This is a love story, not just a love story between two people but a love story of the passions that bring people together and the love of a city. There is a little bit of drama but only a little bit. The Bella in this story is inspired by another Bella I wrote about in a one shot story called Culinary Kiss. She is not the typical Bella but I hope you enjoy her just the same. The story is written from Edward's point of view in a voice that is sultry, Southern and romantic. Hope you all enjoy it.
SM owns all things Twilight, I am just borrowing some names and ideas, the rest is all mine.
There are things in people's lives that signify home for them, certain landscapes, certain smells, certain sounds. Those things let you know you are home or close to being home. For me it is a bridge, three bridges actually, two of them long gone now and the third their beautiful replacement. But no matter which bridge it was, no matter the age I was or am, those bridges meant one thing, I was home.
As I held the last black and white photos to be packed away, I looked around my now empty apartment. All of my other belongs were already on their way, these photos among the things I kept up until the end to keep me grounded, keep me focused and because quite honestly I cannot bare not to see them. They are just pictures of bridges I have heard said so many times, but to me they are so much more than that and anyone who truly knows me knows that to be the case. As I go to put them in my bag I stop and give them one more look and they call to me. The familiar arches of bridges new and old begin to call to me, to let me know that it was time to come back home.
The Cooper River Bridge had been my ray of home for as long as I can remember. I held the beautiful photo of it in one hand, the old green monsters as they were affectionately called by Alice in the other. Sure they had official names like the Grace Memorial, the Pearman and the Ravenel Bridges but for me they would always be the CRB and the old green monsters. And now they were all staring back at me from those photos, all to remind me, to let me know that I was going home, home to Charleston.
Charleston, SC is the kind of city that you cannot help but feel romantic about. Yeah there are parts of the city that are not so great as is the case with any place people call home, but the area of Charleston that was so a part of me was the best kind of home that you could have. The historic part and harbor area of the city that swept along the Copper River was something that songs, movies and stories were written about and admired for generations. Houses that dated back to long before the Civil War, trees that dated back long before the Revolutionary War, water ways that could fill a life time with stories were all there. That was what I called home, that is what I grew up around and in, my own personal classroom right outside my door any time I wanted it.
The harbor area of Charleston is the kind of area that you could walk around for hours and never get bored. The kind of area where you could fall in love, lose or find yourself or just be. It is a romantic's city, whether the romance is for another human being, nature, architecture, history or just life in general. A city where graveyards are hundreds of years old as are the churches beside them and nightly ghost walks fill you with terror and wonder. A place where our founding fathers walk along side you and speak of the history of the city, where horse drawn carriages wait at red lights beside shiny new cars and where cobblestone sidewalks line miles of city blocks.
I locked the door to my apartment for the last time, locked the door to my life here and headed for the main office to turn everything in. After finishing up paperwork and other necessary things I got into my car and headed for I-40, the stretch of interstate that would take me out of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, my home for the past six years, the road that would take me to another and then another that would take me to cross over my siren, my sweet bridge that would than take me home.
As I set into my trip home I let the hum of the interstate take over and let my mind wander. There is a quicker way to get to Charleston from Chapel Hill, one that will take about four and half hours, but it does not take me over my siren, does not give me open, welcoming arms. Instead I choose to take the route that will put me on Highway 17, the road that my parents took so many summers from our home in Greenville, North Carolina. A route that would add an hour and half possibly two hours onto my trip depending on summer beach traffic but that didn't matter to me. This way would take me to my bridge and to my memories.
My mother and I would spend our summers in Charleston while my father, who was a professor at East Carolina University, would come down and stay with us in between summer class sessions. We would stay at my Aunt Esme and Uncle Carlisle's house. My father and Carlisle were twins and my mom and Esme were cousins who were more like sisters. The four of them were very close growing up and my mother would tell me great stories of the four of them on our journey down to Charleston each summer. From the time I was four years old, my mother would tell me that once I saw the bridge I would know we were there as an answer to my Are we there yet? questions. That was also the year my sweet Alice was introduced into my life. Despite the four year difference between my cousin and me we were always very close and I always saw her as the little sister I had to protect. We spent our summers playing in the park down by the battery, climbing ancient trees, watching the cargo ships as they passed along the river and into the harbor and watching the water endlessly for the dolphins that came up the tidal river to play among the boats. During all of those years my bridges were there to welcome me to Charleston and to bid me farewell and a quick return at the end of the summer.
As I arrived in the city of Wilmington and my journey took me off of I-40 and onto Highway 17, I began to think about how at the age of eleven the bridges became my pillar of strength. That was when Charleston became my home. That was the year my parents and I were in a car crash that took both of their lives and that I somehow managed to survive. It was just one of those crazy things. We were going to an 8:00 am church service and some poor guy was going home from working the graveyard shift. He fell asleep at the wheel and veered over into our lane, hitting our car head on. I was the only one who survived and with only minor injuries although no one is really sure how I did; they all said it was a miracle. To me though at the time it didn't feel like a miracle, it felt like a mistake. Survivor's guilt can be a real bitch, especially for an angry eleven year old boy.
Carlisle and Esme took me in immediately, never thinking twice about raising me. They always made me feel loved and Alice really did become the little sister I had always wanted. It was really hard though, especially at first. Carlisle and dad were identical twins so being around him at first was difficult. In fact I think I spent the first five months I was living with them avoiding him at all costs. With Carlisle being a doctor is made it easier to avoid him as he was gone from the house a good deal. But it wasn't just Carlisle that it was hard to be around. Esme was so much like my mother, she even favored her a little and it felt like I was stuck in an alternate universe. So I pretty much withdrew from everyone with the exception of Alice. My sweet cousin was always there trying to cheer me up, trying to make me feel better. Hard to imagine a seven year old understanding the gravity of the situation and doing all that she could to keep me from losing myself but she did. Alice was always so smart for her age and seemed to read me like a book.
During those five months I spent a lot of time on the river banks, getting as close to the bridges as I could without Carlisle and Esme finding out. I would sit at the harbor and watch the cars go over the bridge and the boats going under them. I wondered where they were going to or coming from, what kinds of goods they hauled or carried. I would come up with these great stories, movies really that played out in my mind. Losing myself in some other world helped me to deal with the pain, helped with seeing my dad's face everyday although I would never know his touch again and helped me to hear my mother's laugh although I would never be hugged or kissed by her again.
I had been living with them for about six months when Alice followed me one day on one of my journeys to escape. As I sat on the river bank in the shadow of the bridges she came and sat beside me, not saying a word, just putting her little hand in mine. That was the first time I really allowed myself to grieve for them, allowed myself to miss them. Alice and I sat there quietly holding hands, the tears streaming down my face. Alice was never one to sit still for any period of time, not even in her sleep, but that day she did. She knew what I needed, knew that I just needed to have someone hold my hand and be there for me, no words and no questions, just to be there. After I cried myself out, we walked home quietly. On the way home we stopped by Dolce Amore, a little bakery a block from our house. Alice told me that sometimes you just need a piece of cake. We walked into the bakery where we were met by a very sweet lady named Francesca. She was the owner of the bakery and a grandmotherly Italian lady. She hugged us both, told us to go sit at one of the tables and brought over a piece of cake for the two of us to share and two glasses of milk. The cake was a huge piece of chocolate cake with chocolate icing and it tasted like heaven. By the time we left, my heart felt a little better, my soul didn't hurt as much and I no longer hated the idea of looking at my aunt and uncle.
As I crossed the border between North Carolina and South Carolina and headed into the crowded section of 17 that took me through Myrtle Beach, I thought about the years after that day of renewal with great pride and joy. Alice and I became pretty much inseparable after that despite our age difference. When I wasn't in school I was hanging out with my little sis. We ran around with the same circle of friends, a group of older and younger siblings that just seemed to mesh together. We played in the park by the battery, we explored the graveyards at night, we sailed in boats up and down the river, we crossed the bridge to go to the beach at Isle of Palm and when we were old enough to drive the hour and half to Myrtle we went to The Pavilion. Looking back I realized just how lucky I was to grow up in such a storied and historic area, to become so engrossed in the romanticism of the area. All the while my bridges were there in the shadow of my daily life, a constant reminder that no matter where I went one of the bridges was always going to be there for me.
As the familiar stench of the paper mill plant in Georgetown assaulted my nose I knew that I was only an hour away from home and I have never been happier to smell something so disgusting. I thought about the last six years that I have spent away from my home. The decision to leave Charleston to go to school in Chapel Hill was not a hard one to make. My whole family were graduates of the University of North Carolina. I had been raised a diehard Tarheel fan my whole life. I really really wanted to go to school there and was thrilled the day I got my acceptance letter. I could see the pride in Carlisle and Esme's eyes when I showed them my letter and I knew that my parents would be just as proud.
I never intended to spend so much time away from my beloved home. I planned on coming home for holidays, for special events and spending my summers at home. But things didn't turn out as I planned. I made it home for the first Thanksgiving and Christmas but that was it. I made it home for Alice's high school graduation barely and I haven't spent a summer in Charleston since the one before I left for college. Instead Katie happened. I met Katie my second semester at UNC and she changed all of my plans. We were living together by the end of the semester. I spent my summers in Chapel Hill with her as that is where she was from. My holidays were spent there as well. I always meant to go home, always wanted to, but Katie never wanted to leave the area, never wanted to be away from her family and I thought I wanted what she wanted. Carlisle and Esme started coming up to see me instead of waiting on me to come home. They never said anything, never passed judgment on me, they just let me be. Alice on the other hand gave me shit at every turn but I deserved it.
Shortly after I left for Chapel Hill they started construction on the Copper River Bridge. A year later the beautiful bridge opened and they torn down the green monsters. I wanted to go home for the ribbon cutting ceremony, wanted to go home to say goodbye to the one constant that I had had in my life since I could remember, wanted to see the thing that helped me get through so much, one last time and to meet what would become my new siren. But Katie insisted we go to her parents' friends' party instead. I thought I was in love, so I said ok, like so many other things at that time, I always said ok. Katie never understood my love of the bridges, hated the pictures I kept of them in my office in our apartment, never understood the way I would stare blankly at those pictures for hours on end when school or life in general stressed me out. I have only been home once since the CRB opened, only passed over the beauty of the new bridge on one trip, but one trip was all it took, just one trip to captivate me the way that its predecessors did. Captivated me enough that the mere sight of it in a black and white photo was enough to keep me in love with it, becoming my new beacon and my new siren calling me home.
After I graduated I stayed at UNC to complete my MFA, another two years of me not coming home to see my family and my beloved city. A few months before I finished graduate school Katie's constant talk of us getting married got the better of me and I asked her to marry me. Of course she said yes and her and her mother set about planning our wedding and our future together.
I always knew I wanted to follow in my father's footsteps and be a professor. Between the romanticism that I developed in my wonderful city and the love that my parents had for films, music, books and history I knew from an early age what kind of professor I wanted to be. I wanted to be at a liberal arts college that had a Communications department that offered more than Media, Advertising and Journalism as their main areas of concentration. I couldn't believe my luck when such a position opened at the College of Charleston. Not only was I going to have my dream job, but it was going to be in the city that I loved so much, I was going to get to go home.
I couldn't wait to tell Katie the good news, couldn't wait to share with her this plan for our future. However Charleston was not in Katie's plans for our future, neither was my being a professor in her plans. She quickly informed me that Charleston was not an option and when I protested she informed me it was her or Charleston. I never told Katie no, never stood up for myself, never did anything that wasn't decided by her and her alone. But I had had enough of her crap and honestly enough of her. Being the gentleman that my mother and Esme had raised me to be, I took the hand that carried the ring I had given her, brought it up to my lips, kissed the ring right off of her finger and told her I was going home. The noise that came out of her could only be out done by the noise Alice and Esme made when I told them I was coming home and that I was coming home without Katie.
Katie and I should have never been, I never loved her and I should have never given up so much of my life so much of myself to her and I will never know why I did. Maybe I thought it was love, maybe it was the beauty I thought she was, maybe it was because I thought we were going to be what my mother and father were, but she wasn't and she never would be. I would be lying if I said it didn't hurt a little, but I can honestly say that I don't know what hurts more, wasting so much of my life on her, her not wanting to share in my plans or the regret that I have from staying away from that bridge, from my city and my family for so long.
The sight of Spanish moss hanging from trees and basket stands let me know that I am almost home. I can feel my body start to hum, the excitement building inside of me to a level that almost makes me giddy. As I enter the town of Mt. Pleasant the excitement grows even more because I know that any moment now the beautiful white steel expansions are going to come into view that any moment now I will be home. As I get closer, as the excitement grows the past six years slowly begin to fade away. As I turn the final corner and the glorious sight lights up my skyline the love of my family fills me, the love for my city lifts me and everything just feels right.
And then I'm there, crossing under the beautiful white expansion beams of the bridge standing tall and proud above me. I look to the right to see the beautiful river and then to the left to see my beautiful city spread out along the water before me. The hum of my tires along the bridge's road becomes a lovely melody singing to me "Welcome home our beloved son, we forgive you for staying away for so damned long and will allow you to make it up to us for as long as you live!"
I take the exit right off the bridge onto Meeting Street, than right onto Calhoun Street and then left onto Spring Street and there it is there is home. I pull up to the old Victorian and suddenly everything is better. I am home, home to start my life over again. Home to begin a new job, home to reconnect with a family who not so long ago took me in and just loved me. Home to a family I had turned my back on for the mistaken love of another. Home to a family who still loved me and was willing to welcome me back with open arms and great love.
I walked up to the front door, took a deep breath and slowly opened the door. All of the familiar smells of home hit me all at once and I cannot help the smile that lifts up my face. I can hear someone in the kitchen, the distinct sound of a knife blade hitting a wooden cutting board repeatedly which can only mean one thing, my dear sweet Esme is making dinner and if the smells that suddenly float through the air are any indication she is making my favorites.
Home, I am really here, I am really home.
I turn the corner to the kitchen to see me lovely aunt chopping away on some herbs, the smell of fresh basil fills the air.
"Esme." I say softly trying not to scare her.
"Edward?" She answers me, looking up from her task, placing her knife down gently beside her cutting board. I can see tears filling her bright eyes. She rushes over to me and engulfs me in a hug.
"Oh my sweet Edward, you're finally here, you're finally home."
"Yes Essie, I'm home, I'm really home."
A/N: Please let me know what you think. Reviews are greatly appreciated and make me feel like I am home.