AN: A story I wrote for the Countdown to 2014, Fact or Fiction. My wonderful beta is mauigirl60. Enjoy!
Summary: On Christmas Eve, the town appears, bringing Isabella Swan comfort until it disappears in the morning light. Will love allow it to remain? BxE Rated M
The snowflakes swirled around Isabella Swan as she tromped through the snow. Her face was being kissed by the little cotton balls, but she barely acknowledged them. The bitter cold chilled her to the bone and she wrapped her coat tightly around her body. The thick wool could not warm her, because her fear was too strong.
What if he wasn't here? What if all that materialized before her was a snow-blanketed meadow, surrounded by the skeletal remains of the trees which had lost their lush greens along with the warmth of the sun? Her heart would fracture in millions of pieces.
The last time Isabella had seen him, he was promised to another. If the town reappeared and she saw him again, there was a chance that he'd have a gold band around his finger and the woman would be round with his unborn child. It would be better if she turned around and ran back to her father's house with her tail between her legs, because both options would be devastating. Instead, she continued walking on.
It was Christmas Eve. Jacob Black would be sitting with her father next to a roaring fire and plotting engagement possibilities. She'd rather freeze to death in a blanket of white.
Isabella continued on even though her feet became damp. Her memories were flooded with the first Christmas Eve she'd happened upon the town all covered in twinkling white lights.
A six-year-old child shouldn't have been stumbling in the snowy woods all alone. It was Christmas Eve and young Isabella should have been snuggled in her blankets, fast asleep, and waiting for Santa to come bringing brightly-wrapped packages.
Instead, the child was running from her parents, who were fighting loudly in a drunken brawl. The Christmas tree was in pieces on the floor. The smell of the spilt alcohol filled the house. All she wanted to do was escape.
That's when she saw the white church, its steeple high in the air, touching the stars. The houses surrounding it were adorned with festive lights, as holiday wreaths graced the doors. There were more lights on the trees that surrounded the sidewalks. It was how Isabella imagined the North Pole looked like.
"What are you doing here?" A little boy ran up to her. His red hair was a mess upon his head and there was a smattering of freckles on his nose. He was wearing a thick woolen coat around his shoulders, and Isabella looked at it enviously. She wore only a worn pink robe over her blue pajamas. Her sneakers were tattered and there was a hole in the left toe.
"Shouldn't you be sleeping and waiting for Santa?" she whispered.
He grinned cheekily. "Shouldn't you?"
Isabella's face fell. "He never comes to my house. Momma says it's because I've been too bad."
"Santa will come. I promise!" The boy looked at her with his wide green eyes and solemn expression. Like the little wren that pecks the ground looking for seeds, she was all shades of brown. He took off his coat as she shivered, and put it around her shoulders. "I'm Edward."
Timidly the girl answered, "Bella Swan."
He took her hand. "I have cocoa at my house. You can have some and warm up."
They made it to a lovely Victorian that was painted a sky blue and also decorated with lights. Inside, it reminded Isabella of a picture in a magazine. A warm fire burned in the fireplace and a large Christmas tree, covered in balls of silver and gold, stood in the middle of the room.
"Is this heaven?" the little girl said in awe.
The boy giggled, "Nah, it's just my house."
"Are your parents here? They won't want me here."
"They have work to do tonight!" His eyes twinkled. "We need hot chocolate and cookies!"
For the rest of the night, the children huddled together and gorged on sugary treats. They talked about favorite toys and cherished stories. The children were kindred spirits to the highest degree.
Early the next morning, Edward was curled up sleeping by the tree as Isabella scurried back to her house. The living room was put back together as if her parents fight had never happened. Underneath the tiny artificial tree, decorated with multi-colored tinsel, was a multitude of brightly-wrapped packages. A lovely porcelain doll with blonde pin curls sat front and center in the middle of the presents. A notecard with Isabella's name written in an elegant script sat in the doll's lap.
"Your name is Rosalie!" the girl exclaimed with stars in her eyes.
Santa Claus was real.
Isabella ran out of the house and back into the woods, her cheeks rosy as the cold kissed her face. She had to thank Edward, because he had spoken the truth to her. Christmas miracles did happen.
However, the meadow was now empty. The town had vanished. Edward was gone and Isabella wept.
Isabella wiped the fresh tears from her eyes from the memories of her early years. Edward was gone and those presents that had brought Bella such joy had ended up being sold to neighbors for cheap booze and smokes. She still had Rosalie all these years later, as it was the only gift they'd allowed her to keep. The doll was clasped in her arms at this very moment as she walked through the quiet streets. The lights and the decorations filled her heart with a joy that was absent for the rest of the year.
Even if Edward had moved on without her, at least at this moment, she felt that feeling of elation again and it was a blessing.
Isabella rubbed her gloves together and searched for signs of Edward. He was probably snuggled in his bed with the wife that his family had pushed him to be with. A part of her didn't blame him one bit. Their love affair had been created from one night's events each year, which evaporated in the morning light as if it were a dream.
Isabella noticed that the stars shimmered brighter than the Christmas bulbs that lit the town, as she looked skyward. What if she just laid herself down in the snowy streets and let the cold take her up to heaven? If she turned around and went home, Isabella would certainly become engaged to Jacob Black. His angry eyes and touches were hard enough to fend off—marriage would bring certain agony. If she stayed here, her heart would shatter exponentially and death would be a welcome alternative.
"Bella? Bella Swan?" A lilting voice called behind her.
Isabella turned to see a girl, her dark hair was cropped close to her scalp and she was dressed in a hunter green cloak and gold leggings. The nose upon her face was pert, making the girl look even more whimsical. The girl ran up and grabbed Isabella's hand and began to twirl her around. She exclaimed gleefully, "You're truly here! This is amazing and brilliant!"
"Whoa there, lady!" Isabella planted her feet on the ground, forcing the girl to stop the twirling. It was making her dizzy. "Who are you and why are you dressed like a damned elf?"
The girl laughed and put her hands on her knees, trying to calm herself. Her laugh sounded like the tinkling bells which were attached to the sleighs that the American Legion would pull around Forks during their holiday fundraiser. The man driving the sleigh was usually drunk and barely coherent.
"I'm Alice! Dear Bella, you need to come with me!" She took Bella's hand and started pulling her.
"Where are we going?"
The girl said excitedly, "We're going to embrace your future!"
"Edward, where do you see yourself in the future?" Isabella asked. They sat on a bench in front of an ornate toy shop. The window was filled with beautiful dolls, trains going around a winding track, and squishy teddy bears. Isabella's favorite was the working miniature carousel, where the lovely horses decorated in pink roses went up and down, round and round.
She thought she heard giggling coming from inside the shop.
"It's been planned since the day I was born: travel the world bringing comfort to all," he teased with a laugh. "Marry that annoying Lauren, according to Mama. I would hate that—she sounds like a dying horse when she laughs."
"That's mean!" Isabella admonished, but was secretly thrilled. At thirteen, she was filled with the first bloom of a hormonal rush. Seeing Edward this time made her feel awkward, and she couldn't help the blush that creeped up on her face whenever he looked at her.
He put his arm around her and Isabella felt as if her heart was going to burst out of her chest. It was scary, but also amazing. Edward scoffed, "It's true, though maybe more like a braying mule."
Isabella rolled her eyes and changed the subject. She only had a few more hours left and the last thing she wanted to discuss was some mysterious girl named Lauren. Jealousy had reared its ugly head for Isabella. "I wish I could stay here."
"Then do it! Stay here! My parents would adopt you! We could be family!" He beamed at her.
"I'm not a misfit toy, Edward! I have parents and even though they aren't the best, I can't just disappear!" She twisted her hands and admitted the truth. "I don't want to be just your sister."
Edward took her face and tilted her face toward his. "And I don't want to be just your brother, either."
Isabella then got her first kiss. It tasted like hot chocolate and she loved every second of it.
Later that Christmas morning, Isabella wept in her tiny bed. The rough blanket scratched her skin as she cried. Her parents and their friends were laughing loudly below at their dirty jokes.
Isabella wished that Edward's beautiful town would remain, but knew her meadow would be empty once again.
Alice dragged her to the town center and to the old fashioned theater. The marquee displayed "White Christmas".
"That's my favorite movie," Isabella whispered.
"Edward's too! He's in there with Jasper. They're waiting for us," Alice explained. She looked at Isabella's doll. "You still have Rosie! She was designed by our sister. She named the doll after herself. No surprise with that one."
"I call her Rosalie." Isabella looked at Alice in surprise.
Alice swung open the door to the theater. "That's because it was destiny, sweet Bella! Rosie and her husband, Emmett, are up north making deliveries. You'll meet them soon enough."
"I can't stay here!" Isabella disagreed. "The town will disappear! I always get left behind. Honestly, since Edward's with Laur—"
Her words were stopped by Alice's hand, as the tiny woman interjected, "It's time to believe, Bella! This is your future and has been years in the making."
The entryway was ornately dressed in ruby red and gold decorations that reminded Isabella of the grand theaters from old movies, where the women and men would be all decked out in their finery. She could envision the sparkling dresses for the women and top hats and tails for the men, displaying their wealth and importance.
Isabella went to the tree standing in the middle, decorated with crystals that bounced light throughout the room. She was drawn to it, gently stroking a piece of glass. "I remember these."
"They're vintage Irish ornaments," Alice explained. "Beautiful, aren't they?"
"They were used to decorate a gazebo last year," Isabella whispered. The memories came flooding back. They filled her with joy and sorrow.
Alice took her hand. "I know. Bella, he decorated this tree for you. Come. There are people you need to meet. Don't be afraid. It's time to smile."
They danced in a gazebo that was decorated festively with lights, garland and red berries. Crystal were hung from the ceiling rafters. They reflected light that danced along like a disco ball. Edward's hands fit perfectly on her waist and her arms were wrapped around his neck. The sounds of a string quartet filled the air from an unknown location.
He spun her around and lifted her into the air. Edward said solemnly, "Could you imagine if we could do this every night?"
"It would be a dream come true." Bella stroked his face, as her feet returned to the ground. "Instead, tomorrow, I'll be cleaning up Dad's vomit and beer cans and trying to stop Jacob from dragging me into a closet. I have this lovely dream every year and wake up to my living nightmare."
"Oh, sweetheart," Edward whispered, pulling her close. "I hate this. The idea of that monster touching you makes me sick. I hate him."
"I'm not too fond of Lauren, either." Bella started pulling away. "I should just go home. This is getting too hard."
Edward held her tighter. "My heart doesn't belong to her. We don't even speak to each other. I promise you that you're the only one for me. Please stay with me tonight."
She could never refuse him.
"Okay, Edward. It's Christmas and we haven't yet had our hot chocolate and cookies." She gave a small smile. This had to end at some point. There was no future in a once-a-year visit.
She was shocked to see his eyes darken; he ducked his head into the crook of her neck, murmuring, "I had something else in mind."
His hands wandered over the curves of her body and Isabella gasped as he gently caressed her breasts. "Edward!"
"Please, let me touch you! I love you, Bella Swan. You fill my dreams every night. I need this and I need you." He looked at her with a frenzied desperation.
"I love you too," she cried. Tears poured down her face. "Yes! I want to be with you, too."
Edward lifted her up into his arms and carried her to his house. It hadn't changed much since the first time she'd gone inside. The house still radiated a feeling of warmth and love.
Up the stairs they went, as Edward continued kissing her passionately. When they entered his room, Edward put her on his bed. The red and blue plaid comforter on the bed and pennants of baseball teams on the walls made Bella remember the boy he once was, who was now a grown man. She was desperately in love with him, but a fear plagued her.
"What if I get pregnant?" she asked, a frightened expression on her face.
She was haunted by the words her mother had yelled at her before running off with some random man she'd met at a bar. The day she left, she'd told Isabella to never get pregnant. That way, Isabella wouldn't be stuck with a waste of a child like Renee had. The girl's world had shattered once again.
"Then we'll be tied together forever! They can't tear us apart if you're having my child!" He slowly unbuttoned her shirt. "You would be a vision with our child in your belly. Please, Bella!"
"Yes," she said, as she tentatively pulled off his t-shirt.
The rest of their clothing came off slowly as they softly touched and kissed. Edward gently placed his mouth on her breasts as his fingers stroked her heated core.
"Is this okay?" he whispered. Isabella looked at Edward's naked body in awe, as she reveled in the pleasure of his touch.
"It is." She kissed his nose.
The touches became less gentle and the kisses had an edge as their fumbling became more desperate. Edward rested his forehead on hers. "I need to be inside you."
"Please." She steadied herself, as he pushed inside her.
It was painful, but there was also a pleasure which she wasn't expecting.
Edward attempted to pull out as she winced, but Isabella tightened her grip. She said quietly, "More."
He moved slowly, until it became too much. Edward cried out, "I love you! I love you!"
It was like a song.
Isabella just stared at him with eyes of pure adoration.
"Marry me!" he yelled as he came inside her.
Her only reply was, "I wish I could."
She sneaked out before the sun had risen, fresh tears in her eyes.
Isabella hadn't gotten pregnant and she hoped that Edward would forgive her one day for sneaking away into the dark.
"I shouldn't have come back here," Isabella said to Alice softly, as the girl began opening the door.
Alice shook her head with a frown. "If any one of us knew of the bond between you two earlier, it never would have gone on this long. You both deserve a chance at a happily ever after."
Inside, Edward stood looking at Isabella. He was frozen, but there was a look of love on his face. A man with blond curls and an angelic voice said, "I told you my Ali would bring her here. Go get her, buddy."
"Okay, Jazz," Edward said slowly, as he walked over to Isabella. The room was filled with people, but she only saw her love.
He pulled her into his arms. "Never leave me again, Bella! Promise!"
"You always disappear! I want you to know I release you from this. I wasn't sure if you married Lauren, but I needed to tell you if you hadn't that you can! Your happiness is all I want. You can have children and love for every single day of your life! I can't give you that!"
"Every day, I love only you! Not loving you isn't even an option!" Edward kissed her and it was as if they were alone. He murmured into her lips, "I'll leave with you in the morning, and ask your father for your hand in marriage."
Isabella squeezed her eyes shut. "He'll never agree."
Someone cleared their throat behind them. Isabella turned to see a handsome man, with pale blond hair and merry eyes that danced when he looked at her. He wore a red velvet coat and came over to them and gave Isabella a bow. "I've been waiting to meet you, sweet Isabella. My wife and I have been waiting for our son to admit to us his feelings for you for some time now. I'm Carlisle, and my treasure over there is Esme. I met her in a similar way as our Edward met you."
"Father, you knew about us? I thought you would drive us apart!" Edward exclaimed. "What about Lauren?"
"We were trying to get you to hurry up and get your girl," Edward's mother announced. Her chestnut hair was pinned up in a bun and she wore a dress a similar shade to her husband's coat. "If you didn't get her to stay this year, I was planning on getting her myself. There was so much wasted time that we could have had Isabella here with us and taken care of her. You were just so stubborn and your father wanted you to figure things out. Obviously, being a fool is genetic."
"What does this mean?" Isabella asked.
"You will stay here with us, dear girl." Carlisle took her hand. "It seems to be a perfect night for a wedding."
Her heart filling with pure happiness, Isabella grabbed Edward's hand. That was until she thought of her father. He would be all alone, and though he'd been a sometimes cruel and usually absent parent, she still felt that it was her job to care for him.
"My father? Can he stay here too?" she quietly inquired, as Edward held her tighter.
Carlisle shook his head sadly. "He's been on a list of mine for a very long time, child. He may not venture here and it's time you had a family who will care for you. Charles Swan will soldier on. Don't fret anymore."
His hand brushed against Isabella's forehead and she no longer cared, as her memories of her torturous childhood melted away like icicles in the afternoon sun.
"What about Emmett and Rosie? They'll want to be at the wedding!" Edward ran his fingers through Isabella's long tendrils.
"It will be a Christmas day wedding then! We can have the nuptials after they return from the deliveries." Carlisle exclaimed. "Jasper and Alice, could you—"
Alice gave a little curtsy. "One Christmas wedding coming right up! We'll get the troops!"
A few hours later, Isabella was decked in a gown the color of snow doves. She hadn't even noticed that she was no longer in Forks, but a beautiful snowy land in the mountains. The air smelled crisp and clean.
She walked slowly up to her groom who stood waiting under an archway that was decorated in crystals and mistletoe.
They clasped hands to pledge their love.
"Always," Edward stated loud and clearly for all to hear.
"Always," Isabella agreed, as the snowflakes began to fall in their winter wonderland.