Title: Me and My Charms
Written for: Maggie Williams/ Cloemarrie
Written By: BabyPups Whitlock
Rating: M for language and eventual lemons
Summary/Prompt used: weddings, finding true love, heart breaks.
If you would like to see all the stories that are a part of this exchange visit the facebook group: Fanficaholics Anon: Where Obsession Never Sleeps or add the C2 to get all the stories direct to your inbox.
What I own: 8 pairs of Chucks, an amazing cat (well, she owns me), some amazing rhinestone jewelry and a TONE of cupcake stuff
What I don't: Twilight. Despite a strong physical resemblance, I am not Stephanie Meyer; if I was my taxes would look VERY different. I just play in her sand box and clean up after.
This was written for Cloemarrie for the FAGEtastic four for Fanficaholics anonymous. I REALLY hope that you like it hon. and the next two chapters will follow soon. An amazing thank you to my AWESOME Beta TammyGrrrl for being insanely patient with me and fixing all my crazy grammar mistakes. Another heartfelt thanks goes to Life_In_The_Shape_of_A_Girl for the AMAZING banner and support. Hats off to my lovely prereaders Christag_Banners and Ms. Carlie for their support and love. The biggest of big love to the incomparable, illuminating and illustrious ReadingMama for organizing this ENTIRE exchange. As always another shout out for my beloved fic wife SkyChaser…she makes my world bright.
I wake with a strangled scream, my throat raw and the sound ringing in my ears. The luxurious sheets are twisted around my legs, sticking to my body, damp with sweat. My breathing is heavy; my cheeks flushed as I tug the soft sheets away from my burning skin and kick my legs over the side of the bed.
My bare feet sink into plush carpet and I blink rapidly, my vision still cloudy as I look around the dark room. The bright red numbers of the clock shine in the darkness. 1:27 AM.
Not a surprise.
I wrack my foggy brain in an attempt to remember where I am and realization hits me.
I pad across the room into the bathroom, the tile cool beneath my feet.
Flipping on the light, I stare at the reflection in the mirror: cheeks flushed, eyes wide with fear. In my slightly shaking hands the small tablets in the familiar orange bottle rattle as I attempt, unsuccessfully, to pry off the child proof cap.
Taking a deep breath I will my hands to stop shaking and try again.
Success. The cap slips off with a click and the tiny tablets spill into my hand.
Returning all but two into the bottle, I click the cap back on and turn on the tap, filling the cool glass with lukewarm water. Tossing the pills into my mouth, I chase them with the tepid water, the bitterness of the pills stinging my tongue as they mix with the slightly metallic tinge of the water as they slide down my throat.
Returning the glass back to its resting place on the shiny white marble counter, I flip the light off and head to the shower. The metal knobs squeak a bit as I turn the shower on, cold water spattering against the tile.
I step into the freezing spray and slide down the wall, drawing my knees up to my chest and wrapping my arms around them and squeezing my eyes closed, willing my mind to go blank even as the familiar images of my nightmare resurface.
Always the same haunting, familiar visions, less of a dream than a memory that my broken psyche has forced me to relieve at least twice a week for the last year and a half.
I squeeze my eyes tighter closed, bright white and blue star-bursts appearing behind my lids, the first traces of hot tears mingling with the icy water as it snakes its way down my cheeks, the flashes of color giving way to the familiar images that I've fought so hard to ignore…
The cold wind whipped against my face as I stood, frozen in place, unable to tear my gaze away from the pile of dark earth in front of me.
The icy rain pelted against my pale face, soaking my black dress and plastering my dark hair against my cheeks, cascading down, a cold replacement for the tears that I am unable to shed.
The stark white of the roses stands in sharp contrast to the wet earth below. The wreaths that ring the grave bear solemn words of remembrance, their bright colors shining in the grey light of the afternoon: son, doctor, husband.
The last one caused a palpable ache to shoot through me and I closed my eyes, my head spinning as I dropped to my knees, the wet grass soaking my stocking clad legs. I feel hands on my back; voices calling my name drift to my ears as I slip into unconsciousness, the image of my husband's grave burned into my memory as my world goes black.
The chattering of my teeth jerks me back to the present, my skin puckering with goose bumps as I shiver, rising from the floor to turn the water off.
The Ativan is starting to take effect and my head swims slightly as I wrap myself up in the fluffy hotel robe, heading back into bed and crawling between the warm blankets before falling into a blissfully dreamless sleep.
The strains of Fergie's 'Glamorous' pierce the gossamer veil of my sleep and I shoot
one hand out of my warm cocoon, blindly searching for the source of my obviously- too- early –to- be- a -wake up call.
Keeping my eyes squeezed shut and my head buried beneath the luxurious down comforter, I fish for my phone, only to have the clatter of my phone, at least two books and a few pens reach my ears as they scatter to the floor.
Cursing under my breath, I force my swollen eyes open and toss away the safe comfort of my covers before leaning over the side of the bed to collect my still-ringing phone. I stretch over the edge of the bed, squinting my eyes and hoping that my glasses haven't also been swept off the night stand. My fingers brush the cool plastic of my phone case as Fergie continues to assault my ears. The fucking phone was barely out of my reach and I stretch further, unwilling to actually get out of my cozy bed. That moment of laziness is instantly regretted seconds later when gravity combines with my still groggy head and I tumble, ass over teakettle, over the edge of the bed, landing with a thump in a pile of sheets and bare, tangled limbs. I finally grasp the still-ringing phone in my hand and answer with a small sob.
"Bella Boo, are you okay?" Rosalie's normally carefree voice is worried and I smile to myself at her continued use of my college nickname as I brush my tangled hair from my eyes and lean back against the bed.
"I'm fine Rose; I just fell out of bed trying to answer the phone."
"Are you okay? You're not gonna be bruised for the wedding will you?" Rosalie's words are light but her tone is filled with concern, as is typical for my best friend. I peek down at my legs and surprisingly didn't see even a red mark. Maybe it is my lucky day.
"I'm bruise free Rosie, I promise".
"Good, because that would RUIN my big day. Do you have any idea how hard it would be to find someone with your exact measurements just three days before the wedding? Those dresses are custom made!" Sarcasm dripped from my friends' voice as she spoke, clearly mocking some of the bridezillas that she worked with on a near daily basis.
"I'm fine Rose, I promise." I hear a soft knock at my door and scowl, tugging the white sheet tightly around myself and glaring at the white rectangle, refusing to move.
"Good. Now go answer your door, I know I heard it."
"Rosie, I'm wrapped in a sheet." The knock sounds again, more insistent this time.
"Bella boo, go answer the damn door." My phone went silent with a click as Rose hung up. I shook my head at my friend, a smile tugging at my lips as I wrap the sheet tightly around me, tucking it between my breasts and crossing to the door. Anyone that shows up at a hotel room of any kind at 9AM is gonna have to deal with my sheet clad self. Pulling the door open, I'm greeted with the sight of my statuesque best friend and former college roommate whom I have not seen in over two years. Rosalie is standing in the doorway, her perfect blonde hair fastened in an elegant knot at the base of her neck, her exquisite face make up free and her tall, former model figure wrapped in a flowing lavender dress. Draped across her arms are two white garment bags containing what I can only assume are my dresses.
If possible, the woman in front of me has only gotten more beautiful since I've seen her last.
"Rosie!" I stand staring, my mouth agape and she chuckles, the sound low and rough, mussing my hair as she slips into my room, hanging the bags at the top of the bathroom door before returning and wrapping me in a tight hug.
The familiar scent of Chanel No. 5 envelopes my senses and I return her embrace.
"I've missed you, Bella Boo." Rosalie's words are barely audible, whispered into the top of my head. I nod silently as the memory of our last meeting drifts to the front of my mind.
The soft strains of a piano tinkled through the air; potpourri, lemon scented wood cleanser and the sickly sweet scent of Calla Lilies hung heavy in the air, causing my empty stomach to roll. I sat, quiet and still, in the uncomfortable wing back chair, the stiff brocade slightly faded with age and scratchy beneath my stockinged legs. A tissue sat shredded in a small pile on the arm of the chair, having fallen victim to my restless fingers. My eyes were glued to my twisted digits: the skin was chapped and dry, my cuticles rough and peeling, the edges of my nails were torn and ragged, a direct result of my childhood nail biting habit. I could hear the soft, careful voices of the other people in the room, their low tones interspersed with soft sobs and sniffles, the steady thump of the rain on the windows only adding to the nearly palpable grief that filled the room. Occasionally the door would swing open, yet another mourner escorted in by the tall, black coated and dark suited men that stood there, their features indistinguishable. Were they the Braley Brothers of the dark sign out front? I would have to be sure and check. I forced my eyes away from my hands and tentatively glanced around the room, my focus bouncing from the vaguely familiar faces from the hospital to the red rimmed eyes of primary school teachers before resting on the inconsolable and tear stained face of Edward's mother and father standing in the corner. Esme's hazel eyes met with my brown ones for just a moment before her shoulders shook and she turned into Carlisle's embrace, a delicate silk and lace handkerchief clutched in her elegant, perfectly manicured fingers. The man my father in law had been so deep in conversation with stopped mid-word and cast his gaze towards me and I recognized him as the CEO of Forks General Hospital. Tall and distinguished, he nodded his head in a small, nearly curt gesture before turning back to Carlisle and Esme. I could hear the woman's stifled sobs. I once again forced my eyes elsewhere, this time landing on the increasingly disturbing curio in the corner, containing shelf upon shelf of glossy, glazed Disney figurines, a collection of bright smiles and sparkling childhood icons rendered in cold porcelain, their eyes distant, smiles frozen in perpetual joy. The snow globes sat motionless, the dim lights glinting softly off of the still snow and glitter that mounded above their bases. A chill ran down my spine and I felt a sudden, uncontrollable urge to run from the room, to flee from the ever present smiles that the memories of my youth cast upon me, so out of place in this cold, grief filled room. I stood a bit too quickly, and walked across the room, my heels muffled on the soft carpet. Tugging the black cashmere coat from the rack, I slid my arms in the too long sleeves, wrapped the soft, rich fabric around me and inhaled deeply, the familiar scent teasing at my nose, tugging at every fiber of my being, begging me to remember, taunting me with the reminder that he was gone. Two whispered words drifted to me from the low din of the crowd, pulled me from my reverie and seemed to jolt me back to the present. "His widow." The voice was unfamiliar and I stiffened, pausing for a moment before one of the brother Braley kindly opened the door and ushered me out without a word.
I stepped out into the cold, damp drizzle; casting my eyes over the parking lot that was filling with expensive SUVs and pretentious luxury sedans. A small scoff escaped my lips as I ducked around a corner of the building, leaning against the cold brick and closing my eyes against the rapidly fading purples and grays of twilight. I shoved my hands into the pockets of my oversized jacket and my fingers brushed along a cellophane wrapped box, its shape and size instantly familiar. A smile tugged at my lips as I pulled the cigarette box out of the deep pocket and stared at the familiar red and white box. A laugh slipped from my lips unbidden and I didn't bother to suppress it.
Flipping the box top open I saw it was half full, Edward's beloved silver Zippo tucked in amongst the remaining cigarettes. I slipped my fingers into the box and removed a cigarette and the familiar lighter, its engraving rough beneath my fingertips. Clasping the cigarette between my lips I flicked open the lighter, the soft metallic scent of flint and butane wafting to my nose for a moment before the flame kissed the end of the cigarette and I inhaled. The smoke quickly filled my lunges, bitter and familiar as it burned. My eyes drifted closed as the lighter snapped shut, the sound oddly reassuring as it had always been. The bitter smoke stung my throat and I exhaled, watching the silvery blue smoke drift up into the soft mist that was falling, holding its form only for a moment before vanishing. I took another drag, this one deeper than the first and loved the painful calm that flowed through me. It had been over a year since I had smoked, Edward and I having quit around the same time, or so I thought.
"You know that shit will turn your lungs black, right?" The voice that cut through my thoughts was familiar and slightly teasing. I snapped my eyes open and looked around, the cigarette in my hand forgotten as it slipped from my fingers, fizzing out in a puddle as I threw my arms around Rosalie's neck with a sob, hot tears instantly cascading down my cheeks.
"It has been too long." My words were simple as I extract myself from Rosalie's arms, readjusting my sheet, eying the garment bags behind her wearily.
"Isabella Cullen, don't you dare!" Rose's voice sharp as she crosses her arms over her ample cleavage and narrows her eyes. I know that look and, while I have not seen it for a few years, I still knew what it meant. I fight a smile and raise my hands in a vague gesture of surrender.
"That's what I thought. Now get your ass in there and get the long gown on, I have alterations to do." I know better than to argue with Rosalie on a regular day, to argue with her this shortly before her wedding about something as remarkable as the gowns were sure to be was just insane. Silently I gather the undergarments that I had been instructed to purchase and head into the bathroom, changing into the offending items.
Two hours later I've been pinned, prodded, tucked and pulled, Rose's adept fingers tugging and arranging the fabric just so on both gowns. The only sound in the room was the soft swoosh of the fabric and an occasional hum of frustration from the seamstress at my feet. They were the same color, deep midnight blue silk chiffon, very similar with the exception of the hem lengths: the ceremony gown cascaded to the floor and the reception dress ending well above my knees.
Rose stands from her crouch and points me towards the bathroom. "Now, Bella-boo, go get that off and change into something for the rehearsal. There is LOTS to be done!" Rose flashes me a bright smile and a wink. "I'll be back in three hours cupcake, be ready!" My friend blew me a kiss before disappearing in a flash, leaving me alone in the room once again. With a small sigh and shake of my head, I turn my iPod on, filling the still air with the soft, stirring strains of Jeff Buckley's guitar and head into the bathroom to ready myself for the evening.
"I'm telling you Bella, Emmett will be THRILLED to see you!" Rose made light conversation for the duration of the walk to the ceremony site, overlooking the waves crashing waves of the sea below.
"I can't wait to see him either, Rose, it seems like it has been forev-"
"Belly-bean!" Emmett's loud, friendly voice cuts me off and I glance up with a smile only seconds before I'm swept up into his arms and spun around.
"Emmett put me down or I swear I'll puke on your shoes again!" I laughed as I spoke, the world swirling around me as I clung to my friend.
"Yeah, let's bring that up again Belly bean, shall we?" Emmett sets me back down, his grey eyes twinkling with mirth, his ever present dimples out in full force. The man looks the same as he had ten years ago when we had met in college.
A laugh escapes me as I rest my hand on his arm, trying to regain my balance, the ridiculous heels of my shoes slipping on the uneven white cobblestones of the path towards the arch that stood above where the altar would be, the silky white fabric swaying in the warm breeze from the sea.
"You look better Bella, I know that it hasn't been easy-"I raise a hand to cut Emmett off, the concern in his voice evident and I smile up at him.
"Not today, Emmett, not tomorrow either. We can talk about him but not until things are over." I'm quiet, my voice firm. "I promise."
"I'm gonna hold you to that, Belly bean" Emmett ruffled my softly curled dark hair playfully. "You're all grown up, Beanie" Emmett pulls me into a tight hug and I sigh softly, wrapping my arms around his familiar form, fighting the memories that once again spring to the surface.
The tinkling of the piano and soft stifled sobs filled the church, the sickly scent of Calla Lilies once again turning my stomach. The long stemmed white roses in my hands shook as I hesitantly stepped up the aisle, my eyes glued to the shiny white coffin that lay closed at the end of it. Each step felt like a mile as I continued on my solo trip towards the front of the church, retracing the steps that I had taken only two years before, albeit for a decidedly different reason. I stopped after an eternity of walking and squeezed my eyes closed for a moment, willing the tears that had burned them for so long to finally fall with no success.
Swallowing heavily, I placed the two roses atop the closed coffin, the metal so cold that it burned and yet I could not bring myself to remove my hand. Below this metal, the gleaming, polished white, was my husband. I longed to see him just once more. To get a glimpse of his crooked smile, run my fingers through his wild copper hair, feel his warm breath on my ear as he whispered I love you one last time. The soft tinkling of the piano changed and a series of familiar notes reached my ears, the lyrics familiar and painful at the same time, the voice singing them low and haunting. I froze there, at the end of the aisle, in front of the box that held my dead husband, the eyes of everyone in the crowded church glued to me.
I need another place/Will there be peace/I need another world/This one's nearly gone/Still have too many dreams/Never seen the light/I need another world/A place where I can go
As the haunting words reached my ears, a sob finally caught in my throat and my knees went weak, a pair of strong, familiar arms catching me as I fell towards the ground, sweeping me up and holding me to a familiar chest, quiet sobs slipping from my lips. Emmett's body shook with my own and tears splashed down onto my cheeks as I clung to his dark shirt. He turned and carried me back up the aisle, the sad, pity filled gazes of the people in the church on us as we exited the sanctuary.
"Now, Emmett, I KNOW that's not my cousin in your arms!" The voice, husky and rich, had a heavy southern drawl that could only be from deep Texas. I glance up at Emmett's face and see a huge grin spread across his features.
"Damn, man, can't you just let me get a little bit of non-Rosie lovin' in? I'm gonna be stuck with her for my whole life after tomorrow!" Emmett's voice was playful and he gave me a wink before grabbing my hand. "Come on, Belly-bean I have someone for you to meet!" My friend pulls me behind him and I practically run to keep up with him as he heads in the direction of the hotel, back up the cobblestone path. My heels clatter on the stones and Emmett comes to an abrupt stop as he reaches our as- yet- still- unseen visitor. Sadly, gravity is STILL not on my side, even after 26 years, and momentum keeps me moving forward, crashing into a very warm, very hard body, strong hands wrapping tightly around my waist.
I can feel the heat of those hands through the flowy material of my Rosalie-approved dress, and my skin warms accordingly, my mind drifting for an instant at the long forgotten sensation. I flush slightly and look down towards my feet, catching a glimpse of black cowboy boots opposite my own strappy silver heels. Taking a deep breath, I slowly let my gaze wander upwards, skimming over the well fitted black slacks that my new savior wore, over the simple silver belt buckle and perfectly tailored deep grey shirt. I quickly lift my gaze to meet the man's eyes, taking in his tanned skin, full lips and the thick, slightly unruly, golden waves that hang around his face before meeting his steel grey eyes. Swallowing thickly, I look over at Emmett, his mischievous grin growing wider by the moment as his eyes dart between us, before he finally speaks up.
"Jasper Peter Whitlock, Isabella Marie Cullen, Isabella Marie Cullen, Jasper Peter Whitlock. Now that formal introductions have been made, Jas, you'll be walking Bella Boo down the aisle. I think I hear my beloved fiancée calling me. See you kids at the rehearsal!" Without another word, Emmett turns and runs, with surprising grace, back to the Inn.
A smile tugs at Jasper's lips as we watch Emmett disappear before he's looking down at me, one of his hands dropping from my waist and extending towards me. I hesitate for a moment before accepting the proffered hand, my small hand nearly disappearing into his large one. A small jolt of heat passes through me at the contact and I pull my hand away as quickly as I can without seeming insulting, my body hyper- aware of the hand still on my waist.
The soft, salt tinged air blew in from the sea; the roaring of the waves crashing against the rocks below is the only sound for a few moments as Jasper and I stand in a surprisingly easy silence.
"Cullen, right?" My eyes snap back up to Jasper's as his voice breaks the silence and I nod mutely, my mouth suddenly dry as I anticipate his next question.
"That was Emmett's best friend's name right? Ed, Edwin-"
"Edward." My voice is soft as the name slips from my lips, my throat going dry. My fingers instinctively twine together, twisting the platinum and diamond bands that still circle my left ring finger.
Jasper pauses for a moment after I speak, his eyes meeting my own. "Are you his sister? I remember Em talking about him…"
"Edward is-" My voice catches slightly as I repeat the words that I've said so often, "Was my husband."
"Shit." The word is soft and slightly surprising, barely reaching my ears, the rich, rugged tone seeming to make even a curse sound better. "I'm sorry Isabella, I didn't realize-"
I shake my head and smile sadly, cutting Jasper's words off, resting a hand lightly on his arm. "It's alright, Jasper, it's not like you had any way of knowing." My words surprise even myself, with how instinctive they are.
"Thank you, ma'am, I appreciate that." My companion flashes me a dazzlingly bright smile and I feel my cheeks flush slightly in response, another reaction that I had not been even close to expecting, having nearly forgotten the last time a man had had any kind of reaction in me, save for Edward.
"Please don't call me ma'am , I'm far too young for that, Jasper" I fall in step with the man beside me as we slowly make our way towards the inn where our fellow wedding party members are gathered, waiting for the rehearsal to begin.
"All right Ma- Bella." The words were spoken with a small smile as we reach the paneled glass doors of the patio that lead to the living room. My heels click on the cobble stones and Jasper slips past me, pulling the door open with a small wave of his hand. "Ladies first."
Taking a deep breath, I smile up at him as I slip into the crowd of people that have gathered in the bright room, Jasper following close behind me.
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