Ten Years Later
"I can't believe your mom kept all this junk." Bella laughed as she dug through the boxes Esme had stuffed helter skelter into the closet of Edward's childhood bedroom. "What is the point?"
"So she could make us drag it back home and throw it away there?"
"Oh, my God, did you know she had this?"
Grunting, she tugged a box loose from from the packed closet. A few shoe boxes full of pictures tumbled down and hit her over the head, releasing a small avalanche of snapshots.
"Jesus," Edward laughed. "Careful. What's so special about that one?"
"It's from that little apartment we had our sophomore year just outside of campus. Remember when we moved again and your parents took some of our stuff with them?"
Something sparkly caught Edward's eye and he knelt down next to Bella on the floor. "It's your crown, prom queen!"
Bella rolled her eyes but grinned, remembering how much fun they'd had that night. "I seem to remember I wasn't the only one with a crown."
"Sure, but you're the only one who kept yours."
"You want to bet?" She pulled out a matching crown, and he groaned. Then he saw something else.
"Look at this!"
The cassette tape was still in the original case, Edward's note a little wrinkled but no worse for being wrapped around the tape for nine years. They read it together, laughing at Edward's melodramatic declarations.
"You know I had to listen to Red Hot Chili Peppers for days after I played that, don't you?"
"What?" Edward looked affronted. "You didn't swoon over my song choices?"
"Of course I did. I swooned so hard I passed out. Good thing Anthony Kiedis was there to revive me."
Edward playfully snatched the tape back and stuffed it into his back pocket. Bella reached around him to get it back, but gave up after a moment. Her laughter faded into a soft smile, and she wrapped an arm around his waist.
"Did you really think we'd end up here?" She waved her left hand, admiring the glint off her wedding band. They had been married for five years, and she still couldn't believe how lucky she'd gotten when she hit that sign at Forks High. "Forever is a long time when you're seventeen. Did you mean it?"
"Are you kidding? He couldn't shut up about you from the second he saw you." Alice stood in the doorway, her large belly casting a shadow over the box.
"Traitor," he muttered. "Don't you have some gestating to do?"
"I can do that in my sleep. Ooh, I always loved this picture."
She sat down slowly and picked up a photograph that had fallen onto the floor. It had been taken at Bella and Edward's first apartment near UCLA. Emmett and Rosalie had driven down to help them move, and Alice and Jasper had even flown in from New Hampshire. The six of them crowded around a tiny coffee cable on an equally tiny couch. A couple of open beers sat in front of them, and Edward's arms were wrapped tightly around Bella. She shrieked with laughter as he stared at her adoringly.
"That place was such a shithole. I can't believe we made it through a whole year in that dump."
Bella helped Alice to her feet.
"I don't miss moving my children in and out of tiny, dirty apartments, that's for sure." Esme poked her head in, checking on the progress being made.
"That apartment wasn't that dirty!" Bella protested, despite her declaration seconds earlier.
Esme rolled her eyes. "Don't you remember how long I had to clean that stovetop? I could have soaked that whole kitchen in antiseptic, and it would have still been filthy."
Bella laughed at her mother-in-law's dramatic disgust.
"Come on, Esme." Bella slung an arm over Esme's shoulders and tugged Alice along behind her. "I think the cookies are done."
Edward stayed behind, listening as the women he loved most made their way through the house to his mother's spotless kitchen, whispering and giggling the whole way. Instead of joining them right away, he made a detour into his dad's study. Carlisle was getting older and working less, making his way slowly but surely toward retirement.
"Did you clean out that room yet?" Carlisle joked. "You know I need a place for my exercise equipment."
"You've been using that joke since I turned eighteen." Edward shook his head in mock disappointment. "Get some new material, gramps."
"Not yet. Although if your sister gets any bigger, that may change soon."
"I can't believe her doctor let her fly. Jasper was a basketcase by the time they landed."
"You can mock all you want, but when it's your first child, you won't be so blasé."
Edward's eyes gleamed, but he laughed easily. "You're probably right. Come on, I worry about leaving Bella and Mom alone for too long. No telling what kind of trouble they'll get into."
"You know, I think that your wife may be a bad influence on mine." Carlisle followed Edward down the stairs.
"She has that effect on people."
In the kitchen, Bella and Alice talked animatedly. Both women wore big smiles, and Edward's breath caught in his chest. She caught him staring, like she always did. She winked and continued her conversation.
"There was a time when we thought she was a bad influence on you, you know."
Edward smirked at the old argument, long since laid to rest.
"She was an influence all right. Far from a bad one, though."
Carlisle smiled fondly at his daughter-in-law. "Oh, I know."
Bella had encouraged Edward to pursue medicine, even after he'd already completed half a music performance degree. He'd agonized over all the wasted time, but she laughed and told him he was overthinking things.
"Nothing is a waste of time, Edward. Not every path is a straight road. You have to do what you're passionate about," she'd told him, wearing the smile he loved best. "If that means music, great. If that means medicine, then it's time for a change of course."
They took that trip to Europe, but not until after Edward graduated with his bachelor's degree and they celebrated their wedding in front of all their friends and family. He'd gone on to finish medical school and then began his residency in Seattle, where she got a job teaching English and drama at a high school for the performing arts.
In a few hours, when Charlie arrived for Thanksgiving dinner, they would announce that Bella had just cleared her first trimester.
He wished he had a way to send a message back in time and tell seventeen-year-old Edward that life was going to be amazing.
All he had to do was wait and see.
SunKing says: I love everyone! Thank you all so much for reading and reminiscing with us. We had the best time with this story, reliving high school for me and something like kindergarten for justaskalice. I'm not jealous. Extra special thanks to m7707, who graciously gave her time to beta this monster all at one time. 'Til next time...and there is already a next time in the works, so don't take us off alert just yet!
justaskalice says: Thank you for making this a fun and fantastic ride! We loved hearing your memories and especially your reactions to the songs we picked. It sure brought back some good times for us (Ahem, SunKing, I was in like 5th grade, not kindergarten. Bitch. Jeez.) m7707 was wonderful enough to give us her time and talent and run this bad boy through the beta magic machine, so thank you to her! We can't wait to share our next fluff-venture with you guys. Tell your friends.