Disclaimer: Once again, Twilight is not mine; I just play in Stephanie Meyer's sandbox. My incredible betas Im2xshy and Kzintikiller keep me motivated and on track for which I am eternally grateful.
I want to give another special shout out to my beta Im2xshy. Even though she had company this weekend, she took the time to beta this chapter for me which I really appreciate. If I was to dedicate this entire story to one person it would be her. She has been my rock.
Author's Note: Well, this is the last chapter of this story. Originally, I had toyed with the idea of a future-take/epilogue but I like the way this chapter came out so I think I'll just end it with this chapter. Finishing this story makes me a little sad because I won't be visiting Edward and Bella on a regular basis, but I have other non-Twilight projects waiting in the wings to work on which is very exciting to me and very soon I hope to try my hand at self-publishing my own original fiction. Thank you all for your patience while I've toiled on this story and for all your kind words and input, they meant the world to me.
Previously in Chapter 56: Bella and Edward finally got their lemony goodness. And at the end of the chapter, she told him that she wanted to get married there on the island.
And now, the wedding of Edward Anthony Masen Cullen and Isabella Marie Swan…
As we stood on the beach near the island's dock, Edward smiled down at me and tucked me into his side while we waited. The ship was still too far out for human eyes to see, but Edward and I could see it just fine as it drew inexorably closer.
I fidgeted slightly and Edward correctly read it as nervousness. "Don't worry, they'll be thrilled to see you."
"I know," I said, but I could hear the doubt in my own voice. "I guess I still feel a little guilty about the way I left things in Seattle."
"They love you, Bella and they know that you were struggling to come to terms with what happened with Victoria." He kissed my temple and pulled me closer. "All they care about is that you want them here now."
I hugged him. "I hope you're right."
"I am," he said confidently.
I mentally sighed, but didn't say anything else since I figured that I'd know the answer for sure in a few minutes anyway. It had been two weeks since we'd decided to get married here on the island; two blissful, amazing, mostly naked weeks alone with Edward that were only interrupted by calls from Carlisle, oh, and of course, Alice, Rose and Esme about the wedding, which was tomorrow.
While I was happy, thrilled even, that everyone was coming to the island to be with us, their arrival was a bit like the real world intruding on the little bubble we'd created around ourselves and I just wanted everything to go smoothly.
We watched as the white hull of the ship sped over the water at a surprisingly fast clip for such a large vessel. When Edward had first brought me to the island, it had been in a small speed boat, but due to the number of people it had to bring here, and I'm sure the amount of cargo they were carrying, our visitors would need something bigger. Then there was the fact that instead of flying down here, they'd opted to come by boat, so again, something bigger was more practical. What was coming toward us now looked to be more like a mid-sized yacht, which is why I was surprised that it appeared to move so quickly.
Before I could obsess much more about seeing everyone again, the boat, ship, or whatever it was called was pulling up to the end of the dock. Jasper, and a predictably grinning Emmett, jumped down to secure the mooring lines around the cleats set into the dock. Then they both turned and pulled down the small gangplank that would allow everyone to easily disembark and offload supplies and cargo.
The gangplank had no sooner touched the wooden dock when I saw a bit of a commotion onboard that I quickly realized was Alice and Rose trying to crowd off the ship and onto the gangplank at the same time. The image was so funny I couldn't help but laugh.
Alice apparently won the battle, because suddenly she came all but shooting off the ship like a cork from a bottle and nearly went into the water when she almost didn't change direction in time to make it onto the dock. I was sure that her vampire reflexes were all that had kept her from taking a swim. Then her pixie like form was a blur of motion as she came racing toward us with Rose close on her heels, followed by a laughing Emmett and Jasper and an indulgent Esme and Carlisle bringing up the rear at a much more sedate pace.
"Bella!" Alice called as she ran toward us.
Snickering, Edward leaned down and whispered. "Yes, they definitely look like they're angry with you."
I shot him a dirty look, and before I knew what I was doing, I was off and running out to meet them with laughter bubbling out of my chest. When we got to each other, we embraced like the long lost sisters we were. With the way we hugging and jumping around, we were probably lucky that we didn't tumble off the dock.
"I'm so happy to see you!" I told them, then pulled back to address everyone. "All of you!"
"We're so glad we finally got here," Alice said. "Coming by boat, the trip seemed to take forever."
"I can imagine."
Emmett picked me up and spun me around. "I've missed you B.A.! I hear you and Eddie have been having lots of 'bow chicka bow wow'." He grinned and looked past us. "Must not have been too much though, the house is still standing."
"EMMETT!" Everyone else chorused while I just rolled my eyes.
"We are not talking about our sex life, now put me down you big ox!" I knew if I acted all embarrassed, he would only tease me more. Besides, he and everyone else would see soon enough that while the outside of the house had fared pretty well, we'd done a fair amount of damage to the inside.
Once Emmett set me down, Jasper embraced me warmly. "It's good to see you, Bella." Releasing his hold on me, he gave me a grin. "Oh, and you'll be happy to know I am now an officially ordained minister with the Universal Life Church."
Originally, we were going to have Carlisle officiate at our wedding, especially since he was already ordained, but I decided instead that I wanted him to walk me down the aisle since Charlie couldn't be there to do it, so Jasper had been the next choice to marry us.
"That's great, Jasper! Was it difficult?"
"Nope," he said. "I just went on their website, filled out some forms, paid the fee and just like that, instant minister."
"I still don't see why I couldn't be the one to go online and get the preacher thing so I could do your wedding," Emmett groused.
"Um, I think the bow, chicka bow wow, comment is reason enough," I said patting his cheek. "I tell you what, if you stop pouting, you can officiate at the next wedding, okay?"
"Next wedding?" Edward said from behind me. "Who are you planning on marrying after me?"
Turning, I saw he was just teasing and I laughed. It was a well-known fact that the couples in the Cullen clan liked to renew their vows and get remarried on a semi-regular basis, which was also part of the reason Carlisle was already ordained.
"I meant YOU, silly!" I told Edward.
"Good answer," he said giving me a kiss.
"Hey now, no mushy stuff until after the wedding!" Emmett said.
"Dream on," I said before kissing Edward back.
"Hello, Bella. It's wonderful to see you looking so happy," Carlisle greeted me with a soft smile and a firm hug.
"Thank you, Carlisle," I held the hug a moment longer than he probably expected. "And thank you for all the support and good advice you gave Edward."
"My pleasure, I'm just glad it helped."
After we pulled apart, I turned to Esme who held her arms out to me; I went into them without a second of hesitation. "I missed you," I told her softly.
"I missed you too, sweetheart." Then she added conspiratorially, "Oh, and Alice told me about the inside of the house, but I don't want you to worry about it for a second. It will give me an excuse to redecorate and I'll make Edward pay for it."
I laughed. "Edward thought you'd say that."
"Okay, now that we've got the meet and greet out of the way," Alice said switching in to wedding planner mode. "Boys, you've got some things to unload." Jasper and Emmett groaned in resignation, but started for the ship again. When she saw that the other two males in the group were just standing on the dock talking, she didn't beat around the bush. "Edward, Carlisle that means you, too."
Carlisle laughed and gave her a little salute. "Yes, ma'am."
Edward already knew better than to argue with Alice so he went with Carlisle, and they continued to talk as they followed Jasper and Emmett down the dock.
Alice was all but vibrating with excitement. "I can't wait to show you everything we brought, Bella! Come on, Rose, let's go see how bad the damage is inside and find a place to set up."
With that, Rose and Alice took off for the house. I looped my arm through Esme's as we followed them at a human pace.
"Carlisle's right," Esme said with a soft smile.
She gave my arm a squeeze. "You do look happy, you and Edward both."
"I don't think I've ever been so happy. Esme." I was quiet for a moment. "Edward and I owe a lot of that to you and Carlisle for letting us stay on the island."
"I'm glad you could make use of it."
"The last two weeks have been nothing short of amazing." I gave a happy little sigh. "Once, I got myself squared away about what happened with Victoria, and I really talked to Edward about some things, we were able to reconnect in a way we never have before. I think with me being a vampire now, we're also on a more level footing, and it's only made our relationship stronger."
"I can't wait to marry him tomorrow, and I'm so glad you could all be here for it."
Esme smile widely. "There's nowhere we'd rather be."
I debated whether or not to say what I wanted to say, but along with my resolution to be honest and communicate with Edward, I decided that should carry over to the rest of the family.
I stopped walking to face her. "I'm sorry about how I left things in Seattle, Esme," I began.
"No, let me get this out," I pressed. "At the time, everything reminded me of what I did to Victoria, and I felt so guilty about that I needed to get away from it." I looked down at my feet. "I never saw it as pushing you all away, which is exactly what I did."
"Bella …" Her voice was soft, and she gently lifted my chin so I looked at her. "You have nothing to apologize for. We all know how hard adjusting to this life can be, especially in the beginning. Rose killed the men that hurt her, Emmett, Jasper and I have had slip ups and killed humans that we felt remorse about afterward, and Edward had his rebellious period, which he definitely felt guilty about. What's important is that once you worked things out, came back to us." She gathered me into a hug. "And that's all that really matters."
My eyes prickled, and I knew that if I'd still been human, tears would have been coursing down my cheeks by now. "Thank you," I whispered.
She patted my back and then released me just as the guys began to return from the ship laden down with suitcases, trunks and boxes. "Now, no more talk of things best left in the past," she told me firmly. "Tomorrow is your wedding day, and you're going to be a beautiful bride."
As I stood in front of the mirror the next day, I had to admit that Esme's words were prophetic; I hardly recognized myself. After we'd all gone to the mainland to hunt in the morning, Rose, Esme and Alice had spent the better part of the afternoon helping me get ready and they had done an amazing job. They had just left a few moments before to put the final touches on their own outfits and to give me a few moments to myself.
Instead of the fluffy, meringue inspired creation that I expected Alice to pick out for my wedding dress, she had gone for a more minimalist approach. While the sleeveless dress was still long, the bodice was fitted silk with a light smattering of tiny seed pearls and delicate straps to keep it up. As for the skirt, it was a mixture of silk and chiffon that fell in a soft flowing wave from my waist to my feet. I swished lightly when I walked, which I thought was fun, and I imagined it would look amazing in the soft breeze that came almost constantly off the ocean.
The dress was perfect for me and I loved it.
However, the shoes she had picked out were another matter. The moment she had pulled them out to show me, I had refused to wear the stilettoed death traps. When she pointed out that I was a vampire now and wouldn't fall or injure myself by wearing them, I'd reminded her that we were having a beach wedding and I would have to walk across the sand so pointy heels just weren't practical. In fact, I'd planned on going barefoot.
Alice had nearly gone apoplectic at the idea of me getting married in my bare feet. If she'd been human, I was pretty sure she would have literally popped a few blood vessels.
I looked down at my bare feet and my toes with their bright red toenail polish that Rose had put on me last night and, giving them a wriggle, I smiled. Against all of Alice's protestations, arguments and threats, I had stood firm; all right, so Rose and Esme had also taken my side which helped, but in any case, I was getting married barefoot like I'd wanted.
My hair was pulled back from my face and secured with the small veil that I'd chosen from the three that Alice had brought along. She'd encouraged me to pick the one that was so long it almost touched the ground, but I'd opted for simpler one that only went to my waist. Unlike many traditional brides, I was not going wear it over my face, but leave it trailing down my back during the entire ceremony.
The final piece of my ensemble was the small bunch of flowers I held in my hand. The bouquet was made up of delicate white freesia blossoms that I'd picked out at Edward's suggestion.
Turning away from the mirror, I walked to the window and looked out over the ocean as the sun began it's decent into the horizon. Somewhere out across that water Charlie and Renee were going about their lives not knowing all the changes that had and were taking place in my life. A part of me always missed them, and I wished there was an easy, covert way I could know for sure if they were doing all right. It was too bad vampires didn't have an affinity for crystal balls or magic mirrors. However, today, their absence was especially was poignant.
Just then, there was a knock at the door. "Bella?"
"Come in, Carlisle."
He opened the door and stepped into the room, closing the door behind him to keep anyone from seeing me before they should. As he turned toward me, he stopped and smiled. "Oh, Bella, you are a vision."
Forcing my thoughts about Charlie and Renee away, I smiled and swished my skirt a bit. "The girls did quite a good job on me, didn't they?"
Walking over to me, he kissed my cheek and stepped back. "Well, they had good material to work with."
Although Carlisle was being nothing but fatherly toward me, I knew I would have blushed if I could. "Thank you, Carlisle. And thank you for standing in for Charlie since he can't be here."
"It's my honor," he said bowing slightly at the waist. "You must be missing him and your mother quite a bit today."
Slowly, I nodded and turned back to the window. "Yes, I was just thinking about them when you came in." I stared out at a sky that was evolving from a soft blue to a golden yellow as the sun began to disappear. "Nothing is going to stop me from marrying Edward, and I know that being with him and being part of this family requires some sacrifice, and normally I am more than happy to make it, but somehow, it doesn't seem right that they're not here for this."
"It's understandable that you'd feel that way," he said gently. "This is a significant day in your life, and you want those you love to be part of it."
Silence stretched between us as I continued to stand there looking out the window and Carlisle remained quietly behind me, not pushing me to say more or pull me from my thoughts before I was ready.
I spent the ensuing moments mentally telling Charlie and Renee that I loved them, and I hoped they would be happy because I was happy and that I would never forget them; in essence, saying good-bye to them and to the remnants of my old life. I thought I'd already done that, but apparently, some part of me had been holding on to the past. However, the time had come to let it go and embrace the new life I'd begun with Edward and the Cullens.
Feeling like a small weight had been removed from my heart, I straightened my shoulders, took a breath and turned back to Carlisle. "I'm ready."
He searched my face for something and after a moment, he nodded and smiled. "Yes, I can see that you are."
I looped my arm through his. "Then let's go get me married."
Carlisle led me out of the bedroom and down the hall. The lights in the house were off and with only the tiniest sliver of sun still above the horizon, it was rapidly getting dark in the house. As we turned the corner and walked to the front door, the huge windows at the front of the house came into view and I smiled. The scene that greeted me was beautiful. Candles were everywhere, including forming a path from the house and down the beach where two large torches illuminated the place where everyone was gathered and where I would say my vows to Edward. We had decided to get married at twilight as Edward had told me once that was his favorite time of day.
And speaking of my fiancé, I could see him standing beside one of the torches with Jasper at his back, a huge smile lighting his face as he waited for me. Since we were having a beach wedding and therefore, being somewhat unconventional, he was not dressed in a standard black suit or tuxedo. Instead he was wearing a soft, loose fitting pair of gauzy white pants cuffed at the ankle and a billowy white shirt.
His feet were bare, of course.
One might think that white on an already pale vampire would not be complimentary, but on him, in the falling twilight and with the flickering light from the candle and torch fires, it looked perfect.
Somehow Alice had managed to find a version of the wedding march that had a bit more of a tropical bent to it without being cheesy or overdone, and it began to play from hidden speakers as Carlisle and I began the walk down the lighted sandy path to the beach. I had to admit, I was so anxious to marry Edward that it was a little hard for me to hold to Carlisle's slow and steady human pace when what I really wanted was to sprint to Edward using the vampire speed I possessed.
Nonetheless, we finally arrived at our destination, passing first the rest of our family and then stopping next to Edward. Carlisle turned to me. "Bella, I would say welcome to the family, but you became part of our family a long time ago." He kissed my cheek and then gently took my hand from his arm and placed it in Edward's hand. "I wish you both happiness beyond measure." With that, he moved back and went to stand by Esme.
His eyes shining with adoration, Edward gave my hand a gentle squeeze. "You look beautiful, love."
I sent him an adoring, but slightly bashful smile. "Thank you."
"Are we ready to begin?" Jasper asked us.
Although Edward and I had planned to do our own vows, we had not discussed any other details with Jasper or made any requests of him on how we wanted the ceremony conducted. Except for my vows, I really didn't care as long as at the end of it I was Mrs. Edward Masen Cullen. Consequently, I was a little interested to see how Jasper would conduct things.
We both nodded in answer to his question and he began. "Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to join this man, Edward Anthony Masen Cullen, and this woman, Isabella Marie Swan, in the bonds of holy matrimony," he began. "Breaking with tradition, I have no plans to ask if anyone here objects to this union, as I believe that we all know and agree that if there were ever two people who belonged together, it's Edward and Bella. Deep, abiding love is a rare thing these days, and all we have to do is look at you both and we know that you have truly found it."
He paused and opened his hand to reveal two rings resting on his palm. "In my hand, I hold the rings that will symbolize their union and their commitment to each other. At their request, each have requested to recite their own vows to the other."
Jasper handed one of the rings to Edward. "Edward, take this ring and as a sign of your love and devotion, recite your vows to Bella and place it on her finger."
Edward nodded, took the ring from him and held it up between us. "Bella, my love, before we met, I never imagined I would arrive at a moment like this. While I had good examples of what a 'forever after' kind of love was like, to me it was something that only other people found, and I thought I was destined to be forever alone." He smiled down at me. "But then you came into my life and showed me how wrong I was. You showed me color and life and possibility and in the best of ways, my life was never the same again."
His voice grew even heavier with emotion when he spoke next. "I think Shakespeare said it best, Hear my soul speak: The very instant that I saw you, did my heart fly to your service, there resides to make me slave to it."
My silent heart clenched to hear him recite the quote from The Tempest, and I reached out to cup his face as he continued. "My heart has always been yours, Bella. Even when I made the most foolish mistake of all and tried to push you away, my heart was still yours. I am thankful every day that you gave me, gave us, a second chance. Never forget that I love you more today than yesterday, but less today than I will tomorrow."
He took my hand from his cheek and slowly slid the ring on my finger. "Isabella Marie Swan, be my wife and take this ring as a symbol of my pledge of love and eternal devotion to you."
"Bella, do you accept the vows that Edward has spoken to you?" Jasper put in.
I was so overcome with emotion, it took me a moment to answer, and I knew I'd be crying at that point if I'd still retained the ability. "I do."
Next, Jasper handed me a ring. "Bella, take this ring and as a sign of your love and devotion, recite your vows to Edward and place it on his finger."
Accepting the ring from Jasper, I tried to not only speak what was in my heart, but also do justice to the beautiful words Edward had just spoken to me. "Edward, the first time I saw you, I thought you were bigger than life; something unobtainable. But then you let me into your life, and as I got to know you and love you, I saw that you weren't so different from me and that together we just … fit. Loving you was like opening a door to a new life, a new existence; one that had all the passion and color I'd been missing and didn't even know it. Everything just makes sense when I'm with you and without you, I'm lost."
Edward wasn't the only one who could recite Shakespeare. What I said next, came from one of his sonnets. "Shakespeare definitely had it right when he said, Such is my love, to thee I so belong, that for thy right myself will bear all wrong."
"My heart was yours the first time I saw you Edward. We've both made mistakes, but through the darkness, your love was always my guiding light and my true north, and I will be by your side for as long as you will have me." Next, I stole his words because I thought they were so true. "And I, too, love you more today than yesterday, but less today than I will tomorrow."
Mimicking his earlier motions, I lifted his hand and slowly slid the ring on his finger. "Edward Anthony Masen Cullen, be my husband and take this ring as a symbol of my pledge of love and eternal devotion to you."
"Edward, do you accept the vows that Bella has spoken to you?" Jasper asked.
I could see Edward was just as overcome with emotion as I had been. "I do," he said with the utmost certainty.
Jasper grinned. "Excellent. Then by the power vested in me by the internet guys, otherwise known as the Universal Life Church, I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss your bride."
Not needing to be told twice, Edward pulled me to him, bent me back into a wonderful dip and kissed me soundly. Vaguely, I heard clapping and hooting, but all I was really aware of was the feel of Edward's lips on mine and his strong arms around me. After what felt like an all too short amount of time, he lifted me back to a standing position, but kept his arms around me.
Jasper moved to stand beside us. "It is my great honor to be the first one to introduce to you all to Mr. and Mrs. Edward Cullen."
Smiling and clapping enthusiastically, our family gathered around us giving us hearty congratulations and warm wishes.
As I stood there beside Edward, surrounded by not only his love, but theirs, I realized how happy I was and that my life felt … complete, was the only word I could think of to describe it. Not complete in a way that signaled an end, but a beginning. A signal that everything was lined up as it should be, and it was time to move onto the next step, the next phase, the next … whatever.
And as long as I was with him, I couldn't wait to see what our future held.