A/N See you at the bottom…
~ June 15th, 2013 ~
~~ 0 ~~
~~ 0 ~~
~~ 0 ~~
"Have you guys seen Edward?" I asked, walking towards Emmett and Carlisle who were standing in front of the unlit fireplace with a drink in their hands. Both were neatly dressed in their light-colored suits, and I frowned, thinking about my husband wandering around in his khakis and still sporting a stubble.
"Uh, yeah, he said he was taking Mattie for a stroll on the beach," Emmett replied, oblivious to my foul mood.
"Perfect timing," I muttered with an annoyed sigh. "He needs to get dressed; the ceremony starts in half an hour."
Carlisle chuckled softly. "Men." His eyes wandered over me, taking in my five-inch heels and pastel chiffon dress. "By the way, my dear, you look ravishing."
"Thank you." I smiled, smoothing a hand over my waist and allowing myself to bask in the compliment for a brief moment. "I'm going to look for my husband and son."
I turned around, heading towards the French doors with determined, large steps. For the millionth time that day, I noticed fresh faces occupying the two leather couches, and once again marveled at the sheer size of the house. Actually, the place wasn't so much a house as it was a humongous estate in the wealthy town of Cape Elizabeth, because apparently the Joneses didn't do anything short of extraordinary. In the two days we'd been there I'd met more people than in my entire twenty-four years.
Just as I was stepping on the back porch, I ran into Edward.
"Look who's here," he told Matthew, tickling his side. "Hi, Mommy. Were you looking for us?"
"Actually, yes, I was." I crossed my arms over my chest. "Where have you been? Both of you need to change immediately."
"I was just showing Matthew the seagulls. There's plenty of time," he said, placing his hand on the small of my back and pulling me to him. "I'm loving this matron of honor look on you."
"Thank you, but you also need to shave. Alice is going to have a fit if she sees you like this so close to the beginning of the ceremony."
Edward sighed, letting go of me. "I'll be ready in no time."
"Well, you know how fussy your son gets when I have to change his clothes. He doesn't like it, and he'll start crying like he usually does. I can't exactly rush him into his tux."
"I'll do it." He tried to placate me.
"No, you go see to yourself. I'll take Matthew," I said, reaching for him.
Edward passed him over to me gently. "You're awfully cranky today," he observed, the tone of his voice matching his mildly exasperated expression.
I looked up at him in surprise. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to come off like that. Alice is a nervous wreck, and I guess I picked it off from her."
He shook his head, placing a kiss on my forehead. "Try to relax, baby. Do I need to remind you, you already got married once?"
"Yeah, about that… I think I can do better." I smirked teasingly. "I mean, almost everyone gets married once. One time is too common. I can do it three or four times. Who knows, maybe I'll even meet my next husband today."
Edward's face fell instantly. "I don't appreciate the humor."
I grinned, pulling Matthew's little greedy fingers away from my chandelier earrings. "I think I'm pretty funny."
"You think wrong," Edward replied dryly, giving me a dark scowl. He started to head inside, not before adding over his shoulder, "Oh, and I love you too, Mrs. Cullen."
"Love you back, Daddy," I called, silly grin still in place. A familiar odor reached my nose, and I turned to my son, making a face. "Uh-oh. Somebody is in desperate need of a diaper change."
Matthew stared at me intently before suddenly bursting into a fit of giggles. At almost six months, he was incredibly perceptive of the things happening around him. Many times, I got the feeling he actually understood what I was saying to him.
"Yeah." I chuckled, kissing his cheek. "You know what you did."
As I stepped back into the large sitting room, I was tackled by a frantic-looking Rosalie. "Oh, thank God I found you. I need your help."
"Yeah, sure," I replied, no doubt looking as surprised as I felt. "What can I do?"
"My curls fell loose at the back." She turned around to prove her point. "Can you fix them for me?"
"Uh..." I glanced at my son still wearing his romper suit, trying to come up with a quick way to get him dressed as well as fix Rosalie's hair.
"I'll take Mattie," Emmett offered, seeing my torn expression. "Come to Uncle Emmett, you little munchkin." He held Matthew up, blowing raspberries on his belly.
Matthew shrieked in delight, slapping his hands against Uncle Emmett's freshly shaven cheeks.
"He needs a fresh diaper," I explained, placing my hand on Emmett's shoulder to get his attention. "I laid out his clothes on the bed in our room."
"Got it," Emmett replied, whisking my son away, as Rosalie and I made our way towards their bedroom. As we entered the room, Jess came out of the adjoining bathroom, wearing a soft pink knee-length dress.
"Mom, my zipper's stuck." Her brows formed a deep frown as she struggled with said zipper.
Rosalie pushed her daughter's hair to the side as she took over the task of getting the zipper to work. After a minute, she straightened up triumphantly. "Here you go."
Jess let out a relieved sigh. "Thanks."
"You look lovely," I remarked, giving my niece a conspiratorial wink.
She grinned, twirling around for effect. "Thanks. You do too, Auntie B."
Rosalie began rummaging through her mostly unpacked luggage for the curling iron. "I can't believe Paul did this to my hair," she muttered under her breath, sporting the mother of all frowns.
"Paul was busy with Alice; he wasn't supposed to be doing anyone else's hair," I said pointedly, grabbing a chair and moving it in front of a large oval mirror. "You practically had to beg him to spend fifteen minutes on you."
"I know, I know." She sighed. "It's just that I can't do my own hair for the life of me. I always have someone do it for me for special occasions."
"You should've brought your hairstylist with you," I teased.
She rolled her eyes at me, handing me the curling iron as she sat down on the chair I'd set out for her. "I'm not that vain."
"Yes, you are," I retorted, keeping my tone light. She knew I was making fun at her expense, which still felt a little weird, given our history.
"Is this dress showing too much cleavage?" She swiftly changed the subject, pulling at the heart-shaped top, as I began working on her hair.
Her dress was similar to mine, only hers had a breath-impairing corset to emphasize her waist. In true Alice fashion, our bride had decided she was going to have two matrons of honor instead of just one, so basically Rosalie and I were supposed to cooperate and be nice to each other. Surprisingly enough, it hadn't been that hard. Rosalie had behaved most of the time, seeming more focused on our joint tasks rather than her past animosity towards me, and I suspected Alice knew exactly what she was doing when deciding to pair the two of us together.
"No, you're good."
"Alright." She seemed satisfied with my answer as she watched Jessica strap on her silver sandals. "I wonder how Alice is doing."
"She was fine when I left her side fifteen minutes ago; nervous but fine."
Her blue eyes met mine in the mirror. "You look really nice, by the way. You also seem better."
I smiled softly. "Thanks. I am. Mrs. Coleman is such a darling. She helps so much with Matthew, and I get to nap a bit during the day and study for exams. I even wrote most of my thesis in less than a month."
"That's good. I never had any help with Jess, but I was a stay-at-home-mom so that was pretty much my job. You, on the other hand, are striving for a successful career someday." There seemed to be a bit of envy in her voice, but it didn't sound malevolent. On the contrary; I dared say her envy was rather admiring.
"Yeah." I sighed, recalling last night's conversation with the imposing Mr. Jones, the owner of the estate. The future definitely looked bright for my career.
There was a knock on the door, and Edward poked his head inside. "May I come in?"
"Yes, Bella was just fixing my mess of a hair," Rosalie answered, smiling at her brother-in-law.
"How do I look?" he inquired, stepping inside.
I drank him in, my eyes following the hard lines of his toned body. The beige three-piece fit him like a glove, and I had to admit he looked quite remarkable. "Dashing, of course."
"The weird lady with red hair said all of the guests have arrived, and that it's time for everyone to take their seats."
I had to laugh at his childish description of Alice's wedding planner. "Her name is Helen and she's not weird, she's just... extravagant."
"Honestly, I couldn't care less what her name is, and she is weird." He snickered, looking around as if searching for something with his eyes. "Where's Matthew?"
"He's with Emmett."
"Okay." His eyes met Jessica, and he gave her two thumbs up. "Are you done here? We really need to go down."
"Yeah, just a couple more minutes," I answered, focusing on the strand of hair I was recurling.
"I'm ready," Jess announced, starting for the door.
"I'm coming with you." Edward followed after her, stopping only to point to his watch. "Tick tock, ladies."
When the last strand of blond hair was in place, I put the curling iron down before quickly unplugging it. "Done."
"I owe you one," Rosalie said, grabbing her lipstick for a last minute retouch. "Okay, now I'm good. Let's go."
I pushed back the urge to roll my eyes at her. Her gratitude was so touching.
As Rosalie and I made our way across the beach, I couldn't help feeling amazed at the sight of the breathtaking setting. The first thing that caught my eye was the huge wedding arch, decorated with large bouquets of blooming pink and white roses and crystal strings, creating a striking backdrop. Then there were the chairs, dressed up in soft, flowy fabric, and the tall candle stands adorned with beautiful climbing flowers. A path of bi-colored petals lost its way through the wet sand, making the seamless connection from the beach to the wooden deck we'd just descended.
"Wow. Alice definitely went all out," I noted, trying to spot my husband in the sea of people occupying almost two hundred seats.
"It looks beautiful," Rosalie agreed, waving and smiling at a white-haired woman.
My eyes finally found Edward standing beside the improvised aisle and talking to a nervous-looking Jasper. Emmett appeared next to them, his arms empty, and I began searching the crowd again, this time for my son. A brief shriek of delight brought my attention to the left throng of seats, right up front, where I found Carlisle making silly faces at his grandson. I let out a breath of relief; one I hadn't even realized I was holding.
"Isabella, dear." Helen materialized beside me out of thin air. She was wearing an oriental jacquard print dress, paired with at least a dozen jade bracelets; her bright red hair pinned up in a French twist. "Can you please fetch your husband and brother-in-law so we can begin the ceremony?"
"Sure." I gave her a polite smile, doing my best to refrain from gawking at her. She was a beautiful woman, but her choice of outfits wasn't doing much to flatter her slim, well-kept figure.
Helen looked positively annoyed. "I don't even know what the two of you are doing here instead of inside with the bride. Let's go, Rosalie."
Rosalie gave Helen a dirty look for using a snide tone with her, but followed behind her nonetheless. As for me, I turned around and marched my way towards the aisle, stopping in front of the amused men. Apparently, Emmett was telling a joke.
"I'm sorry to interrupt, but we need to head back inside. Alice is waiting for us."
"You look tense, Honeybee." Emmett grinned, wrapping a long arm around my waist. He kissed my cheek, and I slapped his shoulder playfully.
"You obnoxious ass." I laughed, stealing a glance at Edward who was watching us with a hint of a smile on his lips. "Beat it."
Just beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it
No one wants to be defeated
Showin' how funky and strong is your fight
It doesn't matter who's wrong or right...
Emmett began to sing as he let go of me and walked towards the house, causing all of us to laugh at his silliness. Edward took hold of my hand, and we both followed close behind. Once inside, we were met with a gorgeous vision of our bride dressed in a vintage inspired wedding gown, complete with intricate beading and an embellished headband. Beside her, her father couldn't have looked any prouder.
"Whoa!" Emmett exclaimed, taking in his future sister-in-law. "Who is this splendid woman?"
"Shut up." Alice chuckled, sucking in a deep breath. If she were clutching her freesia bouquet any tighter, she was liable to squish it.
"Oh good, everyone's here," Helen observed with satisfaction. "You already know what to do, so let's proceed."
Moments later, as Edward and I trailed behind Emmett and Rosalie on our way to the aisle, I felt this sudden sense of complete tranquility wash over me. For the next half an hour, while the ceremony carried on, I was lost to my own thoughts.
I thought of my life up until that point, and realized that for the first time in months, maybe even years, I was truly, one hundred percent happy. And I had so many reasons to feel that way. Matthew was growing up beautifully, my postpartum depression was mostly gone, and we had finally moved into our new house. Edward was proving to be an amazing father, nurturing our son with all the love and protectiveness he was capable of. Furthermore, he continued to be the man I'd fallen in love with, both flawed and perfect; cold and passionate; tough and tender; grave and carefree; dark and full of blinding light. My husband was a man of extremes, and I was his balance; his own personal pair of scales that brought him the equilibrium he so much needed. In return, he was my driving force that propelled me forward in life, sometimes at breakneck speed. And I was fine with that. I could handle it. I could handle him, and he could handle me. Together we were complementary.
My son's gurgles brought my attention to him, and I felt a genuine smile stretch my lips. He sat on his grandfather's lap, concentrating hard on pulling at the buttons on his vest. Carlisle alternated between watching the service and Matthew, from time to time gently sweeping his hand over his grandson's hair. Beside him, Karen Young sat looking beautiful in a red gown. I didn't know her too well, but from what Edward had told me, she was a much more decent person than Esme had ever been. She seemed nice; always regarding Carlisle with genuine affection, and I got the feeling they were really hitting it off. Everyone approved of her, even Rosalie in her own distant way, and I hoped Carlisle was going to find the peace and happiness he deserved.
As for the evil witch herself, no one had heard anything about her since the incident with James' family money. The police didn't have any leads on where she might be, so for now she could consider herself safe. I, for one, seriously doubted she was even in the country anymore. I could almost envision her on some far away beach, sipping mimosas and lavishing in the sun as she patted herself on the back for her conniving skills. But on the good side, Edward and everyone else seemed to have gotten over her and her bad influence. Even Carlisle seemed to accept the way things had turned out. If I had a say in how the future was going to unfold, I would leave Esme where she was now, at a far distance and into oblivion; never to enter our lives again. But anything could happen at any given moment, so for the time being I was going to enjoy the tranquility while it lasted.
With Esme gone, James dead, and his parents moving off to Europe, I had three very good reasons to feel safe again.
In the back of the ceremonial party, Aaron sat quietly, his vigilant eyes surveying the gathering of so many unknown faces. Edward and I had gotten inevitably attached to him, but somehow I got the pleasant feeling that soon his services weren't going to be needed anymore.
"I now pronounce you husband and wife," the priest proclaimed, pulling me out of my reverie. "You may kiss the bride."
Drifting past the tender embrace of the newlyweds, my eyes met those of my husband, and I realized he'd been watching me the entire time. I smiled, and he answered by mouthing "I love you," and cheekily drawing a small heart across his chest.
Honestly, he could be so sweet at times.
~~ 0 ~~
"Let's go for a walk," Edward suggested sometime later, gently caressing my hand as if he could sense there was something I wanted to tell him. The party was in full swing so it seemed like a good time to take a breather.
I gave him my other hand, and he helped me up. We passed the dancing couples, heading towards the far end of the marquee. Hand in hand, we strolled across the beach, neither of us breaking the silence for a long time.
When the music could barely be heard anymore, I stopped abruptly, turning around to face him. "Are you happy?"
"What an odd question," he remarked, his brow furrowing. "Of course I'm happy. Aren't you?"
"I am." I smiled reassuringly. "Very happy actually. I have some good news."
"Oh?" His expression morphed into one of slight surprise.
"Last night Mr. Jones and I crossed paths in the kitchen," I explained. "We chatted a little, and at some point he asked what I did for a living. I told him about finishing school in a couple of weeks and my intention to start looking for a job as a journalist."
"He works for the Tribune," Edward said slowly, his tone of voice telling me he already knew where I was going with this.
"Exactly. He immediately wanted to set an interview for next week."
"And?" he pressed.
"And I said yes, of course," I breathed, barely containing my excitement. "I couldn't pass up the opportunity. He called his assistant, and I'm scheduled for an interview Monday morning at nine."
"That's great, baby." He immediately enveloped me into his warm embrace. "I'm so happy for you. I know how much you want this."
"Thank you, honey," I whispered, burying my nose into his neck. "I'm so thrilled."
"He's going to hire you," Edward stated, pulling back to look at me. "I know it."
I grinned, nodding. "More than likely, yeah. We really had a great chat."
He chuckled, reaching up to caress my face. "Good thing we have Mrs. Coleman now."
Mrs. Coleman was the best. She came with great recommendations that she had so far lived up to and even exceeded. She was kind, generous, with a heart of gold, and most importantly she'd come to love Matthew like her own. Her four children and seven grandchildren were living testimony to her vocation as a nanny. Edward and I were simply smitten with her.
"Mr. Jones knows I have Matthew, and he said the hours are pretty flexible," I said, placing my hand over Edward's still resting on my cheek. I wanted the job, but I also wanted to be able to spend quality time with my son, especially since he was still so little. "Besides, the job won't be available for another two months or so. The woman I'm going to replace is moving to New York in September."
"That's good." Edward nodded his approval. "I'm very proud of you."
I sighed contently, grateful for his positive reaction. Deep down, I'd known from the very beginning he was going to be supportive, but hearing him express it meant the world to me. "As I am of you. You're the best husband any woman could ask for. I mean it. I really do."
He laughed, his arms circling my waist. "Well, if you put it that way..." Leaning down, he kissed me deeply, and for a little while I let myself get lost in him.
"Mr. Cullen..." I murmured, eventually breaking the kiss.
"Yes, Mrs. Cullen?" he whispered, his eyes still half closed.
"I love you," I said, mustering as much emotion as I could into that one short sentence. I told him I loved him pretty much every day, but this time I wanted him to know just how much.
He looked at me then, his expression conveying the same burning passion I felt inside. "The feeling is so very mutual, Isabella."
A/N So what happened to Esme? I've decided to leave an open ending, because I just couldn't help it! lol As you've probably learned by now, I'm not a fan of over-the-top endings that offer ALL the answers on a golden platter. I'm sorry if you're disappointed, but this will make you come up with all sorts of scenarios of your own, and I think that's much more fun than me revealing where she truly is. Will she ever get caught? Who knows... Oh yeah, I do... Oh wait, I don't... not really... (confused? me too)
I might write a future-take if I get the inspiration or the mood strikes.
As some of you already know, the first chapter of my new story Balançoire has been up for a few weeks. I'll resume updating in a little while.
I want to thank Mid Night-Cougar and Jen McNamara for being truly amazing friends and continuously supporting this story and my writing. I love them both. I want to thank Stephenie Meyer for creating these characters and the fandom for existing. And last but not least, I want to thank all of you. My wonderful readers are the sole reason I continue writing, and your reviews mean everything to me. I really am sorry for not having the time to reply to them anymore, but rest assured I've read every single one of them.
See you soon…
~ Andreea ~