Chapter 40: Epilogue

Three years later . . .

"Edward, piano latte," he heard.

His eyes flew open.

"I hate how spongy my head feels after you hypnotize me," he complained.

"You'll be glad we had another one of these sessions when I tell you what I learned this time," Esme said. She rubbed her hands together like they were cold.

"Tell me before I fall over," he said, his tone short. His head throbbed.

"Okay, but I know your dad wants to see you before you go," she replied.

He rubbed at his temples. It usually helped to relieve some of the pressure.

"So, here's what you said—I had to go really deep into your memories," she said. "Your sweet tooth?"

He nodded, ready to hear more.

"It seems it developed because in your dad's quest to mellow you out, he put a lot of the drugs in soda, so you couldn't taste it. And your mom bribed you to be good with donuts, cookies and candy bars. Alice—I think she could tell something wasn't right because when you had the sweets your mom was giving you, it trigged a reaction from when you were a kid. Instead of calming down, you became really hyper. You also said it was the only time your mom would let you sit on her lap and she'd hold you for a long time to quiet you down and get you to stop being so energetic."

He groaned and rubbed harder at the sides of his head. "So sugar wasn't making me have ADHD like Alice thought?"

"No. It was only when your mom gave it to you. You talked about how you've had all of those sugary foods since you've met Bella, and when she gave it to you, it was fine." Esme smiled. Her hands linked together.

He sighed. "I feel really drained, but this is good to know." He stood up and dragged his way over to her for a hug.

Esme held him tight, told him she was proud of him for being so open today, but he felt silly.

He never felt like he could control it, but Esme said it was similar to how some people could control their own dreams.

It was amazing to think people could do that—in fact he was married to somebody that could.

Esme taught Bella the principles so she could get rid of the nightmares.

It worked seventy percent of the time.

"Thanks, Esme," he said and she walked him out of her make-shift office.

When was Dad going to finish converting it for her?

And when where they going to get married?

He hadn't even asked her yet.

It was unfair in some ways—Edward knew they were having sex without being married—but Dad had forbid him to do that with Bella three years ago.

Well, those days were over.

He had sex every day unless she was ill. They both needed the constant touch.

Choppy had a little dog cushion at the foot of their bed, so she wouldn't interrupt them when they were being intimate. That's how important sex was to Edward.

"Your dad's in the garage, working on his BMW," she told him, leaving him at the door.

"Okay, great," Edward said.

He opened the door, leaving Esme behind. Knowing her, she'd have sandwiches, chips and drinks ready for all of them in the next few minutes.

"Hey, little one, time to go inside," Dad said to the little girl with curly auburn hair, sitting in the car.

"She being your helper?" Edward asked. Dad shut the hood of the car, grabbed some hand cleaner, then wiped his hands on the towel he had nearby.

The little girl bumped along on her diapered bottom to Dad. "Bopbop, up, up!" she said.

Dad picked her up, kissed the top of her head and she grabbed at his goatee.

Esme made him grow it out because she was tired of whisker burn.

"Is Mopmop making us lunch?" Dad asked her, his voice higher than usual.

"I'm sure she is, but she didn't say for certain," Edward answered. "She told me I had to see you before I leave. What's going on?"

"Oh, not much. There's an opening in my office is all. I know you're not nearly done with your studies, but I told them you—"

"No thanks, Dad. I'm not going to do that to Bella. I need to focus only on school and home-life so I can get it done as soon as possible. She's gonna start her student teaching soon." Edward watched the little girl pat Bopbop's cheeks.

"Won't Mopmop get mad if you get car oil on the princess's outfit? I'm sure she bought it at some boutique." Edward chuckled and settled his hands on his hips. It was fun watching them together.

"She won't notice. When this little one's around, it's like nothing else exists," Dad replied.

"If you say so." Edward opened the door to the house and waited for Dad and the little one to go through first.

"Oh, you two. Always expecting me to feed you," Esme said when they walked into the kitchen. Dad handed her the little girl, and he headed over to the sink and washed his hands.

"Carlisle, she's filthy. I just got her this outfit," she complained.

"Yeah, and probably two others in different colors exactly like it," he said, smirking.

She smacked his arm and laughed. "Yeah—yellow and green. So what?"

"So? It's not your job to spoil her worse than anybody else," Dad teased.

He rinsed and dried his hands, then took the little girl back in his arms.

"How's Bella doing?"

"Good. She's sick of school and feeling so yucky, but it'll be over soon."

"Well, it's your fault. You never give her a break. Pace yourself, Edward—pace," Dad said, bending his knees and bouncing a little for the little one's enjoyment.

The little girl smiled, and her face lit up from the movement.

"It has nothing to do with pacing and all to do with good genes," Edward said.

He took the sandwich and ate it as fast as he could so he wouldn't have to share his food with the little curly-haired girl. She was an eighteen-month-old bottomless pit. Bella said it was a miracle there was enough food in any one house to keep her happy.

He agreed.

"Is it almost nap-time?" Dad asked. The little one yawned and rubbed her eyes with her fists.

"Yeah, it is," Esme said.

"Okay, I'll hurry up and go," Edward said.

She yawned again, this time really loud.

He shoved a few chips in his mouth and drank them down fast with a Sprite.

"Bye, sweet one," Edward said, hugging the little girl and kissing her forehead. "I'll see you soon, okay?"

The little girl was half out of it, so she barely whimpered and blinked.

"Bye," Dad whispered to him and rocked her the rest of the way to sleep.

Edward snuck out the door, careful to keep quiet so she wouldn't wake up.

.

.

Edward stepped into his favorite class of all—the one he didn't really need, but refused to give up.

World literature was interesting, and it broadened his horizons—or so he was told that was what it would do.

A brilliant smile flashed at him as a hand patted his seat.

"How was she?" Bella's sweet voice asked.

Kisses first, answers later.

He pulled her into his arms as close as he could get.

"She was great. No tears this time," he said.

"When did you say you'd pick her up?" She pulled out her phone and checked it. This was a nervous habit she'd developed over the last several months.

"I didn't, but they know we'll be back for dinner," he answered.

He pulled her phone out of her hand, set it on the desk in front of them and held her hand. "She'll be fine. She was good last time."

"Yeah, but the time before that it took me an hour to calm her down after we got home. I can't keep doing that to our little girl." Bella rubbed her bulging belly. "And when this one comes, she's going to flip out. Megan can't even stand it when I hold Emmett's little nugget."

Edward winced. He never called his niece or his daughter that. It was best to avoid all things related to Alice. After he stopped using that nickname for his little sister, he preferred no one use it at all.

Plus, Rose didn't like it either—though Emmett seemed to ignore it every time Rose rolled her eyes when he said it in reference to their daughter.

Emmett and Rose's marriage was very strong, even though they seemed to fight a lot. And they doted on their child endlessly.

Edward would never understand why they argued so much. He and Bella rarely fought about anything. He loved her too much to see her angry or upset.

"That's because she doesn't see her everyday," he said. He caressed the outside of her hand with his thumb. "It'll be different when it's a sibling around Megan."

"I worry about her all the time when we're here." Bella sighed, changing the subject. She sat stiff in her chair.

"You know I'll go straight back there after class if you want me to." He smiled at his beautiful wife.

"Yeah, that would be . . . Thank you," she said, relaxing into her chair.

He squeezed her hand. "Sure. She missed me too, you know."

"I know she does, but you get to do the bulk of your classes online and be home with her most of the day. I'm jealous—I wanna be with Megan all day, too." She fanned herself with her free hand. Bella was always hot now.

"Don't even talk about dropping your classes again. You're almost done. And when this baby comes, you'll be done with student teaching, and you'll get to be the one to stay home with them." He hesitated to share this next part with her, but he had to be truthful. "My dad offered me a job in his office today."

"He did?" Her voice went up with her eyes.

"Yeah, but I turned him down. I need to be there for you and Meg. The timing's all wrong," he answered. A pit settled in his gut. They needed the money really bad. Their one-bedroom apartment was cramped. It was time they moved into a bigger place, but they lacked the funds.

"Oh, okay," she said, eyes half-closed like she was tired of all of this.

"But if you want me to, then I will—I'll tell him I've changed my mind," he offered.

"Well, is it part-time?" she asked.

"I didn't ask."

She exhaled slowly, and her chest puffed out. "You know what—never mind. You've gotta get done with school."

"I shoulda never taken on a double major—music and medicine don't mix well." He tried to look away from her face, but she was still so damn gorgeous, even when she was exhausted like today.

"They mix well when you're brilliant." She crossed an ankle over her other leg.

He placed a hand on her belly, and received a kick in return. "Was he keeping you up all night with his kicking?"

"He's got music in his veins. I think he's a drummer," she mused.

He rubbed her belly and kissed it.

The professor began the lecture, but Edward ignored it. He kissed his wife on the neck, let go of her hand and ran his fingers up her thigh.

Choppy wagged her tail from under Bella's seat. Edward had been rude, ignoring his pal.

But Bella sounded unwell this morning.

"What's really going on, sweetie?" he whispered in her ear. "Why are you so sad?"

"Tomorrow's our annual visit to their graves," she said, swiping a tear out of her right eye.

"You don't have to go. I'll take Choppy with me," he said. "Besides, Dad will be with me, and Rose never goes, so no one will think badly of you for not attending."

"It's just so sad, you know? Why'd they do it? Why'd they commit suicide?"

He shook his head. "Maybe they thought things would be easier, and they could find a way to be together? It didn't seem to work much for them here."

"Yeah . . . You're right," she said.

"I know I am." He gave her a brilliant smile, because he was feeling particularly numberlicious today. That's what she called it when he was particularly smart without the numbers.

He hadn't seen the numbers since Megan got really sick one time, and he lost it when she was unresponsive. It looked like she'd lost her soul—it scared him to death.

Other than that, he never worried about it anymore.

Oh, yeah, and at their funeral last year—he saw the numbers then, but it was minor, and they didn't take over.

"Decide tomorrow, 'kay? You'll know better tomorrow if you can handle it or not," he said.

She gripped his hand and laid it in her lap. "Just don't let go—not right now."

"I won't—ever."

It was easy to promise, because he rarely did let go, even when he was holding their little one.

.

.

"She's sleeping, let's be fast," Bella whispered in the car.

Edward nodded. "I'll stay inside the car with her. You don't need me," Emmett said.

They both nodded and left.

The cemetery seemed almost completely empty.

"Do you think we'll ever see them again?" Bella asked.

"I don't know—and I don't know if I'd want to even if I could," he answered. "I was glad when they left, but sometimes I wish maybe things could've been different."

Dad and Esme exited their car.

"The only thing I understood about them was that they knew they were soul-mates. I know that feeling." Bella rested her head on his shoulder as they walked quickly.

"It's family day," Dad said. "You're coming over after, right? Esme prepared a huge dinner."

"Because Emmett's coming, not because of—" Edward stopped talking abruptly.

"Stop joking about how much I eat," Bella teased, chuckling.

"I wasn't talking about you, I was talking about how we need to have a lot of choices for their picky grandkids," Edward answered.

"Let's get this over with," Edward said, halting in front of the first gravestone.

"Little nugget," Dad said.

"Yeah." Edward's eyes watered.

"Tell me again, do you think we'll ever see your parents again?" Bella asked, changing the subject.

"I doubt it. After I hit him at the funeral last year, he probably understands I'm really done with them in every way." Edward swung his foot and kicked at the grass below him.

"Not even with us having their grandkids?" Bella asked.

"Why? I already feel like I have too many parents between your mom and Esme, and . . . My head hurts," he said, squinting. The sun seemed really bright today.

"If I had my dad back in my life, I might've found a way to have him around in a limited way. I never thought I'd ever think that, but with children of our own, it kind of hurts to not have that option." Her left hand rested on top of her belly.

He inhaled and tucked that air into his diaphragm. Breathing was painful when his heart hurt like this.

She was always right. He needed to think about this carefully.

They all said a few words next to Alice's headstone, then walked over a few markers to find Jasper's.

"I have no idea how they found the money to pay somebody in jail, and in that institution, to kill them at the same, exact moment," Bella whispered, leaning into Edward.

"Who knows. She seemed to find ways to get money when she needed it." He swung his arm around her back and held her tight to his side.

Dad said a few things through unshed tears, and they all left quieter than they came.

They were relieved Megan was still asleep when they left.

"You didn't have anything to say to your sister?" Bella asked Emmett quietly.

"No. Nothing's changed. Some things are unforgivable, and I can't even think about what she did to you guys," Emmett answered. "Rose can't either. That's why she refuses to come here." He had his hand resting on Megan's center, suggesting she probably woke up at some point and he had to comfort her until he could persuade her to go back to sleep.

Their daughter was a light sleeper, unlike Emmett's who could sleep through a tornado.

Or Emmett's snoring, which was worse—louder and more damaging.

.

.

Dinner ended, and Edward ran his finger over his phone.

"If I do this, you've gotta promise me you'll help me deal with an episode, because I'm pretty sure one will be triggered if I spend any kind of time with them," Edward said. His eyes dug deep into hers.

"Is that what's really been stopping you? They're the ones that brought the numbers on so you're worried they'll bring them back in full force?"

"Well, yeah, I . . . Hell, I don't know." He chugged his soda down.

Bella stroked his thigh.

"I can't believe they live so close to us. Don't you think that's a good sign, like they were holding out hope to be a part of your life again?" Bella's eyes were like soft chocolate kisses today.

"I don't know. Mom contacted Emmett, but he ignored her." He shrugged and burped. The soda went down too fast.

She kissed him at the corner of his mouth, cupped his jaw and wiped away the moisture she'd left behind with the pad of her thumb.

There was a sort of humming sound.

It wasn't until she gave him a light nudge, he realized that sound was coming from him.

His tongue was numb, and his fingers ached from keeping them in a tight ball.

He stepped out of the car and walked slowly up to the front door of their small home.

"They might want to meet their grandchild," he told himself, quickening his pace.

But they've never really tried . . . Have they?

He frowned and pounded on that door, making his hand sting.

The door opened, and his mom stood there slack-jawed. "Edward, what's wrong?"

"Nothing, I came because . . . Well, Bella said I should, and she knows better. More than you or Alice or even my dad—my real dad—Carlisle. He's smart. I hope I can be a good doctor like him someday."

She grinned. "Come on in."

"No thanks. I'm comfortable here." Edward took a step to the side to see if he could gaze down her hallway and take in more of her house.

"Lizzie, who's at the door?" Anthony called.

"It's . . . him," she said in a breathy way.

"What?" Anthony came sliding down the hall in socks and wearing some kind of workout clothes. He was sweaty and his hair was darker because it was wet with perspiration.

"It's Edward," she said, holding the door open wider.

"I'm here because you're grandparents. Bella thought you might want to at least see your granddaughter. And Bella's due at the end of this semester. We're hoping she goes over her due-date so she can finish up her student teaching," he blurted. He dipped his head and bit his cheeks. It probably wouldn't help to keep him quiet.

His leg jerked a little with nerves.

"We'd love to meet her. Is she close by?" Anthony asked.

Edward's teeth clenched tight. "I'd rather have Mom see her first, and then if that goes well, then you can come out and see her. She's in the car with Bella, asleep in her car seat. She's a year and a half."

"I heard—your Dad told me," Mom said.

"You're talking to Carlisle?"

"Only because he wondered if I wanted to be there for your visit to the cemetery, but I didn't think you'd want me there," she admitted. "So we opted to stay home."

"It's not like she's gonna move, ya know? You can always see Alice anytime you want to," Edward said, sounding a little rude. He couldn't help it. It made him short-tempered to see her smiling like she was happy to see him after all they'd done to him.

"Can I say one thing?" Anthony asked.

"I guess, if you make it quick," Edward said with a little groan.

"I'm sorry for everything—you have no idea how much I regret the way I raised you, and how little time we had together." Anthony tucked his chin into his chest and swallowed like a lump was blocking his air passage. He wheezed.

"Stop smoking. It's bad for you, and as a singer, you should know better," Edward said. He knew that whistling sound in his throat because Bella sounded like that when she used to smoke and was in desperate need of one.

"I'm trying," Anthony said.

"No—don't try. Do it. If you want to be around my kids, you're not smoking anywhere near them!" Edward huffed, his eyes felt swollen, they hurt so much.

His heart expanded in his ribcage.

What had he offered him just now without thinking—a chance to make things better and be involved with Edward's own kids? Could he trust this man ever to be around his little ones?

What in the hell was he thinking? Damn his mouth!

His nostrils flared as he exhaled. He'd deal with that later and talk to Bella about it. She'd know what to do.

"Okay, Mom. Come see her," Edward said and stepped away from the door.

She had to jog after him because he kept a steady pace, and her legs were so short compared to his.

"Keep quiet. She's a light sleeper, and it takes a long time to get her down," Edward said.

When they got to the car, the windows were rolled down.

Mom's hands cupped over her mouth and tears burst out of her eyes. "She's so precious," she said, muffled. "Looks so much like you and your father."

He looked away. Not like that man. Only like me!

"Hi, there, sweet girl," she cooed, and before he could stop her, that hand of hers was inside the window and she was stroking her cheek. "I'm your grandma, and I love you so much."

"You don't even know her," he said.

"I don't have to, to love her—she's of my own flesh and blood," Mom answered and pulled her hand back.

Megan slept through it.

Bella waved at Mom, and she did the same back.

"All right—you've seen her. Send him out before I change my mind and we drive off." Edward jerked his thumb over his shoulder. "But if he touches her, I'll shove a stick down his throat and destroy what's left of his vocal cords." Stupid cigarettes were already doing that job in a slow, methodical way.

Mom jogged off to go get that man.

Edward stretched his long arm through the passenger's window and grabbed Bella's hand.

"This is hard," he told her quietly.

"I know, sweetie, but you're handling it so well. It'll be worth it. You'll see . . ." Her eyes were filled with love and pride.

"For you—I'd do anything, including dealing with this man." He let go of his wife and smiled.

"Oh, wow . . . Thank you for letting me see her," Anthony said, sneaking up behind him.

"Don't touch her. Look, but that's all." Edward's head followed his every move as he put his hands at his sides.

"I won't. I'll be good." Anthony smirked.

Edward was hit with deja vu. His dad said that to him on more than one occasion—to look and nothing more, and Edward's answer had always been that he'd be good. He rarely succeeded.

"Yeah, right," Edward snorted and leaned up against the car, taking on a comfortable position and spot while he monitored him.

"She's got the fingers of a piano player," Anthony remarked.

"She's got the fingers of a girl with a mind of her own. I'm not going to push her to be anything she doesn't want to be."

"You've changed so much, Edward." Anthony stood tall.

Edward had a few inches over him, but not much.

"How would you know? You don't even know me anymore." Edward's eyes looked past him—over his head. This man was stupid if he thought he knew anything at all about his son from forever ago.

"I've listened to the things your mom has said, and also to Carlisle. They said you used to sound almost immature when you talked—like an emotionally stunted boy. But you're not a boy at all. You're a man—a man I'm proud to call my son."

"Don't say that," Edward gritted through his teeth. His jaw flexed.

"Then what should I say? That I regret every day how I hurt you, and how I lost years I can never get back with my family? That I killed a child, the only other person I've ever loved as much as Lizzie? And that somehow, against the odds, he became a much better man than I'll ever be, without my guidance or help. Do you know what it's like to kill a baby?"

No! Because I'd never, ever do that. I'm not like you!

Anthony grabbed his arm.

Edward hunched over, the numbers whipping through his mind. He covered his ears and tried to hum.

The hand released him.

"Stop it. You're hurting him," Bella said, and he heard her get out of the car.

Dad curled up next to Edward so he was right next to his ear. "Do you have any idea what it's like to kill a child and know you destroyed who they were? And all because I was such a junkie and such a piss-poor father I had no idea how to deal with you? I didn't know what I was doing, and I can't ever take any of it back. I drank until I couldn't remember any of my family's names. But I'm through with it. I'm not that man anymore, wallowing and self-obsessed. I'm sorry, and I love you."

"Edward, get in the car, sweetheart." Bella's hands were guiding his shoulders toward the car. The door opened, and somehow, he was placed inside.

She had a few words with Anthony outside the car, and then Edward was being driven away, the numbers eating his brain raw until Megan woke up and said, "Da!"

Then he could see his own world again—the one he'd created for himself without that man back there.

.

.

Bella was really quiet all night long, and she turned away from him when he reached out to stroke her belly.

"What's wrong?" He nuzzled his nose into her damp hair. He loved it when she showered right before bed.

"Nothing," she said.

"Tell me," he insisted.

She heaved herself over so she was facing him. "One of the things I love about you is how honest you are."

"Yeah, I know." He stared without blinking. "Why are you telling me this?"

"Because I feel like you somehow lied to your—to Anthony today."

He grimaced. "I never lied to that man."

"Edward—did you listen to anything he said at all?"

"Not really. I didn't want to hear his excuses. He was the reason I suffered," he said. He grabbed a piece of damp hair and twirled it in his fingers.

She pulled it away, cupped his jaw, forcing him to look at her. "He said he killed a baby, meaning you. He was a junkie."

"Yeah? So?"

Her eyes lifted, then sunk low. "That doesn't sound familiar to you?"

"Not really." His chest tightened, and he wondered if this was what it felt like to be a smoker for years on end—because no matter how hard he tried to drag air in, it was like it fought against his lungs.

She hooked her thumb into her chest. "That's me. He was describing all the horrible nightmares I went through. Only you forgave me."

"Yeah, because you didn't do all those rotten things to me."

"Oh, I see how it is . . . This is an exclusive club, where really I'm forgiven because you didn't know the person. What if I had killed Emmett's baby, Jill? What then?"

"I don't know . . . I have to th—"

"And what if I ran away because I could barely live with myself, and the drugs weren't enough to dull the pain? Not only would I have harmed a kid, but one of the parents, too. He loves your mom more than anything—that's plain to see. You won't even consider just listening to what else he has to say?" She licked her lips. "He loves you, that's plain to see, too. He knew it might hurt you today, that you might have an episode, but he came out there anyway."

He grabbed her shoulder and shook it a little as he said, "Don't you see? That was him being selfish—he doesn't care about me at all."

"Then why come out there if he didn't care about you? If he didn't care about you, then it stands to reason he doesn't care about Meg either." She brushed his hand off her and turned back over with great difficulty.

"Your dad's an older version of me, but less disgusting, because he did it without having sex with tons of people to get ahold of the mind-numbing drugs he needed."

"Don't be like this," he pleaded, tugging at her shoulder.

She rolled her arm to get him off.

"Night," she said with a sniff.

He knew that sound. She was crying.

He snuggled up to her, kissed with light presses all over her back, shoulder, arm and the nape of her neck.

Somehow she let him make love to her with a slow, caring pace.

He told her over and over how he loved and adored her, and he would've forgiven her no matter who she harmed.

It was easy to say that because she hadn't actually harmed anybody.

But at one point, you thought she had, and it didn't matter to you . . .

His stomach didn't sit right with that thought drilling into him.

Bella slept soundly next to him, all worn-out from making love to him and from the emotional release that accompanied the physical one.

He swung his legs out of bed without making a sound, grabbed his phone and padded out into the living room.

Choppy was right behind him.

He dialed the number with shaking hands and with his breath in his curled up toes. His fingers were ice.

"Hi . . . Edward?" Anthony answered.

Two words he had given Mom, repeated in his head. "I'm listening." He exhaled. "This time I'm really ready. So, tell me . . ."

"I can only begin to share a little of the pain, because it's so deep and never ending. It'll never go away. All I knew was that every day, I was never good enough. Does that make sense?"

Edward smiled. It was small, but it was there. "I know exactly what that feels like, and it makes so much sense, it makes it easier to hear you."

"This isn't gonna be pretty," Anthony warned.

Edward gripped his neck with his free hand. "I married somebody that means more to me than anything, and she knows exactly how you feel. She's strong and beautiful, and I think that's probably how Mom sees you too. Share with me the why, and I'll share with you the hows, on the way I can love and forgive . . ."

THE END

A/N:

There you have it. This story's complete. I can't believe it! And I can't believe how much love it's received. Over 2,000 reviews? I've never had a story get this much attention, so I'm truly blown away.

I know not every little question was answered, but the majority of them were. That's life. And, no, Edward and Bella did not name their baby girl Shara, like in her dream. They named her after the little girl that had changed Bella's entire life—Megan.

Thanks again to my to my beta, SunflowerFran and my pre-readers, akjamma, Amandac3, Paxson Adkins and Dinia Steel. And to all of you who read, reviewed and rec'd the hell out of this story. I truly appreciate everyone's help in making this story what it has become.

I'll have some new stories up and running soon, but until then I'll keep my facebook group updated on what I'm working on and I'll be posting on my other fan fic account as well.

Much love,

Scarlett