I stared at Edward in amazement and felt my heart slowly breaking into pieces. Could it have really been just yesterday we made love in my room, when I knew in my heart we would be together forever?
I tried to keep my tears from spilling over my eyes and I bounced my knee nervously. "Don't do this to me, Edward," I cried. "I can't take this."
He put his shaking hand over his mouth and was fighting his own tears.
Esme stood and pulled Carlisle and Emmett out of the room to give us some privacy. I knelt down in front of Edward and rested my arms on his thighs.
"I love you," I said emphatically.
He leaned over and said very quietly. "Do you think I will ever be able to touch a woman again, after what I have been through? Both times tore my life apart. I can't love you anymore, Bella. It hurts too much."
"So leaving me doesn't hurt?"
"I'm going to prison, Bella, you need to understand that right now."
"You didn't kill her, and my dad is going to find who did."
"Are you sure I didn't?" he challenged me.
"One hundred percent sure and you know how?"
"You would never touch her the same night you made love to me. It isn't even a possibility."
Tears began streaming down his face and he sat back, moving away from me. I knew his problems with Tanya had weakened him, but I never realized how much until this very moment. He had used up all the fight he had inside on Tanya over the years, he had nothing left.
"At the cabin, one thing kept me from giving up, you. I refused to stop fighting because I couldn't bear losing you. Now it's your turn to fight for me. Are you giving up?"
He didn't answer and shut his eyes as his tears spilled over.
I dropped my face into my hands crying harder than I have ever cried in my life, "Fight for me, damn it."
I felt his strong arms wrap around me as he joined me on the floor. I put my arms around his neck and pulled him to me. We sat there on the floor crying loudly at the injustice of it all.
Once things calmed down Emmett returned to tell us he was going to go spend some time with Rosalie and would come back around nine at night to get me. I took Edward's hand and pulled him up into his room with me.
He tensed as I led him to his bed, but I pulled him down into my arms. I gently ran my hands through his hair until I heard his breathing become deep and steady. Esme walked by the open door and stopped to look at us. I smiled shyly at her and she nodded as she watched Edward sleep.
I began thinking back to what he said, how he would never be able to touch a woman again and I was so angry that our day had become tainted. Edward deserved something good in his life, but over, and over again, it was taken away.
At eight-thirty I moved to get my cell phone out of my pocket, waking Edward. He looked so much better and a bit of the sparkle was back in his eyes. He looked at me and I smiled, "Can I call Emmett and ask him to leave me here for the night?"
He nodded slowly and rolled onto his back. I called my dad first, to hear he was working on what he hoped to be a promising lead. He wouldn't share it with me. I told him I wouldn't go home until I heard from him and left out the fact I would be staying with Edward.
Emmett was good with me staying the night and I could hear Rosalie talking in the background. I wondered how he was going to pull off spending the night with a bodyguard watching. He told me he would pick me up for the game the next day.
I rolled onto my side and looked at Edward. He blinked a couple of times but didn't say anything. I reached out and ran my fingers down his arms and he closed his eyes tightly.
"I love you," I whispered.
He finally looked at me and said, "I'm really messed up."
"I don't mind."
"You deserve better."
"I want you."
"I don't know if I can make love to you."
"Then I'll make love to you."
I saw his mouth twitch like he was going to smile, but then sadness filled his eyes.
"I trusted you, Edward. Now trust me."
I moved over him to straddle his hips letting my hair form a curtain around us. "I only want to kiss you, that's all."
I leaned in slowly and felt him tense, so I moved from my intended target, his mouth, to his cheek. I kissed him softly and moved to his forehead repeating the gesture. I kissed my way to his ear and took his lobe gently in my mouth. He turned his head and leaned in to the kiss. I made my way down his throat to his collar bone and he actually moaned.
I worked my way back to his ear and whispered. "I love you so much. I will never stop loving you."
His arms came willingly around me and he pulled me flat against his chest. "I don't know what to do, Bella."
I knew he wasn't talking about our physical relationship; he was talking about his life spiraling out of control right before his eyes.
"I know, I know." It was all I had to offer. I couldn't stop anything and I couldn't promise him anything. I could only hold him and let him know he wasn't alone.
We stayed in his bed, leaving the door open for the remainder of the night. We didn't talk much but just touched each other. I ran my hands down his back as he traced my face with his fingers. It was intimate without being sexual. It was just what he needed.
The next morning Carlisle woke us to say Edward's lawyer would be stopping by to speak alone with Edward. I caught a ride home with Carlisle on his way to work and quickly showered and dressed for the game.
I was waiting for Emmett when Ben called. "Did you decide what you want to do about the jeep?"
"Do you mind running me by after the game?"
"Not at all, do you want me to pick up a battery for you?"
"That would be great Ben. I'll pay you for it, I have no idea what to get."
He was so sweet and I knew why Angela fell for him. I would make sure and tell her what a great couple I thought they made, even though I felt they were too young to marry.
I called my dad and he sounded very stressed. He assured me things were moving along and he felt a breakthrough was coming soon. It drove me crazy he wouldn't give me a hint. I told him I would be at the game and he asked me to give the team his best.
The game was insane and I was so sad Edward had to miss it. We won by one run and Emmett was pouting because they walked him every time he got up to bat. Jake made a couple of mistakes, but overall filled in nicely for Edward.
After the game I headed over to Ben, "Where's Ang?"
"Her dad is freaking out and he wants to send her away. She thinks she can change his mind if she hangs around the house and doesn't add to his worry." Ben looked upset and it made me smile to think he was anxious to be physical with Angela.
"I'm sorry," I said knowing he was probably worried about the wedding and having to deal with a hysterical bride, too.
"Thanks, Bella," he said with a smile, "You ready?"
We walked to his Volkswagen and I noticed the Sears battery on the back seat. "What do I owe you, Ben?"
"We're good, Bella," he said as if I had offended him.
"No, I'm not letting you pay for it; I'll just get Angela to tell me anyway."
He just smiled and started the car. We chatted about the wedding plans and his desire to get on at the post office like his father. The closer we got to the turn off the more nervous I became.
"You okay?" he asked as he squeezed my hand.
"I'm just really glad you're here. I don't mean to freak out, but can we do this really fast."
"Sure. How's Edward doing?" he asked to distract me I'm sure.
"It's awful, Ben. He just can't catch a break."
He only nodded.
"I know you think it was wrong for us to have sex, but we don't share the same values you and Angela do." It angered me a little to think he was judging me.
"I know, most of the world doesn't think the way I do. I'm okay with being different," he said with a big smile.
"Does it scare you to marry so young? I mean, it's a big responsibility."
"I'm not worried, you know what they say, 'God watches over drunks and fools.'"
Ben turned on his turn signal and moved onto the shoulder to find the obscure dirt road. I took a deep breath and mentally challenged myself to be brave.
My heart was pounding out of my chest as we made our way down the winding road. I held tightly to the handle and kept making sure the door was locked. The road was darker than I remembered due to the cloud cover. It looked like rain was coming and I only hoped it didn't hit while we were there.
We came around the curve to see the house in front of us. It looked sad and empty. Tiny pieces of police tape remained attached to the trees and the door. My eyes were drawn to the spot where Mrs. Klein's body had been. It looked so innocent now, a simple, flat, slab of concrete.
We came to a stop and Ben reached his hand out for my keys. I handed them to him with a shaky hand. He got out and I opened my door and pulled the seat forward so he could get the battery.
I saw a huge knife he put into his pocket and was happy he thought ahead. We wouldn't be without a weapon if anything happened. He lifted the heavy battery and walked toward the jeep. I followed him and pulled the lever to open the hood.
"Can you grab me the wrench on the back seat of my car?"
I grabbed it and put it into his waiting hand. I was getting antsy and I wanted him to move faster. I began to shiver and went back to his car to wait.
I went to the driver's side since I would have Ben drive my jeep. I wasn't up to making the drive down the long dirt road yet. The jeep had too many memories.
I sat in the seat and reached down for the handle to pull it forward a little, so my legs could reach the pedals. Something caught on my hand and I pulled it from under the seat to see what it was.
Tangled around my fingers was a long, fire red, wig.
My heart stopped. My brain was swirling with information coming at me so fast it was hard to sort it out. I remembered looking at the woman dressed it coveralls. She was big, muscular, for a woman. I only saw her from a distance in the dark and assumed it was a woman by the long red hair.
I thought about the game, how I was punched out of nowhere by someone way too strong to be Tanya and how Angela and Ben helped me up. Ben had touched me; Ben had swimming practice before the game and access to the locker room.
When Angela came to see Rose they had run into Alice and knew about Edward and me sleeping together. Ben ran into Jasper in the hallway and gave him his extra Gatorade. It must have been given to Jasper tainted. I had stopped by the police station giving Ben time to go through my room. Ben wouldn't sleep with Angela…because he was gay.
Ben knew all about Edward's hatred of Tanya and Ben could have easily gone to a bible camp. I slowly turned to look at the boy messing with my jeep. I reached for the ignition and his keys were gone. I could see the metal of the knife shinning from his back pocket.
I got out of the car and pretended to be bored, drumming my fingers on the roof. He looked over at me and I smiled. "I think I'm going to face my fears and walk inside the house," I said shakily.
"Want me to come?"
"Naw, I'll just be a second."
My legs were shaking and I hoped he just thought it was my fear of the house. When I got inside I began frantically looking for one of the makeshift knives we had fashioned out of glass.
I ran down the hallway and pulled the attic stairs down making it appear like I had gone up there. I shut all the bedroom doors so he would have to search every room and headed out to the back deck.
"Bella," I heard him call.
I grabbed a piece of broken glass and ducked behind the Jacuzzi. The water was still stained red but the animal head was gone.
"Bella, if I have to find you, I get to keep you."
My blood turned to ice. The voice was so much more haunting knowing who it belonged to.
"Bella, Bella, Bella, come out, come out, wherever you are."
I tried to hold my breath and hoped my shaking didn't move the water in the Jacuzzi. I heard his footsteps in the kitchen and prayed he didn't come onto the deck. He turned and headed back towards the front of the house.
I looked around and saw a manufactures tag attached to the Jacuzzi lid lying against the wall. I reached over and pulled it off using it to wrap around the piece of glass in my hand.
I could hear doors opening and closing but I couldn't tell how far down the hallway he was. I needed to find a safe place to hide until it got dark. If he walked into the yard behind the house he would easily spot where I was crouched.
"Bella," he screamed in anger coming my way.
He stood on the deck looking into the forest and his breathing was heavy. I was terrified he would turn around to see me but he headed off the deck and around the side of the house.
I crawled from my hiding place and went back into the house. I listened to see if I could hear where he was and he called out my name. I could tell he was walking along the tree line in the back and made my way out the front door.
I checked my jeep but he had the keys. I stayed low and made my way back to his car. I opened the small trunk and climbed inside grabbing an empty glass pop bottle to swing at him if he opened the lid.
It seemed like a good hour I listened to him pace and scream and cuss at me. I was sweating from stress and I needed to pee. He finally got back into his car and sat for several minutes. When the engine finally started I felt tears of joy form in my eyes.
He drove down the path awhile and stopped. "No, no, no," I thought. I heard him get out and walk to the back of the car. I held the bottle tightly with both hands. He stood silently for quite a while.
"Shit," he said softly.
He got back in the car and continued down the dirt road. Once he got onto the highway he drove about a mile and pulled over. He sat there for almost an hour. He must have thought I could hot wire my jeep and was going to run me off the road.
I was just about to pee in my pants when the car started again. He was speeding and passing traffic driving wildly. I was afraid he would wrap the car around a tree and take me out with him.
When he got to the spot on the road where he needed to turn left towards Forks he turned right. I felt panicked and had no idea where he was going. I suddenly heard my phone, which was still in my purse, ring.
"Damn it," I said to myself. I didn't think to grab my phone.
Ben pulled to a stop and dug through my purse. "Hi Edward," he said calmly.
"She's in her jeep heading to your house. Can you tell her she left her phone in my car; it must have fallen out of her pocket. Just so you know she was acting really weird, did you two have a fight or something?"
"No, she was talking about you and Tanya. I told her I didn't think you ever had feelings for Tanya, but she just kept saying she didn't believe the story you told her."
I wanted to scream. Edward was fragile enough without this son-of-a-bitch putting thoughts in his head.
He hung up and spun the car around. I wanted to cry when I felt the familiar twists and turns of the dirt road again. He needed to dispose of my jeep to make his story plausible. I would wait for him to drive off in it and make my way into the forest to hide.
He stopped and I heard him pacing back and forth. He walked to the back of the car and suddenly the trunk light came on as he lifted the lid. I sprung from the back and knocked him right in the stomach causing him to stagger back a few steps.
I ran for the house and just as I got through the door I felt a strong hand grab my hair. My head snapped back and I felt a cold sharp blade against my throat.
"Finders, keepers," he laughed.
He pushed me forward into the common room and made his first mistake. He spun me around and let go of me. With a knife at my throat I would have been force to do anything, now I had options.
"You stupid bitch," he said laughingly.
"Why, Ben? What did we ever do to you?"
"You all thought you were better than me. You looked down on me for my religion but I found a new religion…I found one with power. Look at me now Bella, you will gravel at my feet, just like Tanya did."
"There is nothing wrong with being gay, Ben. It doesn't make you evil. We would have understood."
His eyes widened in shock and he looked at me stunned for a second. "Yes it does make me evil. It makes me an heir with Satan."
"No, Ben, it makes you capable and deserving of love."
"Shut up," he screamed.
I realized I had to keep him talking and hoped to have time to think of something. "Why did you set up Edward? He was your friend."
"He became expendable. I wanted Tanya to pay for how she treated me, and Edward was…good…until he touched you," he spit at me.
I realized he had a crush on Edward and I needed to use that information. "Do you know why it took Edward so long to touch me, because he was confused, he had an attraction to guys and I convinced him if he slept with me it would go away?"
"You're lying," he said in a softer voice.
"Do you think he would have left Tanya and refused to touch me, if I was?"
I didn't want him to think about it too hard, so I change the subject, "Why Mr. and Mrs. Klein?"
"I needed to see the inside of the cabin; she would have given a description of me or James."
"I talked to James, I was at the jail and I saw him. He needs you Ben. He's scared and alone."
I could see pain form in Ben's eyes. I kept quiet and let him think about it for a minute.
He finally took a long breath and held his knife up. "I can't do anything for him now, and it's your fault."
"Ben, just walk away. I won't tell because I love Angela. Just walk away and let Edward's lawyer prove him innocent. I will keep my mouth shut and you will do the same."
"I'm not stupid, Bella," he yelled waving the knife.
"Neither am I, Ben. We can make a deal."
"Fine, here's the deal. You die and I live."
I stared into his eyes for a moment when something reflecting on the metal refrigerator caught my eye, and gave me all the confidence I needed. "I won't let you kill me, Ben," I said boldly.
"You don't have a choice, Bella."
I smiled at him, "My dad says I do."
"What are you talking about," he demanded.
"Turn around and see."
He whipped around to see police lights coming down the road flashing through the forest.
That was his second mistake.
I lunged at his back pushing him forward and ran past him for the door as my father burst through the back of the house. Ben jumped up to run after me just as Charlie threw his arms around his waist. Ben's arms were still free and he chucked the knife as hard as he could.
I felt a burning pain hit me right in the middle of my back and my legs went numb, sending me tumbling to the ground.
This was the end. This was how the story would finish when it made its way through the town. Ben was caught; it was such a shock, poor Bella fought so hard just to die in the very last moment. I forced myself to turn around and watch the ending.
I saw my father's face twist with pain with the realization the knife hit its intended target. I saw Ben give up in the realization he had been caught and his power ended so totally. I watched as my dad pulled Ben to his feet and threw him against the wall in rage, over, and over again.
Ben's head made contact with the drywall and then snapped forward from the force of my father's arms, only to be pushed back into the wall again. The flashing lights began to surround the room like strobe lights at a dance club.
A stretcher was brought in and I was placed upon it on my stomach, the knife pointing eerily from my back and driven to the highway only to be transferred into a helicopter. I rose high above the forest with the thump, thump, thump of the helicopter blades. Each one counting the ways I was being taken from Edward.
I landed atop a hospital in Seattle, alone. Everyone telling me not to worry, not to be afraid, they would take good care of me. They were strangers and now strangers were the good guys. It was friends who could come close enough to tear your life apart one piece at a time.
The white sterile halls were a stark contrast to my blood soaked clothes. My urine stained pants were not a concern; I was completely unaware of my legs, for now they didn't even exist.
A clock hung on the wall and gave me something to concentrate on. The second hand spun as I slowly, methodically, gave up every ounce of hope for a happy future.
Time passed, rooms changed, new doctors came and went, but with the help of strong pharmaceuticals it was one huge blur. The only day that I could single out was the one when Edward came in, holding a t-shirt with the words 'state champs' written on it.
He sat next to my bed and held my hand. I told him how proud I was and he gave me a play by play of the game. When he finished his eyes turned sad and he bit his lip trying to find courage to tell me something. The only thing he could say that would hurt me was he was leaving.
I finally said it for him, "You're leaving."
He put my hand to his lips and kissed it over, and over again, "I need to ask for a big favor, Bella."
I nodded. I would give him anything. I would give my life for him.
"I need help. I need to get my head screwed on straight."
"Of course," I told him.
"Here's the favor part, I want you to wait for me. I want you to wait for however long it takes. I want to be so selfish that I know you are here for me when I'm ready."
I know he thought he meant it at the time. He couldn't know that time, and space, would ruin us forever. He didn't understand that some beautiful woman would be right there when he got better, and steal his heart before he had a chance to return. This was stuff I recognized, but he didn't.
I nodded because I couldn't speak.
"I love you," he said softly.
"Not enough," I thought in my head.
And I let him go. I let him walk out of the room believing he would return. Ben won, he found our hearts whole and got to keep them broken…finders keepers.
The Cullen's put Edward in a very expensive hospital and moved from Forks. Angela got her moment when she ran into Ben in the hallway of the courthouse. She walked right up to him as he was restrained with his hands behind his back. She looked him right in the eyes and spoke the only way Angela knows how, right from her heart.
"Ben, I would have been your friend. I would have prayed for you, and been happy for you when you found some boy to love. I would have supported you in every way. You confused my kindness with weakness. You thought my faith made me judgmental. You mistook my love for stupidity."
She pulled her foot back and kicked him as hard as she could in the balls and said, "You were wrong." And she walked away with her head held high.
Jasper lost his leg, but kept his Alice. She will spend the rest of her life by his side, filling the void his hard life left him with. Jessica dumped Mike and found a man who felt he hit the jackpot when he met her. Lauren followed Eric to California. They have had a bumpy road, but are still together. Rose ended up pregnant and married Emmett. They have a beautiful daughter and her father is paying for whatever Emmett's baseball scholarship doesn't.
Charlie solved the case after all. He checked the surveillance camera at the gas station closest to the cabin and found a tape with Ben and a long haired blond boy coming in a few days before our trip.
That, coupled with the fact Laurent was at a local Bible camp, made him suspected Ben. The further he dug, the more he found. A camera from a bank on the corner where the Klein's lived, caught a glimpse of Ben's Volkswagen, as well as a neighbor of the Denali's saw Ben's car parked around the corner the night Tanya was killed.
I thought my father almost killed Ben, but it was nothing compared to what he wanted to do to Emmett for letting me out of his sight. When he found out Ben took me to get my jeep he put together a team and rushed right to the cabin. Seeing his face in the reflection on the refrigerator was the happiest moment of my life. The flashing lights were an added bonus.
I graduated from Washington State with decent grades. I worked, and studied, and ate, and breathed, but I wasn't living. I had lost my reason to live.
A knock on my apartment door made me hesitant. I never had visitors and I wasn't expecting anyone. I looked through the peep hole and made the young man holding flowers show me his identification before I opened the door.
He handed me a dozen roses and I hadn't even realized it was my birthday. I looked for a card and couldn't find one. "Who are these from?"
The guy shrugged and said, "I'm just supposed to tell you, Happy Birthday."
"Thank you, do you know who paid for them?"
"No, it was an online order; we get paid by the service not the individual."
I told him to hold on while I got a tip but he was gone when I returned. I put the flowers on my table and stared at them. I thought up every scenario I could think of, but none of them seemed realistic.
I finally convinced myself my secretary must have sent them, feeling sorry for me spending my birthday alone.
I unbuttoned my dress and headed for the bedroom when a quiet knock, so gentle I wasn't sure if I heard it, came to my door. I looked out again to see someone facing the street, his copper hair a mess and his leg bouncing nervously.
I opened the door slowly afraid if I opened it to fast the hallucination would end. The tall man turned to meet my gaze. His green eyes sparkled and his mouth pulled into a huge smile.
I stood there stunned, I couldn't move and I couldn't speak, but my eyes poured tears down my cheeks. His expression changed to one of apprehension. He nodded and said my name. It was the same voice even though his chin was more chiseled and his face a little weathered.
"Am I too late?" he asked.
I wanted to fall into his arms and kiss him passionately, telling him I loved him and my life would now be happy, but I couldn't. My heart was terrified of him.
"I tried so hard to be brave, Edward. I don't have anything left. Seeing you standing here has consumed the very last ounce of bravery I have in my body. Please…."
"I came back, I promised you I would come back. I only need to know if you kept your promise and waited for me."
"All I have ever done was wait for you, why would you need to ask me that question?"
"I can be the man you need now," he said pleading with me.
"You always were the man I needed; I knew it, you didn't."
"You can hate me if it helps, but I'm not leaving here without you. I worked really hard to turn my head around and I did it for you." He had a new confidence that was different from the Edward I knew.
"You don't get it Edward, we could have worked together. You wasted years that could have been ours."
I saw something in his eyes that was determined, a strength that was never there before and I could tell he wasn't about to give up without a fight.
"I won't let you do this to us, Bella. I was a stupid kid before. I had nothing to offer you that was lasting. I worked very hard to make it back to you, and yeah, it took a long time, but if you give me a chance I can show you it was worth it."
He stepped closer to me and put his hands behind my neck and placed his forehead on mine, "Fight for me, damn it."
"I can't, if I lose you again, I will die," I whispered.
"Then I will fight for both of us." He pulled my mouth to his and kissed me passionately. I stood there with my hands limp at my side and let him fill my head with the fantasy. My heart sped up and my chest was heaving. He moved me back and shut the door with his foot before turning me and pushing me up against the door.
His mouth moved to my throat and I shut my eyes hoping I could recall the feeling at will after he left. He grabbed my hand and put my palm against his erection and sighed loudly.
"You don't know how long I have dreamed of your touch."
He wasn't pulling away, or telling me to be careful, or chastising me for wanting him. My other hand came alive and moved slowly up his chest and into his hair. He closed his eyes and swayed a bit before leaning into me again with another passionate kiss.
"God, Bella, I need you."
"Edward," I called out finally believing he was here and he was going to stay. He lifted me off the ground and I wrapped my legs around his waist as he carried me towards my bedroom.
This time our love was different. He wasn't careful and contained. He poured out all of his heart into my body. He didn't hold back his cries of ecstasy, he screamed right along with me. If he ever left me again, it would absolutely kill me.
We traveled back and forth between my apartment in Seattle and his in Washington, D.C. until Thanksgiving. Edward got offered a job at the Paris Embassy. He wasn't an Ambassador, but he was working his way up the ladder.
He came to Seattle and told me there was one last thing he needed to do before he could move forward. He felt it was important for both of us to face our past. We decided to go to Forks for Thanksgiving.
The drive was nerve wracking and we sat silently holding hands. I felt his grip tighten as he turned on that narrow, winding dirt road. I stared unemotionally at the worn, empty cabin. Kids had written graffiti on the walls and the forest was encroaching on the space reclaiming it as wilderness.
I walked through the rooms telling Edward everything I could remember about those days and nights. We walked to the stream and I stood where the thicket had trapped Mr. Klein's body and watched beautiful trout swim by.
There was nothing there to hurt me, or scare me, it only saddened me to remember the excited girls who came here and left forever scarred. "I'm ready, I'm done, I'm healed," I said to Edward.
We drove into Forks and went past the school. A sign in remembrance of the baseball state championship hung proudly over the scoreboard. Our next stop was the cemetery. Edward walked alone to Tanya's grave and place flowers. I could see him talking and his shoulders were high and straight. He said everything he had always wanted to say when fear kept him from it. We drove straight to the Denali's.
I stood on the doorstep next to Edward, waiting for the maid to fetch Mr. Denali. He looked exactly like he did five years ago. Edward cleared his throat and began.
"Mr. Denali, I am sorry for what happened to Tanya. She didn't deserve to be murdered just as I didn't deserve what she did to me. She stole my life and slowly killed me inside, and you helped her. But I have changed, and I now know my life is truly mine, and nobody can take it away unless I give permission. You do not have permission to ever fuck with me again."
He turned to me and said, "I'm ready, I'm done, I'm healed."
We had one last visit to make before moving to Paris and beginning our lives together. We sat in the cold room with nothing but a square table separating us from a shackled Ben. He looked like the same sweet, courteous boy we thought he was; only now we knew better.
"I have to find a way to stop hating you, Ben, not for your sake, but for mine. I don't hate you for the terror you put in my life or for the scar in my back I will carry with me forever, but for taking the most precious thing in my life and tainting it."
He looked into my eyes and said, "I know it doesn't mean much, Bella, but I am sorry."
"I can't accept the apology yet, but I'm working on it."
He looked at Edward. "I did exactly what Tanya did to you but I just did it behind your back. I have to respect the fact she was open about her treachery. I am sorry for all the help I gave her and all the information I fed her."
Edward's eyes widened. "I thought you were my friend. I gave you every opportunity to confide in me, to let me be there for you as you worked through your feelings, but you stabbed me in the back, too."
Tears formed in Ben's eyes. "Well, you both have the comfort of knowing I will never walk out these doors as long as I live. So, if you ever need another apology you know where to find me."
We both nodded and stood to leave. Ben rose and said, "Take care of each other," as the guard led him from the room.
We went back to my house, which was so different since Charlie had remarried. We walked through each room until we came to the office that was once my bedroom. Edward shut the door and I turned to look at him. He smiled his old smile, the one that would put my heart in my throat.
When he lowered himself to one knee I threw my hand over my mouth and tears came instantly to my eyes.
"This is way overdue, Bella. But this is where I realized the depth of my love for you, and this is where I want to ask you to be with me forever. I love you and want you to be my wife."
I knelt down in front of him. "Edward, you are the only person in the world I have ever loved and it will always be just you. Yes, I will be your wife."
In that moment the haunting phrase would now bring nothing but joy to my life. Edward and I found our way back together and we would keep each other forever. Finders Keepers!