What is the purpose of an epilogue? It seems a little indulgent; in this fandom, we want to know that the HEA is real. It isn't enough for us to accept that happiness will follow from the final chapter – we want to be shown that it has.
When I sat down to write this, I was nervous. I thought that the epilogue ought to be epic in some way, because it's the last thing you read. The impression you take away from it is what will linger in your mind. But then I thought about my story, which is about life and marriage and family, and I realised that none of those things are epic. They are the opposite, in fact – mundane, usual and common. That is what I want to express in describing Edward and Bella's HEA – the glory and agony hidden in the everyday.
For this reason, this epilogue is dedicated to MM's grandmother, who passed away this summer at the age of 93. Mother of five beautiful, blonde-haired, blue-eyed girls, this extraordinary woman excelled at normality. Matriarch by default, her clan spans the globe, and each member of it espouses her values in some form: family matters; treat others as you wish to be treated; appreciate what you have; never, as long as you draw breath, stop living.
Sometimes life is hard; sometimes it's easy. Walk with me into a snapshot of ease in Edward and Bella's future, and our past...
Epilogue – Hereto I Plight Thee My Troth
5th April 1805
"Why did you kiss Esmerelda?"
My son sounds so affronted. I glance at Jasper, sitting in front of the fire in the other large, wing-backed chair. We are obviously hidden from the boys' view, and as we were so quiet when they entered the library, they do not know we are here.
Jasper looks as amused as I feel. On hearing his son Carlisle's response, he bites his knuckle to stop himself from revealing our unintended eavesdropping.
"Because she's a pretty girl. In the islands, that is how we show a girl she is pretty. Do you not kiss pretty girls here?"
"Yuck! Carlisle, Esmerelda is my cousin. Yuckity yuck!"
"I suppose she is my cousin too." There is a pause. "No matter. She is still a pretty girl. Anyway, it was only a peck on the cheek."
"She is older than you."
"So are you, but I like you well enough. Where is the atlas?"
They chatter on as they retrieve the heavy book, and search it for the sea route from St Lucia to Bournemouth – a highly dangerous journey, and one I am thankful my brother and his family survived without incident.
"Gosh, Carlisle, you came a long way. Did you get seasick?"
"Only at first. Mama was very sick, but Papa didn't get sick at all. Once, Mama's sick was green."
"Aaahhh! Ha, ha – was it really green?"
"Yes, it was so disgusting. Poor Mama. It was very funny though. Don't tell Papa I laughed, will you? Mama was cross, but she was cross all the way here anyway."
Jasper rolls his eyes next to me.
"Why was she cross? Didn't she want to come and see my Mama? We've been waiting aaages for you to come." EJ elongates the word 'ages' as only a nine year-old can – I suppose the time did seem endless to him.
Carlisle's matter-of-fact response belies the hurtful subject it conveys. "She didn't want to leave her babies in the ground at home, all on their own. She told my Papa that he could come to England without her, and they had a huge fight. I had to put my hands over Sarah's ears. But my Papa put his foot down."
I look at Jasper with sympathy. He has covered his eyes with his hand. I am certain he had no wish for his children to have witnessed the acrimony between he and Alice. I daresay he is as heartbroken as his wife at having to leave the graves of their two youngest children behind, both having succumbed to a fatal fever within days of one another, a year or so ago.
He was right to have done so. A father has to put the needs of his living children first. And much as I can understand Alice's pain, I know that Jasper was acting as a husband ought.
"I like your father. He seems nice." Ever the diplomat, EJ steers the conversation with his cousin to happier waters. Good lad.
"I like yours too. I thought I would be scared of him, but he is not frightening at all."
I smile at this revelation. Who wouldn't?
"Your Mama is very pretty." Carlisle certainly seems to have an eye for the ladies.
"Are you going to kiss her too?" EJ convulses with laughter at this thought, and Carlisle's throaty giggles soon accompany him.
"No! Your Papa might challenge me to a duel!"
"Like this. En guarde!"
They play wildly for a time, as two little boys are wont to do. Eventually their horseplay leads to slight injury – it is inevitable, I have discovered. I wonder which of us will reveal our position first, and suspect it will be Jasper, as it is his son who is left winded and gasping.
Luckily, the children seem to recover so quickly, our intervention is neither required nor effected.
"Oof," moans little Carlisle. "That was fun. I hope I don't get sick."
"Would it be green if you did?"
"No! I hate to be sick. It was horrible on the ship at first, it went up and down, up and dooooown, uuuuuppp and down..." His imitation of a ship at sea almost makes me feel seasick in sympathy.
"Admiral Nelson still gets seasick. He says there is no shame in it."
"Oh, what? Have you met him?" Carlisle's hero worship may rival my own son's.
"Yes! Papa took me to meet him at a party in London. He signed my book! I have his portrait in my room. Do you want to see? He is such a nice man, and so very brave..."
The boys run off together, and Jasper and I visibly relax.
"You took him to meet Nelson? What did Bella have to say about that?"
I laugh. "It was her idea. Did you ever meet the family? He grew up not far from here. I know his father quite well. Bella clearly does not approve of Nelson's treatment of his wife, but she admits he has a talent for protecting England's sovereignty. She indulges EJ's obsession with the man, as long as I frequently remind him of the qualities of a good husband."
"She is an amazing woman, your wife."
"That she is." I smile at the mere thought of her. "What about Alice? Will she forgive you, do you think?"
Jasper sighs. "I have hope that Bella and Rose will instil some sense into her. Honestly, Edward, what could I do? Blast that Napoleon, and his damned navy. It really has not been safe to remain in St Lucia for some time, but now that England's own shores are threatened – we had to come home. It was now or never. I do not mind telling you, I was terrified the whole journey over here."
"And I do not blame you, Brother. We prayed for your safe return every night of your voyage."
There is a pause, as we stare into the flames of the fire.
"Alice is with child again, you know."
I smile at him. "I suspected as much. Congratulations, Jasper."
He returns my smile wanly.
I reach over and clasp his shoulder. "It's so good to gave you home, you and Alice. Carlisle and Sarah are delightful. You have done a great job, Brother, and we have truly missed you."
"Thank you, Edward. Despite everything, it is so good to be home."
6th April 1805
"Mmm. Good morning, Edward. Mmm."
I kiss her neck, breathing in her familiar, perfect scent. "Good morning, Isabella. Do you know what the date is?"
My tongue reaches out to lick the tasty join between her neck and shoulder, an act that never fails to induce a delicious shudder throughout her body.
"April the 6th, in the year 1805," she whispers.
I kiss across her shoulder, occasionally nipping her flesh gently with my teeth.
"Do you know what that means?" I ask.
I run my hand down her body until I reach the lace at the edge of her nightgown, bunching it with my fingers. I draw the material up her thigh until her bare leg is exposed to the cool morning air.
"No, Sir, I do not. What does it mean?" She shifts her hips as she speaks archly, so that the gown bypasses her bottom and rides up her back, exposing her pretty, creamy flesh.
"It means that we married ten years ago this day."
Her nightgown bunches again, below her breasts. I sit so that I may assist her in its removal. I nudge her this way and that, until she is naked and displayed wantonly for her husband's perusal.
She smiles at me as I gaze lovingly at her.
"Do you recall our first night together?"
"Of course. How could I not? I was so nervous, and you were so gentle and kind."
Her body has changed since then. Two births and one miscarriage leave subtle scars upon her person. Her hips and belly are lined with faint marks that feel both smooth and ridged beneath my fingers. Her breasts and belly are softer than they once were; her nipples slightly larger and – I am almost certain – a darker colour. Even the lips of her sex are different: thinner, somehow, though still exquisite.
I love how our life together is painted on her very flesh.
I bend forward and kiss her belly. She wriggles beneath me to show me where she wants me – lower.
"Have patience, my Love."
She stills, then lifts her hands to stroke lovingly through my hair. "This needs a trim, Lord Masen."
I grin at her domestic distraction. "Will you be so good as to cut it then, my Lady?"
"Of course Sir. Name the time and date – I am at your disposal."
"Indeed you are – stretched out naked upon my bed. What a fortunate man I am."
She agrees with a happy smile.
I shift towards her feet. "I seem to recall beginning our marital relations with an exploration of your toes." Lifting a foot to my mouth, I contemplate where to start. Her second toe looks particularly tasty. I suck it into my mouth and nip, eliciting a quiet shriek.
"Edward Masen, I declare, there are areas of my body more eager for your tongue than my toes. Why do you tease me so?"
I give her my best crooked smile. "Because you are my wife." I cock my head to one side. "And I love you."
What other explanation do I need?
I take pity on her, and pull her legs suddenly very wide apart. There is my heaven, dark pink under lightly glistening curls – a place so fine, and it belongs to me entirely. I lower my head to kiss her there, and she lifts her hips in offer to my generous mouth.
Somehow she does not care how long I tease her here. She writhes and bucks and stills again, until my thrusting tongue tips the balance, and she falls beautifully into her pleasure.
With great satisfaction, I move up her body to suckle at her breast, while my cock seeks out her wet sex.
Still moaning with her release, she accepts me eagerly, thrusting back at me until we find our usual rhythm. Her legs clasp behind my back, while her hands grip my shoulders. I try to slow our pace, but she is too eager, and cries out my name as she releases a second time.
Finally, I am in control again, and her pants become gentle 'oh's of relief. I draw in and out of her slowly, prolonging the pleasure as long as I can. We stare lovingly at each other as I take her, and time ceases to feature in my awareness.
I am as lost in her eyes as I am in her body. Every time I push into her, some instinct makes me want to push again, so I withdraw and slide back, time upon time. I do not know what trigger pushes me over the edge at last; but when the excitement builds to a point from which there is no return, I kiss her soft lips, entering her mouth with my tongue as my seed shoots into her womb below. I growl at the intense sensation, and clasp her to me tightly, as she clings back to me.
"Thank God I married you, Bella. Thank God you agreed to be mine." I kiss the tip of her nose. "Best decision I ever made."
"Mmm," she agrees. "Mmm."
"I suppose an outdoor picnic in April was out of the question," says Rose as she happily settles her ample bottom onto a pile of cushions in the orangery. "But this is more fun, and much warmer."
An indoor picnic to celebrate our wedding anniversary, as well as the gathering of our entire extended family for the first time in many years, was my wife's idea. She is a wise woman.
There are children everywhere.
EJ and little Beth have organised their cousins into a game of blind man's bluff. The youngest Cullen, Simeon, is desperate to join in, though his wobbly little legs have only recently mastered walking. Ruthie is on Esmerelda's hip, and their brothers, Toby and William, run rings around Carlisle, who has gamely agreed to be first in the blindfold. Sarah is pouting because she does not understand the rules, and really wanted to play oranges and lemons instead.
Genevieve has her hands over her ears, but she does not disrupt the camaraderie. Her nurse, whose name I have forgotten in the tumult of nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles, ignores her entirely. I wonder how long this one will last – hopefully, for Em's sake, it will be longer than the previous three.
"My father would have hated this," says Bella, swiftly moving a potted plant out of the line of the blind man's fire.
"Oh yes, he would be apoplectic by now, would he not?" Alice agrees, laughing pleasantly with Bella and Rose. "Do you think Wren misses him? It is so strange to see her without him."
"Yes," say Bella and Rose simultaneously.
Rose continues, "It has been – what, seven years now since the tumour took Father? Eight, perhaps? And every day since then, Mother has asked first for him, then Mr Black. He, unfortunately, is still alive Alice, in case you were wondering. He never did regain the use of his legs. Edward has seen him on occasion, is that not right Bella?"
"Yes, Father left some very complicated financial wrangles behind, which I do not pretend to understand. Suffice it to say he spent a great deal more than he had, and we can only think it was in revenge against Mr Black, in whose name the debts ultimately lay. Poor Edward was left to sort it out, but it is the least we can do, as Mother refuses to live with us, and Rose and
Em have all the bother of her."
"Well, I hope Mr Black is sincerely miserable as a cripple," declares Alice, reaching across Rose to stroke Ruthie's hair, who has been unceremoniously dumped upon her mother's lap by a frustrated Esmerelda.
I look at Jasper, smiling indulgently at his wife, and surmise that their marriage has improved overnight. He has the distinct air of a man who has been well-satisfied. I smirk. Even Em looks like a happy man today, and our wives fairly glow with good humour.
Em nudges my shoulder. "I have to show you the new French letter I picked up on our way here. This one is specially fitted. It will not tear like the others did," he says in a low voice.
I shake my head. "It is still constructed from lamb's intestine, is it not? What makes you think this one will give you any more protection than the last?"
My cousin spends his life seeking a device that will prevent yet another addition to his large family. Nothing he has tried has been successful.
"Yes, but this time, I gave them the measurements of my length and girth, and they have actually made one big enough for me!"
He looks triumphant. I hate to dissolve his good humour, but by the looks of his wife, and by what Bella confided in me last night, he is already too late. I strongly suspect Alice and Rose will give birth at the same time. Rosalie is a little scared to let her husband know. Poor Em.
"How do you manage, anyway? Why do you not have twenty little children running around your feet? I happen to know for a fact that you and Bella indulge yourselves at least as often as Rose and I."
I turn to Em and raise my eyebrows at him. "Really, Cousin? Who talks to you about my private marital relations?"
"Bella talks to Rose, and Rose tells me. Do not look at me in that manner – you have no idea what those sisters discuss. It is not I who would shock you, if you knew!"
I cannot believe we are having this conversation in a room packed to the brim with women and children. Our voices are very low, but still.
"If you must know, Bella's womb was damaged when Elizabeth was born. It was frightening at the time, terrifying in fact. We almost lost her – Bella, I mean, not Beth. Well, Beth too, actually. But once she regained her health, we realised that perhaps it was a blessing in disguise, as she has not fallen since."
"Humph. I see." He looks thoughtful. "Well, if you ever want any more children, you can have some of mine. I have plenty to go around." He laughs, and claps me on the shoulder. Then he leans even closer and whispers: "I think Jasper and Alice are well on their way to increasing the family quota." He winks conspiratorially at me.
Back in bed at the end of a long and boisterous day, Bella looks content.
"Seth and Gillian marry next week."
"I know." I smile indulgently at her, and smooth away the stubborn strand of hair that always attempts to conceal her eyes from me.
"Jasper can marry them. I am so pleased he and Alice are here. I was so worried about them."
She shifts on to her hip and gazes at me with her big, brown eyes. "You are very quiet tonight. Are you all right?"
"Yes. I am more than all right, Bella." I recall my conversation with Em earlier. "Do you tell your sisters everything?"
She flushes. "Er – what do you mean?"
I take her response to mean yes. "I was referring to a conversation I had with my cousin today. If you were able to talk to them right now, while lying in bed with me, what would you say?"
I do not know why this matters to me, but I feel a little unsettled by the knowledge that our intimacy has been discussed.
My wife smiles sweetly at me. "I would tell them how handsome I think you are. How warm and kind and loving the look in your eyes; how indulgent of me you are. How, even after ten years, looking at you excites me like the young girl I once was. And I would tell them how very, very happy I am."
"Really, Lady Masen? You would tell them all that?"
"What about you, Edward? If you could talk to your brothers this minute, without removing yourself from my side, what would you say?"
I pretend to consider this seriously for a while, my finger on my chin.
"I would tell them my wife is a minx," I say suddenly, and roll on top of her, my fingers unerringly making their way to her ticklish places. When I see she cannot breathe, I roll us to our sides, and continue to torment her happily.
I will cherish her always; and I will keep her in her place – if not beneath me, then right next to me.
Forever will not be time enough.
Your support has been tremendous.
I set out at the beginning to learn, and I have learned so, so much. Heartfelt thanks to all of you Gentle Readers and others who helped me along the way, especially Cared, without whom you probably wouldn't be reading this at all. She is fantabulous.
(In case you are wondering, MM's thank you is within the chapter itself).
The aspect of writing fanfiction I have enjoyed the most has been the conversations I have had with so many thoughtful, intelligent, generous readers. I hope you will continue to talk to me when I write the fluff and nonsense I want to indulge in for a while. I love Twific, but I also intend to use what I have learned to attempt an ambitious original fiction, which may or may not see the light of day. I owe it to my family to try, and I have the setting – a dystopian future – and the characters – a family similar to the Cullens, but not – and the plot – angst driven by hope – in my head. Perhaps you will remember me when I finish it. In the meantime, every little plot bunny that runs around in my mind may find it into my profile here on Fanfiction dot net, and I hope to see you back.
You may ask, so I am answering here: there will be no sequel to Plight Thee My Troth, and I can't imagine writing any outtakes. Lots of you told me you don't normally read historical fics, and I admit that I won't normally write any – Plight Thee was an exception. The fact is, the time it takes to research added to the time it takes to write leads to an imbalance of priorities. That stupid washing doesn't do itself, darn it. Unless anyone is offering? LOL.
For those of you who love historical fic, and those who just like good fic, whatever the genre, please try Emmamama88's Wrap You In My Arms, a fic full of light, joy and sweetness: /s/8045590/1/Wrap-You-In-My-Arms (sorry about my review fail, Hon – I adored your story); and anything by the superbly talented Counselor /u/2130754/counselor.
Catch me on Twitter - Gingerandgreen.
Challenge violence and injustice when you see it. Thanks,