Pop the Question Contest Entry
Title: Our Happy Ending
Word Count: 7294
Summary: When their world is turned upside down and the future is forever changed, Edward and Bella must find out if their love is strong enough to survive anything. Their future together depends on it.
Warnings: This has a little more angst than I originally planned. Sorry in advance!
Our Happy Ending
I love you.
Such a simple combination of words that have been spoken, whispered, declared, screamed in ecstasy again and again since the beginning of time. Too often they are said superficially without holding the true meaning they profess. They have been used to appease, to manipulate, to define. But to say them and truly mean them because they are a life line to the one person that lives in the depths of your soul is special and rare. That is the kind of love that stands the test of time, that doesn't break under pressure, that binds two people together indefinitely.
That is the kind of love I have with Bella.
Those words have poured out of my mouth and have lingered in the air, thick and heavy with meaning. They almost didn't do my feelings for Bella justice, because she isn't just my girl. She is my best friend, my confidant, my rock, my savior. She's seen me at my absolute worst and not only did she not go running for the hills, she stayed by my side proving over and over there was no other place she'd rather be. She hugged me when I needed it and kicked me my ass when I deserved it. And every time she tells me that she loves me, all I have to do is look into those warm brown eyes and know that it is the complete and absolute truth.
To me, Bella is like air. Every day we breathe in and out, taking an average of 21,600 breaths a day. It's our most normal and involuntary function yet we hardly ever think of just how vital air is to our existence until we are deprived of it. As soon as that happens we are instantly reminded of how much we can't live without it. Bella in my life is as natural and permanent as breathing. There will never be a time when I won't need everything she has to offer me, so today I will ask Bella to be my wife…again.
I nervously smoothed my hands over my navy blue pants as I sat and waited for her to arrive. She thought I needed a ride and just like always, Bella was there when I needed something, anything. WhatI hadn't been able to tell her in a very long time was that the one thing I needed most in my life was simply her. End of story.
We were both young when we met. I had just completed my Basic Combat Training and was back home attending college. My mom had shit a brick when I told her and my dad that I wanted to enlist in the Army. As far as they had known, all I ever wanted to become was a doctor. And I did, but there was something about serving my country that I was just drawn to. I signed up in the winter of my senior year of high school and two weeks after graduation reported to Fort Benning in Georgia for ten tough weeks of pure fucking hell. There were times when I was sure I had made a mistake, but once it was over I felt like I had accomplished something special. Despite all of her protesting, I knew my mother was proud as hell of me and that made me very happy.
I could have gone further and made the military my career, but I still wanted the college experience and I still wanted to become a doctor. So with BCT behind me and reserve duty of one weekend a month and two weeks per year in front of me, I returned home to Seattle and applied at UDub. It wasn't long before I was living in a dorm and entrenched in a full load of classes.
One evening, a few buddies and I had decided to try this diner just off campus. We had been studying hard and were completely ravenous. A pretty brunette had the unfortunate task of being our waitress. She was shy, quiet, and wouldn't make eye contact while she took our orders. With all of our pent up energy we were being so obnoxious and I had felt bad thinking we were intimidating her. She slinked away only to return a few minutes later with a tray of ordered drinks. As she began to place them in front of us, Jasper yelled out a punch line to a joke so loud that it caught her off guard. She tried to recover from being startled, but the tray of drinks became unbalanced as they teetered back and forth and in a split second, all four had landed in my lap. My junk immediately tried to crawl up inside my body to get away from the ice and cold soda that was seeping through my pants.
"Oh my God, I am so sorry!" She yelled as she tried to pick the cups up. My line of sight flew to the source of the sweetest voice I had ever heard. I watched her eyes as she furiously worked to clean up the mess. They were swimming in panic and unshed tears, but underneath that they held a soulful warmth that consumed me. At that moment, I was done for. She was the one.
Before she could reach for the ice that was now melting in my crotch, I gently wrapped my hand around her wrist causing her to stop short. A tear had finally slipped out of her eye and down her face and all I wanted to do was comfort her.
"It's really okay. Don't cry. You're far too pretty for that." She pulled her hand away so she could wipe the tear from her face, but I couldn't help but notice a soft shade of pink come to the surface of her cheeks. She composed herself before stating that she would get some towels and a new round of drinks, on the house. As soon as she retreated, the guys busted a gut laughing at my sappy declaration. I'm pretty sure at least one of them called me a pussy.
I didn't care. Maybe I was a pussy. For some reason, I knew for her I would be anything.
Before we left the diner I approached her when she was alone and asked her on a date. She was surprised I wanted anything to do with her after the soaked pants fiasco, but eagerly accepted. I was over the moon.
I took her to dinner and had planned on going to a movie, but we got lost in getting to know each other and before we knew it the waiter was telling us they were about to lock up. From then on we were inseparable and the more I learned about her the more I knew she was the girl for me. Bella was feminine in all the right ways, but could chug a beer and belch like nobody's business. She was driven, taking full course loads and classes during the summer so she could double major in English and History. She wanted to be more marketable when applying for teaching jobs after graduation. All this and she worked at the diner at least three days a week. She was kind and compassionate of others and enjoyed the simple things. I didn't have to break my neck trying to please her, not that I wouldn't have. I would have done or bought anything for that girl, but she didn't need and certainly didn't want grand gestures. Little love notes on the windshield of her car when she came out of class, a pint of Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia ice cream after an important test, a set of strong arms around her after a particularly difficult day, those were the things that made her smile. My friends loved her, my parents adored her. She was perfect in every way.
And did I mention the hot, mind-blowing, out-of-this-world, think I've-died-and-gone-to-heaven sex?
Oh my Christ. Her body was fucking made for me. Gentle curves, tone muscles, soft skin…I could never get enough of her. She seemed to feel the same way because once we had sex that first time a few weeks after our initial date, the damn was broken never to be put back. The girl was insatiable. Not that I was complaining. There wasn't a time of the day, a place, or a position that was off limits. We could be anywhere and all it took was a look…one lustful look and the desire became so overwhelming that we had to have each other. We did our fair share of fucking all over the place, but there were also the times when we made the most passionate, tender, all-consuming love to each other. It was in those quiet moments after we had both come to completion when all I could hear was the heaviness of our breathing and the beating of our hearts that I felt I could cry in relief that God had given this beautiful creature to me. To me.
After about a year and a half of dating, we decided that we would move out of the dorms and live in an apartment together for our last year of undergrad. Well, I would still have an additional semester because I had gotten a late start, but with having years of school ahead of me to become a doctor, who was really counting?
I'd like to say that living together was complete bliss, but like any couple there was an adjustment period as we got used to each other's quirks. It didn't last long, but there had been more than once that she wanted to kill me for leaving my shoes in the middle of the door way and I wasn't really too fond of all those scented candles she was always burning. Like I said, it was an adjustment, but one that was completely worth it. We fell in to a comfortable routine doing things that all couples did - cooking, laundry, snuggling on the couch watching television. We also had our unique things as well, such as my monthly head shaving. Every four weeks on the Friday before I was supposed to report to Fort Lewis-McChord for training, Bella would shave off the growth that had crept up since the last time. It always started out the same way. Bella would let out a big sigh stating that just once she would love to see what my hair would look like if it were allowed to grow out, for curiosity sake and for the purpose of something to pull on during sex. Then she would proceed and use the clippers to shave it all off. I know she hated the weekends I was away, but she told me often how proud of me she was and how hot I looked in my combat boots. I knew that she spoke the truth because when I would return on Sunday, the first thing she'd do was fuck me in nothing but those combat boots. Let me tell you, hottest sex ever. The only thing that really changed due to our living situation was that I realized more and more every day that Bella was the one for me and that I should never let her go.
I planned to pop the big question on February 15th. Valentine's Day was so…cliché, so predictable. But February 15th, there was no way she would see it coming.
I took her out to a nice, romantic Valentine's Day dinner. We ate well, exchanged gifts, had awesome sex. It was perfectly normal. Little did she know it was a little bit too normal. It was all I could do not to burst with excitement, anxiety, and all-out nausea from what I was planning to do the next day.
It started out like any other Wednesday, but when Bella came home from class she was greeted with a candle lit dinner made by yours truly, dozens of flowers on every flat surface, and me on bended knee.
"Bella, I knew from the moment you dumped that tray of drinks on me that you were the one for me. Every day with you since has done nothing but prove it to me even more. We fit perfectly together and I'm not one for messing with perfection. I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life showing you how much each and ever day. Marry me, Bella. Please, marry me."
Through shedding tears she accepted and kissed me hard. She gasped as I slid my grandmother's antique engagement ring on her finger. It was single handedly the best day of my life. From that point on, things just kept getting better and better. Our families were so happy for us and completely supportive. Even Bella's dad seemed accepting of our engagement. He had actually known about it well in advance as I had asked him for his blessing when we went to Forks for Christmas. I remember being thrilled and relieved when he said yes and then completely petrified when he showed me his extensive gun collection. Twice.
We had decided that we were going to try to get married in the summer after Bella's graduation. It would be a challenge given the short amount of time, but Bella was hoping to get a teaching job in the fall and didn't want to have to make choices between her wedding and her new job. It seemed like a good plan and the arrangements proved to be easier than anyone of us expected. Things were going great, but then in the end of March I was notified that my unit was being called up.
A twelve-month deployment to Afghanistan.
It put a definite crimp in our plans.
"I can't believe this." Bella said through her tears.
Neither could I.
"It's going to be okay, beautiful. We're still going to get married, just not this summer. It's going to go by so fast. You're going to get a job and you'll be so busy you won't even miss me." She stopped crying for a moment to glare at me. "Okay, you'll miss me. And I'll miss you too, like crazy. But we'll get through this and when I get home I'm going to make you my wife. You won't be able to stop me."
She tried to put on a brave face. For me, she really tried. But I knew she was struggling with this. I was too. I always knew that being deployed was a possibility and I welcomed the opportunity to serve my country, but having Bella changed things a bit. It didn't matter, though. I was going and there wasn't anything I could do about it.
Since the semester was almost over, I made arrangements with my professors to complete my course work early. They were more than willing to work with me and I appreciated that I wasn't going to have an entire semester wasted because I wasn't actually finishing the classes. From then on, I spent my days in pre-deployment training and the rest of my time with Bella. Most days we acted like it was just another day, neither one of us wanting to acknowledge our timeline. But there were other times when we just needed each other so fucking bad. Sometimes I had the need to take her hard and quick and she would greedily accept everything I gave to her. Other times it was slow and deep, moving us so much we'd end up crying in each other's arms as we contemplated a year without the other.
On the day of deployment, my heart broke as my parents and Bella clung to me during our final moments together. My father hugged me and told me to be safe. My mother pretended to be strong. She told me that she loved me and that they would take care of Bella until I got back. Bella hugged me harder than she ever had before. We had said our good-byes in private the night before. I had given her a locket with a picture of us on one side and an inscription on the other. It read, 'Take care of my heart. I have left it here with you.' A bit cheesy, but completely true. She had given me a photo book with a ton of pictures from our life together. It was small enough to keep in my pocket and with me at all times. I loved it.
I cradled her in my arms and tried to think of anything to make her feel better. When she pulled away her smile was tight and forced, but it was there. She was trying so hard to be strong and I loved her all the more for it. "Graduate, get your dream job, and plan our wedding. When I get home I don't want to waste any time making you Mrs. Edward Cullen."
She nodded into my chest and looked up at me with those brown eyes that I fell in love with on day one. "I love you so much. Twelve months…promise me."
"I promise." I said without reservation. I meant every word.
War was hell.
There was no other way to describe it. Endless days of sand and sweat, no showers, tasteless food, no indoor plumbing, it was disgusting. Oh, and being shot at on a daily basis. When that happened I tried to forget about everything except doing my job and surviving. We were stationed just outside of Kandahar, a Taliban dominated area. The landscape was absolutely beautiful in places, but the situation didn't allow anyone of us to truly enjoy it.
I had developed a strong bond with my unit but it was a catch-22. We spent so much time as a group and went through so much together that it was hard not to see them as my brothers. But that strong bond made it even more devastating when one of them was killed. It was more difficult to move on and do your job because all you could think about was the guy and his loved ones back home, which we all knew by name because we shared it all with each other. You just kept wondering how they were handling it and wished there was something you could do to help them. It was most horrible when you knew the guy had kids back home. All in all, it just sucked.
Bella wrote me every day. Sometimes we wouldn't get mail for weeks, but when it did come there would be a stack for me. I loved those days. It was when I felt closest to home. I was happy to find out that Bella had graduated and found a job at a local high school teaching a combination of English and Social Studies. I could feel her excitement come off the pages as I read her words and couldn't be more proud of her. Through the year she told me funny things that happened in her classes, her frustrations with the job, and how much she loved it despite those frustrations. She also told me about the wedding planning. My mom had been helping her and I knew they were getting closer all the time.
I had just read a batch of letters and was feeling pretty good knowing that we only had about two months before we would be returning to the States. This was the home stretch and as we were out on a routine patrol I daydreamed of Bella in a white dress waiting for me at the end of an aisle.
None of us saw it coming.
An IED exploded in front of our Humvee causing it to flip over.
Only two of us survived.
I woke up in a military hospital in Germany. I was told that both of my legs had been crushed from the kneecaps down as a result of being wedged between my seat and the dash. I had to have two surgeries to put multiple pins in each one and had been told that the recovery would be a long one. Walking…well that would remain to be seen. It was too early to tell.
I don't know how long I was in an out of consciousness but at one point I felt someone kissing the back of my hand and the familiarity of it brought me back to the surface.
"My baby boy…mommy's here." It was barely a whisper but it was enough to know that my mother was here for me. I fought and clawed my way out of the drug induced grogginess to see my mom's serene eyes looking back at me. They were tearful and a sad smile came to her face as she saw that I was waking up. I was so glad she was here. I needed her, but most of all I had to tell her something.
"Mom…you're here. I…I…I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." I had to tell her that I didn't mean for this to happen. I didn't mean for her to worry. I didn't mean for her to see me this way. I tried to lean into her as she wrapped her arms around me.
"Sssshhhh. You have nothing to be sorry for, baby. We're here now. We're going to take care of you. Me, your dad, and Bella."
I began to panic. Bella was here? My mind was at war. Part of me was so fucking grateful that she was here. I needed her, now more than ever. The other part was disgusted that she had to see me so completely broken.
"Bella?" I scanned the room until my eyes landed on her. She was at the end of the bed, looking at me with saddened eyes. I knew I looked like shit. My face was all bruised and I had needed a few stitches around my hairline. Little did she know that this was nothing. Most of the devastation was below the sheet. Fuck…this is not what I wanted for her.
"I'm right here, sweetie." She took the few steps that were separating her from the top of my head and took the spot on the opposite my mother. She took my hand and gingerly kissed me on my forehead. She was nervous, I could sense it. And I wanted to take it all away.
"God, I've missed you, beautiful. Aren't you a sight for sore eyes? C'mere." I motioned with my arms and she immediately placed herself in between them. I inhaled deeply and was rewarded with the familiar scent of her shampoo. It was like heaven.
Bella stayed with me the two weeks that I was in Germany. I told her several times that she shouldn't be missing so much work, but she just shrugged it off saying it was the end of the school year and her kids would be fine. I knew there was no arguing with her, but damn, I hated that I was taking her away from it.
My parents left after a week. At first I was scheduled to be sent to Walter Reid Medical in Washington D.C. but all of us wanted me to be closer to home. Bella was happy to stay in Germany with me while my parents went home and worked out all of the details of my return to the States. They were able to get me hooked up with a fine rehabilitation hospital right in Seattle. I hated that I needed it, but it was better than being halfway across the country.
Life at home was…surreal. Once I could leave the hospital and come back as an out patient, it was determined that returning to Bella's and my apartment was out of the question. It just wasn't equipped to handle a wheelchair. Instead, my parents made some temporary modifications to their house and I moved back in with them. It wasn't ideal and I know it made Bella sad, but she took it in stride. All she cared about was what was best for me. She came over to the house every day to see me.
During that summer, the summer Bella and I were supposed to be getting married, I worked my ass off. My physical therapist, Emmett, was a beast both in physical appearance and at his job. That guy pushed me harder than any drill sergeant I had ever had. By the time I was done with a session with him I was completely spent and a sweaty mess to boot. Sometimes Bella came to watch and encourage me when I made the slightest improvement. I wasn't sure why, but I didn't like it.
As the months wore on, I could feel the dark cloud hovering over my head. I had hit a lull in my progress. It had been almost five months since I was wounded and I thought I would be walking by now. Apparently I had a long way to go and there was no guarantee that I would ever walk on my own power again. I was also having these dreams. Images of my unit haunted me as I slept. The guilt of not being able to save them, of being one of the only ones to survive plagued me. It ate at my soul. Bella's presence was not helping at all either. Every time I saw her beautiful brown eyes encourage me to push harder I couldn't help but think how she didn't deserve any of this. She deserved someone who could give her anything she wanted, not a man who was bound to drag her down.
I started becoming a miserable bastard all the time and Bella took the brunt of my frustration. I often snapped at her for no reason. She would bite her tongue and not retaliate, but the tears that sprang to her eyes did not go unnoticed. My problem was that seeing her cry made me even angrier at my entire situation. During one of my particularly severe sour moods, I exploded on Bella. It was after one of my physical training sessions and she was driving me home.
"I know you're upset, sweetie. Try not to be so hard on yourself. You're doing great. It will happen, you just have to be patient." I cringed at her words as I stared out the window. She was always just so hopeful, so fucking optimistic.
"Yeah, well what if it doesn't?"
"It will. You just have to…"
"Have to what, Bella? What else do I have to fucking do that I'm not doing? Stop living in denial. I may never fucking walk again."
She didn't say anything. She just focused on the road, lip between her teeth, tears forming at the corner of her eyes. I hated seeing her this way. It killed me. It wasn't fair to her. Yet time and time again I couldn't help myself from treating her this way. It needed to stop.
"I don't think we should get married." I blurted out. She slammed on the breaks.
"What? What do you mean we shouldn't get married?" She shrieked before abruptly pulling into a grocery store parking lot and stopping the car. I hated what I was about to do, but it would be the best…for her.
"I mean, we have to face the facts. This may be it for me and I don't want you tied down to that. You should just find someone that isn't going to be a burden on you. You don't deserve this." I waved my hands to motion my pathetic excuse for legs. She sat for a moment and just looked at me. Her breathing was heavy for a moment but then she was able to get it under control. Once she was calm, she finally spoke.
"You're right, I don't deserve this." My eyes snapped to her anger-filled ones. Now it was my turn to be in shock.
"I said I don't deserve this. I deserve the man I fell in love with, and before you say it I don't mean physically. I mean the man who was confident in himself and confident in our love for each other. You are not him." The only thing I could do was to try and swallow the lump that had formed in my throat. This was it.
"Edward, you have been dealt a shitty, shitty hand. You really have. And I'm going to support you every step of the way because I love you more than anything in this world. But you are not the man who proposed to me. He's gone." She looked down at her finger for a moment before removing my grandmother's antique ring. Grabbing my hand she placed the ring in my palm. "When that man comes back, he'll know what to do and I'll be right here waiting."
I was stunned. I expected crying and a lot of fucking protesting…but not this. She was quiet and stoned face the rest of the way back to my parents' house. She stayed true to her word. Nothing really changed. She still went with me to my physical therapy sessions. When school was back in session in September, I didn't see her quite as much during the day but she would come over after the day was done and spend time with me in the evening. We were still affectionate with each other, but something had changed. Our future was muddled and the more I thought about Bella's words, the more I felt that I was the one who needed to fix it. She put the ball in my court and now it was up to me to decide what to do with it.
For the first time since I was wounded, I saw the point in getting well.
My father was able to get me hooked up with a psychologist to help me work through my mental shit. Dr. Banner was a wounded veteran himself and an all-around great guy. It turns out I was harboring a lot of anger, guilt, and resentment on many fronts and he helped me deal with that. In the meantime I continued my physical therapy and slowly but surely saw some improvement.
Fall turned to winter which turned into spring. I was in such a better place, both physically and mentally than I had been six months before. Looking back, Bella was right. The real me had been buried deep inside. It took a lot of work to get him back, but now I felt more like myself than I had in a long time. I was back.
And I knew what to do. What I wanted to do.
I felt around in my pocket for the fiftieth time to make sure the ring was still there. Then, I smoothed my pants down again. I had a lot of people to thank for making this day come to fruition. It had been a long haul, but I was finally going to do it.
The rehabilitation center was not the most romantic place to profess your undying love to your soul mate and ask for their hand in marriage, but for what I wanted to do I needed to be here. Emmett and a couple of the nurses who had worked with me often helped me set the mood. They dimmed the lights way down and strung some twinkle lights from the ceiling. Candles were lit on every available surface. They made sure the room was clear of any other patients but kept themselves close by in case I needed them. When it was almost time, I positioned my wheelchair at the far end of the parallel bars and did the only thing I could in that moment.
BPOV…one year later
When I look back on that day, I can still feel the way my heart beat in my chest when I rounded that corner at the rehabilitation center. It had been months since I had given back Edward's ring. At the time, it had absolutely killed me to do it. I had no doubt that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him, no matter what the circumstances. But that boy was lost. There was so much angst in his heart and turmoil in his brain. I did not want Edward to have to worry about one more thing, especially me.
So I let him go.
I wasn't turning my back on him. I would never, ever do that, especially when he needed most. But at that moment, Edward wasn't ready to marry anyone and if I hadn't stepped in and broken it off for the both of us, he would have felt that he needed to uphold the commitment he had made to me before his life was turned upside down.
Before he almost…died.
To this day I still struggle with that.
As the months wore on, I saw a gradual improvement in Edward's overall outlook on things. It took a lot of work and time, but he was beginning to show signs of my Edward. I knew things physically were going better as well. I had seen the tail end of several therapy sessions but due to another busy school year I hadn't been there as much as I had wanted to. I had been so proud of his accomplishments.
On that day, I had been running late. A parent had stopped me on my way out of the building and wanted to discuss missing homework. Not wanting to discourage a parent from getting involved their kid's education, I ended up leaving fifteen minutes later than I had planned.
When I finally made it there I parked my car, raced inside, and headed to the room where Emmett cheerfully beated Edward's ass on a daily basis. I expected to see him making the most of the few extra minutes I had inadvertently given him, but the place seemed unnaturally dark, quiet even. It was weird, but my determination to shed minutes off the clock made me disregard it.
"Edward, I'm so sorry I'm…" As I turned the corner everything slowed down to a standstill. The room was different. Less medical, almost romantic. Gone were the unforgiving halogen lights. They had been turned off and replaced by the soft glow of shimmering white lights strung from the ceiling and flickering candles everywhere. I kept walking as I scanned the transformed room in awe. When I finally stopped, I was at one end of a set of parallel bars that were set up in the middle of the room. At the other end was Edward.
I had difficulty keeping my heart under control. It was beating wildly as I took in my Edward, decked out in his full dress uniform, sitting in his chair in front of the parallel bars. Crisp, clean creases, medals and bars that glimmered under the lights, shiny shoes you could eat off, a hat concealing the slightly overgrown yet sexy as hell hair. Even years later he was still the most handsome man I had ever laid eyes on.
"Edward…what…what's going on?" I asked as I took in the intensity of his eyes. It had been a long time since he had looked at me like this. I could feel the tingles going up my spine.
"Please, Bella. Just stay there." He said softly. I didn't move. I wait for what seemed like forever in anticipation. I was desperate to see what he was going to do, but when he did it I was totally unaware of how unprepared I really was.
One at a time, he moved his legs from the foot rests and placed his feet on the floor. His white gloved hands reached up to the parallel bars and he slowly hoisted himself up to a standing position. Once he was steady, he loosened his grip on the bar and let his legs take most of his weight.
Then he moved. Three small steps. One foot in front of another.
My boy was walking.
All his work, all his fucking hard work was paying off. He did it and I was so proud of him and so proud for him. Tears of joy streamed down my face as I witnessed a miracle that I had prayed for nearly every day since this nightmare began.
He stopped, supported himself a little on the bars, and took a moment to catch his breath. When he looked back up at me, I could see his determination as his green eyes blazed into mine. He licked his lips once and then spoke.
"One day, a long time ago you told me that that the man you fell in love with was gone."
Three more steps.
"At the time, I couldn't understand why you would say that. But I do now."
Three more steps.
"You also said that when he came back, he would know what to do."
He took the last few steps, closing the distance between us. He had made it the entire length of the bars and now he was right in front of me. I could feel his breath on my skin, heavy from exertion. I could smell the faint sheen of sweat that had developed during his walk. But most of all, I could see the sparkle in his eye that had been missing for so long.
"I'm here to tell you today that you were right." He said softly as he reached one hand up to wipe the tears from my eyes. He cupped my face and I leaned into it, relishing in its strength. "It took a long time and a lot of hard work, but I am back…and I know exactly what to do."
His hand left my face and he placed it on the parallel bar so that he was steadying himself with both hands. He took a deep breath before slowly lowering himself to one of his reconstructed knees
"Oh, baby, no…" I didn't want him to hurt himself. I tried to help him up but he grabbed one of my hands to stop me, but he didn't let go.
"No, I'm fine. I've been working on this move for awhile." A lopsided smirk formed on his face as he finished lowering himself to the floor and I couldn't help but smile. If I had any doubts before, that sealed it. My Edward was back.
"You have, have you?" I kind of smirked back at him.
"Absolutely. This moment requires a certain amount of smoothness." I took a deep breath and squeezed his hand. My heart clenched with anticipation as I my mind processed what I thought was about to happen.
"I have loved you for as long as I can remember, probably since the first moment I saw you. You're it for me…the one. The one whose eyes make me feel like I'm the only guy on the planet. The one who can make my heart stutter with just a simple touch. The one who knows all of my secrets, and loves me despite of them. The one who has selflessly made sacrifice after sacrifice for the sole purpose of keeping my best interests at heart." Edward took a deep breath as he tried to keep his emotions at bay. I, on the other hand, was a sobbing mess at this point. His words were touching my heart in so many ways.
"Bella, this past year has been so, so difficult for both of us. You could have left, and I wouldn't have blamed you. But you didn't. You've been there every step of the way with your unconditional and unwavering support. But it was the dose of your tough love that was my wake-up call. It forced me to take a good hard look at myself and made me realize that the man in the mirror was not who I wanted to be. I'm not entirely sure what the future may bring, but I do know that I need you in it, by my side. I want to figure it all out together with you. You said back then that you would be waiting for me. I hope that is still true, because there is nothing in this world that I want more than to be your husband. Please let me prove to you that I am the man you fell in love with." His hand left mine to reach into his pocket. He pulled out the beautiful ring, the family heirloom that I had given back to him so many months ago.
"Isabella Swan, will you please say yes again to being my wife?"
I didn't hesitate. I had been waiting for this day for what seemed like an eternity. I got on my knees so I could be at his level and took his face in my hands. His eyes had tears in them and I used my thumbs to wipe them as he had done for me earlier.
"You silly boy…I would have waited for you forever. I love you, Edward Cullen. And never for one second did I stop wanting to be your wife. Yes, yes, I'll marry you." I threw my hands around him and kissed him with everything I had. He slipped the ring on my finger and instantly I felt as if a piece of me that had gone missing had made its way back home. It felt good against my finger, like it had never left. Once it was securely in place, Edward's strong arms found their way around me as well and the love and safety I craved instantly surrounded me.
I could faintly hear the whoops and hollers of Emmett and the other nurses. They had made themselves scarce, but had been close in case Edward had needed some help. Now, Emmett was behind him to help him back up and into the wheelchair. Once he was secure, he was picking me up into a congratulatory hug. Over the past year, we had all become very close in our efforts to be there for Edward. I loved that they were able to share in our joy that day.
Now, a year later, I can honestly say a lot has happened. Edward continued to make amazing strides and he is now walking on his own completely. He will always walk with a limp and certain activities are completely off limits to him, but he has achieved something many thought he never would. His military career is officially over. He received a medical discharge along with a Purple Heart and the grateful thanks of a nation for his service. He's going back to school this fall, but his plans have somewhat changed. He's decided he wants to be a physical therapist so that he can help other people, soldiers and civilians alike, the way Emmett and everyone at the rehabilitation center did for him. Those two are now the best of friends and Emmett promised that when Edward had his degree, he has a job right in the placed that changed his life.
We're getting married this summer. Finally. Edward hadn't wanted to set a date until he was sure he could walk me down the aisle after we are pronounced husband and wife. It didn't bother me, but this was important to Edward so we waited until he was ready. It will be two years after what we had originally planned, but that doesn't matter. What matters is what we have in front of us.
A lifetime of happiness, love, and endless possibility.
Our happy ending.