This is my absolute favorite song in the world, particularly this version. It's the one my husband I used for our first dance at our wedding.
http:/www . youtube . com/watch?v=njBbT2r6MdU
Epilogue Part II: Night and Day
Night and day, you are the one
Only you beneath the moon or under the sun
Whether near to me, or far
It's no matter darling where you are
I think of you
Day and night, night and day, why is it so
That this longing for you follows wherever I go
In the roaring traffics boom
In the silence of my lonely room
I think of you
Day and night, night and day
Under the hide of me
There's an oh such a hungry yearning burning inside of me
And this torment won't be through
Until you let me spend my life making love to you
Day and night, night and day
-"Night and Day" by Cole Porter
Sung by Kevin Kline and John Barrowman
I had hoped to take Bella on the trip to Italy right after graduation, but before I could even bring it up to her, she got a job. I was thrilled for her, so I mentally set the trip aside. It was at one of the major publishing houses in Seattle. It was an entry level job to be sure, but the perfect place to get her foot in the door. Her boss loved her, she got a raise, and minor promotion within the first year; I was confident she'd get where she wanted to be in no time.
I still tutored and had been commissioned to score several small indie films and a couple of plays. Tutoring gave me a steady income, and I loved seeing the students learn. Composing scores gave me the creative outlet I needed so much and life was finally coming together.
With my heart in my throat, I made a trip to Forks to speak with Charlie. Bella thought I was taking a trip to meet with someone about a film score and I swore Charlie to secrecy. By that point, Bella and I had known each other for six years, been lovers for more than five, and had been a couple for four, so I think he'd braced himself for it. When I stammered out my speech and waited with my heart thudding in my chest, he gave me his blessing to ask for her hand in marriage. It was a huge relief and I went to my parents next. Not for their blessing, although, they were both thrilled, but to get the ring. My grandmother had left me her ring and I knew it was perfect for Bella. She definitely wasn't the diamond solitaire type and I thought she'd appreciate something antique. I'd surreptitiously measured the rings she wore now and was fairly confident I knew her size. I just had to get the ring cleaned, checked out by a jeweler, and possibly re-sized if my grandmother's ring wasn't the right size.
Once that was done, I sprung a trip to Italy on Bella. She was so excited that she nearly knocked over a lamp throwing herself at me and I vowed to suggest trips more often. The sex was enthusiastic and especially satisfying. We planned the trip and she had enough vacation time for us to go for two full weeks.
Thankfully, she had a passport so we didn't have to wait to go. We had taken several weekend trips across the Canadian border to Vancouver over the last few years and I knew it was up to date. She packed six times for the trip, so excited she couldn't decide what to take. Eventually I called Alice, who shooed Bella away and somehow managed to pack two weeks of clothes into a small suitcase.
We spent our days exploring the city. I retraced my footsteps from my study abroad, showing her the apartment I'd stayed in, and the café and market I'd frequented. I fed her my favorite dishes, and took her to museums. Every night I made love to her, whispering how much I had wanted her there beside me.
One night on our way back from a late dinner, we walked by the Ponte Sant'Angelo. I had come often, late at night, to stare at the city lights reflected on the dark river to think of Bella. It was so different to have her there beside me. The semester I had spent in Rome had been excruciatingly lonely. But now, with her tucked against my side, I felt whole.
I had planned to take her out to dinner the following night, take a stroll over the bridge at sunset, and propose then. But I didn't have the heart to resist her when she took my hand, dragged me across the bridge, and stood at the railing staring out the water. I decided to forget my plans for the following night; it was the right time.
"It's gorgeous, Edward," she breathed. "Did you ever come here?"
"All the time," I admitted. "I came here when I missed you."
I stood behind her, my arms around her waist, and she craned her neck to look up at me.
I took a deep breath; I wasn't nervous, not really. We were both ready for this next step, but it was a monumental moment in my life and I felt my heart thud in my chest. I loosened my hold on her and reached into my pocket to pull out the ring box. Clutching it in my hand I turned her to face me.
I opened my mouth and went to open the ring box but she spoke before I could.
"Yes." The words were out of her mouth before I even had the ring box open or had spoken a word.
I blinked down at her and then pressed my lips to hers, trying not to laugh.
"I love you," I murmured against her mouth. She laughed and wrapped her arms around my neck.
"I love you, too."
"Are you going to let me give you the speech I've spent weeks planning?"
She bit her lip and then smiled at me. "Yes."
I leaned against the railing, trapping her against the stone.
"When I met you, I had no idea what you'd do to me and how you'd change my life. I fought it for so long and all I knew was that I'd lose my mind if I didn't touch you. Once I did it wasn't enough. The idea of loving you scared me, but the idea of losing you was worse. I'll never forgive myself for pushing you away, no matter how hurt I was. But the last few years have been the happiest of my life. You've brought me balance, laughter, and the kind of love I never dreamed of. I could live without you, if I had to, but I don't ever want to find out what that's like. Because every day I am with you, it's better than the one before it. There will never be enough words, or music notes to explain how I feel about you, but I will spend the rest of my life trying."
I pressed a kiss to her trembling lips and then to her eyelids, kissing away the teardrops hanging from her eyelashes.
"Will you marry me?"
"Yes," she whispered and pressed her forehead to mine. We stood like that for several long minutes, content to be in each other's arms.
"Would you like your ring?" I finally asked.
She laughed. "Yes. Sorry, I got excited."
"It's okay." I opened the box and took the ring out. It glittered in the dim lights of the city and she pulled back to peer down at it. "It was my grandmother's."
"It's gorgeous, Edward."
I slid it onto her finger and stared down at it for a moment, memorizing the way it looked on her finger. I suddenly wished my grandmother was alive to see it; she would have loved Bella. She stared at it for another moment and then flung her arms around my neck, kissing me soundly.
"Take me back to the hotel; make love to me," she begged softly and I hugged her tighter. I let her go for a moment and then took her other hand as we walked back to the hotel, not speaking, merely holding on to each other. She had a ridiculous grin on her face, and I was sure mine was even worse.
Once in our room we made love in the dim light of the bedroom. It was slow, sweet, and heady. I felt drugged on pleasure, on her, on the happiness in my heart. The achingly tender way she wound her body around mine, shuddered, and sighed against me was enough to make me wonder how one person could be so incredibly lucky.
In the morning, we awoke to slanted sunlight coming in through the shutters and the smell of the flowering vine that was growing just outside the window of our bedroom. Her head was on my chest and my fingers were tangled in her hair. I brushed my lips across her forehead and she smiled sweetly before she even opened her eyes.
"I love you," she breathed and I brought her left hand up to my lips, watching the play of light on her ring before kissing her palm.
"Can we wait to tell everyone?" she asked quietly after she opened her eyes to look up at me.
"About the engagement?"
"Yeah, I mean, just until we get home. I want to tell everyone then. But I want the rest of the week to just be ours. I know Alice will be all excited and I just want to enjoy this before we jump into planning the wedding."
"Oh, of course. We don't have to call anyone until we get home. Although, I intend to tell every single person I run across today that you're mine."
She laughed and clambered on top of me, her hair tumbling around her shoulders and hiding her face from me. I brushed it away and she wrinkled her nose at me. "You wouldn't?"
"You know I would." I ran my hands up her arms and she lay down on my chest, kissing the spot above my heart.
"I am yours," she whispered. "Every bit of me."
The second time I saw Claire was only in a photo. I had been browsing through some photos Angela had posted online and stumbled across ones of Angela and Ben dancing at a wedding. Angela's belly was round with their first child and they both looked ecstatic. Despite a few nerves, they were thrilled.
The next picture made me gasp out loud. It was Claire and John dancing. I blinked in surprise when I realized it was their wedding I was seeing. I heard Edward come up behind me and I made no move to hide what I had been looking at.
"Oh, wow," he said softly, his hands coming to rest on my shoulders.
"Yeah, Ang posted them."
"They look happy," he commented and he was right. Claire was stunning in a strapless ivory dress, her hair piled high on her head in an elaborate up-do. She and John were staring into each other's eyes and the love between them was clear.
"Yeah, they do. It's just weird…" I couldn't say exactly why it felt so weird to be looking at their wedding photos. All I knew was that it had sent an odd jolt of adrenaline through me. I had no second thoughts about being with Edward, but still, it was odd to see her in that context.
"Weird how?" Edward asked; a slight edge to his voice. I turned around to look at him and I threw my arms around his neck.
"I'm so sorry. Not weird like I want her back-I swear. It's just so strange that she and I are getting married within six months of each other."
"Oh." He relaxed and looked down at my left hand. His grandmother's ring glittered in the light and I was once again reminded of how perfectly it suited me.
"And I can't wait for ours," I said, drawing his lips down to mine.
"Yeah, me either," he mumbled against my mouth.
I looked down at Bella gently swaying in my arms and felt my heart leap in my chest. She was my wife. And this dance was our first dance as a married couple. She sighed softly and her fingers squeezed mine. I rested my cheek against the top of her head and she pressed tighter against me. My arm squeezed around her waist and I thought I'd never felt happier.
Our wedding was perfect. Things went wrong of course, they always do, but it was still perfect. A button had come loose from the back of her dress just moments before she was supposed to walk down the aisle. Jasper's tux had the wrong size vest attached and the caterer had messed up the linens. All things that might have sent most brides into a stressed out panic attack, but not Bella. Apparently, when Alice told her about the vest and the linens, Bella had produced a giant container of safety pins, suggested someone get to work on the vest, and asked Esme if she had any linens we could use. Problems solved. Apparently, once the crisis was over she laughed and went back to painting Rose's toenails. Throughout our engagement a number of people had told her she was freakishly calm for a bride and every time she'd looked up at me and laughed, a happy smile playing on her lips. When we'd been through so much to get together, wedding planning seemed like a breeze. Although, it didn't hurt that Alice was the one in charge. She was enthusiastic and efficient.
Bella and I had wanted a small wedding and we'd asked my parents if we could get married at their house. Bella had always loved the house and they were happy to host it. We decided to get married in mid December, and because the guest list was small, it was relatively easy to find a date that worked for everyone. Alice had gleefully asked if she could organize it and we happily handed the reins over to her. We sat down with her to tell her what we had in mind, but for the most part, it was her show, and we were all happy with it. Alice had enjoyed it immensely and we didn't have to plan out every minute detail.
It did look incredible though. Alice had taken our vague ideas and turned them into something cohesive and beautiful. The entire house was covered in soft white lights and candles. There were bouquets of deep red roses, evergreens, and snowy white linens with gleaming silver and gold accents. My parents and Charlie and his date Cora were there, along with Alice, Jasper, Emmett, and Rosalie. The Brandons were there, and so were Ben and Angela, Kate and Tanya. The Clearwaters and the Blacks rounded out the wedding and for dinner, everyone was seated at a single long table that took up most of the living room. I had apologized to my parents for taking over their house but they had laughed, pleased to have been able to host it for us. There was enough space for dancing, right in front of the roaring fireplace, and despite the snow coming down outside it was cozy and warm.
I wasn't even vaguely nervous as I stood in the entryway at the foot of the stairs, waiting for Bella. Our guests were standing in a semi circle behind me, and Bella and Charlie would come down the stairs together to meet me at the bottom. Our vows were short, and there were just two readings, poems we liked that would be read by Sue and Kate and then we would be married by a justice of the peace. Alice and Jasper would be to one side of me, Rosalie and Emmett on the other. Bella had been the one to suggest it; since they were the only people we had asked to stand up with us and hadn't felt the need for a best man and maid of honor. Since we weren't parading them down an aisle, they were already in place, except for Alice. I had recorded music for Bella to walk down the stairs to. My heart leapt in my throat when I heard the music begin. It was time. Alice was finishing up the last minute touches with Bella upstairs and I waited for her to come down. But nothing happened. No Alice and definitely no Bella. Rosalie shot me a concerned look and I shrugged. I wasn't worried. There weren't going to be any last minute jitters on her part, or mine for that matter. We were ready for this. I waited patiently and as the song began again from the beginning, a flustered Alice quickly and carefully descending the stairs to slide into place beside Jasper.
"Button came off," she hissed at me and I smiled and kept my gaze trained on the top of the stairs.
My heart nearly stopped in my chest when I saw Bella walk down the stairs with Charlie. Her dress was a long column of delicate lace in an ivory color and her hair was long and curly and half pinned back. The neckline was square and showed off the garnet necklace she wore, which had been a gift from my mother. I wanted to memorize every inch of her, but there was hardly time and I was grateful for the photographer who was there to capture all of it. Charlie hugged Bella and then me, and stepped back to take his place beside Cora. Bella slipped her hand into mine the moment she was beside me and the ceremony began. She squeezed my hand lightly and I turned to glance at her out of the corner of my eye. She was calm and beautiful looking. Her face was serious, but there was a little half smile on her face that didn't seem to want to go away.
We'd get things wrong, we'd fuck things up, but we'd love each other. That much I was very sure of.
"How do you feel?" Edward asked.
"Tired." I sighed. "But good tired, happy, blissful tired."
"Me, too." He rubbed his nose against my neck. "I'm stupidly happy."
"Mmmhmm." I let myself sink lower in the huge jetted bathtub. "That's a good way to describe it."
We were silent for a while before I spoke again. "It seems silly now."
"All that fuss about starting a relationship with you. I was so scared."
"I know." His hand rubbed up and down my arm. "I was, too, at first."
"You dealt with it better than I did."
He shrugged. "I think a drunken monkey would have handled it better than you did."
"Thanks, Edward," I said dryly.
He laughed softly. "I'm glad we can joke about it now."
"Even if it is at my expense," I snorted and then grew serious. "No, honestly, I am glad we can, too."
"Tonight was perfect." Edward sighed and pressed a kiss to my hair.
"Yeah, it was. Hey, did it worry you when I was supposed to walk down the aisle and got delayed?"
"Well, I was a bit confused, but no, I didn't think you were changing your mind or going to go all 'Runaway Bride' on me."
"Good. I worried you would. I told Alice I didn't care if all of the buttons on my dress came off I was going down the aisle either way."
"So did she sew it back on?"
"Yeah, she's speedy with a needle."
"You looked so beautiful," he said reverently.
"Do you know what I thought when I saw you?" I felt him shake his head no. "I thought, this is it, I finally get to keep him for real, he's so amazing, and he's mine."
"Yours always," he whispered and gently turned my head and kissed me. The kiss was sweet and slow at first but need quickly consumed us and Edward gently pulled me out of the tub and dried me before laying me down on the bed.
He kissed my eyelids and then down over my nose before brushing his lips across mine. He trailed across my jaw and down one side of my neck. His tongue flicked the soft skin behind my ear and I sighed and squirmed against him. He did the same with my collarbone and my shoulder and I gasped with pleasure. I wound my fingers through his soft, damp hair as he moved lower, taking my nipple in his mouth to suck on it.
"Edward," I gasped softly and I felt him smile against my skin. He took his time worshiping both of them before he moved down my stomach and to my hips and thighs before settling between them. His tongue was warm, wet, and soft. He tasted me gently at first before his tongue lapped at my wet flesh. My hips squirmed on the bed and he sucked on my clit until I hovered right on the edge of an orgasm. I smiled faintly when I felt the odd tingling in my feet. I still didn't understand why the feel of his mouth on my body made my feet go numb, but I wasn't surprised the familiar response my body always had to his. I buried my hands in his hair, needing to anchor myself before I shattered.
But, just as I was about to come apart he stopped and slid up my body, pushing into me without effort.
"I love you," he whispered.
"I love you, too."
I felt the metal band on his finger as it slid across my skin. I shivered with pleasure at the way it felt. At what it meant. My hands slid up his shoulders and I stared at the rings on my own finger.
I felt a chuckle rumble through his chest. "Are you distracted by something?"
I laughed softly. "My ring, and your ring against my skin."
"Do you like it?"
"Mmm, yes. I like it a lot." He leaned down to nibble at my earlobe.
"I'm glad to hear it, Mrs. Cullen."
He slid further into me and I sighed with pleasure. "You've been waiting to call me that all night, haven't you?"
"Yes." His breath was hot in my ear and I closed my eyes, reveling in the feel of his body sliding against mine and how deep he was inside of me. He hooked an arm around my right thigh and pulled my leg up alongside his hip. My hands moved to his back, coaxing him to move against me, needing to feel every inch of his body against mine. I would never be able to get close enough to him. I wanted to crawl inside of him, merge with him. I wanted every part of me to be a part of him.
My orgasm took me by surprise and so did the tears.
"I love you," I choked out, tears spilling down my cheeks at the pleasure and love that filled me.
"I love you, too." Tears glittered on his eyelashes and as I looked into the green depths I knew that I was the luckiest woman on earth. After he came with a soft cry and whispered words of love, we napped for a while.
When we woke up, I stretched and saw his eyes follow the sheet as it slipped down my body.
"It's weird...I know we ate dinner, but I'm kind of hungry," I said.
"Me, too. It just so happens that I have a picnic for you."
"You do?" I turned to look at him, amazed at how thoughtful he always was.
"Yep. The caterer made it up and dropped it off here before they headed to my parents' house."
"You think of everything."
"I would love to take credit but it was all Alice."
I smiled. "You two are an unstoppable force. You spoil me."
"You deserve it." He slid away from me and disappeared into the kitchenette, returning a few moments later with a tray of food and a bottle of champagne and a glass.
He fed me bites of food from his fingers and I drank sips of champagne. When we were finished I kissed him softly.
"I have a surprise for you, too, husband." His eyes lit up at the word and he grinned at me.
"Oh beautiful, call me that all night and I won't need anything else."
"I think you'll like it."
I shimmied out of bed and made my way across the room, returning a moment later to find Edward propped up against the headboard. He tilted his head and gave me a slightly puzzled look.
"Hmm, somehow I thought you meant lingerie."
"I bought that for Paris." His eyes glittered darkly at me and he gave me the slow, crooked grin that always set my skin on fire. "But I think you'll like this, too. Close your eyes."
He did and I straddled his legs and set the plate I had been hiding behind my back down beside us on the bed. I took a forkful of food and held it near his lips.
"Open your mouth," I said softly.
He obliged and I slid the fork inside. It was almost criminal to watch him eat it delicately off the fork and then lick his lips. I shivered and he smiled and began to chew. His eyes flew open and once he swallowed he looked at me in amazement.
"Pumpkin pie, your pumpkin pie. You made it for me?"
"Mmmhmm, and how can you tell it's mine?"
"Oh I know. I'll always know the taste of your pie beautiful," he purred in my ear.
I laughed, amazed that nothing had changed.
"Want some more of my pie...husband?" I asked.
Maybe a few things had changed. But the scorching look he gave me and the way he hurriedly moved the plate to the bedside table told me that while the title had changed, he was still the boy who I had met so many years before.
The next morning we were lazy and lounged around in bed. Edward got dressed just long enough to bring us breakfast in bed, something that he had arranged with the owners of the B&B. We spent the entire day in bed and the following morning we were on a plane to Paris.
Edward apologized for the tickets not being first class and I shook my head at him.
"You're taking me to Paris for a week. I don't care if we hang off the wings of the plane I am just so excited to go."
He chuckled and squeezed my hand. Between the chaos of disembarking and customs and getting on the train to go into the heart of the city, it hadn't really sunk in that we were in Paris until we made it to the top step coming out of the subway at the Rue de Rivoli. I turned to Edward, my eyes wide, to see him staring at me.
"That's what I was waiting for."
I blushed and he chuckled and squeezed my hand. "I love that you're this excited. C'mon, let's find our apartment."
We were staying in an apartment just a block and a half from the Louvre museum. We had looked at hotels, but for a weeks' stay, the apartment made so much more sense. It was far less than we'd pay for a hotel, and in an ideal location. It put us right at the center of the city, near a metro stop so we could take the subway to any of the major sights in the city.
The week was magical. We spent it walking the streets, striking off in a different direction each morning to explore. We went to museums, we kissed on the Eiffel Tower, we ate at cozy little bistros, and drank wine and coffee with every delicious meal. We made love on the bed in our apartment and more in love with each other than we'd ever been before. Paris was incredible, and I loved every minute of it. But I would have happily stayed in Forks, so long as it was Edward I was spending my honeymoon with.
I came home early from working on a film and decided to surprise Bella at my parents' house. She often went there for a long weekend when I was gone. She got lonely sometimes and because she enjoyed spending time with them. I let myself in to the house and I stood in the doorway of the kitchen watching Bella and my mother. Bella had wanted to learn how to make my mother's wild mushroom lasagna for a while and it was an all day process. The kitchen was covered in dirty dishes and there were several pots bubbling away on the stove. They were both drinking wine and laughing. They had their backs to me and I watched them for a few moments. Esme said something and Bella coughed on her wine.
"I can't believe you did that." She giggled, sounding scandalized.
Esme shrugged. "I was drunk, what can I say?"
I cleared my throat and they both jumped and whirled around. Bella's hair was piled on her head in a messy bun and her cheeks were flushed. Her eyes were bright and laughing, and although I was already so in love with her that it hurt, I fell just a little bit more. I hugged my mother distractedly and made my way over to Bella.
"I missed you," I murmured against her lips.
"I missed you, too." She wrapped her arms around my neck and clung to me, kissing me softly.
She had been a little bit uncomfortable about displays of affection in front of my parents at first, but that had dissipated.
"It hurts sometimes, how much I love you."
"I know." She rubbed her hand over my chest, right above my heart.
"I didn't even know how much I wanted this."
"Wanted what?" she asked softly.
"Wanted to see you and my mother laughing and cooking in here. The idea that you two get along so well...it just..." I pressed my lips to her hair, overwhelmed by the way I was feeling. "I wanted that. I just didn't know how much."
She nodded and buried her head in my neck. We stood there for a long time, re-connecting. It was hard being away from her for so long sometimes. We managed and it wasn't always easy, but seeing her again when I came home made every moment away from her worthwhile.
Alice and Jasper married the summer after Alice graduated. It was a lavish June wedding and although I wouldn't have wanted anything that huge, it was gorgeous. Despite having nearly two hundred guests, Alice had come up with a thousand different ways of making it personal and meaningful. They wrote their own ceremony, and included personally written notes with the chocolate truffle favors. They did photos before the ceremony so they spent the entire cocktail hour mingling with guests. Edward was stunning in a tux, and although I tried to pay attention during the ceremony I found myself frequently distracted by the sight of him standing just behind Jasper. Three years later they had pair of twin boys. They were incredibly energetic and into everything, but so much fun and Edward and I had a great time taking them to the zoo, and the children's' museum, and keeping them for occasional weekends so Alice and Jasper could get a break.
Alice's dream of opening a boutique that offered fashionable clothing to people with limited mobility took off. She was happy and the shop became quite successful. Jasper became a history professor and wrote several well reviewed books.
Rosalie and Emmett had a smaller wedding; she didn't invite anyone from her family except for a cousin she was close to. And although Emmett's family was large, they kept things as small as they could. They got married the August after she graduated from law school and they both were very happy. I was shocked when six months later she came to me in tears.
"I want a baby, Bella," she sobbed.
Edward gave me an alarmed look and went to go make tea for us while I got Rose settled on the couch.
"Okay..." I prompted.
"I want a baby, but I just started at the firm and I shouldn't even be thinking about a child yet."
Edward handed us mugs of tea and a box of tissues, kissed both of us on the top of our heads, and fled. I didn't blame him. Rose crying was surely a sign of the apocalypse.
"Rose, both of the partners at the firm are female and have children, I am sure they will understand," I reassured her
"But I can't stay home and I can't stand the thought of my kids being raised by a nanny or day care," she said scathingly.
"Um, Rose, you have a husband. He's phenomenal with kids, and he's not loving his job right now. Have you talked to him about it?"
"About wanting kids now, about if he'd be interested in staying home with them, etc..."
"Well fuck, I hadn't even thought of that."
With a laugh, she was back to being Rose, and she promised to sit down with Emmett. Sure enough, he was thrilled with the idea and although they'd have to be a bit more careful with their budget, they could manage it.
Three months later, she was pregnant and in just a few years, they had three small children, two girls and a boy. Emmett was in his element, and once they were all old enough, he went back to school and became a teacher. He taught business at UofW and Rose thoroughly settled into the law firm.
Angela and Ben gave birth to a little girl who only lived a few weeks. They were heartbroken, but they supported each other throughout it and eventually went on to adopt four children who had lost their parents in a car crash.
After a great deal of agony, I finally decided that I didn't want to have children. Edward and I talked about it endlessly and always came to the same conclusion.
Alice didn't take it so well.
"What do you mean you don't want kids?"
When I told her she froze and gave me an astonished look. I had spent the afternoon with Alice and her boys and we were in their bedroom playing with them. She let go of her son Ethan and he gleefully pulled all of the toys out of his toy chest. They had just spent ten minutes getting them all put back and I automatically reached for him and pulled him onto my lap before he could cause any more chaos. Jack was stacking blocks at the moment so he was occupied.
"I mean, the more I think about it...the more I realize that feeling just isn't there for me, Alice," I explained patiently. I understood her surprise. I had never particularly wanted kids, but it hadn't been until recently that I'd come to a final decision about it. "You know how you look at baby shoes and get that goofy look on your face? It's not there for me. I mean, they're adorable, and I kind of love miniature things, but it has nothing to do with the baby."
"But you're so good with Ethan and Jack."
"Yes." I hugged Ethan to me and he reached up to tug on a lock of my hair. He was one of the most adorable kids ever with his mother's wide grey eyes and nearly black hair. His curls were all Jasper's though. "But Alice, I don't want any of my own."
She was quiet for a few moments while she gathered up the toys again. "How does Edward feel about it?"
"Honestly, he's fine. He said he doesn't really feel it either and we're going to enjoy work and travel and each other. And all of these fabulous kids that you and Rose have."
She struggled to wrap her brain around the idea and we talked for hours about it after the boys had been put down for a nap.
"This is just something you're going to have to not push me on, okay?" I gently reminded her and she nodded. "If I change my mind at some point, that's okay, but for now I don't think it's going to happen."
I hugged her, grateful that she was so understanding. Rosalie was surprised by it, too, and Emmett even more so. But they were our friends and they listened while Edward and I explained it. It had been a difficult decision and what I'd worried the most about was disappointing Edward's parents. One afternoon while he was on a trip, I worked up the courage to tell my mother in law.
"Can I talk to you, Esme?"
"Of course, Bella." We settled in with glasses of wine and I poured my heart out to her.
"I just keep feeling like there's something wrong with me that I don't want kids," I said. "And I feel like I'm letting you and Carlisle down."
She looked at me thoughtfully before replying. "I would be thrilled with grandkids. There's no question about that. But I would never want you to feel any pressure from us about it. We love you, and if you have five kids or none, it doesn't matter."
I sighed, relaxing a little. "For a long time, I worried that there was something wrong with me, that I didn't want them. That maybe Renee had screwed me up."
Esme took my hands in hers. "You are whole and perfect, there's nothing screwed up at all about you. It's a choice, Bella, and you're being mature and responsible about it. I'd far rather see you and Edward lavish your attention on your friends' children than have kids of your own and regret it. Despite being moody and obnoxious all through middle school and high school, Edward was an easy child. But even as easy going as he was, it's an enormous drain on your time and energy. For me, it was worth it, but it isn't for everyone. I'm proud that you can recognize that. If you don't feel an all-consuming ache to have a child, you shouldn't have one."
"You don't think it has anything to do with Renee?"
She took another long moment to gather her thoughts. "I think you learned from her mistakes. She had a child she wasn't really prepared for, and it was detrimental to her happiness and her marriage. But no, I don't think she screwed you up, or that you're incapable of being a good mother or anything of the sort. I've seen you with your friends' little ones. You're wonderful with them. But there's not a thing wrong with you for not wanting your own."
"Thank you, Esme," I whispered as I hugged her tightly.
"You're welcome. Don't ever forget that we love you, no matter what."
My life with Edward was rich and happy. Our jobs kept us busy and every moment we had together was precious. I loved my job, but sometimes the workload was overwhelming. It was fine when Edward traveled; it was something to keep me occupied. But sometimes we resented each other's jobs. I hated that his meant he had to leave for weeks on end, and he hated that sometimes I spent weekends buried in manuscripts, when he wanted to spend time with me. It wasn't always easy balancing it, but we managed and the time we spent together was sweeter for it.
We made an effort to stay in touch with the people we cared about and dinners on the third Saturday of every month helped. Sometimes they were at Alice and Jasper's, or Emmet and Rosalie's, or Tanya and Kate's. Occasionally Angela and Ben came, although they had moved back to the Forks area, so we saw them less often. Sometimes Jake and Leah came. To my great shock they had stayed together and had a family of their own. Cora and Charlie didn't bother to get married, but they moved in together and they were both very happy.
The dinners were always fun. There was usually a lot of laughter and wine and food, and sometimes heated discussions. Edward and my decision to remain childless in no way meant that we didn't have family, perhaps not by birth, but because we loved them. Our friends were like siblings, their children our nieces and nephews. Edward's parents spoiled the kids rotten and always offered to host the big holiday celebrations to bring everyone together. There were quiet moments with just Edward and I together and more love and support than I had ever dreamed of. Our life wasn't perfect, but every terrible day was better because I had Edward by my side.
The third time I saw Claire wasn't until many years later. Edward and I were strolling through the art fair in downtown Seattle and I wasn't paying any attention to where I was going. I was distracted by a booth with hand blown glass ornaments and I tugged Edward in that direction. I ran right into someone and I rocked back with a muffled oath. Edward caught me, as always, and I turned to apologize. I was startled to see that it was Claire. She had a few lines around her eyes, her hair had some streaks of grey mixed in with the honey blond and she was a bit heavier. But she was still fit and beautiful, and looked just as stunned as I felt.
"Bella!" she exclaimed.
"How are you?"
"I'm great, you?"
"I just got back from a trip to Japan, business."
"Oh wonderful. You were able to use all eight of your degrees then, I see," I teased her and she laughed.
"Yeah. Thank god John is so good with the kids." She motioned to where he was standing with two children. They had a boy who was dark haired like John and a girl who looked just like Claire must have at that age. "He's wonderful when I have to be gone."
"That's great," I said sincerely as he waved at us. I waved back and asked her about Mike.
She laughed. "Well, he just married Jessica for the second time."
"They got married like a year after graduation, ran off to Vegas on some stupid whim and spent the next six months arguing before they got a divorce."
"I lost touch with her, I had no idea…"
"Yeah, it was a mess. But she found out she was pregnant and they shared custody and they ended up back together. They had a small wedding just a few months ago. Amy, their daughter, was their flower girl. I think they both needed to grow up for it to work, but they're both really happy now."
"I'm really happy for them, and for you."
She took my hand and squeezed it. "I'm happy for you, too."
She smiled at Edward and he gave her an easy smile back. We said our goodbyes to Claire and she headed toward her family while Edward and I continued on to the glass booth.
"Weird, huh?" Edward said.
"Very. She looks happy though."
"Yeah. You look just as happy though."
"I am." I turned to smile at him.
"Do you ever regret it?" he asked, tilting his head to look down at me. It was a question without malice or fear, merely something he was wondering and I shook my head.
"No. Everything worked out exactly the way I hoped. All of us are happy, you can't ask for more."
"And you don't ever wish we'd had kids?" We had made the final decision on my thirtieth birthday and never once looked back. It was right for us. We had work, and travel, and hobbies and each other, and I never for a moment felt like we were missing out.
"Not in the least," I replied, looking up at Edward. "I love our life," I said and kissed him
passionately. Something I intended to do for the rest of our lives.
We walked through the doors and as Edward took a cart, I couldn't help but smile. Life was amazingly cyclical. We had gone grocery shopping thousands of times before and every time, I thought of the first time when I was too blind to see what I had right in front of me. I glanced up at Edward; he was still as handsome as ever. His hair was grey now; silver actually, but surprisingly thick for his age. Our age. I still found it astonishing that we were elderly now. I didn't feel elderly. Well, some mornings I did, physically anyway. But mentally I felt hardly any different than I had the day we got married. It seemed impossible to believe that it had been fifty four years ago. Rosalie and Emmett's oldest daughter had thrown us a lavish party after our vow renewal for our fiftieth anniversary. It had been a wonderful night. I'd stood beside my husband, our hands clasped together and thought, this is it, we're nearing the end, and I wouldn't take a single moment of it back.
It was a good feeling. A little terrifying because I knew our time was winding down. We'd been lucky, good genes and an active life had given us so many years together. Edward's heart had given us a scare a few years before and I was wildly grateful that the minor surgery he'd had corrected the problem. We had spent our younger years jogging together and more recently swimming together, and I was suddenly grateful. The time went so fast. I looked up at him again and smiled. We were wrinkled and old now and yet I still thought he was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen.
"What's on your mind?" he asked and I turned to look at him.
"Just thinking about our life together," I said honestly. He smiled at me and I smiled back and squeezed his hand.
Suddenly remembering that I wanted grapes, I let go of his hand and continued on his way. His walk was a little slower and more deliberate, but his back was still strong and straight and I saw women half his age turn to look at him. He was still a flirt and even college age girls had a tendency to get flustered around him. He was polite and charming and somehow managed to charm their socks off without coming off like a creepy old man, although I loved to tease him about it. He teased me about the harem of younger men who lived in the neighborhood who were always offering to mow our lawn or shovel the walk. I protested they were just after my baked goods, which he usually managed to twist into something suggestive. God I loved him, so much. I felt my chest tighten with the overwhelming happiness in it. I bagged the grapes and turned to find Edward.
Instead, I saw a young couple walking side by side. They were in their early twenties and I could practically see the nervous tension radiating off both of them. They were very close together - their hands almost touching - and I saw her finger reflexively twitch as if to grasp his, but she sighed and relaxed them almost immediately. As I followed them down the aisle I saw him touch her lower back softly and the way she leaned imperceptibly into him. I suddenly saw Edward and I, much younger, in a different store, fighting ourselves and our fears. I watched them for a few moments and when the guy stepped away to grab something I stopped beside the girl.
"Don't waste this opportunity," I said softly and she turned to look at me, a puzzled look on her face. "If you love him, say something."
She smiled sadly. "It's complicated..."
"It always is. But it's worth taking the risk, I promise. I've had sixty years with my husband and I'm sorry I wasted the first year we knew each other."
She nodded and thanked me quietly. I walked toward Edward who had been standing at the end of the aisle watching me with a puzzled look.
"What was that about?" he asked me.
"Just giving a girl some advice. I saw myself in her," I admitted.
He nodded and leaned down to brush his lips against mine.
"I love you," he said softly.
"I love you, too. So much."
I linked my arm with his and turned to look at the couple. The guy had joined her and I saw her fingers reach out to take his. He turned to look at her with a surprised look on his face, but when his fingers wound through hers I let out the breath I had been holding. She turned back to look at me and the joy on her face made my throat close up with tears. If they were half as happy as Edward and I, they would be very lucky.
I am a bit sad to be ending this story. So much of it was intensely personal, and in some ways rather cathartic to write. I have loved every minute of it and I appreciated every single one of you who read it, and especially the ones who took the time to review.
I would of course love to hear what you think of the chapter, but even more, what you thought of the story as a whole. Even if you haven't reviewed in the past, a few words would go a long way.
As always, if you think there's something I could have done better, I'd be happy to hear that, too. Thank you all so much.
Don't forget to keep an eye out for more writing from me. I will be posting some one-shots soon, and eventually another full-length story. The full length story is about half done, and I am SO excited about it. As soon as it's finished I'll post it, so put me on author alert if you'd like to read more of my writing.