Chapter 16: Does He or Doesn't He?

Edward was waiting for me when I got back to the apartment. He was sitting on the futon reading some papers. As I walked in the door, he jumped up and came over to me to welcome me. I knew that if he touched me, I'd dissolve into a quivering mess, so I ducked out of his way.

"Bella?" he said in a surprised tone.

I sat my bag down on the table and turned to face him, trying to keep at arm's length. I didn't know what to say to him except, "You have to go."

"I have to go?" he sounded even more baffled. "Go where?"

"Back to England. Away." Damn, my voice was breaking.

"I know but it will be just for a bit. I was filling out the residency papers just now."

"That's not necessary. You don't have to come back."

Edward gaped at me, "What are you saying, Bella?"

"You don't need to stay with me, Edward. You have a life back in England without me. I will be fine."

"But Bella, I want to stay with you."

"You don't have to say that, Edward."

"I don't have to say that? What are you talking about?"

"I don't want you staying with me out of a sense of duty. We had a glorious half a year. I will always treasure the memory of it – but it's over now and you can go back to your home knowing that you did well by me and yourself."

Edward's eyes darkened. "Duty? You think I want to stay with you out of a sense of duty? Bella, how could you even think that?"

I shrugged. I couldn't admit that I had eavesdropped this morning.

My shrug seemed to set Edward off. "I can't believe… I just can't believe that … after everything … after last night, after this morning, even… you…" he stuttered to a stop. The color was high in his cheeks and his eyes were dark with anger. "You are correct. I need to go," he spat out.

And with that he was out of the door, slamming it behind himself.

And with that I collapsed on the floor, a crying mess. I lay there, sobbing, curled in a ball for what seemed like hours. Eventually, I decided I needed to get up off the floor and try to pull myself together. The first thing that met my eyes when I stood was the picture of Edward and me on the day of our marriage as I signed the papers. The soft and tender look in his eyes as he gazed at me looked real. Could he be that good of an actor? Was the emotion I was seeing love? Or was it gratitude? I reached over and turned the picture on its face. I couldn't look at it again. I dragged my sorry butt into bed and cried myself to sleep.

Edward never returned that night.

*** Taa daa! What you have all been waiting for: Edward's point of view.

My heart felt as though someone had run it through a mandolin. It was sliced into bloody pieces and I could hardly stand the agony. I left our home is such a bloody rage. I couldn't believe that Bella was once again questioning my love for her. I just couldn't fathom how after all I done, all I had said that she could even begin to question my love for her. I'd shown her, I'd told her, I'd written it to her and evidently she still doubted me. I was so tired of facing her mistrust. It cropped up again and again, no matter what I did.

A thought occurred to me. Maybe my love wasn't actually what Bella doubted but her own? I remembered what she had said to me the night before, "I will love you forever." Maybe she was the one hiding behind falsehoods. Maybe she didn't love me?

I shoved my hands in my pockets as I pounded down the street, not knowing where I was going, not caring. All I could think about was my wife, my Bella, mia. I quickly scrubbed the lone tear that slid down my face. Bloody hell, Edward. You're crying. How old are you? I sighed. Oh, my god, I did love her, with every inch of my being.

Oh, my God. I knew where I needed to go. Soon, the spires of the church appeared in front of me and I walked into the quiet of the sanctuary, suddenly soothed. I genuflected towards the tabernacle and slid into a pew, gently setting the kneeler down. I knelt there, with my head buried in my hands a silent prayer winging towards heaven. Help me, God.

Falling in love with Bella was natural for me. From our first moment, I felt comfortable with her, as if after a life time of searching, I had finally found my home. She was beautiful, of course, though she couldn't see it for herself. She stood there, her lovely shape accented by the waitress uniform she was wearing, her hand resting so daintily on the counter, brown eyes glowing, listening to my every word as I blathered on about my homeland. I usually wasn't such a homesick fool but sipping on that marvelous tea brought me home for a minute and I was glad to have the company of this beautiful girl with me.

I realized when I finally figured out she was a student what an idiot I'd been. Of course her life wasn't just the diner. It was now my turn to ask the questions and learn about Bella, or Bella, mia, as I called her in my mind. She was my Bella. She just didn't know it, yet.

I'd always been a little awkward around women and was trying my darnedest to let her know that I was interested in her in more ways than just a friend. In fact, I was just working my courage up to ask her out on a traditional date when that slapper, Tanya, interrupted to remind me about a study date we had later on that day. When she left, and I turned to Bella, I could see the walls had slammed down in her eyes. She wouldn't say yes to me. I was so disappointed that I could only turn my tail and run. There was a distance in her glance after that day and I worried that she had taken a disgust of me.

I worried and fretted over that for days until a bigger worry took its place. I received word from the INS that my visa was expiring at the end of the year. It seemed that they had given me the wrong visa originally. It didn't matter that I would still have six months to go before I'd completed my degree. I had to leave the US. That would be a shame but the bigger shame would be I wouldn't have time to court Bella.

I knocked on every door I could in two days looking for a loophole or a way out. There was only one: I could marry a US citizen and remain in the US as her spouse. Of course, my stupid heart immediately suggested that Bella would be the ideal wife for me. And, of course, my brain chastised me for going there. Bella hardly looked at me and here I was fantasizing about marrying her? Dreaming about being her husband? Imagining how it would feel to touch her as a husband would his wife; how it would feel to kiss her, to hold her, to … oh, my god. I just had to stop thinking about her in this way.

So, when I showed up at the diner and explained to her my dilemma, and she asked me to marry her, I know my jaw dropped to my chest. Was I dreaming? Was this real? It really didn't take me long to agree with her. I left that diner that night walking on air. Bella was going to be my wife! Even just a pretend wife, but still, this would give me the opportunity to make it real eventually, wouldn't it?

I speedily got a marriage license and secured the services of a Justice of the Peace. And there my Bella was, dressed in a beautiful blue dress and a jumper, her hair falling down her back in beautiful waves. I know there were stars in my eyes for a fact because the Justice's wife caught them in a picture she took. December 18th was the happiest day of my life.

But later I realized how stupid I was when I was told bluntly at the INS office that if I got married for fraudulent reasons, I would be deported but Bella would be jailed. I couldn't believe how thoughtlessly I got poor Bella in so much trouble. The only thing I could do was to tell her. When she offered to live with me as though we were married, my heart sang. I was up all night giddy with joy. Perhaps there would be an easy way for me to convince Bella that I loved her and that our marriage was real if we were living together.

I remember not being able to resist kissing her and her kisses told me more than her words did. She was affected by me. Her responses encouraged me to kiss her more passionately. I tried to convey how much I loved her through them. I even told her this when she asked why I kissed her. I couldn't resist buying her flowers. I couldn't resist holding her hand or putting my arm around her. I couldn't help smiling like an idiot whenever she was near me.

I was so in love with her.

I was determined to give her Gran's ring. It didn't matter to me if she kept it if we went our separate ways. I'd never want to give it to another. Dad offered to box it up and send it out to me and, much to my joy, it appeared on our doorstep in plenty of time for Christmas. Everything was going swimmingly, in fact, we were close to the point when I was finally going to be able to make love to my beautiful wife.

Then my cock-blocking parents showed up. I was shocked when Esme started in on Bella. The only thing I could think of that could have inspired Mum's ire was when it was plain to her that I was completely hooked on Bella and planned to be with her for the rest of my life. I don't think Mum expected that and as Mum went, Dad always followed.

After a huge Bella-less row with my parents, I made it very clear what my stand was: Bella and I were married and I was in love with her. I planned to live my life with her and from now on, as the Book said, she was first in my life, not my parents. My mother tried to throw her financial weight around which was stupid. She saw how poorly that tactic work when she tried to block me from going to the US in the first place. I was going to be turning twenty-five on the twentieth of June and then she'd have no say in my trust fund ever again. She told me she would try to block it and get it extended to my thirtieth birthday. I just laughed. She could do what she wished. We didn't need her money. In fact, I was done. I was done with the family money and I was done with them. And so I left, and I am assuming they left town the next day.

I went back to my small slice of heaven to find my lovely bride awaiting me. That night was pure bliss. It was that night that I confessed my love in word and in body to Bella, mia. And she did the same to me. My heard skipped a beat as I knelt there in church remembering all the wonderful nights (and days, sometimes) that we shared. Bella seemed happy with me. I was ecstatic.

But occasionally, there would be times where Bella revealed that she wasn't sure about us and my love. I'd bent over backwards to demonstrate how I felt. I didn't know what else to do.

I sighed, probably louder than I thought, and a few seconds later, I felt a hand on my shoulder. "You seem troubled?"

I looked up to see a priest standing there, a look of concern in his eyes.

"I am troubled, Father."

"Sometimes it helps to talk?"

I chuckled, "It does. Are you willing to talk to me?"

"Sure, why don't you come back to the kitchen for a bit? Kitchens are more conducive than sanctuaries for conversations."

I followed the priest through the sanctuary to a door, which he entered, then down a hallway to another door, and suddenly I was in the rectory. That was surprising. I wasn't expecting him to take me there.

"I am Father Tim."

"I am Edward Cullen."

He indicated I should sit down at the kitchen table and then went to pour us both a cup of coffee. "You seemed to be in deep contemplation in the sanctuary. I hated to disturb you but we were getting ready to lock the doors and I wasn't sure you were at a point where you could stop."

"No, I had come to no conclusions."

"Perhaps a willing ear to listen would help?"

So, I poured out the whole sad story. The further I went in my story, the bigger Father Tim smiled. Finally, I stopped and looked at his widely grinning face. "Father? You seem happy at my troubles."

"I am happy because I have a brilliant solution for you."

"What's that?"

"Ask her to marry you again, but this time in a binding sacrament. Marry her in the church."

Chapter 17: Two Hearts Beating as One

Still Edward's POV

Father Tim was a genius. Of course, I had always wanted to marry Bella in a church. I never broached it with her because, for one, she wasn't Catholic and I wasn't sure she would agree to all the hoops one had to jump through to get married in the Catholic Church. The other reason I didn't ask her had more to do with my own insecurities, than anything else. Deep down, I was afraid she'd refuse.

"What if she says no, Father?"

"Edward, if she realizes how seriously you take your marriage, so much that you want to remarry her in the church, perhaps that alone will be enough to convince her of your devotion to her. Whether you will ever have a sacramental marriage or not will be between you, the young lady, and God."

I thanked Father Tim and took my leave. I was surprised to find it was close to eleven pm. I walked to our apartment and saw the lights were off. I didn't think it would be a good idea for me to barge in on Bella after the row we had. So, I texted her: "I love you. It was late when I returned home and I didn't wish to disturb you. I am staying at the alumni center tonight. I will see you tomorrow."

Then, after thinking about it, I texted her again, "I really do love you, Bella,mia."

I walked over to the alumni center hoping that they had a room available. I had no idea why Bella decided we needed to part ways so suddenly and for seemingly no reason at all. The only difference was that my parents were here. I was beginning to wonder if they had something to do with Bella's change of heart.

As luck would have it, as soon as I entered the lobby of the hotel, I practically walked into my father who was waiting for an elevator.

"Edward! What a surprise to see you here."

I sighed heavily, "Hello, Dad. Yes, I am sure it is unexpected."

"Is there something wrong?" I could see his concern. I just wasn't sure I wanted to share with him my troubles. I doubted he'd be sympathetic. The problem is, I was so distressed it was impossible for me to act nonchalantly and Dad could tell in a moment that all was not well with me.

So, I shrugged.

"Edward, come with me. Whatever it is, I'll help you, son."

And so, I followed him to his room where Esme sat reading a newspaper.

"Mother." I kissed her cheek.

"Edward, it's rather late for a social call, isn't it?"

I didn't say anything.

"Edward, what is the problem?" Carlisle asked.

"Bella and I had a row."

"About what?"

"She told me that I should go back to England and dissolve our marriage. She said she didn't want me staying with her out of a sense of duty."

"Are you staying with her out of a sense of duty, Edward?" Carlisle asked.

"No! I love her. She just doesn't believe me." I sat on a chair and put my head in my hands.

"Edward," my mother said, "have you thought that perhaps Bella is trying to tell you that she is the one who doesn't want to continue the marriage? That this argument was simply her way of telling you it's over?"

"I can't believe that. We've been so happy." My voice was breaking.

"You know how obtuse you can be about these sorts of things, Edward. She probably has been dropping you hints for a long while but you were too dense to pick up on them. In fact, I am sure she is done with you."

I looked at her disbelievingly, "You are sure?"

"Why do you think I have this?" Esme rose and went to a case sitting on the desk and pulled out a small ring; a platinum ring with diamonds and filigree; my gran's ring; Bella's wedding ring.

"Where did you get that?" I asked incredulously.

"Where do you think? Evidently, everyone felt the ring should be returned to the family once this farce was over, so here it is."

I stared at the small representation of every dream that I had. The room was shimmering around me and all sense of hope shattered. My throat tightened and I could barely breathe. Bella gave my ring back to my mother? This didn't make any sense.

"When did she give you the ring, Mother?" I held out my hand to take it from her.

"I got it this morning," she said as she dropped it into my palm.

I stared at the beautiful, wonderful ring and the side of my brain that wasn't swamped with heartbreak started to analyze and think. Why would Bella give my mother this ring? As far as I knew, Bella didn't care at all for her and she'd be the last person in the world she'd seek out on a matter like this.

And this morning is when it happened? When did mother have the time for it? There was the art show. We were late getting back from that and my mother and I had gone to our apartment so that I could pick up my student ID that I'd accidently left behind. We left there and immediately went to lunch.

"You saw Bella this morning, Mother? I was with you the entire time."

My mother started pacing the room – a sure sign that she was up to something. "Well, she certainly needs to be more careful with her things, especially if they don't belong to her!"

"Mother, Bella didn't give you the ring, did she? Did you find it somewhere?"

"She left it out on the sink in your lavatory. It could have at any time been knocked into the bin or down the drain. If that doesn't proclaim she has no interest in what it stands for, I don't know what would. She's careless and low class. She had her underpants soaking in the sink! Disgusting!"

"You mean, mother, Bella didn't give you her ring, you took it! How could you do such a thing? She's probably frantic with worry over its whereabouts." My mother was out of her tree.

I had been married long enough to Bella to know her habits and she always took the ring off when she was washing, bathing or cooking. She said the filigree caught soap and other things. Since mother said she found her underwear soaking in the sink that could only mean she was in the middle of washing them. I knew my wife well enough to know she'd never leave her pants in the sink. She was courteous to a fault when it came to that sort of thing. The only reason that I could think of was that we caught her at home and she hid from us for some reason – probably in the closet. There was nowhere else to hide in that small place.

That spurred another thought. What had mother and I been speaking of while we were there? Oh, I remember. We were having our semi-annual argument about me joining her architectural firm. I've explained to mother every way I knew that I was honor bound and duty called to keep my commitment to the firm that had sent me to the US to study. She should know I always keep my commitments. After all, honor and duty were the calling cards of her class.

Honor and Duty.

What was it that Bella said to me this afternoon? "I don't want you staying with me out of a sense of duty."

Oh, damnation. She overheard this discussion and thought I was talking about her! I was tempted to go over to her right now and kiss her silly, Bella,mia. This just pointed out how right Father Tim had been. Until I found a way to prove my devotion to Bella, she was always going to worry that I didn't mean what I said when I told her that I loved her.

I hadn't been paying attention to my parents while I was having this brainwave but then I heard my name. It seemed that my father was taking the piss out of my mother.

"Esme, do you realize if Bella was so moved, she could have you arrested for theft?"

"Oh pish. She'd never do that, would she Edward?"

."I don't know, Mother. I've seen her take down a girl who had at least thirty pounds on her as easy as you'd peel a banana. She was raised by a police officer and has a keen sense of justice. I wouldn't be surprised if she did bring you up on charges, honestly. And I must say, you certainly deserve it."

"I was just taking back what was rightfully mine!"

"No, mother, that ring was left to Dad. You made it very clear that you didn't want it as it wasn't your style." The rings my mother wore were encrusted with diamonds. The paltry few on Bella's ring would never have suited her. "Dad gave it to me, as it was always understood I would give it to my wife. You understood that, as well, and never had a problem with it. Bella is my wife, so that is now her ring and has been for six months. When you saw it in our lavatory, you stole it just as surely as any thief. There's no disputing that."

"She can't have me arrested! You don't arrest your mother-in-law! It's not done!" Mother was getting worried now.

"I'll try to talk her into not pressing charges mother, if you will agree to a few conditions. First, you'll treat Bella with the respect and courtesy she deserves as my wife and hopefully the future mother of your grandchildren. You'd best try to make amends with her, else I can guarantee you will see very little of us. Is that what you want, to see little of me?"

"You're my son, Edward. You can't let her come between us!" Tears were welling in Esme's eyes.

"No, mother, I can't let you come between Bella and me. She comes first with me now, just as Rosalie comes first with Emmett. Will you agree to accept Bella as my wife from now on?"

She grudgingly said, "Yes."

"And secondly, you will stop trying to control me through the family money. It's never worked before and it's disrespectful of us both. In fact, in order to prove you will stop, you will turn the trust over to me tomorrow. It's only a few weeks before you will be made you do it, anyway."

I have to admit, it was pleasurable to witness my mother's extreme chagrin, and embarrassment. After much hemming and hawing, she agreed to all that I'd requested. She really didn't want to go to jail, that was obvious. "Please excuse me now. I am going back home. I need to return something to my wife."


My sleep was fitful. I'd have terrible dreams interspersed with a worse reality when I awoke. It was one am in the morning and Edward was still gone and I was absolutely miserable. Feeling dehydrated, I got up to get a glass of water from the kitchen. I was standing at the sink feeling incredibly sorry for myself and fidgeting as was my wont with my ring. Except that I had no ring on. I looked at my left hand and it was bare. Shit! What did I do with my wedding ring?

I looked at the kitchen sink to see if I had left it there. No. Then I ran into the bathroom to look for it there. Nothing.

I tried to remember the last time I had it. I know I was wearing it the other night because Esme had commented on it at dinner. I remember now. I took it off to wash my underwear just before I was surprised by Edward and Esme coming into the apartment.

I tore up the bathroom, dumped out the trash, looked underneath the tub, scoured the floor, peered down the sink drain. I couldn't find it anywhere. I was just trying to figure out where I could get a pipe wrench at 1:30 in the morning when I noticed my phone was blinking. I had two text messages from Edward that had come in sometime during my restless night. In both he told me he loved me.

That just about broke me in two.

I didn't deserve Edward. He had told me and shown me throughout our whole marriage that he loved me and no matter what, I always doubted him. I should have told him I overheard the conversation with his mother instead of just going off half cocked as I did. He probably had a good explanation for what he said. And now I lost his precious ring. How much lower could I go?

I sat on the overstuffed chair with a box of Kleenex and sobbed. What a jerk I was. What an ass. Would Edward still want to talk to me after all that I said, after all that I did? I hugged my waist as I doubled over in emotional pain. Edward was everything to me and look at what I've done to him! I've just ruined it. Ruined it!

"Oh, help me, God," I prayed, even though I never prayed.

I thought about how much I loved Edward and wanted him and how I hardly ever showed him. I had been so cruel. What was wrong with me? I was a self-centered, terrible wife. I deserved to be in agony.

A noise suddenly caught my attention, a scraping at the door – was it a key in the lock? I jumped up and rushed to it, a flurry of Kleenex in my wake and pulled it open. There stood my Edward with a huge bouquet of red roses in his arms and a tentative smile on his face.

"Edward," I sniffled.

He came in and handed me the flowers. There must be two dozen roses there, "For you, Bella, mia."

"Where on earth did you find all these flowers at this time of the morning?"

"Haven't you ever seen those roses they sell by the stem in convenience stores? I must have wiped out five store's supplies tonight in gathering these for you."

I had to laugh. I put the flowers down and threw myself into Edward's surprised arms. "Oh Edward, I am so sorry for what I said. I didn't mean it. Please don't leave me."

"I am not leaving you." He kissed my head.

"You may want to when you find out I lost your gran's ring." I wailed the last few words.

"No you didn't. It was purloined." He led me over to the futon and had me sit.

"Purloined? Someone took it?"

"Unfortunately, yes. But I have it back."

"Oh, thank God. Who took it?"

"My mother found it on the sink in our lavatory. She should have never, ever have taken the ring. That's truly beyond the pale but, Bella, I can't be mad at her. Because she took the ring, I was able to suss something else out that I truly needed to get to the bottom of for my own happiness."

Edward sat next to me holding my hands tightly, tracing circles with his thumbs. "Bella, were you at home today when my mother and I were here?"

I blushed deeply, "Uhm, well. Yes."

"Why did you hide from us?"

"I was naked."

"Naked?" A delighted grin appeared as if he were imagining me bare assed and rosy cheeked.

"Yes. I needed some supplies out of the closet and had already had taken off my clothes for the shower. I heard your voices at the door and didn't have time to do anything else but hide inside."

"And you heard part of a conversation I was having with my mother?"

I responded in a very quiet voice, "Yes."

"Bella, you overheard a discussion I have frequently with my mother. She wants me to join her firm but I insist upon fulfilling my agreement to my employer who paid to send me over here for the structural engineering program at the University. My mother doesn't seem to think I should be honor and duty bound but I do."

"Oh. So you don't feel obligated to stay with me?"

"Only in the most joyous manner possible. We both have obligations and duties to each other that I, for one, am happy to fulfill. I feel delighted and elated to stay with you – forever."

He knelt on the floor in front of me.

"Bella, I have something to ask you."

I had tears in my eyes, "Anything, Edward."

"You'd better wait until I ask. You may not agree."

He paused to make sure I wasn't going to interrupt. He pulled out his gran's ring and slid it back on my ring finger.

"Bella, will you marry me?"

I blinked. "Aren't we already married?"

"Yes, in the eyes of the state. But now I want to marry you in the church binding us together forever."

"You want a church wedding?"

"You must believe how important you and our relationship are to me. But it is rather a lot for me to ask, though, and I would understand and be content if you wanted to keep things as they are. Just don't send me away from you. I would die, I think."

"Never. I'd never send you away, Edward. I love you, too much. It just about killed me yesterday thinking you were only with me out of a sense of duty. When I sent you off, I was trying to give you what I thought you wanted."

"Next time, just ask me, yeah?" He smiled that gorgeous smile. "Oh, and here is something else." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a folded paper and handed it to me.

"What's this?"

"Look at it."

It was an itinerary for a flight to England, leaving in a week.

"I have to go back to England this summer but you are coming with me. Don't I owe you a honeymoon?"


"Yes. I want to show you my homeland instead of telling you about it."

"How can we afford it?"

"Well, Esme was made to feel a little contrite about the stunt she pulled today, so she agreed to give me control of my funds starting now – I would have gotten it anyway on my next birthday in a few weeks – but that just gave me the ability to indulge my bride. We are going to see Shakespeare performed in the Globe theatre – reproduction that it is. We are going to see the Queen and the Tower, and the Eye, and the inside of my London bedroom - a lot of the last."

"Wait a minute. You now have access to your inheritance?"

"Yes. My mother's family had money and left me an inheritance that I couldn't touch without dear ol' Mater's approval. As you know, she tried to use it to control me and mostly I told her what she could do with the money but upon my twenty-fifth birthday, control reverts to me. I guess we won't have to worry about money any longer."

"I have some money, too, Edward. It's not a fortune but it's what was left after I sold off my parent's belongings. I tried not to touch it. I guess we'll have to sit down and figure out how to live a life that didn't include living off of rice and beans by the end of the month," I laughed.

"We still need to occupy ourselves, though, Bella,mia. I think it is better to work for something and so we'll come back here in time for you to enroll in your senior fall term and this time next year you'll graduate with me at your side. By autumn, it will be a simple matter of me re-entering the US as your spouse. I'll be slaving away on my lap top for my firm the whole while to keep us in PG Tips, and I think it will be just as close to heaven as I'll get this side of the veil."

"It sounds like heaven to me, too, Edward."

The End

Chapter 18: Epilogue 18 Months Later

I was in a rush to get back to our flat. Bella promised something special and I had been anticipating it all day long. It was December 18th and we were celebrating our second anniversary. These past two years have been amazing.

After I graduated, we spent the summer in England traveling where we wished. Seeing my homeland through Bella's eyes was exciting. We spent a lot time visiting literary sites, like Jane Austen's home in Chawton, her grave in Winchester. The honey colored buildings in Bath entranced her as we followed the footsteps of Dickens and had a sandwich at Sally Lunn's house. We visited Stratford-Upon-Avon and did the touristy things concerning the Bard. I have a lovely picture of Bella that sits on my desk at work that was taken in the garden outside of Shakespeare's birth place. She had a look of utter joy on her face as she absorbed her surroundings.

After a delightful and love filled summer, we returned the US so that Bella could finish her degree. I had no troubles with immigration this time. I just applied for residency as Bella's spouse and everything went smoothly. After all the trouble we had last year, it was almost a letdown.

Father Tim was an inspiring and sound counselor, in fact through his tutelage, Bella decided to convert. Mother and father did come to our wedding that we held in the church we had been attending and a certain peace was made. It was a quiet affair but perfect for us. Alice was indeed Bella's maid of honor and Father Tim celebrated our marriage. We closed the diner and had the reception there. As I said, it was perfect for us.

While Bella was finishing her degree, I worked remotely for my employer but was required to travel a bit more than I expected. Unfortunately, Bella and I were separated for our first anniversary, something we couldn't avoid, although I tried. So actually, this was the first December 18th we've spent together since we got married.

After Bella graduated, we moved to England, to Bella's utter delight. I honestly didn't care where we lived as long as we were together. I now went to my office one tube stop away from our flat, instead just down the hall – during Bella's senior year we had moved out of her studio apartment and into a two bedroom apartment in the same apartment house. Since I was working from home, we needed the extra room but I will always remember the little apartment where our love began.

Bella enrolled in a London University to work on a post-graduate degree in British Literature. She was in heaven. She constantly said there was no better place to study her obsession. Our flat was near the British Museum and not too far from her university. We could walk most every place we needed and of course the public transportation system made everything easy to get around. We spent a lot of time exploring the sights of central London.

My parents were thrilled to have me back in England. Mother was still pressuring me to work in her firm but I was happy working with my old employer. I decided that if I went to work with mother, I needed to bring something I could contribute, such as clients or experience, so that it wouldn't appear that I was getting preferential treatment and I would be taken seriously. Plus, keeping a distance from Mother suited me right now. She had a tendency to be controlling and I had a tendency to be stubborn and, now with Bella as my wife, I was also protective, so I felt it was just healthier.

Bella and my mother maintained a coldly polite relationship. After the ring incident, there wasn't much more to discuss. Bella didn't press charges and I honestly didn't think she would. I don't think Mother and Bella would ever be friends but because of their love of me, they would be respectful of each other. It was working, in its way.

I finally turned down the street we lived on. I could see the soft lights shining from our windows as I ran up the steps and unlocked the door. When I finally entered our flat, the lights were low and I could smell a toothsome aroma coming from the dining room. Eric Clapton was playing over the iPod system. I recognized the current song as one I frequently played for Bella when we were first married on the second-hand guitar she had bought me. I remember how earnestly I was trying to tell her in song what I felt for her.

"Bella?" I called.

"In here," her sweet voice answered. She walked out of the kitchen and my mouth dropped open. She was dressed in her old waitress uniform, completely down to her white hose and shoes, hair net and apron.

I grinned in delight, "Bella…"

She smiled back, "You'll have the special tonight, Edward?"

Nodding, I took off my coat and hung it on the coat rack and followed Bella into the dining room. I handed her a dozen pink carnations. They had been surprisingly hard to find. The florists kept on telling me pink carnations weren't popular this time of year. But Bella was delighted and she giggled. "You remembered!"

"Of course. I remember everything about us."

She sat down the "special" – meat loaf, Mel's meat loaf, the same entre we shared the night we got married. "Bella… this is wonderful."

There was even champagne. We ate our recreated meal as the iPod played all the songs that I wooed Bella-mia with in those first weeks. I was very glad they worked.

When we had finished, Bella stood and started to clear our table. I laughed. "No. Not tonight. Leave it."

She looked at me in surprise a little smile on her face, questioning my reasons without saying word.

"No," I rose, took the dish from her hands, then reached for her and swept her off her feet into my arms. I began to carry her back to our bedroom as I kissed her. "Tonight, I will get to do something I've wanted to do for more than two years."

I laid her down on our bed and then pulled off my tie.

"What's that, Edward?"

"Unbutton you out of that uniform, Bella-mia. Slowly. And with feeling."