This was my contribution to Fandom 4 Sexual Assualt Awareness! Totally inspired by my baby brother, who was a Marine. He laughed when I told him about this story. I hope you enjoy!
All recognizable characters are property of Stephanie Meyer. I just take 'em out and play with them while she's too busy spending the oodles of money we've spent on her books. :)
It should dually be noted that the quote used in the title is Dante's (although it appears to be a dispute about it, I'm currently giving him the credit).
A huge thanks to babylopez2008 and angelz1114577 for pre-reading and betaing this thing for me!
Beginning of Always
Week One:He's gone. I have known this was going to happen. I have had the last six months to prepare myself for this event. However, seven days in, I want nothing more than to curl up in his arms again. As ridiculous as it might sound, I seem to have forgotten how to exist without him. I have always prided myself on being independent, yet somehow here I am, lost without him. I have officially become one of those girls that I have despised and made fun of my entire life.
Week Two: I feel like I've suddenly scored a starring role in some angsty romance where the loving couple is separated for an indeterminable amount of time. I've started writing him letters at least twice a day when the ache for him becomes unbearable. It's nice to feel like I still have some line of communication with him. That maybe someday, somehow, he'll read these letters and know that I love him.
Week Three: I want more than anything to pretend this is not real. I wish the evidence that he's gone wasn't everywhere. I feel like every time I turn around there's some new glaring reminder that my world has changed irrevocably. Ali convinced me to go out with her for lunch and I nearly attacked some poor, shaggy haired guy wearing his cologne. I've officially grounded myself from going into public until I can manage at least a minor amount of self control.
Week Four:I feel like a junkie going through withdrawals. I have barely gone a month without him and already I've had to make so many adjustments. Silly adjustments in the way that I live my everyday life, simply to try to avoid the memories of what used to be overtaking me. I can no longer watch television because it reminds me of how much he hated it. I can't listen to music because every time I turn the radio on, all I can picture is him singing along off key to make me laugh. I can no longer read any of my books because every hero in the stories possesses my favorite qualities about him. My world has become painful and I am without hope of escape.
Week Five:His mom called me today. We cried together. It makes me wish we lived closer to one another because everything was easier those first couple days when they were here. Despite living across the country from his Mom, he's always been a Momma's boy. I'm glad for all the time I spent with her now. She seems to understand the emptiness that has overtaken me more than anyone else.
Week Six:I had to take my engagement ring off. It felt as if I was removing the last piece of him from me. I was trying to clean and slammed my hand in the oven knocking a diamond loose. Dropping it off with the jeweler was one of the hardest things I've done. But he worked so hard to get that ring for me. I can't let anything happen to it.
Week Seven: He left me something! He must have thought I'd find it sooner or later. Yesterday, I went to steal his favorite hoodie from his closet because, like I suspected, it still smelled like him. As soon as I slipped my hands into the pocket, I found a letter and a CD. I had to eventually put the letter into a baggie so I wouldn't completely soak it with my tears. I've spent the last two days curled up in his hoodie, reading the words, and listening to his music. His voice lit through me like a fire, and I felt a warmth that I'd forgotten I knew how to feel.
Week Eight: I went to pick up my ring today. When I got there, Sherry was in and so excited to show me the band I ordered for him that had finally arrived, weeks later than anticipated. She didn't even let me get a word out. She just popped open the box and started prattling on about what a good decision I had made designing my own. The infinity symbol started the tears. Taking it out of the box and reading the inscription, "Remember Tonight..."on the inside made the sobs come harder than they have in weeks.
Week Nine:When I went downtown to retrieve some documents today, I realized they have the Christmas lights on. There were bell ringers on every corner and children were laughing merrily with excitement that always comes with weeks after Thanksgiving. My purple sparkly tree he bought our freshman year to cheer me up is still in storage. I can't even contemplate getting it out. In fact, I am fairly certain I have all plans to spend Christmas curled up in his hoodie and pretending like this wasn't supposed to be our first Christmas married.
Week Ten: It's a stinking blizzard out there. On the news, they said to get supplies and settle down for a couple days in someplace comfortable. I'm at his apartment. Something about the shoes casually kicked off at the end of the bed or the blanket carelessly wadded up on the end of the couch makes it feel as if he could walk in any minute. Some days I think I'm making it all harder on myself, but I can't let go.
I can't get used to the emptiness I feel.
Week Eleven:Dad called me. He's called in reinforcements to deal with me. How pathetic am I that my father would rather put up with his ex-wife and new husband for the holidays than spend it with me alone? They get in next week and my Mom already has a full list of activities she wants to do with me. "Operation: Try To Make Bella Forget" begins. Part of me wishes that this plan of theirs had some hope of working. They say time heals all things. I'm not really finding that to be so true, but I've been working on my fake smile hopefully that will be enough to satisfy them or fool them.
Week Twelve: I have a bruise shaped like Alaska on my ass. Thank you, Renee. I told her ice skating was a terrible idea, but no one listens to me. Thank goodness they let me spend Christmas day in the kitchen cooking. I guess they didn't really have another choice other than Charlie's bacon and eggs, because there was no way Charlie or Phil were going to let Renee in the kitchen. I have to admit, it's rather nice to see my parents under the same roof getting along. Silver lining of the whole thing? It's all over now.
Week Thirteen: I am on a plane. For the first time in eighty days I have hope. This time tomorrow, I can see him. This time tomorrow, I can touch him. This time tomorrow, I will be in his arms again. Boot camp is hell. I don't know how I am going to survive this; they say it gets easier. I pray they are right and this is only part where communication is completely ceased. That's what I keep telling myself so I don't have a nervous breakdown, but for now, noneof that matters, because I'm getting my fiancé back.
I stood there, biting my lip nervously, wishing that Esme and Carlisle were with me for this. Carlisle had been called into surgery and they wouldn't arrive until the next day, so I was the only one here to greet our new Marine. I had seen him from afar all morning at the run and on his way to the private ceremony. He looked so good, just being in the same space as him made me feel infinitely better, but I wanted to feel his arms around me. I didn't care if there were hundreds of people around us, I just needed to be in his arms. I bounced anxiously on the balls of my feet as they marched out and lined up. We'd been instructed to wait until they were lined up before finding and attacking our loved ones. Okay, they hadn't said attack, but it was clear from the looks on their faces that that was exactly what all these people intended to do. I took that moment to look around and digest everyone else in the same position I was. They were everything from women like me anxious to have their boyfriend, husband or fiancé back in their arms to mothers and grandmothers itching to have their babies back; fathers and grandfather's with emotion shining in their eyes and children that were anxiously waiting for their chance to be back in their Marine's arms. The common thread between each of us, young and old, was the pride that shined so clearly in our eyes. The reminder that no matter how hard these last weeks had been, it was all worth it. There was a greater good, something bigger than us, more important than simply our families. I knew my face lit up the moment I spotted the bronze hair I'd been searching for.
When the signal was given that everyone was in the right place, there was a mad rush of people. Normally, I'd have fallen at least twice in the shoes I was wearing; probably three times. Somehow I made my way to him in record time without issue. The second I was close enough, I threw myself at him and I felt his strong arms catch me and spin me around.
"Love, I missed you," he whispered in my ear as he held me tightly.
It felt just like I was home. Nothing in the world mattered more than this man in this moment. "I never thought thirteen weeks could be so long." I felt my tears slipping down my cheeks as I nuzzled my face into his neck and caught a whiff of his familiar scent.
"I missed you," I whispered shyly when he sat me down on the ground and cradled my face between his hands. I found myself blushing under his gaze. He always had this way of looking through me. It was as if he could see just how awful the last thirteen weeks had been for me and I felt horrible for not trying harder to cope without him. Here he was doing something that he had dreamed of, and I was acting as if it were all about me.
"I had no idea time could pass so slowly." Just like that his lips were on mine; my fingers wove themselves into the familiar silky locks. I loved that our bodies seemed to melt together as if they had never been separated. I hope the feeling never weakens. I think that I might have been content to spend the entirety of the next five hours we had together wrapped in his embrace. As he broke apart from our kiss, his eyes were a shade darker than normal and I could tell it was just as painful for him to pull away.
I knew that this was neither the time nor place for that. Our wedding night,I delicately reminded myself.
I wish I could say that we had always had this strong resolve about losing our virginity that we had the discussion the minute we got serious. Unfortunately, one night in the beginnings of our relationship, we attended the first and only party I ever drank at. We found an empty bedroom and the kisses turned frantic and desperate. Clothes were tossed carelessly, mouths were everywhere. Honestly, it was sloppy and drunken. Somewhere in the middle of that I had found my wits about me enough to confess that this was the first time I had ever made it this far with a guy. The declaration quickly doused the flame burning between us. I went from a heated embrace to being cradled and cherished as he gazed into my eyes. He had vowed to me in that moment that we would wait for the right moment. What I never imagined that was five years later, I'd still be waiting for the right moment.
Okay, and we're not talking you're 'run of the mill everywhere but in the deep dark tunnel' kind of physical relationship. Since that night, hands have never ventured below the waist. Our friends all thought we were insane; however, it worked for us. I never felt deprived or as if I was missing out; until recently. I suppose an undetermined wedding date would do that to a girl. We were supposed to get married the June after we graduated from college, but a lovely letter from the Marine Corps declaring that he was to report to boot camp the day after graduation had postponed our wedding indefinitely at this point.
Every one of those thoughts about our canceled wedding fell away as he snuggled me into his side and led me through the camp. Half way through our time together, it was as if we had never been apart. It was crazy to think how wonderful it felt to do simple things with him once again. Simply walking together and eating made my day. We ended the evening with me perched on the wall while he bowled a game with a few of the other guys from his bunker. It was nice to see him kick back and have fun. To know that, despite the fact that he had spent the last thirteen weeks working and training hard, he had made friends. He wasn't alone it, and it gave me hope that if he could do this, then I needed to put my big girl panties on and do the same.
Six o'clock came far too quickly and we had to say good-bye once more as he headed to his bunker. I drove off to the airport to pick up Esme and Carlisle where we huddled in one of the coffee shops and I showed them all the pictures and videos that I had taken with my camera that day. I found myself crying again with Esme and laughing out loud at some of my favorite moments of him at bowling with his brow wrinkled in concentration.
The next morning came more quickly than I expected. It was such an amazing thing to watch the Colors Ceremony, and graduation was just as wonderfully amazing as everyone promised it would be. Between Esme and I, we must have used an entire box of Kleenex. There was just something about watching this ceremony that made me realize how much bigger this was than just the two of us. It was more than just our story now. My future husband wanted nothing more than to dedicate his life not only to me, but to protecting the way of life in our country. I couldn't help but for love him more for this.
When we were finally reunited after the ceremony, I took a backseat and let his parents smother him with love and enjoyed only one all too short embrace before we were whisked off to lunch with the same members of his platoon we'd bowled with the night before. The long table was full of shouts and whispers. It was one of the most amazing things I had ever seen. We probably took up space in the banquet room longer than we should have, but the restaurant, fortunately, seemed accustomed to it.
The rest of the time we spent in San Diego flew by quickly and fairly uneventfully. The only thing I found remotely noteworthy was the fact that a new distance I had never felt between Edward and I appeared somewhere over California. I consoled myself with the thoughts that it was simply the quiet of the flight that had his mind running in different directions that caused this. I hoped that when we landed, things would return to the easy, closeness we'd always enjoyed.
However, when we landed, we were met by our closest friends with signs and horns, welcoming him home in their own loud and proud fashion. It would have been so wonderful to have all the people I loved the most together in one place like that, but then Jasper goes and opens his mouth and declares that it is the perfect time for male bonding. I tightened my hold on Edward's hand as if trying to tell him how I felt about this suggestion, but then he goes and jumps on the bandwagon like it's the greatest idea he'd ever heard. He kissed me soundly and whispered he'd see me later and wandered off to spend the day ahead of us with the guys. I knew I couldn't be upset because he hadn't seen them in weeks, either. I just wasn't ready to be parted with him again so quickly.
That is how I found myself seated inside a spa while Ali dictated exactly how my new look was supposed to appear on me. I had long since given up on figuring out what she was trying to tell these people about softness and a naturally elegant style, and had given in to girl talk with Angela. I filled her in all the details about San Diego and how good it was to see him again. Then I even spent a few minutes telling her the million and one things I was hoping to fit into the ten days before he had to return for his next round of training.
I found myself truly able to enjoy my friends and ignore the work that was being done on my hair and face. One of the best things about Ali was she knew exactly how to handle me. She knew when to push and when to retreat; she was honestly one of the few people I had conversed with over the time Edward was gone, because she just seemed to understand how delicate I was without treating me as such. She also knew better than to even reference the dark period I had been in just a few days prior to this.
When Alice announced that she had the perfect dress to go with my new look and refused to let me see any of it before she could pull it all together at her house, I gave in to it without a second thought. I had accepted that this controlling part of Alice was just who she was and I decided long ago to love her despite it. I simply avoided all the mirrors in the spa until we arrived back at Alice's house and were swept up into her room.
I took a deep breath half way up the stairs. "Ali, what kind of flowers do you have on your table this week? It smells divine, but it literally hits you as soon as you walk into your house."
"Ooh, a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I let the florist pick it out for me." She waved a hand dismissively as she disappeared into the closet and reemerged in a calf length golden dress that made her look like she was a Greek goddess. I found myself hoping at the dress she had for me was at least half as amazing as the one she had donned.
"Alright in you go," Alice murmured from where she was, squatted by my feet with a white bunch of fabric. With a small shrug, I stepped inside the dress carefully and allowed her to pull it up to cover me. I gasped a little as I looked down at what I was wearing.
My mouth dropped open like a fish when I studied the fabric that was now clinging to my body. My fashion forward friend had made a huge mistake when she'd purchased this for dinner attire.
"Alice, this dress is amazing, that fact is completely undeniable. I don't know that I've ever worn a more perfect dress, but I can not wear this to dinner. It's clearly a wedding dress. Please, please tell me you have something-" My eyes dropped down to the dress that was hugging my curves perfectly, fighting back tears suddenly overwhelmed as I looked at Alice, my eyes pleading as they met hers, "Anythingelse?"
Angela laughed as she stepped out of the bathroom in a dress the same golden color of Alice's. "No. I think that dress is absolutely perfect for tonight, Bella. It was made for you."
I studied once again the dress as I looked down and sighed. "It is beautiful and perfect, but completely inappropriate for dinner." I reminded them as I studied their grinning faces in front of me. "Mary Alice Whitlock, why are you grinning like an idiot?"
She said nothing as she took me by the shoulders and led me to her full length mirror. "Look," she whispered.
"Alice, I-," I froze as I finally did as instructed. My hair was in a messy bun at the nape of my neck off the side. A few curls framed my face and the dress—the dress was more than words could explain. It was everything I had been searching for last spring and had been unable to find on my own. It was strapless with an empire waist with a bow in the front where the dress flared out just a little bit and flowed to the floor with a subtle sparkle under the lace detail. "Oh my god," I finally whispered after staring at myself for what felt like eternity.
"You're getting married," Alice whispered as she slipped an arm around me and hugged me to her. "I hope you don't mind that as your maid of honor, I kind of planned the entire thing."
I squeezed her tightly, fighting back the tears that were threatening to ruin the perfect job the make up artist had with my face. "Alice, if I get to marry Edward today, you could've put me in rhinestones and denim and I would have pasted a smile on my face. This is amazing. How did you do this?"
"We've been planning it for fourteen weeks. When Edward realized how upset you were about the wedding, he came to me. He explained that he wanted to marry you the minute he was out of boot camp, but wanted to give you so much more than a quick trip to the courthouse. So our plan emerged and somehow I have managed to keep it from you. Bella, you're getting marriedtoday!"
I laughed and hugged her tighter as she squealed into my ear. "Oh, Ali! I was so mad at Jasper for suggesting male bonding, but this—you-" I felt the tears well in my eyes as I held her and kissed her cheek. "Thank you."
"Oh no. This was Edward. He wanted to do this for you. I just took care of the details, and they're really your details. I hope I did them justice," Alice whispered as she slipped into her bathroom and thrust a bouquet into my hand. "Are you ready to get married?"
"I've been ready for months." I grinned as I took and admired it. "This is perfect. Thank you. Let's do this."
The ceremony was small with all of our family and closest friends. Alice's backyard was actually the most perfect setting I could have imagined. She must have been working for weeks with her florist to achieve the draped ribbons of flowers that were strung around her gazebo.
I felt the tears sting my eyes as I watched Alice and Jasper's daughter, Suzy, make her way down the aisle, twirling and throwing rose petals everywhere as the piano began to play the song I'd walk down to. I hadn't picked out anything our first round of wedding planning because nothing had seemed to be the right fit, but Alice had once more nailed it. As the first words of "It Feels Like Home To Me" spilled through the speakers, I moved into a place where I could see Edward. The tears that had been threatening since Alice's announcement spilled over. I had always loved this song, but listening to the words as the events of the last weeks washed over me, I knew how true they were. It didn't matter where he was in the world, he was home to me. He was everything I would ever need.
I wiped gently at my tears as my father took my arm and kissed my cheek. In that moment, all of my focus was on the man waiting for me at the end of the aisle. I had waited years for this moment, and everything simply faded away as I walked towards him. I knew that the months that followed with more training were going to be hard, but I knew that we were in this together.
As he took my hand after my father handed me over, he leaned down to whisper, "Remember tonight, for it is the beginning of always."