Fountain of Time
Summary: Only Bella can surprise a mindreader. "I'll need your speed, your perfect memory, and your beautiful handwriting."
Entry for the Canon Tour – Twilight round
Yesterday is history, tomorrow a mystery, and today is a gift.
That's why it's called the present.
June 17, 2005
Bella checked the mailbox. Twice. When she became sure that it was empty, and there wasn't any secret mail ready to materialize itself just because she kept checking, she slammed it closed. Edward and she moved upstairs to her bedroom.
"Any problem?" Edward asked, noting her irritation.
"No," she told him hastily. She retrieved her phone from her desk and began to text. As Edward leaned toward her, she clutched the phone to her chest as quickly as she could, hiding the screen from his eyes.
He frowned. "I wasn't going to pry," he said defensively. He looked at her closely, wondering what was going on in her mind. "Are you hiding something from me?"
"I'm waiting for a package that Renée should have sent me. But don't worry. My secrets aren't as scary or dangerous as yours," she playfully retorted. "Just show me a little trust, okay?" She resumed her texting.
Edward dramatically turned his back to her. "Let me know when you've sent it."
Before Bella had a chance to utter "done," Edward whirled around and took her in his arms. "I wasn't going to pry, but I was going to give you something."
"And it is...?" Bella prodded.
As his lips murmured "This," against her mouth, she shivered in pleasure. She nibbled at Edward's full lower lip. His hands found their way to her back; under her thin t-shirt, she could feel the hardness of his arms in its full force. She ducked her head against his chest. Safe. She could have roamed the entire world, but she would never find any other place where she felt as safe and loved as she did in his embrace.
Edward covered Bella's blush with light kisses, savoring the change in temperature that his touch elicited on her skin. Her heartbeat increased as he lifted her, until he had her on her tiptoes, and deepened his kiss.
June 18, 2005
Can you come to my place later tonight? I'm working on a project. Thx. - B.
Edward eyed the text he had just gotten suspiciously. Bella had always been eager to spend time together. In the decades of his vampire life, he had never thought about time as much as he had done in the few months since he had met her. Before her, time for him had ambled like the stagnant water of a small river. The years had piled up, and the world had changed around him, but he had never been other than an alien spectator.
A day didn't have the same meaning in Bella's life and in his. Compared to his never-ending existence, her life was running by with the impetuous enthusiasm of a mountain creek. Bella was like a fresh spring. She had given him back the seventeen-year-old boy he had been almost ninety years before; she had awakened the human instincts that had been buried deep in him for so long that they seemed lost.
As you please. You're making me curious. Have you gotten your mail? - E.
Edward put down the book he had just finished reading–the third in the afternoon–and picked another volume from the shelf. As he went back to his leather couch and resumed reading, his phone chimed.
Mail arrived! See you tonight. Don't be TOO curious. - B.
June 19, 2005
Bella drifted in and out of sleep as Edward lazily toyed with a lock of her hair. In the milky morning light, he studied her as she awakened, yawning and blinking. She gave him the first smile of the day. It made him feel like he was seeing the dawn for the first time.
His hands left her hair and followed the profile of her face, caressing her forehead lightly. "Good morning, love." His velvety voice wrapped around her.
"Morning," she muttered, snuggling against him.
"You were more talkative than usual last night."
Bella's eyes shot open. "What did I say?" she asked, suddenly concerned.
"My name," Edward answered deadpan.
"And?" she pressed.
He tapped at his chin, looking around, as if he were trying to recollect more details. "Let's see..." he joked.
"Come on," she urged.
"You said my name and something that sounded like 'Chicago.' I was hoping you would reveal more secrets, but you didn't," he teased.
She looked him straight in the eyes. "Are you sure?"
He suppressed a laugh and stayed serious. "That I am." With his nose, he skimmed over her collarbone. He licked his lips, inhaling her scent. "One day I'll figure out what goes on in your mind," he whispered close to her ear.
She giggled as his cool breath made her feel goose bumps. "Maybe."
"Mystery girl, do you have any plans for the day?" he asked.
"Actually, I was thinking about tomorrow. Could I have you to myself for the whole day then?"
He nodded. "As if you have to ask."
"Good." She gave him a bright smile. "Are you going to hunt tonight?"
He shrugged. "Maybe. It's already been more than a week."
"Okay." She circled his neck with her arms and kissed him lightly. "So I want you here tomorrow morning, well-fed and refreshed. I'll need your speed, your perfect memory, and your beautiful handwriting."
June 20, 2005
A light rain was falling in Forks in the early morning, as Edward slipped inside Bella's bedroom. He didn't expect to find her already dressed and ready to go. In lieu of her usual jeans, she was wearing a form-fitting black pants and a white linen shirt with red, flowery embroidery on its front. Edward noticed that she had put on some make-up. She threw herself in his arms as he entered the room; she searched for his lips, caressing his mouth with a tender, slow kiss.
"Would you take me to the meadow?" she asked. She passed a hand through his hair, which the rain had made damp.
Edward motioned toward the sky. "It's raining."
"Please," she said softly. "I'll bring a jacket."
He resolved to do as she wanted. "Your wish is my command."
Bella grabbed her backpack and climbed on Edward's back. They jumped out the window and to the ground.
"Why am I certain that you won't tell me what you're carrying in your backpack?" he joked.
She laughed. "Because you're a smart guy. Behave, be patient, and every secret shall be revealed."
"I would have brought a blanket if you had told me that you wanted to go to the meadow," he told her, already beginning to run through the woods. By the time they arrived at their refuge, the sky was still gray and covered in thick clouds, but it wasn't raining anymore.
The first thing Bella took out from her backpack was a blanket–it even had an impermeable side. She unfolded it, shooting a mirthful look at the intrigued vampire in front of her. "How long have you had all this planned?" he asked.
"Less than you would think," she replied. "It's the reason why I've been in such a hurry in the last few days." She took something else from the backpack–a small package, which she gave to Edward.
"Happy birthday, Edward."
His eyes widened as blurred memories from his human years mingled with the decades when the twentieth of June had been just like any other day: a drop of time in the vast sea that represented his existence.
He ripped open the wrapping paper. The name Edward had been engraved on a beautiful pen. It wasn't anything fancy, and anyone could see that it wasn't the most original birthday gift ever, but the thought didn't cross Edward's mind. Nothing of what he had in front of him was expected: the birthday present in his hands, the sweet smile of his girl, the love that she had given him and that, thanks to her, he had discovered that he could give in turn.
"Thank you. You shouldn't have..."
Bella averted her eyes, as if she were suppressing a laugh. She sat down on the blanket and Edward mirrored her. "Time for your birthday gift," she announced.
Edward frowned. "Haven't you already given it to me, love?"
"I don't think so," she teased him.
She handed him a rectangular box. "Remember," she warned him, "I've asked for your speed, and we used it to get here as soon as possible. But I still need your memory and your handwriting."
Not even in his human life had Edward been so eager to open a gift box. He gaped as he looked at the cover of the photo album in his hands. A drawing had been meticulously copied over it. The rendition wasn't perfect: his sight could detect that there were little mistakes, but it took him no time to recognize what it was.
"Chicago," he murmured.
Bella was holding her breath. She nodded, but didn't speak.
Edward acknowledged the monument she had reproduced. "The Fountain of Time," he said. The sculpture depicted Father Time watching over a parade of a hundred figures. The allegorical procession represented the entire spectrum of humanity at various stages of life; there were children, soldiers, old men, and kissing couples.
Bella let out a nervous chuckle. "I should have done more practice in my art classes, but you are correct." She scooted to sit beside him, and ducked her head under his shoulder. "I've searched for Chicago monuments, since I wanted something that could remind you of your human years. The fountain was finished in 1922, but the construction work began almost fifteen years earlier. I wondered if you had ever..." She stopped. She didn't want to elicit any sad memories, and doubted if her present had been the right choice.
"If I...? Go on, love."
"If you had seen it, when it was still unfinished."
"I did," he confirmed. "Washington Park, where the fountain is situated, is the place where my mother used to take me for a walk when I was a baby. The fountain was built to celebrate a century of peace between England and America. At school the teachers even made us write a paper about it, and I can recall that I went to see the fountain with my father."
"Am I making you sad?" Bella asked.
"Absolutely not." Edward shook his head. "I can't name all the feelings that are flooding though me right now, but I can assure you that sadness isn't among them."
"I've read something about the story of the fountain," she went on. "I was unsure about picking it for the album, since it's wasn't finished yet when you left Chicago. But then I thought about it as a bridge between your human years and your vampire ones." She brushed his forearm. The gesture reminded her of their first time in the meadow; she could see that it reminded him, as well, since they both smiled. "Human or vampire, you're always my Edward. The path that started in 1901, on that twentieth of June, brought you to me."
Edward looked at the stone figures of the fountain, forever stilled in motion. He was frozen too. Living stone. When change came for a vampire, it was rare and permanent. Bella had changed him in an eternal way, a way that would never fade. More than eighty years had passed since the figures of the Fountain of Time had gotten their definitive shape. Even if the stone monument became dust, Edward would still love Bella with the incredulous enthusiasm of first love. It would always be that way for him.
He tightened his embrace around her. "You have given that path meaning." A light breeze made Bella's scent even stronger and more fascinating, and Edward allowed himself a moment to let the emotions settle down. He found he was exceedingly curious about Bella's behavior over the past few days. "May I ask if this came in the mail? It seems awfully big to fit in your mailbox."
Bella laughed. "I was waiting for Renée to send me what's inside. Please open the book."
Edward wasn't thinking that the day could give him more surprises. But he was wrong.
On the first page of the photo album, a chubby baby smiled at him. She was dressed in a frilly pink summer dress. Beside her, a younger version of Charlie and Renée were looking at the photographer. June1988, the caption under the picture told him.
"I'm not sure about the exact date, but the month is the right one," Bella explained.
Beside the picture, there was enough space to put another photo, but it had been left blank. When Edward turned the page, his eyes met those of an angry Bella. According to the caption, the picture dated back to the summer of 1991.
She giggled, pointing to the three-year-old girl who had pouted at whoever was taking the picture. "It seems I didn't like to be at the center of the attention." Beside the picture there was a large, blank space.
Edward went to the third page.
"I'm sure of this date!" Bella exclaimed. June20,1995. A wave of tenderness flooded Edward as he admired the new image. The traits of the Bella he had met, of his Bella, were already clear in the young girl who was posing in her ballet costume. Memories from the dance school, from the day when they had almost lost each other, threatened to resurface. But they both pushed them away.
"You were graceful," he observed.
She snorted. "Like someone here pointed out, I can't walk across a flat, stable surface without finding something to trip over."
If he could have, Edward would have blushed, realizing his faux pas. He laughed. "You have a good memory."
"Have I?" she joked. "Let's see how yours works, shall we?"
"The blank spaces beside each picture are for you," Bella explained. "Now you know what I was doing on some of your past birthdays. Would you tell me more about what you were doing? I'd like to know how you spent every day on Earth so far, but I could settle for your birthdays, for now."
Just for a quick moment, Edward thought about the time he had spent in the slums, witnessing the worst things men could do. There wasn't any sin he hadn't seen, any darkness he hadn't roamed. Bella didn't know the details, but she had accepted the past he was most ashamed of. He could recall exactly what he had done on the same days when the pictures of Bella had been taken, and was relieved knowing that there wasn't anything too scary to be shared.
"I'd tell you anything you want to know. But even more than this, remember that I would like to spend every day with you from now on."
"As long as we both shall live," she murmured. "I hope there will be a long series of photo albums to fill, then."
He cradled her face in his hands, his eyes boring into hers. "Thank you, Bella. Thank you my love, my mate, my everything."
June 21, 2005
Alice beamed and sandwiched her human friend in the tightest hug she could allow herself without crushing her. "Thank you, Bella, from me and from all our family."
"To what do I owe the pleasure?" Bella asked. Her expression darkened. "Edward hasn't told you..."
"No, no," Alice rushed to reassure her. "He would have never spoken a syllable about what happened yesterday between you and him. But just looking at his face when he came back home, we all could tell that you gave him an unforgettable day. Jasper said that with the joy he emanated yesterday, Edward made up for a century of moodiness."
Bella chuckled lightly. "I hope so."
Alice smirked. "Any chance you'll ever tell me what you did to my brother, perhaps?"
Bella shook her head, smiling. Memories of what had happened in the last days began to flood her mind.
"There are almost three months before your birthday," Alice said absentmindedly.
Bella was startled. "What are you thinking, Alice? You wouldn't dare organize anything for my birthday, would you?"
"Come on, we don't have to discuss anything right now. But I'd like to make your birthday unforgettable, too."
Thanks for reading!
I'd like to thank the fabulous friends who betaed this little story in record time, when I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to submit anything on this round: Camilla10, Marlena516, Duskwatcher2153 and Jmolly. Once again, they spoiled me with their support and generosity.
Thanks to the lovely Solareclipses, who's running a wonderful contest! Congrats to Duskwatcher2153, who won this round! I'm so proud of you!
If you want to check my other stories, they're on my profile. De Immortalitate is nearing completion, while An Italian Winter is the newest one. For both stories, reviewers get a little gift, different for each chapter.