A/N - Well, Sparrow, Happy Birthday! it's the day none of us thought would ever happen - your 2014 birthday present is finally complete! Hope you can still remember enough about the characters to follow and enjoy ;)
Lots of Love, Choc & Gemma xx
"Are you sure about this?"
The words linger in the air as we stare into the mirror. Emmett's trying - and failing - to knot his tie, his big fingers tangling in the fabric. He sighs and gives up, leaving the striped ends dangling down. I knot my own neatly, then sigh and grab his, pulling him towards me with a yank.
"I'm not going to be around to do this for you any more. Let's hope Jess knows how to knot a tie." And put out the trash, empty the laundry basket, fill up the beer fridge. That's when it hits me. This is really happening. After the wedding we're both moving out of his apartment. Emmett will be moving in with Jess, while Bella and I have to pack up the removal trucks to head east to Boston. Everything's changing.
"Yeah, I'm sure about this," Emmett says, running a hand through his hair. He makes a handsome groom, with his grey wool suit and crisp white shirt. For a man usually in jeans and a t-shirt, he cleans up pretty well. "This is it for me, man. Jess, the baby, it's all I've ever wanted. Yeah, it was a shock for us both, but it's real, you know? As soon as the line turned blue I knew I wanted this."
I nod, still looking at him in the mirror. If you really pushed me, I might admit I'm jealous. Not of Jess, but of their future together. "Jess is a lucky woman," I tell him.
"I'm the lucky one. The kid might not have been planned, but knocking her up was the best thing I ever did. She's gotta settle down with me whether she likes it or not."
"She likes it," I tell him. You only have to see the way her face glows every time she looks at him. "You two deserve this."
"You know what, I think we do," he agrees. "And I'm never gonna stop being happy about it."
Fifteen minutes before the ceremony is due to start, we make our way to the ballroom, where a crowd of their friends and family are waiting for us. The girls aren't here yet - of course - but everybody else is. We've barely made it into the room when Emmett's surrounded by the guys, all joshing and laughing with him. We only saw them last night - at his final stag party - but they're greeting him as though they've not seen him for years.
That's when a movement catches my eye. I see her standing in the corner, her hands twisting and worrying as she stares at him through red eyes. My stomach drops immediately. What the hell is she doing here? Shooting a glance at Garrett, I mouth "Keep him here." Garrett frowns for a moment, until he follows my gaze to see the blonde statuesque woman in the corner of the ballroom. His eyes widen as he nods frantically, then mouths, "Get her out of here."
I make it across the room in less than a minute. Grabbing her by the elbow, I pull her through the doorway and into the reception area. Her heels click against the wooden floor, and when we stop she stumbles, as if I'm the only thing stopping her from falling over.
"What are you doing here, Rose?" I ask, trying to keep my temper under control. "I didn't see you on the guest list."
She swallows, not quite meeting my gaze. "I wanted to see it for myself. I wasn't going to make any trouble, I just wanted to know if he was going through with it."
"Of course he's going through with it. He and Jess are in love. They're having a baby. And as for not making trouble, you are trouble, Rose. Can't you just leave him be?"
Her eyes start to water. "I still love him. And I know he loves me. This thing with Jess, it's just a rebound, it has to be. He's never loved anybody but me."
The selfishness of her words sends a bolt of anger through my body. I try to temper it, but fail. "You can't let him be happy can you?" I hiss. "Do you know how long it took for him to get over you? And now he's found a girl who can love him the way he loves her, and you want to fuck it all up again?"
"You don't know anything about us," she says through gritted teeth. "Yes, we're volatile, and yes we argue, but at the end of the day we're meant for each other. Jess might be a distraction, but it's me he'll always be thinking about."
"They're having a baby," I remind her. "They won't be thinking about you at all."
"That's a complication, and I admit it makes things difficult. But he can still see the baby if he wants to. I won't stand in the way of that."
I reach up, rubbing my temples with the pads of my fingers. The pulse beneath my skin is racing. "He'll be seeing the baby every day," I say slowly. "Because he's marrying Jess and they're moving in together. Seriously, Rose, you need to leave now. Don't fuck this up for them, too."
"I'm not fucking anything up. I'm giving him a choice. You don't get to make it for him, Edward."
"He's made his choice. So did you when you cheated on him." Music starts to play from the ballroom. I glance at my watch, less than ten minutes to go. The need to get Rose out of here before Jess arrives is like a mantra in my mind. "So please leave, before I call security."
"You can't make me."
"Oh, I think you'll find I can," I tell her. "So are you going to leave, or am I going to have you thrown out? The choice is yours."
The look she shoots me is full of hatred. "I'm leaving," she says, "but this isn't the end. Marriages can be annulled."
"Not this marriage," I say. "Jess is the best thing that ever happened to Emmett - Jess and the baby - and I'll do whatever I have to to keep your poison away. Goodbye, Rose."
Spinning around, she stalks her way to the door, heels clipping in a strange rhythm. Though she says nothing, before she leaves she flips me the bird. I wait for a moment, making sure she's really gone, before I go back to the ballroom.
Emmett's made it to the front of the room, and is pulling at his collar, as if it's strangling him. I make my way to his side, taking a deep breath as I stand next to him. I'm on edge, anxious for this wedding to be over. Needing the gentle touch of the only girl I've ever loved. We both have our roles to play today, and I'm counting down the minutes until we can be alone together.
"You okay?" I ask Emmett. He's fiddling with his tie now. Batting his hand way, I rest a palm on his shoulder. "Not long now."
"I'm good," he mutters, his expression belying his words. "Or I will be when Jess gets here."
That makes two of us, I think. We both breathe a sigh of relief when the music changes, and Pachelbel's Canon comes out of the speakers. We turn round in unison as the doors to the ballroom open, and Jess's beaming face is revealed.
But it's not Jess I'm looking at. It's the girl standing behind her, holding a bouquet full of cala lilies. Her hair is pulled up into a twist, curls escaping from the sides, and her lips are curled up into a smile meant only for me.
There must be a hundred people in this room, but for a moment there's just the two of us. Every fear and worry that's been consuming me is dissolved by the frisson between us, and it feels as though I can breathe for the first time that day. She's my lifeblood, my soulmate, the first name on my lips every morning.
And she's mine.
"Are you sure about this?" Jess asks as the final boxes are loaded into the truck. The apartment is empty, the rooms scrubbed clean, and she's holding two sets of keys to give back to the landlord.
"I'm sure," I tell her, as the removal man closes the truck up. "I've never been more sure of anything. I love Edward, and he loves me. We both need to make this move."
After everything that's happened a move from Chicago was the best decision we could make. When Edward was offered a position in a law firm in Boston, and asked me to move with him, I said yes straight away.
"Have you decided which job to take yet?" Jess asks.
"The one at Broxton and Simpson. As much as I love Edward, working with him as well as living with him might drive us both crazy. Plus there's always that talk of nepotism, you know? I want to succeed on my own merits, not because I'm living with one of the lawyers."
"Working in a firm where you're not sleeping with one of the lawyers?" Jess says. "That will make a change."
"Shut up." I elbow her in the waist. "Anyway I'll be sleeping with a lawyer from a rival firm. That's much sexier."
"If the nights he stays over are anything to go by, I don't think you'll be sleeping much at all."
A car pulls up and Edward and Emmett climb out. Edward's carrying a tray of coffees, balancing them as he walks over to us. Emmett joins us, with a bag full of pastries. They hand them out and we all sit down on the sidewalk.
"You okay?" Edward presses a kiss to my cheek. "Everything packed?"
"Yeah. The truck just left, it should be in Boston by tomorrow night. And Jess's stuff is on the way to their new apartment."
Jess starts coughing. Her eyes are wide as she looks at her cup. "What the hell is this shit?"
"A decaf with soy," Edward says. "Emmett ordered it. Says it's good for the baby."
"It's like drinking bleach, are you trying to kill me?" she shouts at him. "I can still drink some caffeine you great big oaf."
"Hey, calm down, getting angry is bad for the baby, too," Emmett soothes. "Remember what the ob said? You need to keep an eye on your blood pressure."
Edward grabs my hand, threading his fingers through mine. As he squeezes my palm I look up at him, at his beautiful face, his curving smile. Emmett and Jess's argument seems to melt into the background. Nothing else matters except Edward and me.
"So are you ready for this?" he asks me. "We're all packed, the keys are handed back. You don't want to back out do you?"
"Are you kidding me?" I say, smiling. "I'm more than ready for this. Whatever this is." Maybe that's the best thing of all. Our future is open, unwritten. It's just the two of us and the open road.
"We're going to miss those two," he says, inclining his head at a still-furious Jess and Emmett.
"We won't have time," I tell him. "They're coming over to visit in a couple of weeks. Plus Jess has made me promise to come back before the birth. Then there's Skype, messages, snapchat. It'll be like we've never left."
He laughs, pulling me close, until his arm is wrapped around my shoulder. "You're right, we'll never get rid of them."
"No matter how hard we try."
"They're like gum on the sole of your shoe. Impossible to scrape off."
Jess screams at Emmett, interrupting us. "And I'm not calling the baby Jemmett or Jessemme, no matter how much you beg. They're stupid names and I hate them. So shut up."
"That sounds like time to go," Edward says, grabbing my hand and pulling me up. "Are you ready?"
I nod slowly. "I've never been more ready in my life."
"Are you sure about this?" Bella asks, as I reach out to press the buzzer. My other hand is folded around hers, my knuckles bleached white.
"Not really, but it needs to be done," I say. "One last thing and then we can be on our way." We're driving across to Boston. Taking it easy, taking our time. We'll make it across to the East within a week, after stopping off and seeing the sights. And if I'm honest I can't wait. I'd skip this part if I could. But after everything we've been through, I can't run away like a coward. I'm not ashamed of Bella, and they need to know that.
"Edward?" My mom pulls the door open. "I wasn't expecting you." She looks flustered, worried. "Um, did you want to come in?" Though she sees Bella standing next to me, she doesn't acknowledge her. It riles me, and makes me realize we're doing the right thing. Apart from Em and Jess there's nothing holding me here anymore.
"No, I just wanted to say goodbye. Bella and I are moving to Boston and I didn't want to leave town without letting you know." My voice is strained and low. "I'll forward our address to you."
"Boston? Why there?"
"I've got a job there," I tell her. "And so does Bella. We want to make a fresh start."
"I guess that's it, I just didn't want you worrying."
"Will you be coming back to visit?" Mom asks.
"Yeah, probably." I frown. "Is Dad in?" For some reason I want to see him to. Closure, maybe. It's time to say goodbye to my parents without anger or malice. Time to leave them behind where they belong.
"No, he's…" She swallows. "He's left, Edward. I don't know where he's gone. Shacked up with another woman I expect." Her eyes flicker over Bella again. "Wherever he is, I don't want to know."
I can't say I'm surprised. I can't even say I'm sorry. But the way my mom looks - so defeated, so old - it's hard to shrug off. "That sounds like Dad."
"If I hear from him, I'll let him know you've moved."
"You do that," I say. "Well, we should hit the road, I guess."
"Of course. Have a safe journey." Her hand flutters around her neck. I notice her wedding rings have gone. "And Edward…"
"I know you won't believe it, and I know it means nothing, but I love you."
My nod is curt. "I know. Goodbye, Mom." I loosen my hold on Bella enough to lean forward and kiss my mom's cheek. "I'll call you soon."
We climb back into my car - the girl I love and me - and she holds my hand as I take some deep breaths and try not to cry. She brushes her palm across my cheek, her face a mask of concern, then kisses the corner of my lip.
"It's okay," she says. "It's done. The hard part is over. Now we can leave town with a light heart, knowing we've done the right thing."
Saying nothing, I reach for the back of her head, weaving my fingers into her hair. Our lips meet - soft and warm - and I kiss my girl the way I've wanted to all day. She kisses me back, her eyes closed, her breath stilted, wrapping her hands around my neck to pull me closer. I cup her face with my palms, angling her head, deepening the kiss until it's this side of inappropriate.
"Boston," I murmur. "Are you sure you sure about this?"
"Are you?" she echoes back at me.
I kiss her again, this time hard and fast. She melts into me. "Baby, I've never been more sure of anything," I tell her. "A new job, a fantastic city, and the most beautiful girl I've ever seen? I have to keep pinching myself to believe it's happening."
I run my hand down her neck, feathering my fingers across her chest. "We should hit the road if we want to make it to Elkhart before too late."
"You're the one driving," she points out.
"Then let's go." I switch the ignition on, putting the car in drive, and pull out into the road. The sun is starting to descend, the air flowing through the windows turning cooler, and as we begin the drive east, it's like a ball of fire in the rear-view mirror.
"When we get to Elkhart I'm going to strip you off and throw you on the bed," I tell her, turning the corner onto the main road. "And then I'm going to kiss and lick your body until your toes curl up and your legs start shaking, and you're begging me to climb on top of you."
The corner of her lips turn up. "You are?"
"Yep. And then we're going to sleep, pack up the car, drive and repeat all the way to Boston. By the time we get there you're not going to be able to walk."
This time she laughs. "I guess you'll be doing the unpacking then."
I shrug. "It's a small price to pay. Anyway, the only thing we'll need is a mattress and the sheets. The rest can wait as long as we want."
"Shut up and drive."
I glance at her from the corner of my eye, smiling. The road ahead of us is clear, the sky darkening but cloud-free. It feels like the beginning of something wonderful.
And I'm sure it's everything I've ever wanted.
A huge thank you to everyone who joined us in ranting, laughing and cursing Carlisle and Esme out alongside us with this story. I'm assuming if you're reading this you've stuck with us until the end (despite us keeping you hanging on, which we're sorry for, but, meh, life), know that we're grateful for all of your kind words in reviews, FB comments, recc's, etc.
Lots of Love, G&C xxx