our little one's shoulder and the other caressing the back of my neck, told me that he was overcome with the emotion of it too. The perfection of such a moment was almost too much to bear.
"Do you have any idea, Bella, of how much I love you and our beautiful daughter?" Edward spoke in an awed whisper as his glassy eyes searched my face before returning to the bundle in our arms.
"I think I have a pretty good idea Edward… you and Nessie are everything to me and I've never felt more fulfilled than right at this moment."
Of course that was to change with the birth of our sons, two and five years later. Nothing could compare to holding your child and knowing that they were a reflection of how strongly you felt for the person who helped you give them life. Edward and I were blessed with three healthy and energetic children who grew up into adults who we had always been proud of. They themselves had found true love at different stages of their lives and had delved into the role of parenthood with as much gusto as Edward and I had, giving us the gift of three granddaughters and five grandsons to dote over for the rest of our time. Life had been good to us in so many ways, even through the hard times, and it was with this knowledge that my trip to Paris had been planned with very little regret on my part.
Ana gently placed her hand on her mother's shoulder and gave her an understanding smile before speaking. "Well, I am really looking forward to seeing more of Paris through nan's eyes and hearing more about her life here with Pops. It makes me feel closer to him somehow. What is on the agenda next?"
I gave her a grateful glance in response and sipped at my coffee as I thought about where I wanted to go next. I was thankful that she was feeling Edward's presence here as much as I was. It reinforced that our trip here was going to give me what I was searching for; peace and my beloved's face. "Would you like to see where we lived? I know it won't be the same because it was renovated years ago and turned into an art gallery but it will give you a general idea of the area."
Both Ness and Ana agreed and before too long we had finished our drinks and made our way across the short distance to the street where Edward and I had resided during the few years we had stayed in Paris. It did not escape my notice that my frail body was not able to keep up with my mind the way I wanted and that Ness and Ana had to shorten their normal walking gait in order for me to keep up. It was one of the things I hated about being old; my mind was not willing to admit that there were so many things I could not or should not be doing and it was frustrating when reality made it quite apparent. However my daughter and granddaughter were patient, even if I was not, and I was soon standing between them as they each held an arm gently so that I could take stock of what was before me; my original home in the city of Paris.
"Edward, it is beautiful," I exclaimed as my eyes wandered over the apartment I would be calling home. Edward's taste was impeccable and even though there were many parts of the place that he had left unadorned the whole apartment shouted out homely with a touch of sophistication.
"Not as beautiful as you," Edward stated with conviction and pulled me into his arms so that I was wrapped in his warmth. He steadied himself with a deep breath and then pulled back a little so that we could look at one another directly. "I can't believe you're here. I can't believe you are actually in my arms; that you didn't change your mind and stay in New York."
I lifted my fingers so that I could trace his features lovingly. The last time I had been able to do that had been when I had finally admitted to him that I loved him at the airport and we had made the momentous decision for me to move to Paris. That had been a month ago now and Edward's daily calls and frequent emails had told me that he had missed me as much as I had missed him whilst I tied up the loose ends of my life at home. Now, Edward's words confirmed that he had been worried that whole time that I would decide not to come and that he would be left in Paris without me. I felt somewhat guilty that before our proclamations of love that I had treated him in a way that would result in his unsuredness now. I needed to rectify that immediately.
"As if that was ever going to happen, Edward. How could I have been anywhere else but here with you? It was so hard to be back at home when you were all the way over here and it was so hard not to just get on the first plane to get here as quickly as possible. I love you and there is nowhere else I would rather be."
Edward moved his hands so that his fingers found a resting place over my own exploring ones before entwining our fingers together and bringing them down between us, but not before grazing his lips across my knuckles in a gentle display of worship. I smiled at the demonstration of adoration he was willing to give to me and it only widened as he whispered against my cheek.
"I want you to belong with me, Bella. I desperately need you to belong with me. You have been in every thought and in every action of mine for so long now and I want that to be alright with you. I want this to work between us; I want to give you everything you deserve and make this sacrifice you've made to be the best thing you've ever done. Please, I need you."
"You've got me Edward. I do belong with you and you belong with me. I'm exactly where I should be."
His head lowered and as his lips reached mine all thought fled as I finally truly believed I was home. He sucked lightly on my lower lip before placing tender kisses from one side of my mouth to the other, all the while showing me his happiness by the lift of his smile between each one. I vaguely heard his soft assurances that this was it for us and that we were going to be so happy together. I already knew all of that and at this moment of time I wanted to drown myself in him and the feel of his lips caressing me in the most loving manner possible. When he finally deepened the kiss I was more than ready for it and the intensity of it hit me like a wave; even more so than our initial welcome to Paris kisses had, when we had seen each other at the airport. Apparently the privacy of our own home was the catalyst for a much more passionate reunion and that was more than okay by me. There was no hesitation on either of our parts and we were soon locked in an incredible display of mutual longing and desire. My fingers made their way into his hair once he relinquished his hold to bring me closer with his own hands. He was every where around me and all I could give him back were my touches and my small whimpers of approval for the way he made me feel. It was so natural and only confirmed that I was right in not second guessing my decision to move here; Edward and I were going to love one another the right way and there was no way I was going to give this up; not ever…
"Nan? Are you okay?" Ana spoke softly as if she didn't want to scare me with any loud noises. I pulled myself out of my memories and gave her a watery smile. Even now Edward could elicit remarkable feelings from me and I wanted so desperately to have him here by my side now.
"Of course sweetheart. I just lost myself in memories of how this place used to be. Your grandfather found the perfect place for us to live together when I arrived in Paris and we had so much fun making it ours once I arrived. He was so excited to share this part of his life with someone on a deeper level and we had so many good times in that place. It's a little sad that it no longer exists in the same way."
"Everything is continuously moving and changing mum," Ness said "You've always made that quite clear to all of us and it has helped us through so many aspects of life. Just like you also said though, we have our memories and no one can take those away from us."
"Exactly. Memories live on long after we leave this earth." I agreed with my daughter and looked one last time at the gallery that was once my home.
"How long did you and Pops stay in Paris?" Ana asked with curiosity.
"Three and a half years all up but of course we did go back to the states for visits and we had many guests come to stay with us here as well. It was a wonderful period in our lives. We couldn't have had a better start to our relationship." I thought back on those days of full contentment and the excitement of seeing Europe with Paris as our base. I really had felt that I was living the life of a princess and Edward was always there to make sure I knew it was something I deserved. "We got married just before we left Paris, when Edward's contract finished and we could return to New York. Our honeymoon was an idyllic trip around Croatia and Slovenia. It wasn't until we got home to New York that we found out that we were pregnant with your mother here. To say that Edward was ecstatic about becoming a dad would be an understatement."
Ana sighed and I laughed at her enthusiasm at the romance of it all. "We got married not so far from here. Would you like to see it?"
"Absolutely," They both said in unison and we giggled like young girls again. I directed them towards a cab and gave instruction for the driver to take us to St Germain des Pres. It was in this historic part of Paris that we had said our vows with our small group of family and friends by our side. The memory of it made me smile broadly. Our wedding had been everything I had ever imagined it could be with the people closest to us travelling to be by our sides. It was one of my favourite days ever and Edward's love for me had shone so brightly that it was hard to believe that there ever could have been another possibility for the way my life ended up.
"Are you happy love?" His breath caressed my cheek as he leant in to whisper softly whilst his arms encircled my waist. The sun was setting on the most beautiful and heart warming day of my life and I leant back into his chest allowing the slosh of water on the boat's side lull me into a slight trance as everything about Edward invaded my senses. It was always this way when he was near me; I loved his presence and the way I was so familiar with his movements, his scent, his velvety voice, his touch. Life without him would just not be worth living but life with him…..well that had been something to marvel at because no matter what, Edward made sure that I knew that I was loved, that I came first and everything he did told the world that he was mine and I was his. Today's wedding ceremony had been no different.
"The happiest, Edward." I sighed and then turned into the hardness of his body so that I could rest my head against his chest. " You make me happy and knowing that I am your wife….words can't even express how ecstatic that makes me."
I felt him nuzzle my hair and the action was soothing. "I know what you mean Bella." He murmured before lightly encasing my mouth with his lips. My body reacted instantly but Edward pulled away and gave me a look of pure love. "Have I told you how utterly, spell bindingly beautiful you look today?"
I giggled softly. "Maybe a few times….but I will never get sick of hearing it, coming from you." I reached for him again but my movement was of no use because someone had other ideas for us.
"Hey, hey, hey. That's enough you two. We've already witnessed the love during the ceremony and we haven't all travelled all this way to watch the two of you make out like teenagers. Everyone is waiting for you on the front deck to get this party started," Emmett's loud voice boomed and the two of us looked guiltily to our side to see his beaming face with the arched eyebrow.
"Do you mind Emmett. I am kissing my wife," I liked the way Edward emphasized the word wife and a feeling of complete goodwill and giddiness swam through my body as he confirmed once again that we had come together more formally today.
"Yes, yes I can see that but you have the rest of your lives for such undertakings and we want some of your company. Get your butts to your guests." Emmett spoke jovially and Edward and I couldn't help but laugh at his exuberance. We had missed our friends and family during our time in Paris so having them here on this important day was something special.
We followed him to the front of the boat and as we took in those waiting before us I grinned at how perfect everything seemed at that moment. Everyone raised their glasses to us as Emmett introduced us as Edward and Bella Cullen and I glanced around all the important people in our lives. Jasper and Alice stood arm in arm grinning as they welcomed us into the world of marriage. They themselves had been married in a lavish ceremony that well suited Alice's personality, if not Jasper's, about eighteen months ago. They were doing so well and it warmed my heart to know that they had been living the happy life that they so richly deserved. Rosalie was holding her little one in her arms as Emmett made his way back to her side to throw a loving arm around her shoulder and give his gorgeous baby son a quick peck on the forehead. They had been trying ever since they were married to fall pregnant and when it finally happened they had been so full of joy that I thought they would both explode with it. We had welcomed our first nephew, Dale, into the fold with a whole lot of excitement and it was wonderful that he was here to share our day with us even if he would never remember it, being so young and all. Esme and Carlisle stood smiling so widely at us and I could tell that Esme was trying extremely hard not to let her tears fall. She was such a loving and giving woman and she had made it quite clear to me when she first visited us, after my move to Paris, that I was the best thing to have happened to her son and that I was a very special part of their family. There had been no judgment about the way things had gone before I had finally woken up to myself and I loved her dearly for that. My parents had been just as welcoming to Edward and when I looked at them now I could see that they were bursting with pride for me and Edward. Jake stood beside them with his arm casually entwined with Camille's. We had all thought that they had become so close that they would become romantically involved but they had proven us wrong, both enjoying relationships with different people in their own cities. That had not stopped them from being the best friends ever to one another and when they got together they had all kinds of fun. Angela, Ben, Jane and her beau of the moment were also present, along with a few of the closer friends we had made during our time in Paris. Last but not least were Grace and Rick Woods who had graciously accepted our invitation and who had demonstrated the love they had for me by seeming extremely happy for the way things had turned out between Edward and I. Grace had even found me before the ceremony to tell me how proud she was that I had done what she had asked and loved to my fullest capacity; that I had given her son the peace of knowing that I was where I should be at this time of my life. We had cried together but they had been happy tears and I was oh so glad that they had come to be with us today. We partied late into the night as our boat sailed smoothly along the waters of the river and I had never felt so alive and sure of my love as I had as I celebrated next to my soul mate who was now my husband.
Yes my wedding had been something special and just another wonderful memory of the love between my husband and I.
"The church is beautiful," Ana exclaimed as she helped me out of the cab and Nessie paid for our journey. "Is this where you got married?"
"Aha." I squinted against the sun to look at the old church that Edward had convinced me to be married in. He had wanted to do it before the eyes of god and I had readily accepted even though I would have been happy to have been married in a registry office if it meant we could be together forever. "It really was a beautiful ceremony."
"I remember Aunt Alice telling me, when I was still a child, about the vows you and dad exchanged. She said they were so beautiful and heartfelt that nearly everyone there was crying." Ness smiled at the memory of her excitable aunt.
We quietly made our way into the silence of the church and sat in one of the pews near the middle. An instant feeling of calm came over me. This was what I had been searching for; the knowledge that I could be close to God and therefore my husband. In this place it became clear to me that it would not be long now; that soon I would have my heart's desire.
Ness and Ana could sense that I was having a moment and they quietly got up from their seats and began to look at the formation of the church and the signs of religion and worship scattered around the interior of this special place. My thoughts were far away when I sensed that I was no longer alone and I looked up into the kind and serene eyes of the priest.
"Bienvenue a notre eglise" He spoke in a voice that told me he was a caring man.
Welcome to our church.
"Merci père" I answered with respect and he sat beside me with a thoughtful posture.
"Vous semblez madame réfléchie. Qu'est-ce qui vous amène ici"
I struggled to interpret his words but understood that he wondered at my thoughtfulness and what had brought me here.
"I am sorry father. My French is somewhat lacking these days. It has been a long time I am afraid."
He smiled at me and his eyes lit up. "You seem to have done quite well but I too speak English. I am wondering if all is well with you?"
I explained that I was visiting from the United States with my daughter and my grand daughter and that we had come to see the church as I had been married here. We spoke in hushed voices and when he asked me about my memories of his church, he listened silently and appreciated my observations of how the area and the church itself had changed over the years. He asked after my husband and with sorrow I had to reveal that he was no longer with us. His placed his hand gently over my clenched hands in unspoken sympathy and I felt the tears threaten as I thought of how much I wished my words were not true.
"He passed three weeks ago," I explained. "It was quick; he had a heart attack and although his absence hurts me I know that the length of life we were both given was a blessing and that I should be happy that he has moved on after such a long and fulfilling life. God granting us sixty long years together seems like a wonderful reward but I just can't fathom not seeing him anymore. My life is full with my children and my grandchildren and even two great grandchildren but without him I feel…..empty."
"That is understandable. It seems that the love between you was something special and that is hard to let go of. But rest assured that God's will always has a purpose and no doubt you will see what that is in time. When the time comes you shall be together and eternity will be reachable for you."
"That is what I crave," I admitted in a low voice and he nodded at me with his wise eyes and comforting smile.
"And when god is ready, that will be what you will receive. Be strong Isabella. God is looking over you and knows your deepest needs and wants." With those words he gave me his goodbye and continued down the aisle until he disappeared behind a door that led further into the bowels of the church.
I watched him and thought over his words of wisdom. I had not lied when I told the priest that our lives together had been fulfilling and rewarding but there had been moments of absolute despair and if it hadn't been for my strong love for Edward and then my children and family I probably would not have got through them. Life is such a precious gift but there is not a single soul in the world who could honestly say that it was not without its troubles along the way.
"She can not last much longer Bella. We need to say our goodbyes." Edward was holding onto my sobbing body and attempting to give me his strength to get through this. His shirt was wet with my tears and mucus that I could not keep from seeping from my eyes and nose. It was too soon for this to be happening. She did not deserve to go in such a way.
"I….I…c…c…can't. This was not the way….the way it was….was…..meant to go. P..P…l…..ea….s.e don't make me do it Edward. She can't…she just can't….leave me….leave any of…us."
Edward's gentle hands framed my bloated face and he looked at me with sorrow but conviction in his own face. We had all lived through the past few traumatic months and all of us had been damaged in some way from it. He was hurting as much as I was but he was holding it in to be there for me; he was always there for me.
"Sweetheart. You have to pull yourself together. None of us want to accept this but we have to….Rose needs us to….Emmett needs us too and those four kids need us as well. Rosalie deserves us to be strong for her because she has been strong for us, all of this time. She needs to know that we will be there for Emmett and her kids after she is gone. Bella, I know it is hard but your sister needs you right now and she wants a proper farewell. Babe, we can do this for her; all of us can do this for her."
With a whole lot of ill feeling I straightened my back and forced myself to wipe the tears from my face. Edward was right and as much as it pained me to say goodbye to my sister, it was something I could not avoid. Cancer had reared its ugly head and had condemned Rosalie to a much shorter life than she deserved. She was a thirty nine year old mother with four beautiful children and she was lying calmly in her bed waiting for the inevitable to occur. The best any of us could do for her now was make her see that we would all be there for one another; that we would take care of her husband and that her children would always remember what a wonderful and loving mother they had.
Edward and I walked back into the room to find Emmett holding Rosalie in the circle of his arms and her weak body leaning back against him. She was struggling to speak but Emmett's large hands gently stroking her hair and whispering words of endearment in her ear seemed to be having a soothing effect on her. With our arrival her eyes lit up slightly and she motioned for us to come closer. I gripped Edward's hand as hard as possible but he didn't even flinch to show it must have hurt. Alice came in after us with Jasper by her side and as soon as were all by her bed Rosalie grabbed Alice and my hands feebly and tried to smile. Within minutes Jacob was also standing with us and Rosalie spoke sporadically so that we had to really concentrate to understand her words.
"You've been…the best…the best fam…ily….a person …could want. Make….sure…..my…kids know….. what ….it is…..to be a close…family. Teach….them what…their momma would have…that nothing can…beat loving one another; ….that life …is a gift not to be….wasted. I …..l..love every…single one of you."
Speaking seemed to have taken so much energy out of her and she slumped back against a stoic Emmett who could not hide the panic and fear in his eyes as he watched us agree with her demands. That was not the face he showed her though. When he looked at her all he displayed was his deep seated love for her and a calm exterior so that she would not be worried for him. After a few minutes we started to leave the room so that my parents could have a moment with their first born daughter but as I rose to leave Rosalie pulled Alice and I closer so that she could whisper almost inaudibly to us.
"Help Emmett…don't let him….forget that he is my babies' father first…and a grieving husband second…please help him."
An hour later my beautiful, strong willed sister was gone, having spent her last moments with the love of her life and ensuring the welfare of her four children, Dale, Lillian, Joseph and Katie. We grieved, we wept, we swore at fate but ultimately we came together to make sure all of Rosalie's wishes were met. Emmett was an amazing father who was both father and mother to those children and they were spoilt rotten by their aunts, uncles and grandparents who made sure Rosalie's memory would always live on in their hearts. Not a day went by without Rosalie coming up in some way during our actions or conversations. She was sorely missed and very much loved.
My emotions had got the better of me as I thought of Rosalie's departure from this world and tears were trickling down my cheeks yet again. As an eighty five year old woman death was no longer a stranger to me but it was still hard to take in the pain and grief that losing a loved one brought about. I had had to endure the death of my parents, the passing of Esme and Carlisle and regretfully the untimely accident that took away Alice and Jasper when they were flying home and a terrorist attack had brought down their plane. Alice and Jasper had lived until their late sixties but it was still too soon for their vibrancy to be quashed and for their two children to have to endure being parentless in one cruel stroke of luck. Jake had left us as a hero when a few years ago he had attempted to save a child from drowning but had not been able to save himself when the waves had battered his aging body. Thankfully the child had survived and his selflessness had not been in complete vain. Each and every loss was like a blade piercing my heart but nothing compared to the loss of my Edward; my soul mate and the one person I believed I could not take as being apart from me.
"Bella. I want to go back to Paris." Edward suddenly said as he looked up from the electronic newspaper he was holding in his hand. My face must have reflected my shock because he let out a low chuckle and smiled cheekily at me. "What? Are we too old to be traipsing across the ocean for one last fling. Think of it as our second honeymoon."
"Or our tenth. I think we've been on so many so called honeymoons that I've lost count."
"And every one of them was perfect love so why not one more?"
"It's a special place to me Bella and I want to see it one last time before….well you know. I want to remember where we started properly; I want to see the places where we experienced so many of our firsts." He wiggled his eyebrows at me and I blushed as I would have as a young foolish girl. He laughed loudly at that "And I love that I still have the capability of bringing the rose to your cheeks my sweet but seriously I think we should book a trip and have some time to ourselves to just walk down memory lane and think about how good our life has been to us."
It didn't take much convincing until I agreed with it. Edward and I lived for making each other happy and if this was something he wanted to do then I was all for it. We might have been in our eighties but we had always lived life to the fullest and made sure that we were fit enough to keep up with our children and grandchildren. This trip would be like a walk in the park for us; maybe a slow one but the excitement was already getting to me as we booked our trip and I could not wait to experience Paris once more with Edward by my side.
Unfortunately fate had intervened and Edward was lost to me in a blink of an eye. One moment he was teasing me about my grandmotherly tendencies in spoiling our grandchildren and the next he was clutching at his chest and collapsing on the floor beside me. The pain I could see in his eyes as he looked at me one last time was overshadowed by the understanding that this was it for him and he quietly moaned out his last words of love for me. He died in my arms before the ambulance could make it to our house and with him my whole zest for life disappeared. I was tired. I was lost and I felt that my endurance of all things thrown at me in this life was enough to reward me with some peace.
"It's hard to make those around you understand that though." I mumbled into the silence of the church. "All except Emmett of course. He understood more than anyone."
The funeral had been a special celebration for a man who was loved by many and who would always be remembered by his children, nieces and nephews and grand children. Out of the older generation it was only Emmett and I left and it seemed somewhat fitting that Emmett was there to say goodbye to his very best friend in the world. Our two son, Lucas and Anthony spoke of their love and respect for a father who had shown them what it was to live and to love; the person who showed them how to treat the people closest to them and how to appreciate what we had in this world. It was heartfelt and only fortified the love I had for my children that they could recognize the great work my husband had done in bringing them up as remarkable human beings. Our grandchildren surprised me with a beautiful rendition of Amazing Grace and I couldn't help but smile at how much Edward would have loved them all coming together to do such a thing for him; music had, after all, been very important to him throughout his life.
Ness hosted the wake and I was happy to allow her the job of entertaining when I knew it served as a distraction for her in accepting that she had lost the father she idolized. Emmett and I sat companionably as we received the condolences of friends and acquaintances. When people were beginning to leave and my children and grandchildren had ensured there was nothing more they could do for me Emmett turned to me with the air of seriousness that was not usually found on him.
"Paris." I answered and he nodded as if he already knew that. It seemed natural that I would still carry through on the trip that Edward had told me he wanted us to take.
"And you're not coming back, are you?" Emmett knew me to well. He understood that my need to be with my husband far outweighed anything right now.
"I don't think so Em. I'm tired …..my body aches, my heart aches, my mind wants some peace and I truly believe that everything I can do for my family has been done. They are all happy. They have each other. If I have any kind of choice about it I would prefer to go peacefully in a place that was special to both Edward and I."
Emmett sighed wistfully. "I wish I'd had that choice too Bella. I miss her so much." Emmett had never remarried or even really become serious about anyone after Rosalie had passed on. He told me once that noone could compare to her so why would he even try it. He had his kids and they were his world now, until he could be with Rose again. Some people had tried to force the issue with him but I had fully understood. If it had been Edward in Rose's place all those years ago then I would have done the same thing as Emmett.
"You've made her proud Emmett. She wanted you to look after your children and you've done an amazing job with that." We both tipped our heads to listen to the quiet voices of all our children who were currently working together to help Nessie straighten up her house again. We smiled at their closeness and their ability to always be there for one another in times of happiness or sadness. It warmed my heart to know that when it would eventually come time for them to grieve me as well that they would not be alone; they would stay strong for one another and commit another family member to their memories.
"We all did well with our families Bella. How could we not when we each had one another. You know you can leave rest assured that we've done everything possible to help our family along their own destinies. They will miss you but they will accept it. Geez Bells; I will miss you to."
"So you don't think I'm being selfish? I'm giving up in a way just because I can't deal with being away from him."
"Bella. You are eighty five years old; you've lived a life based around everyone else's needs and wants. You've been an exceptional mother, grandmother and friend. I think it is time for selfishness to win out for once in your life. It's not like you could live forever; none of us have that ability. I fully understand your need to just find the peace. I look forward to it myself." He gave me the biggest hug he could muster and we held each other for quite a while. "Tell my Rosie that it won't be long before I follow too Bella. Tell her that I can't wait to hold her again."
Of course Ness, Anthony and Lucas had not been as understanding as Emmett had when I explained to them my plans. We argued, they accused, they begged and I stood firm but when it came down to it, it was their love for me and their knowledge of how much their father meant to me and how the thought of existing for more long years without him was terrifying that they came to an unlikely acceptance of my choice. It was decided that Ness would come with me and Ana told us that she would also come as a support for her mother at the end of it all. My heart was heavy with what I was asking my children to endure so soon after the loss of their father but it wasn't enough to turn me away from the path I had chosen.
I left the United States and my family, knowing that I would not return. I gave each and every one of them a proper farewell and let them know what I hoped for their future. It had been a hard thing to do willingly but my heart and soul told me that I was ready for the next stage of my existence.
That was what had brought me here sitting in the church I was married in and walking down memory lane in the hopes it would provide the tranquility that left me when Edward had died.
Ness' soft voice spoke next to my ear and I turned my head to vaguely look at her. "I think mum that it might be time to get you back to the hotel. You must be exhausted after all of the travel and the moving around we've done today."
I simply nodded and allowed myself to be guided from the church and into a cab for the trip back. Scenery went past in a blur of images as I began to retreat into myself. Everything was so different now to when Edward and I had originally been here as a loving couple, who had their whole lives ahead of them. The voices of Ana and Ness invaded my consciousness but only as a vague understanding that they were there but kind of far away. I began to understand that I was already beginning to shut down but there was one last thing I had to do before the time came for me to leave altogether.
Once we were all safely sojourned back in our hotel suite I convinced the girls to let me rest and go off on their own exploration of the city without me. They had eventually reluctantly agreed and soon I found myself alone and able to finalise my plans to give Edward one last thing. I foraged through my handbag until I found the small urn that was so precious to me. Soon I was leaving the hotel and slowly making my way across the busy streets until I was beside the main river of Paris. For several minutes I just stood and let all the memories bombard me until all I held in my heart was lightness.
Our years in Paris….the most amazing wedding ever…my babies being born…..my children playing in the park with their cousins…Edward being promoted and then becoming owner of his own business….the birth of nephews and nieces to love and to cherish…..teenagers graduating from highschool….first loves….broken hearts to help mend…college graduating ceremonies….weddings…the introduction of our grandchildren…travelling….playing…..and constant loving….and there through every single memory I held was my constant, my reason for laughter, my rock through thick and thin, the one person who I could always rely on to hold me and love me…my Edward.
I gently undid the lid of the urn and held it out so that the contents could scatter across the waters of the Seine. It was surreal to think that this was a small part of Edward that I had brought with me and I watched as the ash disappeared quickly whilst I thought of how such a strong and vibrant man could be reduced to next to nothing in earthly terms. I knew differently for his soul though and it was that thought that made me speak to the man who meant so much to me.
"I did it, my love. I gave us one last walk down memory lane together. You're part of Paris now, the same way Paris was always part of us. Our life together was perfect Edward. I couldn't have asked for a better man to spend it with. I love you….always."
With quiet determination I made my way back to my hotel room, past the polite greetings of the hotel workers, up the elevator and into the ornate bedroom that had been my home for only one night. I took one last look through the beautiful pictures of all my children and family and then laid my weary body on the bed and sighed a breath of relief. The tension that had been radiating through me ever since Edward had died was now seeping away from me and my body relaxed back into the softness of the mattress beneath me. A complete sense of harmony and composure could be felt all around me. I would not end my own life; that had never been a consideration but here in Paris where my life had truly begun I was more than willing to allow my life to end. I knew without a doubt that when I closed my eyes that it would be for the last time because God was ready for me now and he was willing to give me the greatest gift of all…..the one thing that brought the smile of tranquility to my face with the mere thought of it….
…Edward for eternity.
CULLEN – Bella ( nee Swan) Passed away in Paris on Friday May 30 peacefully and without pain. At 85 she remained active and engaged until the end. Beloved wife of the late Edward Cullen. Cherished mother of Ness, Anthony and Lucas. Loving grandmother of Ana, Rose, Carlie, Colin, Aaron, Matthew, Robert, and Alexander. Proud great grandmother of Ellie and Jake. Bella's memory will live on in the hearts of her extended family. A gentle, compassionate and generous woman; a tremendous presence in the life of her family and friends who gain strength in the knowledge that she has been reunited with her true love. Funeral service to be held Thursday 5th June at Riverside Chapel, 21 West Broad St, Mt Vernon, NY