Disclaimer: Twilight's not mine. All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the authors. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.
Endings are my weakness. But I'm learning. Thanks for all the great feedback. For anyone who is interested, I can PM you the last scene of the story, which I cut because it didn't flow with the pace of the rest of the chapter, but which gives you a tiny bit more B/E. I know some of you had wished for more/longer/happier, and know that as I rewrite this, I'm thinking of all of these things. Your reviews have been incredibly helpful and I appreciate you.
Now, for what you came for:
Undulating burgundy ribbons, hung from planter's hooks buried in the sand, formed the aisle that divided his family from hers. The guests were dressed for a beach party. The groom wore a short-sleeve white shirt and khaki shorts; the bride, a coral linen sundress. Bella happily wiggled her toes in the sand, relishing the silky warmth beneath her feet. The flower girl, a thin creature with russet skin and red toenails, dressed in a white cotton sundress with a coral sash, was also barefoot. Bella wove her fingers through Edward's as the ceremony began. He smiled at the diamond ring that adorned her finger, and lifted their hands to kiss the symbol of his eternal devotion.
When it was over, Jake lifted his bride and spun her around. Leah laughed and kissed him, not with the formality of a wedding kiss, but with the intimacy of a woman truly in love. Bella wiped a joyful tear from her cheek, then bent down and gave the flower girl a hug. "You did a great job, Sarah. Look at all the pretty flowers!" She pointed at the make-shift aisle to their left; dozens of white rose petals rested on the sand.
"Is it time for the perception now?" asked the dark-haired girl, tugging restlessly at the flower in her hair.
Bella stifled a giggle. "It sure is. Are you hungry?"
"Yeah. Are you and Uncle Edward staying for the party?"
Edward took the flower girl's hand. "Of course we are. You promised you'd dance with me!"
Jake and Leah stood just inside the doors to the reservation's gymnasium, greeting the guests as they entered the reception. Behind them, tables from the school's cafeteria were decorated simply with linen tablecloths, burgundy-colored ribbons, and ivory pillar candles. A teenage tribal member stood behind a small table with three boom boxes and a box of CD's, acting as DJ for the evening. Edward and Bella led Sarah to their table. Billy and Charlie joined them a few minutes later.
"Papa, I don't have no more flowers." Sarah pouted on Billy's lap, holding a small wicker basket.
"I know. You did a very good job making the aisle beautiful for your mother to walk down."
The pout turned into a grin. "I did?"
Billy nodded. "Why don't you go with Auntie Bee and get some food?" Sarah threw her legs over her grandfather's wheelchair and hopped down, grabbing Bella's hand and dragging her to the buffet table.
A slow song came on just as Bella got Sarah situated with her dinner. Jake knelt down and placed his giant hand on Sarah's shoulder. "Mmm, that sure looks good, Sare-bear. I'm going to steal Auntie Bee for a minute, okay?" Sarah nodded. Jake stole a piece of watermelon from her plate and popped it in his mouth quickly, looking at her innocently. She tried to glare, but he made funny faces that made her giggle.
"I'll make you a plate," she teased as Jake led Bella to the dance floor.
Jake took her left hand and placed his left around her waist as they moved slowly to the rhythm of the song. "Thanks for helping with Sarah today. I was afraid she'd be bored or feel left out."
Bella smiled. "You know how much we love her, Jake. Any time with her is a joy for us." She glanced at their table, where Sarah was flanked by her grandfather and 'uncle'. She and Edward appeared to be having an eating contest, and Sarah was giggling like crazy. "You and Leah have raised an amazing little girl."
Jake pulled Bella in a little closer, a mid-dance hug. "You can borrow ours anytime, but don't you think you want one of your own?"
Bella's expression was unreadable. "Maybe."
Jake read her mind like words on a page. "You will be a great mother. You are not Renee."
Bella chewed her lower lip. "That's what Edward says."
"I knew there was a reason I liked that pretty boy."
When the song ended, Jake kissed his best friend on the cheek before returning to Leah, who was hugging her father. Sarah had persuaded Edward to dance with her again, so Bella sat down beside Billy and sipped her soda.
"How is the museum?" Billy asked after a moment.
"Working in a museum is a dream job. I love it."
"And the hospital?"
"Oh, uh, I'm teaching classes every Wednesday night and Saturday afternoon." Billy nodded encouragingly; he wanted her to continue. She took a deep breath and shrugged. "You know, the girls work really hard, for the most part, and the hospital provides a lot of helpful services to help them heal. It's hard sometimes, for me, picturing anyone else going through what I did. But I can handle anything that comes my way. And I like showing them that they can, too."
"We've had some issues on the reservation recently," Billy said cautiously. "I thought maybe… would you hold a class here this year? I could arrange the use of the gymnasium again." Billy's voice rang deep with authority, but his question was quiet, unsure.
Bella placed her hand in Billy's and squeezed. "I would be happy to. I'll call you Monday and get the details." He nodded slowly, his eyes on their joined hands.
Leah took Sarah to the restroom, leaving Jake and Edward on the dance floor without partners. Together, they made their way to the drink table and grabbed a couple beers.
"To a long and happy marriage," Edward toasted, raising his bottle. Jake clinked his against it and grinned. "Sure took you long enough."
Jake laughed. "I knew she was the one a month after I met her. There was no need to rush." Edward looked across the room to where Bella and Billy were talking, and his face lit up. "See, you know what I'm talking about."
Edward chuckled, watching his beautiful wife cradling the old man's hand. After all these years, she still took his breath away.
Sarah soon came running across the dance floor. Jake spread his arms, and she jumped into them. At eight years old she was tall and thin, like Jake had been at that age, but there was no doubt she was her mother's daughter – thick black hair, full lips and a fire inside her.
"Daddy, I want you to dance with me now."
Jake smiled and kissed her forehead. "I thought you'd never ask."
Edward and Bella left the wedding around 10pm, and drove home to their condo near the hospital in Seattle. It was a lovely, spacious three-bedroom home with a stunning view of Mt. Rainier, less than 30 minutes from Edward's parents. Though they had been there four years, Bella still grinned every time she walked in the door.
While Edward showered, Bella hung up her dress and took off her earrings, placing them in the jewelry box that had been a wedding gift from Esme. She slipped on a sleep shirt and sat on a pillow in the corner of the room for her evening meditation. They met up in bed a few minutes later, Bella resting on Edward's chest, his fingers sliding softly through her hair.
"Have you changed your mind about tomorrow?" he asked quietly.
Bella shook her head. "No. He didn't stick around to watch me die. I feel no particular obligation to extend the courtesy to him."
"Closure?" he offered.
"I got that a long time ago." She lifted her head and kissed Edward on the lips. "I'm okay. All I need is a nice day with my gorgeous husband."
James had spent years fighting his sentence, and was recently denied the last of his appeals. When they got notice of his execution date, Edward had taken a week's leave from the hospital. He knew he was asking for a lot as a resident physician, but his supervisors were well aware of the situation – the trial had been covered not only in the news in Southern California, but also in the Seattle area – and they were willing to accommodate. Though she took the week off as well, Bella had declined to go to California for his execution. Still, he was prepared for her to change her mind right up to the night before: tonight.
He wrapped his arms around her. "What shall we do then?"
Bella's mind drifted to the ocean side wedding they'd just come from, and grinned. "Let's go see Rose and Emmett. Let's go to the beach."
Edward texted Emmett, then booked a flight to LAX from his laptop. Bella texted Alice to let her know they'd be in the area, and then they climbed under the covers and turned off the light. She returned to her husband's open arms, resting her head on his chest, and listened as his breath and heart rate slowed to a sleep state. It took her longer to find sleep, herself. She focused her thoughts on reuniting with her brother-in-law and friends and spending a few sunny days on the beach, surrounded by people she loved. Eventually she drifted off, and it wasn't long before she slipped into a dream.
In the dream, the whole gang was spending the day at the beach. A boombox played music nearby. Jasper and Edward were at the grill in t-shirts and board shorts, drinking beers and making dinner. Emmett and Jake were shirtless and wet, tossing around a football near the water, not far from Sarah, who was skimboarding on the foamy water that lapped at the shore.
The girls sunbathed nearby; Bella in her tank and shorts, Alice and Leah in black bikinis, Rose in white. The smell of burgers and briny ocean air relaxed her, and she closed her eyes, enjoying the heat on her skin. In the distance, Sarah shrieked, causing Bella to jolt up and look for her. When she spotted her, Jake was swinging her in the air.
Bella chuckled and turned her gaze to the grill, looking for Edward. That's when she saw a familiar figure a half-mile up the shore, limping slowly toward her.
He was clean-shaven; his hair was long and pulled back at the nape. His leather jacket was glaringly inappropriate for the hot summer day, though none of the other beach-goers appeared to notice. Head cocked to the side, his amused gaze was fixed on little Sarah. Jake's back was turned, unaware that his little girl was in danger, and Bella shouted James' name to divert his attention.
It worked; he stopped in his tracks and smirked, watching her intensely as she glared at him. Though it was 90 degrees, a shiver ran up her spine. "Rose," she whispered hoarsely. Rosalie did not answer. She simply pointed at Buster, lying in the sand, before rolling over to give her back some sun time.
Edward kissed the top of Bella's head and handed her a burger. James watched him carefully as he walked away, but made no move to come closer.
The sun set on their party some three hours later, no one mentioning the leather-clad intruder standing motionless on the periphery.
Bella awoke at 5am. It was officially tomorrow: Execution Day. She laid on her side, staring at the inkling of lavender daylight filtering through the blinds, and realized how much she had expected today to mean to her. But his death would not, could not, erase him from her life. There was no fresh start for her, no clean slate. He'd left an imprint on her soul, and she would carry it with her the rest of her life. But in the past decade, she had learned to let it fade into the background – a mere pixel in the image of her life. These dreams were just that – images passing through her mind during sleep. She would not be defined by them.
She rolled over and rested her cheek on her husband's chest. He stirred slightly, kissing the top of her head and wrapping an arm around her. "Love you," he murmured.
Letting go of the dream, Bella smiled and sighed, relaxing into his embrace. "I love you, too."
~ The End ~
Twilight Trivia: Jacob Black's mother's name was Sarah. But you knew that, didn't you?
One last shout out to my friends and betas, Ms CVG and Louise Clark, and the rest of you who helped me along the way with kind reviews, PM's, pre-reads, research questions… You rock my world.
Thank you all for joining me on this journey – my first fan fic AND first full-length story.