Chapter 5

Winter

My smile is like I won a contest

And to hide that would be so dishonest

And it's fine to fake it 'til you make it

'Til you do, 'til it's true

~ Taylor Swift feat. Lana Del Rey, Snow On The Beach

BPOV

I zipped up my ugly-but-functional puffy black jacket as I hopped down the steps of the dance studio. Fall had very quickly morphed into winter after Thanksgiving. And while there was part of me that remembered that perfectly warm breeze of Los Angeles that could be felt in the middle of winter with a bit of longing, I smiled as I felt a tiny snowflake stick to my nose.

Winter had immediately become my favorite season two years ago, so I enjoyed the instant chill to my bones as I walked down the street toward the clinic.

The clinic was closed for the hour for lunch, so I didn't have to deal with Kate as I walked past reception and headed down the hall toward Edward's office where I knew he would be waiting for me for lunch.

Daily lunches together had become a bit of a habit the last few months. Especially since the summer. We had frequent lunches together before, but not everyday. It just… made me make myself accountable. Reminded me of what I needed to do.

The extra hour a day with my fiancé was an extra perk.

So I had a routine. Walking into the clinic and bypassing the Closed for Lunch sign and meeting Edward in his office. It was not part of that routine, however, to see Alice and Jasper in quite the indecent position down the hall against Jasper's office door.

"Oh!" I gasped, stupidly loudly before I could think it through.

Alice had been in town since Thanksgiving. And I knew her and Jasper had their summer fling when she was here before, but she had been surprisingly cagey about it whenever I had asked her about it since.

They both stared at me with comically wide eyes. Alice brushed the sleeve of her sweater across her lips, then Jasper's to get rid of the smear of bright holiday red lipstick he had on his face.

"Okay," I sighed. "You never get to give me shit about what I told you about Edward, before I knew you knew it was about Edward, again."

Alice huffed. "Those were far more graphic details than a kiss."

"But you didn't have to see it."

"No, but it was about my brother."

Said brother's office door swung open and I had just enough time to catch Alice's horrified expression to step into his doorway before he could make it into the hall.

"Everything okay?" Edward asked, attempting to look down the hall.

"Yeah," I shrugged. "Just saying hello to Jasper. Did you already heat up our soup? I'm starving," I sighed truthfully, grabbing his hand and pulling him back into his office. I kicked the door shut with a thud.

"She's going to have to tell people eventually," Edward said, pulling out my chair at his desk.

A steaming cup of soup sat in front of me with a warm slice of bread beside it. I took a careful sip of soup from my spoon before I answered.

"She's just trying to get herself sorted first," I told him, smiling over at him as he sat across from me. "Alice was far more content in LA than I ever was. It'll take some getting used to for her, the idea that maybe she wants to move home."

I had noticed the little signs. The way she called more and asked about silly town gossip that wasn't usually on her list of priorities while in the middle of a tour. I saw how overly excited she had been at Thanksgiving and knew, even though she might not have told me, that a certain new Forks resident had to be part of the reason.

"I like to think we were a little more stealthy."

I let out an involuntary snort. "My parents caught me sneaking out of the house the first night."

I caught a glimpse of that crooked smile and couldn't help returning it.

"At least our parents are finally betting on someone else."

~snow on the beach~

"So," I hedged, absentmindedly twisting the straw of my water between my fingers.

Alice sat across from me at the diner, looking entirely too indifferent for it to be actual indifference. "So?"

I sighed. "Come on, Alice. You've avoided me for two days."

"I haven't avoided you."

My brows shot up. "I saw you duck behind the apples at the grocery store yesterday. Christy asked me if we were fighting before you showed up."

Alice sighed, her head falling to the table with a thud. She mumbled something incoherently.

"What?"

She popped herself up, staring at me with big blue eyes that were full of fear. "You were right."

"I know I'm right. You practically threw yourself on the floor of the store–"

Alice rolled her eyes. "Not about me avoiding you. I mean, yes, about that. I'm sorry. But you were right this summer. About Jasper… and I. You know."

"Oh. About the soulmate thing."

She huffed. "Yes, the soulmate thing. It's a big deal!"

"I know," I nodded. "That's why I've covered for you half a dozen times since you've been home. Nobody is going to be mad about it, I promise."

"It's not… I don't think people will be mad. Well, maybe Edward considering Jasper is his business partner. But you were my best friend first, so he doesn't really have an argument."

I bit the inside of my cheek. I might have told him months ago that I thought Jasper and Alice would be a good match, before they ever met. But, in my defense, it was Carlisle and Dad talking about how they had spotted them down by the lake one morning this summer that outed her. All while they discussed their bet on when they thought Alice would finally own up to it.

"Edward won't be mad," I promised her. "Not if you're happy."

Her entire demeanor softened. "I am. Happy. For now."

I rolled my lips together. "You want to stay in LA."

"I mean, I–I don't know. I'm getting a little burned out, but I don't know if I'm ready to give it all up, you know?"

I nodded. "I know."

Alice had always fit in better in LA than I did. She thrived in the fast paced, social environment. Professionally, I thrived too, but emotionally was obviously another story.

"He was engaged. Did you know?"

My head cocked to the side. "Jasper?"

She nodded. "Yeah. To a woman named Maria. She was a bitch of epic proportions, though. Manipulative and emotionally abusive. They'd been high-school sweethearts. So he kept thinking she was just going through a rough patch, that she'd be the girl he fell in love with again. He left town the morning after she threw a bottle of wine at him. Nearly hit him in the back of the head."

"Jesus," I sighed. It was no wonder he seemed a little skittish when he first got to town.

"He's a good guy," she continued. "More polite than any man I have ever met. And funny. Half of his little southern sayings go right over my head but I love them. And the accent…"

"Has he said anything about it? The long-distance thing?"

"No. We avoid the subject as much as possible."

"You should talk to him," I told her gently.

"I know. I've been thinking about it for a while. Finding something different."

"Really?"

She nodded. "Maybe the last year or so. It's why I've been so busy. I've been booking as much as possible and trying to take it all in while I can."

"You don't have to give up your career, Alice. You shouldn't give up your career just for a guy."

I was all on board for her to move home, but I wanted her to want to be here. And happy. If moving to New York or Paris or Australia would make her happier, I'd book a ticket down under in a heartbeat.

"I know. I'm not. I just… This might sound cocky but I've done it all, you know? The tours and the videos and everything. It's not quite as rewarding as it used to be. I guess maybe I was booking everything to try and find that spark again."

I nodded. "Yeah. I get it."

"I just never really pictured myself moving back home."

"Because it feels like a step backwards," I finished for her.

Her eyes widened. "No. No, that's not what I–"

"I felt the same way, Alice. I get it."

"So what…" she hesitated. "How did you know you wanted to move home?"

"I don't know. After that first winter… Everything here gave me that same spark that a fun gig in LA did. It still does. We're different, though. I needed to get out of LA for a lot of reasons. I still spent months mulling it over. But I've never regretted it. Not once."

Alice let out a deep breath, propping her head up on her hand. "And now in a matter of weeks you'll be married."

I wiggled the fingers on my left hand. "Not to sway your decision at all, but if you did move back I'm sure Rose would love to have you at the studio. The kids talked about you non stop for weeks after the summer camps."

She smiled at me from across the table, sitting up quickly as the bell of the door rang and our mothers shuffled into the diner.

"Oh, my God," Alice and I spoke in unison as we watched them giggle their way over to our table.

"What are you wearing?" I gasped, eyes flashing between the two matching long-sleeve shirts they had on beneath their coats.

The front pocket had a simple inscription, but one that was loud and proudly on display.

Bella + Edward

December 2, 2023

There was even a cute little picture of clinking champagne glasses next to our names.

"Shelly, the florist, had them made. Aren't they perfect? Half the town already picked theirs up."

I pressed my lips together to keep from grinning.

"Oh, God," Alice sighed. "That's so fucking cute."

I didn't say anything, couldn't with our mothers here, but I didn't have to. Because she knew the town would be just as beside itself when–if–she came back and got married, too.

After lunch I walked by the florist on my way home and picked up matching t-shirts for Edward and I.

~snow on the beach~

I had the music on full blast while I cleaned up the studio after the last class of the night. It was more blustery than I would have liked outside, and I checked my phone after class to a waiting message from Edward saying he would pick me up after his last patient of the day. With about half an hour to kill, I decided to do a deeper cleaning than usual of the space.

We always kept the place clean and tidy, but a little extra scrubbing and dusting never hurt anything.

And with the place to myself, I could let myself get lost in the music. Let my hips sway as I cleaned the mirror. Sing softly to myself while I organized the pamphlets for various classes at the front desk.

But then the upbeat pop song I had been happily dancing to changed to a familiar classical piece. I turned, already smiling before I saw Edward leaning against the wall where my phone was plugged into the speakers.

Neither of us said anything as he walked over, grabbing my hand and twirling me around until I landed safely against his chest. I let out a sigh and let my head fall against his chest.

"I might have to book myself a few private lessons before the wedding," he said softly.

I snorted out a laugh. "You're an excellent dancer and you know it."

Edward looked down at me with raised brows.

No, he wasn't a trained dancer by any means. But Esme was on the traditional side and for some reason thought her son should know how to properly waltz by the age of fifteen.

"Your waltz is probably better than mine," I told him with a smirk.

He playfully rolled his eyes before giving me another twirl.

~snow on the beach~

"What do you think you're doing?" Alice squeaked, hopping out of Carlisle's car and skipping over to glare at me.

"Um, getting in the car?" I answered, looking around me for whatever it was that could have offended her. I caught Edward's eye where he sat in the driver's seat and he seemed just as confused.

"You can't drive to your bachelorette party with your fiancé," she spat out the words as if I was on the verge of committing a deadly sin.

"We were coming to pick you up. I thought–"

"Emmett, Ben, and Jasper are waiting for Edward to pick them up. You, Rose, and Angela are with me. No arguing."

I pressed my lips together, knowing better than to argue as Alice skipped around the back of the car and grabbed my suitcase before taking it to Carlisle's car.

"Your sister is bossy," I mumbled to Edward.

"Your best friend is bossier."

I had no argument.

I sighed, leaning over the center console to press a kiss to his cheek. "I'll see you in a few hours."

"No, you won't," Alice interjected, appearing at my open door once again. "I already switched the arrangements. He's having his bachelor party, you're having your bachelorette. Separately."

"But–"

"No buts. Except yours getting in Dad's car. Scoot."

I did have an argument to that. But it got lost in the back of my brain when warm fingers tilted my chin back toward him and soft lips brushed against mine. The same soft lips that eventually tickled my ear as he whispered, "I'll find you."

It was enough to make me begrudgingly get out of the car and plop myself down in the passenger seat of Carlisle's.

"Don't look so pouty. I don't think Edward would have enjoyed a spa day, anyway."

"He could have enjoyed the benefits of my spa day afterwards," I mumbled to myself.

"Ew," Alice groaned, turning onto the highway and turning up the radio.

~snow on the beach~

As annoying as it was, Alice was right. About the afternoon, at least. Alice, Rosalie, Angela, and I had a relaxing afternoon full of manicures and pedicures and facials in Seattle.

Angela had become a quick friend of mine as soon as I moved home. She was Edward's age, so she had been a few years ahead of me in school and I never really knew her back then. But she was a breath of fresh air from the kind of people I used to surround myself with. She and her husband, Ben, owned the bookstore in town and were two of the most genuinely kind people I had ever met.

My social circle these days might have been small, but I was much more concerned about quality rather than quantity.

While our afternoon had been relaxing, Alice was Alice. And had most likely been planning my bachelorette party since we were about eighteen.

"No strippers," I said for the twentieth time today as I tossed a lip balm and my phone in the pathetic excuse of a clutch Alice had given me for the evening.

It had been the one rule I had given her when she started talking about planning the evening.

"You're missing out," Rosalie playfully sang as she straightened her dress. "I had a stripper at my bachelorette. It's all in good fun," she winked.

My cheeks heated up at the thought.

"No strippers," I repeated.

"No strippers," Alice relented. "But we do need pictures!"

Alice tugged us all over to the far wall of the suite we were sharing, arranging us in front of the beautiful array of balloons she had waiting when we got here. All pretty shades of pink or blush or white, a few rose gold hearts, some that said Bride to Be or Mrs.

That anxiety and fear and doubt that I had been riddled with in the months since Edward proposed was nowhere to be found. Long gone and replaced by the knot of excitement that settled in my gut as I leaned my head on Alice's shoulder as her phone clicked with a countdown before the photo was taken.

We spent a good forty-five minutes taking pictures. Half of which were most likely unusable. The champagne hadn't helped.

It did help me get out the door, though. Because I wasn't big on being the center of attention, and my pretty little white dress in a sea of all of the other girls' black outfits was basically a spotlight.

But I forced that doubt aside and enjoyed the moment. I committed the sparkly white heels to memory and smiled at the usher who happily let us cut the line to get into the busy bar after Alice not-so-subtly shouted about it being my bachelorette party.

I quickly realized another perk of being a bride-to-be was free drinks. The first one was from the bartender. A guy who gave me a genuine smile and said the first was on the house. I had no idea where the rest came from. Probably men who were under the impression I was going to take my bachelorette party too far, but the drinks were happily distributed amongst our group. And the group of girls who came up to congratulate me. Each left with a drink of their choice.

I had been to my fair share of clubs. The dancer in me enjoyed the pounding beat of the music that pumped through the speakers, and I could tolerate and even enjoy the crowd for one night. I'd be recovering from the whole ordeal for weeks, but for tonight, the loudness and chaos and drinks with my friends was worth it.

Then my eyes caught a tuft of copper hair at the door and I had to mentally remind myself to breathe.

He really was the most handsome man I had ever seen.

I flinched when I felt a finger brush against my chin and turned to see Rosalie smirking at me. "You had a bit of drool."

"I did not," I argued. While also wiping at my chin.

"I was going to offer to buy you a drink," Edward said, sitting down at one of the surrounding couches in our little area. "But it seems you're all covered."

I grinned over at him. "We haven't paid for a single one yet."

His brows shot up as the waitress dropped off another round. "Impressive."

I ignored the drinks, much more interested in the possessive flash of his eyes as he looked me over. Hopping up out of my seat I plopped myself down beside him. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the rest of the group chatting, but ignored the flowing conversation and leaned my head on his shoulder.

"You didn't go to a strip club, did you?" I blurted out.

Edward coughed out a laugh. "No. We didn't go to a strip club. Did you?"

I snorted. "No."

We were quiet, the music and crowd and chaos around us nothing more than background noise as I relaxed against his side for a few peaceful moments.

"You look… heartbreakingly beautiful in white," he said eventually.

I tilted my head, smiling up at him. A hotel key card was shoved between us before I could stretch up for a kiss.

"I've seen enough," Alice sighed. "Just take the card and go."

I frowned at the card. "What?"

"You two are insufferable, really. In a cute way, but in a way a sister doesn't necessarily need to see."

Edward grabbed the key card from his sister's hand, obviously understanding more of what was going on than me.

Alice took pity on my poor alcohol infused brain. "I'm not cruel enough to keep you from him for a whole day."

I smiled up at her, standing on only slightly wobbly legs and wrapping my arms around her. "Thank you for today. It was perfect."

"Of course it was," she beamed. "No go before I sober up enough to remember everything you told me about my brother in bed."

I pressed my lips together, giving the rest of the girls a quick hug before weaving through the crowd with Edward.

He slung the leather jacket he had brought over my shoulders as soon as we were outside. Seattle at the end of November was more than a little chilly, and my dress had hardly been practical. Cute, but not warm.

Even in the cold I smiled up at the few flurries floating through the sky.

I shook my head as Edward pulled his phone out to call a ride. "It's only a few blocks. We can walk."

He eyed my very bare legs and sparkly white heels.

"I'm okay."

We walked hand in hand through the flurries. I happily accepted a few congratulations from people as they walked past us who thought we had just gotten married.

It was a week away, but as good as done in my eyes.

I didn't have it in me to regret the time it took to realize what had been right in front of me my whole life. I needed to go to LA, figure myself out, and Edward needed to go to medical school and make his own choices, too.

What mattered was that we both made our way back. Back to Forks, back to each other in a way neither of us were ready for the first time around.

I chuckled to myself.

"What's so funny?"

"Nothing, it's just… a little crazy when you think about it. That somehow it all worked out and here we are."

Edward smiled down at me as we entered the blissfully warm lobby of the hotel. "Here we are," he sighed, the elevator doors closing.

I wasn't sure what it was that set me off. Whether it was the smooth rasp of his voice or his scent surrounding me thanks to his jacket. It could have been the easy smile he gave me in the reflection of the mirrored elevator doors. Either way, as soon as they were fully shut I had my lips on his.

He only needed about half a second to catch up. As soon as he did I was pressed into the wall of the elevator biting back a moan as he flooded my senses.

The door dinged open far too quickly.

But in a matter of moments Edward had us sequestered in our room, the door securely locked behind us as he picked me up and set me down on the edge of the desk a few feet into the room.

I let his jacket fall from my shoulders as my palms ran up his chest until my fingers tangled into the hair at the back of his neck.

"I love you," I breathed out.

I loved the way he knew, even as a teenager, what he wanted. That unwavering commitment to his life and career and tiny little town he went back to was so ingrained in the core of who he was. I loved that kindness and compassion he showed every patient, every person he came across. I loved that he always knew the right thing to say, the right time to push a subject or when I needed to figure something out myself first. I loved that deep down he was quite the little nerd who could dive into a medical book and somehow understand every single word when I'd get lost on the second sentence.

I loved that I would get to spend every day of the rest of my life with him.

Warm fingers brushed underneath my chin, tilting my head up to meet his eyes. "I love you," he whispered. "More than you will ever know."

I beamed up at him, sighing happily as he peppered kisses down my neck. My moment of lucidity quickly disappearing when I felt firm fingers dig into my thighs.

"You have no idea," he sighed. "How many times I've thought about peeling you out of a white dress."

I swallowed thickly, lifting my hips up off of the table when I felt his fingers gently tug at the lace underneath said white dress. He gave me a quick, sinister smirk as he knelt on the floor and pulled me to the edge of the table.

I groaned out his name at the first press of his lips against my overheated skin. He kept a firm grip on my legs, one thigh tossed haphazardly over his shoulder as his fingers slid sensually along the calf of my other.

He shoved the skirt of my dress out of the way, his eyes meeting mine before that pathetic hold I had on myself snapped.

"So fucking pretty when you come," he murmured, standing and immediately tugging at the zipper at my back.

He pulled me from the desk, letting the dress fall to the floor as I attempted to unfasten the most stubborn button-down to ever exist.

All clothing was gone by the time we collapsed into a heap of intertwined limbs on the bed. I stretched myself out comfortably beneath him, the warm skin of his back beneath my fingertips. My nails dug into the soft skin as he pressed himself inside of me.

We grunted out matching curses. His lips covered mine in a kiss that swallowed every moan and cry for the rest of the night.

~snow on the beach~

After the intense anxiety I had surrounding the wedding for months, I expected to feel at least the tiniest bit nervous on the actual day. Worried that I would trip over my dress or that it would be too cold for even the short ceremony outside or at least concerned that I'd get an untimely pimple at the very least.

The morning of our wedding, I woke up in my old bedroom at my parents with a smile on my face and not an ounce of anything other than adrenaline and excitement and happiness rushing through my veins. Until Alice elbowed me in the shoulder, but that only dimmed the excitement for a moment.

Twin sized beds were not as shareable as adults as they were when you were six.

Alice had insisted, though. She had shown up at the house last night surprisingly emotional about the whole ordeal.

I had thankfully, finally, worked through all of my own emotional turmoil over the past few months. Therapy helped, and I wouldn't make the mistake of thinking I could quit it cold turkey ever again. I still thought the man deserved a woman ten times better than me and I still knew losing him in any way would break me into a million different pieces that would never be able to be put together again.

But that was life.

It was hard and unexpected and there was nothing I could do about that.

I could, however, enjoy every minute I got to spend with my almost-husband. Every minute that my best friend was in town and every hearty breakfast that my parents made for me.

"You can't tell my mom," Alice said quietly from her spot at the kitchen table. "But your pancakes are better."

Mom beamed at her from the counter. And I knew, without a doubt, Esme would know within seconds what Alice had said.

The anxiety was still gone as we all drove over to the Cullen's house where Esme had graciously offered to let us get ready for the day. It was closer to our place, a shorter drive for us to make once we were all dressed and ready.

I might have cried–briefly–when I saw the white roses littering the town. Wreaths and bouquets and people walking around with them tucked behind their ears.

Our ceremony would be small, only our families and a few of our closest friends. The reception would be at the Lodge, one of the nicer establishments in town. And the only place large enough for nearly the whole town plus a few outside friends to gather in one place.

"Nervous?" Dad asked as he walked in. The sound of my heel clicking against the floor stopped immediately.

"No," I answered honestly. "Excited. Not nervous."

His mustache twitched. "So I guess that means you don't want me to tell you that there's still time to back out if you want."

I chuckled. "I don't want to back out. Thank you for the offer, though."

"Okay then. Alice said it was time."

I smiled at my Dad. I knew he hadn't been joking. If I told him I wanted out he would put me in the back of his cruiser and not ask a single question.

I took one last quick glance at myself in the mirror. My dress was as perfect as I remembered. Flowy bishop sleeves that would give me the smallest amount of warmth outside. A deep V-neck that met a comfortable band around my waist before the skirt flowed out in gentle waves down to the ground. It was simple but elegant. Timeless.

I knew better than to dare touch a single hair on my own head after Alice spent hours on the intricate half up do.

Then I was at the end of an aisle out in the open field by the house. Land Edward had bought so his–our–family could one day grow and expand and flourish. Deep mahogany chairs adorned with roses and ivy and tulle led the way to the end of the aisle where he stood.

I should have known better to think I could hold myself together. My calmness all day had been some kind of fluke, because the moment I saw him standing there I had no fight against the tears that started streaming down my cheeks.

I wasn't sure if his eyes were also watery, or if my vision was just blurry. But I took in every inch of him. The way his tuxedo fit him perfectly and the barely-tamed copper hair that was being threatened by the soft wintry wind.

Charlie gently placed my hand in Edward's and I was home.

Forever.

~snow on the beach~

"I would have been on board with getting married years ago if I had really thought the whole Cullen thing through," I sighed happily, wiggling myself in the soft sweater I nearly squealed at putting on this morning.

Swan's–my mother specifically–always wore the most uncomfortable, itchy, ugly sweaters on Christmas Eve. And forced everyone else in the family to participate. I had worn that monstrosity for the last time and hadn't even realized it.

Edward chuckled as he grabbed the bag of ingredients I had packed earlier out of the trunk. "I'm going to miss the sweater," he chuckled. "It was cute."

"It was the ugliest creation on the face of the planet," I countered. "I broke out in hives every single time I wore it. We're married, you know. You don't have to keep wooing me by lying about ugly sweaters."

He leaned over, pressing a kiss far more appropriate for our cozy little Hawaiian villa rather than his parents front yard, but I didn't mind. Savored every toe-curling moment of it.

The sound of another engine in the distance had Edward reluctantly pulling away and going to help my mother with the bags she had in her car.

I tried to fight it, the grin over at my father as he adjusted his well-worn monstrosity of a sweater. I didn't do a very good job though, considering he mouthed traitor at me as he carried in more of Mom's bags.

It was as normal and magical of a Christmas Eve as we had ever had. Mom and Esme were comically tipsy by the time we had dinner and Jasper had finally accepted Edward and Carlisle and Esme and Mom and Dad's joint efforts into getting him to join us for a holiday.

I sat beside my husband, whose hand with a shining gold band around his ring finger stayed firmly on my thigh throughout dinner. And I nearly choked on my wine as I was taking a sip when Alice blurted out, "I'm moving back home!"

There was half a second of silence amongst the table before she blurted out two more pieces of news. "Jasper and I are getting married," she said quickly. "And I'm pregnant."

I froze, staring over at my best friend and trying to pick out which of her pieces of news I was more excited about.

None of it was new information. Privacy in a town like Forks was non-existent. She had seemed so oddly at peace when Edward and I got back from our honeymoon it was obvious she had come to a decision about the Jasper situation. And they were still sneaking around together, so the decision was easy to guess. The lack of a drink in her hand throughout the day was a dead giveaway, too.

Still, after a moment of processing the table erupted in shouts of congratulations and more hugs than poor Jasper had probably ever been forced into. And, as always, a reluctant exchange of money between our parents.

I leaned back, angled in my chair so I rested against Edward's shoulder. He held up his wine glass as the excitement died down. "'Tis the damn season," he said with a quiet laugh.

THE END

A/N: Thank you guys for reading. I hope you enjoyed this one as much as I did. Happy holidays!