Disclaimer: I don't really believe in epilogues...so if you don't either, don't feel obligated to read this one. =) However, this scene popped into my head very early on in the story so I had to write it. It's sort of given me an ending to write towards, especially when I debated changing the ending after my long hiatus (the first one). So, thankfully, I did end up putting Bella into remission...I don't think my heart could write it any other way.
A last thank you to pomme_de_terre for pre-reading. And, of course, thank you to all of you readers, but most especially to those of you who have been here since the beginning and stuck it through to the end. It means a lot to me.
An Epilogue of Sorts
I'm fingering the black and white printout in front of me, almost oblivious to the cacophony of clanking dishware and loud voices around me. The white noise fades to the background as I stare at this strip of three pictures. Such a blurry mess, yet it means so much. Our first pictures of our little girl.
"You're going to get strawberry pie all over them, love," Edward teases from across the table. I look up at the piercing moss green eyes that I know so well.
"You're just jealous cuz you can't have any," I say, picking up a syrupy strawberry with my fork and brandishing it in front of him.
"I can have a bite," he says as he takes his own fork and spears a strawberry of his own. I roll my eyes at him—he's always cheating just a little bit on his diet. "I can't believe you can eat this and those greasy fish and chips, but tomatoes make you gag."
"I can't help my morning sickness," I retort. "Besides, I thought this was a celebration meal."
"Bella, if this was a celebration meal, we would not be at a diner." The celebration is two-fold; of course, we are celebrating our first ultrasound and the fact that we are having a little girl and we are celebrating Edward finishing another one of his rotations. He is in his third year of medical school at UW, the first year of clinical rotations through the hospitals.
"How was your exam, anyway?"
"It was fine. Just psych. I spent more time prepping for next week."
"Oh yeah. You're starting Surgery, right?" Edward wants to do well on his surgery rotation—not only because of his father, but also just in case he decides to specialize in surgery too. He has until next year to decide—he'll be applying for residencies at the beginning of his fourth year. Likely trying to get us closer to home, closer to our families back in California so they could spoil our little girl.
"Yup," he responds. "I have to use the restroom. I'll be back."
I continue to stare at the ultrasound pictures, then take out my cell phone to take a picture. The waitress stops by to collect our empty dishes and refill our waters. "First one?" she asks.
"Yeah, " I say as I re-take the picture, trying to get one that is less blurry.
"Congratulations," she says. "You and your husband seem very happy together." She gestures over towards Edward's empty seat.
"Boyfriend," I correct her, but she has already moved on to the next table. I shrug my shoulders to myself. It doesn't matter anyway. I quickly send the baby's picture to Renee, Charlie, Esme, Carlisle, Rose, Alice and Emmett. I'm in the middle of sending it to Angela when I decide to add a text to the picture. The odds are in my favor again. I type out. It's a girl. I add the last part because even though Angela is a doctor, I'm sure she can't see the 'hamburger sign' reflecting our baby's gender as a girl on the fuzzy cell phone copy. Just the thought of beating the odds, once again, causes tears to silently fall down my cheeks. "Damn pregnancy hormones," I mutter.
"Hey, I don't mind them," Edward teases as he comes up from behind me. He joins me on my side of the booth and peers over my shoulder at my cell phone. "This is the most you've cried since when I first met you."
"Ass," I say and shove him playfully. "I'm just sending a picture of Madison to Angela," I add.
"Our baby. Is that okay?"
He breaks out in a wide grin. "Of course, Bella. Our own little Maddie." After reading what I typed to Angela, he turns back to look at me again. "You have beaten the odds. Only you could get pregnant on the pill, and after years of chemo…"
"You say that like it's a bad thing," I retort, but there is no malice in my tone. I know exactly how Edward feels. The day I took the pregnancy test, we were both crossing our fingers that it would be positive, even if we weren't planning on trying to have a baby quite yet.
"Of course not. You know I'm thrilled. Only one thing would make me happier."
"What's that?" I ask, again already knowing what he's referring to.
"Bella," he says quietly. "I've been in love with you for eight years now. You are my life. Will you finally marry me?"
"Hmm," I say, trying to giggle, but it comes out as a sob as loud tears come pouring out now. "That's… not the most romantic proposal I've heard…"
"Compared to the other eight or nine times I've proposed?" Edward laughs at my half-sobbing, half-giggling attempt at light-heartedness. He reaches around and wipes the tears from my cheeks with the pads of his thumbs, just as he always does. "Come on, Bella. Let's get married…I know you don't want a big wedding. We could fly to Vegas tonight. Have our families meet us there. I know it's not what we planned, but we didn't plan Maddie either…and we didn't even know you could get pregnant. Let's do something unexpected. Finally make it official."
I think about the last eight years of my life with Edward; he was there from the first moment I was diagnosed with leukemia, and he helped me fight it every step of the way. He had asked me to marry him almost at least once a year since I had known him-when he graduated from high school, when my cancer went into remission, when each of us graduated from UCLA back to back, when he got accepted into med school, our first year in Seattle, when we first found out I was pregnant and several times since then. I held back every time. At first we were too young, but mostly I wasn't ready. I'm not really sure what I'm waiting for at this point. Edward is my life. And now, Edward and baby Maddie are my life. There is no one else, there never has been. I want forever too.
"Well," I pause. "Life is too short to take for granted—"
Edward gasps, catches himself and interrupts me. "Are you saying 'Yes'?" he asks incredulously.
"Yes, I'll marry you." The sobs have quieted down, but tears are still silently flowing down my face. Tears of happiness. "But are you sure you want to this weekend? You start Surgery on Monday, and I have a deadline on Tuesday—"
"Bella Cullen," he says happily. "I don't want to waste another minute. I'll bring my books and you can bring your laptop. Come on, let's go home and get packed and I'll book our flights while you call everyone."
Edward throws down some bills on the table as I gather up our pictures of Maddie and my phone. We walk hand in hand out of the diner and into the interminable grey rain of Seattle. Edward has planned fancy dinners with a ring hiding in dessert, he's gotten down on one knee, we've been camping near the waterfalls at Yosemite, and had romantic homemade dinners. He's hired musicians, and even played a song on the piano he composed just for the proposal. But, the most heartfelt proposal is the one he said today, here in the greasy diner, amongst syrupy strawberry pie. It's not just the words he's said or the fact that we are going to be parents in just four months. I'm not even sure what it is, except the synchronicity of events that have led us to each other have paved the way towards this moment, just another moment in our intertwined lives of forever.