Disclaimer: Twilight belongs to Stephenie Meyer, I'm just grateful to have borrowed it. The songs and poem mentioned below are the property of Bart Howard, Eva Cassidy, Larry S. Chengges and Sade respectively.
A thousand thank yous at the end...
Three years later...aka "one day"
"Um, Bells?" Emmett tentatively whispers. "You're kinda breaking my hand here."
I glance down to see my newly manicured fingernails digging into my best friend's flesh and hastily loosen my grip, but I glare at him anyway, "Well I'm sorry, Emmett, but we're a little in the shit here in case you hadn't noticed?"
He offers me a sympathetic smile, taking my hand back and squeezing gently before letting go and reaching for the door handle.
"I know, I know. Stay here. Stay calm. I'll go talk to him and see what the fuck is going on."
Emmett awkwardly hoists his huge, suit-clad frame out from the back of the 1962 Daimler Majestic Major limousine, and I try to take a deep breath. The breath I release is very shaky.
I stare out of the window and wonder how the hell this happened. I organised everything down to the finest detail, or rather I allowed Alice to, and yet still fate has intervened.
I watch anxiously as Emmett speaks to our driver, currently buried under the hood of the broken down car, fiddling with fuck-knows-what inside.
I check the time again. We're now running twenty-two minutes late and we're not even halfway there. I watch other cars flying down the highway and for a surreal moment I blindly consider flagging one of those strangers down. I feel a rush of panic wash over me. What if I don't make it in time?
I anxiously finger the bracelet on my wrist. A gift from Edward, platinum chain adorned with two beautiful charms - one a heart engraved with the crosses of the Union Jack, the other with the stars and stripes of the American flag, both nestled side-by-side. Two countries, two people...together. When he asked me last night if I liked it, I was too busy crying to do more than nod.
Twenty-four minutes. Enough is enough. Edward and I didn't come this far to have our future ruined by a fucked-up, 50-year-old engine. I will make it to that hotel even if I have to hitch up my dress and walk there.
Today is the day I marry Edward Cullen. It's also the day I will share some news that will change our lives forever.
One year earlier
During ancient times villagers armed with pitchforks and fire drove suspected witches out of their small towns. It turns out all it takes in 21st century rural Washington is vicious gossip and dirty looks.
And all it takes for me to go back is strength; mine, Edward's, ours.
"You're a hundred per cent sure you want to do this?" He casts his eyes over me from the driver's seat. Driving in America has proved to be one of Edward's favourite things during the year that we've lived here. In addition to his attempts at adopting an American accent, which leave me only in giggles.
"Oh I couldn't be more sure," I reply, watching the dense forest rush past my window as we near my old town - the beginning and the end of the old me.
As we slow a little and go past the Welcome to Forks sign, Edward's gaze turns curious to see the reality of this place - this town he never really understood. I can't help but think back to the girl who drove out of Forks four years ago, damaged, bitter, desperate for an escape. But you can't escape yourself; you can only adapt and change, understand and forgive.
We rumble through the small streets, past the familiar stores, the tavern where Jake exposed our secrets, the church hall where Jake and I began a marriage based on everything but love. It's the middle of the day and people mill around everywhere but I barely notice them, my vision instead consumed with ghosts, with shadows of the past.
"Take a left here."
Edward turns the corner and my father's house comes into view.
"It's this one."
Edward stops and regards me silently. He doesn't need to say anything, I don't need any words right now and he understands that, I just need him here.
The house looks the same but different. It's the old familiar shapes but painted a different colour. The driveway is still sloped and bumpy, but an unfamiliar car sits in place of my old truck.
I open the door and walk around to lean against the hood, just watching. Edward sits next to me, our shoulders pressed together.
"It looks smaller."
"Things always do," he replies gently.
I look back towards the way we've come, the familiar town.
"Everything is smaller here now. It seems...insignificant."
Edward strokes his fingers through my hair and I turn back to him. He smiles gently and my heart flutters just a little as it always does.
"You know what I reckon?" He traces a finger down my throat.
"This town is the same size as it's always been. Just as significant as it's always been. But this girl..." he bends his head closer to mine. "This woman is stronger and more significant than she's ever been before. And that fact simply dwarfs this place."
He's right of course. The only part of this town that's really changed is me.
I jump when a young woman opens the front door, pulling a stroller down the pathway. She looks at us curiously. I offer a small smile that I hope is reassuring and Edward and I quickly get back into the car.
"I want to visit Charlie now please."
Edward nods and I direct him to the cemetery. As I walk towards my father's grave I notice a familiar figure.
"Bella!" He looks older, more lines, more tired. The creases on his forehead map out his worries.
"God, it's good to see you," he says when I lean down to his chair and put my arms around him.
"This is Edward."
Edward steps forward and I take his hand while the other shakes Billy's. I can almost read Edward's mind, and realise how hard he must find this, meeting the father of the man who led to my...insignificance. But they are both pleasant towards each other, warm even. Years and distance have a way of dulling many pains.
Billy politely asks about us, about our lives - in England, in Seattle. Edward is so enthusiastic about the US and the trips we have made - New York, California, Florida - it makes me happy that he has so enjoyed our time here.
Nobody mentions Jake and I'm glad.
"And you'll go back to England?"
"Yes, soon." I catch Edward's eye and smile. "We have a home there."
There is silence and we all look towards my father's grave.
"Do you visit often?" I ask Billy, quietly, gesturing to the headstone in front of us.
He nods. "Every few weeks."
"Thank you," I whisper, bending down to kiss his cheek, suddenly overwhelmed with gratitude that he has tended Charlie's grave for these years I have been unable, or unwilling, to come here.
He grabs my wrist and keeps my ear close to him.
"Be happy, Bella. You seem so...light now."
"I am, Billy. I will."
I watch his chair until he disappears out of sight. I put down the flowers I've brought and lean into Edward's side. He holds me close and drops a kiss on my head.
"I'll wait in the car, okay?" His gift of knowing exactly what I need never seems to fade.
I nod and he silently leaves me alone. The air is still and crisp, the sky clear, a stark contrast to the day I stood here with Jake and our words were louder than the thunder. I sink down to the grassy earth and let the memories of my father wash over me.
I whisper words into the air. I tell him about Jake and the past. I tell him about Edward and the future. I tell him of my disappearing fears and my growing hopes. I tell him I love him.
I tell my father every truth and then I let him go.
At the car Edward envelops me in his arms and I have a bizarre longing for tea and the seaside. We will be back here in America I'm sure, but right now there is only one place I want to be.
"I'm ready," I tell him. "Take me home."
One month ago
Forgiveness is a funny thing. There's a reason forgiving and forgetting are often linked. Time heals all wounds? I guess clichés are clichés for a reason.
The letter from my ex-husband arrives exactly a month before I marry another man, the right man.
There aren't enough words in the world to express how sorry I am. And even if there were, I doubt I would be able to string them together right. The things I said and did to you - before, during and after our marriage - will haunt me for the rest of my days and I deserve to be haunted. I deserve everything.
Except you. I know that now. I've never been so acutely aware of anything in my life. I never deserved you. And you never deserved to be treated that way. I don't know what I deserve, but it's something I'm working on figuring out.
I don't expect your forgiveness, and I certainly don't expect you to respond to this letter. I wouldn't know what to do if you did. The way I am, the things I did, comes from a wound in my past that you tried to heal. I tried to let you but now I know that ultimately we have to start by healing ourselves. I think you learned that way before I did.
I'm sorry. That's all I have. I will never try to contact you again, for both our sakes.
Dad says you're fine, that you're happy. That's all I will ever want for you.
It took more than 20 years for Jake and I to find any understanding of each other. When it finally came, I no longer needed it.
I consider throwing the letter away but something stops me. I have accepted my past; it's the only way anyone ever moves on.
Instead I read it twice, carefully, calmly, and then I put it in a drawer.
One week before
I thought watching Edward play piano was hands-down the hottest thing in the world. It turns out that watching him play to a whole room full of people is even hotter.
Soon after I made my post-coital, piano stool suggestion that he might want to share his gift with others, he began casually putting the word out, visiting piano bars, making small talk with managers. Just as Carlisle had found all those years previously, finding work as a musician is tough. Thankfully for Edward, he put no pressure on himself; he would only ever want to play for fun.
To celebrate our move back to Essex, Edward took me to a wonderful seaside restaurant called The Cracked Crab. It was during a chat with the manager that night, exuding the self-deprecating charm that had first drawn me to him years ago, that Edward landed a gig playing piano on Saturday nights. What started off as gentle background music for people to enjoy their swordfish by soon got noticed. After a couple of months, the manager asked Edward if he would consider playing after the dinner covers were finished - entertaining the drinkers with a more upbeat tempo, perhaps even taking requests. They now put his name on the poster outside.
I love to watch, and so do our friends. But tonight it's just me, listening to the last hour from the bar.
"Your man is on fire tonight, Bella," Eric, our favourite bartender, tells me as he fixes me another Cosmopolitan.
"Trying to go out with a bang," I grin. With less than a week until the wedding, Edward won't be back for several weeks while we enjoy our honeymoon.
As if on cue, Edward's voice comes over the mic:
"Okay, ladies and gents, this will be the last one of the night as I need to take my beautiful fiancée over there home." He sends a wink in my direction while I blush and several patrons whistle. "And as most of you know I won't be here now until next month while we enjoy a well-earned honeymoon."
More whistles and I wonder if my skin is going to burst into flames. The room eventually quietens slightly and Edward slips into Bart Howard's Fly Me To The Moon. I watch, captivated as always, while his beautiful long fingers fly across the keys, the muscles in his back flexing beneath his dark blue shirt and his tongue just grazing his full bottom lip in concentration. I want those fingers on my body, those muscles in my hands and that tongue working it's magic all over me.
He finishes his performance and I watch as he makes his way towards me. I lean my elbows back on the bar and he slips his hands around my waist, his warm fingertips seeking out the bare flesh between my top and my jeans like a heat-seeking missile. He kisses me without even saying hello, and I grip my fingers in his messy hair to pull him closer. We're pressed so tightly together that I'm very aware of just how much he wants to take me home.
"Ready?" he eventually asks breathlessly into my neck.
I nod, downing my drink and grabbing my purse.
"See you at the wedding, Eric," Edward waves to the other end of the bar.
"Absolutely, mate, take care."
Outside in the brisk sea air, Edward throws his arm protectively around my shoulders as we make our way along the dark seafront.
"I love when you come to watch me," he says, his eyes twinkling a little.
"I love watching you," I grin. He gives me that look and I can't help the shiver that runs through my body.
Even the cool, autumn breeze coming off the ocean doesn't do much to chill my flushed skin. We may have shared only a kiss but there is something about certain nights when you just know some earth-shattering orgasms are on the cards. In our case, a lot of nights.
We approach the house and it is so definitely ours now. Edward's Jaguar XF on the drive, the neatly kept lawn and countless potted plants that Esme keeps sending us. Inside it is warm and safe, from the shaker-style kitchen to the print of Dali's Persistence of Memory on the hallway wall, it's everything we hoped it would be.
We barely make it up the stairs before Edward presses me against the wall, already lifting my shirt and sliding his fingers over my satin bra.
My heart begins to race when he finds all the achingly familiar spots on my throat, neck and chest. I could never have imagined our physical connection would remain so potent after this long but if anything, the more we have each other the more we want each other.
He tugs my top over my head while I quickly undo his shirt buttons, impatience eventually causing him to pull that over his head too. He drags me close, pressing my bare breasts tightly to his skin and we both release a small hum of pleasure.
I run my tongue along the skin of his shoulder and slip my hand down to find his pants already undone. He groans my name when I slip my hand inside and find him needy and pulsing.
"So fucking hard. All for me?" I ask him in a teasing voice, just to drive him crazy.
"Always, baby," he grunts against my throat and presses my hand closer onto him. His hands find my own fly but I pull my hips away slightly, giggling, and sinking to my knees. I yank his pants down and look up to see his head fall back against the wall when I take the first lick. Warm, firm flesh fills my mouth and I slip him further and further back, spurred on by his quiet grunts. I alternate between licking and sucking, teasing the head and then the full length until he grabs my head to pull me down on him, exactly what I was hoping for.
Edward hasn't even touched me and yet I can feel the liquid slipping out of my pussy and soaking into the thin material of my panties. I gently caress his balls until he gasps, and tease my finger around his back entrance until he releases a needy growl. All those months of nothing but foreplay made us so incredibly good at it, and it's a habit we've never broken.
I tease less and suck more and soon he releases a conflicted and hasty, "Wait."
He tugs on my hair. "Stop, Sweetheart. Up, up." I love making him breathless.
He takes my mouth again before I've even caught my breath, digging his fingers into my thighs and hoisting me into his arms. He stumbles towards the bed and casually launches me back onto the mattress. I land giggling and lean up on my elbows, watching his face while he leans over me to undo my jeans and pull them down my body. My panties follow.
His eyes are dark and take in my naked form feverishly. The intensity of the lust I catch in his gaze never fades or changes but the way I respond to it definitely has. Where I used to cower away, hide my supposedly broken body from his hungry expression, now I lie there and let him watch, unashamed and confident. This man wants me and I want him and there could never be any shame in that.
His voice breaks a little. "Your body, Bella...always perfect." He leans down to tease my clit and I moan, becoming even wetter. He thrusts two fingers inside with ease.
He kicks off his pants from his ankles and wraps his hands around my calves, pulling me to the edge of the bed. He leans over me to tease my mouth with his, tugging my bottom lip and grazing it with the tip of his tongue, and whispers "Flip over, baby."
Heart pounding I grin, hastily flipping onto my front and pushing up onto all fours. His hands rest on my bare ass and hips and encourage me back towards the very edge of the bed, my wanton pussy twitches in anticipation.
He pushes inside in one firm stroke, unafraid, and we both makes sounds that combine relief and need.
One thrust, then another, slow and deep. Then shallow and teasing. One of his hands leaves me and I twist my head around to see him grip the bedpost while the other hand curls around my middle, gripping my hip in time with the increasing tempo of his hips.
I face away and just listen to his sounds, the fucking amazing grunts and groans and words that are almost as arousing as his swollen cock pumping rapidly against my g-spot.
"Yes...fuck...more. Jesus, Bella..."
He stretches down to press his fingers against my clit and I let out some curses of my own.
"Is it me," he gasps. "Or is sex even fucking better since we stopped using anything?"
"Yes...yes," is all I manage but I know exactly what he means. Ever since we decided to stop using contraception two months ago the thrill of him coming inside me, and everything that could mean, flies me even higher.
Eventually words, even dirty ones, become too much and he pumps harder and harder, begging me with his body until we are nothing but a sated, sweaty heap on the bed. His flushed front presses to my damp back and I enjoy the sound of his breath in my ear and the feel of his racing heartbeat. He eventually rouses and places lazy kisses on my neck and earlobe until I move to slide under the covers, Edward crawling in behind me. He draws me close and we get warm and sleepy. We're halfway to dreamland when I hear him murmur:
"Seven days," he mumbles, sleepily. "Until I make you mine for good, Bella Swan."
I snuggle my ass closer, gripping his arm even tighter around my waist. I think he might already be asleep when I reply in a whisper:
"My silly Englishman, I'm already yours. I always was."
What if I can't marry Edward today? The thought is like a splinter in my mind. It isn't easy to pace in a lace, fishtail gown but I'm managing it, wearing a hole in the sidewalk next to the broken down Daimler. What if the registrar leaves? What if we can't get married today?
"Look, man, we ordered the cab fifteen minutes ago and were promised it was five minutes away so where is it?" Emmett is ranting into his cellphone next to me and the fact that even he seems a little alarmed now doesn't calm me.
Our driver keeps his head under the hood, wisely hiding from this anxious and angry bride.
I've been so focused the last couple of weeks on all the finishing touches for today but right now I couldn't give a shit about the length of the bridesmaid dresses, or the colour of the place cards. All I can think about is Edward's face - more confused and agitated the later we become. All I can think about is getting to him and becoming his wife.
I'm desperate to speak to him but Emmett has banned me. He's spoken to him and so has the event manager at the hotel, and apparently he's fine. Since my cellphone is in Alice's purse I don't have much option, save tackling 210 pounds of pure muscle.
Just when I wonder if the extreme panic in my head is about to finally shatter the outside facade of relative calm I've been cultivating, I hear a car pull up next to us on the hard shoulder.
Thank fuck, the taxi!
But when I swing round my white horse is in the form of a shiny, dark grey BMW M5. The window slides down and the amused half-smile on the face of my knight in shining armour is so familiar I could cry.
"Christ, I thought I was late. In a spot of bother, Ms Swan?" Aro smirks.
My unlikely hero barely gets a thank you before I stumble out of the car into the relieved arms of Alice and Rose in the driveway of the gorgeous Georgian manor house.
"Where's Edward? Come on, let's get married!" There's a chance I may have slipped into hysterics on the drive over.
Alice looks at me calmly, her gentle but excited smile slowing my heart. She rests her small hands on my shoulders and holds my gaze.
"Calm down, babe. You're fine, you're here. My brother is fine too, he's been waiting patiently...for the most part." She winks, every inch a Cullen.
"Take some deep breaths," Rose smiles.
"The registrar has waited?"
"Yes, she's fine for a little while longer," Gemma, the event manager, materialises beside us.
I pause and draw some air into my lungs, letting relief wash over me.
"Knock them dead, dear," Aro says, before hastily retreating inside.
The girls help me up the steps and into the wonderfully decorated foyer.
"You look gorgeous, by the way," Gemma says, as Alice and Rose help me straighten my dress and veil.
Now the panic has subsided I feel only excited. My Edward is just two rooms away, and I get to marry him right now.
"Let's do this," I grin, my eager feet already starting towards the ceremony room, before Gemma reminds me I have to go speak to the registrars first and do the legal bit.
She leads me to a small room where the registrar and her assistant smile at me reassuringly.
"Would you like to sit?"
"No, I want to get married." The sharp words slip out and they both laugh, asking me the obligatory questions as quickly as possible.
Outside again, we line up in front of the large oak doors and my heart flutters in my chest. Rose and Alice stand in front of me in their satin halter-neck dresses, the colour of the richest dark chocolate, clutching simple bouquets of three long-stemmed orange gerberas each, a flower to match in their hair. They each keep sneaking excited backward glances at me, grinning. Alice looks teary and tells me she loves me.
Emmett hands me my own bouquet, orange and cream gerberas interspersed with tiny roses,and it feels heavy and solid in my hands.
Gemma pushes open the heavy doors and the opening strains of Eva Cassidy's Songbird prick tears to my eyes. The carefully chosen lyrics tell our story so perfectly.
For you, there'll be no crying
For you, the sun will be shining
'Cause I feel that when I'm with you
It's all right, I know it's right.
I watch Rose begin walking and take a shaky breath. A beat later, Alice follows.
And the songbirds keep singing
Like they know the score
And I love you I love you I love you
Like never before
Soon it's just only the two of us left. I clutch Emmett's arm.
"Don't let me fall, Em."
"Never," he murmurs and when I look up at his face he looks a little glassy-eyed himself. He smiles gently at me.
"You look amazing, babe," he says and I grip him tight.
Gemma gives us the signal and we round the corner into the room.
I'm vaguely aware of the beautiful atmosphere, the autumn sunlight streaming over the rolling Essex countryside, through the wall of windows to my left, and illuminating the light wood and orange and chocolate accents around the room. The two lush topiary trees on either side of the top of the aisle, the posies of gerbera daisies at the end of each row of chairs, the ivory rose petals scattered under my feet. I can feel the eyes and smiles of our guests turn towards Emmett and I as we begin our slow march.
But in truth it is all just background. All I really see is Edward. Edward's handsome, clean-shaven jaw. Edward's serious expression, lush bottom lip pressed tightly to top as if to hold in a thousand emotions. Edward's soft and warm green eyes holding mine tightly as if he fears that one glance away will cause me to disappear. Edward's gentle, growing smile as I get closer.
Edward Edward Edward.
I can't get to him quick enough, and when I do and he reaches for my hand, everything feels right. As the song comes to a close he kisses my cheek and I watch his throat bob as he swallows.
And then, of course, that smirk.
"Take your time, eh Sweetheart?" he murmurs.
"Sorry," I giggle and grin. He smiles widely back, leans close and rests his cheek against mine. He smells incredible, new and familiar at once.
His voice is a husky whisper in my ear. "You look so fucking beautiful I can hardly breathe."
Neither can I. We stare at each other, not breathing until the registrar's voice finally breaks the spell. Air floods my lungs, heat floods my face and I stand to face the person who will marry us. I grip Edward's hand so tightly, about to be bound forever.
The initial words are a bit of a blur. She welcomes everyone, talks about love and marriage. All I can think about is the man next to me, the feeling of his thumb stroking across mine and the small smiles he keeps sneaking me.
The registrar calls Rose to give her reading and she glides, ever graceful, to the front, looking excited and emotional. Edward and I picked the poem together and the words couldn't be more perfect.
"If you can always be as close
And as happy as today,
Yet be secure enough to grow
And change along the way.
If you can keep for you alone
Your love as man and wife,
Yet find the time to share your joy
With others in your life.
If you can be as one
And walk through marriage hand in hand,
Yet still support the goals and dreams
That each of you have planned.
If you can dare to always go
Your separate ways together,
Then all the wonder of today
Will stay with you forever."
She finishes with a deep breath and I smile gratefully. She catches Edward's eye too and I watch them exchange a warm glance, their friendship now strong and solid. When she takes her seat I can't help but notice how Emmett's fiery eyes follow her every move, his gaze never leaving her like he is a compass and Rose his magnetic North. My heart clenches slightly and I wish, as always, for a resolution for them.
"Ladies and gentleman," the registrar continues. "We have come to the part of the ceremony where Isabella and Edward will exchange the words that will legally join them as husband and wife. As well the words required by law, they have written some vows of their own to share with you, and each other."
When Edward turns towards me to make his vows I can see every whisper of my heart reflected in his face.
He clears his throat, swallows, and his wonderful British tones ring out to the room.
"My beautiful Bella, when you came into my life I wasn't looking for you. I wasn't expecting you. I didn't think I needed you. I was a shell."
He pauses to swallow again and I squeeze his hands in both of mine.
"I was living the life of half a person, a particularly shallow life. Within weeks, days even, you took everything I knew and twisted it around. You spun truths on their heads and opened my eyes to so much, to everything."
He takes a step closer and his eyes sear into mine.
"You introduced me to myself, you made me a better man and the challenges we faced together helped to heal us both. You made me whole, better, and I will make sure that as we begin this new chapter of our lives you will never, ever forget just how special you are. How strong you are. Thank you for making me stronger too. I promise to love you every single day, no matter what happens or where we are."
His eyes glaze with unshed tears. "You're everything, Bella."
I don't even attempt to stop the flow of tears that are rolling down my own cheeks, and from the sounds of sniffles throughout the room behind us I don't think I'm alone.
"Give me a moment," I giggle nervously as the registrar hands me a tissue with a smile, and the rest of the room laugh too.
Edward smiles and leans in to stroke my cheek.
I get control of myself and take a deep breath.
"I came to this country as a refugee from love," I begin, my voice shaking. "I wasn't looking for a rescue, just an escape, but in you, Edward, I found both. And so much more."
"You have given me more than you could ever know; your strength helped me to find mine. You fixed me and helped me fix myself. Thank you."
"Thank you for being light. Thank you for giving me hope on dark days. Thank you for making me laugh. Thank you for showing me who I could really be, my true self."
"Most of all, thank you for loving me and for helping me to love myself again. I will be thankful for that always and I can't wait to love you forever, as my husband, as my equal partner, as my best friend."
The registrar goes on and I'm sure I should be listening but I know that Edward and I have said everything we need to say. I hardly hear another word except the last ones I've been waiting for.
"You are now husband and wife."
As Edward finally pulls me into his arms and kisses me to cheers and whistles I realise a simple truth. Yes, we just got married and yes, that is a huge deal but really, we are just making official what we have always been since the day we met - connected and entwined forever.
Everyone says your wedding day goes by too fast. They warn you that it will fly by in a blur, but it really doesn't feel like that for us. Time moves exactly as it should, everything feels exactly right, and we enjoy and absorb every moment of it in our stride.
By the time the sun has set behind the English hills outside, my face actually aches from smiling so hard and my heart is somehow full and light at the same time.
"Finally!" Alice cries, barrelling into us like a tiny tornado. "Do you have any idea how hard you are to get to?"
She turns to me and hugs me close.
"Congratulations," she whispers and then more loudly, indignantly. "Can you believe that's the first chance I've had to say that?"
I laugh. "Yes. And thank you. Thank you for everything. This wouldn't have happened without you, Alice."
A typical Brit, she brushes off my praise with a flick of her wrist.
"Bollocks. I hardly did a thing."
"Right," I chuckle.
She turns to her brother next and launches herself into his arms. When Edward puts her down they exchange one of their goofy sibling grins/eye rolls. Their closeness will always be adorable to me and I'm thrilled that Alice and I now share that sisterly bond as well.
Edward's eyes light up further when Jasper appears behind Alice, juggling two drinks in one hand and his 18-month old daughter in the other. Alice grabs the baby and hands her to Edward.
"'Ere y'are, Ed, take this for a minute. J and I need a drink."
Her words are flippant but the kiss she drops on Olivia's head is so tender.
Edward eagerly grasps his niece, the only female who ever challenges me for his attention, while Jasper chuckles and shakes his hand before wrapping me in a hug, congratulating us both.
Jasper and Alice didn't waste much time. After she moved into his flat they were pregnant within six months. This worried the overprotective brother in Edward at first but it was soon clear that they would take it in their stride. The love Jasper feels for Alice, compared to what Edward witnessed between him and Maria, was obvious enough to reassure him that they would be fine. And fine they are, planning their own wedding for next spring.
Edward shifts Olivia onto his hip and grins brightly at her. "Alright, Treacle, having a good time?"
She gurgles back adoringly, saying her version of Edward's name. I stroke her hair and she shoots me my own smile, forever turning on her charm for the aunt and uncle who can't help but spoil her. Olivia's blonde curls are all Jasper but everything else about her screams Cullen. That beautiful child is testament to the power of the Cullen's stunning genes and that thought, and sight of my new husband holding her, sends a thrill of excitement down my spine and into my belly. All day I have tried to get a moment alone with Edward to tell him what I need to say but Alice is right, we have been quite in demand.
No time like the present. A smile slips onto my lips. "Listen, Edward, I need-"
Interrupted again, this time by my new in-laws.
Esme wraps the three of us in a giant hug.
"How's it going, loves?" she asks, almost glowing. "First dance soon?"
"Sure, Mum," Edward smiles, placing Olivia in her grandma's eager arms.
Carlisle places his hand on Edward's shoulder.
"And you haven't forgotten, have you, son?"
Edward chuckles. "No, Dad, just tell me where and when."
The bond Edward shares with his father now warms me to my core. They still bicker, of course, parents and children often do when they have similar souls but refuse to believe it. But the warmth and respect that flows between them in recent years is clear to all, and is especially comforting to Esme and Alice. Whatever was said in Brighton unlocked something in them both that years of resentment had buried, and Edward has witnessed such a change in his parents' relationship that he cannot help but acknowledge his father's change of heart. I have never seen Esme and Carlisle so happy.
"Where and when what?" I ask and watch as Carlisle throws an arm around Edward's shoulders.
"My boy is allowing me a little duet later," he grins, gesturing towards the piano in the corner of the room. Carlisle shows an interest in Edward's work now, and all aspects of his life. He no longer lingers on the past and pressures him about the piano. But there is no denying that when those two Cullen men play together, it's real magic.
Rose appears suddenly at my side. "Bella, can I have a quick word?" Her eyes are wild and excited.
"Of course." I gently tug Edward's cravat until he leans his lips towards me in a brief kiss.
"I'll be back soon...Hubs"
"You'd better be. Don't keep me waiting, Mrs Cullen. You owe me a dance." His eyes are crinkled and happy.
Rose practically drags me outside to the balcony.
"Did you tell him to do it?" she asks hastily, as soon as we're out of earshot from the other guests.
"Do what?" I'm confused but it's clear she can only be talking about Emmett. Their story has not run so smoothly. For three years they have tried long distance, been on and off and on again. Their affection for each other is so obvious to everyone but them, that Edward and I have been left throwing our hands up on more than one occasion. When they are together their passion burns so brightly it bridges the Atlantic, but when they are apart their insecurities run rabid and threaten to destroy them both. I've lost count of how many times I've tried to counsel them but they are so stubborn it is a constant battle.
"Did you push him into it?"
"Push him into what? Rose, please start making sense."
She studies my face and when she accepts my genuine confusion she leans against the balcony and let's out the breath she has been holding.
"It's really his idea," she whispers, seemingly shocked, but a smile playing lightly on her lips.
She turns her megawatt smile onto me.
"Emmett told me he loves me. About ten minutes ago."
She says the words so incredulously that I can't help but laugh. My friend's feelings for Rose have been so clear to me since day one that I find it unfathomable that he has never convinced Rosalie herself. But I guess that's just the way some love stories go, not everything can be perfect all the time. I know that better than anyone.
"And...he wants us to live together. In the same country. He's told me I can go there or he'll come here, whatever works best for me, and for us." Rose looks the lightest I've ever seen her.
I throw my arms around her, genuinely thrilled.
A sexy throat clearing causes me to break away. Rose hastily brushes away a tear that has dared to escape her eye.
I turn to see my gorgeous groom in his Bournville Prince Edward suit smiling gently.
"Sorry to interrupt, but my wife and I are required to dance to really get this party started."
I kiss Rose's cheek and she gives Edward a little wave, following us inside.
"What was that all about?" he whispers. "Has Emmett finally grown a pair?"
"Yep," I grin.
The DJ announces us and Edward pulls me into his arms. I try not to focus on all the people staring at us.
"Ready?" he says and begins to sway us. I relax into his arms, breathe in his delicious smell and try to keep my tears at bay while Sade's By Your Side plays out.
Finally alone in our honeymoon suite, the words I've been trying to find the right moment to say all day are almost bursting to be let out. But my husband has other ideas.
"So beautiful," he whispers, slowly and gently removing the pins from my hair. He pulls me close and buries his face in my throat. "And the whole day was so perfect, baby."
"So your bird did good?" I tease.
He lifts his head back to look at me and slides his hands around my corseted waist. "Oh you ain't just my bird anymore, Bella Cullen, you're my missus...you're my wife."
"I think I like the sound of that," I murmur as he slowly begins to undo the complex fastenings at the back of my dress. I revel in his touch and decide my news can wait just a little bit longer...
"Christ, how do you get into this thing?" he grumbles and I laugh. "It's like a really gorgeous, really romantic straitjacket!"
Eventually he gets my wedding gown undone and it slides to the floor.
"Wow," he mutters, surveying my cream corset and matching satin panties and I feel a little breathless.
Before long we make it to the petal-strewn bed and Edward's suit disappears but still he moves painfully slowly. Every move measured, every touch reverent. I can't decide if I'm frustrated or flying.
I moan his name, wanting. "What are you doing? I need you."
His eyes meet mine in the lamplight. "It's our wedding night, Sweetheart. I'm trying to...you know, make love to you."
His face is so sweet and genuine that I work hard to hold back my chuckle but fail miserably. He pouts.
"Oi, why are you laughing?"
I grab his head in both my hands and pull his mouth to mine, kissing away his pouty expression.
"Don't you realise, baby," I whisper. "We can screw, bang, shag or fuck but every single one of those times will still be...making love." I raise an eyebrow with a false grimace. "But if you use those actual cheesy words again I might not let you do it anymore." I wink.
"Enough said." He moves his head down to take my nipple in his mouth and I arch towards him, forgetting my snark. "Consider them well and truly erased from my vocabulary..."
After that, he isn't particularly slow or gentle. He takes me with every bit of passion he has always shown, gasping his usual dirty words and telling me over and over how I'm so beautiful, his beautiful wife, just his...always. I come so hard the second time I'm left nothing but a pile of trembling flesh, half lying on his bare chest.
We catch our breath but are too wired by the day's events to sleep. We talk about the wedding, about the past, about the future...everything.
Edward eventually lets out a satisfied breath and says "And we don't have to work again for three whole weeks. How wicked is that? No more bloody commuting until next month."
This is it. It's time to tell him.
I prop myself up on my elbow to watch his face, but keep my hand on his chest.
"Listen, baby, I...I don't think I'll be commuting much longer..."
His eyes dart to mine, suddenly very alert. My heart pounds hard and fast in my chest and I can't help smiling a little.
Edward clears his throat. "Are...are you resigning on our wedding night? Because, um, that's considered pretty poor form, darlin'." His words are light but the increase in his heartbeat under my palm, and the nervous anticipation in his voice, hints to me that he actually knows exactly what I'm saying.
I shake my head, my smile widening. "No, not resigning." I take a deep breath. "More like putting in an application for...maternity leave."
My eyes never leave his face as I watch every emotion cross it in moments. His eyes widen with shock, then the briefest hint of fear or anticipation, before finally filling with happy tears.
"You're pregnant?" he whispers.
"We're having a baby?" He suddenly sits bolt upright.
"I'm...I'm going to be a dad?" He drags a hand through his hair as a slow grin covers his whole face.
I burst into giggles, warmed all over by his adorable reaction.
"Yes, Edward, all of the above," I chuckle.
"Fucking hell!" he finally bursts out, grasping me tightly in his arms. "This is mental, this is crazy, this is...Jesus..." He continues to mutter nonsense into my shoulder while he rocks us back and forth and we both sniff back our tears.
He pulls back to look at me and I can hardly breathe with how much love I see reflected in his face, a face that I can already imagine on our little bean.
I shrug and try to stem the flow of tears tracking my cheeks. "Guess we didn't need much practice after all."
He smirks. "I must have some absolutely blinding swimmers!"
We laugh and fall back onto the bed. We're quiet for a moment, absorbed by our thoughts, by the future. Eventually, Edward murmurs, "Thank you. This is the best wedding present in the world."
"Thank you," I reply, through fresh tears.
"Oh shit, wait!" He lifts his head, alarmed. "I just shagged the shit out of you! Is that okay?"
His hand is stroking so gently on my bare stomach it makes my chest tight.
"It's fine, baby. He's fine, he's only the size of a poppy seed."
"He?" Edward raises one eyebrow.
I shrug. "Or she. Whatever." What can I say? I just know.
He smiles and bends down to cover my tummy in tiny kisses.
I stare at the top of his head and can't believe how lucky I am. I came to England looking for an escape. Instead I found love and friendship, happiness and excitement. I found a way to face my past and a gateway to my future. I found forgiveness and strength. I found myself. I found rain and tube trains and sex.
I found everything; I found Edward.
His cute stomach kisses become more arousing as he drags his mouth up and across my chest.
"Hey, Hubby?" I whimper.
"Hmmm...?" He looks up with the laziest, happiest of smiles.
I smile back, feeling utterly free.
"You can make love to me now, if you want?"
So he did.
(Longest) A/N (ever!)
And that's all folks! Much of the above was borrowed from my own wedding; including the colour scheme, flowers, bridesmaids dresses, music and poem, AND the broken down wedding car (yes, really).
This story is now complete BUT I will almost definitely post a futuretake/outtake or two at some point and I would LOVE to know what you'd like to see, so please make any suggestions in your reviews. To chat about The Search, look at a ton of pics I'll be posting soon or just generally stalk me for new writing which will hopefully one day come please feel free to find me on Facebook or Twitter under Amber's Pen and join my Facebook group - Amber's Notebook (links in my bio). And if you feel so inclined, and haven't already, please feel free to check out the two Twilight one-shots I've also posted on ffn - Red Elephants and Baa Baa Bad Sheep, a sequel to the latter is actually my next project. Please make sure you put me on Author Alert to make sure you know when outtakes do post.
And now for the part that I'm afraid may end up sounding like an Oscar speech! There are SO many people I have to thank for helping me to get this story posted, and for getting it out there to so many of you.
Most importantly, my beta Trip (FFFan1664). I can't find enough words to convey everything she has done for this story. She hasn't just corrected grammar and spelling (although believe me there was A LOT of that!) but she has kept this story making sense, on track and well-researched. She has spent so much personal time helping me I'm scared to add it up! She turns chapters around so quickly and has constantly encouraged me along the way. THANK YOU SO MUCH, A! Seriously.
Similarly, my pre-readers - dreamalittledream83 and ladyeire3 - have not only kept my Britishisms in check but have offered so much love and encouragement I can't thank them enough.
Also, HUGE thanks to bornonhalloween for listening to my cry for help all that time ago, offering me constant encouragement, writing two fabulous blog reviews for this story AND sending me SO many readers.
Thanks to FatesLoveQueen for the banner. Huge gratitude to Fandom Fanatic, KatHat, Indie Fic Pimps, Twislash Unveiled and all at The Lemonade Stand (especially Kitty Vuitton and Twilover76 for the nominations) and The Wordsworth Awards for lovely reviews and exposure on their blogs.
Thank you to my wonderful Facebook friends, I love you all so much and your encouragement has been so precious to me. Thank you to every single person who pimped or rec'd this story on Facebook, Twitter, blogs or basically anywhere on the web. Attracting readers is so tricky but the fact that so many of you are here means that a lot of you lovely folks must have been talking about Britward over the last year and a half!
Thank you to my awesome husband for unwittingly providing me with much of Britward's character and language. My beloved England; wonderful, eclectic London; and misunderstood Essex for providing me with such a fun backdrop for this plot.
Finally, thank you to every single person who has taken the time to read, alert or review this story. Your comments have given me the motivation to finish when I never really believed I would. And if there is anyone who has been reading all this time but hasn't reviewed, please do because I would love to hear from you and be able to reply and thank you personally.
This story has been a really personal journey and there isn't any way for me to get that across really. A portion of this plot is autobiographical and getting this all down in words has been so therapeutic, not to mention the happiness that finding my writing mojo again has brought me. I can't express how much joy I have experienced whilst writing and posting this, and reading your lovely reviews.