Thanks to SusanQ, Nicffwhisperer, Vampshavelaws, iambeagle, and Stephanie for all of their help pre-reading/betaing for me. I seriously have so much love for these ladies.
I wasn't sure how long I cried, but Edward never hushed me. He never shied away from my tears. He only held me close, giving me as much time as I needed to digest the fact my grandfather had passed away.
Alec's news had been such a shock, and I wasn't sure quite how to deal with it. It was the first time someone so close to me had died.
He went peacefully in his sleep.
Alec gave me those words as some sort of comfort, but I felt none. It seemed so sudden. So unexpected. Sure grandfather was eighty-three, but I thought he was healthy for his age.
I'd just seen him a few days ago. He helped me and stood by my side during one of the most difficult nights of my life. He didn't look ill. He looked normal. Like he always did.
Had I not been paying close enough attention? Had there been signs I ignored or simply didn't notice?
I'd barely even said goodbye to him because I was so eager to run away that night. It was the last time I would see him and I was only thinking of myself.
Even more, the guilt from ignoring my father's calls over the last couple of days crushed me. When Alec's name popped up on my phone, I knew deep down something was wrong and had to answer. But had my father been trying to tell me to come back? That my grandfather would soon be gone? I was so wrapped up in wanting to send him a message that he could no longer control me, I didn't even think he might be trying to reach me for something else.
I was so angry and confused and heartbroken. Following the gala and the confrontation with my parents, I had basically disowned them in my head. I didn't want anything to do with them after what they tried to pull.
Now, with Grandfather gone, it really was like I didn't have any family left.
My mind went back over every detail from the other night, searching for any signs, any hints that something was wrong. Had he been sick? Had being there for me done something to precipitate his death?
I was so foolish. Immature, selfish, and stupid.
"Bella? Are you okay?"
Edward nuzzled my nose and rubbed my back. I had stopped crying, but I wasn't sure what to say.
Was I okay?
I didn't know. All I knew was that I had to leave. I had to go back home, to a funeral, and to face my parents again.
I had to do it alone.
The only time I felt right—felt complete—was with Edward's arms around me. But I couldn't ask him to leave with me and go back across the country to mourn a man he hardly knew. He had obligations here. Things that were important to his career. He'd already taken time off to go tell my parents about our engagement. And I knew he did that just for me.
How could I ask him to leave again?
We'd only just gotten back.
No, I had to face this by myself. It was time for me to stop thinking only of my needs and do what was right.
"I'm fine," I answered, pushing myself up and out of his embrace. I stood from the bed, grabbed my phone, and walked toward my suitcase. I pulled out a pair of jeans, a shirt, and some underwear. "I'm going to shower and make arrangements to fly back."
He jumped out of the bed and ran over, stopping me before I went in the bathroom. "Hey." He stood in front of me, tilting my chin up with his fingers when I didn't look up. "I can get us on a flight. Why don't you just take a bath and relax? I'll take care of it."
I felt sick, but forced the words out. "You don't need to go. This is something I have to do."
I sighed and brushed past him, turning the light on in the bathroom and setting my things on the counter. "I don't even know how long I'm going to need to be there. I can't keep dragging you away. You have responsibilities here."
"Bella, stop." He reached around me and turned off the water I'd just turned on. He sat on the edge of the tub and pulled me down on his lap. "I'm going with you."
I was getting angry on top of my frustration. It was difficult to do the right thing when he wouldn't even give me the opportunity.
"Quit acting like my father." I covered my mouth as soon as those blurted words spilled out, regretting them immediately. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean that."
He was quiet for a minute as I stared at my lap, wishing I could take back those words. He wasn't like my father. More like the opposite.
At least Edward made an effort.
"Are you saying you want to go alone because you don't want me there, or because you think it would be an inconvenience for me?" he asked, rubbing my back with one hand and my thigh with the other.
"The second one," I mumbled, still not looking up.
His hand left my thigh and took hold of my hand, his thumb brushing over my engagement ring. "Okay, well this is how I see it. I'm not the smartest guy, and definitely not the most educated, but I know what love is."
I snorted through my tears. Sexy.
"Yeah, I just went all Forrest Gump on you." He kissed the side of my mouth. "Honestly, though. This isn't some prop I put on your finger. I meant it when I asked you to marry me. I love you. When you're hurting, I'm hurting."
I sobbed harder.
"Being by your side when you go through the hard times isn't an inconvenience. I hope you'd be there at my side if and when I have to go through something similar."
"I would," I choked out.
"Okay, then. Let me take care of you right now. Let me hold your hand and wipe your tears and just be there. I have bereavement leave in my contract. Even if I didn't, I'd still be there with you."
I twisted around to stare at him. "Bereavement leave?"
"Yes. There are contingencies written in all my contracts for emergencies. Don't worry about me. This film is the last thing you should be worrying about. Everything will be fine here. I only want to be there for you."
I buried my face in his neck, letting his words soothe my hurt. It still felt like I was being selfish by pulling him away.
"I can't ask you to go."
He squeezed me. "You're not asking. I'm telling you I'm going. If you left without me, I'd just be on the next plane behind you."
His voice rang with sincerity and I knew he would do exactly as he claimed. He was right about being more emotionally mature than I was, even with his tendency to fly off the handle. I felt humbled and lucky at the same time.
It still confounded me why this amazing man had feelings for me and wanted to be with me.
"Why do you love me?" I whispered. "I'm such a mess."
He planted a loud kiss in my hair. "Don't call my fiancée a mess. She happens to be the most important thing in my life."
I sobbed and laughed, soaking up his attention and concern. Even if it meant I was selfish, I wasn't going to let go.
We arrived in New York later that day, deciding it was best to stay at my place. I'd called my father, and he was as terse and distant as ever. He said I was welcome to stay at the Connecticut house, close to where the services would be held, but balked when I explained Edward was with me.
It was better for everyone if Edward and I stayed in New York until the day of the funeral. Especially for me.
Yet, the hardest part of going home was the scene I found when we arrived. It was quiet when we set our bags down and walked through the apartment. I heard the TV on in the den and found Rose and Jasper there in the dark, neither paying attention to the movie playing.
I knew they would be taking this news as hard as me, maybe even worse.
Jasper stood up when he saw me, walking over and crushing me in a hug. "I'm sorry."
I tried not to cry again, but it was impossible after hearing the tears in his voice.
"Are you okay?" I asked.
He pulled back and nodded, rubbing his face. "I'm fine, but Rose needs you. I haven't seen her like this since... "
His voice broke off, but I knew what he was going to say. He hadn't seen her like this since they lost their parents. For as long as I'd known Rose, she was always the picture of poise and strength. It wasn't often when she shed any tears.
I glanced at Edward. "Why don't you and Jasper go have a beer or something?"
He nodded, taking my hint. The two of them walked off toward the kitchen, and I drew in a deep breath before heading over to the couch where Rose was curled up.
I knelt down in front of her, brushing some hair from her tear-streaked face. "Rose?"
Her eyes opened, but it seemed to take her a few moments before she focused on my face. She let out a sob and I wrapped my arms around her.
"He's gone," she cried, gripping me back.
"I know," I whispered.
I held her as she purged her grief, rocking and whispering and comforting as much as I could, while she wailed and shuddered with sobs. Rose had been my rock for a long time, and I pushed my own feelings aside so I could be hers now.
Eventually her crying died down, probably from sheer exhaustion, and I handed her a fresh bunch of tissues.
"I'm going to go fix you some soup," I said, rubbing her shoulder.
It wasn't the best solution, but I didn't know what else to do to ease her pain. I didn't have the right words, and at this point I was emotionally drained myself.
She nodded, her eyes glassy.
I stood and walked slowly out of the room, pausing for a moment in the doorway when a dizzy spell hit me. I closed my eyes and leaned against the wall, taking a few breaths to steady myself.
Maybe I needed some soup, too.
When I made it to the kitchen, Edward and Jasper were sitting at the breakfast table along with someone I wasn't expecting.
He walked over, taking a place on the other side of the kitchen island.
"How are you, Isabella? I came to check on you."
Edward followed as well, moving to stand behind me and wrapping his arms around my waist.
"I'm okay," I answered, wary of Alec's presence. I wondered what they'd all been talking about while I was with Rose.
Alec sighed and reached in his pocket. "I'm really sorry about your grandfather. He was a good man." He pulled out a couple envelopes. "Your father sent me to give these to you and make sure you were okay."
I took the envelopes, one with my name and one for Rose. My eyes darted over to the table and alongside all the empty beer bottles was another envelope. Jasper held a piece of paper in his hand, engrossed in whatever was written on it.
My father sent letters to me, Jasper, and Rose?
I stared at Alec again, my eyes narrowing. "These are from Father? What are they?"
He shook his head. "No, they're not from him. They're from your grandfather."
I let out a shaky breath, dropping the letters on the counter. "What? Why? How?"
Alec sighed again. "He was sick for a while. He knew it was coming. I'm sorry."
Edward's arms squeezed me, but I wasn't calmed. I was confused, angry, and felt a little betrayed.
Why had nobody told me?
"Before you get upset, you should read it." Alec patted my hand. "I'm going to take off, but call if you need anything. Your father did ask that you make an appearance at the house in New Haven after the funeral. He has something to discuss with you regarding the will."
I swallowed the lump in my throat, still staring at the letters. "Okay."
"I really am sorry for your loss, Isabella."
I glanced up at his concerned eyes and nodded. Alec was always the best of my father's henchmen.
"He's hurting, too," Alec added.
I didn't respond although I felt a pang in my chest. Alec was talking about my father and despite my being angry with him, it was hard to ignore the truth that he'd just lost his own father.
"Okay... well, I'm off." Alec walked out without any further ado.
I stroked Edward's arms and he loosened his grip so I could busy myself making some soup for everyone. The letters sat there untouched, but I kept glancing over at Jasper to gauge his reaction.
"Can I help?" Edward sat in a stool and I felt his eyes on me as I stirred and mixed the broth and vegetables.
I sent him a smile. "No. I've got it. Gives me something to do."
He didn't argue and I was thankful. I set up four bowls and plates around the island, before warming up some bread in the oven. When I was close to finishing, Jasper finally put his letter down and made his way over.
"You should read it," he said quietly. "You and Rose both should read them. It will help."
That sounded somewhat positive. I wasn't sure how much more I could take today.
"Can you go see if she'll join us in here or if she'd rather eat in there?" I asked him.
He nodded. "I'll bring her back. She needs to get up."
I didn't respond, not knowing what was best. Whatever she decided would be fine with me. I just wanted to eat and then go pass out in bed.
Edward helped ladle the soup while I set out the bread and fixed glasses of lemonade for everyone. Wine sounded better, but I already had a headache and didn't need to compound it.
"I love you," Edward said, his fingers brushing my thigh when I sat down next to him.
I reached down to take his hand. "I love you, too. Thank you for being here."
And I meant it. This all would have been so much worse if he wasn't with me.
Jasper came back in with Rose next to him, both of them taking the seats across from us. She didn't even look at the food, instead grabbing the envelope addressed to her. Her eyes met mine before she opened it.
"Are you going to read yours?" she asked, her voice raspy from crying.
My stomach twisted, but I nodded and reached for my letter. Her eagerness to read it must have meant Jasper had revealed something from his to her. He wouldn't have gotten her out here if the letter would have hurt her more.
I opened the envelope and reached for Edward's hand again as I read.
My Dearest Isabella,
I know you're sad and hurting, and I'm sorry I didn't tell you it was coming. My ticker has been bad for a long time, and I knew the end was near. It was a hard decision for me not to tell you, yet when I came home this last time to settle affairs, you had such a light in your eyes. It was one I'd never seen in you before, and I couldn't bring myself to extinguish it in any way.
Regardless, I know you are grieving now, but the truth is I'm in a much better place. I have no more hurt. No more pain. No more longing for someone out of my reach.
I have only happiness. Only joy.
I have the love of my life back.
Remember those things during this time and know in your heart that I'm where I want to be.
I had a long and full life, and I leave no regrets. I loved, I worked, I played, I helped, I traveled the globe. All as I wanted to.
If I learned anything during my time, it was not to waste a single second. Go grab your Edward and never let go. He's a good man. A man I would have been proud to call family. Let him love you and be the support you've lacked for too long. Take care of our Rose, who is probably hurting as much as you. Help our Jasper find his place in the world and a woman who can knock him on his ass.
Be the kind and generous woman I know you are to everyone around you.
And finally, forgive your father. He has wronged you, this I know. It angers me that he can't see beyond his ambition, but I also know deep down he is a good man. Maybe this—and you—will make him realize his mistakes and be the man I know he can be.
So, dry your tears, Babydoll. You remember how much I loved to help people in need? Well, now Heaven is my playground. I have my Mary and a team of angels by my side and I'm going to be working harder than ever to help everyone I can. I'll be smiling down at you when you marry that boy, when you have your babies, and when you're old like me and surrounded by all those who love you.
You are only at the beginning of your own wonderful journey, and I hope you enjoy every step.
Don't waste a second,
I didn't think I had anymore tears left, but they streamed down my face as I read it through three times. My heart felt so much lighter from my grandfather's answers, explanations, and reassurances. Edward handed me a napkin when I finally set the letter down, and I turned toward him. His forehead was creased with worry, concern flashing in his green eyes.
I'd never loved him more.
I wrapped my arm around his neck, pulling his face toward mine and kissed him with everything I had. I think I tried to swallow his tongue.
"Fuck," he said when I pulled away, his eyes glazed.
I laughed and wiped my tears away. Fuck was right, and so was my grandfather.
No more wasting of any seconds.
It was too bad those lighter feelings didn't carry over two days later. The four of us arrived at the church for the funeral service together, but I was soon separated from my group to fulfill my duties. I didn't fight with my mother's demands of where to stand and who to greet and who to console, simply because it didn't feel right causing a scene at this somber occasion.
Yet, I felt cut off from everyone I loved, and I wondered whether that was my mother's intention when the service started and I was seated in the front row between her and my father.
Did she know I was weaker without Edward or Rose or even Jasper by my side? Was that why she had choreographed the seating this way?
The ceremony trudged on, but I barely paid attention. I sat and stewed, ignoring the nausea I'd been feeling since we arrived. My eyes stayed focused on the casket, on my grandfather's body, and I couldn't help thinking he would have hated this.
He loved smiles. He loved making things better.
This was all wrong. It was cold. No emotion. No outpouring of love for the man who did so much good in this world.
This was all my mother. Renee. She was just Renee to me now.
She wasn't really my mother. I didn't have a mother.
I glanced at my father on my left. His face had been set in the same unseeing frown since I'd arrived. I had yet to hear him say a word.
Was he grieving inside? Was this a mask to hide how much he was hurting? Did he care that his father was gone?
Or did he not feel anything at all? Was he just passing the time until he could start campaigning again without people questioning the propriety?
Not only did I not know the answer, but I felt like I didn't even know him anymore. Maybe I never did.
I sighed and tried to discreetly twist around to get a glimpse of Edward. Knowing my mother, he was probably placed somewhere in the back. All I saw was my father's closest advisors in the pew behind us. I turned back around quickly when Caius smiled at me.
The service continued, but I remembered nothing of it. There were no poignant words that stood out or cherished memory regaled that I could hold on to. I was almost numb, just going through the motions, and wanting this to end.
It wasn't until the minister closed the casket that I felt something again. The silence of the church was eerie, and the click of the coffin being shut resounded in my head. That simple act was so final. So devastating.
I'd never see him again. He was going into the ground.
A sob wracked through my body against my will. I couldn't have controlled it if I tried. It was like a huge weight was pressing on my chest as the pallbearers walked past and took their positions.
Why couldn't I breathe?
I was pulled to stand by someone, herded to follow my parents in the procession behind the casket.
I tried to gulp down oxygen, but there was no air.
My parents walked ahead of me down the aisle, dispassionate and indifferent. And I had nobody.
I tried to focus on putting one foot in front of the other. I only had to move. To walk. To get outside. Maybe it would be better outside.
The sobs hurt my insides, but I couldn't stop.
Then the air came back.
Edward's arm wrapped around me, pulling me into his side, his hand holding both of mine in front of us as we walked together.
"I love you," he whispered in my ear. "It's going to be okay."
I believed him. With him next to me, I could breathe again. We weren't even halfway down the aisle and he'd come to my side to help.
My body instantly relaxed, and he supported me when I leaned into him. I took a large breath and then another.
"Remember his letter. Remember he's in a better place now."
Edward's whispered words gave me strength, and I nodded to Rose and Jasper when we passed them. My heart ached for my sister's pain, which was evident in her cries and huddled body as Jasper held her.
I almost lost my breath again when we neared the exit, but this time in surprise. Sitting in one of the last pews in the back was Edward's whole family.
Esme and Alice were both openly crying, Carlisle and Emmett with eyes full of sorrow and compassion.
They were here. Sharing my grief.
Not for any show. Not to put on a performance for onlookers.
But because part of their family was in pain.
I sobbed again, placing a hand over my heart and trying to send them a smile of pure appreciation. Whether it was only for Edward, for me, or for both us, their presence was still such an overwhelming gesture.
We followed my parents all the way out to the drive, where a car was waiting. Alec stood by, holding the door open for them, and stopped us before we got in, placing a hand on Edward's shoulder.
Edward glared at him. "The only way I'm not getting in with her is if you shoot me. And you better use a lot of fucking bullets."
Alec's eyes darted to me as I clung to Edward. He then gave us both a little smile and patted Edward's back.
"Go on," he said.
We got in and sat on the seat opposite my parents.
"What is he doing here?" Renee spat when the door closed.
I hated her in this moment. I'd never hated anyone before in my life, but I hated her.
"Don't say another word." I choked on another sob, an inch away from strangling her. "Not to him. Not to me. Not one more word."
She must have understood the threat behind my words, because she heeded my warning, leaning back against her seat with a huff. I glanced briefly at Charlie, who was staring out the window, before leaning into Edward again. He held me tight, sighing into my hair.
It was a short ride from the church to the cemetery, and we were all quiet as we got out and walked toward the tented area.
"Right this way, Miss Swan," an usher said, trying to lead me to a chair set up front.
I shook my head, bristling at the sight of the three chairs. Two of them for my parents, and one meant for me.
Those chairs signified family, and I wanted no part of it. My family was the one being buried, the man beside me, and the truly mournful people just arriving.
"I'm fine here," I told him and he nodded before walking away.
We stood there, off to the side, as the rest of the crowd filed over. Edward kept his arm around my waist, his fingers squeezing me often.
"You're so strong," he said, kissing my temple.
I didn't feel strong. I felt broken and exhausted.
My eyes stayed focused on that damn hole in the ground, until I felt someone brush up along my other side. I turned my head to find Rose and Jasper.
She took my hand and rested her head on my shoulder, no words needing to be spoken between us. The four of us listened as a few more prayers were given, watched as the casket was lowered into the ground, and cried at the final "Amen".
I closed my eyes tight, whispering my own goodbye. When a stiff breeze rushed over my face, I smiled wondering if maybe he'd heard me.
Rose clutched my hand and I turned toward her.
"We're going back home," she said. "I don't want to go to your parents' house."
I nodded in understanding. I didn't either.
There was a sort of reception planned at the New Haven house, where people could stop by and pay their respects to my father. I wouldn't be going at all except Alec told me my father needed to discuss something about the will.
"Go ahead. Take the car and we'll get another one." I wrapped her up in a hug. "I'm not going to be there long anyway. We'll be back tonight."
I watched as they walked away, wishing we were going with them. When we headed toward my parents' car, Edward's family approached.
"Bella?" Esme walked right up to me, hugging me tight. "I'm so sorry, sweetheart."
I let myself relax into her embrace. She oozed sympathy and peace, likely well-practiced in the act of consoling. This was a mom hug and I didn't want to let go.
I wasn't sure how long I stayed there in her arms, but she made no move to break our contact first. She let me hold on as long as I needed.
And I must have needed a lot of mom love, because when I finally came up for air, most of the crowd had already left.
Including my parents... which also meant our ride to the house.
My cheeks flamed in embarrassment when I realized they had basically stranded me here. I glanced at Edward, his face stony until he noticed my staring.
He put his arm around my waist and grinned. "No worries, baby. We'll ride with my family. You can always sit on my lap."
Emmett chuckled while Carlisle and Alice gave me bolstering smiles.
"Yes. I'd love to meet our future in-laws," Esme stated, her voice bright as she led the way to their rented SUV.
But I didn't miss the hard undertone.
This was going to be interesting.
AN: Is Bella's grandfather right that Charlie is redeemable? What do you think he's going to discuss about the will?
Sorry to bring all the sad in this chapter, but lighter times are coming. Next up will be the Cullens meeting the Swans, and perhaps a certain sister of Edward's knocking Jasper on his ass.
Thank you all so much for reading, reviewing, and letting me know your thoughts. I read and enjoy every single one.
Find me on facebook at Twilover Seven-six or on twitter at twilover76
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