Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight, I just borrowed the characters so I could feed them cobbler and play dress-up with them. I had a blast, and now I'm returning them…more or less unharmed. And maybe a few pounds heavier from all the cobbler.
A/N: My eternal gratitude and love to the most amazing betas in the world, nowforruin and Dinx, who not only taught me a lot of grammar, but who became friends while making Mysteryward pretty. Mwah! A million thanks and hugs to my pre-reader, lisamichelle17, for holding my hand and inventing Love Day. Love ya, sweet pea! A massive thank you and a big, sloppy kiss to the best Twilighted Validation Beta in the world, therunaway. To all the wonderful readers – please see A/N at the bottom.
She Is My Forever
The first time Bella set foot in the bar after the whole Seattle ordeal, Aro stopped her and solemnly told her time healed all wounds. As much of a cliché as those words were, it made a few tears escape her eyes, and she spent the entire time we were there in contemplative silence. Before we left, she ordered Aro and his buddies a round of drinks.
It took quite a few nightmares, some quiet days with long solitary walks on the beach, and hours spent talking, but like a fucking phoenix, my beautiful girl rose from the ashes. Her confidence grew, and it made her even more beautiful and amazing than before. She laughed more, became more playful, and when she walked on the street, it was not with a bowed head and her face hidden behind her hair. Bella was flourishing.
It wasn't that she changed her old habits. She still loved curling up in a chair with a notebook, a sketch book, her copy of Tennyson, or whatever she found of interest in the library. She still preferred handling the online store business at the boutique, but she confessed to me that it was because Tiny and Angela were better at handling the customers with their extensive fashion knowledge. She also still used cooking and baking as a way to clear her head of whatever she was stewing over – whether it was her past or a plot twist that nagged her. She wrote more these days, and while I didn't know what exactly spurred her creativity, then I knew that it was a good thing.
While I was cleaning up after a delicious Sunday dinner, I suddenly got all kinds of amazing ideas for the chapter I was working on. I hurried to finish up and planted myself in front of my laptop as soon as the last counter was clean. The thought struck me that maybe I should have been more domestic, as I tended to get some really fucking great ideas while vacuuming or folding laundry. It was almost embarrassing how much Bella had taken over the household chores after she had moved in. She claimed she liked it, though, as well as preferring to have laundry done more than once a month, as had been my previous modem operandi.
"Edward?" my domestic girl in question interrupted the inner musings that had disturbed the ideas I had been typing into my notes. "Um…are you busy?"
I was busy, but never too busy for my girl. And the uncertain um made me fucking curious. "Nope. What's up?"
She stood on the other side of the desk. I had retreated to the library because I had needed a change of scenery earlier. She was clutching a stack of papers and biting her lip. "I was wondering if you might have time to look at this?"
"Sure," I replied. "What is it?"
She handed the papers over almost reluctantly. "It's…well, um…I got an email today from one of my professors from college. She's putting together an anthology and asked if I wanted to contribute and well…I…" She sighed and closed her eyes. "You made me promise once that I wouldn't just write for the desk drawer that I don't have, and I thought this might be a good place to start since I have this story that would be…well, not perfect, but it fits the theme. I just need you to look through it in case there are any embarrassing blunders."
"Bell, that is fucking amazing!" I said, getting up to hug her. "You should be really fucking proud. This professor of yours obviously remembers your talent. Shit! No one ever asked me to contribute to anything until well after my book sold."
She laughed a little shakily and buried her face in my chest. "I am proud that she remembers me, but I'm also terrified. How do you do it, Edward? How do you share words straight out of your head and your heart with the world?"
"Don't think of it like that. Think of it as telling a story that means something to you, sharing it with people who like stories. Because that's what it is. You don't sit around telling yourself stories – you tell them to others."
"I feel stupid being so afraid. It's my dream, and even though this might be on a small scale, it still feels huge," she said, sighing.
"You are the bravest person I have ever met, Bella," I told her honestly. "You have dealt with so much shit, and all it's done is make you stronger and more aware of yourself and your strengths. You can do this, beautiful."
She took a deep breath and looked up at me. "You're right. I can do it. But you'll look through it, right? You probably read it already because I wrote it last year, and it was among the ones I gave you for Christmas, but…"
"I'll read it, Bella. Of course I'll read it. You've helped me so much, and I'll help you, too, any way I can. We can be our own little team."
She giggled, and I leaned down to kiss her. I nibbled on her lower lip as she pressed herself against me and tangled her hands in my hair. As usual my hands migrated to their favorite destination, and I cupped her tits, rubbing my thumbs over her nipples. She hummed against my lips, and I was just about to hoist her up onto the desk when her cell phone rang somewhere in the house. It was the tone she had assigned Tiny, so ignoring it meant that it would just continue ringing, and on the off chance that it stopped, mine would no doubt start ringing instead. Tiny was nothing if not insistent.
Bella groaned and kept kissing me while untangling herself from me. I chuckled against her lips at her reluctance although I felt it, too. Fucking Tiny and her lack of timing. I needed to talk to Jasper about keeping her busy or taking away her cell phone. Bella left the library to go deal with Tiny, and I picked up her story and sat down in a recliner to read it. I recognized the title and knew instantly that it was good enough for publication. Most of what was in the binder I had gotten for Christmas was, in my opinion. My beautiful girl didn't lack talent, just confidence.
I soon stopped hearing Bella talk to Tiny on the phone as I lost myself in the story. I had read it several times before, but it appeared she had been editing it. It was nothing short of brilliant, even if I was biased as hell. I was fucking thrilled that she was going to try and make her dream come true. That was all I'd ever wanted for her. I wanted her happy and safe, and I would do anything to help her breathe life into her dreams. I had considered showing some of her work to my agent, but figured that doing it without telling Bella would be a bad idea. So, I needed to talk her into it first, and perhaps seeing her name in print with this story would make it easier for her to allow me to do it.
Bella emailed the story to her old professor the next day and then alternated between bouncing with excitement and worrying that it wasn't good enough. I remembered the feeling from when I had first started writing, and even now it was still there in a smaller dose every time I finished something and sent it to my agent or editor. So I talked to her about it, hoping that it might help with her nerves.
We were walking along the beach on a stormy day in February. It was late in the afternoon, and it was already starting to get dark. Bella had been so pent up with energy when I had picked her up a little early from work that she had playfully begged me to join her for a walk on the beach. I had readily abandoned the carefully structured sentences I had formed in my head that I had been itching to write down for the feel of my beautiful girl's hand in mine.
The harsh wind made it difficult to keep up conversation, so we were mostly silent. But I did feel a fucking overpowering surge of happiness when Bella let go of my hand and danced ahead of me with her face turned into the wind, smiling widely. By no means was she a dancer, but to see her that happy and carefree was exhilarating. When she turned back and grinned at me, it hit me what I wanted more than anything. The moment was almost as significant as the one I had experienced on my ladder at Thanksgiving.
I wanted an eternity of Bella's smiles.
Grinning goofily at the dancing girl in front of me, I continued my train of thought into new territory. I definitely also wanted Bella to become a Cullen. I wanted us to have a bunch of kids with brown eyes, brown curls, and who blushed fucking adorably like their mother. I wanted her to save me from the crappy solitude I had thought I wanted before I met her, and I wanted to spend every day for the rest of my life making sure that my beautiful girl was happy.
I wanted to get a ring and find the perfect moment to ask her to marry me. And that wasn't even true. I wanted to have a ring in my pocket right now because I was pretty sure that I would never be able to wait for the right moment. The right moment was fucking right now because there was no reason to wait or hesitate.
"Bella?" I called out.
She heard me over the wind and stopped dancing, turning around with a smile. Adventurous curls had escaped her ponytail in the wind, and they framed her face, cheeks red from the cold and eyes sparkling. Fucking beautiful.
I closed the distance between us and just blurted the most important question I would ever ask anyone. It didn't even sound like a fucking question.
I watched her face intently as it froze in surprise or possibly even shock. I instantly started rambling. "Shit. I don't even have a ring or anything. I hadn't planned on asking today, but suddenly I just couldn't…I mean…fuck…I just had to ask you. I love you so fucking much and I want you and I need you…for the rest of my life."
The widening smile on her face was like watching the sunrise after a particularly dark and long night.
"Really?" I grinned.
She nodded vigorously and leaped at me. I caught her easily. "Yes. I can't think of anything I'd rather do than marry you. I'd marry you right this second."
"Fuck, I wish we could," I breathed and stole my first kiss as an engaged man.
Bella giggled and shook her head. "I can't believe you want to marry me. But I'm going to hold you to it."
"Please do, although you'll have no reason to. I'm getting you a ring as soon as fucking possible, and I just discovered that I'm not a fan of long engagements."
She bit her lip and smiled. "Can we get married here on the beach? You know, when it's actually possible to wear a dress without freezing to death?"
I closed my eyes for a second. Did she even realize how utterly perfect she was? "We can get married anywhere you want, beautiful girl," I promised her. And I'd fucking fly to Antarctica or Japan or whatever if that was what she wanted. "But right here sounds perfect to me."
She crushed her lips against mine and kissed me with so much passion that my head was spinning. I didn't often see this side of her, but I fucking liked it. I would have to propose more often.
I was almost in awe as I made love to my fiancée that night. Bella was the most amazing, beautiful, and sweet woman I had ever met, and she had agreed to marry me. Out of everyone in the whole world, she wanted me. It was fucking mind-blowing. And so was the orgasm.
The next day I shanghaied Jasper from whatever project he was working on and blackmailed him into going to Seattle with me. I had so much shit on him that it was pretty easy to get him to agree, fortunately.
"So what's in Seattle today that won't be there tomorrow or next week when I actually had the time to go with you?" he asked when we had left Evonside behind and were headed toward Seattle.
"An engagement ring for Bella," I replied.
"What? Holy shit, Eddie! You're gonna ask her to marry you?" he spluttered.
"No," I said, drawing the word out on purpose before grinning. "I already did that. Now I just need to get her a ring."
Jasper gaped. "She said yes?"
I rolled my eyes. "Why else would I need a ring, moron?"
"Well, fuck me." He grinned. "Congratulations, Edward. I never thought you'd actually find yourself a girl who could stand the idea of forever with your moody ass. Bella is amazing, though. You'd have to look a damn long time before finding someone as tough but somehow unspoiled as her. She's made you a better man."
"I know," I said. "And thanks."
"There's one thing I don't understand, though. Why are you bringing me with you to find a ring? It's not like I'm an expert, you know. Wouldn't Rose have been a better choice?" he asked.
I snorted. "Now why would I want to spend five and a half hours trapped in a car with my pregnant sister? Much as I love her, I'm not suicidal. I just got engaged for fuck's sake, I'd like to enjoy it before I hang myself in frustration."
"Good point," Jasper allowed. "Do you at least know what you're looking for?"
"Okay, never mind," he said, groaning. "Have you told Mom and Dad yet?"
"Hell no! No way am I telling them until there's a ring on Bella's finger. Mom would castrate me for proposing without a ring," I replied with a snort.
"You're totally going to be the favorite," he complained. "Between Rose's pregnancy and you getting engaged, I'm officially in last place."
"Find a blender museum somewhere or something. Mom loved the vacuum museum story," I suggested.
"Aw, fucking hell. I'm never going to live that down, am I? Besides, I don't think Mom loved that story. She looked rather concerned as I recall it," he said. "Anyway, this ring. Could we narrow it down a little so we don't have to spend a week going through every jewelry store in Seattle? What should it look like?"
"Well, I had imagined it to be round. I don't fucking know, Jazz! I'll know it when I see it."
"Why am I even here?" he asked with a sigh.
"Moral support. Company. Entertainment."
"Great. Not only am I Mom's least favorite, I've also been reduced to entertainment." He shook his head. "Hey, why did you propose without a ring?"
"Because I didn't want to wait until I had one. I love her, and I have no doubts that I will still love her when we're both old and wrinkled. I want it all with her, Jazz."
"I'm happy for you," he said. "And she'll be a lot more pleasant to have as a sister than Rose is. I'm just not going to tell Rose that because I'm not anymore suicidal than you are."
Getting closer and closer to Seattle, Jasper kept grumbling about being Mom's least favorite but brightened when he realized that he was the first one to know that Bella and I were getting married.
I had done my research and knew which jewelry stores I wanted to hit first. It was true what I had told Jasper – so far, all I knew was that the ring had to be round and have a rock on it. I also knew what it should not look like and that I was not leaving the city without the perfect one.
Jasper kept suggesting rings that were completely wrong for Bella. They were rings that were no doubt perfect for Tiny, and when I told him so, he dropped his jaw but recovered faster than I had expected. I grinned; I had definitely brought him along for entertainment.
I looked at too small diamonds that were hardly noticeable and too big diamonds that would weigh Bella's small hand down. I looked at round ones and oval ones, at white gold and yellow gold rings, and they were all just fucking wrong for my girl.
"Come on, man. Just pick one. They're diamonds; isn't that exactly what girls want?" Jasper complained.
"I'm really regretting bringing you up here, Jazz."
"You and me both, bro. If you hadn't blackmailed me to come, I would probably have finished the painting I was working on. How the hell would you feel if I came and dragged you away from the book you're writing right in the middle of a perfect flow?"
"You're such a liar, Eddie. You would bitch and moan and probably call Mom and rat me out, and then-"
"Shut up. I'm talking about this ring. It's fucking perfect. Look!" I pointed out what would soon be Bella's ring. It was yellow gold and had a large diamond, flanked by two smaller ones and surrounded by delicate and intricate engravings.
"Oh. It's beautiful, Edward. Really. I get what you were saying about the ones I suggested being wrong for Bella. This one really is perfect."
I resisted the urge to say duh. I purchased the ring, and after a late lunch we made our way back home. I was pushing the speed limits in my eagerness to put the ring on Bella's finger. Jasper, of course, just laughed at me.
I dropped my brother off, and he thanked me for stealing his day. I flipped him off and drove down Main Street to pick up Bella. I was a few minutes early, so I parked the car and went inside. Tiny was with a customer but looked up and smiled at me while she pointed toward the back room. I passed Angela at the counter, who also pointed out back.
Bella was sorting through some papers and apparently didn't hear me approaching. I grabbed her around the waist and quickly silenced her surprised gasp with a kiss.
"Edward! You scared me," she said breathlessly against my lips.
"Sorry." I grinned, although I wasn't really sorry at all.
The kiss grew inappropriately heated considering that Bella was at work, but I was pretty proud of the fact that I could distract her enough to get the ring out of the box in my pocket and slide it halfway onto her finger before she even noticed.
She broke away from me with a gasp and looked down at her hand. I slid the ring all the way onto her finger while her eyes widened in surprise. She brought the hand up between us to take a closer look, and I bit my lip while she simply stared at it. It had seemed so perfect for her when I had first spotted it in the jewelry store, but now I was suddenly having doubts. Maybe I should have gotten her a bigger diamond, and perhaps she would have preferred white gold, even if it did clash with her bracelet.
"Edward," she breathed. "It is…wow, it's perfect and beautiful and…thank you. I still can't believe…"
"Believe what, beautiful?"
"That…" She took a deep breath and continued staring at her ring. I was fucking thrilled that she seemed to like it so much. "That you want me forever," she said softly.
"I want you longer than forever," I promised her.
Tears shone in her eyes when she looked up at me. "Do you have any idea how happy you make me?" she asked.
"If it's even remotely close to how happy you make me, then yes. You are fucking everything, beautiful girl," I told her, cupping her face. "I love you more than anything."
"Not more than I love you," she said, smiling impossibly wide. "It's just not possible."
"Of course it is." I grinned and halted any argument she might have had by kissing her again. I backed her up against a table and practically assaulted her mouth. Fortunately she seemed to like it judging by the way she was pressing herself into me and running her hands up and down my back as far as she could reach.
I grinned into the soft skin on her throat as I kissed her there and teased her with my tongue. She was definitely not thinking about where we were because if she had, she wouldn't have moaned as loudly as she did. I was shamelessly groping her delicious tits when we were interrupted.
"Thank God I stopped paying you five minutes ago, Bella," Tiny said, giggling. "Do you mind taking this somewhere else so that I can lock up and go make out with my own man?"
Bella blushed and hid her hand in her pocket, not wanting to ruin the surprise we had for everyone tomorrow night.
"Admit it, Tiny. You're just jealous because I'm so much better looking than my brother," I said.
"In your dreams," she replied, snorting. "My man may be a dork sometimes, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with the way he looks. He's the hottest piece o-"
"Argh! Please don't finish that sentence!" I interrupted. "We're going, in fact we're already gone – your eyes just haven't registered it yet."
I dragged a giggling Bella out of the boutique after she had quickly gathered her things and waved goodbye to Tiny. I was going to take my girl home and celebrate her new piece of jewelry until there were no fucking thoughts left in my mind that involved my brother.
We had all the clueless people, plus a smug-looking Jasper, over for dinner the next evening. It was Saturday, and Bella had spent the afternoon humming and cooking in the kitchen while I had been on cleaning duty all over the house except the kitchen. No disasters today.
Maybe I should have been surprised by the fact that Tiny's eagle eyes spotted Bella's ring before I had even let her in the door, but I wasn't. She squealed, startling Emmett, who in turn walked into the door frame. Jasper was laughing, and Rose looked seriously pissed off, probably because no one had let her in on what was happening. My parents were patiently waiting out on the porch. I loved that my life was a fucking circus.
"So pretty!" Tiny declared, bouncing a little as she inspected Bella's ring. "Congratulations, you guys." She hugged Bella and bounced over to hug me, too, surprising me with her strength. And then she started spewing questions about dates, colors, venues, and flowers. I was not the only one who rolled my eyes.
In the midst of all the hellos, congratulations, hugs, and general ushering of people inside so we wouldn't be having dinner in an ice box, my mom came over to me. She hugged me with strength that rivaled Tiny's and sent me a beaming smile.
"I'm so happy for you, honey. Bella is an amazing woman, and I have never seen you happier than when you're with her."
"Thanks, Mom." I smiled at her, but it didn't take long for my gaze to settle back on Bella, who was trying to escape Emmett's monster hug. Her laugh wasn't louder than the general commotion, but it rang clearer than anything else in my ears.
"When did you propose?" my mom asked. "And how? Tell your old mother all the details."
I laughed. "You're not old, Mom, and you know it. You should take up fishing with Dad, though. You'd be good at it."
She swatted me playfully. "Details!" she demanded.
"I proposed the other day down on the beach, and don't kill me, okay? But I didn't have a ring then…the moment just felt too good to pass up," I tried to explain.
"Edward…" She sighed, but the smile gave her away.
"I took Jasper with me to Seattle yesterday to get the ring, and I found the perfect one. So she only went one fucking day without a ring. That's decent enough, isn't it?"
"I'll let you know after I see the ring up close," she teased. "And watch your language, young man. Even though you're getting married, you're not too old to get your mouth washed out with soap by your mother."
"Yes ma'am," I replied with a grin.
She followed Bella into the kitchen where she had disappeared a few minutes prior. I took it upon myself to fix drinks for everyone, making sure to find something non-alcoholic for Rose and my dad.
Dinner was great. All the people I loved most in the world sat around the table, eating my beautiful girl's fucking delicious meal and raising their glasses in celebration of said girl agreeing to be mine forever. Perfection didn't even begin to cover it.
Not that I had ever doubted it, as I knew both my parents loved Bella, but I also got my dad's approval before the evening was over. He asked me if I had asked Bella's dad for his blessing.
"No," I admitted. "I thought about calling him yesterday, but the truth is that even if he did come to her rescue in Seattle, their relationship is just not at a level where his blessing would mean anything to Bella. By default, it wouldn't mean anything to me, either. If they ever get to that point, I'll talk to him and make sure that he knows that I love Bella and will spend the rest of my life making sure that she's happy and safe. Until then, I'm letting Bella set the pace."
"I think you'll make her a good husband, son," my dad said.
It was the ultimate praise because it was all I wanted. If I never wrote another word and if no more copies of my books were ever sold, I'd still be the happiest man in the world if only I managed to keep my beautiful girl happy.
"No object is mysterious. The mystery is in your eye," Aro said when he came over to solemnly greet Bella and I. He had not been present in his usual booth with Marcus and Caius when we came in, so apparently he was now making up for it.
Bella smiled at him, a lot more comfortable with him now than when she had first met him. I was actually a little fucking jealous that he had met her a few minutes before I had, but definitely grateful for how everything had turned out.
"I am not naming my child Travis!" Rose stated loudly, alerting us all to what she and Emmett had been bickering – surprisingly softly – about in their corner of the booth.
"There's nothing wrong with the name Travis," Emmett argued. "It's better than any of your suggestions anyway. You're all kinds of amazing, Rosie, but no child of mine will ever be called Angelica. It's way too much pressure on a kid with parents like us. And don't even get me started on Christian."
Rose snorted. "You'd name the kid after some sort of food if you could."
"So?" Emmett shrugged.
"You should find out if you're having a boy or a girl. You would save a lot of arguments that way," Tiny suggested.
"No" and "no one asked you" were the responses Tiny got from the parents to be. And that was basically all they could agree on.
Tiny huffed and turned back to the monologue she had been subjecting Jasper to about the shopping she wanted to do in Prague when the two of them went there next month. Jasper was discreetly rolling his eyes as Tiny chattered excitedly on, not bothered by the heated argument over the name Caroline that Rose and Emmett had moved on to. I looked at Bella, who was smiling and biting her lip to keep the laughter at bay. She was so fucking beautiful.
It hit me suddenly as I saw her glance down at her ring. Her smile widened and her sparkling eyes met mine after a second. I was a fucking idiot. I always thought Bella was a mystery that I was supposed to unravel like in my books. I thought I needed to know every little thing about her before happiness would hit us full blaze.
But the truth was that she would always be a mystery. I would never know everything about her that there was to know; I would never not be surprised by something she said or did. And that was exactly the way it was supposed to be.
I grabbed a pen from my coat pocket and slid a napkin across the table. I chuckled to myself, smiling at Bella when she leaned in to see what I was doing. I winked at her before I started writing on the napkin.
And they lived happily ever after.
A/N: Thank you so much to each and everyone who took the Mystery journey with me. The response to the story has been overwhelming, and I treasure every review and alert I have gotten since I posted the first chapter. My favorite thing about Mysteryward is the friends he has given me. For that, he gets extra cobbler. Hell, so do all of you. Served by Mysteryward.
To answer a question that will no doubt be asked in reviews – no, there will not be a sequel. I have a general dislike of sequels, and the story I wanted to tell has been told. For me, an ending has to leave something for the imagination. A few outtakes might appear, though. ;)
Again, thank you. I'd give you all a hug if I could. I have new stories coming up, the first one will probably be on my colab account with shelikesthesound – "She is Divine." The link is on my profile. All I can tell you is that it won't be boring and that there will be twists. Lots of twists. Until then, you can always find me on Twitter – d_inspiration.