This is my last chapter, so please take a second and let me say a few words…
I can't believe it's over – I remember the exact moment I had the idea for this story and I wrote it as a Note in my blackberry. I have enjoyed the entire process of taking my imagination and putting it into words, and I hope you have, too! I can't listen to the song without seeing the river, Edward in the stables, or the last goodbye, and I feel so blessed to have gotten to share that with you all.
So, to my devoted readers, thank you for reading! That's all an author really wants anyway. To my reviewers, you have been so positive and uplifting in your responses that it made me want to keep writing, and I thank you for the encouragement! I never thought SW would get as far as it did! And to everyone who rec'd this on a website, twitter, facebook, or to just a friend, thank you! I always do a double take when I see SW mentioned on these various sites; I'm still trying to get it in my head that I'm not the only one immersed in the crazy world of Clayton, NC.
Okay, now I have some special people to thank – Skip on if you want, but they deserve some real thanks and acknowledgment.
Lizzylillyrose – My sweet, sweet friend. You have been on board since the beginning when I first chatted you about this idea and asked you for 1987 ideas. You have been such a rock to me through this whole process, and I hope you know how much I appreciate your honest words and encouragement. And yes…the lemons…you dirty, dirty mastermind! ;)
Ginginlee – My darling, beautiful beta. I hope you know that I trust you with my words, and I'm so grateful that you fix them for me! You have been an amazing gift in this process, and I can't wait to work with you again! Thank you for your hard work, even through your pregnancy and the first few months of being a new mom! I would have dropped me, but you stayed faithful and diligent! I'm so grateful!
Morethanmyself – My lovely Kimberly, you are such a source of beautiful encouragement! With each chapter, you always made sure to tell me when you thought I was doing something right while also being critical when I needed you to be. You are an asset that I truly appreciate, and your ideas along the way really helped me spin the storyline into something worth reading! Thank you!
SammieLynnsMom – My amazing, talented Kelly, your honest reactions and truthful words changed the direction of this fic multiple times, and it was better for it. I knew I could always expect your straight up opinion, and I hope you know how much that meant to me. You are such a wonderful person, and I love our working relationship and our friendship. Thank you for rec'ing SW and really being the one to first get it out there. I owe you more than just a thank you as a prereader.
IllicitWriter – My talented, creative beauty, SW was brought to life in images because of your hard work in the chapter teases! Each week, I was speechless in how you captured the moment perfectly! It was like you took it from my head, and I'm so thankful that you put up with me and worked so hard! A thank you just doesn't fit!
Okay, so for the last time, I don't own anything Twilight or the song Strawberry Wine. No copyright infringement was intended.
Chapter 30 – 2012
It was one of those rare moments when my mind woke before my body, and I was conscious even though I was completely still, the only movement being the heavy, steady rise and fall of my chest. I loved when this happened, being able to hear the sounds around me while being under the pretense of deep slumber. It was almost my only source of quiet moments these days.
I heard the loud slaps of feet above our heads, and I marveled that even on the first day of summer, the boys couldn't find it in them to sleep a few extra hours. Okay, so maybe it wasn't exactly summer yet; we still had one important event before it was summer vacation for everybody in our household.
The bed shifted beside me, and before I could get my own limbs to work, I felt Edward's body wrap around mine.
"I know you're awake," he whispered in my ear, and, try as I might, I couldn't keep my lips from smiling. "Ah," he continued, "there's my girl."
I took a deep breath in, waking up fully, and twisting in his arms so I was on my back, my head turned to face him. "Hi," I muttered, eyes still closed.
Humming, he kissed my forehead and then my eyelids, moving down further along the line of my cheek to my neck. I was surprised as he shifted above me; he usually wasn't so forward with the whole family in the house.
"Are you ready for today?" I asked, trying not to get to into what he was doing. It just wasn't feasible right now…anyone could walk in on us.
"Ready?" he scoffed, smiling as his head turned up so he could look at me. "Baby, I'm so excited."
I felt how genuine he was being, and it put the butterflies right back into my stomach. Today was such a big day for all of us. And, as if right on cue, a loud crash came from outside our door, causing both our heads to snap to the sound.
"I really hope that wasn't my mother's vase," I said, scooting out from under Edward as he rolled off the bed and put a pair of sweat pants over his boxers.
"How much do you want to bet it was Charlie?" He laughed, and I turned to give him one last look before I opened our door and walked out into the hallway.
"But I want it!"
"Dad already said it was mine!"
"You kids need to stop before you wake them both up!"
I rolled my eyes as I heard Uncle Charlie scolding Lana and Patrick in the kitchen right before I walked in. I swear, Charlie was almost as much a kid as they were these days. But it was good for him; he was actually happy.
"What broke?" I asked, stepping up to them and kissing Patrick on the top of his head since he was the closest to me.
"He did it!" Charlie immediately accused, pointing his finger at Pat as if he was the nine-year-old.
"DID NOT!" Pat yelled back.
"Come on, Patrick, that's not how you speak to your elders." Lana laughed at her own quip as she flipped the pancakes in the skillet.
"But, Bella, I really didn't break it, I swear!" Pat urged.
"Break what?" I tried again, walking around them to start the coffee pot.
They were all quiet, and when I turned around, all of their heads were down.
"What did Charlie break?" Edward asked as he came into the kitchen, sitting down on a stool at the island next to Charlie.
Charlie just rolled his eyes, eating his whole wheat – yes, he was kept on a strict diet – toast. "Watch it, kid," he grumbled. "I can still take you."
Edward smiled up at the old man and patted his shoulder. "Wouldn't doubt it."
He winked at me when he caught me watching their exchange. It was still somewhat surreal, watching them interact so casually. It shouldn't have, though; they were family.
"BELLA!" I heard my name being yelled from the back part of the house. A couple months after Charlie had his heart attacks, we sold his house and moved into Edward's after Edward, Seth, and Emmett built the addition. There was now enough space for everyone…and then some.
"What!" I yelled back, not bothering to move from my perch against the counter.
"What the hell am I supposed to wear to this thing?"
I heard both Edward and Charlie chuckle, while I just shrugged my shoulders. Hell if I knew. "It's your graduation, Seth. Wear what you want!" I decided on, and everyone in the family looked up at me with surprised faces.
"What?" I asked, shrugging my shoulders.
"That's a very cool mom thing to do, Bella," Lana said as she finished cooking breakfast.
"Eh, he'll be in a black robe anyway." And on that thought… "Just don't wear shit shoes!" I yelled towards Seth's room and laughed when I heard his groan.
"Can I say 'shit'?" Patrick's voice sounded from behind me, and I mentally cursed myself. I was really trying to work on my language.
"No," Edward, Lana, Charlie, and I all said at the same time.
"Not till you're old," Edward added on.
"Hey!" I said in my defense. "Who are you calling old, buddy?"
"Own up to it, baby. It's time," he said, dodging the banana I threw his way.
"So I have to be a married with kids to say it?" Patrick continued his questions.
Edward and I just looked at each other and smiled. Today wasn't just a big day for Seth.
"Yeah, that's a good rule," I voiced after our exchanged glances.
"Damn," Patrick sighed, and I think Edward and I both knew that this was a losing battle.
I tried so hard not to cry, but, really, it was inevitable. Seth had been my baby for the last two years, living with us and becoming my son. Even though he was eighteen now, Edward and I had legally adopted him last year. We both knew that family was a lifetime commitment, and he was officially a part of ours.
He was secure in the fact that even though his biological parents weren't there for him, his dad being in jail now and his mother running off to Vegas, he had us to come home to. I didn't even want to think about him going off to college in the fall…
When the graduating seniors' names were called, I was that lady who broke the rules and stood up and clapped for their kid. I didn't feel as bad since Edward was standing right along with me, whistling loudly. The smile that graced Seth's face made it all worth it, though.
"Jesus, Bella," Seth muttered as I flung my arms around him after the ceremony. "No need to cry, old maid." He chuckled, but he hugged me back, maybe even holding on more tightly than I was.
"I'm so proud of you," I said as I stepped away, wiping my cheeks with the back of my hand.
"Yeah, I guess I did okay." He smiled sheepishly as Edward walked up to us and wrapped his arm around my shoulder.
"Well, step one done," he said. "Now, your very last summer before college. What are you going to do with it?" Edward squeezed my shoulder in acknowledgment while Seth's cheeks turned pink.
"Um, actually," Seth started as he looked around him. "I was thinking about asking Rebecca to marry me."
"WHAT!" Edward and I both said at the same time, our faces falling into one of shock.
"Come on," Seth continued, "it wouldn't be that bad. Besides, she's who I want to spend the rest of my life with; why shouldn't I ask her?"
I think I was still in shock mode, as I stood there with my mouth wide open, but Edward seemed to snap to it relatively quickly.
"Well," Edward started, "I support you."
This got my attention. "Really?" Seth and I said at the same time, looking at him, wide-eyed.
He just shrugged his shoulders. "Honestly, if I could do it again, I wouldn't even hesitate."
"What do you mean?" Seth asked, not knowing the full story of Edward's and my past.
This time, Edward looked at me as he spoke. "I should have run away with you. I should have chosen you. But instead, we went twenty-three years without being together. So, yes," he said, turning to look back at Seth, "if I could do it again, I would have chosen Bella. I don't think you're making a mistake by committing to Rebecca. I actually think it's really respectable."
"Wow, um, thanks, Edward. That means a lot."
Edward just smiled as he clapped down on Seth's shoulder. "So…be honest…is she pregnant?"
For some reason, I burst out laughing while Seth just looked mortified. "No!" he said. "At least…I don't think…"
"My God," I mumbled. "I am way too sober to be having this conversation."
"No drinking today, baby," Edward said after he winked at Seth.
"And why is that?" I countered, looking at my husband pointedly.
"Because we have one more stop to make before we go home, and I'm pretty sure you want to be completely sober for this event."
I smiled at him as our hands intertwined. "Yeah, I guess you're right."
"I thought we couldn't get her until tonight!" Seth interrupted, his voice lifting from his excitement.
"I talked to Peggy this morning, actually, and," he looked at his watch, "we have about two more hours until everything is settled."
Without even hesitating, I shot up on my toes and threw my arms around Edward's neck, kissing him hard as tears once again pooled in my eyes.
Annesley Alexandra was born on January 28, 2012 into a home with an abusive father and drug addicted mother. She was almost immediately removed and put into the foster care system. After Edward and I had gotten married in June 2011, we knew that we wanted to have children. However, it just wasn't possible for me to get pregnant, and after adopting Seth, we had our hearts set on expanding our family that way again.
It was an expensive, long process, but when we found out about Annesley, we knew she was meant to be ours. She had ten fingers and ten toes, crystal blue eyes, and dark, curly hair. I swear she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. She was perfect.
And today, I got to take my little girl home.
"Are you ready, baby?" he asked as we pulled away from our embrace.
"Yeah," I said, feeling as if I was floating on air. "Let's go get our daughter…"
It was sad how usually our first love and our first heartbreak coincided with each other. Young, pure emotions shattered by the realities of life. It wasn't fair how we scarred the memories of our first romance with the pain of its ending. Our first love was supposed to be a monumental movement, a transition of sorts between the innocence of childhood and the demands of being an adult.
Life had a way of moving along without our consent. It didn't pause, rewind, or fast forward. It had its own schedule, one that we must abide by. Fighting time wasn't an option. But I have learned that time and life weren't at battle with each other. Life, fate, destiny were all set in time…and it all worked out for us in the end.
Throughout my life, I had chosen to believe that love, in all forms, was a part of our destiny. He was a part of my destiny…
We went through periods, ages, decades, where we thought we knew everything, that we had it all figured out, and then something happened that threw us completely off course, changing our lives forever.
When I was seventeen, I made a decision to come visit my uncle for the summer, expecting a simple summer away from home. What I got was so much more than that.
I fell in love, fell out of love, laughed, cried, mourned, rejoiced, moved on and stayed in the moment. But the rest of my life, I couldn't escape that one summer. And as I held my daughter in my arms with my husband's arms wrapped around me, in our house that held our very untraditional family, I knew that I was never supposed to escape it.
This was where I was supposed to be all along, and I finally made it home.
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You can alert me if you want the outtakes – they will be posted separately from this. The poll for Edward's POV will be closed at the end of this week. You can vote on my profile.
All right, I'll ask one last time… please review…this is most likely my last multi-chaptered fic, and I would like it to go out with a bang!
Thank you. Love to you all!
Xoxo - Kas