Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight, but I do own a parking pass for school (which by the way is REALLY EXPENSIVE and it makes me want to cry).
Sixteen months later
God, it was hot in this gown.
The California sun wasn't sympathetic today. Bella, along with the other seven hundred students who were graduating from Santa Monica High School, were sat in the amphitheater. They were all dressed in their blue and gold gowns and matching blue caps. It was graduation day, and all Bella could think was that she made it. She finally finished high school – it was time for the real world.
She was also thinking about how hot it was in that stupid gown, but she tried to not let it faze her.
The thing about having a last name that started with an 'S' meant that she had to sit there without falling asleep as they called each name by alphabetical order. When Charlie had moved back to Santa Monica, with Bella in tow, last August, he had asked her if she wanted to change her last name to Garland. Bella wasn't going to lie – she had thought about it. For years she had wanted nothing more than to get rid of the name Swan, but now, she was okay with it. She had agreed to go to therapy, and Dr. Shelly helped her see that what she had been through shaped her into who she was today. So she decided to keep her last name, because while that name brought some unwanted memories, it also reminded her of how far she had come from rock bottom.
They were on the letter 'R' now – Bella sighed in relief. She knew the minute everyone got their diplomas that they would throw their caps in the air, but she feared of what her hair looked like underneath. Surely it looked like a sweaty, frizzy mess. Glancing to her right, she saw Jessica Stanley. She had met Jess in English on the first day of senior year. They had grown to become very close friends. Alice often joked that Bella had replaced her as a best friend, to which she assured Alice that she was still number one. She last saw Alice during Christmas break – it was a tearful reunion, but it was what she needed. Bella surprisingly had felt homesick, and seeing her best friend cheered her up. They also Skyped every other day, in which Alice reported all of the stupid stuff that occurred at Forks High. Like how Angela was still an attention whore. Still, she still missed her best friend.
When they finally got to 'S,' Jess turned around and mouthed, "Finally,"
Bella nodded in exasperation –she could see that a lot of people were getting a little uncomfortable in the heat as well, but the air of excitement was still lingered.
The school year had been difficult, especially since there were so many more students as compared to Forks High. The school was a lot bigger, as well. Bella had gotten lost multiple times before Jess finally took pity on her and showed her the best ways to get around campus.
"On my first day, I missed half my classes because I got lost," Jess had told her. "Oh, and welcome!"
Jess was a lot like Alice in a way – both were bubbly and stylish. However, Jess never cursed while Alice said, "fuck," "bitch," shit," in every sentence (though not necessarily in that order). Like Alice, Jess understood that Bella liked to keep to herself sometimes and was totally cool about it. Bella appreciated it, but after two weeks she told Jess her story. She was done hiding the truth, and people either accepted her for it, or didn't. Jess was one of those people who accepted it and acted like Bella was no different. Actually, a lot of her classmates acted the same. They were nothing like her previous classmates – who judged someone just for wearing a ponytail. The students at Santa Monica High School seemed to not judge people at all.
Okay, Bella knew that wasn't true – but whatever.
Bella had made a ton of friends in Santa Monica, and was surprised that so many people actually liked her. And she knew it was genuine –no one was using her to get somewhere in the social latter. Slowly Bella had relieved most of her stress and enjoyed high school for the first time. The only thing she wanted was for Edward to experience it with her.
She and Edward were still together – he tried fly out as much as he could, and vice versa, but even then they only saw each other once a month. They called each other every night and texted nonstop, but still, she missed him. Edward had gotten the lead roles in all the school productions during his senior year and had also made valedictorian. He didn't talk to Rosalie anymore, saying that she went to a boarding school in Idaho. She apparently cut off everyone except Emmett.
She missed seeing Edward on her doorstep, ready to pick her up from school. She craved his touch. Bella even missed it when they argued. Having a long distance relationship was hard, but it only proved how much they loved each other. Edward was still her rock, and she wished he were here right now. Actually, he would have been, had Forks not had their graduation day on the same day. Bella was disappointed that Edward and Alice couldn't be here, while they were disappointed that she couldn't be in Forks.
Bella sighed. Her name was coming up next.
She was scanning the crowd. The only one to come and see her graduate was Charlie, and honestly, she was okay with that. Lots of fathers were looking down on their children with pride, while a plethora of mothers seemed to tear up at the thought of the child they had raised for the past eighteen years finally growing up. Bella's mother was nowhere to be seen – and thank God for that. Charlie still kept in contact with Detective Newton back in Forks, just in case Phil and Renee decided to move back, but they hadn't heard a word. Charlie also hired a detective in California to keep on searching for them. Both Detectives had the feeling that Phil and Renee had fled not just the States, but North America all together. They had contacts in Canada and Mexico, and no one seemed to have any leads. At this point Bella didn't care for justice – she was just happy to have them out of her life.
The only good deed that Renee had done for Bella was leave the note about Charlie in the shoebox with her savings. That was the last piece of contact she had from her mother, and it seemed to be the last.
Bella finally found Charlie sitting in the middle of the third row. He gave her a small wave and she beamed back. Her name was coming up soon and she couldn't wait to get that damn diploma in her hand and peace the fuck out of there. Bella laughed at her own thoughts – she used to swear so much, and then somewhere along the way just stopped. But somehow she picked up the habit again, reminding her about Edward. Just like Alice, he cursed all the time.
There were two empty seats beside Charlie, which he was obviously reserving, as he put his blazer on one seat and a scarf in the other. She had no idea why he even brought a scarf – it was ninety degrees out! She raised her brow at the two seats and saw Charlie laughing.
Um, what the hell?
Now Bella was confused – who else would come to see her graduate? A scary thought that it could be Phil and Renee clouded her mind for a second before she remembered how much Charlie wanted to send them to jail. It wasn't until she saw the petite frame and a mop of bronze hair did Bella grasp what was happening.
"Isabella Swan," Principal Bryant announced.
Bella reacted a millisecond too late, but no one seemed to notice how stunned she was when she stood up from her seat and made her way to the stage. She was suddenly very conscious – all eyes were on her. People politely clapped, and her friends cheered her on, but all she could pay attention to were the three most important people in her life who just happened to be sitting in the stands.
"Yeah, Bella!" Jess yelled.
"You did it, Swan!" Seth Clearwater cheered.
And while all of the other friends she made in California cheered her on, she could faintly hear someone yell, "Go, B! Work those heels!"
Bella was wearing a pair black snake-skinned, pointed toe pumps by Michael Kors. They were a Christmas gift from Alice. She smirked, and kept her head held high as she crossed near the podium, where the Principal was smiling at her, diploma in hand. She shot one more glance at the stands and caught the gaze of the person she couldn't believe was here, but so desperately wanted to see. Edward stood there, his eyes filled with pride as he clapped and cheered her on. Really, all she was doing was graduating from high school – it wasn't like she achieved world peace. She didn't really deserve all the praise she was receiving.
But it still felt really, really good.
"Congratulations Miss Swan," Principal Bryant said, shaking her one hand and delivering her diploma in the other. "Welcome to the real world. Are you ready?"
Still shaking his hand, Bella grinned. "I think I am, actually."
That seemed to be the right answer, because Principal Bryant gave her a thumbs-up. She took that as her cue to exit the stage, and weaved her way through rows of graduates to get back to her seat. There were still a huge list of names to be called, but Bella could only focus on a pair of green eyes that seemed to burn into her soul. Edward grinned crookedly, as if he knew what him being here did to her. She couldn't wait to get alone with him … to ask him what the hell he was doing here.
Okay, and maybe some other things, too, but it wasn't like it was a bad thing to want her boyfriend all to herself. She and Edward had finally made love last Christmas. It was painful and clumsy at first, but it only got better from there. It was special for both of them. But now, well, Bella really missed him.
"Graduates!" Principal Bryant said into the microphone. His hands were grasped on both sides of the podium as he scanned the sea of blue and gold gowns. "Move your tassels from the right side and place it to the left."
Every graduate did so, and Bella could feel her heart flutter in expectation as she watched her newly moved tassel sway gently.
"These diplomas that our seniors grasp in their hands resemble the many years of hard work and achievement throughout their academic career thus far. It symbolizes how they achieved their successes and the young men and women they have grown up to be. I am proud to say that Santa Monica High School had a fantastic group of seniors who not only succeeded individually, but together," Principal Bryant said. He stood tall with his eyes trained on the crowd, and every so often he would glance towards the graduates with a smile. "You see, I have seen most of these faces since their freshman year, others along the way. In each student I see how they grew from individuals, to a team. It only proves that in life, while it is good to be independent and headstrong, it is also okay to seek help from others. Because in all honesty, you'll find that you can't do everything on your own for many, many things. It gives me great pleasure to know that you lot have grasped that at such a young age," He shrugged then and laugh. "I guess there really isn't any more to say but that we will miss you when you embark on your life endeavors, but wish you luck. So, Santa Monica High School's graduating class – congratulations! And good luck."
All at once there was a roar of applause and cheering as the graduates stood from their seats and threw their caps in the air. Bella watched as hers seemed to float. And as she caught it, it was almost like her new life was just handed to her; that the way she lived it was in her hands now. She laughed as she kept the cap in one hand and her diploma in the other. She saw Jess running towards her before she enveloped her in a hug.
"Oh my God, Bella – we actually did it! We actually just graduated!" She said.
Bella giggled. "It's about fucking time, don't you think?"
"Hell, yeah!" Seth yelled. He wrapped his arms around the two of them. "Group hug!"
"Seth, you jerk, get off of us!" Jess said.
Seth was a good foot taller than Bella, and was Jess' best friend. They had known each other since freshman year. When Jess took Bella under her wing, it was only natural that Seth do the same. Though Bella was closer to Jess, she was pretty fond of Seth as well. Throughout their senior year it had been just the three of them, and while they hung out with other people too, it reminded Bella of how it was in Forks with her, Alice, and Edward.
Soon, other people joined their hug. Riley Biers had roughed up Seth's hair, Bree Tanner punched Jared Cameron in the arm for stepping on her foot, and Embry Call just wanted to feel the love. After a while they all started jumping and Bella laughed as their movement made her jump as well. These were the people she had sat with at lunch every day. She had grown close to them throughout the year and they all knew about her past and what school had been like before – they didn't care. They just liked being around her.
When she was finally able to move way from the center of the hug, Bella ran smack first into someone's chest. That person chuckled, and Bella knew exactly who it was.
"Well, aren't you Little Miss Popular," Edward smirked. "I never thought I would see the day."
"What are you doing here?" Bella asked, ignoring his teasing remark. "I thought your graduation was today, too."
He shrugged. "I lied."
"I thought we agreed to be honest with each other."
"We did – I just happened to do it this one time to surprise you," Edward then frowned. "Aren't you happy to see me?"
Bella rolled her eyes and brought her lips to his. It was chaste, and Bella definitely wanted more, but somewhere in this crowd her dad was looking for her. She didn't want him to get a good look at how intimate she and Edward were. "I'm over the moon and you know it."
Just as Edward was about to respond, Bella was yanked from his embrace and pulled into another.
"I'm so proud of you, B!" Alice said, hugging her. Bella had almost forgotten how small Alice was, and she noticed how she had grown her hair so that it brushed the tops of her shoulders.
Pulling away Bella said, "I can't believe you guys lied to me! When are actually going to graduate?"
"In two days!" Alice replied with a devious smile. "This means you get to come to Forks and watch us walk the stage."
Bella was about to say she wasn't sure she would be able to go, as she would have to speak to Charlie first. However, as she was thinking that, Charlie showed up with the same expression as Alice. At that point Bella knew that this was all part of the plan. She didn't know whether to hug or punch them all.
"Jasper is coming to drop off some of the papers I have to sign before it's due at six tonight," Charlie said, acting like Alice and Edward being here was the best graduation gift ever. "I hope that's alright."
"Of course," Bella said.
Charlie smiled and brought Bella into a hug, kissing the top of her head. "I can't believe you're all grown up. My little girl – a high school graduate!"
"I'm going to be a college student in September."
Charlie shook his head. "I don't even want to think about it."
Bella laughed as Charlie excused himself, receiving a text from Jasper that he was here.
"Jasper?" Alice said, curiosity in her voice.
"Oh, that's Charlie's assistant. He does it part-time since he's still in high school, but I'm pretty sure he's graduating this year, too."
"I wonder …" Alice's eyes got wide. Bella turned to see what Alice was staring at – it was Charlie with Jasper by his side. She didn't really know him, just that he was a nice guy. She met him for the first time over a year ago with Edward; however, she was growing concerned about Alice's reaction. Bella touched her arm, about to ask what was going on when Alice muttered, "Holy shit."
And then Alice slapped her in the arm, hard.
"Ow! What the hell, Alice?" Bella was rubbing her arm and glared at Edward when she heard him laugh. "Oh, shut up, Edward."
That made Edward laugh some more.
"Remember when I told you that I slept with my best friend's boyfriend because I was in love with him?" Bella nodded her head. Alice then pointed at Jasper. "That's him."
"Who …" Bella turned and saw that Alice was pointing at Jasper, the guy who just so happened to be Charlie's part time assistant. Jasper, the guy who was staring back at Alice like he couldn't quite believe what he was seeing. "Holy shit."
"Well, fuck," Edward laughed incredulously, rubbing his chin. He nudged Alice with his arm. "So are you going to talk to him, or what?'
"How about … no," She said, turning around and trying to make a break for it, though she failed since both Bella and Edward caught her.
"Al, you have to talk to him!"
"I don't have to do anything."
"Oh my God, just at least wave or something."
"B, I am not going to – " Alice cut off when she saw Jasper standing right beside her. "Hey, Jasper! Long time, no see," she said awkwardly, giving Bella a look that begged her not to be left alone, but Bella walked away slowly anyway. After all this time, Bella had gotten her shit resolved; it was time that Alice did the same.
She felt someone grab her hand, and she didn't need to look to see who it was. Edward's low chuckle brought a smile to her lips as he pulled her away from the awkward confrontation between Alice and Jasper. Bella then remembered how hot she was in her graduation gown and she unzipped it, revealing a chiffon dress with capped sleeves and slit back that came to mid thigh. She had kept her graduation cap on in fear of what her hair looked like after hours of the heat, but a lot of other people did the same so she didn't feel left out.
Edward leaned in and kissed her cheek, almost knocking off her cap. Bella laughed as she put her hand on the flat surface of the cap to keep it from falling. It was moments like this when Bella wished that she had spent her senior year with Edward, but she knew that moving to California had been the best plan. After everything, Bella needed a fresh start. And really, it only proved how strong she had become. Not once did Bella feel an ounce of weakness during her time in California. She was happier, freer.
"Let's take a picture," Edward said, pulling out his phone and holding it in front of him. She smiled into the camera, but laughed when Edward kissed her cheek again. Bella hadn't realized that he had taken the picture until Edward showed it to her. He leaned in and whispered in her ear, "You're beautiful, you know that?"
"You make me feel beautiful," Bella mumbled into his chest as she wrapped her arms around him. "I still can't believe you're here."
"I'm always here," He said, putting his hand right above her heart. "Right where it matters most." He held her tight again. "I'm so proud of you, Bella. You did it. You really did it."
"Thanks to you."
"Nah, I only helped a little. You were the one in control the entire time."
Bella rolled her eyes. "How about we agree to disagree?"
"Whatever you want," Edward said, then he laughed. "I still think you were checking me out that day you broke my phone, by the way."
Bella pushed him away and threw her head back in laughter. "Get your ego in check, Cullen. I don't kiss assholes."
"Then I guess it's a good thing I'm no asshole."
Just as she was about retort, Edward cut her off by bringing his lips to hers. She smiled into their kiss, wrapping her arms around his neck as he rested his hands on her lower back. It was a funny thing, high school. Everyone assumes they know each other's shit, when in reality, you don't really know someone until you try to get to know them. A popular boy may just be the smartest kid in school and the freaky girl may just happen to not be so freaky after all. Bella and Edward figured that out together – they made each other wiser, stronger.
They weren't Douche Master and the Duck anymore – they were just Edward and Bella – two eighteen year-old high school graduates who went through everything together. They hated each other before they loved each other. Life wouldn't get any easier from this point on, but at least they would have each other.
In the last year and a half, Bella gained a parent she never knew she could have, a best friend she never thought she would make, and a boyfriend she never thought would love her as much as he did. Bella had gotten rid of the bad energy in her life, and was completely content. With Edward's arms wrapped around her, she was able to reach into his pocket and grab his phone. She unlocked the screen and pulled the picture he had taken not too long ago. Bella couldn't help but tear up at how incredibly happy she looked, because it was true.
Bella was perfectly, completely, and finally, happy.
So ... This is it.
I would like to thank all of you for your continued support. This story would honestly be nothing if you guys didn't continue to read and give me feedback. It's been a long three years, but I feel like it was worth it. I grew up a lot while writing Bottled Lies, and so did my characters. There were many times when it would be months between updates, but you guys only proved to be the best readers out there, telling me to take my time and deal with my personal life first. For that I thank you. I love you. I adore you.
I feel like I have grown as a writer these past three years, and I will cherish this experience for the rest of my life. Cheesy, but totally true. I posted the first chapter in November of 2010, when I was 15. I was in my junior year of high school, jobless, without a driver's license and basically just trying to figure out who I was as a person. Now, here we are - August 2013. I am 18, going into my second year of university, a licensed driver, and have more or less figured out who I am as a person. You all have been there with me on this journey. You have given me advice when I needed it. Also! You let me rant to you about my book feels, which is amazing! I congratulate you on having to read my manic rants on certain books that have ruined my life (which means they're my favorite). So thank you to those who let me vent about all of Cassandra Clare and Rick Riordan's books.
Many of you have asked if there will be a sequel, and the answer is no. I'm sorry to say that Bottled Lies will not have a sequel, but this is where my Bella and Edward's story ends. This is where it was meant to end all along, in fact, it has been planned since the first chapter was posted back in late 2010. But thank you for loving this story enough to want it to continue. That means the world to me!
So, yeah. This is the last author's note for Bottled Lies. Once again, THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH. I love you and adore you and I really appreciate everything you have done for this story. It's time to click that 'complete' button.