A/N This is part one of what is, essentially, the epilogue from To Be With You. I've written it as a birthday present for my friend, the fabulous IWant2Sparkle. Thanks for being there for me always! Happy Big Important Birthday! Part two will post later.
Bella cursed with every thud made by the suitcase as she lugged it up the wooden steps. Maybe next Christmas she'd ask Charlie for new luggage. He'd taken her joking request for a new laptop seriously this year and spent far more than she'd expected. True to Charlie, he'd just shrugged and told her she'd have to spend a small fortune to get the graphics and business software she'd need to compete in the marketplace. And with the new contract just signed down in North Carolina, she'd need to make that software purchase soon. Maybe that luggage purchase couldn't wait, either. The monthly flights to and from Raleigh would demand sturdier bags.
The cell phone in her coat pocket buzzed as she reached the elevated porch, alerting her to a new text message:
Key is under the mat.
The soft yellow light flickered, providing just enough of a glow for her to find it under the welcome mat. As she slid the key into the lock, she took a deep breath, inhaling the sea air and exhaling the stale airplane air that seemed to fill her lungs. She was grateful that Edward's surprise Christmas gift had been a few days down the shore. After scrambling to complete her final sales presentation, she needed to relax. And celebrate.
The interior of the house was dark so she felt along the wall until she found a switch that lit up the large living room. Her phone buzzed again:
Why don't you get changed and meet me on the deck in 30?
Bella contemplated running out to the deck and peppering Edward's face with kisses but knew he was right. She'd left for the airport immediately following the meeting and her business attire was not the most comfortable. Or warm enough for the winter's cold air.
The bedroom was unchanged from their September stay, one that held memories of kissing and touching and the most incredible first time sex that had Bella questioning how life would ever be better. Cozy colors and soft bedding made the room comfortable. The decorative touches, the seashell-shaped mirror and photographs of sunrises and sunsets in driftwood frames, added a distinct "beach feel". But the bed, she knew its secrets and couldn't wait to make more.
A pair of her sweats and his oversized hooded sweatshirt laid on the bed. As she peeled off the camisole that had rested under her blouse, she noticed a mug on the dresser. Tea. She took a sip and sighed. He'd finally mastered her perfect cup of tea. Figures. Edward would succeed at anything he put effort into.
Bella freshened up and pulled her hair back into a simple ponytail. It felt good to scrub away the makeup, even better to put on the cozy sweatshirt that would be more than enough to keep her warm even on this cold, December evening. She looked longingly at the pile of pillows before turning off the light and closing the door. Sleep could wait a while longer.
The deck was lit with candles. Bella could make out Edward's form as he jumped from candle to candle re-lighting as the wind extinguished flames. He jumped when she laughed but grinned when his eyes met with hers.
"How was the flight?" He gently tugged her forward and circled her with his arms.
"Fine once we got up into the air."
"And the drive?" The words muffled as his mouth was busy kissing the top of her head.
"Scarier than the flight. Not sure I've ever been in a car going so fast."
"Well, you're here in one piece. The driver, he was professional though?" His mouth moved down to her ear and nibbled.
"Definitely all business. He didn't speak more then five sentences to me." She shivered as his breath tickled her neck. "We should we go inside."
"It's cold. And you're getting me all worked up." She added as his hands reached under the sweatshirt and grazed her sides.
"Bella." He whispered.
"Open your eyes, please."
She leaned back in his arms and looked up at his face, searching for a reason for the sudden seriousness.
"Look, the candles won't stay lit. I obviously didn't think this through well enough."
"Edward," she whispered, "There is no way we're having sex out here. It's too cold."
"That's not, well, I know you're tired but can you please look around and not only at me? I love you but I'm feeling like an idiot right now."
Bella pulled away completely then. Unsure of what the problem was, she gave herself a moment for her eyes to adjust to the darkness. The moon provided only a sliver of light. She heard the sliding door open and a light from the kitchen went on, brightening the deck. And she could see what Edward had done.
The candles, had they remained lit, would have drawn her eyes to the table off to the side. As she approached it, she could see tiny shells decorating the glass top, surrounding the centerpiece – a book.
"Why do you have a yearbook on the table?"
"Your mom, you mentioned that night we looked through all my yearbooks that she had gotten rid of yours. So I wanted to get you a new one."
"How?" She asked, baffled at his ability to find the twelve year old book.
"They have the extras from the past thirty years in a storage room at the school. When I asked about them, I was told to take whatever I needed. That's from our Senior Year. I have the other three books inside."
"You did this?"
"They're your memories, Bella. And our memories, in a way. You've always been my best friend even if we didn't always act like it."
Bella opened to a page showing pictures from the annual mid-year dance and laughed at the sight of Angie with her big, brace-filled grin and arm thrown over Bella's shoulder. Bella brushed a tear away. "This is amazing. Thank you so much."
Edward coughed, "There's, uhh, there's something else you should see." He flipped to the front inside cover. Bella's eyes grew wide as she saw the signatures and scribbled messages from classmates.
"How did you do this?"
"It's not everyone from our class, but it's all the people I could track down locally." Bella laughed at his nonchalant attitude and went back to reading.
KIT BFFs Forever 3 Ang Call me!
"What does this mean?" She asked, pointing to Ben's message.
Thanks for being an amazing friend. You deserve your happily ever after.
Edward shrugged, "You know him, he's a little girly since having the transplant."
"Girly? You mean, he…"
"Stop!" Edward laughed. "I'm kidding."
"Well, what is he talking about then?" She poked a finger into his chest.
"I love you, impatient woman."
Bella turned her head and brought his lips to hers. "I love you, too. Now explain."
Edward took the yearbook from her hands and flipped to a page before giving it back to her. It was one of the pages with the large color senior portraits. She brought a finger to Edward's picture and traced his face. "So handsome."
"Read what I wrote."
Bella's eyes moved to the space beneath his picture.
Do you remember the cheesy thing you wrote in my yearbook?
Bella searched her memory for a moment that felt to go on forever. The sounds of the waves rolling in distracted her and while she remembered certain words from the little rhyme, she couldn't think of the entire thing. She shook her head and closed her eyes, breathing deeply and sighing as the clean ocean air filled her lungs once again. She felt Edward gently turn the pages and when the motion stopped she opened her eyes. And stared at her teenage self. Below, Edward had written what she'd put in his yearbook all those years ago:
A circle is round it has no end, that's how long I want to be your friend!
"Oh my gosh, I can't believe you wrote that in here."
"Cheesy, right? But that's us, in a way. We weren't the cool kids. Can you do me a favor?"
"Can you flip to the inside back cover? There'll be more time to look through this later," he said, biting his lip and looking out at the ocean. Bella patted the hand resting on her shoulder.
There, on the back cover of her new Senior Yearbook was the cheesiest, most adorable thing she'd ever seen. A 5x7 photograph of the two of them taken on Christmas morning was attached to the page and below it Edward had written:
A circle is round, it has no end. You are my love and my best friend. I'm down before you on bended knee. To ask you, please, will you marry me?
Bella reached up to grab his hand but couldn't find it. She spun the chair around and saw him, as was written, down on one knee holding a ring box.
"I love you." She said through the tears.
"I love you, Bella. Will you marry me?"
"You don't think it's too soon? We've only actually been together for six months?" She teased as she attempted to hide her nervousness.
"Too soon? No. I've been yours forever. I'll be yours forever. If you'll have me." His voice broke at the end, making Bella realize that he wasn't as confident as she thought.
Bella's hand shook, matching Edward's, as she reached out toward the ring. She touched the diamond with her finger before leaning close, cupping his face in her hands and whispering, "Yes. Forever."