Author's Note: Finally! Sorry it took longer than I thought to get this out, guys. But getting settled into grad school has been killing me the last couple weeks, so it was really hard for me to get enough time to write this. Thanks for sticking with me through this story. And all the feedback I've gotten has been much appreciated. I love all my readers. And so, this story has come to an end. I hope you enjoy this, and if you are interested, please don't hesitate to check out Starlight Vows and Love is Worth the Fall. Without further ado, here is the epilogue!
Epilogue: And So We Come Full Circle.
"Is that the last of it?"
I took one final scan of the trunk, rubbing my brow with a drawn-out sigh.
"You betcha." Thank the Lord! I huffed to myself. My arms were throbbing from carrying all the damn boxes to and fro. "Thanks for the help, Dad."
"Not a problem, Bells," my old man of a father said, walking back out of the small building. "I'm not that decrepit yet," he snorted when I smirked at him.
"Sure, Dad. That's why the guys at work are placing bets on your early retirement." He scowled at my mention. I laughed loudly, holding my sides when he blew through his mustache like an agitated Santa Clause at the mall. Tears were welling up at the corners of my eyes.
"What is so funny?" The voice of the heavenly gods above (eh, so I'm a literate romantic, sue me) flew towards me, making me turn and peer around my trusty beast. I resisted the urge to clobber when I saw the bronze tufts of hair bouncing lazily on the young man's head. Ha. Young. Whatever.
"Nice to see you joined us after all," Charlie commented with a stretch of his arms. "But Bells and I took care of it."
"My apologies for arriving so late," Edward said sadly. He came at my back, wrapping his arms around me like he was my personal blanket. More like an icepack. Ha ha. Sorry, I can't help it. Blame the lack of sleep! "I'm sure I can still be of some use, at least when it comes to unpacking," he added. I felt his lips curve upwards against my hair. Good to know he was amused by my less-than-stellar midday humor. "You look exhausted. Why don't you take a break while I help Bella set up the kitchen?" Charlie looked impressed with Edward's prowess, nodding gingerly.
"Sounds like a great idea, actually. You sure you're good for now, Bella?" He looked over at me warily. I smiled at him.
"I'm all set, Dad. Go get some coffee. I'll think of something to whip up for food."
"Oh, don't worry about that. I stopped by a store on the way and picked up a few things," Edward said as he reluctantly let go of me. My eyes darted over to his Volvo, taking notice of the mountain of grocery bags in the back seat. Charlie waved as he sat in his car. I sighed heavily, feeling the aches of the day congeal into one big sensation of OW. As soon as Charlie was out of sight, I turned to Edward, crossed my arms, and narrowed my eyes.
"What's this about shopping? Did you forget what we talked about? Hmm?" I added foot-tapping, just to annoy him. He grinned impishly at me.
"You cannot expect me to at least provide you with some human necessities! Think of it as a housewarming gift."
"Apartment-warming," I corrected, waving a finger at him. "And having you here with me is the best gift I could ask for, anyway." Course Charlie won't know that for a little while…
Edward shook his head, as if what I said was pure crap, and opened his door to grab the bags. He took them all inside in one trip, setting them across the island countertop in the small kitchen. I stared at him from the front door, still not over his inhuman speed and strength. He chuckled as he stood back up, making me gasp from the sheer beauty of his physique. Shit, am I drooling again? Ugh. I stomped back outside, admiring the little rural area I was now in. No one was out and about, thankfully. It would be nice and quiet. The warmth of the new state was welcoming, coating me in moist heat. Another yawn escaped me and I stretched out my arms towards the sky.
The bright California sun washed over me as it poked through the heavy clouds, making my tanning skin glow a faint caramel. When I felt Edward's arms surround my waist, I froze mid-breath. What was he doing outside?
"Relax, Love. It's safe, I assure you," he cooed at my earlobe, kissing it lovingly. I instantly melted into his chest, admiring the glistening of his skin at he held me. It reminded me of billions of sequins being under a spotlight on a stage, dazzling me into a frenzy every time I saw it. Skin of a killer, my ass, I thought, remembering when he showed me his peculiar "quality". I, of course, disagreed and thought that outside of a few puns, he looked cool. "How are you feeling?"
"Bushed, honestly. But happy. I'm glad we got the hard part over with," I replied, nuzzling the side of my face into his chest so I could smell his sweetness. Damn him and his inability to sweat. I probably reeked and felt gross.
"You're perfect," he said, refuting my thoughts. "And you do not 'reek'. You smell of strawberries and sunshine, like usual."
"Wonderful," I grunted, disagreeing wholeheartedly. "When will Alice be joining us?" I asked, breaking from his embrace and motioning for his sparkly ass to follow me inside. He frowned. For multiple reasons, I was sure. I can't help it if my filter snapped in half when I was tired!
"Tomorrow. She said that the others will join us at the end of the week, after we have everything settled."
"I bet she's real excited to start decorating this place," I shrugged, looking at all the bland, off-white walls that taunted me.
"It's Alice. Of course she is." Edward sauntered to the kitchen, putting everything he bought away in like five milliseconds. Who needs help when you have your own dynamo of a vampire for a boyfriend?
"Dynamo? Really, Bella?" Edward grumbled with arched eyebrows as I dove into the small couch that came with the place.
"Ahhhhhh!" I sighed obnoxiously, ignoring Edward's response. "She better not go and spend thousands of bucks on new everything. I like this old couch. Has character. Like a lot of other old things I know…" I teased, fluttering my eyelids as I glanced in his direction. He tried to hide his smile, but I caught it as it pinched at the corners of his mouth. He was sliding a jug of orange juice into the refrigerator. "What did you get that we can have for din-din?"
"Some steak for Charlie and hamburger for you. Will that be suffiecent?"
"Did you remember the sweet potato fries?"
He scoffed theatrically. "Of course. What kind of boyfriend do you take me for, Miss Swan, to think that I would forget such an important portion of your trademark supper?" I snickered. He was adorable when playing drama king.
"Alright, then. I think I tossed the pots and pans box over by the sink?" Begrudgingly, I shoved myself off the polyester cushions and joined Edward in the kitchen. The box was small, covered in my not-so-amazing tape job. Edward laughed quietly to himself as I failed to rip the adhesive from the cardboard.
With a grunt, I yanked on a part of the tape that did come loose. Unfortunately for me, my flip-flops slid along the freshly-waxed tile floor a little too hard and I landed right on my butt. Edward's eyes conveyed concern, while the amusement on his face turned my face bright red. "Would you like some help?"
"No. I'm not as defenseless as you like to treat me as, Mister Cullen," I growled with frustration. He silenced himself, knowing better than to argue with me while I was pissed. On my hands and knees, I set off across the floor in focused determination, ripping through one of my plastic containers of silverware. I returned to my packaged foe with a sharp knife. I wondered if the look I was giving the box was the same as how Edward looked at deer or elk.
"Please, Bella, I think this situation is a little different than that?"
"Pfft," I snorted, stabbing into the tape like a champ. I pulled out a couple pans for the meat and a small cookie sheet for the fries. Edward placed everything on the stove for me, and I jumped up in triumph with a small pot for veggies. "I am victorious!"
Edward shook his head while pulling out a bottle of diet coke, handing it to me. "As silly as you are, I cannot help but be entranced by you," he commented. I winked at him playfully. "Charlie will be back in about four minutes." I smiled mischievously as I inched closer to him.
That's enough time, right? I thought. His golden eyes darkened, just how I liked them, and he leaned over to pull me into a tight hug.
"Never," he whispered. "There is never enough time for what I'd like to do with you." Then his lips were on mine.
I guess at this point I should better explain my situation. My last year of high school was much more pleasant after what happened to me. Having Edward and his family at my side every day seriously helped. Emmett, Rosalie, and Jasper warmed up to me, and I spent some days at lunch with the Cullens. Angela and Eric even sat with us a few times. Not to say it was all perfect. It wasn't. Having to deal with the whole Edward-is-a-vampire, on top of Jake-is-a-werewolf…well…let's just say I didn't get a lot of decent sleep for a few months.
Edward was very understanding, as always, and bore with me when I freaked out those few times. I mean, watching Emmett tackle a grizzly bear was gruesome to watch. Edward was against me ever seeing him or his family hunt, but Emmett insisted. Alice didn't see anything dangerous happen, so I didn't see why not. Fate had other ideas, and the smell of the blood made me feel incredibly nauseous. As soon as I saw the red trails down Emmett's chin and neck, I lost my lunch. I felt bad for Esme. Edward forbade me from ever going hunting with them again after that. I was okay with that.
Having to deal with his control issues was an entirely different obstacle that still gave me headaches if I thought about it. Coming from an old-fashioned era and being alone for so long had put Edward in a very rigid way of seeing the world. I kept telling him to trust me. That I wasn't going to shatter into millions of pieces if I walk across the street at night alone. He was always watching over me, well, more like hovering over me, those first few months after everything went down. After a huge blowout, where we both said hurtful things we didn't mean, he calmed down. He came to respect that I needed my independence. He tells me often that my strength and independent nature makes him love me more. I think he gets off on the fact that I will break his balls once in a while. Either way…
One of the hardest things I did was visit Jessica in the hospital. The average person would probably look at me and ask me if I was crazy. Maybe I was. But I had to come to terms with what happened in order to let it go and move on. I desperately wanted to bury the old Bella "Smelly Belly" Swan. Edward was with me for support, but he knew this was something I had to face myself. I remember how vulnerable Jessica looked in physical therapy, clinging to those bars that people used when trying to learn to walk again. Our meeting wasn't the best in the world, though I did see regret in her eyes when she saw me. She played it off, barely saying more than two words to me while I stood there, staring at her. I had no clue what to say to her, outside of my condolences on Lauren's death. I think just seeing her one last time was enough for me. When I walked out of there that day, with Edward at my side, I knew for a fact that the "whorebag" was dead. A new, stronger Bella was born.
There were a few incidents that did happen, still. Newer blondettes had sprung up during my senior year, and they decided that they wanted to keep the rumors flying. For a while people thought I was pregnant, which was fun to deal with every day. Again, I had the Cullens and my other friends by my side, at more students decided to stick around with me, too. I took it all in stride, just counting down the days until I could leave. Other incidents happened, too. We had a run-in with other vampires from time to time. The first encounter was really scary because I didn't know how to react. But the others handled it fairly well, and I learned to just hide or pretend to be a snack for them so we'd be left alone.
Graduation from high school was a bit surreal. I teased Edward constantly, asking him what number this diploma was. He told me that he had graduated from high school dozens of times over the years, and went onto college to get degrees in medicine, law, and literature. I called him a showoff. He smirked at me. When I walked across that stage, with all those assholes that had made my life hell for so long, I silently said goodbye. I'd never have to deal with them again. I finally was free of the hold that Forks had over me. As soon as the diploma was in my hand, I started plotting my escape.
I got accepted into San Francisco State University, and plan on going into psychology. Probably to be a counselor or something like that. Edward plans on going to the same university, but "lives somewhere else" as far as Charlie knows. Charlie took Edward and me as a couple pretty well, considering Edward had saved my life a few times. For a good year he made sure I had new cans of pepper spray in my purse (which was ridiculous considering it wouldn't even make Edward cough). Even he heard the pregnant scare, which led to a very awkward sex talk.
Speaking of sex, well, that's an interesting topic. For the longest time Edward was terrified of even seeing me nude. He explained to me the details of the bloodlust he had. It grew stronger whenever he got horny, resulting in numerous makeout sessions that stopped abruptly, leaving both of us frustrated on many levels. About six months ago, for senior prom, Edward had surprised me with a hotel room in Seattle. And not the cheap motel kind. He booked us one of those fancy president's suites that was a mansion in of itself. With his crazy driving (all the Cullens drove like Alice), we made the hours-long trip in one. Alice had been sneaky with keeping this a secret. I still am pretty pissed that she didn't give me any hint at all. Edward knew I hated surprises, but when he took me into the marble-coated suite, I didn't care.
I don't know how he managed to feed enough to dull his need to kill me. Whatever he did, it was a miracle. I won't go into details, so let me just say that the night was fan-fucking-tastic. Not that I have anything to go by. I know it was a hell of a lot better than what I heard the bimbos say in school, or what movies showed. It wasn't crazy, hormonally-charged teenage sex, either. Edward loved me. He proved it to me that night. If I said It didn't hurt, or that I didn't wake up feeling beyond sore all over my body and didn't a few dark marks around my neck that I had to furiously hide for a week, well, you get the picture. Nothing is perfect, not even Edward Cullen. I'm okay with that.
"Bella, could you please think about something else?" Edward groaned as he helped me wash and dry the dishes. Charlie had left a few minutes beforehand, full and exhausted. I offered for him to stay the night, but he mumbled something about seeing an old coworker the next county over, so I didn't push him. I would've rather spent my first night in my new apartment with Edward, anyway. The husky nature of his tone made my cheeks flush, and I nearly dropped the dish in my hand. I gave him a shy grin, taking his wet wrist out from under the hot water, humming at how his skin felt warm. I gently kissed his palm, watching as his eyes darkened underneath his long lashes. "You're evil, Isabella."
"Only when I want to be," I teased, licking my lips and blowing him a kiss. Within a second, my back was thrust against the island and Edward's hands were crawling up my back. He buried his face in my hair at the base of my neck, taking in my scent and leaving tiny kisses along my skin. It felt like I was on cloud nine. Maybe eight. Hell, Edward shot me straight to the top, who was I kidding? He smiled into my collarbone. Are we gonna go cheesy and do it right on the counter? I thought lustfully.
"We don't 'do it', Bella. I abhor how people refer to making love as that," he grunted without his lips leaving my trembling flesh. My nails dug into his back as I wanted to feel him everywhere.
A lot of things had changed since we met. I won't deny it. It seemed like I had burst out of my protective shell. I was outgoing, sassier (as Alice coined it), and had a lot more self-confidence.
"I know, I know," I sighed into his hold, letting him take his time with me. His fingers shocked me as they slid up my shirt. God, he always smelled like vanilla, mint, and fresh rain. I easily became drunk on it on more than one occasion.
"You drove me absolutely insane today," he growled. Did I mention that he is hot when he growls? It's so primal and inhuman. I loved it.
"Did I now? How so?" I egged him on, suddenly losing touch with the floor as he lifted me with ease, setting me atop the counter. I wrapped my legs around his waist. I think my heart was having its own metal show and forgot to turn down the bass. It was beating so hard.
Another growl. Hot. "Watching you load up your truck, flexing your muscles under your clothes and perspiring." I snorted slightly.
You can say sweat. Perspiring makes it sound so medical and un-sexy.
Edward broke away from me, making me whimper. His eyes were darker than obsidian, making me practically drool.
"Regardless of the terms I use, Bella, you were magnificent. You have no idea what you do to me."
"Oh," I grinned, pulling him back close to me. "I have some idea."
The next morning, I woke up in the arms of Edward, sighing happily into his marble chest. He was cuddling me gently, looking down at me with his crooked grin as his golden eyes glimmered in the light. "Morning," I yawned.
"Good morning. I presume you slept well?"
"Don't I always when you're around?" I sat up and stretched.
"Alice will be here within the hour," he informed me as I slid out of the full-sized bed. "She already has blueprints of what she wants to do the next few days."
"Oh great," I exclaimed sarcastically. I loved Alice to bits. I really did. She was like a sister I never had. But the chick has been, and always will be nuts. Especially in terms of makeovers.
We made our way into the kitchen so I could do my humanly duty and scarf down some cereal. Edward made some coffee and warned me of some of the plans Alice had. Nothing too insane. Not yet. After a quick shower and tossing on some jeans and a tank top, I pulled my hair into a ponytail and stood outside with Edward to wave Alice into the driveway.
She was grinning from ear to ear underneath the large oval sunglasses. Her hair was spiked as usual, and I could tell that there were stacks of items already in her car for the apartment. I groaned. Edward squeezed my arm to calm me. It barely worked. Alice practically flew at me from her Porsche, grabbing me into an intense hug that stole my breath away. "Nice to see you too, Alice," I strained through my teeth. She giggled softly as she let me go.
"Oh, Bella! Isn't this exciting? Your very own place!" Long, slender fingers slid the sunglasses down the bridge of her nose, and she glanced between the two of us happily.
"Exciting, yes, sure. What do you plan to do, Obi-One?" I sneered, seeing the wicked eagerness all over her pale face. Some things, I had learned, would never change when it came to the Cullens.
"You'll love it all, I promise," she guaranteed without directly answering me. My stomach plummeted. This was going to be a long couple of days.
By the end of the week, my apartment finally became my home. Alice wasn't kidding. I absolutely loved everything she did. All the furniture was replaced, outside of the couch. I refused to part with it. Edward understood. The carpeting in the living room and bedroom was replaced, going from a pale green color to a dark mauve. We painted the walls pale purple, and hung white and black curtains over the windows. Alice got me a glass coffee table, very upscale barstools for the island, and a master bed for my room. That surprised me since I didn't think the room was big enough to fit such a huge bed. Guess I was wrong. Edward purchased a giant flat screen television for the living room, telling me that Carlisle and Esme wanted me to have it as a gift. I rolled my eyes. We spent one of the days shopping for some new appliances and cookware, and then Alice demanded to go clothing shopping. "You can't be near San Francisco and not check out all the chic stores!" She had reprimanded me when I complained.
We also visited the college campus. Classes were going to start in two weeks, and I needed to get some maps, my parking permit, and figure out the financial aid crap. Edward had offered to pay for my education in full when I applied, stating that he had enough funds to pay for me without making a dent in his accounts. I didn't want him to. I felt that building up student loans was an important life event for me, as silly as that sounds. I told him that he could back it back for me when I was done, if he felt so inclined to help out. He agreed. Besides, it would be awfully weird if Charlie didn't get any weird phone calls or mail about loans.
Alice had been perfect in planning everything, since she knew of the weather beforehand. Storms were going to wreak havoc in the area for the days she was around, making it safer for them to travel in public. I felt bad for Edward, knowing that he would have to spend a lot of his free time at the apartment or in the valleys during the sunny days. He didn't seem to mind much, though. He told me that staying with me made him happier than traveling ever could. What aided in that was the small piano that Alice sprung on us the morning that the rest of the Cullens were coming to visit. Edward's face was priceless; like a kid on Christmas morning. It sat in the corner of my living room, looking like it was meant to be there. I told him not to break it in until the others arrived; I knew Esme loved to hear him play as much as I did.
Emmett pummeled me as usual, swinging me around in a tight bearhug when he got out of his Jeep later that day. Rosalie kept her distance, but did wave at me. I caught her smile as she followed Emmett inside. I had to catch my breath and get rid of the dizziness before I could follow them. Carlisle, Jasper, and Esme arrived a few minutes later in Carlisle's Mercedes. Esme outdid herself, bringing pans of food for dinner. I wanted to scold her for working so hard, but she assured me that it was no trouble.
"Nice Digs, Bellsy," Emmett snickered as he paced around the living room. "Bet it feels good to be freeee!"
"You could say that," I shrugged with a smile. "I'm just glad to be out of Forks."
"It's a crappy town," Emmett said sourly, patting my shoulder. "I totally get it."
"You look like you're nice and settled," Esme commented as she admired Alice's handy work.
Carlisle gave me a polite hug. "Looking forward to your semester, Bella?"
"Yeah," I replied. "A lot."
"The campus is really nice," Alice chimed, sliding herself next to Jasper. "She will thrive there brilliantly."
Edward came up behind me and wrapped his arms around my waist. "Everything is working out nicely, Love," he said sweetly. I nodded, feeling at peace.
I took a moment to look at the faces of my new family. I say that because the Cullens had accepted me as one of them so easily, that I called them mine. They supported me no matter what, in a way that my own parents didn't. Charlie did what he could, but I knew deep down that he wasn't happy that I moved away. I was his home. Renee barely communicated with me, which was nothing new for her. I think she's in Brazil or something now. Some retreat, probably. Maybe she knows I'm in college. Maybe not. Who knows with her.
As Edward's hands graced the ivory keys of the piano that evening, I felt a sense of pride. I was proud of myself. Of us. We had been through a lot the last almost two years. Two years! Had it really been that long? I bit on my lip suddenly when I realized that it was nearing the anniversary of our official meeting. Edward's face was completely relaxed, looking serene as he played. A smile appeared on his flawless face, probably from my realization. I leaned back deeper into the couch, feeling Esme's hand at my arm lovingly. We were all mesmerized by Edward's music. It was enchanting. He, like his mother once had, bared his soul when he played. I felt privileged to be exposed to such beauty.
There was a vibration in my jeans, and I pulled out my cell to see that Jacob was calling. I grumbled, mumbling an "excuse me" before taking the call in my bedroom. I had not spoken to him since I moved out of state. Not necessarily because I was avoiding him. I just didn't want to deal with his abrasive anger issues.
"Bells? Hey! How's Cali?" he asked normally.
"Jake, I'm kind of busy at the moment," I sighed; the melody from the living room distracting me.
"Oh, come on," he snorted. "You can pry yourself from that leech for five minutes to talk to your best friend, can't you?"
"Jake," I warned. He knew I hated that name. "What do you want?"
"Charlie came over and was saying how you were when you moved. Just wanted to check up on you. Everything going okay?" The tone of his voice was deep, signifying that he wasn't just asking about the move.
"Yes, Jake. Everything is great." I knew where this was going, and I soooo didn't want to go there right now. "I'm still breathing if that's what you're worried about." I smacked my lips together angrily.
There was a long silence for a few minutes. Edward's playing slowed into my lullaby, and I instantly felt the constriction in my chest from the agitation caused by Jake release.
"Okay, fine, I get it. I'll leave you alone." God, could Jake be any more immature?
"Jake, stop." I squinted my eyes and took a deep breath. "I appreciate your concern. But really, nothing shady is going on. Don't you trust me?"
"You I trust, Bells. It's the others I don't trust."
"I told you, Jake, that nothing is gonna happen. Even if it did, it's none of your business." I was getting ridiculously fucking annoyed with Jake now. The elders probably put him up to this. Or Sam. Regardless, I was pissed off. His silence made me furious, and I seethed into the phone. "I see how it is, Jake. You don't need to keep tabs on me anymore. I have my big girl panties on and can take care of myself. When your balls drop, call me." I snapped shut my phone so hard I worried that it broke. When I saw that it was fine, I bit on my bottom lip and shoved the cell back in my pocket.
"Everything alright, Dear?" Esme asked with concerned eyes. I shrugged, rejoining her on the couch and smiling at Carlisle beside her. Edward seemed a little sad as he resumed his playing. He looked as defeated as I felt. He hid it a lot better than I did.
Jake's worry was warranted. I knew that. When I announced to everyone that I was moving to California, he knew that Edward would be joining me. He also knew of the closeness we shared, and so the entire pack freaked out, thinking that Edward would do something terrible, like kill me or worse: change me.
It's not that I didn't think about it. The idea of living forever, having Edward at my side always, being eternally young, was tempting. However, it equally frightened me. Could I live with myself, going and hunting animals? Being constantly temped to kill those around me? Edward tortured himself for a century about his existence. Would I do that too? After so many decades, would I regret the decision and detest Edward for what he did? What about watching my parents and friends slowly die? These were the questions that kept me up at night sometimes. Edward hated it. Hated seeing me have nightmares over it. He was against changing me, even after he believed that I'd still have a soul afterwards. It was a scary, heavy, everything-altering decision to make. I just didn't want to make it at eighteen. Edward understood that, and so we had not spoken about it since before graduation. Though, Jake apparently didn't get the damn memo.
"Hey, Bella? Could we chat?" Alice asked when Edward finished performing. I looked at her curiously, unable to identify the look in her eyes. I nodded and was yanked out into the yard of my apartment by her small hands. The night looked wonderful over the valleys and trees in the distance. Lights from the city sparkled over the horizon, reminding me of Christmas lights almost.
"What's up, Alice?" I asked, pretty interested in what she wanted and why we had to be outside for it.
She turned to me, took my hands into hers, and smiled. "You know I love you like a sister, right, Bella?" Her eyes were wide and beautiful as Alice always was. Her question confused me. Why would she ask me that?
"Of course. I love you too, Alice. What's this about?" My gaze fell to our hands.
"It's been a long couple of years for you. Seeing now that you are 'growing up' and living on your own, breaking away from the confines of Forks High School…I wanted to say that I am proud to know you." She flashed me a brilliant smile that only Alice Cullen could give before pulling me into a loving hug. I hugged back the crazy pixie with a genuine smile on my face. She was the greatest friend I could ever ask for.
"Proud to know you too, Miss Tinkerbell," I teased as we let go.
"You've done a lot for our family. So I think I can let you in on a little secret; one Edward doesn't even know about!" Knowing she had a secret from Edward rang a few bells and whistles in my head. I nudged her to continue. "I saw you coming to an extent, even before that vision of the car crash. You were sitting at the piano bench beside Edward, listening to him play your lullaby. You were in your red sweater and black jeans." I gasped as I remembered that moment years back. It was after Edward and I spoke about his vampirism. He invited me over a few days later to listen to him play, saying he had a gift for me. Listening to him play a song he composed for me was downright extraordinary. This was her first vision of me? She noticed my silence and grinned. "I was so excited to see how happy Edward was because of you! I wanted to jump at you the next day in school, but I could not."
"When did you see that?"
"The first week we moved to Forks." I was shocked. Simply shocked. Alice knew so long ago that Edward and I would be together…
"Wow. And you managed to keep it a secret?"
"Well, the vision would shift every once in a while, especially when Edward thought he would kill you. So I didn't want to spill the beans about it too early. I told Jasper about my vision, so he would suggest that Edward get used to your scent. Plus, I am a master of masking my thoughts," she said triumphantly. I smiled weakly. "When I saw the vision of your accident, it really scared me. We weren't even friends yet and I started grieving. Then, when I told Edward about it, I saw the depth of his car for you, and I just knew it would work out. That somehow you would survive."
"And I did," I said quietly, remembering that terrible day. "Thanks to him."
"Exactly!" Alice beamed, squeezing my hands. "I am so glad that you stuck with him after he told you the truth about us. I know it was a long while ago, but I never appropriately thanked you for not cutting us out of your life. I didn't see that you would, but you know how subjective my visions are."
"I'm glad I didn't. You guys were the best thing to happen to me," I sighed, also thinking about how awful I felt. How terrified and irrational I was back then. Tears were threatening to sprout from the sides of my eyes. Alice pecked my cheek and giggled.
"Everything will work out, Bella. You'll see. Just trust your instincts," she said cryptically. Abruptly, she dropped my hands and rushed back inside, leaving me dumbfounded in my yard. Was she hiding something? What the hell did she mean by that?
It was sad when the Cullens left to return to Forks. I was suddenly hyperaware of my independence and solitary new life. Well, outside of Edward. We spent the day before my classes would start walking around on a path by my road. The sun was out, and Edward was beaming, both figuratively and literally. It was cool to see surrounding his pale-blue button down dress shirt and faded brown jeans. I had on a pair of my old favorite blue jeans and converse sneakers, with a bleach-stained grey tank top. We were only taking a stroll, who cared what I looked like? It was blistering hot out, so I clung to Edward, him being my own personal air conditioner. He chuckled when I complained about the heat, responding by running his hand up and down my back. It felt amazing as we walked. Whatever he was excited about, he hid well from me. Probably happy for me to start college. He knew how important it was to me.
"Are you nervous, Love?" He asked while we hit some gravel on our trail.
"A bit. Never did college before," I mumbled. He chuckled gingerly.
"It isn't that bad. Especially since you are going into a field that interests you," he replied. I shrugged, jumping over a couple pieces of broken glass.
"Says the guy who has umpteenth degrees," I snickered with a roll of my eyes. He grabbed me around my waist and kissed my neck.
"You will be fine. I have faith in your abilities, Bella." I tried to listen to his compassionate words, though honestly, I was too wrapped up in how cool and good his lips felt on my sweating skin that it didn't matter.
"Hmm. Kay," I sighed. He smiled into my skin.
"I find it enrapturing when I can feel what I do to you, Miss Swan," he cooed deviously against my ear. This man was driving me crazy and he knew it! The bastard. He chuckled. It was music.
"You're evil when you want to be," I playfully snarled.
He pressed me against him further, nuzzling his nose into my draped hair. "And you are far too tempting for your own good."
I wanted to ravish him right then and there in the middle of the stone path by the valley. Yet something irked me in the back of my head. Why was he so touchy-feely all of a sudden? Not that I minded, hell no. But Edward was still very old-school, so we usually kept our hands in appropriate places in public, regardless if people were around or not.
"Is something bothering you, Edward?" I asked, hesitantly placing a hand on his cool chest and pushing him off. His darkened golden pools were flickering with lust and something else entirely. Clouds passed by overhead, and his skin became normal.
"I've just been thinking about a few matters, Bella," he sighed, running a hand into his thick hair and tugging at it in frustration. My gaze softened and my heart ached. Something was wrong.
"Like…what?" I whispered, thinking the worst, as always. Was he regretting the move out to California with me? Was he missing his family? I knew that he had spent most of his century of extended life with them…maybe he wanted to go back and didn't know how to tell me.
"Oh God no, Bella," he cried, looking back at me and frowning anxiously. "That's not an issue at all. I needed a break from my family, I could never leave you."
"Then what's the problem?" He looked so wrought with conflict. More than his usual broody nature. It unhinged me in my gut. Was something bad going to happen?
"No, nothing like that," he answered my question. I wanted to reach out and touch him. There was hesitancy on my part because it was like a force field coated Edward where he stood. If I touched it, one of us would break. I hated seeing the pain in his eyes. What was happening? "This isn't how it was supposed to go…" he murmured slowly. The sun's rays let him explode with light once again, making me lose my breath as I watched the contradiction before me: glorious, inhuman beauty enmeshed with tortured, hauntingly dark emotion. "Bella, you are in love with me, correct?"
I blanched slightly at his question. It was lame. Stupid. Arbitrary. DUH. "Uh, yeah, I love you. Why are you asking that?" I arched an eyebrow as I searched his face for an answer. He heaved outwards, dropping his hands to his sides.
"Do I make you happy?"
Okay, where is this all coming from? My mind was reeling in confusion. "Of course you make me happy. Isn't it obvious when I can barely think when you're close to me?" A small smile crept over his pinched lips. "What's going on, Edward? You're kinda scaring me here."
"I do not mean to, I just…" Edward took a deep breath and sighed. His show kicked the ground and he shoved a hand into his pocket, fidgeting. Edward Cullen fidgets? Was that possible? He looked so…so human in that moment, wracked with nerves for some reason. "I wanted to clarify your feelings."
"So I could do this," he asked, pulling out his hand from his pocket and revealing to me a small square box covered in crimson velvet. My mouth gaped wide, and I probably looked like a fish out of water as it closed and opened a couple times. I knew what a box like that meant. He wasn't seriously going to…was he? My eyes propped back up to his, looking into them deeply. "In my time, I would have courted you, Isabella. My mother would have supervised us sitting in the courtyard having tea and talking about the future. I would have to ask permission to see you again, perhaps stealing away a kiss here and there before saying goodnight. I would have to desperately try and win you over while you sought out other available men. I would then make an honest woman out of you, before consummating out relationship physically. Our relationship has been completely backwards, but it has been everything I dreamed of since I was human."
An image of him in a grey and brown suit came to mind, with his hair combed down and under a top hat as he greeted me at my door through a bow. He'd kiss the top of my hand politely, introduce himself to my father and mother, and ask if I can join him for a stroll. I'd be in some ridiculous dress and bonnet, with an arm around his, listening as he spoke to me about his work and his means to take care of me. He was right about our relationship. It was indeed backwards from how normal relationships go even nowadays.
My palms went clammy and I could feel my knees shaking under my jeans as my eyes bore into the box he held.
"Edward…" I whispered, uncertain of what to do in the situation. In an instant, he was in front of me, pressing his cold forehead against mine and running a hand down my cheek to sooth me. He could feel how erratic my heart was pounding and the ruggedness of my breathing.
"I know that you fear the type of commitment I am suggesting to you. It is a rather large step, and this is a time where you are stressed about so many things. I wanted to wait until you finished your first year of college, but I just grew too selfish. It may sound prehistoric to you, Bella, but I want to know that we belong to each other. You have owned my heart since the first day I saw you, and I'd like to presume that the feeling was mutual." Oh god, it was. It was. "You are, and always will be my reason to exist, Isabella." Edward pulled back to see my eyes, pouting his lips as his thumb wiped away the tears that were now stream down my blubbering face. "You have accepted me for all that I am. You stayed when you should have run. The monster that I am does not frighten you like it once did. I am too afraid to lose you. I want you with me forever."
I sniffled in a very unattractive way, unable to respond with my head or my mouth. It was too much. How do you respond to that? Edward was freaking proposing to me.
"Edward, are you doing what I think you are?" I finally spoke, tasting my tears on my tongue. His eyes lowered as he unclasped the box, exposing a beautiful ring. It was silver, with purple stones amidst what were clearly diamonds. It was too pretty. And probably cost him an arm and a leg, or five.
"Isabella Swan. I may be an immortal, but I am also a man. A man who has found his perfect match after waiting unknowingly for over a hundred years. If I could, I would give you the world and more. I hope that my heart and love is good enough. Would you please do me the honor of becoming my wife?"
My mouth went completely dry as the ring sparkled, almost as much as Edward did. Holy shit. What do I say? Yes? No? Maybe so? Fuck! I…I dunno what to do! Every thought was screaming in my head, giving me a raw headache.
"Trust your instincts." Alice's cryptic message replayed over it all, and I gasped. She knew. She knew Edward was going to propose, and she knew I would freak. Trust my instincts, she said. What did I want?
Memories flooded me. Seeing Edward in the hallway, looking glum as we passed each other. Sitting next to him in biology class just enjoying how sweet he smelled. How concerned he looked when he helped me with my homework that horrible day we first spoke more than five words to each other. That first kiss in the rain. Being saved. Twice. Fighting in the parking lot. Ignoring him for weeks. Being in his arms and having that sensation that the world was on the right exist when we were together. All of it, and everything else leading up to this moment contributed to the swelling of my pounding heart. I knew my answer. I had known for a long time subconsciously. Now, I guess, was the right time to express it.
"Yes," I choked out, my eyes not leaving his in fear of melting away under the sun. "Yes."
Edward's smile was pure radiance as he lifted one of my hands, sliding the gorgeous ring over my finger. It fit around my finger like it was meant for me, making me smile along with him. His hand grazed over the stones while he held my hand.
Fear struck me then. I was only eighteen. How was I going to tell people I was engaged without them thinking I was knocked up? Or being stupid and impulsive? Would Charlie threaten to come out here and shoot Edward?
"He knows already, Bella," Edward said. I gawked at him.
"Who already knows?"
"Charlie. I had to ask his permission."
Oh. My. God.
"I did," he said, baring his teeth with a broader smile. "He knew my plan back before we helped you move."
"And he didn't shoot you? Well hot damn," I guffawed. Edward chuckled and kissed my cheek gently.
"Quite the opposite, actually. After I assured him of my intentions, that you were not pregnant, and that I preferred a long engagement, he gave me his blessing. I believe I proved myself an array of times since we met." Picturing the conversation made me grimace. I couldn't see Charlie being so okay with this.
"Wait, what do you mean by 'long engagement'?" He pulled back some of my hair and sighed.
"I did not expect that you wanted to get married immediately. I am sure that it would be awkward to be a freshman in college with a husband."
I ruminated the idea for a moment, cringing. "You're right on that."
"I thought so. I figured that you would want some time, a few years at least. Now that you've said yes, I can certainly wait for the ceremony."
My eyes fell back down to the ring, thinking about what else this meant for our future. "Edward, what about…you know…" I grew unbelievably nervous then, and my stomach went into knots.
"One step at a time, Bella," he said cautiously, drawing me into his chest. "I told you a long time ago that I would never pressure you into anything. It took me some months to contemplate the possibility of changing you and what that would mean for everyone. After watching you graduate, shining brighter than any star in this universe, I knew that you would do such great things. I do not want to stunt your capabilities. But, I've acquiesced to the fact that it will be your decision ultimately, and I am too selfish a creature to deny you immortality if you so choose it. If you were to die a human, I would soon follow."
"What do you mean?" I asked in wonder.
"Bella, existing in a world where you do not is too painful an idea. If you were to die permanent, I would take my own life so I could join you. I cannot be away from you, ever. Not like that."
My heart sank to my toes at the idea of Edward committing suicide. However, it showed me that he was completely devoted to me, as I him. My hands squeezed the shirt at his back and I looked up at him.
"I wouldn't mind the change, someday. I don't like the idea of being separated from you, either." I still had so much to do in my life that the thought of abandoning everyone I knew and loved hurt too badly.
"There is no pressure, Love." Good lord, how did I end up with such an amazing guy? I was so overwhelmed with emotion, that I smashed my lips against his before he could say anything more.
We stood there, on that gravel path, kissing each other like our lives depended on it. In some ways, I'd say it did. My life was changing so dramatically so fast that I feared that I would drown in it. But Edward was always there to keep me afloat. And maybe, just maybe, he'd be at my side eternally, forever reminding me that life is what you make of it. And I had a lot of things to accomplish.
Sometimes, standing out in a crowd isn't so bad after all.