"Bella, come on!" Edward shouts from downstairs.
"Okay, okay," I tell him irritably. "You don't have to yell."
"Well, I didn't think you heard the other four times."
He grabs his coat, and we walk to his car. Although he's angry we're running ten minutes late, he still opens the door for me. As always. Ever the gentleman.
"Man, it's cold for October, huh?" I ask when he gets in.
Okay I can see we're a little angrier than I originally thought.
"You look good," I tell him with a smile.
He's wearing dark jeans, boots, and red sweater. His hair still sticks in every direction possible. Nothing's changed in the last five years.
Nothing and everything.
He doesn't answer, but I know him like the back of my hand, so it doesn't really hurt my feelings. He's anxious.
As we've grown older and closer, Edward's anxiety has been triggered by only one thing: time. After talking with his therapist about it and having a few couples therapy sessions as well, we've determined it's a control factor.
So, I follow his therapist's recommendations… except for today.
It's our niece's birthday and he's supposed to bring the big gift. It's loaded in the bed of truck, and everyone's going to be waiting on us. Luckily, we only live fifteen minutes away, but still.
"I'm sorry," I tell him honestly. "I was writing and lost track of time. I take responsibility, Edward."
He sighs and rubs his forehead. "I'm just not having a great day," he says.
"Your mom?" I ask, but I don't even need to because I know.
He nods. "Birthdays are hard."
I nod back in understanding. "They always are."
"Mom would have fucking loved her so much," Edward says honestly, the emotion raw in his voice.
I've watched this man blossom so thoroughly over the last few years, and the only thing that gets him down is the loss of his mom. It hurts him every day, and as much as I want to take that pain from him, I can't.
But what I can do is be there, support him, lift him when he's falling.
"She would have loved her little attitude," I agree with a laugh.
Edward nods with a smile. "She's sassy, alright."
When we pull up to Rosalie's house, Edward rushes over and opens my door for me. The truck is new, so he used to do it just so I wouldn't bang it on anything—another control issue— but now he does it because it makes me swoon.
I go to walk away but Edward pulls my hand and yanks me back to him. My back to the cool gray paint, the height of the truck shields us from our family.
"You look so fucking beautiful, baby," he says with a smile, leaning to kiss my lips in a gentle assault.
I've grown into my curves a little. My hourglass figure is less teenager looking and womanlier. I know this because Edward's favorite place to touch me, besides my neck, is around my waist. Most men love the ass, or breasts, or thighs. Not Edward. I mean, yes he does, but when he can, especially in public, he holds me to him with his fingers on the curve of my waist.
I help Edward with the present. A very large, very expensive princess pink four-wheeler for our very girly, very active little niece.
She comes bounding through the backyard the second we walk in.
"Uncle Eddie!" she beams, throwing herself at his legs. Her pretty blonde hair bounces in curls, the beautiful blue eyes all three share, a gift from Esme, glance up at him.
It makes my ovaries scream. Every time we leave, I have to remember all the years Rosalie talked about no sleep, and baby vomit, and breastfeeding. Do I want that at twenty-three? We're not even engaged. I shake the thoughts from my head as Mae practically climbs my legs.
I pick her up and kiss her right on the lips. She accepts nothing less.
"I love your lipstick," she says with a smile, rubbing her lips against mine so the color transfers.
I pull the tube from my purse and hurry to swipe the pretty pink color on her lips too.
"Do I look pretty?" she asks.
"Prettier than a princess," I tell her honestly.
Everyone crowds around as Mae opens her gifts. Most kids would tear into each gift, make a mess, ignore who they're from, and move onto the next. Not Mae—she's different.
Mae's kind and loving, giving hugs after each one. Dr. Cullen gets Me her own little stethoscope, and she goes around listening to everyone's insides.
"Is that real?" Edward asks his dad, sipping from the beer bottle in his hands. He looks so freaking hot right now. His legs are parted, arms are crossed, and tattoos peeking out from the clothes adorning his delicious as sin body. This man has only gotten better looking with time. I can barely see his newest tattoo peek out from the neck of his shirt as he pulls on the sweater. A picture of a flower Mae drew for him.
My empty uterus throbs, and I have to remind it that kids aren't cute all the time.
"Yep," his dad says with a sigh. Mae has him wrapped around her pudgy little fingers. I guess we all are, honestly.
"How's work?" Dr. Cullen asks me.
"Eh," I tell him jokingly. I graduated with a degree in early childhood education and accepted a position shortly after as a first-grade teacher this fall. "I love it," I answer honestly.
Edward's working for a finance company and just started his MBA this fall. It's hectic, but he seems happy. He's actually very good at his job, and he's received two promotions in the last year of working there. Dr. Cullen couldn't be more proud.
Alice and Jasper show up a little later.
"B! B!" Mason yells, running up and gripping my leg. His fingers are sticky when I pick him, but I don't care.
"I missed you, Mase!" I kiss into his neck.
"Mason Hale!" Alice says when she finally finds us. Her tired, worried eyes turn soft when she sees he's with me.
"I got him," I tell her with a smile. She leans over and kisses my cheek.
I see Alice all the time, but it's never enough. My sister, my friend, my family.
She and Jasper found out they were pregnant three years ago and what a surprise it was for all of us. Especially her dad.
He cut her off, left her to fend for herself through her pregnancy, and I was the one to hold her and support her through it all.
Her dad eventually came around but not until Mason was a month old. They had some words, Jasper threatened him, and everything's been kosher since.
Now Jasper and her dad get along like best buddies. They go fishing, out for drinks, and even to football games with Mason. I guess Mr. Brandon just needed to see that Jasper wasn't wasted space like he thought. I think Jasper gained a lot of respect with Mr. Brandon the moment Jasper went toe to toe with him.
Life is weird.
Alice graduated with a 4.0 of course—she's Alice, duh. She struggled finding a job right out of college, but it happened eventually, and she and Jasper live a quiet life in a suburb outside of Seattle. Alice does event planning and Jasper works in IT.
Alice rubs her swollen belly and says, "I need to sit down," before excusing herself.
I pass Mason to Edward and follow her.
"How are you feeling?" I ask.
"Not too bad considering I have a two-year-old hellion and I'm six months pregnant with another."
"Hi, baby girl," I whisper to her belly, rubbing gently. Little Girl kicks back happily.
"When are you going to get knocked up?" she asks, sipping water from a bottle. "I can't wait to commiserate."
I giggle at her words and shake my head. "Gee, you make it sound so awesome," I joke, shaking my head. "Edward's back in school. We'd be crazy to have a baby right now. Besides, we aren't even married."
"Just go to the Justice of the Peace like we did," she says. I look at the small, gold band on her ring finger.
"It was a beautiful wedding," I tell her honestly. They wrote their own vows, and it was the most moving experience I've ever been a part of. There wasn't a dry eye in the court room.
"You think he's going to pop the question soon?" she asks.
I shrug. "I honestly don't know. And you know what? I really don't care."
She rolls her eyes. "You don't want to marry him?" she asks.
"Of course I do. But that's Edward. He's my Edward. He could be my boyfriend, husband, baby daddy, whatever, but even more than that… he's Edward."
"You guys still fuck like bunnies?"
I blush at her crassness.
"I fucking knew it. Tell me all about it."
"Come on! Throw me a bone," she whines. "Jasper won't fuck me hard when I'm this pregnant, and every time you come over, I've got a kid sucking on my tit so we can't even talk dirty!"
"He's your son!" I laugh.
"Don't remind me," she jokes.
"Alright, fine," I say, looking around to make sure no one's listening. I catch site of Edward wrestling with Mason as Jasper and Dr. Cullen talk. Edward fakes an injury before flipping Mason upside down. Mason squeals in excitement before hugging Edward around the neck. "A few days ago, he told me to wear a dress when we went to the movies."
"And?" she asks, sitting up a little. Her eyes twinkle with anticipation. I'm her live, real version of the smuttiest book that ever existed.
"He made me take my panties off in the truck before we went in. We sat in the back row so no one would see. He went down on me and then I rode his dick."
"Oh my god," she drools. "You guys have the best fucking sex life. I'm insanely jealous."
"You and Jasper do too, don't lie."
"Used to," she corrects. "Kids ruin sex. There's no more afternoon delights, and if there are, it's over in four minutes in case you get caught."
"Why don't you guys go away for a weekend? Rekindle?" I tease, waggling my brows.
Alice points to growing belly. "How do you think this happened?"
Soon, Jasper comes over and we hug. He's still Jasper—aloof, mysterious, quiet—just fatherlier. He's still a bad boy deep down with all this tattoos and the long hair. Alice tells me he sneaks away every and now then to get high, but she doesn't mind.
As the party winds down, and friends and family leave, I help Rose in the kitchen. She's putting leftovers away as she and Alice talk about the newest baby bottle to hit the market. She and Emmett have been trying for baby number two since Mae was six months old, so it kills me to hear the doubt in her voice when Alice asks how fertility treatments are going. And then they move on to homeopathic remedies for baby rashes.
I can't relate, so I walk outside to clear the glasses and plates. Sometimes I feel out of place when Rose and Allie talk baby stuff, and it doesn't make me feel sad or anything, but I guess I just feel left out. The onslaught of overthinking stops as I feel the phone in my pocket vibrate.
Go to the bathroom. Take your panties off. Leave them on the counter.
I look around to try and find him, but he's not outside.
He doesn't tell me which bathroom, but if he's watching me, I'm sure he'll see which one.
Inside I do as he says, thinking back on this exact situation I just told Alice about. She's right, we do have the best sex life.
My silk, pink panties, with a dark spot in the center, rest on the counter as I pull my jeans back up and head outside to finish my job.
Not two minutes later does my phone vibrate again.
Wet already, baby?
I smirk at his comment. No, I'm just ovulating I lie. I mean, I am ovulating, but the second he starts talking dirty I also soak my panties and he knows it.
Good. I'm gonna fuck a baby into you tonight.
This makes my spine tingle, the hair on body stand up, my ovaries pulse.
I just replaced my IUD last year, so I know there's barely a slim chance of it, but Edward's comment has me salivating.
Please do I tell him.
When I make it inside, Edward's talking in the kitchen with his dad and sister.
"They want to know if we want to spend Thanksgiving with dad this year?"
"We're getting work done on the house over Thanksgiving, so it's going to be a mess," Rosalie explains.
I panic a little. She usually hosts.
"We can do it at our house?" I ask, swallowing hard.
"There's not a lot of room, baby. And dad's girlfriend wants to come, too."
"Oh. Uhm. Okay then… sure."
I haven't been back in years. Not since I left. It's unsettling to think about, and I make a mental note to talk to my therapist about it.
"We'll discuss and let you guys know," Edward says sensing my dread. "You ready to head home, Bella?"
I nod softly.
I kiss both Mae and Mason goodbye as they run around outside. Rosalie and Alice hug me before Edward helps me into the truck.
"We don't have to—" he starts before I cut him off.
"No, it's okay. We should go. It'll be… fine."
Edward nods. "He's not in Forks, remember? He was transferred to Connell."
I nod. "I remember."
My dad tried to get ahold of my once. One time in all these years. Two years ago, he sent a letter that I've memorized like the freckles on Edward's nose.
I'm in a therapy class and the lady said I should write to you, so I am. There's not a lot I can say to make up for the wrongs I've done. You deserved better.
Inmate number 9-13531
I was angry for a long time.
"Hey," Edward says, hand between the meat of my thighs, gripping to pull me back down. "We'll talk about it and if it's not a good choice, we'll do it here, okay?"
He gets me. He knows me. "Okay," I whisper, breathing heavily. I'm two seconds from panicking, and I don't want to.
He pulls onto our street and parks in front of our home. I can feel the anxiety and worry start to simmer inside my veins, like my blood slowly boils away to nothing. I feel drained, anxious, and afraid.
"Bella," he says sternly. When I look over, I know things have changed. "Listen to every word I say." I nod. "Go inside. Strip. Kneel at the bedroom door. Understood?" he asks.
Sometimes we play the dominate/submissive rolls, and I only know he wants to when he asks me to kneel first. Most times we do this, it's when one of us is having an off day. Today it's me. Today it's because I have to face the childhood I haven't thought about in 5 years.
I nod slowly.
"Answer me, Bella."
"Yes, I understand."
Already, I feel relief. The weight of the last thirty minutes slips off my shoulders when I walk into our house. It's small, quaint, loving. As I walk into the bedroom, I make sure the curtains are closed before stripping and kneeling.
He takes his time coming into the house.
I'm on my knees for at least fifteen minutes, uncomfortably shifting positions on the hardwood floor. I know it's purposeful, but it hurts.
And then I suck in air as the knob turns.
"Beautiful," he whispers, walking closer, petting my hair.
He likes it behind my ears and down my back when we do this. Usually, it's because his fingers grip my neck tighter than normal, and I'm itching at the thought. Tonight, he pulls the hair-tie from my wrist and puts my hair in a low ponytail himself. It's strangely erotic, and I wonder briefly if my arousal is dripping onto the floor.
"You look so lovely tonight, Princess. I love watching you with the kids. Your smile and the way you light up when you're around them tells me that maybe you'd like to have one? Is that right?" I don't answer. Last time I did without his permission, he spanked me. "You may express yourself freely, Bella."
"But not right now."
"Is that so? Why?"
"You're busy with school, I just started this job…"
"That's why I love you," he whispers in my ear before standing up. "Here I am ready to rip that thing right out of pussy tonight and fuck you until you're pregnant… and then you go and make sense. You truly control the impulsive parts of me that I cannot, Bella."
His praise makes me smile.
Tonight is wonderful. He allows me to lose the control and find the strength to gain it myself. That's what this means for us. Anytime I submit fully to him in the bedroom, we allow each other the dignity and choice of how we want to control certain aspects. Tonight, I need to show myself my own strength, so when he forces his cock down my throat, talking me through the choking, making sure I'm okay each time, I force myself to be strong. And when he pulls out, satiated but rock hard, asking me not to come when I want to, I must prove how strong I am all over again.
His fingers in me while his teeth nip at my clit.
On all fours as he rubs from behind.
Upside down on the bed while he's got his cock in my mouth and a vibrator between my folds.
He denies me every time.
"Please," I whisper, shaking from the need.
"It's not about begging," he says softly, pulling himself from my mouth. "Don't you think I want to come, Bella? Don't you think I want to shoot my load down that sexy throat of yours? Trust me, I do, but it's about learning the control."
"Please," I beg again, desperate.
"I do love to hear you," he says darkly, manipulating my body so that I'm on my back at the edge of the bed and he's standing at the edge of the mattress. "If you want to come so badly, here you go."
Edward hands me the vibrator but I don't want it. I want him. I want his hands, mouth, anything he'll give.
"Oh, what's the matter?" he asks with a smirk. "Not good enough for you?"
"You do it," I say, tossing the vibrator. "Please."
Edward tsks before stepping closer. His hand plays with his shaft, grips the head, languidly tugs on his balls. I love to watch him play with himself.
He kneels before me and leans forward.
"You're free to come but hold out until you absolutely can't anymore. Understood?" He asks. I nod. "Find the control."
Edward lowers himself to my center, and the second his tongue spears through my wetness, I almost lose it right then. I'm so heightened and out of control of my own body that I'm wound so tightly.
I do as he asks though until it hurts to hold back, and when he suctions his mouth to my clit, it's over.
My orgasm rains over me. It's intense and magical and I see stars through the ceiling. I'm overly sensitive and so light right now that I barely notice him stand and line himself up with my opening.
His fingers find my throat and grip gently. But I need more as he sinks into me, so I put pressure on his fingers to show him. He complies, watching my face the entire time, allowing me to control this little bit.
"Your heart is beating so fucking fast," he says, sinking into me deeply. There's still a stretch, and I still need a moment to catch my breath even years after our first time. Edward is long and thick, and I hope it feels like this for the rest of my life.
He doesn't go hard or fast, but he gives me pressure where I need it and allows me to take everything.
"Come," he whispers over and over as his fingers tighten against my neck. His other hand grips onto my breasts, tugging at my nipples as I explode into confetti around him.
After the second time, Edward pulls me up and turns me around. I'm on my belly, he's above me, and his wrists circle mine, pushing them into the mattress, pinning me down. Of all the positions, this is my favorite.
"You're such a good girl," he tells me over the smack of skin from the thrust of his hips.
"It feels so fucking good," I cry, the sounds muffled by the mattress. He loves to hear how he makes me feel.
"I know," he whispers. "I fucking know."
His cock swells suddenly and he's thrusting as far into me as his shaft will go before he grunts and spills inside me.
Edward falls to the side, scoops me up, and hugs me from behind. His softening cock inside me slips out slowly as his lips caress my exposed skin.
"Are you okay?" he asks tenderly, throwing a blanket over us.
"Definitely," I say honestly.
He chuckles and nods. "You're something else."
"Are you okay?" I ask, turning to watch his face.
"Yes, thank you."
We fall asleep, just the two us, in the quiet and stillness of our bedroom.
"You're sure?" Edward asks me once more before tossing our bags in the back and shutting the door of his truck.
"Yes. Now let's go please before I actually change my mind."
It's Thanksgiving Eve, and we're on the way to Forks.
It took a few sessions with my therapist, and some consoling from Edward, but I'm here.
My therapist tells me to treat it like a medicine.
"It'll only get worse or fester if you don't take the antibiotic, right?" she asks last week.
"Unless it's viral," I tell her seriously. "Antibiotics don't work on viral infections."
I can hear the eye roll in her voice. "This infection is bacterial," she says sarcastically. "You need the antibiotics. Do you get what I'm saying?" she asks.
"Yes. If I ignore my childhood, it'll grow and might kill me. Understood loud and clear," I say.
"That's a little extreme, but okay," she laughs.
So here I am. In Edward's truck, driving down the highway back to the gates of hell. I asked him to rip the band aid off first.
"Take me past the house."
When he turns onto the street, my heart can't take it. I'm going to vomit or pee myself, I can't decide which. I brought extra clothes just in case, honestly. My eyes land on Jasper's old house. It looks the same only better. No shed, new concrete driveway, flower gardens around the perimeter. And then I look at other homes around the street. They're still poverty stricken, but it looks like someone cares enough to throw some glitter on a pile of shit. Three houses at the beginning of the street, the ones near the train tracks, have been torn down.
When I open my eyes to look at my house, it's gone.
Where the huge pile of festering, old, disgusting bacteria grew is now a flat, level, grassy plot of land with a few bikes and soccer net on it.
Someone tore it down.
And it's like I'm a reptile shedding skin. The relief that slumps from my shoulders actually has me smiling.
"How long?" I ask.
"Two years now," Edward says, putting the truck in park in the same spot he did when we were teens.
"You knew?" I ask.
He nods. "My dad told me. A family moved into Jasper's old house and talked the town into tearing down some old blights. Your house was one of them. I tried telling you, but you never wanted to—"
"Right," I tell him. "I know. I'm sorry."
"You okay?" he asks, holding my knee.
"Yeah," I whisper. "Yeah, I am. Can we…"
Edward turns the truck off and nods. "Of course."
I walk up the old gravel driveway where my dad laid his hands on me too many times and take note of the old oil his car used to leak. The gray rocks now stained brown tell me they're still the same. I don't know why, but I pick one up and put it in my pocket.
I hated this house. I really fucking did. But this is the dirt that made me. Like a weed growing from a crack in the cement, this house forced me to persevere.
Edward stands back and lets me have the moment until I'm ready. There are no tears, or puke, or pee, or anything like I was expecting. There's simply acceptance and realization and mercy.
It's not one hundred percent, but I can feel the tingles.
"Can I show you something?" Edward asks when I walk past him.
Nodding, he grabs my hand, and we head toward the alley. There are no bums, no overflowing dumpsters anymore, not even any rats. It's empty down here. The street that intersects the alley is the same. Old, dilapidated houses line the street… but the playground.
Nothing has been touched.
The same swings, the same slides, the same mulch.
But Edward pulls me closer and walks me to the basketball court. Flashes of him and Jasper spray painting random images run through my mind. They're still there, but much more faded than they used to be.
He hugs me from behind as the memories filter in.
Smoking with Jasper in the corner, talking to him about Allie, falling in love with Edward. Nostalgia glues to my heart slowly, and when I peel it away, beautiful memories surface.
I look through the images the boys spent their time on. A forest of green, two eyes, flowers… I remember it all.
Except whatever is written in the top above the spray-painted trees. I walk closer to investigate. When did they do this? It looks fresh and new, not dull like the others.
The words are gold and stick out over the other images.
Marry me, Princess.
It's not a question, and it doesn't need to be. He already knows the answer.
When I turn around, he's on one knee, eyes glistening with love, a velvet box in his hand.
"Bella," he starts, but he's already crying.
"Yes!" I shout so loudly my voice vibrates off the pine trees lining the playground.
He laughs and shakes his head, wiping the tears away. "I have this all planned. Let me finish first before answering, okay?" I nod and he continues. "Bella, I love you," he says, crying again. "You've made life worth living. When I was being a fucking idiot, you didn't take my shit. You made do better, be better." He opens the ring box but I don't even look, I'm too focused on him and his words. "I vow to make sure you love the life we create, whatever the means for us, to have patience and understanding, to trust fully and openly, to make you feel like no one ever has before… you know… in a good way. Bella, Princess, be my wife."
"Yes!" I shout again, pulling him and hugging him to me.
Edward wraps his arms around me, and we kiss so sensitively in what used to be my little get away from life—the playground.
He slips the solitaire diamond on my finger and kisses my hand.
"Let's go fucking tell everybody," he whispers into my ear.
"Okay," I tell him, "but first… I've always wanted to do something…"
His smile brightens as he leads me behind the slides, against the pole, and pushes me onto the steps. We make love touching the dirt of the place that saved me.
"Wow!" Dr. Cullen's girlfriend Melissa whispers as she eyes the rock. She's really pretty. Short, chunky, and dark haired.
I teased him when we met her for the first time last spring. "I guess you and your dad have the same type, huh?" I asked. Edward just rolled his eyes. Edward likes her, but it's been tough for him.
"He did so good," Rosalie says with a smile. "It's almost like someone helped him pick it out."
"You did?" I ask.
She smiles but Edward buts in. "No, no, no!" he says. "I brought her along, but I picked everything."
She winks at me which infuriates Edward. The two bicker as I hold Mae on my lap, reading her a book as she holds onto the stuffed bunny we brought for her.
"I love you, Aunt B," she whispers sleepily.
"I love you too, sweetheart."
"Will you love me as much as the baby?"
I laugh and shake my head. "I'm not having a baby, Mae."
"What?" I ask, sitting up a little straighter. Edward and Rose's bickering still sounds from the kitchen.
"Mommy said there's a baby in her belly."
Suddenly I stand, holding Mae, smiling from ear to ear as I watch my fiancé and his sister tease each other in front of everyone.
"You're pregnant?" I ask.
Rose looks horrified.
"Mae! I told you—"
"You're pregnant? Really?" I ask her happily, emotion catching in my throat. The burn of tears sting my eyes.
Rosalie smiles and nods. "I didn't want to tell everyone yet. I didn't want to take away your thunder—"
"After five years!" I scream excitedly, bouncing Mae around on my hip.
"The doctor said it happens sometimes. You stop worrying or trying and poof." Rosalie and I cry together, Mae in the middle, celebrating another little life to love in this family.
I find Emmett next. He's all smiles from ear to ear. We talk about names and when she's due and how exciting another little baby will be. Edward pulls out the champagne from his suitcase he brought to celebrate our engagement, and we toast to love and family and everything in between.
Thanksgiving day is a whirlwind. I facetime Allie and Jasper and she about shits herself.
"Where is he? Let me speak to him right now!" She yells.
"What Alice?" Edward says.
"Why wasn't I involved?" She shouts. "You do know you have to ask my permission to marry my sister, right?"
He sort of smiles. "Can I marry Bella, Alice?"
Then she breaks down and cries. "Yes!"
I help Melissa with the turkey and mashed potatoes while the boys make the Cullen Casserole which, as it turns out, is just green bean casserole but whatever.
There's so much to be thankful for this year, and I make sure to tell each person today just how thankful I am for them.
Rose and Emmett cry of course, Melissa and Carlisle smile, Edward winks, and Mae hugs me tight.
"I'm thankful for you, baby girl," I whisper to her, brushing highlight across her cheekbones as we play in my purse. "Did I ever tell you how much I love you?"
"All the time," she says easily.
"Never forget it, okay?" I whisper to her, handing her a piece of gum even though her mom said nothing else until dinner.
Mae gasps at it in my hand before shoveling it into her mouth inconspicuously and resting her nose against mine.
"You're my favorite," she whispers before running off to play.
I shake my head knowing that's typical of a five-year-old, but there's something about Mae I just can't put my finger on. It's old, and worldly, and mature. She has so much pure empathy and knowledge engrained into her tiny soul that being around her makes me feel warm.
At dinner, Edward's hand never leaves my thigh.
"Remember all those times I kissed you right there?" he asks, pointing to the kitchen island.
"Every single one," I tell him with a smirk.
"I don't even want to know how many times, do I?" his dad asks.
"You definite don't, Carlisle," I say easily. It's still weird to call him that, but he insists. "Your son used to sneak me in and out of your house all the time… especially when you were worked overnights."
Carlisle puts his fork down and shakes his head. "I knew it!"
"Come on, dad," Edward says with a roll of his eyes. "Of course you knew it."
"Edward, were you a bad boy?" Melissa asks seriously.
Everyone quiets down. Images and memories of our seventeenth-year whizz by. Him and Jasper. Selling at parties. The time he smoked that laced joint so I wouldn't have to. Dim. Aro. The tattoos.
"Ugh, you could say that," Edward sort of laughs. "I'm sure my dad has told you some stories."
Melissa shakes her head, brows knitted together. "Honestly, he's said nothing but wonderful things about you, Edward."
Edward glances towards his dad and they both sort of smile at each other.
"I put him through hell," Edward says honestly. There's a delicate hoarseness to his tone—like emotion leaks out unexpectedly. "It took a while for me to become this person."
My hand squeezes his forearm that rests under the table.
"You've done good, son," Carlisle says emotionally. In his old age, after what he's been through, Carlisle bravely wears his emotions on his sleeve.
"Dad, I've never thanked you," Edward says suddenly. He stands, placing his fork down on the table and walking the short distance to his dad. "For this extraordinary life."
Carlisle stands, wipes the tears away from his cheeks, and hugs his only son close to his body. It's a tender moment between father and son, and the joy radiating from my fiancé seeps into everyone around the table.
The night is filled with laughter and magic and gratitude for everyone around us.
I have truly, in my life, never been happier.
That night, in his childhood bedroom, Edward makes sure to love me from the bottom of my toes to the top of my head. He's never said more words to me than he has this night.
"You are the most wonderful," kiss, "most loving," kiss, "most brilliant person I've ever met, Bella. I can't wait for you to be my wife."
He makes love to me soft, slow, and long. We're connected on another level, one where we can't look away from each other. His hands pull me in every direction, his fingers press into my skin to make sure I'm still with him. When I look into the depth of his eyes, I see his soul. We're joined together, but it's more than that. It's more than the sexual intimacy we share right now. It's a union of power and of bond and of such intense love that I fall apart quietly against his chest at the same moment he does.
"Marry me tomorrow," he whispers. "We'll go to the courthouse, Vegas, I don't fucking care. Just marry me, Bella. Be my wife. Marry me, Princess."
I can't help but laugh, but his declarations blossom inside my heart. "We need a marriage certificate, Edward. It'll take a little bit to process. What's the rush?" I ask.
He shakes his head. "I'm just sick of you not having my last name."
"Isabella Cullen," I whisper.
"Next weekend?" he asks.
He won't stop until we settle on a date.
"How about the weekend after Christmas? Everyone will be together. It'll give us time to plan. I won't be working. You'll be on break from school."
Edward nods happily. "One month?" he asks.
One month was the dumbest decision we ever made.
Why would I think planning a wedding would be that easy… and to do it in a month?
Luckily Alice begged to help.
"Your final fitting is the twentieth so make sure you have the shoes you want, and trial for hair and makeup is the eighteenth. Oh, and did Rosalie get Mae's dress fixed? I know that she—"
"Alice," I interrupt, taking a breath to calm my nerves. "You have to give me a second, here. I'm a little overwhelmed."
We're on the phone the week before Christmas, and I'm still trying to plan everything for the holiday let alone our wedding. I was lucky enough to find a simple, beautiful gown on sale at a bridal boutique, and it fits almost perfectly. In fact, I'm pretty sure Alice's dress is more expensive than mine.
The wedding will be at our favorite art museum in the Impressionist wing surrounded by Monet and Renoir and Cezanne. One of Edward's colleague's wives works here, so it was a pretty seamless rental.
His tux is in, he's had his fittings. Everyone's ready and raring to go—excited to watch Isabella Swan become Isabella Cullen.
And so am I… but something isn't right.
Jasper can feel it.
"You good?" he asks on Christmas as Mason tears apart his gifts we got him.
"Cold feet?" he whispers with a wink.
"No," I laugh, shaking my head. "I just… I wish…"
Jasper nods. He doesn't need me to elaborate. He gets it—he's always gotten it. "She'll be there, Bella. She'll be the one walking you down the aisle."
I nod sadly. At my wedding, the day that should be all about me and my love for my future husband, I'll have no one. The thought of walking alone down the aisle has my heart shattering, exploding, crying for help. So, I ask Alice that night.
"Walk me down the aisle, Allie?" I whisper nervously as we clear the dinner table.
She stops dead in her tracks. "Really?"
"I'm eight months pregnant," she says uneasily.
Regret floods through me. And then hurt. "Oh, okay. I understand. You don't need to—"
"No, no. I want to, but are you okay having a whale walk you down the aisle?"
I laugh through the tears. "You aren't a whale," I tell her seriously. "You're my family, Allie. I want you to do it. Please."
Alice smiles and nods.
Edward grazes my lower back as he walks by. He does anything he can to let me know he's there for me.
When Alice and Jasper leave, Edward sits me on the couch and turns on a movie. It's quiet as the movie plays. Fresh snow falls silently outside, but inside, next to him, it's warm. Edward swirls the glass of whiskey in his cup before taking a sip.
"I can't wait for you to be my bride," he tells me with a smile.
"Did you ever think we'd get here?" I ask seriously.
His hand pulls at my body so I'm lying in his lap, his hands brush through my curls. "Absolutely."
We have a picture-perfect wedding day. It snows the night before, so there's fresh, brilliantly white powder laying on everything, and I can't wait to take pictures in it.
Alice and Rose help me into my gown.
Long sleeves, long train, low back, high neck. The satin smooths over my curves, hugging my waist and hips. I never thought I'd wear anything this tightly fitted for my wedding, but it was made for me.
Rose tears up. "I'm sorry. It's the pregnancy hormones!" she blubbers.
Alice does the same. "Shit, we're ruining our makeup."
We hug together before Mae pulls on my gown.
"Wow," she whispers.
I bend down to kiss her, pressing my pink lips to her.
"Do I look as pretty as you?" she asks, touching her lips.
"Jasper and I got you a little something," Alice says before leave to head to the ceremony.
She hands me my bouquet with a dangling bead hanging off the flowers. At the end of the beads is a locket, and inside the locket are two pictures. One of me and Edward when we were younger. His arm is around me and we're both holding a hot dog. I have no idea when this was taken, and I don't even remember ever seeing it, but it makes me giggle. One the other side is a picture of my mom and me. She's brushing my hair as I stare straight ahead. It's a small picture, and I have to look closely, but on her face is the faintest, easiest smile I've ever seen.
I wonder briefly what she could be thinking about before the tears attack and I'm dotting them away.
"Thank you," I whisper to her.
She nods. "Jasper had a hard time getting the images to size right so they weren't all scrunched up, but he did it. He also blew them up for you. We put them in your garage. The same images only bigger and framed. We figured you'd like to display them somewhere."
Looking back at the image of my mom, I nod. I can't wait to see her smile again.
I'm suddenly nervous as I watch Rose and Mae, hand in hand, walk down the aisle. Not because I don't want to marry Edward, but because all eyes are on me.
He hasn't called or texted all day, and I miss him, but he wanted it to be this way.
"The next time I talk to you will be at the altar," he told me last night before I left to stay at Alice's.
"Kiss me," I whispered to him. "And you better make it a good one. It's the last time you'll ever be kissing Isabella Swan."
"Ready?" Alice whispers, pulling me from the memory. Her arm linked in mine as we round the corner.
"Yes," I whisper quietly.
The music plays as the curtains open for us. Bright golden hues light up the room as prints of the most beautifully colored paintings decorate the walls. Our closest friends and family stand with smiles and tears as Alice walks me down the aisle.
I could never do this without her.
I could have never done this alone.
Her hand in mine squeezes tightly as we start walking.
When I lift my head, when I see him, everything else disappears. Edward's waiting at the end of the aisle, a smile so high his little wrinkles crease near his eyes. Copper-brown hair is perfectly imperfect. His black tux sits perfectly against his broad shoulders. His cheeks reflect the light above as the tears fall lovingly down his face. Jasper, his best man, hands him a tissue, but Edward doesn't take it.
He wears them proudly.
This is it. We've waited for his moment. All roads lead to here. Edward is my ending. He's the X-marks-the-spot treasure on the map of my life.
He is everything.
I can feel the smile on my face grow bigger the closer we get.
Alice hands me over to him, and I don't even know what's being said because I'm too busy staring into the eyes of the only man who has ever loved me.
His eyes are bluer than the ocean, the sky, the waves as they crash. He's electrically in love, and I can feel it as his fingers find mine.
We exchange handwritten vows, his words surprise me in the best way, and when I read him mine, he cant help but kiss me.
"It's not time for that yet," the officiant says with a laugh.
"That was your last kiss as Isabella Swan," he corrects my statement from last night.
We slide bands onto our fingers and when the officiant pronounces us as husband and wife, Edward steps so closely his nose grazes mine.
In my ear, he whispers, "you are mine forever," before placing his lips on mine in a searing kiss. With his hand supporting the back of my head, he dips me low. The guests erupt in cheers and laughter and I'm barely aware of Mason crying over the excitement.
As we make it to the end of the aisle and turn right, out of the gaze of our guests, Edward stops me again and kisses me. This time it's sultrier, sexier, hungrier than before.
"You're more beautiful than—" he stops himself, looking into my eyes. "I don't even know, Bella. Nothing compares."
"You look good yourself, Mr. Cullen," I whisper, arms around his neck.
His hands dip to the back of my dress, fingers splay against the bear skin exposed.
"I can't wait to take this off of you, Mrs. Cullen.
Epilogue part 1. The first half of the end. Is this where you thought they'd be, how they'd end up? Any predictions for the next epilogue? Part 2 will be posted soon.
Please review- thank you so much!