"Now your class valedictorian, Dr. Isabella Cullen," the Dean said. The crowd cheered appreciatively, as I nervously took the podium.
"Wow!" I said, taking a deep breath. "I always dreamed of standing here, maybe not as valedictorian, but definitely graduating from Dartmouth Medical School with honors. There was a time when I questioned if it was possible. You see, as most of you know, I was a statistic; a mother at 18 years old. But with the incredible support of my family and friends I made it.
We all face challenges in life. Some may seem insurmountable at times. It's easy to give up. It's harder to push through and keep fighting. Surround yourself with people who will help you, not hinder you. Defy those who say you can't. When it all comes down to it, the choice is yours. Make that choice count."
The applause was deafening as I stepped down, shaking the dean's hand before moving on to some of my professors, and finally the guest speaker. I waved over the crowd to my almost six year old son who sat near the front with Edward's and my small contingent of supporters, and returned to my seat next to Edward for the remainder of the ceremony.
"You did great," Edward said quietly, kissing my cheek.
"Thank you," I whispered back.
It had been a long road to get here, but we had done it together despite all the roadblocks in our way.
Edward stayed late into the night that first night as we tried to really talk and overcome the lies and mistakes that had separated us. When Jake woke to be fed at 11:00, Edward met his son for the first time. He reluctantly went home at midnight, promising to return early to spend the day with us. As soon as the door closed I went into my office to look through my boxes from Forks. Most of the stuff was what I expected. I put the books on my book shelf and sorted through the trinkets that seemed like they had belonged to another life. It wasn't until the last box that I was able to find what I was looking for. Right on the bottom were three envelopes with my name on them, written in Edward's unmistakable scrawl.
I climbed into my bed and read them. Edward had truly poured his heart and soul into them, telling me everything I needed to hear. When he showed up the next morning, I threw myself into his arms, sobbing. That was the last night he spent away from us. He wanted to be there for me, and he didn't want to miss any more of Jake's life.
Carlisle and Esme both moved into the grandparent role as seamlessly as Renee and Phil had, happily spending as much time as possible with Jake. They also fully supported Edward when he announced that he wasn't coming back home, choosing instead to stay with Jake and me at my place. Esme happily added a second desk to the office and another dresser to the bedroom, since there were no spare rooms. He only slept on the couch for a week before I couldn't stand to see him trying to sleep on a sofa that was at least a foot shorter than he was any longer. We managed ten nights together in my bed before we were really TOGETHER in our bed in every sense of the word.
Things weren't always easy that first year. In fact, sometimes they almost seemed impossible, especially when Edward's 'friends' decided to surprise him over Thanksgiving.
Esme and Carlisle had invited us all to their house for Thanksgiving. Life had been pretty great to that point. Our classes were fantastic and Edward and I worked together seamlessly. Jake was just starting to crawl and adored all the attention that was showered on him constantly by doting parents and grandparents. He was a complete ham! Phil and I were especially thankful for the invitation since it was the one day of the year that Renee forgot her lack of cooking skill as she lovingly put together a feast of epic proportions. I hadn't forgotten the Turducken incident from the year before. We were almost ready to eat when the doorbell rang. Esme asked me to answer it as Phil and Carlisle were in the den watching football, while she and Renee were in the kitchen. Edward had just gone upstairs to put Jake down for a nap. I opened the door to faces I had hoped to never see again.
"Nerdbird?" Rosalie's shrill yell went up. "What the hell are you doing here?"
"I could ask you the same thing!" I said, still shocked to see all of Edward's former friends standing at the door with suitcases in hand.
"We came to spend Thanksgiving with our boy," Emmett crowed.
"We didn't realize you would get a pity invite," Alice added.
"What are you doing here?" Edward growled coming down the stairs.
"Edward, my man," Emmett yelled, bringing the rest of the family to the foyer to see the spectacle. Edward was pulled into a massive bear hug as the others pushed by me into the house.
"What are you doing here?" Edward asked again, pulling away from Emmett and standing next to me, wrapping his arms around me.
"We came to spend the holiday with our boy," Emmett said, while Alice and Rosalie glared at Edward's arms.
"It's called a telephone," Edward said to them. "Or email, or snail mail... maybe a telegram. Four people don't just show up unannounced."
"Five," Jasper said quietly.
"Five?" Edward asked.
"Jessica is still freshening up in the car," he said quietly.
"Still," Edward said, clearly exasperated. "What are you guys doing here?"
"We wanted to save you from holiday boredom," Emmett said happily, obviously not understanding Edward's tense demeanor.
"I haven't spoken one word to any of you since I left Forks six months ago and you just show up here?" Edward asked as Jessica joined the party staring at my position in Edward's arms. I don't know what it was about her presence but the fear and doubt that I had been feeling as soon as the Fork's crew walked in the door was gone. At that moment I wasn't any of the things that they had said. I was Isabella Swan, daughter to Renee and Phil Dwyer, mother of Edward Jacob soon- to- be-Cullen, girlfriend of Edward Cullen. I was so much more than they could ever hope to be.
"Edward, why do you have your arms around the ugly duckling?" she asked, glaring at me. This caused giggles and laughter from all of them, while the parents behind us all gasped at her audacity. I glared back at her and wrapped myself further around Edward, challenging her to say more.
"That's enough, Jessica!" Edward yelled. "You don't get to come into my parents' home and attack the woman I love!"
"Eddie," Jessica said, sounding horrified that he had just yelled at her.
"For the last time my name is Edward!" Edward said glaring at her before turning to look at the rest. "Look! I don't understand why any of you are even here, especially you Jessica."
"I thought we could have a little fun..." Jessica said batting her eyelashes at him like he wasn't standing there with his arm around me.
"I wasn't interested in you in Forks, and I am certainly not interested in you now. And as for the rest of you guys, I haven't even tried to contact any of you since I left Forks, but you thought it was okay to just show up? It's been over six months!"
"We thought you were busy," Rosalie said with a shrug.
"Oh I've been busier than ever, and happier too," Edward said, squeezing me a little tighter. "I never contacted you because I didn't want to. I have no interest in your toxic friendship!"
"What do you mean toxic friendship?" Alice asked, looking stunned.
"You lied to me Alice," Edward said to her.
"I wouldn't!" Alice responded.
"So you saw Bella getting picked up at the airport?" he challenged.
"I... She was unimportant," Alice said, as though that made it right. "I mean, heck, her own father didn't want her."
"I did," Edward said. "She was important to me. She is important to me."
"The rest of you were in on it too," Edward said, looking at the group. "There was a reason why I started turning down your requests to hang out. Not only were you always trying to foist Jessica off on me when I clearly wasn't interested but you were constantly trying to belittle the person I loved when she wasn't even there."
"And you are blaming us for her leaving?" Rosalie asked.
"Hell yes!" Edward said.
"How?" Rosalie challenged.
"The diner," I responded speaking up for the first time.
"That was too easy," Alice said. "You were so pathetic sitting there all alone looking worse than normal."
"So you used some of the things I told you about falling in love with her and added suppositions to fuel the lies her father told," Edward said, almost trembling because he was so mad. "You were supposed to be my friends. You were supposed to support my choices and not kill them."
"Your choice was fucked up, Man," Emmett said. "Come on, you were Edward Freaking Cullen. You could have had any girl ever and yet you wanted her."
"Yes! And that wasn't your call to make! I did have my choice and I chose the best," Edward said, pulling me in front of him and wrapping both arms around me. "Bella is kind and gentle. She is smart as hell and funny. She has the biggest heart and caring nature. She is the most beautiful person I have ever known both inside and out."
"You're telling me that you think SHE is more beautiful than me?" Rosalie scoffed.
"Definitely! She is more beautiful just waking up in the morning than you could ever hope to be," Edward growled.
"You're certifiable!" Rosalie said looking at Edward before turning her glare on me. "I don't know what you've done to poison him against us, but we won't give up easily."
"I haven't done a thing," I told her honestly. "You did the poisoning yourself."
"I thought we got rid of you at the diner," Alice said.
"You almost did," I said, feeling emboldened by Edward's words. "I almost fell into the trap of believing your vile and vicious words that you spouted that day, and every other day of my life in Forks. It would have been easy to give up and believe you. But I fought through. I found friends that liked me for who I was. I have a family that loves me and a boyfriend that I would go to the ends of the earth for, and I know he would do the same for me."
"How very touching," Alice said, putting her hand to her heart. "However you are forgetting that your family didn't want you. He left you all alone at the airport because he didn't want you."
"We did," Phil said, coming forward from his place next to Carlisle. "My wife and I wanted her but made the mistake believing that she was happy in Forks."
"And who are you?" Rosalie said, looking at him with a sneer.
"I'm her step-father," Phil said. "And one of the best days of my life was when she stepped off the plane last year and came home."
I looked up at Phil and smiled. Emmett just stared at Phil, clearly trying to place him.
"You guys need to leave," Edward said. "Your lies and deceit caused me a year without someone I love and I won't even take that chance again."
"Look," Rosalie said, trying to calm the situation down. "I'm sorry for whatever we did. Can someone please just tell us where to put our stuff so that we can try to freshen up and be ready to join you for dinner. We'll be on our best behavior."
"My son was right," Esme spoke up. "It's time for you five to leave."
"Where are we supposed to go?" Alice asked, sticking out her bottom lip to look cute or pathetic, I wasn't sure which.
There's a hotel down the street that may have some openings," Esme said, giving them the MOM look. "And I think there is a turkey dinner special on at Denny's."
"What do you mean?" Alice asked, shocked.
"I mean that it's time for you all to leave," Esme said.
"You can't mean that," Emmett said, looking away from Phil finally to look at Esme, completely shocked.
"I can and I do," Esme responded. "I am sharing this holiday with my family and friends and none of you are welcome."
"But you said we were welcome any time?" Alice said, lip gone and look of complete panic in it's place.
"I said that friends of Edward's were always welcome in my home. Unfortunately you have all shown that you are no friends at all, and as such I am asking you all to leave."
"Mrs. C?" Emmett said looking completely heartbroken.
"I wonder how all of your parents will react when I inform them of your behavior here today, and of your actions that led to Isabella's departure from Forks? I can only imagine what Reverend and Mrs. Brandon will feel when they hear all the horrible things their sweet little Alice has done!" Esme crooned, looking at Alice.
"Or Daniel and Kiki?" Carlisle added, staring at ROsalie who blanched instantly.
"Well I know that Marsha and Kevin McCarty and Dave and Jan Whitlock will be absolutely heartbroken that their sons were so terribly rude to me and my guests in my home," Esme said.
"We weren't rude to them," Alice said, in horror. "We didn't even know that they'd be here."
"Au contraire," Carlisle said. "I am certain that Renee and Phil Dwyer, are very offended that you all walked into my home and attacked their daughter."
"But ..." Rosalie said, before being cut off by Emmett.
"Phil Dwyer, like you mean six time gold glove winner Phil Dwyer?"
"Actually it was seven, and I was World Series MVP twice," Phil said, staring at Emmett. "And I believe that you were all asked to leave!"
Carlisle and Phil ushered the five out the door and onto the porch while we watched from the foyer. Edward started mumbling apologies in my ear for the way they treated me but I turned in his arms and pressed my lips to his to shut him up. "I'm okay," I whispered against his lips and smiled at him before relaxing into his arms and wrapping my own around him. Renee and Esme wrapped their arms around us from either side and we all stood their until the dad came back inside.
"How are you?" Phil asked, looking at me with concern.
"I'm good," I said truthfully."We're good."
The rest of the afternoon was quiet. Phil and Carlisle returned to the den to watch their game, thankful for the gift of Tivo. Esme and Renee returned to the kitchen, where Phil and I became thankful that she actually learned a few things from Esme and her cooking began to improve. Edward and I were thankful for quiet time to study together as we always did. When Jake woke up, from his nap, thankfully missing all the drama, he had his milk and then joined us as we sat together and enjoyed our meal, never once mentioning the earlier drama.
In fact I doubt we would have spoken of it again, other than Esme who made five phone calls to Forks, if we hadn't had one last visitor that day. We were all sitting in the den watching Jake as he tried to crawl. He was so determined, a trait I insisted he got from Edward, when the doorbell rang. Esme furrowed her brow and stood to answer it. Carlisle followed right behind as Edward pulled me tightly into his arms.
"Jasper," Esme said as she answered the door.
"Mrs. C," he said, sounding nervous as hell. "I'm not here to try to stop you from calling my folks. In fact I already called them and told them almost everything. I just wanted to tell you that we changed our tickets to tonight and we fly out on the red eye. I'm just here to apologize for my actions. I never meant to hurt anyone, not Bella and especially not Edward. I made some stupid choices and I will gladly take whatever consequences that come my way."
"Thank you Jasper," Esme said.
"I really miss Edward," he said. "His friendship has always meant a lot to me. I... I just wanted him to know that."
"I'll let him know," she said.
"Thank you Ma'am," he said, turning and leaving the porch.
Esme kept in touch with the other parents and often gave us updates on them. Usually just tidbits here and there.
Jasper and Alice broke up shortly before his parents forced him to move back to Texas with them.
It took Edward a long time to contact Jasper, and an even longer time to actually see him but we eventually sorted out a relationship with him. We were there when he married his longtime girlfriend Maria, shortly after Jake turned five. He was their ring bearer, though he was certain he was the Ring Bear and insisted on growling at the bridesmaids who tried to pinch his cheeks.
Rosalie and Emmett broke up shortly after that.
Rosalie dropped out of college and was a cashier at the Thriftway market. Apparently her mother was unhappy because she had gained at least fifty pounds, but you know how mom's can exaggerate things some times.
Emmett's scholarship fell through when he couldn't maintain his GPA. He moved to the community college in Port Angeles and changed his major to education, deciding to become a teacher.
Alice's parents decided that she needed to be transferred to a more religious place and moved her to a private Christian college. Unfortunately with Alice's flair for the dramatic she managed to hook up with a fanatical Christian cult leader who was over 20 years older than her. She married him and moved to somewhere in Colorado to live on a compound. When the compound was raided four years later, and Alice's husband was arrested. She returned home with two small sons and another on the way.
As for Edward and I, we worked hard to get through the college part of our education in two years. We celebrated with a family trip to Jamaica with Jake and both sets of our parents. It was wonderful. On the third day we dressed our two year old son in a special t-shirt and waited for his grandparents to notice what it said.
"What shirt is that?" Renee asked when we all walked into the room, Jake holding each of our hands.
"What does it say Renee?" Esme asked, looking over.
"Come see Grandma," Renee said to Jake. He ran over to her and held his arms up. Renee squealed with delight as she read the words.
"What is it?" Esme asked as she approached with Carlisle and Phil.
MY MOMMY AND DADDY ARE GETTING MARRIED TODAY.
Esme squealed in delight and both Carlisle and Phil smiled happily, congratulating us. That night at sunset in front of our parents and our son, I became Isabella Cullen.
Medical school was hard. But with supportive parents and advisers we made it work. When it came time to find a placement for residency, Edward and I pretty much had our choice. We called a family meeting to find out where our families thought we should go, since they planned to move along with us to help with Jake.
It was actually an easy choice once Phil informed us that he had been offered a job as hitting coach for the Boston Red Socks.
"So Boston it is," Esme clapped happily. We had already known we wanted to stay on the east coast and having a large city with multiple hospitals was a necessity with three doctors in the family. Esme and Renee together, were a force to be reckoned with when it came to buying houses. They had chosen five houses for Edward and I to chose from. The first one had us from the moment we walked in the door.
"It feels like a home," Jake said as we walked through the large home, giving it his seal of approval.
Esme and Renee also quickly gave it their thumbs up before taking Jake and the realtor to check out the back yard, leaving Edward and I alone.
"Is this our new house, Babe?" I asked Edward, smiling at the thought.
"I think it is," he said. "But it will be a lot of work..."
"What do you mean?" I asked him.
"There's four more bedrooms to fill," he laughed.
I laughed with him. We both knew that we wanted more kids once we were through with residency, and this was more than perfect. It turns out that this was the top of Esme and Renee's lists as they had both found houses the loved on the same street. Esme and Carlisle were two doors down, and Renee and Phil were next door to them.
We actually didn't end up waiting until after residency to start expanding our family. We decided to start trying with nine months left, knowing that it would take a while to happen. It didn't. And for my final day of residency I was 34 weeks pregnant with our twins.
"Paging Dr. Cullen to the ER," the intercom crackled. "Dr Cullen to the ER."
"Seriously," I groaned as I pulled my body out of the chair I had just occupied moments earlier while trying to scarf down my lunch.
"Good grief!" Carlisle groaned. "You'd think that after two years they would remember to call a first name with their pages, wouldn't you!"
"Let me call and see exactly who they want," my husband of almost four years stated as he picked up the phone on the wall to call the ER.
"Fine by me," I said, rubbing my swollen belly.
"You're up Dad," Edward said a moment later as he hung up the phone. Carlisle grumbled as he headed out of the room, causing Edward and I to laugh. Once Carlisle had gone Edward moved behind me, rubbing his hands on my distended abdomen. "Are you ready?" Edward asked.
"As I'll ever be," I replied.
Today was our final shift as residents. Edward was staying on for two more weeks to help cover some vacation time before we moved on to our new venture, CCC clinic. I was planning to take six months off with Jake and the twins before joining him there.
CCC clinic; Cullen, Cullen, and Cullen. It was our way of getting some normalcy in life after the grueling residency period. We would have regular hours and the ability to come and go as we pleased. It was also under ten minutes from home.
As for Charlie; Esme and Carlisle had returned to Forks a few weeks after our wedding to close their house down permanently to prepare it for sale. They just happened to be in town for Charlie's wedding to Tanya Denali. Carlisle and Esme only found this out when they decided to eat out at the lodge only to find the wedding party there. Tanya hurriedly invited them to join the festivities, remembering their prominent place in the Forks community. Esme said she only joined to check out the complete train wreck. When Charlie inquired about Edward, Esme shared her pride at Edward's accomplishments, happily including his wife and son. Carlisle returned the favor, asking Charlie about me. He spun some wild tale about me traipsing across Africa saving the lions before changing the subject. Before leaving that night, with Edward's and my permission, Carlisle showed Charlie a few pictures of Edward and his 'bride'.
"Hey Charlie," Carlisle said, pulling the pictures from Esme's purse. "Let me show you some pictures."
"Sure," Charlie said, coming over to Carlisle.
"These are from Edward's wedding a few weeks ago," he said as he handed over the small brag album that Esme carried.
Charlie was silent as he stared at the pictures, looking at images of that he never expected.
"Our grandson is amazing," Esme added. "He absolutely loves spending time with all of his grandparents, but he is a Momma's boy at heart."
"She is an amazing mom," Carlisle filled in. "She has managed to maintain the highest GPA in her year, even beating out her husband while devoting countless hours to her son."
"She's an amazing person," Esme filled in. "We are so thrilled that she is a part of our family now."
I never heard another word either from or about him until we had been in Boston for a month. I was home alone recovering after a 36 hour shift. I had just fallen asleep when the doorbell rang. I ignored it but the person continued to ring. Finally I got up and went to the door. My heart plummeted to my feet when there was a policeman at the door with two men in dark suits.
"Are you Isabella Swan Cullen?" they asked.
"Yes," I replied, uncertainly.
"May we come in?" they asked.
"I guess," I replied. "Can you please give me a few moments to put some proper clothes on please. I just came off a 36 hour shift."
"Yes, Ma'am," the officer replied. "We'll just sit here."
I hurried up the stairs and moved to grab some proper clothes. I also called Carlisle and Esme and asked them to come over quickly.
I arrived downstairs at the same time that they came in the front door. After introductions were made the men informed me that my father had been killed in the line of duty. Not his duty as Chief of Police of Forks, but as informant to the FBI, using his role of son-in-law of the Denali crime family. They delivered a check for his life insurance and a letter. In the letter, Charlie informed me that he had gotten involved with Tanya that summer, not knowing who she was. When he found out, he was already in deep enough that he would be in danger getting out. I would be in danger. He did what he could to distance himself from me so that I would be safe then he tried to take down the family from the inside.
Learning that my father had loved me was a new heartbreak, but it also allowed me to finally close that chapter of my life. The money sat in an account so that my children would never worry about money for their college education.
Everyone thought, because of my size, that I would be lucky to make 36 weeks with the twins. Once again they underestimated me and Samuel Carlisle and Jared Philip were born completely healthy only one week before their due date. I worked part time after that at CCC. It was wonderful. Leah Renesme completed our family a little over two years later. Life with four kids, two careers and an amazing extended family was crazy. It was also perfect.
And it's done! I hope you all enjoyed. Thank you to all who read and reviewed. Thanks to those who recommended this story as well.