"I love you.…"


· - ·

I loved her. I had loved her for so long, and she had loved me back. I finally heard her say it, but it was too late, because I would never see her again. Because she wasn't here anymore.

God, how can I be happy again?

There was a hole in my chest, a pain that burned so much I couldn't bear it.

She wanted me to be strong for her. She wanted me to be happy and move on with my life, but I just couldn't bring myself to care about anything else in that moment.

Bella was the first woman I felt really connected to, who I absolutely cared about to the point of feeling prepared for marriage. I, Edward Cullen, had imagined how life could be with that woman for the rest of my life.

What now?

· - ·

The first thing I did after I heard Bella's message was sell the fucking Volvo. I hated it. I didn't want anything Bella didn't like. She had seemed concerned about the image I would give to other women, and I took that as a joke because it was impossible for me to think of someone remotely as good as her. But I sold it anyway.

Bella's funeral was scheduled two days after that, at the beach.

She hadn't been a religious person when I met her. She told me that she had lost faith in anything divine after her mother's death. I understood her now. If I had been religious at all before, I would have lost faith after Bella left my life, too. I figured her father didn't believe in anything like that either, anymore, so they didn't want to do it in the church.

Renee Swan had been cremated and her ashes were thrown to the sea from the cliffs near La Push, so that's what they had scheduled for Bella, as well. That was what she wanted. Everyone in La Push had known her since she was little, and they all loved her. It was only fair that we said goodbye to her in the place she had spent so many moments growing and where she would reunite with her mother.

Of course, the little ceremony wasn't peachy, but it was not as sullen as I'd expected, either. A lot of friends and people she considered family from the reservation were there, apart from her friends and classmates from school –some of them came to Forks solely for Bella, like Angela Weber – Charlie, my family, and me.

We all had beautiful things to remember about Bella.

Charlie wasn't an overly expressive man, and seeing him so low certainly had an impact on me. He had dark circles around his eyes, which were constantly watery. He even hugged me gently when I came up to greet him. It was good to see Sue by his side.

My mother was very broken, too. I tried to keep up appearances around her, because she seemed so fragile that I thought seeing me yearning would make her even sadder. While Charlie and I tried to choke back our tears, Esme cried most of the way through the ceremony.

There was a moment when I watched the scene like I was not there, like I wasn't part of it. I looked around while Jacob Black was giving his speech, telling all the good memories he had about Bella. I saw all sorrowful faces, people dressed in black, crying, boyfriends or husbands holding their women, and then there was me.

Things Bella had said in the past couple of months were resonating in my ears…

"You can't imagine how lonely I felt in Phoenix, but I couldn't come back."

"This place was already too gray, even before my mother died."

And in that moment I closed my eyes and wished.

I wished for Bella to see these people united for her, with her. I wished I believed in ghosts, in the afterlife. I wished I could know she was here to listen to the kind words from the people who loved her, and feel their hearts beating and tears shed for her. I wanted her to know how much these people would miss her. How much I would miss her. Forever.

In that moment, I felt a little cold hand wrapping around mine. And I imagined it was hers, telling me that it was all going to be fine. That she loved me.

I love you, too.

The hand squeezed mine. I opened my eyes and looked up next to me into my mother's sad, gray eyes. It was my turn.

She let go of my hand, and I walked up to the center of the semicircle we had formed, where Jacob was still standing. I approached him, and he extended his hand, which I shook. I knew he had loved her, too, like a brother loves his little sister. The same way I loved Alice. I saw nothing but respect in his eyes; all trace of rivalry and protectiveness were gone. I nodded to him and turned to face the attendants before closing my eyes.

Then, I just spoke. I didn't need to think about what I was saying; every word that came from my mouth came from my heart, too, and it felt like I was just talking to Bella. My Bella.

"I recall when I first saw you a few months ago at the grocery store. You were distracted and didn't even notice me. When I got the opportunity to know you better, I felt like the most fortunate man, and I couldn't resist telling my mother all about you. About how much I liked your laughter, even the fact that you found my silly jokes funny enough to be laughed at.

"Your wit and intelligence captivated me, as did your beauty." I had to take a moment to breathe before continuing, "Bella, you are the most wonderful woman I'll ever meet. I don't think anyone can reach the top after I've had you in my life.

"I hope you find your peace wherever you are right now, and don't forget how much I love you.

"Goodbye," I finally managed to whisper.

When I felt Charlie's hand in my shoulder I realized I wasn't alone, and there were dozens of people watching me with pity eyes. That's when I felt the tears streaming down my face, and I wiped them, blinking.

A weight had been lifted from me. I had finally said goodbye.

As I watched how Charlie threw his daughter's ashes to the sea, a realization came over me like a ton of bricks. This was real, and she really was never coming back.

I stood there so long that everyone left. Jasper offered to drive me back to the house, because I wasn't in the state of mind to do so, but I told him to go. I stayed for a while, until the night fell upon me.

· - ·

Ten years and one divorce later, I was living in New York, composing and recording my music.

Life hadn't been easy for me.

Bella's death marked my life and I fell into an inevitable depression. After incessant arguments with my family, I agreed to see a therapist, Peter, who helped me overcome my terrible loss so that I could finally accept it. Jasper was a great friend, too. I think Bella told him to take care of me.

At the same time in which I worked with him and Peter, I met a woman, Jane, who was the total opposite of who had been the love of my life. She had been extremely happy that I wanted to marry her so soon in our relationship, but right after that, we knew it wasn't going anywhere. I still missed Bella. I loved Bella.

Peter and Jasper made me reconsider the reasons for my marrying Jane – a weekend in Vegas – and after the divorce, I regretted profusely having disappointed my family, especially Esme.

When everything was back to as normal as it could get, I decided to move back to New York and work with Jasper via conference calls when necessary.

Meanwhile, I was still talking to Peter on the phone. After Jane's and my short marriage fiasco, he wanted to face my issues with romantic relationships, or lack thereof. I thought I wouldn't be able to love someone the way I had loved Bella. I thought the Jane situation hadn't helped, so I didn't even bother to go out and meet anyone.

Peter told me that of course I would miss Bella for the rest of my life, but I had to work on letting her go. I couldn't keep her here with me, where she didn't belong anymore, and I had to move on with my own life on Earth, with living people, he said.

· - ·

So, that's what I've been trying to do this year. I work on my music, my best therapy. I make an effort to get out more and socialize.

Today I'm back in Forks. It's Bella's death anniversary. I come here, to the cliffs, this same day every year, and I talk to her.

I normally talk to her in my mind a lot, but being here is different. It feels like she can actually hear me, and I can tell her everything. I hope she's happy that I've finally found my place in life without her. And I hope she never forgets me, wherever she is, just as I will never forget her.

I stare out at the water and I say goodbye one more time.

I love you. Always.