S Meyer owns Twilight. I…er…my kids own a new foosball table. Yeah, it's for the kids. Mmmmhmm. Sure it is.
I'd planned to wait about a month to write this, but then I went to see Eddie Vedder in concert the night before Thanksgiving. Blame him. I do. He opened with a Pink Floyd song, sang my very favorite Elvis song, and closed with The Mamas & The Papas. He also played the song that sparked a discussion (with MrSC) that sparked this fic. To top it off, the opening act was Glen Hansard. Some of you may know him from The Swell Season, but he was also in The Commitments – the movie Bella and the girls go to see in Chapter Two.
I know a sign when I see one. So, here we go. One last time with Bella. I'm going to drop you right into her life the same way I did in Chapter One and catch you up along the way.
M, I love you. You know this. Thank you for pre-reading.
Iris, thanks for pre-reading and helping me out at the last minute.
Maxipoo1024 is my awesome beta. She agreed to help me out with this during the busy holiday season, and I can't thank her enough.
Any mistakes left are mine.
We left them in May of 1994….
I'll shine when you shine
Faded pictures on my mind
Sun sets on this ocean
Never once on my devotion
How ever you are
Or far that you fall
I'll keep on healing all the scars
That we've collected from the start
I'd rather this than live without you
For every wish upon a star
That goes unanswered in the dark
There is a dream I've dreamt about you
(Without You – Eddie Vedder)
November 28, 1996- Junior Year of College
There is nothing worse than waking up to cold sheets. By now, I should be used to it. Saturdays and Sundays are the only warm mornings. Warm mostly because Edward doesn't believe in personal space between the sheets.
I'm tempted to burrow under the quilt and fight my way back to sleep, but a glance at the clock has me up and on my feet.
If I hurry, I can catch him.
Always the creepy stalker, I rush down the stairs and through the kitchen, only stopping long enough to throw a hoodie on over my t-shirt and grab a can of Coke from the fridge and a blanket on my way out the door. The sand is chilly this morning, and I really should have stopped to put shoes on, but the truth is I'd rather lose a toe to hypothermia than miss the view.
I spread the blanket quickly in my favorite spot. Once I'm settled, I crack open the can of Coke and pop a piece of Trident before glancing to my left.
He's still about a half mile down the beach, so I comb my fingers through my hair. I may have huffed and puffed my way down to the beach to catch him in action, but he doesn't need to know that. As he gets closer, I end up even more bent out of shape.
White hoodies and baseball caps do funny things to me. It doesn't hurt that he's still wearing shorts even though the mornings are cool now. Calves and Nikes do funny things to me too. He slows as he gets closer, and I have to shield my eyes since the sun is bright.
"You're up early," he says as he stops at the edge of my blanket.
I shrug like I've been up for ages instead of five minutes. "Cold bed."
"I'm used to it."
"One of these days, I'm going to convince you to run with me." He smiles as he kicks off his shoes and drops down to his knees on the blanket in front of me.
"That will never happen."
"Is that right?" He leans forward, brushing his lips against mine.
"I'm better as a spectator." I'm his biggest fan, but I'm also a complete failure with running and other athletic activities. I'm just too damn lazy.
"Are you cold?" he asks as he runs his hand over the goosebumps on my knee.
Parts of me are on fire, but I've learned my lesson over and over about teasing him on the beach. If I budge an inch, he'll have me naked and underneath him on this blanket. He's done it before. Thankfully, the occupants of the closest house are like Phil…only here during the summer.
Still, it's too chilly for outdoorsy lovin' today.
"If I am, will you take me inside and warm me up?"
"I'd love to."
I finish my Coke, and he carries the blanket, folding it as we walk. He ditches his shoes on the back deck before following me into the house. I'm in his arms, wrapped around him and grinding, before we make it to the stairs. Instead of stopping for what I'm sure would be an enjoyable though slightly painful round of step sex, he carries me to our bed.
"It drives me nuts when you wear this hoodie," he rumbles as his hands slide up my legs. He rids me of his boxers but leaves the sweatshirt. It will take him a few minutes to decide if he wants to see my boobs or his name and the number thirteen. Most of the time he opts for my tits, but every now and then, he turns me over and things get a little primal.
Today, the shirt comes off. I'm more than okay with it because there is nothing in the world like feeling his body against mine.
He worked up a sweat while running. I can taste it on his lips…on his skin. But he still smells soapy and delicious.
"Now," I tell him.
"Always rushing me, woman." He tries to sound annoyed but blows it when he groans as he teases me.
His name does the trick every time. I let my knees fall, and he finally gives in, kissing and loving me hard, the way he always has.
We shower quickly and make it downstairs in time to turn on the TV and catch the parade. Last year, Edward had been able to take the weekend after Thanksgiving off from work so we'd gone home for the holiday. No such luck this year.
We're staying in Florida and having our first Thanksgiving away from home.
Scooby is my favorite float. Bart Simpson is his. He makes fun of Kenny Rogers, earning a fist shake from me, and he drools over Vanessa Williams which earns him an elbow in the ribs – a playful elbow, of course. I've done my share of drooling over rocker boys in front of him, so I suppose it's fair.
After the parade, we call Esme on speaker phone, and she talks us through prepping the turkey. I make Edward pull out all the gross stuff, and we make silent gagging faces at each other when she mentions we're going to cook it. He shakes his head, holding his pointer finger in front of his lips as he tosses it into the trash.
We're making all of her best Thanksgiving dishes today. She'd sent me an email last week with recipes for the baked apples I love so much and her dressing. She makes a kick ass dressing.
Carlisle is leaving for work soon, and she'll be having dinner at Emmett's house. I'm glad she won't be alone. I can tell Edward feels guilty. A quick cleavage flash cheers him up, and he smiles as he shakes his head.
Once the turkey is in the oven and the timer is set, she ends the call to spend some time with Carlisle while she can.
"I think my mom just hung up so she could quickie my dad," Edward says. Clearly, he's grossed out.
"It's okay. My parents have sex too. You'll be alright." I pat his hand.
He hugs me tightly, but I'm on to him. When his hands sneak down my back to cup my ass, I catch them with my own. "Nuh uh," I tell him. "We're cooking, remember?"
If we get naked now, we'll have to wait longer for the food.
Edward is always a willing helper in the kitchen, so I put him to work. I like watching him peel potatoes. It's like forearm porn.
A pumpkin spice candle burns in the living room, and the smells coming from the kitchen are divine. The whole house smells like fall. The temps are in the high sixties during the day here in Florida, but I remember flannel and layering this time of year back in Forks.
"Do you ever miss the rain and the cold?" I ask him as he takes the turkey out of the oven and places it on the counter.
"Sometimes, I do. You?"
"Sometimes. I mean, we're getting a tree this weekend, but it's not even cold outside. It doesn't even feel like Thanksgiving."
"Bella, it's our first Thanksgiving away from our families. It's okay to be a little homesick. At the risk of sounding like a total pussy, I really miss my mom, and I hate that we can't see our families until Christmas. I wouldn't have been mad if you'd decided to go without me."
"That would have been a much worse case of homesickness. I'm good. I'm just a little sad."
"We'll be sad together and stuff our faces until we feel better. Deal?"
Glancing around the kitchen, I realize we've made enough food to feed a small village. "I hope you're hungry."
We make plates and carry them to the living room. He finds a good football game and twists the caps from two bottles of Heineken, handing me one and then clinking his against mine.
"Happy Thanksgiving, baby."
This might be the best one yet. Yeah, I miss home, but I have everything I need right here.
He gets more involved in the game than I do, so I slip away during half time to pack up the leftovers. Once everything is put away and the dishes are done, I pull a long distance card from my purse and use it to call Jake.
We chat for a few minutes as I scribble Hannah's clothing and shoe sizes on the notepad next to the fridge. He gives me a few ideas for toys too. I don't even ask him about books. I know exactly which books to give her.
He asks about Edward. I ask about Vanessa and school. They're still going strong for almost a year now, and now that Hannah is in school, Jake is too. He's on track at Peninsula and should graduate one semester before I do. We talk about our dads, and we're done. Jake has never really been the talkative type.
He hands the phone to Hannah, and I listen as she tells me all about a little boy in her pre-K class that has been picking on her. She giggles when I explain that he probably just does it because he thinks she's pretty.
"Daddy's taking me and Nessa to see Jingle All the Way in a little while," she says.
"That's awesome. Are you excited?"
"Yeah. I like it when they take me on dates. We have fun. Where is Ed? Is he there?"
"He's watching football."
"I'm gonna marry him when I grow up and take him on dates to the movies."
I laugh. I can't help it. "You can't marry Edward when you grow up," I tell her.
"Because he's too old for you." Start with the obvious.
"I'm older. I'm almost five."
Okay. Four year olds are harder to argue with. Point taken. "No. You just turned four, and he's getting older too."
"Soooo, you can't marry him."
"Are youuuu gonna marry him?"
It isn't like I haven't thought about it. I just don't know if HE has ever thought about it. Things are great exactly the way they are. We're happy. I'm content.
But taking pictures of weddings and babies for my job and living with him for a little over a year now…
Yeah. I think about it.
"I don't know."
The sound of the fridge opening behind me is like a cold bucket of ice water. I know. I remember what that feels like.
"Look, Hannah, I've gotta go. Tell your daddy I said bye okay? Have fun at the movie."
"When are you coming home again?"
I've told her twice already, but I tell her again because I know she's only asking because she's excited. "Three weeks."
"Okay. Tell Ed bye too, okay?"
I end the call and put the phone on the charger.
"How long have you been in here?" I ask.
He twists the cap off of a beer, and I watch because his arms are too fine not to. Tanned skin and light fuzz…
"Since you said I was old."
"Old for her," I correct. Shit. He heard it all.
Ah, screw it.
May as well go big.
"Do you ever think about getting married?" I ask. If he says no, it's cool. I really am happy with the way things are.
After setting the beer on the counter, he walks slowly until he's close enough to kiss me, but he doesn't lean in.
"All the time."
"Do you WANT to get married? To me, I mean. Someday." Ugh. Damn.
"Are you proposing?" He smiles like a cocky bastard.
"You didn't answer me."
"Yes. Of course I want to marry you."
"Why haven't we ever talked about this?"
He sighs. "Honestly? We're still in school and working, and I didn't want you to have to stress over planning a wedding."
"I don't really want a wedding." This much I know. I barely survived my mom's, and my role in it was completely silent. I can't do the big show. No way.
"No. I want to get married out back on the beach. Just us."
"So you do want to marry me." Now he just looks smug.
"Whenever. If you want to wait until we're done with school, that's fine with me. If you want to get married now, I'm fine with that too."
He steps close, placing his hands on my hips, and leans in. "I hope you're serious. We have a week here at the end of the semester before we leave for Washington. I have to work a few of those days…"
He reaches for the calendar magnet we keep on the fridge.
"Look at that," he says, smiling the sweet smile that makes me feel dumb. "It's perfect."
I nod as he points at the calendar block for Friday the thirteenth of December. It is perfect. Getting married on the fifth anniversary of our first real date will be a story we can tell our grandkids.
If we have kids and grandkids.
"Do you want kids?" I ask. This is something we definitely need to sort out on the front end.
"I'd like to at least have one."
"Two is the max for me. I don't want us to be outnumbered. I'd also like to wait on that part."
"A few years." I wrap myself around him. "I want time for us first."
"Sounds perfect," he agrees. "I'm feeling kind of shitty. Aren't proposals supposed to be kind of a big deal?"
"Well, technically, you haven't proposed and neither have I. We just looked at a date on a calendar and had a discussion about breeding."
"Right," he says. "Well, here goes nothin'." He drops to one knee before I can blink. "Bella, you're still the prettiest girl I've ever seen, and I'm always going to love you…for as long as you want me. Will you marry me?"
"In a few weeks?"
"Come here." He pulls me down to the floor with him and kisses me between laughs because even though neither of us had time to get nervous or worried over this discussion, it's still a relief to have it out of the way.
We spend our evening lazing on the sofa, watching A Christmas Story and occasionally munching on leftovers.
Edward doesn't complain when I wake him up at three o'clock in the morning to go to Jacksonville with me. Hannah wants a Tickle Me Elmo doll so I need to be at Toys R Us at the ass crack of dawn. He doesn't complain when we have to stand in line for over an hour and fight off genuinely crazy people for a stupid doll either.
We hit the mall next, shopping for our parents and our friends. We buy each other video games that we say will be Christmas gifts even though we both know we'll end up opening them long before Christmas…probably before the end of the weekend if I'm being honest.
After lunch in the food court, he asks if I'm in the mood to catch a movie. We make a quick trip out to the Volvo to drop off our purchases and decide to see Romeo + Juliet. It doesn't leave me in tears like the last time I watched this story play out, but it does cause an echo of an ache in my chest, like rubbing a scar.
He surprises me by turning into the lot at one of the local jewelers when we get back to St. Augustine. Instead of asking why, I smile because I know. A sweet round of pillow talk last night had given me a chance to tell him that I don't really want a diamond right now. We know exactly what we want and leave the store with matching thick, silver bands on our ring fingers. Just trying them out.
We stop to buy a tree from some dude in the Winn Dixie parking lot, making it home just after dark and tapping the leftovers before crashing on the couch.
"I love you," I tell him, turning his ring with my thumb. I'm not sure if I've said it today even though I showed him all day long.
"I love you back."
We sleep late on Saturday, leaving Edward rushing to get over to the golf course in time for his afternoon shift. He caddies three or four days a week at the country club. It's an awesome gig…almost like a work out with great tips.
I don't have anything booked for this weekend, so I spend my day wrapping presents and grocery shopping.
Edward is excited when he comes through the door at six. "Guess who I caddied for today?"
"Judge Perkins. I asked him to perform the ceremony. He agreed and gave me the run down on the marriage license and other things we'll need to know."
We visit the county clerk's office the next week for our license. We also dodge phone calls, checking in with our families and friends via email.
It takes us twenty minutes and two phone calls to plan a wedding. His teammate Jared and my friend Chelsea will be the only real guests.
The only glitch we hit is choosing a photographer.
There are only three people I would trust to take my wedding pictures. One is my boss Stefan. The other two are my co-workers, Paul and Senna. Stefan is booked for the night of the thirteenth, and Senna is on the books to assist. That leaves Paul.
Edward can't stand Paul. The boy is a harmless flirt – and a talented one – but he's also stupid enough to flirt with me in front of Edward. I'd rather stay drama free on my wedding day so I work on Senna all week until she convinces Paul to work for her so I can hire her. It doesn't hurt that I offer to pay her full price.
This makes my future husband very happy.
Chelsea takes me shopping on Friday, and we manage to find the perfect dress – long, white, and medieval hippie with a fitted bodice and bell bottom sleeves. Mom will be so proud. It's pretty and exactly my style.
Making a hair appointment with a stranger hurts, but I have to because I want my hair pulled back in loose braids with tiny flowers worked in. Part of me wishes I could call Carmen and beg her to jump on a plane.
But one would turn into a hundred, and that's just not the type of wedding I want. I don't want to feel scared or sick…I just want to get hitched. Small is good. This is going to be smaller than small which is even better.
With the ceremony stuff out of the way, Edward and I go to school every day, work when we're scheduled, and study for finals.
We ignore tradition and wake up together the morning of our wedding day. It's Friday the thirteenth. What could possibly go wrong?
"Cold feet?" he asks as we say goodbye in the driveway.
"Not a chance."
Seriously. Not a chance.
Chelsea treats me to a manicure and pedicure at the spa.
"I can't believe you're getting married today," she says as the stylists work on our hair. "You're so calm."
I guess I am.
"Give it some time," I tell her. "I'm sure it's going to sink in any minute and I'll start freaking out."
It doesn't happen.
Not even when Edward and I walk down to the beach with our friends and Judge Perkins.
Jared's roommate Evan has shown up as well carrying a guitar case. I'm guessing he's here at Edward's request, but I don't ask.
Our marriage vows are the first time I ever hear my real name spoken from Edward's lips.
"I, Edward, take you Isabella…" he grins as he continues because knows how much I hate Isabella, but I have to admit it sounds good when he says it. It also sounds really good when the judge announces us (to our four guests) as Edward and Isabella Cullen after I've taken him to be mine too.
The kissing part is the best, and I can hear the camera clicking, the waves licking the beach, and our friends talking, but none of it matters.
Evan picks up his guitar and strums the opening chords of "Thank You", and Edward takes the bouquet from me. He hands it to Chelsea before pulling me close. My left hand and his right are tangled above my pounding heart, and it reminds me of the night he held me at my mother's wedding. Only this time a warm silver promise rests between us, and I'm smiling through a few silly tears.
Acoustic guitar, barefoot slow dancing in the sand, the surf…it's all so beautiful, but I close my eyes for a moment, laying my head against his chest because I want to hear the way his heart still matches mine when we're together like this.
Some things never change.
"You're my wife, now," he says quietly.
"I know we agreed on the standard wedding vows for the sake of simplicity, but I don't tell you nearly enough how much I love you. You're my best…everything. You're just everything."
"You know I feel the same, right? You promised forever. I do too."
It's only one dance, with people watching a few feet away and a camera in our face occasionally, but it might be our best one yet.
Our guests don't linger after the song ends. There's a lot of hugging and hand shaking until we're finally alone on the back deck.
"I have something for you," he says with a sneaky little grin.
"I can't wait." He's looking really hot in khaki dress pants and a white button up. I'm ready to get to the consummation part.
"Are you going to deck me if I insist on carrying you over the threshold?"
For some reason I feel shy for the first time in years. It's such a grown-up, serious thing he's asking to do, and we joke around a lot, but I'm serious about this. About us.
"No," I tell him quietly.
He sweeps me off my feet in the literal sense for the first time. I expect him to drop my heavy ass once we're in the house, but he keeps walking, finally putting me down in the kitchen.
"Close your eyes."
I do without hesitation. After a few moments, he says, "Okay."
There are two champagne glasses on the counter next to a small white paper plate. It's what's on the plate that kills me.
"I know it's not a wedding cake, but it is sort of cake, and well, we've always done things our own way and –"
"Shut up," I whisper. "You silly, perfect boy." Then I kiss him. Because I have to when he does sweet things like giving me Hostess cupcakes as a wedding cake alternative.
When I'm done kissing him, we feed each other cupcakes and sip champagne in our kitchen. I don't even try to hide the stupid smile on my face when he peels the icing off of mine and gives me that part first.
Two glasses is my limit, and when I start pulling the flowers from my hair, he follows me up the stairs. Instead of turning on the light in our room, I walk over to the sliding glass door of the balcony and pull the curtains back.
The sky is my favorite mix of blue, pink, and orange as I push the door open. The ocean has become our new soundtrack since we've been here in Florida.
He doesn't say a word as he steps up behind me, just sweeps my hair across my left shoulder before leaning in to press his lips against the back of my neck. Teasing me with tiny nips and pecks, he slowly unfastens the catches on the back of my dress. Then his hands are warm on my skin, moving up my back and over my shoulders, nudging the fabric down my arms until the dress falls away.
I turn in his arms so he can see the shiny white satin bra and panty set I picked out for him. It's very bride-like. As he stares, I unbutton his shirt and help rid him of his clothes.
The moment he's naked, he pulls me against him. "You're beautiful," he says quietly, sliding a finger beneath the strap of my bra and caressing my skin with his knuckle. With his other hand, he unfastens the clasp in back. Once my bra is out of the way, he drops to his knees in front me much like the day he proposed. Only this time, he leans in and brushes his lips across the skin beneath my navel. "And I love you."
"I love you back," I tell him as I place my hands on his shoulders for balance as his hands sweep over my hips and he catches satin with his thumbs and pulls it down and away.
Then he's on his feet, and I'm lowering myself onto the bed and scooting back on my elbows and ass until I'm at the center. He follows without hesitation but takes his time, burning a path along my body with sweet, hungry kisses until his lips meet mine as he pushes in, deep and swift.
He catches my moan with his mouth, teasing me with teeth and tongue as he buries himself inside me, bottoming out on every stroke.
When I'm close, he brings my leg over his hip and grips my thigh as his lips move to my neck.
I grab a fistful of his hair, trying to pull him closer, even though every part of him is already touching me. He groans, finally letting go and unleashing the way I want him to until we're both left spent, shaking, and breathless.
We stay in bed for days, living off of cereal, delivery food, cheese toast, and canned soup. The only times we leave are when our jobs require it. This is Edward's last week of work until next fall. He'll be too busy in the spring with baseball. A football player from Flagler is taking Edward's position, and they'll switch when the seasons change again. I have two appointments to show pictures and offer packages at the studio.
The rest of the time, we spend on the beach or in bed or occasionally relaxing on the balcony with a blanket wrapped around us.
Alice calls the evening before we leave for Washington.
"I can't make it home this year, Bella. Dad and Lisa both have the flu."
I'm so frustrated, I could cry. We'd only managed to see each other for a week this past summer. But I get it.
"Oh man. That sucks. Is Cynthia sick too?"
"No. Hopefully, she won't get it, but I can't leave her here alone with them."
"It's cool." I glance down at the ring on my hand. "Since you're not coming to Forks, I'm going to tell you something but you have to long distance pinky-swear you won't tell anyone. Not our parents. Not the girls. Not a soul, Alice Brandon."
"Cross my heart."
"OH MY GOD. Are you fucking kidding me?" She laughs. "That's great. Really, B, I'm so happy for you. Now, spill."
We talk for more than an hour. I tell her all about Thanksgiving and my wedding, and she tells me about work and catches me up on her boyfriend Brady.
It still hurts my heart a little when she talks about him. He's nice enough, and I like him. But he'll never be Jasper. It's none of my business, and their break up had been a mutual decision after Alice had decided to stay an additional year in Mississippi.
Then two years had turned into three. And yeah…it still hurts.
Now, she's a realtor, sharing a house outside Jackson with Brady and two Golden Retrievers.
Somehow, we always seem to miss each other. They were in Forks for Thanksgiving, but we were here. Now we're going home for Christmas, and they can't. Being an adult sucks.
"We'll see each other in February," she reminds me. "Mardi Gras, baby."
"It's going to be awesome."
"I can't wait to see your tits," she jokes.
"That's kind of gross, now."
"Eww. You're right. Never mind."
"Do you think Charlie is going to kill me?" I ask.
She pffts so loudly, I can hear it. "Uh no."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"I've gotta go, hooker. We'll talk soon. Merry Christmas."
She hangs up on me before I can get a word out.
I stay out on the deck for a while watching the sun ease down beyond sea and thinking about things like time and distance and how thoroughly things can change.
The patio door slides open behind me.
Edward hands me a beer before sitting in the chair next to mine.
"Alice isn't coming home for Christmas. Her parents are sick."
"Ugh. It sucks, but at least we'll have Mardi Gras." He nods. "Are Emmett and Rosalie coming to the Port this week?" They're both living in Seattle now and going to UW.
"Yeah. We'll see them Sunday for dinner at my parents' house."
"What about Leah?"
"She's coming to Forks with her grandparents on Christmas Eve."
"Jasper emailed me back. He's bringing his gear with him. He said next Monday will be best for him. Do we have plans for Monday?"
"Monday is good."
We slip into silence, watching and listening to the ocean with our fingers loosely hooked between us. Occasionally, he twists my wedding band with his thumb, and I think I like this whole marriage thing.
"We should go to bed soon," he says. "Our flight is at seven, and we have to make the drive to Jacksonville."
I tighten my grip on his hand and pull him through the house, up the stairs, and into our room. This time, I push him onto the bed and then I love him slowly, thankful that somehow we've managed to stick together.
The flight to Seattle is long, and I spend most of it sleeping and drooling on Edward's sleeve. When we get there we have almost an hour to wait for a connection. Alaska Air Lines finally started commuter service to Port Angeles last summer.
It's an uncomfortable ride, and I can't sleep. Our flight scares the shit out of me, and Edward has to wrestle our return tickets away from me to keep me from tearing them into tiny pieces after we've landed.
We're staying with my mom and Phil first this trip. Really, we sort of float between our three sets of parents when we're in town – like a jacked up time share. It's cool though since we have friends in both towns.
They're surprised when we share our big news, but they're also thrilled. Phil hugs Edward as my mom hugs me and then we switch. I give them a small, white photo album loaded with wedding pictures. There are two identical albums in my suitcase for our other parents.
Renee cries a little, and Phil busts out a bottle of champagne to celebrate.
Edward and I share relieved looks. One down. Two to go.
Our moment of reckoning comes Sunday afternoon at his parents' house. Esme notices our matching wedding bands as we walk into the kitchen.
"You're married?" Instead of smiles, her face is pale and horrified.
"How could you get married? WHEN did you get married? I can't believe this. You're my only child and you decided to rob me of a wedding?"
Esme is pissed. I don't think I've seen this before. Ever.
Edward grips my hand tightly, pulling me closer instead of letting me back away slowly. Damn him. Angry Esme is scary. I expected this.
From Charlie. But not from Esme.
Carlisle walks into the kitchen with a puzzled look on his face. "What's going on?"
She balls her left fist, placing it on her hip as she turns to face him. Waving her right hand at us, she yells, "They're married!"
He smiles. "Congratulations."
I'm frozen, too shocked to respond and a little afraid of what Esme might say if do.
"Congratulations? Carlisle, they eloped," she complains.
"No, Mom. We didn't. We were married on the beach. It was a small ceremony…only the judge, a few friends, and a photographer. We have pictures."
I pull her album from my purse and hold it out to her. She's crying now, and I feel awful.
"It's my fault," I tell her. "I wanted the Justice of the Peace, and I talked Edward into the beach thing. I have this overwhelming fear of talking in front of people. It's dumb, but I get sick. I had to smoke a joint in the woods behind Forks High before my oral presentation for my Senior English exam. There is no way I could have survived an actual wedding with a large audience. If you're angry, you should be angry with me."
When am I ever going to learn to just shut the fuck up? I just told my mother in law that I got high at school.
"I'm angry with both of you," she says before taking the pictures from me and walking away.
Damn. This sucks.
"Give her a while to calm down. She'll be okay." Carlisle hugs us both and helps Edward with the gifts we've brought for them. "Welcome to the family, Bella…officially, that is," he says over his shoulder as we follow him to the family room. His smile and good mood are the only things keeping me from following Esme down the hall and into her room to beg for forgiveness.
She comes out about an hour later and stands in front of the couch so she can stare me and Edward down at the same time. "I called Renee. We've decided to have a reception for you on New Year's Eve at the Olympic Lodge. It won't be large, and you won't have to talk at all Bella, but you will have a cake and there will be music and pictures."
"Okay." I nod, willing to agree to anything that will make her feelings less hurt.
Luckily, the front door opens and moments later, Emmett comes barreling into the room, ending our conversation.
He ignores Esme's aggressive stance and plops down between me and Edward on the couch.
"Wazzzzup," he says, looking at Edward. "Why is Esme's brow doing the twitchy thing?" He turns to look at me. "Wait. Let me guess…you're knocked up."
What the fucking fuck?
He reaches over, rubbing my stomach gently before I can push his hand away and tell him to fuck off.
"Emmett, stop pawing my wife." Edward uses his clipped don't-fuck-with-me tone. It's hot. So is hearing him call me his wife.
"Is that why you got married?" Esme asks, looking between us.
"No," Edward tells her. "Bella isn't pregnant. We got married because we wanted to get married."
"You're married?" Emmett asks. He looks down at my left hand then Edward's. "So now you've made her my cousin." He moans. "Way to make things weird, guys." Yeah, he's groaning about it, but he's smiling and mock punching Edward's arm. "Congratulations."
Esme throws her arms in the air. "I give up." She leaves us, walking toward the kitchen to start dinner. The guys follow, begging for snacks.
"Congratulations," Rosalie says quietly as she sits down next to me on the sofa.
"Thanks. Merry Christmas."
"You too. Um…this is weird," she pauses. Then she smiles and holds up her left hand. There's a big shiny rock on it. "Emmett proposed."
"That's great. Congrats to you too."
She still looks mildly uncomfortable, and I'm not sure why because I meant what I said. She isn't some glass princess that Emmett can con. She keeps his ass in line, and he's crazy about her. It works. I'm happy for them.
"Esme told me you take wedding pictures." I must look as surprised as I feel because she rushes to continue. "I'm not asking you for any favors, I swear. I just…shit." She stops and laughs a little. "She said you're really great, and I'd like to hire you. Shit. That's not right either. You're going to be invited anyway. Working isn't the only reason you'd be there. You're Emmett's oldest friend." She waves at my ring. "And the best man's wife. Well, if he says yes."
This girl rambles as much as I do.
"He will, and of course I'll take the pictures. Consider it a wedding gift. When are you getting married?"
"The summer after graduation," she answers. "That will give me eighteen months to plan the wedding."
"Give me the date once it's set so I can mark it on our calendar." This is cool. Best man means a tuxedo. My husband is killer in a tux. "I brought my camera. I could take some engagement pictures next week if you guys are planning to run an announcement."
"You wouldn't mind? I know you have a lot of people to visit when you're home."
"It gets crazy working in three sets of parents, but we try to make time for our friends too. Just figure out a location and we'll set up a time."
Esme steps into the room long enough to say, "I'm opening a bottle of wine if you two are interested."
Rosalie tells me some of the tentative plans as we make our way into the kitchen. Talking about her upcoming wedding helps take Esme's mind off of my lack of one. It seems my awesome mother in law had already agreed to be Rosalie's coordinator and caterer.
I'll be working with her again. But wow. This will be entirely different…and really cool.
It doesn't take long for our professional wedding talk to bore Emmett. He and Edward steal a couple of brownies before disappearing upstairs, probably to game until dinner is ready.
Over a few glasses of wine, we discuss ideas, colors, and Rosalie's decision to keep the wedding party small. Edward will be the best man. Tanya will be the maid of honor. That's it. She wants an evening wedding with classic black and white for the wedding party. Her childhood piano instructor is a member of a string quartet, and they'll be playing live for the wedding and the reception. She wants to book the Olympic Lodge because she fell in love with the fountains. Her plan is an outdoor ceremony at sunset with dinner and a reception to follow inside.
It sounds classy and cool, and I tell her as much.
Then I invite her to our reception. I know Edward will invite Emmett tonight anyway, but I'm trying to make an effort. A long time ago she made an offer to bury a hatchet, but the wounds had been too fresh, too real. Ours is the type of hatchet that couldn't be buried...it's the type that has slowly disintegrated over time. Time and distance can be good things.
"We'd love to come." She smiles as she nods. "Are you and Edward going to stay in Florida after graduation or come home?"
Esme whips her head to look at me expectantly. Whoa. Yeah, we're married now, but they are giving us way too much credit.
"We haven't really decided." I choose my words carefully. We've had a couple of conversations and discussed the possibility of getting our own place and staying in Florida or moving back to Washington – to Seattle to be precise.
Neither of us have Forks or PA on the short list. It isn't that we don't love our families. In truth, Seattle is probable. We'd both like to be closer to home, but at the same time, we're not ready to come home. Not permanently, anyway.
There is no way in hell I'm going to admit that right now. Not after what happened with Esme earlier. No way. I've already stolen her wedding glory…I'm not going to be the one to rain on her maybe-they'll-come-back-home parade.
Maybe we will someday. We're just not there yet. And I fully intend to let Edward be the one to break it to her…or we can do it together, but not tonight.
Rosalie explains that she and Emmett plan to move back to PA once they're finished at UW.
The oven timer pings, and I'm grateful for the excuse to run upstairs and get the guys. I walk in on them sitting on the floor, leaning against the footboard of Edward's old bed with Sega remotes in hand. They look sixteen and eighteen and twenty one all at the same time, and I know that doesn't make sense, but it's true.
"Dinner," I say as I lean against the wall next to the door.
Emmett drops his remote and ditches us at the mention of food. Edward moves slowly, standing and stretching, and I need his arms for just a minute so I hug him mid-stretch. Always one for hugging, he complies.
"Are you okay?" he asks.
"I'm better now."
"No. Not at all. I'm still feeling guilty about hurting your mom."
"I'm glad you're okay with a reception. I think she'll feel much better about it once we do some of the traditional stuff for her."
"Like feeding each other cake?" I tease.
"Yes. Cake, champagne toasts, the works," he says, pulling me close and swaying slowly with me in his arms. "She's even going to hire a dj."
"I don't know. The last time I danced with you on New Year's Eve, I ended up on my back."
"Actually, that's happened every New Year's Eve you've danced with me," he whispers against my neck before kissing softly and walking us closer to the bed.
"I can't help it. I'm easy."
He laughs, slipping his hands under my shirt at my waist, moving slowly over my ribs and teasing the skin beneath my bra. The moment his thumbs slide under the fabric and find my nipples, my lovely mother in law yells our names from downstairs, using her don't-make-me-come-up-there voice.
"Dammit," he groans, untangling his hands from my tits.
"Later," I promise, kissing him quickly on the cheek and pulling him from the room. Since I'm his official boner shield now, I let him follow me closely with his hands on my hips as we enter the dining room.
We sit quickly and no one seems the wiser.
By the time the dishes are clean and put away, I can barely keep my eyes open. The rest of the gang plans to watch a movie, but I'm desperate for a nap. I'm still on Florida time.
Edward tells them to start the movie without him as he walks up the stairs behind me.
"Are you sure you don't want to leave? We can hang out with my family some other time," he offers.
"Why don't we stay here tonight? You can watch the movie with the fam while I recharge."
I can feel his grin against my ear as he whispers, "I like the sound of that."
The sheets don't smell like Edward anymore, so it takes me a few minutes to get comfortable but once I do, I'm out. Sometime during the night, he slides in behind me and wakes me as he pulls me against his chest.
"Sorry," he whispers.
"Don't be," I tell him. I bitch and moan occasionally about him smothering me in the bed, but it's almost always when I'm PMSing. He recognizes when I'm getting my psycho on, and he's learned to just ignore it. Deep down, he knows I love the snuggling.
"How sleepy are you?"
"That depends on why you're asking."
His fingers are already tugging my panties. "I was thinking we could hit it. For old times' sake."
"God, you're so romantic."
"Sorry. In my defense, I've been hanging out with Emmett all day."
"What about your parents?"
"I locked the damn door," he says proudly. "We're married now, and I can do whatever I want to with you in this bed."
Somehow I manage to keep quiet as he shows me all the things he wants to do. It's hard because he knows me inside and out, and he does everything he knows I love while occasionally reminding me to be quiet. I've said it before: he's a demon.
Unfortunately, both of his parents have already gone to work by the time we wake up Monday morning, and we don't get a chance to tell them goodbye.
After meeting Emmett and Rosalie for a late breakfast at the Waffle House, we decide to go straight to Forks instead of putting it off any longer. He tunes the radio of the rental car to a classic rock station, and we sing along, exaggerating lyrics while mentally preparing ourselves for another round of tell the parents we got hitched.
This is going to be fun.
We both sit silent after he parks in front of my dad's house. He turns the key, killing the ignition, and exhales slowly. "Charlie is going to kill me. Isn't he?"
"No. Charlie loves you." He gives me a look instead of saying, "Are you fucking crazy?" out loud. "It's going to be fine. You'll see."
I'm hoping I'm right. After all, he and Jeanette had eloped during my freshman year, and he hadn't even bothered to call me. Alice ended up having to break the news.
I get out first and Edward follows. There's a weird moment I hesitate at the front door with an urge to knock. Then I remember this is my house. I don't live here anymore, I have a husband and my father has a new wife, but it still feels like home.
"Hey," Charlie says as he stands, and the smile on his face has me dropping my crap in the middle of the living room floor so I can hug him. I miss a lot of people, but I miss my dad the most.
"Edward," he says over my shoulder.
Figuring it's best to just come clean immediately and get it out of the way, I blurt, "We're married."
Charlie leans back, making a weird, scrunchy face with his brows furrowed and his mouth hanging open. "Come again?"
"Turns out I'm a lot like my dad." It's a friendly reminder that I didn't do anything he hasn't done.
"That's…" His facial expression is changing every few seconds as he works through whatever is going in his head. He looks at Edward then me. "Great." He's finally found a smile, and I'll take it even if it is a sad one.
"These are for you and Jeanette," Edward tells him, holding out the last copies of our wedding pictures.
Charlie takes them from him, pulling him into a sort of man hug. He whispers something too quietly for me to hear, but whatever it is can't be good because Edward looks a little pale. When Charlie is done, my poor husband nods, and my dad releases him.
"Alright then," he says cheerfully. "Let's check out these pictures." He takes the center cushion of the sofa, so Edward and I have no choice but to sit on either side of him.
He looks much happier as he flips through the pictures. Midway through the album, the front door opens and Jeanette walks in with a bag of hair care products from Louise's in her hand. Just seeing the bag makes me long for Carmen even though I know she and Elliot aren't going to make it back to Forks until the day after Christmas this year. They're visiting his grandparents in Colorado.
Jeanette tosses the bag onto the chair before shimmying out of her coat with her back to us.
"Holy shit." I can't believe my eyes when she finally turns around. Either my stepmom ate half of a basketball or my father has knocked her up.
"Bella…" Charlie looks constipated, and that's kind of okay because I feel like knocking the shit out of him right now. And Alice. She was here for Thanksgiving. She knew.
Alice and I are going to share a sibling. That's kind of weird. Leah was only half right back on graduation day. We don't always get to make our own families. Most of the time, they're made for us. If someone had told me five years ago that someday I'd be Emmett's cousin, related to Rosalie Hale, have a stepfather and a stepmother I love, have siblings, and be MARRIED…I would have probably punched that person in the face and called him or her an asshole.
This certainly isn't what I had imagined for myself. But I wouldn't change a thing.
"I'm happy for both of you," I tell them. "I'm a little freaked out and a tad grossed out but seriously…ninety nine percent happy for you. Just…a phone call would be nice."
"Is that going to work both ways?" Charlie asks. "Because I'm pretty sure I found out that you and Edward had moved in together during a fishing trip with your grandpa and Phil, and my wedding invitation must have gotten lost in the mail."
Looks like Charlie brought his A game today. He also makes a valid point. I really am like my dad in so many wonderfully horrible ways.
"You win," I tell him. "Just remember what you told me about the apple and the tree and 'all that,'" I tease.
Jeanette takes the wedding pictures from him and looks through them as I tell them both about the reception on New Year's Eve. Dad has worked every New Year's Eve that I can remember, but he promises to be off for this, even it means scheduling a rookie to work the holiday so Mark and his family can come too. Jeanette is already scheduled off that evening because of her rotation.
We spend our afternoon catching up and then eating a greasy, unhealthy dinner at the diner since my stepmom is craving scrambled eggs, chili cheese fries, and a strawberry milkshake.
They invite us to come with them to see a movie in PA, but we've already made plans for the night so we head back to the house.
Jasper shows up around seven with a tattered backpack in his hand and McKenna at his side. She smiles, pulling her lip ring with her teeth nervously.
Her hair is bright pink this time, cut into a bob with thick bangs. It looks great on her. Turns out Mike's boyfriend Casey had been right. Their ex-roommate McKenna does have excellent taste in everything. Including guys.
Jasper had gone through a rough patch a few months after he and Alice had broken up.
Mike and Jasper have several friends in common so Mike had been the one to tell me Jasper was whoring it up with a different chick every weekend. That had lasted for nearly six months.
Then there had been a "booze instead of dames" phase for a couple of months. Edward and I had been on the receiving end of some worrisome late night, drunken phone calls. So had Alice.
Angry phase came last and hit the hardest, landing him in a jail cell overnight on a drunk and disorderly charge.
He met McKenna a short while later when Mike had introduced them at a party. They've been together since. I like the girl, and I think she's awesome, so I try not to be sad that she's not Alice or miss the way things used to be.
Since this is Edward's first tat, I let him go first. It's an easy design but one that I love. He's having a Roman numeral thirteen tattooed onto his back, above his right shoulder blade.
XIII in bold, black letters. It's his lucky number. It's our lucky number.
He winces a couple of times when Jasper gets close to bone but handles it like a champ. Way better than I did my first time.
When the big tat is done, Edward gives me long look. "You're sure about this." After my nod, he pulls his wedding band off, handing it to me before flipping his left hand over.
"Some people call this the kiss of death," Jasper says as he free hands a tiny, block, lower case B where Edward's ring finger meets his palm.
"We call it forever," Edward answers, looking up at me as he says it.
It takes a few minutes for Jasper to sanitize the gun, open a new needle pack, and dish out some fresh ink. I feel bad that he's going to all this trouble to give me a tiny, matching, wedding tat.
But it's the only tat I want tonight. This will even us up. Two and two.
I slide my own ring off and offer Jasper my hand. It hurts more than I expect it to but not nearly as bad as the neck tat.
When he's finished, he wipes away the residual ink and blood, and I'm left with a beautiful, black, lower case E etched in cursive in the spot that matches Edward's.
It stings a little, but I love it. It's worth every bit of the pain.
Jasper and McKenna hit the back porch for a smoke, leaving us alone in the kitchen. "Do you like it?" he asks, reaching for my fingers and pulling my hand closer so he can see.
"I love it."
Every kiss in this kitchen is like déjà vu or a memory and still brand new somehow. Before I realize it, my back is against the counter and I'm trying to wiggle my way up his body. In my haste, I forget his new tattoo and manhandle his back a little too roughly.
"Ahhh," he says with clenched teeth.
Definitely not a good ahhh. Oops.
"I'm sorry." Since I can't kiss it better, I kiss his neck instead and keep my hands still at his waist.
"Oh damn," Jasper says as he and McKenna enter through the back door. "I thought getting married would cure your need to have your tongues all over each other every five minutes."
"Stop it," she says, hitting his arm. "It's romantic."
"You want romance?" He turns, catching her hand and lifting it into the air. She spins like a ballerina until she faces him again. "They're two-steppin' over at Buster's tonight. I'm in the mood to dance."
Edward still has zero love for country music, but we never see Jasper, and having this time is important to us. There's a small crowd at the bar even though it's Monday and two days before Christmas. I'm not really surprised. There isn't a long list of things to do in Forks.
Over dollar longnecks, Jasper tells us Peter and Charlotte have finally scored a record deal. Both of their previous bands had fallen apart for unrelated reasons. They'd assembled different members of the old to form the new and cut a demo. It took them a year and a half of playing shitty clubs for nickels and dimes before they'd picked the right spot on the right night.
The band playing at Buster's couldn't be more different. They open with a lively country number that has Jasper and McKenna ditching us mid-sentence. Edward and I sip beer and talk, watching the couples on the floor.
Right before I can suggest a game of pool, a new song starts, and he leans in to whisper, "Wanna dance?"
I'm shocked but I move quickly before he changes his mind because I love dancing with him. We find a spot on the floor, and I let him lead as he sings the words to "Shameless" near my ear. I don't say anything until the song is over, but I can't curb my curiosity. "I didn't know you were a Garth fan."
"I'm not," he says, smiling as he shakes his head. "It's a Billy Joel song."
"Yeah. It was one of my mom's favorite albums for years."
We make our way over to the pool table, and it doesn't take long for Jasper and McKenna to join our game and our discussion about multiple artists cutting the same music and crossing genres.
As we're going our separate ways in the parking lot, I invite them to our reception. They both want to come but can't. They have to get back to Seattle for work, and they'll be leaving the day after Christmas. So we say our goodbyes and exchange hugs, wishing each other happy holidays and all kinds of other cheesy stuff.
"You know I was just messin' around with you earlier about the kiss of death thing," Jasper says as he opens the door of his new black Jetta. "I'm really happy for you guys."
"Thanks, J," I tell him. "You need to bring your inked-up ass to Florida for a visit sometime. We've got ocean front property, bitch."
"Soon." He grins before ducking into the car and slamming the door.
Christmas Eve finds us back in the Port celebrating early with my mom, Phil, and Grandpa. Christmas morning belongs to Carlisle and Esme and Edward's family. Well, technically, I guess they're my family too. In some ways they always have been even before we tied it up with this marriage business and matching rings and tats.
We leave after lunch and make our way to Forks for our third Christmas in two days.
Jake's car is parked out front, and I worry for a second that Hannah is going to be upset when she finds out Edward is married, but it's all for nothing. We tell her and she shrugs, stating she'll marry Steve from Blue's Clues instead. I laugh even though I don't know what she's talking about. She still makes people dumb.
Jake tries to turn down my invitation to our reception.
"There is no way I can find a babysitter on New Year's Eve, Bella. No way."
"You don't have to. The whole family is invited, Jake, Hannah too. It's a reception, not a bachelor party. Vanessa would probably dig it too. Esme is hiring a dj and there will be free booze."
"Will there be other kids there?"
"I don't know. It doesn't matter. With Edward, Carlisle, and Charlie there, I'm sure we can keep her dance card full."
He laughs. "Don't forget me. I get her first dance."
I'm so glad he's starting to loosen up a little and do fun things for himself now that Hannah is a little older. Billy has been able to help more with childcare since she is potty trained and old enough to follow directions.
Leah comes over after dinner, and we all sit around in Charlie's living room, talking and drinking and opening gifts with It's a Wonderful Life on the television in the background. Hannah plays with Tickle Me Elmo until I want to rip out his batteries and throw them into the woods out back.
She falls asleep on Charlie's lap before it comes to that. Thank goodness.
Leah asks me to join her outside for a smoke, and I know she's not talking about a Marlboro. Rachel comes too, and we make our way back to the Think Tank to burn one. Jake and Edward follow a few minutes later. The guys pass on the weed. Jake has Hannah and Edward has a baseball physical in less than a month.
We stand around shivering as we chat and laugh over old stories. Jake and Leah have been surprisingly friendly to each other all afternoon, and I can't help but be grateful that their hatchet seems to have disappeared too.
I walk her out to her car later when she needs to get back to her family. We share a quick hug before she opens the door. "Don't forget – we have a date Friday. We'll make Carmen come too. We're going to need killer dresses for this reception."
"Can't wait," I mutter.
"Liar. Do you care if I invite Eric? He booty-called me when he came to Portland for a STP concert. I'm in the mood to return the favor." She winks. "It's been a while."
"Knock yourself out."
Jeanette is exhausted by the time everyone else leaves, so Edward and I offer to clean up so she can rest. She jumps at the chance to turn in early, apologizing through her yawns as she and my dad make their way up the stairs.
It only takes minutes to load the dishwasher and wipe the counters. We turn the lights off as we walk through the house to the living room. The tree lights are blinking softly in the corner as we stretch out on the couch.
As soon as we're settled, he places a small wrapped gift in my hand.
"I thought we agreed that Mardi Gras would be our present to each other this year?"
"Just open it."
I recognize the box from my favorite vintage store back in Florida. Inside is a heart-shaped pewter locket. He takes it from me and shows me how to open it, smiling when I notice our shrunken wedding picture tucked inside. Engraved on the other side is one simple word.
A/N- Happy Holidays!
Thanks for reading.
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This is it for BPOV. See you over at The B Sides. Take care, y'all.