Submission Heading:

"For the Love of a Man in Uniform" O/S Contest

Title: I'll Wait Forever

Word Count: 19,289

Rating: M

Pairing: Edward and Bella

Summary: A lonely 18 y/o boy meets a lonely 16 y/o diner girl on his way to basic training before heading to the Vietnam War. Years of letters, promises, and a child, are all they have to hold on to. Will Edward make it back or will Bella be left alone forever?

Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight or the characters involved. No copyright infringement intended.

I stared at myself in the mirror detesting what I saw. I wasn't anything special. I didn't have the long blonde hair like my brother, Emmett's new wife, Rosalie. I wasn't spunky and outgoing like my older sister, Alice. I was just plain, shy, sixteen year old, Isabella Swan from a small town right outside of Seattle, Washington.

My parents ran a successful diner in the area, which had been getting even more and more business with our town being a major bus depot for the men heading off to basic training before they headed to Vietnam. I've been working in our family diner since I was twelve years old. It was the major hangout for all the high school kids in the area. I pretty much knew everyone before I even started high school. However, just because I knew them didn't mean I was friends with them. I was still a nobody to most everyone I went to school with. Summer had just begun and the diner was hopping more than ever.

This summer was going to be much different than most though. This summer my older brother, Emmett, wouldn't be here working with me. He was heading off to basic training with all the other men who had been drafted. My parents were so proud of him, even though I think deep down they were scared to death for him. At least I know I was. I didn't want him to go, and I know his wife didn't want him to either. However, he didn't have much of a choice.

He married his high school sweetheart, Rosalie, just two days before he left. They didn't want to wait until he got back. So, they went to the courthouse and got married without telling anyone beforehand. Rosalie moved in with us, taking Emmett's room while he would be gone. One good thing about Rosalie living with us was she'd be working with me in the diner.

"Isabella, you're going to be late," my mom, Renee, shouted up the stairs to me.

"I'm coming," I yelled back. I looked back in the mirror one last time, looking at my simple plaid skirt and white blouse. Plain. Sighing, I grabbed a blue ribbon off my dresser and tied my long dark hair up, to keep it out of my face while I worked.

I rushed downstairs and threw open the door to run down the street to the diner. My dad, Charlie, gave me a warning look and stared at his watch as I walked in.

"I know I'm late. I'm sorry," I apologized while I quickly tied my apron around my waist.

"Just because you're my daughter doesn't mean you can get away with being late," he warned.

"I know. It won't happen again."

"Sure it won't," he breathed barely audible.

The day was mostly uneventful. I took orders, filled drinks, passed out meals, cleaned up tables after people left, settled bills, chatted with talkative people, and listened to wild stories some of the regulars liked to tell. It was the same just about every day. The best part of this job was all the people I got to meet. Some were travelers just passing through, while others were regulars who became like family to us. Harry Clearwater came in every single day and ordered the same thing; a bacon cheeseburger and fries. He was always one of my favorite storytellers. He had wild stories of his hunting and fishing days as well as stories of World War 2. If we weren't too busy sometimes I'd give him a piece of pie on the house. Little things like that always put a smile on his face.

"Bella," my dad called from the kitchen just minutes before my shift ended.

"Yeah, Dad."

"Could you work a little longer tonight? Jane called in sick, and I'm shorthanded as is."

"What about Emmett?" I asked.

"Bella, this is his last night here. I'm not going to ask him to work," he argued.

"No, I'm not asking you to tell him to work. I'm asking about spending time with him. He's leaving in the morning. Aren't we doing something special for him tonight?"

"He wanted to spend his last night here with his new bride. Your mother and I couldn't exactly tell him no," he explained.

"Oh," I sighed disappointedly. I thought I'd get to spend at least a little time with my brother before he left.

"If you don't want to work a couple more hours I can ask your sister," he offered.

"No, it's fine, Dad. I can work," I agreed, grabbing my pen and heading towards another table to take an order.

Sitting in the last booth of the diner, all alone, was a young man who I didn't recognize. I assumed he was probably yet another man heading off to war.

"What can I get you?" I asked.

Slowly his sad, lonely eyes rose to mine. Looking into his eyes was almost haunting, and I had to look away from his gaze.

"I'll just have a coke," he replied somberly. I chanced a glance at his face. His head had dropped once again. I found myself standing there at his table a second longer than I should have, feeling a sense of concern for this man. He really didn't look much older than me. His reddish, brown hair was cut short and combed to the side like most soldiers. His face was clean shaven. However, he didn't seem like the typical man I saw here preparing to board a bus for boot camp. Maybe he wasn't a soldier going off to war like I originally thought. Maybe he had lost someone in the war. Maybe that's why his green eyes were so haunting.

As I walked back to the counter, I had this sudden clench to my heart. I felt sorry for whoever this man was. I looked around the diner seeing only a few other booths with people who all looked happy and carefree. The man in the corner all alone was the only person who appeared to be sad.

In an attempt to cheer him up, I cut a piece of apple pie and brought it to him with the coke he ordered. I sat the plate and glass in front of him, and his head quickly shot up to mine with questioning eyes. "It's on the house," I explained with a smile. He accepted with a crooked smile and a nod of his head.

I walked to the next table and took their order, keeping myself busy for the next hour. Jacob, a good friend of the family, came into the diner around nine after his baseball practice. His overzealous behavior got on my nerves occasionally, but I tolerated him for the sake of my family. He walked up behind me and wrapped his arms around my waist in an overly friendly hug.

"Jacob," I scolded hitting his hands and pushing him away.

"Sorry," he laughed before taking a seat at the booth in front of me. Knowing exactly what he ordered when he came in, I didn't wait for him to say. I quickly poured him a coke and sent back the order for a cheeseburger.

The diner was pretty much dead apart from a few stragglers and the young man who still sat in the back booth. I had been back to his table a couple times to fill his glass and take the empty plate of pie throughout the night, yet he still didn't move from his spot or mutter a word other than a timid 'thank you'.

"You better finish your burger fast. We're closing up very soon," I warned Jacob as I placed his burger in front of him. He smirked and took a bite.

"What, you wouldn't keep the place open just a little longer for me?" he asked with a mouth still full of food.

"No, not even for you," I teased. He laughed and took another bite.

"Are you ever going to say yes to going on a date with me?" he questioned confidently.

"No," I replied with a giggle. Jacob had been asking me for a date since I can remember and every time I turned him down. Jacob was a sweet guy, and I didn't have anything against him, but he was like another brother to me. I couldn't date him. It would be strange to date him.

"I thought you would say that," he complained. "You know, one of these days you are going to have to accept my gesture."

"Who says?" I questioned with a raised eyebrow.

"You will…someday," he promised.

"Keep telling yourself that, Jake," I teased as I walked around from behind the counter to check on the few customers who still lingered.

"Can I get either of you another cup of coffee?" I asked an older couple sitting close to each other in a booth like they were still teenagers in love.

"No thank you, Dear. I think it's time I get this old man home to bed," the woman said playfully, motioning for her husband to get up from the booth.

I walked to a couple of girls I knew from school and asked them if they needed anything else. They were giggling as they watched Jacob at the counter. I had to fight rolling my eyes at their behavior. They both ordered another glass of lemonade and an order of fries. I knew they were only there for Jacob, which he loved. Jacob was a huge baseball star in our little town and everyone loved him. They all knew he'd end up making it big someday. Everyone was sure I would follow him and become his wife, but I had no intentions of doing any such thing.

After serving the girls their lemonade and putting in their order, I walked back to the young man who had been sitting at the last booth all evening.

"Can I get you anything else?" I asked him.

"No, thank you," he replied with a forced smile.

"Are you okay?" I asked sympathetically.

"I don't know," he answered, swirling his index finger across the rim of his glass.

"Do you want to talk about it?" I offered.

"Would you be willing?" he asked looking up at me with that haunting green eyed gaze. Biting my lip and looking over my shoulder at the other people still at the diner, I took a chance and slid into the seat across from him. I felt like he needed someone to talk to. Working as a waitress taught me how to be a good listener and supporter when needed.

"I turned eighteen a couple days ago and it really wasn't what I thought it would be," he began. "I guess I'm just feeling a little low. I leave tomorrow morning for basic training. My brother, Jasper is already in Vietnam. I'm sure I'll be joining him within a few months. I haven't heard from him in quite a while, though."

"I'm sorry," I offered. He laughed it off and dropped his head again. "Were you drafted or are you enlisting on your own free will?"

"I'm enlisting," he replied.

"Why are you enlisting?"

"My parents died a couple years ago, and my brother and I were sent to a foster home. Once we turn eighteen we're expected to enlist. We don't really have a choice."

"Do you want to enlist?" I wondered.

He chuckled and shrugged his shoulders. "I want to see my brother. He's the only family I have. If enlisting gets me to where he is then that's what I'll do."

"My brother is leaving for basic training tomorrow also," I explained. "He was drafted though. You might actually be going to the same place he is." He nodded his head like he really didn't care, but I just thought I would tell him since he seemed like he needed a friend. Maybe he and my brother could look out for each other in a way. God knows I'd do anything if I could convince my brother not to go. He insists the war isn't as bad as the news broadcasts make it out to be. He doesn't even think he'll make it to Vietnam. I feared for his life, though.

"Where are you staying tonight?" I asked.

"Here until I'm kicked out," he chuckled. "Then I guess I'll just wait at the bus stop until it comes in the morning."

"Bella?" my dad called, causing me to snap my head in his direction. "Order's up." I sighed in frustration.

"I'll be getting off soon," I revealed. "I can take you somewhere." His head lifted with a quizzical look on his face as I slid out of the booth and walked back to the kitchen to retrieve the girls' fries.

"Who is that you were talking to?" my dad asked motioning towards the man in the corner.

I suddenly realized I hadn't asked him his name. "Uh, he's enlisting and leaving tomorrow at the same time as Emmett. He's a little sad at the moment. He needed someone to talk to." My dad hummed in response at my answer while handing over the plate of fries the girls had ordered. I carried the fries to the table and placed them in front of them.

"We're going to be closing in just a few minutes," I warned the girls. "Please try to be quick."

They both nodded their heads and started nibbling on their fries. I walked back to the counter cleaning up Jake's plate and washing down the counters.

"Bella, why don't you tell those girls they're wasting their time because all I want is you?" Jake asked playfully. I giggled and shook my head.

"Even if I wanted you in the same way, I don't think they would care. They would still follow you around, Jacob."

He laughed and gestured towards the pie. "Can I?"

"We're closing up the kitchen,"

"Come on, Bella?" he begged. "Just one little sliver?"

"Fine." I gave in, cutting a small piece of the apple pie and placing it in front of him. Moments later the man I was talking to stood from his booth and walked towards the counter.

"Thank you for talking to me," he said as he walked past me. I nodded my head and smiled at him. I watched as he walked outside and sat down on the bench where the bus would stop in the morning.

"Why were you talking to him?" Jacob asked.

"He's a soldier. He's leaving in the morning at the same time as Emmett. He was really upset."

"You shouldn't talk to people you don't know," he ordered.

"What do you think I do every day while I'm here?" I asked laughing at his comment.

"It's different when all you're doing is taking an order. You don't talk about personal things with customers."

I laughed even harder. "I talk with the customers about their personal matters on a daily basis. It comes with the job description," I explained. "It's really not a big deal, Jacob. He just talked about his family and where he's headed."

"Well, you still shouldn't talk to him."

I rolled my eyes and walked back into the kitchen to help my dad with the dishes and cleanup.

"Go on home, Bella. I can finish up here and lock up," my dad suggested.

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah, you've worked much longer than you had to today. Go on."

I took off my apron and hung it up on the hook before kissing my dad on the cheek and thanking him for letting me leave. I peeked out the window and saw the soldier still sitting on the bench in front of our diner. I wanted to go out and talk to him, but I had to make an appearance at home first. I ran down the alleyway to our house and burst through the front door. I wished I hadn't come home. I walked into a fight between my sister and my mother.

"I can't believe you chopped all of your hair off," my mom shouted.

"It's my hair," my sister, Alice shouted back stomping her feet. I looked at my sister and almost didn't recognize her. She had brutally chopped her hair until it was nothing more than a spiky mess.

"You look like a boy now. Your beautiful, long, dark hair is all gone," my mom complained.

"You can have the hair if you want," Alice suggested.

"Alice," I interrupted. Both my mother and sister turned their heads towards me. "Why did you cut all your hair off?"

"I'm protesting," she explained.

My mother sighed and placed her hand against her head dramatically. "Your father is going to have a field day with this," she warned.

"I don't care what dad thinks. I'll do what I want," she stormed off up to her room and slammed her door. I sat down on the couch watching my mom pace the floor and mumble to herself. Moments later my father walked through the door seeing the distress my mom was in and knew something was wrong. Before he could even ask, Alice came running down the stairs in the shortest and most revealing dress I'd ever seen on anyone. My mouth hung open at the boldness she was expressing right now.

"You march right back upstairs and take that thing off," my dad commanded angrily.

"No," she refused grabbing her coat and purse. "If Emmett can go off to get killed in some other country we've never even heard of, and both of you are happy about it, then I don't see what the big deal is about what I wear." With a slam of the door she was gone. My dad chased after, yelling at her to come back, but she was already climbing into a car and driving off.

My parents gave each other an exasperated look before they started arguing with each other. They blamed one another for the uncontrollable behavior Alice was expressing. I quietly slipped upstairs before climbing out my window with a blanket in hand. With the way this night had already started out I knew my parents wouldn't even miss me being gone.

Running back over to the diner, I really started to question what I was doing. I didn't even know his name. For all I knew he could have lied to me about every single thing he told me in the diner. That night though, I didn't care. I realized earlier in the day our family would never be the same again. Nothing seemed important anymore. There was no reason to be cautious or scared to take a chance.

As I got closer to the man sitting on the bench I slowed my pace. His head rose to look up as I stood in front of him.

"Come on," I gestured, holding out my hand to him and tipping my head. He stared at my hand for a moment before smirking.

"I don't even know you're name," he pointed out.

"My name is Bella," I offered waiting for him to tell me his name.

"Edward," he greeted taking my hand. I pulled him to his feet and motioned for him to follow me. He chuckled but followed me anyway. We ran through the streets until we reached the small trail, which lead through the woods. I'd been coming out here since I was just a kid. Emmett and I found it when we were little. Alice never wanted to come out here with us so it became a special place for me and Emmett.

We reached the meadow within minutes and I lead him over to the tree where Emmett and I had built a small tree fort, years ago. He followed me up to the rickety old tree house and ducked his head to be able to get inside. I laid the blanket down on the wooden floor and sat down, pulling my knees to my chest. Edward looked around with a concerned expression on his face.

"My brother, Emmett, and I built this when we were kids," I giggled while explaining what this was.

"That explains why it doesn't look safe," he joked. I scoffed at his comment making him laugh even more. He sat down across from me and pulled his knees up just like I had. "Why did you bring me here?"

"You said you didn't have anywhere to go. I didn't want you to sit on that bench all night long."

"So you thought a condemned tree house would be a better option?" he asked.

"Hey," I whined, insulted by what he said of my tree house.

He reached for my hand and took it in his, with a sullen look on his face. "Thank you," he whispered.

"It's just an old tree house," I said brushing off the gesture.

"No, it's not the tree house I'm thanking you for. It's for making me laugh," he corrected. "I don't think I've truly laughed since before my parents died, or at least since my brother left."

"When did he leave?" I asked.

"Two years ago."

"Well, that's good then. He should be getting out soon, right?" The look on his face told me I was wrong. Of all people who would know he would. If his brother had been there for two years already he would know firsthand what it's like."

"Can you tell me what it's like there?" I asked. "Is it really as bad and the news broadcasts are saying?"

He chuckled lightly and lowered his head. "It's worse, Bella. If you go there, most likely you aren't coming home."

Tears suddenly sprung to my eyes. All I could think about was my brother not coming home. "I don't think it's fair we have to go over there. Why do we need to be involved in the first place?" I asked trying to fight the tears back.

He reached up and gently brushed the tear away from the corner of my eye. His hand against my skin sent shockwaves through my body. I'd never been touched in such a way by someone.

"He'll be okay," he assured tenderly while his fingers lingered against my neck. His once haunting green eyes were suddenly smoldering with unshed tears of his own. "At least he has someone back here waiting for him and expecting word from him."

"You really don't have anyone else waiting for you?" I asked.

"No. Like I said the only family I have is my brother, and he's already over there. I won't be missed."

"I'll miss you," I admitted before I even registered what came out of my mouth. "I… I didn't mean… What I meant was…"

I never did finish the thought since he leaned in and pressed his warm, soft lips to mine. I know I probably should have had certain thoughts running through my head; like was I kissing right? Should I be allowing someone I barely know to kiss me? Was I enjoying my first kiss? Was it everything I'd hoped it would be? Was this actually happening to me or was I dreaming? Although these thoughts should have been running through my mind, none of them were. All rational thought left my mind, and all I focused on was feeling everything physically.

With a sudden jerk, he pulled away and wiped his lips with his fingers. "I'm sorry. I probably shouldn't have done that."

"Did I do it wrong?" I asked.

He chuckled. "No."

"Then why shouldn't you have done it?"

"Because I don't know you," he answered. "I don't even know how old you are."

"I'm sixteen," I quickly answered before he could say anything else. I don't know why I wanted him to continue kissing me considering I barely knew him, but I liked it. "I'll be seventeen at the end of the summer."

"What about your boyfriend?" he asked.

"What boyfriend?"

"The guy at the diner," he reminded. "You seemed rather friendly with him."

"Jake isn't my boyfriend. He's just an old family friend who thinks he can be overly friendly with me because we've known each other forever."

He nodded his head in understanding while fidgeting with the frayed hem of his pants.

"You really didn't have to stop," I assured leaning forward and trying to bring his attention back on me.

He looked up at me through his lashes and smirked. "Is this a service you provide for all men who pass through on their way to enlist?"

"No," I answered. "Only you."

"Only me, huh?" he asked raising his head even further. "And what is it that makes me different from all the others?"

I shrugged my shoulders and ducked my head bashfully. "I don't know. I guess I just like something about you."

His fingers gently touched my chin and raised my head to look at him. He leaned in and once again kissed me with a forceful passion. He slowly laid me back on the hard floor and lay down next to me while we kissed. We kissed for hours it seemed, until we both fell asleep in each other's arms with the blanket wrapped around us.

When the sun woke us in the morning, Edward jumped up in a panic. "Shit, I'm going to be late for the bus."

We quickly climbed out of the tree house and through the trees until we reached the town. He held my hand tightly in his as we ran down the alleyway towards the diner. We could see the bus stopped in front of the diner loading passengers already. Before we emerged from the alley and into the main street where everyone had gathered, Edward pulled me to the corner and pressed me against the wall. His mouth was only inches from mine and his heated, erratic breaths from running washed over my face. I tilted my head towards him in an attempt to kiss him, but stopped myself before I did. His eyes closed and his eyebrows scrunched up like he was in pain.

"Can I write to you?" he asked.

"Yes," I replied. "Write to me every day, and I'll write back."

His thumb brushed across my cheekbone, and his forehead leaned against mine. "Thank you." Our lips met in the middle with a tender kiss, before he bolted away from me and ran towards the bus. My heart already felt like it was breaking. I wanted to cry, but I couldn't. I knew his last words meant so much more than he let on.

I slowly walked across the road and found my family standing on the sidewalk saying their goodbyes to Emmett. Rosalie and my mother were already crying. Alice stood a few feet away with her back to them and her arms across her chest. She was the one who openly expressed her anger with Emmett leaving, while I'm sure the rest of us hid it as best we could for Emmett's sake.

"There you are?" my dad said noticing me walking over to them. "Where've you been?"

"In the tree house," I answered.

"The tree house we built when we were kids?" Emmett asked with a grin on his face.

"Yeah," I replied.

"I remember that. Is it still standing?"

I nodded my head fighting the tears unsuccessfully. "I slept there last night."

Emmett pulled me into his arms hugging me tightly. "No reason to cry, Bella," he whispered. "I'll be fine. I'll be back in just a couple of years. Take care of my Rosie for me. I know you two don't always get along but she could really use a friend right now, as could Alice. I know neither of them want me to go, but I have to. I need my little sister to be strong in my place."

I nodded my head against his chest and fought the tears even harder. "Can you do me a favor?" I asked quietly so no one could hear me.

"Anything, Bella."

"There's a man on the bus named Edward, and he could really use a friend too. He's heading to the same place you are. Could you watch out for him?"

He pulled me away from him and held me at arm's length to look at me. He gave me a peculiar look before smirking and nodding his head in agreement.

"Take care of yourself and come back to us."

"I will, Sis. Don't worry." He rubbed the top of my head playfully before walking over to Alice and forcing her to give him a hug goodbye. Our dad gave him a few last words of encouragement while my mom hugged him as tight as she could and kissed him on the cheek. The last person he hugged was his new wife, Rosalie. As much as I really didn't care for Rosalie, I couldn't imagine anyone else for my brother.

The bus driver called for all passengers to load, so Emmett reluctantly pulled away from Rosalie and boarded the bus.

We all stood in the road and watched the bus drive away, waving frantically one last time as we watched my brother leave. It almost felt surreal. I didn't want it to be real. I wanted to wake up and realize I was only dreaming. However, it wasn't a dream. It was more real than anything.

Days passed and everything seemed to go back to normal. We continued to run the diner like always. Rosalie even started working there to support the family. Rosalie came from an upper class family and they never approved of her dating Emmett. They were furious when they found out she married him without their consent and just days before he left for the military. Rosalie, as snotty and stuck up as she might be, loved my brother and would stick by him no matter what. She left her family for ours and was determined to become one of us. Emmett leaving, I think, in a way humbled her a little. She was much more tolerable than in the past, and we actually seemed to be getting along better.

Alice continued to rebel and cause even more friction between our parents. She became almost unrecognizable. She started wearing more and more revealing clothing and wearing thick make-up. She would leave for days at a time without any word of where she was. When she was home all she did was sleep. It was like living with a stranger instead of my own sister.

Mom cried almost every night after Emmett left. She tried to hide it from all of us, but I could hear her on the porch sobbing and probably smoking a cigarette to calm her nerves. She never smoked in front of us and very rarely smoked to begin with. However, with Emmett gone she had picked up the habit again.

My dad engulfed himself in his work at the diner, even suggesting opening up another one in the neighboring town. Our family was pretty much ripped apart once Emmett left. All that was holding us together was the hope of his safe return in a couple years.

It was almost two weeks before we got our first letter from Emmett. We were all ecstatic to read what he had to say and tell us about basic training. Unfortunately, his letter was short, only telling us he had made it safely and was working hard to bring honor to our family and country. He said he loved us all and couldn't wait to see all of us again. He missed dad's cooking and mom's hugs. He missed picking on his little sisters and spending hours with us playing games as kids. Most of all, he missed Rosalie and wished desperately just to see her face one more time.

His letter brought tears of joy and sorrow to all of our eyes. Rosalie quickly began a return letter and even asked me if I'd be willing to take a picture of her to send to him. We worked out an agreement and took pictures of each other as a fun game. I didn't know if Edward was still planning to write to me, but if he did I wanted to send him a picture of myself also; if he wanted it, anyway.

I waited everyday for a letter from Edward, but not one ever came. As much as it hurt, I had to come to the realization what happened between Edward and I that night might not have meant as much to him as it did to me.

Out of the blue, almost two months after he left, I finally got a letter. It shocked me to be honest. I had finally come to terms with him not being sincere when he said he would write, and now here it was – a letter.

Trying to keep the grin off my face I ran upstairs to my room to see what the letter said.

Dear Bella,

I hope it's okay I still write to you. I've been a little nervous to do so, but Emmett said I should. Your brother and I have become good friends here. He talks about you quite a bit, although I hear more about Rosalie than I'd care to hear.

Basic training really isn't all that bad. As long as you do as you're told then everything is fine. There's been a lot of talk about all of us getting shipped off to Vietnam in a couple months, but I don't know if it's going to actually happen. Emmett is convinced we won't go there. He thinks we'll be sent somewhere else safer since most of us who are here now are still pretty young. But don't worry, wherever we go I'll look out for your brother. I know how important he is to you and your family. I'll make sure he comes home to all of you.

Anyway, thanks for making me smile the night before I left. I think it would have been a lot harder to leave if it wasn't for you. I hope you write back, but if you don't I'll understand.

Edward

I grinned from ear to ear reading the short letter over and over again. I don't know what it was about Edward, but I was entirely too wrapped up in him. After one night I think I was already falling in love with him. Finally getting a letter just confirmed even more how much I was.

I quickly scribbled out a reply telling him how much I appreciated his letter and would be more than happy to write to him. I thanked him for looking out for my brother, and told him how much it meant to me that he would do that for me and my family. I told him how much I enjoyed our night together before he left and would never forget it. There was so much more I wanted to say, but I didn't want to come off too bold in the first letter. I never did send him a picture of myself either, in fear he might think it was too soon.

For months we wrote letters back and forth. Most were short and just told what we were doing or how things were going. I told him about school and how I'd been working more and more at the diner to make up for my sister never helping out anymore. It was very much like a friendship than anything else. As much as I wanted it to be more and I thought it was going to be more, our correspondences were nothing more than a close friendship. It broke my heart he didn't seem to care about me the same way I did him. However, if all I could get was a close friendship with him I'd take it.

After four months of being in basic training we received a letter from Emmett informing us he was being sent to Vietnam in two weeks. All of us were devastated. We knew it was a possibility but to finally know it was actually happening was scary. I went to bed that night crying my eyes out, as did Rosalie. I'm pretty sure I heard my mom outside crying like she did quite often. My dad went to the diner and spent the entire night there hiding out from all of us. Alice was never around anyway and wasn't even there to hear the news about Emmett.

Just a couple days later I received a letter from Edward. I already knew what it was going to say, and I almost didn't want to read it. If I didn't read it then it wouldn't be real. Unfortunately, I couldn't ignore it for long. I had to face the truth head on. Hiding in the tree house late one night I finally opened the letter. I was practically in tears before I even read a single word.

Dear Bella,

I'm sure you already know what's happening here, so I'm not even going to worry you with the details. Just know I'll look out for Emmett for you as best I can.

I know I'm probably going to sound really stupid for saying this, but I think about you every day. I think about that night up in the tree house. I think about how if I hadn't walked into the diner I would have never met you. I think about the way your lips felt against mine and how they tasted. I think about how soft and warm your skin was. Sometimes I'm positive I can smell your sweet scent even here amongst all the sweaty men I bunk with. You're the only thing keeping me going, as crazy as that might sound. I didn't have anyone until you came along and changed my world completely in one night. Is it even possible to fall in love with someone after one night? I don't know if you feel the same way or if I'm just making a fool out of myself. I just wanted you to know how I felt about you before I left. I want you to know how important you are to me. I need you to understand that without you I could have never gotten through this. You are the only reason for living and for fighting to come back. When I come home I want to come home to you. It'll always be only you. I hope you feel the same way.

I love you

Edward

Instead of the sad tears I was sure were going to come after reading this letter I had tears of happiness. He loved me? He wanted to come home to me? I didn't know what to say or how to respond. I'd never been in this situation before. I needed to talk to someone for advice.

As much as I hated going to Rosalie for advice she was really my only option. I climbed out of the tree house and ran all the way home. When I got there Rosalie was upstairs packing a bag.

"Where are you going?" I asked.

"I'm going to visit Emmett," she answered. "My parents are surprisingly paying for me to go visit him before he leaves."

"Can you do that? Are you allowed to visit him?"

"All the men get a week off before they're shipped out. I would never ask your parents for the money to go down to visit him, and Emmett doesn't have the time to come home so I'm going there," she answered.

"How long do you plan to be gone?" I wondered, thinking maybe I could go with her to visit Edward. I had money of my own.

"Probably about a week and a half," she said as she continued to pack her suitcase. "I want to stay as long as I possibly can."

"Would you be willing to let me go with you?" I asked. She stopped her packing and looked up at me peculiarly.

"Are you going to see Emmett or someone else?" she questioned suspiciously.

I sighed, sitting down on the bed. "Rose, I don't know what to do. I need some advice," I blurted. She sat down next to me and gave me a serious look. "I met this man at the diner the night before Emmett left. He was so sad, so I sat down and talked with him for a while and later that night I met with him again. We've been writing back and forth for months now and today I got a letter from him telling me he loved me and wanted to come home to me after the war is over. I don't know what to say to him."

"Do you love him back?" she asked.

"I guess I do. I always wanted him to love me, but all along our letters have all been friendly not romantic. I wasn't expecting this from him. I don't want to tell him I love him in a letter. I want to tell him to his face. Will you help me?"

"What is it you want me to do?"

"Convince my parents to let me go with you," I replied. "I have money. I'll pay my own way. I just have to see him before he goes."

"Alright," she agreed. "I can't promise anything, but I'll see what I can do. It would be nice to have someone I know to go with."

I was a nervous wreck the following day. I had planned to talk to my parents about going with Rose at dinner. Rose was going to help me. I prayed she would be able to convince them to let me go.

At dinner that night we all sat around the table silently stewing in our own sorrows. "Mom," I said trying to break the silence. She looked up at me with a saddened look on her face. "I was wondering if it would be okay for me to go with Rosalie to visit Emmett. I have my own money. I'll pay for the bus ticket and help Rose with a hotel room for us to stay in."

"Absolutely not," my dad interjected. I jumped at the tone of his voice. "You aren't going down there to see some boy you barely know. I don't want you writing to him any longer, either. Don't lie to us by saying you want to go to see Emmett and help Rosalie out."

I was speechless. I knew they knew about the letters but why suddenly was it a bad thing?

"Charlie," Rose began. "I could really use a friend to go with me. I'm sure Emmett would like to see Bella too. This isn't all about the boy she's been writing to. I asked her if she would come with me to keep me company."

"The answer is still no. She can't miss school and she's needed at the diner. We can't afford to have you off for any long amounts of time. If you want to take someone with you then take Alice."

"Alice!" we both shrieked at the same time.

"Why Alice? She's never here," I asked.

"Alice doesn't have school. I think it would be good for Alice to see her brother before he leaves. If we could afford it I would have us all go down there to see him before he leaves, but we can't. We have to keep the diner running."

"The diner is all you care about. What about your kids, Dad? Do you even care about us anymore?" I shouted pushing away from the table and storming off. I ran to my room and slammed the door behind me before throwing myself on the bed and crying.

A little while later my mom walked in and rubbed my back soothingly. "Your dad loves you," she said with a soft voice. "It's why he doesn't want you to go. He doesn't want you to go through the pain and hurt when this boy you've been writing to doesn't come back. He's trying to protect you from heartache."

I sat up and swiped against my tears. "So refusing to let me go visit him is going to stop me from hurting? What he said tonight hurt more than if Edward didn't come home."

"Is this his home?" she questioned. "Is this really where he's from or was he just passing through on his way to basic training?" I hated how my mom always knew everything whether I told her or not. I'm sure she even knew where Alice was even though we hadn't seen her in a few days.

"When we first met he was passing through. But now it's different. I got a letter yesterday saying when he's done with his tour of duty he's coming back here for me. He doesn't have any other home or family to go to. He loves me, Mom. And I love him too."

"You fell in love with someone through letters?" she asked skeptically.

"Yes, I did." I tried to sound as confident as possible.

Condescendingly she shook her head and sighed. "Bella."

"Mom, don't even try to tell me it's not possible. I love him. I'd marry him right now if I could. I wouldn't even question what I was doing."

"Which is exactly what your father is trying to protect you from," she explained. "Do you really want to be a war widow at seventeen? We don't want you to go through that sort of pain. It's best to let him go his own way so you aren't hurt in the long run."

"But it's okay for Emmett and Rosalie? Why is everyone so proud of Emmett and coddling Rosalie during this difficult time instead of telling her to let him go so she's not hurt if he doesn't come back? It's not fair, Mom."

"I'm already dealing with a rebellious child in Alice and Emmett going off to war, so don't start acting out now and making my life even more difficult," she angrily said. I huffed and threw myself back on my bed. "Just let him go for your own sake. There are other young men right here who would be excellent boyfriend material and aren't going off to war. I know Jacob has always had his eyes on you. Why don't you date him for a while?"

"I'm not dating Jacob." I rolled my eyes at her suggestion and buried my head even further into my pillow.

"It was only a suggestion. Anyway, you have school and work at the diner. Plus you're just barely seventeen. I'm not letting my seventeen year old daughter travel all the way down to California to visit some soldier she barely knows."

"Fine," I accepted angrily. She left my room a little while later leaving me alone to cry myself to sleep. The next day I went to school and worked at the diner like I was supposed to. However, I avoided talking to either of my parents. I was still mad at them for not letting me go. I even skipped dinner refusing to eat with them like we were this happy family. We weren't and wouldn't be until Emmett was back.

Late in the night I was awoken by Rosalie shaking my shoulder and whispering my name. I sat up just as she was turning on my lamp. I squinted away from the bright light.

"What are you doing?" I asked groggily.

"Do you still want to go?" she asked sitting down next to me on the bed.

"What do you mean? Mom and dad said I couldn't go."

"I know. But if you want to go I have a way for us to get there. We just need to leave now before your parents wake up for the day."

I glanced at the clock realizing it was two o'clock in the morning. Was she really serious?

"Come on. We don't have a lot of time. Get a bag packed and let's go." I jumped out of bed, not waiting a second longer and began to haphazardly pack a bag with some clothes. I grabbed the sock I kept my tip money in out of my drawer and stuffed it in my bag. Flipping off the lights to my room and shutting the door, I quietly followed Rose downstairs and out the front door. As soon as we hit the sidewalk we ran down the road to the waiting car. We jumped in the back and were greeted by Alice who was driving. She quickly sped off into the night and the three of us left our little town for a world we'd never seen.

I was shocked to see my sister and driving a car I'd never seen either. She assured us both it was a friend's who let her borrow it for the week. With the money Rosalie's parents gave her and my tip money we had plenty to get down to California and stay in a hotel while we were there. Alice and I chose not to call our parents, knowing if we did they would insist we come home. I wasn't going home until I saw Edward one last time.

We took turns driving and sleeping in the backseat. We didn't want to stop for anything other than gas and food. The sooner we got there the better.

We arrived late the following day and checked into a nearby hotel. We all freshened up before we went out to find Emmett and Edward. I changed into a floral dress and pulled my hair up into a ribbon like I did most times. Alice applied make-up to both Rosalie and I.

Rosalie had already talked to Emmett about where they would meet and told him to bring Edward along. The three of us headed out and waited along the pier for Emmett and Edward to show up. Rosalie excitedly watched and waited for him to come. Alice leaned against a post looking rather bored. The minute Rosalie saw Emmett walking towards us she took off running and jumped into his arms. They embraced intimately, not even caring who was around or who was watching them. They were in their own little world. The joy my brother had on his face seeing Rosalie again was the most wonderful look I'd ever seen. It made coming down here even more important.

Edward hesitantly walked towards me and stopped a few feet away with a nervous expression across his face. "Hi."

"Hi." We both stood there awkwardly trying to think of what to do next.

"Just kiss him already," Alice shouted towards me. "It is the whole reason we came down here, right?"

"Alice," I whined mortified by her outburst. She just rolled her eyes and started walking towards the water.

Edward chuckled and ducked his head bashfully before running his hands through his non-existent hair.

"I'm sorry, that's my sister, Alice. She's not shy as you can tell," I apologized.

"Is what she said true?" he asked.

I bit my lip looking up at him with bashful eyes. "Maybe." He smirked and took a few steps closer to me.

"I was afraid I might have scared you away with my last letter," he admitted.

I shook my head assuring him he hadn't. He took another step towards me, and I met him with a couple steps of my own. His hand reached for my waist pulling me closer to him while his other hand gently cupped my face. I tilted my head towards him allowing what I knew was coming. His lips barely brushed against mine at first, but slowly, we were embraced in a passionate kiss full of emotion and longing for each other. My arms wrapped around his neck and held him close. I didn't care who saw us or what people thought. This could be my last chance to see him. I wasn't going to let anyone ruin it.

When our kiss finally did break he smiled hugely and held me tightly against his body. "I've missed you."

"I've missed you too."

"Come on you two," Rose called. "We're going to go down on the beach and watch the sunset."

I took Edward's hand and followed him down to the beach. We sat there wrapped in each other's arms and watched the sunset. As beautiful as it might have been it only brought the realization that another day had passed and there were only a couple more days left. I didn't want to be apart from him for one moment. Rose felt the same way about Emmett so the four of us did everything together. Alice was around a little, but like she did back home, she disappeared quite often.

In those few short days Edward and I were together we became even closer than I thought was possible. I loved him more than anything. I knew my love for him would last forever, and I'd wait as long as I had to for him to return. Although none of us ever talked about it, we knew it was only a matter of time before we would be split up indefinitely. It was easier not to discuss it and pretend it wasn't a possibility.

On the last night before they had to leave, the five of us went to dinner at a really nice restaurant and tried to have as good a time as possible. Alice even seemed to be enjoying herself, which was uncommon lately. After dinner Alice said she was meeting up with some friends she'd made and wouldn't be back until early the next morning. Since we were all sharing a hotel room I thought it would be good to give Rose and Emmett some privacy on their last night together, so I suggested Edward and I take the car for a couple hours.

Edward drove silently into the night while I sat in the passenger seat. We ended up on top of a cliff overlooking the ocean. It was a deserted, out of the way, place with no one around to bother us. We were completely alone.

Edward reached for my hand and pulled me into his side from across the seat.

"I'm going to miss you," he whispered against my hair.

"I'll miss you too," I cried.

"Don't cry. I'll come back, Bella. I promise. God wouldn't bring you into my life if he was just going to take me away. I know I'll come back. I have a reason for coming back now."

I nodded my head against his chest and wiped my tears with his shirt. I looked up at his eyes knowing exactly what I needed to do. I needed to show him just how much I loved him. I leaned up and kissed him fervently. He moaned against my lips sensing what I wanted. His lips trailed down my neck as I began to pull his shirt free from his pants and remove the buttons.

"Are you sure?" he whispered against my ear.

"I've never been more sure about anything in my life. I love you, Edward. I want you to make love to me."

Not wasting a minute more, he helped me into the back seat of the car and began to unbutton my blouse. His hands touched me in every spot possible. As nervous as I was at first I wanted this to be right, so I pushed away my insecurities and just let myself enjoy it.

"I've never done this before, Bella," he admitted against my skin.

"Neither have I," I said, pulling him up to my face so I could look at him. "We'll muddle through it somehow." He laughed exuberantly before kissing me on the lips. My fingers gently caressed the spot at the base of his neck and held him close. Our lovemaking was somewhat awkward for both of us, but it meant so much. It was short, sweet, gentle, emotional, magical, and everything I wanted it to be. It was with someone I loved and someone who loved me in return. I couldn't keep the happy grin off my face as I lay in his arms in the backseat of the car while he tenderly twirled my hair around his fingers.

"I love you, Bella."

"I love you, too."

With our words of a sacred bond, I knew no matter what I would wait forever for him. He was the only one I would ever want.

Unfortunately, the hostile sunlight woke us in the morning only to remind us the day had finally come for us to say goodbye. I tried as hard as I could to not let the sunlight in. If I kept my eyes closed it couldn't possibly be morning yet.

Edward kissed the top of my head and soothed my hair out of my face. "Bella," he whispered. "We need to get back."

"No," I whined curling into his side, unwilling to let him go.

"I don't want to either, but I have to." We forced ourselves up and climbed back into the front seats to drive back.

Emmett and Rosalie were already up and looking miserable when we returned to the hotel. Alice sauntered in a little while later looking drunk or stoned. I really wasn't sure which one it was.

The five of us drove back to the base camp and one last time said our goodbyes. Rosalie balled uncontrollably. Even Alice had tears in her eyes.

Edward in front of me in his army uniform and his green bag placed at his side on the ground. His forehead rested against mine, painfully trying to say goodbye.

"I'm going to be in a lot of trouble when I get home, so if you don't get a letter from me for a while it's not because I don't want to write to you, it's probably because I can't. I will as soon as I possibly can though," I assured him.

"It's okay. I probably won't be able to write as much either while I'm over there. I'll write as often as I can," he promised. I nodded my head and sighed feeling the tears well in my eyes.

"I have something for you. It's silly, but Rose and I took these a while ago, and I wanted to give it to you so you wouldn't forget me." I handed him the picture of me, Rose took months ago. He looked down at it and smiled brightly.

"I could never forget you," he whispered against my ear before kissing my cheek. "You're my only reason for living."

His words were my undoing. I began to sob and let it all out, incapable of holding it in any longer.

"No crying," Edward said while we stood in each other's arms one last time. "Remember what I said about how I'll come back. I won't leave you."

"What if you find some beautiful Vietnamese woman who you can't resist?" I wondered hearing stories of that happening.

"It won't happen. You will always be the only one for me. I'll never want anyone else. I'll come back for you, so wait for me."

"I'll wait forever," I promised giving him one last kiss and a hug.

Telling Emmett goodbye one last time and promising him I'd take care of Rose if he took care of Edward, the two of them walked away and into the unknown. Rose, Alice, and I were left holding onto each other for comfort.

Later in the day, after we had dismally packed up all of our belongings and paid the bill for the hotel, we walked out to the car and started to get in.

"I'm not going back," Alice blurted.

"What?" Rose and I said in unison.

"When you get back just park the car in the parking lot at the high school. The guy who owns it will pick it up."

"Alice, what are you doing?" I asked.

"It's why I agreed to come with you. I came down here to meet with some other protesters I'd heard about. We're going to try to get this war ended. No one should go through what both of you are right now. It's not fair to any of you. This war isn't right, and I can't sit back and let it happen without trying to do something to stop it."

"Alice," I begged.

"Don't try to stop me. I'm eighteen. Mom and dad can't do anything about it. I'll come home eventually. I'm just in the way at home anyway. I'll be fine. I'm with good people."

"Please don't do this," I pleaded. "What am I supposed to tell mom and dad?"

"Tell them the truth. It'll probably help you in your punishment because they'll be more upset with me than with you. Go back and I'll write when I can to let you know where I am."

Crying once again I wrapped my arms around my sister and held her tightly. I missed her already. Not only would I have to miss my brother and the man I loved, but now I had to miss my sister too. It was far too much to handle. I broke down into loud sobs. Alice, unwilling to be swayed by my crying, gave a silent Rose a hug goodbye and took off.

Only a mile out of town Rose and I had to pull over and embrace each other out of sheer need of comfort. We sat there on the side of the highway for well over an hour and just cried. Eventually we headed back out. The entire drive home all Rose and I could do was cry.

Weeks passed without any word from Emmett, Edward, or Alice. Rose and I waited impatiently everyday for any word from any of them. Unsurprisingly, my parents were upset with me. It didn't matter that Alice never came back. I think I got punished for her rebellion as well as my own. I was only allowed to go to school, the diner, and home. That was it. In most cases I wouldn't care since I never really went anywhere else anyway, but the haunting feeling I got from being at home was unbearable. Our family was no longer a family. We were silent and numb. We were ripped apart by separation and grief. None of us even talked to each other anymore. Rosalie and I were the only ones who ever talked, which even still wasn't much. Usually it was because one of us needed a comforting word or two from the other. It was nice to have someone else going through the same thing. We understood each other. We were able to help the other when needed. We became much closer than I thought we ever could. However, not having my sister, my brother, or even my parents to comfort me, made missing Edward even harder.

Rose and I wrote letters almost daily to the address we were given. If we just got one letter, no matter how short it may be, it would bring that comfort we both longed for.

We got our first letters almost eight weeks after they left. I'm not sure what Emmett's letter to Rose said, but the one he sent to the family was short and sweet. He basically told us it really wasn't that bad and they were having fun on the beaches. They'd made lots of friends and everything was going just fine. There was nothing to worry about and he'd be home before we knew it. However, when I read Edward's letter to me later on in private he painted a different picture of what it was like.

Dear Bella,

I hope you are doing well and you're enjoying your junior year in high school. I remember that always being my hardest year of school. Senior year seemed to fly by so quickly. How is working at the diner going? Did your dad ever open up that second store you mentioned a while back? When I get home I'd really enjoy working for your dad if he's willing to accept me. I want to be a part of your family in every way possible.

I found my brother here. He's much different than the last time I saw him, but he's still my brother. I was ecstatic when I saw him for the first time. I've told him all about you, and he can't wait to meet you. I'm sure he gets sick of me talking about you all the time, but I can't help myself. He'll probably be out of here before I am so he's promised me once he gets out he'll go visit you. I hope you'll welcome him on my behalf.

I know Emmett's letter to your family was gentle compared to what it's really like here, but I can't lie to you. It's nothing like he says it is. He just doesn't want your family to worry or think he's in danger. But the truth is we live in danger every day. There are bombs going off in the distance all night long. We listen to guns being fired and people screaming all the time. We stay awake in fear, listening for the sounds to get too close. Friends we make one day, come back dead or broken the next. We go into villages of people and have to stare into the eyes of little children who have lost their entire families because of this war. When we go out in the field we aren't allowed to sleep because if we do we could be attacked. We go days without food and sleep. The weather here is horrible. One day it's hot with smoldering heat, the next it's raining buckets. The rain doesn't bother me and Emmett as much as it does others. I actually prefer the rain over the heat. The rain reminds me of home and for a moment I imagine I'm back there with you. It makes everything so much easier. I'm not telling you all this to scare you or make you worry. On the contrary, it just reminds me that no matter what kind of danger I'm put in it can't hurt me because I have you to come home to. I want you to know that every day I fight for you. Every day that passes is a day closer I get to come home to you.

I miss you so much. The picture you gave me is worn out from all the times I look at it. Everyone here thinks I'm a pussy for staring at a picture of a girl all day, but I can't help it. The girl in the picture has completely and entirely captured my heart, body, and soul. My life isn't complete without you in it. There is no life without you. I can't even express in words how much I love you. I promised you I would come back, and I'm going to keep that promise. As hard as it is to be here, I will come home. Please remember that and wait for me.

I love you more than anything.

Edward

His letter brought tears to my eyes. Not only because of what he said about where they were and what life there was like, but also all the sweet and loving things he said. I didn't think it was possible to love him any more than I already did, but after reading that letter my love for him grew even stronger. I quickly began a letter back trying hard to express my love for him in the same way he did for me. I assured him his brother would always be welcome here. There was no question about either of them being welcome. I thanked him for being honest with me about what life was really like there. I didn't want him to lie to me for my sake. I wanted us to be honest with each other. I never wanted there to be secrets between us. Unfortunately, I would break that promise in the coming months.

About three months after our trip to California I came down with what I thought was the flu. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized it wasn't the flu. I thought missing my period was because of the stress my family was under, but it wasn't. I was pregnant. My first time and I ended up pregnant. I didn't tell my parents for months knowing they would be furious. As grief stricken as my parents were I don't think they even noticed I was gaining weight or wearing baggy clothing. I hid it as best I could and if someone asked why I was gaining a little weight I told them it was just the stress of my family being separated. For some reason people bought it, except Rose.

Once school was over for the summer and I spent the entire day working at the diner it became harder to hide. Every night I would come home from work exhausted. I knew I was about six months along, yet I hadn't seen a doctor or told anyone the truth. I still wasn't exactly sure how I was going to tell my parents I was pregnant.

I came home after working an extra long shift at the diner and threw myself on my bed, too tired to even change out of my clothes. Rose walked in to the room and lay down next to me, placing her hand on my belly.

"How far along are you?" she asked.

I instantly started to cry and buried myself in her arms. She knew exactly how far along I was and whose baby it was. It was just her way of letting me know she knew.

"When are you going to tell your parents?" she asked.

"I can't," I cried. "How do I explain to them I got pregnant?"

"You aren't going to be able to hide it forever. What are you going to do when you go into labor?" she argued. I groaned feeling sorry for myself and buried my face in the pillow. "I'll support you though every step, Bella. But you have to tell them."

"Okay, I will. Just not tonight. I'm so tired. I want to sleep."

"Okay," she accepted curling up next to me and soothing my hair until I fell asleep in her arms.

I had a horrible dream while I slept.

I was in the tree house and I looked out into the field. Coming out of the trees I could see Edward running towards me, in his full uniform with gun in hand. I climbed out of the tree house and ran towards him filled with happiness and excitement to see him again. Just before we reached each other there was a bomb that went off right in front of him. Suddenly the dream changed to a full on war where guns were being shot and bombs were going off, throwing people into the air and shattering their bodies into something unrecognizable. I continued to run towards Edward and collapsed next to him on the ground. He was clearly injured and barely holding on. "I'm sorry. I tried to get back to you and the baby. I just couldn't," he chocked, before closing his eyes and letting his entire body go limp.

I woke up gasping for air and sweating profusely. I felt like I couldn't even breathe, like something was blocking my throat.

"Bella, what's wrong?" Rose asked, waking up next to me. She rubbed my shoulder trying to calm me down.

"He can't know," I muttered. I turned towards her confused face to explain further. "I don't want Edward to know about the baby. You can't even tell Emmett."

"Why?"

"He needs to focus on taking care of himself so he can come home. I don't want him to be distracted by worrying about me or the baby."

"I think knowing he has a child might make him fight harder to stay alive, don't you think?" she reasoned.

I quickly shook my head and swiped the tears off my face. "He can't know. Promise me you won't tell Emmett."

"Okay, I won't say anything," she agreed. I hugged her tightly and tried to get my composure back. "But if I'm keeping this from Emmett you have to tell your parents. I can't keep it from them."

"I will. I'll go talk to them right now." Telling my parents suddenly seemed so much easier than telling Edward. Maybe that dream was the push I needed to finally get it out in the open.

I climbed off my bed and slowly walked downstairs without even trying to hide the pregnant belly in front of me. I walked into the kitchen where my parents were sitting at the table eating breakfast and completely ignoring each other.

"I have something to tell you," I announced. They both turned towards me and took in the sight of me. My mom gasped and brought her hand to her mouth. My dad's jaw clenched with anger. I swallowed thickly against the lump in my throat. "I'm pregnant." Saying the words for the first time seemed so surreal. Saying it meant it was real.

"Bella, how could you?" my mom asked. She looked as if she was about to cry. But more importantly I saw the shame in her face.

"Who's the father?" my dad questioned angrily.

"Edward is," I answered confidently. "It happened when we went to California to visit him and Emmett."

"All this time you've been pregnant and you didn't tell us?" my mom asked.

"I couldn't. I knew you would be mad at me."

"Infuriated is more like the right word," my dad corrected standing from the table and walking to the sink. His back was to me but I knew he had more to say. "You're not keeping the baby."

"What?" I shrieked.

"You're only seventeen. You're not married. Do you even realize no man will marry you if you have a kid who was conceived out of wedlock? What kind of future is that for you or this baby? You can't expect us to take care of you and your child for the rest of your life," my dad argued.

"I'm not asking you to," I retorted. "I can take care of myself and my baby until Edward comes home. When he gets back we'll get married."

My dad scoffed at my comment, before turning around to look at me with an ostentatious smirk on his face. "Do you honestly think that boy is going to come back for you? If he's not killed over there first, he'll come back to the states and never think of you again. Why can't you see that? He used you for what he could get out of you and now he has left you with a bastard child you'll have to raise alone."

Tears streamed down my face. Rosalie came up behind me, hearing it all, and wrapped her arms around my shoulders. "He will come back. He promised me. I'm not giving away my baby. I'll take care of myself."

I stormed off unwilling to hear another word they had to say. There was no way I was giving my baby away. This was a part of Edward. How could I possibly give him away? I ran to the tree house and stayed there all day crying and sleeping as best I could.

I didn't go home until really late. I assumed everyone would be asleep by the time I walked through the door. However, my mom was sitting on the porch when I walked up the sidewalk.

"Sit down, Bella," she ordered patting the step next to her. I did as she asked taking a seat next to her. "You know your father is just upset about your brother and sister being gone. This isn't the life he wanted for any of you. Neither of us expected the three of you to be so rebellious. We thought Emmett going off and marrying Rose without letting us know was bad, but then your sister took off and God only knows where she is right now. She could be dead and we wouldn't even know. And now you end up pregnant, unmarried, and pining over some guy who may never return." She linked her fingers in front of her and dropped her head.

"Why does everyone think he's not coming back?" I asked. "Do you think Emmett's not coming back? Because if you're going to sit here and say Edward won't come back, then Emmett won't either. They won't leave each other behind. Why is it so wrong for me to have hope that the man I love will come home?" I was already sobbing once again and seriously questioned running off to the tree house again.

"I question everyday whether my children will come home. I pray to God probably a hundred times a day begging him to keep Emmett and Alice safe. I beg God to let me take their place. Let me die for them to be safe. They're my children who I don't get to see anymore. I don't know if they're cold or if they're scared. I can't be there to protect them and make them all better with a simple kiss. Two pieces of my heart were ripped out, and I don't know if I'll ever get them back. I didn't need another reason to beg God for my children's safety and well-being." I'd never seen my mom cry so openly and be so honest with me before. All I could think to do was hug her and try to make her understand how I was feeling.

"This is my child, Mom. If it's taken away from me a part of my heart will be ripped away, and I'll never get it back," I explained through my tears. She nodded her head against my shoulder in understanding. We weren't much different.

"Then we need to figure out what to do," she suggested. She pulled away and wiped her tears and nose. "I assume you're about six months along, right?" I nodded my head to answer her. "Alright, I've talked to Rosalie and she's agreed to go with you to a place where you'll be cared for and you can have adequate medical care when the baby is born. Afterwards, you'll come home and Rosalie will care for the baby while you're at school. You will finish school." Her plan wasn't a suggestion, it was an order.

"Why can't I stay here to have the baby?" I asked.

"I don't want people to know my seventeen year old daughter got pregnant out of wedlock by a soldier. It won't just bring shame to you but our entire family and the business we've worked so hard to build. We're going to pretend the baby is Rosalie and Emmett's. It's easier to explain to people. Rosalie will tell people she went to visit family to give birth and you went with her." I began to shake my head in protest. I wasn't going to lie about my baby. "This is the only way it'll work and your only option if you want to keep this baby. If this boy does come back then we'll figure out what to do about it then."

"When he comes back," I corrected. "He will come back, Mom. I know he will."

She nodded her head and patted my shoulder condescendingly. "You need to pack. You and Rosalie leave in the morning."

"One last thing, Mom," I began as she stood to her feet and walked towards the front door. "I don't want Edward to know. He needs to focus on taking care of himself. I don't want him worrying about me. You can't tell Emmett, because Emmett will tell Edward."

"Don't worry, Bella. I don't plan to tell anyone."

Her words hurt far more than you could have imagined. I was practically being shunned by my own mother. I tried to let it go for the time being and went upstairs to pack a bag. Rosalie walked in shortly after I got back and sat down on my bed. Her head was down like she was upset about something. "Are you mad at me now, too?" I asked thinking she was probably going to give me her lecture like my parents had.

"No," she assured laughing lightly. "I just feel bad for you. I wish there was more I could do."

I walked over and gave her a hug reminding her that Emmett and Edward would come back and there was nothing to worry about. We could go along with this little ploy for now for the sake of my family, but when Edward came home everything would work itself out.

The next morning, Rosalie and I left for this place my mom had arranged for us to go. My dad didn't even tell me goodbye. My mom promised she'd write and if any letters came she would send them to us. She gave us both a hug goodbye and sent us on our way.

The place I was sent was a home for unwed mothers hidden away in a small town a few hours away from where we lived. We weren't allowed to leave the property. We weren't allowed to watch TV or listen to the radio. We were put on strict schedules for eating, bathing, sleeping, exercising, and writing to our families. Everything we did was a calculated schedule. Most of the women there were planning to give their babies up for adoption out of the insistence of their parents. Most the girls and even the caretakers believed Rosalie was who planned to adopt my baby and that's why she was with me. We never told them the truth. I'm not sure if my mother had set it up that way to protect us or if it's what she hoped I'd end up doing. But I wasn't giving up my baby.

About three months later on September first, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy who I named Edward Anthony Cullen Junior. As much as the doctors and caretakers insisted I give the baby the Swan name on his birth certificate, I didn't. He was mine and Edward's son, and no one was going to take him from us.

"He looks so much like Edward," I admired while Rosalie held him in her arms at my bedside.

"He looks a little like you too. One thing for sure, he's definitely the most beautiful baby I've ever seen," she admired, rubbing his head gently.

I smiled and nodded my head in agreement. "I wish Edward was here to see him. He'd be so proud."

"He'll be back soon and so will Emmett," Rose assured.

"We haven't heard from them in six months. What if something is seriously wrong with them?"

"They're fine, Bella. If something happened we would have heard about it. They're just busy. We knew letters weren't going to come as often. We just have to hold on to hope," Rose said handing me my son and letting him rest in my arms. I looked down at his tiny little face and was reminded of something Edward said right before he left. God wouldn't have brought me into his life if he was just planning to take him away. Edward Junior was my new hope in Edward's safe return. God wouldn't have brought this precious little baby into my life if he was planning to take his daddy away.

Three weeks after I gave birth we headed home. To my surprise my parents welcomed us back with open arms, adoring my son openly. Friends from all over town had come to see the new addition to our family. Unfortunately, they were all under the impression he was Rose's. The all congratulated her and told her how beautiful he was and how radiant she looked after giving birth. The entire time, I sat there and watched all these people dote all over my baby and tell Rose how much he looked like Emmett but had her beauty. All I could do was cry. One woman even told me to stop being so selfish and be happy for my sister-in-law. I hated all of them. If it was even possible I would have ran away like Alice did and took my son as far away from them as I could. However, it wasn't possible so I had to endure it.

Once they all left I grabbed my baby and locked myself in my room. I didn't want anyone else to touch him. I didn't want anyone to come near him. I knew I had to present a front for the sake of my family's status in the community, but I wasn't about to let my child be paraded around for everyone to gawk at.

I spent the following weeks doing everything I could to keep Edward Junior away from anyone who came by to see him. I hated that my mom thought it necessary to establish my son as Rose's even before we were back. It was like she had planned for him to be Rose's all along and eventually I would just let it happen. Rose was the only one who understood what I was going through and made sure I had as much time with my baby without any distractions.

As much as I hated it, I had to go back to school. It was part of the agreement I had set up with my mom in return for keeping my baby. I made Rose promise me she wouldn't let him out of her sight and wouldn't let anyone hold him. I didn't want anyone to even look at him. When people would say he looked just like Rose and Emmett, it was probably the hardest part of this ruse we were playing. He didn't look like either of them, he looked like his daddy. If anyone saw Edward they would know he was the father.

My senior year in high school was a lot harder than I thought it would be. Taking care of an infant and trying to keep up with school, as well as work at the diner, turned out to be more than I could handle. I depended on Rose far more than I planned to, but she was there to help me through everything. I wouldn't have made it without Rosalie and Jake's help.

Jake still came around to visit and was still a close friend of mine. He knew Edward Junior was mine, but he didn't know anything about Edward. All he knew was the baby's father was in Vietnam with Emmett. I don't think Jake liked the idea of me being with someone else, but he accepted it. Jake helped me out as much as possible with homework and studying for school. He was a huge blessing to my studies. I just needed to make it through one more year of high school and I'd be done. Then, as soon as Edward got back I would marry him and we could leave with our son and never come back if we didn't want to.

When Edward Junior was about three months old my mom insisted I needed to get out of the house for a while. Although Christmas was fast approaching we hadn't much celebrated since Emmett had been gone. However, this year my mom wanted to go all out for Edward Junior. She didn't want him missing out on anything. I don't think she realized he was still only a baby and wouldn't even know what was going on.

Doing as my mom said, I went shopping with Rosalie while she watched the baby. Neither of us was much into shopping, and we didn't have a lot of fun like my mom thought we would. I bought a couple little things for Edward Junior, but after just a couple hours, Rose and I were ready to go home.

My mom was shocked we had come home so early so we used the excuse the crowds were really bad and we were tired. We spent the rest of the day relaxing in the living room playing with Edward Junior and talking about anything but Emmett or Edward. In the late afternoon there was a knock on the door. I hopped up and opened it to reveal a man in full military uniform. The realness of what this meant was too much to handle. I collapsed towards him and passed out.

When I came too, a few minutes later I looked up at the man who was leaning over me on the door step with my mom and Rosalie standing nearby. "Are you alright, Miss?" he asked sincerely.

"No," I cried unwilling to let the realization sink in.

"Are you Isabella Swan?" he asked.

I sighed and turned my head away unwilling to let this be real. "Edward told me all about you. The picture he showed me doesn't do you justice."

With a sudden jolt I sat up and stared at him curiously. He smirked the same way Edward did, he downcast his eyes just like Edward did when he was nervous or shy, and he ran his fingers through his non-existent hair just like Edward. My mouth hung open as I stared at him.

"Jasper?" I questioned.

His eyes shined and he grinned down at me when I said his name. "I wasn't quite sure if you would know who I was."

All I could do was shake my head in disbelief.

Jasper helped me to my feet and walked me into the house, sitting me down on the couch next to my mother and Rose. They both glanced between Jasper and I trying to understand who this man was standing in our living room.

"Why are you here?" I asked hoping it wasn't for the reason I was dreading.

He stood straighter, puffing up his chest and glanced towards the wall. "I came to inform all of you that Emmett Swan and Edward Cullen are missing in action." His words were so solemn but straightforward. It's like he had rehearsed them a hundred times before. I remember my mom gasping next to me while Rosalie instantly broke down into tears. I don't think I cried. I think everything inside of me just became numb. There wasn't any emotion or feeling left in me. I was dead inside.

"This isn't a bad thing. It doesn't mean you should lose hope," Jasper insisted taking a step closer in an attempt to comfort us.

"What do you mean not to lose hope?" Rose asked.

"Just because they're missing in action doesn't mean they're gone. Lots of soldiers go missing or get separated from their platoon and they're found days later perfectly fine," he explained. "I know being MIA isn't much more of a comfort, but it does still mean there's hope they will return. I will be based at a nearby recruiting office and will keep all of you informed on what the outcome is. You will all be the first to know when I find out."

My mom jumped to her feet and hugged him appreciatively. "Thank you so much," she sobbed against his shoulder. "You are welcome here at anytime. We have a diner down the road and you will always have a free meal waiting for you at anytime you please."

"I appreciate that, Ma'am. I may just take you up on your offer. But for now I need to get to work. If I find out anything I'll be back."

Both Rose and I gave him a hug thanking him and wishing him well. Just as Jasper left, Edward Junior began to stir in his bassinet. I quickly went to him, holding him tightly in my arms and feeling thankful he may still have a chance to know who his father is someday. I walked outside hoping to catch Jasper before he left.

"Jasper?" I called. He stopped and turned back towards me taking notice of the baby in my arms. "Can I ask a favor?"

"Of course."

"If I tell you something will you promise not to tell Edward if you happen to hear from him?" He nodded his head in agreement. "Then I'd like you to meet your nephew." I held the baby up in my arms letting Jasper get a better look. Jasper stared at the baby with bulging eyes and a gaping mouth.

"I have a nephew?" he breathed almost incoherently. I nodded my head and smiled. Jasper's hand came up and gently rubbed Edward Junior's head. "He's beautiful. Does Edward know?"

"No. I don't want him to know yet. I don't want him to be distracted while he's over there. You just promised me you wouldn't tell him, and I'm hoping you keep your word."

"You have my honor, Bella. I won't breathe a word of it to anyone. Thank you for sharing him with me. It makes missing my brother so much more tolerable. He definitely looks like Edward. What did you name him?"

"Edward," I answered with a smile. The proud look on his face made me smile. He wrapped his arms around both of us, hugging us tightly.

"Thank you," he whispered, on the verge of tears with a quivering chin. "I needed to hear that."

"You're welcome. I know how much Edward missed you, and I'm sure you're missing him just as much." He nodded his head against my shoulder letting me know how right I was.

"I'm not supposed to show emotion, though. I'm supposed to be strong, even if it is my brother. If it were possible I would be there right now searching the jungle for him. Unfortunately, I lost part of my hearing while over there and they won't let me go back."

"I'm sorry," I sympathized noticing the frustration and sadness this brought to him. "If you ever need someone to talk to, I'm always here."

He nodded his head and swiped at his eyes trying to gain his composure in front of me. He saluted me before touching Edward Junior's cheek one last time and walking the rest of the way to his car. I watched as he drove away, hoping he would come back soon with good news about Emmett and Edward.

Months went by without any word. Hope was diminishing fast in all of us. I think the initial shock of Emmett being MIA made us all realize it could very easily happen when we got word he wasn't ever coming back. We began to come to terms with this thought and accept it as if it was already fact. I however, refused to give up hope. Edward would come back. I didn't know how long it was going to take, but he was going to come home.

Jasper came by occasionally to talk or just to see his nephew, whom he'd become very fond of. He spent long hours at the diner with my dad talking and laughing. It was strange to see my dad happy again. Jasper had all these wild and crazy ideas about how to liven up the diner a little and modernize it to bring in a fresh crowd. My dad actually took him up on some of his ideas and started to do a little remodeling. Jasper even suggested we add a few fish dishes to the menu, since we did live in a state where fish were a major commodity. Jasper was actually shocked to find out there weren't any seafood items on the menu. My dad was a simplest though, which meant home-style foods. Jasper wanted to bring in a new flavor. My dad loved the idea.

In May of the next year, after being gone for more than a year without even a single word, Alice came home. She looked different than the last time we saw her. She was much wilder than she was before she left. She was loud and boisterous. Her hair had grown back a little. My parents cried and hugged her, welcoming her home with open arms. There wasn't even a word of hostility for leaving the way she did or never sending word where she was. It did make me a little upset to know I got in trouble for her leaving, but she got away with it.

She told wild stories about where she'd been and who she'd met during the year and a half she'd been gone. She even told us how she'd been to jail and she'd been right in the middle of some of the scariest places where major protesting had been going on. Instead of impressing us with her stories, I think she just ended up scaring my parents even more. With Alice home, it gave all of us a new sense of hope. If she could make it home despite all she'd been through so could Emmett and Edward.

Alice was shocked when she found out I had a baby. She felt horrible for not being there for me. For days I made snide remarks about how if she'd just called or wrote us a letter she would have known and probably come home a long time ago. She excused her irresponsibility on the fact she traveled all over the place with other people and didn't ever have a chance to call or write. I didn't buy it. I think her excuse was just a way of saying she didn't want to write in fear my parents would make her come home.

She was furious when she found out about Emmett being MIA. She went off on one of her tirades about how this was a pointless war and men were dying for no reason at all. She even thought about going back out to protest even more for the sake of her brother. That is until the first time she met Jasper.

Jasper had come over on one of his weekly visits and my sister happened to open the door for him. There was an instant connection between the two of them. In a way I think Jasper calmed her down so she wasn't so wild. Who would have thought my sister would fall in love with the brother of the man I loved. It sounded crazy, but who was I to deny their love? In the end all that mattered was my sister was home, and as long as she had Jasper, she wouldn't be leaving again.

Every day when Jasper showed up I questioned whether he was there to see Alice or if he was coming to bring us good or bad news. I always looked at his expression to read his mood. His face told everything whether he wanted it to or not. Unfortunately, he only came to see Alice. There was never any word about Edward or Emmett.

As my graduation from high school approached, I finally felt like I could acknowledge my son. I did everything my mom required of me and went along with her story. Now I could do what I wanted. If I wanted to leave with Edward Junior I could without fearing any repercussion. If Alice could do it so could I.

Late one night while I was up with Edward Junior, Rosalie walked into my room and sat down next to me. She occasionally still came to me for comfort on those really hard nights being without Emmett. She curled up next to me on the bed and reached over to rub Edward Junior's head.

"Are you planning to leave?" she asked abruptly.

I turned towards her and sighed. "I don't know yet. I want to, but this is where Edward will come when he gets home. I don't want to be too far away from here."

"I don't want you to go," she whispered. "If you leave I have no one."

I sunk down into the bed with Edward Junior sleeping against my chest and leaned my head against hers. "I won't go anywhere without you. If I leave I want you to come with me. We can work together to take care of the baby and find jobs to support all of us. We can do it, Rose."

"I can't leave," she insisted. "This is where Emmett is. If I can't have him physically I want to be surrounded by things that will remind me of him. You're lucky, you know? You have Edward Junior to remind you of Edward. I envy you so much. You have everything I wish I could have." I leaned in and hugged her trying to comfort her. The tears began to flow from both of us. "They aren't coming back, are they?"

"They will, Rose. Don't lose hope yet," I assured. We lay on the bed and cried until we both fell asleep. I had seen it coming for a while. Rose was quickly falling apart. She was withdrawn and silent most of the time. She didn't take care of herself as much as she used to. I feared if we didn't get word soon she might lose it all together. Knowing this made me realize I couldn't leave her. As much as I wanted to get away from my parents I couldn't leave Rosalie behind.

On my graduation day my entire family was there to congratulate me. Even Jasper came.

"We're so proud of you," my mom expressed.

"You did well, Bella," my dad added.

"Thanks," I said without much enthusiasm. As happy as I was to finally be done with school, there were two people missing from this day; Emmett and Edward. I took Edward Junior from Rose's arms and snuggled against him as we stood in the middle of the football field with all the other families who were there for the graduating students. My mom gave me a warning look and glanced around the crowd to see if anyone could see. I didn't care if they saw anymore. Edward Junior was my son, and I didn't want to hide him anymore.

"Bella, can I talk to you?" Jake asked coming up behind me. I turned around giving a welcome smile to my good friend.

"Hi, Jake. What is it?"

"I'd like to talk to you in private if you don't mind."

"Sure." I followed him a short distance away still holding Edward Junior in my arms.

"I'm leaving, Bella," he announced.

"What do you mean?"

"It's only a matter of time before I get my draft card. I'm not going into this war. I'm heading up to Canada at the end of the summer, maybe even sooner."

"I see," I said feeling sad about my good friend leaving.

"I want you to come with me. I want you to marry me."

"What?" I gasped.

"I'll take care of you. I'll accept your child and raise him as if he was my own. No one else is ever going to marry you knowing you have a child already. I don't want to go alone. I've always loved you, Bella. We can start a new life in Canada."

"Jake," I began regrettably.

"Before you say anything, just think about it."

"No," I refused. "I'm not going to think about it. Edward will come back eventually. I can't marry you. I'm sorry."

"After everything I've done for you you're going to refuse to just think about it? You wouldn't be here graduating if it wasn't for me. I have done everything for you with nothing in return. Now all I'm asking is for you to consider marrying me so we can be happy. I can make you happy, Bella."

"Jake, I appreciate everything you've done for me this past year and even all through my life. You're one of my best friends and always will be. But I don't love you. I love Edward. I can't marry someone I don't love."

"Bella, he isn't coming back," he shouted. "Why can't you accept that? If he was going to come back you would have heard word by now. For all you know he could be back living some grand life without you. He didn't want you. He used you all those months ago and left you with a bastard son."

With the anger filling me so fully, on instinct my hand swung out and slapped him across the face. Tears stung my eyes as he sat there stunned into submission. I could hear my mom and dad in the background shouting at me for what I just did.

I walked away and carried my son off the field. I never wanted to see Jacob again. How dare he try to say Edward didn't want me or to call my baby a bastard? Edward Junior was conceived in love. It didn't matter to me if we were married or not. Edward loved me, and I loved him. I promised Edward I would wait forever, and I planned to keep that promise.

All summer long Jacob sent letters trying to apologize and still trying to convince me to marry him and go to Canada. I refused to speak or serve him if he came into the diner. I never wanted to see him again. He was a coward and a deceitful man, who didn't deserve my forgiveness.

My mom wasn't happy about it. She continually tried to convince me to talk to him and to even marry him. She insisted if I didn't marry him no one else would ever ask me, and I'd spend the rest of my life alone. But I knew I wouldn't. Even if Edward never returned, I had my son. I didn't need a man in my life. I could take care of Edward Junior and myself.

Towards the end of the summer the letters from Jake and the comments from my mother came in full force. My mom was relentless.

"You're throwing away a wonderful future with Jake. Canada isn't that far away. We can still visit. You'd be happy with Jake," she insisted.

"No I won't, Mom. I don't love Jake. I never have. I'm waiting for Edward. He'll come back."

"And what if he doesn't?"

"Then he doesn't," I answered vaguely. "It's not going to make me marry Jake."

"Bella, I'm getting tired of this rebellion you keep showing. I've let you get away with so much over the last couple of years. I'm not going to sit back and watch you destroy your life and the life of my grandson with this hope of some random man you met years ago will return to you."

"I agree with your mother, Bella," my dad added. "I think it's in your best interest, as well as the baby's, if you married Jake. He'll take care of you."

"First you tell me I can't visit Edward. Then you tell me I can't have my baby. Then you send me away and make me go through all this pain while I have to watch you parade my son around as Rose's child, and now you're forcing me to marry a man I don't love and could never love?" I shouted. "I can't believe this." I stormed upstairs grabbing a bag and throwing some blankets and some baby necessities into it before grabbing my son and walking out the front door. I had planned to stay for Rose, but not if I was going to constantly be attacked.

I walked the short distance to the tree house and awkwardly climbed up the ladder with Edward Junior and the bag in my arms. Once inside I laid out the blankets and curled up around my baby boy, crying myself to sleep.

In the morning, the light from the rising sun shined through the crevices warming my face. I rolled over and checked on the peacefully sleeping baby next to me. I tucked the blankets around him and sat up stretching my muscles. Looking out the small cutout window, I watched as the sunset crept over the mountains. Out of the corner of my eye I saw movement in the field. I assumed it was probably Alice, or maybe Rose, who was coming to tell me to come home. I rolled my eyes unwilling to even acknowledge their presence.

In a flash, the dream I'd had while being pregnant came flooding back to me; Edward walking through the field towards the tree house and bombs going off before he reached me. I quickly turned back to the figure walking towards me trying to figure out who it was. The person walked with a limp and appeared to be using a cane. From the shape of the body I could tell it was a man, but a skinny weak man. I could see the shape of a military hat upon his head. My eyes quickly scanned the field looking desperately for any sign of bombs or soldiers fighting. If they were there then I'd know what I was seeing was either a dream or a sick joke.

I glanced behind me making sure Edward Junior was still asleep and climbed down the ladder waiting for this person to reach me. As Edward got closer to me and I could actually see his face, tears of joy streamed down my cheeks. My breath caught in my lungs, and I had to keep closing my eyes to make sure it was actually him and not just my mind playing tricks on me.

I wanted to run across the field to him but the thought terrified me. If I did, the dream I had might come true. The closer he got the faster he tried to walk with the cane. Only a few feet away I ran and collided into him with a tight embrace. He buried his face into my neck and breathed me in while I cried uncontrollably into his shoulder.

"Are you really here?" I cried. "Please tell me I'm not dreaming."

"You aren't dreaming, Baby. I'm here and I'm never leaving you again."

I pulled away and looked up at him with blurry eyes. His thumbs swiped across my cheeks to wipe the tears away.

"How?" There was no other word I could think of to say.

"I told you I'd come back. I never break a promise," he said pulling me into his arms once again. "I've missed you so much. You have no idea how much I love you. I could have never made it without you."

"My brother?" I questioned pulling away once again to look at him. I wanted to keep looking at his face to be sure he was who he said he was.

He chuckled, brushing the hair off my shoulders. "He's back at your house being smothered with hugs and kisses from Rosalie." I smiled at the thought of Rose being happy again.

"What happened over there?" I asked.

"I'd rather not talk about it right now. We have plenty of time to talk about the details, but right now I just want to be with you. I want to love you. I want to marry you."

"Yes," I answered, even though he wasn't actually asking. All I knew is I'd marry him whenever he wanted me to. He cupped my face with his hands and pulled me in for a passionate, tender, and emotional kiss. It's everything I'd been longing for all those months. The man I loved was home for good.

"Come on," he said grabbing my hand. "Let's get back to the house so you can see your brother."

"Wait," I said pulling back on him. He stopped looking at me strangely. I let go of his hand and crawled back up the ladder. I carefully scooped up Edward Junior in my arms wrapped in blankets and carried him down. Edward stared at the bundle of blankets in my arms, like he wasn't so sure why blankets were so important to go back for when my brother was waiting.

I walked up to him with a grin on my face. "I want you to meet your son." I uncovered the blankets revealing the precious little boy we had created almost two years prior.

Edward stared at the stirring child in my arms taking in the sight of his son. "My… my…"

"Yes, Edward. He's your son. This is Edward Anthony Cullen Junior, and he'll be a year old next week." I handed Edward Junior over to Edward and he held the baby out in front of him to look him over. Tears filled his eyes, and he let out soft sobs with a quivering chin, while he admired his smiley, happy son. I wiped the tears off of Edward's cheeks and a smile spread across his face, before he pulled the baby into his chest and held him closely.

"I have a son," he cried closing his eyes and crying openly in front of me. He pulled me into his arms and let the happiness overtake him. We were whole again and nothing would ever tear us apart from now on.

In time Edward did tell me the story of what happened. How they were ambushed and most of their unit was killed. Emmett was blasted with the close fire of a chemical bomb, which burned a good portion of his body. Edward was able to drag him to a nearby bush and they hid under it until the battle was over. Edward carried Emmett out of the bush, coming to a village hidden deep in the jungle. They forced their way into a home and the man there, thankfully, was willing to help them as best he could. He bandaged up Emmett and fed them for days. Heavy artillery surrounded the village weeks later and they were taken prisoner. After months of living in captivity with many other men and being tortured, they were rescued and brought to a nearby hospital to recover. Edward's leg had been shattered from the torture he endured, and Emmett's body would always be scarred, but they survived.

Word of their recovery was supposed to have been sent, but we never got word. I'm not sure if Jasper was keeping it from us just to be sure it was actually them, or if there was some glitch in the system. In the end it didn't matter. Edward and Emmett were home. Edward and I were married just days after his return. We bought a house in a neighboring town, and we opened up another diner like my dad had always wanted, which we all helped out in. Edward spent long hours just watching his son play and grow. I'd never seen a man more proud of his child. Because of the injuries Emmett and Edward had suffered they never had to go back. Although, it didn't mean the war was over. It still raged on for many more years where thousands of lives were lost and even more families were destroyed. But somehow, by some miracle, my family was spared. Edward promised me he would return, and I promised him I'd wait forever.

If you're crying, I apologize. Please remember to read the other entries in the Man In Uniform Contest and don't forget to VOTE. :)