I shivered as I looked out over the side of the mountain. It was covered in snow; perfect and white and just as beautiful as it had been every time I'd come here. I turned the heat up a little more, and I wrapped the sweater I was wearing tighter around me.
"Are you cold?"
I looked over to the person I loved most in the world, taking their hand and squeezing it softly. Familiar green eyes stared back, and for a moment, I was overcome with more emotion than I could handle.
"I'm okay, love," I murmured. "Just remembering."
A knowing glance passed between us, and as an old Christmas song played softly in the background, we made our way quietly up the winding road. The grey sky seemed to open up, and the snow began to fall again.
I couldn't imagine that there would ever be a happier Christmas than the one I spent with Edward and my family when I was twenty-eight. Whenever I thought about it, the entire week would replay vividly in my mind. It came in colors and temperatures. The heat of Edward's body over and inside mine. The cold of the snow on the mountain side where I played with Alice. The warmth that covered and surrounded me as I was embraced by the love of my family…and finally wrapped in the love that Edward held for me.
That he'd always held for me.
No, I could never have imagined that there would be a better Christmas than that one. But just like so many times in my life before…I was wrong.
There was the following Christmas when, in front of everyone, Edward proposed. And with tears in my eyes that I didn't care about because they matched his, I told him, "Yes." The one after that, when we were newlyweds. I don't think we ever left our room. It seemed apparent that both of us were trying to make up for lost time. I don't know if we ever really did, but we never stopped trying. And the next year we made the trip with our three month old daughter. She was conceived under soft sheets and thick quilts that covered our naked bodies and kept us from the chill that still lingered in my room. Our room.
Every Christmas with Edward was better than the one before. Every day with him – every single moment – was a revelation.
I used to think my love for Edward was pathetic, but that was never ever the case.
It might have taken us a long time to really find each other, but once we had, we never lost our way again.
The lights were on in the house, and clouded smoke trailed from the fire place.
"Looks like everyone is already here."
I laughed softly and then replied, "We've always been the last ones to arrive…in everything."
Warm lips pressed against my cheek, as I fought back the tears I knew were hiding behind my eyes. And we got out of the car.
"Take the bags in," I said, my voice cracking just a little. "I'll be in soon."
I pulled a box and a flannel blanket from the back seat, and I made my way through the snow around to the back of the house. The snow wasn't falling hard. It's was just flurries, really. I stopped when I saw the tree standing there, barren and lifeless. And as my tears began to fall, I spread the blanket on the ground and slowly lowered myself down.
I didn't even feel the cold.
"I can't believe it's almost been a year," I whispered into the wind. "Every day I think it might get easier…but it never really does. I'm so glad we decided to buy this house. It feels like almost every important memory that I have lives here."
The tears streamed down, making it difficult to really talk.
But I had to keep going.
"Lizzie is so beautiful. Sometimes I see myself in her, but mostly…mostly, I just see you. It's in her green eyes. Your green eyes. It's in her quiet determination…her need to always take care of me. You took such good care of me. You always did. Even when we were kids.
"She's thirty now. Only two years older than I was when I finally got everything I ever hoped for. I only ever wanted you. And having you in my life…loving you every day…it was so much more than I could have ever imagined. I want that for her. I want her to have the same kind of life that we had. I want her to know and understand for herself the kind of love that we shared.
"I think she's found him. He's driving up tomorrow, and he's going to spend Christmas with the family. And I wish you could be here. I wish…I wish that I wasn't going to sleep in our room alone tonight. I wish that I could feel your arms around me one more time. I wish I could feel your lips kissing me again. I wish…for so many things. But mostly, I just wish that you were still here with me.
"My life isn't the same without you. But you're still there in so many little ways. I still sleep on the left side of the bed. And the part of me that still dreams at night hopes to feel you slide in beside me like you always used to do. But those are just dreams…and I always wake up alone. Without you.
"I miss you, Edward. Every moment of every day. But I'm so grateful…so blessed that we had a life together at all. It wasn't easy getting there. God knows we fought against it. But I wouldn't change a single thing. I wouldn't change a single moment…because our life together was perfect. Yes, you were flawed…and so was I. But who we were – what we became and made together – was perfect."
A sharp wind whipped around me. And even though I was numb, my body wracked with a chill…and then a sob.
"I love you," I cried quietly. "I have always, always loved you. And I will love you every day until I'm with you again. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for filling my life with so much joy that even now, even without you, I can still feel you in everything around me."
I opened the box, and I took out the urn. I stood slowly and walked over to the tree.
"I'm bringing you here," I whispered. "It seems like the only place where you should finally rest. Here, where we fell in love. Here, where so many wonderful things happened. But you will always be with me. I'll carry you inside me wherever I go. And I will always come back to this place. Because this is where I found you. This is where you found me."
I couldn't see them, but I could feel them. Our family. I knew they were watching, and I took a small amount of comfort in that, knowing that their arms would be there waiting for me when I was done. Even though Edward's wouldn't. I opened the vase, and I spread his ashes around the tree. It felt like I was leaving my heart there with him in the snow. But my words to him remained in my mind. This wasn't really him. I would carry him with me.
My tears never really dried, but I knew I had to go inside. So, I turned and I saw Lizzie standing at the side of the house. She needed me now, as much as I needed her.
"I love you," I whispered, glancing back one more time. "Always, Edward."
I looked at my single set of footprints that led back to the house, but I would always remember his beside mine.
And I would remember that we lived.
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Happy Holidays to all of you who celebrate.