Chapter 9/Epilogue! (Yay! I finished a story!)
Alice shot from the car and Jasper barely managed to catch her and take her into his arms bridal style to carry her over the threshold of her parent's house.
"Jas, really, every threshold from now on? Do I never get to walk through a door again?"
"Nope, Bride, get used to it," Jas replied, kissing her lips before placing her feet on the floor inside. Two weeks of sun, surf, sex, and snogging.
Coming back was going to be a letdown. It wasn't like much ever happened in Forks.
Esme put her arms out and kissed her daughter happily.
"How was it?' she asked.
"Much the same as it has been since we started in High School," Alice jokingly replied.
"I meant the honeymoon, the holiday part, not the sex," Esme growled.
"Oh, fun. The sun was great, when we did venture outside."
"And how do you feel?" Esme asked with a grin.
"Ugh, good at times, bad at others. Thank God I have a clear schedule for the next seven months. I tend to dash and hug the porcelain prince with little warning so get used to it. Did you water my houseplants and keep the apartment aired?" she checked.
"Your apartment is spotless, all shiny clean, we had the cleaners go through and do everything. Full service, walls washed down, ceiling dusted, everything cleanable cleaned. And I have been there to open and shut the windows every morning and night, no noxious smells."
"Good, we are selling it," Alice added like it was no big deal.
"Why? Where are you moving to?" Esme asked anxiously. She was not ready to let this daughter go, even though she was gaining the other back.
"We are buying, well, have bought really, a cottage. Near the beach. Four doors down from Bella's. You know the one. We commented on it every time we drove past it on the way to and from Bella's cottage."
"Gull Cottage?" Esme asked, excitedly. Another makeover to do.
"Yep, Gull Cottage. I talked to the owners one day when I was off looking for the Disappearing Bella and they told me they intended selling up and moving into the nursing home so I got Carlisle to move their names to the top of the list and we bought their house."
"Alice, I can't believe your father agreed."
"I told him if we didn't get the cottage we were moving to New York," she laughed.
"You are a very naughty girl," Esme chided, lovingly messing her daughter's perfect hairdo.
She had detected something going on with Carlisle. After all these years together she knew when he had a secret. He would be relieved she knew now.
The Thomas's were pretty much nearing the top of waiting couples wanting to move into the retirement village anyway so what he had done was hardly criminal, though he would feel jumpy until whoever was meant to be above them got in as well.
"So, what plans do you have for the makeover? Any actual renovations or just a paint and polish?"
Esme had not visited the Thomas's for years so she had no real idea of the state inside.
"Well, there is one wall that needs to go. The place has two small sitting rooms, they need to be opened into the one and the kitchen...don't get me started. I hope Edward feels like doing another refit. How are he and Bella getting along? Any improvement?" she asked.
"Well, if you can call them getting married this Saturday an improvement, then yes," Esme laughed.
"What! There is just no way I can pull a wedding together in TWO days, Mom. What the Hell are you all thinking?" she fumed, her mind racing. "Maybe if we..."
"Alice, it's done. Organized, caterers booked and paid for, clothes ready though we need to try your dress on and make sure it fits. Everyone else's outfit is done. Jasper, you have a tux waiting at home, and there is a very good reason for the longer jacket and stand up collar and hand tied bowtie. It's a surprise for Edward, the wedding dress, but these suits will blend in perfectly."
"Oh my God, she is wearing Nan's dress!" Alice screamed in excitement. It had never been remotely like what she wanted to wear on her big day but for Bella, she could see it was perfect.
"Alice, that is the most important secret of your life," Esme warned. "If Edward knows, it will be such a letdown. I want him to turn in the church and catch sight of her and know how right this is. Nan herself would want Bella to wear the dress. He always loved it."
"He did. Oh no, shoes, what the heck shoes can we find..."
"Come upstairs and calm down. Everything is done and dusted. Bella has shoes, Rose found them in a little antique shop in Port Angeles. They are a perfect fit and match the dress like they were made to go with it."
"God, I am expendable," Alice sighed theatrically.
"No, you are Head Bridesmaid, Matron of Honor, whatever you want to be titled."
Alice loved the shoes and loved her new old dress and luckily it fit and didn't need any alterations. Esme doubted the waist would fit her much longer, she seemed to have expanded slightly already, but two days, how much could she change in two days? She would subtly keep her from the cream cakes until the actual wedding itself, she decided.
Bella stood and looked at the finished product. Rose had worked miracles with her hair, but left enough hanging down her shoulders to keep Edward happy. The combs glittered and shone in the light, the veil was small and pretty, and had come up clean and fresh in Esme's delicate hand washing.
The dress was a sensation. And the best kept secret in Forks.
Maybe the only secret ever kept here.
Bella smiled, she knew of two others actually.
The shoes were on, garter in place on her left leg, antique necklace her parents had bought as their wedding gift snugly in place at her throat. Renee was clucking around, sighing, snapping photos, getting in the actual wedding photographer's way. Phil and Charlie were chatting together, Sue Clearwater was on her father's arm, surprising them all. When had that happened?
Rose-Mary and Rose-Marie were sitting impatiently playing with their baskets of rose petals.
Alice and Rose were done, and looked amazing as Bella knew they would.
Edward, Emmett, Carlisle and Jasper were at the church already. Edward was determined to be early, so the men would be sitting around for a while yet, until all the guests arrived and found their seats. Bella had seen Jasper when he dropped Alice here and she noted the guitars on the backseat. He would be keeping her Edward calm by having them play together while they waited.
Esme was wearing a dress made of deep rose fabric, from the same shop as the other dresses and Bella decided it was time to reveal her first secret.
"Esme, Carlisle agreed to be Edward's Best Man," she said softly.
Esme looked a little shocked.
"I thought Emmett..."
"Edward wanted his father included. That means we ladies need you on our team."
Alice giggled and turned, handing Esme her bouquet of roses and lilies that matched their own. Rose walked over and gently added a garland of wildflowers into her hair.
"Bella, I don't know what to say."
"I think the groom's mother always get gypped. She made the groom in the first place but she just gets stuck in with the other guests, I want you at my side, like you always have been."
Esme teared up and Alice growled.
"No, no tears, I will not have my work spoiled."
"Cars are ready," Charlie announced, and the others headed for their limousine's while Bella hugged Esme then turned to her father.
Charlie smiled and kissed her forehead.
"You look sensational, you will knock his socks off."
"Good, sock knocking is always good," Bella replied.
Charlie led her to the bridal car and waved off Sue and Renee and Phil, all in the one car, as they sped off to reach the church first. Should be an interesting journey, he snickered to himself.
The ex wife and the wife to be, together in a small car.
Bella sat inside the car and smiled. This was how it was always meant to be. Finally, the real truth was on show for all to see and recognise as such.
The ride to the church was both too fast and too slow. She was leaving Bella Swan behind and replacing her with Bella Cullen. It was right and should have happened years before, but it was still such a major change. She was giving up her birthname her father still held, to become a Cullen.
Mike and Jessica were standing outside the church alone. They had agreed to take the three dogs for their wash and brushing and all three now had pink and mauve ribbons in their hair and they stood obediently waiting for their role to commence when their master and mistress left the church.
"Thanks for doing this," Bella said as she walked past on Charlie's arm.
"Thanks for waking Mike up and don't forget, our wedding is in three weeks time, you had better be back from the honeymoon in time," Jess stated. Mike smiled and kissed his wife to be. Finally he got it.
Bella was Edward's and nothing would change that. Jess was his, and he knew deep down he loved that it had turned out this way. His distraction with Bella had just been yet another way of delaying the inevitable and he truly did want to marry his Jess.
He pulled the dogs to the lawn area and waited for the service to begin and thus end.
Jess sat on the bench nearby and brushed dog hairs from her frock.
All eyes were on Edward, instead of Bella, as she walked inside the church. The photographer had been instructed, capture the look on his face before scuttling around to capture the sight he was seeing. He had decided that may not work and had brought his assistant to simultaneously photograph Bella as he got Edward.
Everyone knew the secret now, they had been hurriedly informed about the dress while Edward was waiting inside the small room to the side with his attendants.
Edward smiled as he heard the music change and he turned and gasped out loud.
In his Nan's dress.
His smile lit up his entire face and he held a hand out, willing her to reach him faster than the music allowed.
Bella saw only him as she walked down the aisle. The guests and her bridesmaids had disappeared, all her vision captured was the beautiful face waiting for her. This was right, it had been the right decision, she knew that now with no doubt.
Suddenly she understood what other brides felt, and why they needed perfection.
She had it, she had Edward.
Charlie alone kept her walking at the correct pace, and she reached a hand out to her man long before she got close enough to touch him.
Their fingers met and a collective sigh filled the church.
The beauty of the truth was there and all knew this was what should have been before. This was honest and true and forever.
Edward pulled his bride inside his arms and kissed her tenderly.
Carlisle coughed quietly and frowned.
"Not yet" he hissed uselessly.
"Dearly beloved," began the minister.
"I, Edward, take you Isabella, to be my wife, my partner in life and my one true love. I will cherish our union and love you more each day than I did the day before. I will trust you and respect you, laugh with you and cry with you, loving you faithfully through good times and bad, regardless of the obstacles we may face together. I give you my hand, my heart and my love, from this day forward , as long as we both shall live, and beyond that. I pledge my heart and soul to you , to dance this dance for all of eternity. Together we have faced adversity and uncertainty. Today, a day of music and celebration, I pledge to share my life with you. Whether the days that come are happy or sad, I will live them with you. I, Edward, give myself to you as your husband."
"I, Isabella, used to be afraid of falling in love, of giving my heart away. How could I trust a man to love me, to give me all that I wanted to give him? When you came back, Edward, I realized how much we could share together. You have renewed my life. Today I join that life with yours.
I have dreamed my whole life of having you love me the way you do. I give myself as your wife and I promise here to treasure for all of my days the love we celebrate today. Let us bring together our lives and find ourselves anew each day. Let us welcome our new baby with open arms and hearts full of love."
Edward looked shocked but his mouth spread into an even wider smile than before and he clasped her hand tighter. Bella nodded and the tears confirmed the last remaining secret she had just shared with them all, but mainly with Edward. The 9th had come and gone, and she had begged Carlisle for an ultra sensitive blood test and he had handed her the results this morning, unread.
It was more than she and Edward becoming man and wife, it was the three of them becoming a family.
"Whoa," said Jess, listening in. "Is that allowed? Is the bride allowed to say she is pregnant at the altar?"
"She just did," Mike confirmed. That would be Bella.
He handed the dogs over to bride and groom when they appeared at the doorway and the rest of their attendants crowded around and the photographers got whatever shots they needed. Mike took the dogs back to the cottage in his car and put them in the small enclosed run while the guests mingled and accepted glasses of champagne and nibbles.
"Sorry, girls, it's kibble and water for you lot," he said, placing their dishes down and going inside to wash his hands and find Jess.
xxx xxx xxx
Emmett clapped his brother on the back.
"You did good, you salvaged your perfect girl from the wreck some of us made of your life. I really do regret everything, Edward. I should have been a proper brother and accepted your truth. You were ready for this long before I was, you two would have defied the odds and made it. James and I should have never said the things we did. Thank God you were a better man than us and got her back."
"Thanks Emmett, but I made the decision. I listened to you and others and decided to walk away. I have nobody to blame but myself. Thank God she took me back. After everything, it was more than I deserved."
"No, bro, it was exactly what you deserved," Emmett assured him.
"So, finally it all worked out. God, Bella..."
"Ali, it is how it was meant to be. Leave it at that. We have one another and we have our baby and we really will be happy forever. The paths we took were the hard roads but we got here in the end at that's all that matters, the destination."
"Let's drink to destinations," Rose said, raising her glass. Alice and Bella looked at their glasses of orange juice and sighed.
"Destinations" they both agreed and sipped down their daily dose of Vitamin C.