A/N: Once again, thank you all so much for your support with this story. I hope you enjoy the ending. This is it! Important a/n at the end!
I don't own the characters. The story is mine. No copyright infringement intended.
Such Great Heights
Sitting in a dimly-lit bar with my three best friends, I held up my shot glass, smiling as I took a deep inhale of the strong scent that could only be Patron.
"Thank you girls so much for coming out. It means the world to me."
"We wouldn't have missed it for the world," Victoria assured, raising her glass in anticipation.
"Really," Angela agreed, laughing. "After all, who'd pass up a free trip to visit their long-lost best friend in Los Angeles?"
"I haven't been away that long!" I insisted.
"Long enough," Vic argued.
I looked at Leah for assistance.
"What?" she asked, laughing. "I'm not going to complain. You actually live near me now! But it has been way too long since we've all been together."
I nodded in agreement. It had been almost two years since my release from the burn unit in Vegas, which was the last time the four of us had been together.
"Well," I began. "Here's to more fun times together, and to the friendship that I could never live without."
"1, 2, 3, fuck it!" we chorused, throwing our shots back.
"Oh, hey! Here comes my boss!" I shouted, waving to Carmen as she walked into the bar. "You guys will love her!"
I waved to the bartender, signaling that we needed another round, and then welcomed Carmen to the table, introducing her to everyone.
Angela was giggling. "I can't believe I'm sitting right here with LatinGoddess!" she exclaimed. "I'm totally fangirling, sorry."
Carmen laughed. "Don't worry, Bella did the same thing," she said with a wink in my direction. "I'm glad you were all able to come out. I trust the flight went well?"
"Yes," Victoria replied. "And thank you for the upgrade to business class. That was great. Maybe even great enough to make me forgive you for stealing my best friend away."
"Hey, I just gave her an offer she couldn't refuse," Carmen said, shrugging.
She surely had. After returning to Arizona, I'd struggled to adapt to my life when everything seemed to be exactly the same when I knew that nothing would ever be the same again. The therapist had suggested that making a major change in my life, after everything else that had just happened, might be a bad idea. I disagreed, and to this day, I know that I made the right decision.
Carmen offered me the job in LA four months after I went back to work at the paper. It was the same job she'd been trying to convince me to take since I'd first met her, but this time, I said yes. Victoria and Esme helped me pack up the house, and I donated most of the furniture to charity. I wanted a completely fresh start.
"So, how is the new house coming?" Angela asked, bringing me back into the conversation.
"It's great. I can't wait to show it to you guys. The music room is my favorite," I said proudly. That had been the first room I'd finished. "All that's left to decorate is the guest room, and Esme is coming down next weekend to help me with that."
"I think it's so amazing that Esme stood by you through everything," Leah said. "She's quite a woman."
I wholeheartedly agreed. I had spent so much time worrying that leaving Edward would mean losing the mother-in-law that I loved so dearly, but she surprised me. Not only did she stand by me, but it was with her help that I divorced Edward, and not to mention the ridiculously generous settlement she demanded he give me.
"Have you heard anything about Edward lately?" Victoria asked.
I laughed so hard that I nearly knocked over the waitress as she arrived with our next round of shots. "Oh my god, Vic. You will die when you hear this." I paused dramatically, making sure I had everyone's attention. "Edward. Is. Gay."
The eight eyes facing me were all as wide as could be. "What?" Vic squealed. "You've got to be kidding me!"
"Nope!" I replied, shaking my head and giggling. "That was why he never wanted to come back from Kenya. Apparently there is an Egyptian doctor working there as well, named Amun. Eddie's smitten."
The girls just shook their heads, laughing. "James will be so disappointed," Vic said through giggles. "He always had a thing for ole Eddie boy."
Throwing my arms around Vic, we both laughed heartily. "I'm so glad you're here," I said as I got my breathing under control.
"Me too," she agreed.
"We all are. Everyone's happy. Now come on, ladies! Let's do a shot!" Leah demanded.
"Hey, wait a second," Angela began, eyeing me with a smirk. "Speaking of smitten, tell us again how you found him."
Blushing, I smiled widely. "It was the silliest thing," I explained. "I was at Albertson's, in the produce section, and he was standing there picking out clementines – those are his favorite. He smiled at me, and I just froze."
Vic laughed, shaking her head. "Oh Bella, you always did have a certain smoothness..."
I scowled playfully as the rest of my friends giggled along with her.
"Anyway," I announced, interrupting their fun. "He walked over to me, his smile never fading, and I finally remembered how to speak again and said hi."
"Such a way with words," Carmen teased. "Amazing that I hired you to be a journalist!"
I rolled my eyes. "Yeah, yeah. It works for me, ok? We're here tonight to celebrate that, after all!"
Elbowing me, Leah gave me a knowing smile. "We wouldn't tease you if we didn't love you. Now how about that shot, lover girl?"
Raising out glasses, the five of us smiled as the background music was silenced and the lights began to dim. "The show's about to start," I said with a huge grin. "To new beginnings?"
"Here, here!" Angela agreed.
"1, 2, 3, fuck it!"
Setting my shot glass back on the table, I turned around to face the stage, my elbows resting on the bar table behind me. I had a huge smile on my face as the band took the stage, the drummer taking a running leap onto the stage from the other side of the bar to get there. Once he was seated behind his drum set, he banged his sticks together and counted the band in.
Turning to Angela and Vic on my left, I pointed excitedly toward the stage. "There he is!"
The five of us cheered and whistled as the first song began. It was melodic rock with a heavy bass line, and I absolutely loved the sound. I could tell my friends were digging it too – Angela was tapping her foot with the beat.
When the first song came to an end, the lead singer grabbed a bottle off of the floor and took a long swig of beer while he waited for the applause to quiet, then he came back to the mic with a big grin on his face.
"Thank you guys so much for coming out tonight! We're Invincible Moose and we're thrilled to be playing The Viper Room tonight. This is huge for us and we are so fucking glad you came out here to share the night with us!" He paused for a minute while the crowd went wild.
"Alright, alright, listen up, people!" he continued. "We've got some extra special ladies in the audience tonight, who came in from out of state to support us, and as a thank you, I'd like to personally buy this table a round of tequila," he called, pointing us out to the bartender.
"Now enjoy the show! Our next song is called 'Too Full to Drink'."
We all cheered as the bassist began playing a killer riff that led the rest of the band into the song.
An hour later, Invincible Moose's set was over and they were packing up their gear. The lights in the bar had brightened and the ladies and I were discussing the show over bottles of beer when warm arms wrapped around me from behind.
"How'd you ladies like the show?" he asked, pulling me closer to him.
"You guys are amazing!" Angela exclaimed. "Please tell me there's a CD I can buy!"
"No need to buy, I've got a bunch in the car. I'll give you one on the way out, if that's alright."
Angela beamed, then winked at me. "The benefits of having an in with the band," she sighed.
The rest of my friends complimented him as well, and I turned in his arms, planting a kiss right on his lips. "That may have been the best you guys have ever sounded," I said truthfully.
"It's the venue," he replied, grinning. "This place is amazing!"
"Alright, so I guess I'm being rude. Introductions?" I was met with several eager nods. "Alright. This," I said, gesturing to each of them, "is Vic, that's Angela, and you've met Leah. That one there is my boss, Carmen. And this, ladies," I continued, a broad smile lighting my face as I rested my hand on my boyfriend's chest. "Is Invincible Moose's bassist extraordinaire, and my own personal rockstar, Garrett Oswald."
Hands were shaken and even a few hugs given. Garrett slipped an arm around my waist casually and then addressed my friends.
"Thank you guys again for coming out. This was a big night for the band, and it's really cool that you could make it. And I know I'm personally glad to meet you. I've heard so much about you all from Bella that I feel like I know you already." He paused for a minute, turning toward the bar and gesturing to the bartender to request another round of shots.
"I also want to thank you guys for being there for Bella all the time, but especially two years ago. She's said over and over that she never would have made it through the recovery process without you ladies, and so I owe you a lot. Your friend here," he said, kissing my forehead. "Is an amazing woman. I love her so much, and I'm so glad that she found her way here to me."
Jerking my head around to look at the man standing behind me, my eyes wide. "You love me?" I asked in a voice filled with awe.
He looked deep into my eyes and smiled, nodding. "I do."
I threw my arms around his neck and rose up on my toes to reach his lips, trying my best to express how he had just made me feel through a kiss. It wasn't deep or lustful, but it was hard. When I finally pulled away, I focused on the clear blue of his eyes. "I love you, Garrett. I've wanted to say that to you for weeks, I've just been too afraid."
Brushing a stray hair back from my face, he gave me a soft kiss on the forehead. "No more fear, Bella. I love you."
We kissed one more time before we finally remembered that we were standing in the middle of The Viper Room, surrounded by, it turned out, not only my friends but also the rest of his band, all of whom were holding up shot glasses toward us.
"Now I see why she calls him 'Swoon'," Vic said, smirking knowingly at Leah.
I laughed as my face blushed bright red. "Shut up, you!"
Carmen handed the two us of a shot of our own, and we raised them up toward our friends.
"Here's to having no fear," she said.
"1, 2, 3 fuck it!" we chorused.
The next afternoon, Victoria, Angela, Leah, Leah's new boyfriend Jacob, Garrett and I spent the afternoon at the LA County Fair. It was a great time, but by two o'clock, I was really feeling overheated thanks to the light sweater I wore over my tank top.
Garrett, noticing the redness of my face, suggested that I take off my sweater, even offering to carry it for me.
"I'm alright," I hedged, knowing that taking off my sweater meant displaying my scars for everyone to see. Despite my therapist's insistence that I shouldn't be ashamed of the scars that covered my left arm, souvenirs of the worst night of my life, I was still reluctant to let them show.
He pulled me aside and stopped, turning toward me. "You're beautiful, Bella, scars and all. Remember what I told you last night? No more fear."
Shaking my head, I wondered how it was that he always seemed to know what I was thinking, no matter how hard I tried to hide it.
"Look, Bella, some people might look at your arm and just see scars. When I look at your arm, though, I see your strength and your beauty. One person's "oops" is another's art, you know? So stop hiding. Be proud of who you are, because I'm damn proud to be with you."
Swooning for probably the thousandth time since I'd first met him, I wiped the tears away with the back of my hand, then peeled the sweater off and handed it to him. "Thank you. You are wonderful, for many reasons, but mostly for loving me."
When we rejoined the group, Leah gave me a knowing smile and nodded at Garrett, clearing understanding the exchange that had just occurred without having heard it, and I smiled back.
"You two ready for the pirate ship?" she asked. The ship had always been Leah's favorite fair ride.
"Aye matey!" Garrett agreed. "Let's hurry! Maybe we'll find ourselves swashbuckling some real pirates!"
Giggling like crazy, I nudged Victoria. "He says swashbuckling! Who says that? I love this man!"
Vic shook her head, laughing with me. "You are both dorks. You're perfect for each other."
Linking arms with my best friend, I looked ahead and saw the tip of the pirate ship as it rose up to the highest point, far above the crowds walking below, and started down the path toward it. We were halfway there when the sound of an amplified acoustic guitar stopped me in my tracks.
My breath caught in my throat as I stood there, frozen, in the middle of the walkway, listening to the opening notes of the song I hadn't heard in so long. It took everyone a moment to realize that I'd stopped walking with them, but I didn't react when they called my name, trying to get my attention. Instead, I turned and walked toward the sound, right into the crowd.
"I am thinking it's a sign that the freckles in our eyes are mirror images and when we kiss they're perfectly aligned," he sang.
I kept walking forward as my wide eyes found him, standing up on a small stage with his Taylor hanging from a strap over his shoulder.
"I have to speculate that God himself did make us into corresponding shapes like puzzle pieces from the clay," he continued.
I was completely in shock. Over two years had passed since he walked out of my hospital room, and now here he was, right in front of me, on a stage, singing our song. Tears fell without my permission, staining my cheeks as I made my way to the front of the crowd, until I was standing right in front of him.
"...when you're away and I am missing you to death," he sang, his voice breaking on the words when he looked down and saw me.
He managed me finish the song, but his eyes, which looked pained rather than soulful like I'd always remembered, never left my face.
"I'm gonna take a quick break," he announced into the mic when the song was over. "Thanks everyone for listening. I'll be back in just a few."
Setting his guitar down on the stand near the back of the stage, Jasper crossed the stage again and hopped down so that he was standing next to me.
"Bella," he whispered reverently. "I heard you lived here now. I so hoped I'd be able to find you, but wow, that was the best timing ever, wasn't it?"
I stared at him, still speechless. I was having trouble believing that he was really standing in front of me after all this time.
"How are you?" he asked after realizing that I wasn't going to say anything.
Smiling awkwardly, I told him that I was doing well, and then politely asked how he was.
"I'm ok, I guess," he said. "Lonely." He reached out to touch me, but I took a step back, preventing him. "I've missed you, Bella. Every single day. You leaving me... It's been impossible to get over that."
I wanted to argue with him that it had really been him who left me, but I didn't see the point. It didn't matter anymore who had left who or why. "I'm sorry it's been hard for you," I said flatly. "It wasn't easy for me either."
The hardest part, really, had been making the realization while I was in the hospital that our relationship wasn't as strong as I'd thought. We'd had conversations – arguments, really – about both Emmett and Maria before, and I'd sworn over and over that there was nothing there in either case. But one email from Tanya and his faith in me had disappeared. It had been so difficult to admit, but I knew the minute Angela told me of his reason for not visiting me in the hospital that we had no future. I mean, what kind of relationship can you have without trust? But knowing that something is wrong doesn't make giving it up any easier. It had been anything but easy, really. Lots of tears, lots of therapy, and lots of alcohol, if I was being honest, had gone into the "get over Jasper" efforts.
"Bella, it doesn't have to be this way," he said, reaching out for my hand. He moved faster than I did this time, and the next thing I knew, he was holding my hand between both of his. "I love you, Bella, as much as ever. I messed up before, I see that now. I should have been there for you."
"You should have," I agreed. "But you were too busy worrying about what other people thought about our relationship and what other people said about me."
"I won't make that mistake again, Bella. Please, just give me another chance. You're my muse and my hope. You are the best thing that ever happened to me."
Before I could even open my mouth to answer, a hand grabbed my wrist gently and pulled my hand out of Jasper's grasp. "I'll thank you to keep your hands off of my girl," Garrett said, his voice even and calm.
I looked up at my boyfriend, worried that he might be angry with me, but there was no trace of jealousy on his face.
"Are you alright, Bella?" he asked.
Smiling, I nodded my head, then turned back to face Jasper, who looked as though he'd just been punched in the junk.
"Jasper," I began, remembering my conversation with Mike Newton in the hospital years before and feeling stronger. "That's all really nice to hear, but you're too late. I found someone who loves me the way I deserve, who didn't need three years to realize that I was special." Reaching back, I held my hand out to Garrett, and he took it, stroking my palm with his thumb. "Had you come along and said all of those things in the first few months after everything went down, I might have said yes. But I've had a lot of time to think about what happened all that time ago, and the truth is, whether Garrett was here or not, I'd still say no."
Jasper looked crushed, and while I felt bad for hurting him, I didn't question my choice. Seeing him again reminded me of all of the hurt and the insecurity I'd felt for years. We'd had good times together, yes. And there had been a time when I'd been sure that what we had was true love. But I understood now that love wasn't supposed to hurt, and with us, it always had.
"I'm sorry, Jasper," I said sincerely. "I'm sorry for all that you lost and all the hurt you've had to endure. I really hope that someday, you find someone who is as right for you as Garrett is for me." I smiled lovingly at my boyfriend before returning my attention to my ex. "Good luck, Jasper."
With one last smile, I turned and gave Garrett's hand a tug. "Come on, honey," I said. "Our friends are waiting for us."
As the two of us walked in peaceful silence toward the pirate ship, I thought about my life and the crazy, winding path I'd taken to get to where I was. A couple of years ago, I couldn't have imagined that my life would end up here, but as Garrett gave my hand a squeeze, I realized that, even thought it wasn't the ending I'd expected, I was still getting my happily ever after.
A/N: First of all, I want to thank you, my readers, for coming along on this journey with me. I know it hasn't been an easy one – definitely not all bright and sunny. It wasn't always easy for me to write, either, as some of you know. But I'm glad that I did it, as I learned a lot from it.
I know that I said a while back that this would have a sequel or even be a trilogy, but that's not where it took me. And really, you would have hated me if I'd written the sequel anyway, because it would have taken Bella FOREVER to learn her lesson in that case, and it would have been torture to write...and read. So the story is actually ending here.
Second, I have to thank PassionistaB, Karmabalance, and JaspersBella, who were always there to help me figure things out when I was writing this. I know I couldn't have gotten it done without you three.
Third, the biggest thank you ever to my real life Vic, Leah and Angela, as well as my "brother" ScuitoLover. I couldn't have written it if I didn't get through it, and you know I couldn't have done that without you. You are the best friends anyone could ever ask for.
Fourth, I want to thank TheLyricalCutie, who has always been there on Twitter when I needed a cheerleader. Thank you so much for the endless support!
Finally, I want to thank my Daddy and my Swoon, who knew I was good enough and helped me see what love is supposed to be. I love you both.
As a special treat to you for sticking with me, here's a special "Where are they now" section so you can learn what happened to the rest of the characters in the 2 years since the story ended.
Mike Newton married the girl that he told Bella about in the hospital. Her name was Emily and she was a member of the city council that he met while working on the park story with Bella.
Peter and Charlotte had spent a lot of time in counseling to deal with their mother's death, but both children are doing well.
Lauren was arrested and found guilty of conspiracy to commit arson after it was discovered that she had provided Alice with the information needed to burn down the Whitlock's house. She was also found guilty of conspiracy to evade prosecution when the police found plane tickets to South America for Alice and the children on Lauren's credit card bill. In total, Lauren was sentenced to 10 years in prison for her role in Alice's crimes.
Maria is still married to Felix, and plans to stay that way. She continues to flirt with Bella to this day, but that's just how Maria is.
Emmett and Rose are still together and very happy, despite Tanya's accusations about Emmett's "illicit affair" with Bella. A song from Emmett's latest album, which was self-produced, was recently heard by the right person and a record deal is in the works.
Victoria's douchemonkey, James, was recently sent back to jail, this time for solicitation of sex in an airport men's room.
Tanya moved to America from her home in Eastern Europe in order to pursue a "relationship" with a famous actor/musician. Despite telling everyone that she knew that she and this individual were very much in love, he recently announced to TMZ that his girlfriend – a "burlesque dancer" from LA – was pregnant, and pictures of Tanya tied up and servicing one of the previously mentioned gentleman's roadies recently surfaced on the internet. Tanya, as ever the lying whore that she always was, is likely working on a story to explain this. We haven't heard it yet, though.