Every Day We Fall In Love
The sun was shining on my face, warmth spreading along my forehead, nose and cheeks. The color orange was all pervasive, and I decided that sunshine seen through closed lids while I basked in its warmth was my favorite color in the world. A smile flitted along my face for the briefest of seconds before it was replaced with a frown when I realized I couldn't remember what my favorite color had been before this very moment.
The thought stayed with me as I rolled onto my side, eyes opening slowly against the brilliance in the room. The first thing I saw shocked me to full wakefulness. It was a man. In my bed. Then the next revelation…this wasn't my bed. It wasn't even my room. After a quick scan of our surroundings my eyes darted back to the person sharing my personal space, and I was dumbfounded.
The sun was shining on his hair, a shock of bronze. A shade I'd never seen before on any human being. It was thick and lustrous, and tousled. I followed the slope of his brow, down a slim nose, which lead to a mouth that was full yet firm looking. His eyes were closed, lashes the same color as his hair fanned along his upper cheeks, and even as long as his eyelashes were, they weren't able to mask the slight discoloration underneath. The skin looked fragile, almost dark enough to be mistaken for bruised, but not quite.
Had we been up late last night was my errant thought. And why couldn't I remember whatever had happened between this stranger and myself?
In fact, why couldn't I remember anything leading up to this moment? No recollection of getting ready to go out, of meeting with friends for drinks, of dancing. Nothing.
Before a sense of fear could engulf me, his eyes opened. A verdant green, lit up from the rays of the sun shining behind me. A smile touched the corners of his mouth, hesitant, yet there, and those same vibrant eyes roved over my face. He showed no surprise to find me there, looked pleased at my presence. I also noted that he didn't seem hung over. And then realized, neither did I.
"Good morning, Bella," he said softly, his voice gravelly from misuse during our hours spent sleeping. "Do you know who I am?"
The question took me unaware. It had been the last thing I expected this handsome stranger to ask. This was nothing like the few other times I'd found myself in a similar situation where neither of us knew much about the other.
"Oh," I answered faintly before giving a nervous laugh. "I'm sorry, I think you have me at a disadvantage," I continued, trying for levity.
He let out a small exhalation of breath, and the sorrowful look on his face resonated deep within me. In a word he simply looked heartbroken. It lasted barely a second but that one moment was enough to make me want to take him into my arms and comfort him. It was such an odd feeling to have, however. Why of all things would I feel the need to console a stranger?
Sadness gave way to resignation and then he tried at another smile. At this point I began to feel afraid. Not of him, he had done nothing to frighten me, but for some reason I knew I stood on the edge of a precipice, and the next words out of his mouth would send me into free fall. A feeling of dread coiled deep within me, winding itself tighter when I felt him reach for me under the covers. His left hand grasped mine gently and then he brought them both out into the sunlight. That wicked sunlight which shone brightly and refracted off of the diamonds set in the rings on my finger. My ring finger.
"Bella, it's me, Edward. I'm your husband."
~ 0 ~
I sat in a kitchen I'd never seen before, staring at those same rings. Twisting them around as if that motion would make them disappear. Perhaps it would wake me up from this very odd dream where a handsome stranger sat across from me, explaining how I was actually thirty years old, not twenty, and that we had been married for five of the last ten years that were now nothing but a black void.
I had no recollection of them in the least.
"How?" I asked once I found my voice.
"Cliff diving," Edward – my husband – answered.
He sighed and rubbed his face, and I wondered how many times he had told me this same story. From what I understood, I had a severe case of amnesia that went beyond simply forgetting a subset of memories. For some reason, whenever I went to sleep my brain would reset and erase everything that had happened the day before. Every day I started from scratch.
"It was an accident," Edward was saying now. "You had gone too high and panicked as you fell. There were rocks…"
Major head trauma. Asphyxiation. Near drowning. Pulled out of the water not breathing.
It sounded like someone else's life. What horrible luck, I thought to myself, until I remembered he was talking about me. This was my life. And yet I could remember none of it.
"How long ago?" I whispered. There was a pause, and I looked up at Edward. His mouth trembled slightly in hesitation, his eyes mournful.
"Two years," he answered finally.
"Two . . . two years?" The words came out in a stunned exhalation as my lungs emptied, feeling as if they had collapsed. Useless. Somehow I found the strength to fill them once more after struggling for breath. "I've been like this for two years?"
Edward nodded, his eyes downcast, his fingers twisted together on the tabletop – pale, bloodless – as one hand squeezed the other.
"How can you stand it?" I finally asked him. "How can you do this every day?"
His eyes rose to meet mine and suddenly he was transformed. Some strong emotion took over, his eyes glowed brilliantly and he smiled so sweet as to break a woman's heart.
"Because," he said in a soft voice, "every day we fall in love."
~ 0 ~
I found myself in front of a mirror in the bathroom after Edward's startling confession. Yet another room in this house that I didn't remember. A house that supposedly belonged to Edward and me, and yet I recognized nothing of it or anything in it. We'd lived in it for years. We chose it together. His mother and sister helped to decorate because I'm no good at things like this. At least that was one thing I did remember about myself.
The truth was there plain to see in this ornate mirror. An antique, I'm sure. There were fine lines where before my skin was smooth. Crinkles beside my eyes. The brackets around my mouth were more pronounced, deeper. Not to the point of looking unattractive, but I had definitely lost that youthful look that still lingered while in your early twenties.
Another thing that had taken me by surprise was my hair. It was currently chin length where before it had swung down in long layers to the middle of my back. I reached up and touched the curled ends, pulling them straight as if by sheer force I could stretch my hair back to its previous length. It was a vain attempt, and I gave it up quickly, sighing and pushing the short strands back away from my face.
Perhaps if I'd remained distracted long enough, I could have successfully convinced myself that I wasn't hiding. But the truth was that I had come into the washroom to escape Edward and his look of eternal hopefulness. While it was painfully obvious that he was in love with me, I couldn't reciprocate his feelings. I had woken up beside a stranger this morning, and even though I now knew who he was, that hadn't made him any more familiar. It hadn't miraculously unlocked a wellspring of love that I could draw from. Wish that it could, but if wishes were horses then beggars would ride.
"Think, Bella. Think!" I said under my breath and rubbed the spot between my eyes as I closed them tightly. I called up Edward's face as I'd seen him this morning in bed. The sunlight caught in the burnished copper of his hair, the prominent cheekbones leading to a strong jaw. The cleft in his chin just below the curve of his lower lip. It was a sensual mouth. One that looked made to kiss and give pleasure. Surely I should remember a mouth like that? But my mind stayed frustratingly blank no matter how hard I tried to reach the memories that eluded me.
Sitting on the lid of the toilet, I pulled my feet up on the seat and hugged my knees to my chest. This was so confusing. And I didn't understand what Edward meant when he'd said every day we fell in love? That simple sentence had shocked me to the point of escape, which is how I'd found myself here. I had eyes to see how attractive he was, obviously, but attraction hardly equaled love. But he'd said it with such certainty. With such conviction. As if there was no doubt in his mind that by the day's end we would be happy in love.
It was simple curiosity more than anything else that drove me from my hiding place. I flushed the toilet for good measure before opening the door slowly and peeking out. I almost expected Edward to be standing in the hallway, patiently waiting for me to fall in love with him like I supposedly did every day. He wasn't there, and I found myself relieved as well as disappointed.
The kitchen was empty when I entered so I crept back to the hallway and stood still listening for any indication of where Edward may have gone. After a moment or two, I heard the faint tinkle of piano keys being struck at random. The cascade of sound continued, haphazard, almost discordant until a thread of melody was picked up seemingly out of thin air.
I followed the sound of music.
The short hallway opened up into a large and airy room done in creams and golds with dark stained furniture offsetting it. There were splashes of color around the room as well to give it more depth and warmth. A patterned pillow here. A throw rug there. Brocade curtains hanging heavy and sumptuous over a large bay window that ran the length of the room almost floor to ceiling.
None of these things held my attention, however. Hung on the wall over a mantle was a huge framed picture of Edward and myself on our wedding day. I walked toward it, barely feeling when my feet stepped onto the plush Oriental rug that covered the hardwood floor. Standing in front of a wide slate fireplace I looked at this picture in awe. Despite the fact it was sepia toned, the shadowing and detail made everything stand out clearly, commanding your attention.
It was a candid shot, obviously caught while we weren't paying attention to the photographer; unlike many standard wedding photos it wasn't staged in the least. Edward faced forward, his head thrown back in laughter, he had my hand in his, clasped against his chest. I was laughing as well, in three-quarter profile. But what struck me the most was the look on my face. Along with my joyful expression was a sense of adoration. A feeling that Edward was the sun my life revolved around. In fact, it was the same look of profound love that I'd seen reflected on Edward's face just this morning.
I took a step back and struck a side table with the back of my leg, a small figurine toppled over with a clatter and the music playing in the next room stopped in an instant.
"Bella?" came a startled call, and the abrupt noise of a piano bench scraping against the floor. I swore under my breath and picked up the fallen angel, setting it to rights. Turning guiltily, I faced Edward who was now rushing through a set of French doors. He was looking me over carefully as he came closer.
"Sorry," I mumbled, making a vague gesture toward the figurine I'd knocked over. "I'm kind of a klutz sometimes."
"I know," he answered softly, that same shy smile playing about his lips.
"Right," I said, feeling a blush rise up my neck to my face. "You would know that. We're…married." I half-heartedly pointed toward the wedding photo.
"Yes, we are," was his whisper as he moved closer. His hand drifted up, and I felt the soft brush of his thumb against the pink of my cheek. I drew in a quick breath and stood stock still, the look on his face catching me off guard and helpless. My expression must have snapped him out of his reverie, he curled his hand into a fist bringing it back down to his side swiftly, and his face became guarded.
"I'm sorry," he said after a moment. "I forget myself sometimes."
"Is it like this every day? Are we always apologizing to one another?"
"Pretty much." He smiled ruefully. "Some days I find it more difficult than others. It's hard to be patient and wait for you to catch up."
"You sound so sure about this love thing," I replied frowning. "What if it doesn't happen?"
"It will happen. Somehow, she always comes back to me."
Edward's hand extended until he was pointing to the Bella in the photograph. The one who was so obviously in love with the handsome man clutching her hand. The hairs on my arms rose and gooseflesh pebbled my skin as I stared at the couple so in love.
"Come on," Edward said after a moment. "We're late."
"Late for what?" I asked, tearing my eyes away from our wedding picture.
He smiled at me again, dazzling me with his beauty, and I was startled to realize at that moment I'd follow him wherever he wanted to go.
~ 0 ~
We pulled up in front of an unremarkable diner that was slightly run down, the clapboard a dingy gray and peeling. The windows were trimmed in what used to be white paint but were now almost the same color as the rest of the building. The awning hanging over a stout, wooden door was partially ripped and flapped limply in the breeze. There was only one car in the parking lot, which likely belonged to someone working inside.
I glanced over at Edward, skeptical, but he was grinning broadly.
"This is what we're late for?"
"Uh huh," he answered, nodding emphatically.
Before I could ask why, he threw open the driver's side door and exited the car. He was over to my side in barely a second, opening my door with a flourish and extending his hand. I couldn't help but laugh at his exuberance. Despite the feeling we were still strangers to one another, I placed my hand in his and allowed Edward to help me out of the car. He didn't let go even after I was standing, the car door slammed shut behind me. Instead, his grip grew fractionally tighter as if afraid I would let go. I almost did exactly that, but took a deep breath and remembered that this man was my husband. I may not have had any recollection of him, but that didn't change the facts.
And if I was going to be honest with myself, it felt really nice to hold his hand. Especially, when he stared down at our entwined fingers and looked grateful that I hadn't let go.
"So why are we here?" I asked as we walked toward the diner, the gravel crunching under our feet.
"This swanky establishment is where we first met."
"Here?" I asked, incredulous.
"Believe it or not Carver's was a real hot spot back in the day."
I shot Edward a sideways glance to see if he was being serious, and he kept up the façade for a moment or two before his mouth started twitching in amusement.
"You know," I said, slightly exasperated, "it's not nice to make fun of an amnesiac."
"You're right," he answered in a chastened voice. "I'm just teasing. This is my favorite part of our morning, so it puts me in a good mood."
"Why is this your favorite part?"
"You'll see," he said cryptically leaving me to puzzle out his meaning.
When we entered the diner it was slightly nicer on the inside, but not by much. The walls and floor were paneled in a dark wood giving it a somewhat claustrophobic air. There were overstuffed red vinyl booths along the wall with steel rimmed Formica tables in between. Similar tables were also lined up along the middle of the room with chairs on either side for patrons that didn't want to sit in the booths. At the end of the room there was a soda-fountain style bar where a woman stood polishing glasses. Along the wall hung neon signs that flickered off and on and buzzed loudly; the woman seemed oblivious to the noise.
She glanced up and smiled at us before calling out, "Well, hello there, Edward and Bella! You're running late this morning!" She clicked her tongue after a glance at the large round clock hung on the wall. I wasn't surprised in the least to see Elvis in the middle of it in a dance pose, his arms serving as the hands of the clock.
"Hey, Esme. Yeah, I know," Edward said apologetically before leaning across the bar and placing a chaste kiss on her cheek. "We got a late start."
"Carlisle!" she yelled over her shoulder. "Start breakfast!"
"Are they here?" hollered a voice from the back room, what I supposed was the kitchen.
"Well, why else would I tell you to get started?" Esme volleyed in an exasperated tone.
I glanced over at Edward who was grinning over these antics. He then turned away from me and started to walk, tugging my hand gently so I would follow along. We made our way through the tables and walked along the pathway beside the booths, while I looked at the artwork and signs hung up or nailed to the walls. It was obvious they were trying to emulate a 50's style diner but had kind of failed at it. Nonetheless, there did seem to be bit of rustic charm about the place.
"So, this is where we met," Edward said after a few minutes of silence. "I ask you this every day, so I should know the answer by now, but . . . does it look familiar to you at all?"
More than anything I wanted to say yes, if only so that he would become carefree once more. I couldn't bring myself to say no just yet, so I looked around some more. I stared hard and long at all the various oddities of the diner. I tried to imagine myself sitting here waiting for . . . whatever it was they served in this place. Tried to imagine Edward here as well and then both of us together. It wasn't for lack of trying but still there was nothing. No memories at all, real or imagined.
"I'm sorry, Edward," I sighed. "No, not at all."
"It's ok, Bella," he said and gave my hand a small squeeze.
"Do I ever remember?"
"No. You never remember."
His small smile broke my heart all over again because I knew he only did it for my benefit. He was trying very hard not to let me feel disappointed in myself, and I could understand how the Bella from the wedding photograph had loved him. Unfortunately, I wasn't that Bella any longer, no matter how much I wanted to be.
We made our way in a large circle around the diner and ended up back at the counter. Edward made a gesture for me to sit down but he remained standing. Once I was comfortable, he touched my shoulder lightly. When I glanced up that same excited expression was on his face as before, and I wondered for a moment if he was bi-polar or just a really good actor. He could be both for all I knew which was amusing and unsettling all at once.
"I'll be right back," he said in a rushed voice and then practically ran out of the diner while I watched incredulous. It seemed his mood changes were catchy because I laughed in confusion.
"What was that all about?" I asked, turning to the woman once more. She happened to be chuckling as well, and that made me feel slightly better about everything. I took a moment to examine her. She was a tall woman, maybe about ten to fifteen years older than me with smooth pale skin, caramel colored hair and unsettling hazel eyes. In this light they almost glowed golden. I wondered how they knew each other. There was a thick glass mug in her hand, and once she finished drying it, she set it in front of me. Before I could say a word, it was full of coffee. Two creams and a bowl of sugar were placed in front of me along with a spoon.
When I looked at Esme, surprised that she knew how I liked my coffee, she was smiling kindly. "You may not remember us, but we remember you," she said softly before giving my hand a gentle pat. For some inexplicable reason, tears rose to my eyes, and I had to blink them quickly away.
"Thank you," I said, voice slightly choked. I cleared my throat and then reached for the sugar and cream to prepare my coffee.
Edward still hadn't returned, and I found myself looking over my shoulder often to check that he hadn't come back into the diner unnoticed. More time passed and Esme stood shaking her head.
"Where did he go?" I asked finally, my initial confusion now turning to worry. Edward wouldn't have left me here by myself, surely? Not only did I not have a car, I didn't even know where we lived. How the hell would I get back home?
"He loves making an entrance," Esme muttered mostly to herself, which did nothing to enlighten me.
The bell above the door gave a little tinkle, and I turned in my seat, relieved to see Edward coming into the diner. I was about to ask what he thought he was doing leaving me all alone but noticed he wasn't looking at me. In fact he was looking everywhere but me. What the heck? I thought to myself, starting to get annoyed.
Edward sat at the other end of the counter, still purposely ignoring me. When I looked at Esme, she shrugged at me apologetically.
"What can I do for you, sir?" Esme asked him solicitously.
"Can I get a menu?" he replied.
"Sure can. Coffee?"
"Ma'am!" Esme hooted. "Boy, how old do I look to you?"
They continued to banter back and forth while I watched bemused. Neither paid the slightest attention to me while Esme polished a mug identical to mine and set it in front of Edward. Without missing a beat, she had her coffee pot in hand and was pouring. When she was done, she turned on a heel and walked back into the kitchen. I turned to Edward but he was busy looking at the menu and poring over it attentively.
This was like an episode of the Twilight Zone.
Before I could find out the game he was playing at, Esme returned with a plate full of steaming hot food and set it in front of me.
"Oh, no . . . I didn't order this," I stammered quickly pushing the plate back toward her.
"Well, sure you did, honey. Just right before that gentleman over there came in," she answered and then dropped me an exaggerated wink. It started to sink in what these two were up to, and I smirked slightly.
"Right," I agreed, touching my forehead lightly. "I seem to be having some problems with my memory today."
There was a snort from my left and my smirk turned into a smile. Looking down into the plate of food, I realized that Esme had brought me all of my favorites. Fluffy pancakes were stacked high and shiny with butter, bacon on the side along with a greasy fried egg. The smell wafting from the food made my stomach rumble loudly, and I put my hand over it, an embarrassed flush turning my cheeks pink.
"Know what you want?" Esme asked Edward.
"I'll have what she's having," he answered, and I looked to see him staring at me. His steady, appreciative gaze made my blush deepen. After a few moments, I dropped the stare, turning back to my food and drizzling some syrup on the pancakes. In my mind's eye, I could still see how he looked at me with a certain intensity that set my mind whirling. There seemed to be a plethora of emotions swimming just beneath the surface of my skin waiting to be invoked. Emotions I was sure he could draw out of me. It was scary to feel that out of control. Perhaps, somehow my body remembered Edward even if my mind didn't. And now it waited for the rest of me to get with the program.
Esme had left us alone, swishing through to the kitchen in the back, and now she returned with a plate piled with food identical to mine. "That was fast," he said to her.
"Turns out the cook had made some extra." She set the plate in front of Edward, smiled at him and disappeared into the back once again.
It was difficult to eat knowing Edward was sitting on the opposite end of the counter from me. For some reason, my stomach was in knots, and I had difficulty concentrating. Before I could turn and tell him I'd had enough of this game I felt a presence beside me. Startled, I looked up and saw Edward; somehow he'd managed to sneak up on me.
"Excuse me, can I borrow the syrup?" he asked quietly.
"Oh, sure," I answered, turning back and grabbing the dispenser. As I was about to pass it to him, I stopped and glanced at him and then spoke hesitantly. "Did you . . . did you want to join me?"
"I'd love to."
Edward dazzled me with another smile, and the knots in my stomach unraveled instantaneously. I knew right then this was what I'd done on the day we'd met. It wasn't quite a memory really, just an instinctual feeling. In that moment, I felt grateful to Edward because instead of just telling me about them he was allowing me to replace my lost memories. They may have been replicas of the originals, but they were still mine.
I became in that moment a little more of Edward's Bella from our wedding photograph.
~ 0 ~
We had spent the rest of the breakfast eating and talking. Even though Edward knew me better than I did myself he asked me questions and seemed delighted to hear my answers. He put on quite the show pretending he knew nothing about my life or me. Never once did he give me the impression that he was bored, or had heard these stories on numerous occasions, which I'm sure he had considering I'd been suffering from recurring amnesia for two years. To anyone who didn't know us we would have seemed like any other man and woman newly met and getting to know one another.
When breakfast was over, he drove me around our town and showed me all of the places that held special significance for us. The restaurant we went to on our first date. The high school where I used to work – Edward would drop me off and pick me up so often he became an honorary student. Where we shared our first kiss. Where we had our first fight. He was quick to assure me that those were few and far between, and I had been pleased to hear it. When possible, he would make us exit the car and have fun reenacting scenes from our life together. After our tour we went back home for a simple lunch.
"Thank you for showing me all those things," I said quietly after the dishes had been cleared.
"Don't you ever get bored doing this every day?" I watched as a wry expression crossed his face and held my breath slightly, waiting.
"Not bored," he answered. "Never bored…"
Edward opened and closed his mouth a few times but wasn't able to verbalize whatever he was thinking. He shrugged and looked up at me helplessly.
"Tell me," I urged.
"I can't tell you."
"Because I don't want you to feel pressured."
"Coming back to me," he said quickly. "Really coming back. Waking up in the morning and knowing who I am and that we're in love."
"See?" he replied, looking remorseful. "When I admit this, it makes you feel bad, as if you owe me something."
"But I do."
"But there's nothing you can do to change it," he explained gently. "Trust me, we've tried. So, instead I do this. I help you relive instead of remember. And I hope that by reliving what made you fall for me to begin with, that you'll fall again."
Once again I felt the onset of tears. He was so touching and earnest that I hated my broken mind for depriving him of this wonderful love that he yearned for. That he once had and was now denied. And me. I had come a long way from the moment he'd told me he was my husband, but that all-encompassing love was still not present. I wasn't sure it ever would be . . . or at least not in time. Sadly, I thought, maybe tomorrow? But tomorrow we would be starting from scratch. Again.
"What happens when you get tired of doing this?"
"That's not going to happen."
"Edward," I answered, trying for reason, "what if I never come back to you all the way? What if every day is the same?"
"It doesn't matter," he said stubbornly.
"It does matter. You deserve better than this. Living the same day over and over again for the rest of your life. You can't do this forever."
"Because!" I said sharply. "Don't you want a family? Don't you want a wife who will wake up loving you without you having to do all this work?"
"Not if it's not with you," he answered, leaving me speechless.
"One of these days," I whispered, "you're going to wake up and not want to do this anymore."
Edward leaned across the table and laid his hand against my cheek in the softest caress. His eyes searched mine for a moment. "You died," he said quietly. "When we got you out of the water, you weren't breathing. You were dead.
"As they worked on you, I was frantic," he continued. "I thought I'd lost you. Bella, if that had happened, I wouldn't have been able to survive. I can't live in a world where you don't exist. But you came back to me. So, you see? No matter what happens I will never let you go."
The tears I'd been able to hold at bay finally began to fall. Even though Edward had been making this as easy for me as possible, I still felt lost and confused. Until that moment I'd been walking around in almost a dream state, just waiting for this strange and vivid dream to be over. It wasn't till then that it really hit me this was actually happening. Ten years of my life had simply disappeared, and all that I had left to show for them was this wonderful man sitting in front of me. A man who I was likely never going to remember ever again.
I began to sob uncontrollably, and Edward gathered me into his arms and held me. He whispered endearments against my hair while I fell completely and thoroughly apart. My only thought was that not only was this a waste of the rest of Edward's life, but also of mine. I would never be able to reminisce about anything that happened in my life from this time forward. Never be able to hold on to any new memories ever. The night was a cruel mistress who would steal it all away like a thief come morning. How could I go on living when in my mind I remained young forever. What would happen as the years continued to slip away and yet all I had was a face in the mirror I wouldn't even recognize?
This felt like such an injustice and all for the sake of some cheap thrills.
Somehow during all of this, Edward had coaxed me into his lap and wrapped himself around my body as if trying to contain me, to keep me from blowing apart into a million pieces. Eventually, I cried myself out, and then stayed in his arms limp from exhaustion. He reached over to the table and grasped a paper towel we had been using as napkins and handed it to me. I sopped up my face and blew my nose as delicately as possible.
"Does this happen every day?" I asked.
"Not every day . . . some days never. But usually you hit one point during the day when it's too much for you," Edward explained gently.
"What do you do when it gets to be too much for you?"
"That usually happens when you fall asleep because then I'm alone again," he answered, sadness infusing his voice. "Usually, I come down here and write music."
"You write music?" I mused, slightly surprised at this revelation. I'd heard him playing for that little while earlier in the morning but hadn't thought about what he'd been doing.
"I'm a composer," he said without the least little hint of vanity. "That's how I get to stay home with you during the days."
"What kind of music do you write?" I asked, back to being fascinated over this man I married.
"Movie scores, mainly."
"Can I listen?"
"Not right now," he replied before giving me a small squeeze. "We have to go somewhere, first."
"Oh, ok," I said, slightly disappointed. I eased my way off Edward's lap with his help. When he stood up, he stared down at me, and then brushed under my eye with his thumb, catching a bit of moisture I'd missed. After rubbing his fingers together he leaned down and kissed my forehead making me sigh at the sweetness of the gesture.
Little by little, just like Edward said, his Bella was returning to him.
~ 0 ~
"This is our last stop of the day," Edward said to me. I detected a little bit of nervousness in his tone. Unlike earlier in the day where he was trying to repress his excitement, now he seemed more somber.
We drove down a winding road that was fringed by forest on both sides. It was the end of spring and the foliage was thick all around us, a deep green gathering in the bushes, the bark of the trees an earthy brown leading up to thick leafy trees and pines. There was moss wherever I looked, the rains in the Pacific Northwest keeping everything fresh and alive.
I lost track of the time as we drove, Edward sat beside me in companionable silence, and I thought how telling it was that neither of us felt the need to fill the empty space with meaningless chatter. Was it always like this between us? I wondered idly. Somehow, I got the feeling that it was.
Edward pulled down a small side road, which ended in a large patch of dirt wide enough for a few cars to park. He pulled up in front of a copse of trees and then looked over at me. We smiled at each other tentatively before exiting the car. I knew better now than to ask Edward about where we were or what we were doing. I had learned to trust him and to follow his lead; after all he did this every day.
Once out of the car I walked to where Edward was waiting for me beside a small well-worn path that led into the trees. When I reached him I saw him hesitate and look down for a moment, without needing to ask, I extended my hand palm up for him to take and was pleased to see his answering smile. It was strange how I was beginning to anticipate his wants and needs and fulfilling them before he had to ask. Was this usual between us? I wondered as his hand grasped mine.
"It's a ways along this path," he said over his shoulder as he stepped through the trees.
The walk was long as he said, but he set a leisurely pace and allowed me time to look around. The air was dense with mist and the smells of the forest. Scents laden with pinesap a strong astringent tickling my nose, there was the overlay of mossy green and wet leaves, the smell of the earthen floor that made you feel somewhat choked if you took too deep a breath. The trees towered above us, making it almost as dark as a cavern, branches choked with leaves obliterated the sky completely. We walked carefully down the path because while it was relatively well worn, there were sticks, branches, roots and rocks that rose up to stub toes and scuff shoes.
"Do you see how it gets lighter just down there?" Edward asked softly.
"A little bit."
"That's where we're going. Should be soon now."
Those were the only words we'd spoken to one another during the solemn walk to where I felt lay my destiny. It was in the way Edward acted, as if everything was leading up to this moment. Only he wasn't excited about it. It wasn't like this morning where we had a full day ahead of us and anything could happen. Time was once again slipping away and there seemed to be a sort of desperation taking hold of us both. Would today be the first day that I didn't fall in love with Edward? Would this be the beginning of many more days like this? And what would happen then?
As we neared the gap in the trees where the light once again filtered in, I could feel myself slowing down. Could feel my heels starting to dig in slightly and the space between us widen as I dropped back. All of the sudden I didn't want to go there. I wanted to turn back and go home, maybe listen to Edward play the piano or just talk about our life together before the accident that had stripped me of my memories. That gap just got wider as my fear grew.
Edward slowed and turned back to me, likely feeling the resistance in my body as he tugged me along. Whatever he saw on my face made him stop completely. "Bella, what's wrong?" he asked, concern etched his features.
"I don't want to go in there," I whispered.
"I'm scared," I admitted hesitantly. "I don't know what's there, but I just feel like this is our last chance. Edward, what if nothing happens?"
He sighed and his shoulders slumped as if my admission had stripped him of whatever was keeping him upright. And then like many other times during the day, he closed the gap between us and wrapped me in strong arms. I stayed rigid for a moment because even though there was familiarity in his arms and we'd spent the better part of the day together, I was still withholding my emotions for some reason. After taking a deep breath, I let myself sink into him, burying my face in his shirt, the fabric cool and soft against my cheeks. I breathed in his essence, that smell of soap, detergent and man, at once clean and musky. It was a heady fragrance, and I filled my lungs with it, letting it calm and console me.
Edward was caressing my hair, his hand running along the nape of my now exposed neck. I'd asked him why I kept it short now and he told me that it had taken this long for my hair to grow to my chin since they'd had to shave most of it off for the surgeries. At first I was mortified about the thought of how it must have looked, but now with his fingers touching sensitive skin and tangling underneath my hair I didn't mind so much. An image of him grasping it, tugging my head back and putting his mouth against mine came unbidden, and I barely contained a heady sigh at the thought. Was it memory? Or was it simply wish fulfillment.
I had stepped closer to Edward, asking and receiving succor, his embrace tightened. I used this moment to familiarize myself with my husband, to revel in the feel of his body against mine. My hands began to move along his back, tracing the lean muscles along the column of his spine, up to his shoulders, across and down his arms slightly and then back down.
He said my name against the hair at the top of my head before pressing a kiss there. His hands moved to my shoulders, gave a comforting squeeze, and then he stepped back slightly. "Feel better now?"
"A little," I answered, but outside of the safety of his embrace the fear was returning.
"I would never let anything hurt you, understand?"
I nodded mutely and then tried for a smile. When my mouth complied, Edward leaned down and kissed my forehead before pulling my hand up and kissing the back of it. Then he turned once more, and we walked toward the sunshine filtering through the gap in the trees.
Once through, my breath caught in my throat. We had walked into a perfectly circular meadow in the middle of this vast forest. It seemed like a natural declivity, not manmade. The sun was shining on long green grass waving in the breeze, multi-colored flowers sprouted in small patches everywhere. I could hear the low somnolent buzz of bees as they flitted around, gathering pollen before moving along to the next flower.
I walked into the middle of the meadow, and then turned in a circle until I faced Edward again. This time my smile was radiant. "It's beautiful," I said to him.
"Do you remember it?" he asked in return and just like that my smile vanished. I turned back to the meadow and looked closely, hoping for anything to spark my memory but nothing happened. I inhaled deeply and then let it out slowly. No, I did not remember this meadow. Nor the man who stood here with me now. There was still nothing.
Sadly, I turned back to Edward and shook my head. "No, I'm sorry." He nodded as if expecting as much. "What happened here?" I asked. "Why is it important?"
Edward smiled slightly, but it didn't touch the hurt in his eyes. "This is where I proposed," he answered. "We'd found the turn off by mistake while looking for somewhere to park and make out." He gave a small chuckle. "You wanted to follow the path and see where it went. I wanted to stay in the car and get in your pants."
He shrugged, chagrined, as we both began to laugh.
"You won," he continued, walking along the edge of the meadow, his voice carrying on the wind. "So, we walked and found the meadow. And then I won, because this is where we made love the first time."
"Oh," I said softly, feeling color rise to my cheeks. I could see it. The two of us locked in an embrace and slowly sinking down to the lush grass, removing our clothing slowly, reveling in the sunshine and warmth on our bare skin. My entire body warmed at the idea of it. What kind of lover would he be? I mused. I imagined he would be tender and passionate.
"When I proposed to you, you had no idea. You thought we were just coming here to get away from everything, maybe get naughty. There's just something about baring yourself here for anyone to find. After all, the path is well worn, we couldn't have been the only people to come here. Sometimes, I wondered if anyone ever stumbled across us here, and instead of creeping away, stayed to watch."
He glanced up at me then, his eyes intense, burning. There was nothing chaste about how he looked at me; it was complete hunger. I knew all it would take was a word from me and we'd be tumbling to the ground, wrestling with our clothing, hands and mouths moving furiously until nothing was between us but the sweetly scented meadow air. I swallowed heavily and remained silent.
"I was so nervous, Bella," he said once he'd gotten control of himself again. "But you said yes. I knew you would." A sweet smile graced his features, and it echoed along mine as well. "We were married here, too."
"In secret, yes," he answered, looking down and began to walk once more.
"Why in secret?" I asked, confused. It didn't seem like something I would want to do.
"Oh, we had the big wedding. There was no way my mother and sister were going to let us do something small like we wanted. But it was totally over the top and out of control," he said, laughing. "You came to me a couple of weeks before the wedding in a complete panic, and I was afraid you'd run away."
Never, I thought to myself and almost said it aloud. It had come from some dark recess of my mind, shocking with its forcefulness.
"Keep going," I urged.
"I made arrangements for a justice of the peace to come here and meet us. We got married right here," he said, stopping and making a circle around himself. "After that, you calmed down. They could have suggested we jump out of a plane and say our vows on the way down and you would have agreed."
We laughed again, the sound bouncing off the trees and amplifying. I looked down at the rings he'd given me – engagement and wedding bands – and then began twisting them off of my finger. They were embedded deeply and it took quite a bit of maneuvering before they were off. My naked finger looked bare and wrong. The imprint of my rings were tattooed in my flesh, retaining the memory of them, the space they'd occupied pale and shiny in comparison to the rest of my skin.
When I looked up, Edward was staring at me in confusion, tinged with worry. I gave him a reassuring smile as I walked toward him. Standing in front of him, I took hold of his hand and began dropping the rings in his palm. I could feel him jerk as if to snatch his hand away, but I held tight and closed his fingers over the platinum and diamond bands. I kept my hand over his and said, "show me."
"I don't understand…"
"Like this morning in the diner," I explained. "How did you do it?"
"Oh," he answered, surprised.
"Have we never done this before?"
"No, this is new."
I couldn't help but feel a sense of satisfaction that I'd managed to surprise Edward after two years of reliving the same day over and over again.
"Show me," I said again.
Taking my hand, he led me to the middle of the meadow and sank down to his knees. He pulled on my hand gently, and I kneeled in front of him. "Now what?" I asked curiously, with a hint of excitement.
Edward began to blush, and I stared at him slightly bewildered at this reaction.
"Well, first of all you were kind of making it hard on me," he said, keeping his eyes downcast.
"We hadn't seen each other in over a week, I'd gone down to L.A. for business and to record some soundtracks. That's where I'd bought the ring." He fingered the circlet in his hand for a moment as he spoke, my wedding band he'd slipped onto his pinkie for safety.
"Uh huh," I prompted.
"Well –" an embarrassed cough "— you missed me."
"That makes sense . . . and?"
"You were . . . um . . . kind of all over me." He looked up at me then, a devilish glint in his eyes.
"Ah," I said, the implications dawning on me. And then I remembered what it felt like being held by him in the forest, and that sudden flash I'd had of Edward kissing me. That same tingle went through me starting at the top of my head and shooting straight down and out to my extremities. Was I ready for something like this? I didn't stop long enough to think about it. "So, what were we doing?"
Edward and I had been both resting on our haunches, facing one another. He rose up to kneeling position and gestured for me to do the same. When I was on my knees, he started shifting closer, and I copied until our bodies were almost touching.
"We were here, like this," Edward said slowly. He reached out, placing his hand on my shoulder, and then sliding it down until he had hold of my hand. A small tremble ran through me at the light caress. "You had your arms around me." He kept a careful eye on me, moving slowly so I had a chance to stop him and change my mind. I didn't want to do that, however. I'd seen flashes of me and Edward, and I needed to know if it was just my imagination, or if they were rising from the abyss where my memories lay submerged.
My one arm was now draped over Edward's shoulder, hand against the smooth skin of the nape of his neck. I ran my fingertips along the line of his hair and felt him shudder. He didn't get a chance to place my other arm around him, it rose of its own accord, my hand cupping his cheek. I looked at this man in front of me, his beauty was simply stunning, and I gave over to my desire and stared at him. Partly, I wanted to see if anything would come to me, and if not, then I wanted to memorize his features while I could and pray I'd retain at least these memories when I woke up in the morning.
My fingertips traced his features lightly, and he stayed perfectly still as I explored. When my thumb brushed against his mouth, his lips parted. Slowly, I leaned forward to kiss Edward. Surprisingly, I was looking forward to this. My body tingled with anticipation, and as I thought through the day we'd shared, and how strong, sweet and supportive Edward had been, it made me wonder why I hadn't kissed him earlier.
Up until this point Edward had let me take the lead, his arms hung at his sides, hands curled into loose fists. But when our lips touched a small groan escaped him and his hands came up, gripping my hips tightly. What had started off as a tingle turned into a full electrical surge. My body shifted forward until nothing separated us and the kiss deepened.
"Like that?" I asked breathlessly.
"Yeah, but more," he answered and pulled me back toward him.
Yes, more . . . my mind echoed, and then it started happening. It wasn't what I'd expected, not at all. My memories didn't start resurfacing miraculously, instead it was a feeling of emotion that was vividly recalled and amplified. This heart pounding excitement, a feeling of completion, everything was just perfect and right, as if this was where I belonged. Right here in this meadow kissing Edward.
We held each other tightly, hands caressing, his mouth against mine. It was soft and yielding, giving as well as receiving. Our tongues touched, shyly at first, and then with more familiarity. Unwilling, to over think it, I began shifting back using my arms to coax Edward into following me. I wanted to know what it felt like to have his body covering mine, if that feeling would call up more emotion and surety. He understood and followed, and soon the soft spring grass was against my back, spongy and fragrant, and Edward's weight was a heavenly burden.
Despite the passion that had sprung up between us, Edward didn't try to push me into anything. His touches remained relatively chaste, and even though there was very evident proof of his arousal, he held back, perhaps waiting for me to catch up and unaware I already had.
Edward's hands ran up along the sides of my body and along my arms. He took them and raised them up above my head. I was euphoric and not paying attention so when he slipped the engagement ring on my finger—the ring I'd completely forgotten about in the midst of our emotional union—my heart felt like to burst with a sort of elation I'd never experienced before.
"Marry me, Bella," he whispered into my neck, placing a kiss there before raising his head and gazing down at me. In his eyes, I could see all the love he tried to keep in check as well as some deep-seated fear, likely uncertainty of my answer. I wondered if he'd looked at me like this when he'd proposed the first time as well and felt a sort of conviction that he had.
"Yes," I answered with no hesitation. The fear left him, replaced by wonder and elation. He lowered his head then and claimed me as his. My mind may not have known Edward, but my heart did and would always remember him no matter what happened tomorrow and every day after. This was why he did this every day, to remind me that I would always belong to him heart and soul, and nothing could stand in the way of that kind of love.
Under the trees we married one another all over again, Edward reciting his vows from our wedding day, and I simply told him what I felt in my heart in that moment.
The sun was going to fall soon, and we had to leave the meadow. As we came to the path in the trees, I looked back once more at the place where I knew I would find Edward and our never-ending love. I hoped one day we wouldn't need the meadow to revive me any longer, and instead would only return to bask in its beauty and other worldly magic. I threw that wish to the meadow, praying it would listen and use its power to give us what we wanted.
~ 0 ~
The rest of the night flew by too fast for my liking. Edward stayed by my side and kept our contact alive and ever present. Even as he serenaded me with my favorite songs at the piano, I leaned upon him, listening to his voice and feeling the vibration moving underneath his skin.
Later as we sat entwined on the couch in front of the fire I fought sleep, knowing that the night would rob me of everything I'd gained during the day. It would also steal me away from Edward, and I couldn't let it do that. He deserved so much better than this, and if I thought for one moment I could survive on my own I may have stolen away in the night before my memories disappeared just to save him the pain he must endure every morning when I became an empty sieve once more.
A rocking sensation brought me around, and I woke with a start to find Edward carrying me upstairs to our room. The fear that assaulted me just then was all encompassing, I searched through the memories of the day to see if the sleep had stolen any while my eyes were closed but everything seemed accounted for. No blanks at all.
"Edward," I said excitedly, "I remember you!"
"That's not the way it works, Bella," he replied sadly, and cradled me closer to his chest. "You can sleep for short periods of time and wake up with that day's memories intact but as soon as you drop into REM sleep, everything is lost."
"Then I just won't sleep," I said to him, firm in my resolve.
I felt as well as heard his chuckle and snuggled in to him closer. "I wish it were that easy, baby," he said softly. "We always try and fight it, but it never works. Eventually, one or both of us fall asleep."
By this time we had entered into the bedroom. Edward laid me on the bed and leaned down to kiss me softly. We undressed and met once more under the covers. He held on to me tightly as I cried, already feeling sleep trying to claim me and suck me down where it would take everything away from me once more.
"Please, Edward," I begged, "I don't want to lose you again."
"You will never lose me, Bella. I will always be here."
"I love you," I whispered against his chest and felt it vibrate silently under hand and cheek. When I reached up to touch his face it was wet with tears.
Both of us fought valiantly, but in the end Edward was right, sleep came to claim us both, and I ended up walking into its lulling embrace, losing myself as I went into the darkness.
~ 0 ~
I woke to an overcast sky in the morning and stretched underneath the covers languidly. When I rolled over, I was met with a steady green gaze that pierced me to my core.
"Good morning, Bella," he said softly, his voice gravelly from misuse during our hours spent sleeping. "Do you know who I am?"