Disclaimer: I do not own any of the Twilight characters or the rights to "Everything Has Changed" as performed by Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran or "The Trapeze Swinger" as performed by Iron & Wine, and I will not be earning income from using these materials, although I will pimp them out and say that they should be listened to. Wonderful music. I do, however, own the storyline and any original characters. Thank you.
For all of you who have come back, thank you. I am so honored to have finally completely the journey with you.
For all of you who stumble upon this small tale, thank you. Words are life, and this tale has been life to me over the past few years.
"The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise, we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them." - Thomas Merton
All I know is we said "hello"
So dust off your highest hopes
All I know is pouring rain
And everything has changed
All I know is the new found grace
All my days I'll know your face
All I know since yesterday is
Everything has changed
- Taylor Swift ft. Ed Sheeran
Six Years Later
We had come full circle.
Lusty trees and heavy clouds clung firmly to the sky, our world a green and grey tunnel of moss, leaves, mist, and fog. Everything was wet; the smell of rain, of damp, grainy dirt and slick bark seeped through the vents of our rental and into my memories.
"Momma, where did Aunt 'Lice and Uncle Em go?"
I turned and smiled at Ellie, reaching back to brush the three-year-old's straight brown hair from her forehead.
"They're in the car behind us, honey, with Jason and Audrey, just like they were thirty minutes ago, and thirty minutes before that."
The petite little girl turned to stare at her 10-month-old brother's car seat.
"I wish Charlie didn't have to ride in our car." She huffed, crossing her arms over her chest. "I wanted Audrey to ride with us."
Edward's light laughter filled the car from beside me.
"You're going to have a full two weeks with Audrey, Cupcake. I think you two can survive the three hour car ride from the airport to Grandma Ellen and Grandpa Robert's house.
"But Daddy –"
"Here sweetie." I handed Eleanor a small bag of nilla wafers. "It's only another five minutes, I promise. Then you and Audrey will have your own room and so much time to spend with each other, I promise you'll get sick of her."
Ellie screwed up her face at me. My husband threw me a sideways glance.
"Nice way to word it, Iz."
Rolling my eyes, I turned back to the road, lined with huge, overbearing pines and dripping with moisture.
"Always been my specialty."
"What, like the time you had Ellie in our bed for three nights because you told her that the m-o-n-s-t-e-r-s weren't in her closet, they were under her bed?" His voice was hushed, but the look he sent my way said more than enough.
I shrugged my shoulders.
"She got over it, right? And now she's better for it. She faced her fear."
Edward chuckled under his breath.
"She's just like you."
I leaned over to plant a kiss on his cheek.
"And that's why she's your favorite."
He didn't respond, only glancing in the rear view mirror to smile at his eldest daughter. The rest of our drive was silent, Ellie munching away on her cookies, Charlie finally asleep in the backseat, and Edward and I both lost in our thoughts as we covered the highway between Port Angeles and Forks for the first time since we'd found each other.
It had been six years since the night both of us had finally broken – six years since the night Edward had begun to reclaim his memories, and, piece by piece, he had finally put together enough to become a whole. The one man who had claimed my heart in two different forms.
He was more than I could have asked for; Edward and Trevor flawlessly combined, and I knew that I would love them both until the day I died. Possibly even beyond then. But we had so much more living to do before either of us was allowed to die again.
Now, it seemed like life was worth the living more than ever.
Edward had reconciled, if tentatively, with Carlisle and Esme a few years after the accident, and, by the time Audrey was born, both had become a part of the family again, through the miracle of my amazing husband's forgiveness and attempts to reconcile both of his lives. While Edward and I had our moments of wariness, they were slowly becoming fewer and further between with each day as Esme strove to shower as much love on our children as possible.
Jasper and Alice had married almost immediately upon her success at walking again – Alice would never have allowed anyone else to roll her down the aisle at her wedding – and had started a family right away. Jason was almost five, with the quiet, mystical personality of his father and his mother's shock of deep black hair. Audrey was three, only two months older than Ellie, and the two of them got into more trouble than Edward and I as children.
Well, I claimed that. Edward, Emmett, and Ellen seemed to feel differently.
Emmett and Rosalie had eventually married, much to her parents' absolute dismay, but they had already cut her off from the Hale fortune, so there wasn't much else they could do to forbid the nuptials, other than … well, forbid them. Neither of the two had any inclination towards children, yet, although Rose had been hinting lately that both were getting at the end of their "child-bearing" years and that her "biological clock" was ticking towards doomsday.
Emmett, on the other had, was still a child, so, in the end, Rose already had a large, adopted juvenile on her hands, if all else failed. I pitied them both, riding in the SUV behind us with Audrey and Alice, who could go head to head like warring lionesses, so I wasn't surprised when Em practically leapt from the vehicle the moment Jasper parked on the street in front of the McCarty's new two-story home.
"Audrey, they are bows!" Alice complained, stepping from the vehicle at the same moment as her three-year-old, who stomped a little foot and crossed her arms over her chest.
"Well, I am not wearing them! They're stupid and for girls!"
"Honey, you are a girl!"
I glanced at Ellie, who stood next to me, staring at her Aunt and cousin.
"Go get her, dear. If you can't rescue Aunt Alice, no one can." My daughter and I shared a grin, and her miniature legs carried her over to the ensuing battle where she stopped Audrey's whine mid-sentence.
"Hey Audrey, momma said we get our own room. Wanna go find Gramma Ellen and ask her where it is?"
"Yeah!" Immediately her gaze fell to her father. "Can I, Daddy?"
"Go for it, pumpkin." Jasper ruffled his daughter's hair as both girls joined hands and ran for the front door, where Ellen and Robert stood talking with their son and the ever stoic Jason.
"I don't understand it," Alice muttered, pulling Audrey's suitcase and her make-up bag from the back of the SUV. "What little girl doesn't like bows?"
"That little girl." Rose straightened her blouse and pulled her suitcase out behind Alice. "She's been ripping them off since she was five months old, Alice. I think that was an early indication."
Alice humph-ed and headed towards the house. Rose glanced at me and grinned before following in Alice's footsteps. I looked at Edward, who stood beside the car, his eyes on the woods.
"Hey," I murmured, stepping towards him and running a hand over his shoulder, "you okay?"
"Yeah." He sighed. "It's all just kind of … surreal, you know? Like, I don't remember it, but I do, all at once. It's familiar and it's not."
I frowned. "You know, we don't have to go this time around. It's okay … it's only one trip out of one hundred. We can always come back."
"No." He clinched his jaw, eyes hard. "I came here for a reason. I'm not going to shy away from it. It's time to be finished. I'm more than I was before, and I'm ready to cement that in the now." He took my hand, rubbing his finger over the bands breaking the skin on my left hand. "It's time to complete the circle, stop looking. Make some new memories."
Smiling, I nodded. I knew exactly what he meant.
Our two weeks were nearly up.
For our children, the time spent in Forks had been nothing short of the time of their lives. Hide and seek in the woods, swimming in the Pacific at La Push, hiking (well, running) the trails through the forests and onto the beach, playing on the driftwood bridges, and ice cream every day, courtesy of Grandma and Grandpa McCarty, led to what was probably a perfect vacation for two nearly four year olds and a five year old.
As for Edward, Emmett, and I, we hadn't been this humbled or had this much fun in more than fifteen years. Finding all of our secret haunts, discovering the slightly rotting pine bench near the Sol Duc that still stood strong, no matter the current … we had stepped back in time, into history, when our lives were so much simpler and revolved only around the three of us.
But now, it was time to make the final mark, to draw the final line, to come full circle.
The black rental pulled to a smooth stop in front of the hill, lined with vibrant green grass and littered with cement, pushing from the dirt like somber daisies.
I slid my hand into his, pushing my fingers through his damp palms and staring at his stone still face. He was focused, eyes fixed out the window, down the road, not turning to look at the gravestones scattered across and over the hill.
"Maybe we should have brought Em –"
"No." He cut me off before I could finish. "I need to do this with you, alone." His eyes found mine. "I love you, Isabella Masen-Cullen."
"I love you too, Edward."
He hesitated. "I think I need you to get out first."
Once glance at his face, at the light dusting of sweat along his temple and the weary lines creeping around his eyes, sent me out from the car and around to the driver's side door. I pulled the latch, opening his way to our past and our future.
"Just look at me. Stay with me. I'll take you there."
I knew the path, remembered it as well as an old friend who I'd hoped never to visit again.
His eyes found mine, fixed on my wary, wavering smile, and I prayed to whoever would listen that I could be strong enough for him, just once more. It had taken nearly seven years of hard work, of lies and betrayal, of faith and trust and hope, and most importantly, of unconditional, fighting love to work to this point.
I couldn't fail him now.
An idea bloomed in my head. It must have been providence; either that, or my insane idiocy and habit of remembering things at what always seemed like the wrong time. Tentatively, I opened my mouth, and sang.
"Please, remember me, happily, by the rosebush laughing with bruises on my chin. The time when we counted every black car passing your house beneath the hill, and up until someone caught us in the kitchen –"
At first he stared, eyes large, and I knew the look, the hush of memories, pulled in and unlocked, playing with his brain and trying to find a place while I sang, probably horribly off key. Finally he laughed beneath his breath and shook his head gently, lifting a hand to caress my cheek as he joined me, a soft and grainy sound.
"Please, remember me, fondly. I heard from someone you're still pretty, and then They went on to say that the pearly gates had some eloquent graffiti like 'We'll meet again', and 'Fuck the man', and 'Tell my mother not to worry' and angels with their gray handshakes were always done in such a hurry."
His face lightened, the reaction filtering through to the rest of him, muscles loosening and gait straightening until I moved to walk beside him, silently guiding him with our song and my hand.
"And please, remember me, at Halloween, making fools of all the neighbors. Our faces painted white, by midnight we'd forgotten one another. And when the morning came, I was ashamed. Only now it seems so silly. That season left the world and then returned, and now you're lit up by the city …"
I trailed off as we reached our destination. Four slabs of concrete, three grouped together and one further off, tugged at us, at our hearts and our lives and the glue of the bits we had arranged and pieced together so carefully.
"So, Please, remember me." The words left him in a rush of breath; his eyes moved from mine to the headstones. I couldn't look at my slab of cement, the one which bore the name of the only other man I had ever loved as much as the one standing next to me. Instead, I watched him, the one who, in the end, was still so much stronger than I would ever be, even if he didn't realize it.
One, and then two solitary tears slipped across his cheeks, leaking from his foggy green eyes.
Two headstones, belonging to the two people whose deaths he blamed on himself, no matter how many times I had insisted otherwise.
Edward William Masen, Sr.
August 29, 1962 – July 18, 2002
Elizabeth Anne Evenson Masen
She went as quiet as the dew
From a familiar flower
March 7, 1971 – September 14, 2002
His knees were wet with the grass, and by the time I could join him, his hand was out, calloused fingertips tracing the letters, each an individual stroke.
"I'm sorry." So quiet, words I could barely hear, but for once in my life, I kept my mouth shut. "I know you can't offer forgiveness, at least not now, from here, but I know … while it was my fault, it wasn't. I can't blame myself for your deaths. If I could take it all back, I would never leave, but I can't." He sat back on his knees, face to the sky where a few raindrops splattered along his cheekbone. "So I'm sorry. I guess I'll have to wait another few decades for your answer."
Finally, he turned and looked at the stone beside me. The stone I had leaned against, the stone I had sworn never to leave … the stone I spread my hand across, feeling the pain of those years slip into the cold rock.
Edward Anthony Masen, Jr.
June 20, 1984 – September 30, 2001
"Should we get it taken down?"
"No." The word slipped from my lips, but the moment I said it, I knew it wasn't worth the fight. It was a symbol, of my hate, of my fear, of my lost self which put me on the path to rebirth and a better life. "No, it should stay." I look over at my husband, whose eyes seem lost staring at his own headstone. My hand moves to his.
"The poor soul buried here is the unknown one now. I doubt after fifteen years anyone could tell who he was anyhow." Edward slowly nodded his head. "It's a symbol. Of a life that had to die, so you could become Trevor, and save an entirely new set of people." I offered him a weak smile.
"If only so much hadn't had to die with it."
I didn't answer; instead, I stood and pulled myself to my father's headstone where I sat on the grass. Charles Swan. My heart thumped an extra beat, but, as Edward's arm wrapped around my waist, I was surprised to find that nothing but peace surrounded me at my father's graveside.
"Hi and bye, Daddy. I'm sorry I don't visit more, but, you know … not living in Forks anymore kind of makes it hard." I shifted, running my hands over the top of the settled soil. "You don't need flowers or anything anyhow. I know you, you'd have only gotten mad at the gesture. Just know, everything is perfect now. You have two beautiful grandkids, and I'm happy, happier than I've ever been." I grinned. "Thanks for that, by the way."
Standing, I brushed the dirt from my hands.
"I love you, Daddy. I miss you, still, and my heart breaks that Charlie and Ellie won't ever get to meet you here, but I hope I see you again one day."
Edward took my hand.
"I promise to take care of all of them, sir. No matter what. I'm not going anywhere this time." He looked to me, planting a quick kiss on my lips before saluting to the headstone. "Bye, Chief Swan."
He looked to me, eyes wide, and I knew. What was broken had been put back together again. It would never be the same; some memories were gone, and some remained, locked behind doors we'd find together, but the person Edward had pieced back together was more than he himself could have ever been.
"Yeah." I smiled and leaned into his chest, a welcome embrace, as the sky opened above us, drops of water bathing us in forgiveness and unity.
"Let's go work on our future."