Epilogue: Graduation


"Bella! Edward! Over here!" We hear Esme's voice beckon. I pull Edward's hand towards the direction of where his mom, dad and sister are sitting. "We were wondering where you two were! Thought you got lost on the way to your own school!"

I sneak Edward a guilty and sly glance. "Yeah sorry. We got...um...held up." Edward fumbles with an excuse.

"By what?" Esme asks.

"I spilled coffee on my shirt..." I lend a hand in our excuse.

"Oh, put some hydrogen peroxide on it before you wash it Bella. The stain will come right out." Esme offers kindly as she turns back to the stage.

"Since when do you drink coffee? I thought you preferred tea." Alice gives me a knowing smile.

"Would you shut up?" I hiss under my breath at her. She puts her hands up in mock surrender and also turns back to look at the stage.

"So we've graduated from spiders to coffee?" Edward chuckles from next to me.

"You too, Mister. If you weren't so divine looking in a tie I wouldn't have had to jump you." I mutter and shoulder him.

"Right back at you." He winks and I blush a little. This is the first summer dress I've worn since I was about 8 and I have to say, I feel...good in it. Edward lets his hand rest on my knee and gives it a light squeeze before rubbing small circles on the exposed skin.

I lean over and rest my head on his shoulder as the first notes of the graduation march begins.

The students begin to make their entrance from behind a curtain set up on the south side of the gym. Even in the seemingly endless line of students, Emmett stands out. He's easily a head taller than every other student in line.

We all shout and scream, just like every other parent and family of the other graduating students. Esme clicks her camera like a madwoman capturing a miraculous moment. Then Rose and Jasper emerge from behind the curtain and it renews our vigorous cheering and Esme's desperate photography. Alice lets out a sharp and drawn out whistle with her fingers that almost busts my eardrum.

"That's my boyfriend!" She crows triumphantly. All three of our graduates find us immediately and wave back before taking their seats.

Mrs. Denali gets up and takes the podium, clearing her throat before beginning her speech.

"Ladies and gentlemen, this has been a remarkable year for these young people." Her opening line makes me think about where I was a year ago. I remember being heckled in the hallways, my locker being tagged, signs being put on my back and counting the days until it would end.

I remember having a revulsion of being in my body, averting my gaze from anything reflective, avoiding scales at all costs, constantly trying to hide my body with jackets and sweats in 95+ degree weather, crying myself to sleep because the only thing that was waiting for me the next day was more teasing and name calling. I was depressed. I was insecure. I was a shell of who I am today.

Moving to Forks was one of the best decisions I ever made. It may not have felt like it at the time. I remember feeling at the time like it was a punishment. I was punishing myself to a life in a dinky town. I was removing myself from the sun, from the heat, from anything I did enjoy from Phoenix.

I had absolutely no clue that what I thought was one of the worst things that could happen to me, was actually the best. Coming here, meeting Edward, finding love, accepting myself, learning to fight for myself and who I am...those are the most cherished gifts I could have ever been blessed with.

Yes, Drake is back. The person who single-handedly ruined me has found his way back into my life. Not to mention, his new skanky and hell-fiend girlfriend, who are probably conspiring against me right now, but I will not let them beat me. I will be stronger; for my friends, for my dad, for Edward, bust mostly-for me. I can't let the words of others hold me back from everything I want to do.

Prom was a perfect example of that. I went with the intent of having fun. A few unforeseen circumstances set the night up to be terrible. Edward was almost kicked out, but instead was given detention for the rest of the school year. Drake wasn't yet a student, as he was enrolled for the following year, so Mrs. Denali, kicked him and her own daughter out of the dance.

Edward and I ended up working through the last of my big issues together that night too. Her name is Meg and she is also back. As Edward informed me, she is back and enrolled in the school for next year as well. He also convinced me later that night that I'm the only girl he loves...twice.

The icing on the cake is the fact that my father, on his way home from chaperoning prom, arrested a couple for minors in possession of alcohol, indecent exposure and public acts of lewdness. That lucky couple was none other than Drake and Tanya. I did a little happy dance in my underwear as I belted out the song to "Mean" by Taylor Swift the next morning when I found out.

They weren't detained overnight, but still, they made their way around the school's-not to mention the town's-gossip circuit. They loved it of course. Any day that Tanya is the topic of conversation, even if what's being said is that she's a slut, is a good day for her. Word is, she's still on house arrest for her stunt. Not to mention guys were backslapping Drake the next day for his die hard attempt at getting laid on prom night.

Edward nudges me, effectively waking me from my thoughts.

"Huh?" I query.

"I said," he chuckles. "Are you looking forward to being down there next year?"

"Hmm..." I ponder. "I think when I get there yes, but right now I'm enjoying being right here with you too much."

"Good answer." He smiles before giving me a peck on the lips.

"And now, I present to you, the 2011 graduates of Forks High School! CONGRATULATIONS!" Mrs. Denali ends the speech as a flock of graduation caps is sent flying, followed by the cheers of a hundred students and a crowd of people.

"Come on kids, let's go congratulate our graduates." Carlisle gathers us and ushers us towards the meeting area. The sea of people outside is huge and chaotic but we manage to find Emmett, Rose and Jasper.

I stand a few feet away and wait for my turn to give them a hug. As I stand smiling at my goofball friends a sharp nudge knocks me off balance. I turn to be met by Tanya's face, the same old lemon-sucking look glaring daggers at me.

"Oh, so sorry. Your huge ass was in my way." She icily sneers.

I smile genuinely back at her. "That's alright Tanya. Your bony elbow didn't deflate my curves."

"Huh," she scoffs. "I'll try harder next time."

"You try that," I answer smoothly.

"Although I wish you wouldn't," Edward's voice resonates close to my ear as his hands encase around my middle. "Her curves are perfect." He kisses my neck softly as he smugly smiles at Tanya.

"I don't know how you can say that." Drake answers as he materializes from nowhere. "I've been there, and had to prevent myself from gagging."

"That's because you can't appreciate a real woman." Edward answers quickly.

"In case you haven't noticed, he's with a woman." Tanya bites back.

"Oh Tanya," I smile brightly. "I don't know if you're informed but the average pant size for women in America is a 12. I think it's clear, that real women...have curves, not stick figure points and edges. That anorexic look you're sporting there went out in the 90s, along with Courtney Love and the Spice Girls."

And before she can respond I turn around, wrap my arms around Edward's neck and kiss him with everything I have. Letting everything else fall away, knowing that with him, I won't ever feel the way I did one year ago, ever again.